What am I?

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 ...

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

H5P conference in Tromso, 11 to 13 September 2017

I was lucky enough to attend this excellent conference, and there's lots to report about, comment on etc. But as it always happens in September, I utterly ran out of time with some things, because the Brookes semester starts and that means ... mmh ... a few other 'priorities'. However, I just found some notes I wrote while hanging around in Tromso Airport, and - just to make a start - I'm going to post them here:

Summary/Conference review

It is Wednesday afternoon, and I’m sitting at Tromso Airport, returning to Oxford after the H5P conference. And what a very special conference it was! It was not so much the content of the conference (and not even the brilliant provision of food, coffee and other drinks throughout …): it was the very positive energy, which created the real buzz. There were more participants than originally expected by the organisers, and they came from all over the world. Everyone seemed curious, wanted to explore H5P, find out more about its future. The H5P team provided the surrounding and atmosphere in which it was a pleasure to work. This does not only apply to the core team, but also to all the ‘newcomers’, who had joined the core team over the past few years, like for example their excellent designer, Jelena.

The atmosphere reminded me of the very early days of learning technology, during which I worked for a German textbook publisher, when eLearning was still a completely new and fresh field to explore. One of the things we did was trying to enthuse teachers to use a brilliant tool to create exercises for language learning, called ADAM & EVE - where ADAM was ‘automated document analysis and manipulation’ and EVE was ‘extensive variety of exercises’. This was in the days of text mode, and the operating system was DOS (just for those who of more advanced age …). The tool had a language database in the background, and based on algorithms was able to generate a variety of language exercises. Needless to say: in those early days it was not well received, sadly. Our ‘clients’ were highly suspicious, and focussed mainly on errors the system produced, rather than appreciating the powerful potential the tool had. Enough of the past, and back to H5P: the future!

H5P has the vision to make interactive content flow freely. The team wants to democratise interactive content in connection with open education by connecting with users, gathering feedback from the community. And that's exactly what they do, and managed to demonstrate very convincingly throughout the conference.

... to be continued ...

Let the exploration begin!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Being digital ...

Just found some seemingly random notes from the 'Jisc Digital Festival 2014':

"Being digital ...  What does it mean for us as human beings? Diana Oblinger, Educause, is the first keynote speaker #digifest14. "it is not man or machine" it's "man and machine". The world of learners is changing: post-traditional learners. Engagement, Empowerment, Alternatives, Models. (Just noticed that I'm engaging too much with my digital gadgets rather than listening!)
Virtual clients speak, express body language, learn emotions ...
Large amounts of data analysing allows for personalisation through emerging patterns - sounds counter intuitive, but that's how it is. (Note to myself - am I a ROI sceptic?)
Tools which help students to manage internal and external barriers - student success plan. Digital tools for intrusive advising - I find this scary, it reminds me of Big Brother! But research seems to show that it helps ...
Too much choice - better informed choices - just seeing yet another tool delivering personalised recommendations! And another tool, e-advisor, which helps to identify the correct pathway.
Alternative models:
Interconnections - changing one element changes the balance. (See this in the context of: Competency based: 120 defined competences ...)
Maximising return on investment with offering effective courses. (I'm getting more and more depressed. Am I a stupid idealist? I still firmly believe that studying is NOT about saving time and money in first place.)
Humanising HE - personalise! Tutors are not just instructors and test administrators. They are mentors, tutors etc
Future: increased commoditisation, third party sourcing, improvement of online learning"

This year, I attended 'Jisc Digifest 2017'. I used my time mostly for discoveries - here's a list of 'Useful Tools cited at the DigiFest 2017' assembled by my colleague, Simon Parr.

This is the 'side of the fests'. The other side is our daily job routine as learning technologists, which is mostly concerned with our VLE (Moodle), which has lots of tools to offer, most of which are - more or less - ignored. So, do we need lots of additional tools as discovered during the recent fest? Maybe, if they are easier to use, more appealing?

I'm currently asking myself: What is all this 'being digital' about? According to the TEL framework students and staff at Brookes University should be 'enabled to use information and communication technologies innovatively and creatively'. At the core are: Lecture capture, digital competencies, online assessment and feedback ...  To me it seems that 'being digital' has become an integral part of all our lives, and while we become more 'digital' there seems to be increasingly less clarity what 'good digital practice' actually is, and how we can best achieve it. No recipes. It's all a very fast moving target. Can we pretend to plan 'the digital future'?

Friday, 3 February 2017

Slow musings ...

I just noticed that my last entry (about the Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference in July) is already more than half a year old, and I'm asking myself if there isn't that much happening any longer which would be worthwhile musing about.

One of the things attracting me to learning technologies has been that there's always something new happening, because of the swift speed of technology developing in general. This may still be the case, but it seems to me quite different now. The technology tools we can use as part of the learning and teaching process have become so numerous that it can be increasingly problematic to choose the right one. Often, there isn't a right one - each and every tool has its up- and its down-sides, and in my observation the 'younger' generation of lecturers in HE are simply using what's available, accessible, free and convenient. Which is good, but it makes the 'advisory' role quite difficult, if and when they come with questions. It's increasingly impossible to cover all the ins and outs.

I wrote the two paragraphs above before I visited the BETT 2017 show on 27 January. And I was flattened by the amazing amount of tools thrown at schools, teachers, and (a little further down the line) FE and HE institutions, all in the name of 'making learning awsome' - see http://www.bettshow.com/Content/about-bett. I'm wondering: How much time in the day should we/do we (with 'we' I'm cautiously referring to learning technologists in this instance ...) have to spend on using (or learning about using?) digital technologies? As the weekend is about to start, I'm going to close down my computer now, and give myself a strict order not to fuss around with my mobile phone over the weekend. At least not too much :)

And here are a few visual impressions, as usual: