Wednesday 31 October 2012

LOL Mini – Learning to Learn Online JISC RSC Scotland

Last week I took part in a online session LOL Mini – Learning to Learn Online which was presented and facilitated by JISC RSC Scotland.  They used Blackboard Collaborate and the JISC RSC Moodle.  The session lasted for 2 hours but was broken down into smaller sessions and activities.
The joing instructions were simple and straightforward i.e. a link in an email accompanied by a various instructions and some documents including an induction pack, webinar guidance and a Blackboard Collaborate guide.
I must admit that I didn't read all the instructions but as I've used the platform before it was ok and I failed to read the instruction saying that you would need a photo to update a profile etc. etc. although I had one of those handy too.  One slight issue was that i had a meeting immediately preceding the online session so I set up my computer beforehand with the email open and the link ready just to click on when i got back to my office at 09.59am for a 10.00am start.  The link didn't work and I didn't know that they had sent a new link through at 09.47am so that caused a slight delay in getting connected.
I liked the structure of the session which consisted of activities.  A powerpoint slide showed what the activities were and how long you had to do them.  Basically you had to go off and log into Moodle and create your profile and then do a quiz.  Actually I'm not sure that I've ever done an online session like that where you go off into the VLE and log in and then come back.  I've done it before where you go and search on the internet for something or watch a video and answer a quiz.  It worked well but you were relying on people having a little bit of knowledge and some skills to navigate to different programmes.  The quiz was ok although it was possible to input a wrong answer, check it, change it to the correct one then submit your answers.  Also if you spelt a word differently, not wrongly, it marked it as wrong. 
Then there was some feedback and discussion back in the webinar and some voting.  I do like voting in a online webinar / virtual classroom - it adds interest and makes you feel part of the discussion.  Also it's useful from a presenter point of view as you know whether people are still there.
Next there was a break.  Good idea - then you can go for a cup of tea for 5 mins without feeling your missing anything or sneaking off. 
Next activity was using the discussion boards and you had to post a thread about your favourite meal.  I'm not a great fan of discussion boards as i find them clunky but it worked very well.  It was an easy topic so you didn't have to think too hard about what you wanted to say but could concentrate on the platform and also reading other peoples entries.  I enjoyed that activity and it is a good idea not to have it right at the beginning of the session but once people are a bit more settled in.  Again it was convenient to have a photo available - of food. 
Then there was a talk by Grainne Hamilton about Learning to Learn Online which gave information and insight into some of the theory as well as the practice. 
The session finished with a discussion about how people had felt about the activities and whether people were considering taking part in online courses. 
I thought the session was good as it was structured, clear instructions and well organised.  Participation and discussion was mainly though the chat facility which again I like.  It's not that i don't like the audio and video but in some situations it's simpler to have the presenters using audio and video and the partcipants using text chat and other facilities such as voting.  There was the option of using audio.  The blackboard collaborate platform worked well. 

Sunday 28 October 2012

ALT-C Wednesday and Thursday

The highlights and interesting points from the second and third days of the ALT conference were

