Lost (and found) in Translation: Transfiction, Tropes & Transnational Imaginaries.

The RAU & SDAU annual general meeting took place on Thursday 7th January 2021. It was a privilege to be invited to contribute to the meeting and share a summary of the research Marieke Guy, RAU’s former Digital Learning Manager (@digitalrau) and I carried out on the transnational online pivot in 2020. The presentation can be accessed here. The China blog series can be accessed here.

The RAU & SDAU annual general meeting was an opportunity to hear from a range of individuals from both institutions deliver their annual reports and reflections. SDAU staff attended the meeting in a face-to-face capacity on campus, RAU staff attended the meeting in a virtual capacity using Zoom, the popular videoconferencing tool.

A Road Less Translated

We heard from Prof. Ran Zhang Vice President of SDAU in the opening speech with translated version in English.

A slide from the presentation delivered by Professor Ran Zhang, Vice President of the SDAU

It was possible to relate to a great deal of what Prof. Ran Zhang was saying particularly the trope, concerning how the “…road ahead is long and striving is the only way forward” and how both staff and students have been “…striving hand in hand, together at heart to overcome challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic” (Zhang, 2020). This felt like an incredibly positive narrative, almost poetic, to both in order set the tone of the AGM itself and to share the transnational partnership narrative with SDAU. The translation intrigued me and led me down a path of exploring how we can make sense of translated text in a meaningful way.

Translation has been argued to be a “…a travelling concept” (Kaindl, 2014: p2). a “master metaphor epitomizing our present condition humaine in a globalised and centreless context, evoking the human search for a sense of self and belonging in a puzzling world full of change and difference” (Delabastita, 2009: p111 in Kaindl, 2014: p2). Having worked in a University Language Centre in a technical capacity working with translation and interpreting software called Sanako and having taught English for Academic Purposes (EAP), I was keen to explore translated texts of presentations and the verbal contributions of both institutions. A trope “…can refer to any type of figure of speech, theme, image, character, or plot element that is used many times. Any kind of literary device or any specific example can be a trope” (Literary Terms, n.d.). What tropes have we used and can we use to make sense of transnational learning realities? Transfiction can be defined as “…the introduction and (increased) use of translation-related phenomena in fiction” (Kaindl, 2014: p4). It felt like the stories were telling and the way that language was used in the meeting in a translated capacity and other contexts was compelling and opened up new ways of framing transnational projects. Drawing on fiction as a tool helps us to frame the transnational narrative as an opportunity to tell stories in a collaborative capacity. How can we use the translated realities to create new transnational imaginaries? Whilst it may seem odd to draw on translation as a lens through which to reflect on the AGM itself, it has been argued that translation can be applied in an interdisciplinary capacity in virtue of its “chameleonlike changeability” (D’hulst. 2010: p54 in Kaindl, 2014: p1).

A really positive message from Prof. Ran Zhang was that the “…epidemic did not stop the pace of cooperation. Our cooperation was more profound, more extensive and more fruitful” (Zhang, 2020). The use of the word “pace” invoked the idea of acceleration and speed.

A slide from the presentation delivered by Professor Ran Zhang, Vice President of the SDAU

The part of the speech exploring the idea of building “…a community with a shared future for mankind in higher education” reminded me of the question of the purpose of education. This question has a long genealogy. For example, in the Robbins Report in 1963, it is acknowledged that “The question is not a new one” and the  goes on to ask “…what purposes, what general social ends should be served by higher education?”  (London. The Robbins Report. 1963, p6).

@pipmcdonald delivering a presentation at the RAU & SDAU annual general meeting

I was required to submit my presentation a few days before the meeting itself for the purposes of translation. It would have been interesting to see the translated version.Whilst it is important to “…to acknowledge a plurality of aims”, it is identified that “There are controversial issues here concerning the balance between teaching and research in the various institutions of higher education…” (London. The Robbins Report. 1963, pp6-7). The tension between teaching and research is an issue I discussed in the presentation I delivered. It was argued that research-informed practice was an important professional value.

A slide from the presentation delivered by Professor Ran Zhang, Vice President of the SDAU

The final message about friendship and fruitful cooperation was also positive. Ultimately, learning  is about relationships and I hope this transnational partnership will also continue to be “fruitful” in a cooperative capacity (Zhang, 2020).

