The ‘joinin’ project was conceived as an agile, participant-focused complement to these courses. Drawing inspiration from the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Computer Club’ initiative (Cairns, 2013), we piloted informal hands-on lunchtime sessions based around mobile technologies for staff in different parts of our university. We aimed to make developing digital capabilities light-touch and fun, piquing participants’ interest and enabling them to perceive the applicability of different technologies to their work and/or personal life. Topics covered popular apps that could be used in either context, including Twitter and Instagram. Crucially, the sessions involved participants’ own devices, so they could work with familiar equipment (we provided devices if necessary).
For ‘joinin’ to be incorporated into the institutional IT learning programme, we needed to demonstrate evidence of impact: a challenge, given the six-month duration of the pilot. We designed an evaluation that looked for four types of change in participants: knowledge about the app, attitudes towards it, statements of intention after trying it out and actual behaviour (from Koballa, 1988). In keeping with our light-touch approach, evaluation methods comprised snapshots of pre- and post-session impressions captured on ‘Post-it’ notes, a short online survey and, at the end of the pilot, a rough-and-ready arithmetic analysis of participants’ tweets and posts.
It appears that attendance at ‘joinin’ sessions generally increased participants’ knowledge of the app in question; allayed previous concern or confusion; and stimulated many to declare that they would further explore its potential role in their work and/or personal life. However, data from the arithmetic analysis cast doubt on their subsequent actual behaviour.
To place the evaluation in an overarching context, we positioned our findings, and the ‘joinin’ sessions themselves, within Beal and Bohlen’s seminal framework describing the diffusion of novel ideas (1955/1981). This has enabled us to interpret participants’ responses in such a way that even a decision not to engage further with an app can be viewed as a positive outcome. ‘joinin’ aims primarily to raise overall digital awareness, and recognition that a particular app is unsuited to one’s situation constitutes evidence of two elements of digital capability: media literacy, and digital identity and wellbeing (Beetham, 2015). The framework also provides a basis for a longer-term evaluation of how effectively ‘joinin’ fosters digital capabilities.
Beal, G. M. & Bohlen, J. M. (1955/1981). How farm people accept new ideas. Special Report 15. Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University and US Department of Agriculture. http://www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/pub/comm/SP15.pdf.
Beetham, H. (2015). Reviewing digital capability for 2015. http://digitalcapability.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2015/06/11/revisiting-digital-capability-for-2015/.
Cairns, S. (2013). Computer Club awesomeness: An interview with IWM’s Carolyn Royston. https://museumgeek.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/computer-club-awesomeness-an-interview-with-iwms-carolyn-royston/.
Koballa, T.R. (1988). Attitude and Related Concepts in Science Education. Science Education 72: 115–126.
UCISA (2014). 2014 Digital Capabilities Survey Report. http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/digcap.