Tag Archives: learners

Digital and society – true love or an unhealthy obsession?

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

Reflections from a bursary winner

In his book ‘The Rise of the Humans’, Dave Coplin  expounds that technology is neither good, nor bad. It is simply an amplifier of whatever we, as society and individuals, choose to use it for.

The media however certainly seem keen on amplifying the negative aspects of our relationship with technology, with often rather sensationalist reports of children as young as seven ‘sexting’ , a mental health “epidemic” in young people being directly attributed to social media usage, a decrease in the age and an increase in the severity of reported loneliness  an increase in divorces attributed to gaming addiction and claims of reducing memory and attention spans in young people and adults alike. Indeed it’s not just the media reporting these bad news stories. Numerous academics and researchers have produced literature reinforcing this rhetoric. I myself spent six months researching the impacts of digital technology and devices on ‘millennial’ learners and their ability to learn and retain information for my Master’s degree. Whilst my findings were not as negatively polarised as those of writers such as Nicholas Carr, Sherry Truckle and Susan Greenfield, I did conclude that there could be significant impacts on individuals and wider society if we fail to exercise caution, control and discipline when using digital technologies and if we fail to pass these skills onto new generations.
I feel I must defend myself a little at this point. I’m not anti-technology or anti-digital. I work in the field of IT, I have a passion for digital technology and I love the convenience of my digital devices and streaming services. I fully-support Coplin’s theory – it is our adoption and attitude towards and use of digital technology that is causing issues in society, not technology itself.
Positive applications of technology can save lives, help us to protect the planet, bring people together and introduce all manner of convenience and efficiency into our working, social and family lives. I don’t believe that we’re creating a new generation of zombie-like device-users incapable of building real life human relationships or employing critical thought. I have met twelve year olds that have astounded me with their common sense, intelligence, curiosity and yes, technical capabilities. The student who gave the opening and closing speech for Coplin’s lecture at Warwick School could have stood in front of any corporate board room and held his own.
I genuinely believe that today’s young people have as much talent, promise and potential as any other generation but that the technological advancements and the amount of information readily available to them, literally at their fingertips, gives them both advantages and disadvantages. Indeed Pew Research Centre concluded their in-depth 2012 research study into the future of technology with the somewhat inconclusively titled report “Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives“.
In my research, the evidence suggested that those who are able to efficiently use social media and other technologies and practice ‘multi-tasking’ when it is appropriate to do so, stand to do well in today’s digital society and workplaces. However, it is also apparent that if left unchecked and unmanaged, the issues we are seeing in society could continue and increase in prevelance and severity, creating negative knock-on impacts and detracting from the positive impacts.

