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]

Falmouth in Focus: Creative Advertising

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 Creative Advertising within the School of Communication Design and one of the first pure Creative Advertising undergraduate degrees in Europe.

Jono Wardle, Senior Lecturer in Creative Advertising, discusses his use of tools and technologies to support the student experience below, based on building a response to the Jisc Digital Benchmarking principle ‘use digital systems to build a sense of belonging’.


I am focusing on the ‘use digital systems to build a sense of belonging’ benchmark because I’ve seen how digital systems can sometimes isolate some students, for whatever reasons, and I believe we have managed to go someway to enhance our students’ sense of belonging (and overall student experience) by using the most appropriate digital platform for all students today – Facebook.

Five years ago I was frustrated that some students failed to pick up their emails regularly or that their email boxes were so so full they couldn’t access them. I knew that they used texts all the time so I tried SMS messaging but there were technical difficulties on site (lack of signal!) and I couldn’t send links very easily etc. Then I tried Facebook (FB). I have never used Facebook before but my colleague and I set up a course page and asked all the students to sign up to it. At first there were suspicions, as some institutions were actually using FB to spy on their absent students,  so we showed the students how to manage their privacy settings and vowed never to try to look at their own pages. Next we made FB student groups within the course and got our past graduates to join an alumni group as well.

Students and staff could post anything they wanted as long as it was course/subject related either on our wall or to their group. General questions from students ranging from “when’s the hand-in?” to “does anyone know who created the original Volkswagen campaign?” appeared on a daily basis. Students started to support each other, rather than going directly to tutors. The dissertation students started their own discussion group and  a social sub-group formed for organising ‘extra-curricular activities’. Staff could post links and important information, room changes could be shared instantaneously with targeted groups and individuals and the course began to run a lot, lot smoother. A real sense of community began to emerge, especially with alumni chipping in too.

I have learnt a lot from student postings when they find new innovative work online and share it with the cohort and we post work placement opportunities and competitions. Also, FB has been very useful on study trips for keeping in touch with each other real time via smart phones. In short, the course couldn’t run as well as it does without it. (100% student satisfaction last year.)

There has been a mixed response from members of academic staff on other courses but as far as I’m concerned if it works, it works. I think the institution feels uncomfortable about using FB, but to me it’s like feeling uncomfortable about using Youtube as a learning tool because of it’s association with the evils of big business or frivolous kitten videos.

Most importantly, it works for our students. I think the key to successfully using online ‘tools’ is following where the target market (students) goes rather than trying to impose methods/tools in an institutional way…


This is a really intriguing real world example of creating a sense of belonging through technology. Institutional technologies, don’t always support social learning and Facebook, particularly the groups functionality, seems to work really well. Involving students in the process, is important to the NUS and the HEA and is broadly a feature of ‘outstanding’ practice in the JISC/NUS Digital Benchmark tool. Engaging in relevant social web technologies in a professional manner is also an important skill for staff and students to develop.

The approach to learning technology is key here. You could just as easily be using Twitter, Slack, WordPress etc etc, but by working with students and iterating as you go along, you find the perfect middle ground.

A lens on… Creative Education

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 various projects being undertaken within the sector. Our previous articles have covered a wide range of topics including Inclusivity, Digital Literacy and Course Design.

This week we’re focusing on Creative Education, a subject the Ed Tech team are more than familiar with. Falmouth is the highest ranked University for arts in many of the University league tables; The Guardian University Guide 2016, The Sunday Times League Table 2016 and Complete University Guide 2017. As such we have experience working with many diverse subjects spanning arts, media, performance and design to name a few.  

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Additionally the university has a dedicated MA in Creative Education which focuses specifically on educational practice and research being undertaken within the creative arts.  

Many of our academic staff have come from professional practitioner backgrounds and bring their own experience of industry to the HE environment. This can make for really exciting interventions where technology and arts combine to create meaningful learning experiences. We’ve recently blogged about some of these current activities, such as Project Tango and Slack for assessment.

Unsurprisingly the abundance of specialist academics allows for diverse approaches to teaching and learning to exist within the University. Working closely with academic teams allows us to have an excellent overall view of the types of teaching practice occurring on modules at Falmouth and their impact on student learning.

Nationally more creative approaches to education have been recognised at other Universities and organisations; MMU promote an open module in creative education and the National Writing Project also host a Connected Learning MOOC.

