The Participation Pivot

In this post I’m going to try and encapsulate some of my thoughts around what is happening just now in terms of tertiary education, the impact of #lockdown and the apparently all consuming online pivot. This post will hopefully augment and complement a webinar keynote I gave on 6th May for GMIT and their DigitalEd Discovery Series. Many thanks to Carina McGinty for inviting me and allowing me to share a virtual platform with the wonderful Sue Beckingham.

Some of these ideas come from conversations I’ve been having with colleagues across the sector and special thanks to Simon Horrocks, Kerr Gardiner and Louise Drumm for the conversations we’ve had recently.

When I hear or read the words online pivot, I can’t help but think of the Friends episode where “the gang’ are trying to move a sofa up a flight of stairs. Of course, all sorts of hilarity ensues as they try and turn a corner, leading to Ross yelling “pivot”, and  no-one actually knowing where they have to pivot to.  I think it ends with most of the gang walking away and leaving Ross and the sofa. I don’t think we ever really find out just how the sofa actually ends up in Ross’s apartment -but as this is just a TV show it doesn’t really matter. If it were real life, the sofa would either have got damaged/broken or Ross would have maybe hired some professional movers to get the job done.

But back to our current online pivot. I think that this episode or meme does help us think through some of the big questions around the so call online pivot in education.  Crucially in terms of these questions: what is it that is being pivoted? Is it the curriculum, the institution? Our learning environments, our approaches to teaching and assessment? Our learning spaces?  And,  who is being pivoted? Our teaching staff?  Our support staff? Our senior management? our students? Our communities? And does everyone know what their role is in this pivot? Or are they just hearing (seeing) someone constantly yelling “PIVOT” and not being actually sure of where they  (or how) they are supposed to be pivoting they just end up walking away or in our cases not applying to uni/college this year or ever.

If all of the above are being pivoted then there needs to be some really consistent, clearly understood, accessible, inclusive, instructions for the start of the new “old” academic year for all students and staff. Although “the pivot” got the sector through the initial chaos of #lockdown,  that just in time approach isn’t sustainable.

There a number of models out there. This article in Inside Higher Ed presents 15. These are very much based on the American model so a couple of them aren’t really that viable in Ireland and the UK. This article from Laura Czerniewicz also provides an very thoughtful, accessible overview of some of the wider pressures on the sector right now.

I’ve also been discussing various options with colleagues that I’m working with, as well as keeping half an eye on other things that people are sharing but it does seem to me that there is something missing, or perhaps just a bit too hidden, in the current discourse, particularly around our students. The pivot does seem to have been done to them and not with them. This is where why I think we need to start thinking more the about “the pivot” in terms of students.

Already we have 10s of thousands of our current students whose “student experience” has been totally disrupted. Exams in some cases have been cancelled, changed to perhaps open book exams which could be a very different experience, particularly when all submission is online. Access to stable wifi, labs, laptops,  quiet and collaborative spaces on-campus has been abruptly ended, with no clear indication of when or if that will resume. 

Whilst the vast majority of students do have some kind of mobile phone, they don’t all have access to their own laptops at home and with the wider context of lockdown they may very well be negotiating use of a family computer with multiple others – all of whom will have their own priorities. The what and how of student engagement is fundamentally changing and any model we adopt for future delivery has to be cognisant of that.

This week in the UK there has been raft of commentary in the media around the injustice of students in England being charged full fees, but not getting an “real” aka face to face teaching. Of course this highlights a general lack of understanding of what online learning is and the very real role of the teacher and wider development teams in successful online learning.  That urban myth of online being second best is something that needs to busted – that conception that “good” tertiary education is exemplified by the lecture at the front of a large lecture theatre really does need to change, and we all have a role to play in doing that.

So I am  proposing that one way to do that would be to develop some extended discourse around participation. Let’s talk stop talking about the as much about the online pivot and start talking about the participation pivot.

Let’s look at participation and what that means for our students and staff and see if we can use what is happening just now to gain back some time and breathing space for everyone. To do this, I think we really need to be starting by revisiting the notion of the student experience. It’s not going to be what it was for quite some time. The social aspect of college/university is gone for at least the rest of this year if not longer.

