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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An ethical challenge?

A few weeks ago, @maricarjagger and I were discussing ideas for Cafe Scientifique. I can’t quite remember what triggered it, but I suggested that something about perceptions and reality of social networking could be interesting. I ended up volunteering myself and @timpaa. At the time, I was thinking about both those who’ve shared things – and are surprised when others find it (though a recent Pew report suggests that teens are increasingly aware of who should see what and how to control it) – and those (Daily Mail influenced?) who think that Twitter / Facebook are full of people who do nothing but eat breakfast and get drunk.
It’s likely to be a mixed audience – people who live in Portsmouth, are interested in science, and enjoy a glass of wine in Cafe Parisien. Other than that, not much in common!

It struck me that I could use a lot from the New Wine, Old Bottles symposium yesterday. Of course, there, they had certain expectations about the audience, so, GeoTagging, Publicly Private / Privately Public & Farmville were all known to us. (Even if this time last week, I’d not got a FourSquare a/c, thought Stig lived in a dump – and still associate farms with shovelling shit!)

We’re not going to know the levels of knowledge of the audience (not a bad thing when introducing something new). We’re going to have to speak for 20 minutes (good: not too long to get bored in); then a glass of wine (sounding better and better) – before 20 more minutes and some q/a time.
But, the big challenge. There’s no projection – it’s all speaking; props can be used (I’ve seen all sorts of things handed round, from wood chewed by algae to photos from the electron microscope). So, my challenge is how do we convey the concepts of social networking to those who may have limited knowledge.
I’ve used Paper blogging in the past to introduce blogging to students (though we’ve generally had more time); Timothy has tried extending that to twitter by using small postits so they can’t write to much. I’m wondering if we could use large paper (maybe with 140 boxes on them) & marker pens to create a twitter wall as we go (and that could bring in issues of ethics & backchannels … especially if we have a few plants)
Maybe we could do a bit of a role play, though I shall ensure Timothy’s got a more interactive role than being dead!

FourSquare – or where on earth am I?

Over dinner at ALT-C, Helen was encouraging several of us to experiment with fourSquare – we got it to recognise that there were several of us in the East Midlands Conference Centre; however, some people’s devices were a bit confused – though it thought that Frances & I were about 70 m from it; it thought Helen herself was 2,500 or so m. from it. Yet, we were all on the same table! (It had Nick some 250 m from it…)
At the time, I was using the app on the iPod, connected to Eduroam. I’m now back in the hall & using the Mifi (originally just for the iPod, now for the laptop too, due to the incredibly slow University network – poor students).
My Mifi is, however, *very* confused as to where it is. I used it in Bristol (several places) a few weeks ago – indeed – we were using it (as I thought) with the iPod as a basic SatNav. It’s now utterly convinced that it’s still in Bristol – and I can’t persuade it otherwise. When the iPod’s connected to it & it’s using location sensitive stuff, it reverts back to Bristol. I’ve been in London, Portsmouth, Derbyshire & now Nottingham. And it’s not convinced.

So, when we try to all login to FourSquare tomorrow – to get a “swarm” badge (whatever one of those is!) I may well be elsewhere. So, everyone else … please sign in!
(And, if anyone knows how to convince my Mifi I’m not in Bristol, let me know)!

ALT-C 2009 (2)

One of the sessions I attended was the Online Identity workshop run by Frances Bell, Josie Fraser, James Clay & Helen Keegan. As usual from that crowd it was interactive, thought provoking & they’d set up an accompanying Wiki.

They started off by asking us to write our names on a postit. Trustingly we all *did* (At least, I think everyone wrote down their name, not someone elses). It wasn’t until afterwards on the train that I realised they’d lost a wonderful teaching point – the fact we all trusted them not to use our names in some malicious way. That said, we did have to find out 3 facts about someone we didn’t know … and Frances then took the flipchart away with her. Should I start to worry…
This was really a start into looking at what data’s out there about each of us – whether it’s things over which we (think we) have control, or that over which we have no control. The issue of uniqueness was also raised – do those of us that have (more or less) unique names need to exercise greater or lesser control than those who haven’t. Guess, in part, it depends what those you share a name with do online!

I joined in with James’ offering on video. I really have no excuse for not using it, heck even the OLPC has a webcam (the 3rd laptop took the photo!), 2 web cams & a digital camera that takes video in my office most of the time. (Granted, my phone only does stills). However, I’ve never uploaded a video to YouTube, (though I did experiment with 12seconds recently – managing to mess up linking it with Twitter :()
The conversation we had surrounding accessibility was useful – it seems that most share my view – that especially with “quick & dirty” media developments (i.e. those that are only intended for the current cohort) should suit the needs of current students, not any that might come in the future. i.e. if no visually impaired screen reading students present, then video doesn’t all need subtitling (though, one could argue, it makes searching for sections much easier for all)
Unfortunately, time ran a bit short, so we didn’t really get to hear what the other groups had done, nor, for that matter, have a go with Blip.tv (later, later). Also, not really time to look at the sort of data folks had found out about each other – though at least one person pointed out it wasn’t their information that had been located.

