Lost in transcription

lost in the translation transcription

When time is tight and research squeezed into whatever’s left of the working week, it’s a case of learning on the job. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! There’s little time for being pragmatic or always having pre-event reflection. It’s more act first, think later. When it came to the interviews and transcriptions I made some mistakes but hopefully learned from them too. In June I listed ten tips for managing p/t doctoral research  http://suewatling.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/06/05/ten-top-tips-for-managing-part-time-doctoral-research/  Regarding interviews I can now include – with confidence – the following advice:

  • Test the volume, speed and microphone connection – every time.
  • Don’t rely on the recorder to preserve your data – back up back up and back up again
  • No biscuits – eat and talking don’t pair well.
  • Allow for pauses; the verbal gaps are not spaces for you to fill.

Transcribing my interviews was also an action orientated process. I slowed the recorder speed and typed. For hours. Every repetition, deviation and hesitation all faithfully reproduced. Apart from aching hands and an overheating laoptop it was ok. A folder of MP3 files and transcripts felt like real progress. Then I started DIY NVivo and realised I’d done it again. Gone in head, hands and feet first without reading the literature.

NVivo was a good point to break the habit and do some preparatory reading on text analysis and coding. Here I came across guidance on transcription.  Steinar Kvale says beware of transcripts – or was that be aware. The change of medium from verbal to written means within the process things risk getting lost or taken out of context. Transcripts are not transparent but can mislead – which will come as no surprise if you’re of the interpretivist persuasion. What was surprising were attitudes towards the process. Tedious, boring, onerous, time consuming – 1 hour of interview often compared to 5-6 hours transcription. I heard one lecturer on You Tube advocating paying to get them done, claiming he hadn’t transcribed for the last ten years. Silverman lists common mistakes made by external transcribers, many confirming the need to be aware or beware e.g. ever for never, formal for informal, was for wasn’t etc. I didn’t mind the transcription at all.

There’s no better way to start the process of getting to know your data than transcribing an interview. If it’s tedious and boring then something’s wrong.  The transcript is the first read through and a valuable opportunity to begin the mental mind map. A transcript is a verbal snapshot of the moment so should be verbatim, include all repetitions, deviation and hesitations, and be carried out by the researcher.   In the way photo-shopping is frowned on for misrepresenting the truth, so transcripts should contain attention to detail.  The transcription process is the end of the interview and the beginning of the data analysis stage. Not getting anything lost in the translation from speech to text is critical. Researchers are in positions of power and have a responsibility to record with accuracy everything that was said.

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Silverman, D. (1997) Qualitative research: theory, method and practice. London: Sage

The F word; how Women Against Feminism is ultimate weapon of gender inequality

Women Against FeminismWomen Against Feminism on Tumblr suggests feminism. is dead. It seems the feminist movement has divided women against women . The future doesn’t look good for the F word. It’s getting difficult to separate feminist fact from fantasy.

Last week Women’s hour gave airtime to some feminist issues. The 9 minute clip can be heard online.*  Ellie Mae O’Hagan argued a gender pay gap exists (see Guardian CIF) while Laura Perrin from The Conservative Woman blog claimed the only reason women get paid less is because they take time out from work to have children. Childcare has always been a a feminist issue. Women Against Feminism was cited as an example of anti-feminist feeling. 

Messages on the Tumblr site are mixed. In a world where the internet exposes all aspects of life around the planet, it’s hard to see what appears to be insulation against the greater global picture of gender inequality. Part of this could be Lasch’s Culture of Narcissism and how social media encourages a society of self, but the legacy of early feminism is also to blame. A niche occupation; the stereotype was butch man basher, but the reality more single, childfree, educated, white, western female. Feminism failed to support the role of mother, wife and home-maker. In the 80’s I thought I was feminist until the day I was denied access to a local Women’s Centre because I had my sons with me, while women with daughters could enter. This was the day I thought F**k Feminism, you’re not for me.

