The ERASMUS + Experience

I first became aware of the Erasmus programme (EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) as a CPD option for staff, was when I hosted a week long visit to the University of Edinburgh for a Learning Technologist from University College Cork in Ireland in January 2015 (in fact it was only in 2014/15 scheme was extended to non-academic staff). Our department also had a visitor last summer, a Learning Technologist from an Italian University. I always enjoy meeting visitors – I love hearing about their work and learning about the institution where they work. These conversations are always inspiring and help me to see my institution with fresh eyes.

On the 29th of August 2017 I went to an event at the University of Edinburgh (where I work) called “Go Abroad – Staff opportunities” to find out more about participating. The ERASMUS scheme offers funding for week-long training visits for professional services staff –  within Europe you could apply to spend time at any institution and I discovered that there was also an extended scheme for visits outside Europe, through the International Credit Mobility programme, to spend time with specific partner institutions.

Applying

I was really excited by the opportunity this scheme offered and started thinking about my role and interests and possible destinations to identify a suitable match. In September 2017 (after discussing this with my line manger) I submitted my application to visit the University of Virginia.  I am currently running a scheme at the University of Edinburgh to support staff undertaking their Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) a professional development opportunity for staff working with learning technology. I proposed to make this visit to explore Institutional approaches to Staff Development for IT staff (specifically learning technology) and to make connections with others working in this area.

Planning

As I didn’t know anyone at UVa I was matched with my host through the Go Abroad scheme contacts for both institutions. John Alexander from UVa very kindly agreed to host me in his department SHANTI Sciences, Humanities & Arts Network of Technological Initiatives. John was equally inspired by the possibilities of a study visit and applied to make a visit to the University of Edinburgh in June 2018 (more about this in a later post).

To coordinate my visit John & I initially used email and later set up a shared google doc – I sent John some information about my work and interests and he contacted relevant people and set up meetings for me. This meant I had a good idea of the shape of my week of activities before I arrived.

Arriving

Virginia viewed out of a plane window
Virginia viewed out of a plane window.

This was my first visit to the US, so this section will not be relevant to seasoned travelers! As it was my first visit and I’m a UK Citizen before I went I need to apply for an ESTA as part of the Visa waiver Program.

In order to make it to my destination the day before my visit started, I left home in Edinburgh early on the Sunday morning, flew direct to Newark then to Washington DC, then to Charlottesville. Three flights in the one day was a lot, and I’ve since discovered that there are some direct flights from Edinburgh to Washington DC – so I’d recommend taking a good look at options before you book.

I was allocated the window seat on all my flights, which was great for the short trips with a view – but very cramped for the long haul flight – so I’d avoid this if possible when travelling again.

Accommodation

The Lorna Sundberg International Centre
The Lorna Sundberg International Centre

I was very lucky to have been able to book a room in the beautiful Lorna Sundberg Center  which was on the edge of the campus. This was suggested by my contact in the International office at UVA , along with other options such as the campus hotel.

I was attracted to the centre with it’s friendly feel and self catering facilities it seemed like a ‘home from home’, it is used for cultural activities and is has a number of rooms that can be booked by international visitors. During my time there I met people from Japan and France, most of whom were making longer visits, 6 weeks to a few months. It was great being able to cook for myself and to relax in the quiet library and study spaces and to sit out on the Veranda. I even found time to do some drawings.

A felt pen drawing of the View from the Veranda at the Lorna Sudberg Centre
The View from the Veranda at the Lorna Sundberg Centre

 

Making the most of the trip

While its really exciting to get the chance to go on this trip, it did take place in addition to my usual work and required me to plan my activities carefully to allow for me to be out of the office for a week. So it was hard to find time to devote to preparing for the trip before I went (hence the booking three flights rather than looking at alternatives!).  Ideally I would suggest spending more time on this. Also, despite putting in an application in November it takes time to put the contacts in place with the other institution and to finalise the visit dates.  By the time this is all in place it was about six weeks before I was due to travel – so time was of the essence!

