Thing 23: Reflection

It’s hard to believe this is the final post in this series! For Thing 23, I will reflect on my previous posts and what I have learned. It has been 1244 days since I started this journey–my first post went up on 20 February 2019.

Favourite pArts and Surprises

I most enjoyed the parts of this blogging challenge that led me to engage with digital tools that were new to me. Despite using Wikipedia for quick references or informal background on something all the time, I had never thought about how Wikipedia entries are written or updated. Thing 10 led me to explore editing Wikipedia, which in turn gave me the confidence to join editathons that happened online during the pandemic. Which, in turn, has led to me being the co-organiser of an editathon myself. It will take place on 20 October 2022, and is co-sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation, the Reimagining Lincolnshire project, and the University of Lincoln Library. Please save the date and consider joining us!

My second favourite thing was Thing 15, on digital curation–I am now a regular user of Wakelet to create interactive lists of links that actually look pretty! You can find my collection of lists here. I have used Wakelet to embed lists of external links in my Libguides, such as this one for Modern History (due for an update!) To my slight disappointment, I haven’t yet used Wakelet in one of the ways suggested in the activity–as a way to round up social media posts, links, and activity around a conference–but it is now on my radar as a tool to do so in the future, which it wasn’t before.

My overall favourite aspect of the course was the blogging itself–having been trained as a historian, I was very unfamiliar with reflective writing before I began this project. To my surprise, I ended up enjoying it! Writing about what I learned, and how, proved an excellent way to consolidate what I had learned and keep it in my memory for future reference.

Challenges And Goals

My biggest challenge was making the time to write the posts and complete the Things. I set out with the goal of developing my reflective writing skills through regular practice so I could achieve Fellowship in the Higher Education Academy–which I did in the summer of 2019, after completing the first ten things. My progress thereafter slowed down a lot: while I completed Things 1-10 in 2019, I only made it through Things 11-18 in 2020, Thing 19 in 2021, and Things 20-23 in 2022. Hopefully, for anyone who is struggling to complete the course, or a bit daunted about beginning it, this might serve as proof that you can pick it up and put it down as needed. My experience is proof that you really can go at your own pace to complete it.

I wrote in my first post that

I am participating in the course to make sure I am familiar with the different online environments and digital skills available, and to find and fill in gaps in my own knowledge.

Looking back on this goal, I would say that I achieved it. In some ways, thinking about the digital tools that are available to students and teachers in higher education, and how we use them, was one of the seeds that grew into my AHRC-RLUK Professional Practice Fellowship project on how doctoral students in history learn to find and use information online.

Suggestions for the Future

The very first 23 Things for Digital Knowledge course was set up in 2006; Edinburgh’s version won a Digital Award for Information Literacy at LILAC 2017. For me as a historian, something that is five years old is still very new but particularly in the last few Things (and most notably, Thing 21: Online Games and Learning Tools), I noticed a high number of broken links in some of the recommended resources. It made me reflect on the face on change in digital education spaces–one of the challenging and exciting things about it is the field is constantly moving on, so the learning journey is never complete.

I see on the 23 Things for Digital Knowledge Twitter feed that the course is being refreshed and updated by Stephanie (Charlie Farley), Megan Thomson, and the Open Education team at the University of Edinburgh–it will be excited to see where the course goes next. I hope the following things will be kept:

  1. Blogging, because it isn’t dead, despite what people who focus on social media think!
  2. Digital Footprint, because it’s such a valuable concept for thinking sensibly about what one does online.
  3. Digital Security, because it’s incredibly important, and not something universities always make space to talk about effectively. Out of all of the Things, the materials and activities around this had aged strikingly well.
  4. Twitter, because, whether we love or hate it, it’s where a lot of conversation about higher education takes place.
  5. Facebook, because even though I go months if not years without using it, it is too significant to ignore.
  6. Wikimedia, because knowing how Wikipedia works can help you use it more effectively and gives you the tools to make it better.
  7. Copyright, because the state of available information and conversation around this is frustratingly inadequate, and hopefully greater engagement and understanding are part of making things better.
  8. Video…because it’s an important part of how university students learn and knowing how it works and even how to make it seems to be an increasing part of twenty-first century digital education.
  9. Digital Curation, because being able to gather what one finds foraging on the internet is a useful and perhaps overlooked skill.
  10. OneNote / ClassNotebook, because it is worth knowing about, even though I haven’t used it or found it useful since I completed this Thing.
  11. Academic and professional social networking — academia.edu, ResearchGate, LinkedIn, because these sites are where a lot of research is shared. It might also be worth inviting course participants who work at universities to explore their own institutional repositories, too!

I would retain and update the following things:

  1. Diversity…This thing introduces conversations around representation in digital tools, focusing on avatars; an important conversation and a good way into things. Given the conversations I’ve overheard and been a part of over the pandemic in particular, it might be interesting to update this with something on information privilege, digital poverty, or anti-racism in digital spaces.
  2. Accessibility…This thing introduces material anyone who teaches or learns online should be aware of but needs an update in light of changes to accessibility legislation.
  3. Open Educational Resources…One could do a whole 23 Things for OER (wouldn’t that be fun!) and given the conversation about e-books and e-textbooks that has emerged from the pandemic, this seems absolutely worth retaining and updating.
  4. Audio…The supporting resources for this one are a mix of new (2021) and old (2014) links, so I would say that this one is due for a quick refresh.
  5. Augmented and virtual reality…While this is important to know about, it seems to have a higher barrier to entry than something like Wikimedia.
  6. Altmetrics…Research metrics have only continued to grow in importance, and it would be worth considering the whole landscape more widely as a part of the 23 Things. Perhaps something on ‘ethical research metrics’ (if that is not too specialist) or ‘measuring the quality of research.’
  7. Online games and tools…As mentioned above, this is where I noticed a lot of broken links and I suspect that the demise of Adobe Flash Player has meant that a lot of free online educational games are now moribund.

And I would replace and update the following:

  1. Google Hangouts / Collaborate Ultra…This might usefully be replaced with ‘video conferencing software’ and should definitely include zoom!
  2. Geolocation Tools…This was, for me, the thing where I struggled most to see its relevance to my own professional practice. My suggestion for a replacement would be something about online reading.
  3. Fun and Play…To me, this might be best replace with something on ‘digital creativity’ that includes video and non-video options.

And there you have it–23 Things for Digital Knowledge! In sum, it has been a rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone who regularly works and plays in digital spaces…which is most of us! Many, many thanks to the creators of this course for this opportunity to think and learn about digital tools for teaching and learning.

And finally, thank you for reading this post and I hope you have enjoyed thinking about digital knowledge with me. If you would like to continue doing so, I have a new blog about teaching, learning, and research in higher education libraries called Learning Experiences. Hope to see you there!

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