The inaugural LearnIT event
This week photomath.net launched an Iphone app which allows students to use their mobile phones to photograph a mathematical problem and not only to obtain the correct solution but also the full “working out” – that evasive concept which my old maths teachers used to constantly insist upon seeing. In my case it didn’t really matter. Both my workings out and my final answer were usually wrong – which is probably why I ended up following Law instead of anything which involved the slightest hint of scientific method.
The other significant event of this week for me was the inaugural session in the LearnIT series which is being co-organised by the Developing Digital Literacies working group and the Guild in recognition of the rapidly changing technological landscape in which teaching, learning, living and working now take place.
The event saw around 60 staff and students discussing how we can use technology to make us more efficient with our time, more effective collaborators, and more flexible and better organised writers.
This was the first in a planned series of events which will start to focus on more specific issues. I am personally looking forward to the upcoming session which will consider the reputational issues at stake for users of the web and particularly social media. The value of managing your ‘digital footprint’ in a well-informed and even a creative way is something which our own students are becoming more and more aware of. The LearnIT: Career and digital identity management online session will take place on the Tuesday 18th Nov 2014, 1-3pm to consider those sorts of issues. You can register for this event here.
What makes this series of events particularly interesting is that it proceeds on the assumption that we really don’t know what the “right” approach to using technology in HE effectively actually is. That seemingly down-beat outlook in fact promises to delivery much more than we might expect from a new-age trendy tech-evangelist perspective on technology. The LearnIT approach is open-ended and makes no assumptions about what technology might offer us. Tuesday’s event saw staff and student break out into focus groups to grapple with particularly un-focussed ideas. Because that the point; to break with conventional perspectives on IT for teachers and learners in higher education and start talking about what we want and need from technology.
Up until that moment I had tried very hard so far to avoid saying IT for a very good reason. This programme of events is about needs and solutions in the context of the work we do, not the all-to-easily-accepted discourse on Information Technology training and skills. This new discourse speaks of digital literacy not information skills. Not so much “ECDL” but rather “how can I do well…?”
We heard two excellent presentations from Dr Rob Stokes (lecturer from Law) from Law and Joe Chamberlain (student from Physics) which illustrated just that point. Each of these participants at some point faced the same problem – how to manage the challenges of workload management in the context of intense pressure to succeed. What solutions might technology offer to workload management? Neither of the solutions suggested by our speakers were the same in any shape or form but each was their own solution and each met the users’ needs.
The inaugural session has stepped up to face a myriad of issues ranging from helpful apps to awful habits, from online worlds to physical spaces, from the custom fit of the personalised app to the regimental reliability of the corporate IT solution. Looking at how our individual personalised learning, living and working needs might be met within the ever changing word of the app.
Jeremy Marshall (Lecturer, Liverpool Law School)
Follow the conversation about digital literacy for Liverpool University staff and students on Twitter at #LearnIT and @livDigiL and online at http://digilearn.liv.ac.uk