Tag Archives: digital

What does the digital age mean for teaching and learning?

Alice Gallagher
Senior Product Development Manager
The Open University

OEB 2017: Highlights and reflections

The talks and sessions I attended at OEB 2017, courtesy of a UCISA bursary, were hugely varied, and offered the opportunity to engage with different perspectives to my own. This can be fascinating and enlightening, but also challenging. There were talks that really struck a chord, and others that jarred for me. It can be difficult to reflect back on the latter, to try to understand where that disconnection comes from.
In these blogs, I’ve grouped my thoughts into the keynotes on the first day, some of the highlights, and lowlights, of the rest of the conference and my critical reflections.

Keynotes

Aleks Krotoski – The Tales they are A’Changin

Aleks is a familiar media figure and gave a very engaging and entertaining talk about the nature of storytelling and how it has changed. She moved though subject areas as varied as the Bible, Star Wars and My Little Pony! Essentially, the point she was making (I think), was that stories used to be guarded by gatekeepers, but the rise of the digital age has moved us to the extreme of fanon (fans creating new stories which then become part of the mainstream/canon). This made me think about the shift in power, and the democratisation of the Internet. However, how do you apply that to a learning context? Collaboration and co-design are wonderful democratising concepts in teaching and learning, but isn’t there always the role of a teacher in some capacity? Even if you move away from the traditional ‘imparting of wisdom’ teacher/student dynamic.
One message that came through loud and clear for me was that uncertainty can lead to reinvention. A central theme of the conference and a positive opening message.

Follow-up session (Aleks Krotoski)

I attended a follow-up discussion session with Aleks, which focused on how we might apply storytelling in our own professions. Although I went into the session thinking about how I might be able to use storytelling techniques in developing learning materials for students, it soon became clear to me in the session that the real story I needed to tell was to my academic colleagues. I work in learning innovation, and one of the biggest challenges of my role is explaining what the future of digital learning might be like. By making digital learning the subject of my story, I could use storytelling structural devices to get across my message.
Where was the world before we started?
What is going to change? What are your goals?
Raising the stakes (engagement)
Main event (answers question)
Resolution (world as it is now) – share truth in specifics
Until recently, I couldn’t see how I could use this kind of storytelling in my work. Sometimes you have to conform to familiar language to persuade people to listen, and sometimes you need to break the mould to be heard. It feels like the moment to break the mould might be around the corner. I have been keeping this storytelling structure in my back pocket for just that moment!

Abigail Trafford – Longevity learning technology

Abigail gave a fascinating talk about learning in later life. This is not an unfamiliar notion to me. At the Open University we traditionally cater for students in all walks of life. However, what I hadn’t really considered were the different needs of older people in preparing for the future. Abigail talked about the emergence of adolescence, and its role in helping young people prepare for adult life. As life expectancy increases we are seeing a new stage of life appear. That new stage comes after the tasks of adulthood are complete, but before old age. New, healthy decades in the middle of life that people need help in transitioning into. How can we help them develop new skills, prepare for their next career? How can we innovate in part-time, flexible study to cater for the needs of this age group?
I have recently been involved in some research with students into learning behaviours. One of the outcomes of this work is the dispelling of the notion of ‘digital natives’. Digital capability when it comes to learning seems to have no correlation to age. We looked at behaviours around digital preference and technological self-efficacy, and found a pattern in the behaviours of those new to HE and those with more experience, has nothing to do with age. The more we understand about students’ capabilities and needs, and the less we stereotype, the more we can innovate and help everyone fulfil their potential, at whatever stage of life they are.

