by Dewi Parry
Ok, where do I start! Let’s go back to the beginning.
The annual ALT (Association for Learning Technology) conference – #ALTc is the UK’s main learning technology conference, and is held every September. Many colleagues from Cardiff have attended over the years (and have taken a lot from it), and I was really grateful I was given the green light to attend this year. The conference, held on the University of Warwick Campus this year, was themed around “Connect, Collaborate, Create”, and took place over 3 days (it’s a lot to take in!). For the full programme, please visit the ALTc website.
Caveat: I’ve not written about learning analytics, as this topic is covered in an earlier post by Geraint Evans.
In the Valley of the Trolls
The first keynote was delivered by Josie Fraser “In the Valley of the Trolls”. Fraser talked about specific contexts of open practice – social and political, and “digital environmental factors that shape, restrict and enable collaboration and collection”.
Within the talk, Fraser referred to open educational practice, and how it means sharing with people who don’t agree with you, which can be uncomfortable. This fear is also one of the first things mentioned when we discuss using twitter for teaching for example. Often, for staff, the fear is greater than the benefit.
Our own experience of delivering MOOCs over the past couple of years have opened our eyes to the real issues of trolling within open educational settings, and therefore we can sympathise with the concerns around moving practice out to the open, however the benefits of open practice are vast, and talks like this go a long way to alleviate initial fears, and there are many educators here that have embraced open education and whose students have benefitted from this shift in practice.
One of the messages was that we need to work together and need broader, more effective solutions to tackle trolling. The practical advice was to ignore, block, and report troll activity that makes you feel uncomfortable or is offensive. I’ve embedded the talk for you, and a few references for this topic, including a blog post by Jodie Fraser on the talk are available below.
- Blog Post: Alt-C 2016 Keynote: In the Valley of the Trolls – Josie Fraser
- This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – Whitney Phillips
- Speak Up & Stay Safe(r): A Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online Harassment
Open and flexible learning opportunities for all?
Richard Walker of York University presented findings from the 2016 UCISA TEL Survey on learning technology developments across the UK higher education sector. Walker discussed institutions using open platforms (e.g Futurelearn), but not necessarily seeing the corresponding increase in open source delivery, and institutions implementing lecture recording (like ourselves) and learning analytics. There was a lot of talk around learning analytics this year, and despite still being in it’s infancy (in usage terms), it’s obviously a key area for growth and understanding over the next few years. We’ll discuss analytics again in future posts.
Open learning was at the bottom of institutional drivers, and seen as informal, non accredited learning. The question of course is why that view is still prevalent, and what’s happening to chance opinion.
Walker has written about the key messages from the report (including Drivers and barriers to institutional TEL development, Centrally supported TEL tools and services and Approaches to TEL service management and support), and the blog post is available to read.
- 2016 UCISA TEL Survey – Full report
- Key messages from the 2016 UCISA TEL Survey
- Storify link for presentation
- Presentation Slides
- Summary 2016 TEL Survey findings on Learning Analytics
Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities
Finally, for day one, Lia Commissar from the Wellcome Trust gave the closing keynote which was themed around educational neuroscience, which brings together neuroscience, psychology and education. I really enjoyed the talk, which discussed education becoming more evidence informed. I particularly enjoyed the myth-busting element of the talk, and to hear about “Neuromyths” – where do they come from, are they a problem and what to do about them.
- The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)
- Learning Zone – Education and Neuroscience Initiative
- Centre for Educational Neuroscience