It’s January, it’s cold and dark outside but bringing a little ray of collaborative sunshine and social media goodness back into our lives is BYOD4L.
BYOD4L is really all about community. I have been part of that community first iteration of the event, and I’m delighted once again to be be part of the organising team with Alex Spiers, Neil Withnell. Joining us this year are Debbie Baff and Suzanne Faulkner.
This year we will be following our familiar model. Each day will have a theme which you can explore and share your experiences in our Google+ community, twitter or where ever you want to really. Each night between 8-9 pm (BST) in a tweet chat. This year we have extended the C’s. So with connecting we have confidence; with communication we have (digital) capabilities, copyright is added to curation, with collaborating we have community; and for our final day we have added celebrating to creating.
I hope to see many of you online next week and would love to hear your stories about how you use BYOD4L as part of your personal and professional development.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the programme support aspect of my job is that I get to find out about a lot of really innovative work taking place across a diverse range of UK universities. On the flip side of this, I do sometimes yearn to be part of the development of projects instead of always just being on the outside looking in once plans have been made and funding secured. I also often wonder if anything I write about in my blog does actually make any difference or is useful to the wider to community.
So I was delighted yesterday to spend the afternoon at Edinburgh Napier University at an internal seminar exploring their digital future and technological ambitions. I was even more delighted a couple of weeks ago when Keith Smyth contacted me about attending the event, and said that the series of blog posts I wrote with my Strathclyde colleague Bill Johnston on the Digital University, had been really useful and timely for Napier in terms of them starting to think about how to develop their approach to a digital strategy.
Yesterday’s seminar was an opportunity for staff from across the institution to come together and share their experiences and views on what their real needs and aspirations are in terms of the future (digital) shape of the university. Napier are already involved in a number of innovative projects internally, and are committed to open practice, particularly in regards to their work in learning technology. For example their 3E Framework for effective use of technology in teaching and learning, is available via a CC licence and is being used/adapted by over 20 institutions worldwide who have all agreed to share their adaptations. A great example of how open practice can not only improve internal working practices but also have an impact in terms of helping community knowledge grow in an open, shareable way too. The framework is also linked to a resource bank,with examples of the framework in action, which again is openly available.
Like many institutions, podcasting is a growing trend and their College2Uni podcasts which were originally designed to help student transition from college to university are now being used for wider community driven information sharing initiatives. Plans for an open access journal are also well underway.
But what/where next? What should the long, medium and short term goals for the institution be? Participants were asked to consider “what will today’s ten year old’s expect when they come to University in 2020?” Delegates were divided into six groups set short (i.e. can be in place in a year) as well as longer term aspirational goals. The six themes were:
*Developing digital literacies
*Digitally enhanced education
*Digital communication and outreach
*Digital infrastructure and integration
Again, another wee ego boost, was seeing how the matrix Bill and I have developed, provided a framework for the discussions and planning of the workshop.
It was also a good opportunity for me to highlight work from a number of JISC programmes including Developing Digital Literacies, Assessment and Feedback, and Curriculum Design and Delivery and the growing number of resources from all these programmes which are available from the Design Studio.
There was a genuine enthusiasm from all the delegates a number of suggestions for easily achievable short term goals including single sign on for all uni accounts, more co-ordinated and easily accessible communication channels (for staff and students), experimenting with lay out of lecture spaces, developing a more coherent strategy for mobile devices. Longer term goals were generally centred on ubiquitous access to information, continuous development of staff and student skills including supporting open practices, ways to differentiate Napier and how to take advantage of affordances of the all pervasive MOOCs and indeed the changing landscape of HE. Content maybe more plentiful in 2020 but not everyone has the skills to take an MIT/Stanford/Everyotherbignameuniversity open course without support. There are a lot of skills which we know employers are looking for which aren’t supported through these large scale distance models of education. The need for new spaces (both digital and physical) for experimentation and play for both staff and students was highlighted as a key way to support innovation. You can get a flavour of the discussion by searching the #digiednap archive.
The next steps for Napier, are the forming of working group to take forward the most popular ideas from the session. There was a bit of the old “dotmocracy” with delegates voting for their preferred short terms ideas:
and work on more strategic developments over the coming year. I am really looking forward to working with colleagues in Napier as a critical friend to these developments, and being part of a project from the outset and seeing first hand how it develops.
Over the last two months, The Open University, the University of Bolton, KU Leuven, and IMC, with funding from JISC, have been working to develop a Widget Store aimed at the UK education sector using a codebase shared across and sustained by a range of other EU projects and consortia. (see Scott’s post for more details on the technical work and getting involved).
The Creating and Education App Store for the UK session at the CETIS conference, was the first opportunity for the team to share, firstly the vision of a shared codebase to underpin a range of existing and potential widget stores. And secondly, to share initial prototypes of UIs, and get feedback on the work to date and potential future development ideas from delegates.
Fridolin Wild (OU) gave a useful overview presentation “the university in a box” which highlighted the work of the OU in various widget related projects and initiatives which have built on the notion of the personalised learning environment.
Scott Wilson, (University of Bolton/CETIS) then set the wider context of widget developments, from W3C o the JISC DVLE programme, which is neatly encapsulated in the diagram below.
One of the key parts of the work is to provide extended community building features such as ratings, comments, use cases etc. As well as providing additional support for users of the store(s), Scott also outlined plans to share this “paradata” via the JLeRN Learning Registry node (which was discussed as part of a parallel conference session).
Over the 3 hour session there was much discussion around three key areas:
1. Institutional use of such a store: e.g. how would you use such a store? Have a local installation or use a hosted services? Implement connectors using IMS LTI for example.
