Jakki Sheridan-Ross

a Learning Technologists intermittent ramblings …

SEDA Digital Literacy Summer School 2012

on September 28, 2012

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I was rather delighted that my submission for a JISC funded scholarship to the SEDA Digital Literacy Summer School 2012 was accepted …. Ooh! I thought, a nice trip to Windsor Great Park, time to reflect on my practice, work a little on a project, eat nice food, chat with like-minded peers in my discipline, great!

I gave up a holiday with friends in Northumbria and headed south on a Sunday – by train, not car as planned as I had a rather bad allergic reaction to an insect bite(but that’s another story!) and got myself settled in and ready to start on Monday morning.

Twenty four summer school students gathered together in the library of the beautiful and historic Cumberland Lodge, set in the grounds of Windsor Great Park. We were introduced to David Baume, Susan Baume, Su Beckwith and Sue Thompson and did the usual introductions in a typical pairs activity.

Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park

Our venue for the SEDA Digital Literacy Summer School 2012

Then we got started.

‘For the summer school to be perfect it would look like ….’

And we answered:

‘ Hot shower, breath of fresh air, time to think deeply’.

Then it got more personal.

‘For the SEDA summer school to be like I want it to be I’ll need to be like that so how will I look, feel and will see what …?’ and ‘If it looks like that how will I need to be?’

Having decided that my summer school experience would be like a breath of fresh air, I decided that I’d need a nice walk, be a good listener, not be overly receptive to new ideas that might make me wander from the path of my project (I’m very easily distracted when there are so many interesting people and projects around!), and stay focused.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle … see it? there, in the distance!

‘For the SEDA summer school to be like that what support and resources do I need?’

I decided I’d need time and space to digest and reflect on a day crammed with activity and I was not looking forward to after dinner activities!

I found this an interesting and thought provoking activity. This was a technique called clean questioning. I decided I’d like to have a go at using this approach in my own action learning set.

After a very nice lunch we really got down to business. We were asked to think about our own project that we had identified before coming along to the summer school, specifically the outcomes rather than the outputs.

I had lots of niggles in my project, wanting to encourage academics at my university to use JISC, research, project and OER resources as the norm rather than their constant reinvention of the wheel. I tried to think what it would look like, how it would look and feel to staff, what good practice could I draw on, what could be the strengths, and what were the barriers? What has become routine … What could become routine … What can be dumped … How can I make it easy?

Not being backwards in coming forwards I was happy to have my project subjected to David’s scrutiny …. Oh dear, a weaker soul than I may have perished right there and then in that lovely library! Working through my ideas it transpired that I was actually trying to achieve two really big outcomes in one fell swoop and would surely lead to disaster. Although I felt extremely exposed by David’s questioning in front of a large group of peers that I’d only met 2 hours earlier, it was actually a very useful exercise – 1/3rd through Day 1 and already I was refining the work I needed to do to achieve success.

We were introduced to action learning sets, not something I’ve really done before – by this time of the day (17.30h) I have to say I was starting to suffer from information overload and not looking forward to another two hours of intense working before dinner …. ESPECIALLY in the knowledge that we had another session starting at 21.15h!  Our facilitators had kindly determined the composition of the sets in advance ensuring that we each worked in a set with peers in similar fields or with complementary expertise.

2/3rds through Day 1 and off we trotted in our sets to The Chapel, The Library, The Sitting Room, and Clarks. My set was in the room with the least character, it was just a meeting room, I was quite disappointed because the uniquely beautiful and individual brass door handle suggested architectural delights beyond that door …… ok, ok, it was probably best for me not to have any distractions. I rather fancied a glass of wine by now too.

Cumberland Lodge brass door handle

a Yorkshire Rose to greet me (I think!

We had our instructions and we had our time schedule.

We had our roles. It was all very strict and formal. In turns, we each had a number of minutes to describe our project while the others in the action learning set took turns in the role of listener and observer, before questioning the speaker and providing observations and feedback.  I liked my action learning set, we had similar challenges inour projects and were able to understand issues and therefore ask more probing questions to help fine tune each others projects. By the end of Day 3 we’d be producing a poster summing up our refined projects.

One of the observations in our set was that it was very distracting if a ‘listener’ took notes instead of ‘pen down, eye contact, all ears’. Quite frankly this peed me off more than a little ….. yes, I take notes, that’s how I remember things. I also make eye contact. I’m clearly interested because I am actually taking notes! I often hear of lecturers who don’t allow their students to use a laptop or mobile device in their lectures and classes. Why? What are they worried about? That the students aren’t giving their undivided attention? What a load of rubbish! We live in a world of technology and small devices that are designed to make our lives easier, why not use them? What’s the difference between a device and a pen and paper for note taking? Rant over! We finished our sets a little later than the allotted time and went off for dinner – no time to change or take a breather. It was all beginning to feel quite intense!