  • The Pecha Kuchas were varied and interesting and are good sessions to go to at the end of the day when you are starting to flag as they rekindle your interest and inspire you.  I have found that the presenters put a great amount of effort into the presentations and engage you in a performance.  I've learnt a great deal by attending a number of pecha kucha sessions and there is a distinct lack of white backgrounds with bullet pointed black text ......
    • Open Nottingham - knowledge without borders - social responsibility
    • MMU - Peter Reed - attitudes to OER - openness is like a dimmer switch, not on or off.  OER is still mostly a bottom up phenomenon
    • Tim Neumann All the Worlds a Stage - hat with a light bulb - using the concept of a media production for learning.  Screen writer = curriculum designer, Actor = student, Director = lecturer, blended together by the tutor
    • UEL Steve Brand European Virtual environment for work based learning - blended learning model - open source VLE E-VIEW platform - scalability is the most important thing.
    • Richard Lilleker Middlesbrough College - The Mobile Journey.
  • One of the most interesting sessions was by Steve Bunce Can knitting develop programming skills?  It was a great talk with practical activities too.  Knitting has many similarities in that you have to learn and work out the sequence of events which will lead to the correct pattern.  The correct pattern or sequence of moves will lead to the result working out correctly.
  • Tracey and I did a short presentation entitled Innovative Inductions and Feedback
  • Pandeli Glavanis from the American University in Cairo gave a fascinating talk about lecture capture and how it had been essential due to the political crisis in Egypt.  Training was given to lecturers for 12 minutes then they recorded lectures from home and students viewed them via the Internet.  Enhanced active learning.
  •  Gilly Salmon talked about the real renaissance for learning - innovation not invention - flying not flapping, got to do something different - mainstreaming.  Work on capacity building rather than staff development, stop face to face workshops and scale up. 
  • The other big topic of the conference (along with OER and upscaling) was big data and analytics.  Big data is hitting the world - 90% of digital data has been generated in the last 2 years.  Analytics dashboards are needed in all VLEs.  Predictive models can be used to predict whether students are at risk of not achieving even before they have started.  There is a shift from data collecting to data connecting.  
The conference dinner was excellent and very well organised by ALT staff.  The awards were presented before the meal which is a great improvement.  Attending a conference is an exciting and challenging experience (obviously not as challenging as organising one) but for people who are not extroverts or socialites in particular like me it is good that the social activities are structured too and don't become overwhelming.  
On the Thursday the conference ended, we held the ALT Committee Convening meeting and then I went to the Museum of Manchester to look at the Turing expedition. 

Wednesday 19 September 2012

ALT-C 2012 Tuesday

I'm on the train home from Edinburgh and I decided to catch up on my blogs and to post about the ALT conference. I can find most of my notes which are sort of random anyhow but not all so this is mainly my recollections and the parts of the conference that I found interesting. There is actually no point giving a detailed account of the keynotes / presentations / sessions as many can be downloaded from the ALT website.
The conference was held at the University of Manchester conference venue which is a good venue I think because it's all in one building (no need to go out in rain), comfortable seating in main theatre and other rooms and good facilities. The dining hall was slightly squashed because of the number of people but still very good and much better than those awful buffets at some conferences when you have to balance your food, drink and papers / laptop while standing in the middle of a crowded hall.
The opening keynote was by Eric Mazur and I got there just after it had started. This was quite opportune as I like sitting at the back out of the way.
There will be a link to the keynote speech from the ALT website.
The main points that I took away were that just by putting a lecture online doesn't make it a better lecture (i know this is obvious but still worth stating). That you need to let your mind wander to make connections - learners need speed bumps for questioning. According to Mazur there is an anti correlation between understanding and stated level of confusion. Confusion is part of the learning process. My worry with this would be that you have to be quite confident to 'embrace confusion' - would it only appeal to academic study and those learners who have the time and the inclination to work themselves through the confusion to reach understanding. It would also require a lot of support to reassure students that confusion is cool.
I then went to an invited speakers session. The first speaker was James Clay from Gloucestershire College. He spoke about the use of tablets And how they were originally primarily used as consumption devices as part of the journey to information. It is difficult for learners to cope with the vast amount of information that is available so this has to be taken into account when considering the type of device. The use of tablets has evolved for use as creation devices and as a means of interaction.
But now we are at the analysis stage - now is the time to consider why we want to use tablets? Is it really important to learning or is it cos its shiney?
Do we need to do any more pilots about using iPads - why do we not learn from the research of others? This applies to lots of other learning technologies. We need to look at both pedagogy and technology (not just pedagogy and not just technology). I agree with this as it is obviously most important to consider the pedagogy and learning but one of the great appeals of learning technology is the technology, the device, the actual wow factor of a item that can do loads of amazing and zany things......Its a great way to engage people of all ages.
James went onto say that tablets will evolve, they won't just replicate or duplicate. Netbooks are an example of how things change quickly. ( i don't think there is anything wrong with netbooks although when there was a show of hands as to who used a netbook lots of people didn't put their hands up - perhaps everyone wants to be cool with a tablet). Its all about choice - for students and teachers and practitioners - the choice between using your own or an institutions device Context is important to learners - no point having a iPad / tablet / eReader if no signal or broadband etc. Finally James asked - But how do you hurry up research? Are we always playing catch up? But this is easier said than done. Its not always possible not to do a pilot. You're more likely to get the go ahead for a big project if you do a pilot - and no matter how many examples you give of other places doing pilots you still have to give it a go yourself. I agree in practice it would be better to move on to the next thing and miss out the finding out and testing for yourself but its not always possible.
He mentioned another point that was also mentioned by other people later in the conference which was that we should belooking to the future and concentrating in the things that are to come not the things that are happening now.
The next speaker Aaron Sloman talking about computational thinking. I enjoy listening to speakers who are very knowledgeable and sure about their views but not in a boastful, confrontational, way. This is presentation was a good example of this and how it is essential in order to understand the world for students and everyone to be able to engage in computational thinking. It was also a good example of a speaker not being phased when the technology doesn't work and who carries on regardless. (although i was slightly disappointed that in a venue with hundreds of technologists it was possible to get his laptop working).
He also talked about squirrels, nuts and patio windows (you had to be there......)
Life is primarily information processing.
If you want to understand learning, then build machines that learn.
Lunch was good - lamb tagine and couscous :)
Then I went to some short papers presentations.
PARiS sharing educational resources - oer@Nottingham University.  They use Xerte, Xpert, YouTube Education and iTunesU.  They use existing and new resources and modules. They have found plenty of content by collecting third party OER. There needs to be some value for the University so they make it part of the Nottingham Advantage Award.  Copyright does present problems and they have to explain to people what and how to use.  Mobile playlists are a useful way of collecting resources by theme as they allow users to subscribe and get greater value out of more resources.
Engaging with OER in Oxford was presented by Marion Manton.  The end of book boxes.  Sesame project.
The challenges are that academics are 'clueless' about copyright and open licensing.  identify easy wins i.e. get them to use 3rd party materials first then their own.

