Recorded live at the ALT Conference 2018 in Manchester, James talks with Donna, Lawrie and Zac about the Digital Perceptions Tool. Where did it come from? How was it built? What does it do? How it is being used? And where is it going?
Apologies for the sound quality on this podcast, partly as we were recording live at the ALT Conference, partly as I spoke too loudly into the microphone and partly as I was using Lawrie’s equipment to record the whole thing…
Over the last few years I have been, rather than taking notes in the keynotes (and other sessions) at the ALT Conference #altc drawing pictures. This is sometimes called sketchnoting.
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. They are not done for other people, if other people find them useful then that’s just a bonus. Having said that I do share them online, through Twitter (and Flickr).
This is an updated version of this blog post from 2016. It now includes details of the 2016 and 2017 conferences.
Reading Maren Deepwell’s recent post about her #altc journey, it reminded me of the many conferences I have attended and like her the impact that they had on my life and professional practice. Going back to my experiences of my first ALT-C I was surprised I even went again!
Over the last three years I have been developing and delivering the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme, part of a wider team including Lawrie Phipps and Donna Lanclos.
Those two were recently interviewed by Chris Rowell, though the focus of the podcast was supposed to be about a chapter of a book that Lawrie and Donna had written, in the end the podcast was mainly about the leaders programme.
DELcast #4 Interview with Lawrie Phipps & Donna Lanclos about Digital Leadership and Social Media
I really enjoyed listening to these two talk about the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme. The conversation reminded me how much the programme has changed since the initial pilots back in 2015, and what improvements and changes we have made to the programme.
One of the key messagesI took away form the Donna Lanclos and Dave White keynote at ALT-C this year was that we need to remember that there is no such thing as “the university” as we are “the university”.
When someone says “the university” won’t let us do something, what they are actually saying is that a person in the university won’t let them do something.
We have to remember that policies, procedures and processes are not set in concrete and can be changed. I do realise that there are some legal aspects that mean some illegal activities are still illegal and that’s why you can’t do it!
The other key message for me was that tech and digital are not solutions, but people are. They may use digital for those solutions, but digital in itself is merely a tool to provide a solution. Without adequate training and support, digital tools are just tools.
I also liked their message that models can hinder development, the use of hierarchical models that imply that this is a ladder to climb, when in reality you can often jump in at any point, and move between different sections, without necessarily needing to move on a linear journey upwards!
I made a couple of sketch notes from the keynote and as rightly pointed out to me, there isn’t much in them, but I did them more for me, than for other people.
These were done using Paper by 53 on an iPad pro with an Apple pencil.
Notes: We’re using a different hosting service for the podcast, so we don’t have the old embedded player. We still need to add it to the podcast feed, so not yet available in iTunes or through the podcast feed. We have now embedded the podcast and added it to the podcast feed, so will be available in iTunes.
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.
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.
So you have EastEnders Natives and EastEnders Immigrants.
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!
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.