Tag Archives: staff development

Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

This year I have written only 17 blog posts, in 2017 it was 21 blog posts, in 2016 it was 43 blog posts, in 2015 I wrote 24 blog posts. In 2014 I wrote 11 and in 2013 I wrote 64 blog posts and over a hundred in 2012. In 2011 I thought 150 was a quiet year!

Do signs work?

The tenth most popular blog post in 2018 was asking So do signs work? This article from 2013 described some of the challenges and issues with using signage to change behaviours. So do signs work? Well yes they do, but often they don’t.

The post at number nine was my podcast workflow, published in 2011, this article outlines how and what equipment I use to record the e-Learning Stuff Podcast. This is only one way in which to record a remote panel based podcast, and I am sure there are numerous other ways in which to do this. I have also changed how I have recorded over the two years I have been publishing the podcast due to changes in equipment and software. It’s probably time to update it, though I am not doing as much podcasting as I use to.

Dropping three places to eighth was 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip. This was a post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE. It included information on the many free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet out there. It is quite a long post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

The post at number seven, climbing one place, was Comic Life – iPad App of the Week. Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.

Sixth most popular was a post from 2018, called “I don’t know how to use the VLE!” This blog post described a model of VLE embedding and development. This post was an update to the model I had published in 2010.

In at number five, is also a post from 2018, Why does no one care about my digital strategy? This post described some of the background to the leadership briefing I wrote with Lawrie Phipps on the digital lens.

digital lens

Holding at fourth, is Can I legally download a movie trailer? One of the many copyright articles that I posted some years back, this one was in 2008, I am still a little behind in much of what is happening within copyright and education, one of things I do need to update myself on, as things have changed.

Dropping one place back to third, was Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week, still don’t know why this one is so popular!

FrameMagic - iPhone App of the Week

Back in 2015 I asked I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean? in relation to the Area Review process and this post was the second most popular post in 2018, last year it was in sixth place, so it’s getting more popular.

Once again, for the sixth year running, the number one post for 2018 was the The iPad Pedagogy Wheel.

The Padagogy Wheel

I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”. It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

So there we have it, the top ten posts 2018.

“I don’t know how to use the VLE!”

A model of VLE embedding and development

Despite many people talking about the death of the VLE over the years, the institutional VLE is still an important component of most colleges and universities offer in the online space. Whether this be supporting existing programmes of study, those offering a blended approach, or even for fully online programmes.

For most universities and colleges, growth in the use of the VLE is relatively organic, with little planning on either side. Training is often focused on the mechanistic and technical aspects of the VLE. Some training looks at the learning first, but without understanding the potential of the functionality or the affordances of the VLE, it can be challenging for practitioners to work out how to use the VLE to meet the needs of that learning activity.

The end result is an inconsistent approach to how practitioners use the VLE which can be confusing for learners who have multiple modules or courses delivered by different people. The other end result is that sometimes an inappropriate function of the VLE is used resulting in a challenging experience in learning something, with the challenge being using the technology, not understanding the learning.

One of the attractive aspects of any VLE is the range of functionality that it offers allowing practitioners (academics, teachers, lecturers) many different ways to engage with learners and create learning activities.

Continue reading “I don’t know how to use the VLE!”

It’s an extra, but does it need to be?

keyboardbw

Over the years I have spent a lot of time working with teachers helping them to embed digital technologies into their practice. I have also collaborated with colleges and universities and seen the strategies they use to embed digital. In an earlier post I described my journey and the approaches I have used for support and strategy. In this series of articles I am going to look at the process that many teachers use for teaching and learning and describe tools, services, but also importantly the organisational approach that can be used to embed the use of those tools into practice.

One challenge that is often faced when embedding learning technologies is that a lot of teaching staff see digital technology as something extra to do in their teaching. It’s a bolt-on, something extra to be done on top of the teaching and assessment workload.

Part of this has to be down to the way in which staff are introduced to or trained in the use of learning technologies. Staff attend a training session, or read an e-mail about some kind of new service or tool, or a new functionality and then are asked (usually politely and nicely) to start using as part of their work. The obvious reaction is that staff will see this as an extra.

