Tag Archives: dave white

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.

The half-life of a keynote

keynote by James Clay

I have been to many different conferences and events, some years I would attend a range of events and would get a feeling of déjà vu listening to some keynotes. I had heard what was been said before, sometimes it was virtually identical, other times it was a variation, but essentially the same.

During my professional life I have delivered many keynotes at conferences and events, most recently at LILAC 16 in Dublin. These keynotes have been on many different subjects, mobile learning, the future of learning and more recently digital capabilities.

I was often asked to deliver keynotes as a result of someone watching a keynote I had delivered and asking for something similar for their event or conference. This was fine with me as I could re-use the content, tailored (slightly) obviously for the audience, but in most respects the same presentation I had delivered previously. The audiences were usually very different and so it didn’t matter to me if the content was virtually identical, as the new audience wouldn’t have seen it before.

With watching other people’s presentations I realised that I wasn’t their typical audience, I was attending lots of conferences and events, probably more than most.


Thinking about this recently having delivered a fair few sessions on digital capability about how long you could keep delivering the same keynote before it either ran out of steam (as in topicality) or the audience came around again and had seen it before. Was there a keynote that you could use and then leave in the cupboard for a while and then bring it out again and hopefully it will have freshened up enough to be fresh for even the same audience.

I know of one individual who delivered forty eight virtually identical keynotes over a four year period across different events, I never even came close to that!

It was nice now and again to deliver something completely fresh and different. The ULCC FOTE events were often the kind of event where I would create a new keynote. Though I would often use those presentation again at another event. Looking over my slideshares I realise that there are lots of similar presentations, but there is also variety too.

One of the reasons why I always created a new presentation for FOTE was that the audience usually was made up of the same people. They wouldn’t want to see the same keynote I had delivered the previous year.

James Clay talking at ALT-C

Reflecting on all of this, I did wonder if I should feel guilty or bad about doing basically the same keynote more than once? One way of looking at this, is am I just being lazy? Or am I more like the Dad’s Army repeats on BBC2, content been repeated for a new audience, who will get something from it as much as the original audience did.

I delivered a session at FOTE 2009 in October called The Future of Learning. In December of the same year I delivered a similar keynote at ASCILITE 2009 also called the Future of Learning. The following May at EdTech 2010 in Athlone in Ireland I did a keynote called Cultural Shifts, but was a version of the Future of Learning keynote. The keynotes were all very similar, but to be honest I believe that I was asked to keynote because of what people had seen before.

This is the version I delivered at the MIMAS Mobile Learning event.

There is something about repeating yourself, and there are some people who will still come and listen again, more so, if they enjoyed it the first time. I know that if someone like Dave White is on the conference programme I will go and listen to his session, not saying he repeats himself, but I know he has delivered many keynotes on Visitors and Residents.


Sometimes I feel that I have a back catalogue of keynotes and that though I may want to deliver the new album, people would rather hear the classic hits from the past!

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

Running around Albert Square

Albert Square

One of the things we seem to do in the world of e-learning is categorise ourselves and our learners into groups.

One of the key pieces of work on this was from Marc Prensky on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants back in 2001. His premise was the idea that if you were old you were only a  digital immigrant and young people were digital natives. As young people were born into a digital world then they were digital natives. Giving a generation a name is one thing, but what people then conjectured was that as they had this name, digital native, they would be able to handle a range of digital tools, services and environments. They would be in a better position to handle online environments then the so called immigrants.

This conjecture is rather flawed and makes a lot of assumptions about behaviours, skills and experience, based on what is really just a name.

I reflected on this work in 2008 after Dave White published his blog post on visitors and residents. Though like a lot of people I did initially think it was about putting yourself into another group, rather than see it as a continuum.

Though visitors and residents has gained a lot of traction across edtech, and even Presensky has backtracked away from the term digital natives, we still see the term digital natives used again and again, across the media, on the Twitter and at educational conferences. It would appear, as tweeted by Donna Lanclos, that if the term is used often enough by people then it will become true.

So many people still think digital natives exist and are able to immerse themselves easily into a digital world. If you think Digital Natives exist then replace the word digital with EastEnders (as in the TV programme) and apply same thinking.

EastEnders Titles

So you have EastEnders Natives and EastEnders Immigrants.

Hmmm, so…

Those born after 1985 will be EastEnders natives, they will know all the storylines innately and understand everything about it. They will know all the characters, plots and locations. They will be able to describe Albert Square in detail and how to get there.

Whereas those born before 1985 will struggle with EastEnders, as they were brought up on Coronation Street and Crossroads.

Whereas those who live outside the UK will be wondering what the hell is going on!

