#Take5 #45: The Best Way of Teaching Academic Literacies Online?

This #Take5 post if brought to you by Carina Buckley, Debbie Holley and Sandra Sinfield. It is their take on a conversation held at Solent – and digitally across the nation – focussing on the possibilities of teaching academic literacies online. The authors have re-visited their initial recollections, to bring the discussion more up to date in a world of Covid.

Teaching academic literacies online: revisiting our webinar in light of Covid-19

The Webinar took the form of a ‘blended’ Panel discussion, with three panel members sitting with Carina at Solent and two joining online – and with ALDinHE colleagues around the country following the discussion live online and contributing via Twitter.

Panel members: Dr Carina Buckley (chair ); student panel member Anna Latchman (Solent); Catherine Turton (Solent) were joined in person by Dr Erika Corradini (Southampton University); and online guests were Prof Debbie Holley (Bournemouth University) and Sandra Sinfield, (London Metropolitan University).

Pictured: Carina Buckley (not looking at all like @EvilDoctorB)

Who would have thought!

In December last year, we were debating about moving the teaching of academic and digital literacies online, and who could have guessed what would happen three months later! Our initial conversations were framed around models of teaching these literacies. For Debbie, they are a way to support, develop and create spaces for students throughout the whole of their academic journey. She and Sandra both agreed that it wasn’t about ‘fixing’ a student, but rather celebrating their diversity and making transparent the forms and processes of academia, and discovering ways to enable students to act powerfully in academic spaces, face-to-face (F2F) or online.

The panel agreed that students often learn what we term ‘skills’ or literacies without knowing that they are doing so, for they are embedded in our practices and processes. The problem is that academics and learning developers alike would like development of these academic practices to be somewhat conscious and witting. However the developmental nature of, for example, how you understand a text – or the immersive nature of academic research and writing – means that it can be hard to see the milestones. Digital literacy, in contrast, is seen by some as having more distinct, observable stepping stones in progression. Anna Latchman, a Level 6 Games Design student at Solent University, suggested that having checklists to break down all the stages of a digital assignment into simple steps are a good way to recognise progress. It’s a process but it’s also a personal approach, and, she argued, students benefit from having the exploratory time and space to try things out.

So, how do we develop academic and digital literacies in – or with – students – especially when, as we are at the moment, we are confined to engaging in this virtually and at a distance?

Students, social networks and spaces to learn

Having space is important. Students can learn online, offline, and in the spaces in between. We can join students in a shared space and work alongside them; and we can help students occupy their space in academia powerfully and on their own terms, agents in their own learning. This can work online as well as in person, as Debbie and Sandra demonstrated through a project embedded in a suite of computing modules where ‘skills’ were not to be delivered as if to repair supposedly deficient students. Instead, learning development worked together with the computing lecturers to design a course of sufficient challenge and intrigue that it would stretch the students, developing digital and academic literacies in the process.

The ‘History of the World in a Hundred Objects’ challenge took place in real life (IRL) in F2F classrooms, computer suites and the British Museum – and in the virtual world of Second Life (SL). The project was difficult, creative and exciting, with students researching IRL and then building artefacts based on their research in SL – and presenting on their findings either IRL or SL – and in writing. The multiple challenges prompted the students to reach out for the skills they needed to be successful in the task in contextualised and seamless ways. Moreover, when they created their own augmented, immersive learning spaces in SL, these were much more fluid and creative than the typical lecture theatre (see picture).

Teaching academic literacies online: where we start Sandra (@danceswithclouds) and Debbie (@debbieholley1) Burns,T., Sinfi...

Pictured: the students’ creation in second life

Article: read it here: The Shipwrecked Shore – and other metaphors: what we can learn from occupation of – and representations in – virtual worlds

Make it so?

However, the speed with which we have all been expected to ‘pivot’ to online teaching and learning, means that many practitioners do not have the luxury of developing an intriguing, cooperative project. Instead, they are faced with quick changes to online delivery of ‘skills’ – often in isolation – and on poor tech or connectivity.

