Dundee GovJam 2017

I’ve just spent a fascinating (and tiring) 2 and a bit days at the DundeeGovJam – and the easiest summary is probably to point you to a few key URLs:

I’m full of ideas; and, rather than my usual approach of thinking about blog posts for so long that the thing that grabbed me has long been forgotten, I’ll do a short post now, while I’m buzzing. How we can apply this to what we’re doing in the CTIL team? I see that the work we’re doing on looking at what a VLE should / could etc., do, should actually be looking at 2 main themes:

  • How do you want to learn?
  • How to you want to teach?

And, to make them both apply to both staff and students, as learning/teaching is something all should be doing. Only after that, think about where digital fits in. Sometimes it won’t; sometimes it’ll be the space that’s more important than the tech. Sometimes, yes, it will be tech.

I’ll not say more now, but will return to this when I’ve had time to speak to the colleagues who were there – and, more importantly, those who weren’t.

Particular thanks for organising it and all the ideas during the last 2 days;  Mike, Hazel, Fiona – and too many others to list!

And, many thanks to the group I was with – it’s amazing what we developed as a group. Looking forward to hearing about how it’s going to be actually used next week!



Jisc Digifest 2017 – in real life!

Over the years, I have followed Jisc’s Digifest with interest, whether it was online via SecondLife, or, more recently, via Twitter, blogs posts and all the other social media my contacts and I both use – no doubt I missed a lot from those SM channels I’m not active in.
This year, however, I got to go.

One key theme was the importance of developing digital capabilities of staff, something that has always seemed obvious to me. The first session I went to very much focussed on developing staff; Ross Anderson from North Lindsey College introduced us to the digital strategy they have. Next up were Fiona Handley and Fiona McNeill from Brighton looking primarily at the core literacies their staff need (and how they have changed over the last few years). Finally, Elaine Swift from Nottingham Trent looked at how they tied developing digital capabilities alongside the introduction of a new curriculum.

All of them highlighted the importance of anchoring the digital practice in the needs of the individual, and, individuals being different, meant that different users have different needs.

Geoff Mulgan’s plenary looked at both the promise of the future, but also the pitfalls inherent in current developments. One item that was particularly interesting was a Chinese University that spent at least half their time getting students to look at real problems, and how to solve them. A world away from the stereotyped view of Chinese education that pervades the UK.

The final session of the day was a debate, “Is digital technology fundamentally changing learning and teaching in HE” – when both sides presented their cases passionately. (I do love a good debate, even if the speakers don’t necessarily believe in the viewpoint they’re presenting – as it’s good to see things from all sides). I felt the overall view of the audience was, changing, yes, fundamentally, no.

View from the hotel.

Day 2 dawned – and it was a beautifully sunny day. Inside, the first debate was looking at learning analytics – should they be mediated by a human. So, the fact of LA was established, it was the level of human intervention that was being discussed. It made it useful, as often it’s LA vs no-LA that gets discussed. However, the tweets from the parallel session by Eric Stoller were tempting.

Dundee and Angus college’s Learning Lab sounded wonderful – I’d definitely like to see it, as they may have things that we could use in the some of the new areas of the library.

I was looking forward to the “What does a next gen learning environment look like” – the focus from both Elizabeth Ellis from the OU, and Ange Fitzpatrick from Cambridge’s Business School, was that today’s “tomorrow” needs to include 5 years down the line, that it’s important to consider pedagogy, and student preferences, rather than the “shiny” – and today’s VLEs are often repository of times gone by. Whatever comes in the future needs to not replicate that. Libraries are good for that!

Jonathan Capes presented the Historical Texts visualisation search tool – I love it! It reminded me a little of tools like TouchGraph. Will be wonderful to see it moving to other subject areas.

In the last session, students and staff talked about their experiences of having participated in JISC’s Student Digital Experience Tracker.  They’d used it in different ways, however, the overriding view was that students had a wealth of experience of what worked for them individually, but they still valued the support and guidance they got on how to use particular tools – for some, that would be from staff, others preferred student mentors. Many of the comments, though, brought the first sessions I attended very much to the fore; staff need to be able to learn how to use technology, but it needs to be a flexible learning so they can adapt as things change, not a “how to” training.

It was a very worthwhile time, I missed so many fascinating sounding sessions, but at least they’re available online. I ran into people I’ve met at other conferences – unfortunately, no-one from Portsmouth was there, but I also got to meet new people, which is always useful.

I’d like to go again – probably getting back into presenting at conferences like this.

Durham Blackboard Conference – Day 1

Over the years, I’d seen the Durham Blackboard conference (#durbbu) crop up a lot in Twitter in early January; though, being a Moodle user at the time, I didn’t pay too much attention.

This year, however, I got to go to it; as Dundee is a Blackboard user. As an ex-Durham student, it was also good to revisit the city.

The theme of the conference was Assessment and Feedback. What pleased me was that quite a few of the ideas I’ve tried over the years at Portsmouth as an academic, were also being tried at various other institutions, sometimes via Blackboard, sometimes via other tools. But, clearly I wasn’t totally crackers for trying them!

When Malcolm Murray opened the conference with a series of Lego minifigs, it was always going to be a good one!

We then moved to Susie’s keynote, looking at many aspects of feedback, in particular the need for it to be dialogic in nature – which raises the issue of how to achieve that, in conjunction with the NUS push towards anonymous marking.

In the next session, Sharon Flynn was looking at something I’ve encountered both here in Dundee, and previously in Portsmouth – the difficulties of getting (moderated) marks from the VLE into the student record system, with the minimum chances of error (i.e. minimise the manual aspects of the process). This was a popular session, clearly I’ve not worked at the only two UK universities that didn’t have that in place.

Of course, there were many other hurdles to get through, primarily making sure that people didn’t fiddle with columns in Blackboard, but, they now have all marks (not just marked online submissions) in Blackboard, before they end up in the main Student record system. Danny has storified her talk in more detail.

York’s elearning team gave a whistlestop tour through a range of different approaches they have for online assessment, ranging from summative, online exams (via a custom install of Blackboard) through to innovative uses of blogs. Overall, they’re all things I’ve tried with students at various points as a lecturer, albeit with a different tool set. I think the one I’m most interested in at present is the way we can get students to develop assessable work in the public space (i.e. blogs etc), however, I know that for the present, most of my time will be spent with the support for Turnitin and related tools.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we returned (briefly) to Lego, as Malcolm introduced some of the gamification he was using with students – (so I roped in one of the CameraGirlz to take a photo). It’s a fascinating area, and one that I’d like to look at more (just as I’d like to do more than dabble with Lego Serious play) – but those are two things for the future.

The evening event was held in Durham Castle – despite having been a student (rather longer ago than I care to think about!) – I’d never actually done the formal Castle tour! So, I took the opportunity, followed by Dinner in the Great Hall. My last trip to that was for my Graduation!

Durham Dinner

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