Down in the harbourside – Weeknote #165 – 29th April 2022

A busy week. In the morning I published a post, Go and be more innovative which was discussing how we often conflate innovation with improvement.

For me true innovation in educational technology is change which has significant impact across the whole organisation. However this isn’t always exciting and shiny! Too often we focus on the new and the shiny and less on those innovations, that are holistic, organisation-wide and would have a greater impact on the learner experience.

Monday afternoon we continued the review of our HE Directorate looking at what we do and how we operate.

I went into our Bristol office on Tuesday which was quite quiet.

It got me thinking about how do we make better use of the offices spaces we have without resorting to the leaving of little notes saying sorry to have missed you and looking forward to seeing you in the office. Most, okay all my meetings were online and in theory I could have done them all from home, but I did like the change in routine and scenery that going to the office allows. It was nice to have the few in-person social interactions I did have. I was once asked if I preferred working from home or working in the office, my response was I prefer to have the choice. Pre-pandemic the choice was very much about what I was doing which influenced where I would choose to work.

Earlier in the week there was an interesting Twitter thread on returning to the office and hybrid working.

I did think that this assertion on micro coworking was an interesting insight.

I can certainly see the rise of shared offices that don’t require long commutes or want a space to collaborate or I think important work in a social environment with others, even if they aren’t working on the same thing, or even for the same company.

I also think we could potentially see micro co-learning for universities being developed as well. Allowing students to learn locally without necessarily travelling to campus everyday or even at all.

Wednesday I did work from home and we had some briefing sessions about Connect More which is happening next week (online).

Thursday I was in Bristol, though this time at the Mshed supporting a team away day. It was nice to deliver a session in-person and chat with people over coffee.

I did some extra work in between sessions in a local coffee place.

I read this article, ‘Bossware is coming for almost every worker’: the software you might not realize is watching you in the Guardian.

Many companies in the US and Europe now appear – controversially – to want to try, spurred on by the enormous shifts in working habits during the pandemic, in which countless office jobs moved home and seem set to either stay there or become hybrid. This is colliding with another trend among employers towards the quantification of work – whether physical or digital – in the hope of driving efficiency.

The reliance on surveillance software to check if people are working, I do think misses the point about what work is. Work is something you do, it isn’t somewhere you go, and it isn’t something you can always be seen to be doing. Focusing on presenteeism and computer activity isn’t really an effective way of ensuring work is done.

I can certainly see some people looking at the potential of such kinds of surveillance technologies to measure learning. As if it could actually do that, by looking at computer activity and interactions with systems.

Friday was the last day of the week and I spent it at home working. I had an introductory meeting with a couple of new people in our public affairs team, talking about the HE sector strategy.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Go and be more innovative

innovation
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

When I think about innovation in the use of technology in education, I always first look at the formal dictionary definition of the word innovation, my dictionary, says it is “a new method, idea, product”, however it doesn’t say better or improved, often the assumption is made that innovation does mean better/

If we look at the Thesaurus, it says: change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, reorganization, restructuring, rearrangement, recasting, remodelling, renovation, restyling, variation; new measures, new methods, new devices, novelty, newness, unconventionality, modernization, modernism; a break with tradition, a shift of emphasis, a departure, a change of direction.

Again this is all about change, not about improvement.

We often talk about innovation in education and sometimes the context in which it used implies that innovation is required to make things better. However innovation is really about change.

The pandemic demonstrated that organisations can change, we saw a massive change from in-person learning and teaching to remote online learning and teaching.  However change caused by a crisis, is just that change caused by a crisis. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t organised and the change we saw wasn’t necessarily the change we wanted. It also not sustainable, you’re not going to keep your staff in lockdown so that they can continue to deliver their programmes remotely.

Sustaining the change and the innovative change we saw during the pandemic, does mean looking at things differently and in the context of a post-pandemic future. I do recognise that we’re not in that post-pandemic phase at the moment, the risks of Covid infections are still there.

For me in the context of education technology, innovation means taking an existing non-digital educational processes and using technology to improve it. It may mean making the decision to not use technology.

It can also mean looking at how another innovation (such as a new device or an online service) and using it to improve teaching, learning and assessment. Though sometimes this results in a technological solution looking for a problem that may not actually exist.

