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.

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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.”

Continue reading

The Paradox of Openness: Attribution (network ‘whispers’)

In a series of posts around our ALT-C symposium (The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online), Frances Bell, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and myself pose a range of issues for debate, provoking participants to reconsider the costs of participation online, openness, and the sharing of resources. Following on from my earlier post, which highlighted issues around the tyranny of authenticity, I’m now going to briefly explore ‘network whispers’. Ideas and content are shared easily through open platforms, and yet attributions can be masked in the flow of dissemination: does credit always go where it is due? Continue reading

The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online

At this year’s ALT-C conference, I’ll be contributing to a symposium session along with Frances Bell, Josie Fraser and Richard Hall. In our session, The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online, we will pose a range of issues for debate, provoking participants to reconsider the costs of participation online, openness, and the sharing of resources. I’ll be focusing practice-based scenarios based on the publishing and sharing of digital artefacts that highlight areas of uncertainty, risk and the personal cost of openness. In this post, i’m exploring ideas around:

The Tyranny of Authenticity (identity) Continue reading

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.