ALT 2019 – Time to take back control…

Written around the inside of the dome in the awe-inspiring McEwan hall is proverb 4:7 from the bible:

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

However if we, the 471 delegates attending the Association of Learning Technologists conference 2019, were to feel concerned by the pressure that this pursuit of wisdom might put us under then we were not to worry. As co-chair Melissa Highton (Digital Learning, Teaching & Web and Assistant Principal, University of Edinburgh) explained it’s not just the big stuff that matters, it is the day to day too. She pointed to Susan Collins art for inspiration: a series of bronze circular drops entitled The Next Big Thing is a Series of Little Things (see the feature image for this post). And as Learning Technologists it is in the day to day that we can make a difference.

The McEwan Hall

The McEwan Hall

This year’s conference hosted by the University of Edinburgh offered up its usual incredibly large number of diverse parallel sessions, workshops, keynotes, sponsor slots, lightening talks and social events. Naturally I couldn’t attend everything – though the live streaming, photos and Twitter feed help – but have jotted down some of my key takeaways:-

We need to think about the tools we use – While Sue Beckingham’s keynote was incredibly content heavy I found it a fantastic reusable resource that looks back over our recent history and considers the affordances and sometimes negative consequences of digital interconnectedness and socially mediated publicness. Sue reminded us that the internet and social media are just tools and it is up to us to really own them.

Jesse Sommel suggests we play ed tech celebrity death match!!

Jesse Sommel suggests we play ed tech celebrity death match!!

 

We need to think about the tools we buy – Jesse Sommel’s  (Executive Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at University of Mary Washington) keynote on Critical Pedagogy, Civil Disobedience and Edtech was really well received. He spent time looking at some fundamental questions on what learning should be (fluid? Student-led? Questioning? With agency?) and asked to think about how critical pedagogy translates into digital space and the tools we use. He pointed out that digital technologies have values coded into them in advance (“Some tools have bad pedagogy baked in”) and that these values may not align well with what is right for our students. The outgoing message is that we need to be considering these points in our procurement processes and ensure we invest in teachers (not just more tech). As Susanne Hardy (Newcastle University) explained in her Gasta talk, the feedback from the academics was “we don’t need more technology.” Frameworks like the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) – presented by Suzanne Stone (Dublin City University) could help here. See Teresa Mackinnon’s Wakelet for more on critical digital literacy

 

We need to understand how education is changing – I’m still not entirely sure what Blockchain is but the workshop by Alexander Mikroyannidis (the Open University) from the Qualichain project started to unveil the potential it could have for education through validation of qualifications, micro-credentials, transcripts (see the HEAR record) transparency and security of data, smart badges and personalised job offers. See https://blockchain.open.ac.uk/ for webinars and further information.  I also attended a workshop on Education 4.0  led by Gilly Salmon (Swinburne University of Technology) and John Brindle (University of Liverpool) in which we talked about future trends such as the symbiotic web leading to big changes in curricula, and applied the 6 thinking hats to them.

Ollie Bray had us building a lego duck during the plenary

Ollie Bray had us building a lego duck during the plenary

We need to redefine play and reimagine learning – at least that is what lego is doing. Ollie Bray, Global Director at the Lego foundation had us think about the spectrum of practice and remember that play is timeless, chaotic, risky, child-led,  while school is timetables, orderly, safe, adult-led (echoing Jesse Sommels earlier observations). Ollie made some interesting points about the need for creativity (note that it is not the same as imagination) and the benefits of children and adults working together in co-creative teams – working on something new together.

Digital literacy is still a biggie – There were a lot of great sessions on building student digital capability, for example by using the Digital Creative Attributes Framework (DCAF), a shared language around digital. I was also pleased to see quite a few sessions on Wikipedia and how we should be pushing it as a tool to support good quality scholarship – don’t just use Wikipedia, write it! I picked up a few new podcasts along the way (ALT mentions) and some tips on how to make them. And I think I will broadening the places I look for training and CPD to include OERu, e.g. their course on learning in a digital age and some autoethnocity (a great session by Daniel Clark from BPP on identity in relation to technology).

We are getting better at video – ALT had quite a few sessions on lecture capture, 360 video, immersive video and other related areas. I managed to get along to the Edinburgh University DIY film school which was fun, their guide book is really helpful. The team have used Office 365 to set up a kit booking process too – something we could possibly do at the RAU. I am a little jealous of how they store their media- in the Edinburgh Media Hopper portal.

