UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Responding to “I Don’t Have Time!” Comments

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 Jan 2014

The #BYOD4L Event

The first day of the BYOD4L short event, which I mentioned earlier this week, included a post containing a brief video clip. As described in a post by one of the participants:

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.

Risks and opportunities frameworkThe main barriers now seem to be individual: individual lecturer’s or student’s concerns over use of social media services and use of mobile devices. And this is a more difficult area to address.

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.

5 Responses to “Responding to “I Don’t Have Time!” Comments”

  1. Miles Metcalfe said

    Interesting post. A couple of thoughts:

    # “I don’t have the time” as “I don’t really see the benefits”

    Do early adopters and enthusiasts envisage benefits from new technology, or does their enthusiasm carry them over the “benefits gap”? The history of learning technology is littered with projects and initiatives where benefits have been discovered post-hoc, if at all. Why should we have a VLE? Because everyone else does. Why should we have a MOOC? Because everyone else does.

    It’s a disease of IT. Why do we use Microsoft Exchange? Because everyone else does. At least Microsoft Exchange has the obvious utility of email (does anyone really use its “groupware” features?) despite its clunky instability. For people who find email useful, if only to circulate cat pictures, Exchange can be useful.

    Some learning technologies are more research projects than useful. We are in the process of discovering benefits, and benefits we may already have discovered may be under-articulated from the perspective of the reluctant.

    What is mobile learning *for*? Are these goals worth the investment of time learning new practices and creating content? We should be able to provide answers when engaging with reluctant colleagues.

    # Too much, too soon

    There is a student in my Chinese language class who is quite keen and determined, but is fast becoming defeated and dejected. The reason is that he is trying too hard, stretching himself too far. Rather than say, “there are pedlars selling pirate DVDs on the streets of Barcelona”, he will instead fail to describe the sheets the pedlars bundle their wares in, be unable to explain that the pedlars are often immigrants, and that illegal immigrants are falling through the cracks of uncaring European welfare states. The problem is, of course, that the student lacks the vocabulary and grammar to express the more complex points, and must constantly break off to refer to the dictionary on his smartphone (mobile learning at work!), losing his thread, and often getting words wildly wrong – as you do when you use a dictionary in a hurry, without context.

    The student’s desire to push way beyond the boundaries of his knowledge and ability is, in a sense, commendable. Sadly, for all his efforts, he is learning little Chinese, neither consolidating simpler sentence structures, nor being able to stay on top of the vast amount of vocabulary he has sought out.

    Educators are, after all, in some sense “experts”, and comfortable in their expertise. How many have the desire to push far beyond the bounds of their expertise and start again as a novice? Those who try may quickly end up in trouble having made an elementary error, or having tried something that the innovative medium does not support, or cannot deliver.

    We should keep this in mind when talking to the the unenthusiastic. Are there simple, prescriptive techniques suitable for a novice with little context to work with? If a steep learning curve is required (as enthusiasts who have logged thousands of hours with technology, we shouldn’t underestimate the incline), can we plan a journey with a few stops at belvederes on the way?

  2. Hi Miles

    Many thanks for your comments – you’ve raised some very interesting issues,

    # ”I don’t have the time” as “I don’t really see the benefits”

    This is a useful comparison to make. However I’d also add:

    # ”I don’t have the time” as “I don’t like change (even if there are benefits)”

    The question of not seeing the benefits is very relevant. I never saw the benefits which Second Life could provide for me, for example, so I stopped using it after a small amount of experimentation. And I feel I was right in not pursuing it.

    But other tools and services have provided significant benefits. I feel there is a continuum of early adopters (willing to try new things and willing to accept time invested may not always deliver), early mainstream adopters (willing to try if they feel there may be benefits), late mainstream adopters and refuseniks. Different approaches will be relevant for different groups.

    Something that is different now from the situation ten years ago is that it is possible to investigate new technologies is a lightweight fashion. If you previously felt that Microsoft Sharepoint could deliver advantages, it was a big job to get this going, and once it was established it was difficult to say “No, I don’t like it; let’s try something different”. Today people can do what I did this morning: see a tweet about a new video conferencing tool ( and within half an hour have tried it, shared experiences with others and reflected on the advantages it may provide (unlike Skype, no software to install; unlike Google Hangouts, no personal information needs to be shared).

    #Too much, too soon

    Agreed, some people are happy to experiment and welcome trying a range of tools, but others don’t I agree with your suggestion that it would be helpful to have “simple, prescriptive techniques suitable for a novice with little context to work with“. I hope that bthe BYOD4L event will help in the planning of the journey.

  3. […] The #BYOD4L Event The first day of the BYOD4L short event, which I mentioned earlier this week, included a post containing a brief video clip.  […]

  4. […] this topic: one on “Buying a New Tablet (Useful for #BYOD4L)” and the other on “Responding to “I Don’t Have Time!” Comments“. In this post I will give my thoughts on the five […]

  5. amiddlet50 said

    This is really interesting Brian on many fronts for me. First, to just pick up on the ‘benefits’ discussion I think this is the point personally: # ”I don’t have the time” as “I don’t really see the benefits” and that the stuck-in the mud response to change can always be addressed if benefits are loud and clear.
    I also want to thank you for referring back to previous good work. Specifically, I like the framework and it is timely to be reminded of it or to be shown it. Timeliness is an important part of this benefits/change discussion (like student feedback – another familiar change process): impact is made when people are receptive, ready and probably in need. A general point on this too: don’t you think we should all remember to look back at our ‘good thinking’ to both reflect on it and to offer it to new contexts. You’ve got me thinking about my thinking in 2007! We just keep ploughing on sometimes.

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