Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: education

Digital Capabilities?

Adrian Sharkey

Why do digital capabilities matter?

In 2015 the House of Lords published a report on the need to improve the country’s digital capabilities, Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future. It was an eye opener and didn’t pull any punches. Among the findings, the report stated that 35% of existing jobs would be automated over the next 20 years and that higher education had not responded to the urgent need for re-skilling. The report goes on to outline that digital skills are all encompassing, affecting all areas of the economy including industry, agriculture, health care, financial services as well as public and consumer services.

Added to this is the expectation of students now paying £9,000 a year in tuition fees. Higher education is seen as much more of a transaction and students expect to be given the skills that make them employable. With expectations from government and students, higher education has a large responsibility in providing the relevant skills for a successful digital economy, to both staff and students.

What are digital capabilities?

Higher education agencies like UCISA and Jisc have come up with a definition and a framework for digital capabilities:

‘Digital capabilities are those that fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society.’

 

 

Digital capability covers a wide range of areas and is embedded in all teaching and learning. There is a big assumption that students these days are computer ‘savvy,’ and while they may spend a lot of time online and be comfortable with different applications and devices, that doesn’t necessarily translate to being able to evaluate information, analyse data, having a credible online identity etc.

The six elements of digital capability:

ICT Proficiency

Be comfortable using different devices, applications and services and know which ones to apply to particular tasks. An ability to keep up to date with ICT and deal with problems when they occur.

Information, data and media literacies

Being able to evaluate information, analyse it and present it in different settings, use data in applications like spreadsheets and databases to query it and run reports. An understanding of laws around data, like copyright and data protection. An ability to interpret and a critical approach to media messages.

Digital creation, problem solving and innovation

Present work and ideas using blogs, web pages audio and visual tools etc. Understand different digital research tools, analyse and present the results. Use digital tools in different settings to present ideas.

Digital communication, collaboration and participation

Effectively use forums, social media and other digital communication tools. Collaborate on projects and work with people from different organisations and backgrounds using productivity tools like G-suite. Use digital tools, social networking etc. to participate in online learning, professionally and personally online.

Digital learning and development

Be able to learn online, monitor progress and showcase achievements. To teach and design online learning opportunities.

Digital identity and wellbeing

Be able to project a positive digital identity across different profiles and understand the reputational risks and benefits of participating online. Use digital tools to pursue personal goals, manage work life balance online.

What next?

  • Digital capability needs to be seen as an institute wide responsibility, across all departments.
  • One of the first steps is to assess your own digital capability, this can be done using the Jisc Digital Discovery Tool, while this is aimed at staff, some institutions have used it with students also. There should be a student discovery tool in early 2018.
  • All opportunities should be taken to embed digital capability into the curriculum, staff and students should be encouraged to co-create digital resources.
  • Example digital capability profiles for staff (including support staff) and students. Jisc have made a start on this.
  • Make digital capability part of everyone’s Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and Performance Development Review (PDR).
  • Look at certification and accreditation.
  • Encourage digital good practice, offer rewards for innovative digital teaching and for student achievement.
  • Provide the digital infrastructure and university wide tools to allow students and staff to develop digital capability.

Further resources

Technology Enhanced Learning Team in DCQE

The IT Training Team in IS

Jisc – Building digital capability

The 2017 UCISA Digital Capabilities Survey Report

Jisc – Student digital experience tracker 2017

Dame Martha Lane Fox – Richard Dimbleby Lecture

@adrianjsharkey

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Podcasts – Listening In

Tom Langston

Header image used under Creative Commons Licence. Taken by Jonas Smith from Flickr

Podcasts are episodic audio files that can be automatically downloaded when they are publicly made available. The most familiar podcast congregator is iTunes. However, there are many other sites and apps that provide access to a vast range of podcasts. For iOS there is Overcast, Castro or paid options like Pocket Casts and iCatcher. On Android there is Podcast Republic and Player.fm both of which are free and very customisable.