Positive messages for the future from the SDAU

Prof. Neil Ravenscroft, Pro Vice Chancellor at RAU then delivered a speech. I am very grateful to both Prof. Neil Ravenscroft and Dr Xianmin Chang, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for the opportunity to be involved with the AGM. Steve Finch, Director of China Programmes, who taught on the cohorts during both summer and winter in 2020, Tiger Wang, Director of RAU China Office & Daniel Wang, Deputy Director of RAU China Office were also present.

Professor Neil Ravenscroft delivering his speech at the RAU & SDAU annual general meeting

Lola Huo, who supported the SDAU project, contributed to a blog post about the SDAU project previously with Bonnie Wang here, delivered a presentation. We are very grateful for the contribution of both Lula Huo and Bonnie Wang to the SDAU project.

It was helpful to see how staff and students from SDAU experienced what I had been curating from RAU in both synchronous (interactive sessions) and asynchronous (pre-recorded lecturers in Panopto) capacities.

How the work we did at the RAU was turned into a pedagogical reality at SDAU

Lola’s thoroughly presentation included key points from the digital learning evaluation which was positive.

Positive Digital Learning Evaluation

Imaginaries have a rich genealogy and application and can be argued to be “…a jargon term that has been gaining currency in a number of social sciences” (Nerlich & Morris, 2015). A history of the term imaginaries and the different types including sociotechnical imaginaries can be found here (Nerlich & Morris, 2015). Castoriadis explored the imaginary and the “institution” in the book The Imaginary Institution of Society (Castoriadis, 1987: p115). Having studied Philosophy at Durham University, I discovered discussions about imagination in The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination by Sartre. The critical question is how can we collectively re-imagine the transnational partnership?

It could be argued that the AGM itself was a multimodal experience in that visual, audio, and video modalities were present simultaneously. Multimodality can be defined as “…representations in many modes…” (Kress, 2010: p22). One of the core findings from the poster presentation delivered at the University of East London Learning & Teaching Symposium and the and the presentation delivered at the University of Manchester #ChinaHE2020 China and Higher Education: Navigating Uncertain Futures conference was that multimodal learning was identified as a significant type of learning that was taking place. I have explored multimodality in the context of technology enhanced language learning (TELL) in a blog post for the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT), in the Twitter conference, PressEd Conference in 2019 and at the MFL Twitterati conference in 2019 oragnised by the Association for Language Learning (ALL). Perhaps the presentations containing both text and image were more powerful than those containing text alone. Potentially, the case for the multimodal imaginary is compelling.

Both text and image: a powerful multimodal message for future intentionality?

There is a sense that the transnational online pivot has enabled us to travel “…through sociocultural space” (Kaindl & Spitzl, 2014). I concluded the presentation I delivered with a tweet from Virna Rossi, an Education Developer (@VirnaRossi) which I also discussed in the presentation co-delivered with @MariekeGuy at the University of Manchester #ChinaHE2020 conference in December 2020. The slides are available here, blog post here, and recording is here. The idea of of the university operating in a “…translocal…[and] transtemporal form…” is compelling (Ross, 2020). This echoes the idea of translation as acting as a ‘deterritorialisator’, perhaps “virtual space” creates “non-places” (Rapport & Dawson, 1998: p6 in Kaindl, 2014: p3).

(Rossi, 2020) @VirnaRossi

It felt like what was discussed in the SDAU AGM helped us reflect on what the university is and what it could be in the context of adaptive, resilient, and hopeful transnational partnership. Lost in Translation was a film in released 2003 exploring how strangers meet in Tokyo (IMDB, n.d.). The title of this blog draws on the notion of being ‘lost’ but then also stresses being ‘found’, a critical transformational process. This blog is entitled the ‘RAU Digital Trasformation’ blog. Supporting the SDAU project through the lens of learning technology has truly been a transformational opportunity.


