Tag Archives: pedagogy

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.

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.

Expanding horizons with a UCISA bursary

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

 

 

 

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017

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

HE TEL/IT community

Probably the biggest and most lasting benefit of receiving a UCISA bursary has been the impact that participating in DigPedLab Vancouver has had on me feeling part of a worldwide HE Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)/IT community: my Twitter timeline now has a decidedly international flavour! The Literacies track included nearly 30 participants – two Brits apart from me, a professor from Puerto Rico, an educator based in the Austrian Alps, and the rest from North America, a mix of librarians, academics, educational project managers, IT folk, and even a practising attorney. This diversity was one of the many things that made DigPedLab so attractive to me: I wanted my western European, middle-class, middle-aged, cis white female perspective to be thoroughly challenged; over the course of the weekend, it certainly was. Each track had a dedicated Slack channel, and many of the participants have generously shared their own digital literacies resources via that medium, which I in turn have been able to share with Open University (OU) colleagues and, where those resources were publicly accessible, with the wider community (e.g. via links in my bursary blog posts). And of course the bursary also gave me an opportunity to share my work and that of my team/institution with the North American (and wider) HE TEL/IT community, an international visibility that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.

Institutional impact

While there have been fewer institutional opportunities than I had hoped to disseminate what I learned at DigPedLab Vancouver (they have mainly been restricted to knowledge-sharing activities within my team, and colleagues in our Learning and Teaching Innovation Portfolio), one exciting benefit to come out of it is that I am currently supporting faculty colleagues to deliver our own mini DigPedLab here at the OU. Having experienced their teaching first hand, I am a strong advocate for the critical digital pedagogy approach promoted by Jesse Stommel, Sean Michael Morris, and their associates, and I am looking forward to developing a network of support for this approach across my institution.

Since this year’s bursary scheme was launched I have been actively encouraging other OU staff to apply for it – by promoting it via email and other internal communication channels, and putting up posters across the campus.

Personal/professional development

I remain connected to many of the DigPedLab participants via Twitter, and the time difference between the UK and the US means my day often starts by reading their posts and following their links. Participating in such a challenging (but supportive) ‘summer school’ with innovative and inspiring practitioners has really boosted my confidence in what I have to offer around digital literacies as a TEL professional, as well as dramatically increasing my understanding of the challenges faced by my peers in North American HE institutions. My horizons could not have been expanded in this way without the opportunity provided by the UCISA bursary, which is why I have a tweet encouraging others to apply for it pinned to my Twitter profile.

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

Award winner reflects on the value of a UCISA bursary

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University

 

 

EDUCAUSE 2017 Conference, Philadelphia

Emma Fletcher was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Receiving a UCISA bursary allowed me to attend the EDUCAUSE annual conference in Philadelphia during November 2017. I believe it has had a number of positive effects on my personal development in higher education, for the directorate I’m a part of, and for colleagues within the university that I work with to support and advise.

Professional development

In terms of benefits to my personal CPD, I chose a number of relevant and useful sessions to attend at the conference. I selected sessions that aligned well with my role (and the University’s foci) to ensure it was a worthwhile experience. Some of the sessions have impacted on my practice at the University, such as the sessions focussing on video and recording academic staff. One of my team’s current projects is the digital transformation of a particular school, which involves recording staff talking about key themes in their modules. I have used some of the suggestions and ideas from the conference to develop these recordings which have been beneficial to the academic staff, along with the students who will be using the videos.

The overall experience and the information I gained from attending Educause has helped me in my own career and I have since applied for a technology enhanced learning (TEL) role at another institution. I used reflections from my time at the conference during the interview process and was successful.

Institution

Prior to attending the conference, the Director of my directorate was extremely positive about my being awarded the bursary and told me that Deputy Vice-Chancellor knew about it and was impressed. After the conference, I was given time during the directorate team meeting to speak about the conference with my colleagues. The team includes our educational developers, who work with academic staff on their teaching and learning. The team showed a real interest in some of the sessions and as a result I have had one to ones with some colleagues within the directorate about the sessions I attended and have shared some of the resources I collected whilst I was there.

