#AltC 2016

This year, I had the opportunity alongside two colleagues from our Ed.Tech and wider ICT team to attend the Association for Learning Technologies conference. ALT are a professional network of those interested in Ed. Tech. across all areas of education.

I captured my experience on Twitter and by making notes in our team’s slack channel and I bring them together here in my Storify of #AltC 2016.

A lens on…Digital Identity

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector. Some of our previous articles have looked at Assessment, Creative Education and Learning analytics.

With September comes the start of a new academic year and as we welcome back returning students our focus also shifts to those who are new to the higher education environment. As part of the initial induction process students will more often than not be expected to engage with digital software and tools as they become familiar with their course. Library systems, institutional email, virtual learning environments and timetable systems all require access to a digital environment and while students are having to engage with these systems at an institutional level there are many more services and platforms that can be used socially.

Thinking about the way you interact with digital services requires some thought on digital identity and the digital footprint you leave behind after engaging with tools. For many students using digital tools is essential to developing their identity as creative arts practitioners, for example will you be wanting to publicise or sell your work through social tools? Will people be searching for you using your name or a pseudonym? Will you be keeping personal and professional social accounts separate?   

Have you ever Googled yourself anonymously? Think about the content that appears in the results when your name is searched for. Does it represent your professional life or your personal? Are the images that appear of you appropriately representative of your professional profile?

At Falmouth, we have recently worked closely with our Creative and Music, Theatre and Events Management and our PGCHE students to encourage a conversation around Digital Identity at the start of their course. Our first presentation and workshop is part of a professional practice series that runs alongside a 3 or 4 year undergraduate degree.

JISC’s considers Digital Identity alongside Digital Wellbeing as an element of our Digital Capability; encircling our interactions with technology for creation, learning, information management and communication.

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Digital capabilities: the six elements

©Jisc

A project emanating from the University Mary Washington and being delivered by Reclaim Hosting asks students and academic staff to take back their digital identity forming a Domain of Ones Own. The concept encourages you to delve a bit deeper and consider what makes up your digital identity as you form it and how use of technology impacts your life.

Additional Resources:

Audrey Waters talks about DoOO in the context of a post-ownership society

https://klout.com – Improve Social Skills

http://www.open.ac.uk/libraryservices/beingdigital/objects/20/index.htm My digital Identity: making a good impression online

Falmouth in Focus – Fashion Photography

In this series of articles we’ll be casting our gaze over some examples of practice currently being undertaken at Falmouth University. We work extensively with a variety of subjects and often find that the learning experiences are as diverse as those teaching on the courses.

This month we’re focusing on Fashion Photography within the Fashion and Textiles Institute. ET caught up with Senior Lecturer, Clare Ball to discuss how technology is used to enhance learning in the subject area and specifically in relation to the JISC/NUS Good Practice Principle, ‘Prepare Students for Digital Workspaces’ :

Image by Eliot Baker BA (Hons) Fashion Photography

As educators we need to ensure the systems we provide to support or enhance learning are actually systems that benefit the students, that are keeping current with methods used in industry environments and that connect with the ways students interact with technology, which is very different to the ways we might interact as tutors.

We ensure that we are integrating the use of the VLE (Learning Space) with all teaching, for example all content is available on the VLE and students are directed here as a point to ask questions in forums etc. as a method to encourage discussion and community.

We also encourage the use of mobile devices to document work and have designed an induction activity that tasks student’s with documenting the local area to help orientate themselves and each other. They post pictures to social media throughout the activity and it ends with an evening of games on the beach, so students are interacting with each other online and in person.

Alongside Learning Technologies, students are expected to be able to use industry standard applications, such as Adobe’s Creative Suite.  To fully understand a large post-production tool like Adobe Photoshop takes time and practice – therefore the teaching of this is embedded into every project with an encouragement to build on the techniques learned in these sessions.  We also give students the opportunity to practice skills under guidance and supervision in workshop sessions.

To ‘Prepare students for digital workspaces’ is something we concentrate heavily on in the 3rd year of the course as, for Fashion Photography, an effective online presence is essential to attract clients and promote work.  We support and encourage our students to develop their ‘professional’ social media sites and websites etc. to ensure they have a solid digital presence prior to graduation. However there is only so much that can be taught within each specific course. Many key areas mentioned in the JISC/NUS benchmarking document could not be covered within the course structure but would be massively beneficial, for example enabling “Students [to] produce professional quality digital artefacts and showcase these in public spaces”.  

I believe it would be a great benefit to students to have access to learning, support and guidance that would help them to further develop their online promotion as an extra curricular offer.  No student can be a master of all areas; website design and online marketing are huge areas to tackle on top becoming proficient in their chosen subject area and so having a specific resource that could offer this service I feel would ensure students from all subject disciplines could begin to have this professional quality of online presence on graduation.

