Is time the solution to the problems we face in education?
It can be nice to have the time to do new and interesting things, but the reality in which we live, work and learn, is that time is limited and we don’t have the time to do everything we want to do.
I was brought into an interesting Twitter conversation last night in which Sue Watling referenced my blog post about why I don’t have a dog.
You might appreciate this thread @thebigparticle reminiscent of recent chats re staff development/digital academic practice
Also @NomadWarMachine linked to this https://t.co/BP8g9jAhRE @jamesclayand and @Downes defined Connectivism
so much to reflect on! #thisiswhattwitterisfor
— Sue Watling🌱 (@suewatling) July 15, 2018
The preceding discussion was about staff and that lack of time was a major barrier to engagement and how institutions failed to recognise the time required to adopt new practices and learn to do things in different ways, whether that be through the use of technology, or different teaching practices.
The problem appears to many to be a lack of time.
“I don’t have the time.”
“When am I suppose to find time to do all this?”
“I am going to need more time.”
Therefore the solution is more time.
However is time the solution to the problem?
Well it is a solution to the problem of not having enough time.
I don’t have the time to do this… so giving people the time is the right solution?
Messages go back to “management” that lack of time is the problem and if only they would provide more time the the problem would be solved. The management response, as expected would usually be there is no extra time.
I would question though is the problem one of lack of time?
Once we focus on time as a solution, we lose sight of the actual problems we are trying to solve. Sometimes we need to go quite far back to really understand the problem we’re trying to solve.
One example is the use of the VLE, staff say they don’t use the VLE because they lack the time to use it, and don’t have the time to learn how to use the VLE. It could be anything, not just the VLE it could be lecture capture, the Twitter, or even active learning, project-based learning, the use of active learning spaces. However for this post I am going to use the VLE as an example.
So the solution to people not using the VLE is giving them time… Time is once more the solution to a problem. However is not using the VLE the real problem, why are we thinking of the VLE as a problem to be solved? The VLE isn’t a problem, it’s a solution to different problems or challenges.
It can be useful to back track and focus on what and importantly why you are doing something and then frame the conversation within that, rather than the couch the solution as a problem.
Time isn’t a problem.
The VLE isn’t the problem.
So what’s the problem then?
You would hope that the VLE is seen as a potential solution to institutional challenges such as improving achievement, widening participation, accessibility, inclusion; these are often quite explicit in institutional strategies.
How can we provide access to resources, additional materials, links to students? We know discussing course topics and collaborating on problems improves student outcomes? How can we do this in a way which is accessible at a time and place to suit the students at a place of their choice?
Often that’s the problem we’re trying to solve.
The VLE is an ideal vehicle to make that happen. The problem is that use of the VLE becomes detached from the actual problem and becomes a problem in itself. We ask staff to use the VLE, often without adequately explaining why it is being used as part of the strategic direction of the organisation. The result is that the use of the VLE is now seen as an extra, something additional, so compared to the other priorities set by the institution, it is a low priority.
This also happens with other changes in the organisation, the introduction of new teaching methods, or new learning spaces. If the change rhetoric is isolated from the strategy, then the change becomes a problem to be solved, we don’t see the change as solving a different problem. So can we blame people for wanting time to do stuff, when they see this stuff as an extra, an addition to the work they are currently doing.
We also know that when people 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.
Priorities in theory are set by the line manager, who is operationalising the strategic direction and vision of the institution.
There are also personal priorities, which can be in conflict with institutional priorities. Your institution may want to present a single external voice, but then there are staff from across the institution who want to use Twitter.
So the next time someone says they don’t have the time, stop, reflect on what you are saying and maybe seeing solutions as problems, and focusing on the actual challenges that the institution is trying to solve.