This was my first trip of this distance so it was also my first experience of jet lag – which surprised me by hitting me much harder than I expected. The 5 hour difference doesn’t seem that much on paper but in practice really knocked my body clock I was surprised when I found myself slurring during a late afternoon meeting on my first day (fortunately the people I was meeting were very understanding). Don’t over schedule your activities and allow some time between meetings for ‘processing’ and adjusting.

I also took time to get my bearings around the campus. I would find my way to the right building, then take 15 minutes trying to find the entrance (yes, this really happened – twice!). I was late for a couple of meetings which anyone who know me will know is unusual as I tend to be habitually early. I took my paper map everywhere, used google maps to estimate journey times and then doubled them. I’d sussed the layout of the main campus by my final day.

Tips if you are considering making an training visit

Preparation – Think about what you will say when you meet people, how you will describe your work and what questions are you interested in asking? there is defiantly room for going off topic and seeing where the conversation leads, but most of the people I met has squeezed an hour to meet into a busy day and its good to make the most of this.  One person I was meeting got in contact in advance to ask me more about my areas of interest and we had a quick pre-chat by email and our resulting meeting was really constructive. If I were to do this again I’d write a couple of paragraphs introducing myself and give this to my host, or send this to people  before we met.

Go with a question. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that’s going on in another institution. I found it really helpful to focus on one main thing during my visit – for me it was how does UVa approach to Staff Development for IT staff (specifically learning technology).

Travelling is exhausting – don’t overestimate what you will be capable of when you arrive. This is not like walking into an institution you know well – its disconcerting and takes energy getting to know a new place.

Saying Thank You- I took a gift from my institution for my host and small gifts for people I met with. It would have been useful to have remembered to bring thank you cards but after some exploring I was able to buy these on campus.

Follow up afterwards, I’ve not been great as this (yet) but I do mean to follow up with everyone who was kind enough to take time to speak to me to thank them and to share the outputs from my visit.

How I plan and record my CPD activity

At the end of January Maren Deepwell invited #CMALT people on twitter to participate in a conversation to think about how we all record and plan our ongoing Continued Professional Development (CPD) activity for the CMALT portfolio reviews which take place every three years.

In February I took part in a really interesting Google Hangout with  Maren Deepwell, Lorna Campbell and David Hopkins, which started with a discussion around how we currently track our CPD activity.  It occurred to me that I’ve never designed what I do, it’s happened organically, so in writing this post will describe what I do, reflect on why I do it and see if this gives me any ideas for improvements.

My approach to recording CPD:

I’m very much a recorder of events. I enjoy taking notes (it helps me focus), photos and making diagrams and use these later when I go to make sense of what the experience has meant for me.

A screen shot of tabs in OneNote - Events Attended, Aurora, How To Do, Intern 2018, Writing, Marketing, Career Ready

At work I use OneNote – I’ve set up a CPD notebook with tabs for each activity, looking at these I see they can be activities I’m currently doing, so under ‘Career Ready‘ I’m making notes of all the activities and training for this activity,  or aspiration, ‘Marketing‘ is something I’m looking to find out more about, so here I’m collecting opportunities and noting articles.

If I need to know how to do something, either by going to Google or asking someone, I make time to record the answer – so I can easily get back to it – that is all in the ‘How To Do‘ tab. 

Over the last couple of years  I’ve moved to digital note taking, before that I had loads of paper notebooks. I take my laptop or a device to use for note taking. (I might at some point write a whole post about digital note taking so I’ll leave this here for now).

Since completing my CMALT and recent review – I’m now much better at collecting evidence of what I do. I take the time to write blog posts because I know I will get the benefit of them later. I collect as I go.

Screen shot of the Outlook to OneNote buttonOne thing I have discovered is that you can copy emails (complete with attachments) from Outlook into OneNote which  is a really easy way to keep stuff together.

 

At work, I am asked to compile a list of training courses for my Annual Development Review (ADR), which can be interesting to look back on, I usually compile this at the last minute by looking back at my diary, notes taken at events, and add in links to anything I blogged about.  At my annual review I take suggestions with me so I can talk through with my line manager what I want to do and opportunities that might help me to get there.  Its worth bearing in mind it can often take a while to actually get accepted on the course you want to go on. I was able to participate in the Leadership Foundation for Higher Educations Aurora programme on the third year I applied – but it was worth the wait.

