Lost in Disruption #DMLLExpo

IMG_4596The Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University is one of those places that when you enter it you start saying “WOW”.   I was there yesterday for their “Lost in Disruption Expo“, invited to give a keynote with Jacqui Speculand (raising her hand above) who is their Principal Project Lead. I met Jacqui when she came to Southampton University for our Open Badges in HE conference in March, although we had been in touch via Twitter we had never actually met before but our common interest in the use of Open Badges meant we had so much in common.

I have to say something about their Lab space.  On the top floor of their Lanchester Library (another link, we have a Lanchester building at Southampton University) named after Sir Frederick Lanchester   an important engineer of his time and soon to be featured as part of a Heritage Funded project at Coventry University.  This space is a complete conversion of the third floor of the library.  As soon as you open the door you feel inspired to learn. It has that feeling of open space it is light and well laid out with jazzy spaces for sitting, I think they called it the “Google hill” a wooden tiered structure for sitting and holding talks.  There are spaces for collaboration, sectioned off by huge whiteboards, tastefully designed and used by students all the time.  I have created a little video about the space here.  It is the sort of space that you are probably best describing with images so I’ll let that video speak for itself.  One of the takeaways I had from the space was that it was well designed, well used and because of the light and the layout it made you want to learn.  It is so true that your environment has a huge impact on how you feel and your behaviour.   Part of the space belongs to the DMLL team.  That is also a revelation.  The team consists of Subject Librarians, Teaching staff, Education Developers, technical innovators, I call them that, they are not their real titles but they are not Learning technologists, they don’t look after a VLE and get people to use it.  They are much more than that, the team is like an innovation engine, all working together, to explore ideas and get it right.  Jacqui mentioned that it was a safe space to fail, somewhere to try out a concept, tweak it and adjust it before it is no longer a project, where is can be rejected or adopted by the university. You so need that.   In addition to all of these people they had student interns working with them, and some of them they took on to be members of staff.

The Expo itself was held in the space, ably Chaired by Helen Keegan. There are teaching rooms all round the edges of the space, some with glass walls and some as regular spaces but all have Apple TV, so the use of iPads to connect wirelessly is in place and has been for some time.  Each of these rooms can be booked via the devices on the walls using Outlook as the booking system.  No need to complicate it by using the regular university-wide booking system.  We were talking in “The Grass” an intimate tiered space, covered in fake grass.  It was a completely different experience to talk to 60 0r 70 people and being able to see all of them.  People were not just sitting up, but they were relaxed and listening, genuinely listening, it was much more engaging to talk and listen here, again, because of the environment.  Yes, we could have a room with 70 people in it.  It is not the same, even the grass had something to do with it!

The talks were excellent – I listened to Brian Lamb talking about how the VLE has been designed to put is into the silos that we are trying so hard to get out of.  He also talked about “Splot“, a tool he has created to make it so much easier to write.   He spoke of Sandstorm, a collection of open access apps that are a toolbox of web-enabled tools for academia.   Jim Groom (DS106) talked about how we need to be more aware of how our data is used, he talked about lots of things including “A domain of ones own” project at University of Mary Washington to encourage academics to write more about their work so that they raise their academic profiles but they own their presence, and it is syndicated to the university.    MOOCs and their corporatisation. And he showed us the “back to the future” 80’s console room.  I could go on and on.  Both Brian and Jim gave inspiring talks , I even listened to the podcast by Jon Udell on the way home on the train.

There was so much to see and listen to I hope we can see it all again.  I missed some sessions because I was preparing for my talk, but the tweets looked really interesting.  They asked me what my takeaways were from the day and I said about the space because that just hit you as it was so different from the ‘usual’.    But I also think that it is essential for progress and for the students to experience something like that.  You need the space to explore and develop, and to meet the challenges of the new world of Higher Education.  We can’t keep doing what we have always done. We will become irrelevant and students need to have the benefit of this in their own space before they face the real world.   I hope that I can go there again and show others, and to work with the Innovation Engine that is the DMLL team.

The day captured in social media (Storify)

 

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Residential reflections on TEL PhD Cohort 9 #Rocks

I’ve just got back from a week residential as part of my PhD with Lancaster University.  I am part of Cohort 9 and although we have been discussing and talking together online since January, this was the first time that we met face to face.  In the beginning we were all a little nervous, not sure what the week held, where we were going, but we would have a presentation on day 1 so we needed to get all of that behind us and get on with it.  I was extremely excited about meeting everyone and to be learning new things over the week, I was also keen to meet some of the previous years cohort, including some who I already knew, which was also part of the residential.

Day one came and I immediately felt like I had known some of them forever.  Such a lovely, funny and very clever bunch of people. I learnt so much from them all.   The week was set up to include social and academic activities, so after the first day of orientation and presentations in the pm, each morning we had a lecture with a member of staff or previous students on the programme.  We would then look at various academic skills necessary for the programme and we had feedback on our research proposals.  After listening to the speakers I found myself questioning what they were saying and applying perspectives that I hadn’t really thought much about before. I guess in my world, I’m just getting on with everything, but I now realise I can change things. I have an opportunity now to put some meat on the bones of the ideas that I had half formed in my mind and really push forward with digital literacies practices and challenge existing practice and beliefs.

