Summer refresh

This summer we are having a refresh of many of our teaching rooms. Quite a few will be getting new projectors, display screens, white boards and lecterns. In addition some rooms will  receive new sound systems with wall-mounted speakers. In our labs the existing projectors and screens will be replaced by two new projectors and screens and we will be improving interconnectivity between the projectors, screens and other devices.

However from a Learning Technology point of view our most exciting purchase is of five new CleverTouch Plus screens (a mix of 55″ and 65″ screens). CleverTouch are digital touch screens that allow the teacher to deliver more interactive and engaging lessons using a variety of different tools. The CleverTouch Plus LUX screen incorporates an android module and uses android apps alongside annotation tools.

Our academics were very impressed with the screen when it was demoed back in March.

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Over the next few weeks the Learning Technologists will be getting familiar with the screens and delivering basic and advanced training to our academics.

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Touch screens and digital learning spaces

At the RAU we have plans to improve some of our learning spaces and make them more student-friendly and better equipped for the type of teaching our academics would like to do. We have been exploring the options available and you may have seen our recent post on the Jisc digital classroom .

This week we have set up a rather large (72”) touch screen in the IT Service Desk area. The screen is on loan from Clevertouch and earlier today one of their team, Ashley Helm, gave us a demo of the main functionality.

There is lots to get excited about: from the interactive whiteboard screen which allows you to create varied notes using content from a variety of places (your devices, students’ devices, the cloud, the web), to the use of countless android apps, such as Google Earth.

Ashley Helm demos Clevertouch

Ashley Helm demos Clevertouch

Our academics seemed genuinely impressed and could see the potential of the screen for their teaching, especially some of the the annotation features, the split screen option and the the ability to use and freeze-frame video. The screen can be controlled using the touch screen but also through a remote control and devices if mirroring – so the person leading the teaching doesn’t need to stand at the front at all times. This new generation of touch screen could definitely make for much more innovative teaching approaches (such as using a visualiser and bringing class content up to the screen) and collaborative working among students.

I have also been discussing digital learning spaces on the HELF (Heads of eLearning forum) list and have been pointed in the direction of some useful resources including:

We’re really keen to move towards classrooms that are flexible and inspiring, and that allow our academics and students to fully reach their potential. Thanks to everyone who is helping us with our research.

Dipping in to the Digital Classroom 

Last Thursday (24th January) a group of RAU academics and IT staff took a trip down to the London Jisc office to see a digital classroom in action. This was an early preview of the Sticky Campus tour that is about to get underway.

The RAU were involved in the Digital Classroom project back in 2017 and two of our academics (Anne Stevenson and Rachael Foy) authored chapters in Creating the Digital Campus: Active Learning Spaces and Technology.

Carl Fry (Jisc), Rachael Foy, Geraint Coles and Alun Dawes (RAU) try out the new digital classroom (Photo courtesy of Anne Stevenson)

Carl Fry (Jisc), Rachael Foy, Geraint Coles and Alun Dawes (RAU) try out the new digital classroom (Photo courtesy of Anne Stevenson)

Carl Fry (Jisc), Rachael Foy, Geraint Coles and Alun Dawes (RAU) try out the new digital classroom (Photo courtesy of Anne Stevenson)

Yesterday’s set up is an evolution of the previous classroom. As Senior Lecturer Rachael Foy explains: “The kit they are using is Barco We Connect plus tables and screens. The digital classroom offers very similar functionality to the previous incarnation but is simpler to use. It is accessed via a web browser so there is no need to download an app, making it more accessible – and it works on any device. The classroom is arranged so that there is a table (in this case seating 6) connected to a screen. You connect your device with the screen at your table and can share your display, as can anyone else who is also connected. Each screen table can also share their screen with the main screen and to other tables so that all the room can see the same thing.  It is fantastic for collaboration and group working. What’s new about this set up is that it is possible (network, kit and configuration allowing) for other users outside of the physical room to connect at the same time, allowing truly remote working and maximising access. Anything that has an HTML output can be fed into the system so, for example, it is possible for live data collection to take place and be streamed into the classroom, which offers huge potential.

The RAU hopes to be able to do some more experimenting fairly soon. A representative from Barco has kindly agreed to set up a demo class which we will be able to access as remote users. This will enable us to see what the experience is like for those accessing remotely, and how easy/reliable etc. it is to use.

We are all very excited about the potential the Digital Classroom has to offer to all our students.  The students studying within traditional course structures will reap the benefit of more collaborative and active learning sessions, and the distance learners (such as those on the new Catalyst programmes) will have a genuinely inclusive experience. Plus, when they are here for their intensive residentials, they will be able to use the same facilities to support problem solving, group work and programme management activities on campus within and outside of timetabled session.  For professional courses, well, it sets a gold standard that we are keen to exploit. We also have plans to embed some of this new functionality on site at the new Swindon Cultural Heritage Centre.

Identifying tech practice in lessons

In order to understand current tech practices at RAU and identify where support is most needed we will be carrying out some lesson observations. I am interested in lessons:

  • where teaching staff are experimenting with a technological tool  e.g. a tool like Padlet, Kahoot, Socrative, Poll everywhere, Nearpod etc.
  • where teaching staff are recording (audio or video) at some point
  • in which teaching staff are using mobile phones to support learning
  • in which students are carrying out online research
  • where students are working in a collaborative way using digital tools
  • in which teaching staff want to achieve certain tasks and believe that technology might help
  • in which teaching staff feel the room set up (technology-wise) is preventing them from achieving your lesson goal

The intention is to eventually pull together a bank full of ideas that can be used by those who deliver teaching here at RAU. It will be based on existing best practice and requirements/needs.

If you’d like me to observe a lesson please invite me along indicating the time and location. I am happy to introduce myself to students at the start.

If you’d just like a chat about anything learning technology related then please do get in touch (marieke.guy@rau.ac.uk)