ALT-C 2009

One of the issues that cropped up at ALT-C was “blog or twitter”. There’s an ongoing debate re. whether or not Twitter is killing blogging. I’m guilty of that – very much so! Just look at the twitter stats– and my frequency of recent postings on here.
This started off really as a small discussion at F-ALT, (which I actually missed, due to my poor map reading & the rain) – and has since continued, both in the blogosphere & elsewhere. As with other posters on the Cloudworks site, I’ve found I’m still *thinking* about & planning blog posts; just not quite getting round to doing them.

I’ll leave that aside, as it’s something I know that I want to sort out in my own mind – ALT-C has just brought it to the forefront!

Unfortunately I missed the last Keynote Speaker (Terry Anderson), as I got the impression from the twitter stream that it was the most interesting. That said, I did find Michael Wesch’s personally interesting, due to his references to Papua New Guinea. He saw a different side of it to me – though with the range of different cultures there, it’s hardly surprising! The way he spoke, though, implied that he was treating all students as a “they” – though his comments afterwards suggested that he’d not intended that to be the slant.
I also went to Martin Bean’s keynote – he’s a great speaker – I do hope for the OU’s sake that he’s able to use his insights (for that matter, I’ve heard a lot about Salford’s new twittering VC … he also seems really good!) (They are all archived)

JISC Next Generations Technologies in Practice – Day 2

I’m now back in Portsmouth, but am determined to write this before I forget & it ends up in the rather large “draft” set I have.
So, we started off with Gwen van der Velden discussing what she, as a Directory of Learning & Teaching Enhancement looks for in a project proposal. Mostly, it made sense (i.e. had to have a good pedagogic reason; had to not use up ridiculous amounts of time to get going; had to interface with existing student record systems [often the nightmare part], etc)
A couple of points she raised though were of further interest; firstly that a technology should be easy to use (i.e. not need training). The comparison was made in the twitter feed was between SL (needing training) & Twitter (not needing training), but what struck me is that many people (me inc.!) needed training in the reasons for Twitter use. The “how” of Twitter’s pretty simple, the “why” is more complex. However, with SL, it was more or less the opposite; I could immediately see potential – I just took a long time to understand the “how”. Still learning!
The other point that Gwen raised was the 5 areas that she & others at other Unis see as being what is likely to be getting funding in the next few years:

  • Open Source/resource/structure
  • Feedback
  • online assessment
  • data collection connectivity (i.e linking in to other uni wide systems)
  • mobile comms & student experience (including non-work related)
  • communities of academic practice.

The next session, Janet Findlay’s report on the 3 projects she’s had involvement with was very useful; in particular the idea that sharing practice is often much more useful than sharing content.

Other URLs related to those projects:

Plenty of food for thought, there.

The STAIRS project – had a range of interesting ideas. I’ll be interested to see how their survey of staff use of web technologies ties in with the survey Terry and I are trying to do at the moment with our staff (and @stellal ‘s survey in Edmonton) . Nice use of google apps – while recognising that though Google was best option at time, mayn’t always be. (Wonder what options the Guardian Open Platform will offer in the future)

In the Innovation & Change session – we had to look at different aspects of what governs us at work (i.e. Institutional Policies) to say which encouraged innovation in eLearning technologies (including the so called “disruptive” technologies” – & which stifled it. Perhaps as expected, some aspects were definite “hinderers” (e.g. those that are management driven) others much more likely to support them (the student focussed policies). For some, there was a clear indication of how, for example, local policy would have a strong impact (e.g. whether library services were seen to support or hinder innovation). Harold has a good set of the before & after photos

In the plenary, Paul just used a few Wordle.net images – before & after the previous session I’d been to – when words like “social” were suddenly changed to “disruptive” (Wordle seems to be down at present)

JISC Next Generation Technologies in Practice – Day 1.

I’m just sitting in my room, listening to the Sounds of the Bazaar broadcasting from the JISC ngtip09 conference.
It’s been a useful, if somewhat tiring day.
There were a number of things that struck me, in particular the concept of “Critical friends”. This was in particular relationship to funded projects; though I can see a lot of parallels with both being a personal tutor & also someone who’s maybe a 2nd or 3rd supervisor for a PhD student. I’m looking forward to the site they’re going to launch in a few weeks. (http://www.critical-friends.org.uk – I think)
I was particularly interested in Mark van Harmelen’s Personal Learning Environment.
I’ve tended to advocate that students should be encouraged to learn to manage their own learning environment & have been very wary of a provided PLE – mostly that if it’s provided – how can it be “personal”. I have, though, in the past, seen a parallel between PLEs & building a house from Lego.
The commercial (WebCT) solution is kind of that you can have a “house Kit” – which only goes together in a few ways …. though you can have it any colour you like. Next we have the PLE that allows users to have the components they want in their house … but they still only have “standard” lego bits. I’d see that as a few of the earlier PLEs I saw. Next, you have the lego base plate … selection of bricks to start with but also lessons on where to find other (“non-house”) bricks – how to find non-lego bricks that fit, and it’s left to their imagination. I guess that would be what Mark called a MUPPLE (Mashedup PLE) – where his is somewhere between that & the previous idea.

The demo Mark showed had some “built in tools” and some links to external tools (e.g. delicious) which would, I think, mean that they only have to login once (one of his students complaints against mupples – too many logins to remember)
The tool that let people arrange ideas, bookmarks & essentially start to do some research really appealed to me; I could see several uses for it with the students that I work with. The book tool & also the multimedia rooms were useful – and, from my understanding, it’s going to be relatively easy for sophisticated users to add in things.