#BbWord15 part four; the three C triangle of institutional adoption of technology

At #BbWorld I presented and took part in a panel on Institutional adoption of technology; a double opportunity to disseminate early research findings. Last year on the west coast for BbWorld14, an 8.00 a.m. slot was considered an advantage but not on the east coast, as I was told afterwards. Here people take time to get going first thing so we suffered a bit from numbers. Having said that, it was a large room and there were lots of questions, plus what has been really rewarding this week is the general interest from everyone I spoke to about the subject of institutional adoption.  In the panel session I talked about TELEDA, how its multiple layers offer opportunities to experience Blackboard from the student perspective, while the stress on critical reflection – transferring the experience to individual teaching practice – appears to be developing an evidence based shift in the way academics view Blackboard as a technology for enhancing the student experience.

I recorded the presentation the night before using Camtasia Relay on my laptop. This is available to everyone on the University of Lincoln network. Download it from the Software Centre and it’s a quick way to record a narrative over PowerPoint slides. I opted for providing captions because apart from being inclusive, I appreciate their value. I find it hard to learn by sound or image and prefer words instead. There lots of reasons why alternative formats benefit the learner experience but creating captions take time – there ‘s no way  around this. It demands a shift in attitude and practice. In the same way you wouldn’t upload a textual learning resource with half of it missing, audio and video transcripts are an integral part of the whole resource. Relay provides automatic captioning but you only have to switch on YouTube captions to see the nonsense voice recognition generates and Relay is the same.

cartoon showing an individual fighting with a wall of technology

This is the first slide of my presentation. I tell people this is me because as anyone who works with me will confirm, if the technology can go wrong its me it goes wrong with.

Right now I’m experiencing familiar frustration. The video is stuck in Relay. I can’t find a way to embed it into WordPress. Maybe I can’t? I don’t know. There’s no one to ask for help and I’m feeling pressured. I know what I want to do. I know it should be achievable but I can’t see how to do it and I’m running out of time. Does this sound familiar?  If you are a digital education developer then you’d probably be ok. If you are an academic who views technology with a mix of awe for its capabilities but fear and dread with regard to your own confidence then you’ll identify with this. It’s part of the massive shift needed to adopt VLE. Without empathy then support is useless.

cartoon showing a newly hatched chicken reverencing a paradigm shift

So back to the presentation. This is what I did with the how and the why of it.

 Plan of my research into digital adoption

I’m three years into the data collection, on the final set of interviews. Digital adoption is complex and involves at least three criteria; capabilities, competence and confidence.

3 C's of digital adoption, caababilities, competence and confidence

Underpinning these three C’s are other findings which the data analysis appears to support. These are listed in the image below. It’s the final bullet point which I think lies at the heart of on-campus digital divides between those with the three digital C’s and those without. The literature shows how e-learning and the student experience has been privileged over the staff experience. While some say e-teaching is implicit in e-learning, I would argue than unless it is made explicit there is a risk of making assumptions about baselines and starting points, which in turn will lead to initiative failure. TELEDA research findings
PS Finally worked out the connection between Relay and WordPress and embedded the code below – which gives me the message ‘Security Error’! If the technology can go wrong then it’s me it goes wrong with….

Tripadvisor – how to miss a conference in one easy step

Thanks for the support image from  http://www.pinterest.com/dot1932/drawings-to-create-with-ii/This is the third time a bone in my leg has let me down. Always at inconvenient times:

  • two weeks into my new job at the university,
  • a conference dinner in Stockholm,
  • 48 hours before a flight to Dunedin, NZ to present at ASCILITE 2014.

It could have been worse, but as I looked at my foot, pointing in the wrong direction, it felt as bad as it could get. The up side is everyone has been wonderful; my room looks like a flower shop and I have cake, chocolate, grapes and wine – gifts don’t get much better than this. I’m immobilised but still connected and have recorded a narrated version of my presentation ‘e-teaching craft and practice’ which summarises the key points  of my paper which can be downloaded here  e-teaching craft and practice ASCILITE 2014 Concise Paper Fortunately this had already been uploaded to the conference proceedings so you could call it a break just in time!

The seven step guide to being an e-teacher can be summed up as follows:

  • pedagogy of uncertainty; always expect the unexpected, nothing can be predicted
  • go do a mooc; experiencing the reality of e-learning will help prepare for e-teaching
  • myths of digital confidence; not everyone knows their way around, expect to provide step by step instructions and reassurance
  • it takes two to talk; no one wants to go first,  e-teachers have to make discussions possible through the design of their tasks
  • Activity Based Content (ABC); interaction is key, set up groups and make use of tools like blogs, wikis, forums and journals
  • signposting; new students feel overwhelmed by too much information, provide content in layers and hyperlink to non-essential resources
  • identity blur, virtual education is different, e-teachers can expect to become facilitators of learning experiences from back of stage rather than in the spotlight

e-teaching calls for a digital lens to be applied to teacher education programmes. The ‘e’ in e-teaching is not a pedantic endeavour. It’s the other side of e-learning; the side which has always received less attention but is equally important.

