Presenting, presenting, presenting – Weeknote #32 – 18th October 2019

Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash
Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

Monday I was undertaking the final preparations for some presentation training I am delivering on Thursday. This included printing some postcards as well as designing activities.

I took advantage of Pixabay to find images for my postcards, this is a great site for images, and due to their open licensing, you can use them in a variety of ways. Though I often attribute the site for the images I use, it’s not a requirement, so if you use them later or forget, it’s not really an issue.

Tuesday I was off to London for a meeting to discuss some future collaborative work that Jisc may undertake. What are the big challenges that HE (and FE) are facing for the future. One comment which was made I thought was interesting, was how challenging it was to get people to think about long term future challenges. Most people can identify current issues and potential near-future challenges but identifying the really big challenges that will impact education in the medium or long term, is really hard. Part of the challenge is that there are so many factors that can impact and predicting the future is thus very hard.

Reminded of this challenge of predicting the future, this week with the imminent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago. Watching the haunting nuclear war TV film, Threads in 1984, I had no idea that the Cold War was every going to end, it looked like it would last forever and we would always be living under the threat of nuclear war. Five years later on the 9thNovember 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. I remember watching it on the news in my student accommodation, thinking, what’s happening, how is this happening? Back then we didn’t have social media, mobile phones or the web, so the only way for news to filter through was by television and newspapers. A year later we had the reunification of Germany. A year after that the USSR was dissolved.

I have often spoken at events about the future of learning and only a couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the predictions I was making ten years ago at the FOTE 2009 event.

The future of learning… ten years later!

So what of my predictions?

Well we know predicting the future is hard and generally most people get it wrong.

 You will no doubt not be surprised that I got a lot of things wrong…

 One thing I feel I did get right was that mobile was going to be big

I think predicting those challenges is hard, but deciding not to prepare for them is not a good course of action. One of the things you need to also consider after predicting the future and start to work on stuff,  is when to stop doing that stuff. Has the concept or idea reached somewhere, has it stopped being useful, has it been superseded? Sometimes you stop, sometimes you park and sometimes you keep going.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

One future technology that a lot of pundits have been talking about has been virtual reality. So it was interesting to read this news item in which the BBC reported this week that they were stopping VR development.

The BBC has disbanded the team it created to make virtual reality (VR) content, saying its funding has ended.

They were not the only people to do this, in the same article it was reported that Google was reducing its involvement in VR.

It comes as Google halts sales of its Daydream View headsets, admitting it does not see a future for smartphone-based VR.

What does this mean?

Well we might want to consider the fact that virtual reality as it is, is really not going to be as disruptive and game changing as predicted. Maybe there is no future for VR in entertainment and information, but that doesn’t mean necessarily there isn’t a future for VR in education.

Back in 2013 on my Tech Blog I talked about the death of 3D.

3D is no more, defunct, gone, finished…

So if 3D is defunct, can’t bring myself to say dead, what is the next big thing in video? Well according to the pundits who attended CES it is 4K or ultra HD as some marketing people are calling it.

Here we are six years later and in all the big stores I have been into recently, 4K is everywhere, I don’t see 3D any more.

I was always surprised that 3D video didn’t gain the same traction that VR has in educational development circles. Having said that they are very similar in concept, maybe we should learn from the lessons of 3D.

I seem to have gained a bit of a reputation in the edtech world as, well as I was once described as the “Grim Reaper of Education” and “it’s not dead until James Clay says it’s dead”.

So I did read my colleague, Duncan Peberdy’s article on WonkHE, Is the lecture dead? with a little raised eyebrow.

Once ubiquitous, the lecture-based model of disseminating information and instruction is evolving rapidly. But we may still be too early in these evolutions and the research projects into their outcomes, to fully write off the lecture, although many – including vice chancellors – are already advocating this.

Of course we have been here before back, ten years ago, when Donald Clark at ALT-C 2009 said the lecture was finished….

My reflections back then were written up in this blog post.

The Lecture is… ALT-C Reflections

 

Of course at that same conference we had the infamous VLE is Dead debate…

The VLE is still dead… #altc

London
View of London from the QEII Conference Centre

Wednesday was the HE Conference, a last minute change meant that I was asked to chairthe morning session. This was something I hadn’t done before,

HE Conference
HE Conference

In the afternoon I delivered my session. I had fifteen minutes to cover a range of subject matter.

HE Conference
HE Conference

My presentation was entitled Boosting Student Retention and Achieving Strategic Goals Through Data and Analytics.

There were three areas I covered in my talk were:

  • Tackling the student mental health challenge by utilising data to enhance student support mechanisms
  • Transforming learning experience and helping students learn more through personalisation and analytics
  • Utilising practical mechanisms for engaging with staff and students in order to make smarter procurements in tech

I finished off my presentation with some of the wider consideration universities needed to think about in relation to the use of data and analytics.

