Tag Archives: Digital capabilities

Developing ideas in pedagogical transparency for staff and students

Brandon Davies
Junior Audio-Visual Technician
City, University of London

Spotlight on Digital Capabilities, June 2018

When I applied for the UCISA bursary scheme, I immediately identified “Spotlight on Digital Capabilities”, as an ideal conference for what I feel is a most urgent and interesting point of contention within the higher education system today. The potential and ambition within the realm of future teaching-enhancing techniques is intense, and the conference further embodied this.
In my blog, I’m going to focus on two talks from the conference, with which I most connected. I will then expand that consolidation of information into my own thoughts on digital pedagogical applications.

Certification for IT training: options and approaches – Gareth Johns

The talk by Gareth Johns on options and approaches for IT training was eye opening.  The options presented brought together a vital mix of ingredients essential to constructing a sustainable system for engagement, efficiency and certification validity.
The MOS Course (Microsoft Office Specialist) is an official course run and certified by Microsoft themselves.  Using this as a benchmark for digital capabilities is a fantastic way to give staff and students a goal that is not just useful for working within the university, but an incredibly useful skill as a whole. Having a highly recognized qualification as the goal, helps add to staff and students’ employability skills for their career, as well as increasing the efficiency with which digital technology is used, and furthers the transition into modern teaching spaces.

Employability as a result of proficiency

As an Audio-Visual technician myself, the vastly increasing use of digital technology within teaching spaces, can be bewildering for staff and students.  However, these spaces have the potential to provide an increasingly communicative, inclusive and engaging form of teaching. Simply setting the MOS course as a goal is not enough.  At Cardiff Metropolitan University, Gareth has implemented interactive pages on Moodle, in which a more bespoke and broken down version of the course lessons can be taught. This, as well as regular seminars, creates a far more friendly environment and approach for learning the necessary skills required for passing MOS. Using real spreadsheets that staff and students interact with, helps bring home how useful these skills can be in day to day life. This contextualisation, as well as additional practice software such as G-Metrix, creates the infrastructure necessary for an intuitive and accessible course.

Developing a holistic institutional approach to digital capabilities development – Karen Barton

Karen’s talk opened my mind to a totally different approach to digital capabilities development, an holistic approach. Rather conveniently from my alma mater (University of Hertfordshire), Karen immediately separated herself from other approaches by viewing the situation from a larger perspective.
This picture from her slide perfectly demonstrates the side effects of a non-centralised approach to providing answers. With too many parties providing their own solutions, the result can be an overcrowded and inefficient environment.

 

 

Having a specific investigative objective from senior management, as one would expect, seems to have gone a long way in progressing Karen’s work. The use of a pilot programme as a result of the extensive resources allocated, is a great way to slowly refine the scheme before being finalised.
Five other universities have signed up to Hertfordshire’s pilot, a collaboration benefiting everybody. At Hertfordshire, the total redesign of the VLE has given the team there an opportunity to apply different pedagogical practices into the most commonly used software around the university. This has provided an exceptional opportunity to increase the accessibility and efficiency of the scheme. Such long-term integration of digital capability approaches, enables an accretion of infrastructure to the point where the very fabric of being a part of the university exposes you to the certification course and its requirements. Many different speakers from a variety of universities pointed out the use of Lynda.com and Karen was no exception. I’d recommended my university (City, University of London) consider the use of Lynda. I’ve used Lynda for personal development in the past and can speak only highly of it.
Here are a few ideas I have for increasing the success rate and enthusiasm for an IT certification scheme.

Don’t Fall Behind in the Digital Age

Marketing Ideas:
  • Giving a focus on the employability aspect of the course is vital; certification within digital capabilities is hugely beneficial in the modern job market. Indicate the need to stay ahead in the digital age and not fall behind, reinforce the accreditation from Microsoft. The opportunities for lecturers to save on valuable teaching time by becoming increasingly proficient with digital technology within the classroom, is an additional marketing focus.

Increase your chances of a higher salary!

  • Holding a prize within the course for exceptional students and staff could also be hugely beneficial to providing additional incentives.

