VLOG IT! 4 Interview with Tracey Celestin-Radix about her Skill for Learning videos:
Tracet Celestin-Radix – Learning developer at LSBU email@example.com
VLOG IT! 3 – short interview with Simon and David and the great resource3 they created called ‘Projects and Dissertations Supervisor Resources’:
Dr. Simon Lambe – Learning developer at LSBU – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. David Dixon – Learning Developer at LSBU – email@example.com
Here is the book review I did for the ALT blog:
This is a timely book because it is really asking some big questions about what is the whole point of higher education and how does the digital university fit in to the current HE landscape. It really puts the evolution of the digital university in the context of the changes that have taken place over the last 30 years or so. Over this time, universities have morphed into the neo-liberal political terrain. Key aspects of marketization have been introduced by successive governments of all political persuasions. Universities now compete within a market place to recruit the ‘best’ students and the income they generate. For many, students are now considered to by consumers in at least some aspects of their education. New providers, now with an explicit profit motive are entering this market who have a very different value system from the more established universities. Overseeing this quasi market are new regulatory bodies like the Office for Students and ranking of universities is now de rigueur and universally accepted as the norm by many commentators of the sector. Universities with deep pockets aim to be number one whilst others with less resources are aim to be the one that doesn’t fail first.
The authors of this book note this is the context that the digital university has evolved into and they are very critical of these trends. They have taken their inspiration from Stephen Collini and asked the crucial question ‘What are universities for?’ For them, the purpose of a university is to develop a more humanist conception of education where value is put on the overall development of the student. Where they can realise their full potential, not just as an asset in the labour market but as someone who can contribute fully to society in all aspects of life. These humanist values of universities are being overtaken in the UK by increasing neo-liberal policies aimed at ‘accountability’, increasing fees and the shift to students as consumers of education. The book starts with a critique of these trends but the real strength of this book is that it goes on to provide some alternative visions and strategies for resisting these trends and ends with a tremendous quote from Jimmy Reid’s inaugural speech as rector of Glasgow university:
“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement”.
At the heart of the authors’ understanding of the digital university is a conceptual ‘matrix’ that consists of four components; digital participation, information literacy, the learning environment plus curriculum and course design. As the authors note, none of these concepts is novel in themselves, but bringing them together and analysing their interrelationship provides a holistic way of understanding the digital university. Digital participation involves public engagement by universities to increase wider participation and encourage the notion that universities are a public good for the whole of society. Information literacy is the notion that students develop their digital literacy skills to improve their academic potential and capabilities to achieve their own personal development. The learning environment is both the combination of the digital and physical spaces that exist within and beyond the university. This is more than just the institution’s virtual learning environment, here the notion of the ‘porous’ university is explored in some depth. Curriculum and course design is in turn shaped by ‘constructive alignment’, assessment and the move to more recent developments, such as digital analytics.
Wrapped around this ‘matrix’ are two key concepts that stand in direct contrast and contradiction to the neo-liberal university. Firstly, the concept of ‘open education’ places collaboration, sharing and cooperation back into the educational mix. Through open publishing, open source software, and open educational resources and practices higher education practitioners are challenging the neo-liberal dream of a consumer driven system. The book is littered with many good examples of open education where staff and students are the co-producers working to create a ‘digitally distributed curriculum’.
The second major strand that the authors promote with some vigour is the idea of critical pedagogy which originates in the educational philosophy of Paulo Freire. Here notions of what should be studied are not solely dictated to by the job market but what is best for the full development of the student. This type of learning requires a range of educational practices and processes that puts the student at the centre of the educational process with the goal of not just creating a better learning environment but a better world. Students are encouraged to reflect and be critical on what and why they are learning and how digital tools can help them do this. This is not the type of aspirations that you usually get when reading most current commentators of learning technology in higher education!
Integrated and meshed into their conceptualisation of the digital university are other aspects of what is possible. I especially liked the chapter towards the end of the book on the ‘Academic Developer as a open provocateur’. Building on the ideas outlined in earlier chapters of the book it is argued that academic developers, not matter what their job titles are (Educational/Academic Developers, Learning technologists, etc.) can promote and disseminate the twin concepts of open education and critical pedagogy to provide a meaningful learning experience that will equip students in all aspects of their lives once they leave university.
