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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently there have been a resurgence in podcasting, productions such as This American Life’s Serial have helped to popularise a media format that had previously dwindled; in 2014 alone Apple anticipated its users listened to 7 billion podcasts. A greater choice of podcasting apps and widespread use of smartphones have played their part in making episodic audio more accessible to individuals, and we look to education to see if this format could be utilised more in taught delivery.
Audio recordings as part of course content are commonly used in fully distant delivery, here at Falmouth our home based MA in Professional Writing use audio recordings to accompany tasks and documentation on a weekly basis, with tutors providing a guiding voice through the learning journey. At the University of Leicester podcasts are used to supplement sessions and weekly activities while at the Open University they have recently released OU Podcasts.
But how easy is it to get started with audio recording if it’s something new to you? With a range of free and open source tools available it can be quite daunting when finding the right combination of hardware and software to get started. Although, making use of specific audio recorders using your own hardware such as a mobile phone is also an option. Apps such as Dictaphone and Voice Recorder are easy to use and allow you to record voice straight from your phone, while tools such as Audacity and Audition allow you to add effects and edit your recordings. As with any tool we’d recommend liaising with a learning technologist if you’re unsure where to start or have any questions to make the process as beneficial as possible. For those who have access to Lynda.com a great selection videos and tutorials are available specifically for podcasting.
JISC’s Annual Digifest offers a fantastic opportunity to connect with colleagues across FE and HE and share some great practice around Educational and Information Technologies. 2016’s event took place across on 2nd-3rd March at Birmingham’s ICC and was formed of keynotes, workshops, seminars and hands-on technology displays. I attended on behalf of Falmouth University alongside a colleague from FXPlus, the University’s Shared Service Provider.
The theme of this year’s festival was to celebrate the ‘Power Of Digital’ to address challenges faced by institutions; such as keeping up with increasing demand on infrastructure and that technology adoption and understanding by students is moving at a faster pace than HEI’s are able to keep up with.
Plenary Day 1
As part of the Plenary session on day 1, Andrew Harrison talked about transforming learning spaces through technology and rather than silo-ing off activity, having spaces that celebrate inter-disciplinarity (co-incidentally a theme for the week’s #LTHEchat). Harrison promoted virtual and physical spaces that are complementary, that have technology fully integrated and that facilitate experimentation, suggesting that we want less gaffa tape holding up projector leads. He identified the challenge that HE’s face of losing real estate as learning evolves a from didactic to active models, providing flexible learning spaces means a loss of real estate. Melbourne learning lab was cited as an interesting example of a tiered learning space hacked out of an old lecture theatre and that a successful learning space will consider realms of Space , Place, Process & Experience.
Donna Lanclos continued with a series of provocations to educators and challenged delegates to develop pedagogies that work “whether the power comes on or not” and, in a similar fashion to Harrison, suggested a focus shift to Place and Presence as opposed to Tools and Practice stating “our role is to help people explore, not hand them a tool and tell them how to use it”. Lanclos talked about the intensification of presence through digital devices, in that we can be in virtual and physical space at the same time and that staff need to feel supported in these areas. An audience member asked if Digital can make better teachers and the simple response was No, but in discussion the plenary panel agreed that technology has changed what teaching can be and it can be a motivator to improve one’s practice.
#digifest16@TheContentMine No one really talked about the potential to change the “learn”-“teach” balance. for me digital changes democracy
Understanding your Institution’s Digital Practice
This mapping workshop built up on JISC’s work in the area of Digital Capability and used an extension of the Visitors and Residents model to map digital practice at an organisational level. James Clay presented some real world examples of the V&R spectrum talking about people who buy from amazon.com as visitors and those who buy and leave reviews as moving towards a resident mode. Equally on Twitter we may have retweeted/posted something today, but in resident mode we might @reply to someone or comment on a retweet. Lawrie Phipps also noted that we may not leave a “social trace” even if we have an account with a service and that the V&R spectrum is not static and that technologies and practices are ever evolving.
The mapping activity asked us to visualise practice within our own institutions and is designed to help staff discover where and how technology is being used and the level of anticipated or actual engagement. The mapping template is free to use and would be a brilliant exercise to undertake across organisational departments. I can already see how this activity would be useful for our Falmouth ICT and FXPlus IT teams to compare our own perceptions of Digital Practice.
