Monday, 28 September 2009

ALT-C Day two - afternoon

This is my final post for ALT-C and slightly delayed due to a busy return to my day job. Plus I have blogged about the best bits of ALT-C already. This post is really just for completion sake.

Most of the afternoon of Wednesday wasn't really that inspiring or useful to me. I went to three short papers on Tools for building a research culture, but they didn't really tell me anything new.

Then I attending Redesigning design but unfortunately one of the speaker was cancelled, but this did mean and earlier train. The session I did hear was by George Veletsianos which was about adventure learning. This was an interesting insight into different ways of teaching, where students when on polar expeditions. They experienced the world they were learning about. The challenge is how to bring this adventure learning into the classroom. The key points George made was the you need to:
  • Define the activity/topic
  • Identify and expert/topic to engage with
  • Develop interactions with the expert
  • Explore the topic (blogs etc)
  • Share and collaborate with each other

He said students are interested in the world not in you delivery of how the world is.

This was a positive end to my time at ALT-C as I was unable to attend the final day.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

ALT-C Day two - continued

After active learning I was worried the rest of the day would be a let down, but session two on redesigning teaching was very good. First up was Pat Lockley talking about creating learning objects for mobile phones. They used a system called TED. Here's the links to the screencasts which we saw in the session - Making a quiz - Making a drag and drop - Sending results over a text - A basic TED quiz on a mobile

It was a good session and I took some useful ideas away from it.

After that there was a sesson from Tony Lowe "developing a class room response system for drag and drop activities" - they used something called Webducate and we were able to have a go at some of the activities. I have to say we soon realised we knew nothing about sharks, hearts and countries wealth/health. It was good fun though and very easy to do.

This was followed by another keynote - Martin Bean. He was very entertaining and interesting. He talked about transforming information into meaningful knowledge and of the need to educate our citizens for new types of work. He said it's about people and processes not just the technology, it's no good throwing technology at things if you haven't sorted out the processes and people first.

And then it was time for lunch, which was good but everyone leaving the lecture theatre at once meant it was a bit crowded too.

ALT-C Day two - first session

Fantastic first session with Lilian Soon and David Sugden - "Active Learning with mobile and web 2.0 technologies" This is what a workshop should be. I was feeling sleepy on the train over from Liverpool and so this woke me up because I had to think and actively engage in the session. I also got talking to my neighbour who I didn’t know (didn’t catch his name either, which was a shame, we were too busy working on the tasks).

There was hardly any tweeting going on in that session because everyone was too busy apart from when tweeting was part of the task of course. We texted, tweeted, contributed to a blog, took a photo of a picture we had drawn to represent an idea and emailed it to the blog. The fruits of our labours can be seen here: – a resource we can now go back to and share the ideas of others in the room for how we can use technology like texting to enhance our interaction with students. Good session which definitely did what it said on the tin.

ALT-C Day One - Morning

After the keynote I chose to listen to two more invited speakers, the first being Aaron Porter who gave a very interesting talk about the students perception of the student experience – this is quite topical for us as it’s changed the way we operate at LJMU by bringing student admin and library services together in one place and one team – the whole purpose being to enhance the student experience. Aaron talked about how to engage students into the academic community – to help them feel part of something, which then will increase engagement. When asked why they came to university most students talked about improving their career prospects/to help them get a good job. There weren’t any comments about wanting to be part of an academic community or even wanting to study a subject they were interested in – I guess they are more pragmatic than maybe we give them credit for. Aaron said that the induction process can have a huge impact on increasing engagement in the academic community. He suggested introducing academia into the social network spaces where the students reside. Don’t try to take over this technology but make use of it to engage your students. Most students will discuss their work with others in this environment but if asked whether they use social networks for academic purposes most will say no. They are doing it but aren’t necessarily recognising it as such.

The other key points of Aaron’s session were that universities need to take on board the skills that students come to university with, and not make assumptions that all are digital natives but provide the facilities to upskill those that aren’t. And feedback, this is vital to feeling part of the community, asking for students feedback, taking it on board and acting on it, then demonstrating that you’ve done this “you said.... we did...” approach. Make it more Amazon-like, were you can track the process of your feedback like an Amazon order.

The next invited speaker was Richard Noss. He did lose me a bit in some areas but the things I picked up from his session were knowledge is different from information and we need to understand the relationship between them. We need to redefine what we are trying to teach, what knowledge do we want our students to acquire. We need to think about how we teach the knowledge of tomorrow.

Next was a couple of active learning sessions, looking at audio. The first by Andrew Middleton focused on the process of capturing audio, recording the transient, the conversations outside the formal classroom setting. For him the capture of the audio was more important than the delivery of it. It’s active learning, it the activity of capturing the audio that’s the point. It was a way of capturing voices, voices of students, voices of tutors, external voices – the aim being to engage the learners.

