National Teaching Fellow 2009
Throughout her career, Shirley Williams has taken a keen interest in new technologies and their use in teaching and learning; from her first involvement in teaching and learning as an undergraduate in the 1970s, helping her fellow students get to grips with one of the early interactive computers, to her current work on the EU-funded MUVEnation project, helping teachers understand how virtual worlds can be used to encourage pupil motivation.
She said: "Technology can greatly enhance learning, but it can also distract from the aims. The key to successfully using any technology is not to be seduced by its potential and to remember the initial objectives when starting to use it".
Shirley is involved in many online communities from RedGloo, a community she helped develop in her own School to help staff and students learn in an informal manner; to CPsquare, an international community bringing together people with an interest in communities of practice. Across all these communities there is a blurring of boundaries, and using technologies such as Twitter means that undergraduates can be party to international discussions and sometimes able to make significant contributions.
Shirley was recently awarded a University Teaching Fellowship and is working with colleagues around the university to investigate ways in which new technologies can be used in a wide variety of disciplines to support teaching and learning. She is also supporting colleagues in developing their own projects in the area of technology enhanced learning. She comments that she aims to develop a community of practice approach, with colleagues sharing their problems and solutions.
She is currently working on the This Is Me project (funded by Eduserv) investigating the personae that staff and students project across the digital world (i.e. their Digital Identity.) She is planning to develop this work further so that individuals are able to be aware of both the benefits and dangers of presenting themselves across the worlds of email, Facebook, blogs, eBay, etc.
Shirley has been a Senior Lecturer in the School of Systems Engineering at the University of Reading since 1992, having held other posts in the University prior to that time. She is being promoted to a Personal Professorship in Learning Technologies as of 1 October 2009.
Senior Lecturer, School of Systems Engineering
University of Reading