#LTHEChat – 2nd Feb 2022 – Supporting and humanising behavioural change without the behaviourism: nudges and digital footprints

Join at 20.00h on 2/2/22 (so many 2s!) via  https://twitter.com/LTHEchat 

Hosted by  Ameena Payne, Martin Compton, Sophie Kennedy an early career researcher, educator and incoming doctoral student (Payne), a  disabled, undergraduate psychology student (Kennedy) and me, our collaborative tweet chat aims to explore how behavioural change in online, higher education can be supported without behaviouristic approaches. Specifically, we will engage in discussion on how nudges and digital footprints may be deployed effectively to empower marginalised students – and the potential pitfalls of such data-driven pedagogy.

When students engage in online learning, they leave behind digital footprints, artefacts that trace their activities such as contributions, page views and communications. Digital learning management systems (LMS) generate data from these footprints that can provide insight into student progress and engagement as it relates to student success. These data are called learner analytics (LAs). LAs encompass the broad data mining, collection, analysis, and sharing/reporting/disseminating of students’ digital footprints. LAs are shaping the role of online instruction and student self-regulated learning by promoting ‘actionable intelligence’ (Bayne et al., 2020, p. 71), allowing instructors to orient students and empowering students to orient themselves. 

The growing adoption and interest in LAs has supported a strategic commitment to transparency regarding key drivers for improved student engagement, retention and success. At the same time, concerns are increasingly voiced around the extent to which students are informed about, supported (or hindered by), and tracked and surveilled as they engage online. It is important to acknowledge that making pedagogical conclusions based on delimited dimensions creates a context for stereotyping and discrimination, and profiling can result in hindering students’ potential and may hurt self-efficacy.

Nudge theory, coined by behaviour economist Richard Thaler, connects persuasion with design principles (Thaler, 2015). A nudge is an approach that focuses not on punishment and reward (behaviourism) but encourages positive choices and decisions – fundamental is understanding the context.

We’d like to share a few assumptions as we engage in this discussion:

  • Academic staff have a responsibility to support our increasingly diverse body of students and need to be open to new tools and techniques such as data generated by our students’ digital footprints and opportunities offered by behavioural psychology.
  • Achievement differentials and attainment gaps exist for marginalised students. Disabled students, or students with executive dysfunction, may struggle with skills vital to independent study and content learning e.g., initiation, planning, organisation, etc. For disabled students, a product of being under-served by higher education institutions (HEIs) is that they often demonstrate lower levels of engagement which leads to disproportionate completion rates and, subsequently, employment rates and other outcomes. 
  • Behaviouristic approaches (rewards and sanctions) are at the heart of much of what we still do in education but there have been movements and trends challenging manifestations of this – from banning of corporal punishment in schools to rapid growth in interest in ungrading. 
  • LMS data are not indicators of students’ potential and merit. LAs are not impartial; they are creations of human design. By giving a voice to the data, we’re defining their meaning through our interpretations.

It is valuable to build in periodic or persistent nudges of and toward ‘both the goal and its value’ to empower all students to sustain their efforts (CAST, 2018). We advocate the implementation of nudges as something that can be useful for everyone using an LMS, as compared to a tool aimed directly at disabled students, who may feel singled out. We hold that nudging is less of an evolution of behaviourism but more of a challenge to its ubiquity and all the common assumptions about its effectiveness. We propose the employment of empathy, human connection (in contrast with carrot and stick approaches of education) and understanding to help effect small changes through supportive nudges. Nudging, prompted by LAs, is one way to approach improving achievement, narrowing gaps and offering connection and support for all students. 

Q1 – If nudging students is less about coercive practises (punishments and rewards) and more about ‘soft’, small-step connections towards positive change, what examples can you offer from your practice?

Q2 – What role does/could learning analytics (LAs) play in shaping our in-course interactions with students, particularly those from marginalised groups? 

Q3 – LAs risks profiling students and driving inequality. How might we address the weaknesses of LAs (such as the cognitive biases we may bring to its interpretation and/or some students being advantaged by extra guidance)?

Q4 – What role might nudging and/ or LAs play in personalising/adaptive learning?

Q5 – Regarding the complex issues in the nexus of student agency & subjectivity, privacy, consent, & vulnerability, how might we differentiate between LAs & surveillance in online HE?

Q6 – Can nudges assist students in overcoming ‘learned helplessness’ especially when breaking through cycles of negative thoughts and self-blame? If so, how might nudges support students in taking control of their educational experiences?

Further reading:

Bayne, S., Evans, P., Ewins, R., Knox, J., Lamb, J., Mcleod, H., et al. (2020). The Manifesto for Teaching Online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Commissioner for Fair Access. (2019). Disabled students at university: discussion paper. Scottish Government. Available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/commissioner-fair-access-discussion-paper-disabled-students-university/

Gašević, D., Dawson, S., & Siemens, G. (2015). Let’s not forget: Learning analytics are about learning. TechTrends, 59(1), 64-71. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11528-014-0822-x.pdf 

Lim, L. A., Gentili, S., Pardo, A., Kovanović, V., Whitelock-Wainwright, A., Gašević, D., & Dawson, S. (2021). What changes, and for whom? A study of the impact of learning analytics-based process feedback in a large course. Learning and Instruction, 72, 101202.

Payne, A. L., Compton, M. & Kennedy, S. (In Progress). ‘Supporting and humanising behavioural change without the behaviorism: nudges and digital footprints.’ Human Data Interaction, Disadvantage and Skills in the Community: Enabling Cross-Sector Environments For Postdigital Inclusion. Springer.

Prinsloo, P. (2016). “Decolonising the Collection, Analyses and Use of Student Data: A Tentative Exploration/Proposal.” Open Distance Teaching and Learning (blog). https://opendistanceteachingandlearning.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/decolonising-the-collection-analyses-and-use-of-student-data-a-tentative-explorationproposal/.

Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S.(2015). Student privacy self-management: implications for learning analytics. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Learning Analytics And Knowledge (LAK ’15). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 83–92. https://doi.org/10.1145/2723576.2723585

Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S. (2016). Student Vulnerability, Agency and Learning Analytics: An Exploration. Journal of Learning Analytics, 3(1), 159–182. https://doi.org/10.18608/jla.2016.31.10

Roberts, L. D., Howell, J. A., Seaman, K., & Gibson, D. C. (2016). Student Attitudes toward Learning Analytics in Higher Education: “The Fitbit Version of the Learning World”. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1959. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01959

Thaler, R. (2015). The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad. The New York Times. Available at: https://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/-/media/faculty/richard-thaler/assets/files/goodandbad.pdfWeijers, R.J., de Koning, B.B. & Paas, F. Nudging in education: from theory towards guidelines for successful implementation. Eur J Psychol Educ 36, 883–902 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-020-00495-0

‘Why might students not always act with academic integrity?’ We tried asking them

Guest post from Dr Alex Standen (UCL Arena). I am grateful to my colleague Alex for the post below. I can, I know, be a little bit ‘all guns blazing’ when it comes to issues of plagiarism and academic integrity because I feel that too often we start from a position of distrust and with the expectation of underhandedness. I tend therefore to neglect or struggle to deal even-handedly with situations where such things as widespread collusion have clearly occurred. It is, I accept, perhaps a little too easy to just shout ‘poor assessment design’! without considering the depth of the issues and the cultures that buttress them.  This post builds on an in intervention developed and overseen by Alex within which students were asked to select the most likely cause for students to do something that might be seen as academically dishonest. The conclusions, linked research and implications for practice are relevant to anyone teaching and assessing in HE. 


In 2021, UCL built on lessons learnt from the emergency pivot online in 2020 and decided to deliver all exams and assessments online. It’s led to staff from across the university engaging with digital assessment and being prompted to reflect on their assessment design in ways we haven’t seen them do before.

However, one less welcome consequence was an increase in reported cases of academic misconduct. We weren’t alone here – a paper in the International Journal for Educational Integrity looks at how file sharing sites which claim to offer ‘homework help’ were used for assessment and exam help during online and digital assessments. And its easy to see why, as teaching staff and educational developers we try to encourage group and collaborative learning, we expect students to be digitally savvy, we design open book exams with an extended window to complete them – all of which serve to make the lines around plagiarism and other forms of misconduct a little more blurry.

We worked on a number of responses: colleagues in Registry focused on making the regulations clearer and more in line with the changes brought about by the shift to digital assessment, and in the Arena Centre (UCL’s central academic development unit) we supported the development of a new online course to help students better understand academic integrity and academic misconduct.

The brief we were given was for it to be concise and unequivocal, yet supportive and solutions-focused. Students needed to be able to understand what the various forms of academic misconduct are and what the consequences of cases can be, but also be given support and guidance in how to avoid it in their own work and assessments.

Since September 2021, the course has been accessed by over 1000 registered users, with 893 students being awarded a certificate of completion. It’s too early of course to understand what – if any – impact it will have had on instances of academic misconduct. What it can already help us to think about, however, are our students’ perspectives on academic misconduct and how in turn we can better support them to avoid it in future.

The course opens with a Menti quiz asking participants for their opinions on academic misconduct, posing the question: Why might students not always act with academic integrity? Here are the results (absolute numbers):

A bar chart showing the results of a poll - it shows that students believe might be reasons for not acting with academic integrity such as confusion, time pressure, desire to get the best grade, not knowing how to do things and anxiety

What they are telling us is that it is less about a lack of preparation or feelings of stress and anxiety on their part, and more a lack of understanding of how to integrate (academic) sources, how to manage their workload and what academic misconduct can even entail.

Our students’ responses are in line with research findings: studies have found a significant degree of confusion and uncertainty regarding the specific nature of plagiarism (Gullifer and Tyson, 2010) and situational and contextual factors such as weaknesses in writing, research and academic skills (Guraya and Guraya 2017) and time management skills (Ayton et al, 2021).

All of which gives us something to work on. The first is looking at how we plan our assessments over the course of a year so that students aren’t impeded by competing deadlines and unnecessary time pressures. The second is to devote more time to working with students on the development of the academic skills – and it is key that this isn’t exclusively an extra-curricular opportunity. Focusing on bringing this into the curriculum will ensure that it is accessible to all students, not just those with the times and personal resources to seek it out. Finally, as we move to more digital assessments, it is about really reflecting on the design of these to ensure they are fit for this new purpose – and perhaps the first question we should all be asking ourselves is, do we really need an exam?

How effective are your questions?

[listen -10 mins -or read below]

Questions you ask students are at the heart of teaching and assessment but where and how you ask them, the types of questions you ask and the ways you ask them can sometimes be neglected. This is especially true of the informal (often unplanned) questions you might ask in a live session (whether in-person or online) where a little additional forethought into your rationale, approach and the actual questions themselves could be very rewarding. I was prompted to update this post when reviewing some ‘hot questions’ from new colleagues about to embark on lecturing roles for the first time.  They expressed the very common fears over ‘tumbleweed’ moments when asking a question, concerns over nerves showing generally and  worries about a sea of blank screens in online contexts and ways to check students are understanding, especially when teaching online.  What I offer below is written with these colleagues in mind and is designed to be practically-oriented:

What is your purpose? It sounds obvious but knowing why you are asking a question and considering some of the possible reasons can be one way to overcome some of the anxieties that many of us have when thinking about teaching. Thinking about why you are asking questions and what happens when you do can also be a useful self-analysis tool.  Questions aren’t always about working out what students know already or have learned in-session. They can be a way of teaching (see Socratic method overview here and this article has some useful and interesting comments on handling responses to questions), a way of provoking, a way of changing the dynamic and even managing behaviour.  In terms of student understanding:  Are you diagnosing (i.e. seeing what they know already), encouraging speculation, seeking exemplification or checking comprehension?  Very often what we are teaching- the pure concepts – are the things that are neglected in questioning. How do we know students are understanding?  For a nice worked example see this example of concept checking.

The worst but most common question (in my view). Before I go any further, I’d like to suggest that there is one question (or question type) that should, for the most part, be avoided.  What do you think that question might be? It is a question that will almost always lead to a room full of people nodding away or replying in other positive ways. It makes us feel good about ourselves because of the positive response we usually get but actually can be harmful. The reason for it is that when we ask it there are all sorts of reasons why any given student might not actually give a genuine response. Instead of replying honestly they see others nodding and do not want to lose face, appear daft, go against the flow. They see everyone else nodding and join in. But how many of those students are doing the same? How does it feel when everyone else appears to understand something and you don’t? Do you know what the question is yet? See foot of this post to check** (Then argue with me in comments if you disagree).

