Digital is the convergence of a variety of technologies and social changes that have led to a new way of living our lives. Our students are the epitome of this new digital reality – they create and consume content in a very different way to previous generations.
“The integration of digital technology into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers.
Beyond that, it’s a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment often, and get comfortable with failure.
Digital transformation is not solely about technology. In fact technology is only one part of the puzzle. Digital transformation is about meeting the needs of the new digital consumer – be they staff or student. It involves new understanding and cultural change. For more on this see Paul Boag’s Digital Transformation: The six questions you need to answer.
At the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) we are at the beginning of this transformation process. There is a commitment to develop and a will to act, but so far efforts have not been as co-ordinated as they could be.
However this is about change. We are working on a new digital-focused strategic approach to be integrated in our IT strategy and Learning and Teaching strategy. It will form the backbone of our digital activity and allow progress to be made in a comprehensive and integrated manner.
We want to share our transformation with you and intend to blog about the journey, bumps and all.
In October 2021, I attended my first #IdeasRoom on Zoom. I discovered the #IdeasRoom on Twitter as a result of submitting a poem to the #JoyFE magazine. The #IdeasRoom was more than just an #IdeasRoom. It is a part of #JoyFE – “Joyful Education💛 was founded by Stefanie Wilkinson and Lou Mycroft in the summer of 2020, following the momentum experienced in Covid-lockdown around the need for change in education. It is the enterprise arm of the non-profit movement and constellation, #JoyFE💛” (Joyful Education, 2021).
#IdeasRooms draw on the thinking of Nancy Kline and the idea of the thinking environment (Kline, 2020). What was really interesting was that “Nancy Kline purports that the quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first” (Hey Teach, 2021). I attended a presentation entitled JoyFE More than a hashtag at the OER Domains 21 conference in April 2021 delivered by Sammy White.
What is a room? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a room can be defined as “a part of the inside of a building that is separated from other parts by walls, floor, and ceiling” (Cambridge Dictionary, 2021). What is an #IdeasRoom? They are “…a one-hour, virtual space where efficient thinking happens, in an environment of encouragement, attention and ease. Everyone is welcome to join the #JoyFE💛 public Ideas Room at 8pm every Wednesday…” (Joyful Educatiom, 2021). It is possible to join an #IdeasRoom by sending a direct message to the @JoyfulFE Twitter account for the Zoom joining instructions.
“I have taken part in an ideas room more than 100 times and each time I have left feeling refreshed, ‘with my brain on fire’, inspired to do more. But this is a different kind of ‘more’. It is often an idea, turned into a project, that has been enriched by many other beautiful minds since its proposal in the first round of the #ideasroom”
(Mars Maths, 2021)
When you join the #IdeasRoom, it is important to use the camera. Participants share who they are and how they are. This is followed by identifying an idea that each participant has been thinking about. The ideas are shared in the chat and there is an opportunity to vote on the idea to discuss. Participants then go into breakout rooms where the main idea is discussed. Questions such as “What is live for you?” are asked and answered. When participants rejoin the main room, there is an opportunity to share ideas, praise others and reflect on how to embed ideas discussed in our own context.
“There is something beautiful about having a sense of purpose that guides you to send positive messages out into the world”
(Mycroft & wilkinson, 2021)
It was undoubtedly the case that I felt better after participating in the #IdeasRoom. It felt like I was able to listen in a constructive way and focus in a meaningful capacity. Sammy White identified generative listening in her presentation (White, 2021). One of my initial thoughts was to share the #IdeasRoom with the RAU and suggest using the approach with staff and students alike. If CPD was framed in this way, as a #ThinkingEnvironment, then perhaps it would be more joyful.
Benefits of #IdeasRooms:
No exclusive ownership
Bring about positive change
Opportunity to listen to others and be listened to
Opportunity to focus
“Common feedback from people who attend the IdeasRoom include a refreshed outlook, excitement about the future, optimistic creative thinking and a buzz about feeling connected” (Joyful Education, n.d.).
No hosts, just shared task-based facilitators (White, 2021)
In Sammy White’s presentation, a reference is made to floo powder from the Harry Potter films. An additional Harry Potter reference struck me as being relevant to #IdeasRooms-the Room of Requirement. If the wand chooses the wizard, then the room chooses the participants?
“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter”
Mr. Ollivander, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
Lou Mycroft (@LouMycroft) facilitated the #IdeasRoom. She shared how time seemed to slow down in the room and I could definitely relate to this. In the OER Domains 21 presentation, she also discussed how #JoyFE was like “rhizomatic professional practice” and was similar to Rhizo14 (Mycroft, in White2021). “Communities of practice” are not new (Lave & Wenger, 1991: p89). However, #JoyFE is more than a community. As a collaborative community, perhaps the facilitators are like the “Keepers of Hope” (hooks, 2003: p105).
In future, perhaps Zoom Rooms could help to facilitate #IdeasRooms. Despite the fact that I do not work in FE, the #IdeasRoom is an inclusive #ThinkingEnvironment to bring all educators together. Perhaps we can from #JoyFE to simply #JoyE.
