No it’s not easy…

Time for a coffee

…but sometimes you need to think differently!

We know that change isn’t easy, if it was then all we would need to do would be buy a book on the subject and just do it.

When it comes to the embedding of digital technologies into teaching, learning and assessment I have spent over twenty years undertaking this kind of activity at a range of organisations and across different levels.

Going back to when I was a Business Studies and Economics teacher at what was then Brunel College (now City of Bristol College) I kind of fell into the use of technology to support teaching and learning. I was an ILT (or TEL) Champion before even the phrase existed. Going back a little further I was never the kind of techno geek or computer nerd many of my peers appear to be when comparing histories. I didn’t do Computer Science at school. I didn’t own a computer, I didn’t have a BBC Micro, nor the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum or anything like that. I did have a bike though!

At University in the late 1980s we had a VAX system and it was really that kind of got me interested in technology, but it was as a tool to solve problems. I discovered I could use this thing called electronic mail to send letters to a friend at another university instead of using the post! This was quite illuminating, until I got flamed by the administrator at the other university, for not using the correct format for my e-mail… Most of the time however the use of the computers was in many ways pointless as my examinations required me to hand write essays, so why would I use a word processor, having said that I did get introduced to Word Perfect 4.2 and did think that this was better than a typewriter.

After university on a business enterprise course I was introduced to spreadsheets that I used for creating balance sheets and cashflow forecasts. For me that was probably the eye opener that got me into technology, more so than anything I had seen before, well does that make me a boring person?

By the time I was working at City of Bristol College I was using my own PC at home to create presentations, photocopying onto clear acetates as initially we didn’t have a digital projector, and we were still using OHPs. When the college did buy a projector (we had one for the whole college) it was a real effort to use it, it was the size of a small suitcase and we also had to lug the screen around as well. Due to lack of processing power, I would often bring in my own PC box, as the laptop couldn’t cope with the strain of my presentations. My PC also had a Matrox Rainbow Runner video card which I used to show full screen video. There was no internet and certainly no wireless network. My what we take for granted today, looks at his phone which can stream HD and 4K video to a projector using 4G connectivity, things do change. Things did improve and we started to see more technology in classrooms.

One outcome from all this was that as I was seen as something of an innovator in this area I was asked to support and train staff, not just from my faculty, but also other areas of the college. One clear memory of this was the impact, often I would train individuals who would then go off and do their own thing (or not). Sometimes I would train all the staff in a faculty and this is where I would often see not only the most resistance, but also the biggest impact. Where a faculty set expectations about how technology would be used, you would see the greatest impact. One faculty I taught how to use Powerpoint to (probably badly) many of the staff were quit resistant or complained they couldn’t do this technology thing, there weren’t enough PCs, not all classrooms had PCs and projectors, and so on… remember this was 1998 or 1999. The head of faculty though had made it clear that not only were all staff to do the training, and create presentation materials, but that all the presentations would be stored and shared centrally. No presentations stored on floppy disks (we didn’t have USB sticks back then) being used by individuals only.

What was a transformative moment for me was the understanding that showcasing, cascading and piloting really didn’t have the transformative impact that senior managers hoped for. Generally the main impact was that enthusiasts would become more enthusiastic and those more reluctant, would either not do anything, or just pay lip service to any initiative. What really caused institutional change was effective strategy and leadership and clarity about what was going to be done, what was expected from staff and what they needed to do and by when.

This did stick with me over the years I moved into positions where my role was to embed technology into teaching and learning. Though I often used the cascade model for staff development, but knew that this was not the ideal model for systemic holistic change across an organisation. It worked well on some individuals, but it was not transformative.

In a similar vein the use of other people’s research and running pilots was interesting and useful, but did not result in institutional change, it could inform other activities, but the idea that the best way for mainstream transformation was to run a pilot was something that I found never worked and never had the impact that others thought it would.

What I really tried to do was transform the entire institution. I would use tools such as cheeses and models, but one key aspect was culture change. Changing the culture was often about hearts and minds, but also challenging the myths and misconceptions about technology and using learning technology with learners. I would use pilots and research to inform this process.

I also knew that if something didn’t work, then to try again, but this time do it differently. Don’t keep trying to do the same thing again and again.

I know that this isn’t easy, if it was easy then we would all have done it!

One thing that came out of this was the understanding that we often make assumptions about staff capabilities and their ability to know how to embed technology and the potential of what technology can do. Just because a member of staff can 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.

I also know that isn’t easy too….

On the tech side…

Birmingham

As some will now as well as talking about e-learning stuff, I also like to talk about the tech side of things too. Over the last few months I have been talking about things I have written about on this blog before.