At this point, as you have probably realised, I realised that although I took lots of notes I haven't had a chance to turn them all into a coherent blog post.  Therefore for the blogs for the next two days I'm going to list some bullet points of the presentations, speakers and other happenings that I found the most interesting.

A few other things happened on the Tuesday that are worth noting.

I went along to a meeting of the ALT Scotland Special Interest Group which was very interesting and I'm looking forward to being part of that.

Secondly there was a new members reception which was very nice as it's good to meet new ALT people and tell them how great ALT is and also there was Pimms......

Tuesday 11 September 2012

ALT-C 2012

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) conference ALT-C 2012 is this year being held at the University of Manchester.
The theme of the conference is ' a confrontation with reality'.
The conference is the best of its kind and is packed with interesting sessions from keynote speeches to pecha kuchas with everything in between. There are lots of people there so opportunities to talk and network. But also opportunities to stand and stare and just watch and listen while enthusiastic people talk, tell, explain, demonstrate and engage you with the wonders of learning technologies.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

my infographic CV / resume / about me

I have created a CV as an infographic.
For the following reasons:
1. I like infographics
2. I wanted to a have a visual representation of some of my professional and work life as a summary and a starting point.
3. I think it will appeal to others and make a change from a more traditional format.
4. The infographic is not meant to be a CV in the traditional sense and the one that I've made public does not include all the details especially not personal details or contact details as such.  I have a more detailed one with links through to more information.

The  infographic CV / resume / about me can be found on my website as a pdf

and below as an image

Tuesday 1 May 2012

eResponsibility Forum

Last week I attended the regional eResponsibility Forum meeting which was held at the City Learning Centre in South Shields.  The forum is attended by representatives from schools, colleges, local authorities and councils and other agencies such as Northern Grid for Learning and the Police.
Merv Stapleton from JISC RSC Northern gave an interesting presentation about Managing your Digital Footprint and there were some activities about using the different social networking tools and how they link people together. 
One activity was about donuts

Another activity was snippets of information about people and you had to work out how they were connected and also how their information could be accessed by other people who were connected to someone connected to them!

Then there was a talk by from Mick Young from NGfL showing the latest esafety resources that can be used in schools and colleges and some CEOP resources that can be used.
The video resources are useful especially for schools showing how to use Facebook and other social media platforms safely but also trying to explain to young people that once you have put a photo online then you have no control over it and no control over who sees it.