My approach to planning CPD

In approaching CPD I try to balance what I need to work on with what I’m interested in and the needs of my employer and my current job role. I’m also lucky to have a mentor at work (through the Aurora scheme) who is a great listener and wise advisor and it has been really useful to talk through my development with her.

What do I need?

I try to identify where there are skill or knowledge I need, for example as part of participating in the Aurora programme I identified that I needed to better understand assertiveness – and then went on to find that knowledge and experience. 

What’s out there?

I make a note of opportunities I’m interested in when I see or hear about  them, (usually on Twitter or mailing lists, or by word-of-mouth) even if the time is not right for me:

For example:

BYOD4L BRING YOUR OWN DEVICES FOR LEARNING: AN OPEN LEARNING EVENT FOR STUDENTS & TEACHERS (FACILITATED, STAND-ALONE) – this was on my radar for a couple of years before I managed to take part is some of it earlier this year.

Jisc Digital Leaders Programme – I saw an interesting panel discussion about this at Digifest, so I’ve kept a note of this to look at further.

Senior Fellow of the HEA – I’ve been on a waiting list to take part in our institutional scheme for HEA accreditation for the last year.

My institution has a Lynda.com subscription, I must admit I got very excited about this when I first had access, but have neglected it somewhat lately. There are good courses in there, but there is no social interaction around them and I miss that aspect. They are great if you just need to know about something, then and there. I finished the Learning Path to Become a Manager a while back and I am part way through the Learning Paths to  Become a Content Strategist

Moocs – I’ve completed a few but am always seeing more that look interesting.  Recently I completed an Introduction to Personal Branding on Coursera which was created by the University of Virginia. As a learning technology advisor, I always enjoy these from two angles, both the content and the approaches taken to learning design, content creation and delivery. 

I try to think beyond training courses at other development opportunities to gain skills or experience I need.  Last year to get mentoring experience I became a Career Ready mentor – which has proved to be both a challenging and rewarding learning experience. I’ve also taken on managing a student intern to gain management and recruitment experience. 

What I consider to be CPD:

A photograph of clouds at sunrise
Looking at the possibilities and reflecting

So CPD for me is everything I do to try to develop myself. It is training courses and conferences I attend, as well as those I plan and deliver. It’s the questions I ask myself and then try to seek answers too. It’s the stretch opportunities I take on at work.

I also read a lot of books, I love getting a book recommendation and will often be ploughing through a book months after the reasons for the original recommendations have faded. I did for a while try to take notes of what I thought of books, but that just doesn’t fit with the context of when I read, which is mainly listening to audiobooks while I walk or reading in bed. Part of this is my belief that you don’t always have to actively listen, if something is important or relevant to you, you won’t miss it. I occasionally take a photo of the front cover just as a reminder!

The stuff I want to think about but not to share…

I’ve also found it very useful to use writing to help me to think through something. In our conversation we discussed the ‘personal’ aspect of CPD – not every problem you are working through can be shared in public, or can be fixed by gaining particular knowledge.  I have use google docs as a space for my private reflection.  I’ve got a folder I call ‘Work Pondering’ where I write down things I want to think about, and I find that writing about them and revisiting them on several occasions can really help this process.  

Writing to share…..

I started with private writing but over the years I have built up my confidence to share some of my writing.  I write blog posts for my team blog and participated in an online course run at the University of Edinburgh  called 23Things for Digital Knowledge and now have set up a personal blog on my own domain.

Blogging is teaching me different skills including: writing for an audience, writing with a message, writing to remember, or to connect with other people, or to promote an activity.

What’s for me and what’s for my role?

My work ADR is for here and know opportunities that are clearly role related. There are other things I want to develop that are aspirational, tangential and I can’t really link to work and these I decide to do in my own time. When I wrote my original CMALT portfolio, looking at what I did in relation to the core areas made me think about my own experience at that point and identify where I wanted to gain more – it wasn’t always immediately obvious how that related to my current job, seeing things within the CMALT guidelines gave me more confidence to pursue further development in these related ares. 

