digital literacies

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 how to design learning experiences with Grainne Conole

As part of the Digital Week celebrated at Bath Spa university Grainne Conole, the chair of the Institute for Education, gave a workshop on Learning Design, it is about how to design learning experiences based in a methodology developed by her at the OU in the past. Technology can support learning and there is lots of lots available in the web. The technologies are not always good exploited. Some things people say against using technology is that it makes them confused, they are time consuming, they feel overwhelmed, they do not have the time, etc. In my view the use of technologies, particularly web-based technologies is something that is getting more and more an unavoidable skill to learn. I do not see it as an isolated task where we need to set aside hours of the day, I think it is an ongoing journey of discovery and enjoynment when finding interesting activities that are mediated through a particular tool or a particular activity involving a bit of use. The research says that not only teachers, lecturers, or other member of staff struggle with keeping up to date but also students do. Although they are very social and part -particularly the youngest one- of a participatory culture as Jenkins would say, they do struggle to be digital literate in a more formal setting. Being social and techi savvy in their daily lives do not imply that they have a wide knowledge of tools and their possible uses for their learning experience. My idea is that if we work together in improving our digital literacy something good and productive will come out of it.

This approach to learning design is a holistic one with more influence from Europe and Australian and less from the US. Guidance, visualisation and sharing are the key points in this LD approach. It is a designed based approach intended to move away from the beliefs approach.

An idea I liked very much is that of design being a sort of music score which not only transmit the notes which makes a particular piece of music but also the tempo, the rhythm. Learning design is about visualisation and envisioning, it is a powerful way to represent learning activities and the overall vision of the course. Let us see the steps of the design process. Underlying the structure of the course are the 7 Cs for learning which I illustrated as you can see below.

7 Cs LDesign photo (4)

Vision of the course: It is thinking about how do I encourage participants to do what I have envisioned for the course. If it is about collaboration then how will I encourage them to collaborate and communicate, how I want them to assess the course and their participation. This is done with cards that are provided in the workshop. The cards contain the core principles (online, portfolio, practice based, innovative for the student,etc) we need to classify them in 3 columns: very important, more or less important and not important at all. One the table is set with the cards the vision is already developed.

Some notes about resources for the classroom

  1. Discussion forum (Students could rate the best threat and for that they need to read all of them,
  2. blogs: Reflection, note taking, peer blogs, sharing information or thoughts, can be shared or personal
  3. wikis: co-construction of knowledge, like a log book for a course, alterantive reference resource for courses, to build a cohort resource, collaboration, using existing as critical resource, students and self esteem. Greainee’s broad structure:  structured  debate forum relfection blogss and construct resources wiki
photo (6)

The next step was to state the different resources and activities that will be addressed in the course.

Grainne introduced Cloudwork, a space to design the e-tivities for the course using a template they provide there (you need to create an account to access the tool).

In order to design the activities two links can be helpful. Bloom’s revisited learning taxonomy with a very helpful 3D interactive ladder and there is a digital taxonomy which is of course also very useful and a little bit of theoretical background of Bigg’s constructive alignment, a theory to design learning experiences and an interesting view on assessment.
Once the activities are ready we made a chart where thephoto (7) assessment was included.

More like a big picture were we could see the timing, the activities, the inputs we are giving students, what they need to look for and produce and how it is going to be assessed.

Reflections to close the course was done with 4 post-it in the wall, I loved it!!

  1. Action plan: What are you doing as a result of the workshop
  2. Room for improvement
  3. Thinks that I liked
  4. 3 words to describe the workshopplaying around with scenario

The picture on the right is a draft I did creating a scenario for the learning experience I have in mind. It was a playful exercise that helped me to consider many elements of the learner and her/his context.

It was a very useful workshop with many interesting new insights and useful information for all the participants

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.

A conversation with Helen Beetham and Doug Belshaw about digital literacies

An interesting conversation between Doug Belshaw who has been involved very closely with the web literacy map in Mozilla and Helen Beetham who is leading the ‘digital student’ project, run by Jisc. Their views are powerful when put together. One amazing thing which I liked very much is the innovative way of a PhD student to present her viva via Google Hangout. The links can be found in the conversation.

Students engagement history

Activity 1.4: Students engagement history. Main events.

The video is quite dynamic and I think it is a good synthesis of what have happened in relation to this topic of students’ engagement.

More than naming them, as I do think it is clear in the video and writing them down wont be of much value for me, what I think is relevant to mention is, in my view, the shift from the idea of the ‘corps’ in the Greek era where the driver was to recognise the quality and reputation of the teachers to then shift to “defend” students rights. Two very different drivers. Although in Padua the situation of the majority of students as foreigners is what triggers the movement. The idea is that they need to take care by themselves of their rights, they need protection I guess. Then students start demonstrating against social issues like the Vietnam war or the massacre of Tiananmen amongst others. When the fees are introduced the philosophy is completely different and students are seen as ‘clients’ that are paying for a service and that turned the attention to a different aspect which is the quality of the experience of students at the university and how can they be part of that experience in a productive way. Which is what started in 2005 until now.