Where Sheila’s been this week,#elesig, workshopping and nominations

It’s been another busy week. Do you find time in November seems to speed up? I’m sure last week it was still October . . .

I started the week at the Scottish #elesig meeting in St Andrews. Despite the wind and rain it was a great day. The focus of the meeting was on supporting staff development to enhance the learning experience.  Keith Smyth gave an excellent keynote in the morning  titled “investigating and enhancing the staff experience with e-learning and learning technologies: what do we know and what can we do to move forward?”

Keith really made us all think about how we currently evaluate the use and impact of technology on learning and the need to extend our approaches to research


I was one of a number of speakers during the day who shared their experiences of supporting staff particularly in developing fully online course. As ever it was re-assuring to hear that we are all facing the same issues of confidence, digital literacy and workload allocation.  The afternoon ended with a series of 2 minute presentations which worked really well and gave a great overview of “stuff” from reflective portfolios to byod to simple enhanced video apps.

Vicki Dale has shared this storify of the event (we even trended on twitter at one point) which gives a really good overview of all the goodness that was shared over the day.

Part of my presentation focused on the way we have been using Trello to support learning design. The more we use it with staff, the more I like it. More importantly my colleagues like it too and are really starting to see the value of it to help them plan not only their new fully online modules but their f2f/blended ones too.

It is really helping people to plan and share a visual overview of their modules. I ran two workshops this week where we used it. I had a couple of Cheshire cat grinning moment during them as people started to use it to really unpack, record and share what they need to do. It is such a good example of technology being easy and flexible enough for people to just use and not distract them from what they are trying to do, but actually help them focus. One example of technology FTW.

Although my blog is very important to me, I realise that it’s not exactly the most visited place on the inter-web. I am as the say not doing this for any kind of glory or prize.  However it is always nice to get comments and see that some people do read it. I was really touched this week when David Hopkins included me in his nominations for this years edublog awards.  So dear reader, do you want to be my campaign manager?


Strategies, policy, consultation, devolution and the d(digital) factor 

Well it’s been quite a couple of weeks for education strategy and consultation, so yesterday’s ALT Scotland Policy board  was very timely in bringing a group of people from across the Scottish Education Sector together.

Like everyone else in HE, I’ve been watching and following the response the UK Government’s Green Paper (many thanks WonkHE for your excellent coverage). Like everyone else in Scottish HE, I’ve been wondering what impact this will have on us.  Education is a devolved issue so Scotland doesn’t have to follow the path of Evel though it will undoubtedly have an impact as this post from David Kernohan has highlighted.

In FE, we in Scotland are now starting to emerge from our great regionalisation just as our colleagues south of the border embark on theirs. In schools we have our Curriculum for Excellence which as well as giving many people headaches as it was developed, gave many of us a sense of relief from all that Michael Gove madness a couple of years ago.

In terms of open education due to the funding of the #ukoer programme Scottish institutions couldn’t be lead partners, so developing open-ness has been a much more grass roots movement here.  We are seeing more open policies being developed and approved, but there is still a way to go. Open-ness isn’t that high on many institutional strategic objectives, but there are many areas particularly around fully online delivery and widening participation where open education practice (not just policy) could have significant benefits that fit extremely well with strategic priorities.

Getting updates on current priorities from colleagues from SFC, QAA Scotland, Jisc, SQA, CDN, Open Scotland was invaluable.  It seems to me we seem to have less opportunity to do that now. I suspect that’s partly due to the emergence of the new Jisc, which doesn’t have the same capacity for community engagement as in years past. Having an active ALT Scotland group is filling some of that gap with meetings like yesterday’s.

ALTs voice, as an independent membership organisation has probably never been so important.  Responding to consultations such as the recent BIS inquiries into assessing quality in Higher Education and the Digital Economy has led to invitations to speak at Westminster Select Committee  meetings.

Something that came through yesterday is that we (and I’m speaking with my ALT Trustee hat on just now) need to try and find more ways to increase our involvement with the Scottish Government around education developments.

