where Sheila will be seen in a couple of weeks

I’m very excited to say that I have a new job as a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University which I’ll be starting next month.  On the other hand I am sad to be leaving my old colleagues and friends at Cetis, and today I wrote my final blog post for Cetis explaining more.  I have had the best time working for Cetis and the experiences I’ve gained have been instrumental in me getting my new job.   It was quite emotional writing that last post, but I will continue my blogging here.

A fitting tribute to where Sheila has been this week – a bit of Friday fun

Your Learning Technologist of the Year wishes to thank all her colleagues at IET, Open University, particularly Doug Clow for immortalising her recent visit with this commemorative paper plaque.


I’m just wondering if my former employers, the University of Strathclyde are creating something similar, or if my former office has now reverted to a stationary cupboard.

Where Sheila's been this week – research sprinting with #oerrub

 A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the agile approach the OER Research Hub team at the Open University are adopting, and in particular the use of sprints.  This week I’ve been in Milton Keynes with the team for their latest sprint week and have had the opportunity to experience first hand a research sprint. 

As I said in my previous post, the notion of a research sprint has intrigued me. Could this software development technique really be adapted and more importantly be effective in a research context?  Well, it seems it can.  As part of my Evaluation Fellow role I was interviewing all of the team during the week and there was unanimous agreement of the value of the sprint. Particularly in (re) focusing attention on key project level deliverables and sharing of findings within the team.

The project is taking an active collaboration approach and this week the core team were joined by three of the project fellows (Kari Arfstrom from the Flipped Learning Network, Thanh Le from Vital Signs/ Gulf of Maine and Daniel Williamson from Connexions/OpenStax).  It’s probably too early to say just exactly what the fellows think of the sprint approach – they are probably just over jet-lag today! But it certainly seemed like a perfect way to quickly focus attention on activity and give a wider perspective of what is going on in within this quite complex project and establish strong connections within the core team at the OU.

I have to confess I don’t have a lot of personal experience of being in a sprint, but I did participate in a couple of scrums for a software project a couple of years ago, and the experience this week was very similar.  Profs and project leads Martin Weller and Patrick McAndrew take the role of product owners and, with the project co-ordinator Claire Walker, had devised a list of tasks/products. These were prioritized and allocated by the whole team on Monday afternoon using a combination of voting and post it notes. 

Each morning this week a short scrum meeting is taking place where everyone shares what they have done and what they are going to do for that day which is directly related to the agreed tasks.  Standing and the catching/throwing of a small smartie box plays a vital role in keeping the meetings running smoothly and to time.  Shared google docs with task lists are also keeping track of progress.  The team are also keeping a shared reflective diary of the week. It’s not appropriate for me to share any information about this, but I do think that shared reflection is vital when participating in a relatively new way of working – not least just to ensure that lessons learned are shared and (hopefully) incorporated into future projects.  As the project has four distinct areas of research, I found the sprint reminiscent of a programme meeting in bringing a set of smaller projects together and focusing activity on key areas. 

Although I had to leave half way through the week there was a palpable sense of things getting done and that by the end of the week the project will have a number of deliverables ready to go and a clear focus for others over the coming months.  This includes a series of webinars starting next month where Rob Farrow will take the lead around OER and policy changes at institutional level. 

I’m not sure if it actually makes a difference by I did particularly like spending most of my working week in a “superpod”.  As you can see from the picture below, you too could quite easily convert an office into a superpod too 🙂







Where Sheila's been seen this week #altc2013

The ALT-C conference is always a bit of an annual highlight for me and many others in the UK learning technology community. It’s always a great place to catch up with old friends, make new ones and meet online ones in person. This year was particularly special for me as not only did I get a short paper presentation accepted but I was also one of the invited speakers. I even got to be interviewed by Martin Hawksey for ALT-tv.   And, of course the highlight of the week for me was being awarded the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award.



