When a Learning Technologist became a DJ – For One Night Only

micThe Association of Learning Technology (ALT) organise an annual conference to celebrate and share practice in how technology enhances learning. In 2019, the conference was held at the University of Edinburgh. A range of poster presentations, workshops and keynotes were delivered. You can see a summary here from our Digital Learning Manager Marieke Guy. One of the unique modes of presentations was the GASTA presentation chaired by Tom Farrelly, a Social Science Lecturer at the Institute of Technology in Tralee.  I co-presented a GASTA talk to launch the ALT Mentions and TEL TALE audio drama podcasts. A GASTA talk is a short 5 minute talk with a countdown in Irish. Tom was interviewed on the podcast and talked about GASTA on episode 8. Find out more about Tom on Twitter – @TomFarrelly. Originally, the conference for 2020 was due to take place at the Imperial College in London. However, due to the pandemic, the conference made the pivot to an online summer summit using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform. The theme was Learning Technology in a time of crisis, care and complexity which many learning technologists can relate to. There were some relevant topics from trauma-informed pedagogy to feminist approaches. Keynotes were delivered by Bonnie Stewart, Assistant Professor in Educational Studies at University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) (@bonstewart) Dave Cormier, University of Windsor in Ontario (@davecormier) and Charlotte Webb from University of the Arts London (UAL) (@otheragent) , in addition to the journalist, author and broadcaster Angela Saini. The summit included a range of online events for example a virtual café for conference attendees here – https://altc.alt.ac.uk/summit2020/cafe/, and a series of asynchronous events.

summit

As part of the social programme for the summit, a number of pre-summit activities took place. Music has been a crucial way for people to connect during the lockdown. We saw people in Italy singing form their balconies (BBC, 2020). It was about finding alternative ways to express and connect. Music also played an important role in the summit.  For example, there was a KareOERke session where conference participants could sing a song in Zoom with engaging virtual backgrounds and costumes in both an induvial and group capacity. OER stands for Open educational resources (OER). Music has been argued to play an important role in helping people during lockdown (Loughborough University, 2020).

kara

Radio stations have been argued to have played a fundamental role during a crisis (Radiocentre, 2020). One of the most exciting events was the ALT Summer Summit Radio Show on the 25th August 2020 as a pre-summit session and an after show party on the 27th August hosted by The Thursday Night Show – https://www.thethursdaynightshow.com/ and ALT Members. Dominic Pates, a Senior Educational Technologist (Relationship Lead) London City University organised ALT members who hosted a 30-minute show each. Having been involved with podcasting and a pop-up radio station experiment called Pivot FM before, online see previous blog post, moving to presenting live was a new challenge.

dj

The Thursday Night Show is an internet radio Collective with weekly internet radio show with a range of DJs playing a mix of music genres. The is a mobile phone application for IOS here – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/thethursdaynightshow/id1441356423.

thursday

Live chat takes place alongside the live show with a community. We organised changeovers, gave feedback and checked microphone levels live in the chat:

thursday2

The Thursday Night Show has recently been on the on BBC News highlighting the importance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhAsjcBjtsg&feature=youtu.be. There is also a Zoom room alongside the live show so you can dance along to your favourite tunes. We carried out a technical setup involving connecting to the Icecast server and tested the connection supporting each other using an ALT Radio Folks WhatsApp group. Mixxx – https://www.mixxx.org/, Adobe Audition and royalty free sound effects DJ were used.

mix

First up was Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Provost at Athabasca University in Canada (@ammienoot). I was second up. Dominik Lukes Dominik has a account Digital Learning Technologist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (@techczech), and Thomas Buckley, Digital Learning Manager at University of the West of Bristol (UWE) (@bigbadbuckley) and additional sets by regular DJs on The Thursday Night Show and a London themed set by Dominic Pates.

My idea was to use the opportunity for a radio show to ask learning technologists to request a song that got them through lockdown and to provide a short explanation of how the song links to learning technology – ‘Quarantunes’. Marieke Guy, the Digital Learning Manager at RAU selected ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by Daft Punk and said: 

At times we Learning Technologists have felt like robots on overdrive. We’ve been creating, supporting, listening, guiding, fixing and generally making things work. At times it has felt like being part of an assembly line but we have created some great things and are keeping students learning. This Daft Punk song makes me smile. The lyrics feel like an instruction from up above: “work it harder, make it better, do it faster, make us stronger”. It also ends with the warning “our work is never done” – things can always be improved and perfected (through technology). But despite this it is still upbeat and I love electronic music!”