I got some nice feedback and here are the slides I used.

Of course the challenge I have, is that people who attended would have heard my presentation, but the slides are just images (thank you Pixabay) and no text!

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

On Thursday I was off to our Harwell office where I was delivering an all day session to the apprentices in Jisc on presentation skills.

Part of the session was based on my infamous “duck goes quack presentation I once gave at another staff development session.

A duck goes quack…

These two blog posts were very influential on my presentation style

I also reviewed these links prior to running the session.

I use the following sites for images.

I am always a little surprised by what images of mine are popular, and which that get ignored, that I post to Instagram This week this image proved to be quite popular compared to other photos I post to the service.

 

Having been out a lot of the week, Friday was about catching up and clearing out the inbox. I had a few online meetings as well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

All together now – Weeknote #31 – 11th October 2019

Birmingham
Birmingham

A busy week with travels to Bristol, Reading and Birmingham this week.

Monday I was in Bristol for a meeting with the Office for Students, one of the funders of Jisc. Following that I was back in the main office for further meetings.

There was an interesting long read on the Guardian website.

‘The way universities are run is making us ill’: inside the student mental health crisis

A surge in anxiety and stress is sweeping UK campuses. What is troubling students, and is it the universities’ job to fix it?

We know that there is a student mental health crisis and the reasons for this aren’t necessarily clear. We know there has been increase in the demand for mental health services at universities. The article notes that there has been research into the causes of this, but lays the blame for the crisis on the way in which universities are managed and run, leading to students not being in control of what they do and saddled with debt.

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Another article I read this week was this one.

Exams could be replaced by artificial intelligence in the future, private school chief predicts 

Rather than being awarded grades for individual GCSEs, 16-year-old students could in the future be given performance reports which contain far more detailed information about their abilities.

“Rather than a grade summarising your ability in science, it might be that it is much more precise,” Mr Buchanan said.

“A report could talk about your knowledge of science but also your capacity to hypothesis, to assimilate and synthesise evidence, and your ability to present orally.

Generally from what I have read, technological change may start in that way, but before long there are new ways of doing things.

The printing press replaced the way in which bibles were published, moving from handwritten copies to printed copies. Though the real benefit of the printing press was not the mass production of bibles, but books, then newspapers. It made information and knowledge more accessible.

I think we will see similar step changes with artificial intelligence, moving away from fixed problems with current assessment methods and thinking differently about what assessment actually is and what it is for.

Problem of course with the article is that it is easy to say what could happen, much more challenging to understand how to make it happen.

University of Reading
University of Reading

Tuesday I was off to the University of Reading. I was accompanying one of our Account Managers and met with their TEL lead and their IT (now called Digital Technologies) team. It was nice to be in a university and talking about what they do and how they use technology. I would like to visit other universities, so let me know if you want to invite me in, to talk and chat about how technology can enhance and improve the student experience, as well as learning, teaching and assessment.

The ICC in Birmingham
The ICC in Birmingham

Wednesday was our all staff conference in Birmingham at the ICC. It was nice to see all (well a lot of) our staff together in one place. Got a chance to chat to a range of different people.

Thursday was a time for catching up with stuff and preparing for some events and meetings next week.

I did attend an online demonstration of PebblePad and it reminded me of how the concept of the e-portfolio is a difficult thing to narrow down and define.

I did have a chance to reflect on one of the questions I was asked earlier in the week on how students can connect their Alexa devices to Eduroam. The simple answer is they can’t.

I had initially forgotten that I had blogged about this earlier this year.

Alexa, what’s on my timetable today?

The current solution is for managed devices, ie the university centrally manages the Alexa devices as in this case study.

Amazon Echos to be installed in dorms

Amazon have WPA2 Enterprise support for shared echo devices. However it does require the devices to be centrally managed.

This is how some universities have put Echo devices on their campuses. There is another (much larger) piece of work on creating the data structures and content to answer the questions students would be asking their devices.

I planned, designed and created a presentation for a conference next week. It got me thinking about how I (currently) design my presentations and started to document the workflow, which I will hoefully post to the blog.

Friday was a day to discuss our technical career pathways. I feel we have made significant progress on this and will be launching by the end of the month.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Reflecting on the informality of learning – Weeknote #30 – 4th October 2019

The view from St Philip's Bridge in Bristol
The view from St Philip’s Bridge in Bristol

Over the weekend I saw this article on WonkHE called  Learning in the spaces in between,

The final paragraph said:

With institutions re-evaluating their teaching and thinking how best to invest, it’s a great time to consider whether we really understand how students are using informal educational spaces outside of the classroom. The student perspective combined with novel use of occupancy data is bringing us closer to answering that conundrum.

Reminded me of this blog post that I wrote this back in 2017 on designing informal learning spaces that would encourage informal learning.

 Well the key really is to think about what actually facilitates and encourages informal learning.