Photo used under Creative Commons Licence. Taken by Kreg Steppe from Flickr

The wonderful thing about podcasts are that no matter what your interests are you are bound to find lots of podcasts that talk about them. You can listen to more common topics such as comedy, technology, sport and education to more specific podcasts that talk about the Arts and Activism!

Podcast are free but the big ones are subsidised through advertising and sponsorship. This can get annoying at times but is easily skipped or ignored until the program starts and keeps the rest of the process all free which is, I think, the key to what makes podcasts great.

Full disclosure… I have not actually listened to any of the podcasts I am about to list but using “education” as a search term using player.fm (an android and web-based podcast site) I find podcasts from named sources such as ‘Times Higher Education’ , ‘TED Talks’ and ‘The Microsoft Innovate Educator Spotlight Series’. However, there are also series produced by unknown individuals and groups who are just passionate about their subject.

Podcasts are a great source of opinion and discussion that you might not meet your normal sphere of work or study. The joy and fear of the internet reign with the ability for anyone to have a voice. Anyone can, but actually very few maintain the content but when they do it can be interesting to hear the evolution of a podcast from when they first start to what they release now.

It is also a great outlet to produce material around subjects you are passionate about. Podcasts (unlike vodcasts or video channels) can be produced on the smallest of scales. A microphone like the Snowball by Blue can be bought for £60 and used to produce high-quality audio recordings. On a Mac, the free program GarageBand allows simple quick recording and editing features, the same can be had on a Windows machine with Audacity.  The biggest commitment is that of the time to record your ideas and producing it as a continuing series. This can be daily, weekly or monthly but requires that regular input to provide content to those that might want to listen.

The choice of listener or producer is easy to start with. Start with just listening and it can give you that idea of how you want to produce or present a podcast you are planning. It may just be a passive activity providing you with ideas and thoughts to investigate that might help enhance your work.

With the relative ease that a podcast can be produced, it can easily be used to develop your learning and teaching practices. A feed from the podcast can be added as a block to a Moodle unit. This gives your site a dynamic content section that is always updating and progressing as you produce the resources for the podcast.

Working with podcasts around your subject matter could help contextualise problematic topics that slow down learning with some students. It can be used to talk broadly about your subject and bring in other areas of interest you don’t have time to cover in the traditional teaching avenues. This can then help develop the reading and activities a student has to engage with. A reading list is essential on every unit but with a potentially long list to try to get through an apathy could occur where it feels like there is too much, but through a book review section of a podcast or developing ideas citing your sources (that are all on the reading list), the student can engage with your enthusiasm towards the material and subject matter.

Considering the effort that can go into a podcast, it is a valid concern to as why should I bother producing anything at all, recent figures show that 1.7% of the time Americans spend listening to audio is devoted to podcasts. In late 2014, the BBC (a large producer of Podcasts in the UK) announced record figures for podcast downloads of its programmes. People are now able to listen on the go and are not limited by the technology anymore. With phones able to do what once expensive MP3 players could do, the limitation of where you listen has vanished. For students on a commute to university it might be a good chance for them to get into a learning mindset before they arrive, and as a podcast rather than a vodcast it can be listened to while driving as well as walking or getting public transport.

 

Is learning inevitable? Are teachers an essential part of the process?

Shaun Searle

Is now the right time to question our role in education?

In my previous role of ICT Co-Ordinator within local primary schools, one of the key components of my job was to source and purchase new technology for the school. I know the University are making large capital investments, one such example is the £11 million Future Technology Centre. With ever decreasing budgets and tightening of the purse strings, I had to research and plead my case, attend numerous Senior Leader and Governor meetings to stress how vital this technology was for learning and for future attendees of the school. There were many hoops to jump through and numerous games to play just to get a fraction of the budget I had bid for. So you can imagine my reaction when at a headteachers conference I was sat on a table with a very proud Headteacher who had just spent a large amount of money on 60 iPads with the aim to eventually ensure every child has one in the school. When quizzed on the reasoning behind this strategy, what confounded me was how little thought seemed to be behind this. Now there may have been an ICT Co-Ordinator working tirelessly in the background, who had a detailed 5-year plan to modernise the school but this wasn’t shared by the headteacher. “We haven’t thought that far yet!” “They can access the internet in class.” and “They can use them instead of writing in books!” as if the technology automatically is “better” than pencil and paper were later offered as reasons.

