It’s challenging…

…but planning helps!

Over the years I have spent a lot of time working with teachers helping them to embed digital technologies into their practice. I have also collaborated with colleges and universities and seen the strategies they use to embed digital. In an earlier post I described my journey and the approaches I have used for support and strategy. In this series of articles I am going to look at the process that many teachers use for teaching and learning and describe tools, services, but also importantly the organisational approach that can be used to embed the use of those tools into practice.

One of the challenges of embedding digital tech into teaching and learning is making the assumption that teachers are aware of and are able to utilise the digital tools available to them and understand which tools work best for different situations and scenarios.

Gaining that understanding and confidence isn’t easy and often requires a paradigm shift in approaches to using technology and the digital tools and services available. Just because a member of staff has been given the training in how to use the tool or service, it doesn’t mean they know how best to use that tool or service to enhance teaching and learning, and for what function or process of the learning activity the tool would support or enhance.

When I was teaching at City of Bristol College, one of the main reasons I started using and embraced technology was to aid planning my curriculum and lesson planning. The way it actually started was using technology to save time. By using, initially, a word processing package and then a DTP package, I would write and design assignment briefs, handouts and workbooks. The reason for using technology in this way was so I could reuse them the following year. Making them digital meant I could edit and update them if needed.

I also started using a presentation package (Freelance Graphics) to create presentations. There were no digital projectors back then, so these were printed onto acetates in black and white and shown via an OHP. This for me was much better than hand writing onto acetates, again for updating and changing.

Though I did write basic schemes of work for the curriculum at that time, it started to make sense to me to start creating a more detailed scheme of work.

When I noticed the web in the late 1990s I realised that hyperlinks could mean I could create a digital (though back then we called it electronic) scheme of work with live links to the digital resources I had created. It didn’t take much to then add lesson plans to the scheme of work with live links to the presentations, handouts and other resources.

A final step was to start adding extra resources and links, in order to allow for a learner to go to the web site and differentiate their learning journey.

I didn’t initially use digital technologies to plan, but what those digital technologies allowed me to do more effectively was to both plan better, but also link everything together. The process also allowed me to easily and quickly adjust resources and plans as and when required.

It got to the stage where I would plan a whole year in advance and have everything ready for all my lessons and courses.

When I spoke about this to people (outside my college) the response I usually got was I plan the night before and there is no way I could plan more than a week ahead. Their explanation was that they couldn’t know how a lesson would go in advance and therefore couldn’t plan more than one lesson in ahead. At the time I did struggle with a response, but now reflecting on this, I realised that I had in fact planned flexibility into my plans. Combined with links to all the resources and additional stuff, it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t cover everything in a lesson, or if the lesson was cancelled (snow closure for example). It was also later that I recognised as a teacher that though I had a responsibility for my curriculum, it wasn’t my job to teach the whole of the curriculum, it was responsibility to ensure my students learnt the curriculum. Some of this would be through teaching, but some could be through reading, or other learning activities. Some would be formal and some would be informal. Resources could be digital, but they could also be analogue.

Of course back then we didn’t have a VLE, so I “created” a VLE, well it was a website with some additional tools (such as a discussion forum). As I had used digital tools for planning and content creation, it wasn’t a huge job to transfer everything to the website. I do remember buying Adobe Acrobat so I could create PDFs more easily, especially I was using a bizarre range of software to create stuff.

A VLE today makes the whole process of planning much easier and I have written before about this in my series, 100 ways to use a VLE.

100 ways to use a VLE – #25 Scheme of Work

100 ways to use a VLE – #26 Lesson Plans

The main conclusion I came to was that planning was really critical to the success of my curriculum and my teaching. Also technology made the whole planning process easier and quicker.

So what tools are you using to plan your curriculum and your lessons?

Image Credit: Lesson Plans by hurricanemaine CC BY 2.0

It’s still not easy…

Classroom

…but confidence helps!

Over the years I have spent a lot of time working with teachers helping them to embed digital technologies into their practice. I have also collaborated with colleges and universities and seen the strategies they use to embed digital. In an earlier post I described my journey and the approaches I have used for support and strategy. In this series of articles I am going to look at the process that many teachers use for teaching and learning and describe tools, services, but also importantly the organisational approach that can be used to embed the use of those tools into practice.