I think partly I was relieved. Having halted a career for my family, the unsympathetic portrayal of feminism in the media was unsettling. Early press coverage focussed on negative images and feminists were mocked unsympathetically. Outed as bra-burning, men-haters, female friendships became suspect as men were taught to hate these strident dykes with more hair on their bodies than heads. The labelling of women as feminist soon carried undertones of threat and violence. For evidence of structured inequality of the patriarchal kind, you didn’t need to look much further than this. Feminist calls for political and economic parity came with a price which disguised any genuine ambition for social change and the backlash continues. The female body remains subject to scrutiny. There has never been a more image saturated age and a young girl quickly learns her value is associated with her appearance. It needs sensitive parenting and educated curricula to change dominant cultural attitudes but you can’t call it a feminist agenda any more because feminism is being rewritten and gender discrimination reinvented as victim-hood as evidenced by Women Against Feminism

There are many signs lessons haven’t been learned and the F word is still a dirty one. As a political movement feminism continues to be divisive. Yet fighting gender discrimination is no different to fighting against marginalisation by age, religion, disability or any other cultural category. To make a difference to structural inequality based on  sex and gender, feminism this time around needs to be different – for a start it has to cater for all women and include men. But then it wouldn’t be feminism and that is the problem.

 

* In a perfect example of exclusive and inaccessible practice, The BBC offers no introductory text or transcript. You have to listen.

The contentiousness of cake; #GBBO14 is more than ingredient alchemy

Great British Bake Off banner from Twitter

The wisdom of crowds degenerates at speed into unwise slander and lies. Who’d have thought the Great British Bake-off could result in such vitriolic bile towards contestants  that this year’s bakers have been warned not to take part in ‘negative exchanges’ on social media and advised not to ‘read, engage or focus’ on any comments on their performance.

After all, it’s only cake.

Er nerr – the truth is baking doesn’t get more complex than this. #GBBO14 is much more than ingredient alchemy. If the adage ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ is true, then even the nasty Twitter Trolling is part of a bigger picture which includes generating publicity which feeds into potential book deals, celebrity status and stashes of cash – all for avoiding soggy bottoms and burnt bits.

Social media gives you a voice at the end of your fingers; tap, touch, swipe and you’re on Twitter, squeezing insults into 140 characters or less or setting up Facebook pages where personal, biased opinions, can be sieved, shaken or stirred. Say what you like online about the Great British Bake Off and large numbers do. The GBBO Facebook page has 404,916 likes – and rising – while @BritishBakeOff on Twitter is followed by 177K and more by the hour. This year includes the spin off show An Extra Slice which extends the pleasure or agony – depending on your views – as well as offering another twitter hashtag #AnExtraSlice. Here’s a show about a show. With a live audience and celebrity panel it’s stretching the brand. With photographs from viewers and contributions from audience members, it was cake, cake and more cake all the way home. A 30 minute bricolage of bake-related innuendo, clips from GBBO programmes (some you’d seen, some you hadn’t) and gender stereotypes stretched to their edge, it proved you can have too much of a good thing. For me the extra slice was one too many.

It’s sad to think social media has to come with warnings. Like calls on the news this week for wine bottles to carry messages about the dangers of alcohol and harmful effects of drinking. How much difference does it really make when abstinence is the only safe direction. Yet withdrawing from social media is not a practical answer; it has to much value for us to disconnect. The worry is taking steps to stay safe online and construct appropriate digital identities is not enough to protect from abuse as shown by the experiences of GBBO’s Ruby Tandoh in series 4 and Claire Goodwin from series 5 last week. The online trolls are massing and the remaining GBBO bakers will be the target.

Disparity between research into internet use and digital exclusion

Logo for the Office for National Statistics

The Office of National Statistics issues an Internet Quarterly Update. The Summary from Internet Access – Households and Individuals, released  7th August,  begins with the sentence ‘The Internet has changed the way people go about their daily lives.’  Well, not everyone although the point was tipped some time ago. ONS tell us 22 million households (84%) have Internet access this year. These statistics are not lying, they’re just not telling the whole truth. Apart from the 16% which don’t, access does not always equate with effective use. Digital divides remain. They’re getting  deeper as the prerequisite learning curves get steeper and this inaccessibility is also invisible thereby silenced more than ever before.

This week the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) announced the Empathy and Trust In Communicating ONline (EMoTICON) funds. The University of Lincoln will manage CuRAtOR (Challenging online feaR And OtheRing), a £750,000 project exploring social media and discrimination. As well as CuRAtOR, UoL will feed into Loneliness in the digital age (LIDA) led by Loughborough. Up to £3.7 million pounds was available under a cross-council Global Uncertainties, Digital Economy and Connected Communities Programme.

