The silent majority vs the deafening minority

Angry Man

 There is an ever-present tension in the provision of technology in Education; who should we aim to please? The innovators and early adopters, who are the vocal minority? Or should we be seeking out the late majority and laggards, the silent majority?

Who is the silent majority?

By silent majority, I refer to those staff who you never hear from. There might be lots of reasons for that. They might be fine, they might be happy doing what they’re doing. They could be people who are not at all interested. They could be people who don’t see the point in engaging with you. Whatever their motives for silence, they are the people we desperately want to hear from. They are still the majority.

Who is the deafening minority?

The deafening minority, are those innovators and early adopters who have explored what is on offer and are looking for ways to enhance and extend beyond it. They are usually the same faces who come to user groups or provide feedback. They are the people who shout the loudest (sometimes because they are the only people you ever hear from). They are the groups that want to leap ahead whilst the silent majority are still far behind.

Update: My former learned colleague Marcus Elliott has rightly pointed out that:

The old senior management switcheroo

It is a sad fact of life in professional services that “he who shouts loudest gets what they want”. Also true is, “department that brings in the most money gets to do what it wants”. These situations usually follow a familiar pattern: make request, don’t receive the desired answer, stress importance of request, name drop important company partnerships or senior management, get other people to ask, department head contacts department head, escalate up management chain until senior enough manager is found to force the fulfillment of the request. I have seen this pattern too many times in my career. This is not a collegial or supportive approach. It does not engender a feeling of reciprocal respect or understanding. No’s are not bandied around lightly. There are a myriad of things taken into consideration

NEWSFLASH: University Professional Service Department has already got work to do BECAUSE OTHER PEOPLE EXIST.

Despite the rumours, we are not sat in our offices with our thumbs up our butts. You are one department of many and you all want something and it’s never the same thing!

Maintenance is a thing

I’ve seen this best articulated by Anne-Marie Scott from the University of Edinburgh in her blog post Some more thoughts on the NGDLE, for what it’s worth. NGDLE being the next generation learning environment. As she so eloquently puts it:

Managing the information flow, the release schedule, the updates to training and documentation when change happens – this stuff isn’t sexy innovation, but it’s over 50% of what any team will need to do just to keep the lights on, and it’s the work that is constantly being squeezed to free up more resource for “innovation”. July 2017 Anne-Marie Scott

I would love to do more “sexy innovation”. I’d love to turn on, develop and buy all the cool things people want. (I googled sexy innovation (IKR? Blowing raspberries at the user acceptance agreement) and found this Slideshare  How to: A sexy innovation team by Nick Demey). The sad fact is most of my time is concerned with updates, documentation, change management and just generally trying to get our ‘house in order’.

Updates are a necessary evil. Some are more time consuming than others but no update can be done without a lot of initial work. Finding a suitable time (never easy), submitting changes, working out what will change, testing, reviewing advice and guidance, doing it, fixing anything that broke, snagging, testing again and then finally you’re done. Oh and then you better start planning for the next one.

Then there’s just the things you have to do to keep everything ticking over. These are silent tasks people often don’t hear about.

Oh and every new thing means we have another thing to maintain. There’s a finite number of people and a finite number of hours in the day. We have to balance adding new things with being able to actually support them.

Here’s something I just made up for how we assess each request.

widespreadBenefit = PerceivedBenefit/StudentNumbers
impact = WidespreadBenefit
resource = Time + People + Cost + MaintenanceRequired + SupportNeeded
checkWorkloads = People/whatTheyAreAlreadyWorkingOn

if impact ≥ resource

then CheckWorkloads

if checkWorkloads < resource

then doTheThing and maintainTheThing

I could get into the long list of things doTheThing actually involves but let’s not. Essentially we have to look at the impact versus what it will take to actually do and maintain the thing. If the impact isn’t going to be great enough then we can’t always prioritise it over the day to day firefighting.

Trust me, I’d love to have 20 people who can jump on all these things but we don’t. We have to be sustainable. A service is better than no service at all.

Stuff breaks and we have to fix it

Fixing stuff is a thing. If we’re fixing something, we probably not able to do anything else. Oh and if we don’t want it to break again then we have to do some work on that too.

Support is a thing

Answering helpdesk incidents, enquiries and fulfilling service requests are a thing. Creating documentation is a thing. Developing and delivering training is a thing. Talking to you is a thing. Consultation is a thing. Emailing you back is a thing. These are all things we have to do and they take up time that can’t be dedicated to new stuff.

Boring is essential

I’d love to say working in learning technologies is all fighting off killer AI robots but the reality is it’s often just supporting people to do the basics. These basics, the boring stuff, is absolutely necessary. It’s what the silent majority needs. This stuff is valuable.

It might not be what the deafening majority see the value but it has to be done.

How do we appease the deafening majority whilst getting to the silent minority?

This is a question I constantly ask myself. I really want to get to the silent majority. I think that’s an important part of what we exist to achieve. However, I don’t like upsetting the deafening minority. They were willing to take risks, they’re all in and I don’t want them to be disenfranchised.

But I don’t see any way to avoid it. There’s too much to do to please everyone.

Our Digital Capabilities Journey

I am passionate about staff and students being supported to develop their digital capabilities. So I thought I’d write a follow-up to the presentation Marcus Elliott and I gave at ALT Conference 2016 ‘Creativity takes courage and digital capability‘. I’ll provide some extra detail that we couldn’t include and answer some of the questions that arose.

Why did we start the digital capabilities project?

So what made us start this journey? I’ve always been interested in supporting staff to use technology properly.  Having spent my entire career trying to encourage staff to use it, training them to use it and seeing first hand the mixture of ability levels, I realised we really need to do more. What we could do and how was not so clear.