Staff Recommended Apps

Over previous years we’ve collected information and blogged about the apps that students have found useful to help with their study at Falmouth University. 

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Now its the turn of the staff, we frequently hear of apps that professional services and academic members of staff have found helpful with their support of students. We formally collect some of these apps during the PGCHE Summer School

Over the last few years these have been added to a PGCHE Apps Anonymous listly list but we wanted to take the time to go through a few of our favourites that have proved most popular among staff at the University. 

Skype – A firm communication favourite and one that needs little introduction. Useful for hosting tutorials and commonly used with students on placement who wish to catch up with staff while they’re away. 

Evernote – Used by staff and students alike Evernote is an organisational tool that constantly evolves. Fantastic for note taking and collecting your thoughts it can be used on desktop as well as mobile. 

Trigger – Another organisational tool that automates many of the tasks available on your phone. Available only on android it includes features such as turning off your wifi when you hit a certain level of battery remaining, and automatically sending text messages at certain times of day. 

You Tube – An unsurprising appearance from You Tube on our recommended list, frequently used across the University to aid teaching. 

Stitcher – An audio service that brings together thousands of radio shows and podcasts. Signin to create custom playlists and recommendations. Audio apps have featured highly on both the staff and student lists proving that audio podcasts and radio are still very much in demand. 

If you’d like to add your recommended apps to our staff list please get in touch at etsupport@falmouth.ac.uk 

Course Design in practice

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending the day with Head of Business School, Jeremy Richards to go through the course design process for one of the modules on the new Leasing and Asset Finance, MA.

lego building blocks

This kind of course design can be described as a course or learning design retreat. It is a day, or two depending on requirements, where the teaching team can get away from their desks and the distractions of the day to day. With support from a range of specialist staff they build or re-design taught modules by working through learning design activities which focus on elements of the module; all building up to a storyboard, an action plan and some prototype learning activities.

In practice, Jeremy found that the first stages of the process worked well, and helped to either re-define, refine, or solidify ideas that have been thought of before the workshop. We were building a module that had already been validated so were limited in terms of things could we change ie. learning outcomes, assessment weightings etc.

First of all we worked through the ‘Mission Statement’ part of the process where Jeremy boiled down into a couple of sentences what the overall aim of the module is. Doing this helps to focus the mind on the essential aspects without getting caught up with the details.

Next up, we jumped straight into an activity to think about how the module will be run, and what the main ethos, or the main ‘look and feel’ of it is. We did this by going through the Jisc / Open University Learning Design Initiative card sort activity where we sorted the cards into three piles; the ‘yes’, the ‘maybe’, and the ‘no’ piles. The idea is to decide if the wording on the card is something to include in the design of the module, or not. Once we had the three piles, we were ruthless and narrowed it down to 6 ‘must haves’. You can also create your own cards if there isn’t one that describes something you need.

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This activity:

  • enables the teaching team to work towards a consensus on the type of learning experience they want to create
  • provides a common language to help talk about how they like to teach – particularly for teaching strategies that are based on more of a tacit experience. Sorting the cards stimulates discussion about them: what do you mean by …? how does that work? why is that the best approach? This discussion is useful for skill sharing and ideas for personal development, as well as narrowing down the most effective approaches for the context.
  • brings the learners into the heart of the conversation, as choices need to be made about what learning approaches they might use, and what kinds of support they might need.
  • helps to ensure that the team are considering all the elements that make up a balanced module.

Next up comes ‘constructive alignment and backwards design’. The idea behind this stage is to jump to the end of the module, or stage within the module, and think about what it is that you’re aiming for the student to have achieved, how they might get to that point, and what knowledge they need to have or gain to get there. This focuses the mind on the aims and outcomes of the module, and how the team will help the students achieve them, whilst starting to flesh out the initial vision for the module into a more structured pathway.

The first building block in this stage focuses on the learning outcomes for the module. The learning outcomes can be considered the most important element of the module as they define the parameters of what will be covered, help the student to understand what’s expected, and what will be assessed.

Because the learning outcomes had already been validated for this module we were very limited in terms of what could change, so we had a chat about them and made sure they’re set at the correct level, and the language and relation to assessment is appropriate in relation to the previous tasks above. If the outcomes had not already been validated then this is where we would spend time designing them. Bloom’s taxonomy action verbs come in handy when deciding on appropriate language to describe the level at which the students need to work.

Next up, we went through the assessment design stage. Assessment tasks are designed in relation to the learning outcomes above and the look and feel. We talked about the ways in which we do and do not want to assess the students, the kinds of attitudes and behaviour the assessment should encourage eg. leadership, risk-taking, and then how self and peer assessment will be build in. At this point we also thought about how technology will be used to facilitate the tasks.

