by Dewi Parry
Last week, we attended both the CEI’s Learning & Teaching Conference and the “Connect more in Wales, make the most of the power of digital” #connectmore16 held in the Village Hotel, Swansea. More to come on the Cardiff conference soon.
Having visited Jisc’s Digifest event in Birmingham earlier in the year, there was a big push for institutions to understand and appreciate the importance of digital, with high profile speakers such as Donna Lanclos dismissing the notion of the “digital native” and Eric Stoller discussing “why educators can’t live without social media”.
Connect more in Wales was focussed on connecting with peers and sharing good practice, and of course, making the most of digital.
Alyson Nicholson opened the first session with an update and news from Jisc. I was interested in the update from Cliona O’Neil of HEFCW, who gave a frank and honest talk about the current state of play around funding, resources, efficiencies, employability, digital literacy, student expectations etc… Alyson and Cliona’s slides can be viewed on slideshare.
The first breakout session I visited was “Leveraging change through digital capability” presented by Esther Barrett – Jisc, Geoff Elliott – Pembrokeshire College, and Berni Tyler ISA Training. It was good to hear about the Jisc discovery tool (launch imminent) – that helps staff discover their digital capability, and help them build their capability and skills using feedback. It was also good to hear from a past lecturer of mine, Geoff Elliott talking about his experiences of blended learning at Pembrokeshire College. Geoff ‘blends’ the traditional classroom or workshop elements with both eLearning and scheduled / supervised “independent” eLearning. The independent element comprises of pre-prepared or designed resources, is directed learning, asynchronous, with support that is offered and delivered remotely. Geoff also discussed lessons learnt, such as the need for commitment from the senior team, the need for all tutors on the course to be involved, the need for a delivery team, the need for training etc.
Following the breakout sessions, we attended the Pecha Kutcha sessions where our very own Simon Wood presented around “Involving remote students in face to face workshops” (from slide 40 onwards). Simon explained the logistical challenges that face the ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Centre, having students spread across Wales, and having 4 partner institutions to bring together. He also went through the advantages and disadvantages of some of the tools that have been available to him, such as Skype for business. Simon decided to use the Welsh Video network to host the sessions, and went through the methods of communication between the campuses and also went on to answer questions around lag (time delay) and tools he would like to try in the future, such as Panopto.
Simon has used a Periscope recording of his presentation from a mobile phone (thanks Sharon Cooke), and combined it with his slides within Panopto which is now available for you to watch, we’re impressed with the results! We were also impressed that his Pecha Kutcha presentation was impeccably timed!
During the afternoon, I attended the “Making a difference with technology-enhanced learning” session. It included a talk by Richard Speight around his Digiskills Cymru project, and also a talk by Debbie Baff from Swansea University around her experience of implementing digital badges for the recent Swansea SALT conference. Debbie gave an overview of what digital badges are, their purpose, and the incremental steps she had to take in order for them to be adopted for the conference. There’s been discussions around badges within the University recently, and some excellent work by Karl Luke and the team within the Pain Community Centre around implementing digital badges for CPD.
The final session of the day – “Connect more with the future” was split between Andy McGregor, Jisc’s deputy chief innovation officer, and Cardiff’s Bex Ferriday, Learning Technology Manager for the School of Healthcare Sciences. Andy discussed the R&D that’s happening at JISC at the moment, what’s in the pipeline, and how things get into the pipeline! Andy focussed on the key visions – data, learner control, AI and automation, staff skills and loop learning. Bex’s talk focussed on “Digital Literacy and Social Media”, and how students will need to be able to select the right tools in order to connect to relevant communities of practice. Bex then went on to talk about managing digital identity, digital curation and offered tips on guidance.
Jisc have a podcast now available called “Highlights from Connect more in Swansea” and all the presentation slides from the day are available on the “Connect more in Wales” website. There is also a storify page that collected all the tweets from the day.
On a final note, thanks a lot to all the organisers involved in these type of events. They are free events that bring a great deal of benefit to delegates like ourselves. It’s very much appreciated.