Durham Blackboard Users Conference 2014

in External Event 

 

Durham University held the 14th Blackboard Users Conference on the 9th and 10th of January. This is the second time I have attended the event and found it as beneficial as before. An extremely well organised event with a good variety of engaging presentations.
Dr Franck Michel and I presented a paper titled, “Using technology to support reflective learning – Newcastle University’s implementation of ePortfolio”. This was well received with very positive feedback from our peers. This is due to the hard work of everyone involved in this project from the development team through to the management and steering groups. It’s an exciting project that is enjoyable to b a part of and the positive results we are seeing is a testament to this.
There was two keynote talks as well as a Blackboard roadmap. The first keynote was from Professor Patrick Carmichael from the University of Bedfordshire who talked about his work with video engagement (Presence, Personalisation and Pedagogy –Using Digital Video in Online Environments). The highlight for me was when he described how a dance class use video as a self-reflection tool, but also to collaborate with other dancer to create a performance taking place in two different places at once, with two different audiences. Extremely creative, innovative and inspiring.
The second keynote was from Robin Goodfellow from the Open University. Robin discussed his career had moved through three stages (dialogue, design and data), each phase moving him further away from direct contact with students, but potentially having more impact on their experiences. It was a very engaging and entertaining talk.
There were two Blackboard specific talks that stood out for me. :
1) University of Derby detailed their VLE threshold standards – how they were created, and applied in their institution. It was refreshing to hear how the technologists looked at each threshold standard and considered how pedagogically important it was. For example, did having photographs of lecturers on the course have the same level of importance as good quality lecture materials?
2) University of Creative Arts (UCA) described their use of course templates to create standardised, graphically enhanced sections for courses. The sites were visually appealing, and it was no surprise that Maria Tenant presenting, had previous experience as a web designer.

One of the main benefits of the conference is the networking that takes place. I made some very good contacts with people from a University of Galway, Liverpool John Moores , UCA, and many more, as well as seeing old friends. It was great to see Lynne Hugill from Cleveland college of art and design, Ralph Holland from South Tyneside College, and James from Middlesbrough College, and all the NELE group members.

From this event, I have a renewed focus on our ePortfolio, knowing that this is a tool that can make a huge difference on students learning experience. I think we may try to have further contact with the presenters from the two Universities mentioned earlier, to investigate how we can apply some of the knowledge they have learned through their experience.

Finally a big thanks should go to Julie Mulvey, Malcolm Murray, and the rest of the team at Durham. A fantastic event that I look forward to attending again in the future.

Useful Links:

Ensemble project http://www.ensemble.ac.uk/wp/ (from Patrick Carmichael keynote)

Conference programme – http://community.dur.ac.uk/lt.team/conference/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2014ConferenceBooklet_Final1.pdf

Presentations:

Deeper Understanding as the Key to Deepening Digital Literacy?
Sarah Horrigan & Laura Hollinshead, University of Derby

A day in the life of LTI

Moodle for Mobile Learning

in Moodle 2 

I’m very pleased, and proud, to announce my first publication! You can purchase a set of screencasts titled ‘Moodle for mobile learning” through Packt Publishing at this address – http://www.packtpub.com/moodle-for-mobile-learning/video. They are available on an introductory offer of £14.99 so I advise purchasing sooner rather than later!

It’s been a real labour of love creating the screencasts. Previous to this venture, I recorded my screencasts without serious planning or any script, whereas working with Packt helped my to focus my direction and improve my planning. We actually started the process back in January. Having seen my previous screencasts on Moodle they felt I would be able to do a good job for this project. I created a test video for them and they seemed happy with it. This would later manifest itself into the QR code video.
Contacts signed, and I was introduced to my two person project team, Hardik Saiyya and Shraddha Vora. These were my two points of contact in Packt throughout the whole writing period,
A title outline was then discussed, with proposals and counter proposals being made. Once agreed, it gave me a clear path of the work needing to be undertaken. Working over the next 6 weeks I created around 40 different screencasts. These were first drafts, that once technically acceptable was reviewed by two main reviewers.
I was extremely pleased to discover that the assigned reviewers were Mary Cooch and Lewis Carr. Mary is a real authority on Moodle. She has recently published “Moodle 2 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds – Beginner’s Guide” through Packt. I would strongly advise following her on twitter (@moodlefairy). Lewis Carr is the VLE Manager at Leeds City College. A brilliant developer; I always viewed the Leeds Moodle design with envious eyes.
The reviewers would feedback where they felt the screencasts needed to change. I found this part to be the hardest work. After the long evenings recording all the screencasts, I had to revisit them again. It was made easier due to the quality of the feedback received, highlighting areas where They could be improved in a positive manner.
On completion of these amendments, there was some technical changes I needed to make. One of the main changes was due to the amount of zooms I had originally put in place. I had used zooms to highlight smaller areas of the screen that the viewer might miss, but on reflection I had overused these and had zoomed in too far causing pixelation. Packt were very good at supporting me through these technical amendments.
Now the process is over, I am very glad I undertook it, although there were moments especially during some of the very late evenings I had doing amendments, where I was thinking differently!
I hope you have purchased a copy of these for you institution. If so, I would love to hear what you thought about the videos, and how these ideas have translated into your everyday practice with mobile learning.

My final week at Sunderland College

in Comment 

It is now my final week at Sunderland College. Next week I start a new job at Newcastle University as an e-learning development officer with a focus on e-portfolios. I’m extremely excited about this new position and about working for Newcastle University.

It will be with a heavy heart that I leave Sunderland College though. I’ve spent over 10 years of my working life there. When reflecting back over the time, I think of all the different projects that I have worked on and the positive impact we try to provide for our students, but also our staff. More so though, when thinking of these projects I think of all the wonderful members of staff that I have worked with through the years. I have the privilege of working with diligent, hardworking and inspiring colleagues that are always trying to provide a fantastic learning experience for our students.