Husna Ahmed, a Learning Technologist at the RAU requested ‘With a Little Help from my Friend’s, the classic song by the Beatles. She said:

The song sums up how we work in our learning technology bubble, as we learn form one another and support each other all the time”.

Music became an important part of the lockdown experience. It has been argued that listening to music during lockdown while working from home can have a positive impact (Flach, 2020). My ‘quarantune’ which was ‘In My House’ by The Cornshed Sisters (@Cornsheds). As I said during the show, the song is a lockdown classic! The experience of both being in a house and working from home during lockdown was a reality for many learning technologists and particularly for my role at RAU operating in a remote capacity. We also sang this song in the Pop Choir led by members of The Cornshed Sisters which took place online on the Zoom meeting platform throughout lockdown. Radio has its own language and literacy. For example, I also created some audio ‘stings’ or “short musical phrases” to be used to personalise the content and put an ALT stamp on the radio show (Audionetwork, 2020).

Ultimately, the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) online summer summit proved that it is still possible to engage people in an online capacity. I asked myself how the experience of DJ-ing live helped me to become a better Learning Technologist. Being a live DJ involved preparing music, reflecting on how to create an engaging show, learning how to use new software and tools, working as part of a team, communicating effectively, learning from others, solving problems quickly and making mistakes and learning from them. These are all activities that effective Learning Technologists do on a daily basis. Pedagogically, using audio in learning and teaching can improve the digital student experience in a variety of ways. Students could create their own radio stations and podcasts. A lot of the DJ software is free  which helps to make wokring with audio more accessible. My radio journey has just begun. When I lived and wokred in London, I visited Abbey Road Studios in May 2018 and hoped that I could get back into the studio again.

micThe Association of Learning Technology (ALT) organise an annual conference to celebrate and share practice in how technology enhances learning. In 2019, the conference was held at the University of Edinburgh. A range of poster presentations, workshops and keynotes were delivered. You can see a summary here from our Digital Learning Manager Marieke Guy. One of the unique modes of presentations was the GASTA presentation chaired by Tom Farrelly, a Social Science Lecturer at the Institute of Technology in Tralee.  I co-presented a GASTA talk to launch the ALT Mentions and TEL TALE audio drama podcasts. A GASTA talk is a short 5 minute talk with a countdown in Irish. Tom was interviewed on the podcast and talked about GASTA on episode 8 – https://altmentions.podbean.com/e/ep8-getting-the-word-out-there-with-gasta-tom-farrelly-part-2/. Find out more about Tom on Twitter – @TomFarrelly. Originally, the conference for 2020 was due to take place at the Imperial College in London. However, due to the pandemic, the conference made the pivot to an online summer summit using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform. The theme was Learning Technology in a time of crisis, care and complexity which many learning technologists can relate to. There were some relevant topics from trauma-informed pedagogy to feminist approaches. Keynotes were delivered by Bonnie Stewart, Assistant Professor in Educational Studies at University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) (@bonstewart) Dave Cormier, University of Windsor in Ontario (@davecormier) and Charlotte Webb from University of the Arts London (UAL) (@otheragent) , in addition to the journalist, author and broadcaster Angela Saini. The summit included a range of online events for example a virtual café for conference attendees here – https://altc.alt.ac.uk/summit2020/cafe/, and a series of asynchronous events.

summit

As part of the social programme for the summit, a number of pre-summit activities took place. Music has been a crucial way for people to connect during the lockdown. We saw people in Italy singing form their balconies (BBC, 2020). It was about finding alternative ways to express and connect. Music also played an important role in the summit.  For example, there was a KareOERke session where conference participants could sing a song in Zoom with engaging virtual backgrounds and costumes in both an induvial and group capacity. OER stands for Open educational resources (OER). Music has been argued to play an important role in helping people during lockdown (Loughborough University, 2020).

kara

Radio stations have been argued to have played a fundamental role during a crisis (Radiocentre, 2020). One of the most exciting events was the ALT Summer Summit Radio Show on the 25th August 2020 as a pre-summit session and an after show party on the 27th August hosted by The Thursday Night Show – https://www.thethursdaynightshow.com/ and ALT Members. Dominic Pates, a Senior Educational Technologist (Relationship Lead) London City University organised ALT members who hosted a 30-minute show each. Having been involved with podcasting and a pop-up radio station experiment called Pivot FM before, online see previous blog post, moving to presenting live was a new challenge.