Marcus and I attended a lot of conferences over the past two years where digital capabilities were discussed. Jisc Digifest, UCISA’s Spotlight on Digital Capabilities and we were lucky enough to get a place on the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme. What attending these conferences gave us were many ideas and approaches we could take back. They convinced me more and more that we weren’t doing enough

So is it the responsibility of the institution? Or, should staff be making sure they are fit to work? These are questions that have been raised a couple of times. I wrote a blog along these lines a while ago Should we employ staff who don’t have digital skills? To me there is an equal responsibility, staff should take responsibility but the institution should ensure the opportunity to develop is available. We strive to ensure our students leave here with more skills and aptitudes than they arrived with, shouldn’t the same apply to our staff? An institution dedicated to developing their staff is one that will attract and keep the best staff. As the featured image for this post says

Passion led us here

What did we do?

  1. The project began very informally. Marcus and I had many conversations about digital capabilities and I had always been shocked at how little support there was at the University. So I decided to take the bull by the horns and spoke to my manager. I told her we needed to do something, I told her about the experiences Marcus and I have had dealing with staff and the huge leap using technology is for some staff. Luckily she was very open to the idea and agreed to use her influence to gather a group.
  2. We brought together representatives from Educational Development, ICT, HR, Library, Student Services, a representative from all colleges and other interested parties. I presented the Jisc project and emphasised the impact of digital identity and well-being. I have always felt that senior management know that support surrounding technologies are important but often other considerations drop this issue to the bottom of the pile. When we leverage digital capability to the impact on well-being and identity we create a better more persuasive argument. If you can link it to real world examples, for example we had a student who did something naughty on social media, it becomes even more pertinent. Everyone agreed that we needed to do ‘something’ and a group was formed.
  3. We formed the Digital Capabilities Group and began to consider what we could do to make a quick impact.
  4. We decided to pilot Lynda.com. A number of schools were paying for a licence and it seemed wasteful to spend almost as much per school as it would be to have a site licence given the difference was nominal. The added value for staff and students seemed huge so we asked 100 staff and students from across the University to consider how Lynda.com could be used to support their personal development, their students and in their teaching. We had very positive responses and we hope to secure the funds to roll it out for September 2017.
  5. We had been considering how we might gather a baseline of capabilities across the University and were toying with the idea of creating a needs analysis survey. We looked at a few drafts but found they tended to be full of questions about specific software and features. Lots of questions like “are you confident using x”. It was too constraining. Technology changes all the time, list one application in a survey and the next day there’s a replacement. We didn’t want to know whether they could use Microsoft Word, what we were looking for was whether they were capable of handling the changes. Did they have the broad capabilities to handle a variety of technologies. So when we heard at the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme that Jisc had developed a beta discovery tool we were very excited! James Clay, project manager for the building digital capability R&D project, visited us and talked us through the plans for the tool. It was in beta when we joined the pilot and there were a number of improvements that would be made to it in the future. We were sold!
  6. James created an instance of the tool for us. We crafted a carefully worded email and sent it out to all staff. We asked a senior member of staff to send it out in the hope it would have more gravitas and we titled it “How digital are you?”. The title was really hard to decide on. I’m still not sure it worked but we didn’t want some tedious title that people would scroll past. We left the tool open for 2 weeks and sent out a follow-up email to encourage the last few people to complete the tool (although that email was sent about an hour before it closed on the last day, thanks Marketing). We had 422 respondents which equated to a 25% response rate at the time. All participants completed the tool which shows it wasn’t too onerous to complete. We were really happy with the response given we did no promotion whatsoever! We received some helpful feedback which we passed on to Jisc and they have improved the tool based on the feedback from all the pilots.
  7. We interpreted our results, with the help of James, and have a list of areas we know we need to work on. For example there is work to do around the benefits of social media, copyright and open content etc. Overall we were really pleased with how capable our staff are the results showed we had staff who were willing to try to resolve technical issues themselves, who saw the benefit of collaborative working tools and are interested in new technologies. Obviously I understand that 25% is hardly representative of the entire university but it has given us some areas for development and an insight in to our staff.

How does the Jisc Tool work?

The tool is completely anonymous the only identifying information is in the designation of the type of role and area of work the user selects before they begin. They can select whether they are in an academic or profession role in FE or HE etc. There are currently 48 questions in the tool grouped in to the areas of capability from the 6 elements framework. There are four options per question each assigned a weighting from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Once submitted the results create a graph which shows the level of capability in each of the areas. The results also provide some recommendations which help to give staff ideas on how they might improve that area of capability. In the future we will be able to link to our own resources, 3rd party resources and even lynda.com tutorials. Participants can then send the results to themselves. We received the results from the whole survey in an Excel spreadsheet but Jisc are developing a results dashboard which should help to make the interpretation and access to the data.

Jisc Discovery Tool or build your own?

So should you use Jisc’s Discovery Tool or make your own?

That entirely depends on what you want to know. If you want a list of they can or can’t do this then make your own. The Jisc tool does not give you the answers it’s very much about interpretation of the data and understanding what the questions mean. We were lucky that James was able to help us interpret our results, otherwise I am not sure we would have got as much from it as we did. The tool has improved vastly since we used it and I’m excited to try it next year. For example we would like to be able to better narrow down the areas in the university the respondents are from and that feature has been added without losing the anonymity. It’s also nice to compare yourself against other institutions.

Personally I think the Jisc tool offers something that would be hard to replicate in-house. Firstly it’s hosted and maintained by Jisc so you don’t have to worry about development costs and maintenance etc. Also they have avoided the pitfall of getting caught up in the ‘can you’ type questions. It’s also based on research within in the sector so you know you are getting something that has been rigorously tested and  researched.