I attended a talk by Adam Thilthorpe of the BCS at Business Analysis Europe 2018 in September courtesy of a UCISA bursary, in which he discussed what he termed the ‘unintended impacts’ of technology – those negative impacts discussed above. He raised the question of where the responsibility lies in pre-empting, identifying and mitigating against such impacts. When companies develop their media and communications platforms, I think we can fairly safely assume that they are not doing so with the intention that 11-year-olds will use them to send ‘sexts’; this is an unintended impact of the technology they have created. On the other hand, there are organisations who may exploit anxieties such as fear of missing out (FOMO), self-esteem issues and device addiction to market and sell products and services.
This raises a number of questions. Who should – or could – be responsible for identifying, pre-empting and mitigating against unintended and/or potentially unethical impacts of emerging technologies? Is it the responsibility of technology companies? Businesses? The Government? Educational Establishments? Parents? Individuals? Pressure groups? All of the above? And how do we begin to pre-empt such impacts when we are dealing with new, disruptive, previously-unseen technologies being released into an ever-changing society?
As a society we are experiencing an unprecedented rate of technological change. We are innovating incredibly quickly and have adopted digital technologies readily and intrinsically into our everyday lives. However, our legislation, regulation, educational systems and social and cultural norms are still changing at the same rate; comparatively slowly. It seems that we have been somewhat blindsided and as such have possibly not put in place measures to enable digital technologies to always be adopted and integrated into people’s lives in a productive, safe and useful manner. At the same time, we are so enamoured with our digital devices and applications and the convenience and opportunities that they bring, that we may not be pausing to consider the unintended and long-term impacts and effects of them.
In her 1979 book ‘Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love’, Dorothy Tennov coined the phrase ‘Limerence’, which she defined as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person.” It’s that period of a relationship where your brain is producing a heady cocktail of Dopamine and Oxytocin and the object of your attention becomes your sole focus. It’s the stage where strange habits, bad behaviours and the wider impacts of focusing on one person to the exclusion of all else seem insignificant. That wonderful phase where their window-rattling snores seem adorable and your friends barely see you for six months.
It seems that as a society we are in a state of limerence with technology. We overlook the wider impacts, the bad habits, the potential problems, the metaphorical duvet-stealing, because we are hooked on those little hits of dopamine and oxytocin that are released every time we get a ‘like’ on a photo on Facebook or a connection request on LinkedIn – the exact same checmicals that are released during the limerance stage of a relationship. Indeed neuro-economist Adam Penenburg’s research centres on drawing parallels between the chemicals released when using social media and those released when falling in love. Interestingly, just like with limerence, there are also elements of addictive behaviour displayed when using digital platforms such as social media. Indeed Smartphone and gaming addiction are now recognised as distinct social issues with 73% of the 2016 OFCOM report’s 16-24 respondents professing to be ‘hooked’ on the device they use most to go online and ‘gaming disorder’ being recognised as a mental health condition by the World Health Organisation.
The question this raises is what happens when we fall out of limerence with digital technology? When we come down from that heady chemical rush, will we still be in love and will the relationship still be sustainable?
The media spotlight on some of the social issues in recent years and the acknowledgement by health organisations of some of the health impacts of unhealthy technology suggests that we’re starting to edge out of limerence and into the stark reality of our ongoing relationship with digital technology. Perhaps we’re starting to want to reconnect with our old friends ‘Walk in the Countryside’ and ‘Conversations around the Dinner Table’ who we dropped in favour of the alluring blue glow of our smartphone screens in the late 2000s. Perhaps we’re starting to assert our independence a little, creating screen-free times, rather than being slaves to our devices 24/7. Perhaps we are thinking about how we can strike a balance between our online and offline lives.
As Stephanie Sarkis states: “Time heals the intense pleasure (and suffering) of limerence… in a long-term relationship, it’s when things start getting real.” It’s safe to say that this is a long-term relationship, a multi-generational one in fact. That’s why it’s so important that, as with any relationship, we work out what we want from it, how we can manage and balance it and how to ensure that it is a long, beneficial, happy and healthy partnership for everyone involved.
This article first appeared on Rachel’s blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

What is the value of video use in education?

Matt Goral
Educational Technologist
City, University of London

Media and Learning Conference 2018 – Leuven, Belgium

Video assessment, video quality and lecturer performance

Courtesy of a 2018 UCISA Bursary, I was able to travel to Leuven in Belgium for this year’s Media and Learning Conference.  Among the conference’s discussions and presentations, there were several which explored the nature and purpose of video in education and assessment.
A long discussion ensued on why we might use video assessment, why ask students to make videos. There was a general consensus that the main reason is that digital literacy is becoming more important all the time. Tools to produce video are widely available and just as essay writing asks students to think critically, engage with existing literature, etc., in addition to the actual content, video format asks them to learn new software, think about data and formats, consider storage and sharing, etc. The speciality of video is providing an opportunity to learn the many digital skills in an authentic context.

Due to the variety of formats and styles, using rubrics to mark is very important to achieve consistency. Getting students to submit a storyboard or script beforehand that’s graded is also very useful, to help them with planning as the temptation is just to start shooting, and we all know how important pre-production is.

