What are you saying? #JISCEL11

Below is a repost of a guest blog post that I did for ‘Letters from the Edge’ for the JISC Online Conference:

A theme that has already emerged in at the conference is one of the importance of the language that we’re using. The following themes have already appeared either in the chat themes, or emerged in my head after particular sessions:

  • Should we be using the term ‘digital literacies’?
  • Should we name sessions ‘technology for the terrified’ or ‘social media for the scared’ or does that reinforce the notion that it’s something to be scared of?
  • Should we use the term ‘assessment’, or ‘learning opportunities’?
  • Is there an overabundance of acronyms and ‘inside terminology’?

I’m fascinated by name origins, contextual and historical meanings, but I am also disturbed when the terminology gets in the way of achieving the aims. Ronseal has done us all a favour with ‘does what it says on the tin’, although many of us still work within a culture in which we use increasingly complex names.

What’s in a Name?

Recently, we have been discussing renaming my role from ‘Blended Learning Fellow’ (a term that appears to have dropped out of favour), and replacing it with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning Fellow’. The new name seems to be more meaningful in the current day, and more clarity for staff as to what my role is, but does this draw attention to the technology, when our concern is more with pedagogy. Noticeably the Plymouth E-Learning Conference is being renamed this year, I think to Excellence in Learning – the means of doing so is important, but although many attending will be learning technologies, ‘electronic-learning’ is not the focus.

Acronyms Ahoy

The LTDU (Learning and Teaching Development Unit) has become renowned for coming up with some decent acronyms, most recently our newsletter ‘LATTE’ (Learning and Teaching Transforming Education). Branding this was important, but first we had to be clear on the purpose of the newsletter: not only to highlight what the Unit itself was doing, but, moreimportantly, to highlight learning and teaching activities across the campus.

Social Media for the Scared

We had a good debate about this alongside the ‘Students as Agents of Change’ session, with the notion that ‘Technology for the Terrified’ reinforces the idea that technology is at the heart of what we’re doing, and is something to be scared of. I, however, run sessions called ‘Social Media for the Scared’ for those in the CofE, with a session outline clearly defining that by the end of the session social media should have been de-mystified, and fear should no longer have a place. It gets a lot of takers, and seems to do its job… now to do the same within the university setting.

The Bigger Questions

So, from the conference, two of the bigger questions that have emerged is about the terminology of ‘digital literacies’, and of ‘assessment’, two questions that are being considered within JISC-funded projects that I am working on at the University of Winchester, one with ODHE, and the other with University of Bath Spa, named FASTECH (another great acronym: Feedback and Assessment for Students with Technology).

So, how much thought do we put into the terminology we use? We need to ensure that we are helping communicate a clear message, but we also don’t want to get so bogged down in discussing the terminology, that we take no further action. What terminology do you find/see to be a stumbling block?

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Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @MMUBS. Interested in digital Literacy in the third sector. Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.

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