What is the future?

We need to get the hidden 75% how are we going to do that? I don’t really know. We’ve had a lot of changes her so the future is uncertain at the moment. The University is committed to improving digital capabilities and that is wonderful to see. I think our work will be formalised and a more coherent plan of what we will be doing will emerge. The group will be changed and membership widened to ensure that as many staff and students are represented as possible.

I think the Discovery Tool will continue to be improved and we will use it again next year.

Things to consider

Digital capabilities are not a quick fix. They are complex. They are time-consuming. There is no one size fits all solution. If you’re going to start something you have to be committed and doggedly determined. You’re going to have to push and keep pushing to make sure it doesn’t lose momentum. You’re gonna have to be prepared, and prepare others, for a long piece of work. This isn’t something you can fix in a year-long project. It’s a lot more complex than increasing your CPD offerings. The institution needs to be committed both in time and financially to making a difference. Focus on small initiatives that you can achieve quickly (senior management like to measure progress right?) whilst keeping the huge goal in mind. Get the right people involved who will support you, you can’t do it alone.

If I could leave you with one piece of advice it would be that you only need one person to join you in your fight. That one person needs to be the right person, someone with influence, but once you have them you’re set. Get one and the others will follow.  Check out this lesson in leadership

Further reading

There is sooo much I could link to so I’ve tried to gather a few of the thought-provoking ones I have read:

Building digital capability project

Jisc digital capability codesign challenge blog

Sarah Davies: So what’s the challenge?

James Clay: Engaging the invisibles

James Clay: It’s still not easy

Sue Watling : The invisible tribes and territories of the TEL-People

Marcus Elliott: How PAW Patrol saved my life

Lawrie Phipps: Mapping for Change

Lawrie Phipps: Perspectives on Digital: Change isn’t coming, it’s here and it’s permanent

Donna Lanclos: Ta Dah! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Doing a Visitors and Residents Workshop

Dave White: Visitors & Residents – navigate the mapping

Peter Bryant: It doesn’t matter what is in your hands

Helen Beetham: Framing digital capabilities for staff – deliverables

Helen Beetham: What is ‘Digital Wellbeing’?

Helen Beetham: Revisiting digital capability for 2015

Kerry Pinny: What is institutional digital capability?

Kerry Pinny: But what about staff that wont or don’t want to engage in cpd?

Kerry Pinny: Stop moaning, start doing

Losing my ALTc virginity

I have just returned from my first Association of Learning Technologists conference, so I thought I’d write a little blog about the experience. There was a lot of choice and I saw a lot of presentations so forgive some of the vague descriptions.

As an aside, I loved ALTc. I genuinely enjoyed it. Although the amount of choice was baffling and I can’t say I learnt anything ‘revolutionary’. I met lots of lovely people, saw some interesting practice and listened to thought-provoking keynotes.

In the Valley of the Trolls

Josie Fraser

Josie started us off with a timely keynote about trolling. There is an increasing amount in the news about incidents of trolling and having spoken to a few attendees the talk reflected a number of personal experiences.

Josie showed us some recent examples. Take for example Microsoft Tay, the artificial intelligence Twitter robot, who was targeted by internet users and descended swiftly in to posting vile racist, homophobic and outrageous views. Josie cited the book This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things by Whitney Phillips. Look at Tay and Boaty McBoatface, when we put stuff on the internet people love to ruin it. WE are the reason we can’t have nice things. The internet is not the problem. We are.

The media, Josie says, is part of the problem. They ‘feed the trolls’ by publishing articles about them, by paying them attention. They make light of something serious. They use it to fill their pages with sensationalism that makes, those of a certain generation, tut loudly at the ‘yoots’ (youths) of today. The media likes to make out that the internet or video games or music is the problem. It’s not. We are.

Josie talked about the motivations of the troll. Seemingly simple – power, notoriety and just plain old bigotry, but also somehow complex. A world of anonymity where lines are blurred and there are more shades of grey than black and white. James Clay asked whether there is a scale or spectrum of trolling. It’s definitely not simply you’re a troll or you’re not a troll. Like bullying and harassment it can be subtle, almost imperceptible. Who knows what is or isn’t trolling. I suppose it’s in the eye of the ‘trollee’.

When we use the word troll we legitimise bullying, harassment, threats, bigotry and racism and reduce it serious behaviours in to something seen as acceptable. It’s not as bad because it’s on the internet. It’s what you deserve if you put stuff on the internet. No. No-one deserves to be trolled. But let’s start calling it what it really is. Trolling is bullying and harassment and it should not be trivialised.

Open and flexible learning opportunities for all? Findings from the 2016 UCISA TEL Survey on learning technology developments across the UK higher education sector

Richard Walker, Julie Voce, Martin Jenkins, Jebar Ahmed, Elaine Swift, and Phil Vincent

UCISA released the findings from their 2016 Technology Enhanced Learning Survey to which 110 UK HEIs responded. The full report can be found here:

UCISA 2016 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK

From the discussion we had in the room uptake of open and flexible practices seem low, with limited increase in MOOCs and open badges, but I haven’t read the full report yet to fully understand the results.

Disruptive Technology Enhanced Learning

Michael Flavin

This was a fascinating talk. I wish it was recorded because I’d like to go over it again. Michael talked about disruptive innovation amongst other theories. To poorly paraphrase, sustaining technologies are those that improve the performance of existing technologies. Disruptive technologies bring something not seen before. Michaels talk showed how few disruptive technologies have, in reality, existed in educational technology. The VLE wasn’t despite what everyone said at the time. To be honest I think we’re using much the same technolgy as we always have done just lsightly differently or more than before.