Oh, and I gave a presentation about the work we have been doing at RAU on the myRAU app – Making our students ‘appy – how we successfully rolled out our student mobile app. There was also a very tasty Scottish gala dinner, a ceilidh, an awards ceremony, too many lunch-time food bowls (what’s wrong with plates??), holograms, a very unpleasant 2am fire alarm in the halls and some great networking,

So with the back drop of ministers in Westminster arguing (again) about how we should go about ‘taking back control of our country’ whilst concurrently spiraling out of control, it seemed fitting that ALT challenged us to take back control of the technology we use, the data we create and the career paths we choose.

Alt delegates, Picture by Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology www.chrisbullphotographer.com

ALT delegates, Picture by Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology http://www.chrisbullphotographer.com

Mahoodle 2019

On Monday we took a Learning Technologist outing to the Mahoodle day held at the University of Gloucestershire.

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All very useful stuff and our notes don’t do it justice. For a more comprehensive overview see Teresa MacKinnon’s Wakelet or the #Mahoodle19 hashtag.

Welcome

We were welcomed on to site by David James,  Dean of Academic Development, Professor of Exercise Science, University of Gloucestershire.

Open Source and Education Technology – Don Christie, Catalyst

Don’s opening talk gave us a some food for thought, covering open knowledge (“the outcome that we are seeking“) and the role Mahara plays in enabling users to “curate knowledge for the future”.

Don Christie, Catalyst presenting

Don Christie, Catalyst presenting

Supporting teachers across the world with effective use of Moodle – Andrew Field and Liz Duncombe, Cambridge Assessment

Cambridge Assessment have 3 Moodles (including an internal moodle –  bloodle), 2 Mahara and 1 login and are effectively using moodle to demonstrate online stuff that works.

They used the session to have the first public demo of their swipe tool: http://bit.ly/swipe19

Opportunities with Open – building Mahara and ePorrtfolio competencies together – Lisa Donaldson, DCU

While eportfolios (or ‘your learning portfolio’ as a preferred term) are not so popular in Ireland or the UK in the US eportfolios used by >50% of students. Dublin City university have portfolio use for graduate attributes embedded in their strategic plan. They launched Mahara in 2017 and now have 14,500 users across 30 programmes – supported by one person and the eTerns. Lisa has encouraged use through initiatives including portfolios for faculty CPD, work placements and extra-curricular activities; awards for excellent use of portfolios ; and portfolio sharing and feedback activities.

DCU are now working with Catalyst IT  to add bit of “magic” into mahara through the Placeholder block (a template block that does not specify what format is required)

DCU have shared their journey at: https://eportfolioireland.wordpress.com/

Improved Template Support in Mahara – Sam Taylor, Catalyst and Jane Atkinson, Cambridge Assessment

In advance of the session Sam asked for ideas through her Padlet board: https://padlet.com/samtaylorcatalysteu/mahara 

She then talked in more detail about the magic block mentioned by Lisa from DCU, ways to lock blocks and instructions, and plugins that support design like Gridstack.js http://gridstackjs.com/

Sam recommended Kristina Hoeppner’s slides: https://slides.com/anitsirk/scaffolding-eportfolio-use#/

Jane gave an overview of the work Cambridge Assessment are carrying out with portfolios.

Sam Taylor and Jane Atkinson presenting

Sam Taylor and Jane Atkinson presenting

Preparing Your Soil for Growth – Aurelie Soulier, Chantal Schipper and Marieke Guy, RAU

We gave an interactive presentation on the work we have been doing at RAU to increase use of Mahara.

Chantal, Aurelie and Marieke presenting at mahoodle, photo courtesy of SamTaylor

Chantal, Aurelie and Marieke presenting at mahoodle, photo courtesy of Sam Taylor

Competencies and Smart Evidence  – Gavin Henrick, LTS

Gavin explained that Competency Frameworks aren’t just about what a student has done or achieved, or pass or fail. “They’re a way to illustrate progress along the learning journey, their level of understanding at that moment in time”.  However smart evidence is often seen as too complicated for teachers to implement and learners to complete. As one audience member explained – unless you’ve got highly competent technical staff, there is a real barrier to access.

Applying Competencies, A Follow Up – Edd Bolton, Solent University

In a follow up to last year’s Mahoodle talk Edd covered where Solent have got to with competency frameworks. Edd also shared some tips for JSON editing: https://atom.io/packages/atom-json-editor

H5P Workshop (BYOD) – Dan Jefferies – @DevelopWithDan

After lunch we had a H5P training session from Dan Jefferies. It covered similar ares to our recent training session:

https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/h5p-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

Dr Mahoodle: Q&A panel – pedagogy, use and a bit of tech

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The panel comprised of our Aurelie Soulier, Sam Taylor (Catalyst), Marcus Green (Titus learning) and Gavin Henrick

Community User Groups MUA/MUGSE – Aurelie Soulier, RAU

The day concluded with another talk by Aurelie on how the Moodle/Mahara user community can get more involved. Richard Samson, chair of the Moodle Users Association was also on hand to answer questions.

