Introducing Husna

Husna AhmedHello, I am Husna Ahmed and am the new learning technologist working on the Catalyst project along with Chantal Schipper and Madeline Paterson. As the project is halfway through, I will be focusing on the undergraduate programmes that will be starting in the 20/21 academic year.

My background is in Operations Research and IT and I have worked in the industry in various capacities.

training session of an arrest.I joined RAU two weeks ago, having moved here from University of the West of England where I was also a learning technologist and worked in the health and applied sciences faculty. The role was varied, ranging from dealing with professional councils to training clinicians, staff and students with a focus on work-based learning and assessments. I was also involved with police apprenticeships, which got me involved with the Avon and Somerset police force, it was great fun working on some of their training exercises and it was good to see the kind of work they do a bit close up, it makes one appreciate all the effort that goes into that line of work and what they do for the community. The picture shows us filming a training session of an arrest.

Prior to that, I was a digital learning coach at Gloucestershire College for a few years. The role was to support academics in the use of technology for teaching and learning with the emphasis on CPD and coaching. So, most of the time I designed and delivered training sessions on the use of technology to all stakeholders. Pictured below was one of such sessions.

Training session

Training session

Happy Christmas from ITS

Only a few more days and we’ll be shutting up shop for Christmas.

Today we had our annual Christmas pizza lunch combined with a belated Christmas jumper wearing day for Save the children.

Christmas jumper day

Christmas jumper day

Festivities included our raffle and a couple of games of Smart Ass – won by the smart asses!

Pizza lunch

Pizza lunch

Here’s wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and all the best for 2020!

Farewell Aurelie!

We are hugely sad to say that our lovely Learning Technologist Aurelie Soulier will be leaving us at the end of today. Aurelie is taking up a position at Catalyst IT supporting Moodle implementation across the HE sector.

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During her far too brief time at RAU Aurelie has been instrumental in helping us progress many areas of work including:

Not only that she has been a truly great colleague to work with. We are all going to miss her!

Pictures of Aurelie in action

Pictures of Aurelie in action

We wish Aurelie all the best with her new role and hope she keeps in touch. (We know she will – she can’t keep off social media!)

Aurelie's leaving drinks

Aurelie’s leaving drinks

Checking the Tech in China

I have been lucky enough to spend the last couple of weeks teaching at Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU) in Tai’an, China. The RAU have a partnership arrangement with SDAU and our academics teach on a number of courses out there. SDAU is a multi-disciplinary university which covers agriculture, science, engineering, management, economics, humanities, law, medicine and education and has an enrollment of around 30,000 students. It is based in Tai’an, a large city in Shandong province which is known for its mountain – Mount Tai, one of the five most important mountains in China.

SDAU and Tai'an

SDAU and Tai’an

While the main focus of my trip wasn’t technology it is hard to visit China without noticing the role tech is playing in their modern lives.

Here are some observations I made while there:

It’s all about the QR code

QR codes are everywhere. From paying for your products (through WeChat and Alipay), sharing your contact details with strangers,  to using them to find out public information and what type of trees are in the park (botany is often labelled with a QR code!). As this Technode article explains, QR code scanning has gained prominence because it is a “cheaper alternative to traditional payment systems” and China is now leading the way in building the regulatory framework for QR codes.

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Smart phone use is ubiquitous

Phone use has permeated every aspect of people’s lives. They seem to spend even more time on them than we do. It is pretty normal for Chinese (both young and old) to be riding their electric scooters while playing on a gaming app and speaking on the phone at the same time. They have apps for everything and have customised every part of their phone including the digital keyboards (think crazy colours and lots of emojis). As I’ve already mentioned they use their phones to pay for stuff – credit cards just resulted in odd looks.

WeChat is China’s most popular app and is used by absolutely everyone. Some of the main features are messaging, payments, phone management and games. WeChat has been described as a ‘superapp’ as a multitude of mini apps created by external developers can be integrated within the one service.

Learning technology is on the rise

I played Kahoot with my class and they loved it. While the classrooms have a traditional lecture room layout (with fixed seating and teacher at the front) there does seem to be a will to experiment more. With large class sizes technology could make a real difference. 

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Technical innovation is the norm

Everywhere you look there are technical innovations. For example back up cameras projecting on the rear view mirror are fairly standard, drones for delivering orders, ipads are often used for menus, scanners and barcode readers are owned and used by everyone, from street sellers to hi-tech shops.

China is also aiming to be a global leader in AI and is investing huge amounts of money in research. The biggest Chinese search engine (Baidu) recently poached a former Microsoft executive to lead on AI efforts. The west is watching with interest as China takes the lead in many areas. For a good overview see this recent Wired article: From imitation to innovation: How China became a tech superpower.

Visiting the great wall of China

Visiting the great wall of China

What do you call a group of Learning Technologists?