The Storyboarding activity is fun and engaging and can often be the one element that takes the most time. This was certainly the case with the Leasing and Asset Finance module we were working on. We used flip chart paper and post-its to create a timeline of the module, mainly focusing on it from the point of view of the student. We thought about how the module should be broken down and what the main aims of each element of it should be. Then we started populating the timeline (using different coloured post-it notes) with activities, resources, tutor responsibilities and assessment points to create a holistic overview. From this you get a sense of the workload and are able to move the post-its around to plan contact time and make sure that appropriate time is allocated to a more complicated element of learning, for example.

stack of post-its

The main aims of storyboarding out a module are around sequencing, alignment and coherence by mapping out the themes, learning activities and assessment items – what students need to know, how they will learn it, and how they will show that they have learned it (that constructive alignment idea again!). The idea is to create a logical sequence of activity, or learning journey, that allows the student to build knowledge, skills and understanding so that they can be demonstrated through assessment. We then look in detail how that learning might happen, and what kinds of activities can be put in place to support it.

This is as far as we have got up until now so the next stages will come later. We will start to work on the learning activities themselves. Are they activities that can or should happen inside or outside the classroom; online or face to face; will technology be used to facilitate them? – it’s important to incorporate technology into your teaching to develop digital capabilities/literacies. EdTech can help with this as it’s important to remember that part of this process to develop your skills as well! So, we will build at least one online activity in Learning Space in the session so that expertise in the room is used to support its development, and there will be an activity that can be used in the actual delivery of the module.

We will also develop an action plan to plan out the development of the rest of the activities and the delivery of them.

We’re looking forward to it!

Get in touch with us if you would like to organise a course/learning design session for your course or module.

Lego image source: https://pixabay.com/en/lego-site-replica-building-blocks-516559/

Post-its image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jogibaer2/5459043426

Contextual help in Learning Space

You might have noticed the little addition we’ve made to Learning Space in the form of a pool ball style question mark in the bottom right of the page.

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Clicking on this will bring up a side menu that allows you to search the Learning Space support documentation without leaving the page you are working on. 

You are also able to view zoomed in images and play videos whilst you go about the business of uploading files or editing the page.

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It’s early days for the new functionality and we hope to add some more features in the near future, but we think you’ll agree that it’s helpful addition.

For anyone interested, the tool we’re using is elev.io and it’s providing access to our support documentation hosted on freshdesk.

Summer Housekeeping

As the end of another academic year draws to a close it’s the perfect time to reflect on another years worth of teaching and perform some housekeeping on your learning environment module areas.

In the course of the year external links to other areas may have changed and assignment briefs might have altered so it’s important to check your modules to make sure all content is up to date and relevant to a new cohort.

The temptation might be to hide content or move it to the bottom of the page, ultimately this will become confusing for other staff and students in the long run so we’d recommend deleting any content no longer relevant to keep your pages looking fresh and up to date.

As part of our archive process a snapshot of the environment is taken every August so there will always be a reference to past content if needed, a module’s content evolves from one year to the next so the addition and amendment of material is to be expected.

For parity of student experience across the learning environment all modules should adhere to the minimum module content guidelines; further details and tips on how to implement these can be found in Learning Space.

To add any new documents simply ‘turn editing on’ and drag and drop files onto the page, external links can be added by choosing “Add a resource or activity > Add URL”. Section text can be amended by selecting “Edit this section”. Detailed guidance can be found in our help documentation if needed.

If you’re not sure where to start or would like some additional information regarding Summer Housekeeping please get in touch with the team – etsupport@falmouth.ac.uk  

Falmouth in Focus – Professional Practice

In this series of articles we’ll be casting our gaze over some examples of practice currently being undertaken at Falmouth University. We work extensively with a variety of subjects and often find that the learning experiences are as diverse as those teaching on the courses.

This month we’re focusing on Professional Practice sessions, that run alongside or as part of undergraduate modules.

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Mark Williams, Learning Technologist within Educational Technology discusses his involvement:

For the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity as the team’s Point Of Contact for the Falmouth School of Art and Academy of Music and Theatre Arts to work with students on our Fine Art, Theatre and Acting degrees on the theme of digital capabilities and building up an ecosystem of tools that support our professional practice.

The workshops cover aspects of digital identity, social media practice, horizon scanning and the intersection of art and technology and are aimed at students are who are considering their professional digital identities and creative outputs online.

For the Online Ecosystem workshop with Stage 3 students, I use a default session plan and presentation format which is updated for each session, and as part of open educational practice, everything is licensed through Creative Commons. I’ve recently added some contextual notes, so people can reuse/remix if they like. The sessions take direction from the students, so discussions relate to the subject area; especially those around target audiences and examples of current practice utilising technology.

Topical resources like the internet in real time help contextualise the session and provides an insight into the mass of creativity, content and data that we are sharing. Prior to the sessions students provide examples of social media and technology practice in their areas; such as Amanda Palmer’s work rethinking the relationship between artist and performer.