I think eSafety is very important but it is a matter of being eResponsible - you are not going to stop young people from using social networking and indeed you shouldn't, but it is important to interact in the same way as you would in real life.  You wouldn't pass round unsuitable photos of yourself to friends or friends of friends or strangers so why would you post one online.
I think it's important to be positive about using the Internet and highlight the benefits aswell as the pitfalls.

North East Learning Environments (NELE) meeting

This terms North East Learning Environments (NELE) meeting was held at Teesside University.  The group is made up from representatives from Universities and Colleges in the North East region and meetings or events are held every term at different venues.  The format of the event is usually presentations or demonstrations in the morning and then discussions in the afternoon.
Ralph Holland from South Tyneside College demonstrated Articulate presenter, Quiz Maker and Engage with some examples of its use for esafety resources.  This was interesting for us as we want to compare it with Adobe Presenter which we are trying out. 
Richard Glover from Teesside University demonstrated how they are using Wordpress and creating multi user pages.  This was interesting and impressive although I'm not sure where it would fit in especially in a College - between the Intranet and the Website?
The group is valuable as there is always lots of discussion and sharing of good practice.  There is a good mix between Colleges and Universities.  The Colleges that attended were Middlesbrough, South Tyneside, Sunderland.  The Universities that attended were Teesside, Durham, Northumbria and Leeds. Also a representative from JISC RSC Northern. 
Unfortunately I couldn't stay for the discussions after lunch as I had to get back to College to deliver a training session but I have heard that they discussed a wide range of topics.

Thursday 8 March 2012

eLearning Group meeting

Yesterday I attended our JISC RSC Northern eLearning Group meeting which was held at South Tyneside College. This group is one of my favourite to attend and not just because I chair it.
We have the meetings at a different College or venue each time we meet which is termly.  The structure of the meeting is that we have one or two demonstrations then discussions about various topics.
This time we had a demonstration from Youth Media on EDD which "is a desktop application that pulls together all of the educational and social tools a student needs. With just one click, students are able to access all of your institutional systems and resources, support services, as well as communication and social media channels. All of this is made even more effective and intuitive through EDD's range of features, including apps and display messaging"
We then had a discussion about the JISC Advance Funding Opportunities which have recently been released and various institutions including ours said that they were looking for partners to collaborate with.  It is interesting to hear what ideas people have and it is a good opportunity to liaise with others in the region.
We then had the 'round the table, round the region' discussion which gives everyone the chance to tell the group what they are working on and any new developments that are happening in their College. 
There was a very good attendance at the meeting, approx 25 people from across the region which covers from Middlesbrough all the way up to Northumberland.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday 22 January 2012

