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    Taking the tablets

    November 16th, 2012

    Taking the tablets: How are tablets being used in learning and teaching? What is the impact? What are we going and where might we finish up?

    Invited Speaker session by James Clay, ILT and Learning Resources Manager, Gloucestershire College, at a confrontation with reality, the 2012 conference of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). Session given in Manchester, UK, on Tuesday 11 September 2012.

    Slides available here.


    ALT-C Final Keynote Panorama

    September 13th, 2012

    Panorama just before the final keynote at ALT-C 2012.


    Taking the Tablets

    September 11th, 2012

    James Clay presenting at ALT-C 2012

    Here are the slides from my presentation at ALT-C 2012 this morning.

    The tablet computer is not a new idea, but recently has had an impact on learning and teaching across a range of institutions in the UK and elsewhere. In this session I will try to tackle the following questions.

    What do we currently understand to be a tablet? What is the primary functionality? How are tablets being used right now for supporting, and enhancing learning and teaching? What sort of learning activities and scenarios are making best use of the tablet format? Are these devices for content consumption, content creation, interaction, or all three? So where next? Where will tablets take us? Do institutions purchase tablets for all their students? Or do we let or require students to buy and bring their own? And if the latter what does this mean for how we organise provision?

    I will conclude with a personal reflection on the overall direction of travel, and where I believe we may finish up.

    Photo source


    ALT-C Live

    September 6th, 2012

    ALT-C 2011 saw the successful launch of ALT-Live Beta; an informal conference backchannel streamed live to the internet and featuring exclusive interviews and chat with conference organisers, keynote speakers, presenters and delegates. The intention was to provide another channel which, along with social media such as the official conference Crowdvine, Twitter, and delegate blogs, would serve to amplify those hot topics and discussions from the conference.

    ALT Live Beta at ALT-C 2011

    Presenters James Clay (Gloucestershire College), Prof. Steve Wheeler (Plymouth University) and Graham McElearney (University of Sheffield) broadcast daily from 08:30 to 19:00 to capture both the breakfast bowl chatter in the morning and the end of day reactions as the sun went down. Over the three days various luminaries of the learning technology community graced the sofa. Miguel Brechner gave a fascinating follow-up to his opening conference keynote, Sugata Mitra – previous ALT-C keynote speaker and chair of that year’s closing keynote by The Observer’s John Naughton – gave his insights into conference hot topics.

    ALT Live Beta at ALT-C 2011

    Elsewhere, Diana Laurillard spoke about her most recent research project, Gilly Salmon provided fascinating insights into current learning technology debates in the Australian context, while Doug Belshaw, John Traxler, Fred Garnett, John Cook, Josie Fraser, Dave White, David Kernohan, Helen Beetham, Nigel Ecclesfield, Peter Twining and others fielded questions about their own conference presentations and shared reflections on the rest of the conference. Having been so well received in its first year, for 2012 ALT-C Live officially comes out of beta promising more of the same, as well as a few new features as well!

    ALT Live Beta at ALT-C 2011

    This year, thanks to the ALT-C planning committee, we have been afforded a more spacious studio area and will be hosting more joint interviews and roundtable discussions that allow us to reinforce this year’s conference strands: mainstreaming, entrepreneurialism, openness and sharing, sustainability and problem-solving.

    Technical Support

    We are looking to recruit volunteers to the technical support team for this year’s ALT-C Live. This is a great opportunity for learning technologists with an interest in audio/video production to gain experience of live broadcast. Full training will be provided in the use of Newtek Studio TriCaster and various cameras and microphones for broadcast but we would ask that only those who are confident and have some experience of filming apply.

    Presenters

    We are also looking to recruit volunteers to act as presenters for the ALT-C Live, this will be your opportunity to chat and interview live on camera. You may be interviewing one of the keynote speakers, you may be talking with ordinary members of ALT. It’s a chance to gain confidence in front of the camera, add to the experience that is ALT-C and have a new and interesting experience. Due to the nature of the broadcast you will not be in front of the camera for the whole time period you commit to.

    Support and Runners

    We we also need volunteers to help us run ALT-C Live to provide support and act as runners. So if you don’t have the experience to run the broadcast equipment, don’t want to be on camera, you can still help out with ALT-C Live and add to the experience that is ALT-C, whilst having a new and interesting experience.

    Commitment

    We are looking for a half-day commitment (AM/PM) from volunteers and this means that there will be plenty of available slots over the three days for each of the three roles (technical, presenter, runner). If possible, we would ask that volunteers are available on Monday evening for initial training.

    Please let us know if you wish to volunteer for this year’s ALT-C Live. If you could please also include the following information:

    1) First name, Surname
    2) Job title / position held
    3) Institution
    4) Please let us know whether you wish to help with technical support, general support or to be a presenter.

    Contact us on Crowdvine.