This is my starter for 10 on developing a model that allows us to work with students and allows our current context to be a key driver for our curriculum development.

revisiting the student experience

For a starting point I’m suggesting we need to really look at the 1st year experience.  We have a large group of young adults whose lives have been turned upside down. I’m sure many of you are living with that right now. Their exams have been cancelled, they’re dealing with “unusual” marking of class work to get their grades, the whole end of school rites of passage things have been cancelled – not trips away, no house parties, no opportunities to really become yourself, which is key aspect of growing up.

The research from about a decade ago now around the first year experience was about keeping students in first year. Just now it is more about getting students into first year. Why would you go to uni this year when things are so unsettled, you haven’t been able to complete the exams you thought you would ,when you might have to do that “online learning” and all the additional challenges that brings.

So we really need to have a major rethink about induction.  It can’t be just one packed week of online webinars just showing how systems work, there’s not going to be a huge queue of students trying to get their library card, but we need to make sure that there getting user names and passwords is really easy and support is in place for that. 

I think the whole induction notion needs to be extended into a wider change of focus take a more integrated long thin approach rather than the short fat model we are used to. I see this a part of a wider flipping of the curriculum and rethinking of digital and physical spaces and how, when and who interacts in them. 

We need to start redefining and articulating what engagement looks like/is for between staff and students, between students and students and between staff and staff – research, teaching, support, management – everyone. For this to really happen I think there needs to be a refocus away initially for subject/discipline content to the development of digital capabilities. Of course there could a discipline focus here but really I think going back to induction the first term/semester should really be about getting students (and staff) comfortable and familiar with institutionally provided learning and teaching technology and their own “new” learning spaces.  

There is a huge co-production opportunity here to work with students and getting their active input into how and when activities are best delivered.  This could be done through a range of activities that focused on the reality of life for us all just now.

COVID 19 relates to every discipline, and every aspect of our life. We could use this time to develop critical thinking and research skills. Looking to critical pedagogy we could encourage our students (and staff)  to critically engage with the current context of our society and education right now. What about some kind of communal, inter-disciplinary digital research methods module for 1st years? Encourage the development of data literacy skills in the context of the daily government briefings, to ensure students know how to interpret data and question and critique how data is presented to the public. In this scenario, 

Library staff could be far better integrated into course/module development and delivery along with other support service staff.  Get students to develop their digital scholarship capabilities much earlier, and encourage them to develop digital stories using a range of media, and really develop more reflective approaches to learning and assessment. 

Also going back to physical spaces, there are going to be challenges in any return to campus, and use of our spaces in relation to social distancing. There may be opportunities for sharing of space between universities, but I think that there might be an opportunity for universities/colleges to work with the community a bit more here too and students should have a role in this too.

Our campuses are technology rich spaces with wifi (and a superfast network that isn’t being used to capacity right now). Given the inequalities that are being so clearly highlighted just now and the ever increasing reliance on digital interactions for every type of service, would it be possible to open some of our spaces to the community (with safe social distancing measures of course). I ca see some great student project opportunities here . . .working across disciplines, across years . . .

What about some of the huge ethical challenges we are facing around contact tracing and the using mobile apps or fast tracking vaccination research and human testing? I know I feel a sense of powerlessness around these issues and to be honest at times  I feel just  too overwhelmed,  tired and scared to explore and critique more. But that’s what education is for. We need to be providing opportunities for our students to gain a sense of agency around these issues and the world we are all living in right now. To investigate, research, perhaps be part of research teams, to question to critique to develop alternative approaches,  that kind of “real world” learning that in anytime is crucial.  Let’s explore and develop our design approaches with our students and really learn together about what does and doesn’t work in terms of meaningful participation and engagement.

In terms of evaluation, our current module evaluation questions could now be next to useless. So why don’t we use students to actively evaluate the tech we are using? Work out together the affordances of each and combine with data/analytics, think about time online – how long do students want to be in live lecture? The balance of sync/async activities. We’re all experiencing zoom fatigue now so lets ensure the education sector is leading in developing and sharing best practice for new ways of working. Let our students go to employers with really effective, innovative was of working and communication effectively online and offline.

Taking this approach of course wouldn’t be comfortable or easy. But we can’t go back to business as usual – everything has fundamental changed. Why are we trying to replicate a system that is no long fit for purpose? 

