All Change

So, after what seems and is a break from blogging in my own space, I’ve decided to start this back up again. Partially, it’s because I’ve made a significant change in my life, namely I’ve changed jobs, leaving NTU after almost 12 years and partially because several things have come together leading me to reflect further on how I want to move forward with my presence online.

I still have my professional identity but I’m currently reflecting on using this as more of a personal space as opposed to a professional one. However, due to the nature of my role, it’s inevitable that the two are interlinked, and while this will always be a space for my personal reflections, broader observations related to my role will no doubt be apparent.

So, this week has been about change, change in role, change in employer, change in routine and change in perspective.

For example, my perspective at the moment is one of a new starter, feeling their way around a new organisation and it’s particular landscape. It’s never a bad place to be. A different perspective allows us to see familiar territory in a new light, look anew at something we thought we understood and to see it afresh through a different lens. A chance with the change to make new or different connections.


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Leading the way for all? Thoughts on ALT-C 2014

Photo of Club BiscuitsSo my visit ALT-C was slightly shorter this year. Bringing the conference forward clashed with a significant milestone in our house so while enjoyable I needed to leave after two days. I felt quite positive about ALT-C in terms of the programme. The quality of the presentations was good and while, as always, there is never enough time for debate, there was a good atmosphere. There were some interesting discussions and clearly some concerns about impacts of certain policy decisions.

For me, I came away with two clear messages. We need to continue to invest in staff and ensure that they have the tools at their disposal to help with using technology in their learning and teaching. And secondly, support those who would lead, not necessarily in terms of being experts in TEL, but from module leaders through to senior management, we need to be thinking about enabling those leaders to navigate the myriad of issues that you face when looking to do something innovative or just different. Simon Kear put it quite succinctly in his discussion looking at electronic management assessment at Goldsmith’s. Whether staff like it or not, the eAssessment wall is coming and if they’re not prepared it’s going to hit them smack on. Rather robust but a fair assessment of what will be here in the next five years.

If there was a scenario where leadership and staff skills were going to needed to be at the forefront, it was Jeff Haywood’s opening keynote where he announced Edinburgh’s ambitious plans to have a core unit/module in every course fully online by 2020. Such a plan will mean a significant investment in staff and a radical overhaul of curriculum for some. On the plus side, timetabling might be a little easier and with the cap coming off student numbers in a short time, Edinburgh’s decision to go fully online may also be born out of a projected necessity. How those leaders choose to move forward with those plans interests me and Catherine Cronin gave an inspirational keynote on Tuesday about one way in which to tackle that with her engaging talk about openness and our perceptions on what it means to be open.

This particular keynote struck a chord with me, as it appeared to do with many in the lecture hall. Catherine asked some challenging questions for us as educators about how open we are with our students and how being open addresses thepower dynamics between educator and student. I’m interested in what it may mean for our leaders. The panel discussion on TEL leadership across the globe focused on the differences in leadership in different localities and the need for succession planning. There was less discussion on management style and ways leaders, at any level in an organisation, leading on TEL might be able to influence and impact on policies. Nor on enabling strategies to tackle our ongoing challenge of moving on from pockets of innovation to TEL being adopted at scale.

Finally, but certainly by no means least, this year the biennial UCISA TEL Survey report was published in time for ALT-C. My colleague, Richard Walker gave a quick overview of the report but 20 mins is no time to go over it in detail. A far more lively, and distinctly noisy discussion happened between the M25 and East Midlands Learning Technologists Groups where Julie Voce provided some comparative data. There were some clear and surprising differences between the groups not necessarily answered by looking at the demographic of the institutions represented. For example, there was a significant difference between the M25 and EMLT region when it came to ranking TEL Barriers. Interestingly, Lack of Incentives and Lack of  academic staff commitment was ranked a high barrier for the M25 region but for the East Midlands it was much less so. Why would this be the case? I don’t have the answer but when the M25 LT group noted that the East Midlands group always have cakes or biscuits at their meetings, it was suggested that that in itself might be part of the answer. I’ll leave you to come to you own conclusions on that one.

So overall, a short but targeted ALT-C this year. Warwick University is a lovely campus but it was hard to get to and perhaps the conference venue wasn’t the best. Certainly the timing for the conference was a challenge this year being a week earlier. Next year it’s back in it’s usual time slot and back in Manchester. I might be able to join for the whole shebang next year.

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Re-invigorating Bluetree blog

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here and those that I have posted have been a little irregular. Part of the reason is that I’m heavily involved with the Changing the Learning Landscape programme, which is great and a fantastic experience but I’d like to capture some of my personal reflections on that.
In addition, I’ve been helping build up the Digital Practice team blog which is starting to develop a really good set of resources and information.
I’ve been blogging on and off for a substantive amount of time- initially starting out as a contributer to the Auricle blog as part of the eLearning team at the University of Bath.
But as a leader of my own team, wanting to encourage the sharing and reflection of our team experiences I really need to be more proactive in this myself.
So what am I doing to see if this can achieved? I’m going to take part in DailyPost’s ZerotoHero project over at Let’s see how it goes.

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Digital Practice at NTU

So this afternoon I gave a presentation on the work we’ve been doing around Digital Practice Framework to help the Digital Practice team conceptualise the staff development activities that we should be developing.
Our concept of Digital Practice draws heavily on the ideas and concepts of digital literacy.  We have outlined our principles and current services here. However, we support a broad range of staff from those who are involved in learning and teaching to our school based admin staff and those who lead and manage at NTU. So our choice of ‘practice’ versus ‘literacy’ was a deliberate one to make what we are trying to achieve accessible to a broad range of staff learners.
Our framework draws heavily of the ‘Framework for developing digitally literate learners’ presented at ALT-C, 2009 by Sharpe, Beetham and McGill. We’ve interpreted this framework very much from a practitioner’s perspective and asked ourselves what are some of the relevant staff development activities and methodologies that are appropriate to where someone is on that framework.

