Monday I was off to Bristol, for a late afternoon meeting. It was nice to be back in the office and see the changes and improvements since I was last there a week or so back. It is a nice place to work.
This report is the result of an experts meeting exploring assessment in universities and colleges and how technology could be used to help address some of the problems and opportunities.
This report was widely reported in the press across the UK.
Assessment is a challenge for many institutions, often resulting in attempts to fix it, but sometimes I think we need to dig deeper and re-imagine assessment as a whole.
Having discussed the coronavirus in last week’s weeknote, the situation has been escalated and the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.
It comes as the government announced new powers to keep people in quarantine to stop the spread of the virus.
In order to do this the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.
The overall risk level to the UK remains “moderate”.
Wednesday I was at the 18th Jisc Learning Analytics Community Event at Newman University in Birmingham. There were various talks and discussions and overall it was an interesting day.
I published a blog post about the ALT Learning Spaces SIG that happened last month.
Really enjoyed reading @jamesclay's ideas for creating new learning spaces. Thinking beyond the classroom is crucial these days but unfortunately not a priority in most universities. We really need to reflect more on how students learn. https://t.co/CjeqXBea59
Thursday I was in our Bristol office working on a document with colleagues. I had quite a few conversations about the Education 4.0 roadmap I am working on and how the sector needs to start thinking and preparing for both the challenges, but also the opportunities that there is with this potential view of the future.
I have written before about informal learning, and how that once you start designing informal learning it becomes formalised. What you can do is create spaces, as well as provide technology, that can encourage informal learning.
A simple example of this is providing ubiquitous Wi-Fi across the campus, especially in social and communal areas.
What would you design in your informal learning spaces if money no object?
This was the brief we had in a workshop at the Leeds Business School at the recent ALT Learning Spaces SIG in January.
So the brief was to think about how an existing space could be refurbished into an informal learning space. There were three scenarios, a very limited budgetary option, a classic budgetary scenario and ours, which was “budget, what budget!”
We were split into groups, two groups had a (realistic) limited budget to work with, another group a bigger budget and our group… well our group had an unlimited budget. We could go to town.
There is still something useful about this kind of scenario, even though it isn’t realistic, as with any blue skies thinking, you can start with unrealistic and unattainable outcome, but bringing that back down to reality, means that some things will remain.
The space we were working with was a real space, and is in the West Park Teaching Hub at Loughborough University. This is a round space, currently divided into two semi-circle teaching spaces. The space wasn’t working as planned, in the main due to noise leaking between the spaces.
The space was circular and I immediately thought lets go right out there and think about doing something very different, so I threw into the initial discussion the idea of either building a fairground carousel, my thinking was of the double decker ones you see in Germany and France.
My other idea, which the group liked more, was let’s build a treehouse in the space.
The seminar room we were in had interactive whiteboards for each group, so I got to work to “sketch” a treehouse concept for the space.
The key concept was to bring in nature into the space, both in terms of the tree, but also real foliage and natural light.
The other aspect was to design the space to create various different ways in which the space could be used for informal learning, both for individuals and for groups.
One thing I have done in spaces I was managed (some years ago) was designing the space to allow for quick (or light) informal learning and spaces for longer deeper informal learning. I took my cue from coffee shops, where though they basically sell coffee, there are different coffee drinking scenarios. There are those people who want to pop in, sit down, have a quick coffee and then go. Similarly there are two people, who want a break from shopping, so want to chat and have a coffee. Then there are the people who want a longer coffee drinking experience (maybe they are going to have cake or a sandwich). They will spend much longer in the coffee shop, they may even have a second coffee. Sometimes a group will come in to discuss and chat over coffee. Then there are those looking for a place to use their laptop.
In a lot of coffee shops, you will see they design the space to meet these differing needs. Near the entrance are usually tables and chairs and occasional soft seating. As you venture deeper into the coffee shop, you will find sofas and more comfortable seating, but also larger tables and chairs (for groups).
So back to the learning space design, we wanted to do something similar. We wanted a range of furniture that would allow for multiple and varied informal learning scenarios. Places where a learner could sit down and check something on their laptop. Tables that would allow a couple of learners to grab a coffee and chat about their most recent lecture. Furniture for longer and deeper informal learning scenarios, working on an essay or a group project.
We felt that lighting was important and would both encourage and discourage informal learning. Everyone felt coffee (and snacks) was important, but were aware of the noise issues that this could cause. Acoustical planning would be undertaken to create quiet spaces and ensure noisy spaces could be contained and the sound absorbed by the furniture and plants.
