The Digital Leadership Workshop part 1

I took part of Jisc’s “digital leadership” pilot programme, a two day residential in Bristol. Jisc is ‘prototyping’ a service for institutions that will allow institutions to diagnose themselves and their staff in relation to their digital capability in order to think about actions that the institution and their staff need to embrace to move towards being an agile digital university (If that is possible).

Not forgetting that the ‘digital’ represents the medium, the vehicle by which the human project is partly mediated and delivered. It implies changes because the medium is influential but it is still the medium through which part of the experience is mediated.

When the printing press appeared -1442- and books started to be available for the public, people had to learn many new skills that we do not question anymore as for us reading is a default skill that we learn even before we go to school.

This video is a parody about how to use a book. Though the video refers more to the mechanical skills about how to operate the book, how to open and close it, how to read it, from the last page to the first or vice versa? there are also many intellectual skills like understanding how does the intonation of a story can be understood with out any voice telling the story. How to make sense of long chunks of texts or where is the pause to be made when reading, to mention just some of them. History says that people started to read out loud first and then slowly learned how to read in silent. I can imagine it was a process similar to this we are experiencing now with digital literacies. It is trying to understand how this new media operates, how can we make sense of the world using new tools that allow for new procedures to capture reality for example. I was imaging how would I design a workshop for printing press leaders (?).

The main idea of the service is to see what skills, knowledge and attitudes do people need in order to be able to bring change to their institution. The change this time is related to the digital experience. This change has to do with one of my interests in my dissertation, digital literacies and digital capability in students. The time plan for Jisc’s service can be seen clicking on the picture. I think the image is beautiful and it tells the story pretty well 🙂


The workshop:

Day 1 was mainly about the V+R (visitor and resident) approach developed by White and Lanclos (2014). The intention is to understand the motivations of people when engaging in different activities in the Web. Discover the logic behind peoples’ choices and actions. Making meaning of those actions we are interested to change or act upon. The way to do this is to map the tools you use and the platforms you visit in the Web and for what reasons (personal or institutional) and in which way you engage with them, in a visitor mode or a resident one. This idea was inspired by the Kevin Kelly’s Internet mapping project


My Visitor and Resident map

Visitor + Resident Map

After this first exercise of mapping our ways of engagement we started to annotate the map using the six elements that imply digital capability:

  • ICT proficiency
  • Information, data and media literacy
  • Digital creation, innovation and scholarship (Creating)
  • Digital communication, collaboration and participation (Participating)
  • Digital learning and PD (learning)
  • Digital identity and well being (self-actualising)

What activities are we deploying and which of those capabilities are involved in them. Although we start with tools and platforms the focus is in the activities we are doing with those tools. But thinking about tools is a more concrete way to start the thinking process. Discussion and reflection where very useful to see in which ways we operate in the Web, how active we are and how much trace do we leave in the web. It was also interesting reflecting about what is a space in this virtual context. Is Twitter a space, a tool, a platform? Why do we visit that space, what are we looking for? Do we want to broadcast about our professional interest, engage in a professional network and share resources and ideas?

Day 2 was about the institutional side of the map. After reflecting about ones own practice we needed to move on to the institutional mode 🙂 How is our institution engaging in those platforms and tools and for what reason. Is the institution open or does it operate with many gateways to important spaces? Here the axis on the left side is related with open content and the one on the right hand side with open engagement, people with people instead of a more instrumental engagement looking for things, content and information. So the resident side of the map is related with the nature of the interactions in the institution. This was tricky for me as I am still quite new to the institution and I am still more of a PhD student I think. I had an exploration of what I thought Bath Spa looks like but I think it is nothing very accurate. Still needs more exploration and digging deeper into the institution. The discussion was very rich in any case. I saw the differences between institutions and how they have their own personality.