It’s a combination of factors and can include design of learning spaces and the learning activities undertaken by the learners.

Creating the right contexts and environments for informal learning, will ensure that the concept of learn anywhere and anytime is encouraged and enhanced.

Though I wouldn’t have called it ethnography (and I certainly wouldn’t call it ethnography today) my blog post was based on my experiences in designing and running libraries, as well as developing the use of digital and virtual learning. I would spend a lot of time observing how learners would use our spaces, what they were doing in those spaces and I felt importantly what they weren’t doing as well. I would talk to learners, more importantly I would listen to learners. We would also measure space utilisation and activity in our spaces and all this would inform how we would design and change the space.

Sofa's in the library at Gloucestershire College
Sofa’s in the library at Gloucestershire College

When we originally designed the spaces, an important aspect to me was flexibility, being able to change the space as demands on that space changed, in how people wanted to use it and how many wanted to use it. All our shelving for example was on wheels, could be moved easily and quickly around. So following observation and listening, we would adjust the space accordingly.

That blog post was inspired by another one I had written in 2010 on designing informal learning.

The premise of that article was you couldn’t design informal learning (as that would formalise it) but what you could do is create spaces that would encourage informal learning.

It is more challenging to create learning spaces that encourage informal and social learning. As demands on space continues to grow and demand for more learner-led learning, it is important that institutions consider much more how their spaces can be used for informal learning.

Victoria Street in Bristol
Victoria Street in Bristol

Monday I was into the office in Bristol for various meetings and some training on culture. One of the things I did finalise was my performance objectives for the year ahead. One thing which I ensured was that my objectives were derived from the strategic objectives of the organisation. This way everything I do is contributing to the organisational strategic priorities. This process was something we did on the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme and I also illustrated in this sketchnote.

Vision

I also had a discussion about writing an article about Education 4.0, but with a copyright lens. At this time we’ve not really looked into the copyright implications of the changes that could happen in the world of education.

Alas when leaving the office later that day, it was pouring rain and I got rather damp walking back to my car. I realised my waterproof coat was in fact no longer waterproof.

Illness in others and terrible rain, meant that meetings were changed, so I was able to change my plans from going into the Bristol office to working from home on Tuesday and avoid the rain.

I saw a video in the Twitter on the fourth industrial revolution which I thought was rather good so I blogged about it.

What is Industry 4.0?

Wednesday saw an interesting anniversary, as ten years ago on the 2nd October, I was at the ULCC Event, The Future of Technology in Education.

James Clay presenting at FOTE09
James Clay presenting at FOTE09

Little did I know the impact that this presentation would have on me, my future career and education in general. I wrote a nostalgic blog post looking back at the event, my presentation and the impact it had.

The future of learning… ten years later!

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I spent a lot of time on Thursday interviewing prospective student partners for Jisc. We like to know what is important to students regarding their use of technology in education and research. What skills they think they need and how they want to learn. So every year we get a group of students from across HE and FE and work with them in a variety of different ways. Some attend our meetings, others our events, they participate in podcasts, panel sessions and workshops. I have always felt it was important to listen to the student voice to inform my work.

Friday I had various meetings, but managed to make a lot of progress on our Learning Technologist technical career pathway. We will be piloting this with individuals over the next twelve months.

My top tweet this week was this one.

The future of learning… ten years later!

FOTE09

On the 2nd October 2009 I was at the ULCC Event, The Future of Technology in Education.

Little did I know the impact that this presentation would have on me, my future career and education in general.

I felt a little intimidated to be invited to talk at the event, we wouldn’t have called it imposter syndrome back then, but I did wonder if I was the right person to talk at such an interesting conference. It certainly had a TED talk feel to it. I must thank Frank Steiner and Tim Bush from ULCC for their support and help and inviting me to talk at this FOTE and future FOTE events.

2009 was quite a year for me, I had won the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year award that year. It was also the year of “The VLE is Dead” debate at the ALT Conference.

The event took place at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, which I remember wasn’t the easiest place to get to via the underground. Knowing London better now I think I would probably have just walked across Hyde Park from Paddington to get there. From about 2001 I started going to London a lot for work, well a few times a year, which was considerably more than when I was a lecturer in Bristol. I use to go to London, arrive at Paddington, take the underground, pop up somewhere, go to a meeting or an event, before popping back down into the underground on my way home. These days I visit London a lot more and have spent a lot more time walking around London, so have a much better grasp of the geography of the place. I remember being quite impressed with the place, and that you could see the nearby Albert Hall.

Albert Hall

I spent a fair bit of time putting my presentation together, in the end it comprised 82 slides… and I only had twenty minutes to deliver my talk. A challenge that took some doing.

My presentation was entitled The future of learning…

The aim of my presentation was to discuss how learning would and could change with the affordances of technological change.

So what of my predictions?

Well we know predicting the future is hard and generally most people get it wrong.