Depending on how long the session has been timetabled for, an optional task takes the form of planning and delivering a two minute Elevator Pitch on a new product that may or may not relate to the discipline. The focus here is on the ways in which technology can support promotion, communication and collaboration and the skills we might require in order to use it.

Feedback has been wholly positive. There exists a broad range of digital practice amongst students, particularly in the area of social media and these workshops have enabled those that are more experienced to support those that wish to know more. It is also an incredibly useful way to understand how we occupy the digital landscape; in the time since set up the workshops, mobile device ownership has increased from roughly 50-100% and technologies such as SnapChat stories and YikYak have emerged, facilitating new ways to broadcast and communicate information.

PGCHE Summer School

It’s that time of year again where the Falmouth PGCHE is nearly at an end, and its Summer School takes place. The week long timetable consists of workshops, practical sessions and activities for the participants.

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Last week EdTech were invited to contribute for a day in a similar way as last year. The day was split into two parts; the first focused mainly on the application of technology in teaching, and the theory behind it. We promoted a participative session and had some activities planned out.

First of all, participants were asked to Google each other and then introduce the other person based on the information they found out. It was interesting to see the results of these searches, some revealed surprising information, and some revealed that there are still people out there who avoid putting information about themselves online!

Next we had some thought provoking discussion around the digital footprint and how it affects personal and professional identities. This led into digital capabilities and how we (as mentors and teachers) can promote effective use of technology for more than just engaging in social media activities. We discussed how EdTech can help to scaffold learning to make the best use of technology, and facilitate the use of proven methods of course/learning design to ensure alignment and appropriateness.

We then introduced the room to David White’s Visitors and Residents concept and we all took part in mapping out how we engage with digital tools. It highlighted some interesting decisions we all make regarding our use of tools, particularly social ones, and how we either ‘lurk’ or contribute (and leave a mark). We considered how we apply these decisions in our professional practice and how they affect our digital footprint, but also see how the networks and tools we use create a flow of information about us, our practice and activities.

The morning ended on a fun note to sum up. We used Kahoot to recap some highlights of the day and promise some fun for the afternoon session.

We used the same ‘Hunger Games’ activity as last year; we split into teams where one member remained behind at ‘HQ’ and the others went out into the ‘arena’ to scavenge for prizes. The person left behind at HQ received clues as to the location of each prize and needed to relay it to their team members in the arena using only digital tools (ie. not phone calls or SMS texting). Prizes could only be claimed by taking a selfie with the prize and posting it to the dedicated @District1Fal twitter account.

The activity is a demonstration of using technology immersively whilst highlighting the challenges and benefits to using mobile technology and the apps available, and the reliability of WiFi on campus. Things to be mindful of when designing learning and teaching activities for your students, and when thinking about students’ expectations and assumptions when they come to University. Have a look at the Storify summary of what we got up to.

Altogether an enjoyable and useful day for both us and the participants (they told us so!) and we are already looking forward to 2017!

A lens on… TEF

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The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) published by the department for Business, Innovation and Skills aims to ensure that teaching standards are maintained at a consistently high level in HE. The TEF has been criticised for the metrics based approach (NSS scores, employability statistics and continuation rates) to defining teaching excellence, and even though those criticisms have been acknowledged by introducing human elements into the process they will only serve to “soften the edges” (Gill, 2016) of the approach.

The TEF isn’t explicit about how institutions and individuals make improvements to teaching, but in response to the initial government Green Paper, the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) has requested that intelligent use of Learning Technology and an understanding of the issues by senior managers is explicitly incorporated into all framework iterations from now on (Deepwell, 2015).

One response to the TEF is to encourage teaching staff to undertake a formal teaching qualification if not already obtained, this is something particularly supported at Falmouth. This might include completion of a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education or awarded Fellowship to the Higher Education Academy. Both qualifications require submission of an evidence based portfolio to achieve accreditation. Within our department we are actively involved in the PGCHE course, informing sessions around technology enhanced learning and delivering content making the team crucial to supporting any TEF metrics that are put in place.

Like many other educational practitioners we await further developments with the framework and will be keeping an eye on how other Universities are adapting to support the TEF.

Find out more about the TEF and the implications to HE through the excellent WonkHE visual guide to the TEF and the fantastic #LTHEchat community story.

References:

Deepwell M. (2015) ALT responds to inquiry into assessing quality in higher education [online] Available at <https://www.alt.ac.uk/news/all_news/alt-responds-inquiry-assessing-quality-higher-education> [Accessed: 20 March 2016]

Gill, J., 2016. HE White Paper: Five key talking points, Times Higher Education [online] Available at <https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/he-white-paper-five-key-talking-points> [Accessed 13 June 2016]

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