Journal, a shiny new thing

For a while now courses at Falmouth have been asking for a blogging/portfolio platform for students and staff to use for all sorts of reasons.

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EdTech have now implemented CampusPress and are running it as a pilot this year. It’s essentially a WordPress multisite set up, with some added extras provided by EduBlogs the company behind it all. It’s called ‘Journal’ and you can access it at: http://journal.falmouth.ac.uk using your usual login credentials.

The added extras are mostly around class/cohort management and are great for keeping track of your student’s blogs or having a collaborative space where students can post to a central area, reflect and comment on each other’s ideas.

There are a few courses officially piloting it for us and we’ll be reporting back on how they get on later in the year; there is an overview of how the BA(Hons) Business Entrepreneurship course is using it in the Falmouth in Focus post about the course. In the meantime though, if you’d like to use it on your course, or you’re a student that would like to create a space where you can record and reflect on your learning or extra curricular activities then login, take a look and get in touch if you need to.

A Lens on… Learning Technologists

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.

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In this post, we are focusing on the role of the Learning Technologist in HE. The Association for Learning Technology provides this definition as a starting point:

Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment. Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.

In UK Higher Education, there is usually a function within the institution to support this. Yet, because the practice is so broad, it could be situated anywhere from within Learning & Teaching, Library Services and IT or embedded within the faculty and that can depend on how it supports strategy and how well the function is understood. And role names could vary from Educational/Learning/Academic Technologist/Advisor/Consultant

A ‘Really Useful’ place to gain a deeper insight is  The Really Useful Ed. Tech Book. In his chapter on the structure and roles of Learning Technologists, Peter Reed describes a continuum of job variation from IT focused, which might include server and web development to Education focused, which might include learning design and pedagogy and everywhere in between (Reed 2015: pp. 41 – 51).

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The Really Useful Ed. Tech Book islicensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This can make things confusing, as many understand the role of IT support and are aware of the VLE, but not always aware of the range and depth that a Learning Technology service covers. These issues are put succinctly in this timely post by Bex Ferriday, which asks how can we help people better understand the role of the Learning Technologist… not just someone who can fix computers!

At Falmouth, we provide an overview of the team on our site. The Educational Technology team operates within the wider ICT department, though we are closely aligned to both ICT and Learning, Teaching and Employability strategies. The team has a broad experience that covers Reed’s continuum of job variation and we find ourselves dealing with things like configuring authentication to the VLE to testing out new technologies with academic staff to hosting workshops in learning design for blended and online modules/courses. One of the most effective routes into working with our academic staff we have found is by working with our PGCHE. Many of our Focus On… initiatives have been born out of the PGCHE Summer School, where staff are given the space to explore and experiment with learning technology. 

We pride ourselves on having an understanding of technology and being able to act as a bridge between technology and pedagogy; being able to explain things clearly to an audience with varying digital practices.

We’d love to hear how it’s approached in other UK HEIs by response to this post or on Twitter.

Dear Geek Santa….

Once the festive season arrives thoughts in the team turn to what Santa might be bringing us in our Christmas stockings. We’ve had another busy year and hope we’re all still on the nice list, so Santa please be kind and make a little note of our tech based wishes!

This year Mark’s keen to get his hands on a pocket synth set, ideally Teenage Engineering’s PO Superset.

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Perfect for making noise on the go the Superset features synthesizer engines, punch in effects and a built in speaker. These ultra portable devices fit in the palm of your hand and allow you to create studio quality electronic beats. We’ll be keeping an eye out for Mark’s future music releases.

Adel recently got herself a bike and would like to upgrade her FitBit Charge to something that will track her cycling and swimming activity. Having shopped around she likes the look of the Moov Now. Although not able to be charged it’s got a 6 month battery which is replaceable, and won the Sports Wearable of the Year 2016 award from Wearable.com.

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It’s safe to say wearable tech has come on leaps and bounds over the last year and exercise trackers and now able to monitor more than before. With the accompanying app you’re now able to track all types of fitness, whereas previously with Moov you needed a different app for every activity. It’s safe to say that fitness trackers will develop more during 2017 so who knows what might be on Adel’s list next year.

Topping Amy’s list this is year is the Sonos Play 5. Already a keen Sonos fan she would like to expand her home based music system. Not only does the Play 5 configure will the other speakers in the Play system it has a dedicated line in making it slightly more advanced than other speakers in the same range.

