Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Solstice 2010 - afternoon

So after lunch it was time for the second keynote, Peter Hartley from University of Bradford talking about "how far have we travelled?" He was very entertaining to listen to and talked about a number of ways in which we have travelled. He talked about the explosion of the myth of the digital native, referring to a paper he co-wrote with others from University of Bradford "Defining 'generation Y' towards and new typology of digital learners" - there are really four subgroups of students: digitally inexperienced, digital experienced, digitally reluctant and digital socialites. The digital socialites are probably what we mean when we talk about digital natives. We need to cater for all four groups

He asked whether we had evidence of major change? There are certainly pockets of interesting things going on but we don't yet have the consistent engagement across the curriculum. Technology has transformed and there are lots of really good examples of practice but the really big issues are still the same, like lack of institutional support.

He asked do we need to reconstruct the VLE debate - what do students leave with? How do we move from student dependence to student independence? Do we need to wean them off the VLE slowly through their life at uni?

Learning spaces - how many do we need? We need and archive/museum, a playground (somewhere safe/walled off), the saloon (open to the world) and private space (refuge)

After that it was time some fab fun playing with Yahoo Pipes with our own Jim Turner - this was great because it was interactive and I was pleased to have created my very first pipe - shame it was on the training account so I'll have to do it all again. This is something I definitely need to explore further and play around with.

After a break it was time for Jeffrey Lewis talking about delivering learning materials to the workplace. They wanted to change the delivery method of a course for dental technicians. The cohort of students were geographically dispersed and travel to campus once a week was time consuming. The delivery method was changed to using Adobe connect Pro, video conferencing - traditional lectures or practical demos were delivered straight to the workplace. Lots of images were also made available via Blackboard - I found out that PowerPoint does photo albums, which I didn't know, and it compresses them for you so that it loads much more quickly. Useful tip. Everything is recorded so they can be revisited by students as well. Students can access all the materials from work. They also have a mentor in the workplace.

Collaborating with dental hospitals and dental schools they can pool resources and students can use other organisations for practicals if they are not able to do what they need to in their own workplace. Students get support from their workplace as well as getting all the support from the university they would get if they attended in person. There is a need to support the employer as well, they need to be on board.

Students are performing better in practical and written work that those attending each week. So far feedback from the students has been positive.

The final session of the day was by Ulrike Zwiers talking about using EJS animation in an undergraduate engineering course. The courses are large with strong time constraints and mixed ability students. The curriculum is abstract so motivation is not high with the students. They used easy Java simulations to create learning units aimed to engage the students. Ulrike showed us some examples of simulations that had been created and whilst I have no knowledge of engineering I found them interesting as they were very visual and can understand how these can be used to increase motivation in their students.

Using this software doesn't require any programming knowledge as it creates the code for you. Student are then able to create simulations in workshops. Students found the workshops challenging - but that was the idea. They did rate them as helpful and encouraging although they complained about the lack of German tutorials for the software - this has been addressed.

After a quick summary of the day it was time to head home. All in all a very enjoyable event with some interesting presentations. It's good to see what others are doing and think about how you can apply them in your own work.

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