Reflecting on the SEDA summer school

FlowerBack in July I attended a three day summer school focusing on digital literacy and organised by SEDA (Staff and educational development association). As it is a few months after the event David Baume who was the key facilitator of the summer school, has reminded us we agreed to write a blog post on the impact of the event. I’ve already written two posts as I got a huge amount out of the event, but it is useful to take stock a few months down the line.

The summer school came at an incredibly busy time for me as I had a seemingly endless number of conference presentations between March and August this year. I was feeling quite overloaded at the time of the summer school and a bit giddy from all the travel. At one point a few days beforehand I was seriously contemplating withdrawing from the event. I am so glad I didn’t. It was undoubtedly one of the best development courses I have done since the Springboard programme around 7 years ago. But why was it so good and what outcomes has the summer school had? Well I’ll try to explain.

Firstly some direct outcomes. 1) Networking and contacts with like minded professionals. Prior to this conference I believed that the profession I felt most affinity with was the library and information world. Despite working in learning technology for over 10 years I often felt the core of my interests fell outside this profession. Sure I’ve been to ALT and heard people talk about digital literacy but the SEDA summer school was full of like minded learning technologists and educational developers and for me I felt like I had come home. I felt the searching to find where I fit was over and I was in the right profession after all. I have now added numerous people added to my network and in fact only one person on the summer school I knew previously! I’ve stayed in touch with people and even met up for lunch with one person since.

2) A new sense of understanding about my role. I mentioned often not knowing where I fit as a librarian and researcher working in learning technology. And in fact by acknowledging this was a new overlapping profession that led to tension because of how it causes changes in higher education, I returned to work with a new insight into my role and the place of learning technology. We do overlap with other staff all the time in terms of the knowledge and expertise we have but that is a good thing and means we can make links everywhere and relate to other staff. However I felt I returned to work with a new understanding of the need to be respectful of professional boundaries and in my enthusiasm for new ideas, to be aware that other people may have good reasons for resisting change and may see change as a threat. Therefore I need to give some thought to how new ideas are presented and work to bring people with me, by understanding their motivations, concerns, interests etc.

3) Greater understanding of the role of a strategy. I started the summer school with the idea of working on developing a digital literacy strategy for staff and students at LSE. No small task, but hey I like a challenge. By the end of the programme I had started to really question what I meant by a strategy and how a piece of paper, a statement was not going to really change people’s minds or make a difference. I realised that there were a whole host of things that were essential to making a strategy successful, including a body of evidence, some key champions in high places, a robust staff development policy to underpin the strategy and some clear outcomes of how having such a strategy would improve learning and development at LSE. So, in essence I realised the problem was a whole lot bigger than I had thought, but as I said I like a challenge. And I hope I might have some key champions at a senior level. I am in the process of writing up all the evidence I have collected and so I feel I am well on the way to progressing my project while realising that the strategy is only the start of the process.

What else? Well LSE have agreed to join SEDA, which means we can benefit from more of their events, but also their publications and networks. I also think I have realised the importance of spending some time away from the day job to really think through a problem. And trying out new techniques. We used ‘action learning sets’ at the Summer School, with some degree of success. We also had a session where we tried an exercise using ‘clean questions’ which I used during our team away day with some success. And I’ve got Lindsey Jordan, who was one of the speakers at the summer school, coming to LSE next year to do a seminar on open education. Writing it all down like this I realise I got a huge amount out of this event. Thank you to David, Carol, Sue and Sue. Can I come back next year please?



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