I have written recently about two areas of thinking around Digital Environments — How lecturers (and others) exist in relation to other people in learning spaces, how they are present; and also some of the technology approaches we are taking with regards to building new environments, such as analytics and adaptive algorithms. I started drafting something a while ago, but it was only after having a variety of conversations at ALT-C with colleagues both there and on v-connecting that I decided to finally post my (still-developing) thoughts here.
What is emerging for me is the idea of being present in digital, how it is perceived and what are the unique (sic) features of practice in digital spaces. Having had face to face conversations with colleagues I have started to wonder about the Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework, and how and where this fits in.
Six Digital Capabilities
Clearly it fits identity and well-being, but I can see an argument that the capability may eventually morph into Identity, Well-Being and Presence. Especially in the case, for example, to reflect the way lecturers need to be able to communicate their presence on a variety of both social media and institutional systems.
A recent example of this was seen in two different lecturers use of the anonymous social media service Yik-Yak. In one case a lecturer was doing a small learning and teaching project and had gone through an ethics committee and had strict guidance on how to behave and interact with students in the space. In the other, the comment “I just to pretend to be one of the students” was made.
As well as ethical boundaries, how you are behaving with your presence is a key feature of digital spaces. In the case of lecturers it will become important to be able to move between the physical and the digital seamlessly allowing students to feel their presence at distance and independent of space and time.
Elsewhere in the UK, and in the US and Canada, there are projects looking at the use of “siri” type apps to interact with students, and I am not arguing that this is either good or bad. However, as these type of tools start to develop it will become more important that staff understand how to portray the complexity of their personality, their essence, that is often easy to see when interacting in the physical, in digital spaces. It’s something that myself and Chris Thomson will be talking about in the digital leaders course (with thanks to Donna Lanclos for co-writing to the content) and it is also something that Lanclos and White talked about during their ALT-C keynote.
Digital is People
Digital is about people, it always will be. But underpinning that statement there needs to be nuance. Digital is about people, it is about a set of behaviours; it is about a perception of others and self; it is another way of being present with those around us. We need to try to understand what all of this means and how it impacts on our lived experience, online and off.