In Week 4 we’ve been sharing pedagogical patterns, engaging with the BOTWOO concept (Building On The Work Of Others), been patronised (‘This is what we all do as researchers, but do much less as teachers. Teachers don’t find it that easy’) and partially ignored (many in the DIY Multimedia group and in Cloudworld are learning designers external to education; I’m in HE but not a ‘teacher’. The diversity of participants seems unrecognised yet we’ve agreed on the importance of designing for your audience and learner context in week 3. It’s been a good week – honestly – but maybe not in terms of MOOCing. I don’t mean to be grumpy – but OLDsMOOC is reinforcing some of my attributions and I never like it when that happens. In Week 4 I investigated the PPC Pedagogical Patterns Collector using the Pedagogical Patterns Collector guide but didn’t get very far – other than finding myself here in Week 5 and looking at making prototypes of my learning activities. Now we have moved into the realms of fantasy. I don’t know how to access to a programmer but I know I want one!!!
As if this were not enough cause for frustration, then the Wk 5 video transcript simply depressed me. I wanted to capture the part of the Week 5 video where DL compares ‘...something you can do yourself like a PowerPoint or sequence in Moodle‘ to how you communicate your idea for a digital design to a programmer. I thought this was a useful reminder of the digital divide between technologists and the day to day experience of most academic staff, but got sidetracked on finding the transcript is an image and this defeats the objective of providing one. Week 4 transcript was pdf. Not ideal but it could be copied into Word albeit with inconvenient line breaks. Text as an image is useless and misunderstands the potential of digitally inclusive practice. http://www.w3.org/WAI/PF/HTML/wiki/Media_Accessibility_User_Requirements
In DIY Multimedia we’ve stressed the importance of alternative formats from the beginning and it’s been reassuring to share awareness of the importance of this element of learning design. Providing digital content in a single fixed format assumes the MEE Model of computer access where users work via a Mouse for navigation and their eyes and ears for images and sound. This fails to reflect the diversity of ways people use computers and access the internet but the MEE Model underpins 99% of digital content. Learning designers have a critical role to play in challenging the limitations of single formats while championing the inherent flexibility of digital data to be customised to suit individual requirements.
One of my many problems with MOOCs is the divide between their potential and the reality. I blogged last week on the EPIC 2020 and Turning Point 2012 videos which present the threat posed through mass education by MOOCs. Back in the late 1980’s, the founders of the internet heralded the internet’s potential for democratic access. This isn’t happening and some days trying to keep inclusive practice high on the agenda feels like hard work.
Condensing the complexity of digital literacies is always a challenge. At the recent Student Staff Conference on Future Learning, I reduced them to professional practice with social media and how SM might best support teaching and learning. SM and the use of mobile technology has relevance for learning design. It can be disconcerting when an audience appears engrossed in their digital devices but banning them is not the answer. Finding ways to maintain engagement with the subject matter while constructing an agreed code of conduct is more realistic.
This short video on the potential of digital technologies for education is a useful introduction to the concept of digital natives and immigrants. First outlined by Prensky in 2001, the digital dichotomy is now acknowledged as more complex than division by age and more related to use e.g. the CIBER report on the research skills of young people and Carr’s polemic Is Google Making us Stupid.
A decade after Prensky, learning design has shifted from constructivism to connectivism, with both support and critique, but also some consensus. When it comes to technologies, education is less about the tools and more how they’re used. With regard to social media the debate includes appropriate and inappropriate behaviours, in particular in lectures and seminars. Wherever learning design incorporates ‘real-time’ collaboration and/or interaction via social media it raises issues like shopping on eBay or personal tweeting irrelevant to the subject. This is part of the wider digital debate around personal versus public online identities, which in itself is only one component of digital literacies. An agreed code of conduct may be one way forward. Most discussion forums now include guidelines for appropriate use and behaviour and finding consensus on the use of mobile technology in teaching and learning is no different to agreeing capital letters equate to shouting and personal abuse will not be tolerated.
Digitally literacies are embedded in individual personalities making it hard to pull out a one size fits all model of use. New technologies amplify the affordances of traditional tones like pen and paper. We all doodle in learning situations. Doodling in itself can be a form of reflective practice. Today there are more choices on the formats that doodling can take and learning design learning needs to take the ever changing nature of ways of being, seeing and doing into account.
