Last year, just before I started as Project Manager for the Jisc Digital Capabilities project, UCISA ran their first Spotlight on Digital Capabilities and Sarah Davies talked about where the project was and where it was going. Now just under twelve months later I am here in Birmingham at the second conference to talk about the project, where we are at and where we may go in the future.
As the opening keynote in front of well informed audience on the subject I have been immersed with over the last twelve months was quite a challenge. I didn’t want to repeat the story that Sarah delivered last year, I knew I want to let people know where we are, but also to get them to start thinking about once the service is available, what else needs to happen at an institutional level.
The presentation covered where we are in terms of the Jisc Digital capability service and what it will offer universities and colleges, but also some of the challenges and thinking behind the work we have done.
Building digital capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency
What does it mean to be digitally capable? Not just for an individual, but from an organisational perspective. How will you lead using the plethora of digital tools and channels available to you? The Jisc building digital capability project has been addressing these issues for institutional leaders, for those on the front line of teaching and research, and those who support them.
I also covered aspects of institutional digital capability and what this may cover and what may need to happen. This area is really interesting, but key to helping universities and colleges to build digital capability. I intend to explore these areas in more detail as the work evolves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s the final day of the annual Association of Learning Technology conference here in Manchester. I found an excellent little coffee shop in the university buildings across the road. Very nice coffee, good value and outstanding environment (it use to be the Science Library).
This morning’s keynote is considering inequality as HE goes online with Laura Czerniewicz.
At 10:35 I am off to the session with Amber Thomas from Warwick on Participatory approaches towards more consistent and coherent learning technology provision  in room 2.218 This resonates with the project I am working on for Jisc on building digital capability.
After the coffee break , back to room 2.218 for David Kernohan’s session, “I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream”: Trends and patterns in education technology prediction 
Then we have lunch, and before the final keynote I am looking at attending Building an e-learning platform in WordPress  again in room 2.218.
Another packed day and difficult choices on what to attend.
It’s the second day of the annual Association of Learning Technology conference here in Manchester. Yesterday was an exciting and exhausting day with some great sessions.
Disappointed that the Museum Café is closed for three weeks, so no real coffee for me.
Really looking forward to the keynote this morning from Jonathan Worth, who will be talking about photography and his journey.
After that I am presenting a FELTAG session in 4.206. In this session we will be talking about ideas and strategies in regard to implementing the FELTAG recommendations.
After the coffee break, straight into digital capabilities with Helen Beetham and Lou McGill, Here Comes Everybody: digital capabilities across roles and boundaries .
After lunch, I am going to 4.204 to see CMALT: recent trends in learning technology specialisms and CPD opportunities as I am working with the team to get our CMALTs.
The ALT AGM is at 4:05pm where the business of ALT will be confirmed.
At 4.45pm in the Main Theatre I will be leading the FELTAG SIG and open FE forum. Find our how working together and collaboratively we can support each other to support the implementation of the FELTAG recommendations.
It’s the first day of the annual Association of Learning Technology conference here in Manchester. Everything kicks off, after the introductions and welcome, at 10:50 with the first keynote from Steve Wheeler, the marmite of keynote speakers.
The abstract doesn’t give very much away about what Steve is going to talk about so we will have to wait and see what it will all be about. Looking forward to a heated discussion on the Twitter.
After the usual coffee break, popping over to the Museum Café for a decent coffee methinks, it’s a series of parallel sessions. One of the challenges of ALT-C is finding the right session to go to. This isn’t an issue of signage and location, but finding a session, that will inspire, challenge and make you think. There is nothing wrong with going to a session that you know you will enjoy, but sometimes you need to find a session that will challenge your approaches and make you rethinking about how you work.
Often I go to a session that is been delivered by someone I know, whom I have heard before, and I will know deliver an interesting and thought provoking session, but often it just reinforces my thinking and thoughts. This doesn’t mean I won’t go, but you take it for what it is.
