How to (IT) support a Pedagogy of Chaos?

Into the Wild: Embracing the Anarchy

View more presentations from Helen Keegan

I’m delighted to be here to present today’s closing plenary at the UCISA Support Services Conference ‘Great Expectations’, which this year is held at the stunning Crewe Hall. In all honesty I was surprised (and very honoured) to be invited, as I’m basically an IT Support person’s worst nightmare (well at least, that’s what I’ve been told 😉 ). However, it’s been great to meet people who are doing brilliant things and working tirelessly to support students and staff in the use of technologies – even if some of the terminology (e.g. delivering services to customers) sends a shiver down my spine. I’m pretty sure some of the stuff I’ll be talking about will make people feel equally uncomfortable.

Preparing for this, and learning about the views of the IT support community, have made me realise that I’m gradually developing a pedagogy of chaos. It’s gone from learning through paranoia, through to learning through frustration… and now this. Having spent time away from my like-minded PLN I’m reflecting on my practice from an IT support POV and realising that in many ways it’s completely unmanaged and unmanageable. We often don’t know what’s happening from one week to the next, what devices/platforms we’ll use – they’re often learner-driven and/or negotiated… along with the curriculum and the assessment. Students are pretty much free to use whatever they want, as long as they take responsibility for that particular tool/platform/programming language.

As an example, in a recent project we had students from the UK, ES, NZ and DE working across levels, disciplines and timezones to produce transmedia reports for one another. Not only was it just-in-time learning, it was just-in-time curriculum planning with the respective tutors meeting up via Google hangouts the night before classes to plan activities which would work for everybody. Each country/group of learners used different sets of tools, and none of us knew every tool. I probably only mastered around 6 or 7 – they used approx. 40 in total. Students found tools they thought looked interesting and learnt about them and presented them to one another. This meant that there was always a resident expert in whatever tool. Nobody complained because the tutors didn’t know all the tools. They produced creative reports which spanned multiple platforms, and we all learnt from one another in a global Community of Practice.

As lecturers, we have the luxury of being able to engage in daily/weekly dialogue with our learners. We can talk honestly and openly, levelling out the power relationship, becoming co-learners alongside our students, the result being that when we don’t know how to use a certain tool they’re pretty cool about it. We’re working from the ground up.

For IT services staff, it’s largely driven from the top-down, with increasing pressure to ‘deliver enhanced services’. However, IT support staff can’t be expected to learn/support every tool/platform/app that appears – most of them don’t stay around for more than a couple of years before they either a) collapse, or b) something better comes along. We can’t expect IT services staff to support everything – but what I HAVE found is that learners love to share their expertise with one another, and there’s generally at least 1 ‘expert’ user of any tool in an institution.

At the risk of sound all ‘Big Society’ (shoot me now…), I do think there’s a place for resident student IT/app experts – in whatever platform comes along this week/month (and dies as quickly) – alongside centralised IT support for the ‘big stuff’. Some kind of accreditation would be great for students, along the lines of Mozilla Badges perhaps? Anything which shows that they’ve shared their knowledge with the wider community.

So that’s it really. I’ll be interested to hear from the UCISA crowd, see what they think about this. It’s something I’d definitely like to see happening at Salford – random, ad hoc, user support groups as devices and platforms emerge. It often happens informally already through Twitter, Facebook etc. – but by recognising/rewarding, there would be less pressure on IT services, more kudos to learners and their interests/skills.

Learning through frustration – ELVSS12

We bring you… Entertainment Lab for the Very Small Screen

I love this project. I feel very lucky to be part of a committed team, working on something that is not funded – a genuine Community of Practice where our passion for mobile filmmaking has brought us together in an international collaboration which spans disciplines, levels… and timezones.

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Running a module as an ARG a.k.a. The Rufi Franzen Mystery

So the secret’s out. We’ve had the Big Reveal.

#psvtam (otherwise know as the BSc Professional Sound and Video Technology, Advanced Multimedia module) was a game – an alternate reality game.

A game that took so many unanticipated twists and turns that I’m still trying to process everything. For the past 48 hours I’ve been replaying the past 3 months in my mind, thinking about every clue, red-herring, reaction… wow. Continue reading

The Joy of Teaching: Learning Journeys and Transformations

One of my undergraduate students posted his weekly course reflections earlier this evening, and I was really moved by this post – extract:

“I cannot shake the growing feeling of “loss” which comes from moving to another semester and the introduction of new lecturers and their module content whilst in the same breath saying goodbye to the friends I have made.”

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Bringing the Social into the Sciences

Here are my Pecha Kucha slides from the Education in a Changing Environment Conference 2011. It’s a whistle-stop tour of the ways we are using social technologies in a traditional science faculty to develop a culture of learning through conversation and co-creation.

