What Sheila’s seen this week: innovating pedagogoy, mansplaining, more post digital, analytics awards

If you only read one thing on the interweb this week, then make it this: Men Explain Technology to Me: On Gender, Ed-Tech,and the Refusal to Be Silent by Audrey Watters. Thank you Audrey for a great piece and for introducing me to the term “mansplaining”. I can’t say anymore as my prose is, as they say around here, “mince” compared to Audrey’s so just read it.

My blog has been buzzing with comments (including my first audio comment) on my post about Helen Beetham’s Becoming Post Digital keynote last week. Getting comments (not spam or hate comments see Audrey’s post about that) and seeing an extended conversation unfold is so satisfying for me. It really sustains my motivation for blogging. So thank you to everyone who commented and please feel free to add your thoughts.

I didn’t get round to posting about the OU Innovating Pedagogy report last week and in fact its only been this week that I’ve been able to have a look at it. Brian Kelly was quick off the mark with his summary which provides a useful overview. I was particularly pleased to see event-based learning listed in the report. Our online event GCU Games On fits nicely into this category and provides an alternative for institutions, who don’t have links with organisations such as the BBC.

I also spotted yesterday Jisc have just released a new publication “Learning Analytics, the current state of play in UK higher and further education“. I haven’t had time to read it properly yet but it’s always good to get an overview of what’s happening here in the UK. Looks like it’s still very early days as the report says

“Most interviewees are reluctant to claim any significant outcomes from their learning analytics activities to date – again perhaps demonstrating that it is still early days for the technologies and processes”

That gives me hope that we are not too far off the mark here at GCU. Our analytics adventures have been on the back boiler for a bit but I’m hoping to get them back on track again soon.

Finally, it’s awards time again. David Hopkins has been nominated for the Edublogs awards – he’s getting my vote as his blog is just really useful for anyone involved in implementing ed tech. David has also nominated a fab list of UK folks for the awards. I feel very privileged to have been included. So if you have a minute or two, dear reader, then please vote and get some UK ed tech people winning.

And because every blog should have a picture, here are some clouds from my flight to London yesterday for my first ALT Trustees meeting.

picture of blue skies

Becoming Post Digital – #SEDAConf #SEDApostdigital

On Friday I took part in Helen Beetham’s flipped Being Post Digital keynote on the final day of this year’s SEDA conference. I’m still applauding SEDA and Helen on having the courage to try something new at during a conference keynote. If you want to find out more about the structure and pre-keynote activities have a look at Helen’s blog.

Using Collaborate Helen was not only able to allow those of us not attending the conference on Friday to join in, but also to bring in some other voices (George Roberts and yours truly) to add some remote comments to the ongoing discussions along with David Baume (who was in “da room”).  The chat in the online room was pretty lively, as was twitter, as were the discussions in the conference centre itself. From a remote perspective Helen did a fantastic job of dealing with not only some of inevitable technical glitches but also summarising and feeding backwards and forwards from the real room to the online room, and look at the twitter stream.   A sure sign of a (post) digital practitioner!

Dealing with different spaces and places was a central tenant to Helen’s talk.  It is very difficult to be active in three places at once and you could argue that it is probably never necessary.  Speaking for myself I have found being in two places (the “here and not here” Helen referred to in her talk) particularly during conferences, has given me a far richer experience and interaction with the issues being discussed. Twitter acts as my note taking and as a conduit for others not at the conference.  I have been doing it for so long now it is almost second nature.  It is something I become more comfortable with the more I did it. Conferences are still, imho, one of the best places to understand how to use twitter.

Recently I have been experimenting with visual note taking. This forces me to listen and synthesis in a different way. I do miss somethings as I am drawing and I have to store other things until I find the right way to represent them, or not as the case may be. It’s not as interactive a process as tweeting but it does provide me with a different prompt and recall of an event. If other people like the pictures then that’s fine too.

Here’s my sketch note from the session. (Confession I did redo this after the session itself as speaking, being in the online chat, tweeting and drawing is something I need to practice a bit more).

sketch notes from Helen Beetham keynote

During the session there were a number of grumbles about the value of faceless voices (mea culpa – there had been some bandwith problems before I spoke so I went for audio only), how difficult it was to follow the chat and  twitter, a call for a move to slow reading (in the manner of the slow movement).  As the twitter stream was buzzing with “porosity”,  there was also some mention in the conference room itself of feelings of inadequacy in terms of using technology.  Whilst I do sympathise with this view,  Helen is a very skilled, talented and intelligent presenter, I did find it fascinating that a group of educational developers who seem perfectly at home, and excited by theories of threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge, weren’t a bit more open to trying technologies that troubled them.  Being online can be scary and confusing, but so is life.