Like everyone, sometimes I have to do CPD I’m told to do! For example I’ve completed compulsory training in, Engaging with Change, Understanding Recruitment, Selection and the law and Information Security Essentials some in face to face sessions and others online.

I try to approach this with an open mind. As a trainer myself, I am respectful of the person who is delivering the training (I’ve stood in their shoes, I don’t want to be the tough crowd!). I try to think about what is the underlying  strategic reason why I’ve been sent on this? I try to get something out of every session even if it is ideas on the style or process of delivery.

I have come to accept that life is a work in progress and accept that I need to keep learning and that I often revisit the same subject for several years from several angles…. for example I don’t think I’m every going to be done with, presentation skills, time management, project management or people skills. Not that I’m particularly uninformed about any of these – just  there is always more to learn!

Questions?

Writing this post has been a useful exercise that has left me with these questions:

Am I being efficient in the way I approach planning and recording my CPD? Could I streamline and plan better?

How do other people record their CPD?

What do we all understand to be CPD activity?

I look forward to continuing this conversation.

ALT C 17, Building #CMALT Community – Empowerment in Learning Technology

A photo of my ALT C delegate badgeLast month I was privileged to attend the 24th Annual Conference of the Association for Learning Technology (#ALTC) from the 5 – 7 September 2017 at the University of Liverpool. The conference title was “Beyond islands of innovation – how Learning Technology became the new norm(al)” and I was particularly keen to go when I realised there was a theme on:

“Empowerment in Learning Technology: supporting students through staff/student partnerships, students as influencers, developing skills and supporting staff at all levels.”

As I’m currently running a scheme at the University of Edinburgh to support staff through their Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) I was particularly excited about this theme and was keen to connect with others involved in professional development for staff involved with learning technology.

I’m a slow burner when it comes to reflection, it takes me a while to assimilate an experience and make connections with my existing practice – (I’ve not yet mastered pithy live tweeting) – instead producing an essay a month after the event! But in my defense, ALT C does takes some time to process, it is a very large conference, with 450 participants and multiple streams of activity and it takes place over three packed days. Last year I attended the conference virtually, and blogged about this afterwards. This year I feel lucky that I can compare this to the experience of attending in person.

Planning – a peak behind the scenes

In hindsight my ALT C 17 had actually begun back in Nov 16, as I volunteered to be part of the conference committee. I’d highly recommend volunteering for this role, it didn’t take up too much time and I really enjoyed watching the conference come together through the online planning meetings, promoting the conference, reviewing submissions and chairing a session at the conference. It’s a great way to meet people, and knowing a few more people (even virtually) before you arrive, does make 450 sound a little less daunting! Maren Deepwell wrote a great post recently about putting together the conference, which is the largest event that ALT run each year, and about how she and her team works with the ALT community to make it happen.

Collaborating

In March 2017, I submitted a proposal, with my co-presenter Sarah Sherman, for a talk entitled The CMALT “Zumba Class”: managing a cohort scheme for CMALT applicants to build institutional capacity for learning technology. Sarah had advised me when I was planning the University of Edinburgh CMALT scheme that I run, which is now in its second year. She kindly answered all my questions about how her scheme was set up and shared her planning documents with me. I asked if she had already presented about the scheme anywhere and when Sarah said she hadn’t, we decided to present together when a suitable opportunity came up. When we saw the themes for ALT 17, we both emailed each other saying this looked like the right place. We made good use of google tools to collaborate – meeting in hangouts using docs to write the proposal together (and were very pleased when this was accepted) and later putting a presentation together in Slides.