This session focused on progress made since the last update to FELTAG report published by the department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The panel considered how the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group has enabled institutions to argue a case for new technology rather than a common argument for efficiency being getting rid of teaching staff. Poor implementation of technology creates workload. Warwickshire College Group and South Staffordshire College cited a move to Google Apps and more specifically Google Classroom has enabled learning to happen anywhere, on any device. Deployment of Chromebooks has improved energy efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. Highbury college involved all staff and students in their Digital Futures Strategy, creating a sense of collaboration and ownership.
Key to all of this, and an emergent theme from the conference, was fostering a Culture of Innovation within the organisation above a Culture of Compliance. Concentrating on people and wellbeing, and having supportive leaders who are prepared to take risks, were common links between panel members, one adding that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It was also noted that statistics are often the enemy of innovation and slow the pace of change.
Echoing the morning keynote, the panel talked about the danger of putting students in a linear environment that isn’t open, social and collaborative like they are used to and that traditional classroom teaching does not replicate life. Students in one college described letters as “things that dead people did”, SMS as “aggressive” but mobile apps as “friendly” and that we need to consider this when making use of technology to support learning. We need to ask questions of our institutional systems such as “How does the VLE support learning?”, “do we just need better ways to communicate?”.
Concerns were expressed from the audience that FELTAG was being used as a stick with which to punish those not complying with 10% online provision as set out in the recommendation. I think this may be true where organisations are not prepared to shift ingrained paradigms, but what FELTAG does is enable a conversation to happen around appropriate use of Technology Enhanced Learning and certainly in FE it seems to be supporting improvements.
Plenary Day 2
The Plenary session on day 2 focused on The Power of Digital in Learning & Teaching. JISC’s Sarah Davies led the session and added the broader picture of current and future work across the sector. Heather McDonald talked about the effect that technology will have on hollowing out middle economy jobs and that the future will see leading educators beamed into classrooms and an extension of Self Organised Learning Environments, as popularised by Sugatra Mitra. I feel that there there may be an element of social learning missing in this prediction and that it presents a future in which the didactic model of teaching hasn’t evolved. McDonald did however, go on to say that in the light of the TEF and with reference to OFSTED that we should own and define what excellent teaching is in the future and this not be in the hands of Government.
John Traxler asked “What killed the mobile learning dream?” And answered by saying that ‘Mobile Learning’ was a product of its time and arose from the aspirations of research into anytime, anywhere learning. He continued by saying that Mobile Learning initiatives were often driven by Institutes with access to devices, but now the technology is cheap, robust, easy to use, and social. This changes the dynamic of mobile learning to an “outside in rather than inwards, top down approach”. Traxler suggested that we now need to address the challenges of an abundance of devices.
Ian Dolphin opened by drawing attention to the Educause Next Generation Digital Learning Environment Initiative which argues that the VLE should move from a teacher centred model to one that supports collaboration, analytics for advice, personalisation and accessibility. Dolphin also noted that the expanding field of learner analytics raises more ‘non digital’ questions, around things such as ‘informed consent’. This view is consistent with feedback from the Open University at last year’s DigiFest, who noted that increasingly students are asking about what is being done with the vast amounts of data being collected and held about them
Chrissi Nerantzi’s talk, Wondering while Wandering addressed the rise of playfulness in Learning and Teaching, but that people are quickly discouraged from playing and innovating if the culture doesn’t support it. Also that technology shouldn’t drive learning and teaching, but in reference to the Enhance, Empower, Extend framework, we can play with it if we are empowered. Balloons were released into the audience throughout the talk and as we played Sarah Davies concluded the session by asking how do you enable play within an organisation? How would senior managers allow this? Nerantzi responded by changing terminology, saying experimentation is play and teaching staff experiment within their subject disciplines so why not in teaching. Also from experience, when academics become ‘students’, their practice develops and failures may produce many forms of ritual learning.
Davies added that developing a model of students as partners, allows a shared understanding of learning and experimentation.
I wasn’t able to attend further sessions on day two, but again an enjoyable #Digifest16 with some great speakers and fellow delegates. Having been for the last 3 years, the format continues to improve and it’s great to see such great practice within organisations that are empowering their staff and students to do more with technology to support learning.