So provocative questions emerge as we think about delivering academic literacies online: how can we as educators, facilitators and developers, acknowledge the skills and aptitudes with which students arrive in our virtual spaces, so that we create opportunities for growth? How do we build in opportunities for social connection in these spaces, when we are all so worried about delivering sufficient content? Can we join students in their spaces as well as our own, so that power is shared more equitably between staff and students in these most challenging of times? If you have examples of your excellent practice during this time of #Covid – please get in touch about producing a #Take5 blog of your own! Meanwhile – here’s a summary of what emerged from our Panel discussion.

On ‘becoming’ … academic

Learning is often presented as an individual and even competitive pursuit, and a wholesale switch to online can exacerbate this perception. Arguably then it is even more important to develop collaborative working practices when developing literacies and learning online.

Tip: A good place to start for new students’ online start, will be to facilitate the forming friendships alongside their reading and study groups; fostering well being as they relate to each other as human beings, as well as learning how to work cooperatively together.

Working together – and academic identity. Dr Erika Corradini, from the University of Southampton, likened the development of an academic identity to a journey: you learn how to become academic and an academic, over time and through the range of practices that you engage in in your studies and develop competencies that might only be recognised at the end of that journey. Part of that, becoming, as Catherine Turton from Solent University added, is developing your linguistic, discursive knowledge of your subject and of course, whether operating F2F or online, academic literacies come into that. The big question here might be, how do we draw discipline academics – and students – into this conversation about competences, without it being reduced to a reductive conversation, say, about employability for example? How do we work together with discipline academics to embrace the challenge of developing emancipatory practice when teaching their students?

Voice is more than syntax: We want to help students leave their degrees as professionals in their field; voice and identity are important to us but often overlooked in student work at the expense of grammar, spelling and punctuation for example. Working with our colleagues is vital if we want to promote real discussion between discipline academics and learning developers about the nature of academic voice and its role in inviting us to participate meaningfully in our various academic and epistemic communities.

Voice and academic identities: Erika gave the example of a project she carried out with Dr Marion Heron at the University of Surrey, which studied the writing identity of staff. They found that often staff weren’t aware that they wrote in different ways for different audiences, nor were they aware of the implications this had for changes in their own academic identity. Making staff aware of this, revealed the social processes that create academic identities. Having discussions like these with discipline staff can reveal how important it is to develop voice – and this can initiate conversations with students about their academic identities that move way beyond a reductive focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar.

‘Skills’ development as organic parts of the curriculum: However, when it came to supporting academic literacies online, Erika was doubtful about the level of engagement possible, for overworked staff and pressurised students. Ideally, this development should be an organic part of the curriculum, so awareness is the main thing. In her experience, Catharine said, online resources work best when staff understand what’s available and choose and curate what’s most relevant for their particular students, and use them as part of the teaching, learning and assessment process, rather than have ‘study and digital skills’ resources as another place for students to go, another set of decontextualised tasks and checklists to complete.

Play with the tech: Debbie’s focus was also on the staff, and encouraging them to take an interest in the holistic development of their students, and to have the courage to experiment with good blended learning. Improved learner analytics in the future will increase our ability to help students personalise their learning journeys, and that can only be a good thing.

Creative challenge: Sandra wanted us to set creative challenges that provoked curiosity and engagement, setting students off on their own journey, on their own terms. She gave an example of the ‘Digital Me’ assignment she set where students were asked to produce a multimodal artefact – using a tool of their own choosing – creating a ‘something’ that introduced them to their new friends and colleagues – and where their work was not presented at a dull assessment point, but shared in an Exhibition – with party. Their own engagement with this authentic challenge supported students in discovering the digital environment for themselves in a way that made them feel successful and celebrated. The joy the students experienced when presenting their work underscored this. Anna’s experience with her dissertation chimed with that, as she valued being given the opportunity to explore an academic topic which first piqued her interest and then propelled her forward to investigate deeper.