Presenting the CMALT “Zumba Class”

I was really excited to be presenting at ALT C for the first time, not least because my institution looks much more favourably on applications to attend conferences that you are presenting at, and I was really pleased that I was approved to attend. It altered my experience attending the conference as a presenter, I found it much less abstract watching other people present when you know you’ll be up there doing the same thing at some point during the conference! Regardless of my nerves, I really enjoyed giving the presentation and I think despite having not met until the day before, that Sarah & I did a great double act. It was valuable to devote time to really thinking about a piece of work that I was very close to, drawing out the key things I had learned and working with Sarah to distil them into an engaging 20 minute presentation. Sarah was also very organised and wrote this great blog about our presentation before we gave it. The audience was great, most of them were already involved in supporting CMALT or planning similar schemes and they asked excellent questions. Sarah and I started lots of interesting conversations which I am still following up. How often do you get the chance to tell a room full of people about a piece of work you are really excited about and that they are also really excited about too?

Sarah Sherman presenting at ALT C 2017Susan Greig presenting at ALT C

Beyond islands – meeting my people

Attending the conference in person was really valuable, I finally got to meet people whose work I had read and several people I’d worked with on the CMALT project, but never met in person, such as the wonderfully efficient Thomas Palmer of ALT who I have so many correspondences with over email. After so much online communication, it was a pleasure to finally meet my co-presenter Sarah Sherman and Julie Voce who runs a CMALT scheme at City University of London and who also advised me when I was getting started.

A surprising extra insight for me was the experience of staying in student halls, these were clean with good facilities and not unlike a hotel, though I found navigating round the various parts of the building (and the University Campus) somewhat disorienting. The conference took place the week before the start of semester so I found myself wondering what the next year would be like for the students soon to be resident in these rooms, many from the other side of the world as Liverpool like the University of Edinburgh has a high number of International students. As a member of professional services staff, I am somewhat removed from our students, and anything that gives me a little more insight into ‘the student experience’ can only be a good thing!

When attending a large conference, you need to be selective and decide in advance what areas of interest you are planning on following up. This was where being part of the conference committee was a good influence, because it encouraged me to read the programme in advance, so I could decide which session to volunteer to chair, and as the same time I also planned out my own days of activity. I had meant to be gentle with myself and plan in some down time, but found myself running from session to session as there were so many interesting and relevant sessions, and the three days suddenly felt too short. Across the conference I attended 18 sessions and one Special Interest Group (SIG) – ALT Scotland, co-presented one paper, chaired a session and attended the awards ceremony (always inspiring) and very enjoyable conference meal. I arrived back at work with a copious collection of notes, bundle of leaflets and fist full of business cards. A head buzzing with ideas for our CMALT cohort and a fresh burst of energy for my work.

Celebrating the first year of CMALT

A photograph of the CMALT guideline documents and a cake with the CMALT logo
Celebrating with CMALT Cake

On the 20th of June we held a Celebration Event to celebrate our first year of supporting a cohort of staff from across the University to put together their CMALT portfolios.

As I wrote my speech for this event I realised that this project has been such a pleasure to work on thanks to to the enthusiasm and good will of a great many people, and for those who weren’t able to join us on the day and hear said speech, I’d like to share my thanks in this blog post.

Firstly, thanks to everyone (all 23 of you) who took part in this year’s cohort, who between you came to the 12 meetings, 6 writing retreats and 4 open events. Members of the cohort are at different stages of their CMALT journey but I’m really pleased to say that everyone who started with us, is still planning on completing their portfolio – so at the very least I haven’t put anyone off!

Congratulations to the 12 people who have submitted portfolios and are patiently awaiting their results – I’m planning another event like this later in the year to celebrate these results and I hope that these celebrations will be an ongoing part of the annual CMALT calendar. [Update: Further congratulations are now due to the 5 people, so far, who have passed their CMALT accreditation]

Thank you to all of the line mangers who supported their CMALT applicants and encouraged them through the process.

Thank you to Melissa Highton, Director of the Learning, Teaching and Web services division (LTW) for instigating this project and for her ongoing support.

Thank you to Jenni Houston for supporting the scheme from Digital Skills and Training Team and to Stuart Nicol, my line manager in Educational Design and Engagement Team, for their continued support.

