Saturday 10 September 2011

ALT-C 2011 Wednesday

On Wednesday again I went into College again for student inductions - they have been going really well and by our third day we are getting into our stride.  A few other matters cropped up that I wanted to sort out so it was a bit later by the time I set off to Leeds.
I got to the conference for lunchtime (again) so in good time for the keynote which was Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology presented by Karen Cator.  There will be plenty of reviews and recordings of the presentation and the slides of the presentation are on the ALT Crowdvine site etc. so I'll just concentrate on what I thought of it and what appealed to me.  First of all the fact that it was online and it worked very well was a major achievement and has restored some of my faith in online conferences.  The set up using Adobe Connect was good, I like the interface and it works if you have expertise to control it in all the different areas - technical and moderating.  The speaker, Karen Cator, was very appealing and engaging and talked quickly and enthusiastically (there is nothing worse than someone droning on when you are watching them deliver online).  It is a really difficult thing to do because if you're not getting feedback from the audience as you do in real life then you have no prompts.  I also liked the fact that you could see and hear her which makes it easier for me as if it's just audio I have to concentrate really hard and build a visual picture in my mind to match the audio (but that's another story).  
Karen talked about the Superbowl - Transmedia Bowl and how the 30sec adverts are so important - not just for the 30secs when broadcast but the before and after and how the consumers attention has to be grabbed.  There are competitions and contests including popular video clips and games such as Angry Birds (yay).  An interesting point was illustrated by the popularity of a webcam of baby eagles and how they had been filmed from the eggs being laid to hatching and how it has fascinated so many people.  I think it's a great example because it goes against the perception of people having short attention spans and not wanting to be involved with something that is not high noise and action.  If an event is interesting then people will become absorbed and want to follow it.
She went on to talk about how there is s
o much happening outside education using technology.  
Digital content allows us to access experts.  In education we are data poor but the transition to digital will lead to powered up learning environments.  The idea of a Harry Potter style newspapers are quite feasible with moving and changing images embedded in other media.

National Education Technology Plan.
How can we create a totally connected teaching profession? 
Is technology a 'force multiplier'?

School can become a node on network of learning. Learning should be keep learning between frustration and boredom to include productivity.

Digital Promise.  Research focusing on the market place & demand. Intelligent demand cycle.
Connected online collaborative communities using motivational things like badges - levelling up like in games. Learning data could travel with the student. Bring the data & information closer to the student.
We still need to be aware of equity issues. Opportunity to learn - places  to access technology - access to government information and health information. The inverted classroom - do work & problems at home then collaborate & share at school. 
Tests are inadequate to answer question of whether technology is worth it.

Next event was the ALT AGM which was quite well attended.  Reports from various people including the treasurer and president.  One highlight for me was confirmation of being elected as vice chair.

Then on to chairing a session by Terri Kinnison and others from LSIS which was to Launch the new LSIS Technology toolkits.  I was particularly interested in this because of Generator which was originally a tool introduced by Becta.  The purpose of Generator is to help FE organisations assess and improve their use of technology.  I have a slightly sceptical view of using Generator which I have discussed before when we were part of the Becta Technology Exemplar Network.  It does have some value as it can be used as a framework and outlines the areas that use of technology in colleges can be considered to be part of.  It has value as a measure of e-maturity and produces results in a visually appealing way.  However, in the previous version, it was laborious to use and very time consuming.  We spent a lot of time completing a full review and I presented it at our e-Learning strategy group meeting and demonstrated how the tool could be used but there was no way any teaching or management staff were going to actually sit down and do a review.  We did use it to inform our e-Learning strategy but not as the only contributing factor.  I am hopeful that the new improved version that LSIS have launched will be more focused and useful.  The presentation and presenters were very interesting and informative.

Next I chaired another session which was 3 short papers.
The first one was Camels in Wales! – finding riches in a barren climate by Steve Woodward, Trevor Price, Haydn Blackey. Trevor delivered an interesting presentation about the CAMEL project and how collaborative groups had been set up and met to discuss how to use and develop various e-learning technologies.  
The second paper was The Bloomsbury Media Cloud – a shared digital media service by Sarah Sherman.  
Sarah gave a great presentation about the collaboration between the Bloomsbury group of colleges and their development of media cloud digital repository and sharing service.

Finally Sue Sentance presented Supporting education students on school placements with mobile devices.  This project used mobile phone texting to help students with reading and assignments while training as teachers.  It was interesting to me for a few reasons.  Firstly I think texting is one of the most valuable communication tools that there is and even if you are limited to 140 or 160 characters it is still possible to have meaningful discussions and exchanges of information and learning.  Secondly when on teacher training and when teaching it becomes all encompassing and overwhelming.  It is really difficult to fit in the studying and academic work too so prompts and support at regular intervals are invaluable.  Thirdly, we use txttools at our College for tutors and lecturers to communicate with students so it is interesting to compare ways of usage and get ideas for improving our practice.

Another great day

Thursday 8 September 2011

PechaKucha Tuesday ALT-C 2011

The PechaKucha sessions were really excellent and because of the fast pace had to be interesting and capture the attention of the audience.  The sessions I went to were on the Tuesday afternoon.  The presentation is a demonstration of the ePoster that was submitted.
The ones I really enjoyed were Tim Neumann's Matchmaking Learning Technologists and Flourishing Collaborations and also Steve Bunce's Arduino culture – Creative collaboration inside and outside of school.  I liked Tim's because the slides were really impressive and cool and he was great at delivering it - funny and informative which is a difficult combination.
I liked Steve's because it was related to practical activities and schools and it was cool and he was knowledgeable and made you want to know more about it.  You could see how kids would want to be involved in the learning.  