I have spoken with my line manager about my experiences at the conference. We discussed the learning spaces and active learning sessions, as the former session was one I was asked to attend. Learning spaces is a particular area of interest, with my line manager overseeing a project at the University involving a redesigned learning space.

I have been able to informally present a number of times to colleagues at the university about some of the sessions I attended that relate to them. Along with the UCISA blogs I produced covering areas such as active learning spaces and universal design for learning (UDL) and learning management systems (LMS), I wrote a separate blog for the University, which highlighted sessions that I thought would be more relevant to the institution such as: learning spaces, universal design for learning and learning management systems, active learning, microlearning and social media, video creation and working with academic staff for technology innovation. When meeting colleagues across the University, I have spoken about the conference or sessions that I feel are relevant to them and hope this has impacted positively on them.

HE IT community

My attendance at the conference has broadened my knowledge and understanding of TEL, particularly from an international context, and allowed me to draw comparisons with the UK sector, and in particular the external factors influencing decisions we make about TEL (for example, Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), apprenticeships etc.). This has impacted on my interaction, for example when speaking with colleagues across the university. I feel more confident in my knowledge of HE and Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) (something which has been a steep learning curve after spending most of my career in secondary education) and I believe colleagues have seen the benefits.

I found the scale and programme of the conference made it difficult to connect with other attendees, however I discovered a lot of great people on Twitter and have developed my personal learning network a great deal. It has been particularly interesting to see TEL in an international context and I hope to cement some of the links I made over time.

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

Supporting student learning in a digital world – opportunities and obstacles

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University

 

 

 

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

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

For the first half of the afternoon on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017, we had a choice between one of five workshops delivered by the DigPedLab Fellows:

or a lightning talks session.

Three of the five workshops appealed to me, but Leonardo was happy to share the resources used in his, and Penny and Kris were both in my track, so I figured I could pick their brains another time (especially Penny, who is based in the UK), so I went for the lightning talks. These are detailed at the link above, but to save you clicking, I have included the summaries here in italics.

Interdisciplinary Solutions

Michelle Clement, Associate Faculty in the School of Business at Royal Roads University, will offer a talk and case study about how tackling homelessness isn’t a one disciplinary approach. The case study will show how sociology, marketing, mental health and nursing students worked together across disciplines and cultures to better understand homelessness in their community.

I noted the following:

  • Working in multidisciplinary teams, students felt that sharing different perspectives deepened their understanding of the problems.
  • Michelle is now living their experience by participating in the Writing track here!
  • Organising this kind of thing is administratively complicated, but focusing on making it a meaningful experience for students is key.

New Media and Pedagogy

Hannah McGregor, Assistant Professor in Publishing at Simon Fraser University will offer a lightning talk as a provocation: to explore how new media forms (podcasts, social media feeds, etc.) allow pedagogy to take place beyond the university. What would happen if we thought of our role, as academics, to be pedagogy (not research) first? How do forms like the podcast allow us to enact a public-pedagogy-first praxis? How the heck will we convince universities to get on board?

I noted the following:

  • Hannah loves podcasts, but hates the male-dominated maker culture, coding-boot-camps stuff.
  • Maker culture can be too focused on the production of a thing, as opposed to processes, community building, pedagogy, etc. (Is this a male vs female thing?)
  • Where are the women in podcasting? (Hannah referred to an article in Forbes that seems to claim people hate the sound of women’s voices.)

Open Pop Ups

Verena Roberts, Learning Specialist at Rocky View Schools, will discuss open learning networks. From September 2017 to June 2018 she will be connecting learning communities with open learning networks by facilitating serendipitous and planned ‘Open Pop Up’ learning activities with a K-12 contextual lens. She will be completing a pilot version of the ‘Open Pop-ups’ at her school district in the hopes of using the pilot to inform her doctorate research the following year.

