One of my favourite talks from #TDC13, from @aral: Superheroes & Villains in Design

Thinking Digital, such a good conference (dates for 2014 already up). I have much to learn from this, and something want I’ve been seeking to put into place on this blog, my personal blog, and next .. @bigbible!

Aral Balkan: Superheroes & Villains in Design from Thinking Digital on Vimeo.

#TDC13 Workshop: The Power of Story

This afternoon I’m at this workshop:

Mari Burns

Mari Burns

Great leaders beginning with the Alexander the Great, have long known the emotional power of story in helping engage people behind a cause or a company. Today more than ever in our chaotic world of information overload, facts are not enough.  We want something that’s meaningful, a message that is compelling and memorable. Similarly, understanding our own story helps us to relate to others and the world around us, to understand how we can contribute and what drives us beyond a paycheque.

Joseph Campbell is perhaps the greatest evangelist for the power of meaning and stories and this workshop is based on his research and writings. The Hero’s journey describes a pathway for those who want to make a difference, are entrepreneurial, follow their hearts, have vision or are simply looking to ensure that this year, they do stuff that matters.

This is a practical workshop for the curious or those who may be about to navigate unchartered territory in their next phase of life. You are welcome to come along and dip your big toe into the river of myths, test out the water and decide whether the Hero’s Journey is for you.  Mari Burns and her team will work with you to explore your calling or passions in life and the story to take you to the next level in your career, business, as a brand or as any other unique adventure you might have in mind.

Taken from the TDC site.

Learning Through Engagement with the Conference #JISCEL12

Last week I attended the JISC ‘Innovating Learning’ online conference – here’s a blog post I wrote for ‘Letters from the Edge’ – the conference blog:

This is a post, as with my ‘live’ blog posts, written as an ‘on the spot reflection’ rather than an agonised-over academic piece!

Over the past few years, I may have sworn at virtual classrooms in my previous role. Once, however you stop focusing on the technology it’s great to see the amount of content that can be shared – without having to leave the house/office…. Ironically, my new job has almost immediately required Elluminate (see our first event as a Storify), and we want to expand on this..

I moved from Winchester to Durham 3 months ago, and I seem to spend an extraordinary amount of time on the train – or in the air – and so participating in this kind of conference is giving me a chance to engage my brain whilst giving my tired body a chance to relax into an oversized bean-bag in front of an open fire (as Java  causing issues in the office)!

I’ve had the privilege of being a ‘superuser’ for the last couple of JISC online conferences (2011, 2010, 2009). This year I’m a paying customer, and I really think the £50 investment (& the time, let’s not forget the time!) has still been worth it. As with all conferences I’ve thought about what I’m going to attend, as new-job mode means different priorities:  I’m still working with ODHE on the JISC Digital Literacies project, but I’m not teaching this year. In future I will be helping develop online learning potentially for St John’s College, The Methodist Church and The Anglican Church – so much more emphasis on mature/lifelong learners.

A lot of my job seems to involve creating ‘buzz’ for events, and pulling in external participants to widen the conversation, and so I’ve got very used to producing content quickly, using mostly a mix of Twitter/Storify, and blogging – for the conference I have produced:

I made a decision a couple of years ago, that when I do these “live-blogs” (and I’ve done them for several webinars), I would do these as notes for me, and if others find it useful, then that’s a bonus – and that has framed how I take notes. Notes are also still rough & ready, but would reflect something ‘in the moment’ (the historian in me is coming out!). As with all conference talks I don’t aim to capture 100% of it, but seek to capture things that may be useful in my role or challenge my thinking – digital data can be so ephemeral and I want to be able to come back to my notes (I always lose paper notes!)… and if I wait until it’s “perfect” then I just end up not writing them at all!

Thinking about James’ blog post on ‘making notes’, I still scribble notes in meetings sometimes, but usually then find myself transferring them into a more ordered system online. For this conference, however, I am just using my laptop (MacBook) – I used to have a Word file open as well as Collaborate & make notes in that, but I now write them straight into a new WordPress post which I keep open in another tab – as I seek out links mentioned in the event, hyperlink them – so I can return to useful suggestions later. I don’t expect to capture everything – but engaging with the content allows me to capture useful content … and that’s OK!  I take screenshots of particular slides I’m interested in (in the same way that I’m likely to take photos of slides in a physical conference) – Mac’s record them with the date/time they were taken, so I can see what order I took them in – as these usually need to be inserted into particular points in the post later once I’ve “trimmed the edges”.

