Storyboards: flipping storify and the classroom

Screen shot of storyboardIt’s a common plea within HE, can’t we just get rid of the lecture?  But there is safety and comfort in the lecture so getting rid of them is easier said than done. I was delighted then to hear from the mental health nursing team here at GCU this week who have actually taken a unanimous decision to ban lectures in their models and move to a more directed study, reflective, workshop approach.

Starting from wanting to create an learning experience that really engaged students, and just as importantly worked to the strengths of the team in sharing their experiences of actual practice, the team now create weekly “storyboards” which provide resources, readings, videos, guidance and questions for students. Lectures have been replaced by workshops. These start with a  debrief of the week’s study board following by small group work focusing on key areas of knowledge for that week.

The students have individual learning logs (using the campus pack blogs within our VLE) and are encouraged to reflect on their own learning/experiences and resources they have found during their pre-workshop activities.  The module has a #hashtag, and students are encouraged to tweet through out the module.

The team are using Storify to create the storyboards.  Mainly because they find it is easy to use, and students can access it in and outwith the VLE. It also does look a tad nicer than a page within the VLE!  The team can easily update the boards, and update resource/tweets.

I’m a big fan of storify but I hadn’t thought about using it this way. Until I saw this I had it boxed in my mind as synthesis/ after event tool.  But of course it works just as well, if not better, in this way. Another really neat flip!  You can check out the team storyboard dashboard here.

The team have found that this change has really increased engagement in the workshops. The enjoy the workshops much more as they feel it allows them to facilitate learning far more effectively. The can see more engagement, vicarious and peer learning.  The team did admit that it did take time to “let go” and adjust to this new way delivery, but now they would never go back.

Each storyboard is carefully planned, and is very explicit about the time, topic, resources and most importantly questions for students to consider and reflect on each week.  It has taken time to develop the storyboards, but the effort has been worth it.  The storyboards can easily be updated for each new cohort, so the initial effort pays back with time saved in the longer term. The team have also found that this approach allows them to provide more personalised guidance, particularly when dealing with some of the very challenges issues involved in mental health.

Although the team haven’t done used it yet, the embed functionality in storify means that boards/stories can be embedded within the VLE, as can #hashtagged twitter widgets.

In terms of open practice this is also a fantastic example of sharing approaches to learning and teaching with the wider community.

The revolution is mobile? A few thoughts from Jisc Creativity event #jisccreativity



I can remember at the turn of this century ( always wanted to start something with that sentence – not sure if it makes me wise or just old! ) there was a person, who will remain nameless, who kept popping up at events and conferences I attended. I used to get a bit fed as in every presentation this person did, and they did a lot, they used to bring out their mobile phone, wave it about,  and say “this is going to revolutionize everything in education.”

“Yadda, yadda”,  said I and others, and we went back to our desks, our metadata, our content packages, our baby VLEs and websites.  15 years on, and it turns out that mobile technology (not just phones) are actually incredibly important in all our lives – not just in education.

For me the I think the change has been evolutionary, each handset I’ve had has been allowed me to do just that little bit more, be it take a decent picture or video conference.  There have of course been a couple of revolutionary moments. Thank you Steve Job and co for ipods/pads/phones.  Although I hate to admit it, I do feel slightly lost without my phone. Without it, I feel just that little bit less connected to my world, my family and friends and not just work.

Last week I was at a Jisc event where we were asked to develop some radical ideas, things that would be revolutionary not evolutionary – and of course be able to be sustainable potential funding ideas for Jisc.  Peter Reed has already written a  great summary of the event.  Whilst I’m still not sure if any of the ideas were actually that revolutionary or radical, one thing that did strike me was that a lot of the ideas were dependent on mobile technology. Many of the ideas built on geo-location services like Yik Yak or extending personalised notifications on phones.

It was also pretty easy to get not to far away from a not to shabby mock up of apps, and have confidence that the backend technology to make them happen was pretty much available already and we were all confident that things would work.  As someone said in the room, if this had been 10 years ago at a Jisc meeting, the technology would have been central to the discussion. We would have spent 2 days designing the database, not what anyone was going to do with it.  At this event, it was really the ideas, people and processes that were top of the agenda, and amen for that.

One of the delegates was head of estates, and I found the perspective of “the voice of the estate” fascinating. Intelligent, dynamic room booking based on real time pre attendance information; that probably is the not too distant future.

That said, it was also noticeable that there was focus on services to make the wider student experience better for students, and there wasn’t as much focus on learning and teaching itself.

