I am currently working with undergraduates, postgrad research students, alumni and staff (of all kinds) on an investigation to answer the question: how can students become Extended Classroom Champions?
We have seen in the past that there are significant benefits for staff and students in working in partnership to enhance learning, teaching and the student experience (LTSE) through design and development work. Students get paid to do this work, but also access potentially life-changing opportunities. In return, enhancement projects benefit from the student perspective, energy, skills and creativity. We are now looking into how we can use this approach more extensively for the Extended Classroom initiative. In this article I report on progress so far, and outline the basis for a framework that describes how students can become, and make the most of being, Extended Classroom Champions.
I am using an elaborated “diffusion of innovations” model as the basis of my strategy for the Extended Classroom initiative at Warwick. The model is called the “organisational learning and design loop” and emerged out of my PhD research. The loop illustrates an ideal pattern through which people come to integrate new practices and continually use them – with the emphasis on finding innovations that fit well and endure (stick) over time, in a context that helps them to spread as widely as possible. There is also an additional reflective dimension that leads at least some people into becoming “informed advocates” (spreading innovations) and “design participants” (growing our capability for further innovation). So it is both a design loop and a learning loop – creating and embedding design innovations, and creating fresh knowledge about people, the organisation and the world. Advocates help to spread the practice to more people and into more uses. Design participants feed back into the design process, thus growing our capability for effective designing and innovation.
Nomenclature-complexity alert! There are many alternative names and phrases used for some of the things talked about in this article. I have tended towards acronyms that cover all the bases – like LTSE. However, I acknowledge that they often seem quite awkward, and we really need snappier and more widely recognisable terminology. This is typical of a new field emerging from diverse academic and professional disciplines. And inevitably that causes problems. For example, I have found many areas of overlap with enterprise skills and entrepreneurship. In some disciplines, describing it in such terms is the natural way of thinking. In others, it is guaranteed to put people off. Even the word “partnership” might be contentious. There are already many kinds of partnership, and many people who may consider its cultivation to be within their own domain of stewardship.
This article is actually about a specific kind of staff-student partnership, for which different institutions have different names (Digichamps at Southampton; Student Ambassadors at Sheffield; E-Squad, FLAG Team and Digichamps at Warwick) none of which seem entirely accurate or very widely meaningful (I tested this out with a selection of people) . Within this sub-set of partnership types, I am especially concerned with partnership work that makes the most of, but is not dominated by, digital technologies. Part of the challenge is to find ways to make these approaches instantly recognisable across and beyond higher education – to students and staff of all kinds, to future students and their advisors, to funders and employers – a ubiquitous concept for all.
However, so as to avoid disappointment, I had better admit now that I haven’t yet found a perfect answer. But as set out in this article, I am getting closer to it, and I do have some strong contenders to be explored. An approach is emerging that relies upon more clearly defining the competencies that we expect students to have when working in these ways – what are they good at doing? how do they effectively contribute, and to what? We could answer those questions with an 80 page document full of fine-grained detail, but the aim instead is to identify a more distinctive concept, easily visualised and recognised, and getting to the essence of the approach.
This is my presentation for a design workshop at the University of Warwick, involving architects, the Learning and Development Centre (LDC), the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL), the Students’ Union, audio-visual services, Estates, Library and Academic Technology.
The point about ubiquitous computing being ubiquitous in everyday life, but still quite a challenge in university spaces, was reinforced by me having to physically plug my iPad into the projector using a very short VGA cable! Fun, but challenging. I used it to illustrate how, for many people today, the transition between working at home (with Apple TV etc) and operating in a university space, feels “jarring”.
The workshop covered a lot of ground, including the necessity of old fashioned blackboards. Good to hear that we’re not just thinking about official indoor teaching spaces. Warwick has always been a campus university, with teaching and learning happening in all kinds of places, especially outdoors in the summer. See this article by Sue Thomas for an intro to cyberparks. I’ve also added in a photo taken outside Senate House in the middle of the university, showing students using bean bags (on a sunny day) provided by the PGHub. An ad hoc library space.