Jeanine Reutemann from Leiden University talked about quality of video. She mentioned it’s quite a hard thing to talk about, that we like watching some people and not others. Performance in front of camera really matters and is a bit unpredictable. It’s a skill. Also clearly there is a close relationship between someone’s performance and the way we shoot, communicate, and direct them. We should be mindful that the speaker will be influenced and potentially thrown by the setup. Bright lights, microphones, potentially many people hanging around. There is an intensity that doesn’t suit everyone. We should be mindful and consider how we can get the most out of someone’s style.
Also, let’s not put PowerPoint slides into VR.

Conference format

A few words on the organisation of the conference as I found it interesting. There were several formats running in parallel. First, is the familiar presentation with questions at the end. Those were limited to about 20 minutes each which was great for concentration. Secondly, there was a cinema which screened educational movies and projects at several points. Next, were the small workshops which focused on specific pieces of software that let you try them out with an expert. Finally, there were the discussion groups. Those were great in theory as the room was setup in a big circle, and the facilitators encouraged discussions between participants. However there were a few people introduced as “experts” who framed the discussion by talking about a few projects of their own. This changed the focus of the room from an open discussion between peers, to a panel session with unusual sitting. It was a wasted opportunity in my opinion, especially as only one facilitator had an activity planned and the rest of the sessions were unstructured. I see a lot of educational conferences falling back on lectures, and ignoring our own advice and not taking enough risks with formats, activities and approaches.
Overall, I think the conference was great. It allowed many new ideas and successes to be shared, but also allowed us to see that we are struggling with very similar issues (such as lecture capture adoption, see this paper ‘Tune up, tune in, don’t drop out by Emily Nordman et al.).

What next?

Please feel free to leave a comment, or email me (matt.goral@city.ac.uk), about anything that resonated with you.
I would also like to ask if you’d be interested in a webinar where you are able to ask me about the conference in more detail. If so, please leave a short comment, or email me saying you would be interested, and what you would like to talk about.

P.S. The featured picture is a photo of an untitled sculpture by Gregg Louis shown as part of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour which happened to coincide with the conference.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

Next generation Digital Learning Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

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

Dr. Rob Abel, Chief Executive Officer of IMS Global Learning Consortium, came across from the USA to talk us through his thoughts on the future of Digital Learning Architecture in Higher Education at EUNIS 2017. He very quickly put strong emphasis on the importance of a digital transformation strategy within HE institutions and outlined that IT should be an enabler to teaching and learning innovation. Dr. Abel’s presentation had so much content, in truth it was difficult to keep up. He gave us an overview of the tools and technology in place within the HE market for teaching and learning as outlined in the photo below: (apologies for poor image quality)


 

 

 

 

 

 

An outdated architecture for learning had different systems uniquely silo-ed with little to no interoperability:


 

 

 

 

 

 

What if now it was quicker and easier to make systems work in harmony, to benefit the connected learner? Well, Dr. Abel, in collaboration with Malcolm Brown (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative) and Jack Suess (University of Maryland), had previously written a paper in 2013 analysing “A New Architecture for Learning” which highlights the need for an IT department to be agile, flexible and allow for personalisation when integrating new innovative learning technologies. Seamless interoperability between both current and future developed systems is the key to success; not simply an over-reliance on a current Learning Management System (LMS), but an ecosystem developed beyond it. Dr Abel referenced a very useful paper produced by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative in 2015 entitled “The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” which is worth your time to read and is available here

Dr. Abel then took the opportunity to take us on a high-speed tour of the benefits and impact of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), which include:

  • Reduced integration time and cost by a factor of 100-1000x
  • Ubiquitous across 70+ learning platforms
  • Hundreds of certified LTI apps of varying types
  • Foundation of interoperable edtech ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMS Global have publicly released Caliper, a learning analytics interoperability framework that enables the collection, storage and transportation of data about learning. The Caliper framework removes the limitations of a single LMS system and opens up a broad range of benefits to be realised through the integration and interoperability of multiple systems. It is worth noting that it is being taken seriously by many HE institutions and partners, so is not one to simply toss aside without further investigation.

Seven things you should know about Caliper

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/

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.