Ed Tech at Digifest 2019

Ed Tech attended Digifest 2019 this week. Run by JISC, this HE/FE conference aimed to “explore the power of digital and look in detail at what next-generation digital students need to thrive”.

The impact of machine learning was a recurring theme in the keynote speeches and take-home messages included:

  • to avoid bias, we need to ensure that data sets used in machined learning are explicitly inclusive;
  • today’s graduates will have multiple careers, mostly in jobs that do not currently exist;
  • to be employable in a world where machine learning/artificial intelligence is ubiquitous, humans will need three key skills: creativity, empathy, accountability.


Liz Sproat, Google’s head of education for Europe

Workshop sessions attended by Ed Tech included:


Th University of Essex’s student data dashboard


JISC’s digital literacy framework

Finally, there was an excellent simulation of a day in the life of Natalie, an undergraduate student in 2029 whose learning is via VR.


Nathalie, student 4.0

We look forward to Digifest 2020!

New accessibility regulations: what they mean for Learning Space

What’s occurring?

New UK regulations on accessibility became law in 2018 and content made available on Learning Space needs to be compliant by September 2020.

What does it mean for Falmouth teaching staff?

You will be responsible for making your Learning Space compliant by 2020. You will need to

  • become familiar with the regulations;
  • learn and apply relevant practical IT skills.

What are some of those practical skills?

They include:

  • structuring Word documents using Word’s heading styles (NOT by formatting text as large and bold);
  • using meaningful headings on every PowerPoint slide (even if they are hidden behind an image);
  • tagging (in the correct way) all images with a meaningful alternative text description;
  • using descriptive text for links (NOT ‘click here’).

What help will I get with this?

As well as offering training and guidance, we are looking at procuring an “accessibility checker” for staff, to be embedded in Learning Space. When you upload a document, it would:

  • tell you how accessible your content is;
  • highlight where you need to fix things by hand.

It would also provide management information on how accessible each module area is.

Do I need to do anything right now?

For now, do your best to make any new materials accessible and inclusive (a) using accessibility checkers built into Microsoft Office and (b) following accessibility guidance from gov.uk. We will be in touch regarding training and content-wide compliance later this year.

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.

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