2. Tracking and Recommendation services: what would be captured? how would it be shared? How could useful analytics be captured and used?
3. Widget Authoring: led by the Widgat team a useful discussion centred around their widget authoring tool.
For the conference plenary a two slide summary was produced, and look out for more details on the store over the coming months on this blog.
Well not quite an app for the report itself which has just been published, but there is now a weekly HZ EdTech Weekly App, as well as a useful short video summarising the key technologies identified in this years report. Mobile apps and tablet computing top the near time adoption trends, game based learning and learning analytics the mid-term and gesture based computing and the internet of things (particularly smart objects) are in furthest term of 4-5 years.
The report itself is also available via iTunes under a creative commons licence.
You can watch the video and download the report and app by following this link
Over the past 18 months the projects funded through the JISC DVLE (Distributed Virtual Learning Environments) programme have been exploring ways to extend their provision of teaching and learning services. The W2C and SLEP projects joined for an virtual brown bag session to give an overview of the work they have been undertaking – particularly around developing access to greater and more personalised information for students.
Mark Stubbs (W2C project) started the session giving an overview of what they now call their Core+ DVLE model, aka their “mega mash-up”.
With their VLE (Moodle) at the centre the team have developed a number of web services from a range of institutional systems. This is now allowing students to access a number of services such as timetabling, PC availability, reading lists etc from mobile devices. Taking this web service approach has allowed the team to use the “develop once, deploy often” approach. Consistent tagging (based on existing commonly used tags such as course IDs etc) has also been key for integration. Mark also took us through some very interesting stats around usage of the services, and the students use of mobile devices.
Hugh Davies, Dave Millard and Yvonne Howard the took us through developments from the SLEP project. There are a number of similarities to be drawn to the mega mash-up approach of W2C. However a key difference being that Southampton don’t have a VLE at the centre, instead Sharepoint is at the centre of their developments, with new UIs being developed for students to access information. Using Sharepoint hasn’t been without it’s challenges, as the team did highlight, it hasn’t been as flexible as they first thought, however they are using the project to try and introduce more agile and user centred development processes into the mainstream of institutional provision of services.
Being Southampton the team have also be investigating ways to increase the use of open data, and so have been spending time working with internal groups such as the Data Access Group, to try implement and develop policy around the use and sharing of data.
The actual apps/services which each project has/is developing are pretty unique to each institution, however the over-arching principles and techniques could be applied to many institutions and shows that it is possible to create more distributed learning environments through the greater integration of existing systems allowing access from multiple devices. To find out more, a recording of this highly informative session is available online.
More information about the DVLE programme, including links to previous online sessions is available on the CETIS wiki.
What is the the future of technology in education? This is the premise for the FOTE conference which was held on 7 October at UCL. And the answer is . . . . 42, a piece of string? Well of course there isn’t a single one, and I don’t think there should be one definitive answer either, but parts of the complex jigsaw puzzle were highlighted over the day.
A few suggestions which were aired during the morning morning sessions included: it’s the standards and EA approaches on the latest Gartner education hype cycle; it’s “cool stuff” combining the physical and digital world to create engaging, memorable experiences (as exemplified by Bristol Uni); it’s predictive analytics; it’s flipped and naked; it’s games; it’s data objects; it’s the user – v – we don’t know as we haven’t figured out the purpose of education yet; it’s about better communication between IT departments and students. It’s about providing ubiquitous, reliable wifi access on campus and plenty of power sockets.
It’s probably a combination of all of these and more. But if we in education are to truly reap the benefits of the affordances of technology then we also need to be ensuring our culture is developing in parallel. As James Clay pointed out, people inherently don’t like change and this can be exacerbated in educational contexts. Why change when we’ve “always done it this way” or “it works, why change it?”. Students are powerful change agents – but only if our institutional processes allow them to be. Although there was knowing laughter around the room when he pointed out that “students are dangerous”, there was a serious underlying message. We need to be working more effectively with students to really uncover their needs for technology, and have meaningful interactions so that those in charge can make the most effective decisions about the services/hardware and software institutions provide. James rightly pointed out that we need to be asking students “what do you want to do” not “what do you want”.
There was also a lot of discussion over the day about students and “BYOD” (bring your own device). I think there is a general assumption now that students going to University will have a laptop and least one other mobile internet enable device (probably a phone). Which raises the question of institutional provision. During the day, I have to say I did feel that this panel session didn’t work that well, however it is actually the session/topic that I have spent most time thinking about since Friday.
On several occasions the student reps (and others) brought up the fact that often students don’t actually know if/where and when they can use their own devices in H/FE. Given the fact that in school all hardware is provided and personal devices are openly discouraged, this uncertainty isn’t that surprising, but I was glad to be reminded of it. Again this relates to the importance of recognising and allowing for cultural change and the importance of communication. Is it made clear to students when, where and how they can use their own devices (mobile, laptop and/or tablet)? How easy is it for students to find out about logging in to institutional services such as email, printers etc? How safe is it to carry your laptop/ipad to Uni? Do staff encourage or discourage use of personal devices in their classes? I’m sure that even amongst the technology savvy audience on Friday there were a few people wishing others weren’t constantly staring at their phones, laptops and predictably ipads and were listening to what the speakers were saying 🙂 After spending Tuesday at the Developing Digital Literacies Programme start up meeting, the issue of digital literacies is also key to the future technology in education.
All in all I found the day very engaging and thought provoking and the organisers should be congratulated for bringing together such a diverse range of speakers. I wonder what the future will look like this time next year?