Over the last few weeks quite a few resources, links and videos have landed on my desk. Well I say desk, but it’s desk as in virtual desktop, as in e-mail inbox, Twitter and Google+.
There are some traditional guides, inspiring videos, clever ways of describing how to use various tools for CPD, new tools, blog posts, and lots of other things as well. I have seen case studies on digital students, wheels on how to use Twitter more effectively for CPD, Periscope, amongst many others.
One question that within the project we are trying to grapple with is how these kinds of things can be utilised to have an impact on digital capability and the adoption of technology within institutions. What needs to happen that will make a difference, what will change after they have been introduced, will they be adopted and embedded?
These kinds of things I have found on my desk, have been put around for years. Back in 2008 I was introduced to Wordle, a simple tool that allows people to create word clouds.
This is a very clever online tool that takes a chunk of text and creates a word cloud. I really like this tool, it is simple to use and creates effective looking word clouds.
I have used this a few times, but what was certainly missing from my blog post was the how and why you should use this tool and the potential impact it could have on teaching, learning and assessment.
Often an assumption is made that academic staff such as lecturers and teachers, are able to understand how, why and where a tool can be used effectively. They know, when showcased a new tool or service how to embed it into their practice. They know, when they see an online video case study, how they will take the lessons and change the way in which they work. We also assume that they have the necessary motivation to do so.
If we assume that they don’t then how do we provide the necessary skills to allow them to do so? What kind of training and development do we need to create to make this paradigm shift.
In a similar manner, when new digital tools are introduced to an organisation, many staff don’t understand why they need to use them, and often choose not to. Organisations invest heavily in technology to support the business processes; we have seen new tools such as CRM, learning analytics, social media engagement, lecture capture, online learning environments. they do this for many reasons, efficiency, engagement, for example, but some of these tools only make sense and only really work if everyone in the organisation who is supposed to use, it does use it.
If you have worked in an organisation where everyone uses a digital diary (such as Google Apps or Microsoft Exchange) you know how much easier it is to organise calendars, meetings and work out where people are. Too often we work in organisations where some people use digital calendars, and some people use paper diaries. Their reasons for using paper diaries are varied, but the main ones are, they don’t crash, don’t need power and are easily accessible. These are all very true, but as a result lots of time is then used when planning meetings and events, as access to availability is limited to the individual. Meeting time is taken up planning follow on meetings checking availability. Meetings are missed, as people are invited using something like Exchange, but a key individual doesn’t use that tool and never sees the invite.
Of course everyone using the same tool for diaries does mean that we all lose a little of our individuality. I like using Google Calendar, I like my paper diary, I’m retro I have a Filofax! However the power of shared digital calendars, used effectively, can really add efficiencies for both an individual and the organisation. Meetings can be planned faster and ensure that there is better attendance. Likewise integration with tools such as Skype for Business (Lync) and Google hangouts make online meetings a breeze to organise and one click attendance. Everyone see where people are, and in these days of multi-site operations, this saves time.
One change that makes this better is that these digital calendars are usually available online and can be accessed through a range of devices, including people’s own devices. For example Exchange calendars can be viewed on a browser, a Chromebook, integrated into an iOS device, on Android devices, Windows, Mac, whatever people are using.
There is an assumption I know, that people have a digital device they can access their calendars on. In some organisations, every member of staff has a computer, in many educational institutions however computers are shared. So that brings us back to institutional digital capability, something I recently discussed on the blog.
Is a key enabler of institutional digital capability one of access to digital devices? That was certainly one of the reasons that came out of a discussion we had at the Jisc Connect event in Wales back in July when I asked the question what are the barriers to digital capability. It certainly demonstrates that digital capability is a complex area with no simple quick answers.
Online diaries and calendars is just small aspect of digital life, but knowing where you are supposed to be, who you need to be with and what you are doing is at the core of being effective in your role. Those core digital capabilities, which includes using tools such as calendars and diaries, can be used as a catalyst for change, bringing efficiencies and effectiveness to an organisation. They should be the start of any digital capability enhancement journey.
So looking across the work that Helen Beetham has undertaken in creating the framework in describing digital capability, you can see the challenge that we face in providing the resources and tools that then have an impact and support the improvement of staff digital capability.