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Looking Back on #ALTC 2015

Shaping the Future of Learning Together

I recently attended the 22nd annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology, 8–10 September 2015, at The University of Manchester. I wrote a blog post Looking Ahead to #ALTC 2015, and this is a summary (albeit a very long one – sorry) of some of the sessions I attended, a few of my highlights, what I got from the conference, and what it means to learning, teaching & assessment at YSJ.

Day 1

1. Keynote: Steve Wheeler

2. Collaborative tools to enhance engagement in a blended learning M.Sc.

3. Sharing stories around the microphone: digital storytelling as a collaborative learning experience

One of the highlights of the conference for me was the session on Digital Storytelling by Sarah Copeland from the University of Bradford.
Digital Storytelling is the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sound, and video, to create a short movie, typically with a strong emotional component. Digital Storytelling  is fundamentally the application of technology to the age-old experience of sharing personal narratives. What’s new is the growing availability of sophisticated tools, as well as a maturing infrastructure to disseminate such content. The ongoing refinement of multimedia applications will place greater power into the hands of more people, allowing richer digital stories.
There is potential for Digital Storytelling as a form of reflective practice for staff at YSJ, or as a way of applying technology to enhance learning in typically ‘non-technical’ disciplines, in Arts for example.
7 things you should know about…Digital Storytelling

4. Peer to peer learning – showcasing social media research

5. TwitterFlipping the Classroom: Social Media for Independent Learning

6. Harnessing the power of predictive analytics and the powerful consequences of doing it badly

7. Nailing jelly to the wall: defining and describing eportfolio

8. Are learning technologies fit for purpose

This presentation (re)opened up the debate and encouraged delegates to think critically about current application of learning technologies. Is the need for educating at scale, and providing ‘safe’ and structured digital spaces for students (wrongly) taking priority over preparing students for life after university, utilising open and flexible approaches, and critically evaluating whether tools are fit for pedagogic purpose?
While there is no burning desire (that we know of) to move completely away from the institutional VLE here at YSJ, many staff do utilise tools, technologies & platforms which reside outside of our core infrastructure, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Textwall, Padlet, Storify etc., to provide a more engaging learning experience. Is the VLE dead…?

9. Developing an institutional Community of Practice for Flipped Classroom Pedagogies

Gosia Iwaniec talked about how she set up a community of practice (CoP) at Greenwich University with the aim of sharing & developing knowledge of the Flipped Classroom pedagogic approach.
A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a craft and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members’ common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991). CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch room at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment.
This appraoch is something that we try to promote in various ways, one of them being the ePedagogy Teaching Fellows. The ePedagogy Teaching Fellows play a central role in their faculty/subject in on-going technology enhanced learning and teaching innovation work and the implementation and promotion of our Technology Enhanced Learning Quality Framework. We recognise the work of individual staff members for their contribution to the enhancement of teaching and/or supporting student learning using technology and to their contribution to meeting the learning and teaching goals of the faculty/subject and University. As YSJ teaching fellows transition to become SFHEA we are exploring ways in which we can continue to reward/recognise staff commitment to technology enhanced learning.

10. Student Led On Demand In Situ Media Resources

Scan to download a copy of this presentation!
Scan to download a copy of this presentation!

Brian Mather, University of Edinburgh, presented on his approach to utilising QR codes and video content in the veterinary medicine curriculum. The very simple, yet highly effective, approach provided students with in situ access to recorded content. This was exceptionally useful in allowing self-study and revision prior to practical examinations where practice stations are made available with on demand video instruction as guidance. Students were involved as co-creators of content on the project, as well as forming a committee to help drive the project forward, which was cited as a key enabler.
We regularly blog about things like QR Codes and more recently video for teaching, learning and assessment, we hope that staff can see the pedagogic benefit of these approaches and work with us to implement them in their own practice!

11. Linking learning – lifewide and lifelong

Sue Beckingham & Andrew Middleton, Sheffield Hallam University, presented their paper on how their HEA funded LinkedIn University project involved students as project partners, producers, subjects and users of a digital toolkit for promoting engagement with Personal & Professional Development Planning (PPDP) for students and Professional Recognition for staff.
Their LinkedIn University project has become a vehicle for appreciating social media for learning more widely, especially through its articulation of lifewide learning and the development of the co-curricula course experience as a learning hub. The project also explicitly connects with the requirement professionally accredited academic staff have to remain in good standing and encourages them to use social media effectively to present evidence of their professional development and to manage their professional identity.
As we begin to address the bigger picture of Digital Capability, for both staff & students at YSJ, the online identity and digital wellbeing element will become increasingly important. Maybe we can work collaboratively with Students Union, ILS, and Staff & Student Services, to emulate the SHU LinkedIn University project!?