There is a lot of research and evidence that backs up the use of mobile technology in the classroom and it is my view that educators can use technology to support the learning of any subject. As is the importance of bringing the technology to the hands of the students rather than them having to trundle off to the antiquated computer suite. It did get me thinking about the technology first/pedagogy second approach.

Steve Wheeler

Steve Wheeler is Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at the Plymouth Institute of Education where he chairs the Learning Futures group and leads the Computing and Science education teams. Within his widely renowned educational blog Learning with e’s, he asked the question: What is Digital Learning? I would certainly recommend reading it but he does come up with two huge statements within it that bear thinking about. Firstly “Learning is learning. Whether you use technology or not is relative. Using the tools and technologies will enable you to connect with more content and peers, more quickly and effectively. However, learning without technology is also a reality for all of us”  before hitting home with the notion: “Here’s the bottom line: Learning will happen if the conditions are right, and it will happen whether teachers and technology are present or not.”

My background in both training staff in Primary and Higher Education is to promote the educator’s role as being one of the facilitator and technology is medium through which this is channeled or amplified. However, with the premise of flipped classrooms, student led research and truly constructivist approaches where students not educators dictate the direction that their learning takes (which in turn leads to new and unforeseen outcomes) – Do we educators overestimate our importance to the process?

Sugata Mitra

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to be in the audience for Sugata Mitra’s address at the Hampshire ICT conference where he discussed his Hole in the Wall research project. I would thoroughly recommend watching his 2010 TED talk where he outlines how he placed a computer with the internet in the slums and observed how children with no prior knowledge and poor English skills learnt on their own through a process of exploration, discovery and peer coaching when interacting with technology. He coined the term  Minimally Invasive Education which is a pedagogic method that uses the learning environment (or in this case a Learning Station) to generate motivation to induce learning with minimal or no intervention from a teacher. Further information about this can be found on the Hole-in-the-Wall website. While this study is aimed at younger students, I feel the research findings have merit with their Higher Education counterparts. The ability to access content, learn from it and most importantly retain it is enhanced, the overall academic improvement of the students and the close proximity to the performance of their peers who received formal computer education would certainly advocate a “let them loose with the technology” approach.

Final thoughts

We recently received a presentation from Chris Chang about the University’s policy on global engagement and it is fair to say that the makeup of our student intake is becoming increasingly diverse. It is not purely about what learning is imparted during lectures on campus, the use of Moodle as a supporting tool to encourage independent, self governed learning requires the pedagogists to think deeper about their audience and the intended learning outcomes. Distance Learners do not set foot on campus and do not get to see educators “in the flesh” but still are required to (and do) reach the same standard through further intuitive interactions such as webinars, forums and quizzes.  We are in a world where the modern student has unprecedented levels of access and connectivity with their peers around the world. Teachers/educators need to be fluid and change like the world around them. If the “way” in which we deliver education does not change then we may find ourselves in a world where our students or our institutions no longer need us to get to where they want to be.

 

 

Learning Technologies Conference 2017 – Reflection

Tom Langston

The 2017 Learning Technologies conference took place on 1st and 2nd February. There were two sections to the conference, the paid sessions and the open floor with free talks. The free talks were to some degree or other essentially sales pitches from trade stands on the floor. That being said, they did attempt to not be too “salesy” and provided some very useful ideas and concepts.