Disruption is a feature of practice not product. So essentially, the reason educational technologies have not been disruptive is because, the underlying practuce of teaching, has not changed. Or at least that was my interpretation.

Can WordPress function as a VLE?

David Read

Short answer is yes it can. There are lots of things that can be used as a VLE. However, each comes with a list of challenges and limitations, just like our current VLEs. They are none of them perfect.

Some time ago we haled the death of the VLE. But oh look, they’re still alive and kicking. I’m going to do some work around ‘Why won’t the VLE die’.

Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities

Lia Commissar

Another brilliant end to the day. Lia talked about the fascinating field of neuroscience and, to everyones delight, blew apart some of the myths that surround how we learn. So you know how people will tell you your brain shrinks without enough water, well, nope that’s wrong. Only using 90% of our brains? Nope. Learning styles? Nope.

If incorrect beliefs were ice cream then this picture sums up Lias presentation nicely:

nope

Code Create Collaborate

Ian Livingstone

Another brilliant keynote. If you don’t know Ian he founded Games Workshop, had European distribution rights for Dungeon and Dragons, wrote the Fighting Fantasy role play book series and even founded the company that created Lara Croft. That is to name but a few of his accomplishments. There was lots of nostalgia watching old video games and remembering the fun we had as children.

Children should be enjoying themselves while they are learning – Ian Livingston

Ian’s keynote showed the power of games. Games are his passion and he champions them whenever he can. Video games get a lot of bad press but he espoused so many of their virtues in education. The problem solving, continuous assessment and contextualises the real world. He also talked about his horror at the marginalisation of the arts and creative industries. We should not underestimate their power he says, I couldn’t agree more.

Building digital capability through mapping and collaboration 

James Clay, and Lawrie Phipps

I could be described as a James and Lawrie groupie, for which I am not ashamed. James and Lawrie are incredibly generous with their time, expertise and advice in support of our work at Lincoln and I always feel I should return the favour. If I can contribute to their sessions then I will.

We began with their usual double act, explaining the work Jisc has been doing around digital capability. The framework,  discovery tool and their online offer. They talked about the importance of digital capability and how it underpins everything that we do. We all completed visitor and residents exercises that helps us to map, and better understand, our digital practice. There wasn’t really time in an hour to do that properly, which was a real shame. Here’s our V and R.

vandr

I will write a post about my digital capabilities journey soon.

Flipping heck! Be careful what you wish for

Andrew Raistrick, and Steven Bentley

Andrew and Steven talked about their approach to CPD. They flipped the classroom by asking participants to watch a video before attending the CPD session. By doing this they were able to shorten their sessions to an hour and run them over lunch time. The videos detailed the pedagogy of the TEL tool whilst the face to face session did all the ‘where to click stuff’.

I would suggest this is the wrong way round. Andrew said doing the clicking training was both boring and tiring because the most interesting part was the pedagogical conversations. I would argue you should do the pedagogical exploration face to face and the click training via video. The pedagogy is, after all, the most important bit.

ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Awards

We were highly commended in the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Team Awards. We were very touched and honoured to have been recognised. There were very worthy winners and I was honoured to stand on the same stage us as.

Copyright and e-learning: understanding our privileges and freedoms

Jane Secker

Jane talked to us about copyright. Yawn I hear you say? Well Jane made it very interesting. Copyright is important. It’s the law. It’s our responsibility to stick to it. Jane talked about its origins and the various types of copyright laws and exceptions. A very complex subject.

Technology causes us a problem as breaking copyright has become very easy. She described the sense of injustice that surrounds copyright, the feeling that we are somehow being limited by it. But at its essence copyright is about respect. Respecting other people’s ideas and hard work. Copyright is seen as someone elses problem.

Jane tells us to look at copyright from an emotional perspective. Consider the owners feelings. Imagine yourself in that position. Put yourself in their shoes. No-one likes to have their ideas stolen. So why is it OK just because you go it from the internet?

We insist students reference work in their assignments. Why should staff be the exception?

How best should a VLE be designed to enhance learners’ experience? 

Emmanuel Isibor

In short the research shows that students want to be able to adapt the VLE to their needs. Do VLEs allow that? Not really. They are controlled by the tutor and content is consumed as they see fit rather than how it will work best for the student.

Evaluating Webinars as a Tool for Delivering Lectures and Seminars at Distance in a Healthcare Setting 

Daniel Metcalfe

Some very useful tips here from Daniels research on students feelings on webinars as replacements for lectures and seminars. Students on the whole reacted positively and surprisingly, felt the level of interaction with staff was much the same as in face to face sessions. His advice on running online sessions:

  • Don’t run lectures as traditional lectures
  • Be interactive
  • Add activities
  • Familiarise the students with the technology as early as possible
  • Have a colleague to help

Designing for Flow

Leonard Houx

Clutter is a barrier to learning. Clutter makes your learning less attractive, less credible, and more difficult to engage. Clutter is a disruption to flow. Poor flow leads to students feeling distraction, discontinuation, disengagement, dissatisfaction, dislike, distrust & disputation. It leads to staff site hacking, jazzing up (poorly), tragic resignation and antagonism with IT. Leonard has rebuilt parts of his VLE and it looks fab. A shame we didn’t get to see more really.

Strategies for supporting effective student engagement with lecture recordings

Matt Cornock

Matt talked about his research in to the ways students connect live lectures with lecture capture content. Matt suggested one of the biggest barriers to the effective use of captures is the timetable. That students do not have the time between lectures to use the captures. He said students in lectures thought they were supposed to take notes, whilst staff felt they should listen and get a holistic overview of the content then use the capture to explore the detail. He questioned whether we should continue to see the lecture as central to everything. Another barrier to students embedding captures in their practice is that not all lecturers use captures, let alone use them in the same way.

