Thursday, 3 May 2018

Pedagogy | digital technology

In my experience, this is a much talked about topic and one that doesn't disappear.  I often wrestle with pedagogy vs digital technology, especially when asked questions on how people should approach the use of an existing or new piece of digital technology.  In this post I provide a quick mind dump on this over-thought question and work through some of my thoughts around what might come first, and if one actually does.  So, let me work this into a question, which comes first for the effective use of TEL, the affordances of the digital technology or pedagogy?

I guess this stems back from a conversation I joined in during MoodleMoot 2017.  Where I stated reassuringly "Pedagogy first then digital technology."  Then I was prompted by a participant that you need to know what the digital technologies affordances are before applying with pedagogy.  Which then led to me to respond with "I usually put tech first when I haven't thought through the pedagogy.  But I agree that you need to see the tech affordances too."

To me the main difference between the two is:

  • Pedagogy - learning outcome and teaching delivery focused
  • Digital technology - tool and feature focused

It can be a difficult one this as you need to see what digital technology is capable of doing/right tool for job before delivering through it.  Hence why trying/playing with the piece of digital technology first can help rule out any reasons why it can't be the right tool.  Perhaps it's down to peoples previous knowledge or awareness of a tool or system?  If they have already experienced what the main objective of that tool is, then they have an instant idea if it will work or not.  For example; social media - often discussion based; production tools - creating something tangible and usable and so on.

An important point is that the digital technology should assist learning and seamlessly facilitate these processes.  Digital technology should be the facilitator – not the focus.  With that in mind it is not always the case.

A closer look

Taking a closer look of myself in meetings recently.  Why do I choose a paper-based notepad over a mobile app?  What can't I do with an app that I can with an notepad - they both have the same features but one is more efficient than the other.  I mean I even type up some of my notes afterwards!  My aim in meetings is to focus on the discussion, peoples tones and expressions not the digital technology itself.  I often see people use their tablets when taking notes, but how involved are they in the discussion, perhaps they can divide their attention more than I can.  You could say it is down to preference as some people can 'multitask' by typing away and actively listening.  I choose active listening and being able to use one hand for my pen rather than a mouse/pen clicking/touching.  Maybe it's too much cognition at one time for my brain or maybe I just have outdated practices?!  However, at conferences I tend to open up TweetDeck watch online conversations as well as what is happening in front of me.  But often, I may be interacting with Tweets without taking in what is happening around me.  In this instance, I am choosing digital technology before pedagogy.  Although it is communication, but is anchored towards my own learning, I can see in this situation the advances the digital technology brings.  I'm probably digressing, as both of these are not 'true' pedagogy but mainly communication.  However, it does emphasise a point about how TEL can affect the interplay between face-to-face experiences.

What was my point again?

Well, at the Recent Jisc Digifest 2018, I was observing online and caught some Tweets, to which I replied:

So this affirms that I am still conscious of the challenge between the two approaches.  I think I will still wrestle with the two but I have come to some sort of mild conclusion, which is very obvious, but I still can't help dwelling over it.

Coming back to my question "which comes first for the effective use of TEL".  I think it's all about what is appropriate at the time of the digital technologies intended use.  If digital technology is going to be used as a serious long-term implementation for learning and teaching, then pedagogy comes first and should be critically examined on all angles of it's application.  Digital technology should come first when making an initial judgement of the application within the context it may be used in. For example, in an academic, professional services or research context.

Yes you need pedagogy for anything learning and teaching related.  There are quick wins but as said, for long-term use it may take some time to plan and practise with, which includes obtaining feedback and evaluation to perfect it.  In my #LTbookFE, I focus on how people may approach the use of digital technology with specific performance tasks and emphasise on getting to know the piece of digital technology through play to expose further potential.  Perhaps being presented with statements of practice that include ways of using digital technology so that people can relate to it.  Rather than just having a list of digital technologies to wade through.  I'm still pondering...