 

Pasi Sahlberg – Myths and facts about the future of schooling

I really enjoyed Pasi’s talk. He is clearly a very skilled teacher and was able to entertain, inform and educate a huge room full of delegates very skilfully. His talk focused in on the OECD study of the education policies of different countries. From his Finnish perspective, he commented on the features of successful and not-so-successful education policies. As you might have guessed, Finland has been coming out on top! It was fascinating to compare the features of the education policies of Finland and England. Practical and research evidence shows the approach of Finland and others like it works better, not just in academic performance, but also health and well-being.
Finland England
Cooperation Competition (between schools)
Risk-taking and creativity Standardisation
Professionalism De-professionalisation of teaching
Trust-based responsibility Test-based accountability
Equitable public education for all Market-based privatisation
My reflections on this talk were perhaps more personal than the others. I have one child at school and another about to start. My daughter has just taken her first SATS, aged seven. I distinctly dislike the approach to education forced on schools in England: the testing, the focus on mental arithmetic and spelling. Although I support their schoolwork, at home we focus on creativity, problem-solving, reading for fun, emotional intelligence. I was so pleased to hear I was not alone in this approach, and to keep going, despite ‘traditional values’ government policies.
Videos of the conference can be found here including the Keynote presentations.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Interview: Digital signage solutions and content management at Deakin University

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

AETM Conference 2017 and university visits, Melbourne, Australia

Ben Sleeman was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner
As part of my trip to Australia to attend the AETM Conference, I was able to visit Deakin University. In this interview with Jeremy West, Senior Audo Visual Engineer and Tech Lead, eSolution Team, at Deakin, I discuss the university’s digital signage solutions. Jeremy outlines how the signage is managed across the university from a content and integration point of view.

Below are the other areas we discussed during my visit:
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.
UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

Part 1: Fresh meat and learning about user involvement

 

 

Sara Henderson
Graduate Intern (Student Champion),
Student Systems Project (Corporate Information and Computer Services)
University of Sheffield

UCISA SSG17: Reflections from a bursary scheme winner

Sara Henderson was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

I should start by introducing myself.  I’m Sara and I work as Student Engagement Officer on a major business change project at the University of Sheffield.  I began in January on the University’s Graduate Internship Scheme, before being extended in my role.  A colleague encouraged me to apply to UCISA’s bursary scheme as a junior member of staff, so that I did.

I am interested in technology but motivated by people, so SSG17 presented the perfect opportunity to learn from others in the sector and gain a wider perspective on the work I’m doing.  Now that’s out of the way, we can get to the good stuff.  I present to you my diary (of sorts) from the conference, showcasing some of my thoughts and favourite moments.

Day 1

11:30am

Fuelled by coffee and adrenaline, I find myself in the conference exhibition space, perusing the exhibition but avoiding eye contact.  I glance around the room to see pockets of conversation forming; for some this is an opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues, whereas the rest of us are fresh meat.

13:10pm

Neil Morris from the University of Leeds captures the delegates’ imagination with his presentation ‘Reimagining Traditional Higher Education in the Digital Age’ , focused on how to embed technology-enhanced learning in partnership with students.  “We don’t involve students in projects, we don’t seek their feedback in ways they are interested in giving it, or make use of their intelligence and creativity”.

Neil’s talk affirms why I wanted to come to this conference, challenging the status so often assigned to students – as being passive receivers of knowledge and services, rather than intelligent consumers.  We ought to be involving students in project work, fundamentally and authentically.

15:50pm

Room 101 proves a fantastic way to end the first day, with an all-female panel and some very funny moments.  Did someone say Apple Genius Bar?

11:20am

The day kicks off to an unnerving start when I find out that the panel I am shortly appearing on is one of the most popular sessions of the conference.  To find out more about my experience, head over to my second post – ‘Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)’.

12:20pm

Now for perhaps my favourite talk of the conference: ‘Technophobe Testing’ by Francesca Spencer (Leeds Beckett University).  The basic premise is that in IT of all places, we ought to be involving technophobes, because they can actually be a help rather than a hindrance to our work.  Francesca had the brainwave of recruiting some self-confessed technophobes, and observing their use of AV equipment in a judgement-free zone to determine how to make it more user-friendly.  We need to embed our users in the process of implementing technology (before it’s too late).