Pictured: Sandra’s avatar in Second Life

And so: After a long discussion, we came to the inevitable conclusion that neither digital nor academic literacies can be contained; they involve staff development, student development, learning development, engagement, community, relationship-building, in fact the whole culture of the university. The key to academic literacies’ development, then, is partnership: between staff and students, and between literacies and subject. When writing becomes a topic of conversation within the discipline, then students become aware of it – not before. It comes down to community and connection, and knowing what everybody can offer and bring to the table.

And now we are all teaching online?

Celebrating students, and what they bring; empowering students; thinking about lifelong learning; communities of practice across the university, bringing together learning developers, academics, librarians, technicians and working to co-create space for students to explore…

Our conclusion was that academic literacies is about having a space for students to explore, personalised so they can find the relevance to their life beyond university, and staff need to be there with them, emphasising openness in communication and sharing. And learning development is going to lead the way!

Carina Buckley (@EvilDoctorB) Sandra Sinfield (@Danceswithclouds) and Debbie Holley (@debbieholley1) are all members of the ALDinHE Steering Group. Find out more about ALDinHE.

Dr Debbie – in Real Life

Suggested resources:

#DS106 – digital storytelling ideas and resources to ignite a fire in the minds of students – and staff: https://ds106.us/

Dr Debbie’s Blog: http://drdebbieholley.com/blog/

Learnhigher is a network for promoting and facilitating the development and dissemination of high quality, peer-reviewed resources for learning development in the higher education sector

Studychat – our educational magazine for staff and PhD students: https://www.facebook.com/LondonMetStudyChat/

Our slideshare:

#Take5 #27 The Best Way of Blending Learning?

LESSONS FROM A TEACHER DEVELOPMENT PROJECT: One positive instance of using technology for student learning, rather than its own sake.

This guest blog explores the authentic embedding of digital practices within our pedagogic toolbox and has been prepared for #Take5 by Dr Paul Breen (@CharltonMen) who also shares, below, a link to his free book: Developing Educators for the Digital Age.

TEACHER IN PAUL BREEN'S PHD STUDY USING I PADS IN CLASSROOM

Image: Teachers in Paul Breen’s PhD Study using iPads in the classroom

The tools for the job

“SHOULD teaching take place within an academic bubble detached from the outside world, or should it make use of all that is new, authentic, engaging and multi-dimensional?”

This was a question raised by one of the participants in my recent study of teacher development within the context of an English Language Centre in a UK Higher Educational environment. In this case, the teacher argued that for teaching to be effective for today’s students we need to make maximum use of the digital age. In his own work, he drew on Guardian Podcasts as a means of inspiring Academic English students to go out and make their own recordings of real life events related to their specific subjects.

By getting his class to do this, he was actively engaging the students in demonstrating knowledge through content creation. Furthermore, students were now active rather than passive recipients of information and their knowledge was being tested in a way that was innovative rather than in a traditional one dimensional exam format.

Assess that – differently

Not everybody expresses their learning or knowledge in the same way, and this teacher’s work with podcasts was offering new outlets of expression for particular types of students. In this case, the greatest beneficiaries were perhaps those who learn by seeing and then doing, but arguably the challenge of this task would engage the majority of his students. New technologies had given these students the chance to be creative and expressive in a way that historically they might not have been able to realise quite so easily. They were putting into action skills that are vital in the higher educational environment – creativity, organisation, multi-tasking, plus elements of finding a balance between independence and interdependence.

TPACK: It’s Digital Literacy Jim…

Using technology in this way is also a good example of not simply using technology for technology’s sake, which is still a major problem on many courses and in many classrooms. If a particular tool just doesn’t add anything, then don’t integrate – just the same as if your daughter doesn’t like playing with dolls, don’t force her to just because that’s what little girls are expected to do.

