The 5th webinar from this series took place on the 2nd June. The theme was looking at how and why digital tools play such an important role in learning and teaching. Also, why it is important to make careful considerations when selecting a tool to use.
Led by Zac Gribble and co-presented by John Sumpter.
Previous webinar recordings can be found on the event page
The webinar is a follow on from the blog post “Tooling up to teach online”
How are digital tools being used now?
I opened the discussion with a question of how people felt digital tools were being used at their organisations. The first comment was immediate and to the point (in one word)…
And this is a common theme throughout the responses.
“A siloed practice in different areas, not much whole institution vision”
There are those colleagues who are confident and familiar with using digital tools while there are also some who are less so. And from a student’s perspective, this aligns very much with student feedback we hear in member visits or VLE reviews, around an inconsistent learning experience with digital.
The session sections within the theme were aligned to allow discussion around the path that organisations or individual practitioners may need to follow to cement confidence in using digital elements in the delivery of their curriculum now, while on lockdown, as well as in the future when students have returned to campus.
- The game has changed
- Tools: which one???
- Understanding barriers
- Opportunity in innovation: Feedback to support digital practice
All change please
The change of direction that Covid-19 has thrown at the sector means that those educators, who use digital tools less, now must adopt new teaching styles and practices.
When asked if staff are reacting differently now to using digital tools, it was clear that, while some have adapted well, not all staff were embracing the change that was forced upon them.
“Mixed bag. For some it’s a revelation. For others it’s another barrier”
“I have to say they’re mostly delighted to be shifting to online”
“Faculty had been resistant to using digital tools but students are now insistent that the learning happens this way”
So there is work to do with finding the happy place for a lot of teaching staff. And this is probably as expected given the ‘sporadic’ use of digital tools before CV-19. Is there an opportunity to spread more knowledge across the teaching staff?
Could there be more sharing of ideas and experience from those staff that are more au fait in these tools at your organisation?
Given the discussion for learning, confidence building and practice, I asked the group whether help materials and spaces to experiment were available. The responses were very much positive around the provision of ‘help’ resources, teams and spaces available to them but also that many of them were the staff called upon for help.
“I am the “space” where staff come to for help”
“I am supporting lots of staff during this time, as well as content creation for learning materials”
“We do have a page with resources but sometimes I feel like the scholars contact us before even trying for themselves which adds to the workload.”
When it comes to the use of digital tools, a key part of the discussion was around the planning of how the tools relate to the learning. And particular the learning outcomes. Using the right tool for the right job was a key point in many of the points made.
Rather than jumping into use a tool that hasn’t been chosen specifically, selecting a digital tool for use is an important task. I asked the room about the selection process they use to choose a tool that fits around their requirements and learning outcomes.
“It’s student centred process”
“It has to offer significant functionality beyond what is already provided with existing platforms, with clear pedagogical benefit.”
“Start with identifying what is the problem we are trying to solve. Research digital tools that can support. Ask ‘why’ this tool. Tech shouldn’t used just for the sake of it. Showcase. Pilot. Deploy college-wide.”
“…can the whole college use it (or be useful) or just used for a pocket of learners.”
“Integration with existing platforms a key consideration”
“…seeing what works well in departments and sharing good practice or reviewing tool myself and then share them with staff. More staff are looking at different tools now prior to COVID-19”
We also discussed the need to be aware of other criteria when selecting digital tools to use.
These ‘barriers’ can be a bit of contentious talking point.
“I wait until someone tells me off”
(Many people in the session agreed with this!)
But it raises that question of: how the organisations are communicating their policies and why they have them?
That ironic moment when you find the perfect tool that ticks all your boxes. Then you realise it isn’t GDPR compliant or falls below accessibility standards.
How a tool fits with organisational policies is a vital part of risk free use.
“If I do want to use something I ask the Learning Technology team if there’s any reason why I shouldn’t”
“This is similar to when staff were using Facebook and we had to reign that in!!!”
The opportunity for using more digital with teaching and learning is already quickly becoming recognised, in organisations everywhere. But, ploughing on with new tools may sound innovative and fantastic to leaderships with a vision of a ‘modern’ teaching style but how does it fit with the users?
We discussed the ability to collect feedback and use that feedback to inform decisions and build supports around the use of digital tools in the future.
When asked about the future use, the room were positive about how things may be changing for the better, hopefully seeing more digital tools in the culture, but being more aware of barriers like student access.
“It is so good to see staff and learners developing their digital skills”
“We’ve come too far to stop now”
“Hard to say really… in particular students with barriers”
As we move further through the CV-19 disruption, digital offers a vehicle to carry learning to many places. But it can only go where the educator drives it. I think the opportunity from using tools allows both learners and teachers to discover new ways to enrich, enhance or adapt their delivery. As the discussion in this session shows, there is much to keep informed on when using them.