The second audio session was by Tim Neumann talking about the MoSAIC project (models for synchronous interactive audiographic conferencing They used multiple tools for realtime interaction. The aim is to produce guidelines for tutors to help them use realtime conferencing – linked to pedagogic theories, grounded in observation of practice.

Then it was time for lunch which was good.

ALT-C Day One - Morning - Keynote

Yes I know I’m doing the morning after the afternoon, if you see what I mean but it was just the way the last post flowed. Anyway I don’t think there are any rules in this blogging, social media world.

So the morning – it started off with a great keynote from Michael Wesch – very engaging and interesting to listen to so it deserves a post all of its own. I didn’t think that I would be hearing about a small community in Papua New Guinea at the start of this conference. Michael talked about the history of insignificance and the search for identity and recognition. He said we know ourselves through our relationships with others, new media creates new ways of relating to others, therefore new media creates new ways of knowing ourselves.

He went on to talk about the messages we are sending out to our students. If the medium shapes the message and the classroom is the medium, what message is it sending out? There needs to be a move from creating knowledgeable learners to knowledge-able learners. We need to pay attention to what our students are saying, what questions are they asking? If these walls could talk what would they say? But we need to focus on the purpose and not just use technology for the sake of it, the platform should be secondary to the purpose.

Michael took us through a history of “whatever” and the different meaning associated with this one word through different generations. From the whatever of the 60s, whatever I don’t care, through the whatever of the Nirvana lyrics in “Smells like teen spirit” to the latest incarnation of “whatever, I’ll do what I want”. He proposed a new version ”let’s do whatever it takes by whatever means necessary”

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

ALT-C Day one - afternoon

Well day one at ALT-C was interesting and for the most part engaging. Wish my eeepc (borrowed from work) had lasted the distance though. I didn’t use it for a couple of sessions so the power was saved for the last session of the day on Twitter in teaching but the battery still died before the end. Difficult to do a practical Twitter session with no technology. There is definitely a lack of plug in points for delegates to charge up their devices and given that this is a conference focusing on and actively encouraging the use of technology and that I wasn’t the only one tweeting about failing batteries that is a great shame. My only other complaint is the lack of suitable rooms for practical workshops. A workshop on twitter really ought to happen in an IT suite so that those delegates who don’t have netbooks, or iphones or whatever can take an active part in the session. Mind you given how many people attended the Twitter session I’m not sure there would have been an IT suite big enough to accommodate us all.

That said I enjoyed the Twitter session and it stimulated lots of questions and discussion, particularly for those in the room who hadn’t really used Twitter much before. Personally I had but it was good to see what others were saying and to start thinking about how we could practically use this tool for teaching and learning.

Before that session I attended a very interesting session looking at the challenges of online learning for some students. The group in question were from a university in Canada, were a diverse group, average age 39 and they had a mixture of face to face and online learning. The course started with online input followed by an intensive 3 week face to face period. Then it was back to online. This was the point at which 15% of the students were lost – the approach was taken to look at why the students who stayed with the course did rather than look at why the others left. I thought this was a positive way to approach things. The students who stayed highlighted 4 areas that helped them get through; presence, review and reflect, social context and skill set and they were also asked what tools could be provided that may have helped them more in their blended learning.

The things that came up were:
Presence – video conferencing, audio, webinars
Review and reflect – video clips, powerpoint
Social context – discussion areas, asynchronous and synchronous tools
Skill set – train faculty on the use of online technology and pedagogy

The first session I attended after lunch (yes I know I’m doing this backwards) was on collaboration in the free world. This unfortunately was disappointing. The room was not great for a workshop environment (lecture theatre style) and although it started off well as a workshop and promised lots – we were going to do collaboration without the technology but using the principles of the technology – it descended into just a discussion so maybe would have been better as a symposium rather than a workshop. We began by using pieces of paper to introduce ourselves as though on Twitter, we then swapped papers and noted down people we wanted to follow – this was a way to engage in a room where there were few people with laptops etc and so got everyone involved. The presenters used the whiteboard to create three areas – expectations, social space and conclusions. The social space was supposed to be our wiki and though they said anyone could get up and write on the board during the session, this didn’t happen, I think mainly because we were all trapped in a lecture style environment and also because we were unsure what to contribute – this was a shame because this could have been a really useful way to demonstrate the collaborative elements of a wiki in a physical way. I think others in the group maybe got more out of the discussion than I did, I hope so. The presenters seemed quite happy with the way things turned out

Will update on the morning session later, it's 80% written