Media and Learning

I’ve spent the past few days at the superb Media and Learning Conference in Brussels, now at the airport feeling completely fired up after hearing about all sorts of exciting projects across Europe. Stand-out projects include Paul Bottleberghs Ambrosia’s Table and Jonathan Sanderson’s Planet SciCast (yay for short form!)… impressed by Jim Devine who’s really got a handle on the whole digital literacy/media literacy/competency/whatever debate, and also Nathalie Labourdette from the European Broadcasting Union who presented a pan European perspective on major broadcaster’s strategies in terms of audience participation through social media (and used a John Maeda quote, which made me very happy). Continue reading

Social Media, Education, Industry – and Motivation

(NOTE: There’s a fair bit of context in this post, so the main points are in bold)

When the time came to deliver my new MSc module in Social Media (February 2010) I was feeling a touch apprehensive: firstly, the terminology – since writing the module spec for programme approval a few years ago, attitudes towards the term ’social media’ had changed. The term itself was being seen as increasingly meaningless, the seemingly inevitable downside of buzz-terminology. However, more importantly I was worried about the content, much of which would draw on sociocultural theory, digital literacy and the ’soft’ side of media production (meanwhile the students are working towards technical MScs…). As their other modules were pretty techie I did wonder if they’d object to something that was so epistemologically different and diverse. Continue reading

The PLE Conference

The PLE Conference (Barcelona, July 8+9 2010) is intended to produce a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experience and research around the development and implementation of PLEs including the design of environments, sociological and educational issues and their effectiveness and desirability as (informal) learning spaces. Continue reading

Mobile video and UGC – the Hugh Garry way

As we know, the rise of user-generated content and the ubiquity of mobile devices have had a massive effect on the way we produce and consume media. We’re just as likely to make our own shows by sitting around with friends sharing favourite YouTube clips as we are to watch catch-up TV on our laptops. Mobile viewing figures have increased markedly as a result of the iPhone; according to YouTube in the first week of the launch of the 3GS video uploads to YouTube increased 400%, and over a six month period uploads from mobile phones to YouTube increased 1,700%. This is just as much related to the ease of sharing video across social networks as it is to improvements in phone and web technologies.

Now I know stats are notoriously ‘malleable’, but according to the IAB, in 2008 271 million requests were made to watch a program through the BBC iPlayer, and yet only 2.5% of total video watched online is through the five main broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five and Sky). It’s easy to get lost in reports and stats when trying to find out about western viewing figures but taking all into account it’s probably fair to say that YouTube accounts for around 90% of all online video consumption. The majority of that viewing is based around short-form content (5 mins or less).

After noting the frenzy around the launch of the iPhone 3GS and thinking about our changing relationship with the ‘moving image’,  I started thinking about students studying video and whether we should also be looking at short-form, user-generated content alongside traditional film-making in order to foster an appreciation of a range of production values.

Our PSVT students are given a solid grounding in the technical, practical and theoretical aspects of video production and many go on to work in the industry. As is the norm in engineering-accredited courses, the focus is on high production values and top-end equipment. Being a lecturer in social technologies, I tend to focus on UGC and so this year the students have been working on mobile video projects – that is, videos shot entirely on mobile phones. The students are working in groups to create videos, taking advantage of the accessibility and mobility of consumer technology to film things that would be difficult to capture with industry-standard equipment. It’s an interesting exercise as it challenges the students to think differently, focusing on the editorial as opposed to the narrative, and also challenges their perceptions of what makes a good film. It’s also a great way for them to get to grips with mobile phone technology and get a deeper understanding of the inner-workings of the phone as a media production device. The students are using wikis to document their research and development – both in terms of project management and the practical side of mobile film making (technical specifications, filming techniques, editing processes), and the wikis are complemented by Flickr photo-stories to show the ‘making of…’, adding another layer of UGC to their productions.

We’ve been lucky enough to get Hugh Garry on board to give the students a masterclass in mobile film making. Hugh is Senior Interactive Producer at BBC Radio 1, winning several awards – including the Guardian Media Innovation Award – for ‘Shoot the Summer’, the first full-length film shot entirely on mobile phones. Hugh is an amazing speaker on top of being one of the most creative and innovative media producers in the industry. He’s been inspirational for the students as it can be quite tricky working across a range of production values/contexts, but he’s really helped them to take a deeper look and appreciate the value of UGC through demonstrations and anecdotes based on his experiences when producing Shoot the Summer.

All in all it’s a pretty exciting project, offering the students a different kind of challenge through further developing their technical skills and media literacies in a way which, until relatively recently, wouldn’t have been possible…