So do you still think it’s useful to talk about a generation as being digital natives? Well sorry to say they don’t exist…. hit play!

Mapping the learning and teaching


During the recent Jisc Digital Leadership Programme, we looked at mapping our use of social networking tools using the concept of Visitors and Residents. We were lucky to have the influential Donna Lanclos and Dave White supporting us.

I like how the mapping exercise makes you consider how you are using various tools and what needs to happen to change that map, how do you become more resident when using a tool such as Twitter for example. Or how do you start using a tool which is currently not on your map, such as a professional blog?

The key thing I like to remind people about when using the mapping that this is a continuum and not a distinction between two groups. Your personal VandR map is not, and should not be a static thing. The mapping changes as new tools are introduced, old ones retire and your role and behaviours change.

In my own professional life, Google+ was a major part of my map in 2014, I would have placed it covering both personal, institutional down the resident’s end of the continuum. Now in 2016 it has shrunk right down and I would say it has moved over to the visitor side of the continuum. In this case the shrinking and movement is out of my control, but what could I have done to mitigate that change? Thinking about how you use tools over time can result in using the right tools in the right contexts. We should also remember that this is not about good and bad, visitor and residents are not about good and bad behaviours, it’s about understanding where you are when online.

The mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation. I 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, but what axes could we use when mapping learning?

On the horizontal axis we have a spectrum from broadcast to engagement. Broadcast could be considered one way, and could be one to one, or one to many. So a formal lecture would be considered broadcast, one way to many students. If lectures have opportunities for discussion and questions, then you can see how that would move down the continuum into engagement. Likewise reading a library book in the library, is also one way, author to reader, but this is more likely to be informal with little potential for engagement.

On the vertical axis we have, well this started me to think. In some respects you could have online and offline. The problem with this feels like the focus is on the tools we use and it’s the tools as well as spaces that I want to place on the map. Also online is really a space in itself. So for me a better choice would be to consider a spectrum of formal and informal. In this instance I see formal as being planned and scheduled, whereas informal is more about flexible, responsive and a matter of personal choice. So what we get is a two axes onto which we can map different activities and behaviours.

Mapping your teaching practice

What I did next was to map a “traditional” course to the map, the type of thing I use to deliver when I was a Business Studies lecturer in the 1990s and what I experienced at University in the 1980s.

Mapping your teaching practice

The use of the library, for example, is a space which is used in the main for informal learning and relatively little engagement. Learners choose when to visit the library and makes choices about what they do there. Most of the activity is consuming content (books and journals). Now in more modern libraries we see spaces for group and collaborative working, so as a result I have extended the library into the engagement side of the continuum.

A seminar has an abundance of engagement, but is more formal. This could be a scheduled session, but this is active learning, no passive listening here.

Study groups could be both formal and informal, those organised by the teacher and those self-organised by the students. I also put in the idea that recreational areas (such as a coffee shop) could also be used for learning.


The next map takes that same map as before but adds digital to the learning.

Mapping your teaching practice

This kind of map is the way in which many institutions digital is added to the curriculum and delivery. The lecturer starts posting links from a Twitter account. They post resources and content to the VLE for learners to use. The VLE used in the main as a repository could be seen as broadcast and informal, learners choosing when to visit the VLE and accessing resources they want or need. They may run the odd webinar or two, mainly using it to deliver an online lecture. The learners may use Facebook to discuss aspects of the course in addition the usual activity of posting pictures of cats and photographs of friends that their friends would rather they didn’t.

One issue that does arise from this kind of approach to embedding digital into teaching and learning is that the previous activities haven’t changed, it’s more of an additionality, a bolt-on to existing practices. You can start to understand why some staff don’t want to engage with digital as they see it as something extra, more work to do.

Now if we draw another map, this time almost starting afresh and rethinking (or redesigning) the entire curriculum.

Mapping your teaching practice

Someone may be using the VLE extensively for content, discussion, chat, assessment and as a result this will look very different to someone who uses the VLE merely as a place for lecture notes and presentations. When the functionality of the VLE is used more effectively, using discussion forums and chat facilities, you can see how this will be more about engagement and possibly planned (so more formal). You can see how this will change the shape of the VLE on the mapping activity and is broken down into two shapes on the map.

The library and use of the library is both expanded and in some cases formalised, putting the library at the heart of the students’ learning.

Twitter can still be used as a informal broadcast tool, but using a Facebook Group with appropriate guidance and advice, suddenly becomes more effective in supporting learners.

Webinars become online seminars, with discussion and engagement.

Notice how there are still lectures and seminars, smaller than in the previous maps, but still an useful medium for teaching and learning.