Day 3

9:00am

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to climb down from my pedestal during breakfast, on what is affectionately known as “fuzzy Friday”. Unlike some of the conference-goers making a beeline for a fry-up, I opted to for a sensible night in after a case of conference-fatigue…

12:30pm

Paul Boag closes SSG17 by informing us ‘How to Create a User Experience Revolution’ .  His insistence that “if you don’t speak to your users once every six weeks, you don’t get to be a stakeholder in a project” certainly rung true, and he comfortably drew together some key themes from the conference, about collaborative working, establishing shared values and cultural change.

So there we have it – my experience in a nutshell.  Thank you to UCISA for having me, and if you want to hear more from me, head over to my second post ‘Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)’, or follow me on LinkedIn:

(Presentations and video streaming available at the conference website)

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of digital literacy and digital diversity for students and staff

Dee Vyas
Classroom Technology Teaching Adviser
Learning Innovations
Manchester Metropolitan University

Reflections from the UCISA conference Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

I am employed by Manchester Metropolitan University as a Classroom Technology Teaching Adviser and I am a member of the Learning Innovation Team, based in the Department of Learning and Research Technologies. My primary responsibilities are to support academic colleagues across the university in their use of institutionally supported technologies for learning teaching and assessment, and to research and to provide advice on emerging technologies that may have a role in higher education.

The UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event was a two day conference held at the Austin Court from 25-26th May. I had applied for a UCISA bursary to attend the conference and was amazed when I was awarded one.

The conference theme was of particular interest to me as in a world of fast changing technologies, it is important to enable staff and students to develop and apply them in effective and efficient ways within their teaching and learning environment.

I have worked in the IT related field for over twenty five years, and the development and use of technology within HE, changes at an exponential rate. We have gone from having no PCs in the classroom to now being able to submerse students within virtual worlds and immersive experiences. Was my generation digitally naïve, as we didn’t use technology as an all-inclusive aspect of our childhood, education and adulthood?

The Spotlight on Digital Capabilities conference offers an insight into how to enable staff and students to keep up with the pace of change in using technologies. It is not simply about introducing a technology within a classroom setting but it is also about the effect it will have from the organisational perspective.  With a wide range of technologies similar in features, how do we choose which technology to implement, develop and highlight to staff and students in order to provide an inclusive experience.

Within my organisation, there are many pockets of innovation, implementation and development, and examples of use of technology within the classroom to enhance the student experience. There are areas where the use of technology and development of digital skills is engrained, and areas where lectures are simply delivered traditionally. Addressing these issues is important, and highlighting good practice and trying to engage students and staff to develop these skills forms, are a fundamental aspect of the work I do.

Digital literacy

Do we all need digital skills, but with a difference in the level and range of skills required? How do academics interpret having a digital capability? Is it the ability to use Twitter, LinkedIn, training for Word or using Padlet? Should the effective use of technology by institutions provide a comparable experience for students?  These are questions that arose from the conference and further research into developing answers for them is required. James Clay, Jisc, in his presentation Building digital capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency  highlighted the fact that three key areas need to be developed for digital literacy to be effective:

  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Support for learners.

Participation in digital teams and working groups based on development of the curriculum and review

Effective collaboration in digital spaces sharing calendars, task lists and building shared resources

Support for learners for collaboration using digital tools and work effectively across all boundaries.

Institutional change is organic rather than transformational, where communication and resilience are cornerstones of change. It’s not about the shiny new technology, as changes in technology can often have a diverse effect on the stakeholders. The language we use to describe technology is not common to all, and providing a discourse and bringing externality (sector specialist/companies) into universities, is an important issue to consider. There is therefore, an important need to share a common language. Scott (2016) highlights how the use of the word “very good” to describe programmes at the University of Toronto in feedback to the Vice-President for Research, resulted in being chastised when the outcome “world-beating” was expected.

The key to implementing change includes the need for a communication plan, a dialogue that is open for all, and an understanding of the cultural, emotional and personal processes which will be affected. How do we inform our stakeholders? If we are to change the future of technology enhanced learning, do we use blog posts, email, notices a month in advance, or digital champions, to provide a sustained process?

Student engagement

Student digital literacy is defined by Jisc (2015) as:

“the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society.”

