Becoming Post Digital – #SEDAConf #SEDApostdigital

On Friday I took part in Helen Beetham’s flipped Being Post Digital keynote on the final day of this year’s SEDA conference. I’m still applauding SEDA and Helen on having the courage to try something new at during a conference keynote. If you want to find out more about the structure and pre-keynote activities have a look at Helen’s blog.

Using Collaborate Helen was not only able to allow those of us not attending the conference on Friday to join in, but also to bring in some other voices (George Roberts and yours truly) to add some remote comments to the ongoing discussions along with David Baume (who was in “da room”).  The chat in the online room was pretty lively, as was twitter, as were the discussions in the conference centre itself. From a remote perspective Helen did a fantastic job of dealing with not only some of inevitable technical glitches but also summarising and feeding backwards and forwards from the real room to the online room, and look at the twitter stream.   A sure sign of a (post) digital practitioner!

Dealing with different spaces and places was a central tenant to Helen’s talk.  It is very difficult to be active in three places at once and you could argue that it is probably never necessary.  Speaking for myself I have found being in two places (the “here and not here” Helen referred to in her talk) particularly during conferences, has given me a far richer experience and interaction with the issues being discussed. Twitter acts as my note taking and as a conduit for others not at the conference.  I have been doing it for so long now it is almost second nature.  It is something I become more comfortable with the more I did it. Conferences are still, imho, one of the best places to understand how to use twitter.

Recently I have been experimenting with visual note taking. This forces me to listen and synthesis in a different way. I do miss somethings as I am drawing and I have to store other things until I find the right way to represent them, or not as the case may be. It’s not as interactive a process as tweeting but it does provide me with a different prompt and recall of an event. If other people like the pictures then that’s fine too.

Here’s my sketch note from the session. (Confession I did redo this after the session itself as speaking, being in the online chat, tweeting and drawing is something I need to practice a bit more).

sketch notes from Helen Beetham keynote

During the session there were a number of grumbles about the value of faceless voices (mea culpa – there had been some bandwith problems before I spoke so I went for audio only), how difficult it was to follow the chat and  twitter, a call for a move to slow reading (in the manner of the slow movement).  As the twitter stream was buzzing with “porosity”,  there was also some mention in the conference room itself of feelings of inadequacy in terms of using technology.  Whilst I do sympathise with this view,  Helen is a very skilled, talented and intelligent presenter, I did find it fascinating that a group of educational developers who seem perfectly at home, and excited by theories of threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge, weren’t a bit more open to trying technologies that troubled them.  Being online can be scary and confusing, but so is life.

We certainly don’t need to use technology all of the time, but I firmly believe it can be a very powerful enabler for enriching and enhancing learning.  Experimentation in safe places, such as the SEDA conference, is really important too to help us all find, and extend our comfort zones. After all isn’t that what education is all about?

Why we need to talk about digital

This week I’ve attended in person, and remotely, the 19th SEDA conference: Opportunities and challenges for academic development in a post-digital age. It’s the first time I’ve been at a SEDA conference and although I knew a number of the delegates, it’s always refreshing to be interact with other (related) communities.

Keith Smyth, and Bill Johnson and myself ran a session called “Visioning the Digital University – from institutional strategy to academic practice“. The session was based around the work we have been doing in exploring what a digital university actually is and the work Keith and colleagues did for the Napier University’s digital futures project.

During the session there were many questions in the room and on twitter about the use of “digital”. Do we need to use the word? Aren’t we all post digital now? Digital, that’s soo 2010 . . .

We don’t have an answer to the question ‘what is a digital university”, rather we have developed a set of prompts and themes to enable conversations around what it might mean to take place. We hoped, and have seen, that these prompts force people to have meaningful, and contextual conversations about actual and future practice and developments. Our first blog post introducing our thoughts was titled ‘a conversation around what it means to be a digital university‘. Enabling meaningful discussion has always been at the forefront of our thinking.

But why the emphasis on digital, and why do we persist with this? Well, because “digital” is a very powerful word. From the BBC to IBM to the UK and Scottish Governments, digital content and digital solutions are everywhere. They are the future – despite being very similar to pre digital solutions and content! In education, Jisc are now providing “digital solutions for UK education and research”, have programmes of work around the “digital student”, the “digital institution”. Digital is firmly on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

Digital is also key part of most emerging strategies for universities. What it actually means is still open for debate. That’s where providing a tool like our matrix can actually start to unpack some of the more fundamental issues around what it means to be a university in the 21st century. You can get the ear of a PVC using the word “digital”. You can roll your eyes all you like, but that is really important in terms of the future of educational development. Digital is also a really useful way to engage with our colleagues both academic and in support services who perhaps don’t engage at the same level as SEDA delegates with digital and post digital discourse. The Digital Futures work at Napier exemplified this.

So let’s reclaim “the digital”, and use it to help all of us move forward our educational development and educational technology agendas.

image of digital spelt using scrabble tiles

image: {{cc-by-2.0}}