An experiment in open-access, micro-learning for educational technology training

Kate Soper, Catherine Wasiuk, Colin Mcallister-Gibson, and Christopher Meadows

If you don’t follow @1minutcpd on Twitter or haven’t visited their website, then you should. Their approach to CPD is so refreshing. 1 minute  CPD videos tweeted out and hosted on their blog. It’s beauty is its simplicity. The number of participants, views etc.

Using Microlearning to Drive the Adoption and Mainstreaming of Technology Enhanced Learning Tools in Higher Education

Shane Cronin, Darragh Coakley, Roisin Garvey, and Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin

Here is another brilliant CPD resource you should check out: telu.me

TELU is a high quality collection of free online micro-courses designed to help staff use technology to support their teaching and learning.

Keynote: Donna Lanclos and David White – Being Human is Your Problem

I always love to see Donna and Dave present. (Although Dave wears awful shoes) I find their partnership very refreshing as they don’t always agree, so often we see presenters who, to borrow a phrase from Donna, spend the entire presentation blowing smoke up each others arses. Donna and Dave do not do that. In fact they quite openly bicker, disagree and argue with each other on stage. They are yet to draw blood but we all wait with bated breath.

What I love most about their talks is that they always challenge me,they always say something that blows my mind and yesterday was no exception.

Digital technologies will no more solve the ‘crisis in education’ than airbags will stop drivers from having accidents. David Price – OPEN

In a sense I feel ALTc can sometimes support the kind of thinking described above. Let’s be frank here, ALTc is full of people whose jobs rely on such nonsensical thinking. I am going to write a blog post on what will happen to us when the technology bubble bursts. Donna and Dave do not believe in this rhetoric and I am so glad they don’t. Technology will not fix anything. It can support, it can create efficiency and it can sometimes enhance but it is not a panacea for all ills. It is not a sticky plaster to cover the cracks. As Peter Bryant says:

There simply isn’t a single out of the box solution for the challenges we face. We can’t rely on growth through systems support and development. There are significant and intractable tensions between the dynamic epistemological shifts that are fundamentally changing the way media is consumed, knowledge is constructed and learning engaged with. Peter Bryant ‘I don’t want to change the world’ – a call for a personal revolution’

They talked about responsibility. It is EVERYONE’S responsibility to talk and think about teaching and learning. I still find it ridiculous that teaching and learning is at the bottom of priority lists in HEIs. It is fundamental to what we do.

Digital is people. Digital is not a salvation from our problems as humans. Donna Lanclos

There was a strong link to the earlier trolling keynote. In that our behaviours online are simply an amplification of offline behaviours. We need to fix people. Technology won’t fix anything.

They won’t let us is not legitimate. Donna Lanclos

That sentence came like a metaphorical kick in the balls. We find it easier, to channel all of our challenges in to an ‘other’, a shadowy figure who stops us from doing all the things we want to do. ALTc was full of lamentations along these lines. As Dave and Donna said, there’s nothing stopping us really. We can do what we need to do, and as a community, should stop making excuses. It was a wonderful call to arms to end the day on.

Venue

warwick

University of Warwick is beautiful, miles away from anywhere but full of lush green spaces. I was quite enamoured. Everything basic need you have is catered for there are banks, a cinema, hairdressers and eateries and cafés off all kinds. The accommodation, eatery’s and main venue were all in easy distance of one another. It all flowed really well and didn’t feel stilted or hard work moving around.

Food

The make or break of some conferences, the food, was not great. Fine if you like brown food, bad, if you like vegetation or green food. The Pimms at the drinks reception was fab though!

Jisc Digital Leaders Programme

​I have seen a worrying amount of criticism recently for this programme. Not criticism of the speakers, topics or validity of the programme, criticism solely of the price. So, as someone lucky enough to have been a part of this programme I thought I would share my honest feedback on it. 

(Please forgive any typos and grammatical errors. This post was written on the A1)

The price

Is it expensive? Yes, on the face of it. But, as my esteemed colleague put it, let’s not confuse price with value. Remember what you are being offered. You are being offered the opportunity to listen to industry experts who will give you practical strategies to instigate change at your institution. Tell me how much are you willing to pay for that?

Jisc used to be free

Education has long taken advantage of Jisc. Before successive governments stripped these kind of organisations of their funding we took full advantage of whatever Jisc had to offer. Greedily guzzling up funding and attending their workshops. Sadly in the current climate that’s not sustainable.

We don’t need to listen to experts

Recently there has been a lot of anti-expert feeling floating around. Thanks Brexit. What you are paying for here is the advice, experience and knowledge of experts. These programmes are not formed on a whim. They are created based on years of research and hard work. The people who speak are credible and knowledgeable. Again, how much would you pay for that?

You will learn something valuable

I took away a number of things from the programme. Donna Lanclos and Dave White facilitated an exercise around the concept of digital residents and visitors. Remember, much like digital natives these theories are not fact. They are simply helpful ways of visualising a concept. Visitors and residents is a way of helping you think about your digital practice and behaviours. It is a useful tool that I will use when talking to students and staff about their digital lives.

The whole programme is facilitated by James Clay and Lawrie Phipps. What they don’t know about institutional change is not worth knowing. The featured image for this post is a drawing I did at the event, showing a change anchor. This is what Lawrie and James focussed on. How do you make change happen?

This was invaluable. Without it we would not have a digital capabilities project and I wouldn’t have had the strategies in place to get people to listen to me.

It was fun

My abiding memory is of having great fun. I met so many people at other institutions that I am still in touch with. It broadened my horizons and gave me the confidence to try and effect change. I can’t put a price on that.

Full details of the programme are available on the Jisc website.

What is Institutional Digital Capability?

