What am I?

This blog is about being (or working as?) a learning technologist

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Wildfire, catapult, and daily routine

I'm still chewing on my observation that increasingly Learning Technologies are perceived to be part of 'business as usual' in learning and teaching at Universities these days. Lecturers and students are dutifully using a VLE, to a greater or lesser extend. Decisions on how much to use a VLE and technologies in the context of learning might depend on the subject area, and on convenience achieved via using it. It's neither considered as superfluous nor as exciting, just routine.

Asking myself if this is a bad or a good sign, the usual answer springs to mind: it depends. As a learning technologist, rather than fire fighting problems a lot of the time, there's more time to explore the potential of different technologies, to work on projects, and potentially even to be creative. For each question related to technology in learning and teaching, multiple solutions are on offer, involving a variety of bits and pieces of technology. The best choice requires experimenting and being inquisitive in order to be able to offer something resembling a feasible answer. Additionally, learning technologists can't wait until the question is asked, we will have to anticipate it because experimentation takes time, but answers are expected instantly.

One of the much discussed items on the agenda of learning technologists are social media, despite the fact Universities seem to position social media in the communication and marketing departments. Assuming it would help me to gain insights into this topic, I attended an event in London on 12 January 2016, called Digital Wildfires: respond now at the Digital Catapult! I do have to confess that  the Digital Catapult Centre is a good place, and I enjoyed spending a day in a splendid non-virtual environment, discussing "the impact of (provocative) social media content, the (responsible) use of social media data and the balance between concerns over the harms cause by social media posts with the rights to freedom of speech". On one side of the conference room we were looking onto the British Library, and the other side offered a splendid view across London:



I was very impressed with the keynote speaker Baroness Beeban Kidron, who is the founder of the iRights campaign for children and young people. One of the keynote's core questions was 'how and to who's benefit do we deploy digital technologies', which is, of course, a question which needs to be asked in many different contexts, not just related to children. In my observation, the "culture of digital interaction" consumes us all in different ways, and very much to a greater or lesser extend. While some of us still interact using the good old fashioned telephone, or even postcards and letters, interacting online is more or less second nature to many of the younger ones. This reminds me of the 'digital capability framework' by the JISC (https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/building-digital-capability), describing "the skills needed by staff in a wide range of academic, administrative and professional roles to thrive in a digital environment":


 'Digital identity and wellbeing' constitutes the surrounding in which all the other elements sit. But the all-encompassing question is: How do we achieve it? Or even just a tiny fraction of it?

On a more humble concluding note, I continued my video creation exploration, attending a second short course at FilmOxford, 'Shooting video', the outcome of which can be viewed here:


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