Category Archives: conference

Listen to the sound of my voice – Weeknote #203 – 20th January 2023

A shorter week for me, as I was on leave at the end of the week.

At the beginning of the week, I spent some time reviewing forthcoming events and conferences. I have found in the past that I usually find out about interesting events either on the day (via the Twitter) or after it is over. So, this year I have been planning to attend some conferences and events. Some will be ones I have attended in the past, others will be new to me.

I did though manage to get to the office in Bristol on one day.

Last week we did a session of our directorate risks, and after they were written up, I spent time reviewing them and feeding back. Another aspect was reviewing the mitigation of those risks.

In the summer Jisc will once more put on the online event, Connect More. I am part of the group at Jisc reviewing the themes for Connect More and I provided some ideas and feedback to the Jisc Events team.

Had a meeting with a new member of staff, exploring what I do and how my role fits into the wider Jisc.

Next week is my Q2 Review, so I did the paper paperwork and reviewing of work over the last quarter. As you might expect these weeknotes have helped considerably in reviewing my work over the last three months.

microphone

I have been researched and reflecting on AI voices and narration, implications for creating effective audio teaching resources automatically. Apple is already using AI voice narration for some of their audio books. Note this is not text to speech, but artificial voices that sound natural.

Some examples of voices can be found on the ElevenLabs website. The narration voices sound much better than text to speech.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Warm and nostalgic – Weeknote #184 – 9th September 2022

I was away the whole week, firstly in Manchester for ALT-C and then Leamington Spa for our away day. Of course the end of this week was dominated by the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

On Monday I headed off to Manchester, stopping at our Bristol office to pick some stuff up, as well as participate in an online meeting. ALT-C was kicking off at 9am on Tuesday, so wanted to be in Manchester rather than travelling and missing the start of the conference, especially as I knew I would miss most of the sessions on Thursday.

I planned some travel, as I am in Dublin next week. The last time I had the opportunity to visit Dublin was in 2016 when I was a keynote speaker at LILAC 2016. I am looking forward to making a return visit.

It was interesting to return to Manchester for ALT-C. The last time I attended ALT-C in person was in 2018, in Manchester. I missed going in 2019 in Edinburgh. I would like to have gone to ALT-C in Edinburgh, alas I didn’t go that 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. Of course, due to the pandemic, the 2020 conference in London was cancelled and the 2021 conference was purely online.

This was a hybrid conference, so the first part of day one was online with the in-person sessions starting after lunch.

I did feel warm and nostalgic attending the conference, it reminded me of conferences past. However, there was still something new about it as well, which I enjoyed.

I am intending to write up my thoughts on the various sessions in future blog posts.

I did one sketch note of a keynote on ethics in educational technology, which was liked by people.

I did have a bit of a challenge as my iPad battery died before I had finished the sketch. So I kept listening and took some photographs on my phone. After the keynote I headed out to Caffé Nero to both refresh myself with a coffee and use their power sockets to charge my iPad. There was certainly a dearth of power sockets in the conference venue.

Leaving Manchester on Thursday I realised how exhausting attending an in-person conference is, I haven’t done this kind of conference for a while.

Pleased to see a tweet about the Social Media In HE Conference. Every year when I see this is happening, I say to myself I should attend that, but then forgot the following year to book. This year I am planning to attend.

We had an away day in Leamington Spa, in which we looked at the current sector landscape, planning for next year and just getting together in-person, which is something we rarely do as a geographically distributed team. It was a lunchtime to lunchtime away day.

After the sessions for that day I went to my room and made a coffee. I was so glad I had taken my coffee machine with me to Manchester and Leamington Spa.

As I read Twitter, it was announced the Queen had died. I went off for a drink before dinner in the bar.

Friday was the second half of our away day and then it was a lengthy journey home.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Packing for #altc22

Power
Image by ldyshah from Pixabay

I have written conference packing posts before, I did a post in 2009 and wrote an updated version in 2018. Actually the last time I attended ALT-C in person was in 2018. So here we are four years later and I am off to ALT-C once more.