The design of learning is a continually evolving science, not least because space between users and non-users still exists. Replication and reinforcement of digital divides is less visible, but in the push to use social media to empower student voices and flip the classroom, technology remains exclusive. In an increasingly digital society enabling/disabling binaries are more relevant than ever. The potential for digital exclusion should not be forgotten.
More and more people are using the YouTube caption tool in the belief it offers information in an alternative format but it doesn’t. If it wasn’t so serious, you could say it offers a laugh – like the example above which shows the caption for all Student’s Unions, Associations and Guilds – and there are many other examples in this video alone which demonstrate just how much the caption tool is tokenism.
Multimedia has great potential for teaching and learning. It suits a range of learning preferences and offers variety and interaction with content. However, to be inclusive it needs to be provided in alternative formats and this is the step most people miss. If you use YouTube captions take the time to check them out; the chances are they’ll be to poor to be of any real value.
At last the government acknowledges digital exclusion is about more than access to technology – it is also about the quality of that access. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20236708 Digital literacies are moving centre stage. This is reassuring. For too long the focus has been embedding technology into systems or attention to early adopters pushing the boundaries. It’s time the user experience received some attention.
This past year the JISC Developing Literacies Programme has funded projects designed to embed core digital skills into the curriculum. JISCs definition of digital literacy is those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society. Within HE they give examples of using digital tools to undertake academic research, writing and critical thinking; PDP and showcasing achievements. But it’s not easy to package digital literacies into any single box and this makes strategic approaches to supporting their development a tricky task.
A report commissioned by Go On has concluded 16 million people in the UK lack basic online skills; defined as using a search engine, sending and receiving emails, completing online applications and accessing information online. Organisations are pledging to train their employees in these four areas. This barely scratches the surface when the full implications of digital engagement are set out. Broader digital literacies have become essential life skills for example personal and financial safety online, the permanence of digital footprints and hard criticality with regard to online content. In an unmoderated environment, the evaluation of authenticity and authority lies with the individual user. Distinguishing between knowledge information and personal opinion is an increasingly essential art – and not always an easy one.
Being let loose on the internet can be exciting and inspiring. It can also quickly become a nightmare. Digital literacies have moved on from the skills required to access virtual environments, although there is a danger these are assumed more than are in evidence. However, I’m not sure they have moved far enough. There are broader issues around living in a digital society which are surfaced less often. Any attention to digital literacies is good but the attention has to be focused in the right places for it to be truly effective
A recent Edudemic post addresses the non-use of teaching technology. The reference to teachers who are ‘not comfortable with technology’ resonated. They may be more of them than is often realised. Change is always a challenge and adoption of technology for teaching requires major shifts in practice. Support for the process is essential, either through staff development or teacher education. The Edudemic post claims the amount spent on technology for schools in the US is rising while professional development budgets are decreasing or non-existent. Here in the UK, it can sometimes seem resourcing for staff engagement with technology is not sufficiently prioritised. Competition for funds has never been greater yet digital literacy has not only become plural it’s become complicated. Keeping up to date with is hard enough when you work with the technology. For those at the far end of the digital spectrum, it can seem impossible to even know where to begin.
There is a growing need to support staff to use technology effectively. Without investing in resources to bridge the divide between teaching and technology, staff cannot develop the prerequisite confidence with virtual learning environments. Embedding OER Practice at Lincoln, now in its final weeks, showed how staff engagement with the internet for teaching and learning doesn’t happen in isolation. It happens with appropriate targeted support, customised to suit individual disciplines and personalities. It works best within small groups of shared practice and requires initial scaffolding which can be withdrawn for use elsewhere as the affordances of being online are realised and the necessary skills and competencies embedded into day to day practices. The review into the future of the institutional VLE offers an appropriate opportunity to also review the way in which digital literacies are defined and resourced across the university. The internet and all its associated tools for learning are not going away any time soon. The more we invest in their use the better that use will be.
The ongoing VLE Options Appraisal is a useful opportunity to look at the wider issues around virtual learning environments. VLEs have come a long way since Dearing* but in terms of keeping up with wider developments on the internet, in particular the move to openness and connectivity, they can sometimes look a little out of date.