Conclusions

Homogenising the wide variety of ideas and approaches from the conference is not an easy task.  However, what I’ve mentioned goes a long way to solidifying my own approach to a task requiring a great deal of re-wiring across higher education as a whole, which has no easy solution.
I’d like to thank all the speakers from the conference and UCISA for giving me the opportunity through the bursary scheme to attend. I hope to share my findings with staff at City, University of London, and encourage conversation on an incredibly interesting and complex subject.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Learning about lecture flipping

Sebastian Barnes
IT Support Specialist
Leeds Beckett University

Sebastian Barnes was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

SCHOMS Annual Conference 2017: New ways of delivering classes and lectures

As a UCISA bursary award winner, I was able to attend SCHOMS Annual Conference at Keele University.  After an introduction on Keele University, we moved onto a presentation ‘Creating learning activities and spaces for digital age learners’, regarding the ways in which a class or lecture is delivered to students and how this can be improved. Laura Hancock, Keele University, suggested implementing an idea called “lecture flipping”. As a student, this sounds great! Less time in a lecture theatre and more time in a classroom being able to communicate ideas with each other. Currently at Leeds Beckett this idea is already implemented, with one-hour lectures and one two-hour tutorial per week. However, if the lecture was assigned as homework and within our lecture the hour was more discussion based then this would be better; for myself personally, but some people prefer to learn from listening rather than doing!

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

Setting the scene for reflections on DigPedLab Vancouver 2017

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Background

Beccy Dresden was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

A bit about me….

I’m Beccy Dresden, a Senior TEL Designer (TEL = technology enhanced learning) at The Open University, where I’ve worked for nearly 18 years. I joined the OU from a professional publishing background, and have supported the development of modules on subjects as diverse as law, languages, social work, and English grammar.

My department – the TEL Design team – works in partnership with academic experts, Learning and Teaching Innovation portfolio colleagues, and students and tutors, to design, produce, support and evaluate OU modules. The team’s work draws on and contributes to the learning, teaching and innovation evidence base of the University, and embodies emerging technologies and research to reinforce the OU’s position as the UK leader in supported online and distance learning. The modules we produce are now digital by default, but we are keen to ensure that the online experience we offer our students is driven by pedagogy, not technology. Within the TEL Design team, my particular areas of interest and scholarship are:

  • the use of social media in HE (both in terms of student-facing content, and as a tool/platform in the continuing professional development (CPD) of academic and professional support staff), and
  • developing digital capabilities (again, in terms of both students and staff at the OU).

Those areas of interest are what led me – via Twitter, Martin Weller, and Lawrie Phipps, among others – to discover Hybrid Pedagogy and their Digital Pedagogy Lab Institutes, or DigPedLab for short.

About DigPedLab Institutes

Ever since I applied for the UCISA bursary back in April, I’ve struggled to explain clearly and concisely to people quite what a DigPedLab Institute is – even those working in the ed tech sector have given me slightly puzzled looks – and each institute is slightly different, so it’s not even a single thing. To focus on the one I attended, in the organisers’ words:

DPL Vancouver is a three-day institute that explores the role and application of digital technology in teaching. Three tracks offer intensive peer-driven learning with and discussion of open education, new media, and critical digital pedagogy.

Participants choose between one of three tracks and work collaboratively in small workshop-style classes. Each track is open to all backgrounds and skill levels. Each day of the institute begins with discussion that will play into the day’s work. A continental breakfast will be provided before sessions begin mid-morning, followed by lunch. Afternoons will be split into multiple sessions and will include keynote presentations, workshops, and other activities. Each day will end before dinner. The learning community we create together will be welcoming to a wide range of skill levels and interests.”

The tracks on offer in Vancouver were:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose Digital Literacies led by Bonnie Stewart.  This track was described as:

“focused on the development of participatory, networked literacies that enable collaboration, contribution, and critical sense-making within information abundance. It fosters a critical orientation toward tools, portfolios, and digital presence within networks. Participants will discuss and experiment with various technological tools from the chalkboard to moveable chairs, computers, mobile devices, social media platforms, and learning management systems. Individual sessions and workshops will focus on teaching philosophies, discernment practices for using digital tools in courses, emergent learning, digital composition, and discussions of the impact of the digital on traditional and critical pedagogies.”

Apart from wanting to be taught by Bonnie, whom I have long admired for her clear-sighted and thoughtful-yet-practical approach to complex digital pedagogy issues, I thought that learning about new critical perspectives for evaluating digital tools and approaches would be invaluable for me and my department.

My further blogs are really just an overview of an intense, inspiring, and challenging weekend that – nearly five months later – is still affecting how I approach my work and my social (media) interactions every day.