Cumberland Lodge brass door handle

Cumberland Lodge brass door handle

After a delicious dinner (sadly without wine!) we commenced the final third of Day 1, our Guest Speaker, Lawrie Phipps, posing the question ‘Is digital different?’. In his inimitable style, Lawrie played the role he loves best, devils advocate! Challenging us with the thought that digital doesn’t exist so what comes next? Our role in learning and teaching is to put the pedagogy first – a thought close to my own heart.

22.00h and so to bed ….. finally! A long day without that breath of fresh air and time to reflect that I had so been looking forward to!

Day 2 up and out for breakfast with the group then straight into Sue Thompson’s session ‘Facilitating change and overcoming barriers to change’.  An interesting session, especially as I had attended a similarly titled workshop the previous week. We had the opportunity to think about change, common ways that people perceive and react to change, and take a peek into some recommended resources. I also got my inspiration for my poster design! I decided that the ‘wheel of life model’ would provide a diagrammatic representation of what my project looks like now, what could it be, where do I want it to be and what it will look like when it’s done.

Our second action learning set was intended for us to report on the progress we’d each made so far on our projects. Errrr hello? When? While we were sleeping?!! We all felt this would be a waste of time, we simply hadn’t had a moment to ourselves to process anything so far. But we were wrong. This second action learning set prompted us to think of something to say. Although we thought we were talking rubbish, the intensity of being forced to speak for a specific number of minutes meant that the words became meaningful and our projects began to shape up with the assistance of the observers questions. Looking back at the notes I made (because yes, I did still make my notes!) I see words such as curious, motivations, staged approaches, fully-fledged, half-baked, manageable, strategic, sharing, collaboration – all these exciting and probing ideas appearing where we thought it would be ‘a waste of time’ …. Interesting eh?

Our pre-lunch session was facilitated by Sue Beckingham, ‘Digital identity and personal learning networks’. Talk about food for thought! The woman is a whizz on Twitter – I’d never even thought of using lists to organise tweets and resources. Not that I really use Twitter much anyway … never saw the benefits actually … not until Sue showed us, that is! We worked on and discussed some of the issues around professional and personal identity and the use of social media to develop our own brand of identity that we wish to present to the world. We looked at Personal Learning Networks, filtering systems, collaborative social filtering, action e-learning models, social networks, communities of practice …. mind-blowing! Thankfully Sue gave us a plethora of places to get started.

Another lovely buffet lunch provided more opportunity to chat about what we’d learned so far. I nipped out for a stroll around the garden, all this talking malarkey was getting on my nerves, I really needed to switch off for half an hour and come back fresh ….

Cumberland Lodge pine cones

A quick stroll around the garden

You remember, that breath of fresh air I wanted the summer school to like? And for it to look like that, I’d have to be like that? I created the space and made it happen. Good girl, I’m learning!

Day 2 after lunch saw the arrival of Lindsay Jordan from University of the Arts, London. I’d seen Lindsay back in June at the Edge Hill Solstice 2012 conference but couldn’t make it to her presentation as it clashed with my own. Lindsay talked about ‘Open Practice’ and shared an activity with us that was designed to make us think about the benefits of an open approach, consider some of the challenges, and to think about some of the barriers. I really enjoyed Lindsay’s session, not least because she practices what she preaches and freely shared the resources for the session – that’s one workshop less for me to prepare this semester 😉

We were allowed a half hour walk after Lindsay’s session – bliss! Well, it would have been if it were longer! You really can’t get very far in the Great Park in half an hour, it’s huge! Its interesting how little groups form when you’re away on a residential isn’t it? I found myself happily walking with the other people from my action learning set, enjoying a spot of sun between the rainclouds and thinking out loud. We thought mainly about being rebellious and ducking out of the next session … and discovered we weren’t that rebellious after all!

Day 2, 16.00h, straight back to the fray then with David facilitating a session on taking our projects forward by using a planning template for our outline plans. I hated this session, I found it really tough to sit and fit my project into a template. I do like a good template but I don’t think there’s a ‘one-size fits all’ and it often stifles creativity and thinking out of the box. Having said that, I did produce a roadmap with some realistic outcomes that were SMART.