dj

The Thursday Night Show is an internet radio Collective with weekly internet radio show with a range of DJs playing a mix of music genres. The is a mobile phone application for IOS here – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/thethursdaynightshow/id1441356423.

thursday

Live chat takes place alongside the live show with a community. We organised changeovers, gave feedback and checked microphone levels live in the chat:

thursday2

The Thursday Night Show has recently been on the on BBC News highlighting the importance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhAsjcBjtsg&feature=youtu.be. There is also a Zoom room alongside the live show so you can dance along to your favourite tunes. We carried out a technical setup involving connecting to the Icecast server and tested the connection supporting each other using an ALT Radio Folks WhatsApp group. Mixxx – https://www.mixxx.org/, Adobe Audition and royalty free sound effects DJ were used.

mix

First up was Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Provost at Athabasca University in Canada (@ammienoot). I was second up. Dominik Lukes Dominik has a account Digital Learning Technologist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (@techczech), and Thomas Buckley, Digital Learning Manager at University of the West of Bristol (UWE) (@bigbadbuckley) and additional sets by regular DJs on The Thursday Night Show and a London themed set by Dominic Pates.

My idea was to use the opportunity for a radio show to ask learning technologists to request a song that got them through lockdown and to provide a short explanation of how the song links to learning technology – ‘Quarantunes’. Marieke Guy, the Digital Learning Manager at RAU selected ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by Daft Punk and said: 

At times we Learning Technologists have felt like robots on overdrive. We’ve been creating, supporting, listening, guiding, fixing and generally making things work. At times it has felt like being part of an assembly line but we have created some great things and are keeping students learning. This Daft Punk song makes me smile. The lyrics feel like an instruction from up above: “work it harder, make it better, do it faster, make us stronger”. It also ends with the warning “our work is never done” – things can always be improved and perfected (through technology). But despite this it is still upbeat and I love electronic music!”

Husna Ahmed, a Learning Technologist at the RAU requested ‘With a Little Help from my Friend’s, the classic song by the Beatles. She said:

The song sums up how we work in our learning technology bubble, as we learn form one another and support each other all the time”.

The song received a positive reaction on Twitter.

With a little Help from my Friends

Music became an important part of the lockdown experience. It has been argued that listening to music during lockdown while working from home can have a positive impact (Flach, 2020). My ‘quarantune’ which was ‘In My House’ by The Cornshed Sisters (@Cornsheds). As I said during the show, the song is a lockdown classic! The experience of both being in a house and working from home during lockdown was a reality for many learning technologists and particularly for my role at RAU operating in a remote capacity. We also sang this song in the Pop Choir led by members of The Cornshed Sisters which took place online on the Zoom meeting platform throughout lockdown. Radio has its own language and literacy. For example, I also created some audio ‘stings’ or “short musical phrases” to be used to personalise the content and put an ALT stamp on the radio show (Audionetwork, 2020). It felt important to curate a show that would be relevant to the listeners, who were working with learning technology so I included the Windows Song which was well received.

Tweet

Ultimately, the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) online summer summit proved that it is still possible to engage people in an online capacity. I asked myself how the experience of DJ-ing live helped me to become a better Learning Technologist. Being a live DJ involved preparing music, reflecting on how to create an engaging show, learning how to use new software and tools, working as part of a team, communicating effectively, learning from others, solving problems quickly and making mistakes and learning from them. These are all activities that effective Learning Technologists do on a daily basis. Pedagogically, using audio in learning and teaching can improve the digital student experience in a variety of ways. Students could create their own radio stations and podcasts. A lot of the DJ software is free which really helps to make working with audio more accessible. My radio journey has just begun. When I lived and wokred in London, I visited Abbey Road Studios in May 2018 and hoped that I could get back into the studio again.

Abbey Road

The Abbey Road Institute identified a list of free music tools to help people create music during lockdown here. One of my favourite tools was the Minimoog Model D Synthesizer IOS mobile application.

