Exploring Digital capabilities #JISCDigLead

Digital capabilities #JISCDigLeadA couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend the pilot of the JISC Digital Leaders capabilities programme.  There were over 40 people from across higher education institutions, all involved in exploring the new pilot for the leadership angle of digital capabilities.  Digital Capabilities being the application of digital literacies, and fall into six elements detailed in their presentation. The programme has been designed to support those in leadership roles to develop their own competences and use of digital technologies.  Most of the people in attendance were familiar with technology enhanced learning and were there to support JISC to improve and try out the activities before the programme goes live.  Some of those who were there were in senior roles and who did not consider themselves particularly digitally savvy but they were willing to indulge in the activities.   I invited two colleagues from the University of Southampton, the Business School and Professional Services (Library).

Mapping digital activityOne of the key tasks over the two days was to establish the personal level of involvement with technology.  This was based on the Visitors and Residents spectrum devised by David White.  The idea was to plot your own involvement and then the following day your institutions.  It was an interesting exercise which was developed into ascertaining how engaged our institutions were with technology.

There is a follow up of two more days towards the end of November where we will all meet again and make recommendations about the programme.   The intention being that we bring the digital capabilities projects into our own institutions for all levels of staff – and not just academic staff.  Professional services staff would be a great set of staff to trial digital capabilities, supporting staff in administration to give confidence in the use of technology.

The same people will meet for the next wave and it will be interesting for us to get together again to see how the programme is shaping up.

Education Innovation comes to Maghreb

Digital Technology is something that many of us have been working with for some time. We realize the benefits for education and have developed knowledge and understanding about how we can make the best use of this for education and research. I have just been speaking at the Maghreb Digital Learning and Innovation Conference in Tunis, Tunisia with the British Council and 100 enthusiastic interested academic staff, students, policy makers, social entrepreneurs and international technology experts all eager and enthused about doing the same thing within their countries.

The conference aimed to provide a number of outcomes for the people of Maghreb, essentially it was about bringing people together and, as the British Council pointed out, ‘Create opportunity’. The days were fully packed with a variety of talks and inspirational speakers which were all designed to provide the delegates with ideas and solutions to the problems that they faced in their own countries. One of the biggest takeaways from the conference for me was the huge amount of good will and camaraderie within the room. Each table was allocated to specific delegates and we were placed there in order to support each other over the days of the conference. Each table was given a ‘Team Challenge’ and on the final day we were to present our solution in a Dragons Den type activity. The winner would win a lovely British Council Innovation Award and their ideas would be presented at a Maghreb policy forum by a member of the British Council in January. As leader of Digital Literacies in the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development at the University of Southampton, I was to support ideas and prompt our team to think innovatively and work together on our challenge.

My table (Team 7) included senior leaders, advisers and policy makers for their countries. Our challenge over the three days was to present a roadmap for introducing the UNESCOICT Competences for teachers in Higher Education. This was actually more fun than it sounds and in terms of creating a community the idea of team challenges was an brilliant way of ensuring that we all worked together for a common goal. Throughout the conference as we listened to the talks we could see how they may fit into what we were going to be presenting at the end of the conference.

I spoke about engaging with educators and students through the Champions model that we have been developing at Southampton and I introduced the idea of awarding Open Badges for staff development and for student development to encourage participation with the UNESCO ICT Competences. Others also took ideas into their own challenges and that was very rewarding, as it showed that the conference actually made a difference, and the ideas weren’t wasted.

Overall it has been a great experience to be part of such enthusiasm and willingness to get involved and bring digital literacies and skills to the Maghreb region. There is certainly scope for further development and engagement for ALT as a community of expertise and for Universities in the UK who have great academics and can really inspire and support the adoption of technology for education.

Takeaways of a techy kind from #ALTc

I’ve just come back from ALTc – a learning technology focussed conference, three days at Warwick University.  I wanted to record some of of it before I get consumed by the day job.

1.  I noticed that there seemed to be less about the technology in particular and more about the human interactions with it.  A number of sessions mentioned its all about the people for example.  Of course I would say that being a very people orientated person but Bryan Mathers mentioned it in his talk and it goes without saying that education technology systems are a waste of time if people don’t use them.

2.  Digital literacies – yet again, underlying theme for everything we do.  I noticed that there were many sessions mentioning online skills.  The wonderful project with Leicester Council (Josie Fraser and Lucy Atkins) which is a lovely example of collaborating with external organisations to develop skills.  They are sharing all their project outputs and I think that there will (or should be) many more intiatives like this to extend skills.   There were other sessions as well, that were not specifically about digital literacies skills but essentially that’s what they were talking about.  Spread the word.

3. Online learning is mainstream.  It’s not going anywhere and can only flourish (see point 2) MOOCs have played their part in attracting those who may not have necessarily been interested in doing anything online (purely because senior leadership teams weren’t interested) so if nothing else.  MOOCs have opened the door.

4.  People – so many people I know ‘online’ and I got to meet them face to face.  Thats the cool bit.  Yes, I am all over social media, but I stiil want to see and hear from people in the flesh. Jeff Haywood (I always like hearing about Edinburgh), Catherine Cronin (really interesting, all open and getting people to embrace the world at their fingertips) and Audrey Watters.  She has tatoos.  Lot’s of tatoos.  And some of them are techy tatoos which did distract me a bit.  But she was funny, engaging and had something to say about the use of the web and how it shapes our thinking.  Really fun and interesting which wasn’t a disappointment at all.

Next years conference is going to be all about ‘Shaping the future together’ at Manchester 8th – 10th September.  I hope it will be as much fun as this years, the ALT members are a blast and I hope to see as many of my online and offline friends as possible.


Random thoughts on gibberish papers

Gibberish imageI have a passing thought that I will share. I recently read a few articles about how computer generated papers have been submitted into some very respectable journals.  Between 2008-2013 papers were submitted and have now been withdrawn.  This got me thinking about the papers I have read, unclear messages, rambling comments etc.  It’s no wonder that these papers got past the reviewers. If they don’t make sense anyway, how would they know the difference?

Questions that immediately came to mind for me is what does this mean for the papers that we submit for conferences?  What does this say about the people who review the content and hear us talk?  If the messages are unclear, how can anyone benefit from the research?

It would be interesting to see if we upped the levels of digital literacies, critical thinking and information filtering, if that would make any difference to the outcomes?

Maybe its time we change the review process? I don’t have the answers, just sharing my random thoughts about processes.

photo credit: Orin Zebest via photopin cc