You will no doubt not be surprised that I got a lot of things wrong…

One thing I feel I did get right was that mobile was going to be big and important. I said how I felt mobile was the future. The audience did have a range of mobile devices themselves, but most phones were nothing more than phones that could do SMS and the Snake game. There were a few smartphones out there, but if my experience was to go by, they were clunky and difficult to use. We had the iPhone, but it hadn’t quite had the impact that it has had by today.

We didn’t have the iPad, that would arrive the following year. So no surprise that in my talk at FOTE I didn’t mention tablets

My talk actually started off talking about the past, how we are still impacted and embedded by the past, which makes change challenging and difficult.

I then talked about the present and some of the issues and problems that technology was causing in classrooms and lecture theatres. PAT testing was a real concern for many back then, don’t hear much about it these days in relation to BYOD or learner devices.

One of the challenges I saw back then was how academics and educationalists wanted to categorise learning, so we had e-learning, m-learning, mobile learning, online learning, digital learning, etc….

I said that I thought categorising learning and putting it into different boxes was restricting and that really we should focus on learning and blur the boxes, blur the boundaries.

Boxes

It was fine to talk about the “boxes” at conferences and in papers, but experience has shown that categorising learning into boxes caused confusion for teachers and academics, who rightly focussed on the word before the learning as a problem to be solved and then found it challenging.

However back then I said, and I still stand by this today, is that learners and academics need to understand the potential of technology and digital to better understand the affordances and opportunities that it can provide for learning. You don’t need to be ab le to do the technology, but you do need to know what it can do.

I also brought in scepticism about technological advances, something I would draw upon in future talks and presentations.

Nokia N95

Video (and film) had been used for learning for years, but people were sceptical and convinced that video (ie lecture capture) would stop traditional learning activities. However we know that television didn’t destroy radio, we know that radio didn’t kill newspaper, books didn’t replace folk stories. When we have a new technological development, often the result is a negative impact on existing technologies, but often the result is affordances about the potential of the new technology, enabling access that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

I also talked about the potential of video on mobile devices. Video cameras were getting smaller and cheaper, the quality was getting better as well. You could buy video cameras which could record HD video, even if it was a challenge to capture and edit it on standard computers of the time. This was before the concept of streaming became mainstream. I showed a Sanyo Xacti camera which was waterproof and dropped it in a jug of water. These cameras could be used in dirty and dusty environments and the washed under the tap!

James Clay presenting at FOTE09

Mobile phone video has become so much better now. I am still impressed that my iPhone can record 4K video… If only we could get people to record video in landscape!

GPS was usually an option on devices back then, today it is more prevalent in the devices we buy. I saw this as an opportunity, the concept of geo-location based learning was something that felt quite magical at the time. Your device knows where you are, so personalises the learning based on your location. What I missed was how location tracking and would become a very big issue for people.

There was a bit of a backlash against e-Books back in 2009, as people felt that they weren’t as good as “real” books. For me they weren’t a replacement for books, they enabled different ways of reading. For many e-Books and e-book readers enabled a new way to access books and content, that otherwise would mean they wouldn’t have access. I presented on the future of reading at #FOTE10 the following year. I became a bit of an expert on e-books as as result. I presented on e-books at many different events and conferences, as well as writing a chapter in a book, and finally a book on Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of Ebooks in Education in 2012.

Today e-books are part and parcel off education with easier access to books by students from academic libraries. As I did predict, we didn’t see the end of physical books, we still have bookstores and people still buy physical books.

reading a Kindle
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Back then in 2009 connectivity was either slightly haphazard, or expensive, or both. We had 3G, but it wasn’t widespread, it would be another three years before we saw 4G.

WiFi was there, but it didn’t always work and network congestion would often cause the WiFi to fail. This happened with frequent regularity at events and conferences I attended back then, as delegates killed the WiFi with too many connections.

In the future I felt connectivity wouldn’t just be important, it would be critical for the future of learning.

Today we have really good (and cheap) mobile data, 4G is more available and 5G is starting to appear. Ubiquitous WiFi is certainly there compared to ten years ago, Eduroam has made it easier for people in education to connect when travelling, but WiFi is easily found in most places. This has allowed users to do so much more when travelling and moving about, or just when drinking coffee. I certainly notice how many people are streaming video, having video chat, doing so much more, because they had the connection and the bandwidth to do so.

Mobile often means battery power, and access to charging. Everyone remembers how their Nokia phone would last days on a single charge, today, most people seem to complain how their smartphone battery doesn’t last the day. Batteries may not seem to have got better, they have, just that we demand more power for our complex devices. We have seen significant improvements in battery technology, but we have seen a huge increase in our demand for power on our devices. Streaming video requires more power than reading an e-mail. One thing that has taken time to filter through was the importance of the ability to charge devices. Since 2009 we have seen trains and buses adding power sockets, and USB ports for charging as well. Hotels have added similar sockets. Some lecture theatres now have plug sockets as well.