However what it might do would be to give us the time to develop a more nuanced understanding of what the student experience is now.  Critique, evaluate that with our students, come to common, shared understandings  of what participation means now, and how to  ensure that we are supporting delivery relevant educational experiences to  what could very well be a lost generation. Allowing them to be as  fully equipped in terms of digital capabilities, reflective and critical thinking skills as they can be so that they can take the lead in how their society/ies develop in the (hopefully) post covid-19 world.

Digitally enabled tertiary and adult education for challenging times – thoughts on the UHI Learning and Teaching 2020 conference

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the UHI Learning and Teaching Conference 2020, held at Inverness College. The theme of the conference was “dimensions of tertiary practice” and all the sessions over the 2 days of the conference really did highlight the breadth, depth and differences in approaches to tertiary education across the UHI partnership. It’s easy to not quite appreciate just how unique a partnership UHI is. It spans 13 Academic partners, with 40,000 students in 70 local learning centres, over a geographical area the size of Belgium. Not quite your average university or college.

The range of dimensions of tertiary engagement are quite different in UHI due to it’s partnership model that spans FE and HE. Developing a shared understanding of tertiary education that encompasses all the activities of UHI was a topic of conversation across the conference. The practice of being a distributed tertiary institution was wonderfully illustrated through all the parallel sessions.

I was delighted to deliver a keynote on day 2 of the conference with my co-research Bill Johnston. Our talk, titled “digitally enabled tertiary and adult education for challenging times” took a broader overview of our current socio-economic landscape, in particular the challenges education at all levels faces from mass populism, as characterised by the the recent resurgence of right wing politics. We posed that finding ways to harness public pedagogy ( e.g the climate activist movement) combined with critical pedagogy may be a way to start to redefine the practice and development of tertiary education. We also shared a design cycle based on the values of the UHI Learning and Teaching Enhancement Strategy.

I felt that our talk complemented the opening keynote from Julia Fortheringham ( Edinburgh Napier University) in which Julia shared some of the findings from her research into experiences of transition students. Her talk really did highlight the challenges the transition students face and the pragmatic approaches they develop to complete their degrees. These don’t always aligned with the type and timing of support offered by Universities.

The closing keynote from Tom Farrelly ( Institute of Technology, Tralee), focused on his research into the metaphors developed over the past 20 years of VLE use, and raised a lively discussion around the realities of VLE use in tertiary education. Tom also hosted one of his (in)famous Gasta sessions during the conference. All the speakers and audience took to this style of short presentation with gusto (and slightly different Gaelic pronounciation).

I would just like to thank everyone involved in organizing the conference, in particular Alex Walker.

Developing an institutional approach to learning capture

Back in September last year I wrote a post called “to lecture capture or not to lecture capture? That’s not really the question.” Possibly because of the timing (not long after ALT-C, near the start of the new academic year) it got quite a positive response from my network. In fact it was my top viewed post last year.  

In the post I explained how I had been asked to prepare a discussion paper for our Senate around lecture capture and some of my thoughts going through that process. I wrote:

“whilst I see the benefits that lecture capture can bring – there are many –  I am also acutely aware of the costs (not just hardware/software) but the staff resources, and the wider CPD issues for both staff and students.  At at time when we are not awash with money for anything, I have to ask is it worth spending a substantial amount of money on lecture capture? Or should we not just do something because everyone else, but instead focus our resources and efforts around changing our expectations for both staff and students on the role of not lecture capture but learning capture – those key suggests/points of knowledge transfer that really make the difference to understanding. And in doing so, take another look at the tech we already have and see how we can extend its use.”

So I duly wrote the paper, and the notion of learning capture got a favourable response and my department were asked to lead an institution wide consultation exercise.  

We have just finished the first 2 meeings with staff and students.  Overall both groups seemed fairly positive about the idea of learning capture as opposed to lecture capture. Perhaps not unsurprisingly the default  position of many when asked about the challenges and opportunities did seem to instantly revert to thinking about issues around video recording.

In the student session, I did one of my favourite tricks using mentimeter to generate word clouds. I ask them to share the first 3 words that came to their minds when I said lecture capture and then learning capture – subtle but interesting differences.

