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Yesterday I spoke to student services professionals as part of an AMOSSHE continuous professional development day event (see slides above). In two 2h workshops, we moved through an overview of social media channels, and how to use them in the pursuit of improving the student experience. I like doing talks like this one, because they not only get me out of the office in a physical sense, but also in a mental one. I like traveling on trains as this allows me to gather my thoughts, and I like talking about my professional experience – not only to satisfy my considerable ego, but it gives me a chance to reflect on what I do as a professional.
And there were a couple of challenges, from which I’ve picked up some learning experiences. The first one was that I had to prepare more than I normally do. I tend to think that I’m a competent and confident public speaker (see ego reference above). However, the length of the session, the focus on student experience rather than employability, and the fact that one of the participants was hard of hearing, gave me additional challenges – and food for thought. I normally don’t use slides, but I learnt that in order make my talk more accessible, it was useful to send in a slide link in advance. That disrupted my preparation process (which normally entails drinking green tea on a train). And I’m thankful for this, as it helped me focus my effort more – I guess I normally impose my learning style on others, by choosing my specific presentation style. Probably not great pedagogy. Being disrupted in this way made me focus much more on being clear in what I was trying to say – and sticking to it. And that was a great learning experience.
Another learning experience was that social media in higher education seem to settle themselves. Gone are the days where I had to argue their worth in general, and that they are not a fad – but that they are now understood to be professional tools. The question is not if, but how they will be used. That’s a clear change from talks only about two years ago – and it’s a delight, as it is more exciting territory than showing people how to set up an account and explaining what a hashtag is.
The third one was a question I was asked: how do you make sure that every in a team picks up the necessary technical understanding to use these tools competently? The answer I came up with was probably not really satisfactory: you can’t. I have found that teaching people technology related skills is the hardest training challenge I have faced so far. I think that socialisation and self-perception play a role, but essentially, technical skills only ‘stick’ if you use them immediately and without giving up, even though you will fail – a lot. My overall personality (I’m nothing if not persistent), and my experience in learning martial arts have fostered this a lot: ‘try, fail, get up, try again’ is so ingrained into my personality that working with me must sometimes be frustrating – people probably think I enjoy making mistakes. But back to fostering technology learning – I think it’s all about patiently ‘enabling trying, failing, getting up and trying again’. It can’t be forced – but I think it can be fostered by building a diverse team with enough technology positive people who can help their colleagues along. And that doesn’t just mean ‘young people’ aka digital natives – as they don’t exist in my experience.
So, all in all, a stimulating day, and a great way to get to know others in related professions. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
PS: I’m also experimenting with a feedback form for participants. So if you were at my talk, give it a go here.