Lave, L & Wenger, E (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (Cambridge, New York, Madrid & Cape Town: Cambridge University Press)
Mycroft, L [@LouMycroft] (2021, 13th October BEAUTIFUL CHILLED OUT #IDEASROOM WITH @ARCHANA68547279 @CHRISAFRIN @PIPMAC6 @AMBERTAYSMI #STEPOUTOFTIME EVERY FORTNIGHT #IDEASROOM FOLLOWS STRETCH AND RELAX CLASS TOO! I ALWAYS HAVE THE BEST NIGHT’S SLEEP AND WAKE UP BUZZING [Tweet]. Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/LouMycroft/status/1448379463960571908
As part of a transnational partnership between the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Shandong Agriculture University (SDAU) that pivoted to online elarning due to the global plandmeic, Lecturers delivered 45-minute interactive sessions to students using Zoom, the well-known video conferencing tool. Since June 2020, three successful online cohorts have taken place. It is fundamental to acknowledge the differences between teaching in a face-to-face and online capacity, that distance learning “…cannot be the same as teaching in a walled classroom” (Morris, 2021). A significant part of the transnational online pivot involved training staff on how to use Zoom effectiely for pedagogy. What about the students? In September 2021, a Lecturer reported that a student had disrupted the class by not putting the microphone on mute. Initially, this ‘pedagogical incident’ could be explained as showing a need for greater online classroom management and/or student behaviour. However, I asked myself, “Have we created an opportunity to support students on how to behave in an online classroom, have we assumed they know how to use Zoom?“. Perhaps the teacher-centrered approach needed to be transformed into a student-centred approach. As a result, four critical questions were asked
1.How can we support students to make the most of their interactive sessions in Zoom?
2. How do students know how to behave in an online classroom setting?
3. How do students know how to use Zoom?
4. How can we support students whose first language may not be English with technology-enhanced transnational learning (TETL?)
Asking the four questions above, led to three further questions:
1.What is literacy?
2. What is Zoom Literacy?
3. When does knowing how do use a tool become literacy?
Perhaps literacy “…has become a process of commodification in which literate learning is entangled with commodities” (Mills, 2015: p2).
A strategy we explored was the use of breakout rooms in Zoom to facilitate an escape room. What is an escape room? Escape rooms (ERs) can be defined as “…live-action team-based games in which players encounter challenges in order to complete a mission in a limited amount of time” (Veldkamp, van de Grint, Knippels & van Jooingen, 2020). Escape rooms are nothing new. They are popular in educationSanchez & Plumettaz-Sieber, 2019 in Veldkamp, van de Grint, Knippels & van Jooingen, 2020). One of the core benefits of breakout rooms is that the “allow[s] groups of one or more participants to break out into any number of smaller Zoom meetings from within the initial Zoom meeting (Stanford University Teaching Commons, n.d.). It can be argued that an escape room is a type of game. Embedding gamification is also nothing new in education. There are a number of advantages to using games, for example, games can provide an opportunity to “increase both engagement and motivation” (Kim, Song, Lockee & Burton, 2018: p5).
In 2021, a presentation was delivered at the University of Kent Digitally Enhanced Education Webinars entitled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Zoom. A Transnational Online Pivot Adventure which explored the idea of online classrooms being like ‘digital temples’ and Learning Technologists like ‘Digital Archaeologists’. This blog post is a development of this as the next transnational adventure. In the film Indiana Jones andthe Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones faces a series of ‘tombs’ that he needs to break out of by solving problems. From the ‘Temple of Zoom’ to the ‘Breakout Tomb’.
In our escape room, students are faced with different situations that they may face in an interactive session in Zoom. A PowerPoint file with animated content was shared to created a multimodal experience. Students need to answer the questions correctly using chat and find the code to ‘escape’. A password-protected blog post was created. Once students escaped, they could download a digital badge and had an opportunity to access a Microsoft Form to evaluate their escape room experience.
In October 2021, a presentation was delivered at CARNival, an event entitled Raised Voices: Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) Online Conference, 2021 to discuss the escape room approach in the transnational context.
In terms of what Zoom Literacy could be, perhaps it could be made up of different dimensions of practice. For example, using non-verbal feedback or agile stationary could be a form of artifactual literacy which can be defined as an approach that “…examines objects and their meanings in everyday life and also acknowledges the situated nature of texts in places and communities” (Pahl & Rowsell, 2011: p130). What is important to note is that “Some stories are more powerful than others in that they are more visible” (Pahl & Rowsell, 2011: p129).
Zoom is not immune from digital inequalities. From Teaching to Transgress to Technology to Transgress & Progress (hooks, 1994). It is important that we must not view the online classroom as a digital “mini-kingdom” with unequal power relationships, particularly if the online classroom is designed to be an interactive environment (hooks,1994: p17). If it is true that “every object tells a story”, then every online classroom has a narrative too (Pahl & Rowsell, 2010).
Perhaps one aspect of the narrative was the Chinese character transforming the escape room into an opportunity for into digital storytelling.
Curating the virtual support presence – It is a good idea to adopt a team teaching approach. More than one Lecturer/Learning Technologist provides the students with more support and workload can be shared e.g. one person shares screen while the other monitors the chat.
Planning for breakout rooms or ‘tombs‘ – Breakout rooms need to be planned in advance either by pre-assignment with student emails or in a manual capacity. If the group has a large number of students, then manual breakout rooms can be the best approach in a synchronous capacity.
Second language awareness – creating a document with core vocabulary and phrases to support students with understanding, particularly if the topic involves specialist terms of reference.
Involve studentsin the development of their own Zoom Literacies – create an ice breaker activity proving students an opportunity to decide their on ground rules and expected behaviours in online settings.
Be open to exploring a range of tools and approaches – another interesting tool is Twine “…an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories” (Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, n.d. ). Could students co-create collborative and interactive fiction?
Alice Veldkamp, Liesbeth van de Grint, Marie-Christine P.J. Knippels, Wouter R. van Joolingen (2020) Escape education: A systematic review on escape rooms in education in Educational Research Review, Volume 31, 100364 (Online) Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1747938X20300531 [Accessed 11 September 2021]
hooks, B (1994) Teaching to Transgress Education as the Practice of Freedom (Oxon & New York: Routledge)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 1984 [film]. Steven Spielberg. dir. Paramonun Pictures & Lucasfilm
Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (n.d.) Twine (Online) Available at: https://twinery.org/ [Accessed 24 September 2021]
Kim, S, Song, K, Lockee, B & Burton, J (2018) Gamification in Learning and Education Enjoy Learning Like Gaming? (Switzerland: Springer International Education)
Mills, K, A (2015) Literacy Theories for the Digital Age: Social, Critical, Multimodal, Spatial, Material and Sensory Lenses (New Perspectives on Language and Education (Bristol, Buffalo & Toronto: Multilingual Matters)
“The [online] classroom remains the most radical [online] space of possibility in the academy”
What about the online classroom? Is the online classroom the most radical virtual space? what is (techno) trangression?