Another part is down to the technocentric approach that is often used when talking about learning technologies, the training is focused on the technical approach to tools and services, this is how you use it and this is how it works.

At a simple level, even just uploading presentations to the VLE is an extra piece of work. Using a lecture capture system requires more effort than just the lecture. Using padlet to capture feedback requires more time than not capturing feedback.

This negative reaction to learning technologies, then extends to the use of other kinds of technolog, that can even save time, or isn’t recognised when the potential benefits are longer term.

So what can be done?

I don’t think there is an extra with the “this is an extra” model of staff development, it will certainly inspire and help those who want to engage with technology and those who can see the potential long term benefits. However in order to engage those staff for whom it is an “extra” this different approaches need to be considered and used.

There isn’t anything wrong about the technocentric approach, despite what the “pedagogy first” brigade may tell you, however the focus needs to be on the potential of the technology, what it can do, what is can provide and what the benefits are. The technical processes can be covered as well, but put the focus on what the benefits are for the member if the staff and importantly the learners.

Another method is to focus on the processes and workflows that staff have and see how technology can improve, enhance and smooth out those processes.

Finally what about the affordances that new technologies can bring, the potential not to just change what we do, but allow us to do things we had never considered.

So what strategies do you use to engage staff who see embedding technology as an extra?

Engaging the invisibles

Invisible Man
Image Credit: Invisible Man by James Edward Williams CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Back at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event at the end of May we had a discussion on the need for IT training teams.

A casual question to a sector wide mailing list recently about what IT training teams are called resulted in a number of replies of Lynda.com! It seems that a number of universities have done away with their IT training teams altogether, or reduced them to one or two, presumably very busy, individuals. In this session the panel will discuss this shift in institutional provision, consider the risks, and consider how training teams may need to evolve.

Delegates to the event were invited to submit questions in advance and I want to take this opportunity to expand my views and thoughts on the discussion and the questions, including some questions we never had time for. See my previous post that discussed showing value and priorities.

One question that we didn’t get to answer was on how we identify and engage the digitally invisible? Those staff who avoid the digital, won’t engage with the training and are generally invisible.

Now we know that some would call this a generational issue, it’s to do with age, which we know not to be true.

The invisible are, and making some generalisations here, are not going to undertake surveys or diagnostic tools. They are unlikely to attend training sessions or visit training websites. Despite people assuming that everyone reads every e-mail, the invisible will ignore or delete e-mails about digital. These staff aren’t always ignoring digital, they may use some tools, but they aren’t looking to build their capabilities, they are happy where they are and their current level of skills. There will be a spectrum of skills across this group, some will have low capability in using digital, some will have what would be considered quite capable. The invisible are also silent, they are not the kind of people who will be heard complaining about digital.

It’s as though they don’t exist.

So how do we engage with the invisible? How do we ensure that these staff build on the skills they do have and continue to develop their digital skills and capabilities?

There are many ways to do this, apart from obviously not appointing them in the first place!

Kerry Pinny from Lincoln has written two very good blog post on these subjects. Her first post on the subject, Should we employ staff who don’t have digital skills? She says

Why are we employing people who don’t have the digital skills that are needed to cope in today’s ‘digital world’? It’s a question raised with increasing frequency and one that deserves some serious thought. I should start by saying that I fundamentally disagree with anyone who says that we shouldn’t employ people without the digital skills we ‘need’.

In her second post she reflects on the feedback in her post But what about staff that won’t or don’t want to engage in CPD? and provides some ideas on how to engage those staff, who are often invisible.

Employing people without digital skills is still an issue in that is often avoided by organisations for various reasons, usually historical and legacy reasons. Job descriptions rarely mention digital or technology, looking over lecturer job descriptions you rarely see any mention of digital. I have seen requirements for good office skills and a willingness to use the VLE. What does good office skills actually mean? At events we have asked staff if they are good with Word, most say yes, then ask them if they use styles consistently and effectively and for most staff groups the answer is no. As for willingness, if you are applying for a job you probably will no doubt be positive about being willing to use the VLE and other technologies, things may be different once you are employed. One potential solution for this is about been very clear about what is expected from staff and being explicit about what those expectations are. For new staff that willingness could then be transformed into mandatory training to meet those expectations.