Technology would be embedded and integrated into the treehouse. There would be ubiquitous Wi-FI, well would you expect anything less. There would be places to charge devices. Screens would be available for small group work, as well as traditional whiteboards and other areas to write on.
We also thought a big screen surrounding the tree could be used to change the mood of the space, as well as for information.
It was a fun task and we enjoyed working together. It certainly wasn’t a realistic option, but some of the concepts and ideas could certainly be utilised in a real budgetary envelope when designing a space for informal learning.
Monday I was off to London once more for various meetings including my mid-year review. These weeknotes were an useful tool to recall what I have been doing and what I had done, especially for those things outside my core objectives.
This was an intriguing story about how you could “fake” traffic jams merely by walking down a street (with a hundred mobile phones in a cart).
Artist Simon Weckert walked the streets of Berlin tugging a red wagon behind him. Wherever he went, Google Maps showed a congested traffic jam. People using Google Maps would see a thick red line indicating congestion on the road, even when there was no traffic at all. Each and every one of those 99 phones had Google Maps open, giving the virtual illusion that the roads were jam packed.
As we approach 2020, there is little doubt that digital technology is core to the UK’s Higher Education (HE) sector. It enhances teaching and learning and has the potential to create efficiencies across all aspects of the student experience, supporting staff in delivering excellence. As the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) continues to influence education and research, there will be implications for copyright and licensing too.Continue reading Million to one chances – Weeknote #49 – 7th February 2020→
Monday I was off to London once more. On Tuesday I am presenting a keynote at an Inside Government event. The event takes place in the City of London, which can be challenging to get to for a 9:30am start, so I went up on Monday to stay overnight. I popped into our London office for a quick meeting before heading off to my hotel. I was intending to walk from the office to the hotel, but it was pouring with rain so I caught the tube.
Tuesday was the Inside Government event and my presentation was called Education 4.0 – Key Trends in the Current Digital Landscape
My presentation covered stuff I have talked about before.
Reflecting on what we understand by Education 4.0 and the potential impact on universities?
Discussing how universities should harness the power of their data and use analytics to tackle some of the big strategic challenges within the organisation
Asking the key questions: How will teaching be transformed? What does personalised adaptive learning look like? Could we re-imagine assessment? How do we build an intelligent campus?
Designing a strategy that will enable organisations to start laying the foundations for the future that is Education 4.0
Compared to other Inside Government events I have attended, I thought attendance was quite low. However I got some positive feedback and some interesting questions.
I think we are also starting to see more resistance and wariness of the use of data and analytics for learning and teaching. The ethical and secure use of data is critical, but even so, there are still concerns that need to be addressed, and might never be addressed.
The BBC reported on a recent fine imposed on UEA for a data breach.
University students whose personal details were emailed to hundreds of their classmates have been paid more than £140,000 in compensation.
A spreadsheet containing student health problems, bereavements and personal issues was sent to 298 people at the University of East Anglia in June 2017.
Insurers have since paid out £142,512 to affected students from UEA, which said it had reviewed data practices.
Talking to colleagues, there use to be rectification notices for these kinds of breaches, now we are seeing the ICO making decisions like this one.
These kinds of news stories demonstrate challenges with data and the use of data by universities and colleges, as well as possible data literacy issues amongst staff.
Thursday I was back to London for a meeting with the Department for Education. Jisc meets regularly with our funders across the United Kingdom.
Friday I didn’t have far to travel, as I went to Weston College, for a Microsoft Teams event. This event, part of a roadshow run by Microsoft demonstrated some of the key functions of the tool and how some academics were using it. I did feel that I had heard many of these conversations before, with other tools such as Virtual Campus, Moodle, Slack, even the Twitter. I think what was missing is the strategic approach to the embedding use of these tools across the whole of the organisation. How do you get everyone to use the tools you provide effectively.
My top tweet this week was this one.
I need to get my eyes tested, I read that as cat’s milk…
After careful consideration and because of the ongoing and unpredictable developments around coronavirus (COVID-19), this year’s Data Matters will not go ahead. It was a difficult decision to cancel but the health and wellbeing of our members, staff, exhibitors and suppliers is our top priority. We also want to ensure we play our part in containing and delaying the spread of the virus. For delegates who have already paid for their ticket, we will fully refund all conference fees.