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With it’s dedicated app and ability to stream music to all speakers in the same system it’s a really great setup for home audio.

Also keen on some new audio for Christmas is Oliver; on his wish list this year is a Kastle modular synth. Pocket sized and reprogrammable using an Arduino it has two inputs/outputs and can be combined with other modular gear such as the PO Superset mentioned on Mark’s list.

So if you could make our Ed Tech Christmas dreams come true Santa that would be great. We’d also like to take the time to wish all staff and students a Merry Christmas and we’ll see you in 2017!

Falmouth Digital Experience Tracker

Monday 5th December sees the launch of our Digital Experience tracker at Falmouth University. With Jisc, we’re joining over a hundred educational providers internationally to benchmark our student digital experience.

At Falmouth we’re also offering the opportunity to win an iPad Mini for taking part.

Students can fill in the 15 minute survey and forward their completion receipt to digital.experience@falmouth.ac.uk for a chance to win.

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We’re opening the tracker until Jan 30th and will be updating the digital signage around campus with response rates and themes. In February, those wishing to continue the conversation will be invited to focus groups to discuss some of the emerging issues and plan how to tackle them.

In April we’ll get an idea of the bigger picture through a comparison with other Universities and be able to benchmark our own Digital Experience at Falmouth.

Falmouth in Focus – Fine Art

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 Fine Art  within the Falmouth School of Art. Neil Chapman and Mercedez Kemp recently chose to implement a digital feedback process for dissertation tutorials using the VLE and Google Docs.

The process makes use of the VLE as the point of reference for booking a tutorial and within each booking there is the facility to attach a link. A Google Doc is then created for each student and the notes from the tutorial are contained within. This approach borrows elements of the SAMR methodology, but instead of substituting the technology we are combining and augmenting it. We make use of the functionality of the VLE as a central resource for students and augment it with Google Docs, which has the benefit of facilitating synchronous feedback and allowing both staff and students to take notes/comment in one place.

Feedback on the use of the new method is currently being sought from the current students, but Neil added: 

“For my own part, the new method has helped me to keep track of tutorial reports. Previously, I’ve found myself emailing attachments to students, sometimes receiving attachments back in return, then having to collate that material. On the cons side, students have not been as proactive using their editing rights as I would have liked.”

Trying a new technology out can be daunting and time consuming, but here the team are making the best of institutional  and modern web tools to provide continuity and timeliness of feedback, aligning appropriately to the NUS charter on assessment and Feedback (2010)

Falmouth in Focus – Business Entrepreneurship

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 Business Entrepreneurship within the Business School. ET caught up with Assistant Team Coach Emma Ojala to discuss how technology is used to enhance learning on the course and specifically in relation to points 1, 9 & 10 of the NUS Assessment and Feedback Benchmarking Tool.

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Image: Connected, Courageous, Creative, Capable, Confident
Source: BA (Hons) Business Entrepreneurship

The way we operate is heavily focused on an open environment where knowledge and experience is shared, and where reflection has a big part in every individual’s learning. We aim to treat our Teampreneurs (students) as adult learners who are responsible for their own learning.

The ultimate aim of the Business Entrepreneurship is to create graduates who are lifelong, autonomous learners. They do this by building up their confidence through repeating similar tasks, each time the expectations are raised along with their responsibility for their own learning.

Teampreneurs are given an end goal (six learning outcomes) and then given the tools to facilitate their planning, actions and reflections to achieve those goals.

One of the individual tasks we expect them to do throughout the 3 years of the course is a reflective learning journal; a tool we now recommend for this is the new Falmouth Journal platform (based on WordPress) which allows all the pedagogical benefits of a learning journal to be developed as well as supporting them in learning real working life skills by using the platform.

One of the elements that every teampreneur is required to do is knowledge reviews; an activity where individuals write a review of a resource they have engaged with and think about how they could apply the knowledge they have gained into their daily life, any business they are running, when leading a team they are in, or to put more context into their experiences.

Based on feedback from teampreneurs we have created a class blog, called Insights, where everyone on the course posts their reviews. They control the privacy of the posts so can decide whether they want their peers to be able to see them or not. For public posts we encourage them to comment on each other’s reviews. Every post, private or public, receives formative feedback from us (the tutors). The ultimate aim is that this encourages the free flow of sharing insights and having open discussions, and strengthens the physical culture we have.