Every Thursday at 9pm, a series of questions, ideas, and provocations in the form of tweets are curated on Twitter with the hashtag #ukfechat to prompt discussion. Tweetchats have become increasingly more popular and one of the core benefits of using this approach is that discussions can take place without the need for face-to-face or location-based restriction.
The format is a question followed by a number. Twitter users who want to respond to a particular question are able to respond by typing ‘A’ and the number of the question. Whilst there is an explicit focus on further education, the majority of ideas, topics and themes explored are relevant to all educational settings. This was the case with using Zoom, particularly during the pandemic as a pivot approach and also as post-pandemic hybrid tool.
In addition to #ukfechat, there are a number of weekly Twitter accounts and hashtags used a tool to prompt online discussion about education. For example #APConnect, #CreativeHE and LTHE Tweetchat which is “a collaborative project to discuss learning & teaching in HE with the wider community vie tweetchats…” (@LTHEchat). LTHEChat takes place every Wednesday 8pm-9pm and the WordPress conference (#PressEDconf21) “…on all things education, pedagogy and research” (@pressedconf). Two blog posts have been published about tweetchats here and here:
In 1994, bell hooks wrote a pivotal book entitled ‘Teaching to Transgress Education as the Practice of Freedom‘ (hooks, 1994). What is transgression? Can technology as a platform for transgression? Can technology be used as a platform for freedom? What about “The Public and their Platforms?”(Carrigan & Fatsis, 2021). What is literacy anyway? What is Critical Digital Literacy?
“Defining what is meant by digital literacy however has proven complicated, as the spaces, texts and tools which contextualise such practices are continually changing”
(Pangrazio, 2016: p163)
Perhaps literacy is a “commodity?” (Elsasser & Irvine, 1992). On Twitter, there is an account that asks what “if bell hooks made an LMS” which is “A bot that mashes up marketing statements from Learning Management Systems and passges from Teaching to Transgress ” (@bellhooksLSM).
As part of both the SDAU and QAU projects, the RAU delivers 45-minute interactive sessions using Zoom. Therefore, the topic of Zoom Literacy became relevant for both staff and students. The first tweet asked ‘What would bell hooks say?’
A range of questions was asked for example:
Have you heard of artifactual literacy? Does every object tell a story? (Rowsell & Pahl, 2010). How can we use objects in Zoom online classrooms effectively?
To what extent are non-verbal feedback & agile literacy an important part of Zoom literacy? I have used before.
How have you used Zoom to create an opportunity for collaborative learning?
How can we carry out digital differentiation using Zoom e.g. sending a message to an individual student & the whole group using the chat
Camera or off? That IS the Zoom question. Or is it?
Since the return to face-to-face teaching in some contexts, how can Zoom support a hybrid pedagogical approach?
To what extent can Zoom be used to create multimodal learning opportunities or for dual coding?
What do you think about a Zoom literacy certificate or formal qualification? Could there be a Zoom college or university?
How did you support teaching staff & students on how to use Zoom? Can you share any practical examples or links? One suggestion I have is to adopt a team-teaching approach in Zoom. Students get more energy!
Is it more about joy not literacy or can we have both?
What is critical digital literacy anyway? What makes it critical? Who decides? Can a tool-specific literacy exist? Would it be helpful and for who? To what extent is literacy transgressive?
How are you currently using Zoom for pedagogy? What features do you use e.g. polling, breakout rooms and/or whiteboard. How can we improve these features?
A good place to start would be to ask what critical digital literacy is anyway? In 2019, I presented Association for Learning Technology (ALT) West Midlands Group at Warwick University exploring Digital Champions and Critical Digital Literacy. Can critical digital literacy evolve over time? To what extent have the global pandemic and pivot to online learning had on our definition? One response from the #ukfechat was that it is about “making a difference” and being “boundary-less of what is possible…” which could link to transgression (Scattergood, 2021). Perhaps bell hooks would agree!
Another question concerned how objects can be used during Zoom meetings with respect to artifactual literacy. Does this add a new socio-material dimension to using Zoom?. “Does every object tell a story[?]” (Rowsell & Pahl, 2010). A helpful suggestion was made by @tessmaths:
The use of agile stationery (@agilestationary) can be used in Zoom classrooms as a paper-based solution – “We believe that physical products support embodied cognition without becoming distracting and provide the fastest feedback loop in the simplest possible setting” (Agile Stationary, 2021).
Perhaps embedding gamification approaches can increase student engagement?
One of the tweets connected literacy to joy. Joy has been a positive narrative, particularly throughout the pandemic and beyond. Joyful Education “…was founded by Stefanie Wilkinson and Lou Mycroft in the summer of 2020, following the momentum experienced in Covid-lockdown around the need for change in education” (Joyful Education, n.d.). It is possible to follow the #JoyFE hashtag on Twitter.
It was useful to find out how other educators are using Zoom and also what other tools they are using to enhance the student experience, for example the HUE camera:
Two tweets really stood out in terms of reflective responses to the questions from @LouMycroft. The first tweet explored how Zoom can be used as a platform to build relationships. The second tweet explored the idea of energy from Spinoza and the idea of a joyful expedition. The metaphor of the journey/expedition was powerful.
Does a journey imply a destination? The discussion about journey raised some further ideas:
One of the tweets explored the idea of a Zoom University. Zoom Academy offer both training and certifications for example for Educators here.
The tweets from tweetchat exploring Zoom Literacy can be accessed here organised as a Wakelet collection.
