Author: Val Lawrenson SFHEA

My first recollection is of learning how to use Word on a computer bought from Toys R Us in 1985. I can smile now at the antiquated technology but believe me at the time it was cutting edge. I was ridiculed by nursing colleagues who argued computers would never catch on. They believed face to face patient care could never be replaced. I wonder what they would say now as telemedicine and Artificial Intelligence develop a key role in contemporary health care?

My first real IT calamity occurred very early in my HE secondment. It involved 75 Complementary therapy students and a malfunctioning overhead projector. That was the technology of choice in 1999. I had checked the equipment the previous evening and everything was good to go. But on the day, it didn’t go. Despite dragging a replacement OHP down the corridor from a different classroom nothing worked. I later learned a trip switch must have been triggered.

I went on to deliver what I consider to be one of the best sessions of my career. I was confident about the content and thankfully had some notes scribbled on my lesson plan. Finding myself unable to rely on the acetates meant I had to adapt my presentation style. I learned lots that afternoon. The main thing being to consider the appropriateness of the technology you plan to use in a session (UKPSF, K4). It was after all a session on communication and what better way to demonstrate the link between theory and practice than to talk to the students and have them talk to each other!

 My first introduction to learning technologists came in early 2000.  The university had increased its investment in technology, floppy discs replaced acetates and OHP’s were phased out. I had no experience of teaching using this type of technology and was anxious about the transition. I had attended a weekend workshop to learn how to create power point slides but delivering in a lecture theatre from a computer was another level.

My response to the anxiety was to badger the School Technologist for weeks prior to the timetabled session.  In those days the technologist role was to provide the equipment and make sure it was in working order. I was talked through the process and I made numerous notes on how to use the podium equipment. The hand holding, I was praying for was not part of the technologist’s remit. However, eventually the technologist succumbed to the pressure and agreed to meet ten minutes before the session to check everything was in working order. 120 students, Greenbank lecture theatre and my first encounter with learning technologies including a roving microphone went reasonably well. Although roving mics are another story!

The ultra-modern Darwin Lecture theatre generated its own unique challenges. At this point in my career I was comfortable with computers and microphones. Confidence related to delivery of the session was bolstered by the presence of a pen drive in my pocket.  However, what I had done was fail to visit the unfamiliar venue before the timetabled session. This unfortunately negated any effectiveness of the operational instructions which were secured to the podium.

So, it was the lights that did me this time. As I started the session I hit the lights button on the podium. They dimmed, not quite enough to take the glare off the screen, so I hit the button again. This time the lecture theatre was plunged into a kind of semi-darkness.  Too afraid to hit the light button again (in case the next step in the sequence was a complete blackout) I continued to deliver the session in semi darkness.

Each of my brushes with technology certainly had the potential to deter the faint hearted but I’ve never been known to be quitter. I’ve done great with digital inking and I’m not bad with Microsoft teams and Sway. I’ve had less success with embedding video and recording sessions. I really bombed out the first time I used the whiteboard app. 

Over the years I came to recognise information and communication technologies were here to stay. As time passed I also came to appreciate its learning potential. Some of this realisation has come about as a consequence of my own CPD and by working collaboratively with learning technologists whose remit has changed radically over the last decade.

So, as I pack up and get ready to move on, my final piece of advice is ask for help, don’t like me try to go it alone. UCLan has a great support mechanism in the form of the TELT Team

Each Faculty has a named Faculty Learning Technologist. Find out who your faculty learning technologist is and contact them.

We have a key role in ensuring UCLan graduates are Digi Ready which will require us to ensure our own digital competency is reviewed regularly. If you haven’t done already take the Digi Path self-assessment; Search E3Hub and access the training on offer.

Visit the TELT page and explore case studies demonstrating how colleagues have used a range of different technologies to enhance the student learning experience. You’ll also find written instructions; and video guides about how to use technologies including those in classrooms and lecture theatres.


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