It was only when I was on the train home and looking at the literature that I needed for my research project that I realised how much I had learned.  When I read one of the papers again, it made so much more sense and I think it was because of the jargon. Every community has their own jargon, whether you are in an institution or not, organisations, disciplines, etc all have a language that you use, that becomes familiar and it is not a barrier to learning.  After the residential, reading a paper I was looking for certain things, structure, chains of evidence, theoretical frameworks, all of these things I had read about before but not really deep enough to sink in.  But yesterday, on the train home, they did.   I have been inspired to explore and challenge, and I am excited to be on this journey with everyone (<– that was soppy, sorry).

As a student, I think Digital literacies skills are now more important for ever.  Notably, I practice what I preach and this morning I have already been adding and responding to our Deep Space 9 (Cohort 9, see what we did there?) Group on Facebook, chatted via What’s App to Margaret (fellow member of Cohort 9) and now writing this post, whilst doing a Mooc with Udemy on Leadership.  I’ve created a list via my Momentum chrome extension and am preparing further blog posts and a Keynote for next week, all of this will be recorded in my portfolio.

So, onwards and upwards.  Cohort 9, you are awesome and we’ve only just begun (cue The Carpenters here).

Everybody wants some (digital literacies skills)

Digital literacies (Fiona talking about them)
Hmm…digital literacies anyone?

We had a fantastic conference on March 8th, ‘Open Badges in HE’ (I wanted to call it BadgeCon but there you are) at the University of Southampton. Over 150 people attended in person, and 100 online, from around the world.  We were very fortunate to have both the UK and US perspectives on education using Open Badges with our keynotes, Doug Belshaw and Carla Casilli.  Both highly respected in the badge and education world, so it was a real honour to have them talk to us about the application and implementation of open badges in higher education.  We have captured a lot of what went on during the day via Storify and the iChamps are blogging about it.  It’s always after the event that the real conversations get started and I have already been talking to a range of people across the university and beyond, interested in how they might implement badges into their own practice.  It got me thinking about how everything that I am involved in revolves around digital literacies skills and competences.

In the last few months since I wrote my last blog post I have been here there and everywhere, but the underlying theme of the work I do, the research I undertake and the conferences I speak at, have always been digital literacies.  The importance of being able to work, live and learn effectively cannot be understated and I always bring it back to that one area.  Don’t ask people to run before they can walk.  If you are interested in implementing new curriculum support your staff and your students (or your customers and employees) to inform themselves of the concepts of digital literacies. Why is this important?  Don’t just assume they can or they know how to use hashtags, or that they will grasp concepts if they are not engaged in the global world.  I’m trying nor to use the phrase 21st Century skills (its 2016 folks) we have entered that space.

So, before you think about implementing a new concept or idea think digital literacies.  What are they?  Many before and after me will write reams about what they mean but essentially it is about communicating, creating, collaborating and critical thinking, with a bit of citizenship thrown in (lots of C’s).  Being digital literate isn’t a state that you will arrive at and tick a box saying ‘complete’.  It is something that is forever moving forward and is part of the life long learning set of skills, bring on the key phrases around agility and flexibility, being rigid and inflexible isn’t going to be an enabler to becoming effective  and efficient in a global world.

 

New Year, New PhD

celebration-1551593-639x918.jpgHappy New Year.  I start the New Year by starting my PhD with Lancaster University on e-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning after it being introduced to me by Sheila McNeill, fellow ALT trustee and all round techy superstar.    It’s a totally online programme with residential’s in the first and second years.  I am really looking forward to it, I am pleased to see that they use ePortfolios as a reflective tool and I am using tools I haven’t played around with before like Moodle and Mahara.

I’m feeling a little nervous about the huge undertaking that I have embarked on but I am really excited as I am sure I will be able to explore in depth somethings that I have been interested in for a while, like Open Badges, digital literacies and eportfolios (for assessment).    I am also looking forward to finding out who the others are on the programme as some of them have put up details in their profiles and they are a varied bunch.

There are a couple of the papers as pre-reading and it was interesting to read about perceptions of what a PhD is.  For most of the interactions I have had with PhD students, their PhD’s have been about learning how to research for the sake of those skills.  They will then go on and do something completely different or they will become Faculty members.  In “Learning to Become Researching Professionals: The Case of the Doctorate of Education” by Alexis Taylor from Brunel University she talks about PhD’s as a tool for ‘researchers to become professional’ and then Professional Doctorate for ‘researching professionals’.  I like that, I can see exactly where she is coming from, but had never thought about this difference.  The other paper is a rather longer paper (32 pages) is a much more personal account from Justine Mercer “The Challenges of Insider Research in Educational Institutions: Wielding a double-edged sword and resolving delicate dilemmas” who writes about her perspective of two different areas of investigation into researchers where she works.  I’m halfway through, but I can relate to her views and have some questions about bias.

