A couple of weeks back I set up what I hoped to be a regular space and time for us, as a department, to meet to discuss digital teaching and learning and to also share our experiences of using digital tools. I hoped we could learn with and from others.
The first week it was just two of us! However we had fun and it was productive in digital and social ways. I was reminded of my trouble with instructions and with no instructions for how to connect my laptop to the projector in the room meant we ended up just talking really. It’s slightly frustrating that some Apps and tools require some functions to be carried out on a laptop or PC and I easily forget which device I need to be on to do what I want to do!
I think for me a key thing is to feel I am in a safe environment to just be myself and to get things wrong, to try things and fail, and for all that to be ok. I wonder about my students and the technologies they use in my papers and hope I am providing this same safe space to try, to test, and to hopefully, sometimes, get it right.
I feel my department is a good place to talk and share digital ideas as many of us have dabbled a little but nobody is claiming expert status!
Yesterday there were four of us at our weekly ‘Digital’ lunch session. It’s growing in popularity!! Has a Community of Practice been born??!
As a department the decision has been made for us to relocate to South campus in 2017 so part of our time together yesterday was thinking about how this could provide an opportunity to think and do things differently in terms of teaching and learning. I recognise the value of face to face class time with the whiteboard, flip charts and pens, and the important physical connections with students, but I also see the value of combining these more traditional teaching tools with some of the very creative educational technologies now available to us.
It would be good to start to compile some literature that would support the adoption of such innovations and to think about the specific needs of our students and the associated benefits and limitations for them. That way we could feel confident that not only are we being responsive to shifts in technology but are implementing tools, and teaching and learning strategies, that are pedagogically sound.
We also spoke yesterday of some of the challenges finding the ‘perfect’ digital tool! We have been trying to increase use of our departmental Google+ Communities page. I had set up several sub-pages for our various discipline specialisations, social events, teaching and learning, and also departmental business/agenda items. I would really like to develop the idea of the ‘flipped’ meeting so that when we do meet face to face we have already been working on various agenda items rather than trying to cover all business in our monthly slot together. However from just using our iPads/iPhones yesterday it looks like we can’t view these separate pages which just doesn’t seem right. It isn’t intuitive (to me) how to view these but is quite necessary if we are to more fully adopt the Community space for departmental development work.
We also spoke about the challenges for admin staff to have to create a Google doc from a Word doc if we are to post such things as agendas, minutes and other Word documents. At the moment these are having to be copied into a Google Doc and the formatting is often lost. This is taking up a lot of time at the moment, especially when the formatting of tables, for instance, don’t accurately carry over into the Google Doc. We need to streamline this process! At the moment minutes etc are also loaded on the university’s ‘I-Drive’ for communal viewing and so we may need to think about whether we create Google Docs from the start and store on Google Drive. Again these nuts and bolts issues are things which may well have very easy solutions but we may need to seek outside advice so that we don’t spend too much time trying to figure out how to save time! In saying that the process of ‘working things out’, although not always conducive with tight timeframes and deadlines, is often the best way to learn and it seems that as a digital group, we all seem comfortable with having these unanswered questions and having a go to find solutions. The reality will be though, that sometimes the ‘solution’ will be input from Thom or Vickel (our AUT digital superheros!)
I also shared my enthusiasm for WordPress and how I have enjoyed reflecting on my introduction to various technologies but also on the impact of Communities of Practice; the associated benefits from sharing experiences with others and learning with and from them. Next week we’re going to look at blogs, and WordPress in more depth, and possibly consider the way we could document and reflect on our departmental digital developments as part of our own personal professional development but also as a group. Reflection is always an end in itself but documenting our reflections and ideas could also be a catalyst for a collective article or conference presentation.
There is an initiative from Cath, our HoD for us all to have a mobile device and we’re getting an Apple TV for our meeting room so these additions will go a long way to helping us connect with the digital world and to become learners and doers which will certainly hold us in good stead for being able to equip our students with the skills and capabilities to face the changing world. For me though, the potential lies in the ability of mobile devices to connect us as people; to learn more about one another and to create new digital spaces for us to cohabit.