This idea of not using technology just for technology’s sake lies at the heart of Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler’s (2006) TPACK framework – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. This is a contemporary framework designed to ease the process for teachers who are integrating technology into their lessons. The goal is to achieve a synergy of technology, pedagogy and content during instances of teaching where such an integration is appropriate.

What this means in basic, practical terms is that there is an intersection of all three core components to produce what the authors’ term as ‘expert teaching.’ Though I don’t like that precise term, the example of creating podcasts is one where the teacher has met some of the fundamental requirements of TPACK. He has not pre-determined which technologies should be used. Rather, their usage evolved gradually.

In this case, he started out using podcasts as a means of helping students practice listening and research skills… and it became much more than that. Going back to the daughter and the dolls analogy, he didn’t set out with a prescriptive idea of particular tools that would be used and insist that certain toys had to be chosen because that was the norm.

Instead he let usage flow naturally, and then let subsequent usage flow naturally again from that. Having seen the enthusiasm that students showed for Guardian Podcasts he sent them off to make their own. In doing so, he found a way to motivate them further and build a deeper set of academic skills.

Emergence

Experimenting and allowing the value of the practice to emerge, allowed the students to discover their own learning identities, again like the child who starts playing with bridges in farm sets and then decides she wants to progress to Meccano next time around. By letting a child find their own learning style, in that case, you might well have planted the seeds of a future engineer, or even scientist.

In this case of learners making their own Podcasts, you have certainly created a student who is more capable of finding the balance between independence and interdependence that is essential to undertaking higher educational studies in the UK.

Reference

Mishra, P. and Koehler, M.J., 2006. Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers college record, 108(6), p.1017.

Bio: PAUL BREEN is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Westminster’s Professional Language Centre, and author of a recent publication on teacher development entitled ‘Developing Educators for the Digital Age.’ The book is available here in print form or as a free open-access download through the University of Westminster Press.  

 

Take5 #17 – #creativeHE 16-20 January – Join in if you dare!!

*** STOP PRESS: #creativeHE new run: 16-20 Jan!! ***

A new version of #creativeHE with a focus on creativity, play, narrative & storytelling and making will be offered by MMU’s CELT in collaboration with London Metropolitan University’s CPED 16-20 Jan 2017.

a-a-artefact-mooc-december-2010-073

Participants are invited from across the sector – such that colleagues from both institutions and elsewhere will have the opportunity to learn and develop together within a diverse and distributed community of higher education practitioners. Get together with colleagues who are involved in teaching, supporting learning or development of others with an interest in creative teaching and learning, who would like to explore innovative learning and teaching.

In #creativeHE practical creative tasks will be explored together with related pedagogical theory and literature. Participants will experience learning through play, games, models and stories and actively experiment with such approaches. This will help to further develop understanding, knowledge, skills and practices in these areas such that we all become more adventurous in our teaching.

Participants will be able to critically reflect on their practice and identify opportunities to design, implement and evaluate an imaginative and creative innovation that fosters curiosity, maximises motivation and meaningful active engagement and discovery learning. The teacher is challenged to be creative in order for creativity to be developed in the students.

The unit will be offered online as a 5-day block with further support until the end of the term. All MMU participants will be invited to a portfolio building workshop before commencing the unit.

The programme
■ Day 1: Creativity in HE
■ Day 2: Play and games
■ Day 3: Learning through story
■ Day 4 : Learning through making
■ Day 5: Celebrating creativity.

Join in for the whole week – or just come along for the sessions that you can use this time round.

Getting Credit
The unit is available for free to all practitioners who would like to participate informally in the open online version of this course.

#creativeHE is part of MMU’s FLEX programme – and can be taken for 15 or 30 credits. If you work in another institution and are interested in studying towards academic credits FLEX15 [Creativity for Learning] , please get in touch with CELT as there is a cost for this.

Participants from LondonMet can get recognition for participation as part of their CPD.