I noted the following:

  • Um, what is K-12?! (I Googled it for you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K–12)
  • We need to keep talking about the differences between OERs and open(ing) learning
  • Stick metaphor – what children see (same with cardboard boxes?) [sorry, I have no idea what I meant by this!]
  • ePortfolios for high school students – not résumé building, but creating relationships and apprenticeships
  • Verena gave a couple of examples of her open pop-ups:

– Kindness ninjas – promoting sharing behaviours among children in underprivileged area

– Assembling diverse groups of students.

Daagu

Carolyn Steele, Career Development Coordinator at York University, Toronto, will discuss Daagu. Daagu is an online platform that offers holistic and collaborative eLearning opportunities to students. Developed at York University in Toronto, Daagu is designed to promote student choice and engagement, community dialogue and meaningful application of conceptual content. It’s very much a self-directed way of learning. This session will introduce Daagu and provide information on how to learn more.

I noted the following:

  • Carolyn has been working in blended classes for the last 5 years, and teaches 7–10pm – she tries to end at 8.30/9pm so the rest – the reflection part of the learning, mainly – can be done online. [This interested me because some Open University (OU) students complain about the timing of synchronous online teaching events.]
  • Daagu was developed for the nursing programme at York.
  • To me, students’ posts look like a combo of Pinterest and OpenStudio [an OU collaboration tool]
  • Students could provide emotional feedback, but they’re very resistant to doing that.
  • Quality vs quantity of posts? Assessing/grading that? How do you create a rubric for that?

Overcoming Digital Obstacles

Christina Chavez-Reyes, Professor in the College of Education and Integrative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona) will discuss digital obstacles to learning and teaching. In her teaching, she has discovered college students’ fear of the digital domain (distraction and breach of privacy) impedes their use of and ability at digital media, particularly social media, to become 21st-century college-educated citizens and professionals. This circumstance undermines the concept of students as ‘digital natives’ and begs the question how colleges can better prepare students with the necessary digital skills and knowledge of the digital domain. An added element is college faculty’s resistance to develop their digital skills to incorporate tech appropriately in classrooms. These converging factors create an equity crisis for first gen college and low-income students (perhaps all students) who likely do not readily have available social and cultural capital in their homes and communities to supplement the lack of learning in college. Many will earn a degree without a model of professional and civic engagement for the digital age.

I noted the following:

  • Christina is a Faculty member plus department chair. She feels working class at heart and, being in a new leadership position, has to play two different roles/apply two different lenses.
  • Social mobility for its students is a key achievement of her institution.
  • The focus is on educating students to undo inequalities and inequities when they become educators.
  • Use of social media: 30% like it, 60% fear it as a distraction, and 10% have privacy concerns
  • Risks are real – going online involves a third party, and creates a ‘non-rival, non-excludable good’
  • To sustain democracy, there needs to be a clear and protected boundaries between civil society and markets
  • Empowerment—intention—confidence is a key continuum.

How Christina described her students really chimed with the challenges I know many OU students faced – demographically they are quite similar, I think, which was interesting, as my impression was that many of the other participants work with students who more closely resemble the UK stereotype of undergraduates than OU students do.

Net Neutrality

Brian Weston, Director of Distance and Accelerated Learning at College of the Canyons will discuss strategies for keeping information accessible for online education.

The main thing I noted from Brian’s presentation was his question ‘What happens if students don’t have top-tier internet access?’. This is a problem that many OU students in rural/remote parts of the UK still face – contrary to government claims of widespread high-speed broadband availability!

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

Educating students for media literacy

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

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

Back to the classroom on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017 and Bonnie Stewart, Co-ordinator of Adult Teaching, University of Prince Edward Island and leader of the Digital Literacies track, warmed us up with a couple of images that generated horrified laughter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

These images illustrate all too clearly that media messages are constructed, so rather than accepting (mis)information presented as fact at face value, as media literate educators (and/or students), we need to be asking the following key questions:

  1. Who created this message?
  2. What creative techniques are being used to attract my attention?
  3. Who is the audience?
  4. What values and points of view are represented and omitted?
  5. Who gains profit or power if I accept this message?

