We have just completed a presentation on the project as part of the JISC’s online e-learning conference. This focused on the process of institutional change, analysing two parts of the work of our project, using ideas drawn from Actor-Network Theory. This was an opportunity for us to work through (for ourselves, as well as for the audience!) accounts of change that didn’t rely on top-down, imposed, rational accounts of change. We had some very positive feedback, which was reassuring.
The session was recorded and we’re assured that this will be made available in the new year. We’ll provide a link through to this once it’s available.
We’ve just completed a very enjoyable pair of presentations at this year’s ALT conference in Manchester. The first of these was a programme-wide symposium called “Technology: the new mainstream?“, chaired by Carole Baum, and involving the projects at the IOE, Exeter, Bath and the University of the Arts. It focused on some of the challenging questions raised by the projects, leading to a lively panel discussion.
The second, called “Developing digital literacies in your institution“, was also chaired by Carole. This focused on the ideas developed by the projects that have resulted in change within the project’s institutions, and invited participants to think about how these might relate to activities in their own institutions. This was a cluster-based workshop, bringing together the IOE, the University of the Arts, the University of Greenwich and UCL.
Slides from both of these will be available from the papers, reports and talks page soon.
Update: the slides are now available.
I had the great pleasure of being one of the keynotes at the Losing Momentum conference in Oxford this Thursday. The event was conceived of and organised by doctoral students, who did a great job of it. The quality of presentations was really high; this lot could give many mainstream conferences a run for their money. Presentations ranged from very pragmatic studies of technology implementation to philosophical critiques of Open Educational Resources, taking in theory and methodology en route. Neil Selwyn provided a rousing and challenging opening keynote (10 things Educational Technology research ought to do better), and I was in the post-lunch slot.
My presentation looked at the metaphor of “momentum” and the appealing but over-simplistic idea of linear progress that it conveys. I used this project to illustrate that, taking a slice through the work that focused, primarily, on the design and organisation of the institution’s infrastructure.
Lots of good feedback, and some very interesting questions – including an interesting discussion of whether we were talking about “learning”, when I was using words like “literacy” and “study”.
Highly enjoyable day, and an helpful opportunity to think through this strand of the project in a little more depth, too.
On Thursday, Lesley and I did a double-act keynote at the EdTech 2012 conference. This is the annual conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association, who were kind enough to invite us, ship us over and act as excellent hosts throughout the event. It was an interesting mix of research talks, practitioner reports and some awards for some really stunning learning and teaching initiatives.
The day opened with Doug Belshaw providing a very engaging keynote that included an overview of the JISC digital literacies programme; this was really helpful, as it framed the talk we gave later.
Our talk picked up on discussions during the day about definitions of digital literacies; Lesley suggested “un-defining” as a title to respond to this, framing the way that we’ve sought a grounded, emergent way of engaging with this concept to get out of conceptual knots. We argued for a social and situated account of literacies, and used examples from our data analysis to illustrate how this looked for us. We also talked about the ways in which this analysis led us to change institutional structures and practices, and suggested questions that the audience could ask about their own students’ literacy practices. We also introduced our current, tentative thoughts around stances or orientations (instead of “skills”), and around resilience, and referred to Helen Beetham’s ideas from the Cascade project, shared at a one-day event in Exeter, about developing students’ repertoires of academic practice.
All sorts of interesting discussions have followed, since. Several people commented on the links we’re making between theory and data, and seemed really interested in the links between our studies and institutional policies and change initiatives. I also had some good discussions about some of the theory I am working with around technology, for example.
The slides we did for this are available on slideshare. We’ve been told that there might be a recording of the talk available soon; we’ll link that as and when it’s released.
Yesterday, I did a round trip to Exeter to take part in the “Supporting Academic Practice in a Digital Age” symposium at the University of Exeter. This provided an opportunity to showcase some of the work we’ve been doing with students here, with an audience of skills developers, academic support staff and researchers. The event opened with a very thoughtful talk by Dilly Fung, followed by Helen Beetham and I as a double-act.
Without much in the way of planning, the talks coordinated really well. Dilly, for example, raised questions about the purpose of Higher Education, advocated student agency and described her “Telling Tales” project, which involved students talking about their experiences of study. Helen followed this up by showing the work that had led to JISC’s programme being put together, and then moved on to talk about specific areas of work in the CASCADE project, including really interesting developments around students as expert technology users and about writing development. Finally, I looked at some of the themes emerging from our baseline work, mainly focusing on the focus group analysis, but also including some early points from the ethnographic journalling work. This was all followed by a lively panel session, which drew in other participants, including two students.