Start with low stakes questions. Ask questions that ask for an opinion or perspective or to make a choice or even something not related to the topic. Get students to respond in different ways (a quick show of hands, an emoji in chat if teaching online, a thumbs up/ thumbs down to an e-poll or a controversial quotation – Mentimeter does this well). All these interactions build confidence and ease students into ‘ways of being’ in any live taught session. Anything that challenges any assumptions they may have about how teaching ‘should’ be uni-directional and help avoid disengagement are likely to help foster a safe environment in which exchange, dialogue, discussion and the questions that are at the heart of those things are comfortably accepted. Caveat: it is worth noting here that what we might assume if a student is at the back and not contributing will almost certainly have reasons behind it that are NOT to do with indolence or distraction. A student looking at their phone may be anxious about their comprehension and be using a translator, for example  They are there! This is key. Be compassionate and don’t force it. Build slowly.

Plan your questions. Another obvious thing but actually wording questions in advance of a session makes a huge difference. You can plan for questions beyond opinion and fact checking types (the easiest to come up with on the fly). Perhaps use something  like The Conversational Framework or Bloom’s Taxonomy to write questions for different purposes or of different types.  Think about the verbal questions you asked in your last teaching session. How many presented a real challenge? How many required analysis, synthesis, evaluation? Contrast to the number that required (or could only have) a single correct response. The latter are much easier to come up with so, naturally, we ask more of them. If framing the higher order questions is tough on the spot, maybe jot a few ahead of the lecture or seminar. If you use a tool like Mentimeter to design and structure slide content it has many built in tools to encourage you to think about questions that enable anonymous contributions from students.

The big question. A session or even a topic could be driven by a single question. Notions of Enquiry and Problem-Based Learning (EBL/ PBL) exploit well designed problems or questions that require students to resolve. These cannot of course be ‘Google-able’ set response type questions but require research, evidence gathering, rationalisation and so on. This reflects core components of constructivist learning theory.

The question is your answer. Challenging students to come up with questions based on current areas of study can be a very effective way of gauging the depth to which they have engaged with the topic. What they select and what they avoid is often a way of getting insights into where they are most and least comfortable.

Wait time. Did you know that the average time lapse between a question being asked and a student response is typically one second? In effect, the sharpest students (the ‘usual suspects’ you might see them as) get in quick. The lack of even momentary additional processing time means that a significant proportion (perhaps the majority) have not had time to mentally articulate a response. Mental articulation goes some way to challenging cognitive overload so, even where people don’t get a chance to respond the thinking time still helps (formatively).  There are other benefits to building in wait time too. This finding by Rowe (1974)* is long ago enough for us to have done something about it. It’s easy to see why we may not have done though…I ask a question; I get a satisfyingly quick and correct response…I can move on. But instilling a culture of ‘wait time’ can have a profound effect on the progress of the whole group. Such a strategy will often need to be accompanied by….

Targeting. One of the things we often notice when observing colleagues ‘in action’ is that questions are very often thrown out to a whole group. The result is either a response from the lightning usual suspect or, with easier questions, a sort of choral chant. These sorts of questions have their place. They signify the important. They can demarcate one section from another. But are they a genuine measurement of comprehension? And what are the consequences of allowing some (or many) never to have to answer if they don’t want to? Many lecturers will baulk at the thought of targeting individuals by name and this is something that I’d counsel against until you have a good working relationship with a group of students but why not by section? by row? by table? “someone from the back row tell me….”. By doing this you can move away from ‘the usual suspects’ and change your focus- one thing we can inadvertently do is to focus eye contact, attention and pace on students who are willing and eager to respond thereby further disconnecting those who are less confident or comfortable or inclined to ‘be’ the same.

Tumbleweed.  The worry of asking a question and getting nothing in response can be one of those things that leads to uni-directional teaching. A bad experience early on can dissuade us from asking further questions and then the whole thing develops its own momentum and only gets worse. The low stakes questions, embedding wait time and building a community comfortable with (at least minimal) targetting are ways to pre-empt this. My own advice is that numbers are with you if you can hold your nerve and relaxed smile. Ask a question and look at the students and wait. 30 seconds is nothing but feels like an eternity in such a situation. However, there are many more of them than you and one of them will break eventually! Resist re-framing the question or repeating it too soon but be prepared to ask a lower stakes version and building from there. More advice is available in this easy access article.

Technology as a question not the answer. Though they may seem gimmicky (and you have to be careful that you don’t subvert your pedagogy for colour and excitement) there are a number of in- or pre-session tools that can be used.  Tools like Mentimeter, Polleverywhere, Socrative, Slido, Kahoot all enable different sorts of questions to be answered as does the ‘Hot Questions’ function in Moodle that prompted me to re-post this.


Putting thought into questions, the reason you are asking them and how you will manage contributions (or lack thereof) is something we might all do a little  more of, especially when tasked with teaching new topics or to new groups or in new modalities.



*Rowe, M. B. (1974). Wait‐time and rewards as instructional variables, their influence on language, logic, and fate control: Part one‐wait‐time. Journal of research in science teaching, 11(2), 81-94. (though this original study was on elementary teaching situations the principles are applicable to HE settings)


**Worst question? ‘Does everyone understand?’ or some such variant such as nodding and smiling at your students whilst asking ‘All ok? or ‘Got that?’. Instead ask a question that is focussed on a specific point. Additionally, you might want to routinely invite students to jot their most troubling point on a post it or have an open forum in Moodle (or equivalent space) for areas that need clarifying.



[This is an update- actually more of a significant re-working- of my own post,  previously shared here: https://blogs.gre.ac.uk/learning-teaching/2016/11/07/thinking-about-questions/]

Are you not engaged?

Some colleagues and I were tasked with producing a ‘toolkit’ for other colleagues looking to improve/ optimise engagement. The toolkit can be seen in this online version of the ‘engagement’ toolkit or dowloaded from here in Word format. I hope colleagues find it useful.

What struck me most when talking about and reading around this topic is how problematic it is as a concept and how little time is actually given to deconstructing meaning and principles. We throw words like ‘engagement’, ’employability’ and ‘wellbeing’ (should it be hyphenated?) around, without even checking that we have a shared understanding of what we mean. The same could be said for ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ too I suppose. For a start, engagement in activity is not a proxy for learning but is easily confused and conflated as such. Back when I was a sessional lecturer in several further education colleges many of the quality assurance processes in every place were informed by the lengthy shadow cast by Ofsted. As I recall, along with ‘differentiation strategies’ and ‘negotiated, individualised outcomes’ (I kid you not) we needed to show that we were on top of student engagement. So, lesson plans were expected to specify student engagement activities and observation forms sought ratings in terms of ‘successful’ engagement. I can imagine people asking ‘what’s wrong with that?’ and I suspect I didn’t question it then to be honest. I was aware that I was constructing an artifice in those plans and observed sessions though. What it tended to do (definitely in my case and certainly later in the case of many of the teachers I observed) was to encourage a cynical acknowledgement of this demand. You end up shoe-horning in activities where engagement (read: students being busy) is visible because the big problem was that only engagement that was in-your-face obvious was likely to count.