Business school and growth hub, Oxstalls campus, University of Gloucestershire

Business school and growth hub, Oxstalls campus, University of Gloucestershire

Digifest 2019: Are you ready for Education 4.0?

Last week’s annual Jisc Digifest was aesthetic and high-tech from the get-go. The opening ‘folded space‘ session brought together artists from across Europe to participate in an impressive synchronised performance of dance and music, all made possible by the Janet Network. Even the conference’s byline ‘shaping education for a hyper-connected world‘ sounds more sci-fi than HE. As opening Key note speaker Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of the Stemettes, pointed out – the web is 30 years old  now and it’s time for us to get more creative in our thinking!

The opening 'folded space' session

The opening ‘folded space’ session

So what were the core themes?
Creativity

Creativity and the changing skills requirement of our students and staff was prevalent in many presentations and discussions. From the A for Art appearing in STEM (STEAM),  to multidisciplinary learning and rethinking the way we do things. Dave Coplin, CEO of the Envisioners, offered some great observations on this in his day one closing keynote entitled the rise of humans. Dave suggested that we focus on creativity, empathy and accountability. This will allow us to get rid of processes that don’t make sense (ditch the elephant powder), disconnect unless it adds value and use Artificial Intelligence (AI) wisely (see project InnerEye).

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Experiencing life as Natalie, a student in 2029, through the power of VR

Dave reminded us of the wise words of Pablo Picasso: “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” We need to be asking the right questions – and that’s where our creative minds come in. He concluded by pointing out that culture is the single most important attribute for an organisation to get creativity and innovation right. You can have all the technology in the world and it isn’t going to change any outcomes.

Joysy John, director of Education at Nesta also discussed the skills gap in her opening keynote for day two. Nesta want to create a broader, fairer and smarter education system that focuses on how can all learners thrive in the future. They have identified the current skills gap that sits alongside recent narrowing of the curriculum. Joysy spent time looking at the new(ish) skills most needed (see the picture below) and asked is our education system teaching these skills?

Joysy John talks about the skills required for future work

Joysy John talks about the skills required for future work

Nesta Education has developed some very useful tools including My kinda future, Get my first job, and the UK skills taxonomy which looks at the digital intensity of jobs. Joysy reiterated the message about removing the distinction between arts/humanities and the more technical and scientific subjects.

Education 4.0

Many of the plenaries and sessions covered the new technologies that make up Education 4.0.

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These range from exciting use of Virtual Reality (see the VR Education work) to data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI)  and Machine Learning. However ethics is a big issues and while AI (and other Education 4.0 tools) offers us a multitude of opportunities it still needs to be kept in check. Anne-Marie Imafidon’s point that if “If you don’t intentionally include you accidentally exclude” highlights the need for diversity in testing. And Nesta’s recent blog entitled AI is changing the world, who is changing AI? is really thought provoking. As Dave Coplin put it “the best defence against algorithmic bias is diversity.

The 4.0 technologies were explored in more detail in the over the horizons panel session on the Jisc Horizons report – emerging technologies and the mental health challenge. The session was chaired by Andy McGregor, deputy chief innovation officer, Jisc. The speakers were Sarah Davies, director of education innovation, University of Bristol; Nick Brazil, deputy principal, Gower College; Rachel Hall, university editor, The Guardian and Gwyneth Sweatman, president, NUS Wales. The report looks at “the fourth industrial revolution in which emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres and the impact and change it brings for education“. Audience questions covered areas including the need for National digital vision, costs and funding, and issues around Mental health.

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Over the horizons panel session

One interesting concept covered in the report is ‘streamlining’ – or technology enabling us to get to the information we need much quicker. There is a quote in the report from Phil Richards, chief innovation officer, Jisc that explains:

I see the technology as a human optimisation system, so the meaningful support people get … comes from human beings. It’s that initial referral, realising that the people who need help are those who’re least likely to ask for it when they’re in a dark place, which the technology helps with.

It’s about a partnership between technology and humans. That’s where Chatbots come in. In the future is conversational the University of Bolton demonstrated their bot Ada (named after Ada Lovelace) who is acting as a virtual assistant for staff and students. Bolton began by connecting the chatbot to all key data sets on campus (student records data (tribal), email, curriculum resources, timetabling, qualification, attendance, opening times, finance/bursaries etc.). They are using around 12000 variations of questions and have even tied Ada in to Wolfram alpha.