The collections of curated tweets for #ukfechat have been organised as a Wakelet collection here:
If you would like to curate a topic of #ukfechat, it is possible to sign up using Padlet here:
Let us end on an amusing Tweet from Eric Yuan, Founder & CEO of Zoom:
Dr. Rikke Toft Nørgård, Associate professor, Aarhus University & Center for Higher Education Futures presented at the Philosophy and Theory of Higher Education Society (PaTHES) Thematic Webinar Series 2021: Foresight, speculative design and preferable higher education futures in September 2021. In this presentation, the idea of ‘hopepunk’ was identified. What if we had ‘Zoompunk?’.
Agile Stationary [agilestationary] (2021, 30th September) WE HAVE HAD GREAT SUCCESS BRINGING PHYSICAL CARDS INTO A GAMIFIED INTELLECTUAL PROCESS. THE CARDS DON’T END UP BEING DISPLAYED ON SCREEN. EACH CARD IS A PROMPT WHICH IS CONSIDERED BY THE INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPANT. WHEN GAMEPLAY DICTATES THE PARTICIPANTS READS THE CARD ALOUD [Tweet]. Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/agilestationery/status/1443700780729516037
Carrigan. M & Fatsis, L (2021) The Public and their Platforms Public Sociology in an Era of Social Media (Bristol: Bristol University Press)
Elsasser, N. and Irvine, P. (1992) ‘Literacy as Commodity: Redistributing the Goods’, Journal of Education, 174(3), pp. 26–40. doi: 10.1177/002205749217400304.
Nørgård, T, T (2021) What comes after the ruin? Speculative design for preferable university futures [Online]. in PaTHES Fall 2021 Thematic Webinar Series on “Foresight, speculative design and preferable higher education futures. September 2021.
hooks, B (1994) Teaching to Transgress Education as the Practice of Freedom (Oxon & New York: Routledge)
Pahl, K & Rowsell. J (2010) Artifactual Literacies: Every Object Tells a Story (Language and Literacy Series) (Amsterdam & New York: Teachers College Press)
Pangrazio, L (2016) Reconceptualising critical digital literacy, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 37:2, 163-174, DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2014.942836
McDonald, P [@PipMac6] (2021, 30th Sept) HELLO #UKFECHAT. IT’S 9PM. LET’S EXPLORE ‘TECHNOLOGY TO TRANSGRESS. EXPLORING CRITICAL @ZOOM LITERACIES’. REMEMBER TO REPLY USING ‘A1’. WHAT WOULD BELL HOOKS SAY? [Tweet]. Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/PipMac6/status/1443682169881341956
Mycroft, L [@LouMycroft] (2021, 30th September) EVENING PIP! ZOOM IS ALL ABOUT BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS FOR ME CONTEXT PROFESSIONAL LEARNING SO NOTHING FANCY. CAMERAS ON, #THINKING ENVIRONMENTS AND IF THERE’S WORK TO BE DONE GET AWAY FROM THE SCREEN. HAVE EVEN PULLED BACK FROM SLIDES #UKFECHAT [Tweet]. Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/LouMycroft/status/1443672769300926470
Mycroft, L [@LouMycroft] (2021, 30th September) I LOVE THE IDEA OF EXPEDITIONS OF JOB, SPINOZA BELIEVED JOY WAS FOUND IN THE ENERGY WE SHARE, A SORT OF COLLECTIVE LIFE ENERGY. THE BEST TEACHING HAS THAT AND BRINGS THE OUTSIDE IN #UKFECHAT [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/LouMycroft/status/1443675202618003465
Scattergood, K [@KMScattergood] (2021, 30th September) NOT A JOURNEY-I HATE JOURNEY AS IT IMPLIES THERE’S A DESTINATION. CAN WE HAVE JOY IS THE ADVENTURE OR JOY IS THE EXPEDITION INSTEAD? #UKFECHAT [Tweet]. Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/KMScattergood/status/1443673584891797526 [Accessed 7 October 2021]
Scattergood, K [@KMScattergood] (2021, 30th September) WELL, CRITICAL LITERACY IS ABOUT MAKING A DIFFERENCE, USING LITERACY TO CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO, IMPROVE SYSTEMS/COMMUNITIES, ETC, SO I THINK CRITICAL DIGITAL LITERACY MUST BE BOUNDARY-LESS IN WHAT IS POSSIBLE. Thinking emoji. #UKFECHAT [Tweet]. Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/KMScattergood/status/1443669662655516683 [Accessed 7 October 2021]
Taylerson, L [@LyneeTaylorson)] (2021) ukfechat curation: 30/09/2021 – Technology to Transgress: Critical Zoom Literacies hosted by @PipMac6 (Online) Available at: https://wakelet.com/wake/A5H5cVpqqNamjw5nsy6Wk [Accessed 5 October 2021]
Taylerson, L [@LyneTaylorson)] (2021) ukfechat curated archive https://wakelet.com (Online) Available at:/wake/n0OovqWy5sLeNx_2cpHIO [Accessed 5 October 2021]
Taylerson, L, Pinny, K & McDonald, P (2019) West Midlands Group Meeting: Critical Digital Literacies West Midlands Association of Learning technologists [blog] (Online) Available at: https://bit.ly/2P8qTRI [Accessed 5 October 2021]
Tessmaths [@tessmaths] (2021, 30th September) A13: ASK STUDENTS TO RUN OFF AND FIND SOMETHING – A CUBOID WITH A RIGHT ANGLE IN IT, SOMETHING WITH A SQUARE NUMBER ON IT, A PACKAGE TO UNFOLD TO SHOW THE NET OF SHAPE #UKFECHAT [Tweet]. Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/tessmaths/status/1443683051456942080 [Accessed 7 October 2021]
Zoom has played a significant role in the pivot to online learning and the emergent ‘pandemagogy’. Zoomtopia took place on 13th-14th September 2021. A part of Zoomtopia was the opportunity to explore the Imaginarium. It was possible to customise the Imaginarium and download the creation. This involved an interactive map including Global Stage, Pavilion of Progress, Product and Industry Showcase, World of Creation, Hall of Sponsors and the Gallery of Stars.
