Day 2 of the bett UK 2015 conference Technology in Higher Education track (agenda here [pdf]) was devoted to a discussion of innovative uses of technology to improve the delivery of teaching and learning, with the strapline of ‘Developing pedagogy’. The day was chaired by the Jisc’s Sarah Davies, who has provided her own take on the key messages from the day in the following short podcast.
The morning kicked off with a panel session discussing institutional strategies for changing academic behaviour – specifically how we encourage educators to adopt technology and change their pedagogic practice. This provoked an interesting debate about the drivers for academic engagement with technology. Gavin Brooks, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Chair of the Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy Group at the University of Reading highlighted the value of having an institutional TEL vision to inform the resourcing and provision of central TEL services such as e-assessment and lecture capture and engagement in MOOC development, as a way of inspiring academic adoption of technology. Further details on Reading’s TEL strategy and service development are available in the 2014 UCISA case study publication. (York’s e-learning vision statement by the way is available here.) Margaret Cox , Professor of Information Technology in Education at King’s College London, reported on a fruitful approach that she has adopted in inviting sceptical ‘(technophobic’) academics to lead strategic TEL projects such as the roll-out of lecture capture, which has engaged them in the use of the technology and in some cases encouraged them to revise their opinions over the pedagogic value of these tools in support of learning and teaching activities. Jaya Kannan (Sacred Heart University, US) highlighted the value of virtual spaces for the development of pedagogic practice, pointing to the introduction of a cross-platform space for Biology and Psychology first year students to engage in collaborative discussion over scientific questions, with the provision of the space also inspiring academics to develop their thinking in relation to the potential of virtual tools to support student learning.
David Walker – Head of TEL at the University of Sussex took a different line though in cautioning us over the language we use when attempting to engage academics with the use of technology in their teaching. Associating technology adoption with ‘transformational change’ can be very threatening to academic staff and indeed disempowering, suggesting that existing pedagogic practice is ineffective or simply not valued. David argued that an appreciative inquiry route may be more productive in this respect in engaging staff and introducing technology adoption in an incremental way, based around the context and teaching requirements of the individual academic. Following this line of thinking, Hertfordshire’s Jisc-funded ESCAPE project comes to mind, demonstrating how appreciative inquiry may be employed in structured discussions with programme teams to inspire changes in assessment practices which are supported through the use of learning technology.
One question which the panel did not have time to discuss properly was how their respective institutions support teaching staff in developing digital fluency – specifically awareness regarding the affordances of the learning technologies which are available for them to use in their teaching and the confidence and capability to employ them as part of their pedagogic practice. Sarah Davies noted though in her wrap-up to this opening session that the Jisc has supported a number of projects as part of its developing digital literacies programme including the ‘Developing Digital Literacies’ infokit and is currently working with UCISA in defining what we mean by digital capabilities for staff. These outputs may well help institutions to arrive at scalable strategies to support teaching staff in their understanding and use of digital tools in their teaching practice.
The afternoon panel discussion showcased a diverse range of institutional approaches to mobile learning. Tim Cappelli from Manchester Medical School reported on how all students receive an iPad at the School and can rely on one-to-one support for their device usage. One of the key benefits that has emerged from the Schools’ mobile learning drive has been the break-up of learning cliques, with students now accustomed to sharing information and resources with everyone within their PBL group through an ‘air drop’ facility, rather than the old way of sharing information with personal friends, which restricted the flow of information to a chosen few. (Further information on Manchester’s iPad implementation is available in the following UCISA mobile learning case study publication – pp18-23.)
Fiona Harvey, Education Development Manager at the University of Southampton, noted that in the absence of an institutional BYOD strategy, the University had still made progress in developing mobile learning in teaching practice through the use of a range of engagement strategies. Coffee clubs have been set up for staff and students to get them talking about mobile devices and sharing practice about their value for learning and teaching. The Education Development team has also appointed and trained up student digital literacy champions to work alongside academics and show staff how devices can be used to support learning activities.
This summary does not do justice to the range of insightful presentations that were delivered during the day, and simply picks out some of the discussion and ideas that appear easily transferable to other institutional contexts. Hopefully presentation slides for some of the other speakers will soon become available. In the meantime, please do have a listen to Sarah Davies’ podcast for a summary of the day and more comprehensive review of what was discussed.