Since its release on April 3rd 2010, iPad ownership and use has spread rapidly amongst all kinds of people and into all kinds of activities. The iPad has brought digital content and processes into our lives in seemingly unanticipated ways. It is a paradigm shift in how we use technology, and perhaps in the very nature of being human. Education has not been immune. However, the adoption of the iPad as a teaching tool has not yet lived up to the hype. This workshop addressed the question: what is “the pedagogy of the iPad”?
Did you know that the iPad concept was invented in the mid 80’s by a collaboration of anthropologists, designers and computer scientists at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre? The PARCPad was just one component in a much more revolutionary vision: ubiquitous computing. The PARC collaborators built the first ubiquitous computing environment, complete with wireless networking, cloud computing and a full range of mobile computing devices with various form factors and specialisations. It quickly became clear to the Xerox team that they were doing more than just inventing cool gadgets. They had started a revolution that would lead to a new approach to working and learning. We now know this as ubiquitous learning.
In the Pedagogy of the iPad workshop we looked at how the iPad (and its broader ecosystem of apps and clouds) is an imperfect but powerful implementation of the ubiquitous computing model, enabling an equally imperfect implementation of ubiquitous learning. Students are already working out ways to make the most of these new affordances. The implications for teaching are significant.
The workshop slides include suggestions for apps which can significantly enhance academic capabilities, as well as diagramatic representations of the Apple system (and its restrictions).
On Thursday I’m presenting a set of scenarios on the theme of The Extended Classroom. This is for a mixed meeting of academic technologists, architects, AV, teaching development specialists, teachers and students, at the Students’ Union.
My job is to push them to consider how radical things might change, and to get them being imaginative and practical about how we can implement these ideas.
Here’s an example, exploring how lectures will become multi-modal:
The traditional lecture takes place synchronously, at the same time and in the same room, for all participants. Lectures can become multi-modal in various ways, for a range of good reasons. For example:
A quarter of the lecture’s participants are in a traditional lecture theatre, watching and listening to the lecturer in a recognisably conventional manner.
The lecturer is aware of, and occasionally shifts focus to, a feedback stream (Twitter-style messages from the students). She is able to match the portrait image next to each message with a face in the lecture theatre. At one point she breaks-off from the lecture to respond to a student directly, clarifying a point. The student had tagged their message with the “hands-up please clarify” icon. The lecturer could have waited until after the end of the lecture to respond, once she would review the messages and other data on the lecture timeline. But in this case she had pre-marked the timeline with an icon indicating that “this concept might be tricky”.
A little later, there is another message that can’t be ignored. This time, the item on the timeline is highlighted as coming from a “telepresence student”. Some of the students are participating through telepresence from other locations on campus and even in France. In this case, the message has not come from a student, but from a local facilitator in the telepresence room in France. She would like some terminology clarified, as there are translation difficulties. The local facilitator’s role is to help the students in their room to understand and make the most of the lecture. Some of the telepresence rooms are in other countries, some of them are actually in the same building as the lecture – in this case, students have opted to attend the lecture as a smaller group of students, with a facilitator, and followed-up with a seminar in which they can review the recording of the lecture and the timeline of events.
In some of the overseas telepresence rooms, the lecture is also being simultaneously translated into other languages.
Some other students are participating live but dispersed at home and in offices around the world.
As well as the feedback channel, at points in the lecture the students are asked to answer questions. All of the participants, wherever they are, respond using a simple interface on their mobile devices, laptops or desktop computers. At the end of the lecture, the recording is bundled with the event timeline, to allow students to watch again, or (if they couldn’t attend the event) to watch for the first time. This is embedded into a VLE, with access to appropriate resources, discussion forums, and further activities.
I have developed these concepts and definitions for use within my design research and consultancy work (mostly concerning academic technologies and academic practice):
Your operational capabilities are the means that you can readily call upon to reliably and repeatedly achieve desired results in your work or studies. For example, I can find relevant articles on journal web sites, download PDF files to my filestore, and annotate them using my iPad. This capability is an important part of my “resource capabilities”.
Your dynamic capabilities are the means through which you improve your operational capabilities, addressing deficiencies, or adapting to changing circumstances and new opportunities. For example, I can identify a need, search for, find, evaluate and adopt new software to help me with my work.