Zoom identify the following capabilities of its platform for education:
Manage your classes
Customise the learning experience
Enable security and compliance
Support flexible learning environments (Zoom Video Communications Inc, 2021)
It might be a surprise to find out that Zoom is celebrating its ten-year anniversary (Zoom Video Communications Inc, 2021). For many of us, our perception is that it was a tool that was heavily used in 2020. Before that, Zoom was used but not as well known. Since 2020, Zoom has been used as a core tool on which interactive sessions for both the SDAU and QAU projects to take place. Reflecting on the tools we have used to adapt face-to-face teaching to online contexts is important. A presentation was delivered at the University of Kent’s Digitally Enhanced Webinars in February 2021 exploring the use of zoom entitled Indiana Jones & the Temple of Zoom. Learning Technologists as ‘Digital Archaeologists’ & Online Classrooms as ‘Digital Temples’. If a metaphor for an online classroom can be a ‘digital temple’, could we ask when does video conferencing meeting become an online classroom and vice versa? Over the past year, it is possible to see how it has improved and evolved in a variety of ways. It is possible to acknowledge new vocabulary entering popular culture. Who has not heard of “You’re on mute”, “zoom fatigue” and “zoombombing?”. Critically, the “Zoom gaze” has become entrenched into everyday work practices (Caines, 2020). Autumn Caines, an Instructional Designer from University of Michigan (@Autumm), led a webinar exploring Zoom in terms of digital power hierarchies (Caines, 2021).
Some of the most innovative product developments included the Zoom Phone with bring your own carrier, the hot desking tool to support hybrid working, a Smart Gallery with artifical intelligence, and the use of virtual reality with the Oculus headset to create an immersive experience. There was an emphasis supporting remote workers in terms of an inclusive approach to hybrid collaboration. Some of the key words and phrases from the presentations were ‘frictionless’, ‘seamless”putting the video back in videogame’ and ‘Zoom fidelity’. Additionally, I attended an education specific session ‘From Classroom to Computer Screen: Redesign In-Person Training for Virtual Audiences’ which was really useful in terms of improving the interactive RAU delivers using Zoom. For example, the presenter, Sandy Masters identified the ‘90 20 4‘ model: provide a break every 90 minutes, activity or assessment very 20 minutes and finally provide an interactive opportunity every 4 minutes (Masters, 2021).
Zoom Literacy has almost become a fundamental 21st-century skill for the modern workplace including working from home. How has a video conferencing tool been transformed into an educational tool we do not seem to able to live without? From Zoom, doom and gloom to Zoom, boom and Bloom?
During the Association for Learning Technologists (ALT) Winter Conference in 2020, one of the sessions entitled ‘To Be And Not To Be: Physical Absence and Virtual Presence in Online Learning’ led by Dr. Stuart Taylor, University Tutor at University of Glasgow (@SJamesTaylor), and Dr. Ingeborg van Knippenberg, Lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University (@icvk) explored the idea of of “hauntology”, “spectral presence” and the “haunted subject” (Henriksen, 2016: p37). To what extent is the Zoom experience haunting? Are hosts digital ghosts? What are digital monsters? (Henriksen, 2016: p37). We are familiar with the idea of the ghost in the digital machine. But what if the machine is the ghost? We need to be more concerned with the machine in the ghost (Kirwan, 2021). Is Zoom a digital zoo? If it is a haunting experience, then is it like a night at a digital museum? To what extent is digital dysmorphia a real threat? (Dalva, 2021). Are we experiencing zoom nihilism? Perhaps we need to ‘curb our digital enthusiasm’ of using video conferencing platforms. If Sartre re-wrote Being & Nothingness for the 21st century, would the “phenomenological ontology” concern Being & Digital Nothingness (Sartre we do we dissolve into Zoom? If we stare too long, do no the ‘Zoom abyss’? – “He who fights with [digital] monsters should be careful lest he thereby becomes a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil. Aphorism 146).
One of fundamental debates about using Zoom is whether the camera should be on or off or camera normativity. Does using the camera improve the digital student experience? What is impact of the camera on teaching and learning? Is it best for students to be able to’see’ their teacher and for the teacher to ‘see’ their students?. What is ‘seeing’ anyway?
Having trained staff and supported students on how to use Zoom effectively, I was keen to find out the latest product developments at Zoomtopia such as On Zoom (Beta) and Zoom Rooms. Over the past year, we have seen some significant improvements to the platform itself. For example, security improvements and immersive view which provides a visual reimagination of a meeting for participants. Truthfully, Zoom is a multimodal platform with a range of pedagogical affordances that can be used successfully in an interdisciplinary capacity.
It is important to acknowledge that Zoom can be used in conjunction with other tools to provide a positive digital student experience. Perhaps an over reliance on Zoom exclusively might not be sufficient. For example, we used Panopto as a platform to allow lecturers to pre-record their lectures and Zoom for interactive sessions for the SDAU project. Comparing tools and approaches may not help us in the way that, we may need to both combine and curate the use of tools to meet the unique needs of our students as a commitment to digital differentiation (Islam, Kim & Kwon, 2012). In the same way that we might be concerned by the term “technology determinism”, perhaps we are experiencing ‘Zoom determinism’ (Edwards, 2012: p8).