There are also the untended consequences of innovation. You make a technological led change and it causes changes you weren’t aware of 

I don’t actually think much of what is defined as innovative within educational technology is in fact innovative. Too much of it is small scale, poorly defined and low impact. Much of what we see is often ignored by the rest of the department, the rest of the institution, even ignored by the sector. It may feed into further research in this area, but generally it doesn’t result in wholesale sustainable change.

For me true innovation in educational technology is change which has significant impact across the whole organisation. However this isn’t always exciting and shiny! Too often we focus on the new and the shiny and less on those innovations, that are holistic, organisation-wide and would have a greater impact on the learner experience.

If you think about the impact of e-mail on the university, this innovation has resulted in change across the institution in the ways that people communicate and collaborate, and as we know this change is not necessarily always positive.

Is innovation a meaningful concept in education, or just a buzzword? Too often innovation focuses on tools and technologies, but innovation in processes and practice is often going to have a great impact.

The main barriers to innovation (change) in large organisations vary, but often a lack of understanding of what large scale implementation actually means. The words pilot and project are used interchangeably. Pilots often don’t scale as they haven’t been planned with a future large scale implementation in mind. There is often a lack of desire to use existing research or results from other pilots and projects.

We may think we are innovative, but we’re probably not. Innovation for me means new or different. It doesn’t necessarily mean better or improved. Innovation is all about change, and change is all about culture and leadership. If you want people to go and be more innovative, then you will need to think about the leadership required to deliver that, and the impact you want to achieve.

Shorter – Weeknote #164 – 22nd April 2022

A shorter week as there was a bank holiday and I took a day’s leave.

Came back to 70 emails in my inbox, which I cleared quite quickly.

Had a meeting with ALT about plans and collaboration going forward. Next week is the OER 22 Conference and there is a call for papers for the ALT Conference 2022. The ALT Conference 2022 will take place in-person in Manchester.

I attended the HEAnet & EduCampus Group Advisory Forum online. We are planning a strategic meeting that will take place in-person in September.

I spoke to our innovation team about the HE Sector Strategy.

I went to the office in Bristol on Friday, realised it had been sometime since I went to the Bristol office having been on leave, in Manchester and in London quite a bit over the last few weeks.

My top tweet this week was this one.

I am not that old – Weeknote #163 – 15th April 2022

I was mainly on leave this week working just a couple of days.

Was in London on Monday for an in-person meeting. I don’t mind meeting online when required, but after two years of online meetings, there is something about meeting in-person. The change in routine and scenery is very welcome. The focus of the discussion was an offshoot of the UPP Foundation report on the Student Futures Manifesto, notably recommendation one.

We were discussing the challenges that universities face in modernising their IT infrastructure and architecture.

Attended a meeting reviewing Digifest that happened last month.

…and that was day one

…and that was day two

If you attended the event, what did you think about the festival? What worked well for you and what would have made it better? Did you any sessions stick out for you? If you didn’t go, why was that, and what would have needed to be different for you to change your mind?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Everyone loves group work – Weeknote #162 – 8th April 2022

After a week in Manchester I spent this week working from home. I took the time to work on the implementation of our HE Sector Strategy and more on our internal communication plan to continue to raise awareness of the strategy.

I wrote up my reflections on the UCISA Conference.

Overall, I enjoyed the conference and found that it exceeded by expectations. Despite being labelled a leadership conference, I was expecting to see and hear much more about the operational side of higher education IT but was pleasantly surprised by how many sessions were on leadership and transformation. I will be planning to attend the UCISA Leadership Conference next year.

I also wrote up about sketching at UCISA 22 with some thoughts about sketches from earlier conferences. My sketch notes are really for me, rather than other people. The process of sketching allows me to digest for myself what is been talked about and demonstrated. The sketch note provides me with a mechanism that provides a process for my interpretation of what is being said and what I understand from the talk.

The process of sketching engages me in the talk in ways in which note taking does for others or conversing on the Twitter. They are not done for other people, if other people find them useful then that’s just a bonus. So if you want some sketch notes for your conference, why not get in touch.

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I enjoyed Martin Weller’s blog post on group work.

First up, every student’s favourite way of working – group work!

