I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean?

Area Based Review

The FE sector is going through some difficult and challenging times at the moment. One of the key aspects they need to work on are the Area Based Reviews.

One aspect of the area based reviews is that they must “embrace technology”.

Great, let’s embrace technology…

I can do that…

I can embrace technology…

Well, I think I know how to embrace technology…

Well, what does that actually mean, I am sure it means more than just hugging your laptop.

Okay let’s delve a little deeper into this.


The actual line from the government document says:

A willingness to embrace the possibilities provided by technology via blended, independent and online delivery and assessment, which can increase the quality and scope of provision and improve efficiency.

Hopefully embrace means more than just a passing hug…

What would an FE College (or whatever comes out of the Area Based Reviews) look like once it had embraced technology?

How could you describe an FE College that has embraced technology?

What would the learner experience be like from the learner’s perspective? From a member of the teaching staff and their perspective? From the perspective of someone from learner support or business support?

Most use of learning technologies that I have seen, read about in conference papers, news items, listened to at events, and personally experiences when working in FE, is less about embracing technology, much more about holding hands or giving a peck on the cheek to technology. Not much holistic embracing of technology by the whole organisation.

Part of this is because we really don’t know what is meant by “embrace technology” and we have no real idea of what it could look like.

A vision of how the learner experience should be, with references to how this experience would embrace technology is a good place to start.

The entire learner journey from where they are interested in undertaking a programme of study, from enquiry, enrolment to induction. The programme of study, schemes of work, lesson planning, resources, content, activities. How technology would be used to enhance and enrich the formal and informal learning. How will the learner use technology to find information, media and manipulate data? How will the learner use digital creation tools to support their learning? How will technology impact on research and scholarship? What role does innovation play in embracing technology? As part of their learning journey, what digital tools will a learner use for group and peer communication, how will they work together using online collaborative tools? What will be the role of digital social networking tools?

What will be the role of technology in supporting that learner experience? The use of data, analytics, online resources, digital content all need to be considered and integrated into the learner experience. The learner experience does not exist in isolation, the business support processes that lie behind that experience also need to be sure they don’t frustrate or block the use of technology that is being used to enhance and enrich.

How will the use of technology support the learner once the course has been finished?

The next stage will be look a potentially different experiences, ones that would not be possible without technology, or ones that take advantage of the affordances of digital technology. This is where online learning comes into play, flipped learning and providing a more personalised and flexible approach.

Embracing technology is easy to say, easy to write down. Ensuring that you actually holistically embrace technology across the whole organisation, as part of a wider review is challenging and difficult. We haven’t really done this before, so I don’t think we can assume it will just happen now.

Got some good coffee in the end: Reflections on ALT-C 2015 #altc

This was an article I started to write on the train home, then I left it for a while, wrote a little more, and then a few weeks later, thought, I really ought to get this finished, so I did…


The Association of Learning Technology Conference in Manchester is the biggest conference of its kind in the UK. Over the course of three days, hundreds of delegates (in the main from HE and FE) descended onto the University of Manchester to listen, discuss, network and discover what was happening in the world of educational technology and learning technologists.

You get a real mix of attendees at the conference, as well as a large smattering of delegates from overseas, there are people employed across HE, FE and Skills. They are in a variety of departments, from dedicated IT staff, staff development as well as technology enhanced learning. They are also in a variety of roles, from learning technologists, managers, leaders.

This is the first time since 2012 (which was in the same venue) that I have attended the whole conference, I missed it in 2013 and only managed one day in 2014. It was great to meet up with old friends and meet new ones. Back in 2012 there was only a few people from FE at the conference, it was refreshing this year to see many more FE people at the event. The people I spoke to certainly seemed to be enjoying the conference.

As has happened before there was a lot of talk about how there was still too much focus on small scale initiatives with little big picture thinking taking place. I heard discussions about how we had heard many of these things before, but with a slightly different gloss or skin.

To be honest I am not surprised, as the ALT Conference is very much about showcasing the work of learning technologists in institutions, their small scale pilots and projects. They are on the same journey that we made years before in discovering how they and their small cohorts can take advantage of new technologies, tools and services. If you think about it, the conference process isn’t totally conducive to showcasing large scale holistic change,

The paper submission process, geared to attending the conference, will push the focus to those projects that are research based, small scale, small cohorts, the work of individuals or small teams. This is not to say you won’t find gems in the conference on large scale implementations, but they will be rare and limited. Can you really for example talk about whole institutional change in 15 minutes?