One of the challenges of embedding digital tech into teaching and learning is making the assumption that teachers are confident in their use of technology. Gaining that confidence is not easy and often isn’t helped if they have previously used technology and it didn’t work. There have been many times I have heard teachers say that they don’t like using technology as the last time they used it and it didn’t work. They lack the confidence in the tools to work.

The way I used to approach that was by asking what they did when it snowed and the building was closed, the campus had failed to work. Someone had used a permanent marker on the whiteboard, it was unusable. There was a room change and we had to move the students, from a seminar room to a lecture theatre. In all these physical scenarios, a good teacher has the confidence to adjust and adapt what they are going to do. With a snow closure, the scheme of work needs to be adapted to allow the learners to catch up. Losing the whiteboard doesn’t mean the lesson has failed, maybe a different medium, such as paper, could be used. Again a confident teacher can adapt what they are going to do. They are also very likely to use the whiteboard again, once it has been cleaned. Similar story with the room change, adapt the activity for the learners.

onlineattendance

I have found that often with technology, that with teachers lacking confidence, this means going into a session with a limited idea of how that technology can be used. If it doen’t work as expected, then it is seen as failure.

Having the confidence to easily adapt and use tools effectively, usually comes with experience, but I also believe that there is more to it than that. Gaining that confidence isn’t easy and often requires a paradigm shift in approaches to using technology and the digital tools and services available. Just because a member of staff has been given the training in how to use the tool or service, it doesn’t mean they confidently know how best to use that tool or service to enhance teaching and learning, and for what function or process of the learning activity the tool would support or enhance.

Confidence usually comes from experimentation, trial and error and practice. It can be difficult to create a culture where experimentation and innovation is expected, encouraged and applauded. A culture where failure is seen as part of the learning process and is also part of the process of innovation.

So what strategies do you use to build digital confidence?

Being human #altc

One of the key messagesI took away form the Donna Lanclos and Dave White keynote at ALT-C this year was that we need to remember that there is no such thing as “the university” as we are “the university”.

When someone says “the university” won’t let us  do something, what they are actually saying is that a person in the university won’t let them do something.

We have to remember that policies, procedures and processes are not set in concrete and can be changed. I do realise that there are some legal aspects that mean some illegal activities are still illegal and that’s why you can’t do it!

The other key message for me was that tech and digital are not solutions, but people are. They may use digital for those solutions, but digital in itself is merely a tool to provide a solution. Without adequate training and support, digital tools are just tools.

I also liked their message that models  can hinder development, the use of hierarchical models that imply that this is a ladder to climb, when in reality you can often jump in at any point, and move between different sections, without necessarily needing to move on a linear journey upwards!

I made a couple of sketch notes from the keynote and as rightly pointed out to me, there isn’t much in them, but I did them more for me, than for other people.

img_0064

img_0065

These were done using Paper by 53 on an iPad pro with an Apple pencil.

Introducing James Clay and Lawrie Phipps #altc

train

This year I am attending ALT-C 2016 in Warwick and along with my colleague Lawrie Phipps will be running a workshop on the Wednesday looking at digital capabilities and organisational mapping.

Digital technologies are driving some significant changes in the world of work, and are deeply implicated in others.

Effective use of digital technology by college staff is vital in providing a compelling student experience and in realising a good return on investment in digital technology. To help managers and individuals understand what is needed, Jisc have published a digital capability framework which describes the skills needed by staff in a wide range of teaching, administrative and professional roles to thrive in a digital environment.

What does it mean to be digitally capable? Not just for an individual, but from an organisational perspective. How will you lead using the plethora of digital tools and channels available to you?

The Jisc building digital capability project has been addressing these issues for institutional leaders, for those on the front line of teaching and research, and those who support them. Universities and colleges across the UK have been participating in the pilots for the Jisc Building digital capability project This workshop will bring those experiences to the participants.

A person’s capabilities (what they can do) are no longer attested to simply by their certificates and grades. Digital devices and systems have the capacity to: record learning, achievement, and evidence of practice e.g. using digital video; capture data related to learning and achievement e.g. from learning records, learning environments; organise the evidence e.g. using tags, file structures, structured e-portfolios; showcase learning, achievement and evidence of practice e.g. using a blog/vlog, eportfolio, personal web page. We can use mapping to explore a person’s or an institution’s digital capabilities.