The other really salient point brought up by the students was who decided what to capture?  A great question and one which we talked about for quite a while.  I can see significant opportunities for extending co-creation opportunities.

Our next meeting will be a joint one with students and staff where we can begin to develop a shared definition of learning capture. 

Context, criticality , community, collaboration, snapchat, shoes and space blankets #altc 2018

The words in the title kind of sum up my experience of the #altc conference last week.  What a week, I think I am still recovering – though in a good way!   As this year marks the 25th anniversary of the association,  my fellow Trustees  took over the conference co-chairing, with myself and Martin Weller acting as conference Co-Chairs.   Given the level of positive feedback I got in person on Thursday and all the very positive messages on twitter, I think our decision paid off, with many people saying that this had been the best ALT conference they had ever been to.

We didn’t want the conference to be a nostalgia fest, instead we very much wanted to take a critical look at where we are now in relation to learning technology and the challenges and opportunities that face us all.  We knew that our keynote line up was pretty fantastic, however they surpassed our expectations.  Starting with  Tressie McMillan Cottom,  the conference got off to a flying start with her focus on context – the devil is always in the context!

Amber Thomas on day 2 reflected on her 20 years  working “on the edge“.  Amber’s sharing of her differing contexts throughout her career resonated with many (including myself).   How timely to be remind of the innovation that comes from within our sector, the loss of funding opportunities (I am alone in wondering why so many developments have to become paid for services, or “industrialised”).  Learning technologists exist on the edges and intersections of many communities and that is a great strength but also a challenge for acceptance for being valued and recognised. ALT is a key platform for doing exactly that.

Our CEO Maren Deepwell gave the final keynote, where she gave a personal reflection – beyond advocacy; who shapes the future of learning technology?  Maren is in many ways the voice of ALT. She speaks for our community on many stages, so it was a personal delight for me to allow Maren’s own voice to be heard on this very special year for the Association.

This year also marks a significant point in terms the constitution of the Association. Over the past three years we have changed our charitable status, developed our new strategy, become a virtual organisation.  All of these milestones are providing a stable foundation for the Association to continue to grow and develop for the next 25 years and beyond.  At our AGM, members approved  a new governance structure which we hope will streamline and improve communications between our member and special interest groups and the board of Trustees.  As we work with the membership towards transitioning to this new, simplified structure, for the next year, Martin Well will remain as President, I will remain as Chair and Nic Whitton as Co-Chair.

As part of my role as conference co-chair and Chair of the Association I was delighted to be able to take part in our annual awards ceremony and give out some awards to our amazing winners this year.  A huge congratulations to all of the winners.  I also had the thrill to be able to award my former colleague Linda Creanor with our highest award, that of honorary Life Membership of the Association.  Linda has (and continues to) made an outstanding contribution to the Association.  In another first, I was also delighted to award Martin Hawksey with the inaugural Chair’s award for outstanding contributions to the community.

Throughout the three days I was struck by the strength of our community and the level of collaboration and criticality at all the sessions I attended.  Long may this continue, by working together we can shape the future.

No conference is complete without shoes, and I’d just like to say thank you to everyone for the amazing #shoetweets,

and a special thank you the Debbie Baff and Susanne Faulkner for their live snapchat tutorial on the train journey to the conference.   I can now filter (almost) with the best of them.

The only slight downside of my week was a fire alarm at my hotel on Tuesday night. However it did have a silver lining in the shape of a space blanket .  . .

I just want to say another huge thank you to everyone involved in the conference: the speakers, the delegates, the sponsors, the student helpers, the conference committee, the keynote speakers, my fellow trustees and the amazing ALT staff.  Until next next year in Edinburgh let this be the best #altc ever.

 

Unbundling, onboarding, digital futures – where is the love and struggle?

picture of people boarding a plane

Photo by Chris Brignola on Unsplash

Last week I was asked to pull together a short 5 minute provocation around the future for digital learning for departmental away day.  Luckily for me Sian Bayne and Michael Gallagher from the Centre for Digital  Education at the University of Edinburgh had just published two short, but very useful (openly licensed) papers: Future Trends: Education and Socitey,  Future Trends: Science and Technology. You can access them both here.