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

Digital Skills for a New Generation


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

Day Two EUNIS17

Ed Stout was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Day two was another great day at EUNIS17.   Following an early morning fear of conference burn out, having been up late writing up my notes from the Wednesday sessions, I took the option not to make the day quite as manic/tiring as my first day. Day two of the conference was opened with three highly interesting keynotes.

Martin Hamilton of Jisc opened his keynote ‘Life on Mars: Digital Skills for a New Generation’  with a look into the future. What careers do we think are going to play a new role in the future and what should we as HE institutions be doing to ensure that we successfully leverage/support these? When we think of our current course offerings, are we considering DNA editors, drone engineers or even asteroid miners? Should we be? Well, quite possibly. We need to ensure that we are “equipping today’s learners for tomorrow’s world,” Martin tells us, and ensure that we support the “digitally disadvantaged to achieve their potential.” These three mentioned careers are already available in our transforming marketplace; are we helping them to achieve their career aspirations?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what more does our future world hold for us? Martin felt it important that we not only focus on the future, as there are elements of the present, which we may not be best supporting to enable our students to meet that future. With “every self-respecting billionaire” investing in a space programme, maybe we should take note.  Space X have developed a rocket that would have previously been sent into space at a cost of $100 million, never to return. They’re now making space exploration “affordable” by the launch and safe return of rockets to Earth!! Is this the sort of development of the future that we in higher education should ensure we do not simply overlook?

SpaceX – First-stage landing from THAICOMB mission May 2016.

Could robots actually play a big part in future? In Japan, SoftBank have invested in the development of a humanoid robot they call Pepper. “He” is intended to be able to interpret emotions and effectively respond to questions. As you can see in the below video, emotional robotics may be in their infancy but they will need highly trained professionals to take them on to reach their potential. A gap in the mass HE market maybe?

Pepper the ‘emotional’ robot visits the FT | FT Life.

Martin explained how the technical world is changing the everyday jobs we have been accustomed to. With over 3,000,000 truck drivers in the USA and over 300,000 taxi drivers in the UK, advancements in vehicular automation is very likely to have an impact. It isn’t just Google with their WAYMO project that are investing. Tesla car owners have already driven over 140,000,000 miles on autopilot. Self-driving cars are here! With this technology now available in the present, we in HE must be aware that the post-graduation jobs market is shifting and so with it our students’ needs/demands. Martin also made reference to how Amazon have realigned their warehouses and distribution centres with over 45,000 robots (BettyBots)completing orders in a “human exclusion zone”. These are jobs that once would have been completed by humans and now make up 12% of Amazon’s workforce.

High-Speed Robots Part 1: Meet BettyBot in “Human Exclusion Zone” Warehouses-The Window-WIRED

Given the pace of change, we need to make sure that our institutions are assisting our students’ needs to re-train. Maybe we need to be re-focusing on training for careers in robot script writing, self-drive car engineering or robotic engineering. Our vision for the future will be the defining factor that shapes our successes.

For anyone wishing to view Martin’s full presentation, he has recorded and made it available on YouTube here:

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog

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

Is end-user training for Windows 10 needed?

Gareth Johns
IT Skills Development Advisor
Cardiff Metropolitan University

The autumn IT training schedule at Cardiff Met includes a Working with Windows 10 course. It doesn’t need to. We have never run training sessions for operating systems before, so why should Windows 10 be any different?

In many ways there isn’t any need for Windows 10 training; it is easy and intuitive to use. Unlike its predecessor, Windows 8, the Windows 10 user experience is good. The attempt to unify tablet and desktop UIs has largely been abandoned – there are no more hidden menus, windows are back to being windows that can be moved and resized and, most importantly, the Start menu is back.

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The Windows 10 Start menu at Cardiff Met

 

The Windows 10 Start menu does look different to the Windows 7 version, it incorporates live tiles for example, but it will be familiar to a Windows 7 user. The Start menu “skills” (perhaps muscle memory would be a better description) developed when using Windows 7 will be transferable to Windows 10. The same applies throughout the operating system. Windows Explorer is now File Explorer. Windows Favorites have been replaced with Quick Access. They look and behave differently, but they feel the same.

So why are we running a Windows 10 course? Firstly, there are some features of Windows 10 that will help users work a bit more efficiently that are not easy to discover. Jump Lists, for example. Jump Lists provide shortcuts to recent documents and sometimes also include other actions associated with that program (e.g. Internet Explorer includes Open New Tab). Jump Lists are accessed by right-clicking on a tile on the Start menu or Taskbar and can save users a few seconds when opening documents (the cumulative effect of which is considerable). But few users are aware that they exist, our training course will remedy that.