The blog post title draws explicitly on the well-known book by Robert Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In the Afterward, Pirsig asks “Who really can face the future? All you can is do is project from the past” (Pirsig, 2004: p393).This is a powerful question when we frame it in terms of the future of teaching, learning and working. Is the art of hosting a Zoom meeting a bit like the art of motorcycle maintenance. Perhaps it is. Here’s to the “hybrid workforce” (Zoom Video Communications Inc, 2021). Zoom is undoubtedly bound up in our pedagogical consciousness “The phenomenon of being and the being of phenomenon (Sartre, 2003: p4).
Moving forward and reflecting on post-pandemic pedagogic realities, Zoom will still play an important role in the “brave new digital classroom” (Blake, Guillén, & Thorne 2013). Perhaps now really is the time to be brave (Hardwick 2021). For example, on their dedicated Zoom for Education website, they refer to hybrid learning and talk about an “education ecosystem” (Zoom Video Communications Inc, 2021). Zoom sent me a an official Zoomtopia mug, pin badges and stickers which was a nice touch! Perhaps we need to think about the art of “placemaking” (White, 2021). Zoom classrooms are a bit the digital non-places (Augé in White, 2021). Zoom acknowledged the creative ways the Zoom has been used. Zoom provide the tools and the platform, and it is up to us to bring the agency to Zoom. Here’s to the hybrid ecosystem!
Islam, M., Kim, Dan-A. and Kwon, M. (2020). A Comparison of Two Forms of Instruction: Pre-Recorded Video Lectures vs. Live ZOOM Lectures for Education in the Business Management Field. Sustainability, [online] 12(19), p.8149. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/19/8149/htm
Kirwan, C (2021) The machine in the ghost: An Educational Design Research study that explores the teaching of Computational Thinking of Irish second-level students. Dublin City University (DCU). Dublin
Yuan, E “Zoomtopia Vision and Product Keynotes” in Zoomtopia. Online 2021. Accessed on:September 13 2021 [Online]. Available: https://zoomtopia.com/
van Knippenberg, I & Taylor, J. “To Be And Not To Be: Physical Absence and Virtual Presence in Online Learning”, in Association for Learning Technologists Winter Conference. Online. 2020. Accessed on: September 9 2021 [Online]. Available: https://eu.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback
We have now advertised for a Junior Learning Technologist to work in the Digital Innovation Team at the RAU.
Salary details: £26,341 – £31,406 per annum (DOE)
Location: Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, Gloucestershire
What will you do?
You will work with and support the Learning Technology team in providing technical and creative expertise, in the areas of online and blended learning, particularly in transnational education. You will support the team in designing and developing a wide range of digital resources to enhance teaching and learning and make the RAU the leading specialist University in land, agri-food and rural enterprise sectors.
You’ll have an innovative and creative approach, practical instructional design expertise (both online and face to face). With excellent communication and organisational skills, you will work with academic and professional staff, designing and delivering innovative and engaging training resources.
This is an opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to the learning experience, that will benefit both our students and staff.
Join us in developing a wide range of new digital learning experiences.
The role will be full-time(35 hours per week) in a permanent capacity. The University is currently trialing a hybrid approach to work and as a result there will be some capacity for working remotely.
The closing date for the Junior Learning Technologist is Monday 11th October 2021. Interviews are expect to take place on Wednesday20th October 2021.
On Monday 6th September, teaching started with the students based at Qingdau Agricultural University (QAU). For the last six months, the Digital Innovation team has been preparing for September. For the Learning Technology team, (@husnaahmed @chantalschipperraut and Peter Tolley) this took a variety of forms:
Creation of a dedicated SharePoint to act as a document repository for staff
Setting up of assessment and feedback workflow using Turnitin
Creation of pre-recorded lectures using Panopto
Scheduling of interactive sessions using Zoom with dedicated Zoom Pro licences
We also welcomed new staff from China to the team who have provided support for the preparations for September. Khloe, Hayley, Kara and Sherry for SDAU and Leah and Amber for QAU. One member of the new China team, Leah introduces herself and shares her ideas about teaching and learning:
“My name is Leah and I was born in a small city of Yantai, Shandong Province. I had an experience of studying in the UK for two years. I have a Master of Science in Project Management from the University of Sussex in the UK. I have deep affection for the UK, and I am honored to have this opportunity work for RAU. About teaching, I think one ofthe significant differences between British education and Chinese education is that it is that the British apprach is highly interactive. I learned that the function in zoom called poll is a good way to achieve it. At the same time, it is good to could check the students’ understanding of the main points and to encourage students to pay more attention on learning“.
At RAU, we welcomed new staff to teach the modules. Michael Heasman, International Teaching Fellow in Agri-Food Studies is teaching Principles of Marketing and Introduction to the Agri Food Industry. Michael Morris is teaching Species & Ecosystems. Stephen Chadd is also teaching Introduction to the Agri Food Industry and Maxwell Mutema is teaching Principles of Marketing. Michael Heasman co-authored a a book entitled Food Warsthe Global Battle for Mouths, Minds and Marketswith Tim Lang.
A range of induction sessions for students were delivered using Zoom where an example lecture in Panopto was played and a poll was used to engage the students. Additionally, Lecturers talked through how the modules would work and there was an opportunity for students to ask questions at the end.
During his induction presentation, Michael Heasman referred to the television programme The Great British Bakeoff as an example of British food culture. Check out the #EdTechBakeOff on Twitter where the Learning Technology community came together to share their creations. Perhaps a virtual bakeoff would be a creative way to engage students. A Thousand Gateaux?
Our China team were trained on how to schedule Zoom meetings for the online interactive sessions. This provided us with an opportunity to work on getting the workflow right. We started the training session with a quiz about the RAU.
Preparing for teaching for the QAU project enabled us to reflect on our other transnational projects particularly in terms of workflow, assessment, feedback and processes. For example, developments in exploring automated marking of multiple choice questionnaires (MCQs) for QAU could help us with improving teaching and learning with Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU). With regard to the interactive sessions in Zoom, it was important to reflect on enabling both co-hosts and alternate hosts in case the meeting host was not available.
