Tag Archives: priorities

Time is a solution…

time

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.

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.

clockwork

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.

Using a digital lens as outlined in this blog post and paper provides a simple method of couching potential digital solutions such as the VLE to solve the strategic challenges set by the institution.

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.

I don’t have a dog #altc

CC BY 2.0 JD Hancock https://flic.kr/p/732b7n
CC BY 2.0 JD Hancock https://flic.kr/p/732b7n

Dogs can be wonderful pets, or so I have been told.

So ask me do I have a dog?

The answer is no.

Now ask me why I don’t have a dog?

I don’t have the time!

wandelen langs de vloedlijn
CC BY-NC 2.0 Gerard Stolk

Over the last twenty years or so when learning technologists and others interested in embedding the use of digital technology to enhance and enrich teaching, learning and assessment, the one “problem” that arises again and again is that people don’t have the time.

I have been supporting staff for many years in the use of learning technologies, all the time when I run training sessions though I hear the following comments:

“I don’t have the time.”
“When am I suppose to find time to do all this?”
“I am going to need more time.”

Time appears to be a critical issue.

Even more recently running a workshop I asked people to identify the main barriers to embedding learning technologies and the answer everyone came back was, time!

I have written and spoken about this issue time and time again.

A long time ago, back in 2004 I presented at the Becta Post-16 e-Learning Practitioners Conference on the Myths of Time.

In 2007 I managed to find the time to spend some time talking about time on the blog and wrote a post about time.

Now ask me again why I don’t have a dog?

I don’t have the time!

On The Streets of Vilnius
CC BY 2.0 FaceMePLS https://flic.kr/p/a7RLz7

I am aware that there are quite a few people out there who have a dog, and they seem to find the time to have a dog.

It certainly takes time to have a dog, time to walk it, time to stroke it, time to bath it, time to walk it again. When I am out and about see people walking their dogs and I believe that you have to walk a dog everyday. Where do people find the time for that?

Correct me if I am wrong, but dog owners have the the same amount of time as everyone else. They don’t live in some kind of timey-wimey temporal reality that gives them more time than anyone else.

So if they don’t have more time than anyone else, how do they find the time to have a dog? I don’t have the time to have a dog, why do they have the time?

And don’t get me started on the resources and costs of having a dog….

We know people who have dogs don’t have more time, but they like to spend time to have a dog. Therefore they must prioritise having a dog over other things they could spend time on. For them having a dog is a priority.

Now ask me again why I don’t have a dog?

It’s not a priority for me, I have other priorities that take up my time.

Gent beweegt!
CC BY 2.0 FaceMePLS https://flic.kr/p/9G1Ttf

So when you talk to teaching staff about learning technologies, and they 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.

This also explains why some other staff find the time to engage with learning technologies, they find the time, as they see it as a priority.

So how do you make the teaching staff prioritise or raise the importance of something that they see as a low priority or unimportant so that they feel they can’t spend time on it.

One thing that does get forgotten, is that everyday we use technology to make our lives easier and to save time. Often learning technologies can be used to make our lives easier and importantly save time.

Often we are so busy being busy that we don’t take the time to think about those tools and processes which could save us time.

So another question ask me why having a dog is not a priority for me?

Well that depends on who sets the priorities in my home, looks at his wife and children…. Even if I was the person setting the priorities, what I would be doing would be looking at everything else I was doing, prioritise them and spend time on those things. I may do that in a planned manner, the reality is that this is probably a more sub-conscious activity.

However if the household decided that we should get a dog and my objections about the lack of time were ignored, then we would get a dog and I would need to find the time, prioritising the dog over other things I considered to be a priority. Now I am sure a few dog owners out there would tell me how wonderful having a dog is, and maybe this would be something I would discover by having a dog. This can be an issue, I may hate having a dog!

You can take analogies only so far…

If people are concerned about the issue of time when it comes to using and embedding learning technologies then they are probably more likely concerned about how this will fit into their other priorities. So ask the question, who is responsible for setting the priorities of the teaching staff in your institution? Is it the teaching staff? Is it the executive team? Is it the teaching managers? Unlikely I would have thought to be the learning technologists

So if you are facing the real issue when talking to teaching staff of them responding that they don’t have the time, maybe you are talking to the wrong people! Or the wrong people are talking to the teaching staff.

Priorities in theory are set by the line manager, who is operationalising the strategic direction and vision of the institution. If digital is not a strategic priority can we be surprised that staff within that institution don’t consider it a personal priority.

How do you make digital a strategic priority? Well that;s another blog post, which I don’t have the time for at the moment, I have to walk the dog.