Bett Show 2016

Last month saw Bett 2016 touch down at the London Excel centre for four days of learning technology talks, demonstrations and seminars.

A staple in the ed tech calendar Bett is vast and one of the largest shows of it’s kind. This years speakers included Sugata Mitra, Salman Khan and Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan.

Exhibitors included FutureLearn, Github, Google and Raspberry Pi to name a few.

Unfortunately none of the Ed Tech team could make it to this years show, however a wealth of resources and highlights are available via the Bett site and using #bett16 and #bettchat hashtags.

Maybe next year!

Trends in Educational Technology for 2016

As we did in 2014 and 2015, we return in 2016 with our predictions of what will evolve for Learning Technology in Higher Education this year. We take a look at 2015s NMC Horizon Report as well as adding our own reflections at Falmouth.

Last years, key themes were around supporting digital literacies, agile approaches to change and new approaches to physical and online learning spaces. Certainly the output from JISC’s Digital Student project details a fantastic range of exemplars that are supporting the student experience in these ways and the JISC/NUS Benchmarking tool gives institutions a set of practices on which to build.

This year, Higher Education looks poised to adopt some of these approaches as ‘Flipped Classrooms’ and ‘Blended Learning’ become common parlance within the institution. The University of Southampton have some great video examples of flips and blends and the HEA academy offer a ‘Starter Tool’ for those interested to know more.

Educational Technology will have a significant role to play in defining and supporting the incoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The Association For Learning Technology (ALT) have responded to the consultation asking 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.

It will also be interesting to see how Open Educational Resources and Open practice (seen as a mid-range driver to edtech adoption in 2015) will influence the TEF and how it will be integrated into Blended/Online Learning opportunities.

Learning Analytics are also likely to impact Higher Education again this year in light of the TEF as Institutions strive to find ways to measure success in Learning and Teaching. Last year we looked at the idea of student centred Learning Analytics and JISC’s Effective Learning Analytics project concludes in July and is already providing the sector with a range of tools and processes with which to leverage Learning Analytics.

The Falmouth and Exeter Students Union, FXU are prioritising the impact of cuts to the Disabled Students Allowances and gaining clarity around academic practice, in particular Students as Co-Creators of learning. Use of Educational Technologies can impact both of these through accessible learning design and opening up learning design to students, something that the Ed. Tech team are currently working on with our BA (Hons) Entrepreneurship course.

If you’re interested in learning more or implementing any of this within your teaching, let the team know.

Dear Geek Santa

As another year draws to a close, The Educational Technology team would like to reflect on their work this year and if they’ve been good enough, they would like a stocking full of shiny technology….

This year we managed to get out blog on to the The Top 50 Must Read IT Blogs in Higher Ed; we launched our Lens On… Higher Ed. Technology series of posts, presented on Learning Analytics, started to develop a community space for sharing creative skills, played our own Hunger Games with #EDU130 and whilst all that happened, we upgraded our VLE. And so the tech…

Topping Adel’s list this year and very much the topic of the moment is the Star Wars inspired BB-8 Sphero; an orange sized sphere that rolls around under the command of your Android phone. On that note, to make up the package she would also the Google Pixel C, which looks like a relatively affordable alternative to the Apple and Microsoft offerings in the ‘Pro’ tablet arena.

Amy’s christmas quest is to update the home theatre experience for super fast broadband by replace the creaking iMac with a new MacMini or something like a chromecast (a popular gift from last year’s santa list). If you have the hardware already, Kodi.TV is a worthy environment for the Home Theatre PC.

Mark would like the gesture based input offered by the Myo to control the new Micro-Brewery offering from Pico. Waving at a device to set in motion the creation of craft beer, is in his opinion the pinnacle of the Internet Of Things.

Oliver would like a Standuino 3π2, to add to his smorgasbord of noise making machines.

We hope you’ll see that we really have been awfully good technologists again this year, so if you could see your way to leaving this stuff under our LED christmas tree, we’d be most appreciative.

All the very best for the season to one and all!

Team ET

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Over one billion people, 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. Removing barriers to their participation creates a better world for all. December 3rd, marks the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities and this year’s theme centres around inclusion. The Equality Act 2010 asks us to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. With this is in mind, the Educational Technology Team have put together a set of good practice principles that staff can factor into their Learning Space module design.

  1. Involve a diverse groups of learners in the design of your online module to provide feedback and advice and help you iterate.