In my 2009 presentation I talked about the technological penknife.

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

This is one thing I got very wrong, I thought that the idea that a device that did everything meant it did everything badly. A penknife has multiple tools, but most of them aren’t very good doing the stuff they are designed to do. People would prefer to have specialist devices for specific activities. Why would you have rubbish video from a phone, when you could have a decent HD video camera? Why would you use the rubbish microphone on a device, when a specialist recording device would do it so much better? Well that didn’t happen, in reality we have seen devices become so much better that we don’t need to have multiple devices. We have the penknife, but it’s a really good penknife, really good at everything.

I then went on to talk about change and the importance of managing change. I talked about how change can be a series of small steps, but noted the importance of missing steps, endless steps and steps that trip you up.

These slides were really where I started to understand strategy and writing strategies much more. This certainly helped me in future roles and influenced heavily the design of certain aspects of the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme in which I was part of the research and development team led by Lawrie Phipps.

I talked about activity, technology should never be about the technology, it needed to be about how it could enhance or improve activities. Or where the affordances created new opportunities for different activities. We still have a perception that we shouldn’t talk about technology first, though sometimes I think we should.

Technology allow for flexibility, flexible curriculum, flexible approaches to delivery, flexible learning. I think we have made a little progress here, but so much more is possible these days. The technology enables flexibility, but that doesn’t mean it will just happen, there is so much more that needs to happen to enable flexibility.

Back then I felt sharing was important, not just sharing content (as in open) but also sharing ideas, concepts and approaches. Not that this didn’t happen, but it was difficult to do so. Today it is much easier to share than it was back then, so much so, I think we have forgotten about the time when this didn’t happen.

I talked about the importance of working collaboratively. Since the talk online tools have made it so much easier to collaborate. Collaboration across institutions (and countries) is so much easier these days. Tools such as Slack enable groups to talk and work together.

I talked about innovation, celebrating ideas. Innovation doesn’t always mean better, it means different or new. Following on from that I talked about experimentation and encouraging it within our institutions.

If you want innovation, then it needs to be embedded into the strategy, rewarded and not penalised when things go wrong. It needs to be done in collaboration with learners not done to them. I think we are seeing much more innovation and collaboration these days, and the student voice is helping to inform developments and ideas.

I said we need to re-think assessment, technology was going to have an impact. I think it has, but not in the way we thought it would. We try and use technology to “fix’ assessment today, rather than re-imagine how we assess.

I talked about culture and how culture can enable change, but also frustrate it. Culture is about what and who we are, it’s the sum of the people within an organisation. This was something we covered years later in the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme.

I have written about the importance of culture and strategy in this blog post on writing strategies.

I have always seen technology as a solution to a problem. Technology in itself is not the problem needing to be solved. This was something that I wrote about in 2018.

I finished the presentation about talking about the future and how the future was about the learner, the student. It was about how they wanted to learn, where they wanted to learn, what they wanted to learn and with whom they wanted to learn. Why did we need to think about the future, it was because we needed to think about the learners, then, now and in the future.

So did I predict the future?

No.

It certainly though had a huge impact on my future, some of which I have outlined above. As a result of this talk I was invited to speak at a range of events and conferences on the future of learning and a range of mobile learning events. I spoke the following year at FOTE 10 about the future of reading, which resulted in me doing much more in the e-book space.

So there is also a video of me (looking much younger) presenting, if you want to watch what happened…

In front of the board – Weeknote #30 – 27th September 2019

Lion at Longleat Safari Park
Lion at Longleat Safari Park

We spent Saturday visiting Longleat Safari Park and the weather was great. However on Monday I was, as a result of a last minute change, off to London, I had intended to catch the train, but due to problems with our online travel system (affecting just me it appears) meant that in the end I drove to London.

My diary that day included a relatively early morning conference call. So I stopped at the services, and with only a minute to spare, missed getting coffee and I took the call sitting in my car over 4G. The connection was pretty good and the video I was getting was quite high quality so all was well. I was quite pleased not to have to do the call on the train, as previous experience has shown that generally it works, but too many tunnels and blackspots means that participating in a conference call (especially with video) can be problematic and a bit of a nightmare. I rarely drive to London, usually I take the train, so I parked in West London and took the tube to the office, just in time for my second conference call.

Fleet Street in London
Fleet Street in London

I was in London to meet with the Consultant who had undertaken the University of Hertfordshire Value Study back in May prior to a presentation later in the week.

Understanding the value more – Weeknote #12 – 24th May 2019

Tuesday I was off to our office in Bristol. I had no meetings, but my colleague Lawrie was down in Bristol so it was a good chance to catch up and see what was happening in his area.

He is organising an event at Keele, I was intending to attend the event, alas I now have to be in London on that date.