The end result helps students with general inquiries, curriculum specific queries, employability; and staff with questions like who is on work placement? Which learners have passed? Which learners have falling attendance? All responses are contextualised.  Ada also nudges students with welcome back message, attendance message etc. The system is voice activated (Alexa), and works on app (ios, android) and desktop. There are Central APIs that route info to IBM watson, Wolfram Alpha , campus data.

Bolton are not the only institution delivering on chatbots. In his talk on How you are embracing the change of technological capability, and the needs of the students of the future, not the past? Andrew Proctor, Director of digital services at the University of Staffordshire talked about their own experience of  AI becoming the new UI. Staffordshire have developed Beacon as a way to curate information, offer recommendations, nudge students etc.  To do this they used an Azure bot framework and natural language processing. A partner was brought in to help them deliver Beacon and Azure stack accelerated the process.

Andrew Proctor talks about Beacon

Andrew Proctor talks about Beacon

Digital strategy

With so much going on many institutions have taken to creating and implementing digital strategies. Ross Parry presented the University of Leicester experience to a packed room. Ross has a split role of Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Digital) and professor in the School of museum studies, demonstrating the commitment Leicester has made to digital. Leicester have taken their magic word (‘discovery’) and combined it with a beginners mindset to build their digital strategy. It stands as an cornerstone with other enabling strategies underneath. Ross explained that Digital is about people and value and culture, and a strategy is aspirational, a thing that you create and use. He recommended that institutions worry about digital thinking as much as they worry about the infrastructure to support it.

Ross Parry on Digital capability as a strategic priority

Ross Parry on Digital capability as a strategic priority

The Leicester #digitalcampus strategy is underpinned by 20-30 live projects, it has a supporting model – an animated picture of buildings. This could even be seen as cute and gimicky mnemonic. To deliver the strategy Ross has worked in partnership with the Leicester director of IT – Liz Bailey, the duo have worked together on the three cores areas: new  integration, new interface, new interaction. The new interaction refers to work to make their student records system talk to their VLE, something that has involved rebuilding things from the ground up (they have made good use of Top hat to do this). Migration of data and information was carried out by students as part of the ‘big build’ and everything has been supported by great visuals and infograms and a steer from senior management.

In his talk Andrew Proctor also shared many of their Education 4.0  approaches to strategy: more learner centric, more choice (hyper-personalisation), diverse consumption models, traditional byte sized degrees, subscription based, outcome based. He talked of “building things to change” – recognising the fast moving world we are in and being agile at all times.

And finally MS Office 365 and a little bit of Google

In the University of Central Lancashire session ‘DigiReady: preparing learners for a digital workplace‘ we heard from Andrew Sprake, lecturer in physical education; Neesha Ridley, senior lecturer in midwifery; and Chris Melia , senior learning technologist.

Chris Melia talking about Jisc digital insights survey and why they've started using Microsoft teams

Chris Melia talking about Jisc digital insights survey and why they’ve started using Microsoft teams

The team have brought in a Digital skills programme that relies heavily on Microsoft Teams and Microsoft educator community training and Microsoft office certification. Their Digital transformation at scale event 17 April UCLAN would definitely be good to attend and I’d like to hear more about Use One note for digital portfolio. Lots of institutions are turning to Microsoft for training , accreditation and certification.

The closing keynote was delivered Head of Google Education, Liz Sprout. After some audience App sharing (try it – share your favourite app with a random stranger) she spent time explaining the difference between Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (thank goodness – I was too embarrassed to ask). Machine learning comprises of supervised learning, unsupervised learning (discovering patterns) and reinforcement learning. It is now possible due to the amount of data, the speed of processing data, minaturisation, reduced power consumption and improved cooling systems. And ML powers most of what Google does: search, gmail, photos, translation, YouTube, chrome, maps…

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Liz introduced us to many of the great Google tools out there. Some of  the best for education are:

  • Google arts and culture allows you to take a 360 tour of many famous sites and landmarks. You can jump from the CERN hadron collider, to the Great barrier reef and round most famous galleries. Like Google maps but much more exciting. However if you want to get really out of this world try Google sky.
  • I’m sure you are familiar with Google Scholar but have you seen Google books – the world’s most comprehensive index of full-text books.
  • There are an increasing array of translation tools available from Google. Google translate is the obvious one but could try the Google translate app (for OS or android) and use your camera for instant text translation.
  • Interested in our changing times then Google trendsNgram viewerZeitgeist and Google Correlate will let you look at our changing search patterns. Google public dataalso helps you find interesting data sets to work with.
  • If you are feeling very adventurous there is Google Expeditions which allows you to use Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR) in your lessons.
Liz Sprout from Google

Liz Sprout from Google

Naturally these themes are shaped by the sessions I attended and my own personal interests. There was a lot more on the digital campus, digital capability, data ethics, student wellbeing, accessibility and multimedia that I haven’t even touched on.