Another solution is to focus on taking an institutional strategy and placing the responsibility on delivering on that strategy to departments. Those departments, as in the departmental managers, ensuring that all their staff are buying into the strategy and know what those staff need to do as individuals, to help deliver on the strategy, and what skills and development they will need.

There is also potentially a communication issue, ensuring that these staff get any key messages about the use of digital. If sending e-mail isn’t working, then think about doing things differently. I use to attend meetings in order to discuss issues face to face, another method was a physical paper newsletter on digital and learning technologies. I actually use to take the time to hand deliver this to offices and workrooms.

Finally, understanding the motivations and fears of these staff can be critical to helping them become not only visible, but also start to engaging with their own personal development and building their digital skills and capabilities. Most of these invisibles are actually happy where they are professionally, they like their jobs, they like the culture and don’t really want to be part of a changing culture. Showing them new shiny stuff generally won’t engage them, showing them solutions (that involve digital) that will solve real issues for them, probably have more chance of success.

So what strategies do you use to engage with the invisible?

Do we still need IT training teams?

The Stage at #udigcap

Back at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event at the end of May we had a discussion on the need for IT training teams.

A casual question to a sector wide mailing list recently about what IT training teams are called resulted in a number of replies of Lynda.com! It seems that a number of universities have done away with their IT training teams altogether, or reduced them to one or two, presumably very busy, individuals. In this session the panel will discuss this shift in institutional provision, consider the risks, and consider how training teams may need to evolve.

Delegates to the event were invited to submit questions in advance and I want to take this opportunity to expand my views and thoughts on the discussion and the questions, including some questions we never had time for.

One of the questions was how IT training teams show their value beyond the “happy sheet”. Showing your value by showing positive feedback from participants is all well and good if the strategic need for an IT training team is to ensure delegates provide positive feedback. I found the easiest way to do this was to forget the training and provide lunch or cake!

A real challenge for measuring value is understanding both the impact and the value of that impact. This can be difficult to record, measure and assess, hence the often fallback on the happy sheets!

One way in which you can demonstrate value is clearly link the training sessions to the strategic objectives of the organisation or department and explain how the training will support or contribute to the success of that objective.

A further question we were asked was how do we create protected spaces in our workload to support innovation? The issue of time arose well the issue of lack of time; and as you know if you ask me why I don’t have a dog, the reason is I don’t have the time. When people say they don’t have the time, or they need time; what they are actually saying and meaning is: this is not a priority for me, I have other priorities that take up my time.

If people are concerned about the issue of time when it comes to creating protected spaces in their workloads to support innovation, 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 staff in your institution? 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 innovation a strategic priority? That’s another question that would take more than one blog post to answer.

So how do you make children eat broccoli?

Do you eat broccoli?

Do you eat broccoli?

If you have young children you will know how challenging it can be to get them to eat new foods, or eat those that are healthy.

When asked why they won’t eat, let’s say broccoli, children (and to be honest some adults) will say they don’t like the taste, they don’t like the texture or they don’t like the colour. The end result is that they won’t eat the broccoli.

What they will not say, any may not realise, are the potential benefits of eating broccoli.

Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber. It also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.

Or to put it more simply…

Eat your greens, they’re good for you.

But…

They won’t focus on the real health benefits of eating broccoli they will focus that they don’t like, they don’t like the taste, it gives them stomach ache. They will talk about how they prefer chips, that they have always eaten.

In many ways helping staff in using specific learning technologies for teaching, learning and assessment is like eating broccoli.

If you discuss the use of various technologies, you will hear from teachers and lecturers that they don’t like certain aspects of the tool or service, for example the look or the colour. They might say how it won’t allow them to do something in a particular way. Often you will hear them say, that though the tool does lots of things well, because it does one thing badly, or doesn’t have that feature, then they won’t be able to use it. They don’t like the taste, they don’t like the colour, they prefer doing what they have always done.

So how do you get children to eat broccoli?

Well shouting at them to eat their greens, generally doesn’t work with children.

If you try and explain the health benefits of broccoli, this generally fails too.