Association for Language Learning (ALL) (n.d.) (Online) Available at: https://www.all-languages.org.uk/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Castoriadis, C (1987) The Imaginary Institution of Society. [e-book] (Massachusetts: MIT Press) (Online) Available at:  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6UiOqYO0fx0C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

IMDB (n.d.) Lost in Translation (Online) Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335266/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2020) Presentation slides: The certainty of uncertainty: Transnational Online Pivot in China (Online) Available at: https://www2.slideshare.net/MariekeGuy/the-certainty-of-uncertainty-transnational-online-pivot-in-china-239927325 [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2020) Research poster: The Transnational Online Pivot: A Case Study Exploring Online Delivery in China (Online) Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/MariekeGuy/the-transnational-online-pivot-a-case-study-exploring-online-delivery-in-china-238494582 [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) Quán lì yǐ fù: Delivering online teaching in China. Digitalrau.wordpress.com, Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 16 June (Online) Available at: https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2020/06/16/quan-li-yi-fu-delivering-online-teaching-in-china/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020 Checking the Tech in China. Digitalrau.wordpress.com, Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 26 June (Online) Available at: https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2019/06/26/checking-the-tech-in-china/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) Yībù yīgè jiǎoyìn: Delivering online teaching in China. Digitalrau.wordpress.com, Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 29 June (Online) Available at: https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2020/06/29/yibu-yige-jiaoyin-delivering-online-teaching-in-china/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) Dēng gāo bì zì: Delivering online teaching in China. Digitalrau.wordpress.com, Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 31 August. Available at: https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2020/07/31/deng-gao-bi-zi-delivering-online-teaching-in-china/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) Dēng gāo bì zì: Delivering online teaching in China. Digitalrau.wordpress.com, Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 18 Sep. Available at: https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2020/07/31/deng-gao-bi-zi-delivering-online-teaching-in-china/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) The Certainty of Uncertainty: Transnational Online Pivot in China Digitalrau.wordpress.com, Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 11 Dec (Online) Available at: https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/category/china/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Kaindl, K & Spitzl, K (eds) (2014) Transfiction Research into the realities of translational fiction. [e-book] (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company (Online) Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bUeNAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR1&dq=transfiction&ots=_9ddOS3Knk&sig=HrL-qfZ-cFhV1kQRSrgPh6Sxcfk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Kaindl, K (2014) Going Fictional! Translators and interpreters ion literature and film: An introduction in Transfiction Research into the realities of translational fiction. [e-book] (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Ch.1 pp1-27 (Online) Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bUeNAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR1&dq=transfiction&ots=_9ddOS3Knk&sig=HrL-qfZ-cFhV1kQRSrgPh6Sxcfk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Kress, G (2010) Multimodality A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication (Oxon, Canada & USA: Routledge)

London. Her Majesty’s Stationary Office. (1963) The Robbins Report. Available at: http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/robbins/robbins1963.html [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2019, April 18) Me, Myself and Multimodality [Twitter moment] Retrieved from https://twitter.com/i/events/1118963497638006785 [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P, 2016 in MacKinnon, T (ed) (2016) Close Encounters of the Multimodal Kind. altc.alt.ac.uk/blog, learning technology blog. [blog] 4 July (Online) Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2016/07/close-encounters-of-the-multimodal-kind/#gref [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2020) Hold Your Digital Horses. Time for an Online Symposium. Digitalrau.wordpress.com Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 18 Sep. (Online) Available at: https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/hold-your-digital-horses-time-for-an-online-symposium/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2020) Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià. Laozi: Delivering online teaching in China.Digitalrau.wordpress.com Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 29 June (Online) Available at: https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2020/06/29/and-remember-each-10000-mile-journey-begins-with-just-1-step-%e5%8d%83%e9%87%8c%e4%b9%8b%e8%a1%8c%ef%bc%8c%e5%a7%8b%e6%96%bc%e8%b6%b3%e4%b8%8b-qianli-zhi-xing-shiyu-zu-xia-laozi/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2020) SDAU Research Projects. SDAU Annual General Meeting. Online. January 7th 2021. Online.

Rossi, V. (2020) 2nd December. Available at: https://twitter.com/VirnaRossi/status/1334246842176040973 (Accessed: 10th December 2020)

Sanako (n.d.) (Online) Available at: https://sanako.com/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Literary Terms (n.d.) Trope (Online) Available at: https://literaryterms.net/trope/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Nerlich, B & Morris, C (2015) Imagining Imaginaries. Blogs.nottingham.ac.uk, Public Science blog, [blog] 23 April (Online) Available at: https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2015/04/23/imagining-imaginaries/ [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Sartre, J, P (2010) The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination (Oxon: Routledge)

Hold Your Digital Horses. Time for an Online Symposium.

The University of East London (UEL) hosted their Learning & Teaching Symposium on Microsoft Teams on Thursday 17th September. A slide from the final keynote delivered by Simon Thomson (@digisim) from the Centre for Innovation in Education exploring the Physical and Digital: Exploring places and spaces for hybrid teaching in a post-lockdown world.