There were lots of little moments – such as Dilly’s account of the spatiality of her knowledge when a student, in terms of library shelves – that had real resonance with some of the experiences our students are reporting, such as the way in which study colonises their homes, or the way in which they take over corners of libraries for their studies. The idea of establishing, maintaining or breaking down the boundaries between study, personal lives, professional work and so on kept coming back; it was also something that was picked up by several of the people who raised questions at the end of the presentations. The discussions led to some interesting connections between Helen’s work around building repertoires of practice and ideas of students’ ‘resilience’ (in terms of being able to cope with bits of their sociomaterial practice failing).
Sessions were video recorded, so I’ll link to these once they’re available.
Lesley and I have just completed two presentations at the Networked Learning conference in Maastricht that draw on the work of the project, both of which were well received. Slides are available from the papers & talks link. Both of these have linked the project’s work to some wider debates – about understanding students’ authorship practices, and about understanding technology. Sadly we were scheduled against each other so I couldn’t see Lesley’s session, but the discussion in my session was certainly lively, raising some important questions about how we can and should go about researching these areas.
Just completed a presentation about the project at the institution’s annual Learning and Teaching conference. (The slides from this are available on slideshare.)
Turnout was great (a full room) and feedback was very positive – several comments about how interesting the project was, and how important it was to take a position that assumes and builds upon the diversity of student practice. I thought it was particularly interesting how the project’s work was seen as an important part of so many different peoples’ areas of practice. Discussion of PGCE and distance students was particularly lively.
At the end of the session I asked people to think about the students they work with, and how these issues might relate to work there – this sparked off some lively discussion in small groups. I tried to get some of this fed back in plenary, and managed to note the following before everyone rushed off to get lunch:
- That it was good to see the project’s purpose was not to classify whether people are competent or not, but to understand and support people in the alternative ways of negotiating what you have to deal with day-to-day.
- That this contributes in to ongoing dialogue with students about their academic literacies – it was described as intensifying such discussions “in quite a good way”.
- It is important to help teachers find ways to work that recognise this diversity of practice are so are more inclusive than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. (For example, how should tutors work with groups in classes where some people have connected digital devices and others don’t?)
- There was discussion about how hard it is to get students to collaborate online – they only do what’s compulsory, not what’s offered, but were able to engage when it was made compulsory. It was suggested that what teachers may need to do differently is not just expect use, but to do more to support this and raise expectations about digital participation.
- Students may face important issues decisions balancing having to pay for printing against how they might want to read.
- There were repeated requests to undertake similar work with staff – to understand the diversity of their practices and the challenges they face.
- Memoranda of Agreement and Memoranda of Understanding ask about resources in other institutions – as we use more digital resources, local institutions’ lack of resources may matter less. (Note: we did discuss the differences there may be between offering resources to students and them being able to use them successfully.)
Repeatedly, I was also asked whether we could explore whether these constraints and expectations identified amongst students were replicated for teaching and support staff. This was seen as a really important issue, for several reasons. Firstly, these issues have ramifications for students (e.g. the resources available in classrooms can limit what we are able to model to students during classes). Secondly, there was concern that decisions about infrastructure and IT provision are being made on the assumption that staff are homogeneous, with similar needs and patterns of work; it would be helpful to have evidence that demonstrates this isn’t the case. Thirdly, there are training and support issues that would be identified by doing this: if we have a better understanding of how staff work, we can work with them in more appropriate ways.
It may be worth discussing with the JISC whether any aspects of this could be taken up under the ‘institutional readiness for change’ work.
Lesley & I were invited to Lancaster to present work relating to the project. In the talk we discussed ideas around technology, practice, agency and materiality, using early data from the project to show how they relate to digital literacies. The slides from the event are available on slideshare, and a recording of the talk will be made available soon.
Today, I’m at a meeting of the Heads of e-Learning Forum, and “digital literacy” is on the agenda. Several of the projects that JISC has funded are presenting what’s called ‘lightning strike’ talks: a 10-minute introduction to what they’re up to. I’m going to try and provide a broad overview of our project, a quick summary of the background work we’re undertaking, and mention some of the theory that’s shaping this work. The slides are available here. It’ll be interesting to hear how the other projects who are presenting are doing.
The day included a very enjoyable talk by Gwen van der Velden, looking at engagement and consumerism in the context of recent policy developments. Here she is fostering engagement with her ideas by awarding Mars bars to people who could recognise policy makers:
…and here she is bribing Paul Bailey (here representing JISC) to pay attention with chocolate:
Who says behaviourism is outdated…
Maria Papaefthimiou gave an update on the “Digitally Ready” project at Reading.
Matt Newcombe told us about the CASCADE project at Exeter (even if the meaning of the acronym remained a little opaque).
…and Clive Young updating us on the “Digital Department” work at UCL.
In case you’re wondering, the odd “over-the-shoulder” gazes are because there are screens on two sides of the room, with an elliptical table in the middle. That in itself is interesting; it makes doing a talk really hard, because if you stand up so you’re visible, you’re always behind someone. All images were grabbed with my iPod touch, partly as a way of seeing how our data collection during the project might work out. Turns out photos of screens in a dark room are rubbish.