The importance of language – UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

I am currently at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event here in Birmingham. I will be live blogging here on elearningstuff.

david walker at #udigcap

After I did my session, David Walker from Sussex University delivered a really good presentation on the importance of a common language.

The discourse of transformation frequently frames discussions around the role of technology in learning and teaching. Change initiatives are often pitched as seeking to ‘transform the staff/student experience’ yet the process of change can feel far from transformative, even if the outcomes represents a marked shift from the previous state. This presentation will consider the impact of our communication strategies on digital initiatives and how, through our use of language and approach to engagement, we can reduce perceived levels of threat and resistance when seeking to deliver changes in practice and/or capability.

I found this a really insightful and informative presentation on the importance of language and the impact it can have. The word transform is one that is often used when it comes to the embedding digital technologies, we talk about transformation and assume staff will be motivated and encouraged to transform. Well if that was the case then I am pretty sure we would all be transformed.

I though that the time and effort taken to understand the impact of the language used was important to the success of the project at Sussex.

So are you considering the language use in your change project?

Keynote at UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

The Stage at #udigcap

I am currently at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event here in Birmingham. I will be live blogging here on elearningstuff and will probably post a more in-depth reflective piece on the digital capability blog later.

Last year, just before I started as Project Manager for the Jisc Digital Capabilities project, UCISA ran their first Spotlight on Digital Capabilities and Sarah Davies talked about where the project was and where it was going. Now just under twelve months later I am here in Birmingham at the second conference to talk about the project, where we are at and where we may go in the future.

As the opening keynote in front of well informed audience on the subject I have been immersed with over the last twelve months was quite a challenge. I didn’t want to repeat the story that Sarah delivered last year, I knew I want to let people know where we are, but also to get them to start thinking about once the service is available, what else needs to happen at an institutional level.

The presentation covered where we are in terms of the Jisc Digital capability service and what it will offer universities and colleges, but also some of the challenges and thinking behind the work we have done.

Building digital capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency

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.

I also covered aspects of institutional digital capability and what this may cover and what may need to happen. This area is really interesting, but key to helping universities and colleges to build digital capability. I intend to explore these areas in more detail as the work evolves.

Looking forward ALT-C 2016

Audience

With the announcement of the keynotes for ALT-C 2016, which I am looking forward to and sound exciting. It is interesting to reflect on the keynotes that have been before at previous conferences. There are a fair few of these keynotes available on the YouTube and there are many which had a real impact on me. I remember Martin Bean in 2009 and his stories that had the audience laughing out loud, still a powerful message despite finding out years later that the stories of the past were in fact made up.

What do you mean, someone made them up…

jonathanworth

I really enjoyed Jonathan Worth’s moving and though provoking keynote last year and who could forget Catherine Cronin’s Navigating the Marvellous: Openness in Education in 2014. I am sure that you can share your thoughts on memorable keynotes from previous conferences and the impact they had.

Though I have never delivered a keynote at ALT-C, I did do an invited talk in 2012 about tablets. I recently wrote a blog post about the half-life of keynotes which gained some traction and discussion elsewhere on the blogosphere (do we still use that term?).

The half-life of a keynote

Martin Weller wrote a really interesting response on the new or reused keynote presentation. He starts his post describing what he is doing this year.

This year I decided I would create new talks for every keynote, so it’s something I’ve been thinking about. I think the initial reaction is that creating new talks is better. But now I’m through my new talk phase, I’m less convinced.

Commenting on Martin’s post was Alan Levine, who mentioned how a post by Kathy Sierra helped him shift perspective on presentations.

Stephen Downes then came in with the audience experience.

I come into a presentation not thinking that the audience is lacking something which I can provide, I come in thinking that the audience already has the essential skills or abilities, which I can help them realize. This means every presentation is different, because every audience is different.

So what are your thoughts? So if you deliver at conferences, have you delivered the same presentation at different events and why did you do it?

Visual Clutter

So why do we feel the need to fill the space with signs and notices.

At my local library/community space, I noticed how cluttered the new café area was with notices and signs. The end result was not clarity, but a visual cluttered mess.

The Campus Cafe

The nice and probably somewhat pricey wooden café sign is now covered with notices and menus. There are lots of notices and signs on the noticeboard behind the counter too.

Now I am sure whoever designed the new space probably didn’t think it would end up as cluttered as it has been. Likewise I am sure that the people who put up the notices didn’t start putting up notices and signs in order to clutter the visual environment. They probably had very good reasons, such as wanting to change behaviour, following a complaint that there wasn’t a sign, or there is an event they need to publicise.

The problem with visual clutter is that too many notices and signs usually has the end result that none of the signs work any more. We don’t see the signs and notices because there are too many.

Most new spaces start off as a blank canvas and then because of various issues, behavioural ones usually, signs are put up. Notices are also added to inform and advertise.

In order to maximise impact you can put up a large temporary sign or notice for a short amount of time. They key is to make it large, bright and visible. The other thing to note is to remove it, but don’t immediately replace it. The impact will be more noticeable and it might have the effect you are looking for.

I have often seen similar things in libraries, you have a nice clean visual environment, and then before you know it, the place is full of signs and notices. Signs telling you to work quietly, not to eat or drink, not to use the PCs for Facebook.

In terms of signs about behaviour, just because there isn’t a sign doesn’t mean that the behaviour is acceptable and just because their isn’t a sign doesn’t mean that you can do what you like. When I ran libraries we didn’t have a single sign saying no cycling, but that didn’t mean we would condone cycling in the library, and if there was a cyclist in the library, I doubt a no cycling sign would make any difference. Just because there wasn’t a sign, that didn’t mean that entitled someone to cycle in the library, as there wasn’t a sign.

So next time you are about to put up a notice or a sign, ask yourself is this the best way to achieve what I want to achieve?

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #090: Location Independence Day

Lawrie

We explore what is Location Independent Working and the issues and challenges that surround this issue.

With James Clay, Donna Lanclos and Lawrie Phipps.

This is the 90th e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Location Independence Day.

Audio MP3

Download the podcast

Shownotes

The blog post discussed in the podcast: Something, not somewhere, and increasingly somewhen

Update: Since publishing the podcast, Shelia MacNeill has written a blog post in response it.

Notes: We’re using a different hosting service for the podcast, so we don’t have the old embedded player. We still need to add it to the podcast feed, so not yet available in iTunes or through the podcast feed. We have now embedded the podcast and added it to the podcast feed, so will be available in iTunes.

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