What am I?

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Looking back ... and looking forward

24 December 2019 - nearly the end of the year ... This morning, I heard on the radio that the Queen will look back to 2019 as a 'bumpy year'. Who wouldn't agree? Seems like we're moving into bumpier times on an almost daily basis, looking at our future in the pretext of climate change, and devastating humanitarian disasters happening in so many parts of our world. I'm looking at my surrounding, being very aware of how small each single human being is. Sometimes it seems a real priviledge to be able to put up with the little things which surround us. Currently, I'm 'the last one standing' on the fourth floor of my office building, and I just watered all the little plants on our window sill:
In my new role as Senior Lecturer, I was 'blessed' with a chance to dig into 'online distance learning'. My overall experience: I travelled a 'bumpy road'. One of the projects I was tasked with, setting up an undergraduate online distance learning course, was stopped in its tracks for various (valid) reasons after a very hopeful (at least on my side) start. Another project, an MPH, did go ahead, giving me a chance to at least 'get on' with a product. Despite not all going to plan, nothing is lost, yet. The learning curve for myself was at times satisfyingly steep. Being much closer to programme teams, whose members try to balance teaching, research and doing PhDs did provide me with new priorities along the lines of finding ways to prepare the learning and teaching process in the online world in efficient, yet intriguing, ways. Along my way, I created a resource which collects items and ideas which seem useful when tackling the process of online learning design. It's kind of the result of my reflections. It's under constant revision, and not yet much used, but I hope it might be - one day:
There's also a very re-assuring momentum in all things 'TEL' via a new group I'm participating in, which will hopefully make the online learning provision at my workplace 'sleeker', more consistent and reliable, including a thorough approach to online learning design. Here's hoping. Another part of my journey in the past year was related to 'discoveries with H5P'. The focus is on how to make it work for 'deeper' learning, possibly applying constructivist principles and embedding it into online presentations in a way that makes one stop and think, and possibly move away from the presentation, to make one's own discoveries within the context set out in it. Not easy to do online, and all the more fun it is to discover the potential. I'm setting my hopes on getting a user group going, as I firmly believe these things work best through extensive sharing of good ideas. There are more stories to tell. But not now. I'm getting ready for the Christmas break:

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Quick review: Video in HE Symposium

Dominik Lukes, who organised the symposium, started us off with the attempt to assign a name and date to the following quote:

I think most of us were rather surprised to hear that Thomas Eddison said this in 1913. It was a good start for our question: where are we now, in 2019, with the use of video? Here are a few personal highlights from listening to a series of 'lightning talks' that followed Dominik's introductory talk:

In cases where institution-wide lecture capture was praised and presented as successful (from the student feedback point of view),  pedagogical recommendations were also taken into account, as for example by James Youdale (University of York):

recommendations list, referring pedagogical considerations of lecture capture

'Inspiring academics to use video in their teaching' (Sandra Huskinson, Fiery Red consultancy & Loughborough University) does not come easy, when academics are asked to create their own videos. There's a lot of scepticism:

Strategies on how to overcome this scepticism were convincingly  presented at 'lightning' speed:

The slide presented above talks about 'using green screen'. This isn't necessarily key to any 'good teaching video' production, as pointed out through a comparison between 'lecturer' videos and 'youtuber' videos in another presentation:

comparison between 'academic' videos and ordinary youtube ones

While I do agree that a focus on 'natural' performance is very important, I still think that a well set-up mini-studio can help enormously to quickly create short and sharp videos, and that's why I'm all for Rapidmooc. For example, there's no post-production work required, the production focus is more on pre-production, i.e. the better your PowerPoint for a lecture, the easier it is to integrate it into the production process. It also auto-generates closed captions for accessibility AND has a customisable teleprompter.

Rapidmooc in action

This neat little mini studio doesn't come cheap and would be rather nice to have here at Brookes. BUT I should not forget to mention that - in principle - we have a very decent facility at Brookes now, too, set up by Ed Thomas:

Unfortunately, this studio is on a different campus. The time to travel back and forth creates a substantial additional hurdle in the effort to involve academics in the creation of videos for teaching and learning ... AND it is not quite as easy to use as the 'rapidmooc'.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Thriving for a new balance

Something hard to maintain in my working life as a learning technologist is the thing called 'balance'. On a daily basis, there seems to be too much technology and not enough learning. When software developers work hard on improving their products, it's often to the detriment of the usability of the very same products. Even in cases where a closer look might indeed reveal that a certain bit of functionality has 'enhanced' the product, this comes at a cost for the general user (me?). One factor in the game is certainly: humans are creatures of habit. Let's look at the small things, for example, the position of a button. I might have used a particular button in 'autopilot' mode for years. When the position of this very button is changed, it leaves me in ... what? Correct. Great frustration. It gets worse (a lot!) when the functionality within the software changes, and I can no longer do things in the same way I got used to doing them. Trivial? Yes, it is. And at the same time, it's also quite important, because it can mean that 'getting to grips with using a particular technology' can obscure the purpose of why I'm using it in the first place.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