So here are some suggestions on what to pack if you are attending the conference in-person. It might have been a while since you attended an in-person conference, so hope you find the suggestions useful.

Six-Way Gang – I still think a six way gang is an useful thing, instead of fighting people for the power sockets, you can immediately make five friends! Having such an adapter is also useful in the hotel room when you want to charge everything up for the following day and you have limited plug sockets. When I mentioned the previous article on the Twitter someone told me about the USB charging stations you can now buy. With so many devices reliant on USB charging then these could be useful, but then I have a laptop that needs a proper plug socket. If you are coming from outside the UK, then a trick I do (going the other way) is to bring a extension gang and then you only need one UK plug adapter.

Power Bank – Though in normal usage your phone might last the day, I have found if you are using your device for photographs, using the Twitter, accessing the conference Discord, checking e-mail, and so on; your battery will be hit hard. A charged power bank can be used for restoring those battery bars on your device.

coffee
Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Coffee – I don’t drink instant coffee and usually that it is what is only available in hotel rooms. Some hotels these days have Nespresso machines, which is nice, but most I find still rely on sachets of instant coffee. In the past I have taken a cafetière mug or coffee bags. I have been thinking as I now doing a lot more travelling, about getting a portable coffee machine.

Of course if you drink a specific brand of tea, then take some of those, you can’t always rely on Twinings being in the hotel room. 

It’s also useful to take the time to see what independent and local coffee places are near to the venue, which can be used instead of queuing for that awful conference coffee.

Snacks – I also bring a few snacks with me as well, as that solitary small pack of biscuits you usually get is never enough! These days though I have found that the increase in (small) supermarket branches means buying snacks locally is much easier than it use to be. Of course if your conference isn’t in Manchester, then pack some snacks.

Chargers – Don’t forget your chargers, expensive to replace, difficult to borrow, make sure you pack yours. The other thing about power is investing in a higher powered adapter (or borrowing one from a friend). As Apple says here

Using an Apple 12W or 10W USB power adapter charges some Apple devices and accessories faster than a 5W power adapter.

I find that when charging my iPhone using the adapter that came with my iPad Pro and it charges the phone so much faster, which is an useful thing to know for a conference. This means you can do a quick “supercharge” of your iPhone ready for the next keynote. Also useful to know that the 5W power adapter potentially can charge your iPad Pro, but only if you aren’t using it for eight hours or more….

filming on a phone
Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

Photography and Video – I use to take a camera to conferences, today I use my phone. If you take a lot of photographs then check you have a lot of storage space on your phone, or at least one way to take the pictures off. I try and remember to empty my camera roll before I go to the conference. However if you like to take a lot of video then I personally would take a separate additional video camera.

Connectivity – I am sure that the WiFi at the conference venue will be fine, however what about at the hotel, the dinner, the train… Technological changes means that connectivity is more important that in the last few years. Yes there is a plethora of places to get free wifi, but there are some security considerations to take into account. I normally use tethering on my iPhone and make sure I have enough bandwidth to do that. Other options could include some kind of MiFi device. 

Display cables – If you are presenting, then ensure your laptop can be connected somehow to the projector, you can’t always rely that the VGA adapter you have will be good enough. I now take an HDMI cable with my too. I also take my Lightning to HDMI adapter so in theory I can present from your iPhone or iPad. It also means I can connect to the hotel TV and watch what I want on the big screen.

broken USB stick
Broken USB Stick by James Clay

USB Stick – In a world of cloud storage, you might think why would you need an USB stick. I have been caught out and needed to quickly move my presentation to a presenter machine. Despite the proliferation of the cloud or potential sharing solutions, I find sharing via an USB stick is quick and easy.

SD Card – If using a device with an SD Card I usually carry a couple of spare SD Cards, just in case I lose one, or fill one of the others up.

USB Cables – Due to the differing sizes of USB, normal, micro and mini, I now carry three of them! I also carry a couple of Apple lightning cables too.

Paracetamol – some of those presentations do give you headaches…

What are you going to pack?

Preparing to pack – Weeknote #183 – 2nd September 2022

Lots of my colleagues were still on leave, so it was quite quiet in the office.

So I was on leave last week and the week started with a Bank Holiday in England, so it was a shorter week. Having spent the week on leave, I was not too surprised to find that there were 109 unread emails in my inbox, it didn’t take too long to get those down to six that I needed to deal with.

Spent some time working out our finance system, I rarely raise purchase orders, so I do find it can be challenging to get to grips with the finance system and processes. Though I will say ours is certainly simpler than ones I have used in the past.

Next week I am off to Manchester for ALT-C. I revised and updated a blog post about making preparations for the conference.

Having probably spent time and effort securing the funding to go to a conference such as the ALT Conference in Manchester, it makes sense to spend some time preparing in advance of attending. Last minute rushing and chaotic flipping through the programme on the day of the conference, means you are probably not getting as much out of the conference as you could. I think this year with the hybrid nature of the conference, it makes even more sense to do some planning.

I have also written a blog post about packing and what to take to the conference, which I will be publishing later. Of course if you are attending online then this old post might be useful.

Some meetings were cancelled this week, as a key member of staff was off sick, which gave me some more time for planning.

Had some discussions with GuildHE about Jisc attending a network meeting at end of September to present on Learning Analytics and Student Support.

Had a session with a member of staff about agile methodology and how I use an agile approach, JIRA and Confluence to plan my week and my work. It reminded me that I haven’t written this up (for myself) and maybe I should write a blog post on my workflow and processes.

I updated my new stuff and old stuff event and conferences pages on the blog. Helpful for me to remind myself where I have been and where I am going, but may also be useful for others to either find out about a future event, or to let me know about an event that I might want to attend (and isn’t in the list).

I enjoyed this Twitter thread on diversity, merit and excellence.

I often hear people about appointing the best person for the job based on merit, or inviting the best speaker for the conference. This often though misses the whole picture and what diversity can bring to the holistic metaphorical table.

Diversity increases innovation: diverse groups are known to produce innovative solutions, especially to ill-defined problems (much of the science we do). Demographic diversity is a proxy for diverse thinking.

Having a diverse team means a better team, this isn’t about recruiting the best individuals, it’s about having the best team. I think I might write more about this in a future post.

I also liked this comment from the thread on higher education, and the importance of diversity in the demographic of the staff in an university.

Demographic diversity is beneficial to the very experiences of undergraduate and graduate students, creates a feeling of belonging in students, and provides them with role models that they can aspire to.

Rochdale Canal in Manchester
Rochdale Canal in Manchester

So if you are attending ALT-C next week in Manchester, see you there.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Preparing for #altc or where do I buy the decent coffee?

The last time I attended ALT-C in person was in 2018, I missed going in 2019. I would like to have gone to ALT-C in Edinburgh, alas I didn’t go that 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. Of course, due to the pandemic, the 2020 conference was cancelled and the 2021 conference was purely online.

Here we are three years later, and four years since I went and I am off to Manchester next week for the conference.

Having probably spent time and effort securing the funding to go to a conference such as the ALT Conference in Manchester, it makes sense to spend some time preparing in advance of attending. Last minute rushing and chaotic flipping through the programme on the day of the conference, means you are probably not getting as much out of the conference as you could. I think this year with the hybrid nature of the conference, it makes even more sense to do some planning.

My first ALT conference was in 2003 in Sheffield, this was also one of the first “proper” conferences I had attended, I wasn’t well prepared and came away a little disappointed, but you can read about that in my ALT-C journey blog post.

I have attended many conferences here in the UK and abroad, but probably not as many as some people. I have attended as a delegate, a presenter, an invited speaker and have had the pleasure of delivering keynotes at various big conferences.

So here is some advice from me, based on those experiences… Continue reading Preparing for #altc or where do I buy the decent coffee?

Learning at City Conference

At this time of year, many universities run teaching and learning conferences.

I have spoken at a few of these myself. In July 2020 I presented (online) at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching and Learning Conference. In July 2021 I did a keynote at the University of Cumbria Annual Learning & Teaching Fest. The week before that I had spoken at the LJMU Active Blended Learning Conference.

What I do find though, if I am not speaking, is I usually find out about these kinds of conferences, while they are happening on Twitter.

This year we are seeing a lot more conferences happening in-person. So when I saw that City, University of London, were running their Learning at City teaching conference in-person and were welcoming external delegates, and it hadn’t happened yet, I signed up.

One of my reasons for attending was to find out more about their approach to hybrid teaching, which I had read about online.

After coffee and pastries, we had the welcome and opening keynote.

Friend or Foe? Configuring the Role of Assessment as an Opportunity to Transform the Quality of Higher Education was presented by Professor Susan Deeley, who is Professor of Learning and Teaching(Urban Studies) at the University of Glasgow.

Taking a holistic view of its functions, assessment can be utilised in versatile ways to be effective and efficient. Playing a vital role at the heart of learning and teaching, authentic and sustainable assessment is key to facilitating students’ development of skills, competencies, and graduate attributes. This is in addition to enabling students to demonstrate their academic knowledge, understanding, and critical thinking. Stepping beyond traditional assessment boundaries, a less conventional path is explored where students are actively engaged through assessment and feedback literacies within a staff-student partnership approach to learning and teaching. It is asserted that this leads to students’ deeper learning and a more democratic classroom. Configuring such a positive role for assessment transmutes it into an intrinsically motivating force that can transform the quality of higher education.

The talk covered a range of issues relating to assessment, and I did a sketch note of the talk.

One of the questions at the end of the conference was how challenging it would be to change the assessments within a module due to the validation process that was quite rigid and lacked flexibility for change at pace, or would require re-validation. This is indicative of processes that were designed for in-person courses that would change rarely, lacked flexibility and agility. Sometimes there are good reasons for that, but it does mean that sometimes though you can’t be responsive.

Having booked into parallel sessions, I did the usual thing and go to the “wrong” session.

I had intended to go to the Discover Learning Design with LEaD session, but in the end, went to a session with two papers.

Understanding student digital experiences at City, University of London and  From face-to-face to remote learning: what can we learn from student experiences of pre-recorded lectures in the pandemic?

The first presentation was about the results of the Jisc Student Experience Insights survey at City.

Whilst teaching has moved back to campus, for many students there are still online or blended elements to their learning. It is therefore important to continue to evaluate student experiences of technology for learning. This paper will present the results from the 2021/22 iteration of the survey carried out at City during Spring 2022. The session will compare the results with the national benchmark from Jisc and previous iterations of the survey to see how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on student digital learning experiences.

It was interesting to see how a university was actually using the survey to inform decision making.

The second paper was focused on a cohort of students.

We explore students’ experience of asynchronous learning activities, with a specific focus on pre-recorded lectures and consider their role in promoting deep learning in an online education context. 

In this subject lecturers pre-recorded their lectures to help provide a more engaging learning experience. It was also designed to be more inclusive for those attending online.

In the presentation, we heard that student feedback was in the main positive, it was seen as more flexible, more accessible, students were able to interact with the recordings when they wanted to, and could rewind, review and drop into the recordings. It was also interesting to hear about the importance of captions (or transcripts) of the recordings.

After lunch there were two more sessions, I attended The Pedagogy of Hybrid Space and Transforming your presentation slides for online learning.

These were interesting sessions and demonstrated by their delivery the challenges of delivering hybrid (as in dual mode simultaneous) sessions. I will focus on these two sessions in a later blog post.