“New technologies and approaches are merging the physical, digital, and biological worlds in ways that will fundamentally transform humankind. The extent to which that transformation is positive will depend on how we navigate the risks and opportunities that arise along the way. The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril.” – Klaus Schwab, (founder of the World Economic Forum), The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Digital is core to the UK’s higher education sector, enhancing and creating efficiencies across all aspects of the student experience, and supporting staff in delivering excellence. The UK education sector needs to transform to meet the requirements of Industry 4.0 and student expectations. Artificial intelligence and mixed reality will play a critical role in successfully upskilling, retraining and assessing our workforce to ensure no one is left behind.
The world of Industry 4.0 is one of high-level skills such as analysts, AI wranglers, problem solvers and creatives, but also a world of dexterity, such as artisans, carers and robot carers and maintainers. Mixed reality will play a role in educating and reskilling the professionals of the future, while assessments could be performed by robots.
In order to fulfil and achieve that vision, universities and colleges will need to start laying the foundations now, so that they can build the infrastructure, the technology and the culture required for whatever the future will bring.
One core aspect underpinning the vision of Education 4.0 will be data, analytics and data literacy. Future technologies will be dependent on a range of datasets which have been gathered accurately, but also ethically. Without a foundation of data, a single set of truth, it will be challenging to take advantage of the possibilities that analysis
Analytics and prediction will rely on working algorithms, which need to be designed and created in a way that removes bias and are able to tell us an accurate narrative that will enable data informed decision making that will enhance the student experience and improve the effective and efficient use of spaces and resources.
We know we can collect a range of data about individuals, but just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. There are numerous ethical, as well as legal, issues in the collection of data about how individuals are engaging with a university or college, including academic data, but also location and usage of resources data as well.
We must not forget the human element of data and analytics. It’s not enough to deliver accurate analysis, predictions, and visualisations. Staff and students in universities and colleges need to be data literate to enable them to understand and act on that data. Appropriate and effective interventions will only be possible if staff and students are able to understand what is being presented to them and know what and how they could act as a result.
The future is an unknown, but universities and colleges can start to prepare for whatever is coming at them. They can lay the foundations for the future, and an important foundation is that of data, the use of data, analytics, wrapped in an ethical blanket.
The Data Matters 2020 conference will bring together experts from across the sector to discuss and debate the key data and analytics challenges in building the future vision of Education 4.0. We will discuss the possible future, the importance of laying the foundations for that vision, we will think about what we need to do today, to start that journey.
We will consider the ethical implications of undertaking all this as well as how we could provide the data literacy and other digital skills for the staff and students to take full advantage of the possibilities that data can bring.
This unique conference brings together three sector agencies, Jisc, HESA and QAA, who will be working together with colleagues from universities and colleges to collaborate and share their vision, ideas and solutions for the data enabled future of Education 4.0.
At the weekend I read this article on facial recognition.
The European Commission has revealed it is considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public areas for up to five years. Regulators want time to work out how to prevent the technology being abused.
This does have implications for those universities and colleges who are thinking about using facial recognition technologies as part of any initiative (say intelligent campus) in the next five years. Of course after five years the EU may ban such technologies, what that means for the UK, well we will have to wait and see.
Monday I was writing, preparing and designing a presentation for a keynote I am giving next week in London. I am using only images.
Monday I was off to London for a discussion about the Education 4.0 Roadmap I have been working on. I am having meetings with colleagues from various universities about their thoughts and feedback on the roadmap. Initial feedback has been positive and that the initial concept is on the right lines and could be useful for the sector.
After that meeting I headed off to our London office for some ad hoc meetings and working on the programme for Data Matters 2020.
It was heralded as the product that would kill internal email chains. Instead, it’s changed how we behave while in the office
This does article does echo some of the feelings I have about IM style platforms (not just Slack, but also Teams and other platforms), that they can be a distraction if used badly. Slack doesn’t solve the problem of “doing e-mail” versus “work” as it is merely a platform and can replace e-mail, but doesn’t solve the problem of distraction of e-mail.
There were a couple of articles on grade inflation that caught my eye this week:
Universities UK (UUK) is asking higher education providers to take part in an online survey about their use of degree algorithms in an attempt to reduce the number of top-class degrees.The new survey will shed light on how degree classifications are decided. It is the latest stage in a sector-wide initiative led by UUK to tackle grade inflation and the perception that degrees are ‘dumbing down’.
The sharp increase in university students in the UK getting top degree grades seems to have stalled, according to annual official figures. It follows warnings from ministers of the need to prevent “grade inflation” devaluing degrees.