Secondly the course will give Cardiff Met staff time to acclimatise to, and build confidence in, the new OS. Frequently we use new software similarly to the old version. We proceed in the way we also have, because we don’t have time to step back to see if there is a better way to do it. The Working with Windows 10 course will hopefully give staff the time they need, with help available if they have any questions.

win10-2

 

 

 

 

OneDrive for Business is part of the Windows 10 upgrade at Cardiff Met

The third reason for developing a course is that our Windows 10 software “build” includes new software and services, so the training is not just about Windows 10. We are offering Skype for Business for the first time, Office 2013 has become Office 2016 and, crucially, OneDrive for Business replaces SharePoint My Sites. Our training course includes all these elements and allows staff to see how these new services work together in the Windows 10 environment.

The course also addresses one of our long-standing goals, sharing IT “Best Practice” with existing staff. Our IT induction programme achieves this for new starters; we advise them where to store documents, alert them to issues around account security and share practical tips for managing email. But up until now there has been no avenue for sharing this advice with existing staff – Working with Windows 10 allows us to do that. Hopefully staff will view the software upgrade as an opportunity to adopt Best Practice, and will finally find time to move their documents from hard drives to OneDrives!

The training will be available as an e-learning module, created using the excellent Adapt Builder and as a face-to-face course. Staff will be required to complete one form of training as part of their upgrade to Windows 10.

If you are interested in finding out how the training is received, I’ll be running a webinar for the community towards the end of the year, keep an eye on the Events page for details. In the meantime if you have any thoughts or comments, please share them below or catch me on Twitter @GarethPJohns

TEF and digital capabilities – do you measure up?

The second Digital Capabilities Survey will be open for responses in early October. It will be interesting to compare the results with the 2014 Survey and see what now influences the development of digital capabilities within our institutions.

One possible influence (although it may have come too late to have a significant impact on this Survey) is the Teaching Excellence Framework. The Technical Consultation outlined the number of criteria that institutions will need to demonstrate that they are meeting if they are to achieve Excellent or Outstanding ratings. So what are the areas where policies and activities relating to digital capabilities are likely to have an effect?

The first criterion listed under the Teaching Quality aspect is Teaching provides effective stimulation and encourages students to engage. Student satisfaction surveys are listed as a key piece of evidence, not only to demonstrate that the students feel that their teaching is stimulating and engaging, but also to demonstrate the way that such surveys and other student feedback relate back to staff development. Students expect lecturers to be able to teach using current technology; how good is the institution at equipping those lecturers with the skills they need? The need to provide continuing professional development for both academic and support staff is also highlighted in another criterion, that the Institutional culture recognises and rewards excellent teaching.

The focus of the TEF isn’t entirely on staff skills and abilities – there is a significant focus on student outcomes too. Two criteria in particular focus on this area – that students achieve their educational and professional goals and that they acquire knowledge, skills and attributes that prepare them to their personal and professional lives. Whilst the evidence for the former will be largely based on employment outcomes (I would expect the replacement for the Destination of Leavers return to be a key measure here), suggested evidence for the latter includes employer engagement in the curriculum, course accreditation by professional regulatory or statutory bodies and extra-curricular activities designed to enhance employability and transferable skills. Digital capabilities are an essential part of the skills and attributes a graduate will need – the emphasis an institution places on digital capabilities may depend on the level of external influence on employment outcomes. As the TEF matures, it will be interesting to see whether those institutions with a strong focus on student digital capabilities will achieve better ratings than their peers.

Finally, the TEF reinforces the Government’s commitment to widening participation. Institutions are required to demonstrate that Positive outcomes are achieved for students from all backgrounds, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who are at greater risk of not achieving positive outcomes. In this aspect disadvantaged can have a multitude of meanings – institutions will need to identify and make provision for those who are digitally disadvantaged.