Learning Technologies to me implied educational technologies and this is very true about the subject matter and stands of the show, however, it looked at a wider sphere of corporate learning and systems that develop the skills required to train and enhance business learning.

I was keen to listen to as many of the shows as I could and had plenty of choice with about 81 free session to choose from. 11 Theatres (Open floor spaces) with sessions on a wide range of topics and varying perspectives on similar topics.

For the rest of this post I will summarise my notes from each session with key points that will help with your eLearning.

The sessions I attended were:

  1. Beyond the Buzz: use social learning to supercharge your training program
  2. Transforming the real learner experience
  3. OMG not another seminar about eLearning
  4. Harnessing the power of social learning
  5. (Traditional) eLearning is dead – here’s what the future holds
  6. Meet the modern learner: digital strategies to engage millennials

Beyond the Buzz: use social learning to supercharge your training program

Hosted by Docebo.

The session was ironically a lot of buzzwords and talked very little in depth about anything however the main focus was around the 70:20:10 model for learning.

Looking at how to blend formal, experimental and social learning with the split being 70% on real life experience, on the job experience and tasks and problem solving encountered through real world problems. 20% can be achieved through observation and social environments. The final 10% from traditional formal training including both face to face and online training.

It stressed that click through learning objects that are created as digital learning that might give you a quiz score and a tick to say the training is complete are not the only option to learning (This was actually a key feature of many of the presentations).

A progress line was illustrated along the Who/What/When/Why/Where idea that featured the focus of Who are the champions of the company, What can they share and offer, When can they offer this and how, Why should the information be learned? A reward system for the learner to achieve goals towards many tasks and Where can this all be hosted or acquired for others to develop their knowledge, A central location for knowledge transfer that is simple and easy to investigate is key to the process.

As this wasn’t a direct sales pitch some of the answers were left to the potential to talk to them on the trade stand and look at the product that they offer.

Conclusion:

It was an interesting starting session for the conference and looking back at my notes it actually echoes through all the session I attended. It offered a model of learning with experts available to talk through this, however reading subsequent literature the 70:20:10 model of learning has had criticism leveled at it towards the effectiveness of the model.

Transforming the real learner experience

Hosted by David Perring from Fossway.com

This session looked at the statistics behind a learners needs and key importance drivers, starting with “What makes a compelling learning technology?”

It was argued that as developers and educators we should hold higher ambitions than just acceptable. The role of acceptable is not adequate in the 21st century learners portfolio and each resource should be able to offer a great user experience and provide the information.

The question of key drivers behind what influences a good learning platform were ranked:

  1. Usability
  2. Deliver engaging learning experiences
  3. Expertise
  4. Ability to deliver learning impact
  5. Quality of partners and support
  6. Learner engagement features.

It was then asked, How can we improve with the increase in demand from many organisations to have more solutions for their learners to access content.

Surprisingly the figures had video resources as the key improvement, followed by Mobile, Blended and User generated content.

The top 5 demands of what a learning platform should offer the students were:

  1. Learner engagement
  2. Mobile learning
  3. Social / Collaborative learning
  4. Analytics and dashboard features
  5. A Virtual Classroom.

Many organisations focus on the short term operational performance but lose site of the long term and need to have a future readiness that can adapt to changing market places and challenges.

Fossway have developed PLASMA Learning.

Plan – What do I need to know?

Learn – How can I learn?

Apply – How am I using the information?

Sustain – What am I doing to achieve the long term learning goals?

Measure – How well am I doing with my targets?

Analyse – Where do I need to go next?

This model takes experiences that we want to create and looks at how to use the technology we have available to achieve that. Real learning experiences are not just the technology  but how we use it to engage the learners own learning.

It is not possible to assess learning through checklists and tick box activities, it is developed through a story and describes a journey of what a learning experience should be.

Conclusion

This was the most interesting talk of the day with a real look at the data behind the student experience. It clarified many of the ideas that we all now understand behind student learning and how the technology is key to the learner experience but is not the central point.