In my blog post Mobile WordPress Theme I have covered the update to WP-Touch, which adds a dedicated mobile theme to WordPress blogs really easily and looks great. If you have your own WordPress installation, then this plug-in is really easy to install.

Mobile WordPress

In another article I talk about how we melted the wifi at the recent UCISA event on digital capabilities. The conference centre struggled to cope with 120 delegates as the wifi, that in theory could cope with 250 wireless clients, failed to deliver a stable consistent wifi connection.

On this blog I wrote about the fickle nature of the web based on the original article which appeared on the Tech Stuff blog. This was in response to the original decision by the BBC to remove the recipes from their BBC Food site.

Weston Village

In addition to the individual post mentioned above, I have also written about my continued issues with getting FTTC at home. As well as my new Three 4G connection, where I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.

So if you fancy a more technical read, then head over to the blog.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #091: Conversing about copyright

radio microphone

We converse about the current topics and issues in copyright in higher education.

With James Clay, Jane Secker and Chris Morrison.

This is the 91st e-Learning Stuff Podcast Conversing about copyright.

Audio MP3

Download the podcast

Shownotes

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.

Digital diversity – 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.

Sue Watling from the University of Hull kicks off the second day of the conference.

Digital diversity - UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

Her session is titled: Finding and minding the gaps; digital diversity in higher education

She describes the session in the following abstract:

Digital diversity can lead to digital divides. Digitally shy staff are less likely to read the education technology literature, apply for TEL funding or attend conferences on digital capabilities. As interest in blended education increases, promoting digital ways of working for staff who teach and support learning may need to be reconsidered.

Sue initially covered her own background, where she has come from, what she has done, providing a context to her views on digital capabilities.

She did bring up the medieval lecture painting that gets around a bit, but recognises the cultural, historical and social significance of the lecture which is often why we still use and appear to be stuck with them.

The medieval lecture

Maybe after five hundred years of digital it will be embedded into education?

She discussed the fear of change, which is more prevalent in my opinion than the fear of technology.

Fear of change

People like what they like, they like what they like doing. Sometimes change can disrupt this, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The key appears to be trusting that the change will be positive. The only real consistent in life and work is change.

She reviews Dave White’s 2011 article on Visitors and Residents and decides to extend it to those who aren’t on the continuum. This I have seen before and disagree with, if they aren’t on the continuum then that’s the issue. No need to extend the spectrum. I also wonder if these really exist in a modern university with all their digital systems in place already, even if that is just e-mail and a USB stick?

Sue asks are we finding the gaps in capability and skills. Sue does make the valid point that basic ICT proficiency is a core capability that needs to be addressed. We need to fill those gaps.

She also makes the point about not making assumptions, something I said in my own presentation yesterday.

There is something about spreading the message to all aspects of the university and working partnership.

Building ICT Proficiency – 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.

Building ICT Proficiency - UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

In this afternoon’s session, Kathryn Wenczek, and Silke Prodinger-Leong talked about online learning and digital capabilities – the theory and the reality.

How do theory and reality for development of digital capabilities compare? What is important when offering a practical online solution to up skill digitally, particularly for fast evolving ICT skills? This session aims to give a brief theoretical insight and show a practical example of how an online learning solution has enabled a more flexible model of training digital capabilities.

The session covered an introduction to digital capabilities including a mention of the Jisc work in this area. They recognised the importance of building capability in ICT Proficiency in order to build on the wider digital capabilities.

There is already on Lynda.com a playlist that covers aspects of the Jisc Digital Capability framework. They feel the framework provides an easy insightful way of describing the many training videos and resources that are on the Lynda.com website.

Building ICT Proficiency - UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

Talking to other organisations I am aware that there are some universities out there that want to point people who have low capabilities in ICT towards their institutional licence for Lynda.com as well as internal IT training. The site now has a lot of training that is appropriate to other digital capabilities as well as ICT.

The talk moved onto Kathryn Wenczek who discussed how they had rolled out Lynda.com and how staff and learners at Oxford have been using it for a range of activities. What I found interesting was how popular Lynda.com was for just in time training.

Building ICT Proficiency - UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

I have often thought that the key to effective digital staff development is to provide on demand training or just in time. Often you don’t know you need training in something till the point you need it. The ability to be able to quickly access the appropriate training reduces the frustration that having an issue you can’t solve can have on productivity and workflows. There is also the impact those frustrations can have on take up of digital technologies. If you want staff to be capable in using a range of digital tools and services they often need help and support, but they may not know what support they need until they start using the tool on their own. That’s where a tool like Lynda.com can be very valuable.

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