The final session of the day was a summary of the day and a celebration of staff achievements.

Overall I had a really good day and enjoyed all the sessions I attended.

Blast from the past – Weeknote #174 – 1st July 2022

This week I attended the Learning at City Conference, an in-person event in London. It was like a blast from the past, as I travelled up on the day on the train and went across London. Easier though than on previous visits to City, as the Elizabeth Line is much smoother and faster than the Tube trains I would usually take. One of my reasons for attending was to find out more about their approach to hybrid teaching, which I had read about online.

It was a good conference and I enjoyed it, I am writing a more detailed blog post about the day. I did managed though to do one sketchnote on the opening keynote on assessment.

I am currently working on reviewing, revising and developing a range of reports related to the intelligent campus. This includes an updated version of the Intelligent Campus Guide, which we originally published back in 2017. A lot has happened in this space since then. We also took the opportunity to update the many use cases which were on the blog. Still thinking about the best format for these going forward. One thing we did draft back in 2017 was an Intelligent Library Guide. In the end it didn’t get published, but this time we have updated and revised the guide ready for publication later in the year.

I am also working on an Intelligent Campus Learning Spaces Scoping Study. Looking at how learning spaces are being used, and what are the issues are in the context of the intelligent campus.

I attended an HE & Research Leadership Team Coaching session. We looked at our internal processes, systems and structures, and reflected on how we would work going forward.

I published a blog post, Predicting an uncertain future about thinking about the future. Predicting is hard, and we can get it wrong. Actually, most of the time we do get it wrong.

Today we can also talk about possibilities and what it could mean for the student experience in the future. The purpose of this is not to predict what the university of the future will be but provide an envelope of possibilities that would allow us to plan for that potential future and build in appropriate resilience and responsiveness.

I attended Wonkhe’s Education Espresso – Telling the story of changing pedagogy event online. It was a stark contrast, from an experiential perspective to the in-person City event I had attended earlier in the week.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Embracing digital

conference
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

I attended the UCISA online event Embrace Digital: promoting the use of digital technology in HE. It was interesting to hear how the university presenting were promoting and embedding digital technologies across their staff. In response to a question about why a university did not use the Jisc Digital Capability Service, their response was that the questions in the digital capability tool weren’t quite right, so they wanted to write their own questions and tailor them to meet the needs of Lancaster. I can quite understand that reasoning. I suppose what I would question, is that when you have limited resources, is the best use of time improving something that exists, or actually implementing that something with staff? If something isn’t quite right, then yes, create your own, however if it is, say 80% right, isn’t that enough? A lot of this falls down to what you are trying to achieve, are you trying to build the best tool ever, or are you trying to use a tool to improve the digital skills of your staff? What is your key objective? How much does it matter that a tool isn’t perfect, if it is good enough, is that good enough? Another reflection on this is, looking at this from a sector perspective. If every university goes down the route of creating their own tools, then there will be a lot of duplication of effort and significant resource allocated. We then have to ask for what gain?

A story I use to tell during presentations and workshops was about someone who wanted to write some poetry on their computer but wasn’t sure how to start. One person said they should use Microsoft Word, as that was the standard word processing tool. Another person said that Google Docs was a better choice, as it was in the cloud and enabled collaboration. Meanwhile another person said that, they should avoid proprietary software and should use OpenOffice as it was free. There was also a Mac user, who said they should use Pages, as that is what creative people used. One person in the corner said, don’t use a computer and that maybe they should just use paper and a pencil. All well and good, but someone wanted to write some poetry and that is what they needed help with, was writing poetry.

The objective of building digital skills is not about building digital skills, that isn’t, nor should be the aspiration. The reason behind building the digital skills of staff, is about enabling and empowering them to use digital technologies for something else, such as enhancing the student experience, improving student outcomes, efficiency, and so on. By focusing on the tool, you may miss the point of why someone wants to know how to use the tool.