Digital Practice Framework

There’s a brief guide to using the framework that’s available via the Sharing Beyond NTU open repository:

The presentation is also available via the repository:

One of the interesting questions that came up at this afternoon’s session, was individual’s response to locating themselves on the framework. While, we’ve identified the benefit of using the framework to analyse the support for digital literacy across our Professional Services at an institutional level and with our own provision, we’ve not currently considered using it on an individual basis. So an avenue for some future exploration.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone finds the framework useful in their own work.

We’re starting up a Digital Practice Blog as part of a pilot at NTU so you can also find a replica of this post over at:

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Changing the Learning Landscape

Yesterday I attended one of the Changing the Learning Landscape events promoted by the HEA on Influencing strategy and change processes to enable the embedding of digital literacies, hosted at  University of Leeds. As we’re starting out on our own small Changing the Learning Landscape project, this was a really opportune event to attend as we start put the flesh on the bones of our proposal, working with Myles Danson from JISC.
I certainly came away with plenty of food for thought in terms of some examples of how Digital literacy has been taken forward at different institutions, see for example the Digitalis project and Leeds Met Student Union working with the Head of eLearning to explore the use of Google Nexus tablets with staff and students on a non-techie course.
Some of the discussions sessions led by Lawie Phipps from JISC around student engagement and some of the tools and models introduced will be of help with the project team discussions with Myles as we take our own CLL project forward.

Equally useful were the sessions from Elizabeth Cleaver, University of Hull and Susannah Quinsee, City University around strategy and change processes; getting us to think about the levels through the organisation that we need to deal with and a thought provoking look at change management with HE institutions and how flexible those processes really need to be.  Sometimes a challenge in an institution as large as NTU.

Overall a really useful and constructive event.

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‘Til next time we meet, UKOLN.

This views expressed in this post are my own and do not represent in any way the views of my employer.
It was with sadness that I read Brian Kelly’s blog post yesterday about the demise in all but name of UKOLN. As a former member of the eLearning team at the University of Bath I know some of the people involved personally, so this post not only expresses my feelings about the lost of a great service in UKOLN but about the impact of this decision on those individuals. Sadly, it is via changes (which may be perceived as small in the bigger scheme of things, not small to those involved) that we are seeing the HE sector inexorably changed, similar to what is happening in the NHS. When the rich experience of the individuals involved is lost, history has shown us that it takes far longer than anticipated to build up that experience again.

To all those all involved I just wanted to say; I know you’re probably feeling a range of emotions rights now. Anger, fear, frustration, disbelief (that curve Brian, is reasonably accurate) but take heart from someone who’s been through some similar experiences. Hold your heads high, have a look at some of the comments on Brian’s blog post (print it out so you’ve got a copy). You should all be incredibly proud of the achievements that you have collectively produced as UKOLN. I know that being proud only goes so far when you’re worrying about the mortgage and bills and I don’t have a crystal ball to say everything is going to be fine. But you are all talented individuals and there is a path out there for you. Sometimes it takes a while to notice where it is and sometimes you don’t realise you been on it for a while til you take time to look back.

And Brian -the other end of a dynamic corridor! I wish you well and wanted to say it was great working with you, exchanging ideas, showing off new techie gadgets and to chat about folkie related things. Again, take heart from all those comments on your post. And when your head’s recovered from the beer and clubbing know that there is a substantive part of the HE sector that has valued your contribution and your thoughtful, informative, considered posts. I have never known a time when I mention at a conference having worked with you, someone else in the room pipes up, ‘Oh, yes I know Brian Kelly!’. There is a message in that for you!

So, good luck to all those UKOLN who have been affected by this, we thank you for the richness, professionalism, energy  you have brought to the sector. It really will be poorer without you and all the very best wishes for whatever the future holds for you.

And to JISC, – really what were you thinking!

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eLearning Showcase at NTU

Back at the end of March I was lucky enough to chair one of the sessions at NTU’s eLearning showcase. The session I covered looked at two different areas. Jane Challinor presented on ‘Adventures wtih students on the world wide web: eLearning tools beyond the VLE’ and Maria Kontogianni presented ‘On Using twitter for learning’.

Both presentations were enjoyable and gave staff some key insights into using different technologies for enhancing learning and teaching.

Jane’s presentation looked at introducing students to working online collaboratively using wiki’s to help them analyse the leadership skills of film or TV characters and to prepare a final online presentation. To help her build student’s confidence in the activity that she set, Jane based the activity around Gilly Salmon’s 5 stage model for developing e-tivities (see explaining what she did to support students at each stage of the process.  Her evaluation found that student’s confidence in using web based tools for learning had grown by the end of the activity including an better understanding of using blogs for reflection purposes. Jane’s presentation can be found on slideshare at Beyond the VLE.

Maria’s presentation looked how she used Twitter with Psychology  students to engage in fortnightly debating sessions. Students were given clear instructions about how to setup their twitter accounts and then Maria would email them topic materials. The twitter debate is timetabled as student are expected to join the debate wherever they are physically.

Maria evaluated the student’s experiences of contributing to a twitter debate compared to face to face interaction within the group and the general trend was that student felt more able to contribute and found it more enjoyable with perhaps the most startling jump in the amount of pre-reading students did before the debates.  If you’re interested in more details about Maria’s work in this area you can find more at her blog.

Both presentations were really good examples of the use of technologies other than Virtual Learning Environments such as NOW, NTU’s VLE.

What was also interesting was to see how students engagement with the online activities really developed and took off as they got more involved with the activity with the technology employed really taking second place to the task at hand.

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