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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Educational developers and learning technologists – a meeting of minds

Flowers at Wolfson College

I wanted to write some more about last week’s SEDA Digital Literacies summer school. Partly because I received a scholarship from JISC to attend which requires me to blog about the event, but mainly because of how much I feel I learnt during the three days. Here’s some of the things that a week on are really making me think:

  • There is a real skill in being a good staff developer and seeing the professional staff who ran the SEDA summer school has really inspired me to work harder at my workshops and really focus on outcomes and what people will be able to do at the end of a session.
  • I work in a really exciting field, where there are so many opportunities and a community of people with similar interests – in the past I had often thought it was only librarians who have this shared interest, but in fact learning technologists and educational developers have so many overlapping interests and we really need to work across the professions together.
  • Focus on pedagogy first, then tools and technologies – I think like anyone I am easily seduced by a new tool because I find technology fun and exciting, but I must remember that for many people it’s not fun, it’s quite scary and not something they feel confident exploring. I need to always focus on what they are trying to achieve, whether it’s related to their research or teaching and then see if there is a technology that can help.
  • I really need to think about indicators and collecting evidence that I am making a difference. This has come up several times recently as a recurring theme. I need to think about how the workshops I offer have an impact on staff and I need to collect evidence that information literacy interventions with students make a difference. But what are good indicators in these cases?
  • Working in learning technology is not all about knowing the latest tool, or being really technical, it’s actually about helping people deal with change and the most important skills I need are networking, listening to people and then understanding technology might be able to help them.
  • Finally don’t stop learning, ever! I came away from the event with a stack of things I wanted to read more about, to try out and a host of people to follow up discussions with. What a great place to be!

I actually have applied some of what I learnt already as I was helping to organise our team away day last week on Friday. Sue Thompson had used a technique called ‘clean questions’ at the start of the summer school as a way of helping us explore what we wanted to achieve during the 3 days. I tried this out with colleagues to help us explore how we work better together and how to engage with academics. I think they enjoyed it and we ended up with some fresh ideas, which I hope we can take forward. Sue Beckingham has made a Storify of the Summer School if you’d like to find out more. Thank you SEDA for a fantastic event and as a result I think we are going to become institutional members and I hope to get involved with the organisation further.

Turning my training into development opportunities

I’m really enjoying the SEDA Summer School, not just the beautiful Cumberland Lodge and the Great Park at Windsor, but the chance to meet lots of new people who share my interests and to really spend some time thinking about how to implement a framework for digital literacies at my own institution. I’ve enjoyed the sessions today, on digital identities, personal learning networks, open practice (by Lindsey Jordan from the University of the Arts) and a session on workshop planning facilitated by David Baume. It’s started me really thinking about what I call the ‘training’ that we offer in terms of digital literacy. The need to have a clear outcome from a session so you can evaluate if it really has been effective. The difference between aims, learning outcomes and actual outcomes. I have realised that some of the workshops I run perhaps don’t have a clear outcome for the participants, (or I don’t give them time to work so they can take something away!) and some of the training I do (hands-on how to create a blog, how to use Twitter) is much more outcome focused. An interesting observation, but I also heard so many ideas from other learning technologists on how to run training on technology enhanced learning, what works, what doesn’t. The need to run sessions on course design and what a good course in Moodle looks like, rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts of how to upload files! Of course people need to mechanics, but surely we can give them more than that, otherwise, no wonder they treat learning technologists like technologists and not curriculum designers, or people who might know about pedagogy. One to think about at our team away day on Friday this week perhaps? Also lots to reflect on for the sessions I run in the PGCert and I have a plan for a workshop on open education – thanks Lindsey!

SEDA Digital Literacies summer school

Paris in June

I’m really packing in the conferences at the moment. Last week I was presenting at CILIP at the Executive Briefing on Information Literacy. Emma and I were speaking about the New Curriculum and our presentation is on the CILIP website. The week before that I was in Newcastle for the first CILIP Academic and Research Libraries Group conference again presenting with Emma on the New Curriculum. And this week I’m staying at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park, attending the SEDA Summer School, which is entitled Academic Development for the Digital University.

This is my first SEDA event and I wasn’t sure what to expect, and what the other delegates would be like. I have been really pleased to find that so many of them have overlapping interests with me. There are quite a lot of learning technologists on the course, some librarians or former librarians and educational developers. We are each working on our own project while we are here, and I chose mine as being how to develop and implement a digital and information literacy framework across LSE for staff and for students. I want to build on the work of the ANCIL audit of undergraduates, which is mapping skills support provision, by proposing a framework for embedding information literacy into undergraduate programmes.

We started the day by considering in some details the outcomes and outputs of our project and considering how we might measure these. What were the indicators we would use to measure success of our project? I feel that if we were to repeat the audit in a few years I would hope we might see more joined up provision with information and digital literacy more explicit in undergraduate programmes. But also I would hope that we might be able to measure in some way that student achievement had improved across programmes that had implemented the framework. I would also hope it would have led to fewer concerns amongst staff about students not being prepared for study at LSE, so perhaps less cases of suspected plagiarism, less students booking appointments for skills support. And more positive feedback from employers about the skills of LSE students.

This afternoon and into the early evening we worked in small groups using a technique called action learning sets which was new to me, but proved to be a really great way of discussing our projects in turn. You have a set amount of time to talk about your project, then a set amount of time for 4 of the group to question you, you to reflect on the discussions and with one person observing the process and feeding back at the end. There were lots of overlaps and similar themes running through our projects, and I really enjoyed the session.

After dinner this evening, Lawrie Phipps from JISC spoke to us about what is different about digital, playing devil’s advocate that there is nothing that different. His talk is on his blog although Lawrie spoke without slides. He also talked about MOOCs, whether there is anything different you can do with digital and about the visitor and residents ideas of Dave White. More tomorrow though as now I must sleep