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Digital education

ELTT Summer Holiday: conference season

16 July 2014

by Dewi Parry

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve dusted off the suitcases and headed out of the office to parts of South Wales we hadn’t visited for a while, in pursuit of some new knowledge, some tips, and to meet some old friends and new faces this summer!

Swansea University

First up, we caught the train to Swansea (26/6/14), where their SALT (Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching) team hosted the “SALT Excellence in Learning and Teaching 2014” conference. The keynote speech was delivered by Tim Bilham (Bath), titled “Disruptive innovation in learning and teaching” (Video 49.04).

Bilham discussed the issue of innovation around learning and teaching, and in particular, his take on disruptive innovation and its application to blended learning and competency-based learning. He went on to discuss incremental development – making existing processes and technologies do things better – an approach we are currently undertaking here at ELTT. He also discussed what might constitute innovative teaching and learning, for example: Open Learning, Workplace Learning, mobile-learning, student engagement, and in particular MOOCs and the Flipped Classroom model. Unsurprisingly, the latter are two things we were destined to see more of this summer!

Our favourite session of the day came from Stuart Macdonald of the College of Law: “Live Tweeting in Lectures: A Pilot Study” (Video 28.56). We’re often asked about the potential benefits of live tweeting in lectures and this presentation wrapped up an interesting case study.  Stuart explained the principal benefits he observed (making learning more enjoyable, encouragement of student-student/student-staff engagement, aids to revision), plus the extended benefits (prompting discussion in seminars, engaging with the academic community, and wider community and agencies) and the drawbacks (students with no account, students who felt they had nothing worth tweeting), as well as practical suggestions for implementation for others wishing to try it.

Further information links about the SALT conference are found below:

University of South Wales

Next we turned our attention to the University of South Wales, and CELT’s (Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) “New Approaches to Enhancing Learning through Technology” event in Treforest (04/07/14), at which we were joined by Joe Nicholls, who had his own take (link requires University login) on the sessions. This conference was a day with Professor Curt Bonk (Indiana University) on how technology continues to change and challenge the way we learn and teach. Curt took us through his TEC-VARIETY and R2D2 models (clearly a massive Star Wars and Star Trek fan!), detailing dozens of ways to engage learners. These were helpful as reminders that there are plenty of working examples of technology in education out there! (Curt tends to favour the ‘open’ approach to learning and technology, and there’s plenty out there if that’s your bag). One tool won’t meet everyone’s needs, so it’s a case of knowing what’s out there and finding what works for you. The trick from a learning technologist’s angle is how to pedagogically embed and integrate these approaches into teaching, and how to communicate the benefits effectively to staff and students here at Cardiff.

Curt went on to give an introduction to the flipped classroom model: “Are You Flipping Out or Flipping In?: The How’s, Why’s, and What’s of the Flipped Classroom Model” and an introduction to the world of MOOCs: “Learning is Changing: MOOCs, The Open World, and Beyond”. (What? Flipping and MOOCs here too?)  Most of Curt’s materials are available online, so if you are looking for learning technology ideas, you will find a lot!

Further information links about the conference are found below:

Dr Vince KnightCardiff University

And so we arrived back at Cardiff, a little bit older, perhaps a little bit wiser, and just in time for our own annual learning and teaching conference, “Academic Support” organised by the Cardiff University Education Team (09/07/14). A particular highlight this year (being who we are) was the second plenary session, titled “Tools and Practices for Supporting Students”. The presentations for this session included:

These presentations for me highlighted some of the processes we are trying here at Cardiff – reflecting and improving on practice, engaging and empowering our students, and adopting collaborative approaches between staff and students. The recordings are not ready yet, but we will make sure we link to them here once they’re live.

Further information links about the conference are found below:

On a final note, thanks a lot to all the organisers involved in these events. They are free events that bring a great deal of benefit to delegates like ourselves. It’s very much appreciated. It’s been clear to us on our travels that teaching has come back into focus for many universities (which we can’t help but applaud); staff are facing new challenges going forward, but are having the same conversations across campuses up and down the country. Unsurprisingly, the flipped learning model and the MOOC were the most presented topics this year, proving that there is definite interest in exploring new ways of teaching and learning across the board.

Don’t forget ELTT are here to help with your explorations in learning technologies!

Writing this post, Dewi’s been listening to: Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children (1998).


  1. Simon Wood

    Great post, thanks for all the links and details. Much to digest!

    Though I really feel that, writing this post, Dewi should have been listening to this.

  2. Dewi Parry

    Thanks for reading the post Simon, it did cross my mind that one!!

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