Pivot within a Pivot. Digital Wheel within a Digital Wheel.

Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams have played an important role at RAU, a Zoom with the SDAU project which was the topic of a poster presentation delivered at the event by @digitalrau, Digital Learning Manager and @pipmcdonald, Learning Technologist. The event had different rooms with different themes where presentations were delivered simultaneously. Our room explored Teaching Principles in Practice. We successfully submitted a proposal to the symposium exploring the transnational online pivot relating to the longstanding project the RAU is involved with working with Shandong University in China. The transational pivot was almost like a pivot within a pivot, a digital wheel within a digital wheel.

A Learning & Teaching Symposium: Tech Incognita for Terra Incognita?

As a learning and teaching event, my initial concern was that both our roles and activity were concerned with learning technology and not pedagogy in an explicit capacity. Some Learning technologist roles are more technical and others are more focused on pedagogy. However, the more work I carried out on the project the more I realised the pedagogy was driving the narrative of the project rather than the technology. This was echoed In the Microsoft Teams chat during our poster presentation.

Never Mind the Buzztech. Putting the Learning in Learning Technology.

“When a ‘learner’ sits alone in front of a computer and engages with a text displayed on screen there is more going on than the interaction of that individual with the screen” (Jewitt, 2006: p76). An evaluation form in Microsoft Forms with a range a questions including using Likert scale and ranking was created and emailed to lecturers who taught on the project. The benefit of using Microsoft Forms is that the results are created in real time. One of the questions asked what types of learning took place during the interactive sessions? Lecturers identified that multimodal learning was form of learning that took place the most. Multimodality can be understood whereby “…all modes of communication are attended to as part of meaning making…” (Jewitt, 2006: p3 ). More specifically, multimodality can be seen as “…images, sounds, space, and movement representing and communicating meaning (Kress, 2010, in Miller & McVee). Multimodal approaches to pedagogy are becoming widely used in academia (Jewitt, Bezemer & O’Halloran, 2016). Having explored multimodality in education at the MFL Twitterati conference at the Ashcombe school  in Dorking organised by the Association for Language Learning (ALL) in 2019 and at the Missing Maps mapathon event at University College London (UCL) in 2019 – , I was keen to explore this more. Zoom could be argued to be a platform for “multimodal discourse” (Kress & van Leewen, 2001). It could also be argued that multimodality literacy could potentially help to move across any potential language barriers. Participating in a Zoom meeting is a multimodal experience – “When a ‘learner’ sits alone in front of a computer and engages with a text displayed on screen there is more going on than the interaction of that individual with the screen” (Jewitt, 2006: p76). A further study could be completed to explore the impact of multimodal approaches to learning and teaching.  

The Power of Research Informed Pedagogic Practice

Lecturers wanted to explore how to use the interactive features in Zoom included break out rooms, polling and whiteboard. The technology was a platform for the pedagogy. There is a well-known quotation that ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear’. What about the Learning Technologist?  The truth is Learning Technologists appeared in a radical way particularly during lockdown to facilitate the online pivot.

When asked what approaches Lecturers took in the interactive sessions on Zoom, the majority used the chat function and share screen. What emerged pedagogically was that some teachers wanted to explore more features such as polling, breakout rooms and whiteboard. As a Learning Technologist, this was exciting to support and a model we hope to follow up on the next iteration of the project. Pedagogy driving the narrative of the project and not necessarily the technology was the critical thread we wanted to stress in the presentation.

With respect to how Lecturers engaged with students in interactive sessions, approaches included  team teaching or having more than one lecturer is a Zoom meeting. This seemed like an effective approach for example while one Lecturer presented content, another Lecturer could manage the chat. This approach makes sense particularly in virtue of the fact that over one time with a hundred students were in meetings at any one time.  Successfully engaging with such a large number of students is always challenge. Lecturers’ ideas were impressive, for example, one lecturer was going to do a live auction in Zoom which was a really engaging scenario-based approach.