My interviews and observations start with an exploration of seven operational capabilities, as they are implemented in the practices of individuals and groups. The capabilities overlap. The relationships between capabilities are important. We consider how and why these capabilities are constrained, and the effects of those constraints. We look to identify what aspects are essential (considering the context in which they are used) or especially effective (in terms of fit, stick, spread and grow). This then provides a starting point for exploring the dynamic capabilities employed to develop those operational capabilities:
Resource capabilities provide you with an ability to find, process, store, use, share and create physical and informational resources.
Project capabilities provide you with an ability to coordinate activities over time to achieve a desired goal, working coherently on different aspects of a project.
Evaluative capabilities provide you with an ability to make and communicate accurate and appropriate qualitative and quantitative evaluations of work, people, systems etc.
Theoretical capabilities provide you with an ability to find/create and evaluate theories that can help you to understand your work, people, events etc.
Social capabilities provide you with an ability to benefit from the help of others, and in turn to benefit others.
Physical capabilities provide you with an ability to get the most out of and look after your own body and mind.
Ethical capabilities provide you with an ability to create, evaluate and apply values, concerns, virtues, principles, priorities etc – to know what is right and good.
Motivational capabilities provide you with an ability to keep yourself and others engaged and productive.
Here is a photograph of Kenilworth Castle that I took on the iPhone. I then created a post in the WordPress app using the photograph. The text was written using Siri, all I had to do was speak into the iPhone, and Siri would convert my voice into text.
This is the talk that I gave at the HEA Conference at Warwick in July 2013. It will be the basis of a working paper to be published soon.
My name is Robert O’Toole. I am a member of the Academic Technology team at the University of Warwick. As part of that role, I create designs combining technologies and academic practices to enhance learning, teaching and research. The designs cover all of the important aspects of thinking and acting, and span across the digital and the analogue.
Here is an example of our work: an online portfolio system for the Warwick Undergraduate Research Internships. It was created with Nathalie Dalton-King and Charlie Cosham from our Careers and Skills Service, with me and Steve Ranford of the Academic Technology team.
Sometimes, as in this case, the design work uses university provided technology services. Perhaps developing them by small increments. More often now it requires serious consideration of how to fit together a range of technologies and practices from a range of different sources – things that users bring with them, or discover independently along the way. I am necessarily open minded on this. We have to be, the institution is no longer in control. People bring their own ways of working to the mix, and then they change in unpredictable diverse ways. They construct their often unique blends, increasingly independent of any specific context in which they work, carried across the mesh of intersecting contexts that make up lives in late modernity. I personally believe that the development of robust well designed individuality is good. Furthermore, Warwick is a very decentralised institution. A traditional diffusion of innovations model just doesn’t apply. We rarely see significant cases where experts design solutions and users adopt them following the patterns described by Everett Rogers.
There are also very few strongly defined communities of practice.
Communities of practice are not taking the lead on innovation. Instead, innovation tends to occur within ad hoc heterogeneous collaborations that come together for a short time and then dissolve.
They are collaborations driven by the highly autonomous reflexive strategies described by Margaret Archer in her recent longitudinal study of Warwick undergraduates. My own interviews carried out with successful students, National Teaching Fellows and other award winning academics at Warwick confirms this interpretation. People are increasingly focussed on creating their own solutions in an ad hoc manner to attain their own social and economic targets. Margaret Archer also found a growth in the number of people she describes as meta-reflexive, more concerned with the ethical and social implications of the means by which ends are achieved. But I have found that meta-reflexives are not often driving design innovation and the diffusion of innovation within the university – with some interesting exceptions.
Designing for innovation in this context is challenging.
But we do have clear criteria for success. If we can hit this sweet-spot, then new designs may provide significant benefits. The criteria are:
My car is an example of a design that fits well and sticks. I bought it in 1999, and it has always just performed the function for which it was purchased. It now feels entirely natural. I don’t ever really think about it much. I just get in and drive. But in no way has the practice of using it grown. It performs the same function today as it did in 1999. And the design has spread only in so far as car ownership has grown in general. There’s no major innovation or diffusion of innovation going on.