MoogTaking part in an online radio project enabled me to create music and content from a home studio. In future, I hope to create further shows and support other educators to work effectively with audio in their pedagogical contexts. What types of stories can we tell with music and radio? The pandemic has been an opportunity to explore different ways of engaging and connecting with people. Radio is a creative way to do this. If necessity is the mother of invention, then radio was the Learning Technologist of innovation.

You can listen to the show here.

Explore some of the tweets from the summit by following the hashtags: #altc and #altcsummit. Check out the Wakelet collection for the summit here.

Listen to The Thursday Night Show here.

A big thank you to Dominic Pates for his support and to the Association of Learning technologists (ALT) for the opportunity to contribute to the online summer summit.

Bibliography

Freesound Download List

Downloaded on August 24th, 2020

The Show Must Go Online. Exploring ‘The New Normal’ with the ALT West Midlands Group

On 2nd June 2020, the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) West Midlands group hosted a free online event using the Zoom platform exploring the ‘The New Normal’.

The New Normal and The Rise of the Learning Technologists

Why is ‘The New Normal’ important? While the majority of traditional face-to-face delivery has not been possible throughout the pandemic, there has been a shift of focus towards learning technology as a platform for teaching and learning. The ‘Online Pivot’ has been used to describe the process of a rapid movement to online learning often describved as emergency pedagogy’. As a result, Learning Technologists have had a ‘spotlight’ on them in an enhanced capacity as agents of critical digital change. Redefining the old pedagogy and articulating exactly how online pedagogy will work has resulted in a fundamental process of ‘getting the digital ducks in a row’ for many eductional institutions. Often this is not a seamless transition and we have to embrace both inevitable ‘messy’ change and our vulnerabilities.

In March 2019, I presented at the ALT West Midlands event at Warwick University exploring Critical Digital Literacies. My presentation explored the use of Digital Champions.

I used a life size cardboard cut out of Yoda from Star Wars and invited participants to write on hand shaped post it notes and stick them to the Yoda character to explore and share ideas as a collaborative task running throughout my presentation.

A strong theme of providing creative opportunities for reflection began to emerge. One of the outcomes of the event was a collaborative blog published on the ALT website available here to reflect on the core ideas emerging from the event. I created the visuals!

The New Normal: Cloudy with a Chance of Learning Technology?

ALT West Midlands had orginally planned a face-to-face event exploring accessible learning in April 2020 which, like many events, was changed to an online event with a change of focus. The event started with a warm up activity where all participants were invited to share something that they have learned thorughout lockdown. There were a range of presentations and contributions at the event from a range of different institutions. Jess Humphries (@Jess_humphreys) explored the Technology Enhanced Active Learning Festival (TEAL) which took place online here hosted by Warwick University. Daniel Scott (@_Daniel_Scott) shared activities and reflections from Nottingham Trent University. Tim Smale (@Tim_Smale) shared insights into elements of flexible digital education at Keele University. Annie Pendrey (@AnniePendrey) shared an inspirational pedagogic model using the colours of the rainbow as a visual structure to provide support. The rainbow has been a visual icon of the Lockdown. Her article, ‘The Colour of Courage In The Face Of Adversity‘ can be found here. Let’s not be afraid of colour in our practice!

The Sound of Learning Technology – Setting up a Radio Station in Five Minutes

I presented a series of reflections on setting up a pop up radio station experiment throughout the Lockdown and beyond. The presentation title was ‘Lock, taking Stock, and Pandemic Pedagogies: reflections on creating a pop-up radio station during lockdown and beyond‘.

Metaphors can really help us to understand what we do in HE (Badley & Van Brummelen, 2012). I explored the pivot as a metaphor for the move to online learning, suggested that a compass may be an alternative metaphor to view the pedagogic shift, identified potential emerging ‘pandemagogies‘, shared reflections on creating content and case studies of using radio, discussed how the language we use to talk about learning technology as a direct result of the Lockdown has changed, and finally shared the tools I used ot create the radion station itself – Zeno as the hosting platform, Adobe Audition for editing and FreeSFX to access royalty free sound clips. Pivot FM can be accessed here.

A Pivot within a Pivot. A Wheel within a Wheel: Whose ‘Normal’ is it Anyway?