We had also parallel sessions to which we went. Digital storytelling and the use of social media for leaders in the institutions. Both of them interesting and food for thought. In particular I liked the storytelling one. The power of a story has always fascinated me. The presentation was very well thought and rich in good and eloquent images. I had to tell a story my self a week ago about my PhD in 3 minutes and that was a real challenge! Points to stress of the storytelling session:

Nancy Duarte has a TEDTalk about the structure of talks and stories as a powerful means to communicate ideas. With a story you get a physical reaction, a reaction for example, Steve Jobs enacted in his discourse. You can see the video for more details.

@cbthomson talked about the pixar story rules

The session on leaders and social media use was rich in content and discussion. Some time was spent on the ‘do and dont’s’ using social media from a leaders perspective. The value of an authentic leader but what is an authentic leader? What is her/his role when twitting from an institutional handle and so on.

The last session was about how to implement a change given a particular issue related with (in our case) assessment and progress in students. Very down to earth and to the point. It was about HOW TO implement a change, the practical side of it. Excellent session. Here the link to the document we edited in the session

We went home with lots of things to think about and in 4 weeks we are back to learn more!

The storify of the workshop

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

Jisc Teaching + Learning Experts Working group session


Today I went up to Birmingham to attend (for the first time) to the 34th meeting of this group. The topic today: Developing employability, this project is of course linked to Building digital capability as well as to my own idea of personal learning environment for undergraduate students and it is an extension of this study.

Initial ideas (of the Jisc community) to share are:

  • How can HE engage in developing ways in which students can articulate the skills they learn throughout their degree for their future employability?
  • Students articulating their own development, a self-directed process or self determined, as Lisa Blaschke would prefer to say. Look it up in this link. Here is their community of practice, worth looking at.
  • What does maturity look like in students in relation to their digital skills? This can also be related to the self-determined learning?
  • It should be a learner centre approach where students need to reflect and write about the evidence of their digital skills acquired throughout their university learning
  • Digital technology enhances employability, therefore there is a need to embed digital technology in authentic learning and then reflect and pin out the skills learned.

Some twits

From the digital students project

Themes emerged from the students survey

  • Students need ongoing support: “We need ongoing development” [here is where my idea of a scaffolding structure fits in very nicely 🙂 ]
  • “We expect the same or better services as in school”(this idea comes from a research project lead by David White and Joanna Wild in partnership with Jisc: Incoming Expectation of the Digital Environment Formed at School)
  • “Don’t assume I am digital literate” (again a good point to justify my idea)
  • Having discussions with staff how they can work collaboratively for some digital strategies to move forward to the development of those skills
  • “We expect college to provide what we need”
  • “We expect modern learning resources that are easy to use” (video, podcast, youtube videos)
  • “Consistency across all courses”
  • “We want to work with lecturers” (2nd year learners to co-design the module, use their skills to design the course)
  • “Treat us as going up, we want to contribute”
  • “Ask us what we need” Their voice is feeding into what the college is doing in relations to the digital experience


  • How can colleges undertake evaluations of learners use of tech? How can colleges engage learners in the process?

Southwest College Northern Ireland is an example to look at. They closed their campus for a week so they could train their staff in that week.

Afternoon session

Building digital capability / Developing students digital capability. Sarah Davies

Initial consultation is needed to start the project

Digital capability framework : What it would be like? To what skills am I setting questions to? It is about upscaling the staff digital skills?

What would your pathway be through this triangle?

digital capabilities framework: Functional roles in staff

  • LeadershipRDF Public Engagement lens
  • Administration, operations
  • IT facilities infrastructure
  • Content/knowledge management
  • Research and scholarship
  • Teaching and learning support
  • Staff/educational development
  • Public engagement/communication (Vitae useful material and another useful PDF for public engagement)

Session 2: From prospect to Alumnus challenge. 

Looking at the journey from beginning to end of students.
What are those phases and how is the path through it?
Looking to improve that journey. Where are the problems in that journey?
How to optimise those stages?
Badges that can help with the connection of learning and employability. I think that badges are an interesting topic to look at. Mozilla is doing excellent work not only with open badges but also with what they call Web Literacy and Jisc has done another bit which of course is worth taking a look!

