If you don’t work socially, you won’t work at all?

This week I have been on a bit of a tour. We had some long-standing invitations to do some workshops in the south – Universities of Plymouth and Surrey. These are time-expensive so we have to engage as much geography as possible; inviting nearby related roles within the institution and beyond. It has worked very well.
Our preferred strategy is to get key roles joining our TechDis Tuesday and Xerte Friday monthly online events as this has far less time and travel costs – but it probably only works for those already engaged in online lists and networks. They typically can ‘dip in’ to our short lunchtime events without any problems. The risk here is that we build a ‘hardcore’ who are well versed in technologies that may scare of the less ‘digitised’. There are many practitioners doing wonderful work without relying mostly on computers, who have less of a need to be in there all the time. But are they really being left behind, like students without adequate assistive technologies? I fear so. There was less online community or use of its resources than I expected – so much passing silently by, so much being achieved but not shared as far as it could, so much not being returned. The role of the disability specialists was integrated into other communities in teaching and learning inconsistently, who are undervaluing them at times.
In our sessions I discussed the role of social media, particularly blogs and tweets. I’ve been guilty of reading more outputs than input but in my role, there is a lot to follow. I have re-disseminated this in many ways, including our workshops this week. But I fear that these skilled practitioners have not been able to find each other as no ‘critical mass’ has arisen to generate a following, and therefore a community of practice which is swiftly updated, chatting on what works well in practice. So, I’m going to try to nurture a small series of communities from the individuals I have met, to keep reflecting and sharing their tales of what works well in reality (we found some stuff that didn’t, which is just as valuable as stuff that does). I know where many bridges over this Rubicon are, and which are the wobbly ones.
It’s easy to catch up with practice with technologies through the back catalogue of TechDis Tuesdays and Xerte Fridays and now that our delegates have explored a few I hope to hear more about what they have done with them. This will help build an individual’s portfolio of evidence and assist with their ITQ certification, help the institution gain reward and recognition for the work they do (OASES), and benchmark some personal practice. More than ever this will be expected norm but there is a big leap to make, to dip in. Working with newcomers may help cover that middle ground between the visitors and residents, and at that point discover their natural momentum, so we can assist each other.
The week has also been a bit of CPD for me, to meet new roles working with disabilities which are comparatively new to me. Face-to-face has the best bandwidth of all, and although it has been a bit remote at times between, it has given me time to crystallise some thoughts about future opportunities. I’d like to thank all the delegates for their discussions and to the Universities of Plymouth and Surrey for hosting us.

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About Terry

Techdis advisor interested in the realistic, sensible and pragmatic application of IT in education to improve the accessible learning experience.
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