Today has been an interesting day. It’s also been a sad day.
A really wonderful person left our faculty today to take on bigger and better things elsewhere. It’s great for her and sad for me. She is one of life’s inspirers. She believes all things are possible, we just have to look hard enough for the solution. These people are rare and it hurts when they go. But thank you. You know who you are.
The interesting bit has been from another amazing person in my life. She sent me a link to something which in turn led me to something else. Both of which are interesting. But what’s amazing about it is how this person always serendipitously puts information in my lap at the exact time I need it. She is amazing that way. In other ways too but that’s the bit I appreciate today.
But why is this amazing? It’s amazing because today at work was a day where you forget why you’re there and both the links above remind me of the point. It’s my job to help academics see education in a different light. I don’t necessarily have to tell the light to see, but I need to help them see there are lights other than the one they currently shine. It’s my job to showcase technology and best practice. It’s my job to create obvious links for them and their own teaching philosophies. It is also my job to advocate for them.
Had a couple of meetings today which again highlighted the systemic issues within the business structure itself. I’ve done a few posts (pace of change; infrastructure; miscommunication; others I haven’t linked) in relation to the challenges I am finding in the business itself that hold academics back. I now realise that it’s my role to be their voice in the quagmire that is the business. I’m not conceited to think I can make the changes, but I do know that if I talk to enough people enough times I can wear the right people down so that they go and talk to the people who can make the change. I can help academics at their elbow, but I think I can also help them at the ‘big table’. I might not get a seat, but I can annoy the people who do! Hmmmm……now to make it happen.
Reading a post on my fast becoming favourite blog and nodding wisely at the content. Husband comes up and has a read over my shoulder. I summarise for him that it’s asking if kids can learn online. Because he’s brilliant (and he really is) he says:
Of course kids can learn online, but what are they learning?
This is brilliant. Okay, maybe you all knew this. Maybe this is not the revelation I think it is. But it’s the first time I’ve thought of the gaps between what we plan to teach and what they actually learn. It might be that they learn heaps of valuable stuff but it is not what was actually planned. Of course the next question is:
If they aren’t learning what was intended, but they are still learning, does it matter?
And now it’s starting to feel a little like “If a tree falls in the forrest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” But seriously, this is doing my head in. Online learning has just become something totally cool…….but now I really need to work how we measure it.
I was working with a very smart man yesterday (but don’t tell him that, it just gets ugly) and he showed me these lyrics. Most specifically the “smile while you’re making it, laugh while you’re taking it, even though you’re faking it, nobody’s gonna know”. He did this in the context of me struggling to reconcile the many conflicting aspects of university life. Apparently many people in universities just smile and get a long because, well, no one’s going to know.
The problem is, I’m not really one for that. Today a really smart woman sent me an email about contributing to a conference. Particularly about sharing the amazing work going on in our university. So instead of just going, “yeah let’s do it!” I sent an email to some powers that be to say “Why don’t we do this together as a whole university because we’re awesome!”. The subtext of which was, “why are we all over this? We are doing a massive reform process and the academics are amazing and wonderful and we’ve had successes and failures and we’re learning from those and this is how. So why isn’t someone centrally aware of all the conferences in the world at which we can show how amazing we are? Why didn’t we have in place a communication strategy for the outcomes of this reform? Are we measuring our success? *sigh*”
I’ve actually just reread some old posts about administration and complexities. That’s the bonus of this blog, I can go back and look at my thinking…..you know, this is tricky, and difficult and lacks what I would call sound project planning, but it works at the chalk face. We are smiling, a lot. But I don’t think we are faking it and I don’t think we are taking it. We are all standing up for what we want to do. Academics tell me what they are willing to try and what they want to leave aside (maybe next time?). We are telling central – we need support here, can it be done? And yes, we are still smiling. So even though there was subtext of frustration today in my email, (thankfully it was ignored in the response I got back which was totally civilised!), I’m not faking it. And I’m loving it. (Even the days killing is on my list…..still, there is the love!) Thanks to the smart men and women I work with. You constantly challenge my thinking and approach.
First off, I never know if it’s affect, or effect, so feel free to correct me. But I do know that culture is something I’ve probably not close enough attention to in this position. I’ve been aware of the need to shift culture into the flexible and engaging space, but I don’t really think I’ve stopped to think about what I’m changing the culture from, and if change is good.
I had an excellent meeting with a wonderful academic on Friday where we spent two hours talking. The first half was about culture, and what it is in academia. The second half was about ideas for her units and developing engaging activities and assessment items. Yet again I’ve been blown away at how smart these people are.
She pointed out to me that competition is part of the academic process. You are competing for grants, for ideas, for resources. You are also competing with yourself. To publish more this year than you did last year, to improve student scores, to find something new.