It’s been interesting comparing the live/recorded experience – the live experience can be a little frantic as I seek to partake in the live discussion as well as listen and capture, but the recorded experience can leave a little frustration as I think – oh, I wanted to say something – but there’s always the forum for that… although I like the opportunity of spreading the messages a little wider than the conference delegates… though it’s mostly the conference delegates who are interested in looking back at them…

Anyway, lots to learn every time I engage in this kind of event, especially when thinking about how learning can occur in online spaces (does it always require a VLE?), the benefits of drawing in content from across the web/from a range of people’s viewpoints, the need to allow time/the right physical space to be able to engage, and of course all the new content itself that will help me as I start to develop more blended/online courses.  I look forward to the last few hours of the conference…

Lifelong learning in a digital age: New audiences, new needs, new approaches #JISCEL12

Marion Manton, Oxford 


4 years – every programme uses technology in some way, but in very different ways – the magic words ‘efficiency gain’.

A weekend/few days of study a few days a term, rather than having to come to Oxford every week. Opened up the study wider.

Oxford programme information.

Lots of learners would say that they would prefer face-to-face, but you can see learners who realise that online learning allows more participation and see them won over.

  • The importance of administrative support
  • Lots of questions about anonymous marking – for & against
Susie Schofield:

my personal view on anonymous marking is we need to educate those for it of the benefits of non-anonymous marking and if there are problems with the ‘mark my work not my face’ then we need some serious faculty development

Alison Felce: what does responsiveness mean to your context/organisation? 

Students need to understand that universities cannot provide an endless range of courses to meet personal requirements.

Do students/the market know best?

Dave Middleton

@Mark in most disciplines there is a body of research which has bulit up over many centuries, would market research and/or employers understand that, or should we ditch the canon entirely?

Emma Purnell: Illustrations of Adult Learners and Digital Literacy

Access and support to students for digital literacy important, as not all had access to the on-site infrastructure.

Be mindful that most lifelong learners are very task-focused – they just want the technology that will help them get the job done, and they want it to work. [Keith Mildenhall – the ‘out of the box’ test.] They also may have different access issues at their institution..

Nathan Cobb:

I work in an FE College where we have both teenage and mature learners – without completely re-hashing the digital natives theme I don’t notice a significant difference – we have confident and less confident learners in both age groups

Interestingly, we have a cohort of mature learners on our access to HE programme this year who are very digitally literate and have been frustrated by ILT literacy levels of their tutors

Susie Schofield

@peter I created an induction module which takes them through the whole process. We also have screenrs and a dedicated technologist who supports them via email / phone etc

Christa Appleton

I think its better not to generalise digital literacy its not simply age related

Marion Manton

I think global cofidence with tech has massively improved in the last few years

I think as people use tech more for all areas of life the happier and more confident they are about using it for learning

Alison Felce

We found that literacy wasn’t related to age – there is a wide variation for all sorts of factors – most commonly lack of confidence has a big impact on apparent literacy.

Anne McDermott

We have found that some younger students’ belief about their skills becomes a barrier to their learning i.e. they cant understand why they are having difficulties and swithch off

Dave Middleton

@Anne that is a really good point. I’ve noticed that people who are very confident cannot cope with digital failure.

Clare Killen

90 year old farmer asked for internet-abled PC for his birthday so he could skype and communicate with grandchildren overseas. Unusual but he had the motivation to do it.

Interesting point – digital literacy is often not a problem with students, but a problem with staff…

“some of the staff in this area are “CAVE” people (Colleagues Against Virtually Everything) – they attend the training but simply make no attempt to use it”

Merv Stapleton

@Nathan – CAVErs are everywhere – very difficult to sell them the benefits of tech – or any way of doing anything that is different to what they already do

Becky Thomas

We are all individual and have our own comfort zones – what does it take for people to explore and extend their own comfort zone?

