My thoughts on DigiThings as an organiser, tutor and student…
DigiThings finished on the 21st March and we have now started on the evaluation. I therefore thought I’d note down some of my own experiences and observations, as organiser, tutor and student.
It was really useful to have access to Dr Helen Webster’s resources and advice on how to set up and run a ’23 Things’ style course. It was also great that so many Learning Technologists were keen to be involved, each taking ownership of a ‘Thing’ – sometimes even two! From conversations I’ve had with them they seem to have enjoyed developing their posts and delivering and supporting learners online was good CPD for many of us.
Helen’s original DH23Things course, for Researchers in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cambridge University, started with a face-to-face ‘induction’ to introduce participants to the format and give an overview of the types of tools that would be covered. Helen was also involved with running a series of face-to-face workshops simultaneously, ‘The Researcher Online‘, which really complemented DH23Things and meant participants could discuss any issues or anxieties.
With this in mind, I think it would have been beneficial to have a mixed disciplinary team, including Educational and Learning Developers, and run consecutive programmes – one consisting of face-to-face workshops and the other online. This could have raised confidence levels and possibly would have resulted in better retention. It would have also made sense to properly align this to the University’s Curriculum Enhancement Project – this could have resulted in better participation and ‘real-world’ applications, particularly considering the link with the ‘Flipped Classroom‘ model for delivering blended learning.
Other things to note for next time..
- Ensure participants know that they can get email notifications whenever anything new is posted using the ‘subscribe to this blog’ widget. DH23Things also used an email list as a communication tool initially.
- Ensure we advertise the course really well in advance – all posts don’t have to be completely polished before spreading the word!
- The course was too long and contained too many ‘things’ – this was entirely my fault – I was a bit too over-enthusiastic!
On being a tutor…
I already had some experience of this having contributed to LD5D, which was both inspirational and a real help! I posted the first ‘thing’ – setting up personal blogs to facilitate reflections and discussion. The ‘Reflective Framework‘ was really useful for this. Mine was very easy as I merely adapted Helen’s post ;o) It was great to see the first blogs registered and a ‘community’ beginning to form and I found myself checking the site regularly for any new comments. Other LTs also contributed – I think feeling part of a specific online community really helps raise confidence levels and to develop a personal writing style.
On being a student…
Even though I had used most of the tools before it was fun re-visiting them and, in some cases, gave me an ideal opportunity to update a few. I had never used Emaze before but will definitely use it in future. Storify was also a new one for me – I’ve seen this used for for curating tweets from a conference and I think it does this well. I really valued being able to discuss these tools with others, even though it was just Joanie and I towards the end!
Everyone blamed time constraints on not being able to engage with the course – I was usually late with my own posts, partly because I was also trying to do the BYOD4L – Bring Your Own Devices for Learning – course at the same time. Also I find this kind of development is easier to do at home in the evenings as I can concentrate without the distractions of working in an open plan office. Most of my day is interrupted by meetings, resulting in me doing DigiThings in the evenings, as I do with these blog posts. This encroachment into personal time does affect motivation, especially when you’re very aware that you’re not being paid for it! I would actually like to find out more about time constraints – what are they exactly? If staff don’t have the time or motivation to engage with professional development activities there’s a real danger of stagnation.
Some final thoughts…
I’m really pleased that we ran DigiThings despite losing the majority of our participants after Week Two. Our evaluation so far has revealed that people enjoyed it and would be willing to do another one – time permitting of course. It has also resulted in the creation of a useful resource – we have already used the content for a PostGraduate Certificate of Academic Practice (PGCAP) session and it seemed to be well received.
If you would like to have a go at running one yourself Helen’s materials are available under a Creative Commons license – in fact one of our participants did this with her students and it seems to have gone well. It would be great to hear how you get on!