If you are reading this in search of a definitive answer, I am sorry, you will not find one here. This post is not based on months of arduous, thorough, rigorous research, it is based solely on my own experience and conversations I have had at a Jisc Digital Capability Service Modelling workshop.

This post, and its content, does not speak for Jisc. They have not sanctioned this post nor asked me to write it. They are working on their definition and supporting materials. If you want to know more speak to James Clay. I am just writing down my own poorly formed thoughts.

Infrastructure

An institution should have the basic infrastructure necessary to be ‘digitally capable’. Hope that helps. Oh, sorry, were you wanting more information? I don’t know much about the infrastructure necessary to support an educational establishment but I’ll give it a whirl.

So basically people need computers right? Internet connection, WiFi, an efficient network, storage, communication tools, software etc. I don’t think listing  names of technologies will help here given they constantly change and by next week this blog would be outdated.

Access and Availability

Access to and availability of, for staff and students,  technology is vital. It’s all well and good encouraging staff and students to use technology but if they can’t access it you’ve failed already. Not only should institutions make sure they have the ‘basics’ but they should be keeping their eyes firmly on the horizon watching out for emerging technologies.

Strategy, policies and expectations

Strategy is very important, it  sets the ‘direction’ and ‘tone’ of a University. It tells the outside world what a University is about. Although I admit that often strategies are more words than action. It also tells prospective staff and students what will be expected of them and what they can expect. An explicit reference in strategy shows that the institution sees value and benefits of engaging in the digital.

Whilst I’m not keen on policies, as dictating what people do is not always the best approach, a solid set of basic policies help to set expectations. Policies around the use of the VLE, electronic management of assessment etc. are useful in that they show what the institution expects of staff. They are also useful to start conversations. Talking about the ‘minimum’ will often lead in to conversations about the more advanced.

I think setting expectations is key. Especially in staff. I think that job descriptions should specifically refer to the digital. It should be clear from the outset that the institution expects staff to engage in the digital and develop. This should be followed up in the interview with questions raised about how they can demonstrate their engagement. Appraisals should similarly focus on their digital practice and engagement.

I will caveat all this with the following, all of these things should be developmental not used as a stick to beat staff with.

Responsibility and Duty

The responsibility is everyone’s. The institution has a responsibility to make sure everything is in place that is needed. Infrastructure, CPD and support etc. It is my opinion that the institution has a duty to ensure their staff are developed whilst they are employed. If an institution can say “when you work here, you are developed and supported, and will leave a better xyz” I think that is very powerful. I also think that’s their duty as it is with students.

Staff have a responsibility to engage and develop their skills. Staff cannot rely entirely on the institution to do everything for them. There must be give and take. They have to engage. That is what they need to do to deliver to todays students.

Values, narratives and culture

What does the University want to say about itself? What attitudes does it want to engender in its staff and student body? Decide these things early and make sure your strategies, expectations and actions are all aligned to it. The culture will change as a result.

Investment

This is absolutely key. The institution needs to recognise that a significant investment, not only monetarily is necessary but also in time. Transforming people is not quick or cheap.  Building a capable infrastructure is not cheap either.

In my opinion, time is more important than money. The institution needs to be mindful that developing people takes time. Not only does it take time, they need time. The space is most important. Space in the curriculum to explore and also space in their schedules. Developing resources and learning new skills is time-consuming. Even more so if you want it done well.

I have always liked the idea of a ‘digital day’. Where staff are given a day to explore and develop their resources for the next year. I know getting a whole day timetabled would not always be easy but it’s a start surely?

It’s Personal and Professional

A digitally capable institution recognises that it’s not all about professional skills. That it’s not just about preparing staff and students for work. It’s also about their personal development and, in my opinion, that is more important than the professional skills. This is about caring for your staff. Again, what does the institution want to say about itself? Surely it should show that is cares about its staff and student body.

It’s not about technology

A lot of the things I have mentioned here have nothing to do with technology. They are about transforming people. You can put in as much technology as you like but if you don’t change people, it’s all for nought.

Change in institutions is hard because people are hard to change. At its core, digital capabilities are about people, their skills and confidence. People will make the difference. Support them.

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.

Stop moaning, start doing.

We spend a lot of time moaning about what our staff can’t do. We spend just as much time asking why they aren’t doing something about it. So what can we do? Well how about we stop moaning and start doing something? How about we start supporting our staff instead of bringing them down.

I have written a post on the issue of employing staff without, what has been described as, the “skills to work in a digital age” titled Should we employ staff who don’t have digital skills? If you want to read the whole thing please do. If not, to cut a long story short, I believe we should. I believe we have a duty, as we do to students, to make sure that staff leave us having benefited from their time with us. I feel very strongly about this.

Dangerous assumptions

If you genuinely operate on the belief that all your staff are digitally capable then you are naive. They’re not. Shock horror not even all of our students are. We make a lot of assumptions about technology and people’s exposure to it. We assume everyone can, and most worryingly for me, we assume that they SHOULD come to us with existing skills.

Take email for example. We think this a basic skill everyone has. Sorry but it’s not. I spoke to a postgraduate student who found email baffling. I have heard from staff who used a different email service at another institution and found Outlook incredibly difficult to pick up. Staff do not need to be shown how to send an email. Most people can feel their way to that task. They need to be taught how to manage mail. They need tips on efficiencies, short-cuts and features they otherwise wouldn’t discover.

Imagine how much time and money we would save if we taught something as basic as email. Our assumptions are costing us and we can’t see it.