Also this week the crowd-funding platform Zequs launched a new appeal from UCANDOIT, a charity teaching people with disabilities to use computers with focus on the Internet and email. For examples of their work visit the UCanDoIT YouTube channel. Their appeal for public donations is called Getting People with Disabilities Online and Surfing. It aims to raise £5000 by 29th September and at the time of writing still has £4970 to go.   

It’s clear from the ONS Survey, people with disabilities are one of the most discriminated against sections of the population when it comes to internet access.

The 3.5 million disabled adults who had never used the Internet represented 30% of the adult population who were disabled. Of those adults who reported no disability, 7% (3.0 million adults) had never used the Internet. (Internet Access Quarterly Update, 2014:5)

In 2010 the Single Equality Act replaced the Disability Discrimination Act, making it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of eight protected characteristics including disability. It also broadened definitions of discriminatory behaviours to improve and extend protection.  Individuals with disabilities, in particular users of assistive technologies, are among those excluded from equitable internet access yet their digital discrimination is rarely discussed and even more rarely addressed.  The disparity between research into internet use compared to tackling digital exclusion is clear and itself serves to widen and deepen those increasingly invisible digital divides.

 

Back to the …piste… Hello Hello NVivo

NVivo software logoAugust is the busy month. I’m mostly on my own at work. There are advantages; I get the printer to myself and there’s no queue for the kettle.

I’m solo commuting. Playing the same cd over and over, loving the early morning colours of the corn fields and finally discovering leaving at 7.00 pm does guarantee an easy run home!

If you don’t read the detail of the OoO emails ……I’m away…. in Madagascar  ….sooooooo sorry…..back next month……..it’s ok. I’ve had the first meeting with my new supervisor. It went well. I have enough data. Maybe too much but that’s ok because in the PhD quadrant I’ve seamlessly segued into the third section; lit review and data collection behind, looking at data analysis and writing up. Wow! This is beginning to take shape.

Is it darta or date-a? Is this the castle and bath debate?

There’s been some reassuring pieces in the Guardian’s Academics Anonymous. I liked the one on older Phd study in particular the comments. Thank you strangers 🙂 Your reassurance towards late life postgraduate education was very comforting for this middle of the quoted age range academic.

  • I got my PhD at the age of 52
  • I completed my DPhil at the age of 57,
  • I got my PhD two weeks before I was 66
  • I met a man who was in his mid-80s and doing a PhD…

From here I slid into neighbouring pieces – like you do – click click….. another year older… I was drawn to a piece titled How to stay sane through a PhD: get survival tips from fellow students, but it was a bit depressing.

‘From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t matter much what discipline you belong to or which university you go to when it comes to developing chronic unhappiness.’

My PhD journey has not been easy but not chronically unhappy either.

‘We have to start by being honest with each other and ourselves, admit when we are struggling and then seek help.’

So it’s no coincidence the initial caps of this Anonymous Academic series are AA?  My name is Sue and I’m doing a PhD…

It’s interesting how the URL for this piece calls it mental-health rather than survival tips http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/mar/20/phd-research-mental-health-tips  I guess I’m lucky. My mental health is ok. Or as well as it can be – all things considering – and I think it’s one of the advantages of being er, um…. a little older. Hopefully, with age you learn how to deal with the less pleasant aspects of being. My Phd is a new learning experience but it’s also reinforcing what I always suspected about how knowledge is constructed and known, I just didn’t have the theoretical lens for expressing it. For me, this is a privileged position and I’m sure I couldn’t have appreciated any earlier in my life.

Moving onto data analysis will be interesting. Hello Hello NVivo, we’re going to get to know each other very well. In the meantime its back to the piste of epistemology, ontology and conceptualising the hundreds of thousands of what I love best – words!


“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young.” Mark Twain


Synthesising TELEDA; seven top tips for e-teaching and final #Bbworld14 reflections

TELEDA Top TipsFollowing #Bbworld14 advice to including audience takeaways, I synthesised TELEDA into seven top tips, supported by quotes from colleagues and recommendations for e-teaching practice.  I’ve already blogged about the value of stand-out titles when competing with high numbers of parallel sessions http://suewatling.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/07/25/bbworld14-re-imagining-education-and-the-importance-of-presentation-titles/  The size of #Bbworld14 emphasised how headline titles are an art worth collecting 🙂

Seven Top TELEDA Tips

TELEDA tip 1 busting myths of digital confidence

TELEDA Tip 1: busting Myths of digital confidence means not making assumptions about the use of technology

Everyone works differently. They might be less confident than you think but just disguise it well. The quote shows VLE are not only about technical competence  but have social and emotional challenges. Don’t make assumptions about how people feel psychologically as well as cognitively.