The mapping provides an insight into how the curriculum is designed and how learners interact and engage with the different spaces, tools and delivery mechanisms.

The next stage following mapping you may want to then consider how you could push or pull certain behaviours, as well as inflating or shrinking them.

What needs to happen to inflate and expand the VLE on the map? How do you push (or expand) the use of the VLE into the engagement side of the continuum? What training or guidance needs to be in place to make that happen?

How do you increase usage of the library and use it for both informal and informal learning?

What does the library need to do, to increase engagement? Is there changes they can make to how the space is used, or do they need to engage with curriculum staff to enable learners to make more effective use of the resources and staff within the library?

What does the institution need to do to informal spaces to increase learning activities taking place there? A coffee shop may have groups of learners engaging in various activities related to their course, but it may not be the best kind of environment for this to happen, there’s no wifi or power sockets for example. How could learning be encouraged in informal spaces?


As well as mapping your own teaching practice, you could use the concepts to map the curriculum design for the whole course.

You could even think about the teacher mapping their practice and then the learners in a separate exercise mapping their experience. Then compare the two maps!

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.

Thank you Lawrie Phipps for your valued input and comments on this blog post.

Got some good coffee in the end: Reflections on ALT-C 2015 #altc

This was an article I started to write on the train home, then I left it for a while, wrote a little more, and then a few weeks later, thought, I really ought to get this finished, so I did…


The Association of Learning Technology Conference in Manchester is the biggest conference of its kind in the UK. Over the course of three days, hundreds of delegates (in the main from HE and FE) descended onto the University of Manchester to listen, discuss, network and discover what was happening in the world of educational technology and learning technologists.

You get a real mix of attendees at the conference, as well as a large smattering of delegates from overseas, there are people employed across HE, FE and Skills. They are in a variety of departments, from dedicated IT staff, staff development as well as technology enhanced learning. They are also in a variety of roles, from learning technologists, managers, leaders.

This is the first time since 2012 (which was in the same venue) that I have attended the whole conference, I missed it in 2013 and only managed one day in 2014. It was great to meet up with old friends and meet new ones. Back in 2012 there was only a few people from FE at the conference, it was refreshing this year to see many more FE people at the event. The people I spoke to certainly seemed to be enjoying the conference.

As has happened before there was a lot of talk about how there was still too much focus on small scale initiatives with little big picture thinking taking place. I heard discussions about how we had heard many of these things before, but with a slightly different gloss or skin.

To be honest I am not surprised, as the ALT Conference is very much about showcasing the work of learning technologists in institutions, their small scale pilots and projects. They are on the same journey that we made years before in discovering how they and their small cohorts can take advantage of new technologies, tools and services. If you think about it, the conference process isn’t totally conducive to showcasing large scale holistic change,

The paper submission process, geared to attending the conference, will push the focus to those projects that are research based, small scale, small cohorts, the work of individuals or small teams. This is not to say you won’t find gems in the conference on large scale implementations, but they will be rare and limited. Can you really for example talk about whole institutional change in 15 minutes?

This isn’t a criticism of that process and I think it is a valuable way for learning technologists to focus and present on their work in front of an expert critical audience. However if you attend the conference with the aim of finding out how to approach the embedding of learning technologies holistically across an entire organisation, you may find yourself disappointed, and you may need to think about scaling up the projects and outcomes you do get to hear about.

So why do I attend this conference:

  • Inspiration: Across the conference you can find out about amazing work going on, really innovative practice that inspires you in your own work.
  • Reflection: I find many of the discussion sessions enable me to reflect on my own practice and really think hard about what I do and how I do it.
  • Benchmarking: Something I use to do when working within an institution, was to use presentations and papers to benchmark our progress and work against that of other institutions.
  • Meeting and networking with old friends and making new ones: Though I spend a lot of time networking through social media, such as the Twitter and Google+, it is still nice to meet people face to face. I took the time to print off my Twitter avatar, which I have used since 2007 and stuck it to my badge so that people could link me to my Twitter account. As a result it was nice to meet many of the friends I have on Twitter for real.


  • Connections: As well as meeting old friends and making new ones, conferences also allow me to make connections, other helping connect people together, who both know me, but may not necessarily know each other.
  • The Exhibition area: This is interesting to see what new technologies are been pushed by suppliers. At this year’s conference I noticed that Portal were there pushing the IBM Student Experience, whilst Instructure were talking about Canvas, the “next generation” VLE. Usually in the exhibition areas, the exhibitors focus on pushing one aspect of their product portfolio. I find these areas quite interesting as you will often find a gem or nugget of news about how one institution (or another) is using these new products.

Continue reading Got some good coffee in the end: Reflections on ALT-C 2015 #altc