Jisc Connect More 2016 – Nottingham

There is so much brilliant practice going on around the UK. It was great to hear from the FE and skills sectors as they are often neglected. This was my first Jisc Connect More event and I hope it won’t be the last.

Connect More was opened by John Potter, head of Jisc south and east. John was followed by a rousing presentation from Rachel Challen, e-learning manager, Loughborough College. A part of Rachel’s presentation is the featured image for this post. It will all become clear I promise.

Welcome Plenary

In essence Rachel talked about our approach to learning technology. That we shouldn’t focus on the “shiny shiny”. That our strategies, infrastructure and systems need to be aligned for technology to be fully adopted in education. In particular, systems that are unable to talk to one another were highlighted as a barrier.

Rachel talked about the importance of ‘digital’ in our students lives. Consider how much technology permeates their lives. How integral ‘the digital’ will be for them in finding their voice, building relationships and employability.

She reiterated the importance of support and reward in encouraging staff to take risks and innovate. I wrote a post on this very topic Stop moaning, start doing.

Rachel used the Wizard of Oz as an analogy for teamwork. Each character was used to represent a point. The monkey in the featured image was something Rachel launched at the audience. It certainly woke me up. “Fly my pretties…”.

What I found most pertinent was how Rachel suggests we encourage staff to involve themeselves with technology. It’s so fundamental yet so neglected. Get to know them. Talk to them. Find out what they are trying to do. Then show them a technology that will work for them. That’ll do what they need. Sometimes we neglect that human element of our work. Cake, she mentioned, can also help.

Leveraging change through digital capability

My colleague, Marcus Elliott, and I presented on the work we have been doing at Lincoln to improve staff digital capabilities. I’ve written a couple of posts on digital capability on this blog Should we employ staff who don’t have digital skills? and But what about staff that won’t or don’t want to engage in CPD?. We talked about our journey, how we gained ‘buy-in’, our pilot of the Jisc Digital Capability Discovery Tool and our future plans. You can hear a little from me on the Jisc Podcast here. We had a lot of questions in particular, and not surprisingly, about getting to the disengaged. I don’ have a short answer for you. All I can suggest is going and talking to them. I did that today and I think I’ll be seeing a lot more from that group of ‘disengaged’ staff. Give them a reason, show them a solution but most importantly make it relevant to their context.

As a result of presenting we couldn’t see the other presentations which is always a shame. There looked like there were some really interesting topics covered.

Plenary – connect more with peers and practice

We were treated to some Pecha Kucha style presentations which were a nice interjection to the day.

Delon Commosioung, innovation in learning adviser, Easton and Otley College

Delon has revamped the IT strategy and develop a vision for the college in line with their strategy. He describes his task: connect, work and share to prepare learners for the 21st century.

Watch Delon’s presentation on Periscope here.

Jeremy Scorer, managing partner, Charnwood Training (North Nottinghamshire College)

Jeremy shared the issues Charnwood Training faced with disconnected learners. He showed the development of an app that they feel will help to bring students closer together.

Watch Jeremy’s presentation on Periscope here.

Kirstie Coolin, e-learning and media manager, Nottingham University

Kirstie shares how they disseminated their “participatory” ethos.

Watch Kirstie’s presentation on Periscope here.

Andy Wright, instructional designer and Andy Madin, team manager – University of Birmingham

The two Andy’s shared their virtual reality application called ALiS. Take a look at ALiS on their website here. They showed examples of how VR is being used in education.

Watch the two Andy’s presentation on Periscope here.

Sarah Deery, apprentice e-learning design, Sparsholt College

Sarah shares her experience of the Jisc Summer of Student Innovation competition and what she has done since.

Watch Sarah’s presentation on Periscope here.

Session five: Making a difference with technology-enhanced learning

Led by Sarah Knight, senior co-design manager Jisc, and Sarabjit Borrill, lead tutor (English), Leicestershire Adult Learning.

I always enjoy hearing Sarah speak. She speaks my language. She started by talking about what students want. Do we know what they want? How can we know? She shared the findings of the research she undertook with over 10k  students. The full report is available here. In short, to support our students we need  first to understand them.

Sarah highlighted a worrying trend. Students are not being supported or provided with guidance in the use of devices, their online presence and the development of their digital skills.

Around 7 in every 10 students say that when technology is used by teaching staff it enhances their learning experience – Sarah Knight

Clearly students are open to the use of technology but I would urge caution. Not all students are digitally capable. As Sarabjit goes on to demonstrate.

Srabjit teaches English for adult learners. She gets 2 hours of classroom time with her students and has developed online activities for students to do in between sessions. To demonstrate her challenge she told us about a 70+ year old man who attended her classes who couldn’t read or write. So how can she develop online participatory activities when her students are so ‘digitally incapable’?