Two Hats or Two Tribes: A Teacher & A Learning Technologist

From my experience in the role of a Teacher of English for Academic Purposes (EAP), one of the challenges is that few students speak up in transnational contexts. This was also a point that was raised as part of the research project.  One of the approaches one Lecturer took was to have smaller groups running consecutively where students had to work collaboratively to create a proposal on PowerPoint and each person would have a role assigned to them a bit like De Bono’s thinking hats (De Bono, 2000). We hope to take this model forward. Emergent pedagogies were important for us. We could move towards a model of De Bono’s Digital Thinking Hats. One of the questions we were asked about our research project was about this approach:

My response was to remind everyone that learning is always about relationships and explained how the approach worked in terms of smaller groups helping students to actively contribute. It was also meaningful to feedback to the lecturer who created the approach that the approach he took was shared and successful.

Zoom, Boom & Bloom

Both student and lecturer feedback was similar about not having a personal connection in a face to face setting, there was evidence of valuable personalised touches to pedagogy. The phrase I used in the presentation was that it was not the ‘ghost ion the zoom machine’. For example, one of Lecturers showed the students her garden and environment during an interactive session. Students of Agriculture as a curriculum area would find this helpful in real time. Additionally, a Lecturer allowed students to talk with her son who was a student studying Mining Engineering and they shared a valuable discussion on sustainability. Even given the contextual restraints of the transnational online pivot, unplanned valuable pedagogic moments can still take place. It is not just Zoom, doom and gloom, but rather Zoom, Boom and Bloom! Bloom’s taxonomy has been revised to include digital skills (McNulty, 2020). Perhaps a specific taxonomy could be created for Zoom or video meeting-based platforms.

Back to the Future, Feedback & Feedforward

The first keynote of the symposium was delivered by Dr. Naomi Winstone (@DocWinstone) from University of Surrey exploring moving feedback forwards in higher education. She showed a word cloud about how people feel about feedback and talked about embracing vulnerability in feedback scenarios:

The idea of feedback was also relevant to our research project. We wanted to explore the extent to which peer review of the interactive sessions would be helpful:

We also received some positive feedback from our poster presentation from one of the session Chairs, Ella Mitchell (@meatyloafy) on Twitter:

The Power of Blogging, Reflection and Digital Transformation

At RAU we have a digital transformation blog as a platform for reflection. One of the interesting parts of this project was the reflective blogs posts created by Marieke, myself and Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo from Sinocampus in China. Reflective blogs are useful tool particularly in a case study to dig deep and immerse in the complexities. The blog series can be accessed here. When working in a collaborative capacity with transnational patterns, it felt important to invite our colleagues, Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo from Sincocampus in China to reflect too.

The Dissolution of face-to-face learning. You have reached the end of education. Stuck between a digital rock and a digital hard place?

Lecturers are used to traditional face-to-face settings and one lecturer made reference to how they checked students faces for understanding in the online questionnaire. As Simon Thompson (@digisim) said in the final keynote, “We hold face to face very dear” (Thompson, 2020). Notwithstanding, the Lecturers’ ability to adapt content and deliver was impressive. In the final keynote of the Learning & Teaching symposium, Simon Thompson (@digisim) said “we have all had to learn new skills in digital space. [It’s about]…digital need not digital skills” (Thompson, 2020).  The need to adapt was undeniable. Perhaps we can change the saying ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ to ‘when the lecturers are ready the learning technologist will appear’.

Thoroughly Modern Technology. Unpacking the logistics of Online Learning

Other presentations were both relevant and helpful. For example, it was interesting to hear how David Murray, Dr Caroline McGlynn and Khadija Ahmed from the University of East London (UEL) had introduced welcome slides as a simple yet highly effective way to engage students and overcome what they called what they called ‘unexpected barriers’ to online learning and teaching. The Salsa music was an effective way to engage students.

Going, Growing & Knowing?

In conclusion, we hope to explore working with China within the JISC international community, we are keen to unpack how digital accessibility will have an impact on how we plan the delivery of next part of the project, more specifically with respect to captions. We hope to contribute to the #ChinaHE20 online event by University of Manchester exploring how to work with uncertainty – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/china-and-higher-education-navigating-uncertain-futures-tickets-112516945212. A key idea that resonated with me in relation to this project was that “We don’t just go through projects, we GROW through projects”. The opportunity to participate in this symposium in this capacity as a research informed model has undoubtedly helped us with this growth process. Pivots aside, let’s keep growing together.

It is possible to access the poster on Slideshare here.

The video recordings of the presentations can be accessed on YouTube here.