Moving goal posts

“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

Technology is constantly changing. I wrote a post, a while ago, about Exponential growth, technology and higher education. In short our challenge is only going to increase. Technological developments are not slowing, they are increasing exponentially. Imagine our learning curve as a roller-coaster. At the moment we are leaving the station and slowly inclining. We are staring upward, pressed to the back of the seat, all we can see is the track and the sky. We can’t see the peak. That is our learning curve. We are constantly moving towards the peak but it just keeps getting higher and steeper.

What does that mean for us? It means technology is going to be changing quickly and we need to keep staff skills in line with that change. It means we can’t make a tick list of things they need to know, force them on some training , dust off our hands and reward a job well done with a cuppa. We need to be anticipating the changes and making sure the opportunities are there for staff when they need them.

The dreaded TEF

The TEF is going to put increasing pressure on staff to be experimental and innovative. It’s all well and good for those with confidence. For the majority it’s a daunting prospect. We need staff to have a strong foundation of digital skills. We need them to be able to walk before they are forced to run. That is why addressing the gaps in digital capabilities is so important.

Taking ownership

What we really need is to foster a culture of ownership around development. You can lead a horse to water…

Institutions need to show staff that taking part in development activities is an expectation, not an option. That those who do are recognised and rewarded. That trying to better yourself will be noticed.

Staff need to realise that the only person who can improve their digital capabilities is them. It’s their responsibility. They have to make it a priority. They have to seek out opportunities. Be curious. Nothing in life is handed to us.

Get on with it

Stop moaning about what they can’t do. If we’d spent the same amount of time doing something about what they can’t do we might have made some progress by now.

Show staff they are cared about. Support them. Invest time and money in them. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.

Make staff feel that their development is important. That you want them to develop and succeed.

 

But what about staff that won’t or don’t want to engage in CPD?

computer classroom

I have received a number of follow up questions to my earlier post “Should we employ staff who don’t have digital skills?“. I will answer them in a little more detail than 140 characters allows.

This is an incredibly difficult but important issue. One that I don’t think I am qualified, or intelligent, enough to answer. So I shall talk solely from my experience and detail some of the things I find work best.

Getting people to turn up

Stop calling it CPD or training. There are fewer more off-putting words in the world of work. I find targeted training/CPD is best. Even better, is when you can identify a need and deliver something that meets that need directly. They’ll turn up if they know something needs improving.

Reward is a vital part of success. Or at least recognising efforts. I have seen many people do good works that go unnoticed and inevitably they lose interest. I don’t know what we can do about it. There is some hope that ‘badgeing’, giving staff a badge on successful completion of a session, will entice them to participate more. I’m sceptical.

What will be really help is if staff were given a reward in time or funding. For example they are given a small monetary reward that they can use on equipment, CPD or conference expenses. Or they could be given time back. I know that both of these options are complex and very unlikely to happen.

Measures

@KerryPinny But how much time, and how do we measure success?

Do we need to measure success? What is it we’re measuring? Learning or attendance? At the moment success seems to be measured by ‘bums on seats’. This is an incredibly simplistic measure. Plus who are we measuring it for? Do they want it as yet another stick to beat staff with? Hardly a developmental or supportive approach.  How do we measure student learning? We make them complete an assessment. Perhaps we could introduce that in to CPD. Although, that strikes me as a way to guarantee a drop in attendance.

I like the example in our law school. They have invited staff to participate in a Digital Week. The week aims to get staff to explore new ways of teaching with digital tools. Here the staff are being supported and encouraged with the space and time they need to explore.

Attitudes

@KerryPinny should we employ people who don’t want to gain the skills and capabilities that they don’t have, but need for the job?

— James Clay (@jamesclay) June 16, 2016

I believe engagement in the digital is a matter of relevance not attitudes. Attitudes can be changed and I have found they are changed most successfully by showing how technology is relevant to that individual or discipline. There’s nothing to be gained from showing up and saying “oooh look how shiny this new thing is”. You have to show them why they should engage in the first place. People first, tech second.

Now let’s pose an even more difficult question. How do we measure willingness? I can tell you I’m willing and give every assurance that I’ll do it. But what if I don’t? What if I tell you exactly what you want to hear. You gonna sack me? Even if I’m a top-notch teacher and researcher. Even if there are no complaints from my students? I think you wouldn’t.

So what can we do? Yes let’s put willingness to learn in the job specification. We could even get them to do a test. Perhaps we should hook people up to a lie detector? I’m sure that breaches a policy or human right or something. Or maybe, I might be crazy, we show prospective staff that learning is an expectation that will be supported and rewarded.

Priorities

Who’s going to remove their ‘choice’? “By executive order of the Vice Chancellor all staff are expected to complete x hours of CPD a week. Non-compliance will be met with punishment”. Sorry, I’m being facetious again. Our choices are dictated by the priorities of others. I am certain that if staff had the time, and there was something available that was worth their time, they’d want to work on their development. Let’s face it if your boss has asked you to do something you generally can’t say no. If there is work to be marked or students to support you can’t just drop it. I’m not sure 300 students would accept having their work returned late because their tutor fancied learning how to use Twitter.

Risk

For some staff trying new things and experimenting is incredibly risky. The evaluative, metric driven processes in HE make staff risk averse. “I better not try that in case it doesn’t work”. We are very reluctant to upset students. Rightly so, there’s nothing more frustrating or damaging to learning than a poor session. We need to make it clear that risk taking is encouraged. That trying new things is an expectation not something to be avoided. We need to stop punishing staff when things don’t quite go as planned.

I am not a specifically identified key individual

vip

“The dinner is limited to a short list of specifically identified key individuals and so I’m sorry but Kerry would be unable to join us”. These are the words I recently received in an email. I don’t object to them. It’s true, I’m not, nor am ever likely to be, a key individual (although key how and to what was never defined). But it did lead me to wonder about email etiquette and communication skills.