This is why I very much like the engagement framework suggested by Redmond et al. (2018) and is represented below. First, it encourages us to conceptualise types of engagement and secondly, and crucially in my view, implores us NOT to find ways to measure engagement but to eschew measurement and focus on developing an environment where different types of engagement are valued and fostered.

Blended learning engagement framework showing the five aspects: social, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and collaborative

Online and blended engagement framework with definitions (adapted from Redmond et al., 2018)


Redmond, P., Abawi, L. A., Brown, A., Henderson, R., & Heffernan, A. (2018). An online engagement framework for higher education. Online learning, 22(1), 183-204.

5 reasons why Mentimeter works so well

[if you have never seen or used Mentimeter then a quick look here may help]

[Listen -11 mins or read below]

When it comes to tools that will do a teaching and learning job there is a world of dedicated educational technology and ‘productivity’ tools to choose from. I’m very much an experimenter and a fiddler. If I see someone using or referring to a website or tool that looks interesting in a meeting or at a conference, I am there in seconds signing up and playing around and making judgements that have become a staple of my needs and preference-focussed filtration system. In broad terms I like to be able to try things for free, for it to be relatively intuitive and straightforward and (most important) fit for either pre-defined or imagined teaching or assessment purposes. I have written more about the how and why of this with my former colleague Dr Timos Almpanis here and in chapter 4 of this collection. I try not to evangelise and I am very much of the school that would argue that purpose rather than any given tool should be a starting point for discussions about integrating digital approaches but there’s something about what Mentimeter can do and how it does it that means I do sometimes slip into ultra-enthusiast mode.  Unlike a lot of tech approaches and tools that pass the initial ‘free, easy, fit for purpose’ test there’s something about the breadth of purpose that Mentimeter is fit for and its intuitiveness that, for me, make it a class above other tools. Also see here for why Chris Little at Keele made this point a while back and here for an evaluation of a number student response tools including Mentimeter from when I and a colleague at Greenwich were tasked with identifying  what the best institution-wide student response system would be.

1. It’s not hardware dependent

Like a lot of people similarly enthusiastic about opportunities for enhancing student interaction and engagement with digital technologies, I spent a lot of time (much of which was ultimately wasted) focussed on hardware. From interactive whiteboards to in-class ipad sets to PDAs and ‘flipcams’ the issues that directly impeded scaling of use as well as my own enthusiasm  were related to one or more of the following:

  • Amount of training needed
  • Device security and storage
  • ‘Just in time’ access limits
  • Responsibility for maintenance
  • Rapidity of obsolescence of kit

In my view, all these were factors that afflicted ‘clickers’ (voting pods that were handed round in face to face sessions) – as revolutionary as they promised to be -they were only ever used by the few, despite the gleaming aluminium cases and the sumptuous foam inserts that the clicker devices sat in. The BYOD dependence on user devices when it comes to cloud-based software alternatives like Mentimeter means that:

  • People usually know how to use their own devices or at least access the internet
  • Device security, maintenance, updating is not an issue
  • They are, by definition, available; turning an oft-cited teacher frustration of mobile device distraction into a potential virtue

‘What if students don’t have a device?’ is a common question but, like many things in this domain, it’s largely about framing. I will always make participation optional and make it clear ‘if you have a device on you’ if in a face to face setting or ‘if you have a big enough screen or a separate device nearby’ if online and frequently subvert the assumption that responses need to be individual and precede voting with group-based discussion with one person per group responding.

I have moved between institutions in the last year and both have invested in a site licence and access to the full suite of tools and functionality Mentimeter offers. This privilege is something that must be acknowledged so it’s certainly not ‘free’ any more (though I  personally pay nothing of course!) the free version is still relatively generous. In my view it’s an exemplary freemium set up. Just on the right side of frustrating in amongst the persuasive.

2. It’s a slide/ presentation tool that has many merits in its own right

One thing that is often missed because the ‘point’ of Mentimeter is interaction is how well it works as an alternative to PowerPoint as a presentation tool.  Even though PowerPoint remains the default across higher education for slide production (even during that weird period when everyone was doing Prezis!), for the most part colleagues seem to struggle to break from the desktop app habit. As a consequence, sharing of slides becomes an upload/ download faff or, even if sharing is managed via MS Office cloud storage there are often restrictions on who can view. Mentimeter generates a link so the first benefit is slides can be shared as easily as any website link. Secondly, the participation link enables the students to see the slides (including detail of pictures) on their own devices in real time (as well as or possibly INSTEAD OF the main screen). Thirdly the author interface is simple, there is a variety of slide types and styles, the copyright free image gallery is easy to use as is the ALT text prompt. Fourthly, the ability to add simple interactions (eg thumbs up or down) mean that students can be invited to contribute even to content delivery type slides by, for example, agreeing or disagreeing with a controversial idea or quotation.  The slides have more limited space for text and this (to some a limitation) is an excellent discipline when preparing slides to minimise the text and challenge the tendency many of us have to use too much of it.

A screenshot from the editing woindow of Mentimeter showing a bulleted slide with image and also the content slide types available

The editing window of Mentimeter showing a bulleted slide with a copyright free image and also the content slide types available

3. The participation and interaction options are substantial and adaptable

In a previous post there were a few occasions where students chose notoriety over maturity and tried to undermine sessions by being abusive in open text questions. This led to something of a knee-jerk response by some colleagues who questioned whether the tool should be supported or used at all. Much like (way way back) access to YouTube was banned for all students AND teaching staff in a college I worked in because ONE student accessed a (seriously) inappropriate video. The sledgehammer / nut response was not the way to address things, not least because Mentimeter’s existing tools and functionality enable users to avoid and tackle such behaviours. So, if open text questions are used there are ways of monitoring and filtering content (including a profanity filter) and of the ten interaction/ question types only three are open text.  To grasp this, however, does often necessitate more than superficial exploration and experimentation (or coming to one of my hour-long workshops!) One thing I commonly do is encourage colleagues to consider how they might eschew the favoured word cloud and open text formats and find ways of fully exploiting the lesser used types.  In addition, it’s important to think about how the interactions are presented and managed. A well-designed question can be an excellent vehicle for prompting discussion prior to ‘voting’ or as a prompt for analysing/ rationalising responses that have already been offered.

screenshot from Mentimeter authoring dashboard showing all the question types available

Mentimeter authoring dashboard showing all the question types available

4. Frequent updates and improvements

There’s no resting on laurels with Mentimeter and there does seem to be acknowledgement of user requests. For example, the ability to embed video in slides from YouTube is a real blessing and, if using Mentimeter as a slide tool as well as for interaction, further minimises shifting between tabs or different software.  The recently introduced collaborative authoring of presentations was much requested at UCL and enables more efficient working in addition to the collaborative potential. A very recent and welcome improvement is the ability to have active hyperlinks (in both participation and presentation modes). The ‘Mentimote’ tool that allows you to use your smartphone as a slide clicker, moderation tool and presentation embellisher has also recently switched from beta to ‘fully fledged’ mode and works very well, especially for live in-person events.