Luckily Jisc do a good job of videoing and collating their content – so here is everything I missed.

Once again Digifest is invaluable for those working in technology in Higher Education. It always inspired – now to find a way to create more hours in the day!

Thinking holistically about data matters

Yesterday we (myself and one of our students, Alex Norris) attended the Data Matters conference and presented a case study on  running our 2018 Student Digital Experience tracker survey.

Marieke Guy and Alex Norris just before giving their presentation

Marieke Guy and Alex Norris just before giving their presentation

The conference was jointly organised by Jisc, QAA and HESA and held at etc venues next to the museum of London. It is the second year for the event which brings together data practitioners, quality professionals and digital service specialists to discuss topical issues around data and its use in higher education.

Our presentation was part of session looking at the Jisc pilot work on better understanding the student digital experience. Ruth Drysdale and Mark Langer-Crame gave an overview of the survey and also shared some data from their version of the survey aimed at staff. There were some interesting variations, for example staff want to use more digital tech in the classroom while on the whole students are happy with the level of technology they already have. Note that we hope to run a survey exploring the digital experience of staff over the forthcoming year.

Marieke and Alex presenting

Marieke and Alex presenting – photo courtesy of Ruth Drysdale

Our case study was followed by one from Marc Griffiths, Head of Digitally Enhanced Learning, London South Bank University. Marc planned to use insights from the survey to inform South Bank’s digitally enhanced strategy. In reality the survey results have made South Bank question quite a lot of their previous assumptions, for example their mobile first approach given that a quarter of their students don’t own smart phones.

The first key note of the day was presented by Professor Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor and CEO of University of Northampton. Nick gave an incredibly open account of the data they collect, from social media, websites accessed (the highest hits definitely aren’t learning and teaching related – think Facebook, youtube, QQ, BitTorrent) and VLE usage. Considering this data has allowed the university to act fast in order to improve the student experience. Nick related his tale of the recent ‘toastergate’ fiasco in which students had toasters that didn’t work or only allowed two slices of bread. Northampton’s aim is to pull together data from Salto, their network use, VLE, usage, security incidents, learning analytics, timetabling,  heat maps etc. into one dashboard using Power BI. This in turn will support better decision making. Nick’s talk was followed by a panel discussion on Counting what’s measured or measuring what counts: questioning education metrics. There were contributions from Professor Helen Higson, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Aston University ; Nick Hillman, Director, Higher Education Policy Institute ; Charlie Kleboe-Rogers, Vice-President of Academia, Dundee University Students’ Association  and Andy Youell, previously from HESA but now a Writer, speaker, strategic advisor, Andy Youell Associates Ltd. The biggest tweetable points came from Nick Hillman who suggested that we consider creating more metrics and league tables as this will (to some extent) make them become less meaningful . Unis can then pick that data that they want to be framed by. He also suggested that we start asking applicants and staff more, rather than just focusing on students.

David Boyle's data lessons

David Boyle’s data lessons

The post-lunch keynote’s enticing title was Analytics and the Student Experience: Lessons from Politicians, Pop Stars and Power Brands  presented by David Boyle, Customer Insights Director, Harrods. David’s talk considered the data answers to why Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 US presidential election campaign. His answer explored four key lessons for the campaign team:

  • Cluster always – clustering tools like Affinio can offer major insights
  • Multiple sources & data science – Don’t let any one data set be separate from the other areas, think holistically. You need behavioural data, research data , data science and story telling to find and share the insights. Work on your ocular regression and find the data patterns. If you are making big decisions make all these people and all these data sets work together. You can ever put all the sources into a data soup and come out with one indicator.
  • Augmented experts – combine human skills with the ability of computer systems.
  • Insights – Load data into the head of decision makers and train them to use the data

I also attended two more break out sessions. One on Understanding your student body through innovative data analysis and the new “Career Explorer” service presented by James Jackson, Head of System Development and Integration, Bishop Grosseteste University and members of the UCAS team. The end result could end up being be a nice little app for students allowing them to see the potential universities for a chosen subject and the likelihood of an offer given their grades or predicted grades.