Monday, 30 April 2018

TEL it like it is

As a learning technologists job relies a lot on heavy thinking which includes critically evaluating and analysing approaches in both theory and in practice.  It's good to have some critical downtime and rest your brain.  On Friday afternoons, I aim to read up on role-related literature.  Recently, it has occurred to me that I rarely read learning technologist blogs! 😱

Admittedly, I've not been as proactive in reading others' blogs as much as I should be.  I make a conscious effort to publish at least one blog post a month, but oddly I don't take the time to check others'.  I don't even have comments enabled to welcome any discussion or feedback on my own - I need to think about this.  Plus, I have realised that I need a good 'go to' list of people to keep me informed of areas that are not on my radar.  I did a little bit on this back in 2013, but people have either stopped blogging or have moved into different roles.  So I've decided now is a good time to find some people and teams I can go to, to 'TEL it like it is'.  As part of this process I want to be more aware of peoples and teams blogs and engage with them a lot more than I do.  In this 'live' post (updated when I find new blogs), I've set out on a specific quest...  Who are the people and teams I need to go to find inspiration or to generally keep up to date on TEL in HE?  So here’s a good reason to start sourcing some useful blogs that I can not only find new ideas but know a bit more about other HE environments and how they relate to what I am doing.

Capacity to progress

As reflected on my recent transition to HE in my last post, I have a big need to source HE good practice and generally keep up to date.  I am interested in people that work in HE and are overall technologists.  I did follow HE people and teams before on Twitter, but now it's more important to actually network, collaborate and give more as well as take from the community.  I'm also delving further into the subject of Digital leadership, so I guess I am looking for some focus on that amongst the material I find.  I want to pick up where I left off in my previous position in FE where I was developing leadership in digital change, but this time the task is much more intense as it is in my new environment of HE.  So the barrier is now above my height - as with most things! 😂  The simplistic image below sums up how I feel about my abilities since transitioning to HE, which is not to scale, but for illustrative purposes (a bit like data usage on a mobile phone tariff).  It shows significant space for me to stretch my understandings on wider HE practices and context.  I'm no longer in front, not behind, but am proactive about reducing the gap.

Discovering TEL blogs

It's relatively straight forward to find TEL blogs through social media and generally the internet, either by searching on specific key words or finding accounts that curate and list people.  But how useful is the content that they publish, how relatable is it and how will it be used?  To help with this, I have some professional learning objectives that I am linking to my CPD of what I need to know.  Additionally, I simply asked myself:

What content am I looking for on these sites?

  • Accessible, honest, open and straight to the point writing
  • Higher Education context
  • Digital capabilities practices and programmes
  • Digital leadership
  • Learning technologist role
  • New and emerging digital technologies and practices
  • Modelling best practice
  • Underpinning TEL and digital capability theories and frameworks

Once I have found appropriate blogs that meets some of my initial needs as above, I asked:

What attracts me to these blogs?

  • Gets straight to the point, is captivating and descriptive in their writing
  • Accessible writing - non-commercial and theory heavy
  • Open and honest about their experiences
  • Frequent meaningful and relatable material
  • Able to relate their experiences or at least have a sense of what they are talking about
  • Can leave with some practical tips that I can immediately start applying
  • Creative thinking/thought provoking material - challenges what I currently know and do

Below are some people and teams I have pulled together (in alphabetical order) where I found their blog posts/social media content really helpful (again this will be updated as I come across new blogs).  Some of these people I already knew or from presence on social media.  But this time I actually took more time to explore them further.

TEL individuals

TEL teams/groups

It's now time to ask myself:

How will I use these people and teams in my new role and context?

I'll aim to look at these blogs (and more as I discover them) at least once a week, ideally on Friday afternoons.  I'll check out new posts and determine how the new content relates to my role and how it can be used in my practices, and if not, why not?  As well as networking and joining in on more discussions on social media.

A big 👍 to all TEL bloggers and please continue writing openly as you do.  It allows everyone to learn from other experts in field and share common ideas, problems and solutions.  Furthermore, to help us all to be more informed of our specialism that supports and develops our organisations.  If anyone blogs about TEL stuff (ideally HE but I'm still interested in keeping up to date with FE) please do send your blog URL(s) my way via Chat (Twitter) or Profile (LinkedIn) above.

