Digifest 2019

My aims for Digifest (https://www.jisc.ac.uk/events/digifest-12-mar-2019) were to find out

  • A bit more about digital literacy and initiatives to improve digital skills
  • Horizon scanning – what’s coming up?
  • How Microsoft Teams (and other Microsoft offering for education) are being used

Joel Bloomfield from Microsoft talked about Microsoft’s ambitions for the future and talked about the student experience. The keynote speakers talked about Education 4.0 – how we use digital technology to create an education that prepares students for life and work in the future.

How important is it that the technology we use in HE reflects the technology that students will experience in the working environment? Should we use technology that’s good for learning, which isn’t necessarily the same thing? Or is all technology educational technology and it doesn’t matter what we use only HOW we use it?  I’ve long believed that technology shouldn’t be the driver for TEL, but with all this technology available to us, how do you pick and choose what’s best for learning? It has to start with outcomes and skills, pedagogy, learning design, and then delivering activities using the technologies that are available.

I didn’t really get a chance to try out the Digi Lab as there were always too many other people, but I did try the Natalie experience. This was a VR presentation of a day in the life of Natalie, a student of the future. I found it deeply creepy and disturbing that all aspects of Natalie’s life were accessed and monitored and looked into – “shall I tell your tutor that you’ve had a good night’s sleep?”  Ugh! So intrusive! If that’s the future I don’t want it. Yes I’d like there to be support for students and monitoring of their wellbeing, but there’s clearly a line to cross. We can start by ensuring that all technologies are fit for purpose and provide a decent  student experience. Also in Natalie,  I thought that it was unreasonable that the lecturers were coming to her – there aren’t enough to go round to be visiting students in their library seats!  But to improve the student experience in the future we will have to come to terms with ethics and privacy as well as technology. Educating students in digital literacy is key here.

Dale Munday from University of Lancaster questioned the nature of a VLE and detailed how he used Teams, this was very practical and got me thinking about how to apply Teams. Some of what he was doing in Teams could also be done in Moodle, or in Xerte Toolkits, but conversations in Teams with notifications and the way channels are set up really got me thinking.

I then went ahead and used Teams as an alternative to Moodle forums in a pilot for my Online Facilitation class. Online facilitation of Teams conversations is, as I suspected, very different to Moodle or other forums – more instantaneous, wide-ranging and less steerable.  I think there’ll be a place for both.

Lawrie Phipps chaired a fascinating panel of women, Donna Lanclos, Sarah Davies, Nikki Rivers and Sara Berkai, talking about listening to teachers and what the implications of their comments and experiences are for digital education.

We have similar research that has been done here at Nottingham or by Nottingham academics. The themes which came out were very similar to those my Digital Learning Director and I teased out from his survey of Faculty of Social Sciences academics.

  • Themes
  • Teaching places
  • Students
  • Change, innovation and risk
  • Organisational support
  • Technology

This got me thinking about methodology of such research – asking about learning and teaching  not specifically about technology. It raised a lot of other questions as well about how much we make assumptions about the student experience, issues of trust, the convergence of physical and digital learning spaces.

Finally I was impressed by the Design Sprint process as demonstrated in the session led by Alicja Shah. I haven’t had the opportunity to use this yet, but hope to do so as we prepare training and support for the new academic year.

There were two other aspects of Digifest which I hadn’t much considered before

One was how technology can support student wellbeing – not that I haven’t been concerned about student wellbeing, but haven’t really thought about turning to digital support. The University of Bolton’s chatbot, Ada

https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/chatbot-talks-up-a-storm-for-bolton-college-26-mar-2019 seemed a really brilliant idea with so many initially unforeseen benefits.

The other was about the new Accessibility regulations. Once I returned to Nottingham I got fully behind our initiatives to prepare for this and started to prepare help materials http://comms.nottingham.ac.uk/learningtechnology/2019/05/17/top-tips-to-make-your-learning-materials-more-accessible-1/