Lost in translation: mapping your teaching

old map
Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

With the rapid change to emergency remote delivery because of the coronavirus pandemic seeing universities being forced to undertake an emergency response to teaching. We saw that many had to quickly and at scale move to remote and online delivery. Many staff were thrown into using online tools such as Zoom and Teams with little time to reflect on how best to use them effectively to support learning.

As we move away from reactionary responses and start the future planning of courses and modules that may be a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning are able to design and plan for high quality and effective online or hybrid courses. In addition we will need to put contingency plans in case another emergency response is required if there is a second spike in covid-19 infections resulting in a second lockdown.

lecture theatre
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I did start to think if mapping could be useful in helping staff plan their future course and curriculum design.

When I was delivering the Jisc Digital Leadership Programme, we used the concept of Visitors and Residents to map behaviours and the tools people used. The Visitors and Residents mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation. In 2015 following delivering with Lawrie Phipps, the Jisc Digital Leadership Programme I thought about how we could use a similar concept to map teaching practice and curriculum design. The result of this was a blog post published about how to map the teaching and learning.

This post resonated with quite a few people, such as Sheila MacNeill (than at GCU) and Henry Keil from Harper Adams.

Later that year I ran a mapping workshop at LSE based on the blog post.

I’ve always liked how mapping exercises 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 Visitors and Residents 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.

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.

using a laptop
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The Visitors and Residents mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation. In 2016 following delivering with Lawrie Phipps, the Jisc Digital Leadership Programme I thought 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 at the time, 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.

If you then 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. 

However I know that this kind of model is out of date. So I then threw in some other kinds of teaching and learning onto the map. There are books (and textbooks) as well as the linked but formalised reading lists. We also see study groups cross those informal groups that students create themselves, but also those that are set up for the course. We also have those informal conversations about the course and study that happen in the coffee shop.

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.

Everyone’s maps will be different, the size (or shape) of the boxes is not necessarily linked to time or weighting.

With the rapid shift to emergency remote delivery, people suddenly had to make quick decisions about what to do in replacement of those activities that had taken place in physical locations.

You could very easily see why, many people switched quickly to Zoom webinars and presentations. Libraries switched from the physical space to expand into their online provision of ebooks and digital resources.

There are similar questions in the wider context. The coffee shops is closed, but what about those other mapped activities?

Can you ensure easy access to online content, could you expand the availability of content for the students? 

Social media could replace the coffee shop conversations and there are tools that students could use to create virtual study groups. However are these planned or just ad hoc reactions to the need to communicate remotely during a crisis. Does the reading list easily translate into a collection of ebooks?

As we move away from reactionary responses and start the future planning of courses and modules that may be a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that courses are planned more effectively and take advantage of the affordances of online and digital. In my series of blog posts in translating and transforming teaching practice I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff and students. From a mapping perspective, though you could build on the rapidly translated map and add extra activities and tools. One issue that does arise from this kind of approach is that the previous activities haven’t changed, merely translated. The additional activities become a bolt-on, or extra to existing mirrored practices. We also lose the possible affordances of online and digital. It might result in a better outcome to start from scratch.

To a blank map you can then add activities and behaviours and spaces where teaching and learning happen.

You still have Zoom webinars and presentations, but you could add pre-recorded videos and audio recordings (podcasts). Teams or the VLE could be used to “broadcast” information and content. The VLE could be used for discussions (as could tools such as Slack or Teams) as well as delivering content. Formalised study groups could use social media or other institutionally provided tools. Students could easily form their own informal learning groups using a range of other online tools or services.

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. It can also be useful for curriculum design for an uncertain and unknown future.

map
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

This blog post was inspired by and adapted from a post on mapping the teaching and learning that I published in 2016.

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