OMG. Not another seminar about eLearning

Hosted by Learning Heroes.

The presenter was very candid about the purpose of these free seminars and how they were offered to them due their investments in the show. The short session was focussed on old elearning skill vs the new skills required. The old model looked at the creator of resources, In-house production of materials. The new model it was argued was as the curator of materials. These would be a person that can gather information from multiple sources and evaluate the experience of other experts rather than being a subject matter expert. The ability to think laterally and find content for free over expensive charged for content.

This last part was not just about it being completely free but developing the model of a singular paid for experience per user, when you can source and disseminate materials for unlimited usage.

Conclusion

This was a very short session that felt under prepared (especially compared with the previous session). It had a the glimmer of a great idea regarding the way subject experts should develop and curate their learning information but it was lost in the fact the slides were uninteresting as was he about delivering it.

Harnessing the power of social learning

Presented by AstraZeneca

This felt irrelevant to me as from the start they were talking about compliance training for a corporate audience, however they underlined their ability to take a small team of developers and produce a resource that was beneficial to all the people within the company that required training.

The key message was that they got the end user to record and share their experiences of learning, and get others to ask questions of that experience so that everyone was learning from everyone else a little each day.

The importance of story telling and keeping information simple and understandable with the learner helping take the subject matter and distilling it down into relevant examples that then develop overall understanding.

They created a search feature for the question “How do I?” that provides each user with a blend of experience and activities that enable the learner to reach the answer to the question.

It showed again how it’s not just a tick box exercise to say you now understand the subject, or pass a test to show competency but an ongoing process of learning and reflection.

Conclusion

The session was interesting to hear a case study for the Fuse Universal product, but was focussed on compliance training.

The confusion for me came when after they finished the talk the showed a video (shot like a documentary) that was essentially the talk again. It felt that they had spent all this money on a video and decided they had to show it.

Traditional eLearning is dead what the future holds

Presented by Juliette Denny of Growth Engineering

This was the presentation that OMG (See above) wanted to be. The presenter was also dressed as a superhero (did I miss that bit out before?) but had a very positive attitude, well designed presentation and had worked hard to get the content and message to be understood.

They key point raised was this; eLearning assumes one off learning is effective. Create one resource, tick a box and you have learnt the subject. This is a flawed concept. Bloom’s Taxonomy was brought in and the idea that the goal should be to change behaviour of the learner, and key to that is making learning fun. Entertainment beats education, people want to play games and they gravitate to what they like. Learning can be seen as boring, but why should that be the case? Research from the University of Colorado shows that game based scores for activities are 11% higher than the equivalent standard test.

Mobile learning is also over taking traditional desktop learning, so the need to make content that is fun and engaging, competitive as well as multi device friendly is a major task. She posited that the human attention span has gone from 16 seconds to on 8 seconds (less than a goldfish at 9 seconds). This was why micro-learning is a more efficient way of learning for current students, apparently 17% more efficient but I was unable to get the data source for this.

Echoing back to the opening session of the day the idea of social reinforcement with 90% of learning being informal and the social aspect is the bridge into changing and adapting the learning behaviour. The idea is to make each area campaign driven and more exciting.

Conclusion

This was a very enthusiastic session and passionate towards the product that was being sold (albeit indirectly). Growthengineering.co.uk is the framework for creating competitive games that feed into their own LMS/VLE platform. They are working hard to change the approach taken by corporate clients but I am not sure that it would transfer to HE.

Final Thought

The conference was extremely interesting with a large selection of products on offer. The free seminars were interesting despite being a little sales orientated, there was still a lot of information worth reflecting on and transferring into our future decisions.

I still have a bag full of flyers to investigate and decide what might be worth considering for implementation.

The conference was vast and I hope to attend again next year as it drives learning within the business sector which will tie to what a HE institution should be offering students who study while on placement or within a role. For free, it was worth the money!

Image credits: http://www.learningtechnologies.co.uk/