Being brave and testing out new technology.
February 06, 2017 at 08:45PM
Open in Evernote
Turning this week, to community, I have taken 5 minutes to breathe and consider community and education. Of course, the very easy route to take is to consider students and learning communities, but there are way more communities in education than the obvious.
I decided to think about how my course activities this week could both be digital, experiential and help me to relate to a community that I work with but am not a member of so that I can better understand their needs, wants and worries. So this week, I am trying to go fully online and I’m not printing reading material. I should add some background so that this makes sense, currently, I work as a learning technologist at the University of Edinburgh, so it is my job to support the implementation of new tools and support the faculty using them. A recent change to tools and procedures has been to move submission of assignments and the marking and feedback for those assignments to a completely digital and online format. The decision to do this being based on feedback in the National Student Survey and a push from EUSA the student union on behalf of students of the university. It was said that the student community wanted to move to submitting their assignments digitally to reduce the stress and expense of printing these and that they requested that their grades and feedback be returned electronically to speed up the process, reduce the chances of valuable work being lost in the vast amount of student work being processed and of course for the convenience that not all students are onsite to collect their paper feedback at the time it is released.
Although there is no doubt that the willingness of the university to make changes based on student feedback is a great thing, the student community is not the only one affected by these changes. The academic staff who grade and feedback on assignments are directly affected as are the support staff who process the submissions and deal with student queries. Both groups are being asked to modify the tried and tested procedures that they already have in place and in a very quick turnaround time, create and implement new procedures. One of which is that there will be no more printed material to read/grade. For teaching staff who may be reading and grading 100 student papers, asking them to move completely to a digital environment has implications for VDU health and safety, the convenience of offline work and changing procedure they may have been following for a lengthy career already.
As the learning technologist, I portray the positives, I’m the encouraging face who supports the people making these changes and tries to make this as painless as possible, but this doesn’t require me to move out of my comfort zone, so how can I truly understand the needs and concerns of this community? Therefore, I made the decision that for at least block 2, I will no longer be printing my readings and working offline. I will be using Adobe DC to read and annotate my readings digitally and Evernote for note taking. This means a complete change to my preferred processes and allows me to experience something close to that of the teaching community I work with.
I hope to challenge my desire to print reading material and ask is it better to read offline or is it just a comfort that I do out of habit or assumptions which are incorrect?
Will this test change how I work in the future?
Or will this digital educationalist decide sometimes, technology isn’t the best policy?