And a final one on the Intelligent Campus from James Clay of Jisc. You could classify campuses in to: dumb campuses (that know very little, smart campuses (that collect data) and intelligent campuses (that use that data to make decisions). So think better room usage (letting students know when the library is ridiculously busy and suggesting a better time to visit), better service provision (why do cleaners clean rooms that haven’t been used?), clever alerts (you are walking past the library why not collect that book you’ve reserved). and more. Some of this work could scale up to the the intelligent estate, or focus in to the Intelligent timetable, intelligent learning spaces or intelligent library. The Jisc Intelligent campus project has been working on a list of data sources, use cases and general guidance. There is also the very useful code of practice developed for learning analytics projects.

James Clay outlines the intelligent campus

James Clay outlines the intelligent campus

It was an interesting day. The biggest take away was the need to adopt a holistic view and ensure that you are using several data sets, including qualitative data. HE really needs people who can take on this overseeing role and provide narratives on data in order to make it meaningful for decision-makers. As Andy Youell put it: “Data soup is better than the blancmange of opinion“.

ALTC 2018: “We are really important to the future of education”

Last week, courtesy of a UCISA bursary, I travelled up to Manchester (the city of 100,000 students) for the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Conference 2018. While it was my first ALTC it was actually the 25th in the series and there was considerable reflection on changes to the learning technologist role and in learning technology itself.

The ALTC 2018 committee team open up the conference

The ALTC 2018 committee team launch the conference

In this post I want to share some of the noticeable themes and my favourite moments.

I am woman

This year saw three inspiring women providing the ALTC plenaries, unfortunately unusual enough an occurrence that it warrants comment. On day 1 Dr Tressie MacMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, gave a sociological unpacking of educational technology and explored the idea that context matters and learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Tessie suggested that the time is right for us to deconstruct learning technology and consider how we want to put the pieces back together. Learning technologies have (in the US) emerged as administrative units but would they benefit from being a unique academic discipline? She shared the example of the born digital programmes she has led on where “edtech is not just a set of tools but a philosophy about how we think about things” – offering opportunities to the non-traditional student.

ALTs 25 year anniversary playing card pack

ALT’s 25 year anniversary playing card pack

On day 2 Amber Thomas, Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick, gave a wonderful talk considering ‘Twenty years on the edge’. You can read a summary on her blog: Fragments of Amber.  Way too much good stuff to write about here but the main take away was a pat on the back for those of us working with learning technology in HE. Things aren’t easy – not only do we suffer from impostor syndrome when we do well but there is also a misapprehension that innovation is isolated to the commercial sector and that governments and agencies are blockers of change. Amber pointed out some of our collective work, from 3.5 million spent on MOOCs, to great collaborative projects and organisations including Ferl, Jisc and EU projects. However change in universities requires patience and it is important that we listen to the mainstream, after all digital is really about people. We need to be ethical, respectful and useful, for we are “really important to the future of education”.

Amber Thomas presents her twenty years on the edge

Amber Thomas presents her twenty years on the edge

Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of ALT gave the last plenary of the conference. She brought together the conference themes, a good dose of ethics (“equality is everyone’s responsibility”) and empowerment pants. She considered the difficulties learning technologists face in being both advocate and critic in a “risky business” where things often go wrong. Perhaps we need to get better at sharing our failings. Maren concluded with a personal reflection that “EdTech is a field of practice, not a discipline”. You can read Maren’s recent post on the state of Education Technology in HE on WonkHE.

Beetastic Manchester

Beetastic Manchester

Beyond lecture capture

At RAU we are a little behind with lecture capture (we don’t do it very often), but it now turns out that it isn’t such an issue as other institutions seem to be moving beyond lecture capture and focusing more on other uses of multimedia. I attended a number of sessions on how we can take things forward and make multimedia use a more everyday part of our learning tech activities. I enjoyed a talk by Karl Luke from Cardiff University on Studying learning journeys with lecture capture through Staff-Student partnerships. His research has looked at how we can educate students in making the most of the tools available. So for example if it’s not in YouTube why would students know that it’s in Panopto? Interesting to hear that students are increasingly watching lecture capture at home on their TVs in a self created study space with physical materials at hand. Much more “screen real estate” than on mobile phone.

A talk from Stuart Phillipson of University of Manchester (available on video) looked at how they have used the Equality act to enable them to record content (regardless of the opt in options) and share with disabled students using a 24 hour grace period for the academics. 85% of lectures are now recorded and shared with disabled students – these students are not allowed to share more widely, that would be a case of academic misconduct! At the University of Northumbria they have been successfully using Panopto used to give video feedback to students – keeping their audience interested by releasing the grade at the end of the session.