Re students printing off online courses then not returning to the VLE:

Marion Manton

@gavin the key is to make sure your course is less content and more activities that gets them online – but you are right some will do that

Nathan Cobb

@Gavin this is exactly why a VLE course needs to build and develop dymatically so learners have to interact with it

Susie Schofield

@Gavin we have made our course available in different modalities to suit individual learner needs so e.g. a Camtasia presentation will also be available as a podcast, word document and pdf

Some courses then offer extra support in the first couple of weeks – which find pays back over the course as more confident users/less tech queries. May include ‘compulsory’ discussions online to ensure students are using the materials.

Sue Lewis

We have been working with adults in the work place helping them map their skills and experiences to a set of skills required in HE (taken from something called the CogenT toolkit). Has been very successful in helping adults recognise their potential for higher level study. Not have an elctronic mapping tool for this called HE Skills Map. Useful at engagement stage but also helps them collect evidence for admissions and APeL.

Clare Killen – re ‘tech-savvy’ youngsters…

@Ruth – good point. They may be literate but don’t know how to use it to support their learning.

Marion Manfield then referring us to Dave White’s idea of ‘Digital Visitors’ – they just want to get in, do what they need to online, and don’t want to faff around with Facebook, etc.. Me:

Noting with ODHE project that if a reason to use it they will- but if try and persuade them they should be using Twitter/FB, etc. most don’t get it – but tech tools that help them with e.g. travel, etc. are a way in ..

JISC LifeLong Learning publication, and other information. WBL Toolkit. Continue discussion (delegates!).

Catching Up 'Levers of Change' with @jamesclay #JISCEL12

Levers of Change – seeing similarities with steam engines …

  • Some levers make sense – move forward, it moves forward
  • Some don’t have obvious sense
  • Some are out of our control – e.g. points can take us in different directions

3 Questions for this session:

What causes change? What can we do to instigate change? What can we do to mitigate some of the issues caused by change?

Unsurprisingly many e-learning people are early adopters:

James then refers to the ‘Hype Cycle’ which often appears – calling it a waste of time – a marketing tool that looks like this, because this is what we expect it to look like/fits what we’re doing:

Then James got people to mark on innovation adoption where people thought their institutions were – a much wider spread, and less innovators.

Robbie Matthews:

individuals are generally more interested in potential on new technology … institutions are generally more sceptical of new tech

Question: Do you prefer physical book or electronic text? Both have affordances and disadvantages.

I’d agree with Becky Thomas:

both! Depends on what I am reading, where I am reading and how I need to interact with the text

When I was first given an iPad (not from work!! oh no!), I started to play with free books downloaded from Kindle … started to read books I may not have done otherwise (though I’m typically a charity shop/library reader anyway) – then started to get stuck on the train and find opportunities to read work books en route… etc.

A great blog post on the topic

James challenging us to think what is important to us from this conference…

Sally Betts

Innovation is great if it is not just for the sake of playing with the latest technology – it needs to really make a difference to learning.

Thought this was interesting … as space to ‘play’ gives an opportunity to find things that we didn’t expect (e.g. mobile phones – never expected texting to take off inthe way it has)

Some thought provoking quotes

Much agreement with:

But then look at when this was written:

Lots of conversation about ‘independent learners’ – not all are comfortable in this, some need the scaffolding – and in all this, we have to remember that they ARE students, so we need to help.

Read suggested solution. (Real Environments for Active Learning)… and replace ‘REAL’ with VLE, MOOC, etc… why are we asking the same questions? Why are we not taking on board the lessons? And then why do we wonder why we are where we are?

Simon Thompson

Great learning analogy is that education is like a gym membership. Join the gym but if you don’t engage in it you’ll not get fit/lose weight. Join a course but if you don’t engage in all the facilities and expertise you will likely not pass the course.

How long does change take?

Kinda funny – but not really – from MBS Manchester:

Sometimes and go to meetings about online teaching and learning and wonder if I have wandered into a session planning to reform a band from the nineties.

Karen Clark

Is the reason we have not moved on that we focus on the technology and not the pedagogy? Institutional structures in many cases have yet to move away from the idea of learning soley as transmission

Dave Middleton:

A number of tech innovations have not been hyped and then taken us by surprise: mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Louise G-H

I think lots of technology is not being used a collaborative tool – students do not feel empowered by it and therefore do not take the responsibility that we want them to take for their learning.