My highlights from BLTC 2018

On 14 June 2018 we had our annual Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference. As usual, it was tricky to choose from the parallel sessions in the various strands (discipline, students, staff, and environment). I tried to create a mixture for myself, of 'things to do with technology in learning and teaching', and 'things I'd like to learn more about'. In the latter category, my absolute highlight was 'The Living Lecture'. The two presenters had a (comparatively) large audience which they took along through the presentation in a very lively and - dare I say it? - uplifting way. We were actively involved in the session, using 'Flinga', a free tool (created in Finnland) which allows the collaborative creation of content online in the classroom, using our mobiles. Here is a screenshot, showing the outcome of one of the short Flinga sessions:

I never thought about lecturing as a craft, hence I was really intrigued to hear how one can actually learn/improve this 'craft'. I recorded a short snippet with my mobile, which talks about "the self-care dimension" of teaching. It shows that teaching has a lot to do with acting, and thus skills acquired in an acting class can improve lecturing:

So much for now ... there is more I'd like to talk about, but I'm running out of time :)

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Going round in circles with 23 Things?

I failed miserably to attend to 23 Things. Thing 3 (Digital Footprints), with the task to google my own name, took me back to an ancient blog posting in an old blog of mine, where I attended a course which tasked me to do exactly that: google my own name:


So I thought 'been there, done that ...' ;) and gave up for a while. Today I resumed my feeble efforts. At least doing it again nearly 11 years later had a different result, more consistent and quite strongly related to my current work. Some of the very old stuff does not come up any longer, which I find reassuring. I liked the discovery that Discogs created a very neat overview of the CD covers I designed quite a few years ago, although a few are missing:

I followed some (very basic!) advice before googling my name:

Quite useful. It's interesting when limiting the search to different ways of spelling my name because my surname has a German 'Umlaut', which has been 'forgotten' when I started working in my current position - quite a few years ago. Feeling quite lucky that I seem to have a name which does not bring up nasty associations. Not sure if I should be more worried about the 'professionalism' of my online presence. I quite like the mix of links, thinking I'm a little more than just a learning technologist. I like the fact that a few of my photo adventures turn up in the list, and it's perfectly okay for the world to know that I think the UPP (Ultimate Picture Palace) is a fantastic cinema ... Need to move on before I get stuck in too many 'things from the past' conjured up by Google ... :)

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

23 Things for Digital Knowledge

I just registered for this self-paced course for digital and online skills, initiated by the University of Edinburgh, see https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/social-tools/23things

So. The question is: why did I do this when I should already have an 'okay' level of digital skills, being a learning technologist? The short answer is: I'm on a mission to get into a more regular blogging habit. I still find it quite difficult to write a blog, and I am in awe of people who manage to write down what goes through their minds in an uncomplicated, personal yet competent fashion. I still find it really difficult to stop agonising over words and ways of expressing things. Quite often, I resort to photographs, not only because a picture says more than a thousand words, but rather because that's so much easier for me. But even with photographs I often need to take my time. Hence my 'Blip' photos only come once a month rather than every day. For those who don't know: Blipfoto is a photo journal site: https://www.blipfoto.com/, Very much worth exploring further. Here's the link to my 'blipjournal': https://www.blipfoto.com/lilabowie. Of course, I also run a 'one photo a day' diary on my mobile. The app is called 'Day One Classic' (there are follow-ups, but I like the simple original version). And in fact, so far, I did manage to add an entry every single day for the past 3 years. The reason why this one works so much easier for me: it's private! And now I'm going to publish this slightly inconsistent entry without agonising over it ...

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The upside of recording a presentation

Occasionally, it's part of my job to pick up a video camera and record a presentation, if and when our lecture capture system doesn't fulfil the specs of the intended outcome of the capture. It's not a very challenging job, hence I often use the time to follow the presentation, happily learning the odd new thing in the process.

Today I captured Chris Cloke's presentation during the 'Children and Families Research Group' seminar, 'How safe are our children - learning from the NSPCC research'. Chris is the Head of Safeguarding in Communities, National Services, NSPCC, and he made sure that I learned a lot about the work the NSPCC does. As a learning technologist, I particularly concentrated when Chris talked about 'Make children safe from abuse online', which is one of the five NSPCC priorities. In this context he did show us this slide:

While I was aware of the fact that children's lives are increasingly lived online, I was certainly not aware of the rapid increase in the number of children using a tablet - from 1 respectively 2% to 80 respectively 74% within just six years. Lots of thoughts spring to mind: how many hours a day do children spend online? What are their activities during that time? How effective are our attempts to 'make children safe from abuse online'? What are the most effective measures anyway? As we can't keep a constant watch over them, and as putting 'locks' everywhere can be quite counterproductive, the best measure seems to lie in education. An education that helps children to cope with the quite overwhelming flood of stimuli, information, images ... and also helps them to protect themselves! The NSPCC website has, of course, lots of relevant information on this topic, see for example Dare to debate: online safety.  And how can we provide an adequate education, when we really haven't quite worked out for ourselves how to cope with all the 'online stuff'? Before I end up in a rant, I better stop my 'thinking aloud'. Need a clearer head for these thoughts than the one I have at 6pm in the evening, still sitting in front of my computer screen ...