There are a range of perspectives on the online pivot and pedagogic integrity. Who decides? Some of the questions and feedback after the presentation were both positive and helpful. One of the questions concerned how to develop the Radio Station further, potentially exploring the vidcast format. On reflection, a potential creative route would be to explore multimodal podcasts or ‘modcasts’ using a range of different modes to engage an audience. Ultimately, the one of the core arguments of my presentation was the importance to embed creative opportunities in the work of Learning Technologists. After the presentations, there was an ‘open mic’ opportunity where participants can share what is happening in their own institutions.

It was great to have support from our Learning Technology team. Thanks to @digitalrau, @husnaahmed and @chantalschipperrau. The ALT Midlands group were really helpful and supportive. I would encourage anyone thinking about presenting to give it go. Thanks to John Couperthwaite (@johncoup), Lynne Taylorson (@Realtimeedu), Kerry Pinny (@KerryPinny), and Jess Humphries (@jess_humphries) for organising the event.

Partial recording only: the recording includes talks from Daniel, Pip, Tim, and Annie. Password: 9A%?Brf7

The chat is available as a document below:

Learn more about the APConnect event that Lynne was involved in here.

Find out more about the ALT West Mindlands group here.

To join the group, you can request membership here.

@WMRLTG on Twitter and look out for the hashtag #ALTWM

The Pivot FM Zoom background is available to download below:

I have been uisng Wakelet to research the ‘online pivot’.

Wakelet is a online tool used to save, organise and curate collections of links. It is also possible to share Wakelet collections to Teams.

Image result for teams logo

Bibliography

Badley, K. & Van Brummelen, H. (Eds.) (2012). Metaphors We Teach By: How Metaphors Shape What We Do in the Classroom (Eugene: Wipf and Stock)

Pendrey, A (2020) ‘The Colour of Courage In The Face Of Adversity‘. FE News. 11th May 2020. (Online) Available at: https://www.fenews.co.uk/featured-article/46866-the-colour-of-courage-in-the-face-of-adversity [Accessed 2nd June 2020]

Jisc community champions 2020

I was thrilled to be invited along to this year’s Digifest as one of the first cohort of Jisc community champions.

Natasha Veenendaal, Head of community engagement at Jisc, explained that:

The purpose of this award is to celebrate those people who are striving to share knowledge outside of their own institution. In doing so we also want to celebrate the power of community. Recognising the importance of bringing peers together to work through problems and share experience, for the good of our students and wider society”.

This year's Community Champions with Jisc staff

This year’s Community Champions with Jisc staff, photo by Natasha Veenendal

It was definitely an honour, and a wonderful chance to meet a lovely bunch of fellow community people. As a group we were treated to a personal ice-breaker drinks reception and a swanky meal out.

We were also involved in some ‘coffee and a chat’ filming by the film company Suited and Booted film. For this we were put in small groups and then filmed chatting to each using questions related to digital communities as a prompt. The 30 minute sessions will be edited and made in to short 60 second films.

Being filmed with Steven Hope and Esam Baboukhan, photo by Hannah Tennant

Being filmed with Steven Hope and Esam Baboukhan, photo by Hannah Tennant

We finished the two days with a reflection session looking at what we had ‘learned, liked and lacked (thought could be improved)’ at the event. This led to us thinking about ways in which we could share Digifest insights with the wider community (from podcasts and viral sharing to the idea of a Digitfest Pest!)

IMG_3905

 Many thanks to the Jisc community engagement for taking such good care of us!

You can read more about what went on at the event in my post – Digifest 2020: Bears, Holograms and Gen Z.

Digifest 2020: Bears, Holograms and Gen Z

This year’s Digifest transformed the Birmingham ICC into a futuristic looking Blade runner set with Holograms and VR at every corner. I’m not sure we are quite there yet at the RAU but it was still interesting to see. I was there as a community champion but still had time to browse the programme. The opening video was amazing.

AI Hologram presenter

Hearing from Gen Z

Two of this year’s plenaries were delivered by representatives from the Gen Z generation.

Jonah Stillman (co-author of Gen Z Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace) shared some thoughts on the differences between Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2012) and Millenials (born between 1980 and 1994). While the talk didn’t go down too well with the audience (Generational talks rarely do, too much generalisation) I found many of Jonah’s observations rang true. Gen Z are realistic, driven, and exist in a state of survival mode (given the state of our environment and economy). They are also the first generation to grow up with digital, making it nearly impossible to dazzle them with technology. Some have begun to refer to them as the ‘phigital’ generation because they don’t differentiate between the physical and digital worlds and are comfortable in both. These traits have significant implications for how we deliver learning and teaching and the boomers in the audience should listen up!