Open academic practice and the rise in content management systems are examples of formidable challenges to the VLE. Compare a locked down password protected environment to contemporary social media and you’ll soon find support for the VLE critics who say it is a staff driven content store, low on genuine pedagogical interaction and pretty ugly too.
So has the VLE failed? No, I don’t think so. It might never be the number one choice of personal learning environment but it has untapped potential. Rather than be critical of the tool, it may be worth investing more in research not only on the way it is – and could be – used within the institution, but exactly what staff need to get started – as well as to get innovative.
Over the past decade a giddy variety of technologies have been personalised for education. Their mix is both widening and deepening the gap between active users and those who are less confident with online practices. Innovation tends to be led by those with digital thought patterns who sometimes find it hard to conceive of worlds where paper and pen are preferred. The word learning needs to be added to technologist. Learning technology describes roles which can bridge the gaps between technical support and pedagogical design for teaching and learning in a digital age. Outputs from the JISC Digital Literacies programme will be useful but how broadly they’ll be disseminated to those who have yet to move beyond uploading content and horizontal browsing remains to be seen.
Unless we shift from the tool to the user then the full potential of any VLE cannot be realised. The VLE Options Appraisal is an opportunity to look beyond decisions based on the cost of the technology towards how best the university can resource the use of the technology. Digital scholarship in 21st century should include confidence with utilising the affordances of ANY virtual learning environment. To do this will inevitably improve the quality of use of those learning tools which are institutionally supported and maintained.
Sleepio is an online sleep improvement program based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The site includes videos hosted by Vimeo and they all have the standard user control bar with stop, play and pause buttons enabling the user to – stop, play and pause. This makes all the more frustrating that the Sleepio animated environment itself has none of the these essential components. The only way is exit.
You can’t jump back to listen again, increase the animation text size and there are no alternative format such as subtitles, captions or a transcript.
Sleepio wants your money. There are a number of ways to pay for the program. Costs include an online community and online tools, all of which appear within the animation format. But it is only available to those with the prerequisite means of access.
This site is an example of the inaccessible nature of the world wide web/internet and how discriminatory online environments are becoming. This isn’t a case of being pedantic, or poor use of time in scoping the images on the site, it’s about fundamental equality legislation which is increasingly invisible in the design and delivery of online information.
The Guardian today carries an article on insomnia which is a thinly disguised advertisement for the Sleepio product. Maybe the Guardian itself should adopt a position of greater responsibility and refuse to promote websites which fail such basic accessibility requirements. It’s time someone in a position to be influential addresses the issue of digital literacies which fail to address digital exclusion.
Anyone who works close by knows computers don’t like me. I have no idea why hardware breaks or software corrupts. IT just happens. The game between me and my desktop at the moment is Shut Down. Sometimes I know its going to happen – the screen freezes before pixellating into pretty patterns – or it just dies at least once a day.
Today it was my laptop’s turn. It wouldn’t connect via wifi. In fact, it never has done on campus. I get a message saying further details are required for authentication. Windows 7 is very polite these days. Only one step away from adding the word please. Systems are finally moving on from the language of Fatal Exceptions, Illegal Operations and Internal Errors.
The Authentication window was no help because there was no clue as to what it wanted.
Nothing seemed to work and I get nervous about calling the helpdesk. No one else seems to have the same problems . It’s no good telling me how the screen should look or behave because if it did I wouldn’t be on the phone in the first place. But today the response couldn’t have been more helpful. Not only explaining what the problem was but talking me through the solution (I needed to clear out my browser history) and making sure I knew how to avoid it in the future (choose Legacy wifi). Out of the conversation came two pieces of information. Firstly there are the ICT User Guides at https://portal.lincoln.ac.uk/C1/C2/IT%20User%20Guides/default.aspx and secondly ICT has a Support Desk at https://support.lincoln.ac.uk where under Quick Answers there are more help materials (although I have to say none of the wifi information addressed this particular problem – but I’m trying not to feel paranoid).
Working in a central support capacity, I’m used to staff sometimes being unaware of central sources of information, but here I was – unaware of all this online support. It was a useful reminder of the need to have a range of communication systems for getting the message out there – not just once but on a regular basis – and not just for students but for all staff as well, even those of us who – as I was told today – have been around for a while! 🙂