My motorcycle, however, is a different story. It fits perfectly, and I have had it since 2001. I’ve covered 100,000 miles in Europe and Africa. But the way in which it fits with me has grown. I have found many new things to do with it, travelling in new ways to new places. It has transformed my capabilities, opportunities and experiences. An aspect of that has spread into other things I do: the ability to manage risk, to plan, to be observant, to be in control at speed even in difficult conditions that comes with riding a motorcycle of that kind. These characteristics have spread to other people too – people who are prepared to go on adventures with me.
The portfolio system was designed with these aims in mind.
The new design had to fit with the existing structure of the scheme, and the enablements and constraints hardcoded into it. The scheme is administered by our Careers and Skills Service. Around 250 students a year are given bursaries to undertake research projects, usually based in their home departments, but sometimes working overseas. Most of them start at the same time, most of them go on for about four months. Some follow different patterns. They are expected to attend a workshop at the start, and undertake a series of reflection and planning tasks at intervals over the length of their project. You can see these constraints and enablements represented in the Ribbon interface on this example portfolio.
Each task has a scaffolded reflection page on which the student works within their portfolio.
They are supported by a mentor, who will give them feedback on their reflections and plans, once a task has been marked as completed. They are also supported by an academic supervisor in their department, who will want to keep a watch on progress. Finally, they make a public presentation of their work and its impact. The portfolio homepage performs that part of the task.
The design also has to fit with the enablements and constraints of the available technologies – it pushes our web publishing platform in new ways. And of course it needs to fit with the cognitive, social and epistemic practices of the students, as they develop interactively through the experience of undertaking the project.
The design has to be sticky for the length of the projects, for the four kinds of participant (admin, mentor, student and supervisor). We want them to keep returning to it and use it in the correct way. But we also want the planning and reflection practices to be sticky beyond the project, beyond the portfolio and the specific technology platform. We want the students to carry on using them in their other activities.
And ideally, we would like all of these academic practices, especially undergraduate research to spread more widely. And then to grow, for the individuals, for the institution and beyond. The design should be able to develop with these growing and spreading practices.
The design collaboration between Careers and Skills and the Academic Technologists pooled our knowledge of this particular context and the participants, along with good practice in the discipline of Interaction Design for Learning. We created a design that seems to be very good.
So does it work? Does it fit? Is it sticking? Spreading? Growing?
Yes, to some extent. For some students it fits well and is sticking. For others, less so. For some, not at all. Worse still, we had no certainty in advance that it would work for any of them. And we’re still not satisfied with the progress we have made, even though it is a very good design.
This leads me to the question that got me interested in the Design Thinking strategy described by Tim Brown, David Kelley and Tom Kelley of the IDEO Design Company. An approach that has become widely used in leading American businesses and business schools. IDEO also asked the question: How can I work differently so as to create designs that fit, stick, spread and grow with more certainty? And answered it publicly.
In his influential Harvard Business Review paper on Design Thinking from 2008, Tim Brown describes how he, and many other designers, found themselves facing these same problems, and wanting to know how to create more successful designs. The answer is simple: stop designing! Or at least, do less of the designing.
Design Thinking is a designerly conversation amongst the diverse but interconnected people who might interact with a design from their own various angles. A conversation amongst radically diverse people like our students, admins, mentors and supervisors. The aim of Design Thinking is to stimulate designerly conversations amongst all of the people who matter to a design, in a more democratic and inclusive manner. The designer hands their design agency back to the people. That’s what we need to do, to increase our chances of finding a design that works widely. Get the students, mentors, supervisors and administrators designing. And then go further – get employers and other communities involved.
Design Thinking creates an extended community of design thinkers.
But it’s not that easy. There aren’t many people who are able to naturally think and act like designers – in the kinds of designerly ways described by Bryan Lawson, Nigel Cross and Donald Schön in their classic studies.
There are many important strategies and techniques that designers use. We used some of them in the portfolios design project. For example:
1. Your first ideal solution will probably be wrong, don’t jump straight to implementation – my colleagues all agree that in HE this is hard, people often find that they have to hype-up a big technical solution just to get other people motivated to initiate a project.