The steps in video feedback from Northumbria University

The steps in video feedback from Northumbria University

In a more practical workshop the University of Wolverhampton team looking alternative uses of lecture capture we played lecture capture bingo and shared our experiences. There were also some useful discussions on how we measure success? It is viewing ratio: how many hours viewed versus how many hours recorded? Or are there other ways that we should be doing this? Also worth a look is Duncan MacIver’s pebble pad potfolio on the impact of digital learning capture on student study habits and the University of Wolverhampton article on Flipping the learning experience for science students.

Lecture Capture bingo

Lecture Capture bingo

Resource filter

As Doug Belshaw put it in his moodle.net session – “We don’t have a problem with a lack of resources. We have a problem with the curation of those resources.” ALT shines a light on the best, some of the most useful resources I came across include:

TEL Family Fortunes

Tools are always a big part of any tech event and hearing what is actually being used at the coal face is always a huge help. The UCISA TEL family fortunes session was a fun look at the UCISA Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) – did you know that a quarter of institutions have a distance learning unit and over half of them now run a hosted VLE. UCISA digital education is currently producing a VLE review toolkit.

Julie Voce from UCISA leads the TEL Family Fortunes

Julie Voce from UCISA leads the TEL Family Fortunes

Other interesting tools I came across while at ALT include meetoo (responsible for all polling in the main lecture theatre), Google Keep note taking software, RM Results and Articulate story line. Trends in tools is something picked up in the Jisc Digital tracker and new insights project.

I also really enjoyed the exciting Gasta session which combined Irish counting, personal experiences and huge amounts of enthusiasm.

Communities matter

Any conference attendee will know that the real value lies in networking. The ALT community are are a very friendly bunch and I met some great people. Special mention goes to my UCISA bursary buddy Karl Luke from the Cardiff University. We definitely bonded through our free meal ticket!

In the lightening talk session I presented my From little acorns poster on my experience of being a one-person Learning Tech team at the RAU institution. I had lots of positive feedback on the work we are doing and requests to link up when back in the South West.

Presenting my poster - photo by Jenny Crow, University of Glasgow

Presenting my poster – photo by Jenny Crow, University of Glasgow

I’m not alone though. I took inspiration from an earlier talk by Michael Egan from the Northern School of Art who offered some great tips in his talk Witchcraft to Wonder on how you can win hearts and minds: Learn the academic calendar, show don’t tell, be the person people want to see rather than the one they run away from, consider ‘nudge strategies.

Here’s hoping we get lots more Learning Technologists visiting us at RAU before next year’s event.

I had a great conference and want to say a big thanks to UCISA for allowing me to attend!

Networking

Networking

Planning for ALT 2018

It’s only 12 days and 17 hours till ALT 2018 – ALT’s 25th annual conference and the biggest meet up of Learning Technologists this side of the Atlantic (possibly?)

I have been lucky enough to be funded to attend by the UCISA bursary scheme and I intend to make good use of my free ticket.

There is so much on it’s hard to know where to start but in traditional festival fashion I have a list of potential topics and sessions, though who knows what will happen when I actually get there!

I’ll also be catching the keynotes from the fantastic all-female line up: Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Dr Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas.

altc 2018 flyer v0.2 Page_1.jpgI will be presenting a poster during the poster and talk session entitled From little acorns…growing a learning technology culture.  If you’d like to discuss what it’s like being part of a one-person team then please find me. As I explain in the brief the poster is “of interest to anyone who wants to hear about how ‘more with less’ is possible if you make the most of collaborations and outside help. There will be lots of useful tips and far too many agriculture analogies!” I’ll post up my poster as soon as it’s finished.

Of course as we all know the networking opportunities are what really make a conference. The Awards Evening and Dinner at the Midland Hotel will be great and I’m looking forward to hearing who has been voted ALT Learning Technologist of the Year.

I’ll also be catching up with my fellow ALT bursary winner Karl Luke (Business Change Officer from Cardiff University). Karl and I bumped into each other at the recent Panopto user group meet up in Birmingham. We’ll clink glasses on behalf of UCISA!

Solent Learning and Teaching Community Conference 2018

Last Friday I journeyed south to Solent University for their Solent Learning and Teaching Community Conference 2018.

Drawing the day

Drawing the day

It is a great annual internal event that Solent open out to other local institutions. This year it was attended by 280 colleagues from 10 universities. Much of the day focused on Solent’s new Curriculum Framework which has been developed by Tansy Jessop and Claire Saunders from the Solent Learning and Teaching Institute. Tansy explained that the ground rules for development had foundations in the ideas of William Pinar 1) Curriculum is a “complicated conversation” – it was never going to be easy 2) Curriculum comes from the verb currer, it is not a noun 3) Curriculum design should be an intellectual rather than an instructional or bureaucratic pursuit.