With all this competition, how can academics take the time to think about collaboration, about restructuring their teaching, about learning new skills? I talk a lot about time. Change takes time. Have I given enough time to academics to think about culture, both what is here today and what should be tomorrow? Is that part of my role? Do I need more time to think more? I’ve got really busy and short on time in this job and run the risk of no thinking time. Perhaps that’s why I’m writing this on a Saturday. Perhaps it is a good thing that I love this job and don’t mind spending private time thinking about it.
Oh dear – I’ve found the job I love to do. It’s perfect. Now to get thinking!
With all advances in the use of technology there is a lag between what users want and need and what the infrastructure of the organisation can provide. The lag between technology advances and legislation change is even greater.
It dawned on me yesterday that these lags are now combining forces to create an unworkable world. The systemic technology issues I am encountering are on the rise simply because I’m starting to move from planning with academics to implementation. What I find most interesting (and I’ve posted about this before) is that we are asking all people to be all things to fix these issues. We are asking the educational designers to fix the ICT when really it’s a university wide infrastructure issue. For this project, the increased uptake and application of the online environment in education, there really should have been a technology auditor existing structures, identification of what is likely to be required, 3, 5 and 10 years out, and the. A road map developed of how to make that happen including expected budget allocation. But because there wasn’t an IT infrastructure person in the room, this never came up.
In education we spend too long asking teachers/academics to fulfill every organisational role. Would we ever ask a heart surgeon to conduct brain surgery?
Anyway, why did I call this chicken and egg? Because there is no point in asking academic to make greater use of the online environment if we haven’t first built a stable, effective and useable environment for them to use. They are trying to make the chicken when there has been no egg. (I personally believe the egg came first because reptiles have eggs and they were around before birds. That’s my logic and I’m sticking with it!)
So, please, someone tell me where I can buy an egg?
Today was one of those days where you think, “really? I work with this stupid technology stuff?”. It was a day where the help desk had put an editing program onto an academic’s computer but it was build number 2 when the rest of us have build number 16. So nothing worked like it should. It was a day where I got the email pointing out that the Moodle template we were issuing for all units had grammar errors – bad ones – and I (the English teacher) hadn’t seen them. It was a day where I spent too much time trying to debug issues for people when it really should have taken two seconds and then, to top it off, the printer didn’t work. I wanted to be a good corporate citizen and fix the issue so turned it off, on, checked ethernet cables, turned it of and on again and then finally reported it to be told, “Oh yeah, they’re down across the University”. *sigh*
But then I came home. My inbox was overflowing with new posts on the blogs I follow. And I settled down to read.
And I was amazed.
People in this world are so smart and they a thinking, hard, about technology in education and how we use it, how we should use it and when we should walk away. In this job I’m trying to convince people that technology is an asset in education, when, like all tools, it is used properly. Days like today remind me that even when it used properly, sometimes it won’t work properly. And then the people remind me that even when it’s not working, there still time to think about it and talk about it, to make it better.
Thank you to people who think about technology in education. And thank you to the people who share those thoughts and for those who comment. Sometimes I need a reminder that the conversation is beneficial – now to remember to have it tomorrow with the wonderful people I work with rather than just telling them that technology is the best……
Well, it wasn’t a bar, it was actually Katie’s house, but the two players are there. And with Katie there it makes two introverts and one extrovert and a whole lot of tired. But then something happened. We sat and talked about how tired we were and then that moved onto the cunning plan and then Iain showed and told about his thinking at 1am (couldn’t sleep so was totally productive) and that led to the cunning plan taking more shape.
Why does this matter for my job? Because today my amazing boss spoke about why she became an academic. She likes to manage her work, she likes to set her own goals she likes to work in a way that involves research and teaching and for which there are cycles of time. She is an introvert and being an academic suits her preferred work style.
I am an extrovert. Working in a university. Until recently I was working, basically isolated in an office. I’m now with the administration team in a large shared space and I love it! The noise, the chatter, the constant movement. I was so productive today it was scary! And my brain! It’s fired up and coming up with ideas again.
So I have learnt from my wonderful cunning plan conspirators and from my wonderful boss and from the amazing admin team that we need the mix. We benefit from the introvert, extrovert walking into a bar and having a chat. Well, I do anyway. See, while I need the noise and hubbub I also need the introvert. I need the insights that my boss gives me. I prattle at her for a while and then she just says “Can we do X?” and it’s like a whole new world to me. My cunning plan conspirators are the ideas people. I’m just the one who talks a lot, oh, and thinks about the money.
Thank you introverts. I think it’s time I walked with you into more bars, because I think there’s a whole lot more you can teach me. Thank you.