Jonah Stillman presents

Jonah Stillman presents

In her talk entitled ‘The hidden filter’ Hayley Mulenda shared the inspiring story of her struggle with mental health issues: “I found my degree but I lost myself“. Hayley spoke honestly about her, and her friends’ difficulties in navigating the modern world and student life. Her advice was that we be aware of other peoples hidden filters and don’t aim for perfection, aim for progression. She also appealed to educators to be honest and open with their students: “We don’t need more role models we need more real models“. As institutions we need to be directing people to professional help and support and the sector needs to explore how we can ensure early intervention and engage parents and guardians (when possible).

Here’s one I made earlier

I’m always looking out for ideas I can take back to the RAU. This year my favourites were:

  • Catriona Matthews and the team at the University Warwick have been experimenting with delivering academic skills (those important skills you need students to learn that don’t relate directly to their discipline) in innovative ways. They’ve begun to refer to an ongoing induction and have found 20 minute lecture interventions to work really well, especially when the interventions are practical and contextualised. Also the students attend the session because it is tagged on to a core lecture.
  • Worcestershire council shared their SCULPT framework to help staff create accessible resources. An incredibly useful resource and I’ve already linked to it from our VLE.
  • In his talk on Climate Control on the journey to zero waste Jamie E. Smith, executive chairman, C-Learning talked about how we should making sure the right procurement (and other) policies are in place to make sure we make the best environmental choices in our organisations. Jamie’s suggestions included a move to cloud technology, recruitment processes that included assessment of digital skills, strategic workforce development and flexible working. I enjoyed his story on how he removed all the printers from a previous place of employment! Sometimes radical is the only way!
  • The main coffee break conversation topic was (unsurprisingly) Coronavirus. We compared business continuity plans and shared tales of internal Covid-19 committees. The Microsoft stand was busy with people asking how they could rollout Teams in under a week. The Teams webinar series and the Enable Remote Learning Community could prove useful.
  • The AbilityNet session on accessibility came up with some useful tools including Call Scotlandmy computer my way and my study my way. I also love the idea of microkindness (the opposite of microaggression), it’s really just another name for inclusive design

The accessibility panel

The accessibility panel

The closing plenary on day one was delivered by Lindsay Herbert, Author of Digital Transformation. Lindsay introduced us to the idea of the bear in the room – those problem that drain all your time and will rip your organisation apart. This is contrast to the elephant in the room which of course people chose to ignore. You need to get to the heart of these problems and progress and the rub is that you can’t adapt to major change without technology.

Lindsay presents

Lindsay Herbert presents

Lindsay’s key thoughts and examples were:

  • Real transformation starts with a problem worth solving (that aligns to a mission)
    • Danish oil and natural gas applied their experience to wind energy after asking themselves what was their core mission? Selling oil or providing energy for Denmark?
    • Rijksmuseum decided to go down the no tech in galleries route, but images of all their collections are released as highres on their website, copyright free.
  • Real transformation needs lots of people from lots of sources – it will be too big to solve alone
    • Netflix’s mission is entertaining the world, hence original content. They work with independents, they don’t decide on next big thing by analysing past behaviour, they need expertise from a lot of sources.
    • The Guardian don’t put their content behind a paywall, online is their priority and they have a two tier sponsorship model
    • The United nations refugee agency website wouldn’t display on a mobile phone despite most of their clients using a mobile.
  • Real transformation is learned and earned and not purchased – We tend to outsource when there could be a better way.
    • Ecolab made water purification systems but ended up merging the company rather contracting out work.
    • Harvard had a new tool but university policy dictated a minimum of 5 years experience and it might have been easier to hire freelancers. Instead they c changed the hiring policy.

There was a lot of valuable stuff in Lindsay’s talk and I’ve actually ordered her book. My plan is to get the highlighter out, mark it up and leave it on random senior leaders’ desks! She left us inspired by encouraging us to build wide support for the change want:  “You might not have the seniority to go right up the ladder, but you definitely have the influence to go right across.”

IMG_3883

Bett 2020 – Day 1

The Bett show, held at Excel in London, is one of the biggest education technology shows in the UK. It boasts an exhibition with 800 leading companies, 103 exciting new EdTech startups and over 34,000 attendees. There is also a parallel seminar programme. Here are my notes from day 1.

