UCISA SSG16 Day 1: People, Service, Duty

This is my first UCISA Support Services Group conference. It has always been, in my mind, “not for me”. It has always struck me as being for ICT professionals. That the presenters and attendees will not speak my language. I imagined it being full of tedious sessions with people droning on about their latest implementation of something or other. So far SSG16 has been quite wonderfully the opposite.

Tech-savvy

This phrase is a bug bare of mine. “Our staff/students are all tech-savvy and want to use xyz”. NO they are not. If you go and sit with enough of them you’ll soon see. It’s dangerous to assume that your users know how to do what you think they should. It’s not just dangerous, it’s arrogant. Stop it. If you’ve not seen the work Jisc has been doing around digital capabilities then go and take a look at their blog Jisc digital capability codesign challenge blog and James Clay’s elearning stuff blog.

Delivering excellence in public services; customers, challenges and collaboration

Aline Hayes, Director of Business Change and Information Solutions, Sheffield City Council

Aline delivered an interesting presentation on the approach to service delivery at Sheffield City Council. She emphasised the importance of engagement and collaboration with the end-user. There was some practical detail about their approach to ‘suppliers’ working as services or partners. She emphasised the important role the council plays in the loves of vulnerable people and how even the seemingly insignificant loss of services can have big consequences.

There was a lot of talk of customers. HE staff shudder at the word (though it’s not surprising for the council to use the term). Let’s not use the word but lets assume the principles that the word invokes. Trust, empathy, service and care. Our students and staff are using our services. Those services should be quality.

Despite being interrupted by a fire alarm evacuation Aline continued her delivery with aplomb.

Problem management on a shoestring!

Garry Hunter, Problem Manager, Northumbrian Water Group

I really enjoyed this presentation. Not only did Garry deliver it with zeal and engagement but he was making sense. Get to the root of the problem, fix it so it doesn’t happen again. Yes please. He’ll know he’s done a good job when they make him redundant.

What annoys staff most is when something is broken, ICT know it is, but they do nothing. They don’t care how long it takes to fix, or how hard it is, they just want it fixed!

Business showcase

The conference is split up by business showcases. The less said about today’s presentation the better. Mainly because I couldn’t hear it and doubt I would have listened even if I could.

Creating user centric services whilst maintaining corporate compliance – is it possible in higher education?

Andrew Howe, Head of End User Services, University of St Andrews

I LOVED this presentation. Andrew was speaking my language. No more technology for technology’s sake. Andrew presented a list of ‘things’ our students use and want. I think this is dangerous. There are a lot of students who don’t use those things and have no interest in them. Try asking them? But remember if you ask them if they want it they’ll say yes. Instead ask what they want to do. Then find the technology to make that happen!

Andrew reminded us that staff are not always capable of doing what ICT expect from them. Thank you. Digital capabilities…they aren’t all Bill Gates…support them…bla bla bla. (Read my other posts)

20×20 More than just a degree

Sally Bogg, Head of End User Services, Leeds Beckett University

This was an incredibly personal, heartfelt and sincere presentation. Sally shared her life experiences and the transformative experience HE has been for her. It was wonderfully refreshing. It reminded me of why I started working in HE. Why I love it. Why I get up every day.

We can touch lives. We can change lives for the better.

20×20 ICT vs academics

Timothy Ingham, Operations Manager, and Kerry Pinny, Digital Education Developer, University of Lincoln

Tim and I presented on the results and subsequent actions of a survey we sent to ICT and academic staff. If you work in HE you will appreciate there is a volatile relationship between the two. To summarise ICT don’t understand academics and academics don’t understand ICT. As a result everyone’s a bit dissatisfied and unsupported. We’re developing a ‘day in the life of’ session so they can share their experiences and develop understanding.

Dinner and Treasure Hunting

Dinner/food is the make or break of a conference. The dinner was informal BBQ style food. Long queue but the English revelled in it. Dinner was followed by a treasure hunt. The image for this post is our team cramming themselves in to a phone box. We were dedicated. The hunt was a walking tour of Leeds with some theft activities thrown in. Great fun and a brilliant ice-breaker.

Links

UCISA SSG16 Day 2: Boxes, Bees, Dance

UCISA SSG16 Day 3: Thinking, Hacking, Brilliance

Matthew Saunders: UCISA Support Services Conference 2016 – Learning and Listening

 

Technological Self-Sufficiency: Fact or Fiction

Sorry, I’ve not come up with some amazing new technology or strategy to save ICT department’s cash. I’m talking about the ability to use technology without relying on other people.

I often hear comments such as “you’re so good with technology”, “how do you know this stuff” and “I’m rubbish at technology”. It leads me to wonder, what makes the ‘capable’ different to everyone else? Is it possible to be completely technologically self-sufficient?