These were the perfect reference point for me and summarised many of the things I had in one of the many lists in my head.  A couple of points were really relevant for discussion with my colleagues (as we are a department of Academic Quality and Development) –  unbundling and new degree models (e.g. graduate level apprenticeships)  and their discussion about new forms of value (for example blockchain) and the potential to use more distributed networks to store, accredit, pay and share qualifications.  This brings with it the potential for the accreditation of awards to be “opened up” aka commercialised.

The arrival of graduate level apprenticeships  (the most current form of unbundling here in the Scotland )  and the potential revenue they bring, are a very direct concern for my colleagues from both the academic quality and development point of view. We need to maintain the former and ensure that the latter is appropriate and that we are not just doing a bit of enhanced traditional day release.  With all universities (particularly in Scotland where we don’t have the same fee revenue from undergraduate fees as other parts of the UK), chasing the money can all too often be the driving force, and the key “business focus”. The reality of the business of learning and teaching doesn’t get quite as much attention.  The  neoliberalisation of education marches on apace, as Michael and Sian point out

Some critics foreground its decentralising, individuating reduction of all learning to exchangeable value, aligning it with the ideologies of ‘neoliberalism, libertarianism, and global capitalism’ (Watters 2016). Others challenge its vast carbon footprint (Holthaus 2017), and some see it merely as a solution in search of a problem.

On Friday I also spotted via twitter that Anglia Ruskin have appointed a marketing agency to “define and deliver the future experience for the university’s students and staff.”

The agency will:

partner with Anglia Ruskin to help shape its digital strategy, as well as providing long term support with service design and modern digital development capability. Alongside working with ARU to clarify their longer-term ambition for the target customer experience, Friday are expected to start immediate work on two key projects; a website redesign and re-platforming, as well as re-imagining the applicant and onboarding experience.

A representative from the  agency is quoted as saying:

Good digital, done well, has the potential to improve lives. Education, and digital’s ability to support it, is something we’re extremely passionate about. So Anglia Ruskin, with their ambition for digital to materially improve the student experience, is an ideal partner for us – we’re thrilled to be working with them.

“good digital”- now there is a phrase and half, a real wtf statement if ever I saw one. Digital is particularly on my mind just now, as I am currently writing and researching about “the digital” in relation to universities for a book I’m writing with Keith Smyth and Bill Johnston – our deadline is the end of the month so I probably shouldn’t be writing this post!

I see digital as a complex code word, one that has many different meanings, and an equal number of assumptions. It is equally powerful and meaningless , as I think the quote above exemplifies.  As our OER18 presentation highlighted we are looking particularly at critical pedagogy as a theoretical basis for our work and see human understanding and contextualistaion of “the digital” as being key.  It is only through people really understanding and challenging socio-political contexts that the potential of digital technologies can be utilised.  This is completely contrary to neoliberal trends of unbundling and onboarding the student experience.

We need to fight back from the oppression of phrases (and assumptions) such as “good digital”. Unsurprisingly I have been reading the work of Antonia Darder of late, and in particular her article Teaching as an Act of Love: Reflections on Paulo Freire and his contributions to our lives and work (2011).

Isn’t it time that we all demanded less “good digital” and more love and struggle? I leave you with some words of wisdom and reflection from Antonia.

If there was anything that Freire consistently sought to defend, it was the freshness, spontaneity, and presence embodied in what he called an “armed loved—the fighting love of those convinced of the right and the duty to fight, to denounce, and to announce” (Freire, 1998, p. 42). A love that could be lively, forceful, and inspiring, while at the same time, critical, challenging, and insistent. As such, Freire’s brand of love stood in direct opposition to the insipid “generosity” of teachers or administrators who would blindly adhere to a system of schooling that fundamentally transgresses every principle of cul- tural and economic democracy  . .   I want to write about political and radicalized form of love that is never about absolute consensus, or unconditional acceptance, or unceasing words of sweetness, or endless streams of hugs and kisses. Instead it is a love that I experienced as unconstricted, rooted in a committed willingness to struggle persistently with purpose in our life . ..

(Almost) A week in hashtags #1lib, #DigitalGuardiansEg

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

This week I have had to contrasting but equally inspiring (in different ways) experiences which I just want to share a  quick reflection on.