Overall this book is a refreshing breath of air because it does show there are some clear alternatives to the current trends that are happening in the university sector, in other words ‘there is an alternative’. The key ideas of the book, the ‘conceptual matrix’, the ‘digitally distributed curriculum’ and the concepts of the open education and critical pedagogy are illustrated with a variety of interesting examples. For some the variety of examples and ideas might be a bit overwhelming on first glance but they are worth pursuing and exploring in more detail. Ultimately the neo-liberal trend in our universities will probably have to be reversed by bigger forces like changes in the political ideology of governments or resistance from broader social movements but what this book does give are some clear alternatives of what we can do in the ‘here and now’ to make education a better or more worthwhile experience rather than just producing unthinking beings ready for the rat race:
‘Conceptualising The Digital University – The intersection of policy, pedagogy and practice’ by Bill Johnson, Sheila MacNeill and Keith Smyth is available from Palgrave Macmillan publishers or from Amazon.
New UK legislation which originates from the EU Web Accessibility Directive makes explicit the need for digital materials from public bodies (which include Universities) to be accessible. One of the biggest challenges will be ensuring that ALL content in the VLE (Moodle) is accessible.
CRIT have organised three webinars for staff on making their teaching resources accessible. These webinars will consist of a 20-minute presentation followed with questions from the participants.
Weds. 1st May 1pm Booking details: Webinar on Creating accessible resources in Word.
Open to all LSBU staff.
In conversation with Adrew Read @LSBU:
Below is a short vlog post I did with Andrew Read, Head of Academic Programmes for Education here at LSBU about his use of Padlet on a couple of courses he teaches:
Also testing the captioning facility on YouTube…which worked very well considering it was a two way conversation:)
A couple of a days ago I tweeted out a link to an excellent article produced by Lawrie Phipps and Donna Lanclos (Trust, Innovation and Risk: a contextual inquiry into teaching practices and the implications for the use of technology) and I just had a look at the ‘tweet Activity’ stats that Twitter generates:
As you can see from the screenshot above there where 2221 impressions in three days. Twitter impressions are the number of times a tweet shows up on someones timeline. It doesn’t necessarily mean someone has read the tweet but it is an indicator that something is happening. Also the level of engagements shows the total number of times a user interacted with the tweet, including likes, retweets, replys, and clicks on username or profiles. Ok so this tweet hasn’t gone viral but you can see its had some sort of impact.
Increasing there seems to be a growing body of research literature based on the impact Twitter can have on disseminating research.
Rowlands et al (2011) early study showed that the use of social media (and Twitter in particular) was being used by researchers to identify research opportunities and promote their research. Darling et al (2013) looked in more detail at how Twitter can be used to generate ideas for a scientific publication, how it can influence the editing and writing up of the manuscript and then publicising of the article. It also looks at the pros and cons of this process.
Researchers have also argued that attending to alternative metrics, such as examining references to the scholarly literature in Tweets, can extend scholars’ impact beyond citations in peer-reviewed journals (Priem & Hemminger, 2010). For instance, some have found that the frequency of article mentions via Twitter appears to correlate with subsequent downloads and citations (Shuai, Pepe, & Bollen, 2012; Thelwall, Haustein, Larivière, & Sugimoto, 2013), although the correlation between Tweets and citations in all fields is unclear (Haustein, Peters, Sugimoto, Thelwall, & Larivière, 2013) and in some cases appears to be weakly associated (de Winter, 2014).
Rowlands, I., Nicholas, D., Russell, B., Canty, N., & Watkinson, A. (2011). Social media use in the research workflow. Learned Publishing, 24(3), 183–195.
Darling, E., Shiffman, D., Côté, I., & Drew, J. (2013). The role of Twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication. Retrieved 4/4/17, from PeerJ Preprints: https://peerj.com/preprints/16/
Will need to add further reference when I have time…