Taking the time for ALT-C 2014

altc201401

Last year I missed ALT-C, the Association of Learning Technologies annual Conference, as I had literally just started at Activate Learning. Though the conference coincides with the start of the academic year in FE, I did manage this year to attend the second day at the conference.

This has been for me for over ten years one of the best conferences on learning technologies, the topics, issues and subjects that are covered are inspiring, informative and certainly make you think about what you do and what you are going to do.

altc201402

The sessions at this year’s conference have been just as inspiring and as good as I have seen in previous years. I particularly enjoyed Catherine Cronin’s keynote and the session from Dave White.

altc201403

As well as the informative sessions, it is also good to make contact with fellow learning technologists from HE, FE and other sectors. Sometimes the conversations over coffee are as useful and interesting as the sessions in themselves.

It’s a pity that I could only make one day this year, but I certainly am going away with lots to think about and follow up over the next few weeks.

So how do you make children eat broccoli?

Do you eat broccoli?

Do you eat broccoli?

If you have young children you will know how challenging it can be to get them to eat new foods, or eat those that are healthy.

When asked why they won’t eat, let’s say broccoli, children (and to be honest some adults) will say they don’t like the taste, they don’t like the texture or they don’t like the colour. The end result is that they won’t eat the broccoli.

What they will not say, any may not realise, are the potential benefits of eating broccoli.

Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber. It also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.

Or to put it more simply…

Eat your greens, they’re good for you.

But…

They won’t focus on the real health benefits of eating broccoli they will focus that they don’t like, they don’t like the taste, it gives them stomach ache. They will talk about how they prefer chips, that they have always eaten.

In many ways helping staff in using specific learning technologies for teaching, learning and assessment is like eating broccoli.

If you discuss the use of various technologies, you will hear from teachers and lecturers that they don’t like certain aspects of the tool or service, for example the look or the colour. They might say how it won’t allow them to do something in a particular way. Often you will hear them say, that though the tool does lots of things well, because it does one thing badly, or doesn’t have that feature, then they won’t be able to use it. They don’t like the taste, they don’t like the colour, they prefer doing what they have always done.

So how do you get children to eat broccoli?

Well shouting at them to eat their greens, generally doesn’t work with children.

If you try and explain the health benefits of broccoli, this generally fails too.

Sometimes you can try and mask the broccol, maybe with cheese or in extreme examples chocolate.

Though, personally, I find the best way to get children to eat new (and healthy) foods, is to create an environment in which they are not only willing to try new foods, they do so, and also seek out other new tastes on their own. This means they want to not only eat broccoli, but also, then want to try other things.

This isn’t easy or simple, but it does have the greatest impact.

So how do you make people eat broccoli?

Image via Steven Lilley on Flickr

ocTEL: Activity 2.2: Learner Diversity

Books #366photos

Here are some thoughts on another ocTEL activity, this one is focusing on how technology can be used to support learner diversity.

Try to find one example from your own practice, or an example or resource from elsewhere, that you think exemplifies good practice in taking a technology-enhanced approach to addressing a key aspect of learner diversity.

It could be an example of a freely available assistive technology, or a set of online guidelines for designing a culturally inclusive curricula. It might be an example of an initiative, such as the college2uni podcasts produced by Edinburgh Napier University, which provide ‘just in time’ guidance at key points in the academic year for Further Education students coming in to University in the second or third year.

Approaching this task I was reminded of how we integrated ebooks at Gloucestershire College.

When we undertook a library survey, it was apparent that there were some groups of learners for whom the library wasn’t their first choice as a place to learn. This was backed up by the data from the Library Management System. More challenging was linking that data with retention and achievement data.

Research from the University of Huddersfield and others indicates that those students who use more books and/or e-resources are the same students who complete and get higher achievement rates. This is a correlation, not necessarily a causal relationship. However it is useful to understand that the data backs up a personal hunch that using a breadth and depth of resources does improve achievement. Also, motivated students who visit the library are also those who complete their studies.

One such group were IT students, who when asked for further feedback talked about how the space wasn’t meeting their needs, they preferred to remain in their area, or studied at night (when the library wasn’t open).

So the question was, how could we encourage these learners to make effective use of the resources available, also, how could we increase their usage of resources? We knew that encouraging their use of the library space was a potential strategy, the fact that they weren’t using it, didn’t necessarily mean they would start using it in the future.

So rather than bring the learners to the library, the plan was to take the library to the learners, using technology to make this happen, through the use of ebooks and other digital collections.