On Monday I crossed off something from, which if I had one, might well be on my bucket list. It’s something  had a negative experience a long time ago that tainted me, but over time I have come back to and seen the real value of both personally and professionally. What could that be I hear you ask, dear reader? Well, on Monday (along with colleagues from our library) I helped to create a new Wikipedia article as part of a #1lib event organised by my colleague Marion Kelt.

Sara Thomas, currently a Wikimedian in residence at SLIC, facilitated an really excellent workshop on using wikimedia for education.   I have watched with great interest how a growing number of institutions are working with the wikimedia foundation. Ewan McAndrew, the current Wikimedian in residence at the University of Edinburgh spent some time with Marion and myself last year sharing some of the fabulous work he is supporting there. Ewan has also kindly extended invitations to a number of editathons, but for one reason or another I have never quite got there, or got there too late  to actually do anything.

So it was great to actually go through the process of setting up, researching and starting to create a page and also get a really useful overview of the validity, reporting and general overview of wikipedia processes and growing number of support resources for education. I also found out a lot about Orkney Library and hope that others will contribute to the page.

Hopefully over the coming year, we can get some more Wikipedia activity going in the University.

In the meantime here are some useful resources.

On Thursday morning I had a different, more virtual, international experience through #DigitalGuardiansEg.  This was a twitter scavenger hunt, designed by Maha Bali as part of a digital identities and literacies and intercultural learning course.  You can read an overview of the design of the activity here.  This post is just such a great example of open educational practice. I really love and admire the way Maha shares her learning designs and the resources she recommends.

It was great fun, way to start the day connecting with the class in Egypt, and with many others from around the world on twitter,  join in the mystery object photo challenge.

Another part of the activity for the class was to create an “alternative CV” and publish it (again see Maha’s post for more details). This activity was so interesting to interact with on so many levels.  I was really moved by the way a number of the students engaged with the activity and the empathy and reflections they shared.  Breaking out of the traditional CV format is really powerful.  If you have time I would encourage you to explore #digitalguardianseg.

Like the majority of people living and working in a  predominately white, middle class, privileged, global North bubble, I   don’t spend enough time reflecting on post colonalism, and intercultural issues.  I was again moved by the  generosity of Maha’s poem, I’m Not Angry at You  I really hope you aren’t angry at me Maha! But it made me angry at them, and myself for my own complacency.

Like others in the sector, we are increasingly using digital storytelling as a method for students to develop self reflection and digital capabilities.  I’m am going to share the video below  a lot now.  We need to hear/see/ read so many more stories.

It was an absolute privilege and pleasure to be able to interact with Maha’s students this week and experience some of their stories.

Coming together with all the C’s: a short reflection on #BYOD4L

Image(CC0)

So another week of connecting, communicating, curating, collaborating and creating with #BYOD4L has just come to an end.  As ever I find the week just flies by in a whirl of persicopes, tweet chats, googl+-ing and general community sharing and fun.

This year we add a few more C’s into the mix to  extend the conversations a bit and also to reflect evolving practice and use of mobile devices, web services and apps.   So we had connecting and confidence, communication and (digital) capabilities, curation and and copyright, collaboration and community,  creating and celebrating.   I think that these additions really did help.   And once again our community came together in a whirl of sharing based on shared values. It’s really hard so soon after the event to pull anything coherent however a couple of the C’s stood out for me. The first of them being community.

One of the reason I continue to be involved with #BYOD4L is the community spirit it engenders. Over the past three years Neil Withnell, Alex Spiers  and I have evolved into our own wee team/community organising things behind the scenes. We very rarely get the chance to meet in person but we just seem to naturally be able to divide up what needs to be done and support each other in a really collegiate way. There’s no rivalry, no one-man-upship, we just get on with things.

This year we were joined by Debbie Baff – an stalwart of the #BYOD4L community and Suzanne Faulkner a complete newbie to the whole thing. What a joy it was to work with them both.  Debbie is just one of those lovely really open educational practitioners people who always shares and cares.  Suzanne, well what can I say. Talk about embracing all the C’s! She was periscoping every day, often with her students, tweeting and she even wrote that blog post she had been thinking about for such a long time.  We managed to meet up briefly on Friday afternoon and what a joy that was. Although we had never met, it was like meeting a long lost friend.