5. When Covid came, Mentimeter was equipped to adapt.

The default pace setting in Mentimeter is ‘presenter paced’. That is, the presenter advances slides and only then can participants see them. This is very much in keeping with the how Mentimeter (presumably) was conceived and how many people who are users regard it. However, the non default option (audience paced) allows slide collections with interactions to be accessed at audience pace. When lessons switched online almost across the board it was common for academic colleagues to take the intuitive approach and try to replicate face to face teaching in online environments via Zoom, Teams or Collaborate. They often tried to incorporate Mentimeter slides too. Whilst this is do-able and it is something I routinely use myself, the complexity and both mental and actual bandwidth this layer added to already struggling staff and students (with kit, with space, with implications of Covid) meant that it often felt unsatisfactory. Alongside my and colleagues’ recommendations to rethink how online time could be exploited and optimised I encouraged colleagues to think about the possibilities of using Mentimeter asynchronously. By encouraging participation ahead of a session then presenting results in a session much faffing, device and screen changing is removed but still students have a buy-in to the content. When I came to my current post it was fascinating to see how colleagues in similar positions to my own such as Dr Silvia Colaiacomo were saying the same thing here.

If you want to read more on my thoughts about Mentimeter see this post and also this collaboration with two former colleagues (Dr Gerhard Kristandl from Greenwich and Paramedic extraordinaire Richard Ward who is at Cumbria).

Here, too, is a video case study I made with a colleague and student from the Division of Psychiatry on academic and student use of Mentimeter.

Colleagues at UCL interested in using Mentimeter start here: https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2020/07/09/mentimeter-at-ucl/

Sell them what they want; give them what they need [audio version]

The recently published special edition compendium from JLDHE of reflections on the impact of Covid19 on higher education teaching, learning and assessment is an excellent, accessible and diverse resource. The range and quality of articles makes me feel quite proud to be a part of it! The contents page can be accessed here. It is an open access journal and each article uses a common format under strict wordage guidelines so it really is possible to dip in and out.

My article is here and I offer an audio version of it below for those that prefer to listen or who may gain something from my efforts at being expressive.


In that role I was working closely with Dr Alison Gilmour (now at UWS) and I would also recommend her piece on ‘Adopting a pedagogy of kindness’.

The hybrid/ hyflex co-pilot: flying by the seat of your pants

[listen 8m 4s or read below]

Warning: If you dislike mangled, mixed and over-extended metaphors, please place this safety notice back in the pocket in front of you, remove shoes and exit swiftly (or parachute to possible co-pilot roles and responsibilities below).

Once you have navigated through the sea of ‘keep out’ and other similar warning signs and committed to dipping your toes into the shark-infested hybrid waters (Whatever you call it, we’re talking simultaneous live face to face and online teaching- Zoom or Teams mediated), you will know that number 1 in the advice chart is: ‘Get yourself a co-pilot’. But what is a co-pilot? What role could or should they play? Should they, like the kind of co-pilot you get on a plane, be able to land the thing if you were to become suddenly incapacitated? Is it a good idea to recruit students to do it? The following suggestions are based on doing the hybrid thing a few times a year over the last 3 or 4 years and a dozen or so times in the last 3 or 4 weeks.

Do you even need a crew? Or will a passenger do?

So, you have your pilot’s licence and you want to get into the cockpit asap. Surely the last thing you need is someone else twiddling knobs, making unauthorised announcements and looking better in their reflector shades? There are all sorts of reasons why flying anything from the new Boeing Jumbo Lecturehall to the Cessna 6-seater Skyhawk Seminar is likely to be something you want or are obliged to do alone. Assuming for a moment that your airline (read: institution, faculty/ department) can fund a co-pilot then there are plenty of reasons why you might benefit from having someone by your side. If the plane is no private jet and there’s not the reserves to dip into you might still want to find a way to get someone in and give them a shiny badge with ‘co-pilot’ written on it, whether or not they could land the thing themselves. Whatever the size of your aircraft this is more than the flying you may (or often not) have been trained to do. Suddenly you’re being asked to carry on flying but also remote control a car (perhaps with all your loved ones in it) on the motorway 30,000 ft below you. How helpful a co-pilot can be will depend on a range of factors:

  • Their own professional training and subject expertise
  • Whether they are paid
  • Whether this is likely to be a one off event or a sustained new way of travelling
  • All the variables you can imagine

So in an ideal world an equivalently trained co-pilot is optimal (a close colleague perhaps to get you through the first time), an in-training colleague (such as a PGTA), a student quality reviewer (UCL colleagues look out for an announcement on this soon) or even one or more of the passengers (sorry, students) you are flying that day. Please note: In the latter case, you will need to think through the implications, limit or spread the load and note that co-pilots have reported intense concentration requirements leading to them not processing what the pilot has been saying. Whatever your situation and whoever you are able to work with the following are roles that you might want to consider for the co-pilot. Most important is to agree and delineate roles prior to the session starting.

pilot stands next to plane

Ready to fly?

(possible) Co-pilot roles and responsibilities

Most of the following would not be reasonable to expect from a student volunteer and ALL of them would be unreasonable for any co-pilot, however well they were remunerated! Where students are asked to help maintain connection between online and in-person participants it may be prudent not to think in terms co-piloting given the necessary limits to what they can be expected to do. In those circumstances it may be wise to have a few students with different responsibilities (eg. One simply signals when an online hand is raised, another paraphrases in chat the in-person contributions).