This one day event will explore the use of Microsoft Teams to support learning and teaching practices in universities, and the ways in which students want to communicate, collaborate and learn in a modern university.

He also blogged some early thoughts on his blog.

radio microphone

Published on the Jisc website was a podcast I was involved with which I spoke about in a previous weeknote.

Podcasting in Liverpool – Weeknote #25 – 23rd August 2019

What the Edtech?! Series two, episode two: process improvement – people before technology

In the podcast, John Cartwright, director of computing services at the University of Liverpool, talks about how his team are improving the student experience and saving staff time with technology. In the episode we explore the world of data, looking at how better use of it can transform teaching and power technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

However the key message I wanted people to take from the discussion is that, transformation is about people first.

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Wednesday I was presenting in front of the Jisc Board on Education 4.0 and what universities and colleges need to do to start down the road to the vision which is Education 4.0. Is say presenting the majority of the session was an activity discussing the issues and themes of Education 4.0.

As with the podcast the key feedback from the Board was the importance of the human element when it comes transformation.

I think the challenge we face in preparing for a roadmap, is the expectation that the roadmap delivered will be complete. If we knew what was needed and what was going to happen, then I suspect we would either a) already have a roadmap or b) not need one! So the first phase for the roadmap is researching and developing the roadmap. I did think should we even be using the term “roadmap”?

Thursday I spent some time reading the Advance HE report, On the Horizon.

Advance HE Report Cover

This report focuses on the perceptions of change and challenge for the learning and teaching agenda in higher education (HE) providers around the world over the next five to ten years. A selection of people with executive or senior leadership roles in both the UK and overseas were interviewed about the challenges their institutions faced.

There was one section on evidence of effective practice, which reminded me of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.

Show me the evidence…

In the report it states there is a lukewarm enthusiasm for change in teaching practices.

This is something we covered on the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme about change.

Part of the challenge, according to the report, is a lack of interest.

Some colleagues express worry about a general lack of interest in pedagogy from academics more comfortable with the established practices of their particular discipline.

But others show a definitive lack of faith in the evidence, because it is often based on small-sample studies.

Others wonder whether the quality of such research really matches up to the high standards expected elsewhere, not least because the research findings often derive from small-sample studies.

However all is not lost…

Many think there are real opportunities now for a step-change in pedagogy and improved student learning: ‘it’s time to start thinking much more seriously about the collective will for real pedagogical innovation and how it can be sustained.’

Friday I had a couple of online meetings and spent a fair amount of time developing the assessment criteria for one of our Technical Career Pathway paths.

My top tweet this week was this one.

The only constant is change – Weeknote #29 – 20th September 2019

GWR Paddington
GWR Paddington Station

After a busy week travelling up and down last week, this week was, you’ve guessed it, more travelling and back to London for a meeting preparing for another larger meeting which is taking place next week. I am running a one hour session on Education 4.0 and what universities and colleges need to think about and start doing to aspire to the potential benefits that the fourth industrial revolution will have on learners, students and institutions.

I really like this video clip from the BBC Archive on a 1963 view of what 1988 would look like.

It really demonstrates how difficult it is to predict the future. Some stuff you get right, most things you get wrong, and timeframes are really hard to judge. Part of my role is planning for a future that we can’t accurately predict. I have in the past spoken about these challenges. About the only thing we get right is that things change.

Tuesday I was flying up to Edinburgh, I was intending to go to our Bristol office, but the meeting I was going to attend was cancelled, so in the end I spent the morning working from home.

EasyJet at Bristol Airport
EasyJet at Bristol Airport

I was intrigued to see the changes to Bristol Airport as I think the last time I flew from Bristol was well over a year ago. Some of the restaurants have changed hands and there are some new ones as well. I did quite like how there was a big seating area for the Starbucks so I could get some work done whilst I was waiting for my flight. I was slightly annoyed that I was charged an extra 5p for having a paper cup. I don’t actually disagree with the concept of charging extra, it was that I didn’t have a choice. I would have actually preferred a proper china cup. I didn’t realise so I hadn’t brought with me my reusable cup either. Should note there are also water fountains to fill reusable water bottles.

From the airport I caught the tram to the centre of Edinburgh where my hotel was.

Edinburgh Tram
Edinburgh Tram at Haymarket

It’s a pity that the tram network in Edinburgh never got further than it did. It had huge potential. It certainly makes life much easier now travelling from the Airport to the city centre.

I really like the architecture and buildings in Edinburgh, the buildings have a certain darkness and charm about them.

It was an early morning meeting in Edinburgh, so I was glad I had spent the night before in a hotel. We were meeting with the Scottish Funding Council who part fund Jisc’s work, and it was time to provide an update and progress against our plans.

It was then back to Edinburgh airport for the flight home. I spent way too long at the airport, waiting for my plane. I think next time I do this, I should plan better and do something, or meet people.