She began by encouraging her learners to create a short bio of themselves. She gave basic instructions and let them do whatever they want. She found that they exceeded her expectations. Adding images to their bios without being prompted. She provides screen-cast video feedback which has gone down very well. Students are asked to do group work by contributing to Wikis. She hasn’t always succeeded and not all the students have liked her activities. Isn’t that just education?

I remember her saying that hits on her Moodle page were less than 100 last year but over 6000 this year. Clearly she has been successful in getting her students on board.

Plenary – connect more with the future

Andy McGregor, Jisc deputy chief innovation officer. Sarah Speight, academic director of the transforming teaching programme, Nottingham University.

Andy detailed Jisc’s visions for its work across the education and research sectors. Explaining their future approach to projects and priorities.

He shared what he foresees as the next big things. Artificial intelligence and automation. Though he sees no need to fear the machines taking over. He also disagrees with the digital native analogy that permeates any conversation about technology. There’s no such thing. Stop taking an analogy and purporting it as fact.

Andy was followed by Sarah. Sarah encouraged us to rethink education. She talked about the governments green and white paper. The current focus on monetising education.

Sarah suggests that social, informal, peer and collaborative learning are the key to building a culture of learning in an institution.

What did I learn? If we want to change education we have to start by changing people. We need to engender a culture of learning, innovation and experimentation. Social interactions are our most powerful tool.

Highlights: UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities 2

I had a fantastic time at this years UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities 2 (USDC) conference. I was so pleased that the Digital Capabilities group put on another event.

People matter

My biggest ‘take-away’ from USDC is the continued belief that people matter. The featured image for this post was an attendees idea of digital nirvana represented in box form. The message felt particularly pertinent given the discussions we had over the two days.

Be just you. Surround yourself with technology, but remember that humans are still the most important thing. USDC attendee May 2016.

I have often been guilty of putting technology before people. Thinking that using the technology is more important than how it will be used and how it will support learning. I think Helen Beetham put it best:

We should be bringing people with us. Finding technology that relates to them and their practice. That enhances their practice and the experiences of their students.

Most importantly we should be careful that our language, attitudes and behaviours don’t alienate those with lower digital skills.

Metathesiophobia

I had never heard of this term until my former colleague Sue Watling mentioned it in her presentation. Follow Sue on Twitter, check out her brilliant blog the Digital Academic and her post Metathesiophobia and other #udigcap take-aways.

My experience of staff attitudes to technology has most regularly been a mixture of fear and irrelevance.

Frameworks

James Clay (James has written several posts about USDC on his blog elearningstuff.net) described the work Jisc has been doing on digital capabilities and reminded is of their framework on day 1. I live blogged about it on this site in the post Building digital capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency. I really like the Jisc framework. It is clear, simple and well designed. Helen Beetham wrote a post about her work revisiting the framework in her post Revisiting digital capability for 2015.

Jisc six elements of digital capability
Jisc six elements of digital capability

One thing I wondered, whilst I listened to Fiona Handley from University of Brighton talk about the framework they developed, was whether it is even worth doing? (Read Fiona’s blog on USDC here.)

I have lost the plot with frameworks and frankly I’m not 100% certain what a framework actually is. The definition of framework is:

  • the basic structure of something : a set of ideas or facts that provide support for something

  • a supporting structure : a structural frame

Merriam-Webster

The key word, in this definition, is basic. What I fear happens when we take a framework is that we take it and make it far too complex. That in its adaptation we lose the simplicity that makes a framework so accessible.

I for one will not be adapting the Jisc framework. It will drive our work here at Lincoln but it’s perfect, and most helpful, exactly as it is.

 IT Training Teams

I wrote a full post on the panel discussion Debate: Do we still need IT training teams?. Having been an IT trainer it’s an issue very close to my heart. There is a tendency to believe that resources like Lynda.com can be a replacement for the classroom training team.

 

Lynda is brilliant. It has it’s placed. Particularly for the any-time anywhere learning we are told students so desire. It cannot replace the reassurance and skills of the IT trainer. Lynda can’t pick up on when you don’t understand. It can’t change it’s delivery to suit it’s audience. It can’t answer questions. It can’t ask you questions to see if you understand.

IT Training teams can. We need them.

Employing staff without skills

There was a big debate in the room on why we continue to employ staff who don’t have the existing digital skills. This is something that I will be dedicating an entire post to.

For more tweets and activity from USDC check out my Storify

Live blogging the verdict: madness

seagull

Live blogging. How do I loath thee?

How do I loath thee? Let me count the ways.
I loath thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I loath thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I loath thee freely, as men strive for right.
I loath thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I loath thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I loath thee with a hate I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I loath thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but loath thee better after death.

Adapted from How do I love thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

If my poem was too subtle let me tell you how much I have hated every moment of my live blogging experiment today. It was the worst idea I have ever had. I should have listened to those of you who warned me. It was hideous.