Day 2

12. Keynote: Jonathan Worth

The keynote by Jonathan Worth on Day 2 was another highlight, and judging by the buzz on Twitter I was the only one thinking that. I recommend you watch for yourself as Jonathan spoke about the sudden & unexpected success of his open #PHONAR class, but then reminded us to stop and think of our responsibilities for online privacy and identity. I think most people in the room went away and tried http://www.takethislollipop.com/ too, and if you’re a Facebook user I highly recommend it!

13. Using Google Glass to enhance Learning and Teaching

14. Barriers to Learners as Agents of Change: How do “Digital Natives” get in the way of Technological Innovation in Teaching and Learning?

15. The power of open cross-institutional collaboration for connected professional development in higher education

16. Design-based research as a methodological approach to support participatory engagement of learners in the development of learning technologies

17. Students as partners in innovative development of teaching and learning

18. Linking learning and industry with open badges

Our very own Mark Dransfield shared his experience of using Open Badges in relation to learning and employability, through links with and endorsement of badges by local industries.

We continue to work with a wide range of staff on Open Badges projects, and with exciting developments such as Graduate Attributes and HEAR we hope that the considered & appropriate adoption of Open Badges will continue to rise.

19. Technologies for Academic Practice: a collaborative repository

20. Learning within a crowd and with the crowd outside

21. Exploring e-portfolios in a discipline specific context

22. A positive and participatory approach to developing digital capabilities

Another highlight for me was the session by Liz Bennet & Sue Folley, University of Huddersfield, on how they use a combination of Appreciative Inquiry and the Jisc Viewpoints resources to deliver curriculum design workshops to embed Digital Capability into the curriculum.
Appreciative Inquiry is a positively focussed model for change management, designed around four stage: discover, dream, design, destiny (Kadi-Hanifi et al. 2013). Viewpoints are a set of resources, developed by a JISC Curriculum Design Project, to promote and enhance good curriculum design (Nicol 2012).
Curriculum Design Workshop Resources
These experiences, practices & tools can help inform ADD approaches to Curriculum Design when working with Faculties, Departments and Programmes on (re)validation and programme design.

Day 3

23. Keynote: Laura Czerniewicz

24. Give them what they want – developing a flexible anonymous assignment workflow to meet diverse needs

25. Rosetta Stone – is it worth the hype?

26. Using Agile approach to deliver a new Digital Learning Environment: Lessons Learned

27. Participatory approaches towards more consistent and coherent learning technology provision

28. “I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream”: Trends and patterns in education technology prediction

Another highlight of the conference was the short presentation by David Kernohan, who asked us to question the way in which we use predictions, such as those published by Gartner and NMC, in educational technology. His presentation is supported by his blog post “I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream”.
Part of the role of the Technology Enhanced Learning team is to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, assessment and creative inquiry at York St John University. Led by our new Academic Strategy and current enhancement activities such as Graduate Attributes & the Curriculum for Student Success, we explore new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, in order to guide academics in productive innovation.
As David asked, to what extent are we able to distinguish between what is important and what is merely fashionable? Look out for our ADD Open Space Event on this topic in May 2016.

29. Improving the quality of recordings and webinars – faculty and student perspectives

30. Team-Based Learning in Occupational Therapy: A Student-Centred Approach

This presentation reported on how team-based learning (TBL) has been introduced within an Occupation Therapy (OT) module at the University of Northampton as a student-centred approach to encourage active learning.
Recently we have had Simon Tweddell, National Teaching Fellow from the University of Bradford, deliver a workshop on TBL at YSJ, and the approach has been adopted by programmes in the Business School, we’re looking forward to seeing how it works out!

31. Customised, user generated, research spaces and learning management systems

32. Building an e-learning platform in WordPress

On the face of it this session promised to be really interesting, although in reality I think the application of WordPress as an elearning platform in this instance was still lacking in features and functionality. That’s not to say the functionality couldn’t be extended in the future, other institutions have developed WordPress plugins to enhance the pedagogic value of WordPress, such as quizzes (WP-Pro-Quiz) etc., and I’ve heard other presentations about the successful use of WordPress as a ‘Thin VLE‘ in the past.
As an institution with a WordPress installation I’m surprised that more academics haven’t sought to exploit it more as a teaching tool, rather than just as a reflective tool for students, or a course blog (see examples on our WordPress webpage).

33. Keynote: Phillip Long

What did I miss?

The best of the rest! I challenge anyone to attend #ALTC and not suffer from session envy when reading the Twitter feed – that’s not to say that the sessions I was in weren’t good, it’s just that there was such a wide range of quality presentations that I wished I could have attended more! Here are a few that I thought looked great, or sounded great on Twitter:

Still want more?

Finally, ALT Annual Conference 2016: Connect, Collaborate, Create, will be on 6 – 8 September 2016, at University of Warwick, UK.
If you have any questions or comments about any of the sessions I attended, pedagogic approaches covered, or tools or technologies that I have mentioned, then please use the comments below, or contact TEL@yorksj.ac.uk

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