Flying over Weston-super-Mare
Coming into land at Bristol Airport flying over Sand Bay, close to Weston-super-Mare

On the subject of change, on September 18th 2007, twelve years ago I was working in Gloucester and I took some photographs around the docks area including this one of the boarded up offices.

Boarded up offices in the Gloucester Docks
Boarded up offices in the Gloucester Docks

It may have been a pub or hotel at one point. I was curious what it looked like today, especially as the whole area was part of a major development since 2007. So using Google Street View I found it had changed quite dramatically.

Google Street View of Gloucester Docks
Google Street View of Gloucester Docks

It’s now a Bills restaurant, but I was amazed by the restoration and development of the building, the only constant is change

Thursday I decided to work from home and caught up with correspondence and reading the numerous memos that were in my in-tray… otherwise known as trawling through my email inbox.

Friday I was back in the Bristol office for various meetings and discussions.

The city centre saw a huge demonstration in support of stopping climate change and the passion an enthusiasm was plain to see.

Climate Change march in Bristol
Climate Change march in Bristol

I spent some time working on the Education 4.0 roadmap notes in preparation for a meeting next week.

My top tweet this week was this one.

What’s a lightboard? – Weeknote #28 – 13th September 2019

The Old Bailey

So it was off to London on Monday for a couple of meetings. The weather on Sunday had been lovely, Monday it was raining.

I don’t think I would like to commute to London on a regular basis, as in every day, but don’t mind the fact that I am there three to five times a month in my role. I nearly said new role, I have been doing this job now for just over six months (Weeknote #28 is a bit of a giveaway), when does a new role, become just my role? Other parts of the country differ in their accessibility with public transport, so sometimes I drive.

The failings of the CIA over 9/11 have been well documented, though on Tuesday morning I did read the following BBC viewpoint article – Viewpoint: The CIA, 9/11 and collective blindness

These two quotes are what I really took from the article.

We are unconsciously drawn to people who think like ourselves, but rarely notice the danger because we are unaware of our own blind spots.

This applies to groups as well as organisations. We employ people that are like ourselves rather than think about the whole. You can measure diversity within an organisation, but that only tells you what you already know that your organisation isn’t diverse. Sometimes your organisation needs to be more diverse than the population, but how do you know that?

You may feel you have fair employment recruitment practices, but who decides what is “fair”, sometimes you will want to recruit people that wouldn’t be recruited if you were to be fair.

I am also reminded of unconscious bias, and the fact that this is easier to say then sometimes to actually do something about. This was echoed in the second quote from the article.

There is a science to putting together the right minds, with perspectives that challenge, augment, diverge and cross-pollinate rather than parrot, corroborate and restrict. This is how wholes become more than the sum of their parts.

There isn’t an easy solution to this, you could think outside the box and put together teams that are not like ourselves, but that is not as easy as it sounds. The rewards though, as the article says mean wholes become more than the sum of their parts.

Rochdale Canal in Manchester
Rochdale Canal in Manchester

Wednesday I caught the train to Manchester, to attend an internal product meeting where I was presenting on the drivers within the draft Jisc HE strategy.

It was quite along train journey there and back in a day, and though I did manage to get a fair bit of work done, the lack of connectivity did annoy me as it has before.

Rochdale Canal in Manchester
Rochdale Canal in Manchester

I wrote a blog post on making digital a choice,  in response to a BBC news article about a branch of Sainsbury’s in Holborn in London where the only choice to pay was via an app.

Digital should be a choice…

University of Leeds - Leeds Business School
Leeds Business School

Friday I was in Leeds to deliver a keynote on Education 4.0 for the Leeds Business School, I had travelled up the day before.

Leeds Business School Active Learning Studio
Leeds Business School Active Learning Studio

I showed a presentation, which is all photos. In the presentation I talked about who is Jisc, what do we mean by the Education 4.0 and some of the challenges we face in moving down the road to Education 4.0.

I also showed the Jisc Education 4.0 video we showed at UUK last year and at Digifest.

https://youtu.be/aVWHp8FsV1w

Frances Noble from the University of Leeds did a fantastic sketch note of my talk.

Education 4.0 Sketchnote

I attended a couple of sessions following my keynote including a demonstration of ClassVR.

ClassVR demonstration

I was also shown a piece of technology I had never heard of or seen in action.

The Lightboard (a.k.a. learning glass) is a glass chalkboard pumped full of light. It’s for recording video lecture topics.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Digital should be a choice…

Bananas - Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

We often forget that sometimes people don’t like innovation and innovation doesn’t automatically always mean better. Actually most of the time innovation for a lot of people is rarely better. Sometimes its worse than what was before, most of the time it’s just different.

Innovation is defined as new or different, but it isn’t defined as been better that was there was before.