I will miss all of you, and will take away very happy memories of my experience at Sunderland.

Efest – Ofsted, eLearning in Africa, and the need to be a sausage roll.

in External Event 

Yesterday I attended the RSC Northern’s end of year event – eFest. Here is a summary of my day.

Very quickly on arrival I was catching up with familiar faces and being introduced to some new ones too. It was very interesting to meet Neil from South Tyneside College and have a great discussion about iPads in the classroom. I hate the word ‘networking’ but these events are excellent to meet new people and share some of the great practice that is taking place throughout the region. By sharing our experiences we become collectively stronger and can provide a better learning experience for out students.

The first keynote session was from Peter Green, an Ofsted inspector. He was talking about what Ofsted are looking for when inspecting and said that the key aspects were:
Context – what are the aims and purpose of use
Effectiveness – how useful has it been, what was the impact.
Interest – engagement, is it fun? Does it make learning memorable and different?
He also made the point that it is not just about acquisition of information, but more about the development of higher order skills. Most students will be able to use google to find out answers to questions, but it is what they do with those answers that is key. It is very good to see Ofsted looking more are technology and is so much more than what used to take place.

We then split into our various breakout sessions. I attended a fascinating talk by Peter Kilcoyne about the brilliant work Computer Aid International where doing in Africa. Peter goes to Africa once a year to support colleges and universities with the use of Moodle and ELearning. He spoke about the challenges he faced, but more compellingly spoke of the desire of the students to learn. When lecturers were taking place there, the lecture hall would be full and there would be students outside lining the windows to listen to the lecture. He said he wished he could bottle up just 10% of that desire to learn and bring it home to the UK students.

I was presenting in the second session alongside Caroline Miller from Newcastle City Learning. The presentation was titled,”The use of video in the observation of Teaching and Learning.” I spoke about our project using Dartfish sports software to analyse questioning techniques, and Caroline spoke about Iris Connect. I was very pleased with how the presentation went, although I was nervous beforehand. There seemed to be quite a lot of people in the room – I think they must have been a bit lost, or there to see Caroline! If you were in my session, thank you for coming along – I really appreciated your time and interest.

After that session I attended the fabulous Joel Mills from Darlington College who was demonstrating Apple TV. He showed various apps that could be used such as Socrative and ShowMe. Joel is really knowledgable on this subject and it was great to chat with him afterwards about the different issues that we both face regarding the use of this technology in the classroom.

After a nice lunch we had Gavin Oattes from Tree of Knowledge doing the second keynote. Gavin speech was entitled,”How do you put a giraffe in a fridge?” I was unsure how his talk was going to go, but the whole room was completely blown away by Gavin’s wit and insight. He spoke about his early career as a primary school teacher and then how he came into Tree of Knowledge. His main focus was about the way that adults stop playing as they get older and how important this element is in our lives. He spoke about the term, ‘flow’ and the value of ‘flow’ in our lives. Flow is discussed in Daniel Pinks and Carol Dwecks books that I have spoken about previously on this blog. I think it is safe to say that Gavin’s talk was the highlight of a lot of people’s day. He was incredibly funny but at the same time very, very inspiring. And I am proud to say I was a sausage roll that evening!

My last breakout session was from Peter Samsonfrom Middlesbrough Community Learning Service and Lindsay King , our project manager for Caboodle. Both gave very interesting talks about their JISC advance funded projects that look to increase the availability and amount of resources for teachers and students. We are going to be seeing the proof of concept of our Caboodle Moodle block on Monday, so I will blog about that next week.

The sessions ended with JISC advance head Nigel Ecclesfield discussing what funding opportunities there would be next year through JISC, and there was a good debate around the issues of “bring your own device”.

I came away from the delay on a real high, feeling very inspired with new ideas and new friends. The event was superbly organised and full credit to our brilliant team at the RSC Northern for putting on such a quality day. It’s great to see something like this happening in our region and I look forward to the next one!

The Apple Classroom

in Classroom Delivery 

I’m still excited from a demonstration my colleague Gerard and I delivered to the senior management team at the College on the Apple classroom.
We had an Apple TV box (retails around £90) and a couple of iPads and iPhones. We starting off discussing exactly what Apple TV is. We currently have a store of around 1000 videos recorded through the ERA license. Apple TV would give us the opportunity to easily stream this content to any of the classrooms with an Apple TV box. If you haven’t seen these boxes before, they are very small and discreet and so simple to set up. Speak to your local RSC as we borrowed one from ours as part of their loan scheme.
We then looked at the potential of mirroring devices. With Apple TV and AirPlay you can display on the front of classroom screen any content from the devices in the room. So students could be working on content at home and come into class, demonstrating their knowledge by flipping the content of their phone on to the front of the class. So in our demo, our Principal found it very easy to show one of her apps to us all.
We then discussed how the dynamic of the classroom is completely changed using this technology. Teachers are no longer anchored to the front of the screen, and are instead free to move around the room. Using apps like Nearpod teachers can send content to the devices of the students, including presentations and assessments.
We used the fantastic Socrative app to engage our audience in a quiz and a class poll and then used the Essential Skeleton app to see how biology or sports science could use free apps easily in the classroom.
The whole hour long session was delivered from my iPad with the main presentation running on the Prezi app. The management team left the session feeling inspired and motivated to invest in the technology that will change the way our students learn. No more will they power down to come into classes!
I’ve been asked to come into the SMT meeting this morning to discuss the implementation of this across the College. I’m really hopeful that we can implement a real technological change that will empower teachers and students in the College.
If anyone has experience of working with the Apple classroom, I would love to hear from you.