To join in with #creativeHE – just ask to join this Google+ group: https://plus.google.com/communities/110898703741307769041/

LondonMet staff are asked to book via Eventbrite if possible – so that we can let you know about follow up activities once the course is complete.

Take5: Blog#8: Digital Storytelling

The digital age is predicated on the notion of student as producer (of knowledge) – as opposed to earlier education ages that appeared to position the student (only) as a consumer of knowledge. If helping your students to become digitally capable and proficient, why don’t you set students the challenge of making digital artefacts and/or telling digital stories? Here are some strategies for developing Digital Storytelling that we have used.

SEE: http://edtechteacher.org/tools/multimedia/digital-storytelling/ – for school examples to inspire and resource your own practice.

Join #ds106 and sign up to the teaching blog roll
DS106 – or digital storytelling 106 – started as a MOOC, massive open online course, which created an international community of practice of educationalists interested in developing their and their students’ digital capacities in engaging and dynamic ways. The tutors have curated the website and its tasks and resources so that it continues to act as a meeting point for digitally developing edu-cationalists. #DS106 has Quickstart Guides, Assignments, Handbooks and Daily Create challenges – and you can use them yourselves or require your students to use the resources to become more active and powerful in digital media. Tip: Sign your class up to #ds106 and enrol their blogs on the blog roll: http://ds106.us/teaching-ds106/

Design engaging assessments: Digital Artefacts
For certain assignments or parts of assignments, rather than writing an essay or report; require students to produce a digital artefact that sums up their learning – or to produce a teaching and learning resource that would convey learning about the key issues on the course. To assist with this we have built the AniMet Challenge: http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/epacks/animation/ – please use it if you feel it would be useful.

Resources from our PLN
One way that we inspired our students to get digital was to show them the follow-ing digital artefacts – and then ask them to ‘Develop a Digital Me’. That is, we asked them to set their own short digital project where they used an artefact to tell a story about themselves or about studying. The final activity on the Project was that they had to design a Poster for an Exhibition that would showcase their learning.

Join in: Make an Artefact
Before you ask this of your students, why don’t you explore the following arte-facts. Choose one – and create a short ‘story’ about any aspect of learning, teaching or assessment that particularly intrigues or engages you. Post the link to your artefact in your blog – and add the link to the Comments part of this one!!
 Terry Elliot’s Zeega: http://zeega.com/162387
 #ccourses collaborative poem: https://titanpad.com/sXgaTJMniP
 Alan Levine’s (cogdog) You Show project: http://cogdogblog.com/2014/12/15/you-show-show-notes/
 Angela’s thinglink: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/360982057624535042#tlsite
 Fran Monaghan’s VoiceThread – beautiful, gentle and a sort of low-tech, high-tech: http://voicethread.com/?#q.b4186028.i21377601
 And Ess Garland’s timeline – and now for something completely different!
http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/101035/Edmooc-Digital-Artifact/#vars!date=2013-02-28_06:07:26!
 Theo Kuechel’s PinBoard – if an ‘essay’ is a form of curation about the learning on a course –this is a very different form of curation:
https://pinterest.com/theok2/education-and-digital-culture/
 David Hopkins’ Prezi – brilliant images – excellently chosen clips! http://prezi.com/e9y6ipsovanb/digital-artefact-edcmooc/
 And his whole blog on the topic: http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/elearning/digital-artefact-for-edcmooc-wk-5/
 And from #edcmooc 3: https://storybird.com/books/what-may-be/

LOOK HERE
This is what our students produced when teaching themselves technology with the tools of their choice: http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/epacks/posters-digital/ .
Have a look – explore the Posters and artefacts.
WE WERE VERY PROUD OF THEM!

Resources for the Future
Alan Levine is one of the leading lights of #ds106 and has curated these didacti-cal tools for developing our practice and our competences:
http://50ways.wikispaces.com/
And here is Alan Levine’s older iteration of that site: http://cogdogroo.wikispaces.com/StoryTools