I would describe myself as a proficient user. But am I proficient in comparison to my colleagues in ICT, or computer science? Certainly not. They have a depth of understanding well beyond my own. But do I know more than some of the people in my office? Yes definitely.

How would you describe yourself? Technologically proficient, capable, sufficient etc.

There have been a lot of theories floating around about peoples dispositions towards technology. Marc Prenksy’s digital natives and immigrants or the latter visitors and residents. Dave White has an interesting blog post on the subject. All analogies of this kind are largely redundant. There is no ‘one size fits all’. But they do encourage us to be reflective.

Visitors and Residents is a simple way of describing the range of ways individuals can engage with the Web. (White, 2015)

If you’d like to map your own practice take a look at Dave’s workshop materials.

My Visitor and Resident Map
This is my Visitor and Resident Map from last year.

So I’ve digressed. Am I technologically self-sufficient? Far from it. I still have to ask people, still have to be trained and I still like a good help-sheet. I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking for help, actually that’s why I have a job.

Is there such a thing as total self-sufficiency? No, it’s a myth. Even ICT staff need other peoples help to learn. Learning is a collaborative exercise. Technology should be used and the useful discoveries shared.

The people I meet are not rubbish with technology and they are certainly not incapable of using it. They’re frightened or don’t see the relevance of technology to their discipline. All I can say to you is we learn most from our mistakes and if you don’t try you won’t know what you’re missing. Make a few mistakes, try new things, learn from them and try again. Always try again. (Ctrl+Z is the shortcut for undo, handy tip)

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. – Elbert Hubbard

A few tips to become more self sufficient

  • Age has nothing to do with it,
  • ‘Google’ it first,
  • Ask questions on discussion forums,
  • Watch training videos online,
  • Attend training sessions,
  • Teach someone else something you’ve learned,
  • Try new technologies,
  • Test it first,
  • Try, fail and try again,
  • Don’t be nervous.

How many of these things do you do? How many will you try?

Exponential Growth, Technology and Higher Education

I recently attended a lecture by visiting professor, and Gadget Show presenter, Jason Bradbury. The lecture was titled “The Thousand Year Decade”. The premise being that we will experience the same rate of progress of the last thousand years within the next ten. What does that mean for technology and what effect will that have on Higher Education?

 

“For the vast majority of human existence, it was safe to assume that the world in which you died would look pretty much the same as the one in which you were born.” Big Idea: Technology Grows Exponentially

 

Exponential Technology

Even in my lifetime (never ask a woman her age or hazard a guess) I have witnessed technological progress that has happened at an ever increasing rate. The first PC my family owned involved loading every piece of software you wanted to use on to the PC individually from multiple floppy disks. (It has been so long since I have written the words floppy disk I had to double check the spelling.) Now you can buy something no bigger than the palm of your hand at a third of the cost, with more computing power and a universe of software and features.

What is most interesting is that the rate of progress is constantly increasing. The graph below shows the rate of technological ability in fifty years. “Fifty years out, the technology … is a quadrillion times more advanced than today”.

speed-technological-advancement_50years

Predictions for the next 25 years

By the late 2010s, glasses will beam images directly onto the retina. Ten terabytes of computing power (roughly the same as the human brain) will cost about $1,000.

By the 2020s, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. Normal human eating can be replaced by nanosystems. The Turing test begins to be passable. Self-driving cars begin to take over the roads, and people won’t be allowed to drive on highways.

By the 2030s, virtual reality will begin to feel 100% real. We will be able to upload our mind/consciousness by the end of the decade.

By the 2040s, non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence (a.k.a. us). Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object in physical world at a whim.

By 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud. Ray Kurzweil’s Mind-Boggling Predictions for the Next 25 Years

So what does that mean for Higher Education

“Your brain is programmed to be linear. But in these next few decades the rate of change is growing so fast that almost everything we can conceive can happen.” Peter Diamandis

Jisc has attempted to map the future landscape of Higher Education now, in 3 years and beyond. Flexibility, adaptive learning and personalisation are all recurring themes.

Jisc - Key Landscapes

Change is inevitable and rapid. Higher Education needs to be adaptable and flexible, keeping its eyes firmly on the horizon. As technology changes so must our curriculum, infrastructure and research. The problems that once seemed insurmountable will be solvable. How can we capitalise on these new technologies? How do we keep ahead of the sector?

Institutions need to be ready to support staff through change. Resource needs to be allocated to digital technology and digital capabilities. Particularly for the training and nurture of digital skills. Ray Kurzweil predicts a point known as The Singularity “when the exponential growth of the power of computers and technology hits such a speed that it fundamentally changes the world, and humans’ role in it.”