During the same period they asked universities to improve the quality of their teaching and learning which may have resulted in “higher” grades across the board. Many of the “unexplained” increased in grades were when some universities decided to align themselves with how other universities were grading their degrees.
It can be challenging to balance the need to improve the quality of education, and not to be seen to be dumbing down in the same breath.
Next week is Bett in London. My first Bett Conference was in 2000 and then I didn’t go again until 2007
Ten years ago I blogged that I wasn’t going to Bett in 2010.
I have been to BETT twice in my life and that was two times too many!
I had good reasons for not going.
The reason why I won’t be going is that the focus of BETT is too much on the technology rather than what people do with it. It is much more an event based on educational technology suppliers than educators using technology. It is this reason that I won’t be going.
Since then, though the focus is still on educational technology, there was more about how people were using technology.
I was kind of forced to go in 2013, partly against my will, but did see some interesting stuff. With a change in role I did go again in 2014 and saw a lovely VW Bus.
I know I went again in 2015, but then missed 2016, but did go in 2017, mainly for a team meeting, but due to train issues saw very little of the show itself!
I actually presented at BETT in 2018 on the Intelligent Campus, which was fun, but a little bit of a logistical nightmare, as I was in Leicester at the time running the Digital Leaders Programme, so I had to leave Leicester at lunchtime, catch a train to London, make my way across to the Excel Centre, before heading home, by way of Leicester again to collect my car.
Thursday I was travelling to Cheltenham for a meeting with a colleague. We recently merged with part of HESA and so we now have an office in Cheltenham where the former HESA, now Jisc, staff work. I worked in this area for seven years when I worked for Gloucestershire College, which had a campus in Cheltenham. Well though I was regularly in Cheltenham, two to three times a week, the campus was in the suburbs of Cheltenham (close to GCHQ) so I rarely if ever went into the heart of Cheltenham. So though familiar, it wasn’t that familiar.
Friday was another trip to London for a meeting between key staff from the University of Sussex and Jisc. We discussed a range of subjects and topics including the intelligent campus and intelligent libraries.
I am still a little surprised that it’s 2020, as it appears to be so futuristic, but we seem to be living in a Children of Men or Handmaid’s Tale future rather than the utopia of the future that I imagined in my youth.
Monday I spent the day catching up with e-mail, even though most people had been off over the festive period, a lot seemed to have started back on the 2nd (when I was still off). I also took the time to get back into gear and work-ready.
I wrote a first draft of a blog post for the Data Matters 2020 conference , that is taking place on the 5th May 2020. The essence of the post is the importance of thinking about data now, in the contect of future needs of data. This isn’t just about the technical aspects of data, but importantly the people aspects as well.
I was reminded that this week ten years ago we had some of the worst snow for forty years…
Tuesday I was travelling to Leeds where I am attending the ALT Learning Spaces SIG on Wednesday. Leeds always seems a lot further away than I think it is. The ALT Learning Spaces SIG was on Wednesday and this was an interesting get together.
As well as hearing about the challenges facing universities such as Leeds and Loughborough, there was also a excellent workshop in the afternoon looking at the challenges in converting an existing formal learning space (which wasn’t working) into an informal space for learning. I started to draft a blog post on this workshop. The concept we looked at was building a treehouse.
Back in 2018 I only wrote 17 blog posts, in 2017 it was 21 blog posts, in 2016 it was 43 blog posts, in 2015 I wrote 24 blog posts. In 2014 I wrote 11 and in 2013 I wrote 64 blog posts and over a hundred in 2012. In 2011 I thought 150 was a quiet year!
Dropping two places to tenth was 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip. This was a post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE. It included information on the many free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet out there. It is quite a long post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.
The ninth most popular post was a post from 2010 and was about one of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett which is, that “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”. When something awful happens, or freakish, we hear news reporters say “it was a million-to-one chance that this would happen”. The article was on snow and snow closures.
The post at number eight, dropping one place, was Comic Life – iPad App of the Week Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.
Entering the top ten at number three was Learning from massive open social learning. This was a post from 2015 looking at the growth of MOOCs and how massive open social learning brings the benefits of social networks to those people taking massive open online courses (MOOCs).
After six years running, last year number one post drops a place to second , and that was the The iPad Pedagogy Wheel. I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”.
It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.
So after six years, I have a new number one for the most popular blog post this year and that was is Can I legally download a movie trailer? Up from fourth last year. One of the many copyright articles that I posted some years back, this one was in 2008, I am still a little behind in much of what is happening within copyright and education, one of things I do need to update myself on, as things have changed.