Both of these example projects recognise the importance of discovery and play as part of creative educational experiences. Children are taught the benefits of discovery through play at a very early age, companies such as Tech Will Save Us introduce coding concepts to children through physical construction of technology. While for adults, Lego advocates its serious play method (LSP) to encourage individuals to creatively engage with concepts and ideas using Lego construction.  

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rld-gUrp-iw?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https://safe.txmblr.com&wmode=opaque&w=540&h=304]

From a staff development perspective having a safe constructive environment to experiment and trial creative educational approaches is essential. So pause, reflect and find a creative experience that might work for you in your teaching.

Additional Resources

A Creative Education Benefits Us All

Live streaming of artistic practice on Twitch

We made the list, again!  EdTech’s Must-Read Higher Ed IT Blogs

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The Dean’s list pulls together blogs from around the world about the hottest education technology issues occurring, and introduces higher ed stakeholders to a group of education technology thought leaders who share not-to-be-missed analyses of higher ed technology trends, challenges and opportunities. 

The list is a peer-reviewed collection of education community experts, classroom leaders, admins and IT gurus’ blogs. We’re really pleased to be included!

“All part of the technology team at Falmouth University in the United Kingdom, these passionate bloggers offer lessons learned from the many IT projects they’ve attempted at Falmouth. They also widen the scope to discuss higher ed IT initiatives at large.”

Check the list out: http://www.edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2016/05/higher-ed-must-read-it-blogs 

We’re looking forward to writing some more posts that whet your edtech appetite throughout the next year!

Developing a Portfolio in Gitbook

A few months ago I stumbled across Gitbook, a tool that allows you to publish content as Markdown/HTML and then access it in a range of formats appropriate to web, print and mobile. I’ve written about it in a post on inclusivity, but it really deserves it’s own post and some wider recognition.

Here’s a video overview of the Gitbook web interface when you set up a new project.

[googleapps domain=”drive” dir=”a/falmouth.ac.uk/file/d/0BwEpbAuembWXR2t6X1RvMjBqaTQ/preview” query=”” width=”640″ height=”480″ /]

What draws you in is the thoughtfulness that has gone into the design and the simplicity. You can set up your account with standard social media accounts; Facebook, Twitter, Google+ to verify authorship but if you also do any code development you can link the account to GitHub creating extra opportunities for publishing documentation. You can import Github, a Word document or HTML making it simple to work with existing material.

In the same way as Github, you can allow your publications to be forked/remixed by others and when you commit/save a change it has associated metadata with author, time date etc. You also have version control, so individuals/groups could work on different branches/versions, making it a pretty exciting tool for collaborative writing work.

If you’re familiar with CSS styles, you can also customise separate styles for each format, so you can have your .pdf looking different to your web version, which might be useful for readability purposes.

There’s an editing app for Mac, Windows and Linux, meaning you don’t have to use a code editor when you’re offline.

I’ve started a couple of projects in Gitbook; one about Digital Literacies in HE, as I think there might be room for a collaborative publication in the area and another is my portfolio for Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology which is gradually developing.

As if all the features and apps weren’t enough, you can even have enterprise accounts, which would mean all of your institutional documentation can live as code, facilitating better governance, interoperability, transparency, accessibility… literally every buzzword that you need to tick off for HE.

Falmouth in Focus: Computing for Games

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 Computing for Games, a relatively new course located within the Games Academy. The course had its first intake this academic year and is the only Bachelor of Science degree to be offered at Falmouth University.

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EdTech recently met with course leader Michael Scott to discuss some of the tools and initiatives used as part of taught delivery on the modules. Peer support was a common theme that arose during our discussion with students encouraged to make use of Slack throughout the course. Michael has set up sub channels for each module and student groups are invited to also set up their own channels that relate to project teams. Students are also encouraged to use Slack alongside delivered sessions to discuss topics covered in the lecture.

Michael also described the role of Slack in setting formative tasks to the students, “Active learning through engagement and reflection is very important, so I regularly set tasks where each student does some work and then posts their approach to tackling that particular task to Slack”, using this method they’re able to view each other’s work and create a dialogue around their own solution, while also reflecting on the responses of peers.  

Michael put some of the success of peer communication down to small group size and it will be interesting to follow how this translates into larger cohorts as the course grows in size.