I think for those of us who have been working and networking online for the last decade and are part of established networks, it’s all  to easy to forget that others aren’t.  Events like #BYOD4l are a great way to jump start that on line networking within a safe. supportive environment and community.

So whilst I know many of us are finding Twitter not quite the same place as it used to be, it still can be a great space to connect. It saddens me that others may not have the same experiences that I have had in terms of connecting, collaborating and community building that I have been so lucky to experience.

During the week I was speaking at an event in London where I met many of my extended online community, including Chrissi Nerantzi (one of the inventors of BYOD4L).  I took the opportunity to do a very unplanned, slightly chaotic persicope from the event with Chrissi and a few others.  It still quite amazes me that just with my phone I can broadcast from anywhere with a decent 3/4G or wifi connection.

The other C that I really need to think about more is curation. On Wednesday night we joined with with #LTHEchat community  to discuss curation and copyright. So many threads to that discussion! The recent-ish news about Storify now moving to a paid for service has certainly help to focus minds in some aspects of curation. I think it’s fair to say many people used storify primarily as a twitter curation tool. I know that’s how it was/is used by #BYOD4L. We do also back up using Tags Explorer too. But the storify interface is/was simple to set up and use. A salutary tale in terms of becoming reliant on free at point of use, and apparently open services.

Personally I am in a slight quandary about my own curation. I have “stuff” all over the place, mainly in the cloud. Maybe I have an over simple faith that I will be able to find said “stuff” whenever I need it. In reality, when I am looking for that link/paper/ref and can’t find it in 5 minutes, I usually just resort to an internet search . . .  Part of me feels that I should try to have a less  chaotic approach to curation, but that doesn’t seem to last very long. My laziness and faith in asking the “lazy web” just keeps getting in the way.

Anyway lots more to think about after the week and hopefully a few more blog posts once my thoughts are a bit more in order.

 

 

To list or not to list? #creativeHE

glenn-carstens-peters-190592(Image: Unsplash)

I fear I may I may have inadvertently started #listgate during last nights’  #creativeHE and #LHTEchat  tweet chat around creativity and assessment.

In answer to the question  what would be at the top of your being more creative list and why?”  I responded somewhat flippantly “first rule of my creativity is no lists”

Now this provoked a few tweets such this and and this

What I then said was that lists generally are made up of things I need to do – not want to do. In the context of creativity and the conversations last night, that’s how I felt. If I am feeling creative I just do “stuff” –  I tend not to need a list. At other times I do need lists, in fact I like lists, well maybe I like making lists and then actually don’t use them and end up recreating them. . .

Anyway, back to creativity. I’m not sure you can checklist creativity . . . you could have all the elements from a list, but that still might not give you the spark of inspiration.  I could be wrong. . . I might have to make a list of the reasons why  . . . what do you think?

Where Sheila's been this week – codesigning next gen learning environments with Jisc

You may or may not be aware of Jisc’s current co-design consultation exercise with the HE/FE sector.  The co-design approach is a way to try and ensure that Jisc developments are supportive and representative of the needs of the sector.   Building on feedback from the first iteration of the process, this time around there has been a concerted effort to get wider sectoral involvement in the process through various methods, including social media, blog posts, tweet chats and voting.

Yesterday, along with about 30 others, I attended a face to face meeting to explore, review and discuss the results of the process and feedback on the six “big” challenges identified by Jisc.

  1. What does the imminent arrival of the intelligent campus mean for universities and colleges?
  2. What should the next generation of digital learning environments do?
  3. What should a next-generation research environment look like?
  4. Which skills do people need to prepare for research practice now and in the future?
  5. What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?
  6. How can we use data to improve teaching and learning?

You can see the results of the voting here too.

The voting process does need some refinement as Andy McGregor was clear to point out, and we really used it and the comments as a guide for the discussions.  Personally I found the voting process a bit cumbersome – having to fill out a google doc for each one. I can see why Jisc wanted to get all that information but I would have preferred something a bit more instant with the option of giving more detailed information. That might have encouraged me to cast more than one vote  . . .

I joined the next generation learning environments discussion. I had been quite taken with the pop up VLE notion but as the discussion evolved it became clearer to me that actually the idea articulated so well by Simon Thomson (Leeds Beckett Uni) of connecting institutional and user owned tech was actually a much stronger proposition and in a way the pop up VLE would fall out of that.