I arrived at the venue full of optimism. Although I could have done without carrying the laptop all the way here. Woop woop I thought, there are tables in the lecture theatre, I can use my laptop. I couldn’t find a plug but we’ll return to that later. So I eagerly set up and log in. Connect to the WiFi but wait, the WiFi drops out constantly. I managed to get on to this website for a few minutes before it died.

Let’s not forget the adaptation of Maslow’s hierarchy:

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It’s tongue in cheek but seriously,we need WiFi to communicate. I had no better connection on my phone but at least I had signal.

So I used my phone. Writing my posts in Google Keep and then pasting it in to the WordPress app. It was the least comfortable thing I have experienced in a while. I am convinced I now have RSI. I kept hitting the full stop or it would auto-correct the words. It was a tiny screen and I was hunched over looking at it. I did this until after lunch.

IT Crowd
IT Crowd

So during lunch someone ‘fixed it’ and I endeavoured to use it. It still dropped out. But we did find the plugs on the inside of the chairs. Phew, POWER. Particularly when I clicked the publish button on my posts. I think this was just the WiFi demons having their fun. As you will see on my Twitter I produced a blog for every session I attended.

I found I couldn’t fully concentrate. Too busy thinking about what to write or trying to capture what someone has said and missing everything afterward. It stopped my participating and enjoying the conference. It probably annoyed my neighbours too. Keyboards are not subtle.

I haven’t read them back yet so can’t comment on their ‘sense’ or ‘quality’. I leave that to you dear readers. But I did what I set out to do. I have experienced live blogging. I’ve practiced what I preach.

Will I be doing it tomorrow?

Dr Evil - How 'bout no
Dr Evil – How ’bout no

Nope. I will go back to micro-blogging with Twitter. My hand hurts.

Tips if you’re thinking about live blogging

  1. Don’t do it.
  2. Make sure you have quality, reliable WiFi access.
  3. Don’t do it.
  4. Use a device you will be comfortable typing on.
  5. Don’t do it.
  6. Make sure you have a comfortable environment. A table preferably.
  7. Don’t do it.
  8. Decide what you’re going to write, your interpretations or a transcript.
  9. Don’t do it.
  10. think about alternative methods. Twitter and Storify for example.

Live blogging: Genius or Madness?

Laptop

I have owned these domains for years and yet I have never got around to setting it up. Chiefly because there is always something else I should be doing.

So why have I finally got round to enabling this website? Well tomorrow I will be attending UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities 2 conference and thought what better time to finally set up my website.

I am thinking of taking my first foray in to live blogging. Genius idea? Or total madness that I will abandon shortly after starting.

Why not tweet?

Tweeting is something I love doing at events and I plan to do so at the conference. It’s particularly powerful for sharing pertinent points and interesting revelations. Tweeting an event is sometimes called microblogging. So why don’t I just use Twitter?

Well I can only tweet 140 characters, at the moment, which has it’s pros and cons.

Pro – Succinctness, powerful, brevity

Con – Not a lot of flexibility

If you add a link or tag others you’ve lost a lot of characters. Once they drop links, @’s and media from the limit as the propose to, details here,  it will be far more fit for the blogging purpose.

Plus, you can have too much of a good thing. Tweets lose some of their power when they are lost amongst hundreds of other tweets made at the same time. Less is more.

Laptop, tablet or phone?

WordPress have a fabulous app which means I can blog from my phone or a tablet as well as my laptop. I don’t know whether this venue will be lecture style or tables, or whether sockets will be frelly available.

If there aren’t tables then the laptop and tablet are uncomfortable to try and balance on the lap.

My phone at least allows me to blog from anywhere but again can be very uncomfortable and the accuracy of my ‘typing’ can go rather awry.

Annoying my neighbours

There is something very annoying about the quiet clacking of a keyboard when you are trying to concentrate. I don’t want to annoy the people sat around me. Or worse distract them with the ungraceful balancing of my laptop.

Phone it is.

Seeming ignorant

I have been brought up to look at people when they are talking to me. I am one of those weird people nodding away emphatically at the presenters at conferences. There’s nothing worse than getting no feedback from an audience whatsoever. I’ve been there. It’s very uncomfortable and leads to embarrassing moments of overcompensation.

If I am glued to my device blogging will the presenters think I am not listening or worse that what they are saying is boring?

Concentration

I think my biggest challenge will be concentrating on what’s being said whilst trying to write something quickly which needs to make sense. Grammar is not one of my strongest skills. Yes I can come back later and tidy it up but I don’t like to chuck out any old rubbish online.

I’m going to write one anyway at some point

The main reason I am going to try it is because I am going to write one anyway at some point. So I may as well do it when the memories are freshest.

Preparation is the key

I’m going to get all of my posts set up so all I have to do is complete the body text.

Wish me luck.