CCEAED6E-28F9-4D41-AE0B-301184620615

In the main arena the opening session was delivered by Chris Skidmore  Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation jointly at the Department for Education and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Chris highlighted recent government work supporting edtech initiatives around uni choice (Think uni app), Essay mills and assisstive technology. He also mentioned Ada: the national college for digital skills the new Institutes of Technology and UCLs Educate programme.

Chris Skidmore speaking

Chris Skidmore, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation

I spent most of my day hanging around the HE and FE theatre where there some interesting talks on areas including digilearn, authentication and distance learning and coding. Sue Beckingham, Principal Lecturer in Business Information Systems and Technology, Sheffield Hallam University presented on Developing Student Engagement and Empowerment. Hallam’s Student-led Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam (SMASH) group comprises of a group of students working in partnership with academics and creating exciting, student-created content. Sue has relied heavily on the HEA (now AdvanceHE) Framework for partnership in learning and teaching for structure and guidance.

Sue Beckingham, Principal Lecturer in Business Information Systems and Technology, Sheffield Hallam University

Sue Beckingham, Principal Lecturer in Business Information Systems and Technology, Sheffield Hallam University

I attended a session in the Global Showcase theatre on Furthering your understanding of China EdTech market presented by Su Si, Head of Education Technology and Knowledge Transfer – Department for International Trade. The session was aimed at tech start ups interested in working with China, so not directly relevant but still of interest given the RAU’s increasing presence in China.  In China the annual ICT in education spending in 2020 is estimated to reach GBP 44.2 billion driven by strong government funding support, increasing internet penetration, so there are lots of business opportunities for companies. Su started with some terminology and it is useful to know that China do not refer to edtech or learning technology and instead talk of education informatisation.

I enjoyed the session on The Importance of Creativity delivered by Erik Hanson, Senior Director of Marketing Communications at Apple. Erik talked about how creativity is often trumped by conformity, for example there are allegedly “only 7 movie posters” – 7 different poster layouts due to reluctance to experiment and risk being different. He gave some reasons for this conformity:  standardized testing in schools,  defunding of the humanities (it is down 70%), the rise of data (it gives instant feedback so gets rid of outliers). Unfortunately, as JFK once said, “conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth” and creativity needs a champion. Naturally Erik sees this champion as being Apple, cue trendy images of the ‘shot on an iphone campaign’.

Sticking with the film theme Cindy Rampersaud, Senior Vice President BTEC and Apprenticeships at Pearson explained how the blockbuster film Black Panther is a good example of how companies now employ less people but work with a bigger ecosystem of people. In the session Meeting the Needs of Lifelong Learners Cindy talked about a recent Global survey run by Pearson looking at how learners are changing. The survey completed by 11,000 learners across 19 countries found some interesting trends.

  • academic pathways are changing – lifelong long learning and diverse career paths are now the norm
  • a DIY mindset is reshaping education
  • people expect digital and virtual learning to be the norm
  • the shift in demographics and the aging population are a challenge, note however that this trend is not global
  • generation Z are making different choices and have interest in work/life balance, social responsibility, flexibility, more fluid careers
  • soft skills are increasingly important

The lifelong learning panel: Cindy Rampersaud, Carmel Kent, Head of Education Data Science - UCL EDUCATE, Ken Eisner, Director, Worldwide Education Programs and Global Lead, AWS Educate - Amazon Web Services and Paolo Dal Santo, Education business Development Manager EME

The lifelong learning panel: Cindy Rampersaud, Carmel Kent (UCL EDUCATE), Ken Eisner, (AWS Educate)  and Paolo Dal Santo (EME)

For the closing plenary Brian Cox enthused us all by talking about cosmology and how the laws of Nature we discovered here on Earth are applicable to the entire Universe.

Brian Cox, professor of particle physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester

Brian Cox, professor of particle physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester

The rest of the day was spent avoiding robots, being impressed by the vast amount of tech out there (though not always by what it does – some ideas should stay in the incubator!) and walking a long way – Bett is a vast and seems to be getting bigger each year!

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.

IMG_0162

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

IMG_0177

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).

IMG_8229.jpg
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.

education4

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.

IMG_8224.JPG

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…

IMG_8242.JPG

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