It may be too early for the TEF to have a major effect on digital capabilities strategies and activities. The 2017 Digital Capabilities Survey may identify those looking to steal a march on their competitors by implementing measures to improve their students’ and staff skills levels. Alternatively it may show that the TEF is not going to be a major influence with institutions already having measures in place. Time will tell. The survey opens in early October and we are currently identifying the lead respondent for each institution. If you are unsure as to whom the lead respondent is for your institution, please contact admin@ucisa.ac.uk.

digital detective #playlearn16

sue_watlington

 

Sue Watling
Academic Advisor,Technology Enhanced Learning
University of Hull
Member of the UCISA Digital Capabilities Group

 

This week I’m at the Birley Campus of MMU attending the Playful Learning Conference #playlearn16. Thank you @UCISA for the bursary which made this amazing experience possible.  I say amazing because playing games takes me right out of my comfort zone.

IMG_0711

Youngest son works here at Birley and while we were chatting about the conference, he reminded me how playing board games was an integral part of his childhood. Before this week I can’t remember the last time I opened a board game box. There’s lots of them here  week but now – as then  – computers are competing for attention.

IMG_0674

We used to have a ZX Spectrum when that was cutting edge – and a shoe-box full of games. Today eldest son still plays WarHammer but youngest is a digital gamer. Thanks to him I can talk about Grand Theft Auto, Heavy Rain and Witcher. Love the graphics but still much to learn about the multitasking demands of an Xbox console! I’m more of a vicarious game-player rather than a real one and with regard to play it’s more the creativity aspects which interest me. I’m part of the #creativeHE network and we’ve just finished another open online week. With the conversations still fresh in my mind, of the questions I arrived with on Wednesday was how play and games might link up with creative approaches to HE. In particular, could I find ways to be more creative with introducing staff to TEL and developing digital capabilities.  The conference isn’t over yet so there’ll be blog posts to follow which try and answer this. In the meantime I’m reflecting on the power of crowd sourcing to find things forgotten things.

sad emoticon

This week I was defeated by Google. It started with a poet and the title of a book of poems. I couldn’t remember either. All I knew was male with a cancer diagnosis, northern England, something to do with a year spent in a sheep pen or shepherd shelter, within the last decade and I thought I’d read about him in the Guardian.  I didn’t expect it to be a problem. After all you can find anything with Google – can’t you?

But it was and I couldn’t. On and off for a couple of days I tried variations of all the bits I could I could remember, confident Google would pick up something which would trigger what I needed.  It didn’t. Instead it was an lesson in how Google makes overt decisions based on popularity and how this can prevent any covert, deeper connections from taking place. William Wordsworth and James Rebanks  came up again and again. I learned some interesting asides like Yan Tan Thethera, an old english counting method, but could not discover my poet.

Then I thought – Library!

So I sent a tweet to @HullUni_Library who shared it with @hull_libraries from where it was picked up by @BookjacketsHQ who gave me the answer – all within minutes. Could it be Glyn Hughes ‘A Year in the Bull Box’. Not sheep but cattle. Yes – it could and it was!

image of a tweet with correct answer Glyn Hughes

Wrong beast but I’m not convinced it would have made much difference. When I briefly tried the same search terms, substituting cattle for sheep, still no luck. So thank you Lyn Fenby. I have the book of poems I needed for the final year of my creative writing course as well as discovering the rest of the work of Glyn Hughes who died in 2011 The Guardian Glyn Hughes Obituary.

library

With hindsight the library (shown above reconstructed in Minecraft) may have been the most obvious place to start but turning digital detective was an automatic conditioned behaviour.

The implications for learning and teaching are reassuring. One of the affordances of VLE is alleged to be supporting student independence so using search engines is part of induction processes while a core element of digital literacy is the authentication and validation of online resources. Of course, the internet doesn’t have the answers. It’s how we use it that counts. With regards to my poet, it was people who made the difference and, like reliving the value of playing board games at this Playful Learning event, it’s good to be reminded how being human in the digital age is what matters most of all.

playful learning

This blog post originally appeared on the Digital Academic Blog

Review, Reflect and Remember – Playful Learning

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Sue Watling
Academic Advisor,Technology Enhanced Learning
University of Hull
Member of the UCISA Digital Capabilities Group

 

playful learning

The Hull team arriving at the Playful Learning Conference, 13-15 July 2016.

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On arrival* participants were inducted into the marble game which ran throughout the three days. Clutching our marble winnings we were able to register and inspect the construction – a bit like mousetrap for marbles – which we were invited to add components to.

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This was supplemented with text message tasks and challenges in return for – yes – more marbles. It was indicative of the amazing amount of preparation work which must have gone into planning and setting up the Playful Learning Conference.

Everywhere you looked  on the Spanish Steps on the ground floor of MMU’s Birley Campus there was something to do.