In the next session, the graveyard slot, I did a PechaKucha about Showing off a Learning Resources Centre - it went ok I think and the infographics on the slides looked good.
The advantages of PechaKucha are that the slides have to be engaging - in fact a lot of other sessions could do with making the presentation slides a bit more upbeat rather than a series of bullet pointed text or graphs that you can't see properly.
The only disappointing thing was that the display shows two screens - one should have been the presentation and one the ePoster but they both showed the presentation.  I would have liked to see the ePosters at the same time as the presenter was delivering.  

ALT-C 2011 Tuesday

Today was the first 'proper' day of the ALT conference although there were pre conference events yesterday including workshops.  The conference is held this year at Leeds University which location wise is good for me as it is relatively near home / work however the campus and buildings themselves are quite spread out and it takes a while to become orientated (& why do they have that gravel outside the EC Stoner building?).  Apart from that it's fine.  I had to go to College first as it is our inductions this week and I so didn't want to miss them as we have an exciting new format to the sessions and wanted to check that everything was set up and working ok.  I arrived luckily just in time for lunch which was really nice (goats cheese and onion tart and salad) much better than the usual conference food.  I sat and chatted to a few people and then headed off to a session.
The session was Emerging Practice in a Digital Age - institutional approaches to changing practice Sarah Knight, Clare Killen &Andy Ramsden.  It was a very popular session and the room was packed.  It focused on how universities and colleges can improve the learning experience.
The question asked to the audience was what challenges are there for institutions to get staff and students using technologies which was a 2 mins group activity.  The usual responses including IT depts, Lecturers - lack of skills, lack of time, time to develop digital literacies, different devices - awareness of and stability of technologies, senior management, budget - investment doing more with less, change.  
The presenters suggested that the drivers for change include inspections e.g. Ofsted, expectations, the need for personalisation, economic pressures.  
Behaviours changing lead to collaborative.  
The JISC guide has case studies about working with students, partnership with students, preparing for the future.  Focused on exploring and developing together collaborative.  
Then they moved onto to linking learning to location which was based on QR code activities at University Campus Suffolk. 
QR codes are a mainstream activity now - everyone in the room had used them, 50% had created.
I was really interested in this part of the session as we have done a lot of work lately using QR codes.

The purpose of the activity is low threshold and is a location aware activity.
Basically the first activity is to scan a code - download an App to do so if necessary.  
The second activity was to read a question, scan a code, pick an answer, submit.The results are fed back into a database which creates a leaderboard.  This is a great idea - they used Google docs I think and a Google site.  The only thing that could be slightly changed would be that you answer the question and submit the answer and then it sends you to a link to a video with information about the topic - would it be possible to look at the information before answering? 
The session was interesting and has some useful ideas that I'll try to incorporate into the things that we do. I think lots of people are using them but maybe just as links to websites with information not as a teaching and learning tool.  The fact that it was a simple but very effective activity means that we could definitely use some of it with our College learners.

The next session was short papers about managing change.  
First Fleur Corfield and Peter Bird.  Can technology save us? The experience of the Cascade project.  
A recognition that change needs managing.  Looked at Enterprise Architecture.
Curriculum design & development.  The issues were staff changes, a need to see information separate from IT systems, no Chief Information Officer and how to engage stakeholders.  Considered too difficult but not clear why too difficult.  Introduced pilots for curriculum change.  Change the VLE - admin- timetable - personalised timetables.  Create new system as well as curriculum content.
There is a need to engage with stakeholders at ground level - admin staff and academic staff.  Have to be nice to them 'touchy feely'  in order to build up trust with the project.  One way is to make the process anonymous
so no fear of being blamed.

Then Marion Manton Can technology save us? The experience of the Cascade project 
Cascade project.  Problem of ELQ students withdrawn funding.  Therefore need more efficient more lines of work.  The things that worked / appealed were those that are cheap to sustain and were obviously in need of change.  There needs to be some early winners in order to convince people that it is going to work and be of benefit.  One way is to pick the obvious people on the ground with influence which carries the project along.
Online payment and enrolment was a major success.
Staff savings are inevitable natural wastage or otherwise.
Discussion about Online marking - On screen marking - Grademark

The third part of the session was Not future-proofed but future-focused: graduate attributes and the digital university by Neil Witt, Helen Beetham.  
They discussed how practices are changing which has an effect on the learning literacies and digital literacies students & staff.  90% of all new jobs require ICT competency.  The results of the focus groups showed that students value eLearning experience when it is relevant to their learning.  It is important to ask students what they want.
Device neutrality is an important issue and also confidence in using technology.
Although students may own laptops they don't necessarily want to use it as it may be a family one or they may be worried about security if they carry it to University or College.  Students want access to the institutions computers and to be able to use them easily while studying.  A VLE is preferred for a central point for accessing resources and course materials.  It is the data / information that needs to be portable and mobile therefore use memory sticks to move from home to Uni etc. not necessarily the device.

This was a point that was brought up at some of the other sessions and was interesting to me although maybe obvious to others - when we are talking about mobile learning it doesn't necessarily mean that the device + content has to be carried around, what it means is that the information is mobile and therefore can be accessed from a variety of different devices and places and in a variety of formats.

Sunday 4 September 2011

ALT-C 2011

This week I'll be attending the Association for Learning Technology Conference at the University of Leeds.
I'm looking forward to it as there are a wide variety of interesting and informative events taking place.  I'll be blogging from the conference whenever I can with the label altc2011

(It's also the first week of term at College this week and the first week of our new exciting student inductions so I'll be living a double life some days - going to College first then to Leeds.....)