Another tool particularly prevalent across Computing for Games is Github, a powerful platform for developers that can be used to share projects and work collaboratively with code. Michael has found a way to utilise the ‘pull request’ functionality of this tool to provide formative feedback to his students, “When students create a pull request, I am able to post comments directly within their code, so I go through projects and write inline feedback within Github to provide instant feedback to the students on their works-in-progress”.

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As with many of the subjects at Falmouth we tend to see many industry specific tools permeate into the courses, it’s not surprising that Computing for Games are incorporating specialised tools into taught delivery, especially as it prepares students for an industry where knowledge of their use is expected.  

So what’s next for Computing for Games, Michael has expressed an interest in finding a solution for viewing live streaming of code for workshop demonstrations, “At the moment I project what I’m doing at the front of a session, but it would be good to provide a link to students so they can stream what is happening and follow on their own machines”, the ET team are now looking into potential live streaming options like codeshare.io that would facilitate the functionality Michael would like to see added to his seminars.

If you’re interested in implementing any technology into your teaching or would like further information on the tools discussed, please get in touch.

etsupport@falmouth.ac.uk

Project Tango

The Educational Technology team recently got their hands on one of Google’s Project Tango VR development kits to explore the impact that this new technology might have on learning. We’re undertaking a series of pilot studies with our academic departments focussing on use of the technology to open up new avenues and concepts of space to staff and students. Virtual exhibitions, area mapping, and deeper exploration of learning concepts in practice based disciplines are all examples of how the technology might be used.

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Image courtesy of The Verge

So what is it? Project Tango is a Google technology platform that uses computer vision to enable mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to detect their position relative to the world around them without using GPS or other external signals. In short, it’s a mobile device with depth sensors and lasers.

There are various technologies; HoloLens, MagicLeap, iPad apps, that enable augmented and virtual reality where currently either price or functionality are a barrier to entry. This makes it harder to innovate within the University environment. The project tango development kit is built around the android operating system which opens it out to an existing community of developers and users and promotes new development and innovation.

The first pilot is taking place with the Institute of Photography and we expect this to run throughout 2016. We’ve starting blogging about it over at tango.falmouth.website, so look over there for updates as things progress. If you’re interested in finding out more or having a go with the device, contact the team.

etsupport@falmouth.ac.uk

Virtual Reality in Education

Virtual Reality has been tipped to make great strides in the technology industry over the last few years. Big names like Samsung, HTC, Google and Facebook have attached themselves to the tech, and released some pretty powerful kit.

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Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/26104037025

Virtual reality was originally developed for the immersive experience in film, then leading to flight simulators (in the late 1920’s), through to the 1960’s when the first head mounted virtual reality display was developed. At this point though, it was designed to immerse the user into pictures and film with no interaction.

Skip forward a few decades, and we move into the 1990’s when games started to be developed for users’ immersion into the worlds being created (Sega and Nintendo being the leaders…) where interactivity was key. And who could forget The Matrix! A film where characters live in a fully simulated world, and a good number of them are completely unaware that they don’t live in the ‘real world’.

From a learning point of view there is plenty we can do with this type of technology, especially in the creative contexts that we specialise in at Falmouth.

Immersion into environments that are not yet created is a major win for the creative industries. For example, the architecture industry makes use of VR to navigate through spaces and buildings to demo spaces to clients, and walk through proposals throughout the design stages. There are even some companies who will take architectural plans and turn them into fully immersive virtual reality visualisations. They then provide their clients with Oculus Rift headsets and host walkthroughs of the plans. Have a look at the archdaily VR pages to see what’s happening in this area.

An interesting concept is VR art. Tiltbrush for the HTC Vive (interesting that it’s not an android app as it’s developed by Google) allows you to “paint in 3D virtual reality”, and they say that “Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless.” That all sounds a bit aspirational doesn’t it, but it would be interesting to hear an expert’s opinion if anyone has tried it or seen it used anywhere?

Another growing field in VR is fieldtrips. With the improvement in graphical representations of landscapes and detail virtual reality fieldtrips are becoming more popular in education. They serve to prepare a person for a trip, re-cap details of a trip, or even replace the trip and give users the ability to visit areas they would not usually have the chance to. Dr Naomi Holmes (Sheffield Hallam), Dr Scott Turner (Northampton) and I conducted a small scale research project a couple of years ago in this field.

Have a look at this video of TEDx talk “Designing for virtual reality and the impact on education | Alex Faaborg | TEDxCincinnati” (9:32) for some insight into a few of the challenges and benefits.

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