Friday, 30 March 2018

The mountain and mountaineer ⛰

Since starting my new role at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) as a Digital Practice Adviser, I've been opened up to a whole new world of challenges, opportunities and new office germs - which to date I have avoided successfully.  This role has been a big step up for me, not just in workload, but the depth and context of it - as well as getting used to the daily travelling by commuting into Nottingham.  Along with my new job I also moved home.  Yes, that's two major life stresses on the go and I am trying to keep my head above water - which I feel I have coped well with.  However, as much as this new role is exciting and where I want to be, it's not all plain sailing.  I've a lot to learn, understand and adapt to.  A smooth transition is what I am aiming for, however I have to be flexible with that.

It's been about 6 months since I started my new role, context and environment and I feel I am settling in well.  At the beginning, I felt like a fish out of water and feeling that I may not fit in, which might have made me appear a little timid.  I noticed that I appear to be taking time in believing in my transferable abilities too.  I've had a few occasions of gormless or stuttered conversations (quite typical) - most likely too many cogs turning in my little head!  The majority is down to the usual new job anxieties which is a matter of gaining confidence and acceptance which grows in time.  It's about getting comfortable with people and processes before making a firm position before asserting yourself.  Similar sort of feelings when I started in my last role in the commercial sector.  I need to assert my confidence and lead myself without appearing incapable or 'clingy'.  I know that is all down to the change in environment and I need to believe in myself and not just think I am lucky to be here, but I belong here.  I've worked and pushed myself extremely hard to be here.  So that's more than enough to say I belong here.  So it's time to stop doubting myself or seeing myself as something different, or people will view/treat me different.  I shall stand up and declare my confidence! ✊

Accepting the challenge

During my first week back in October 2017, I attended a department away day that included all Human Resources (HR) staff.  As part of this event there were some carousel activities by visiting various tables from senior staff promoting what their teams do and such.  I went to one table that offered a different way of discussing how their team can support others in the department.  This discussion was around a set of tarot-like cards.  We all chose a card and the lead staff gave us a brief reading of what it meant and how we can approach the situation.  I received a mountain card which was signalling a lot of challenges ahead and obviously a mountain to climb.  Whilst this was about the department's challenges, I interpreted it for me as well.  Meaning that as I am new I have an humongous mountain to climb in knowing and doing my role to the best of my ability as well as working for a university.  I decided to accept this as a challenge as me being a mountaineer and my new role as the mountain.

The climb

Because my new position is a step up from anything I have done before, it has brought me many challenges, the biggest one understanding new and wider complexities of this diverse role in a large university.  As I was learning my new role, team and the university and identifying any grey areas I was unsure of.  I thought I would try to help myself by asking the following questions and coming up with some potential solutions for them.  There are some that I have done and some that I am still tackling, but it's good to be aware of potential barriers and keep working to reduce them.

What are the issues/barriers to my new role/environment?

  • Working at a higher level - more intensity.  The type of work I am doing is more in-depth that what I have done previously.  Which requires consulting and modelling to be applied
  • Understanding team/university culture, language, vocabulary and terminology
  • Conversations are more analytical and critical
  • Thinking holistically before getting to specifics
  • Transitioning from FE to HE work environment.  I've gone from corporate administration, FE learning technologist, then commercial eLearning Developer to a HE Digital Practice Adviser
  • Working in a large-scale HE environment
  • Working across multiple large projects and getting to know peoples working habits as they are well established within the team
  • Establishing myself in the Digital Practice team and wider department and the university
  • Understanding, supporting and delivering training on new systems like NTU Online Workspace (NOW) - Desire2Learn and PebblePad.  I know the systems but often question myself on; is it me intellectually conveying what I am saying or is it the degree of confidence in what I am trying to introduce?

What can I do to overcome these issues/barriers?

  • Asking for what I need and not being afraid of saying I don't understand.  My colleagues have been a great source of support.  It's great to back working with a highly supportive team and wider teams that genuinely want to help.  They have helped me to understand my team and the wider university with their invaluable knowledge and kindness
  • Reading up about literature behind my role, such as 'The Digital Academic' book that I bought, as well as department documentation and literature on the university website.  On Friday afternoons I set time aside to read up on related literature to keep up to date and sharpen my knowledge
  • Networking with others at NTU - I have involved myself in a employability Trent Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) group and the LGBT+ Staff Network to get to know more people from around the wider university.  However, I still need to further establish myself by making myself known and building professional relationships to collaborate with and lean on when needed
  • Delivering sessions to test my abilities to know what I am capable of, then reflect, adapt and deliver again.  Now delivering to a new audience, I need to find a style that is suitable to me and appreciate it.  I also need to re-examine my 'classroom management' skills and assert them positively