The recording of our presentation can be accessed at 19:04 here:


De Bono, E (2000) Six Thinking Hats (Penguin: London)

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2020) The Transational Online Pivot: A Case Study Exploring Online Delivery in ChinaIn: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

Jewitt, C (2006) Technology, Literacy, Learning: A Multimodal Apprach (Oxon & New York: Routeldge)

Jewitt, C, Bezemer, J & O’Halloran, K (2016) Introducing Multimodality (Oxon & New York: Routledge)

Kress, G & van Leewen, T (2001) Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication (London: Arnold; New York, Oxford University Press)

University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September.

McNulty, N (2020) Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (Cape Town: HH Books)

Miller, S, M & McVee, M, B () Multimodal Composing: The Essential 21st Century Literacy in Multimodal Composing in Classrooms Learning and Teaching for the Digital World (Routledge: London and New York). pp1-13

Murray, D, McGlynn, C & Ahmed, Khadija (2020) The logistics of online learning. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

Thomson, S (2020) Exploring places and spaces for hybrid teaching in a post-lockdown world. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

UEL Learning and Teaching Symposium 2020 (2020) UEL Learning and Teaching Symposium 2020 – Room 1 – Teaching Principles in Practice [online video] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtvJB4KnO2Q&list=PLuuOV6nj7vpT9pbYj2Xy889O4C0X6_FoZ&index=4&t=1154s [Accessed 6th October 2020]

Winstone, N (2020) Moving feedback forwards in higher education. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.


Me, Myself, and My MIEE – A Microsoft Education Journey

It is Monday morning at 9am (or perhaps a bit before). You open your emails for the first time of the day.

Me, Myself, and My MIEE

Receiving this email from Microsoft really did brighten up a Learning Technologist’s day. It was the ‘digital iceberg’ of a great deal of work underneath.

My congratulations email

Marieke Guy (@digitalrau) our Digital Learning Manager and Pip McDonald, Learning Technologist-Support both successfully achieved the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) for 2020-2021. At RAU, we use a variety of Microsoft tools. Like many institutions, one of the most used tools is Microsoft Teams to communicate, message and carry out meetings, particularly during lockdown. When I joined RAU, I shared my experience of being a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) for 2019-2020 with the Learning technology team, and created a document to explain the application process and to highlight the main benefits of taking part.

Throughout 2019 and in the role of a Learning Technology Project Manager working in London, I made the most of the opportunities and events Microsoft and others including Google for Education conference, a TeachMeet event at Google Digital Academy, various events at Twitter and Facebook for Education event. It is possible to say that I intentionally sought a form of ‘EdTech Tourism’ or a working ‘EdTech holiday’. For example, I visited the Microsoft Reactor for the Augmented Reality Meetup to explore a range of mixed reality approaches. One of the participants attended in a virtual presence capacity which was exciting on a tablet on wheels. Reactors are community spaces for learning and meeting (Microsoft, 2020)

t Microsoft headquarters in the Paddington office
A visit to Microsft Reactor, London 2018

Additionally, I also went to Microsoft headquarters in the Paddington office in London to a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) event in June 2019. The event included a spotlight component where Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) shared their journey, explored new updates, discussed Minecraft, Flipgrid, artificial intelligence (AI) and we explored using Teams as a digital learning environment (DLE).

Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) event at Microsoft HQ in Paddington, Londopn in June 2019.

I visited Dell headquarters where Nicola Meek from Microsoft Education (@MeekNicola) presented on how to use Immersive Reader. Watch a video about the Immersive Reader here.

Meeting Nicola Meek
A selfie with the inspiration Nicola Meek (@MeekNicola) from Microsoft at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge at the LearnED Roadshow in February 2019

What does it mean to read in an immersive capacity? How is immersive reading different from traditional reading? I was inspired by her presentation and the powerful capabilities of the tool in terms of making me really reflect on the impact of working towards digital accessibility. In the Dyslexia Awareness Part 1 Module 4 Inclusive Classroom, a headteacher, Josh Clark was interviewed. He said “Everything we do for a dyslexic learner, benefits all learners…hurts no one helps everyone and can be transformative…”. For me, this really opened my mind how technology could be sued a transformative capacity for every learner. This really made me think. Check out the course here.