This is also a good opportunity to try out apps that I have read about and played with so I am using Liquid Text to read the PDFs on my iPad.  So far so good, I really like how I can link the notes and highlights together.

Raring to go and very excited about what I will bring into my work with this, so the ‘real thing’ starts Monday, working full time and doing this PhD will be fun (yikes) but I know it has to happen.

 

 

 

Do you like Cheese? Polls for the masses – Twitter gets interactive

“Do you like Cheese?” one question on everyones lips.  I knew that they were coming but wasn’t sure when, then over the weekend, I saw a Tweet via @EricStoller who drew my attention with his tweet poll.

I’d seen the links to Twitter Polls but not been able to do this myself (it wasn’t available) but then they arrived over the weekend. The first problem, what question to ask? I’ve been working with academic teams who have tonnes of questions that they wanted to ask their students, but I had nothing. Seems like I wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of tweets that reminded me of the early days of twitter.  The equivalent of the “What are you doing?”  prompts that create typical responses, hence the “Do you like Cheese?” question, always my goto question when I don’t know what to ask.

I pulled in a collection of responses here: TwitterPolls

I think these will pass and in particular, having asked my own question on the use of Open Badges, there were a couple of things that struck me.

  1.  Your networks are even more important now.  Following people on twitter that are like minded, or have something useful to contribute will mean that any question you ask will get better results.
  2. Engagement – through the one question on open badges I had responses from people that I wasn’t aware were interested.  My one and only qualitative response from the British Museum wouldn’t have happened, had I not asked that question.  It seems to me that the more interesting the questions the better the engagement.
  3. It’s not just for brands.  Of course, social media marketing gurus will see the potential and there is nothing wrong with that,  if you are following people that just push information at you then you probably should have a think about what you are trying to get from your networks.
  4. Education wise – have a poll for feedback on the session; who would you vote for?; What is more important?;  Is this answer right or wrong?;  the possibilities are endless.  Unfortunately, the customisation options are limited but that will improve.
  5. Value:  What is the value of the question?  Think about your responses and what you can do with it.  For in session discussion?  It won’t replace polling software like Socrative or Poll everywhere but it could be a good way of experimenting with this type of interactivity with students.
  6. Use images and other twitter usernames and hashtags in your question if you are trying to get a wide coverage.  That could stimulate further questions and could open up questions that you hadn’t thought about.
  7. Don’t over use it.  Golden rule: Everything in moderation.

Community of learning – final day for #epforall

The final day of the EPIC 2015 Conference was as interesting and exciting as the first.  The theme for the morning was focussed on Humanitarian organisations, Medicin Sans Frontier and Disaster Ready spoke about how they intend to use Badges to represent skills and competences for their staff. The best bit about this was that these are organisations who recognise the value in bringing communities of practitioners together. They are looking at bringing communities together which is the value in these badges.   As a collective group they could create badges with criteria that suit the organisation and can be transferred across to other similar organisations.  Thereby saving time, enabling skills to be transferred which is good for the organisation, efficient and could save lives.

A strong thread this morning was the use of badges to provide levels of ability within organisations, including colour coding,and community development. The Open Badges passport could be used as an enabler to allow groups of people with the same badge together.  They can view who has the same badge as them, so imagine in an organisation where you want to get people to share experiences and skills and they already have something in common, thereby creating a community of practice. Instead of having broad based communities built on approval from an administrator, your access is granted by evidence that you have met via set criteria.  This could bring together groups of people in a much more useful and valuable way.

We also heard from City and Guilds Patrick Cravens who had some wonderful slides courtesy of Bryan Mathers.  City and Guilds are interested in developing partnerships and offered consultancy for developing assessed badges. Made me wonder if the QAA were going to 1)  Look at the Badges as part of the process of assurance (as they have looked at employability awards)  2) Offer their own Badges.

There were also some really inspiring presentations that were so useful and gave me so many ideas.

Two were from US institutions, Indianapolis and Oregon.  Interestingly they had both let students use non-institutional tools to create their ePortfolbestrios which meant that they personalised them, owned them and then carried on using them as a reference for other students.  One used WordPress multi-site and the other use a combination of Wix, wordpress and their Institutional tool (one instance!) and that was not so good (they said) in terms of flexibility.

The final talk was from Simone Ravaioli of Bestr.  He is part of an Italian intiative to ‘close the skills gap with Open Badges and ePortfolios.  It was very inspiring, he showed a video and you just wanted to clap at the end of it!  This wasn’t the video but this one is quite good and gives you an idea of what they are trying to do

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRkf5e4ez_s

He was very good and I could see the potential for using this system across nations.

I have to say Italy had a strong presence and some great examples – University of Bologna were well represented and it would be lovely to hear more.  Overall it was such a useful and engaging conference, I would highly recommend attending the next one.  The people were friendly and everyone was interested in each others aspects of use of Open Badges and ePortfolios (even if they haven’t invested in a institutional system)  It was the learning rather than the tool that was important (Yay!)