One way are doing this, and this was a substantial part of the meeting yesterday is to submit a formal response to the consultation process around the Scottish Governments Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for schools.

Digital also seemed to be a key unifying theme from the updates in the meeting. However the meaning of digital is contentious and, for me, quite troublesome . It is used in widely varying contexts.  From content to infrastructure to literacy, the ‘d’ factor is all pervasive just now.

I’m not going to  get into the debate about is “digital learning and teaching” different from “learning and teaching, instead I’ll focus in this post. However having attended one of the consultation events for the strategy last week and from the discussion yesterday, I am heartened that this consultation process is taking into account culture as well as technology.  It is perhaps more a teaching strategy, as for it to be realised, there will need to be recognition of the importance of CPD for staff. Digital literacy underpins the success of any digital initiative.

One thing that did come through yesterday was that there may be an opportunity to revisit some of the work done by the Scottish Government around the learner journey to try and connect all our education sectors.  The digital learning and teaching strategy will have to ensure that it fits with other key school priorities priorities such as the National Improvement Framework (NIF) but it provides a great opportunity for input from other sectors.

If we are extending digital assessment in the school and college sector from traditional paper based exams to more evidenced based digital artefacts, then we need to be doing even more of the same in HE.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could start introducing the concept of feedback/feedforward in school? That might help not just our NSS scores, but understanding and engagement of the process. Let’s get start developing open educational practice in schools for learners and staff, encourage a maker and sharer culture supported by creative commons and open badges.  The Digital Learning and Teaching strategy could provide an opportunity to start connecting some of the dots and strengthen the case for a digital infrastructure that supports extended and enhanced cross sectoral sharing of practice.

You can contribute to ALTs response to the consultation here.

 (image http://www.flickr.com/photos/fbz/187634854/ {{cc-by-2.0}} )

Hashtags over hearts

Like many people last week I was a bit bemused by the introduction of the heart button on twitter.  Kate Bowles has written a beautiful post about the corporate justification of highjacking emotions.  Lawrie Phipps took a more practical approach and summed up my use of the old like button:

it also made me think. I used the old star/favourite for two things. The first, I realised after reflection, was a lazy way of acknowledging that I had seen a tweet, but couldn’t be bothered to respond, or wasn’t something I wanted to retweet.

I do save all my tweets to a google doc, but I can’t remember the last time I actually looked at it. So, following Lawrie’s lead I have now decide to (well try to) use a small number of hashtags instead of the heart button and hopefully save and share tweets in a more meaningful way using an  IFTT recipe.

My # are:

  • #read (for articles I have/will/should read)
  • #share (for “stuff” I think is interesting to other like minded souls)
  • #fun (just because there should always be some fun at some point every day)
  • #like (because I like a lot of stuff and I still want to show/share that)

screenshot of IFTTT recipe

Where Sheila's been this week: opening up at the Open University

Earlier this week (and boy did I have to get up early for this one!) I presented at the Computers in Learning Research Group (CARLG) seminar at the Open University in Milton Keynes.  My talk “open education: research and reality” was primarily aimed a a group of new PhD students who are all researching various aspects of open education.

I used the invitation to take a reflective look at my own experiences of open education, my the evolution of my open practice and my relationship with research around open education. “Open Me” could well have been a more apt title for my talk, as I really used this phrase as a statement and as an invitation to explore the layers of my open practice. I used the Russian Doll metaphor to explain some the different layers and combinations of open-ness I experience.

picture of Russian doll

Much of my open-ness stems from my blogging activity, and I actively encouraged this group of new researchers to be as open in their research as early as possible.  I think I may have succeeded.


I always enjoy visiting the OU, but this visit was made even more special as I finally got to meet Helen Crump in person as she is one of the a-fore mentioned new PhD students. Helen and I met through open education (via the OLDS MOOC) and have had quite an open adventure together, not only studying together but being part of a collaborative writing team.  I count Helen not only as a colleague but as a friend. A friendship that was created and is sustained via open education.

You can view my presentation here, and there’s a recording on YouTube.