Recommends: build in time for a course induction. Have activities which encourage sharing aims and feelings, it’s good for e-learners to know others might be nervous about learning online and good for e-teachers to know what students are thinking about.

TELEDA Tip 2 awareness of text mis communication

 TELEDA Tip 2: awareness of text mis-communication

We’ve all had emails which leave you thinking mmm…. what do they mean by that? The absence of face to face clues makes it easy to misinterpret messages. The quotes reinforce the value of learning design and how online communication is different, sometimes scary. e-teachers should expect reluctance and be prepared for the possibility of mixed messages.

Recommends: discuss the advantages of digital text; how you can practice, reflect, edit, check spelling then paste when you’re ready. Have a net etiquette guide, either given or constructed during induction. Include the standard advice e.g. capital letters are shouting, emoticons convey emotions 🙂 😕 😎 and don’t be rude or offensive. If you wouldn’t say it f2f don’t say it online. If you would say it f2f it’s still not appropriate here!

TELEDA Top Tip 3 experiencing identity blur

TELEDA Tip 3: experiencing identity blur 

What do you call an e-teacher? It sounds like a bad joke but is a serious question. You hear tutor, trainer, moderator, facilitator, instructor but never e-lecturer. The status of teaching online isn’t high. e-teachers have to shift identity from  ‘Sage on the Stage’ to less visible and more silent ‘Guide on the Side’.

Recommends: knowledge is power so be prepared. e-teaching is complex and challenging but also an expertise in its own right. Done well, it’s a powerful tool for widening participation. Be proud of your e-teaching status and take every opportunity to share your practice.

activity based content

TELEDA Tip 4: adopt activity based content

Online resources have to guide, motivate, enthuse and excite students as well as retain them. Face to face sessions need to be redesigned on constructivist principles through an activity based curriculum. Interaction with content as well as other e-learners and e-teachers is essential for maintaining and completing the learning journey.

Recommends: set up online groups with forums, blogs or wikis and a choice of activities based on key texts. Ask for synthesis of core ideas through posters, mindmaps, presentation software, audio, video. Ask students to peer review and feedback summaries. Avoid replicating lectures with 50 minutes of talking head. Chunk content, be inclusive and always provide multimedia transcripts to suit all learning preferences.

TELEDA Tip 5 effective site signposting

TELEDA Tip 5: effective site signposting

e-teaching and e-learning are very different experiences to campus based education. They are often carried out in isolation and it’s easy to forget how a VLE like Blackboard might look like to a new user. Without the physical presence of colleagues or peers, it’s easy to get lost or confused so effective signposting is essential.

Recommends: be clear about the learning outcomes and ways to demonstrate them. Make sure e-learners know what’s expected and how they’ll be assessed. Give them your contact details and times when you’ll be available. Check links aren’t broken. Write weekly summaries which look backwards and forwards. Keep everything within two clicks from the Home page.

go do a mooc

TELEDA Top 6: do a MOOC

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) offer free opportunities to see other e-teachers at work as well as offering first hand experience of the loneliness of the long distance learner. You can dip in and out  and they’re great for ideas for designing content and enabling communication. Open Educational Resources (OER) are worth looking at too. These are educational materials made freely available through a Creative Commons licence.

Recommends: visit Coursera, the Khan Academy or Udacity for MOOC and JORUM or HUMBOX for OER. SCORE have a list of repositories. Look up Creative Commons licences; some encourage repurposing as well as reuse. Built activities around searching and evaluating free online content. Use social bookmarking like Delicious or Diigo  to collect links in one place.

TELEDA TIP 7 be prepared for a pedagogy of uncertainty

 TELEDA TIP 7: be prepared for a Pedagogy of Uncertainty

The challenge of e-teaching is not knowing what to expect. You don’t know who your learners are, or if they’re going to engage in your activities, and if not, you have to figure out if they’ve got lost or simply lost interest. It might be miscommunication or misunderstanding but following the six tips above will help avoid some of the commonest errors.