I was in one of the groups that did focus on learning and teaching. We started with the idea of “what if?” What if you didn’t have to go to meetings, give one hour lectures, mark essays, what if you could actually  get more time to “do stuff”?  That evolved from something that blocked out time for staff to experiment, to the google 25% idea, to what we called the “total curriculum” where everything from 1st year to PhD, was based on real world projects.

Of course, there is a lot of project based curriculum already happening across all levels of education from primary schools to universities, but what if we extended it more? Of course there would need to be radical changes to our learning and teaching structures (like timetables and exams) to more meaningful self directed learning with negotiated assessments. Perhaps we could start with more evolutionary steps like 1 week  learning festivals, maker fests and building up to one month, one semester, one year, three (four) years.

Would that bring about a revolution or just another step in our evolution?  I don’t know, but it was fun talking about it and realising that just like with some of the technology for the other ideas, it isn’t too difficult to image actually happening.

My digital day – digital reality, digital futures and potential passivity

Last week along with some colleagues I was shown this Microsoft promotional video of the, not too distant, future.

You’ll probably have seen several similar things. It’s full of lovely shiny, images and lots of swooshy-ness with images and “stuff” moving seamlessly from walls to watches to tablets to shared boards. Now whilst I put my hands up to liking a nice bit of shiny swooshy-ness as much as the next geek, these types of videos always make me slightly uneasy, and do bring out my inner dystopian fears about the role of technology in the future.

Although full of shiny, happy people I can’t help but want to scream “who is in control? how is this all paid for? ” They all seem to be working with – aka moving stuff around on various devices/surfaces – and contributing ( in very small ways) to just one set of data. Everything is coming from and going to the one place. And of course in this case, it’s Microsoft.

They are not alone, every technology company has a similar videos and visions.  In terms of education shouldn’t we be creating videos that show our students and staff working with and contributing to multiple data sets? Making decisions about what data to use and how to analyse and present it?  Ensuring that we are  creating shiny, swooshy stuff that everyone can benefit from?  This video and others like it seem to be alluding to a very digitally passive future.

The day after seeing the video I was still thinking about it as my day unfolded. I was going to Edinburgh to the Jisc Learning Analytics Network meeting. My day started with a Skype call which I took on my phone as I walked to the station. As I was buying my ticked, holding my bag, trying to get my card in and out of the machine whilst muting and un-muting my phone, I couldn’t help thinking that a few of those contactless, swooshy features would have been very handy.

Once on the train I thought I would check my slides for my presentation. Obviously I had them stored in the cloud. However the free wifi on the train was a bit slow to get onto and actually wouldn’t let me look at anything as image heavy as my Haiku deck slides. I had also forgotten my phone charger so after the Skype call my battery was a bit low so I didn’t want to use it all up on the train.  Again in the future tech video power seems unlimtedless wherever you are, be that underwater, in the jungle, in Shiny Towers, power is limitless. Even if I had remembered my phone charger there weren’t any power points in my train carriage.

When I got to the Jisc meeting – the train was late but I tweeted I was on my way to the organisers – I got online instantly via eduroam, listened, tweeted, did my presentation (from the backup copy on my data stick), retweeted a link to it and by the end of the day over 200 people had viewed it.

After the meeting I met an old friend and had some posh cocktails in a swanky bar, so of course pictures were shared via Instagram. There were a few quite funny comments which I was able to respond to on my way home on the train as my phone battery slipped further and further into the red.

My day wasn’t quite as shiny as the video, but there were shiny elements to it. But more importantly to me, was it as passive? I hope not, but I am not so sure.  As well as having very useful face to face conversations, which will be very helpful in terms of things we are planning to do at work, I also had several useful exchanges via twitter both with people in the room and further afield. The constant thing throughout the day though was connectivity (or lack of) and communication. Was I though just moving things around like in the video?

As we march to our seemingly inevitable digital future and developing digital strategies and universities (whatever ‘digital’ in those context actually means), I do fear we may be creating new forms of digital passivity disguised by seemingly meaningful connectivity and communication. Is digital passivity our future?

What Sheila's seen over the past year – a year of doodling 

Inspired by David Hopkins at last year’s Blackboard conference in Dublin I stared to do my own form of sketch noting/visual note taking or probably more accurately doodling.

Over the past year I’ve started to use this more visual and colourful method at conferences/events. I find it makes me listen in a different way, and the words/doodles do jog my memory.

I just draw onto my iPad using an app called notability. I like it because you can zoom in and out of areas, it has a good colour palette, and drawing features and a very handy undo/ redo button. Other people seem to quite like them too and I share them (with a CC licence) via a Flickr album.

More and more people seem to be doing this – or maybe I’m just more aware of them. I’ll never be a Giula Forsthye or Kevin Mears but I think I’ll continue to doodle for another year.