I was going to attend Using CMALT as a vehicle for team-building and professional development  as I am working with my colleagues at Jisc in helping them (and me) to complete their CMALT. This is less a session that will challenge and inspire, but more of a session to help and support my practice. Alas I found out yesterday it has been cancelled, so time to choose something else.
I quite like the sound of To BYOD or not to BYOD: Factors affecting tutor acceptance of faculty and student mobile devices in their classroom practice  as I am currently reflecting on the different models around learners bringing their own devices.
There are generally two reasons behind BYOD, the first is a financial saving, if learners are bringing their own devices then the institution won’t need institutional devices, this reduces capital outlay when refreshing equipment and reduced support costs. The second reason is to create a paradigm shift in the way that learning takes place by taking advantage of the devices learners are bringing to college or university.
In terms of the first reason, the potential savings that can be made need to be offset with the improvements in infrastructure that need to take place to ensure a seamless experience for learners.
The second reason also requires investment, but more investment in ideas how to design a curriculum that takes advantage of BYOD, how to deliver sessions when learners are using their own devices and also designing their assessments.
Similarly I also quite like the thought of attending Sharing stories around the microphone: digital storytelling as a collaborative learning experience  as digital story telling is something I am aware of, but actually know very little about.
Over lunch I will be on the Jisc stand, available to discuss digital capabilities with interested parties.
I am trying to choose between a few sessions, most of which will aid my thoughts in the project I am currently managing for Jisc. This session, Learning technology from the middle out: Breaking down functional tensions and resistances between stakeholders to lead institutional change  sounds like it might well be of interest in how they overcame the barriers that institutions face when building digital capability.
Don’t tell Lawrie, but I am also interested in attending Badging the Open  as I do feel I need to know more about the practical aspects related to open badges and the impact they can (or may not) have.
At 3:05pm I am going to attend Lawie’s and Donna’s session, Are learning technologies fit for purpose . This is going to be a fun sessions, one that I am sure I am going to enjoy.
This presentation and paper will open up the debate, reporting on discussions and engagement after the original debate and eliciting more viewpoints to further the discussion and encourage delegates to think critically about their existing use of technology. It will also propose a continuum of practice with technology, seeking to not identify a right or wrong answer, but instead provide a series of questions, checks and balances that institutions should consider in their deployment of technology.
At 4:45pm it’s a pity that Bex Ferriday’s session, Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow  has been cancelled as Bex’s sessions are bright, loud and fun. So a slightly more serious option will be Harmonious Developments in Learning Technologies; how to align IT and LT cultures. . This session reminds me of my presentation on the dark side I delivered at FOTE 14 in London.
After a long day it doesn’t stop and I will be off to the Palace Hotel for the Gala Dinner.
As I write I am sitting a slightly cramped seat on a CrossCountry Voyager train to Manchester, heading towards the annual Association of Learning Technology conference. This is the first time since 2012 that I have attended the full conference. I missed it in 2013, having just finished one job and starting another, and could only attend one day in 2014.
I will be presenting in two sessions and also supporting in a third. In addition I will be on the Jisc stand talking and discussing digital capabilities.
What I like about the ALT conference is a combination of the sessions, the people, the networking and the sharing of ideas and solutions.
I have attended ALT-C before in Manchester and the venue is quite nice, however the coffee leaves a lot to be desired. As a result at previous conferences I would pop over the road to the Museum café where the coffee is pretty good.
I think I have packed everything, nowhere near as bad in some years demonstrating mobile learning or other technologies, as I would often have a complete suitcase full of laptops and devices. A few years ago I would bring a portable TV studio with me… two jobs later that’s one “gadget” I no longer have.
I think I have remembered all my cables and chargers (along with a four way gang). I am also intending to take more photographs this year, but instead of using an iPhone, it’s a 16GB model with limited storage space, I am going to use my Canon DSLR. The fact I also have multiple lenses means I am intending to capture the essence of ALT-C on film (well digital images and upload to Flickr).
Looking over the programme, there looks to be some great sessions and keynotes, looking forward to it all.
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