Recommends: be honest. e-teaching isn’t the easy option but the advantages outweigh the negatives. VLE offer genuine opportunities to widen participation in higher education, in particular for those with multiple time commitments. They also enhance campus experiences through encouraging independent and inclusive learning.  The future is digital and e-teaching is an increasingly essential craft and skill.

The ee’s have it; examining e-teaching as essential element of e-learning

Quote from Blackboard conference on supporting digitally shy to become digitally confident

The post-conference reflections continue…feeling more like a dream, snatches of memory here and there as the event fades under ongoing work weight.  My presentation title was ‘e-teaching; moving from digitally shy to digitally confident with Blackboard Learn’. The message was shifting institutional investment to the technology users rather than its maintainers or managers. Evidence from colleagues who teach and support learning, who’ve taken part in Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age (TELEDA), suggests examining the e-teaching element of e-learning has the potential to make a real difference.

“…I realise now how naïve I was in the past to simply open the discussion board with a question and expect the students to participate. As a tutor I have to make it possible for my students to participate through the design of my tasks…”

“… It seems obvious now that the lack of student engagement with my online resources was due to inappropriate design. I placed too much emphasis on text based, self-directed learning and  didn’t recognise the important roles of self and peer assessment, interaction between students and probably most importantly, investing time in building solid foundations and helping students develop skills for online learning.”

“…Being an online learner is confusing and disorientating. There is no tutor to check what you are doing ‘is right’…”

“As a tutor in the classroom you can be on hand to make connections for students or clarify activity instructions. This is less easy online, you have to almost pre-empt questions…”

In the beginning there was a triad of technology, students and teachers. The technology has been promoted as transformational, the student as in need of engagement, the teacher as…….errr…..well, maybe their time will come through the growing realising e-teaching is the missing link. With technology playing an increasing role in design and delivery of learning opportunities on and off campus, assumptions about digital confidence have to become more realistic.

Digitally shy teachers need to be digitally confident before they can teach online

The Blackboard people posted the first comment during the conference but it could just as easily have said the second 🙂

 

Taking Neil Selwyn’s new book Distrusting Educational Technology to #Bbworld14

Book cover for Distrusting Educational Technology by Neil Selwyn

Do you remember the great calculator debate? My trigonometry was learned with little books of Sine, Cosine and Tangent tables. It might have been the last century but it wasn’t that long ago. Did manual mental maths make me a better learner? No. It just used different parts of my brain. Progress through O and A levels was influenced by wider factors. My initial education was as socially divided and culturally defined as it is for millions of children today. One difference is the degree to which technology is now used for teaching and learning.

One of the books I took to #Bbworld2014 was Distrusting Educational Technology by Neil Selwyn. Travel is good for prolonged reading and Selwyn’s critical approach has always resonated. Calling on academics to question the perceived inevitability of technology, Selwyn writes how ET appears to do little to ‘…challenge or disrupt the prevailing  reproduction of social inequalities that characterise contemporary education’ (2014: 164). In the book, four areas to distrust are virtual,  social, open and gaming. On route to one of the biggest educational conferences in the world, presenting on e-teaching and ambivalent towards Blackboard, the chapter on distrusting the virtual seemed a good place to start…

…there wasn’t much good news.

Key issues in Chapter 3 Distrusting ‘Virtual’ Technologies in Education (pp 43-63) included the following:

  • VLE are being used for governance and performance management with active surveillance being presented as helpful and benevolent. The panoptican of analytics fits well with Foucauldian views of discipline and self-regulation. It’s not difficult to see how monitoring student clicks reveals less about their learning ‘experience’ and more about strategic approaches to assessment. I liked the expression the ‘silences of VLE’ or what is not known because it can’t be seen or monitored – mainly the human aspects of education which technology has been been good at replicating 🙁  Another risk of analytics is highlighting norms and privileging them, which in turn reinforces the power of the designer to replicate majority expectations of behavior.
  • VLE mostly replicate existing pedagogies rather than challenging or reinventing them. A reliance on transmission models privileges content production. Once resources are in place their delivery can be seen as something anyone can do which might raise questions about the need for qualified teachers in the first place.
  • VLE also raise issues of status, not only lack of it for teaching online but the liminal nature of virtual environments and identities. Many times on TELEDA and in the research interviews, colleagues have said it was challenging to conceive the person behind the digital name. Nearly all described how the virtual was less privileged and easier to neglect during busy times. In terms of working with others, group members (and myself) were perceived as Un-Real or Other. Despite all best efforts, the virtual teaching space remained an artificial one. Lack of status is further reinforced by the absence of an agreed name for e-teachers. Tutors, trainers, faciliators, moderators, instructors but never e-lecturer.