I can’t begin to explain how much that recognition and validation of my work from my peers means to me.  As I said in my post yesterday it is also a huge validation of the work of all my Cetis colleagues,  and I hope goes some way to explaining the themes of my invited speaker session where I tried to emphasis the role of networks and sharing in allowing innovation and ideas to spread and thrive in our community. Have the space for thinking outwith institutional pressures is vital, and I really hope we don’t lose it.

Unsurprisingly there was a lot of talk about MOOCs over the three days, including my own session where I reflected on my own experiences of MOOCing and some of the strategies I have developed to navigate myself through various courses.  There was a lot of discussion about dropping out, and if we should think of MOOCs as courses or as Stephen Downes said in his keynote, more like newspapers where it doesn’t matter if you don’t read the whole thing. 

I’ve dropped in and out and even finished a few MOOCs now and to be honest I’m not sure it matters that much what you call them. If you are going to engage in any kind of learning you need to have time (and be realistic about that commitment). You also need the confidence to develop your own “learner driven strategies”.  I think for a lot of people particularly in the educational learning technology community MOOCs maybe the first time in a long time that they have experienced what is traditionally seen as failure by not completing a course. We really do need to have some major mindshifts about “completion = success”.  I could rant on about that for hours but won’t instead you can have a look at my presentation from yesterday where I examine my own experiences. 







Learning Technologist of the Year #altc2013

I was (and still am) absolutely thrilled to have been awarded ALT’s Learning Technologist of the Year award at the annual conference dinner last night. The recognition of my work by my peers is fantastic and I join a very elite club including James Clay, Josie Fraser and Cristina Costa. As I’m not a traditional learning technologist, this award is even more significant to me as it is recognition of the role of people like me who work to support innovation in the sector through community building and sharing, my presentation from yesterday’s showcase illustrates more. Although an individual award, I have to thank my good friends and colleagues Christina Smart and Lorna Campbell for doing the hard work and filling in the application form and then telling me 🙂 In many ways this is a team award and recognition of the work of everyone at Cetis. I’d also like to congratulate all my fellow award winners – there really is some brilliant work being done in the sector, and it is great that it is being celebrated by ALTs award scheme.

I was also overwhelmed by all the good wishes from people not here in Nottingham this week I received on twitter and facebook. And I have to share this particular one from Jisc colleagues Lawrie Phipps and Myles Danson. I do hope that they managed to get out of that car last night.


My life as a sponge #altc2013

This week I’m at the ALT-C conference in Nottingham, and in a slight change to plan my invited speaker session was shifted to yesterday afternoon.  In my talk I tried to convey the complexity of working in innovation and the need for space for people to connect, reflect and share.   As well as warning people of the danger of “following the shiny things”,  I also wanted to convey the importance of have people like me who have the space to look at new things outwith an institutional context and feedback into the sector. I also may have mentioned shoes and Sponge Bob Square Pants . . .

Here are my slides, and once the recording is made available I’ll put that on line too.

What Sheila's seen this week

It’s been a bit of a strange week this week, but work wise I’ve mainly been thinking about the ALT-C conference next week and I’ve been enjoying exploring the new conference platform designed and built by my good buddy and colleague Martin Hawksey.

I’m delighted (and slightly terrified) to be one of the invited speakers this year,  and I’ve been thinking a lot about my presentation  titled “my life as a sponge” which will be a bit of ramble around the theme of innovation via Sponge Bob Square Pants.  I’m also presenting a paper on Learner driven strategies and technologies for effective engagement with MOOCs, based on my own recent experiences. And even more excitingly I have made the short list for the Learning Technologist of the Year award so will be joining my fellow nominees on Wednesday morning for a showcase of our work.

A couple of non ALT things tho have caught my eye this week including the news that SNAPP  (Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice) is now working again. For anyone interested in learning analytics and exploring  networked behaviour in discussion forums it’s well worth a look.

Also on the analytics front here’s really interesting video presentation from Kirsten Zimbardi,  University of Queensland called “Analytics of student interactions with electronic feedback using UQmarkup” -which is an “academic friendly” system for giving feedback to large cohorts (c. 1,000 students).