Now we are three we’d like to know what we should call ourselves. I asked the question on Twitter.

We had some great suggestions, including some tweets from RAU colleagues:

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I think our favourites so far are:

  1. A pandemonium of learning technologists
  2. A disruption of learning technologists
  3. A spark of learning technologists

Add your suggestions to the Answer Garden!

Introducing Aurelie

AurelieSoulierHello! I am Aurelie Soulier and I have just joined the Royal Agricultural University as a Learning Technologist to support course design and development for the Catalyst project with Chantal and Madeline, working closely with Marieke. As Chantal said in her previous post, we will be supporting the development and delivery of four new innovative blended programmes.

Before joining the RAU, I have worked for over 11 years at Cranfield University for the Defence and Security School (CDS) based at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham. As a senior learning technologist, my role was very broad. It involved administrating and support the learning platform (Moodle, Mahara and Turning) occasionally on my own and more recently with up to a team of three learning technologists. My role comprised helping course planning and development with academics, delivering staff development programmes for CDS and partnering institutions, road-mapping education technology (Ed Tech) at CDS, helping to develop a toolkit (the Essential Learning Framework – ELF) to support module leaders’ use of blended learning, organising and delivering inductions for new students as well as seeking and sharing best practice with other institutions and present my research and practice at Ed Tech conferences, enhancing CDS’s reputation nationally and internationally with collaboration and project work with Dublin City University, for example.

Prior to working at Cranfield University, I have also worked both as a Modern Foreign Languages and an IT teacher in UK secondary schools. I have undertaken my undergraduate degree in France at Michel de Montaigne – Bordeaux III before obtaining my PGCE from Swansea Institute of Higher Education and an MSc in Computing from Oxford Brookes University.

In addition, I am the volunteer co-ordinator for the Mahara User Group Southern England (MUGSE). I have taken on this role shortly before moving to the RAU and aim to re-launch this group activity in the next few months so I’ll be seeking interest from anyone who’s curious about using Mahara or already using Mahara via the above Twitter feed.

I’m also one of ten elected volunteer committee members for the Moodle User Association. As a general committee member, I help raising the profile of the Moodle User Association (MUA) and contributes toward our main activity: to decide on development projects for Moodle core through developing project proposals that include detailed requirements for those projects.

The way I approach my job is that, essentially, I love to help academics helping students learn. I deeply believe that education technology (Ed Tech) isn’t about the tools and technology, it’s about people, the learners and the educators. The technology is here to help and enable their practice.

I believe that social media and face-to-face networking are key to enhancing our practices by sharing and collaborating to innovate and develop ideas together so you’ll see me on Twitter collaborating with other Ed Tech people and academic colleagues as well as sharing personal ideas and views.

I love to spend time with my two daughters, visiting new places with them, especially National Trust locations. I’ve lived in Swindon for ten years now and I’m a big fan of Swindon’s often poorly known culture and heritage.

In my spare time, I also like to practice yoga, hike and cook. I love to take on new challenges. I completed the Ride London 100 miles ride in August 2013 with only six months training, I have done three smalls triathlons and I have taken part in three ultra-marathon walks in 2018 which means I’ve walked over 500 miles in total with training and events this year. I haven’t decided what mad challenges 2019 will bring, yet. I’m also a qualified nutritional adviser and love to support other people in achieving their wellness goals.

If you would like to get in touch, come and see me in the ITS office, email me aurelie.soulier@rau.ac.uk or phone me.

Introducing Chantal

Hello!fbt

I am Chantal Schipper and I am one of two new Learning Technologists joining the Royal Agricultural University to primarily support the Catalyst project. We will be supporting the development and delivery of four new innovative blended programmes. The tremendous experience and knowledge the RAU will gain from this project will also be used to further enhance current programs.

Before joining the RAU, I worked as the e-Learning coordinator at one of RAU’s partners Capel Manor College. My role at Capel mainly involved supporting and training lecturing staff in using technology to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, as well as researching, assessing and implementing new technologies. Part of my role at Capel involved working as a library assistant for an hour per day. In addition, I worked as an evening IT tutor at the Adult Learning Academy. Prior to working at Capel Manor College, I have also worked as an IT teacher at a University in the Netherlands.

I have a degree in Communication & multimedia design, with a focus on educational media. I interned for an e-Learning development & consultancy company. During my last year at University, I moved to the UK to write my thesis on the use of media technologies in promoting and facilitating life-long collaborative learning.

In my spare time I love to read, listen to music and to go out hiking. Having just moved from London to Gloucestershire, I am looking forward to exploring the Cotswolds! For the past year, I have also volunteered at a dog rescue centre in London, where I walk and provide basic care to German Shepherds and other Alsatians. As it’s now quite a drive from Gloucestershire to London, I am looking for new related volunteer work in the area.

If you would like to get in touch, please feel free to contact me via email: chantal.schipper@rau.ac.uk.