He is working on a series of blog posts about online learning.

Like many of you I’ve been getting rather exasperated by the “online = bad, face to face = good” narrative that seems to have arisen post-pandemic. So I thought I’d try a series on some of the ways in which online learning can be done effectively. I mean, I know it won’t make any difference, but shouting into the void can be therapeutic. They’ll be a mix of research and my own experience.

I worked on some reports and guides we will be publishing later in the year on the Intelligent Campus and the Intelligent Library. We originally published the guide in 2017. This was at the time well received by the sector and continues to be the core guidance in this space. Since then, universities across the UK have been exploring how they can make their campuses smarter and intelligent. Since the guide was published, there have been many changes to the landscape, as well as the covid-19 pandemic, there have been advances in smart campus technologies, and a new range of use cases.  We know from sector intelligence, member voice and Learning and Teaching Reimagined that the future of the campus is an important component when it comes to digital transformation. This has shown the need for Jisc to update their advice and guidance in this area.

Continuing our research into the Intelligent Campus is outlined in Jisc’s HE strategy.

We will continue our research into the intelligent campus, learning spaces and digital platforms, and how these improve a seamless student experience. This includes how digital and physical estates work together so that they are responsive to student journeys and interactions as well as to help universities achieve their net zero targets.

I was interested though (from an FE perspective) to read about Gloucestershire College’s move to ensure that their campuses function on fully renewable energy. They are digging bore holes for a heat exchanger. For a site that is in the heart of the city centre I did think that this was an intriguing solution to moving to net zero.

I wrote a blog post on the duality of digital teaching.

When we talk about online and in-person many of us think of this as a dichotomy, either we are online, or we are in-person. The reality is though as we know, that this can be more of a spectrum, a range of possibilities, with varying depths to which online or digital can be embedded into an in-person experience.

I did think that this Twitter thread on academic presentations was interesting and useful to read on six useful things.

  1. Practice speaking in your natural voice
  2. Break up your talk
  3. Don’t cram in material
  4. Research the setting
  5. End early
  6. Prepare two conclusion statements.

I did like the sixth thing was interesting and useful.

Academic talks often end with a Q&A. But this can mean that the last thing you audience hears is a subpar question or an awkward “No more questions?” You can ensure that things end on a high note if you prep a post-Q&A conclusion.

This is something I am going to start doing in my talks and presentations.

My top tweet this week was this one.

The duality of digital teaching

lecture theatre
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

When we talk about online and in-person many of us think of this as a dichotomy, either we are online, or we are in-person.

The reality is though as we know, that this can be more of a spectrum, a range of possibilities, with varying depths to which online or digital can be embedded into an in-person experience.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

If we take an in-person lecture. We can start to add digital and online aspects. At a simplistic level printing off a handout created in Word involves some level of digital. One aspect that has been around for a couple of decades at least is using the internet and the web for online research, which informs the content of the lecture. Referring to online articles and journals.

This is so embedded now into practice that we probably don’t even think of this as “online” or digital.

The use of Powerpoint is so embedded into practice nowdays, that we forgot that at one time extolling the possibilities of Powerpoint was the mainstay of many a staff development day, with some staff wanting to retain the OHP, acetates and their OHP pens.

However over the years many academics have started to add more digital technologies into their sessions. They have brought in online video which is another step along that spectrum. Services such as YouTube have made is so much easier to bring video into the lecture. I remember back in the 1990s having to bring in my home desktop computer with its Matrox Rainbow Runner graphics card to enable me to play full screen video as part of a Powerpoint presentation. The institutional provided laptop didn’t have sufficient graphics power to run video bigger than a postage stamp.

Ubiquitous wifi and student devices has enabled more embedding and integration of digital technologies, specifically online tools and services.

The addition of an online back channel (official or off the grid) enabled social and community learning away from the individual experience that we use to have. Likewise shared document editing allowed for collaborative note taking amongst students. Easy access to resources and online site, allowed deeper understanding of topics as students had ready and easy access to information as they participated in the lecture.

The pandemic showed us that we can flip the in-person lecture to the online lecture using tools such as Zoom or Teams. However going forward we can start to embed in-person experiences to the online lecture. Students could get together into groups to participate in an online lecture. This can be a relatively simple way to make an online experience more social considering that appropriate spaces are provided.