Ensuring the interactive sessions on Zoom are really interactive is an ongoing problem particularly in virtue of Leah’s pedagogical reflection on interaction being one of the core differences between education in the UK and China. What is the relationship between interaction and engagement? Independent of the learning context, whether it is face-to-face or not, it is always important to ask ‘are students engaged?’. We must never “…confuse online engagement with logging in” (Headleand, 2021). We should also aim to ask the question “What does ‘student engagement’ mean to you? And you? And you?” (Headleand, 2021). Chris Headleand is also organising a Practical Pedgogy conference in September 2021. It is possible to find out more and sign up here. One of the most powerful tweets from the conference itself was:
Don’t just deliver: Teach. This seems like pluasibdle approach to pedagogy. Perhaps we need to reflect on our expectations of what we consider good teachers do in a wider sense and also what good teachers do in online settings? If good teachers differentiate, do Lecturers who teach in an online capacity provide opportunities for digital differentiation? What could digital differentiation mean? How is it different to non-digital differentiation? Do we need to be aware of trying too hard to provide engagement activities or ‘over-engagement?’. Perhaps the majority of conversations about learning technology are really just about learning. When does (digital) teaching become (digital) learning? The blog post title makes explicit reference to “expectations” drawing on the Dickensian narrative (Dickens, 2016). Managing expectations has been a significant part of the transnational projects. A Dickensian digital Journey?
Dàjiā hǎo yùn
Good luck everyone
Dickens, C (2020) Oliver Twist (Ottawa: East India Publishing Company)
Dickens, C (2016) Great Expectations (Los Angeles: Enhanced Media Publishing)
Armellini, A (n.d.) Don’t Just Deliver: Teach. https://europe.educationtechnologyinsights.com Technology blog, [blog] (Online) Available at: /https://learning-management-system-europe.educationtechnologyinsights.com/cxoinsights/don-t-just-deliver-teach-nid-1542.html [Accessed: 30 September 2021]
Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU) (n.d.) Shandong Agricultural University (Online) Available at: http://www.sdau.edu.cn/ [Accessed 7 September 2021]
Sidebottom K. (2021) A Thousand Gateaux: Rethinking Deleuze and Guattari Through The Great British Bake Off. In: Barnes N., Bedford A. (eds) Unlocking Social Theory with Popular Culture. Critical Studies of Education, vol 15. Springer, Cham. (Online) Available at: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-77011-2_12 [Accessed 7 September 2021]
The Association for Learning Technologists annual conference took place in September 2021. In addition to the main academic events, the conference also offers other activities including an opportunity to use the Discord server, to participate in a quiz, to enjoy the CMALT ceremony and the #altc21 Radio Show broadcast live on the Thursday Night Show on Monday 6th September. The Thursday Night Show is an internet radio live show coming up to its 10 year anniversary. Throughout the pandemic, the station played an important role in bringing people together in a remote capacity for example socially distancing dance parties (SDDP). Check out Dom Pates’ blog post The Party at the Pandemic.
Last year, I took part in the radio show for the online Summer Summit and also for the Winter Conference radio show. I blogged about these two experiences here and here respectively. A call for new DJs is shared and it is possible for participants to sign up through a simple Google doc. Dominic Pates, Senior Learning Educational Technologist at City, University of London one of the creators of the Thursday Night Show, supported new DJs in terms of using software such as Mixxx microphones, using the Discord server, and live broadcast preparations with a live onboarding Teams meeting to avoid any Panic at the (Digital) Disco.
The first set was by Darren Gash (@gashnois) from University of Arts who played tracks with only one chord including a great song by Bo Diddley. Bring on the #onechordwonders. Next up was Dom Pates (@dompates and D1 Radio) with a series of tracks relating to the ‘learning’ side of ‘learning technology’ such as Pink Floyd’s We Don’t Need No Education and Hey! Student by The Fall. Dom’s set will be made available on Mixcloud.
The third set was by Coco Nijhoff (@cocolibrarian) from Imperial College London with the theme of handclaps including My Boyfriend’s Back by The Angels. Her set list can be accessed below:
The final slot was my set.Techspotting was both a remix and reimagination of Choose Life by PF Project and Ewan MacGregor from the film Trainspotting. Drawing on the iconic film poster, I adapted “McGregor’s famous choose life monologue” to make the content to Learning Technologists, particularly over the last two years (Suskind, 2017).
Audio stings were created specifically for the #altc21 radio show or “short musical phrases (or stings) are used in film and TV production as a form of short-hand or punctuation” (Audio Network Limited, 2021). I recently saw Tubular Bells. Live in Concert at the Southbank Centre in London. Drawing on Tubular Bells Pt 1 as a “template for innovation” and the ‘repeated motif”, Technology Bells is a remix and reimagination of Mike Oldfield’s epic piece (Bennett, 2021). What if Mike Oldfield was a Learning Technologist?
In future, perhaps Association for Learning Technologists (ALT) could have a regular radio show exploring a range of different ideas. In the same way the ALT have a blog and guest posts for their conferences, guest speakers and interviews could work well in a live show format. One suggestion in the Thursday Night Show Discord chat was the have an ALT record label! With the challenges of the pandemic and pivot to online learning, internet radio is a positive way to engage others in a virtual capacity. Pedagogically, students could create their own radio show as a creative, collaborative and interdisciplinary assessment method. In addition, a student led record label could have a range of pedagogic benefits.
To the ALT community, shine on you crazy (digital) diamonds.
“It is important to acknowledge that “Globalisation is affecting the rise of the quality industry”
(Morley, 2003: p1).
The Society of Research into Higher Education (SRHE) hosted an online event entitled Qualifying the debate on ‘Quality’ on the Zoom platform in June 2021. Quality presents a series of complex challenges in igher education. Given the challenges of the pandemic and emergency move to online learning, the critical question is how to ensure we provide a good quality digital experience. In what way(s) is a transnational pivot different from a non-transational pivot?