Nathan Cobb

I am starting to see some learners taking more ownership of collaboration with each other now in ways I haven’t seen before – they are taking it outside the institution – a group of learners recently approached me because they had set up a group dropbox to share resources and support each other and they wanted to know whether they were allowed to download all their teachers resources from moodle to put into this dropbox area

Lots of questions about how long change takes to implement… context sensitive.

What are people researching? Why – because it’s passion that drives them, or because institution requires it?

Why do people repeat research? People don’t know that others have already done it. Want to experience for selves? See their institution as ‘too different’.

Caroline Graham

How much research gets read? Maybe that’s why things don’t appear to have change – we keep reinventing the wheel in a different guise

If we’re not going to build on our research/stand on the shoulders of giants … why do we bother publishing it? Research as a lever of change in organisations = doesn’t do the job (doesn’t mean invalid, but know WHY you are doing research).

Helen Beetham

You have to be quite expert in a community to actually know what else has been done already.

Sarah Knight

Do we need to be more explicit about how others can learn from the research we do – so pulling out the lessons which are replicable for others?

Probably a more common answer than many said:

I tend to do, then find the research that supports the theory i’ve made up, lol

Chris Thomson

We need to be better at telling the story of the impact of research as well

Julie Voce

Being able to quote other studies is useful when convincing managers of something’s worth

Nathan Cobb

I agree with Ruth – We get very positive feedback from learners where teachers use the VLE effectively – it is very easy to simply criticise it when we haven’t taken full advantage of it

Do we talk about technology or pedagogy?

Technology is shiny, pedagogy is ‘more important’? If the technology is not equally as important as the pedagogy – why do we have learning technologists/research into technology.

Sharon Lewandowski

pedagogy is what we do, technology is the tool

lilian soon

some pedagogy only possible because of the technology though

Return back to the question between paper/ebooks … a lot of reasons given for (preferring paper) are technological issues [Suddenly wants an iPad 3, as the Retina screen is a better reading experience!].

Focus too much on the technical issues, rather than the affordances that technology brings us..

Project Gutenberg – since 1971 –  was a tablet device then, but only with iPad has it really taken off (though other devices are catching up).

We give too much power to technology? This kind of quote can be replaced with all the ‘new’ types of technology:

Nathan Cobb

“Do you like books or do you like reading?” Clay, James (2011)

Dave Middleton

Is Dickens a bad writer if he is on an e-book? Surely the point is the words not the medium. Lets not forget books replaced the oral tradition.

Don’t wait for something to become mainstream before you are able to use it – some simple changes – e.g. QR codes in the library – connecting physical book with more e-resources online:

Nathan Cobb

We use QR codes as well – we have a lot of books both as physical copies and ebooks and we have qrcodes on the physical copies to highlight the fact that there is an ebook version

See JISC Project.

Another great comment from MBS Manchester:

Lecturers want to to tell them what they think need to know, but don’t want us to tell them what they aren’t interested in!

Paul Richardson

We need to understand technologies, not devices. e.g. speech-to-text.

We talk about change as if it isn’t happening – but it’s happening all the time!  Future is not the problem – we’ve forgotten about the past, and the lessons from the past.. Think about how email, PowerPoint, etc. got mainstreamed within your institution – seems to be a combination of answers from ‘top down’ to ‘early adopters’.

Clare Killen

Would require greater societal change for MOOCs to take over completely and @MarkS – I don’t think they are cheap. Technology changes how you spend money but doesn’t doesn’t necessarily cost less.

 Change from referring to ‘change’, and seek ‘enhancement’?

Clare Killen

I guess many changes in the past (even getting data projector and laptop in classroom in time) had to be organised – beauty of mobile technology is that learners drive us to make the change. The power is in their hands not ours.

MBS Manchester:

Things become embedded when people find a use for them that they percieve to be beneficial. The more you try to dictate the use, the less chance the technology will be adopted.

How do we measure change? People always talking about how fast it changes? Why do some find time to change and others don’t?

Shri Footring

It’s useful to think about how a specific change would benefits others. It needs to recognised as providing a win-win solution for all, and it’s up to us to communicate how it does that.

Kevin Richardson

Give them technology and see what they do with it … because, despite what we think, it is the students who will find the affordances that matter