I’m not sure if it could have been worded better. It’s hard not to say you’re not important enough when actually that’s exactly the reason. Perhaps they should have just gone along the lines of limited availability, one representative and lied a little. It’s difficult not to be slightly insulted that you haven’t made the short list. No one wants to get picked last for sports. But I must remember that my self-worth is not defined by the words of a stranger, representing an organisation, that knows nothing about me.

This high point in my career made me think about the many ‘oops’ moments I have seen over the years. Those times people send something they live to regret.

The mailing list errors

Yes you know what you know what f*** you your face

This message was sent to a mailing list I am subscribed to. I don’t know the context of it or how the person explained it. If it was an accident it was a very unfortunate one. If it was deliberate no amount of training could have avoided it.

OOOOO – it is so blissfully wonderful that I think I just might reward
you with a bonking!

This message was meant to be one privately sent to the individuals partner. Unfortunately, they sent it to an entire mailing list. Apologies and embarrassment ensued. Perhaps a lesson neede here on keeping your private communications separate from your work ones.

The social media fail

Ed-Balls-tweet
Ed-Balls-tweet

The “Ed Balls” incident is a wonderful example of a Twitter fail. I wonder what he was trying to do. Search for himself maybe? Perhaps some Twitter training was in order before letting him loose.

Susan Boyle Twitter Fail
Susan Boyle Twitter Fail

The Susan Boyle one is just funny. The hashtag was meant to launch her new album at a party Susan Album Party. Instead it reads #SusAnalBumParty. This was just an error in judgement. Perhaps having someone cast their eye over the idea first would have been a good idea.

tay tweet
Tay tweet

There are loads of example but I will end on the ill fated Microsoft Tay artificial intelligence experiment. Of course all experimentation is risky but maybe they should have tested it first. Maybe double check how long it takes to descend into hate crimes.

The breaches of data Protection

There are thousands of examples of data protection breaches I could point to so lets look at a couple.

In 2015 the 56 Dean Street clinic, which cares for patients with HIV,  accidently sent an email that revealed the identities and email addresses of around 800 registered patients. If you didn’t spot this in the news read The Guardian article Inquiry launched after HIV clinic reveals hundreds of patients’ identities.  The clinic called it a ‘human error’ and yes it was to some extent. But essentially someone put it in the To field not the Bcc.

In February 2016 The University of Greenwich identified that student personal data was freely available on the internet. The data includes names, addresses, dates of birth, mobile phone numbers, signatures and medical details.

This was a serious, unprecedented error, in breach of our own policies and procedures.

At it’s core the breach demonstrates a lack of understanding of how ‘the internet’ works. Policies and procedures help but, this could have been avoided if the member/members of staff responsible understood the implications of data sharing and how the internet works.

Digital Capabilities are important

What all of these examples show is that digital capabilities are very important. The errors we make are not simple human errors. They are evidence of a lack of capabilities which lead to mistakes that could be easily avoided. They show a fundamental lack of understanding about the way systems, communications and the web works.

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

They are encapsulated in three of the six elements of digital capability. Information, data and media literacies, ICT proficiency and communication, collaboration and participation. Living without these fundamental capabilities can, as we have seen, have dire consequences on businesses and people. We should be doing more to support and develop our staff in these key areas.

Should we employ staff who don’t have digital skills?

Job Interview Image

The question posed in the title of this post is a fair one. 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’. I will spend the rest of this post explaining the various thoughts that lead me to feel this way but as an educator I cannot agree with it. I exist to develop people. You wouldn’t throw a child out of class for not knowing something when they walked in, that’s why we educate them, so they leave knowing more than they did when they walked in. Why shouldn’t that apply to staff?

Supporting people

This is the point that bothers me most about this question. Have we totally lost all empathy for people? Is technology really that important that we stop caring about the people we employ and work with? I hope not. I certainly haven’t. People first, technology second. See my post from the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event.

There is nothing more satisfying than helping someone gain a new skill. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do. Employers have an obligation to develop their people. If they don’t they have failed.

Apparently a lack of digital skills is costing the UK £63billion. Perhaps the issue is not just in HE.

Widening participation

We talk a lot about widening participation for our students. Striving to ensure students from all backgrounds have access to education. Why doesn’t this principle apply to staff?

What do we ‘need’?

So part of the argument is that staff ‘need’ a specific set of skills. What are they exactly? Who determines what they are? Who is the authority on this?

Let’s take academics in the first instance. Is knowledge of Microsoft Office skills enough? If they can do Office and Twitter is that enough? I don’t believe it’s possible to create a list of things we think staff should be able to do. Their work can be incredibly broad. Technology is constantly changing and so do the goal posts.

How do we measure it?

In an interview how do we glean someone’s skill levels? Sit them in front of a computer and watch them perform some basic tasks? That’s a potential answer. Yet again we have to ask what will the test consist of and who will design it?

Institutional Priorities

I had a great conversation with someone who said “I look for members of staff who will bring value”. They did not feel that digital skills were necessarily a priority for all roles.

Academics have a wide range of responsibilities from teaching to research. Institutions have to balance these priorities when employing new staff. If an academic is a capable teacher and researcher does it really matter that they don’t use Twitter? We can help people to get the skills they need to do their job.

Relevance

Technology is not always relevant to people. Why should it be? If I know how to teach and research do I really need to know how to use Padlet? I would argue that we need to ease people in to the use of technology. It’s not helpful to vilify people. That will only serve to alienate people from technology further.

I’ve grown up with technology. Although, it’s worth noting that when I first went to school there was one computer for the whole school. I didn’t get a mobile phone until my teens. Not everyone grows up surrounded by technology and it’s naive to believe that everyone has the same experience.

Read my follow up post But what about staff that won’t or don’t want to engage in CPD?