The concept is really building on the way that IFTT (if this then than) works, however with a focus on connecting institutional systems to personal ones.  Please, please read Simon’s post as it explains the rationale so clearly.   I use IFTT and love the simplicity of being able to connect my various online spaces and tools, and extending that into institutional systems seems almost a no brainer.

We talked about space a lot in our discussion, personal space, institutional space etc (Dave White has a good post on spaces which relates to this).  For both staff and students it can be quite complex to manage, interact in and understand these spaces.

We (teachers, support staff,  IT, the institution) are often a bit of obsessed with controlling spaces.  We do need to ensure safety and duty of care issues are dealt with but activity around learning doesn’t always need to take place in our spaces e.g. the VLE.  Equally we (staff) shouldn’t feel that they have to be in all the spaces where students maybe talking about learning. If students want to discuss their group activity on snapchat, what’s app, Facebook then let them. They can manage their interaction in those spaces. What we need to be clear on is the learning activity, the key interactions and expectations of outputs and in which spaces the learning activities/outputs need to be.  The more connected approach advocated by Simon could allow greater ease of connection between spaces for both staff and students.

Providing this type of  architecture (basically building and sharing more open APIs)  is not trying to replace a VLE, portfolio system etc, but actually allowing for greater choice around engagement in,  and sharing of,  learning activity. If I like writing in evernote (as I do) why can’t I just post something directly into a discussion forum in our VLE? Similarly if our students (as ours do) have access to one note and are using it, why can’t they choose to share their work directly into the VLE?  Why can’t I have my module reading lists easily saved into a google doc?

This isn’t trying to replace integrations such as LTI, or building blocks that bring systems/products  into systems. This is much more about personalisation and user choice  around notifications, connections and sharing into systems that you (need to) use.  It’s lightweight, not recreating any wheels but just allowing more choice.

So at  a university level you could have a set of basic connections (recipes) illustrating how students and staff and indeed the wider community could interact with institutionally provided systems, and then staff/students decided which ones (if any) they want to use, or create their own.  Ultimately it’s all about user choice. If you don’t want to connect that way then you don’t have to. It’s lightweight, not recreating any wheels but just allowing more choice

As well as helping to focus on actual learning activity, I would hope that this approach would helping institutions  to think about their core institutional provision, and “stuff that’s out there and we all are using” – aka byod.  It would also hopefully allow for greater ease of experimentation without having to get a system admin support to try something out in the VLE.

I would hope this would also help extend support and understanding of the need for non monolithic systems and get edtech vendors to build more flexible interaction/integration points.

Anyway hopefully there will be more soon from Jisc, and Simon actually has some funding to trying an build a small prototype based on this idea.  Jisc will also be sharing the next steps from all the ideas over the coming weeks.  Hopefully this idea is simple and agile enough to get into the Jisc R&D pipeline.

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Jisc R&D Pipeline

Thinking about the almost now, some visual notes from #BbTLC2014

I’ve been fascinated by visual recordings of meetings for a while now. Once again I’ve been inspired by David Hopkins who I met for the first time last week at #BbTLC2014.  David has recently started to develop his sketch noting skills ( you can see his live notes from the conference over on his blog).

Over the past few years, my own note taking skills have really become  twitter-fied (not sure if that is a word). If I am at a conference I tend to tweet and that provides the basis for my note (and memory) of most events. In fact I think that the 140 limit in twitter has helped my synthesis skills. However, there is something about a picture . . . So  following  a chat with David on his experiences to date, I’ve decided to give it a go. I’ve ordered the sketchnote handbook and whilst  wait for that to arrive, I’ve been having a play with the notability app on my ipad.

I realise that my first attempts are a long way of what David and other such as Guilia Forsythe can do and I  have had a few days to think about things (doing things in the almost now!) But I just thought I’d share them.

So here are my very basic, slightly more visual notes from Professor Stephen Heppell’s and Jay Bhatt’s  (CEO, Blackboard) keynotes (click on the pics to see larger versions).   I think I might try and see if I can do a bit more visual note-taking and a bit less tweeting at conferences, and more practice of my drawing doodling skills.

Stephen and David’s approval has been  lovely and encouraging too.