I recently read an article on the BBC News website An experiment in shopping via app reveals consumers are not quite ready for till-free grocery buying about an experiment that the Sainsbury supermarket had been undertaking at one of their stores in London. It didn’t end well…

The branch of Sainsbury had removed all their tills and allowed shoppers to scan their goods with their phones and pay for them through the app. Removing the tills allowed them to have a wider range of goods on display.

The challenge was that a lot of people were going to to the help desk to pay for their goods as they didn’t want to, or couldn’t use the app. The result was long queues.

I suspect some people when they popped into to get some food and stuff didn’t realise that the only way to pay was though an app and assumed despite the posters that they could pay through a traditional checkout (or even one of the self-scan checkouts). When they couldn’t find one they went to the helpdesk. Not everyone wants to install an app either.

I think it also reflects that people like to have a choice. When we go “digital by default” we forget that this doesn’t mean “digital only” it means that the primary choice for people will be digital, but that other choices (analogue) should also be available.

This has implications for universities and colleges who are in the process of moving services to digital, whether that be self-service kiosks, chatbots, or using digital assistants like Alexa.

If 20% of the population don’t use the internet (as reported in this article) how is this reflected in the students who go to university? How many of them don’t use the internet, or have made the choice not to engage with internet services or apps. Some may not even have the devices required for access.

Then we need to be aware that not all of our potential users will want to use the internet, let alone use an app. They may not want to use a kiosk or ask Alexa.

Amazon Echo
Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Digital by default means making the first option digital, but there needs to be a second option, one that may require the use of people to deliver the service.

I am also reminded of this blog post by Lawrie Phipps The Darker side of Digital. Lawrie describes some of the darker aspects of digital by default. In the BBC article I link to, it means people were annoyed when doing their shopping. Lawrie points out how moving a service to digital only can be harmful to people’s welfare and their physical or mental health.

He quotes from an UN report on poverty in the UK.

“One wonders why some of the most vulnerable and those with poor digital literacy had to go first in what amounts to a nationwide digital experiment.”

When creating digital services, we need to remember that we are trying to enhance and increase access. This also means that we shouldn’t be constraining or reducing access.

Not going to ALT-C – Weeknote #27 – 6th September 2019

ALT conference 2019 , Edinburgh. Day one - Tuesday 3rd September.
ALT conference 2019, Edinburgh. Day one – Tuesday 3rd September. CC-BY-NC ALT

So it was back to a full week after a few short weeks and leave. September is traditionally the start of term in England for schools and FE, though HE usually start a little later. I would like to have gone to ALT-C in Edinburgh, alas I didn’t go this year as I needed to be close to home as my youngest started secondary school, and as most people know, transition is a challenging time for all. In the end there were very few issues, but I am glad I stayed behind.

I attended some of the ALT-C sessions remotely and participated via the Twitter as well.

Image by drippycat from Pixabay

Ten years ago at ALT-C in Manchester, we had The VLE is Dead session at ALT-C. So I wrote a blog post reminiscing about the debate.

The VLE is still dead… #altc

Spent some time booking travel for the weeks ahead and checking in some cases if I needed to travel. Liking our self-service portal for travel, as it does making life easier.

On Tuesday morning I listened to the ALT-C keynote from Sue Beckingham. She covered a range of stuff. I was reminded of a talk I gave on e-mail and how it is used (and abused). I hadn’t shared it before, so I uploaded it to slideshare.

I spent a lot of time working on a roadmap, which was an interesting, but challenging task, as there are so many unknown unknowns.

Working on a workshop for the Jisc board and it’s challenging to create an engaging interaction session that will add value, and has to be about forty five minutes!

Thursday I was reminded of the excellent Web 2.0 Slam – ‘Performing’ Innovative Practice workshop that I attended at ALT-C in 2007, so I wrote a blog post about it.

A blast from the past #altc

Looking over my blog posts over that date I wasn’t surprised to find some posts had missing images. I recently updated my blog hosting, so initially I thought it might be that, but checking the underlying code I realised what the problem was. The images that were original held on a remote server embedded into the post were no longer available.

Back then I used a service called ShoZu to add images as blog posts, it didn’t upload the images to WordPress, merely adding HTML code and embedding the images hosted on the ShoZu server. With ShoZu now defunct, there were no images. I had copies of the images on Flickr (and on Amazon photos) so I updated the old blog posts and added copies of the images.

It reminds me that embedding externally hosted content can be problematic, what happens when that service dies or is shut down. Just because something is free, doesn’t mean it will last forever.

I have written a longer blog post about this on my technology blog.

ShoZu shut down

It was announced that ALT-C 2020 will be in London and the co-chairs are

  • Roger Emery, Head of Learning Technologies, Solent University,
  • Farzana Latif, Digital Learning Manager, University of Sheffield,
  • Matt Lingard, Digital Learning Director, London College of Communication.

It will take place 9-11 September 2020.

My plan is to attend and present a session (or two) at the conference.

My top tweet this week was this one.

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