2. Collect and listen to stories from all perspectives, try to cross-pollinate inspirations from other unrelated domains, when you think you are certain, find fresh perspectives that disrupt your certainty.
3. Keep reviewing assumptions about constraints and enablements, they will need to change as people learn through the design process and as new things become possible.
4. At the same time, get people prototyping. As Tom Kelley says, Build to Think, even if your prototypes are lo-fi creations, sketches, scripts, storyboards, toilet-roll and sellotape models – just good enough to see what fits, sticks, spreads and grows. Failure is good. As they say Fail Early to Succeed Earlier.
5. Always keep the people who can implement the design connected. People will put more effort into Design Thinking if they can see a real possibility that change will happen.
6. Guard against over-protective service owners, techies and crafts people, but keep them involved, use their knowledge and skills, and help transfer it into prototyping.
That last point is critical. Higher education is full of people with precious crafts developed through years of pain – academics for example. We need to get this into perspective and reflect upon the power and responsibility that comes with craft – Richard Sennett is a good guide on this:
In Design Thinking the role of the designer is to facilitate collaborators in using these strategies themselves. But it has to be a wider, more inclusive, open conversation. Brown describes how at IDEO they use a three-spaces approach to facilitate and scaffold this conversation.
The design thinking conversation takes place in all three spaces equally. We don’t rush to implementation, we aim to accumulate results over time. The Inspirations Space is of equal importance. It is the place for telling stories and sharing impressions – not just linguistic, formal and functional, but also aesthetic – anything that adds to our collective understanding and experience, and from which we can draw upon for the design prototyping experiments that we create in the more focussed, more selective Ideation Space.
In the Ideation Space, people Build to Think. Designers sometimes say that in prototyping they immerse themselves in an interactive conversation with materials and technologies, with the affordances, constraints and enabling constraints that they find in them. Sometimes the conversation flows. A prototype works well, survives our efforts to test it, and forms an object of collective belief. It should then be picked up by the Implementation Space to make it real. But even when success seems guaranteed we should return to the Inspiration Space to see if our certainties can be usefully disrupted. The conversation stays open. Experiences, prototypes and results accumulate. We collectively learn, and enrich our Design Thinking and design knowledge for the domain in which we are collaborating.
We shouldn’t expect this to always work quickly, or to result in everyone pursuing the same ideas and adopting the same practices. And we certainly should not rush the learning process that is built into Design Thinking. But also, we have to make sure that people don’t drift away. Live workshops can help to set the right pace. Maintaining the three spaces as real physical locations in which activities are accumulated is the best possible approach. However such spaces are rarely available.
To address this, I’ve been working on a design for online design spaces. You can see it in this screenshot. The three spaces are there, with a simple scaffolded system allowing participants to add content. Here is an example.
The online space draws all of the diverse streams of activity together. It also makes an additional dimension easier to add, an additional personal-reflective dimension. Each participant has their own personal space in which to record their actions and reflect upon their designerliness, guided and facilitated by design mentors and supporting materials. My intention is to introduce a system based on Open Badges, to give a sense of personal growth and progress for all participants.
Design Thinking fits well with the Student as Producer approach. My next case study brings the two together.
SIBE is a student owned social innovation company based at Warwick. They have about 50 active students, working independently from the university. But they are informally supported by the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning and IT Services. I have helped them with a room (now taken off us by the university), iMacs and camera equipment (NTF funded). They are well organised, with distinct roles and processes and their own training program. They are very designerly and increasingly meta-reflexive, but with plenty of craftspeople (film makers, journalists, programmers) to provide the essential ability to make prototypes and real products.
Here is a short video interview with the founder of SIBE, Sholi Loewenthal, describing their activities and approach. Sholi talks about a major project that included all of the elements of Design Thinking (the Hackathon approach is a good ideation exercise), even though they did not explicitly plan to use the approach. It just happened that way, as smart students worked out the best way to work.
