Theoretical Framework

Learning and teaching practice experts group meeting (Jisc)

Funny enough all the adults are not staring at the speakers face, people are doing different activities and more of them are through their smart devices. Some are twitting, others are taking notes, others are writing some letters or answering emails, and so on.The session is full of academics or member of staff of HE and FE institutions who many times complain about students getting distracted with their devices while in the classroom. So what is happening? Why is it fine and acceptable that they multitask but not their students? I had to laugh!

Topic of this session:

  • Helen Beetham started the session with her work on digital student sharing the findings in relation to a new category that emerged from the study: digital wellbeing. It seems to me the digital environment is taking over every aspect of citizens’ life. The digital space is inhabited in a daily basis and we are creating so much in that space. How is this space mapped in our minds? Is it a relative space or an absolute one? Definitely a constructed space, wether by the uses or by others where we just inhabit them for particular moments of the day. Thinking about the issues that came up in this category, i.e. sense of belonging and how the digital would take away that sense of belonging to the institution, fear to privacy, vulnerability, anxiety, etc. I realise how present this space is for people. More than using a particular tool, it is about what happens in that space where one interacts with others. How do people feel in those spaces and what they do in order to make a good and nurturing experience out of it. Boundaries are really unclear and blurred between virtual and physical spaces very much in context with the liquid metaphor Bauman describes in his characterisation of modernity. Liquid against solid he says. For liquid time is crucial.

(…)liquid unlike solids, cannot easily hold their shape. Fluids, so to speak, neither fix space nor bind time. While solids have clear spatial dimensions but neutralize the impact and thus downgrade the significance of time, fluids do not keep to any shape for long and are constantly ready (and prone) to change it; and so for them it is the flow of time that counts, more than the space they happen to occupy; that space, after all, they fill but ‘for a moment’

I am exploring this metaphor of ‘liquid’ to find words and metaphors to describe and characterise today’s society. A particular aspect Bauman points at is the extraordinary mobility of fluids and he says it is what associates them with the idea of lightness thus with mobility, ease to travel, to move, which definitely is one of those aspects very much present in nowadays society. While writing this I cannot stop thinking how there is a wide gap between different groups within society. There is a large sector that is not described by these aspects, basically a big chunk of disadvantage people living in places where many of the advantages (or disadvantages) of the advances of technology have had little impact.

  • The practical activity was related with a benchmarking tool she is developing. We had a table discussion trying to come up with benchmarks for the new category, digital wellbeing.
  • Next session was on digital leadership –> This need is emerging every where in HEI. Jisc will offer a blended course for people interested in this role. HE and FE need to invest in digital literacy policy. University of Reading is creating a whole new department that will be able to realise their vision in relation to the digital landscape and how best to succeed in it. As part of this talk was Reading University telling us the story of how they are addressing their digital leadership story. An interesting infographic from RSA shows a classification in relation to how people feel in the digital world; 30% of the interviews are “safety firsters” which means they can use internet for their daily entertainment and activities but can be more vulnerable to technological fast change pace; 20% feel are “held back, that means they would like to use technology to turn their ideas into reality but feel unconfident and frustrated and an 11% are confident creatives, feeling at ease in a rapid changing technology environment being able to turn their ideas into businesses through technology. They develop knowledge, creativity and social capital using new technology (Here the link to the webpage with more info and the link to download the complete report)
  • Creating a culture of partnership was all about the university and FE colleges working with students as partners in different activities

To take home basically is the work of Helen Beetham in relation to students’ digital experience and how important it is to address the different aspects of digital literacy within the university. How can the university address and improve the digital experience of students and of staff as well; which is basically the aim of my research, finding ways to enhance the digital experience of students embedding within one of their modules a personal learning environment as a workbench to create their dissertation in the last year of ed studies. Looking at what digital literacy means for them, if they think there is a real need to improve their digital literacy and capability; how do they see or what are their views on PLEs, what are their needs, views and ideas in relation to embedding a digital environment designed and customised by them in their learning experience as the default space to work and co-create knowledge and resources.

This tweet was my favorite one and it says much better all of what we and the speakers were trying to explain

Reclaiming Innovation: EDUCAUSE Review

Reclaiming innovation! EDUCAUSE online report

Important thoughts that caught my attention:
IT people should not be separate from academics. It should be one team.
If the Internet was created within the university, it was a product of the university, how come is the university so alien to it 25 years later?

We privilege a mindset that views learning not as a life-affirming adventure but instead as a technological problem, one that requires a “system” to “manage” it.

With Learning Management Systems students are contained in a system, not outside in the wild web trying to find out new adventures, new uses for tools or even creating new tools. They are managed. Why would they need to be managed?
Giving a deeper thought to this idea:
Imagine what higher education institutions could do if they started approaching academic publishing platforms as collaborative, open spaces for community-authored materials. What if educational institutions start reclaiming innovative learning on the web?
The most striking pedagogic short come of LMS is that in an era where we should be guiding students how to cope with uncertainty, chaos, and an information age of huge complexity, the university forces students to spend countless hours within a closed system that does nothing to help students improve their practical web skills.
Solutions maybe come in a form of small pragmatic initiatives within the university. Maybe daring to try out different ways to design and setout a learning environment with not a very much clear and defined picture of how its going to look like, but withe the courage to delve into the wild and experiment with the new to bring some of that into the university.

LMS is a monolithyc element. What is needed to be changed? In my opinion LMS has its role in the university, maybe that role even needs improvement but I would not say it needs to be removed. What needs to be done in work towards a culture of innovation within the students and staff community.

Here is a video about this idea of culture of innovation in USA

“It gives you a greater sense of the realism of the web”

The full report can be read here

2 more good reading related to this topic is The Invented Story of the Factory model of Education by Audrey Watters
John Udell: The Disruptive Nature of Technology a podcast that I will hear tomorrow.