Josh Clark
Inpsiring words from Josh Clark, Head of School, The Schenck School, Atlanta, USA

As a result of this, I went on to present to teachers on how to use this tool in the MFL Twitterati conference organised by the Association for Language Learning (ALL) at the Ashcombe school in Dorking in April 2019 exploring multimodal approaches to teaching and learning a language. Check out the hashtag #MFLTwitterati on Twitter to find out more and follow @joedale and @helenMyers to explore technology enhanced language learning (TELL).

At the LearnED event organised by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) at Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge University, there was a live demonstration classroom where students used OneNote in a collaborative capacity to explore fake news. Callum (@Callum_MSFT) from Microsoft demonstrated the Microsoft Translate mobile phone application.

Microsoft Education Roadshow
LearnEd Roadshow at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge

I participated in the Microsoft Education Roadshow organised by Hackney Learning Trust in June 2018 which took place in the Tomlinson Centre in London. A teacher led the sessions and we used surface books. One of the most interesting takeaways was how to use Paint 3D and Windows mixed reality. I am sure that a 3D dinosaur was and exciting addition to any 21st century classroom.

Microsoft Education Roadshow
Microsoft Education Roadshow at the Tomlinson Centre, London in June 2018

At the Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy organised and delivered by CTS, I was introduced to the Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC). The MEC is an online platform providing free resources, professional development opportunities and learning pathways. It is possible to redeem a code to earn digital badges. We also explored Whiteboard as a tool for real time collaboration.

Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy
Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy at Microsoft HQ in Paddington in London in December 2018

As a result of the ‘EdTech Tourism’ learning technology working holiday approach, I also discovered the how to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), the first step in the Microsoft Education journey. In order to achieve Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), joining the Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC) and completing 2 hours of learning are required. In order to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE), a self-nomination form is required involving the creation of a 2-minute video or Sway that demonstrates how you integrate technology into teaching and learning answering four key questions. Find out more about the self-nomination process here.  I successfully submitted my first application in June 2019.

My MIEE Application

Throughout lockdown, Microsoft Education offered option weekly support meetings which was very helpful in addition the monthly calls with guest speakers and we explored new updates which took place on Teams for example with Merge Cube, Wakelet and Flipgrid.

Merge cube
Tweeting about new developments from the MIEE monthly call
Getting excited about Wakelet and Flipgrid news from the MIEE monthly call

One of the highlights of the MIEE journey was the UK MIEE End of Year Celebration for 2020. In addition to hearing from Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Education at Microsoft (@AnthonySalcito), the Microsoft Education team sent a party pack with an iced brownie. It is possible to have your ‘digital cakes’ and eat them!

Have your digital cakes and eat them?

What is being an MIEE really about? For me, it is not about perfection, it is about being passionate about learning. Most meaningful discussions about learning technology are just about learning.  My passion for both learning and technology was consolidated by the MIEE experience. It is wonderful to find a community who genuinely celebrates this. Check out the video exploring making connections here. “Microsoft supports a thriving community of educators who are working together to change students’ lives and build a better world. The Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program (Microsoft, 2020).

So perhaps it is not about ‘Me, Myself and my MIEE, but rather, “We are MIEE” (Microsoft, 2020).

Congratulations to the new MIEEs 20-21.


British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) LearnEd Roadshow (Online) Available at:  https://www.besa.org.uk/events/learned-roadshow-2/ [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Education (2018) Make Lifelong connections in the Microsoft Educator Community. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC0xb-7OoN4&feature=emb_logo [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Education (2019) What is the Immersive Reader? Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHJJCLV-DNg [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsft (2020) Microsoft Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC) (Online) Available at: https://education.microsoft.com/en-us [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Join the new class of Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts. Educationblog.Microsoft.com. Education Blog. [blog] May 6. Available at: https://educationblog.microsoft.com/en-us/2020/05/join-the-new-class-of-microsoft-innovative-educator-experts/ [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) Teams Site (Online) Available at: https://teams.microsoft.com [Accessed: 3rd October 2020]

Microsoft (2019) Dyslexia Awareness Part 1 Module 4 Inclusive Classroom (Online) Available at: https://education.microsoft.com/en-us/course/30a7b5e8/overview [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Programs – MIE Expert (Online) Available at: https://education.microsoft.com/en-us/resource/1703c312 [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Reactor (2020) Reactor (Online) Available at: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/reactor/ [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Association of Language Learning (ALL) Association of Language Learning (ALL) (Online) Available at: https://www.all-languages.org.uk/ [Accessed: 4th September 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


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]