Sometimes you can try and mask the broccol, maybe with cheese or in extreme examples chocolate.

Though, personally, I find the best way to get children to eat new (and healthy) foods, is to create an environment in which they are not only willing to try new foods, they do so, and also seek out other new tastes on their own. This means they want to not only eat broccoli, but also, then want to try other things.

This isn’t easy or simple, but it does have the greatest impact.

So how do you make people eat broccoli?

Image via Steven Lilley on Flickr

Short and Sweet

Short and Sweet

So just how long should a training session be? 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, all day, a week?

It is a challenge to both design training that covers what needs to be covered within a set timeframe, but also to ensure that it is sufficient, robust and effective. Also no one has all the time in the world for development activities, so compromises have to be made, yes a day’s training would be ideal, in reality you have an hour.

There is also no one model that fits all needs, so though this blog post is on “Short and Sweet” sessions lasting fifteen minutes, this is not the only model of development we deliver, there are also sessions lasting an hour, half a day and the odd whole day development.

One of the problems we have faced is that what we want is staff attend a training session, get all excited and inspired, hopefully then embedding the ideas and tool into their practice. However with any training session of an hour or more there is an assumption that the practitioner will find the session useful.

They might not know if it will be or not, and won’t until they attend. As a result they are likely to be cautious and probably won’t book in or attend, they don’t have the time! Of course providing information on the training in advance can help, but there is another assumption that they are aware of the training and read the information; that doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes practitioners don’t actually need training, did you ever get training in using iTunes for example, but need inspiration. They will then think about what they were shown and work on it in their own time.

Time, no one has any time anymore… I could argue for ages about how it isn’t “lack of time” that’s the problem, but “prioritisation” which is key, but you and I don’t have the time!

It was these concepts that made us think about revisiting training that was delivered to teams at a time and place to suit them (okay at team meetings), on demand, from a menu and to be quick and digestible.

I came up with the name, “Short and Sweet”, the idea was that there would be a selection of choices, and teams could pick and mix what they wanted. It also allowed me to theme the training with sweets. Well initially I was going to do just sweets, but I did think about healthy eating and all that, so I also used fruit too.

Each session was to be no longer than 15 minutes. The concept was to provide a taster, to tease and to inspire. Where possible there would be a follow up session available so that if so inspired they could then go to a more in-depth practical session.

I am also going to “digitise” some of the sessions and make them available to view on demand and on a mobile device.

I delivered my first few sessions of “Short and Sweet” and they worked well, and I did get some positive feedback. It will take as little longer to see if they have had any impact. It will also take longer to see if the concept lasts.

Developing

Gloucestershire College

Thursday was our College Development Day, one of two days of the year where we “close” the college and every member of staff takes part in staff development activities. For the first time in a few years we did a “pick and mix” in which staff are provided with a choice of sessions and can pick and mix to create their own personalised day of training and development. There are, as there was this year, a few compulsory sessions, but generally staff are free to pick what else they will do on that day. An example would be that all teaching staff had to attend a session related to our forthcoming inspection, but were free to pick what they wanted from the menu for the rest of the day.

The challenge for me however was that this process means is that staff generally choose what they want to do, rather than what they should or need to do.

So the sessions we planned on Turnitin, LanSchool and Accessibility were either cancelled or cut back, and the sessions on digital imaging and iMovie were oversubscribed. It also is apparent how you need to “sell” sessions to staff to get them to sign up.

I generally spend the day delivering training and this year was no exception, my first session was for my Learning Resources team and looked at the strategy, vision and focus for the next three years as part of a re-positioning of the strategic vision for learning resources which includes the library. It was also an opportunity for the teams from my three libraries to get together as a whole team. It was an interesting session and it was great to see that they could see the importance of a focus and a vision but also the need to revisit what we do and why we do it. I will probably cover this in more detail in a future blog post.

The second session I ran was an introduction to Mac OS X. I planned this session as we have recently recruited new staff into the libraries and as we have Macs in the libraries they asked for an introductory session. I kept it simple, first showing them this video from Apple, before going through Finder, Safari, iMovie, iPhoto and Garageband. I mentioned Keynote and Quicktime too. Overall feedback was positive and many of the session participants realising that OS X isn’t that different than Windows and if you can use Windows you can use OS X.