One inevitable conclusion is maybe ET doesn’t have all the answers after all and early promises of transformation through VLE were lies!

Later in the book Selwyn cites Braverman* on deskilling, Machines were introduced into factories under the guise of being improvements for workers when the reality was loss of human labour. Braverman sits within a specifically Marxist approach and there is a problem with politics which fall into the trap of critique from a corner. For me, challenging ideology is best achieved through working alongside existing structures rather than in opposition to them. Investing academic effort into highlighting problems without offering practical solutions is not helpful.

Aside from this, Selwyn is always worth reading. He reminds you technology is never neutral but represents value laden sites of unequal power relationships. We’ve all been seduced into accepting technological progress as unquestioningly positive. So much so, even voices suggesting elearning has failed can only offer solutions within the paradigm promoting belief in the magic if we could just find the answer – like application of more  rigorous theoretical approaches to content design and delivery*. Selwyn says those working with ET genuinely believe in its affordances. They are unable to see the underlying politics disguised as promises to cut costs, increase efficiency and choice, support diversity of access and produce self-directed learners. ET’s ideological foundations have to be revealed through critical thinking and reflection before we can see its shaping by dominant interests which seek perpetuation.

What’s the solution? Selwyn calls for bottom up approaches towards ET, giving voice to the marginalised and silenced, including those who teach and support learning. While technologists and managers make key ET decisions, the experience of day-to-day users often gets missed. TELEDA tries to bridge some of these divides by creating space for critical reflection but, understandably, most colleagues are focused on how to use ET to enhance the teaching of their subject and their students’ experience. While this is no reason to abandon the soapbox on digital exclusion and broader thinking around the adoption of ET, distrusting it seems likely to remain a minority occupation.

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Braverman, H. (1974) Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Reeves, T. C., McKenny, S. and Herrington, J. (2010) Publishing and perishing: The critical importance of educational design research. Proceedings ASCILITE Sydney 2010.

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

#BBWorld14 Re-imagining education and the importance of presentation titles

At BBWorld14 CEO and President Jay Bhatt talked about a ‘new era of education in a learner-centric world’. How Blackboard is challenging conventional thinking and advancing new learning models through their ‘product and solutions innovation agenda’. In short – Blackboard are reimagining the education experience.

BBWorld14 image for reimagining education

I’m not convinced the ‘problems’ are so different today. Education has always been socially divided and culturally defined. The Blackboard machine is promoting a view which suits its purpose and in a digitally divided world seems to be missing opportunities to ensure equitable access. Selling a technology dependent on the internet provides ideal opportunities to draw attention to digital exclusion and fund projects which ensure connectivity where it doesn’t exist or is problematic. Blackboard as a company could make a real difference. At BBWorld14 I saw several presentations around accessible content but nothing on issues of exclusion from Blackboard itself. The ways forward seems to be data driven approaches to improving performance through analytics; monitoring who clicks what, where and for how long.

Presenting education as problematic also offers opportunities to provide solutions and the list of Blackboard promises is a lengthy one. They include increasing enrolments and retention, addressing multiple learning styles, preferences, and requirements, coping with changing student needs, engaging active learners and reaching non-traditional students. Phew! There are also the economic drivers; keeping institutions competitive with new business models to grow enrolments, improving yield (? whatever that means) and reducing the cost of recruitment.

These were the messages but what was it really like?

BBWorld14 was a conference on multiple levels. Techie, K12 and HE all in one place made for interesting casual conversations. Beyond personal politics or philosophy, Blackboard at institutional level is about enabling teaching and learning and the best part of BBWorld14 was sharing cultural variations on practice. With over a dozen parallel sessions there was plenty of practice to share. I stayed with the practice theme, looking beyond the hype and marketing to the differences of virtual environments. The choice challenge reinforced the value of headlines. Stand-out titles included 50 Shades of Data, Blackboard Ate My Homework, Tame the Dragon! Whip Your Course into Shape and Nightmare on LMS Street. The next layer of persuasion were those which promised takeaways; Secrets Exposed, 10 Steps, 5 Ways, 3 questions.