These prompted a brief sidebar about snopes.com an on-line fact checking site – a site that, I confess, I only became aware of en route to Canada when various people I follow tweeted about it. (UK readers, is it more of a North American resource? I don’t recall ever hearing about it over here.)

Two more important questions to ask about the ‘news’ we’re served up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

What’s interesting to me about this is the language: any news report that includes the phrase ‘hulking brute’ immediately sets off my credibility-questioning alarm! It takes me back to one of my favourite undergraduate English modules on stylistics, an area that I don’t hear mentioned much these days, but one that I think has a lot to offer media literacies

The aesthetic fallacy

Next Kris Shaffer talked to us about the aesthetic fallacy. My notes on this are a bit thin, so I just Googled the term and found this:

Put simply, the aesthetic fallacy is the belief that if it looks convincing, it is convincing; or, to refine it slightly, if it looks scholarly, then, agree or disagree with it, it is scholarly and must be taken seriously and allowed a place at the scholarly table.

(Source: Trueman, Carl R. (2010) Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, Illinois, Crossway)

I’m not sure if this is how Kris would describe it, but certainly looking beyond plausible surfaces, using the questions noted above, seems like a key aspect of media literacies. Or, as Bonnie put it: ‘what does this do to our democracy if we don’t educate students to recognise and deal with the crap?’.

Another new-to-me angle was that of ’empire literacies’ – empires are constructed from money, territory and information. Consider…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

… and then ask yourself, who owns them? Follow the money! In relation to that, Penny Andrews talked us through a slide that showed how the neutral-seeming information provider you rely on for your work could actually be funded by rather less benevolent backers…

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

(I’m pretty sure that in the midst of that Penny explained why Ashton Kutcher may be evil – hopefully I’ve expressed that vaguely enough to avoid either of us being sued – but I was too busy laughing to note the detail, so you’ll have to ask Penny if you want to know more!)

 

 

 

 

 

The point is, some messages have way more power and money behind them, and way more reach than may initially be apparent (e.g. you and Trump both have twitter accounts, but…). However, there is a degree of democracy on some media platforms, e.g. Twitter may be the only space where you can directly speak back to Rupert Murdoch.


(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Contribution literacies – e.g. how to use Twitter for activist public speaking

 

 

 

(Screenshot courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Catastrophe literacies – e.g. the ‘breaking news consumer’s handbook’

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this might be my favourite…

Crap detection literacies

Another participant, Sajni Lacey Learning and Curriculum Support Librarian, University British Columbia, Okanagan, talked us through an activity she runs in her first and second year classes when she is asked to come in and teach ‘the library stuff’. Rather than giving a traditional point-and-click session on accessing Library resources, she likes to try to get students thinking about the information that they consume in their own lives, and how that relates to what they are being asked to do for academic research.  She kindly shared this activity on the DigPedLab Slack channel, so these are her words.

Activity

“I start by having students get into small group, anywhere from 2 to 5 depending on the size of the class and come to consensus in their groups of the top 3–5 places they go in their personal lives to get information. I stress to them that I would like to see where they actually go for information not where they think I want them to tell me they go (i.e. the library website, books etc.). I ask them to rank these places from the most frequented places to the least. I then, when possible, ask the students elect one person to go to the board and write out the list. You could easily do this in a Google Doc, or Padlet if you have a large group or want to start keeping a record.

I then ask the entire class to tell me what stands out for them on these lists. Usually this is that Google and Wikipedia are at the top, followed by YouTube and various social media sites; currently the most frequent is Instagram.

I then ask them (depending on time) what it is they like about getting information on these platforms. Sometimes I do this in groups, and sometimes I just have a class discussion about it. I use their responses to get an idea of what, how, and why they like to consume information in this way. I use this to start the conversation on thinking about how they smell the crap in the information they are getting. Here I ask them to get back into small groups and list 3–5 criteria they look for in ‘good’ information on the sites they had previously listed and how they ‘smell the crap’ of bad information. Of course, this is very subjective as to what is ‘good’.