Damned if you do, damned if you don't - Social Media

In 2011 Twitter and Facebook changed the world - allegedly.  The Arab Spring, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, falling dictators, celebrities dying, riots in British cities, the Eurozone crisis and the Royal Wedding were all reported, followed and commented on in real time.  Millions of people engage in social media and networking on a daily basis constantly circulating and adding to the wealth of information that exists.  It is seen as an essential part of the connected age and in education promoted as a 'must have' to engage with students / customers.  Do any Universities or Colleges not have a Facebook page or a Twitter stream or a YouTube channel? Marketing information for recruitment and enrolment, up to date information on events, enterprise opportunities and business, student support and guidance, teaching and learning, library information are all seen as essential and opportunities not to be missed.  If you want to successfully gain employment it is important to have an online profile to promote your worth - will you be googled before an interview?
Yet teachers and others working in education are 'warned' not to have Facebook and Twitter accounts and social media policies aimed at staff abound with conditions of usage outlined and monitored.  There are countless stories reported with varying accuracy of inappropriate communication between young people and people in positions of authority, there are incredulous tales of people posting photos online and then wondering why they are discovered and circulated to the world. The obvious remedy to this part of the issue is that you shouldn't post anything online that you wouldn't want anyone and everyone to see - it's simple.  Again last week I heard someone, in the education field, say that they keep their personal and professional online identity i.e. on Facebook totally separate because of the risks, as if that was the only answer.
The time factor is also a consideration hours can be spent on Twitter and Facebook rather than doing other work - do you need to build up a PLN online?  We already have far too much information out there - is it your moral responsibility not to create anymore?
So there is the modern dilemma particularly in education - should you use social media?
Personally I think it is a very thin line, held in the balance and just coming down in favour of yes.
But it is too powerful to be a fool about - gone are the days of leaping in and saying what you want, to who you want without danger of repercussions.  When I first started using Twitter in 2008 it was very different to what it is now, it was a lot more casual and naive - but if it is going to change the world it can't be used casually or without some protocols.  If you want governments to take notice (nothing like lots of irate do-gooding twitterers  to start a campaign) you can't in the next tweet expect to make dangerous remarks and hope they will be seen as a joke.
Think about your profile and identity - tell the truth, I don't agree with false accounts but don't tell people everything.  Assume that whatever you post online anywhere at all is going to be read by anyone.  You have no control of that information once it is uploaded and you can't get it back.  You don't have to keep your identities separate online - I agree that you shouldn't be friends with students that you teach but there is nothing wrong with communicating with them in the same way as you would in the street on a Saturday while shopping.  You would just say 'hello', you wouldn't show them your holiday pics or ask them for a drink.
Facebook and Twitter are not going to go away - well, they might in their current format but will evolve into other mobile social media applications.  They reflect 'real life', the same sort of people as you find in society and you have to educate people to cope with them.
Social media is amazing and appealing - it is wonderful to be able to communicate and share - I use Facebook mostly for friends but also for people that I've met through work.  I wouldn't be able to keep in touch with people otherwise and it's been brilliant for tracking down old school and uni friends.
Twitter is constantly interesting - you can find out anything and everything - I've learnt loads about education, e-Learning, technology, books, libraries, gadgets, places.  There are some brilliant people and some boring people and a lot in between - there are many people I 'know' online who I wouldn't have the opportunity to have met otherwise.  It works for me, for now.

Friday 6 January 2012

North East Learning Environments Group (NELE)

The North East Learning Environments Group (NELE) is an e-Learning Group with representatives from FE and HE institutions in our region.  The group meets regularly three times a year and until recently was at Northumbria University but is now moving around the region.  We have hosted it here at Middlesbrough College the last couple of times but it will be moving on next time.
It is a very useful group as it brings together FE and HE to share good practice and discuss issues around VLEs and e-Learning.  There is usually a number of presentations by members in the morning and then round table discussions in the afternoon.

New and Emerging Technologies in Education

The 'New and Emerging Technologies in Education' event was held at Netskills at Newcastle University and organised by JISC RSC Northern.  Unfortunately it was on 30th November which turned out to be a Strike Day which affected travel and also meant that I could only stay for part of the day. 
I had offered to do a presentation about our 3D Induction experience which we have successfully used since September.  It was created for us by Amazing Interactives which is a local company.  Pravin, from Amazing Interactives, was also presenting although because of travel problems we changed the order so i did my presentation first and then he showed more examples.
Our 3D Induction is based on a 3D model of the LRC and a walkthrough of the whole area with 3D 'instances' or events that happen to show the different services or resources we offer.

The next presentation was by Steve Boneham from Netskills about QR codes and Augmented Reality.
It was really interesting with good activities, resources and handouts.

Mini Umbrella - CILIPNE and Northumbria Uni

On 23rd November Tracey (Library Services Manager), James (e-Learning Manager) and myself presented at the CILIP Mini Umbrella event at Northumbria University.  It was a well attended event with some excellent presentations.
The theme of the event was 'Bleak House or Great Expectations' and we decided to continue the Dickens theme on a positive note with our presentation entitled 'The New Curiosity Shop - what's on offer today?'
We outlined the services we offer, library / e-learning, to our students to meet their expectations and needs.  We concentrated on three areas 1. Minimum requirements - robust service 2. More with less - making the best use of the resources we have e.g. the VLE and the use of free resources 3. Innovations - investing in worthwhile new resources such as 3D and mobile applications.
Our presentation went well and we had positive feedback.  The best comment I thought was that someone said they admired our 'can do' attitude and our ability to make the most of everything.  Hopefully that sums us up and reflects the amount of hard work we do to provide our students with the best possible learning resources.  The most unexpected comment was that someone found our presentation 'amusing' - I'm not sure that was one of our aims but as long as it's positive, we'll take it.