This isn’t a criticism of that process and I think it is a valuable way for learning technologists to focus and present on their work in front of an expert critical audience. However if you attend the conference with the aim of finding out how to approach the embedding of learning technologies holistically across an entire organisation, you may find yourself disappointed, and you may need to think about scaling up the projects and outcomes you do get to hear about.

So why do I attend this conference:

  • Inspiration: Across the conference you can find out about amazing work going on, really innovative practice that inspires you in your own work.
  • Reflection: I find many of the discussion sessions enable me to reflect on my own practice and really think hard about what I do and how I do it.
  • Benchmarking: Something I use to do when working within an institution, was to use presentations and papers to benchmark our progress and work against that of other institutions.
  • Meeting and networking with old friends and making new ones: Though I spend a lot of time networking through social media, such as the Twitter and Google+, it is still nice to meet people face to face. I took the time to print off my Twitter avatar, which I have used since 2007 and stuck it to my badge so that people could link me to my Twitter account. As a result it was nice to meet many of the friends I have on Twitter for real.


  • Connections: As well as meeting old friends and making new ones, conferences also allow me to make connections, other helping connect people together, who both know me, but may not necessarily know each other.
  • The Exhibition area: This is interesting to see what new technologies are been pushed by suppliers. At this year’s conference I noticed that Portal were there pushing the IBM Student Experience, whilst Instructure were talking about Canvas, the “next generation” VLE. Usually in the exhibition areas, the exhibitors focus on pushing one aspect of their product portfolio. I find these areas quite interesting as you will often find a gem or nugget of news about how one institution (or another) is using these new products.

Continue reading Got some good coffee in the end: Reflections on ALT-C 2015 #altc

Keynote: Laura Czerniewicz

Here are the slides from this morning’s keynote at ALT-C 2015.

There is also a recording of the talk.

Laura Czerniewicz is the Director of the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CILT) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. Previously the leader of UCT’s OpenUCT Initiative engaging with open scholarship from a southern perspective, she was also the founding Director of the university’s Centre for Educational Technology. She has worked in education for several decades as an educator, academic and strategist. A rated researcher, Laura’s interests include academics’ and students’ digitally-mediated practices, issues of inequality, and the changing nature of higher education.

I found this an interesting talk, lots of questions, but as Laura says, very few if any answers to the many problems she discusses in her keynote.

The main thrust of her talk was the importance of commons and openess. There is a conflict with market-led on the solutions.

I have been “messing” about with sketch noting at the conference and here are my notes from the talk.

Sketch Notes

Room 2.218 – ALT-C 2015 Day 3

It’s the final day of the annual Association of Learning Technology conference here in Manchester. I found an excellent little coffee shop in the university buildings across the road. Very nice coffee, good value and outstanding environment (it use to be the Science Library).


This morning’s keynote is considering inequality as HE goes online with Laura Czerniewicz.

At 10:35 I am off to the session with Amber Thomas from Warwick on Participatory approaches towards more consistent and coherent learning technology provision [926] in room 2.218 This resonates with the project I am working on for Jisc on building digital capability.

After the coffee break , back to room 2.218 for David Kernohan’s session, “I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream”: Trends and patterns in education technology prediction [808]

Then we have lunch, and before the final keynote I am looking at attending Building an e-learning platform in WordPress [811] again in room 2.218.

Another packed day and difficult choices on what to attend.

Feltagging – ALT-C 2015 Day 2


It’s the second day of the annual Association of Learning Technology conference here in Manchester. Yesterday was an exciting and exhausting day with some great sessions.

Disappointed that the Museum Café is closed for three weeks, so no real coffee for me.

Really looking forward to the keynote this morning from Jonathan Worth, who will be talking about photography and his journey.

After that I am presenting a FELTAG session in 4.206. In this session we will be talking about ideas and strategies in regard to implementing the FELTAG recommendations.

After the coffee break, straight into digital capabilities with Helen Beetham and Lou McGill, Here Comes Everybody: digital capabilities across roles and boundaries [908].

After lunch, I am going to 4.204 to see CMALT: recent trends in learning technology specialisms and CPD opportunities as I am working with the team to get our CMALTs.

The ALT AGM is at 4:05pm where the business of ALT will be confirmed.

At 4.45pm in the Main Theatre I will be leading the FELTAG SIG and open FE forum. Find our how working together and collaboratively we can support each other to support the implementation of the FELTAG recommendations.

So another busy day.

news and views on e-learning, ILT and tech stuff in general…