On finding a place and space to reflect

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently, for those following the Copyright Literacy blog, it’s been a fairly hectic few months. Since starting my new job in April I’ve been to Latvia to speak at a Media Literacy conference in Riga, I’ve been to Southampton Solent to the UCISA Digital Capabilities event. Then I’ve been to pretty much every CILIP conference going (the CILIP Copyright Conference in April, CILIP Wales in Llandudno in May, CILIP Scotland in Dundee in June and the main CILIP Conference in Manchester in July). At pretty much all these events I was speaking about copyright education and the work I’ve been doing with Chris Morrison. And in fact in less than two weeks the road trip continues as we’re off to Wroclaw, Poland to speak at an IFLA joint offsite meeting organised by the Copyright and Legal Matters Advisory Committee and Information Literacy Section Committee. We had an exciting July as we launched version 2.0 of Copyright the Card Game. The content has been updated and amended and the cards have been re-designed with a more professional brand. We even have a colour palette which I am particularly pleased about because I had a lot of input into that.

However, one thing that has become clear to me over the last few months is that I’m not employed as a library and information professional anymore (arguably I wasn’t really at LSE I suppose!) and so I’ve been thinking a lot about my interests and how they might be evolving. I remain interested in copyright, information and digital literacy as it’s such an important part of learning. I can see that not knowing how to find, manage or use information can seriously hamper people’s chances of success. Understanding copyright is not central to all disciplines, but it does impact on many lecturers and teachers when they share content with their students or with colleagues. It also is something that students need to think about not just in creative subjects, as they are increasingly producing content they want to share online.

I’m about to start teaching in early September for real (I’ve dabbled a bit over the last few months), on the Learning, Teaching and Assessment module of the MA in Academic Practice at City, University of London. I’ll be teaching about learning theories, learning environments and approaches to teaching in the first workshop. In preparation I’ve been reading up on educational development and learning theory (it has been a while since I studied this stuff!) I’ve been drawn to the work of Donald Schon, partly because I see him on our reading list, partly because I think reflection is really important, and also because I’ve started to read what he had to say about change.  I remembered how Emma quoted from him in her ANCIL theoretical background report – she used this quote to preface the study:

[O]ur society and all of its institutions are in continuing processes of transformation ….We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions. We must, in other words, become adept at learning.” Donald Schon, 1973.
Schon also wrote about reflective practice, which is hugely influential in educational development. The idea of reflecting in and on action, is something many of us may do as teachers. Reflecting in action is sometimes described as ‘thinking on our feet’ and involves looking to our experiences, our feelings, and attending to the theories that influence us. Through this we can build new understandings to inform our actions in a situation, as it unfolds. However I think the important thing is to ensure we record these experience, observations and feelings soon after they happen, to really benefit from them. This is what Schon called ‘reflecting on action’ where we write up, talk through with a colleague and explore why we did what we did. This is really important to help us develop our own ideas and questions about our practice. I think you can avoid being overly critical when things go wrong, but reflection is so important to help us improve our practice.

Change, transformations and adaptation are a good thing, but they can be hard work, so it is important to reflect on where we are, where we’ve come from and where we are heading. With that in mind I’m working on adapting one of the resources I developed in my copyright education, on creative approaches to learning. It’s a new set of cards, so far there are just three suits, but I am working on a fourth, to make it a nice compliment to the copyright card game. I have cards for learning theories and for learning (or teaching) approaches. I plan to create a set of cards for learning environments (lecture theatres, online learning, flexible classroom), and then perhaps I need discipline and level of students, which is of course where any planning needs to start. I don’t think teaching is a pick and mix approach, but I think that being exposed to a variety of different scenarios and approaches helps teachers come up with some more creative approaches to learning. So many of the lecturers at City I’ve spoken to recently are concerned about student engagement and relying on lectures and expecting students to do further reading is pretty much the bare minimum these days. It’s difficult, because we don’t want to fall into the rhetoric of saying that our learners have changed and need more engaging teaching, as we have further evidence that digital natives do not exist from Kirschner and De Bruyckere. But I think student expectations have changed, with far greater numbers of students coming into higher education, from a wider variety of backgrounds, we can’t afford to be complacent and adopt a sink or swim approach. We owe it to all our students to help them be the very best they can, and that means helping the lecturers be as best they can too. I hope that is what I’m going to do this term!

It really has been quite a period of change and on my days I don’t work for City I’ve started doing some freelance work, including some copyright consultancy for several universities. I am also in the middle of a great project working with Learning on Screen to better understand the needs of the education sector for copyright advice related to audiovisual materials. It’s great to work with friends and Team J’seskimo as we jokingly called ourselves (Lisa Jeskins, Chris and I) have run a survey, two focus groups and are currently in the middle of telephone interviews and analysing the survey data.