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The steps homed an assortment of objects and board games while over on the registration desk the ‘Sea You Sea Me’ activity buckets were waiting. Each bucket contained 30 items, all designed for teams to create a beach (with real sand, shells and water!) while having conversations and solving puzzles. 30 buckets = 900 individual component parts! Did I mention the phenomenal amount of work which went into setting up this conference?

Three Keynotes over three days and a total of 25 parallel sessions were interspersed with whole conference activities like the Storybook. I wish I’d recorded Nikky’s vibrant retelling of the process of  creating stories.  It ended too soon.

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Unsurprisingly Storybook involved yet another set of challenges. This time it was to unlock the chest whose treasures included a set of keys for yet more games!

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It was difficult to choose from the variety of parallel sessions; I went to six in total. Having recently experienced Lego Serious Play, https://digitalacademicblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/bricking-it, I was interested to compare this with the PlayDoh Plaza. Maybe it’s in the name but it felt strange to be asked to take part in activities so reminiscent of childhood yet they were both underpinned with constructionist and kinaesthetic pedagogies. When PlayDog was introduced to bio-medical students they’d also been unsure. The words in the images below show their feelings before and after a PlayDoh session. It shows the value of being prepared to try something different. We were asked to choose a colour and make a model which represented our work. The purple chains are my digital networks while the face is the digital monster – the one which appears in our worst technology nightmares when everything goes wrong in front of a room full of students. Interestingly, everyone I spoke to knew exactly what this felt like!

It was a time of new discoveries. I came across the word Shonky, discovered Makey Makey clips, answered questions with clues gained from QR Codes, used Poll everywhere and competed in a quiz using Kahoot. One of the most memorable workshops was Ugg-Tect; a game which uses gestures instead of words to give instructions for building models from coloured shapes. Ungungdo!

I also learned about data encryption; one of those topics you know about without really understanding the detail. We began with the Caesar Cypher; a mono alphabetic transposition code (and we got to keep the encryption wheels). We then moved onto the Diffie-Hellman Ken Exchange to generate an encryption key which was theoretically more difficult to intercept. This used an app which didn’t seem to be working as well as it could do or maybe it was just the digital monster rearing its scary PlayDoh head again!

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Other sessions included a digital form of Exquisite Corpse as an aid to creative storytelling, the application of pedagogical theory to a teaching practice card game, and exploring creative methods for solving learning and teaching problems. These involved dressing up (hat and sunglasses to go incognito), choosing objects (it had to be the ammonite) and making things (not sure what my pipe cleaner mesh represented but I found it therapeutic to shut out the world and focus on its construction).

There were also the escape room experiences, the Board Game Cafe demonstrations, different sporting activities including Neon Badminton, and Inbox Zero – which I missed completely – as well as the Treasure Hunt on the last morning. Meanwhile the marble challenges continued to run alongside everything else.

By the end of the conference I’d joined in so many different activities yet still only experienced a part of the whole event. I’d arrived with a number of questions about the role of play in learning and teaching e.g. how digital would it be, had the organisers assumed we’d all have wifi connected devices, how inclusive and accessible were the activities, as a non-game player would I have ‘fun’ and above all else what would I learn.

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Play is a misnomer. Because of its association with fun and games, rather than the ‘serious’ business of higher education, you almost need to ‘permission’ to do something so different. Yet what is play other than an alternative way to describe creative approaches to learning and teaching? Getting around the discontinuity can be a simple as re-framing an activity within a pedagogical theory. Maybe we need to find more ways to play in disguise!

Stepping outside the box – or recreating the size and shape of the box – can often mean taking a risk but if we don’t take risks now and then, everything stays the same. It’s only by challenging ourselves that we can develop and grow. A key message I took away was how it can be good to venture outside your comfort zones and do something you wouldn’t normally do. A ‘feel the fear and do it’ scenario. Only then do you discover what feels strange at first can soon become normalised if we repeat it often enough. The conference participants were a unique mix. They included computer scientists, gamers, creative writers and other artists, academics, academic developers and librarians. This made for some interesting exchanges of thoughts and experiences.

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I’ve taken away not only new connections but reinforcement of the value of having time and space to discuss learning and teaching. I loved how the parallel sessions were so interactive. There was very little traditional sitting and listening and I don’t think I’ve been to such an activity based conference before. For me, this definitely added to its value. With regards to the play element, if you interpret this as creative thinking then all educational conferences would benefit from its inclusion. At minimum it could be a strand or a themed component while at best it would be threaded throughout.