Thank you to the people from other institutions who were already running cohort schemes and were kind enough to advise me in setting up this scheme:

  • Sarah Sherman from the Bloomsbury Group
  • Stefanie Anyadi from University College London
  • Julie Voce at Imperial College London

Thank you to Daphne Loads from the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) for her advice on setting up the scheme, facilitation of writing retreats and for speaking to the cohort about reflective portfolios.

And thank you to Rosie Bree for setting up the Writing Retreats and to the Institute for Academic Development for providing the room and supporting the Writing retreats

Thank you to Rachael Mfoafo for her excellent organisation of rooms and catering.

Thanks to all of our guest speakers:

  • Professor Lesley Diack who shared her insights as an experienced CMALT assessor
  • Toni Fisher, E-learning Advisor at Robert Gordon University who joined us for a webinar to share her recent experience of successfully completing her CMALT accreditation.
  • Eugen Stoica from the Scholarly Communications Team who spoke to use about Copyright and Open Access
  • Stuart Nicol who spoke about Open Educational Resources
  • Ruby Rennie who shared her insights on Accessibility as School Coordinator of Accessibility
  • Stephanie (Charlie) Farley Board Game Jam (Make your own OER using OERs)

Thank you to Martin Hawksey, Maren Deepwell and Thomas Palmer from the Association for Learning Technology –for their ongoing support and enthusiasm.

We have now opened the scheme for its second year, and I am greatly looking forward to working with another cohort as they start their CMALT journey.

Not going to #ALTC 2016

I was very excited about attending ALT C this year, I’d registered, booked accommodation and travel, but a last minute family emergency meant I was unable to go. I was disappointed but knew that some of the sessions would be live streamed – so as I’d already blocked out my diary I went online to see what was available from my desk. Fortunately, I found that ALTC caters well for those #virtuallyattending – the keynote sessions are live streamed, as are all sessions from the Main Theatre, the programme is available online and Twitter allows some insight into the rest of the conference activity.

The Live Streamed Keynotes

As I sat in my office waiting for the first keynote and wondering how my experience will compare to watching it live in the auditorium?

As soon as I started to see from the pictures popping up on Twitter I realised that I was getting a front row seat!

29207985550_729d7802b6_z
The view from the back of the lecture theatre at ALTC during Josie Fraser’s Keynote Association for Learning Technology – Picture by Chris Bull CC BY-NC 2.0

I really enjoyed watching the five keynote from ALTC 16, all of which touch on many areas of interest and current concern for learning technologists (All of these sessions are now available on YouTube):

Keynote: Josie Fraser – In the Valley of the Trolls

sharedspaceahead

  • The importance of recognising what Trolling is and what it is not?
  • Commitment to open education is an ethical gesture.
  • Being yourself online may be a privilege.

Keynote: Ian Livingstone – Code Create Collaborate

  • Importance of nurturing creativity.
  • Computer Science is the new Latin
  • Gaming is a force for good.

Keynote: Lia Commissar – Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities

  • What has neuroscience got to do with education?
  • Are there insights from neuroscience for education?
  • Debunking myths, questioning and growing an evidence base.

Keynote: Jane Secker – Copyright and e-learning: understanding our privileges and freedoms

  • Copyright is not scary!
  • The world needs young people who can problem solve and invent things.

Keynote: Donna Lanclos and David White – Being Human is Your Problem

  • You can’t ‘solve’ teaching and learning.
  • Openness, privilege and risk.
  • You are the institution.

It turned out that not just the keynotes, but all sessions from the Main Theatre were live streamed throughout the conference.

Virtually Connecting

There were also three sessions organised by an organisation called “Virtually Connecting” who arranged three Google Hangouts to connect virtual participants with those at the conference. I watched the live stream of the first session they offered, and then joined one on the second day with Fiona Harvey, Lorna Campbell and Teresa MacKinnon. After the session I asked a bit more about how ‘virtually connecting’ worked – I’d originally assumed these were organised by ALT, but it turns out that that ‘virtually connecting’ are a team of volunteers who participate at a variety of academic conferences to broaden access to virtual participants.  I’m going to keep an eye on their Twitter account to see where else they turn up.