Day 2, 18.00h, quick coffee break then into another action learning set accompanied by serious grumbling and dissention in the ranks. We’d had enough. We had decided (on our walk) that we didn’t think there was any value reviewing our progress again in the style of a formal timed learning set and that we would get more benefit from openly discussing our projects, in turns, with the opportunity for us to ask questions and offer our advice and expertise. Ok, it was just a little bit rebellious but it felt good! And we got so much more from the session that we would have done if we’d just gone with the programme.

period bedroom furnishings at Cumberland Lodge

Period bedroom furnishings at Cumberland Lodge

Day 2, 19.15h, back in the main hall for another lovely 3 course dinner … with wine! Yey! That made us all smile and got us nice and relaxed and feeling creative for our final session of the day, designing our posters. Off we trotted, wine in hand, paper, pens and ideas to the ready and we happily worked away until 10.30ish.  I enjoyed this session, I’m always happy doing something active and a little creative. What was interesting though is that some of my action learning set were really uncomfortable with this exercise, and I mean really uncomfortable, like brain-freeze and unable to put pen to paper. It gave us some valued time to share and encourage and support each other in a very positive environment – something we don’t all have the luxury of experiencing in our usual busy working environments.

And so to bed.



Day 3, 08.30h, attempted to put a smile on my face and join the breakfast babble. I really don’t do mornings at the best of times. One of the major downsides of converted old buildings is often the acoustics in rooms that were never designed to hold so much furniture and so many people. Starting the day not being able to make sense of the multiple conversations taking place around you just doesn’t bode well. What do we have in store for us today, I wonder?

Embedding Digital Literacy at Leeds Metropolitan University, June 2012

My first iBook … ‘Embedding Digital Literacy at Leeds Metropolitan University’, June 2012

Back to the library, (where, incidentally, I found a very interesting first edition book of William Morris designs), today is ‘Show, Tell, and Explore Day’.

And it was really good! Those of us who fancied sharing some of our work, ideas, or particularly useful resources had the chance to present to the rest of the group. I shared my recent experience of developing an iBook using iBooks Author for Mac and PC, along with the ibook, ebook, and our Leeds Met collection of OER’s. http://repository.leedsmet.ac.uk/main/index.php

Time for a quick coffee and then to browse all of the lovely posters we had created! I was very impressed with the effort and lengths people had gone to with their posters – I often think it’s just a filler exercise that we ask our students’ to do but it does have some power in focusing the mind on a specific topic or a fine detail. I talk a lot, I like words, can you tell? I decided to break my own comfort zone and draw a picture without words, brave eh?!

 In good old Rolf style ‘Can you guess what it is yet?’ ….

SEDA Poster 2012, Jakki Sheridan-Ross

Can you guess what is is yet?

I picked up on the idea of the ‘wheel of life’ model as it kind of felt right for my project which is to develop a platform pulling together resources from JISC, research sources, funded projects and so on and to facilitate academic staff to find them more easily instead of this constant ‘reinventing the wheel’ cycle that we appear to be trapped by. My poster shows a unicycle with a lone rider who’s got some tools, lots of thoughts and lightbulbs going on but it’s pretty gloomy over there …. If only that lone rider could ride tandem … and work with others? Wouldn’t that be great! That would make the sun shine and everything look rosy! And keep our heads above water (even if our feet are paddling like mad to stay there).

Did you need words? Or did you get it alright? Did you spot the deliberate mistake? (*see end)

The final part of our summer school was simply to reflect back to Day 1 …

‘For the summer school to be perfect it would look like ….’

‘For the SEDA summer school to be like I want it to be I’ll need to be like that so how will I look, feel and will see what …?’ and ‘If it looks like that how will I need to be?’

I wanted it to be a space for exploring, thinking and refining. I achieved that, possibly in a different way to how I thought it would be. I made plans …
1) to hot foot up to Northumbria immediately and join my friends for a few days holiday!
2) review the resources and notes I made here at the summer school as soon as I get back to my office (and not do the usual ‘oh yeah, I made some notes, now, where exactly did I save them to?’)
3) (last but not least!)  consider and digest what I learned here over these intense three days – for me, that means to think, plan and not jump straight in to developing my project in line with other peoples rushed plans. We need to practice what we preach and stop reinventing the wheel!

SEDA Summer School 2012

SEDA Summer School 2012

Time to go home!

Jakki Sheridan-Ross

Learning Technologist

Leeds Metropolitan University, July 2012

* since when did a tandem have three wheels? 😉


2 responses to “SEDA Digital Literacy Summer School 2012

  1. […] blog post on the SEDA Digital Literacy Summer School 2012. September 28, 2012 | Filed Under Developing Digital Literacies | Author Sarah […]

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed your post Jakki and love the collection of photos you captured.

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