Without a clear definition of the term “student engagement” or an equivalent shared framework for action and enhancement, a higher education institute may not be able to provide a uniform approach. Is student engagement about the level of investment students make in their learning i.e. as autonomous learners? Student engagement as a policy priority within universities is relatively recent and there is a need to move beyond systems and instead, to describe a concept whereby students are seen as partners. This new concept is based on the opportunity for students to have an influence in determining what their learning should look like, rather than the current traditional approach.

This partnership should exist as a culture within higher education to produce more than a fuzzy feeling. Similar to many partnerships, this new approach will result in changes and enhancements that aim to build a more inclusive learning community.

How can technology enhanced learning (TEL) be used to support the student voice? One of the requirements highlighted as part of the analysis carried out in the Student Engagement Partnership, was how could TEL be used to support the student voice. The availability of adequate wifi within institutions was highlighted as a major factor.

To assess whether things that are being called partnerships can actually provide an opportunity for ongoing conversations to determine people’s needs and expectations, requires some form of assessment criteria. One approach highlighted could be to develop an optional set of questions specifically targeting the use of technology within the learning environment, to be an integral part of the National Student Survey (NSS) and furthermore, an internal institute specific ISS.

Ultimately, some form of change must occur if these partnerships are to be seen as constructive, and whereby students are able to determine that their ideas are being listened to and incorporated into the decision-making process. Avenues of engagement must be kept open for a continuous dialogue between students and the institute.

Finding and minding the gaps: digital diversity

Digital capabilities do not always match reality. The battle we face is a major challenge, as technology is constantly changing. Metathesiophobia is the fear of change and is apt in describing resistance to changing the way we work digitally. Digital literacy is about the concept rather than the technology, whereby it is seen as a functional tool (without our thinking of how to use it). Therefore, development is required in engaging academic staff to build a digital residency where the web becomes the focal point of interest, and an active online presence is not seen as being pervasive. To carry this out, a programme of inclusive CPD and teacher education should become a part of the skills enhancement process. Developing a synergy between pedagogical frameworks and teaching that allows ‘good practice’, as highlighted by a QAA strand, to be disseminated to colleagues, should be seen as the norm rather than the exception.

Sue Watling, University of Hull, highlights the term “digital diversity” as including those who are digital visitors and see the web as a tool and are not actively engaged online, or those who have no online presence and are not digitally immersed. We are all focussed on doing the same work, using the digital skills we are familiar with, but we must not forget those who are wedded to traditional roles – like teaching.  How do we address the digital skills for staff who are employed without these skills? By increasing shared practice as outlined above, through internal and external processes and organisations, such as UCISA, JISC, local events and networks.

Academics may not be aware of how social media can enhance the student experience, how to make the technology relevant to their content, or understand how it can improve their teaching and student learning. There is a need to move away from using generic terms for literacy such as media, numeracy etc. and concentrate on the core abilities of what staff need to know. The Alexandria Proclamation (2005) highlights that literacy should be a human right:

Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion of all nations.”

How we achieve this as part of the educational experience can, I believe, only enhance the knowledge-sharing society and skills universities aim to deliver within the twenty first century. Some may say that digital is a red herring, but is it an opportunity we should all grasp and for which we should endeavour to determine a solution? The government recognises it as an integral part of the economy, and companies are using it, but there are many who do not engage with it. To achieve collaboration between departments is important, as is developing an innovative approach to delivering training, which may include incentives such as prizes and tokens. It is important to work with students as partners to develop a joint literacy that allows teaching to be carried out in an informal manner. The bottom up approach has worked, as has asking students what they use.

References:

Scott, P. (2016) Beware, the central control that grips schools is heading universities’ way. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/04/control-schools-universities-knowledge-business  (Accessed: 02 June 2016).

Jisc (2015) Scott Hibberson. Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-students-digital-literacy (Accessed: 06 June 2016).

UNESCO. (2005). The Alexandria Proclamation “Towards an information literate society” Retrieved June12, 2016 from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/11876051.pdf