The ebooks for FE collection was a useful resource, containing a range of books. There were many suitable titles for the IT students. The IT students were also making good use of the VLE, so the relevant titles were made available as links on the VLE. The academic staff encouraged the use of ebooks in the class, using appropriate pages in lessons and making reference to them when needed.

The physical books were still available in the library, so from a learner diversity perspective they had choice about which resources they could use. It wasn’t just about choice, it was also about context and location. A book can be read easily when travelling, whether physical or ebook. An ebook can be accessed when the library is closed. A physical book is useful to have open, when you are using your main device as a creation tool, or when making notes, rather than task switching on a single screen. The text size of ebooks can be increased on some readers, for those with visual impairment issues.

The ebooks were just one part of a wider range of resources made available to the students, alongside strategies to improve teaching and learning.

Using technology as a solution to the “problem” for me, exemplifies good practice in taking a technology-enhanced approach to addressing a key aspect of learner diversity. Not using technology for the sake of using technology, but using it to make a difference by solving an issue.

ocTEL: Activity 1.2: Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology

Keyboard

This week on ocTEL one of the activities is to reflect on strategies for Learning Technology

Activity 1.2: Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology

This activity is about strategy and how you or someone in your role might contribute to a strategy for using Learning Technology in face to face, blended or online learning context.

A: If you have your own example, reflect on the following questions…

I am currently in the process of writing a new strategy for Activate Learning, this is still a work in progress, with further consultation. So for the purpose of this activity I am going to reflect on the ILT (Information and Learning Technology) Strategy I developed and wrote for Gloucestershire College.

Did you contribute to the strategy, if so, in what capacity?

I was responsible for the strategy, both in terms of development and delivery.

Is the main focus of the strategy on Learning Technology, or if not, what is its main focus?

The main focus was not on learning technology, but on learners, and specifically, outcomes for learners.

How often is it reviewed and is it flexible enough to adapt as things change?

It was a three year strategy. For me it was important that the focus was not on specific technologies, as this wouldn’t provide the flexibility required. By not naming technologies, it would enable the college to take advantage of new technologies and innovations as they arrived on the scene.

The strategy also had a specific section on innovation to ensure that the college could adapt as things change.

A strategy also needs to be a living document, not a static constraint on innovation.

Does the strategy impact on your practice and if so, how? If not, why?

A strategy in itself, will do very little. It needs to be followed up with an operational plan.

Finally, if you were to provide input to a new version, what, if any, changes would you make to it?

The key change I would make, would be to build on the teaching, learning and assessment strategy. If possible the strategies would be worked on together.

Down at the Festival

JISC Digital Festival

After a brief absence, the JISC, sorry Jisc Conference, sorry Jisc Digital Festival is back. The last JISC Conference was a couple of years ago and it has evolved in the Jisc Digital Festival.

It was a two day event in Birmingham looking at many different aspects of technology enhanced learning. There was stuff for learning technologists, library people and IT managers. For someone in my role there was a lot of choice.

In some ways it was reminiscent of past JISC Conferences and in others it was very different and new. There was a lot happening and it can be challenging to find the stuff you want to see and listen to.

I did like the festival theme, which really gave the event a very different feel. Two days also made a difference to the rushed single day there use to be.

With such a packed programme it was inevitable that there would be some clashes. I was torn for example about going to the digital storytelling session or the one on visitors and residents.

I was pleased with the vast majority of the sessions I attended, they were stimulating, interesting, informative and made me think. There was a lot of stuff to take away. With recordings and resources online, there’s a substantial amount of stuff to refect on and take away.

One of the key benefits for me of attending a conference such as this is making contacts, talking and networking. There wasn’t a huge number of people from FE, but I certainly spoke to many of them. Finding out what they were doing, the issues they faced and what they were planning. Finding out what others are doing is a critical factor when implementing change, for benchmarking and aiding discovery.

It was also useful to speak to contacts at Jisc, Janet, TechDis, as well as some of the exhibitors. I have a bundle of business cards, flyers, web links and even the odd QR Code.

JISC Digital Festival

I got a lot out of the conference, I took a lot away and it has made me think. I am glad to see the return of the conference and in many ways I think it was much better than previous Jisc conferences. Now that’s back, I hope that Jisc will also bring back the online conference, as I really missed it this year.

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

Links:doudoune moncler pas cherair max 90 pas chernike lebronair max femmeair max pas chernike air max pas chernike air max pas cherair max classicnike air max pas cherair max 1 femmenike air max pas chernike air max pas chernike pas cher