  2. Provide multimedia alternatives to text; close captioned videos, audio and supportive visuals can break learning into chunks.

  3. Provide a contextual description for the files you upload. Your Learning Space is your voice guiding learners through the module.

  4. Test your content using some of the accessibility features of popular browsers and devices Chrome, Apple, Windows, Firefox, Android.

  5. Read More. JISC have a range of resources published around the areas of disability, accessibility and special educational needs

We’d encourage you to pick one or two of these and act on them to recognise today’s international effort.

A Lens On… Digital Wellbeing

Digital Wellbeing
Image: CPD needs heirarchy by @simonrae

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 sector.

The student experience is increasingly mediated through use of technology; timetabling systems, online learning, Student Information Systems, Customer Relationship Management software, mobile devices… all things that staff and students will need to engage with in one form or other to navigate their way through life at University. ‘Digital Wellbeing’ is concerned with exploring and improving these interactions in a personal and social context.

Social media tools are incredibly useful and popular in teaching and learning, but are often built around a Culture of Participation; the more ‘likes’ you get the more influential you are. This in turn exacerbates the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) – if you’re not connected then you’re not part of the crowd. Some technologies are designed to help us improve our wellbeing; running trackers, calorie counters, sleep timers all attempt to provide us with feedback based on quantifying our day to day activity, but do they in themselves enhance our wellbeing?

Technology proliferation and a participation culture within the HE sector, can lead to increasing anxiety amongst students and staff, so there is an increasing need for the individual and the institution to recognise and makes steps to mitigate this. JISC/NUS’s Student Experience Benchmarking Tool can be a great conversation starter in this area; note where you are on the scale of First Steps to Outstanding and plan to improve.

Digital Wellbeing Benchmark

Some courses at Falmouth University are addressing this head on by encouraging group discussion around stress and anxiety; there are various signs up inviting people to meditation groups and the University promote both internal wellbeing services and external Talking Therapies like BE|ME.
Wellbeing Services

A recent #LTHEChat that explored Digital Wellbeing asked participants to reflect on technology that enhanced their wellbeing, many focused on social connectivity that isn’t restricted by place/time and the ability to share. In thinking about how technology detracted from this, answers centred around not being able to ‘switch off’, being ‘all over the place’ and a saturation of ‘info’ and ‘spam’ that could be considered digital noise.

So how do we manage our digital wellbeing? Suggestions from the chat were to set time boundaries for checking social media, literally switch off devices and step outside the bubble of your own technology use. It is also important to encourage discussion and development of our digital capabilities and as JISC/NUS suggest, provide space for self-reflection.

Falmouth’s Student Union have identified ‘Mental Health Support’ in their Top10 issues for 2015/16 and have also established a ’Green Living’ project and ‘Digital Detox Series’. These events focus on removing oneself from the day to day technology and engage in outdoor making and horticultural activities as a means to improve wellbeing.

Digital Detox

The series was organised by a recent graduate who I had the opportunity to ask about the concept of Digital Wellbeing. He talked about access to the internet, movies and online games as “another layer of insulation from the outside world, a further excuse to stay indoors.” and “a constant stream of stimulation, rendering anything outside of a virtual world boring.” He acknowledged the benefits of online learning and video/audio chats, but said that above all the means of technology to play music was one thing they couldn’t be without.

I also talked to a member of academic staff, who saw the benefits of technology in making you feel connected and providing avenues of accessibility, which chimes with the #LTHEchat. She also mentioned the negative impacts that mobile technology can have on our physical health, such as carrying the items, using the items incorrectly and sharing workstations adding “Right now, my laptop is on my knee and I am looking down at the screen. That can lead to a form of whiplash but in slow motion – accreting over the years.”

As working online is such a part of our daily lives, we’re often using the internet as a distraction instead of taking time away from the screen. A common theme was that access to online stuff can “suck you in”, so techniques that break tasks up such as Pomodoro can be useful. Our staff member has introduced “an early morning switch off policy – going for a walk/run instead…I feel better for it”. They suggested that less or better use of email could aid wellbeing, but although this has been discussed over a number of years, it remains hard to implement.

It’s fantastic to see this concern being raised at national and institutional level and the JISC/NUS tool leaves us with an important consideration regarding implementation:

“Most of the ‘outstanding’ practices involve staff and students working in partnership. The partnership needs to be meaningful in order to work, which means that both groups must listen, recognise each others’ skills and resources, and be willing to compromise. “

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