Pre-flight checks

  • Helping to check equipment works ahead of a session
  • Role playing as a student in physical or online spaces to identify potential issues (from font size on display which may be reduced due to additional elements needed on screen to audio levels of mics and speakers)
  • Sending reminders, fielding questions about joining instructions and/ or seeding persistent back-channel (if used)
  • (Immediately before take off) Participate in final checks, guide students to seats (for optimal acoustics), assist with registration
  • Post re-assuring notes in online space and/ or backchannel- tell remote attendees when to expect pilot’s mic to be unmuted
  • Reminding in-person students to mute both mics AND speakers on their devices if they access the remote participation link (note: the more in-person students who join the online space, the harder it is to set up breakout groups)
  • Have links to all in-session and post-session resources to hand to paste into chat or backchannel
  • Serving drinks is not advised


  • Welcoming in chat the online participants, by name if possible if group is not too large
  • If appropriate, facilitate connections between the two modalities- e.g. Volunteer students in the physical space waving over your shoulder into your webcam and the online particpants wave back.
  • Asking in chat if audio can be heard when pilot turns on their mic and be the point of contact if any technical issues are experienced
  • Reiterating participation protocols for contributions from online participants in chat (e.g. Raise electronic hand); how invitations to speak will work
  • Sharing links to or guidance about other channels of participation (e.g. Mentimeter participation link; PowerPoint Live presentation link and how to start simultaneous translation; guidance on starting subtitles in online platform)

Climb & Cruise

  • Flag ‘hands up’ to pilot at appropriate junctures/ pre-agreed times
  • Paraphrase in-room contributions in chat, especially where audio issues are known. Identifying the contributor (even initials only) helps online participants keep track of things
  • (If agreed) respond to questions arising in chat or at least acknowledge that questions have been received/ seen
  • Summarise/ theme remote contributions and questions
  • Open/ close and monitor breakout rooms
  • Send messages to breakout rooms that mirror in person instructions
  • In text-only collaborative spaces, add comments if appropriate and smooth facilitation between remote and in-person students

Descent and landing

  • Give opportunity to pose questions and commit to sharing responses if not addressed in session
  • Share links to resources, activities, follow up work or tasks to be completed ahead of future sessions
  • Seek evaluative comments (on connection/ access/ accessibility etc.)
  • Signpost preferred media for communications between live events and ahead of next session and where/ how to access any session recordings

What have I forgotten? What have you tried that smooths hybrid/ hyflex sessions with or without a co-pilot? Let me know!

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying. There is an art, it says, or, rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” Douglas Adams

‘Basic Hybrid’ Teaching: Recommendations

[Listen 6m 50s or read below]

The recommendations below were synthesised from thoughts and experiences of colleagues from the Arena Centre and Digital Education teams at UCL.  Last update 6th October 2021. The recommendations are of course targetted at UCL colleagues but we hope there is plenty here that is generalisable to colleagues across the sector.

At UCL we are supporting approaches to simultaneous in-person and online teaching because we know that some programmes will have significant numbers of students who are unable to attend taught sessions on campus. As an instituion we have veered away from using the term ‘hyflex’ and opted for ‘basic hybrid’ to reflect the limitations of what is ultimately a compromise and compensatory approach in a time of ongoing challenge and crisis. Where possible we hope colleagues will be able to use alternative approaches.

Please note that the following relate primarily to basic hybrid that uses Zoom or Teams. Where Lecturecast Live is used to stream sessions there will be a lag and consequently very limited scope for interaction with those who are remote.


Most important: Ensure the decision to use a ‘basic hybrid’ approach is likely to be the most appropriate one and that other options have been explored / discussed

  • Familiarise yourself with the log in and technical guidance and attend a workshop if possible
  • Trial log-in in the room that will be used if possible; if not, any equivalent room (not all rooms have the same configuration).
  • Try sharing screen and organising the screen in different ways- remind yourself what happens to your view of participants (in either Teams or Zoom) when you share slides or other content.
  • If possible, too, imagine yourself teaching in that space and think about where you will stand, where the mics are and what the implications are of movement.
  • Discuss availability with your department for PGTA/academic co-pilots (this should be a formal arrangement). Alternatively, look at building this role into the student experience, agree pre-session the responsibilities and protocols. Asking for a volunteer ‘chat champion’ from the in-person group is better than no support!
  • Recognise that any kind of hybrid is likely to slow the pace of the session so plan accordingly.
  • Plan to keep it as simple as possible, at least the first couple of times.
  • Plan opportunities for thinking/ processing time and (valid and useful) questions for students to respond to (via chat or via Mentimeter, for example).
  • Important: be consistent with and share the joining instructions (Moodle recommended) and include a comment about what to expect – remind participants that we are doing our best to support all students in challenging circumstances and, even with the huge upgrading we have done, our ‘basic hybrid’ approach is something we need to work together to get the most from it.
  • Remember: New students may also need some of the prompts about how to use Zoom/ Teams and even 2nd year undergraduates attending in-person may need support/ reminders about ‘ways of being’ in physical spaces.
  • Think about the affordances of secondary devices if you have them. A laptop logged into your Zoom account shows you what your online participants are seeing, can act as as a camera of sorts to show the room or objects and is also a camera that can be used for close ups of you as the presenter (note: the same does NOT work in MS Teams- only one camera shows up if you log in twice to the same account).
  • Wear clothes with pockets for the base unit for mobile mics where available.

In session:

an ink sketch of a griffin (or Gryphon)

Griffin by Gordon Johnson via Pixabay

  • Use ‘share’ function to share slides but, before doing so, consider opportunities for in-person students to see their colleagues on the whole of the main screen.
  • If you want to maintain a visual connection between in-room and online attendees you’ll need to partition your screen with some care and remember that if slides are smaller, fonts may need to be larger.
  • Online attendess will only see in-room peers if there is a camera open in that space- think carefully about limitations, policy and related issues before doing this (and seek in-room attendees’ permission if you do).
  • Use ‘spotlight’ function in MS Teams to focus on your camera if using a ceiling mounted camera (otherwise you are very small on remote participants’ screens). In Zoom this fixes the camera but also turns off ‘gallery view’ for online participants and does not enlarge the view so is less useful.
  • Remind all attendees that whilst circumstances may not be ideal, we value their contributions via chat, from the floor or via polling tools such as Mentimeter. The main thing to remember is one voice at a time unless in breakout discussions.
  • Value both groups equally – make a point of acknowledging online participants and their contributions.
  • Ask students to mute mics if joining online and if anyone in-person is also connecting to the Zoom/ Teams space they will need to mute both Mic and speakers. In-room students who join the online space need to be told to mute their mic AND speakers several times (!) or there will be audio feedback, echoes or other interferences. In-room students cannot simply turn on their mic to speak!
  • When online participants speak on mic it is prudent to mute the lecturn mic to avoid echo for online participants if using MS Teams (Zoom seems to cope fine).
  • If taking contributions from the floor and you have a mobile mic then moving towards the speaker may help in-room participants (but removes you from camera view and offers little benefit to remote participants)- better to paraphrase or ask co-pilot to do this  in chat.
  • Whole group (verbal) discussion is very challenging in this context and may be dependent on mics, bandwidth of participants and other factors. It will likely slow things down and feel awkward – find other ways to give all students opportunities to contribute (e.g. using a collaborative space like a Padlet, Jamboard or shared document/ slides.
  • Consider using an ongoing backchannel to connect in-person and online students (Teams does this but  Zoom chat ends when meeting ends). You may decide to use a Teams backchannel to support a Zoom meeting, for example.
  • Switching cameras to use, for example, a visualiser can be awkward so it may be better to use a tablet if you have one separately logged into the meeting which you then share from when whiteboard is needed.