My afternoon session was much longer, and was a supportive VLE workshop. The session allows participants that time to reflect and build on their courses on the VLE. If they get stuck, need advice or want ideas, then I am around to provide that support. It worked very well with staff having a chance to “play” and try out new things that will enhance their learners’ experience.

As well as the ILT sessions I was delivering we had booked some excellent external trainers, many of whom will be familiar to readers of this blog for their appearances on the e-Learning Stuff podcast. Each of them delivered a range of sessions with a real focus on adding interactivity through ILT into teaching and learning.

These days reinforce the importance of training and development for practitioners, especially in regard to the use of learning technologies. Our focus for the day was less on the technologies themselves, but much more on the actual use, how they can support, enhance and enrich learning.

Over the next few months I will be following up staff who attended not just my sessions, but all the ILT sessions to assess the impact of the training. Experience has shown that not everyone takes on board what they learnt, but most do.

Image from here, created with Paper Camera.

…but I’m a technophobe!

King Edward I - Torbay Express - 30th August 2009

One of the issues with embedding technology into teaching and learning is the resistance to the embedding by practitioners.

Many factors are discussed for the reasons, from fear of technology, to a lack of time. These discussions fail to recognise that there are many practitioners for whom embedding technology is something they can do in the same time as everyone else. Can time really be the issue, isn’t it much more about priorities than a lack of time?

As for the fear, I am sure there are some real technophobes out there, those for whom technology is a really scary thing that needs to be feared (like dragons) and should never be used. These people probably don’t have a television, a microwave, nor a phone (let alone a mobile phone). These true technophobes do exist I am sure, but as a proportion of practitioners in education, they must be a very small minority, less than 1% for sure and probably a lot less.

So what of the others? Those that say they are fearful of technology?

Well I suspect that these use technology on a day to day basis and probably don’t actually consider it technology. I recall one practitioner been quite proud of the fact that she was a technophobe, however when questioned further she not only used the internet, but used IM and Skype on a regular basis to talk to her daughter in Australia! What is apparent talking to many practitioners who don’t see the need or feel they can use technology for learning, in their day to day life use technology all the time for their own needs and in their non-work life.

One issue that appears to be a barrier is that these practitioners have issues in transferring skills they have built up in their day to day life to using these skills to support teaching and importantly learning.

The same can be said with learners and a recognition that learners who use technology all the time, don’t necessarily know how to use technology to support their learning.

So how do we get teachers who use technology on a daily basis to be able to transfer their skills into the effective use of technology in the classroom?

That is a question that may take a little longer to answer.

The importance of dull technology

Who needs a computer when a typewriter will do!

Over the years I have gained a reputation at my college (and out and about) of talking about shiny stuff. I even called a mobile learning project Shiny as a result.

Though one thing that came out of a recent conversation with some extremely clever and bright people at a JISC symposium was the importance of dull technology. Dull as in not shiny rather than, dull as in boring.

For those of us involved in extreme e-learning or technology enhanced learning, we sometimes focus on the innovative, the exciting, the new, the shiny stuff. Well it’s where we want to be isn’t it, cutting edge and all that? We want to be using iPads, Android Tablets, the latest and best Web 2.0 tools and services. We get so excited at times that we even do projects and research on them, before writing it up, putting the stuff on a shelf and moving to the next new shiny thing.

I don’t think that there is too much wrong with that, some people do need to be at the cutting edge, they do need to be the blue skies thinkers, the people who innovate and create new ways of learning, inspired by changes in technologies and thinking.

As a result it can be very easy to forget the dull, the stuff we were using last year, two years ago or five years ago. We can even be dismissive of these dull technologies, pointing out how old they are, how useless they are “now” and that they are dead!

The main reason why dull technologies are important is that the majority of practitioners within an institution will not be at the cutting edge, will not be using all technologies innovatively. This means when planning training and staff development it is vital that dull technologies are included and allowed for. Just because we are bored with something doesn’t mean that someone else in your organisation will find it exciting and just the thing to solve the particular problem they are facing.

Photo source.