Durham Pod
Group Pods, Techno-Café, Durham University by Jisc infoNet CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Likewise hybrid (or hyflex) teaching is by definition a combination of in-person and online teaching.

Listening to lecturers and students taking about their experiences, it is clear that teaching is not a binary of online or in-person, but can be considered a spectrum of experiences. Over a programme sessions can move along that spectrum.

So how are you supporting staff to embed online and digital technologies into their teaching?

Sketching at UCISA 22

Last week I was in Manchester for the UCISA Leadership conference. I have never attended that conference before, but after the 2020 conference was cancelled, I was given the chance to attend the 2022 event. This was the third in-person conference I have attended since March 2020. I did a couple of sketch notes at Digifest.

At the UCISA Leadership conference I I took the time to sketch some of the sessions and the details of these are covered in the posts I did about the three days of the conference, day 1, day 2 and day 3.

As with my previous sketch notes I was using the iPad pro, Paper by 53 and an Apple Pencil.

Thinking now about upgrading to Paper Pro for more tools and flexibility. It’s £8.99 a year so quite good value for what you get.

My favourite of the sketch notes I did was from What’s your narrative? Building a compelling vision and dancing in the field with Mark Simpson, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning & Teaching, Teesside University.

You can tell Mark covered a lot by how busy my sketch is. That I think is sometimes the challenge with sketch notes, is that if there is a lot of content and importantly thinking then I can do a rather busy sketch. However where the focus is on a single idea then it is harder to develop the sketch.

I also liked the sketch I did of Sustainability and the climate emergency: how can IT be part of the solution and not part of the problem?  A conversation with Mike Berners-Lee.

I realised comparing my most recent sketch notes with ones taken pre-pandemic, that I am a little rusty and need more practice. Here are a couple from ALT-C 2017.

Made me realise how long I have been doing them for now.

This one was from Maren Deepwell at ALT-C 2018.

I actually recorded this on the iPad as I drew it. I then speeded it up and put it on YouTube.

My sketch notes are really for me, rather than other people. The process of sketching allows my to digest for myself what is been talked about and demonstrated. The sketch note provides me with a mechanism that provides a process for my interpretation of what is being said and what I understand from the talk. The process of sketching engages me in the talk in ways in which note taking does for others, or conversing on the Twitter.

Looking back at the sketch notes I have used in this blog post has reminded me of those talks I sketched and what I got from them.

They are not done for other people, if other people find them useful then that’s just a bonus. I am not sure how useful they are for other people, but having posted them to the Twitter I did receive some nice comments about my most recent sketches.

So if you want some sketch notes for your conference, why not get in touch.

Scary – UCISA 22 Day #3

I have never attended the UCISA Leadership conference before, but after the 2020 conference was cancelled, I was given the chance to attend the 2022 event. This was the third in-person conference I have attended since March 2020.

This year’s much-anticipated UCISA22 Leadership Conference will look ahead at the future challenges and opportunities for digital leaders in education. The theme of conference is Digital Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World.

I wrote about day one of the conference in this blog post and day two in this post.

This was the last day of the UCISA Leadership Conference, ending at lunchtime. We were in a different space, which though more impressive, was not as comfortable as the space used on the first couple of days.

Great opening session from Heidi Fraser-Krauss on her role of CEO at Jisc, where Jisc has been, where Jisc is, and her vision for Jisc going forward.

I did like this quote from her presentation.

There is something written by “John” in every university which was created twenty years ago and is crucial to the running of the institution.

There were lots of questions for Heidi at the end of the session, which for me shows that people found her presentation interesting and useful. There were some really positive comments on the Twitter as well.

I did think that the next session, What can your organisation learn from Formula 1? with 

Adrian Stalham, Chief Change Officer, Sullivan and Stanley wasn’t going to be my cup of tea, but it was in the end one of the highlights of the conference.

Business models break, new ones develop, technology evolves, regulations are revised and customers alter buying habits. Every industry is witnessing change, and Formula 1 is no different; as a multi-billion dollar sport it has seen unprecedented change in the last 20 years. Above all, Formula One’s leadership teams have had to communicate, manage and implement transformation strategies, bringing their teams with them, ensuring that they make the most from embracing change.