An interesting activity was reading the digital capability framework and their draft definition of the elements of digital capability and see if we had any suggestions

  • ICT proficiency / fluency: Adopt, adapt/develop and use ICT-based environments, devices, applications and services;critically assess benefits/constraints; design and implement ICT solutions; recover from failures; stay up to date with ICT relevant to role; computational thinking(coding; algorithm, etc)
  • Information and data literacy: Find, evaluate, interpret, manage, curate, organise (i.e. through filing, tagging) and share digital information (curate) including open content; collate, manage and analyse digital data including leaner and organisational data; be aware of digital copyright/IP issues; be aware of legal, ethical and security issues.
  • Media literacy: Critically read and creatively produce academic and professional communications in a range of digital media; appreciate relevant aspects of digital design including cadence, purpose, accessibility, impact, modality; understand digital media production as a practice and an industry
  • Networking and digital participation: participate in digital teams and networks for learning, teaching, research, public engagement (Sconul and vitae guidelines for public engagement)professional practice; collaborate effectively using digital tools; appreciate different cultural social and communicational norms online; build and enable digital teams, groups and networks.
  • Digital research and innovation (digital scholarship): Collect and analyse data using digital methods; discover, develop and share new ideas using digital tech; undertake open scholarship; design new research questions and programmes around digital issues/methods; develop digital tools and processes.
  • e-Learning and professional development:  Teach, train, coach and support others to learn, in online and blended spaces, using digital tech as appropriate; use digital means to assess and give feedback; undertake own learning/PD using digital tech as appropriate; design learning courses and activities that make effective education use of digital technologies.
  • Digital reputation and identity management: Project a positive digital identity and manage digital reputation across a range of platforms; collate digital evidence of achievement; support others to manage and project positive digital identities.
  • Digital wellbeing: Look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings; promote e-safety and responsible use to others; manage stress, workload and attention/distraction in a digital environment(this is repetitive) consider environmental impacts of digital technologies and activities.

There is a need for me to look at other frameworks (on digital literacy in order to see which fits best for what I am looking at.

One idea I came to in the discussion is that the EDdynamic.SpLace E-DynamicSpace with no frame
needs to serve as a “reflective space” for students to articulate the skills they are learning in the process of designing, developing and implementing their PLE. It can be a reflective space to -amongst other things- pin down the skills learned, the higher order thinking involved in each task, etc. Maybe through my work I could refine those definitions and say more about them once I have collected and analysed the empirical evidence. Then I hopefully will now better what a strong framework can be in order to pin down what does it mean to be digital literate.

It appears again and again –> Emergence as a property of the network I will look at. (I see the PLE in itself as a network, the classroom is also a network and the PLE’s interacting with each other sharing, collaborating, creating knowledge is another network. This needs deep theoretical thinking)

Jisc came with 7 challenges in enhancing the digital experience of students:

  1. Take a strategy whole-institution approach to developing the student digital experience
  2. Deliver a relevant digital curriculum
  3. Prepare and support students and staff to study and work successfully with digital technologies
  4. Develop coherent policies for “bring your own” device, service and data.
  5. Deliver a robust flexible digital environment
  6. Deliver an inclusive student experience
  7. Engage in dialogue with students and empower them to develop their digital environment (this is what my project is about)

It is in 2+7 that I am interested. I think that skills are learned best when they are embedded in an every day activity and that students ought to be empowered and heard as I believe they have an enormous potential as designers of their digital environment.

Following the link from the tweet many examples of effective practice can be found

The slideshare from Helen Beetham: ‘how can we meet the needs of digital students’

Here the link to the Jisc project with links and theoretical sources for developing digital literacies.

To summarise the event here is the storify told by Sarah Knight.

At the end for me it is all about connecting the dots and, so I draw my dots…

Follow the link to the slides and presentations of the event for more details on the different topics