Near the end of the academic year in 2013, I facilitated a design thinking session with three Computer Science undergraduates. All three of the students had been part of Christian Smith’s academic writing course groups. Christian had introduced them to Evernote based collaborative working, Screenflow presentation recording, smart boards, collaborative writing in Google Drive, and open-space working the Teaching Grid’s Experimental Teaching Space. In a focus group in Week 8, the students discussed these inspirational experiences, and demonstrated an excellent understanding of the relationship between technology practices and learning. Christian’s teaching had clearly inspired them to create interesting new ideas. This design thinking session aimed to turn this inspiration into a lo-fi prototype. We began by considering technology likes and dislikes. The students unanimously expressed a preference for well-designed, task-fucessed, uncluttered apps that would allow them to focus on the academic content and activities, and to work collaboratively where possible. These technologies should work across platforms, so that the student can work on a range of devices (phones to desktops) all kept in sync without the need for manual actions. The student were very aware of good flowing task focussed design. A narrative emerged out of this discussion of design values, concerning apps to help with getting to, working in and making the most of lectures. This was motivated by the common experience that time-flies very quickly and it can be hard to keep up!
We mapped the narrative out on the floor of the Teaching Grid, and then recorded a walk through. This is a summary of the key points (more to be added):
The action takes place in week 4 of the first term in the first year of a Computer Science course. It is 8.45, and a small group of students are in the kitchen of their halls of residence. They laugh as a variety of beeps, comedy ringtones and music tracks simultaneously plays from their various mobile devices. 15 minutes to the lecture. One of the students checks the notification: lucky they did, there has been a change of venue – Ramphal 1.3? Where? She clicks on the link to view it on the map. They had better get moving – in the direction indicated by Find My Lecture. On the way, another of the students reads through the brief description of the lecture, updated by the lecturer lasts night (it seems that they are making faster than expected progress, so the lecture plans have been updated a little). He summarises the description for the other students, and they have a brief discussion of what it might mean. But where is 1.3? Find My Lecture points them in the right direction, and by the time they get into the room more details of the lecture have appeared on their mobile devices (varying size of phone and tablet, various operating systems depending upon preference, and including a few traditional laptops).
They get to their seats just in time. Next task, choose a note taking template in the Notetaking app (Find My Lecture automatically switched over to it). They all choose the default for this lecture (recommended by the lecturer), except for one student who prefers a different layout. The slides are loaded into the template. The lecture starts. Note taking begins. For one student this means typing detailed text into the Timeline. For the others, scribbling annotations on the slides as they appear. In both cases, a system of different coloured Smart Highlights is used. For example, when a green highlight is drawn over a word, a task is automatically added to their Task List saying that they need to write a definition for the phrase that has been highlighted. They can also add keyword tags selected from the course taxonomy. The notes are added to their note taking Timeline, associated with the current slide (and eventually with the audio/video recording of the lecture, once it has been completed). To make it easier, a system of Hot Keys or Gestures (depending on device and preference) allows the students to add notes and take actions. For example, there is a Hot Key for marking a point in the lecture that is not well understood and needs more explanation.
All the time the lecturer is monitoring feedback. This might be in the form of comments and questions posted back to him, or it might be alerts based upon Hot Key selections by the students. For example, if over 50% of the students press the “don’t understand” Hot Key, the lecturer gets an alert and can take action (they can set the threshold level for this). This happens, and the lecturer decides to modify the lecture. She introduces a new slide, added to live. The new slide appears in the Notetaking app of the students. She then adds another slide, and writes a couple of multiple choice questions onto it. The students also get this set of questions to answer on their devices. Their answers are communicated back to the lecturers Presentation app, and collated. 95% get it right. Reassured, they carry on with the lecture. Meanwhile, three of the students are co-writing an idea for a project based on the ideas for the lecture. They are able to show notes to each other, switching between each others views. Alongside their notes they are co-writing a text – the pitch for the project.
The lecture concludes and the audio/video recording is saved and added to the students’ timelines. They can now review the whole thing, with their notes in sync with the lecture. Or alternatively, they can look at a summary of the lecture and their notes, generated by the Notetaking app. As a post-lecture task, and in preparation for the follow-on seminar, they are asked to add a short summary text to this, and share their summaries with their seminar groups – thus ensuring that there is plenty to discuss in the seminar.