see here for latest thinking on hybrid/ hyflex:

Beatty, B. J. (2019). Hybrid-Flexible Course Design (1st ed.). EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex

Point of no return or return to horror high?

[listen 12m 35s or read below)

With apologies to both Bridget Fonda and to the killer on the left/ right etc, this was the title of my keynote at Kingston’s ‘Future of Learning’ conference in June 2021 and revamped for FRA in January 2022 and below is my related tuppenceworth in the form of 10 provocations on what we ought to be doing and avoiding as we prepare for at least one more year of uncertainty and change in higher education. I have been teaching online for 5+ years and integrating all things digital for a lot longer. Another way of saying that is I have learnt a lot of things the hard way by getting them wrong, wasting efforts unnecessarily and realising, too slowly, things I’d probably now consider to be obvious.  Everything I say needs to be set against that background. My position and my perspectives are informed by this. I did (and continue to), however, spend a lot of time supporting colleagues from across the disciplines and professional services and across the digital confidence, capabilty, enthusiasm and kit spectrums during and subsequent to the pivot online.

1. “Forced compliance” of 20-21 shouldn’t define how we understand online/ blended/ hybrid (or whatever the heck it’s called now)

post it notes from child to father asking him to be quiet

screenshot from twitter @mart_compton showing image with post it notes

When I think about the last year it’s a real mixed bag. If I can push aside the awful bits and focus on the work, I still find that the reflections are necessarily blurred with family/ personal stuff, not least because my daughter (age 9) was at home for a lot of it. She and I worked at either ends of the kitchen and my day was salt and peppered with notes like these asking me to keep the volume down.  This is emblematic in my mind of the necessarily different ways of working and being to what was ‘normal’. This tiny inconvenience is insignificant compared to some of the impacts felt across the sector by many academic staff and students, often struggling to find adequate space and kit to work with.  The suddenness and the necessity combined to create a situation where the decision to teach in these ways was largely out of our hands. Many have argued that the silver lining of the dark cloud that is still very much part of our lives is the way the pandemic catalysed advances in digital confidence and competence unimaginable in ‘normal’ times. The other side of this of course is  how the experiences of some teachers and students tainted many people’s perceptions of what an online or blended education could be.

2. Be (REALLY) honest with ourselves about what worked, what didn’t, what we developed and what we still need

screenshot from twitter showing child sat on a rock with the text of the tweet reading: (words Dr Verena Roberts- permission to share given) "My son’s online teacher has asked all her online students to find a sitting rock. Each week - they are are asked to sit, reflect, sketch, write & listen to the world. Pretty good example of experiential online learning to me .... I am so grateful for teachers like her"

screenshot from twitter-@verenanz showing boy on a rock

This (for me at least) is one of those things that sounds easy and obvious but is actually quite challenging. Do we ever give ourselves enough time to properly think? In the context of point 1 above, can we properly think without some form of scaffold  and/ or mediation? Do we have enough information to think usefully (and with opportunities for discursive exploration) to reflect with one eye looking back and another looking forward? This image really struck me during the lockdown. It’s from an academic in Canada (Dr. Verena Roberts: image shared with permission) who shared a picture of her son on his ‘reflection rock’. Time for reflection being built into the lockdown school day was a powerful reminder from a very different context of how learning does and should happen beyond those times we are ‘in control’.  So much was represented in that image: What is possible when we relinquish control; valuing the affective; encouraging liberty, creativity and independence. We need to give our students space and tools to reflect but not forget either that we also need the same opportunities.

3. We need to push against binary thinking and simplistic narratives

Those that are not so good at reflecting or embracing nuance or those with strong vested interests in a swift return to ‘normal’  may be inclined to push, echo or sympathise with simplistic narratives: online = BAD; in person = GOOD. From the very start of the pandemic I heard (and almost certainly said myself) ‘we are not the Open University’ but that shouldn’t stop us from being open to models they have developed and honed over decades of offering remote and online education. Respecting and heeding wisdom from OU colleagues and practise, then or looking ahead, does not mean we want to occupy their ground or to become them. To suggest that as a way of closing down discussion is, to my mind, often a symptom of exclusionary thinking. Widening participation means developing an understanding of some of the positive aspects remote connection enabled for significant numbers of our students. By casting light on possibilities otherwise masked by years of convention we have revealed what is possible and the after-image of that has burned deep however swiftly we try to turn off the light.  The best we can offer is impacted by so many variables but we do know that disciplinary contexts help define what we do; that one size solutions would only ever be a temporary fix and that online and remote options in education exist for a reason. Accepting this in reasoned discussions about what post-pandemic pedagogies look like is essential.

4. Lectures and exams. Always elephants in the room; only a lot bigger now

Henry of Germany delivering a lecture to university students in Bologna by Laurentius de Voltolina

Henry of Germany delivering a lecture to university students in Bologna by Laurentius de Voltolina (public domain)

I expect most have seen before this classic 14th century image (a screen grab from a very early iteration of Lecturecast) of students snoozing or chatting in the lecture and the one being distracted by a smart phone under the bench. They think Henry hasn’t noticed of course but it’s amazing what you can see from the front. The pandemic has certainly given us pause for thought about the lecture as default teaching modality (in many places) and, likewise, the exam as default summative assessment (in many places) has been challenged, not least by emerging evidence of attainment gaps closing due to assessment modifications.

I am NOT advocating (like some) the end of the lecture completely BUT it is hard to argue that content-dense, one size fits all pedagogies AS DEFAULT really help us realise the EDI ideals that institutions present with great fanfare as defining the what University  X or Y is all about.

