The #BYOD4L Event
Video 2 is of a tutor showing some frustration with her mobile devices. She views technology as a hindrance to her teaching practice and that an insistence that she uses the new opportunities offered by mobile devices as a waste of time. This “I don’t have time” mantra sounds more like an excuse rather than an explanation and is covering up some apprehension about the use of mobile technologies in learning environments.
I have an interest in the potential of innovative technologies and approaches in supporting a range of academic activities. However I’m particularly interesting in understanding the barriers to sustainable innovative practices and finding ways of addressing such barriers.
Risks and Opportunities: Institutional Concerns
I first addressed such issues in a paper on “Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers” which Mike Ellis and I presented at a conference way back in 2007. That was followed by papers on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“, both of which were published in 2009. These papers tended to focus on institutional concerns regarding use of social media services (e.g. the sustainability of the services) and copyright and other legal concerns.
However the main areas of concerns now seem to be different. There now seem to be institutional acceptance of the benefits of Cloud services with Janet, for example, providing contractual support for institutional use of services such as Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365.
My initial work led to the development of a risks and opportunities framework which was intended to ensure that institutional concerns regarding the risks of using Cloud services were being considered and addressed. It should be noted that an important aspect of the framework was that the risks of not using the services should also be addressed (i.e. the missed opportunities). In addition it was suggested that the risks associated with continued use of in-house services were also re-evaluated.
In a webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them” I revisited this work and suggested that there was a need to address these new challenges: the concerns of the individual. Note that slides used in the webinar are available on Slideshare.
Risks and Opportunities: Individual Concerns
If institutions are now taking more mature approaches to making use of Cloud service which are often accessed through one’s own mobile device to support their institutional activities, the focus is now moving towards individual attitudes towards use of such devices and use of Cloud services. It would now be timely to view the YouTube video which illustrates the concerns of a tutor who demonstrates her frustration with mobile devices.
How should one respond to such attitudes? Some approaches which occur to me are given below:
Revisiting the past: This is probably nothing new. An one stage computers were used by a minority, mainly scientific researchers, in the mainframe era. Then we saw the growth in mini-computers standalone computers, microcomputers, the standalone PC and Apple Macintosh, networked PCs and Macs, online PCs and Macs and now a flurry of mobile devices. With each new generation of technologies we saw people who were reluctant to embrace the new developments (I recall colleagues in IT Service departments in the 1980s being dismissive of PCs). But as the technologies matured, the winners became ubiquitous and the failures were forgotten (Commodore PETs, Acorns and other microcomputers). So perhaps we don’t need to be too concerned about the late adopters.
Education and training: Clearly there is a need for education (on the potential of mobile devices to enhance learning) and training (how one can make use of mobile devices in one’s specific context). It should be noted that this will need to address some of the subtler aspects of use of tools such as Twitter: treating tweets as a stream of information and conversations which one can dip into when appropriate rather than feeling the need to keep up-to-date with every tweet. This should then be followed by examples of tools and strategies for filtering the information.
Understanding and addressing specific concerns: The #BYOD4L blog posts and Twitter chats (e.g. see the Storify archives of the first and the second #BYOD4Lchat discussions) have covered both use of mobile devices and use of social networking tools. If learners and learning support staff have concerns there will be a need to understand what the specific concerns are. If, for example, the concerns are to do with the privacy implications of social networks, this should not rule out use of a mobile device for activities such as note-taking and keeping up-to-date whilst on the move.
Personal motivation: If mobile devices do enhance learning, we may see this recognised through new opportunities or promotion for those will the relevant expertise.
Mandating use of mobile devices: Rather than a softly softly approach to encouraging use of mobile devices, should they be mandated in particular circumstances? Would, for example, it be acceptable for a learning professional to state that they do not use email?
Acceptance: However rather than adopting hardline approaches it me be acceptable to acknowledge that mot everyone needs to make use of mobile devices and social tools; as long as their learning or learning support activities are not limited significantly by continuing to make use of traditional approaches, then perhaps this is fine. The danger, I would argue, would be if such decisions are made by managers or decision makers who could restrict use of mobile devices and social tools by those who do find them beneficial.
I’d welcome comments on these approaches and suggestions of how you might (or have) responded to colleagues who may be reluctant to embrace use of mobile devices to support learning activities.