And not being a librarian has finally meant I need to start addressing some of my short comings. I am fed up with being dreadful at organising my own information, particularly my paperwork, but generally all my stuff. I’m a bit of a hoarder and I am desperate to change. Having so many things to juggle means I have to be better organised and so I’ve been using some leave to have a house tidy up and clear out. I’m not exactly embracing Marie Kondo principles, but I do keep repeating William Morris’s saying of having ‘nothing in your house that is not beautiful or useful’. It’s a slow and painful process, one room at a time, but I do think that to organise my mind, I need to de-clutter and be surrounded by the things I need and love to inspire me (although I don’t need two cats sitting on my desk and paperwork all the time). I’ve also decided to sign up for a mindfulness course. I’m hopeless at switching off. My idea of taking a break recently has involved just having two devices on the go and not looking at Twitter for 15 minutes. However, I realise to think clearly I need to get outside much more and start walking and being in green places, visiting gardens and going on long walks by the sea. A few days down in Dorset earlier in the week showed me that and then I read this article on walking.

I’m looking forward to autumn, I’m sure there will be plenty going on and plenty of challenges along the way. I’ll be making time for reflection, sharing my successes and failures (I love that Thomas Edison quote about not failing but finding 10,000 ways that don’t work!). I’ll hopefully be a bit better organised, and more mindful, but most of all I know I will be learning a lot along the way.

On following your heart

Jane in RomeSome of you know I’ve been on the Aurora programme since October. It’s a women’s leadership course and I’m enjoying it immensely, not least because of the wonderful women I’ve met, the inspiring workshops and the great readings and resources you get introduced to. I love a Ted Talk and its difficult to know which I’ve enjoyed most, from Amy Cuddy to Hillary Clinton. This week I particularly enjoyed Simon Sinek on what makes for successful leadership and starting with why and Dan Pink on ‘drive.’ What has really resonated with me is focusing on why we do things, not so much what we do when trying to explain it to people.

It became clear to me last year that I love teaching and research and inspiring others to use information and technology for their own and others learning. So I’m delighted to be able to officially announce that from mid April I’ll be following my heart, taking up a new role at City University, as Senior Lecturer in Educational Development based in Learning Enhancement and Academic Development(LEaD). I’ll be focusing on educational technologies, digital literacy and hopefully looking to support and develop open practices. Its going to be a really exciting opportunity as I’ll also have more time to pursue the things that interest me, as the post is 3 days a week. But I’m really excited to be joining such a great team, and of course just moving up the road!

I’m going to be very sad to leave LSE where I’ve worked for 15 years. I have wonderful friends and colleagues and I’ve loved working here. LSE has given me so much, including the ability to have considerable autonomy to learn and develop myself, while providing copyright and digital literacy advice for the institution. But its time for me to do something new and I’m not leaving anything behind, but building on all my experience and networks. Copyright and information literacy remain my passion and I’ll be infusing all I do at City with that perspective. I’ll continue my professional work in both these areas, remaining the Chair of the CILIP Information Literacy Group and staying firmly involved in the UUK Copyright Working group. So it is onwards and upwards for me and I hope you will follow me on my next step in the journey of life!

Teaching in a Digital Age (TiDA) launched

Street art in Georgtown, PenangLate last year and early this year I was seconded to work in the LSE office of the University of London International Programmes team. I developed several new digital literacy workshops for them which I ran out in Singapore and Malaysia. However most of the time was spent working on developing a pilot online course for teachers.

I decided early on to base this on a 23 things model which I’d seen work at Cambridge University Library and at Oxford who ran a 23 Things for Research. There was also a very popular 23 Things for CPD and a 23 Things for Digital Humanities. My course is called Teaching in a Digital Age (TiDA) and it is being piloted over the next 7 weeks in 4 institutions- including LSE. I have around 20-25 students taking the course who are all teachers from Malaysia, Malta, India and London and it’s based on a blog. This week students have to set up their own blog, register it with us and write their first post. I’m really excited to see the blogs being set up and to read comments from all the students. Three of my colleagues in LTI have joined the course so it’s great to have their input! If you would like to follow what we are up to, then it’s all available on the blog, and as this is a pilot I’d be really grateful for any feedback!

Embedding digital literacies: strategies and managing change

Reflecting the learning landscape

Today I attended a workshop in the Changing the Learning Landscapes series. The event was held at the University of Leeds and several familiar faces from HEA projects and from last year’s SEDA Summer School were facilitating the day. The first session was by Lawrie Phipps, from JISC who spoke at the Summer School last year. He made some good points about, when we speak to students, which students do we hear from? Who are representing students, on committees and in surveys? He asked us to collect our thoughts about what digital literacies students need to be effective learner. They are online and he also made the distinction between scholarly practices, information and media processes and socio-technical processes were are evolving at different rates. Lawrie also recognised that a lot of digital literacy work builds on the work librarians have done for many years around information literacy. He asked us about some of the barriers to change and inevitably the reward structure in HE came up. He also urged against putting digital at the start of things as it focuses the mind on the technology, which is not what we want to do. It’s about underlying practices. JISC have a lot of resources coming out of the Digital Literacies Design Studio, including an audit tool and various models such as the pyramid from Beetham and Sharpe.

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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.

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