I bring the groups back, and through a class discussion start constructing a list of what they identified in their groups as good and bad information. These lists are usually pretty good, and I can use this to start a conversation about why we need to be critical of the information we consume, any authority structures that appear here (depending on what pops up in the list), and how this applies to academic research as well as their own lives.”

One point Sajni made in our class that stuck with me was that, as a librarian, she can’t professionally recommend Wikipedia, but actually it’s a really good resource for gaining broad context on an unfamiliar subject.

Incidentally, some of the things that Sajni’s students question are:

  • Breadcrumb trails
  • Location/domain
  • Media bias
  • Adverts
  • Visual literacy – aesthetic fallacy.

Deepening media literacy practices

The session ended with Bonnie asking us which media/digital literacies we could deepen in our own practices or classes.

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Within our table I said I was struggling to link a lot of this stuff to the Open University context. David White from The University of the Arts London, challenged that and I said it felt like we were often ‘hiding the vegetables’, when I wanted us to more explicitly acknowledge that students should be ‘eating their 5 a day’, and to find engaging ways to support them in that. Is that a challenge at your institution?

Après ski

In the evening I sampled the delights of Seto Sushi. If you ever find yourself in Richmond, I highly recommend it: wild salmon for the price of the farmed stuff in the UK, yum!

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

Technology Enhanced Active Learning and Active Learning Spaces

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University

EDUCAUSE 2017

Emma Fletcher was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

At the recent EDUCASE 2017 conference, which I was able to join courtesy of a UCISA bursary, I was able to attend a session on Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs), named by EDUCAUSE as the top strategic technology of 2017 due to the popularity and innovation of ALCs. Active learning classrooms (ALCs) are designed to create affordances that support active learning pedagogies (which research has demonstrated are better when compared with more passive types of learning).

Presented by D. Christopher Brooks and Malcolm Brown (from EDUCAUSE), Melody Buckner  (University of Arizona), Adam Finkelstein (McGill University) and Sehoya Cotner (University of Minnesota), the session explored the research around ALCs as well as looking at the teaching practices that work best in them. There were examples from research, at the University of Minnesota, where the traditional teaching (large lectures) was compared with smaller ALC style teaching. This showed that students in traditional classrooms achieved as expected, however ALC students outperformed against their expected grades. One message that came out of the session was that potential of ALCs can only be realised if you have good teaching. Changing the space may mean that the instructor doesn’t know how to teach in the new space (teachers may try and use the traditional lecture style in the new spaces so, for example, students would have their back to lecturers) and active learning gains are achieved by academics teaching to fit the learning space.

Goals of the Active Learning Initiative

The third day of the EDUCAUSE conference, had a  further technology session presented by Virginia Lacefield, Enterprise Architect at University of Kentucky, looking at ‘Evaluating the Impact of Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms on Students and Instructors: Lessons from our First Full Year’.

Between 2014 and 2016, the University of Kentucky had opened 17 new Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) spaces at the university and carried out an evaluation of the impact of these on teaching, student learning outcomes and retention. The data collected consisted of surveys from both students and instructors as well as classroom observations and course grades. The classroom observations (adapted from the University of Minnesota developed instrument) were timed observations where every five minutes they marked down what the students and instructor were doing.

The observations showed a great deal of variation between classes. The findings of the staff survey showed that 18% of staff did not plan to use active learning strategies and 29% of staff planned not to use the TEAL equipment. 126 of the courses taught in TEAL had enough data points for comparison, 35 of these courses had significant grade differences for all students (29 had a positive difference favouring the TEAL sections, six had a positive difference favouring the non-TEAL sections). When they looked at retention, they found that there was significant correlation between number of TEAL courses taken and second year retention. As a result they are increasing the support for staff to help support the use of TEAL, such as technology/pedagogy open houses, scheduled one-on-one support appointments, giving advance notice of classroom assignment and communicating about available support resources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other highlights of the EDUCAUSE conference included:

 

 

 

 

 

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