Category Archives: alt

Show me the evidence…

I think this line is really interesting from a recent discussion on the ALT Members mailing list.

…in particular to share these with academics when they ask for the evidence to show technology can make a difference.

Often when demonstrating the potential of TEL and learning technologies to academics, the issue of evidence of impact often arises.

You will have a conversation which focuses on the technology and then the academic or teacher asks for evidence of the impact of that technology.

From my experience when an academic asks for the evidence, then the problem is not the lack of evidence, but actually something else.

Yes there are academics who will respond positively when shown the “evidence”, however experience has taught me that even when that happens then there is then another reason/problem/lack of evidence that means that the academic will still not start to use technology to “make a difference”.

When an academic asks “for the evidence to show technology can make a difference” the problem is not the lack of evidence, but one of resistance to change, fear, culture, rhetoric and motivation.

You really need to solve those issues, rather than find the “evidence”, as even if you find the evidence, you will then get further responses such as, wouldn’t work with my students, not appropriate for my subject, it wouldn’t work here, it’s not quite the same, not transferable…. etc…

Despite years of “evidence” published in a range of journals, can studies from Jisc and others, you will find that what ever evidence you “provide” it won’t be good enough, to justify that academic to start embedding that technology into their practice.

As stated before, when someone asks for the “evidence” more often then not this is a stalling tactic so that they don’t have the invest the time, energy and resources into using that technology.

Sometimes it can be “fear” as they really don’t have the capabilities to use technology and lack the basic ICT confidence to actually use various learning technologies, and as a result rather then fess up their lack of skills, they ask for the “evidence”, again to delay things.

Just turn it around, when you ask those academics who do use technology then, you find that the “evidence” generally plays little or no part in their decisions to make effective use of technology.

So what solutions are there to solve this issue? Well we need to think about the actual problems.

A lot of people do like things to remain as they are, they like their patterns of work, they like to do what they’ve always done. This is sometimes called resistance to change, but I think it’s less resistance to change, and more sticking to what I know. I know what works, it works for me, and anything else would require effort. This strikes me more about culture, a culture where improvement, efficiency and effectiveness are seen as not important and the status quo is rarely challenged.

Unless an organisation is focused strategically and operationally in improvement, widening participation, becoming more efficient, then it is hard to get people to think about changing their practice.

When it comes to embedding learning technologies we often talking about changing the culture of an organisation. This can be hard, but doesn’t necessarily have to be slow. I am reminded of a conversation with Lawrie Phipps though in which he said we have to remember that academics often like the current culture, it’s why they work in that place and in that job. So don’t be surprised when you are met with resistance!

Creating a culture which reflects experimentation, builds curiosity and rewards innovation, isn’t easy, but also isn’t impossible. There are various ways in which this can be done, but one lesson I have learnt in making this happen, is that the process needs to be holstic and the whole organisation needs to embrace that need to change the culture. What I have found that you need to identify the key stakeholders in the organisation, the ones who actually have the power to make change happen. I found in one college I worked in that the real “power” wasn’t with the Senior Leadership Team (who often had the same frustrations I had when it came to change) but the Heads of Faculty, the managers who led and managed the curriculum leaders. They had the power to make things happen, but they didn’t always realise they held that power.

Getting the rhetoric right, but also understood across the organisation is critical for success in embedding learning technologies. Often messages are “broadcast” across an organisation, but staff don’t really understand what is meant by them and many staff don’t think it applies to them. Getting a shared understanding what is required from a key strategic objective is challenging. I have done this exercise a few times and it works quite well, pick a phrase from your strategic objectives and ask a room of staff or managers what it means and to write it down individually. You find that everyone usually had a different understanding of what it means. A couple of examples to try include buzz phrases such as “the digital university” and “embrace technology”.

Finally looking at what motivates people to use technology to improve teaching, learning and assessment.

When I was teaching, I would often experiment with technology to see if it made a difference, if it did, I adopted it, if it didn’t I stopped using it. The impact on the learners was minimal, as I didn’t continue to use technology that didn’t make a difference or was even having a negative impact. What I also did was I applied the same process and logic to all my teaching. So when I created games to demonstrate various economic processes, if they made a difference I used them again, if they didn’t then I would ask the learners how they would change or improve them. When I gave out a reading list of books, I would ask the learners for their feedback and, those that didn’t make a difference or had no positive impact, then they would be removed from the list! I was personally motivated, but we know you can’t just make that happen.

When I was managing a team I ensured that any experimentation or innovation was part of their annual objectives and created SMART actions that would ensure they would be “motivated” to do this. Again you need to identify the key stakeholders in the organisation, the ones who actually have the power to make this happen.

So when someone asks you to show them the evidence what do you do?

Down the #altc road


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

I don’t have a dog #altc

CC BY 2.0  JD Hancock
CC BY 2.0 JD Hancock

Dogs can be wonderful pets, or so I have been told.

So ask me do I have a dog?

The answer is no.

Now ask me why I don’t have a dog?

I don’t have the time!

wandelen langs de vloedlijn
CC BY-NC 2.0 Gerard Stolk

Over the last twenty years or so when learning technologists and others interested in embedding the use of digital technology to enhance and enrich teaching, learning and assessment, the one “problem” that arises again and again is that people don’t have the time.