    With thanks,

    James & Darren
    ALT-C Live Executive Producers


    No sudden moves…

    July 16th, 2012

    JISC Experts Meeting, Bristol, March 2008

    Four years ago, March 2008, I was at a JISC Experts Group meeting at The Watershed Media Centre in Bristol. There was a range of interesting sessions, one I remember well was a report from Bob Rotheram, National Teaching Fellow at Leeds Metropolitan University on the Sounds Good project.

    This session will give members the experience of receiving audio feedback on assessed work, learn about the Sounds Good project funded under the JISC Users and Innovations Programme, and consider the potential of this approach.

    This was a really interesting project that was looking at the use of audio feedback for student assessment. With the new technolgies that had become available, it was a lot easier to record feedback and importantly distribute it to the learners. Recording audio was something that happened a lot in Universities for interviews and research, but it was usually to tape (as in cassette tape, I am sure there are a few people out there reading this, thinking to themselves, what is this “tape” you are writing about, is it “sticky tape”?) The downside of recording cassette tape was that they weren’t free, and was a logistical hassle in not just recording, but also getting the tape to the learner. In the last ten years, we have seen portable audio recording move away from cassette tapes to mp3 recorders. It is very easy to make an audio recording, save as mp3 and send it by e-mail A lot of smartphones now have that capability built in, though I am sure a lot of people will use specialised mp3 audio recorder. This change in technology made the concept of providing learners with audio feedback, not just practical, but also easily achievable. Bob and the team at Leeds Metropolitan were as a result able to undertake a detailed study of the issues and implications of providing audio feedback.

    I do remember been quite taken by the idea and when I was back in the office went over the idea with a few members of staff who went off and had a go themselves.

    Bob published a final report in 2009. The students feedback said

    Students were overwhelmingly positive about receiving audio feedback on their coursework. They frequently remarked approvingly about its personal nature and the detail provided, evidence that the lecturer had carefully considered their work. On the other hand, a small minority of students said they preferred written feedback; a few asked for both audio and written comments on their work.

    The final report is well worth reading.

    On Friday the 6th July, there was a Teaching and Learning conference at Plymouth University. I wasn’t there but quite a few people I follow on Twitter were.

    Steve Wheeler asked the question.

    Pete Yeomans responded

    Remembering the Sounds Good project and a paper by JISC Digital Media I replied and posted the two links

    That JISC Digital Media paper not only referenced the Sounds Good project, but also other similar work.

    Chaing, Dr. I-Chant Andrea (2009). Which Audio Feedback is best?: Optimising audio feedback to maximise student and staff experience. Aberystwyth University

    Bunyan, N, King, D & McGugan, S (2008). Does it make a difference? Replacing text with audio feedback. Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Vol. 3, No.2, pp. 125 – 163

    Merry, S & Orsmond, P (2007) Students’ Attitudes to and Usage of Academic Feedback Provided Via Audio Files. Bioscience Education ejournal, Vol. 11.

    I did then ask in the same tweet if we should…

    …ignore all previous research?

    What followed was a discussion on the value of that previous research. The question that was never answered, partly as I didn’t ask it, was having seen the outcomes of those audio feedback projects, were staff at Plymouth going to start using audio feedback, or were they going to do some more research on the effectiveness of audio feedback? I did feel from the responses I was getting that some people didn’t value the research and therefore were going to ignore it.

    This happens all the time with regard to research in learning technologies and I am sure is pretty much the main reason change takes to long to happen and for various technologies to be adopted.

    I would go further that mainstream adoption of learning technologies is rarely the result of what has been learnt through projects and research, but just “happens” slowly as teaching teams pick up technology from others who just so happen to use it, or they see others using it and decide to give it a go.

    I would add that most decisions about learning technologies are probably made without any regard to the research about it, and is taken by IT directors or management teams based on what their competitors are doing or some article in a national newspaper. Okay that newspaper article may be based on a piece of research, but more likely was a PR piece from a technology company.

    Think about all those technologies that are currently embedded into the institution, ignoring those that are used for administration, why were those technologies adopted and for what reason? Was the use of Powerpoint by teaching staff as a result of a range of research projects? On the contrary I would suspect very few staff have even looked at research into the use of Powerpoint, or presentation techniques, because if they had, we would never talk about “death by Powerpoint” and we would never complain about horrible slides at learning technology conferences.

    So why don’t we trust what others have said and written about the use of learning technologies? Why do we think that our own institutions and learners are so different to others? Why don’t we learn from the research of others?

    The end result, more often than not, is that there are no sudden moves to adopting new ways of working or embedding new technologies. Think about audio feedback, four years after the Sounds Good project, we are no closer to making use of the research, avoiding the lessons learnt from the project and wasting time and resources recreating or duplicating the work in our own pilots.

    Are pilots just a way of playing with toys or are they an useful tool to support the embedding of new practices and technologies to enhance learning? If you are interested in discussing this further then I am running a symposium at ALT-C 2012 called Pilot Mentality. I have also written a previous post about running pilots.