During 2020, discussions took place exploring observation of the interactive sessions for the SDAU project. We explored a range of approaches used for this purpose including the adaption of an existing form designed for the observation of face-to-face teaching for online learning. It is important to acknowledge how face-to-face and online teaching can be different. To an extent, delivering interactive sessions in Zoom involves the development of ‘Zoom Literacy’ in terms of how to share screen, use the chat function, setting up polling and breakout rooms. Can peer observation of interactive sessions in Zoom help us to improve what we do?
When I completed teacher training, observations were an important part of the pedagogical journey. Being observed by peers can be a powerful way to share best practice, build up a range of tools and approaches to support student interaction and also to help us to identify and respond to areas of development in constructive ways. In the long term, perhaps we could build up a community of practice to explore technology-enhanced transnational learning (TETL) (Lave & Wenger, 1991: p30). Starting a conversation about quality opened up a variety of pedagogical doors and started a a unique learning journey.
The quality project pilot was carried out in three ways. Firstly, Lecturers delivering interactive sessions were invited to attend online lessons delivered by another Lecturer and then filled in a short online questionnaire. This was helpful if a module was shared by more than one Lecturer. Secondly, the RAU’s Teaching Fellow was invited to observe two interactive sessions followed by an online interview with semi-structured questions. Finally, our colleague in China, Bonnie Wang was invited to fill in an online questionnaire to capture perceptions of quality in the transnational context.
It can be argued that metaphor can be used effectively in “intercultural education” (Hanne & Kaal, 2019: p149). The metaphor of quality was a cocktail can be a useful way to understand how it is made up of multiple aspects, is complex and dynamic. What ingredients make the perfect quality cocktail? Digital differentiation, inclusion and accessibility? Perhaps pivot quality can only understood as work in progress, something to be ‘brewed’.
One of the highlights of the event was the lightning presentation delivered by Dr Michelle Groves, Director of Education, Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). She presented an autoethnographic monologue about her perceptions of teacher trainees and their reactions to the online pivot. This linked to the idea of ‘techno-autobiography’ in an earlier blog post. What would ‘techno-autoethnography’ look and feel like?
It can be argued that the online pivot has caused professional identities to change. Building digital capacility has accelerated. Have we witnessed the “death of the Lecture(r?)” (Matthews, 2021). Perhaps new identities are being constructed, postdigital professional identities?
“An uneasy relationship is playing out in education between humans and technology”
The title of the lightning presentation I delivered explicitly used the well-known phrase from the James Bond films. We need not be shaken or stirred by the challenges quality present. It is an opportunity to share best practice, develop community of practice and ultimately improve what we do (Lave & Wenger, 1991: p30). Pivot Royale, A View to a Pivot or Live and Let Pivot!
In terms of the future of transnational pivot qualities, perhaps we have arrived at a ‘pivot precipice’. New territories or ‘digital parishes’ can The QAA recently announced TNE enhancement (QE-TNE) in March 2021 (QAA, n.d.). The definition of TNE by QAA is:
‘The delivery of higher education level awards by recognised UK degree-awarding bodies in a country, or to students, other than where the awarding provider is based.’
What sort of technology-enhanced transnational artifacts could be used as an indicator of quality? How can ‘transnational actors’ use those artifacts in a ‘transtional theatre?’. Revisiting the use of metaphor as a way to understand the complexity of both the pivot and quality could help us to make sense of the future. A digital rubix cube?
Hanne, M & Kaal, A, A (2019) Narrative and Metaphor in Education: Look Both Ways (Oxon & New York: Routledge)
Lave, J & Wenger, E (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
There are a variety of online conferences that take place on Twitter using hashtags. For example, the annual PressEd conference exploring Education, Pedagogy and Research using WordPress #pressEDconf21. Another popular weekly Twitter event is #LTHEChat run by @LTHEchat which has been running since 2014 every Wednesday evening from 7pm with new guest curator(s).
On Thursday 29th April, I had the opportunity to curate an hour’s worth of tweets for #ukfechat organised by @theukfechat and @MrsSarahSimons. Drawing on the popular television series Line of Duty, the title of the session was Line of (Digital) Duty. Interrogating Drone-Enhanced Learning. Division, Disruption, or Digital Learning? The tweets are structured with a question and those who respond start their tweet with ‘A’ plus the question number.
The benefit of online events on Twitter organised in this capacity is that it is possible to reach audiences that perhaps events organised in physical space would not be able to. There is an online pool of knowledge, practice and ideas from which to draw on. The Twitterverse and #edutwitter can be argued to be valuable online learning resources. A hastag could be understood as a rhizome, a bit like a root from which other ideas stem.
Some of the questions I asked explored ‘drone literacy’, surveillance, privacy and the extent to which drone-enhanced learning (DEL) can be used for project-based learning, to embed Functional Skills, and to provide opportunities for STEM learning. How could a drone be used in agri-business as a technology-enhanced agriculture (TEA) approach?
For each tweet with an image of gif, alternative text or alt-text was provided by clicking on ‘Add Description’, typing a description inot the box then clicking ‘Save’.
If you would like to contribute to a #ukfechat event, sign up here.
McDonald, P [@PipMac6] (2021, April 23) ‘NEXT THURSDAY 29TH APRIL FROM 9PM-10PM #UKFECHAT ‘LINE OF (DIGITAL) DUTY. INTERROGATING DRONE-ENHANCED LEARNING. DIVISION, DISRUPTION OR DIGITAL LEARNING?’. [Tweet]. Twitter. (Online) Available at: https://twitter.com/PipMac6/status/1385617727403008006
PressED (no date) A WordPress and Education, Pedagogy and Research Conference on Twitter (Online) Available at: https://pressedconf.org/ [Accessed: 25 April 2021]