What I am an advocate of is (cf. point 3 above) a push back against binary thinking on the often polarising debate about lectures and exams, for much more nuanced thinking and openeness to new ways of working. Of course, if we conclude that breaking with convention would be better then we need to work out ways to resource and support that. Failing to change because a. we have always done it that way or b. it’s too expensive are fallacious arguments because they appeal to tradition and cost (according to one of my teachers from secondary school). If it’s worth doing then we need to work out how to do it.

5. Replicating face to face models is not optimising affordances of digital stuff

postcard drawn by jean-Marc Cote in early 20th century depicting a video telephone system

postcard drawn by Jean-Marc Côté in early 20th century depicting a video telephone system

This image is called ‘correspondence cinema’ and is one of a series of cigar box inserts and post cards created between 1899 and 1910 that imagined the year 2000. Most were way off but a few hit the mark- this one I like because it foreshadows Zoom and Teams but also reminds me that one of the big OBVIOUS conclusions many reached at the start of the pandemic was how we could use these tools to replicate what was being lost in lockdown- the face to face session. For lots of reasons though this is less than optimal and is NOT actually a feature of well- planned, invested in, developed online programmes. What should the features be then? Well, of course, there’s a long answer to that but: Along with more emphasis on asynchronous ‘content’ and optimising live, connection time for interaction, dialogue, debate we need to think carefully about our goals, our contexts and where we can use digital options can offer something different, new, better or can give improved access.

6. Start from a position of compassion, trust and openness

A starting point, now more than ever, needs to be one of compassion and trust. We and our students are dealing with the trauma of pandemic. We (and they) have adapted to new pedagogic approaches and will now be adapting once again. At a local level this means building in time for community building and building on the affordances offered by both analogue and digital ways of connecting, supporting and simply ‘being there’. More broadly I would argue that we need to resist narratives that divide; push back against the us and them framing of lecturers and students; resist too the pressures from enterprises that profit from us surveilling our students. Plagiarism detection wasn’t a thing when I was student- I am sure copying was – but the world somehow muddled through. I think it gives a false sense of rigour and can make us less likely to employ tactics previously used (for example, ad hoc mini vivas).

7. Grading can be degrading: ‘Ungrading’ and/or digital assessment and feedback can have powerful impacts

I talk about this here so will resit the urge to thump this tub again!

8. Shiny things (AI, VR, robotics, IoT) are a thing but not THE thing!

I see part of my role as trying to re-assure those colleagues who sometimes feel like the expectations are way up there in terms of what they should be doing- in some ways ‘shiny things’ can be distractors (most are NOT doing this stuff) and actually act as de-motivators. Innovation should be seen as ipsative; that is, it is relative to your own prior approaches. I talk more about his here.

9. Why so much writing? Value multi-modal, value listening, value silence. 

At school- imagined future post card produced in the period 1900-1910 - often credit to Jean Marc Cote

At school- imagined future post card produced in the period 1900-1910 – often credited to Jean-Marc Côté (public domain)

In this post I ask why it is that the communication skill most of us use least (IRL) is the one that is overwhelmly pre-eminent in our (UK) education system. What will it take to offer more audio-visual options and content? My own videos are often rough round the edges though I tend to favour audio options over video anyway.  Also, as someone who talks a lot and is very opinionated, I know how hard it is to factor in thinking and wait time when you’re on a roll and, for many, that difficulty was only exacerbated in remote, online interactions. This is one area where (assuming we are compelled by the need to value listening and silence more) is something we can blunt force train ourselves to do.

10. Value the student voice but don’t confuse want with need

I hope this last one speaks for itself- sometimes what students (indeed, all humans) WANT is not necessarily what they NEED in a given context. Before you ‘ah ha!’ me by referring me back to point 6 above, I would re-iterate that I am stressing here the value of disciplinary AND pedagogic expertise. I’m definitely not saying we always know best but, in the same way a patient might have some ideas about what is troubling them because they can use Google or know someone with similar symptoms does not mean medical professionals ignore their own expertise. If students are pushing back against well thought through approaches or loud voices are demanding X when you have planned Y it may be because it’s not what they expect or hoped for.  Maybe, therefore, we can do more to rationalise our approaches and share the pedagogic approaches we are taking. Anything that gets us talking with one another and with our students about what we are doing and why is likely to help.

Dazzled by shiny things

[listen 2m54s or read]


One of the tensions in the world (worlds?) of digital education is between the possibilities and affordances of new technologies and the realities of tech use in the wider academic community. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that in room 1 we might be supporting the use of mixed reality holographic processors or robot simulations while in room 2 the struggle to switch on the AV equipment and connect a laptop is very real. It’s too easy for tech enthusiasts to sigh (or worse, sneer) at those that struggle with technology. I am mortified to think that I may have been that person on occasion, allowing my frustration to show by (literally or metaphorically) ‘grabbing the mouse’ from someone and doing whatever was needed for them. This is at the forefront of my consciousness because at the weekend I helped one of my sisters get to grips with a smart phone and chromebook. She is artistic and creative but previously had little interest in personal affordances of such kit so, inevitably I guess,  the last year has been tough as she was not equipped to connect with family and friends. The ’emergency response’ kit and approach we initiated has now been supplanted by kit more suited to her needs and new realities.

Taking her through the set up, scaffolding control of devices and processes was (for me) a slow process and already has required some remote support but we are exchanging messages and pictures and the effort on both our parts was very much worth it. It reminded me of some colleagues I worked with at the start of the pandemic and how they had to battle with their own sense of inadequacy exacerbated by often insensitive colleagues whose assumptions about baseline digital compentence in the student and staff body did little to help with the transitions and adaptations many had to make. Roger’s oft-cited ‘Diffusion of innovations’ (1962) curve gives us the pretty negatively-connoted ‘laggards’ and this does little to help conceptualisations, assumptions and, ultimately, appropriate ways to support our colleagues. Even with the impact of Covid, even with my own delight in shiny things (like the 360 camera I’m currently playing with) I need to accept that digital enthusiasm and competence is utterly diverse. What does that mean? Well, for me, it’s about being  open, accepting and compassionate and recognising that for all the gloriously shiny, attractive things we can do, those most in need of our care are the ones who are struggling with what they must do.

For the interview for my current post I was tasked with making a video (or similar artefact) about the affordances of new technologies and this was the argument I made. Video is 3 m 24s (warning: starts with LOUD music; skip to 1m10s for actual argument).

Image: https://pixabay.com/users/thor_deichmann-2306827/