When we engage with ‘playful’ situations we seemed to have more discussion than we would have otherwise. It was particularly useful for beginning and continuing conversations with strangers. Whether you were staff or student facing, involved in supporting the student experience or working with CPD/academic practice elements, there was something at Playful Learning for everyone.  It was an inaugural conference. For something so new and innovative, this first time around felt like a resounding success. I’m sure I’m not the only one to hope there will be more to come.

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My thanks to UCISA for the bursary which funded my attendance. 

This blog post originally appeared on the Digital Academic Blog

Technology in Higher Education – best practice, skills and the student offer

Earlier this year, I attended the Westminster Higher Education Forum seminar on best practice of using technology in higher education and for future employment. The forum has members from both Houses of Parliament as well as representatives from universities and colleges. This short half-day seminar included 5 minute presentations from a number of speakers with time for questions.

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration

One of the discussions, chaired by Baroness Morgan of Huyton, centred on the effective use of a social networking in teaching and highlighted the successful use of Facebook for new students. I think the important factor was the use of a student as one of the administrators looking after the closed group and videos made by students for students. This partnership proved invaluable – Professor Peter Strike, Vice Chancellor of University of Cumbria, said conversations were encouraged, in contrast to staff preaching to students, and this approach improved engagement. Another project discussed by Dr Laura Ritchie from the University of Chichester identified the use of informal learning spaces using social networks as a platform for collaboration and learning. She likened students’ experience with technology as tea and toast – they are exposed to it on a daily basis but the question is do they know how to use it effectively?

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Awareness of personal content shared online was discussed at length in the questions and comments from the floor and is still a factor that could affect a student’s employability if they are sharing images and conversations with the world that are not appropriate for future employers to view. Whose responsibilty is it for students to be aware of what they share online? Currently posts cannot be removed permanently and there is concern the social networking sites have access to personal data even after it has been deleted by the user. Dr Richard Harvey, University of East Anglia said a colleague had suggested to him the use of Twitter should be taught and found this comment outrageous. I think students may not require being taught how to use Twitter but many will need guidance on how to use it effectively and the consequences of not. Mark Kerrigan pointed out that the different levels of digital capabilities will mean that some students will need to spend time learning a new technology before they can engage with their study. The amount of time students spend mastering a new technology before studying the subject they were at university to learn can vary greatly.

MOOCs vs Face-to face

MOOCs seems to still be a buzz-word between HE professionals and the media with mixed opinions. MOOCs were suggested as a good approach for new students to measure their engagement before attending university to identify who does not engage and will need extra help. Face-to-face teaching is still recognised as a preferred approach by some students, as confirmed by Lawrie Phipps from Jisc. MOOCs have caused some heartache to staff when students have used the forum inappropriately. Michael Kerrison’s example of a student using the MOOC forum as a platform to air their own personal views of the US consititutional law was interesting. I think it can be tricky giving students free reign and terms of use should be put in place. But is this restricting their artistic licence?

Summary

Peter Tinson, UCISA’s Executive Director, mentioned the digital capabilities survey deployed by UCISA digital capabilities sub group identified the wide range of support provided for staff and students across the sector. I think there is a plethora of experience to be shared between practitioners. I am not sold on the idea that students can be taught digital skills per se but agree with findings from the survey – digital skills should be embedded within existing curriculum without being labelled as learning technology. It is important that the use of technology is just as important as how to use the tool itself and the impact of the web in everyday life, learning and the workplace. York St John University is currently auditing the digital skills training offered to staff and students and I am looking forward to a Digital Capabilities Framework being put in place to streamline the provision of digital skills teaching. I hope this will help improve the students’ experience and provide a good choice of what is on offer from the university as a whole in contrast to being provided from separate departments. I think adaptability and willingness to learn new things should be encouraged in this ever-changing digital world.

For the twitter conversation go to:
https://storify.com/NodWebb/technology-in-higher-education-best-practice-skill


About Annette Webb
Edited westminster

I have been an IT Trainer at York St John University since 2005 and am a Fellow of the HEA. I support staff and students at all levels on digital systems. I have recently completed a Masters degree and benefited from the experience of being a student in the 21st century. I have a keen interest in helping staff and students to use technology effectively.
This post was written by Annette Webb, Academic Technologies Trainer, York St John University and a member of the UCISA Digital Capabilities Group