We certainly don’t need to use technology all of the time, but I firmly believe it can be a very powerful enabler for enriching and enhancing learning.  Experimentation in safe places, such as the SEDA conference, is really important too to help us all find, and extend our comfort zones. After all isn’t that what education is all about?

Why we need to talk about digital

This week I’ve attended in person, and remotely, the 19th SEDA conference: Opportunities and challenges for academic development in a post-digital age. It’s the first time I’ve been at a SEDA conference and although I knew a number of the delegates, it’s always refreshing to be interact with other (related) communities.

Keith Smyth, and Bill Johnson and myself ran a session called “Visioning the Digital University – from institutional strategy to academic practice“. The session was based around the work we have been doing in exploring what a digital university actually is and the work Keith and colleagues did for the Napier University’s digital futures project.

During the session there were many questions in the room and on twitter about the use of “digital”. Do we need to use the word? Aren’t we all post digital now? Digital, that’s soo 2010 . . .

We don’t have an answer to the question ‘what is a digital university”, rather we have developed a set of prompts and themes to enable conversations around what it might mean to take place. We hoped, and have seen, that these prompts force people to have meaningful, and contextual conversations about actual and future practice and developments. Our first blog post introducing our thoughts was titled ‘a conversation around what it means to be a digital university‘. Enabling meaningful discussion has always been at the forefront of our thinking.

But why the emphasis on digital, and why do we persist with this? Well, because “digital” is a very powerful word. From the BBC to IBM to the UK and Scottish Governments, digital content and digital solutions are everywhere. They are the future – despite being very similar to pre digital solutions and content! In education, Jisc are now providing “digital solutions for UK education and research”, have programmes of work around the “digital student”, the “digital institution”. Digital is firmly on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

Digital is also key part of most emerging strategies for universities. What it actually means is still open for debate. That’s where providing a tool like our matrix can actually start to unpack some of the more fundamental issues around what it means to be a university in the 21st century. You can get the ear of a PVC using the word “digital”. You can roll your eyes all you like, but that is really important in terms of the future of educational development. Digital is also a really useful way to engage with our colleagues both academic and in support services who perhaps don’t engage at the same level as SEDA delegates with digital and post digital discourse. The Digital Futures work at Napier exemplified this.

So let’s reclaim “the digital”, and use it to help all of us move forward our educational development and educational technology agendas.

image of digital spelt using scrabble tiles

image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fbz/187634854/ {{cc-by-2.0}}

What Sheila’s seen this week: learning analytics policy for students and lots of open-ness

This week I’ve been doing lots of writing as part of my application for HEA fellowship. I’m doing this via the portfolio route of GCUs AcceleRATE CPD programme. Over the past 6 years, I’ve become increasingly reliant of my blog as my professional memory.  In many ways it is my portfolio and one my main contributions to open practice. As I develop my case studies for my HEA application, it has proved to be an invaluable reference point,  as well as reminding myself that I actually do know a wee bit about a lot of stuff.

Martin Weller wrote a nice post this week on the benefits of an open by default approach. One of the comments highlighted another benefit of being open – that it’s easier to find your own stuff. I have certainly found that this week. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I keep blogging.

I also spotted that there has been an update to the Open Education Handbook from the Linked Up project  – lovely example of open practice creating a resource on open education.

It was also great to see this article on the OU’s policy on the ethical use of student data for learning analytics.  I know Sharon Slade has been working on this for a number of years now. The policy and the FAQ (both available on the OU website) are really useful – not just for students but for anyone who is thinking about or implementing learning analytics. Hopefully it will be available via CC soon too. Another win for open-ness.

#GCblend – blended learning coffee club and blog

Inspired by the work of Fiona Harvey and her iPad coffee club we are launching our own blended learning coffee club here at GCU today.  We’re going to make this a monthly-ish informal meeting where we can share practice and have a bit of a chat over a coffee about what colleagues are/aren’t/would like to do in relation to blended learning. We’re also bribing thanking colleagues for taking time to come along by buying them a cup of coffee.


coffee club image


Today we’re going to start the ball rolling so to speak by sharing our experiences of our open event GCU Games On which ran in parallel with the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games this summer.