This doesn’t mean that everyone should use the same tools and services, and everything should be centralised, far from it. My opinion is much more that when we think about what we want to achieve, we should ensure we have clarity about the aims and the objectives of what we are trying to do. In some cases that may mean using a sector wide service, other times it may mean creating our own institutional tools and services.

At the QMUL VLE Expo

Choosing a VLE for your university can be a challenge. Everyone has a different opinion, people have different needs, student want an outstanding experience. 

Sometimes just changing the VLE can be a catalyst for change, but you can also lose people who were heavily invested in the existing system.

Today I was at the Queen Mary University of London 2022 VLE Expo conference.

This conference is brought to you by the “SP192 VLE Review” project, one of the strategic projects that work together to deliver the 2030 strategy. The main aim of today’s conference is to gather your views and needs from a future VLE. We will use your contributions and feedback today to help shape a recommendation paper that will be used to decide the direction we will take with our VLE provision.

The university wants to ensure that whichever direction they go, it is  about delivering on their vision.

That is what this day is all about – making sure our Virtual Learning Environment matches our vision and fully supports our students in their journey.

I like how the focus is about, what do we want to do to achieve our strategic aspirations, how will the VLE help us to do that, and which platform (or platforms) will enable us to do that.

Of course the VLE is only part of the solution, knowing how to use the technical functions of the VLE is one thing, knowing how to use the VLE to support and enhance learning is a more challenging problem. Embedding the VLE into the curriculum is also a challenge.

My role in the day was to sit on a panel discussion, The Future of Digital Education, to discuss emerging themes from the day. I hope to address some of the issues with why you need a VLE and then thinking about how you will meet those needs.

Sketching at UCISA 22

Last week I was in Manchester for the UCISA Leadership conference. I have never attended that conference before, but after the 2020 conference was cancelled, I was given the chance to attend the 2022 event. This was the third in-person conference I have attended since March 2020. I did a couple of sketch notes at Digifest.

At the UCISA Leadership conference I I took the time to sketch some of the sessions and the details of these are covered in the posts I did about the three days of the conference, day 1, day 2 and day 3.

As with my previous sketch notes I was using the iPad pro, Paper by 53 and an Apple Pencil.

Thinking now about upgrading to Paper Pro for more tools and flexibility. It’s £8.99 a year so quite good value for what you get.

My favourite of the sketch notes I did was from What’s your narrative? Building a compelling vision and dancing in the field with Mark Simpson, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning & Teaching, Teesside University.

You can tell Mark covered a lot by how busy my sketch is. That I think is sometimes the challenge with sketch notes, is that if there is a lot of content and importantly thinking then I can do a rather busy sketch. However where the focus is on a single idea then it is harder to develop the sketch.

I also liked the sketch I did of Sustainability and the climate emergency: how can IT be part of the solution and not part of the problem?  A conversation with Mike Berners-Lee.

I realised comparing my most recent sketch notes with ones taken pre-pandemic, that I am a little rusty and need more practice. Here are a couple from ALT-C 2017.

Made me realise how long I have been doing them for now.

This one was from Maren Deepwell at ALT-C 2018.

I actually recorded this on the iPad as I drew it. I then speeded it up and put it on YouTube.

My sketch notes are really for me, rather than other people. The process of sketching allows my to digest for myself what is been talked about and demonstrated. The sketch note provides me with a mechanism that provides a process for my interpretation of what is being said and what I understand from the talk. The process of sketching engages me in the talk in ways in which note taking does for others, or conversing on the Twitter.

Looking back at the sketch notes I have used in this blog post has reminded me of those talks I sketched and what I got from them.

They are not done for other people, if other people find them useful then that’s just a bonus. I am not sure how useful they are for other people, but having posted them to the Twitter I did receive some nice comments about my most recent sketches.

So if you want some sketch notes for your conference, why not get in touch.