From the second year teampreneurs are assessed through a portfolio which they put together to evidence that they have met the learning outcomes. They are free to create their portfolio in any format, however if they choose to do an online portfolio we now expect them to create it through the Falmouth Journal platform. This means that institutional policies and regulations can be met as they are attached to a class, and the teampreneurs will be unable to change them after the due date.

Overall, teampreneurs are invested in the quality of the course because it is so autonomous; its reputation is a reflection of their achievements within it. The current third years are the first group to undertake the course and they are acting as unofficial mentors for the new students to encourage the culture and behaviour that the course is aiming for. This is creating a cohesive course experience and identity that is being facilitated in the online environment with the tools that are now available and, as mentioned above, transcends the face to face environment.

Group texting/SMS

We’ve updated the Student SMS functionality in Learning Space to facilitate sending of group texts.

So if students have added their mobile numbers to their profile and you have groups set up in the course/module you will be able to send a text to a group.

You might use this to contact project/year groups and each message is logged, so you have a history of the text and when the text was sent. Contact the team for more information on getting Student SMS set up.

A Lens on… play for learning

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.

Play is an essential part of childhood development. Play encourages social, physical, cultural, emotional and mental development and is enshrined in the United Nations Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989). It is defined as activity associated with recreational enjoyment or pleasure and can be voluntary or intrinsically motivated. It is appealing to play as it has less construct and there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it.

Play isn’t confined to childhood as Chrissi Nerantzi, Principal Lecturer in Academic CPD at MMU notes “Play helps us go back to who we really are as human beings, full of life, curiosity and wonder. Creatures who are not afraid to be different, even silly at times and ready to try different things.”

Within the University, space needs to be created to facilitate play. This could be through accredited routes such as a PGCHE or through educational development workshops. At Falmouth, we’ve seen constructs from PGCHE cohorts of paper aeroplanes and boats, giant bubbles, campus maps made of waste materials, pop up galleries and bridges built out of straws that have resulted from collaborative challenges and playful activities.

Technology can facilitate and encourage play through game based apps or by using devices to document processes, communicate and collaborate with each other. Our ‘Hunger Games’ scavenger hunt creates a space in which to play with communications technology and the team provide iPads and logins for common social networks, so staff can have a go without signing up for services. Using Open Source Technologies might also facilitate this. For example, you might set up Pinry to explore Pinterest like curation or Diaspora as a short messaging alternative to Twitter. Sandstorm also lets you play with a range of web tools, without having to install or configure them.

Play lends itself to a constructivist approach, where the learner is the information constructor and learning can happen through multiple attempts and failures. Lego Serious Play has been used in the business and education sectors for a number of years now and facilitates the creation of lego artifacts to promote shared understanding of a concept or goal. The first playful learning conference took place this year and there is also a G+ Community for playful learners.

Institutions and individuals need to make space to play, as it can help us reflect upon and transform our educational practices in new and creative ways. For more information on any of the approaches and tools listed, contact the team.

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Importance of collaboration in Educational Technology

Educational technology is a vast field, the individuals who work within this area are often as diverse as the topics they cover. From online assessment to user experience, learning design to technology best practice, we work in a diverse environment. Within the University environment there are several ways learning technology practitioners are embedded into an institution, most commonly this involves either having a centralised department, using a hub and spoke method or assigning individuals at a departmental level.

How departments are structured ultimately affects how learning technologists collaboratively work together, and while this is important within the context of a University it’s often outside of your own institution that these opportunities become more valuable.

The learning technologists, designers, educators and developers who make up the learning tech community are some of the most collaborative people I know. Keen to swap best practice advice and tips with others working in education and providing a sounding board for innovation and educational enhancement ideas. You only have to look at initiatives such as #LTHEChat to see the benefits of a collaborative virtual meeting of minds.

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Similarly collectives such as ALT’s special interest groups (pictured above) make it possible for individuals to come together for a common goal. Making the effort to attend meetups and conferences either physically or virtually is a really important enabler for collaboration in any field. These connections can be especially useful should you need input from others who might have experience implementing certain technologies at an institutional level or if you want to bounce ideas around with someone else working in the same area as you.

As a team we’re always up for collaborating and see its value in driving forward change in learning technology. Should you wish to get in touch we can be reached by email: etsupport@falmouth.ac.uk

#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.

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