Twitter

Attending a conference is more than just the sessions you watch, there is a social element and the networking opportunities. I was able to connected with people on Twitter by following the #ALTC hashtag, this gave me an insight into the perspectives of others, and allowed me to connect with new people.

Final thoughts

It was great that so much of the conference is openly available, I just hadn’t been aware of this – and wondered how many other people are aware of it?  Next year I’ll make an effort to promote these opportunities more widely, through groups I’m involved in at the University of Edinburgh such as elearning@ed and through my support of the CMALT applicants group.

Even if you know you are not attending, it’s well worth blocking out some time during the conference to attend virtually – I’d never have been able to participate without this time.

I found that I particularly enjoyed the sessions that I watched with my colleague, as we could hear each other’s reactions to the talks and discuss them. Next year it might be fun to get together as a group and watch some of the keynote sessions together?

Next year’s conference, ALTC 2017 Beyond islands of innovation – how Learning Technology became the new norm(al) will take place from the 5th to 7th September 2017  at the University of Liverpool.

Whether I’m able to attend physically or virtually – I’m already looking forward to it.

ALT Scotland: Sharing Stories: enablers and drivers for Learning Technology in Scottish Education 7th June 2016 #ALTC

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking at ALT Scotland SIG about our plans at U of E to support a group of staff through Certified Membership of the Association of Learning Technologists (CMALT). This was hosted by Dundee and Angus College – which has recently opened the ‘Learning Lab’ – more about this later. The programme and videos of the event are now online.

It was a friendly meeting, small enough for some group-wide discussion and including opportunities to meet and talk to other participants. The programme offered an interesting range of presentations and it was great to hear about the projects going on in other institutions in Scotland. Here are a few of my highlights.

Scott Connor and Keith Smyth talking about becoming an etextbook publisher

I was interested to hear Scott Connor and Keith Smyth from University of the Highlands and Islands talking about the eTIPS project – sharing their experiences of becoming an etextbook publisher. The first publication is How to write a Research Dissertation by Keith Smyth and Frank Rennie (a Kindle book priced at a very reasonable £1.99). They are now working on a second Book titled “Undertaking your Research” – these are practical books aimed at getting students started, they chose to look for subjects with a broad reach rather than being discipline specific. Both books will also have companion websites.

They chose to distribute the book with Kindle which is free to use as a publisher but there were problems with integrating with Library System and this locked them in to Amazon as the only delivery route.

Scott and Keith are enthusiastic about the possibilities of this publishing route. They suggested it as a way of disseminating student research outputs as it’s quicker than traditional publishing routes. They also mentioned the implications for the academic as author – institutions less dependent on traditional forms of publishing. They saw possibilities of students as digital scholars – publishing the ‘best’ student work, they noted that the ‘best’ may not simply relate to high marks, but instead mean most relevant work in terms of impact beyond the University.

Gavin Boyd – App-Smashing – and mobile learning

Gavin Boyd from Edinburgh College showcased his inspiring use of mobile blended learning. He began by producing short teaching videos but found these were not being watched on Moodle. So he started using QR codes within learning materials so students could link from their smart phone at key moments in learning.

For example: Percentage increase (Singapore bar) Q & A By Gavin Boyd

These he created by “App-Smashing” – using multiple Apps to create one video. The tools used were:

  • Tellagami – to animate a video Avatar
  • Explain Everything – whiteboard on iPad – save to camera roll
  • YouTube – Splice two streams together

These have received a very good response and Gavin recently received a student nominated teaching award.

Visiting the Learning Lab

For our mid-afternoon break we were invited by Joy Howat to visit the Learning Lab in Dundee and Angus College.

