Guest post – DigiLearn: Is jumping straight in the best way to learn?

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: John Hrycak – Student Coach, School of Psychology & Computer Science 

Most of us in education probably value the art of learning and have engaged with a combination of study and work … and returns to study … and more work. Working from home may have been a more abrupt and forced return to study; that of how to work from home, but we have engaged with new technology, new ideas and new ways of doing things and overall, I’d say it was a success. 

For example, I know that there were plans to have us all on Teams in five years, yet this was achieved in as many days. I know I’ve always wanted to master Vevox software, I just never got around to it until now. You too will have your stories since working from home; of things that came up on you abruptly and perhaps now feel like second nature – all before you knew what was happening?  

I even heard someone say the other day that returning to face-to-face meetings will also take a period of adjustment, since we have all become so adjusted to video meetings on Teams, and I couldn’t help but agree. 

As someone who works within Computing, I’d describe myself as technically capable, but not an expert. I was surprised by the number of people across the University who seem lacking in confidence or skills when lockdown happened. I am surrounded by people who do this every day, but outside Computing there is a nervousness, a lack of confidence and even some reluctance.  

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do see this as no different to all the other times you have decided to add to your skills or qualifications and return to study – in whatever form – the situation just sped up the process.  

My own experiences with technology tell me one thing – that Microsoft, Apple, etc. want you to use their products. Whilst daunting and sometimes difficult, this software is often designed to be played with, to learn slowly by doing and to let you do that without really being able to break it or do any damage. Sure, you can fail to create a stunning PowerPoint or Photoshop image, but that failure is only in your head, only on paper. Most of my skills with technology came from playing with it. Ask yourself why children seem so competent with iPads and tablets? Why they can often be better with technology than some of the adults around them? Do they take a LinkedIn Learning course or sign up to some training? No, they are often simply let loose with an iPad or handheld device. They don’t read the instruction booklet (who does) but instead they just … play with it. Do they break it? Does it fail? Well, if they drop it on the kitchen floor or submerge it in the bath, then yes, but their tapping, scrolling and swiping just allows them learn what each action does, how things work and what happens if they click on this or swipe on that.  

Of course, your manager isn’t going to be impressed if that’s ALL you can do when she asks you to present to the board – but you see my point. All this tech isn’t going away. It will only become more and more integral to our working lives and perhaps there is no going back to what we had before lockdown? 

We need to get with the programme and, so far, I’d say most of us have, and that should be commended. I suspect most of us are in a slightly better place compared to six months ago. Teams usage is off the charts, video meetings are the norm and almost natural, and our teaching and engagement with students is working well. 

What I’m saying is that we are all more proficient with all this than before; we all jumped in the pool at least unsure of how it would work and some still unable to swim. If you’re still unsure, try accessing your inner child and play with this tech. Granted, in the case of Teams, that may mean you attend a meeting in your pyjamas by mistake, but play is the way children learn, so why not the rest of us? Just cover the camera with a well-placed post-it note for a (not very) high-tech solution to meeting embarrassment. 


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