To support this initiative we’ve set up a team blog and  an open (well open but you have to register to access) site using Coursesites where we’re building a collection of case studies and other bits and pieces related to what we are doing. Now before you shout/rant/roll your eyes at me for not just doing all of this in wordpress there are a couple of reasons for using Coursesites.

Firstly, Blackboard is our VLE so this is a good place to encourage our staff to play without interfering with any of their live modules. Secondly, we want to encourage more open-ness here so we have to lead by example. Our primary interest is in our staff and students and we want to encourage them to make the best use of the tech we have. By taking this approach we can have an open sandpit area that is familiar to our staff,  and hopefully encourage them to think more about open educational practice. We can also share what we’re doing with others too – so feel free to have a look around.  We’re also going to be experimenting with badges and we’ll be illustrating different ways earn and create badges. The badging workflow in Bb works pretty well so we are going to use it and again hopefully allow our colleagues to see the potential of badges in their context.

This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, or anything particularly original but I’m hoping that it will evolve in a supportive and open community.


What Sheila’s seen this week – human OERs, still useful life in twitter yet and being nice

I’v had one of those weeks where I feel I haven’t been looking at twitter, reading blog posts interacting with my online networks very much this week. F2F communication and getting “stuff” done has taken over this week. However the serendipitous joy of twitter still held true for me when top of my stream yesterday afternoon was a link from Gardner Campbell

to this marvelous post A human OER. It really resonated with how I feel about openness, sharing practice and some of the thorny issues of being connected including something I do worry about – open cliques. You know the places where all the ed-tech hipsters hang out, which despite being open are actually quite scary for some of us to join. I really recommend reading the article, but here are a couple of key quotes for me:

I want to be part of the larger whole, not just the subset. . .

“We talk about tolerance, equality, and goodwill, power dynamics exist in the shadow of groups perhaps too often. These get played out covertly, unspoken and our options when we do not like it are limited. Stay and comply or leave. Sometimes it is possible to shape the conversation, yet in order to do this one needs to meet the majority where it is and speak ‘their’ language before being heard. The type of interaction remains unchanged as the players change. I see people arrange themselves in tribes of like minded people and travel together. Humans do this physically as well as virtually. We choose our clubs.

This sorting process, by definition, includes some people and excludes others.

I have been very lucky so far in my online interactions, I have a fantastically supportive, tolerant, funny, intelligent network. I have only received 2 abusive tweets. Yet I am aware of the horrific abuse many women face when they speak out on social networks. I do feel that leaving networks just gives more power to the trolls but I totally understand why some people do.

There is a backlash about twitter not being like it used to be. It has evolved, and yes the adverts and changing views of my stream are annoying, but I still get value from it. I think it still offers a way of communicating and sharing that I would sadly miss if it wasn’t there. I haven’t found anything that replaces it – and I have tried.

I try to be nice to people online and offline, I’ve never been ashamed of being nice. Martin Weller has blogged about Nice as an energy – again worth a read. Martin points out that angry is easy, being nice actually takes more effort. Ultimately I think is worth it – particularly if you want to get things done or actually get peoples long-term support, trust and understanding. And isn’t that at the core of any kind of educational practice? Also when you are nice, if you are ever angry people tend to listen. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry – luckily most of the time I’m not. Though apparently according to those who know me well I am quite stubborn . . . but I am a Taurean . . .

The Golden Horns of Taurus
(image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PSM_V32_D530_The_golden_horns_of_taurus.jpg)

What Sheila’s seen this week – 1 year on, thinksup and what is a learning technologist?

This week I marked my first year here at GCU. I can’t believe how quickly the past year has gone, and as I completed my annual review I’m quite pleased with what I have been able to do in the last 12 months, but also frustrated that I haven’t done more. Still Rome wasn’t built in a day . . .  Highlights have been GCU Games On and the work I’ve been doing with Evelyn McElhinney on online residency.

Earlier this week I signed up for a free 14 day trial of ThinkUp an analytics service that  “gives you daily insights about you and your friends that you can’t find anywhere else.”   I found out that I had been tweeting longer that the hashtag has been in existence and that I have sent 25,799 (and counting) tweets. That’s 4 days 11 hours 29 minutes of my life. One day I will actually do some work :-)

In the meantime, the notice board in my office is filling up with coloured bits of paper.

picutre of my office notice board

My office notice board

David Walker and I have been delighted with all the feedback here on the blog, via twitter and email that last week’s “what is it about learning technologists?” post has generated. There’s still time to have your say before we start writing the chapter so please keep the comments coming.