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 🙂


PhD part-time; experiences of guilt and fear of social media

Guilt TripMy blog is an exercise in disciplinary reflection plus an increasing need to write things down less I forget. Which happens a lot. I blame the Phd. Poor thing – gets blamed for everything. I blog under no delusions of fame or fortune, believing most bloggers write or an audience of one – themselves. This weekend I read a paper by Liz Bennett and Sue Folley from the University of Huddersfield called A tale of two doctoral students: social media tools and hybridised identities

Excellent advice for aspiring doctorates (thanks Jim Rogers) is to visit EthOS to see what’s been written in your area. I found Learning from the early adopters: Web 2.0 tools, pedagogic practices and the development of the digital practitioner by Liz Bennett which was definitely my area, so I approached the paper with interest. I share a blogging habit with a PhD log page and social media is a component of TELEDA2 so I was grateful for the paper’s references. I also tweet  but am not good with hashtags. They feel like gatecrashing but #phdchat which sounds helpful. I might not be the only one struggling with guilt and fear!

The key message I took from this ‘insider’ account was using social media risks fear of exposure and loss of credibility but it was references to insecurity around academic identity which most intrigued me. I hung my ontological despair on the public blog line thinking it was safe. My epistemological challenges and PhD meltdowns were between me and the screen. I’ve had no problems laying bare my doctoral troubles – until today. I started to post a research paper and was overcome with doubt. I must have absorbed ‘experiencing social media as exacerbating [our] feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and exposure.’ (p6)  All I could think was what if it isn’t good enough?

I’ve  read scary accounts of PhD researchers becoming parents to their project, experiencing all the angst of letting go. It’s true. It happens! But what’s missing from the literature is the guilt of of carving out time to do PhD things like read, reflect, blog, write papers. There’s always a feeling I have to justify the time I spend on research activities during the working week. Like today. Blogging on a Monday?  My to-do list is next to me and Blog isn’t on it. Neither is write the paper in the first place. I have more affinity with Liz Bennett and Sue Foley’s account of doctoral studies and social media than I realised but not only fear – for me it’s more about feeling guilty. Blogging and promoting your research emphasises time away from the ‘day-job’. Despite the fact it enables me to be research-engaged and informed, I’m feeling guilty – like my research isn’t important enough to spend time on unless its evenings and weekends.

The Tale of Two Students paper also describes how social media can help overcome the isolation felt by PhD students. I wonder if this  is the same, better or worse for part-timers. Maybe somewhere on the internet there’s a support site for us. We’re the ones hanging on by a thread a la Berger and Luckman’s social construction of reality. One little snip and we all fall down.

This is my paper which is a culmination of my research so far. The asterisks denote reference checks required and the layout is preordained:  four pages including references with single line spacing in times new roman 11pt eteaching – a pedagogy of uncertainty and promise 

Phew – is it only Monday?


 image ‘borrowed’ from http://michellesteinbeck.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Guilt-Trip-Sticker.jpg

The e’s have it. On raising the status of e-teaching.

Technology Alphabet image from https://sd36edtechlead.wikispaces.com/March+2 I’ve been promoting e-teaching as a partner to e-learning.  A colleague shared a paper which referred to e-teaching and I thought they’d beaten me to it,  but the authors opted for Digital Practitioner. At seven syllables a time, I don’t think it’s going to catch on.

Being an e-teacher is part of the wider conversation about online identity.

On March 28th I asked ‘When it comes to online ‘tutoring’ what should we be called?’  The term e-learning has become part of the vocabulary of education but e-lecturer is less common.

Who are we online? Teacher, Tutor, Trainer. Lecturer.  Facilitator. Moderator. Instructional Designer. Just passing through…

We should bring back the ‘e’ as in e-learning, e-resources. e-literature. e-teaching, e-practice. The e’s have rhythm. e-ducation.  e-scholarship.

Research suggests there are no clear benefits to educational technology; any difference made relates to the environment as much as the machine. This runs contrary to the rhetorical promise of ‘e-learning’ which mostly ignores the role of teaching. Recent literature has called for greater attention to educational design – as if that will make a difference. I hope it will. I still believe in the VLE.

I love Blackboard #iloveblackboard

I also believe in promoting the role of the e-teacher. Learning online is no easy, cost cutting option. An authentic experience takes time to build; it requires community, through interaction. My ABC model of Activity Based Content uses collaborative tools like wikis, blogs and discussion boards. There’s an absence of powerpoint. Learning online is tough. The loneliness of the long distance teacher/learner has to be experienced to be believed. I’m not sure you can teach online if you haven’t learned there. Which comes back to identity. To be an e-teacher is a skill. Subject specialism isn’t enough. You have to be digitally literate as well and this part is often missing. The gap between SEDA and ALT is more like a chasm.

VLE make great content containers. While teaching has moved on from behaviourist pedagogy, the VLE is still primarily used to support a transmission model of education. Recent online ‘training’ sessions with Blackboard Collaborate reinforce the dominance of the active teacher/passive recipient dynamic.

Looking back, VLE were embedded into university systems and staff told to get on with it. I remember. I was there. The advantage of being er…um….a little more mature… is the benefit of hindsight. There’s been insufficient attention paid to the reality of teaching online. Focus has been on technology and students. Now the time has come to privilege the teaching. The status of the e-teacher needs raising; it’s e-lementary and e-ssential to put teaching first.


Image from https://sd36edtechlead.wikispaces.com/March+2