Slack Workshop Proposal

Slack Workshop Proposal

Below follows my submission to Digitally Engaged Learning Conference 2017. It didn’t make the cut and was given useful feedback however I would like to take the idea somewhere or at least elicit some wider feedback, so feel free to join the conversation below. I will also be attending DeL so feel free to say hello.

Slack for Education

How does your session address the theme (100)

Many of our conversations and discussions now take place on digital platforms. Slack as they put it is “Team communication for the 21st century”. Over the past three years we have been using Slack as a tool for tutors and students to actively share their own research, materials, related exhibitions and events and discuss projects as they are happen. Slack allows tutors and students to share and engage in live, searchable and chronological conversations that are seen and utilised by all. Slack does not replace the physical studio discussions but enhances, expands and captures related research that enriches studio practice.

What will be the takeaway from your session (100)

  • Tutors will understand how the use of Slack can be of benefit to their own teaching.
  • Tutors will have some tips on how to use such as tool within a design teaching environment.
  • Tutors will consider the network value of a cohort of students and how a tool like Slack can enhance experiential and rhizomatic learning practices.
  • Tutors will see how this type of knowledge sharing by students could enhance future projects.
  • Tutors will see how you can gain insight into student understanding of projects in real time, perhaps react to this and support a very agile curriculum.

Abstract (500)

We shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us. (Culkin, J. 1967)

The VLE tools Blackboard et al by default offer one way communication. Top down communication from tutor to student, a way to deliver teaching and learning materials. Of course, there are bolt on forums and such but none of these solutions are great at supporting student to tutor conversations, student to student conversations or enabling students to share materials.

These digital conversations and digital sharing is happening but not within institutional learning systems. Students will often defer to their personal learning networks to discuss and share ideas, inevitability via Facebook messenger. While Facebook offers an easy place to discuss and share research it is a silo for a select closed group of friends, friends who use Facebook and due to the nature of this being connected to their personal social network, tutors are either not connected or students do not favour occupying a tutor created Facebook space.

Yet as with the physical studio based conversations these digital conversations and resources are very useful, insightful and informative and if everyone can participate this could help unlock the potential of networked learning. Learning is not a one-way flow but a co-determining situation between tutors and students.

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. (Wenger-Trayner, E. and Wenger-Trayner, B. 2015)

Over the last three years we have used Slack to offer a digital space to house this sharing and associated conversations. Slack is a digital platform for messaging, sharing and working as a team and has emerged as a leading tool within design studios.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants. (Newton, 1675)

When students are undertaking research, and making there is a lot of value in being able to share. Slack offers a highly intuitive way to share the research, ideas, images and engage in conversations around studio projects as they happen. This ability to share ephemeral materials, links and events as they happen provides for a rich and vibrant digital space. A student discovers a relevant Radio 4 documentary and within a few swipes this is shared and conversations start. The breadth and depth of a project no longer relies on the tutor as author, but embraces the network. The projects are enhanced with time sensitive materials and the direction and conversations are visible giving opportunities to provide agile learning. The timeline also provides a collection of resources that can potentially enhance future versions of the project itself.

This digital sharing enriches each student project and enhances our teaching. The network of knowledge is wider utilising both tutor and student discovery and allows students with a quieter voice to share, comment and engage.

Student feedback has been excellent. Students feel more connected to the physical studio, the course, the projects and each other, the sense of community has been enhanced.

Adam Procter, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton,  May 2017