The session which combined them all was A Mission NOT Impossible: Teaching How to Teach Online with Blackboard with an abstract inviting delegates to share how this was done during which ‘Chocolate will be served!’ but I missed it – there was too much to choose from.

At times choice was influenced by distance. The Sands Conference Centre is huge. Comments on TripAdvisor say wear comfy shoes, there’s a lot of walking. I should’ve checked this out before not after. It could take every one of the 15 minutes between sessions to move between some locations. TA also advises warm clothes. With an outside temperature of plus 40 degrees, by Day 2 I was cold from the over ambitious AC. Plenty of shops but no cheap ones and everything  at the lower price range was pink and sparkly which might be appropriate for Vegas but  less so for work or the allotment.

Sands Conference Centre

I took mixed messages away from BBWorld14

On the one hand the corporate Blackboard razzmatazz was a long way from the realities of supporting staff and student shifts to virtual practice. It’s a global industry promising solutions to educational problems. many of which might benefit from a human touch as much as a keyboard.

On the other hand, conferences like BBWorld are full of people who care about education and the opportunity to meet and discuss cultural difference and similarities across this shared passion is invaluable; it reinforces why you work in the sector in the first place and extends and enhances the ways in which you function around online environments.

What was missing was strategic attention to the e-teaching component of e-learning

Blackboard’s claims to be learner-centric can miss the experience of staff who teach and support students. My presentation on e-teaching was informed by TEL reports from UCISA, HEA and MNC Horizons which all call for investment in resourcing the digital confidence of teachers as well as students. The Blackboard focus on technologists and management who drive and buy the technology, with the student as incentive, misses those who are digitally shy. These are daily users who’ve never been centre stage yet the relationship between learners and teachers is inseparable. If Blackboard is serious about reimagining education, it would do well to rethink the virtual experience of staff and faculty as much as the students they teach.

Storify of the event https://storify.com/suewatling/bbworld14-sue-watling-1 

With hindsight there were similarities between the layout of the presentation room and this slide I used in my presentation. The stage was higher than it looks on this picture – or maybe just seemed it – that lectern was very close to the edge…

similarities between 21st and 14th century lecture spaces

image of 14th century lecture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholasticism#mediaviewer/File:Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001.jpg 

social media selfies from #BBWorld14 – the moral of storify is think before you link!

Twitter is the ultimate in contagious self-promotion. With over 2500 delegates at #Bbworld14 it was a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Social media is one of the few ways to achieve a permanent  ‘presence’.  In every session I attended the majority were heads down working on a mobile device. I understand this. Apart from the ease of making digital notes, the tweeting  motivation was strong. You don’t travel all that distance to be invisible.

There are multiple layers to social media as well as a multitude of options and #BBworld14 made good use of them, as you would expect. Even the Twitter Wall was huge!

Twitter Wall at BBWorld14

In the world of social media your audience is often singular and cen be seen in the mirror. My Twitter stats from the event might be derisable to some, but for me they’re now a challenge to emulate!

BBWorld14 Twitter Stats

This tweet was picked up by one of the Storify collections which inspired me to make my own very first Storify Story using tweets and photos from the event. I was impressed with the ease of the software. It does all the work for you and easily brings together any content with your name on across a whole range of social media. I linked it to Twitter and Fickr to produce a useful reminder of the event.

Storify at BBWorld

 

Lastly, I became 4130th person to be followed by @Blackboard!  🙂

BBWorld blog mention

Our digital identity is integral to digital literacies. Social media platforms make it easy for mistakes and the permanent nature of digital footprints mean errors made in haste can truly be repented at leisure. Whether Google will agree to taking down something you later regret is another issue but for the majority of people ‘think before you link‘ is essential. Sometimes it’s less about your own actions and more about the social media actions of others. Storify listed everyone who appeared in my #BbWorld14 story with an option to contact them and it was surprising how many faces showed up which I’d forgotten I’d included in tweets.  Not all social media does this. Maybe they should.