LearningLab (3)
Touch me….I’m interactive. The Learning Lab at Dundee and Angus College photo by Susan Greig CC BY

This space opened last November and is stocked with new technology so staff can explore the possibilities of the up and coming technologies. The staff are not developers – so the focus is on looking at what is already available. The room is a flexible space, it contains all movable furniture so easy to reconfigure. The technology provided includes:

LearningLab (2)
The Learning Lab at Dundee and Angus College photo by Susan Greig CC BY
  • Virtual Reality headsets –  to explore existing apps such as Learn to cook or Public Speaking Simulator
  • 3D capture – which links to iPad for hand held scanning
  • 3D printing – from the 3D capture or from sources such as thingyverse
  • Drones – sports interested in Arial views also building surveying students – easy to access roofs
  • Pro-Bots – basic programming, Problem solving, Team building, Numeracy
LearningLab (4)
3D printed objects at the Learning Lab at Dundee and Angus College photo by Susan Greig CC BY

So far they have delivered 60 hours of introductory sessions. The Learning Lab can be booked to use as a learning space by staff and students. On the strength of trying the technology, some departments have gone on to purchase the technology they tried.

Learning Lab - 3D printing in progress photo by Susan Greig CC BY
Learning Lab – 3D printing in progress photo by Susan Greig CC BY

I was really lucky to get the opportunity to be 3D scanned during the session and to leave 15 minutes later with a perfect (tiny) 3D model of my head. I also tried the VR headsets, enjoying a vertiginous ride on a tiny roller coaster. I then tried my hand at programming the robot cars, and was pleased to see I had not forgotten basic geometry.

There was a real buzz after the hands on session and it gave everyone a boost of energy before we moved on to the final presentations of the afternoon.

The ALT Scotland SIG was an inspiring day out in Dundee, it was great to connect with colleagues from across Scotland, to explore technology and see how other Institutions are using and supporting it.

Elearning@ed 6th May 2016: Keynote – Dr Laura Gogia

Elearning@Ed has become a regular feature of the University of Edinburgh conference calendar – the first one was held back in 2003. I was really pleased to take part this year, to hear great speakers and to meet colleagues from across the University and to announce the CMALT staff development scheme – which I’m very excited to be part of.

Last Friday’s event offered a packed programme, my highlight was the keynote speaker Dr Laura Gogia MD, PhD, (@GoogleGuacamole), Research Fellow for the Division of Learning Innovation and Student Success at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), USA. VCU is a large urban research focused institution with 31,000 students.

She described how in 2014 her institution started to offer RamPages “VCU’s connected learning platform” – a publicly visible WordPress site. Students maintain their own webpages and blogs. A significant portion of coursework is via blogging. Blogs are aggregated on course site, so students can use external sites if they choose.

Gogia explained that this model of teaching supports student agency and discovery. Students can peer into worlds they wouldn’t normally see in a course based structure. It supports authentic learning products. It was very similar to the approach I experienced as a student on the IDEL course, and I was really excited to see this implemented across a whole institution. It’s fascinating looking at the range of work that is posted on RamPages.

#CuriousCoLab slide by Laura Gogia
#CuriousCoLab slide by Laura Gogia Image from @Rubyonwheels

Gogia also discussed encouraging students to go beyond text as part of the course “Collaborative Curiosity, Designing Community-Engaged Research” #CuriousCoLab. She described ‘Creative Makes’ which challenges students to find visual imagery for abstract concepts, for example “community” – this was supposed to be a 15 minute activity but the students really enjoyed it and spent way more time on it, shared their creations and used the activity to network with each other. She also advocated multimodal final projects (something else I experienced and really valued, as an MSc Digital Education student) – for example students creating websites rather than essays – this meant students could follow their own interests.

A Nordic smorgasbord Foto: Magnus Fröderberg/norden/org CC BY 2.5 DK
A Nordic smorgasbord Foto: Magnus Fröderberg/norden/org CC BY 2.5 DK

Gogia’s own research has been around digital annotations, additional digital information added by students, so in Twitter this might be Hyperlinks, mentions, hashtags or sharing images and video. She analysed these annotations as a possible indication of networks and is considering if these are indicative of pedagogic connections?

This was a rich and inspiring presentation from which I picked a few tasty morsels of inspiration to share with you in this post. As ever the elearning@ed conference was a smorgasbord of inspiration which I will be dining out on for some time.

UPDATE:

Dr Laura Gogia has reflected on her keynote with this great blog post which offers a close transcript of the full presentation: https://googleguacamole.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/in-search-of-connected-learning-exploring-the-pedagogy-of-the-open-web/