As well as embracing the new challenges afoot, I am involved in many exciting tasks and duties which came rolling in thick and fast.  All of which have given me new experiences and opportunities to bring new expertise into the team.  As well as giving me new areas to reflect upon and share here.  What I am really enjoying so far is working on projects that surround changes in behaviour and practices like the digital capability stuff.  Whilst it's heavy stuff to get your head around it's really interesting work and a lot of it I can reflect on my own professional development to challenge my own digital capabilities.  Following is a list of some small and large projects I have been involved in so far;

  • Report - I was asked to investigate and evaluate on NTU's induction to digital practices.  This is delivered on NOW where new staff access induction material.  I was assessing the effectiveness of how the information is articulated to people.  My report concluded with the following areas; understanding digital practice, need for a digital induction and access to a digital induction
  • Digital induction - a wider HR piece of work developing a framework to be used to support staff delivering inductions new to NTU or new to role.  I have been working on determining core digital capabilities for generic, learning and teaching, research, professional services and leadership and management
  • PebblePad pilot - NTU is undergoing a pilot in implementing the online learning space/ePortfolio tool PebblePad with a view for site wide implementation.  I have been learning the system and assisting on doing training sessions to introduce and support tutors with it
  • 5 Stage Model - in a planning meeting for the PebblePad training sessions, I suggested providing an adapted version of the 5 Stage Model as a way for tutors to introduce and facilitate learning.  I intend on developing this further by expanding on the activities at each stage
  • Digital Taster - me and the Digital Practice team put on an NTU-wide event to showcase snippets of online tools and systems they have access to.  Me and my colleague ran a session on the use of Panopto for recording videos at your desk.  In the new year we delivered a polling masterclass together which was very successful
  • Digital Practice surgeries - staff can book onto to ones relating to any queries regarding online tools or systems we have at NTU, such as NOW, Office 365, Panopto.
  • Post Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) - this is an internal programme to NTU for people new to teaching in HE and is aligned to aligned to the Higher Education Academy (HEA) scheme.  I attended a small scale research poster session for one of the modules.  I went around all tutors research posters and asked them questions and gave them feedback to progress their research projects
  • Degree Apprenticeship Symposium - me and a colleague attended the PebblePad Supporting Degree Apprenticeships conference held in Birmingham. We learned a bit more about policies behind degree apprenticeships as well as good practices shared by others that are making progress with this in their organisations
  • Developing and embedding a 'data management' process for our department staff to make informed decisions of where to store and how to access digital files.  This is a large project I am heavily involved in at the moment that aims to improve efficiency and effectiveness of storing and accessing digital content.  The project will ensure that staff are saving and finding their files in the right place.  It also ensures that NOW is being used for learning opportunities only then other files should be stored on other platforms, i.e SharePoint.
  • Lynda - a website that has a multitude of instructional videos suitable for CPD/upskilling or embedding within a learning programme.  NTU has a site wide licence and we are now offering training on this. I did my first blog post on our team blogging site about this
  • HTML editing - I returned back to some technical skills in making changes to a NOW learning room that was built on unique embedded webpages.  I then supported a member of staff in learning how to do this for themselves.

There is so much more I have been doing which I am sure I will share here as I go on.

Topping the mountain

I have to remind myself that I am still new and that it takes time to get fully embedded within a new job.  As I have done before, if I keep involving myself in everything I can related to my role, I will increase in confidence and grow my abilities.  It's a good time to start setting myself new professional goals and orientate myself further around my new environment.  A lot of this comes down to familiar grounds of being proactive, so it's here where I need to start back at the beginning and see what and who I can work with.  Looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I can see what feelings I have experienced and how I am growing in confidence to reach self-actualisation.  The mountain has not yet been scaled in it's entirety, but it's more understood on how to navigate it to find an appropriate pathway to reach it's peak. The expedition continues...
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CC-BY Daniel Scott. Unless otherwise stated this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.