Thursday, 31 October 2013

#digilit #fail Back to the Drawing Board

Artist: Lucy Gough

well, this week I am mostly teaching old school stylee. I am currently designing Powerpoint slides, having handouts printed and thanking whoever stocked the SCALE UP room with resources for the mini whiteboards, pens and board wipes they provided.

Oh and if anyone knows a good joiner.....

So here I am, an edtech aficionado, teaching a digital literacy skills module, in a state of the art classroom, completely stymied by tech failures. On Monday the first problem we encountered was the partition doors between two classrooms refusing to move, so we had to teach 2/3 of the class in the same room as the teaching podium and 1/3 behind a screen - complete with disembodied voice over the speakers (that was after we ran to the shop to buy batteries for the mic which was completely dead on arrival...). By the time I arrived later that same afternoon to teach my second class, the VLE had either gone on strike or been hit by the St Jude weather event as I could not open a single link and the students could not log on to the system via their fancy mac books.

Fortunately I was able to reach You Tube for the video clip I had lined up and we used the aforementioned whiteboards for the interactive group task. But the class dragged a bit as I was defeated by the perfect storm of tech failures.

I have been considering whether Scale Up is the right acronym for me to continue using. The term is virtually a copyrighted one which has fairly strict criteria about the way the process is managed and which I don't really feel I achieve. My students charmingly refer to it as SCUP as that is the abbreviation that shows up on their timetables, and this week I was trying to work out how I could accommodate SCUPPERED as a new name..... please submit your answers in the comments box below:)

I have though considered:

BAGEL - big active group environment for learning (this is particularly apt as the tables in the classroom are round, with a hole in the middle!)

BABEL - big activity based environment for learning (reflects the noise level of 108 students all talking at once!)

or even

LIBEL - Large inquiry based environment for learning (I am hoping some of my critical comments about the project aren't deemed to be libellous)

On a positive note, my third year class seem to be getting into their creative stride - one group posted an Instagram video rather than use the white board for their visualisation of a dysfunctional team: it was a very cool response to the task. This is the part of the module where I start to get excited - when the students take over and get into their projects. My job becomes less about teaching and more about guiding. On this note, here's a nice little piece about project based learning which serves as a useful checklist when teaching this way.

And finally, I recently found out that I won the Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching this year (one of 5 such awards across the University). The criteria are around creativity, innovation, inspiration, employability and technology. The module I teach to the year 3 students ticks all those boxes I know (she says modestly!) but I feel a little bit as though I have cheated - the real inspiration, creativity and innovation comes from the students themselves. Still, its great to have my efforts and struggles recognised - it will certainly keep me going through the disasters and dark nights of the soul I seem to experience on a weekly basis.


  1. Well done on the award!

    Moving forward with issues around "digital" are still problematic. Allowing people to do what they are comfortable with (be that facebook or marking on paper) seem to work OK, but defy the management culture that we now have in higher education, and almost certainly miss "best digital practice". What is the way forward? I wish I knew...

  2. Thanks Alan.... work in progress obviously. I have to say I feel lucky that our University management is at least trying to engage in conversations about best digital practice - and for me it's the conversations along the way - like this one :) - that make the journey worthwhile.