Last month I was talking with someone about having a vision for your team. Now I have discussed how individual academics should use the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) and how institutions should use TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning). I haven’t previously talked about my vision of what a TEL team is for, so here goes
Having recently see this ted talkI am going to start with “Why” (why have a team, why do these things) and because you should fit your vision into the wider vision of your organisation I will look first at the “Why” for my whole organisation.
For any educational establishment the overall “Why” should be something like – “We believe in creating and sharing knowledge”
We are part of the Academic Registry and so need to fit into their vision – fortunately our Academic Registrar recently came up with a new motto “Academic Registry: enabling academic endeavour, supporting the student journey” which is pretty good and nicely maps to the overall “Why” as it is about supporting the creating and sharing of knowledge.
So for the TEL team? “We believe technology can enhance academic endeavour and improve the student journey”
Support – although showing what buttons to press can be boring, any TEL team should have a key part of its role being the support of staff when they want to do something with technology.
Provide guidance (using a VLE posts) – this goes beyond support and lays out the different things staff can achieve with technology and why they would want to do this. The guidance should look at “meta-level” ideas and show the possibilities/advantages of online
Sharing – unlike standard written works, online writing can be freely and widely distributed
Collaboration – unlike standard written work, online writing can be simultaneously and collaboratively edited
Multimedia – unlike standard written work, online expression can be enhanced with sound, images and video
Push guidance, TEL staff are experts in their narrow field (the use of technology in education) and they should have the confidence to recommend what other staff should be doing in their courses. The key word here is “should” and I will come back to this.
Systematic engagement, historically TEL teams have been very good at building “islands of excellence” engaging in deep interactions with a small handful of staff. This is no longer good enough, my vision would involve working with functional areas (Department/School/Faculty) to identify what is important in their practice and thus what staff in those areas should be doing and use this to provide area wide change.
Lower barrier to engagement and then a gentle persistent push, this follows on from the systematic engagement we would make the change as easy as possible (example dropping the key tools with supporting materials into all courses rather than expecting all staff to create from scratch) and then follow up with awareness, training and support to allow all staff to make those changes.
Coming back to “should” all staff “should” be using technology in the ways suggested, however some will have good reasons why not (they are doing something else/something better) and this is fantastic, however the 2 reasons “I don’t know how”, “I don’t have time” will no longer be relevant reasons because they will know how and we will have made it easy.
Google ecology – our University has given all staff and students gmail accounts. There is a whole raft of google tools that can be accessed using these accounts. The TEL team will become expert in this ecology and will support and encourage use of these sharing tools and networks. As with guidance above the TEL team will show how the google tools fit into the “meta level” ideas and what advantages come from their use.
Communities of practice(COP) (leading to Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)) the TEL team will seed communities of practice around the different areas of TEL use, this will allow staff to talk to others interested in the same things and allow them to share good practice from their own experience, think of it as crowd sourcing the training (How to get your workforce to love your LMS)
COP/PLN also has wider implications for the students as Don Arnoldy said “the role of education is to prepare the students for participation in the communities they hope to join”. By allowing our student to join and participate in these communities during their degree we are giving them additional tools they need to succeed in their chosen career.
The idea of the connected educator is important to the vision but is too big a subject to cover here – this post by Steve Wheeler would be a good place to get a starting idea of what a connected educator means and this by Helen Crump for a more wide ranging discussion and this regarding students.
Recommendations to students because a lot of TEL teams don’t directly support the students and because every single VLE course may be completely different, it has been hard to provide recommendations that make sense to all students (example – you should regularly check the discussion boards in your course and provide thoughtful replies to the posts of other students – doesnt really work if the instructor doesn’t use discussion boards).
However by taking a step back and looking at the activity rather than the tool we can make recommendations (example – you should regularly discuss the course with other students and provide thoughtful responses to their posts – this would work even if they were chatting on Facebook) particularly now cloud tools allow students to share/collaborate even if the instructor hasn’t provided a tool in the VLE.
A clear set of recommendations to students about how they can use technology to support their learning should be a key deliverable for any TEL team.
Release early and iterate, TEL is a fast moving field – however Universities can be quite slow moving beasts. The tendency to want to make sure something is as good as it can be, sometimes results in it never happening. My TEL team would act, releasing things as soon as they are “good enough” and then going back and improving them as many times as required.
And that, in a nutshell is my vision for a TEL team