What am I?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

BLTC 2016 - a review in pictures

This year's Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference LEARNING ON THE EDGE took place on 4 July, in a slightly unusual space, which is normally inhabited by very creative Urban Design students. The conference was held on 3 different floors.

In the basement visitors were welcomed, provided with food, drinks and they had plenty of space for networking:



The 2nd floor provided a large seated space for the keynote: 'Mind the gap' with Kirsti Lonka from the University of Helsinki. The 'gap' refers to the wide empty space between digital natives and our educational practices. Kirsti compared current students' experience to being on a 'long-haul flight' (= switch all personal digital devices off) and her talk focussed on ideas how to create new cultures for study and academic work,


 Also on the second floor was a space for 'cutting edge' technology, where Gerard Helmich and Simon Llewellyn moved visitors into different realities:



AND there was the Minerva bridge, hosting - among other things - the digital barometer, asking people to position themselves in the digital climate of the world of work. Here you see three visitors in action:

And here's a close-up of the barometer by the end of the day, showing quite a strong tendency towards the sunny site. (The concept of the barometer is based on ideas by Irmgard Huppe and Abi Ball, and the appealing visual presentation is the work of Richard Francis.)


The fourth floor of the Abercrombie building provided four flexible session spaces:



The flexibility came at a cost though - the technology (presentation screen) had to be set up on the spur of the moment, and - as it happens with technology - it refused to work at the first attempt. However, the presenter's (Rhona Sharpe) flexibility made up for it by engaging the audience without presentation slides.

The library training room (at the bottom end of the large forum in JHB) provided a very useful additional session space, mostly used for hands-on and learning technology oriented sessions, for example one about making self-study material more engaging by using the Moodle lesson format (presenters: Gus Strang, Charlotte Maddison, Irmgard Huppe), and a session about 'The internet of learning', presented by Matt Perry and Ben Ellis:


I would have liked to attend quite a few of the sessions which were outlined in the conference booklet, but you can't be in several spaces at once, unfortunately. Last but not least, I'd like to mention that the special  conference booklet was specially designed by members of the Social Sculpture Team at Brookes, Annelinde Kirchgässer and Markus Stefan, who encouraged the audience to use the booklet to 'journal for change', using blank pages in the notebook, which had been divided into two: a wider left side to actively gather thoughts BEFORE each session, and narrower right 'margin' to re-enter the notes and write new thoughts in response AFTER each session.



Friday, 27 May 2016

Making movies with your mobile

I've long given up on keeping my social media accounts strictly separate with respect to private and professional use. Instead, I use rough guidelines on which of several blogs I use for what kind of message. Admittedly, a lot of the time I can't seem to make up my mind nor find the time for posting, so every one of my blogs suffers a little bit of neglect. Not keeping it all strictly separate can have good side effects though: When checking events on facebook during my lunch break I found a little video by my friend and (ex) colleague Patsy, who shared her just acquired skills via a short video created during a one day workshop at the Media Trust called 'Movies with Mobiles'. Because I like this little video and find it quite encouraging, I asked her to put it on YouTube (wondering if this is better for sharing than Facebook ...). And here it is:

Thank you, Patsy.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Wildfire, catapult, and daily routine

I'm still chewing on my observation that increasingly Learning Technologies are perceived to be part of 'business as usual' in learning and teaching at Universities these days. Lecturers and students are dutifully using a VLE, to a greater or lesser extend. Decisions on how much to use a VLE and technologies in the context of learning might depend on the subject area, and on convenience achieved via using it. It's neither considered as superfluous nor as exciting, just routine.

Asking myself if this is a bad or a good sign, the usual answer springs to mind: it depends. As a learning technologist, rather than fire fighting problems a lot of the time, there's more time to explore the potential of different technologies, to work on projects, and potentially even to be creative. For each question related to technology in learning and teaching, multiple solutions are on offer, involving a variety of bits and pieces of technology. The best choice requires experimenting and being inquisitive in order to be able to offer something resembling a feasible answer. Additionally, learning technologists can't wait until the question is asked, we will have to anticipate it because experimentation takes time, but answers are expected instantly.

One of the much discussed items on the agenda of learning technologists are social media, despite the fact Universities seem to position social media in the communication and marketing departments. Assuming it would help me to gain insights into this topic, I attended an event in London on 12 January 2016, called Digital Wildfires: respond now at the Digital Catapult! I do have to confess that  the Digital Catapult Centre is a good place, and I enjoyed spending a day in a splendid non-virtual environment, discussing "the impact of (provocative) social media content, the (responsible) use of social media data and the balance between concerns over the harms cause by social media posts with the rights to freedom of speech". On one side of the conference room we were looking onto the British Library, and the other side offered a splendid view across London:



I was very impressed with the keynote speaker Baroness Beeban Kidron, who is the founder of the iRights campaign for children and young people. One of the keynote's core questions was 'how and to who's benefit do we deploy digital technologies', which is, of course, a question which needs to be asked in many different contexts, not just related to children. In my observation, the "culture of digital interaction" consumes us all in different ways, and very much to a greater or lesser extend. While some of us still interact using the good old fashioned telephone, or even postcards and letters, interacting online is more or less second nature to many of the younger ones. This reminds me of the 'digital capability framework' by the JISC (https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/building-digital-capability), describing "the skills needed by staff in a wide range of academic, administrative and professional roles to thrive in a digital environment":


 'Digital identity and wellbeing' constitutes the surrounding in which all the other elements sit. But the all-encompassing question is: How do we achieve it? Or even just a tiny fraction of it?

On a more humble concluding note, I continued my video creation exploration, attending a second short course at FilmOxford, 'Shooting video', the outcome of which can be viewed here: