From Harry Anderson, Guild President, University of Liverpool
The Guild recently played host to the inaugural Learn IT session – a series set up by the University’s Developing Digital Literacies Working Group with the help of the Guild tasked with looking at how we use and interact with technology in terms of our education.
The event brought together students and staff from a variety of areas within the University, with the aim of the inaugural event being to begin the conversation over where we are, as in institution, in terms of technology enhanced learning. As a result, the questions discussed remained broad and ranged from effective time management through to how our physical spaces at the University are conducive to digital learning and working.
Partly in a nod to the future Learn IT events, and partly due to the open and frank nature of the event, it was stressed that Tuesday’s session was merely the start of the conversation. There were to be “no wrong answers”. Dr Nick Greeves, for instance, referred to how Chemistry had been looking into providing iPads to students to allow them to take notes, with one of the interesting discussion being around how physical note-taking (i.e. the old fashioned pen and paper approach) was still seen as superior given that it was often quicker and enabled students to absorb information better. Therefore, understanding when and where technology is of benefit was equally as important as understanding when and where it is not.
Another key message that emerged from the event was the fact that issues concerning technology were not just reserved to students, and were equally a concern of staff too. Bringing together students and staff into the same open forum was one obvious way that illustrated this, highlighting, for example, how time-management and the like were problems staff had to deal with just as much as students. Presentations, however, from Law lecturer Dr Rob Stokes and third-year Physics student Joe Chamberlain also helped bring this point into sharp focus. Both Rob and Joe, for example, talked about different issues they’d faced, and overcome, with the help of technology, with Joe even having designed his own app, Unisocs, to manage his course demands. With these presentations acting as the catalyst, conversations soon began to flow amongst the various groups, with recommendations, points of discussion and broad issues being picked up and debated.
One such discussion I had concerned the provision of WiFi around campus. As with the above, it soon became evident that good provision of WiFi was an issue staff felt equally strongly about and how, with the landscape of technology rapidly and ever changing, the need to be able to connect and access resources lay at the heart of virtually everything. Whether it was accessing VITAL, sending emails or reading e-books and journals, the need for a fast and secure connection was essential.
Overall, the first Learn IT session went down extremely well, with positive feedback from staff and students alike. By bringing together both groups, the Tuesday’s event created an opportunity rarely afforded in other university settings and enabled a frank, open and honest discussion about how we currently use technology and crucially how we can improve it for both staff and students. Given this event was just the starting point of a much wider Learn IT conversation, the remaining sessions will no doubt be just as successful and I very much look forward to attending.
Harry Anderson, Guild President