I have been supporting staff for many years in the use of learning technologies, all the time when I run training sessions though I hear the following comments:

“I don’t have the time.”
“When am I suppose to find time to do all this?”
“I am going to need more time.”

Time appears to be a critical issue.

Even more recently running a workshop I asked people to identify the main barriers to embedding learning technologies and the answer everyone came back was, time!

I have written and spoken about this issue time and time again.

A long time ago, back in 2004 I presented at the Becta Post-16 e-Learning Practitioners Conference on the Myths of Time.

In 2007 I managed to find the time to spend some time talking about time on the blog and wrote a post about time.

Now ask me again why I don’t have a dog?

I don’t have the time!

On The Streets of Vilnius
CC BY 2.0 FaceMePLS

I am aware that there are quite a few people out there who have a dog, and they seem to find the time to have a dog.

It certainly takes time to have a dog, time to walk it, time to stroke it, time to bath it, time to walk it again. When I am out and about see people walking their dogs and I believe that you have to walk a dog everyday. Where do people find the time for that?

Correct me if I am wrong, but dog owners have the the same amount of time as everyone else. They don’t live in some kind of timey-wimey temporal reality that gives them more time than anyone else.

So if they don’t have more time than anyone else, how do they find the time to have a dog? I don’t have the time to have a dog, why do they have the time?

And don’t get me started on the resources and costs of having a dog….

We know people who have dogs don’t have more time, but they like to spend time to have a dog. Therefore they must prioritise having a dog over other things they could spend time on. For them having a dog is a priority.

Now ask me again why I don’t have a dog?

It’s not a priority for me, I have other priorities that take up my time.

Gent beweegt!
CC BY 2.0 FaceMePLS

So when you talk to teaching staff about learning technologies, and they say they don’t have the time, or they need time; what they are actually saying and meaning is…

It’s not a priority for me, I have other priorities that take up my time.

This also explains why some other staff find the time to engage with learning technologies, they find the time, as they see it as a priority.

So how do you make the teaching staff prioritise or raise the importance of something that they see as a low priority or unimportant so that they feel they can’t spend time on it.

One thing that does get forgotten, is that everyday we use technology to make our lives easier and to save time. Often learning technologies can be used to make our lives easier and importantly save time.

Often we are so busy being busy that we don’t take the time to think about those tools and processes which could save us time.

So another question ask me why having a dog is not a priority for me?

Well that depends on who sets the priorities in my home, looks at his wife and children…. Even if I was the person setting the priorities, what I would be doing would be looking at everything else I was doing, prioritise them and spend time on those things. I may do that in a planned manner, the reality is that this is probably a more sub-conscious activity.

However if the household decided that we should get a dog and my objections about the lack of time were ignored, then we would get a dog and I would need to find the time, prioritising the dog over other things I considered to be a priority. Now I am sure a few dog owners out there would tell me how wonderful having a dog is, and maybe this would be something I would discover by having a dog. This can be an issue, I may hate having a dog!

You can take analogies only so far…

If people are concerned about the issue of time when it comes to using and embedding learning technologies then they are probably more likely concerned about how this will fit into their other priorities. So ask the question, who is responsible for setting the priorities of the teaching staff in your institution? Is it the teaching staff? Is it the executive team? Is it the teaching managers? Unlikely I would have thought to be the learning technologists

So if you are facing the real issue when talking to teaching staff of them responding that they don’t have the time, maybe you are talking to the wrong people! Or the wrong people are talking to the teaching staff.

Priorities in theory are set by the line manager, who is operationalising the strategic direction and vision of the institution. If digital is not a strategic priority can we be surprised that staff within that institution don’t consider it a personal priority.

How do you make digital a strategic priority? Well that;s another blog post, which I don’t have the time for at the moment, I have to walk the dog.

ALT Online Winter Conference #altc

snowy road

Following from last year’s first Winter Conference in Edinburgh this year ALT are moving online, in the week commencing 7th December to showcase some of the best Learning Technology from ALT Members, individuals and organisations from across sectors.

The format of the event is designed to be multimodal combining both asynchronous and synchronous communication and to cross boundaries sharing the work and expertise across ALT SIGs and Members’ Groups and the community.

It’s free to participate, but you can also make a financial contribution to support the event and help us continue to run open events for the community.

Find out more and register to participate at

Submit a proposal at:

Making a financial contribution:

If you’d like to find out more about the different ALT Member Groups and how to join, visit our get involved page:

Keynote: Laura Czerniewicz

Here are the slides from this morning’s keynote at ALT-C 2015.

There is also a recording of the talk.

Laura Czerniewicz is the Director of the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CILT) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. Previously the leader of UCT’s OpenUCT Initiative engaging with open scholarship from a southern perspective, she was also the founding Director of the university’s Centre for Educational Technology. She has worked in education for several decades as an educator, academic and strategist. A rated researcher, Laura’s interests include academics’ and students’ digitally-mediated practices, issues of inequality, and the changing nature of higher education.

I found this an interesting talk, lots of questions, but as Laura says, very few if any answers to the many problems she discusses in her keynote.

The main thrust of her talk was the importance of commons and openess. There is a conflict with market-led on the solutions.

I have been “messing” about with sketch noting at the conference and here are my notes from the talk.

Sketch Notes