I did a sketch note of his presentation.

Adrian presented some of the key principles from Formula 1 that can be implemented into teams to drive high performance. He opened his talk with a 67 second pitstop from the past and how today the Formula 1 pitstop can be less than two seconds.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Continue reading Scary – UCISA 22 Day #3

Disruption – UCISA 22 Day #2

I have never attended the UCISA Leadership conference before, but after the 2020 conference was cancelled, I was given the chance to attend the 2022 event. This was the third in-person conference I have attended since March 2020.

This year’s much-anticipated UCISA22 Leadership Conference will look ahead at the future challenges and opportunities for digital leaders in education. The theme of conference is Digital Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World.

I wrote about day one of the conference in this blog post. This post is about the second day of the event. This was a full day of sessions, conversations, exhibition and networking. Certainly not enough coffee, but then again conference coffee is never anything to write home about.

For me the day started with the 9am session, From The Workshop to The Disruptor: Strategic Online Planning During the Pandemic which was delivered remotely by Adam Shoemaker, Vice-Chancellor & President, Victoria University.

In 2021, enduring significant lockdowns meant we had to be creative and authentic in the way we engaged with staff. This became especially significant during our new strategic plan development – as we wanted our staff to be involved in the process in a way that had never been done before. Utilising a crowd-sourcing platform that we named The Workshop, we harnessed people power and digital enablement to create something truly unique. This has led to a new way of imagining our senior leadership and designing our teaching, research and partnering future.

I did a sketch note of his talk.

Victoria University took a very different approach to their strategic planning. This was not a top down approach, the process initially involved nearly a thousand staff. This was a highly collaborative approach bringing in ideas, thoughts and visions from across the university.

Continue reading Disruption – UCISA 22 Day #2

I see you BoatyMcBoatFace – Weeknote #161 – 1st April 2022

Spent most of the week in Manchester where I was attending the UCISA Leadership Conference. I am posting my (more in-depth) reflections and thoughts on the conference in separate blog posts.

Though the conference kicked off on the Tuesday, I had quite few lengthy meetings in my diary on Monday so I went up earlier to Manchester.

I went to the Jisc office in Manchester which was the first time in nearly three years. Since I was last there in September 2019 for a fleeting visit it has been refurbished.

I have never attended the UCISA Leadership conference before, but after the 2020 conference was cancelled, I was given the chance to attend the 2022 event. This was the third in-person conference I have attended since March 2020.

This year’s much-anticipated UCISA22 Leadership Conference will look ahead at the future challenges and opportunities for digital leaders in education. The theme of conference is Digital Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World. Recognising our sector continues to operate in an unprecedented period of sustained change, the programme seeks to empower our leaders to not only navigate current turbulence, but overcome the challenges you face, such as cybersecurity, sustainability, and recruitment.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I kind of expected that this would be a highly technical conference, about how technology can deliver transformation and I can say that what I experienced was not what I was expecting.

There was a great range of sessions, I did like the one What can your organisation learn from Formula 1?

Business models break, new ones develop, technology evolves, regulations are revised and customers alter buying habits. Every industry is witnessing change, and Formula 1 is no different; as a multi-billion dollar sport it has seen unprecedented change in the last 20 years. Above all, Formula One’s leadership teams have had to communicate, manage and implement transformation strategies, bringing their teams with them, ensuring that they make the most from embracing change.

Some great reflections on leadership and strategy.

Another highlight was the session by Mark Simpson, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning & Teaching, Teesside University entitled What’s your narrative? Building a compelling vision and dancing in the field.

As with previous conferences I got the Apple Pencil out and did some sketch notes on my iPad.

With three days at the conference, I didn’t have much time for other things. I missed the Wonkhe session on assessment, but have now got the slides and the recording.

Also I did see BoatyMcBoatFace making the news again.

On its first outing to the Antarctic, the £200m polar vessel – popularly known as Boaty McBoatface – has been smashing through thick frozen floes.

It reminded me of the fun we had with that back in the day when I was leading the digital capabilities project and how you should never ask the internet for anything.

My top tweet this week was this one as noticed by Adam Shoemaker.

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