I gave a presentation around Dave White’s resident and visitor principle this week and over coffee I got to talking to several academics who raised some of the issues below, so this with thanks to them and to other colleagues like Dave Cormier and Neil Witt.
1. Make sure you’ve used the tool
Don’t just see the latest thing and write 10 top tips on how to use it without actually trying it in your own practice. And using the tool doesn’t mean signing up for it and ‘having a play’ or as Seth Godin puts it ‘Idea Tourism’. Using it in your practice means using it in your practice, not just practice in using it!
2. Research the tool
You’re writing for an audience who might go away and do what you’ve suggested. So do the research and check your facts, for example, what if they are major IPR issues, or even worse if you’re dealing with school age students, safety issues.
3. Do a literature review
Sounds a bit too academic? bit too research? get over it. The audience is academic, if you write 10 top tips for using twitter in teaching, there will have been someone else who’s written something very similar, have the dignity to acknowledge their work, build on it, expand on it, but don’t ignore it.
4. Make it evidence based
If you’re saying “hey look at this tool it’s great for assessing students in these ways” then you better have evidence that either you or colleagues have used this in their practice to do exactly what your suggesting. And make the evidence stack up, it’s no good saying I have 5 students who I used reflective blogs with and their grades went up. This is academia, you stand a chance of being listened to if you can say “I have used this tool with four different cohorts of 20 students, the grades of students before I used the tool were this now they are this. From this I infer that there may have been a positive impact in these ways”.
5. Acknowledge that academics sometimes have to use ‘institutional’ tools
We all love a bit of subversion, being a bit edgy, if they’re honest, most of the technorati get involved in the web 2.0 arena for that reason, appending themselves with monikers like ‘edupunk’ to display they are not mainstream. But most academics are working long hours and within strict requirements – they have to use the VLE, they have to use the plagiarism detection system. Don’t start writing your top tips with a “the VLE is dead” mindset, it won’t work. Add value to their practice, suggest enhancements, resepct and be supportive of the practice they must do.
6. Be honest about the overhead
Academics teach, most also do research, on top of that most have to do their own admin. You then start telling them to use different tools in their practice, and most often tips are written as an ‘extra’ to what they already ‘have’ to do. Be honest about this, tell them it takes time to learn to use the tool, tell them how much time they might need to invest per cohort of students, and remember number 5, they still have to use the existing tools.
7. Know your limitations
If you’re an aspiring technorati you need to keep in your mind that credibility is like virginity, you lose it once and you don’t get it back. If you’re unsure of what you’re putting out there then think twice, get it peer validated by colleagues. If you’re talking about teaching be authentic, if you are not a teacher then don’t tell people this is what you do in your practice. Cite your references properly and also acknowledge where your ideas are from and who’s influenced you.