What does curriculum mean? Using mentimeter

What does curriculum mean? Using mentimeter

The process in creating the new framework has involved collecting a vast amount of data (ethnographic reports, kiviat charts, consultation documents), used the time of 10 interns and many staff members (through 9 curriculum cafes) – but the results are worth it! The newly designed curriculum framework has great buy in from Solent staff and I’m sure it will be well received by future students. It has what HE education is about at its core.

The new Solent Curriculum framework

The new Solent Curriculum framework

Ruth Pickford, Director of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at Leeds Beckett gave the opening keynote at the conference. Her inspiring talk on regaining control pointed out that we are not in need of the Office for Students’ reminder that students are at the heart of higher education because we “live and breath it”. The sad situation is that the words excellence, engagement and experience have been hijacked and we are now participating in a game of Higher Education trivial pursuit.

Solent zebra

Solent zebra

Despite this there is much we can do. Her recommendations and words of wisdom suggested:

  • Leading from the front is hard work and should be avoided. It is better to give others the map and compass and lead from the back.
  • Teaching excellence is not the same as excellent teaching.
  • When it comes to metrics we need to “work with the terrain and make the terrain work for us.”
  • Academic innovation is more than a ‘nice-to-have’, we need to push it up the priority list.
  • To make an impact it’s not enough to do things better – we need to do better things. We can start with what we control: the curriculum, learning activities, and the learning environment.
Roger Emery demonstrates updates to moodle

Roger Emery demonstrates updates to moodle

The real digital inspiration for the day came in the form of a workshop led by Roger Emery (Head of Learning Technologies) and his team. Roger gave an overview of some of the updates for the new academic year to the Solent moodle VLE – new layouts and user support, quite a few of the ideas we will also be implementing at RAU. The team then demoed Spiral, a new formative assessment tool that has a selection of apps to support lessons. These include  quick fire assessments, group quizzes, group drawing tasks and student portfolios. They ended with some great H5P ideas including use of the image juxtaposition and essay tools allowing students to compare images and write comments on what they found.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day, it felt like window into how Solent works. The morale seemed high and there was a definite ‘team collaboration’ feel to the sessions. Possibly my favourite moment was when the HEA awards were announced and staff were encouraged to stand up and be cheered by their colleagues. The sense of pride by both those who had achieved awards and those who were cheering was palpable. There was a great poster session and the food was fab – a sweet trolley always wins people over! Solent also did a great job of using technology seamlessly as part of the day’s activities, from the use of Slido to collect the questions for speakers, to mentimeter for  for voting on various decisions related to the day. So much for us to learn from and aspire to!

The amazing sweet trolley!

The amazing sweet trolley!

UCISA Bursary and ALTC

Great news! I have been awarded a bursary as part of the UCISA 2018 bursary scheme to attend the Association of Learning Technologists conference that will take place later this year.

UCISA logoFunding from the UCISA bursary scheme gives IT and IT-related staff the opportunity to travel to conferences and keynote technology events they might otherwise be unable to attend. I, along with 19 other candidates, have been awarded funding and will be writing on this blog and the UCISA blog about my experience.

The funding is particularly pertinent as I have also just found out that I have been accepted to give a presentation at ALT on my recent work here at RAU. I submitted a proposal entitled ‘From little acorns…growing a learning technology culture’ unsure if it would be accepted or if I would win the bursary. So huge thanks to UCISA for their support and to my line manager Alun Dawes for backing my application.  I love it when a plan comes together 🙂

The ALT conference will take place from 11-13 September 2018 in Manchester. As I explained in my bursary application:alt_logo

While other events offer a useful perspective on a particular tool or system and a chance to engage with a user community the ALT conference is fundamentally different. ALT is not purely about tools or systems – though they will be mentioned aplenty. ALT is about strategic thinking, about learning from those who have already sat where I sit now, about knowing that I am asking the right questions. ALT is where practice is discussed and moves on to policy, and policy is where change moves from being incidental to being systemic. One of the biggest challenges I face is how do I support systemic change within my institution as oppose to piecemeal change. And how do I do that whilst also operating at a grass roots level working with practitioners.”

I’m really excited to be going to the ALT Conference. The ALT team have been a big help over the years. I regularly attend their webinars and avidly follow the organisational mailing list but have yet to attend one of their physical conferences. It’s going to be great to be in the same space as so much learning technology knowledge. Hopefully I’ll just be able to absorb it by being there!