Collaboration between academics, TEL teams, professional services, business support and learner support is critical in ensuring an organisation can build digital capability across the institution and help provide a compelling student experience.

This workshop will ask and provide responses to the following questions, through an individual and group mapping exercise.

  • How do you build digital capability?
  • How do you ensure collaboration across the institution to build a breadth of capability to make more effective use of technology?
  • Why is collaboration essential?
  • What is the role of leadership in building capability?
  • Who within an institution needs to be involved?

The Visitors and Residents mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation. We then started to think about how we could use a similar concept to map teaching practice and curriculum design. This lead onto thinking about mapping the “learning” of our learners. Where are they learning, is that learning scheduled and formalised? Is that learning ad-hoc? Is it individual, group, collaborative? So the next stage was to map this in a similar manner to the Visitor and Residents. This is the approach that will be used in the workshop.

Structure of the session

15 mins Introduction to what we understand by digital capability and how we can use mapping to explore organisational capability

15 minutes Individuals will map their own institutional contexts in relation to teaching and learning and assessment

10 mins reflection on their maps and the maps created by others in the room. What maps are interesting and what patterns and similarities are their across the maps.

10 mins in groups exploring how collaboration across an organisation could help them to move and inflate/deflate areas on their maps to create an institution where technology supports teaching, learning and assessment more effectively.

10 minutes summary discussion and what next steps individuals and organisations could take and how could they encourage collaboration.

Mapping is an useful exercise to think about practice and though any such map may not be accurate or complete, it does allow you to consider and think about actions and training required to change behaviours or how spaces and tools are used.

Biographies

Lawrie Phipps and I are often invited to give these sorts of sessions on a more regular basis than other speakers that may or may not be at ALT-C.  We thought these biographies might give people a sense of who we might be.

Lawrie Phipps

Lawrie, the son of a politician[1] was destined for business but instead got into the business of souls, preaching to congregations across the southern US[2], also known as “Milk” is a keen follower of the arts and regular helps to organise and attend art and music festivals[3].

Lawrie resurrected the Arapahoe Hunt Club, a prestigious group of horsebacked hunters who, aided by a band of eager foxhounds, pursued coyote as opposed to the English tradition of foxes[4].

A keen naturalist, Lawrie has appeared in several natural history documentaries and BBC Countryfile.

Lawrie managed to beat a north sea cod into second place.[5]

Lawrie is from Dudley.

James Clay

Unknown to most people, James Clay frequently goes by the nickname “Scoot” in his personal life.[6]

James is an expert on the game of whist,  according to the Westminster papers: a monthly journal of chess, whist, games of skill and the drama Clay had been “the acknowledged head of the Whist world” for the last thirty years, spending much of his time and attention on whist and piquet.He became chairman of a committee for settling the laws of whist.[7]

Having been elected MP for Hull[8], he held the seat for six years, when he was unseated after a bribery inquiry. He regained the seat four years later at the by-election and held the seat for another sixteen years.[9]

In the 1980s, Lindeboom became the very first beer James Clay imported after an unlikely introduction to the beer by a local Dutch builder. “It became a cult beer in the local area and we used to keep at least 10 cases in a walk in fridge at the pub for take outs on a Saturday night!”[10]

In 1988 James Clay gained a world record for the world’s largest greetings card. It was nineteen feet high and was sent to BBC’s Children in Need and was shown live on TV.[11]

Using the stage name, Jim Clay, he was a production designer on many famous films including Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, Love Actually and Children of Men.[12]

In 2004, James released an album of music.[13] Though as one of the reviews reads, “Sadly James gave up the music life to pursue playing rock music in local bars.”

James Clay is the 79th ranked of 480 active US West Amateur Middleweights.[14]

In 2011, James Clay has a small part in the film My Week with Marilyn and was later to appear in Financial Crisis in 2016.[15]

James Clay once managed to get funding to go to a conference in Dudley.


Down the #altc road

altconfpodcast

Reading Maren Deepwell’s recent post about her #altc journey, it reminded me of the many conferences I have attended and like her the impact that they had on my life and professional practice. Going back to my experiences of my first ALT-C I was surprised I even went again!

Continue reading Down the #altc road

news and views on e-learning, ILT and tech stuff in general…