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Part of my role at the LSE that I really enjoy is working with staff to find novel solutions to age-old problems. So a few weeks ago I was invited to discuss with colleagues in a research and teaching 'cluster' within a department that perennial question: "what's the point of an away day?"

The head of department appeared to want the staff to spend the day writing serious funding proposals and yet a survey of the staff suggested they wanted to "have fun, and get to know each-other." The away-day became a half day and the focus remained a little vague. The fixed points were lunch at noon, a gastro-pub at 5pm, and those apparent polar opposites, 'research applications' and 'fun'.

The result was an off-campus half day at St Martin in the the Fields, in the newly refurbished St Martin's Hall. I had organised a 'research-poster workshop', in which tables of 4 or 5 colleagues, of different grades, backgrounds and discipline focus (socially engineered by the departmental manager), worked from a 'mock' European Journal funding call. The funding call, which modelled the 'real thing',  invited applications for 12-24 month projects to build research networks with at least three country partners and a particular discipline focus. There was a specification about dissemination, use of technology and so on. The session ran along lines similar to the 'World-Cafe' concept. So each table had to come up with a draft idea, blu-tac their A2 poster to the wall and then circulate around the other four groups' posters providing feedback in the form of post-its (colour coded for each group).

Workshop Image

Away Day World Cafe model
Research Poster Workshop

The second session then allowed groups to revise their posters, go around and ask for clarification on any feedback received and produce a 'final' version of their research network proposal. All the while, the groups had a copy of the 'marking criteria that would be used at the end, by them, to judge each-others efforts.

Final posters were put up and the groups circulated 'marking' the submissions. Each group had to come up with an agreed mark for each of the posters under some time pressure. As the 'very light touch' facilitator I went around between each round and photographed the posters, and I threw in a 'red-herring' with an envelope for each group suggesting a rumour that "The DG apparently likes.....".

The effect was to have groups explore:

  • the difficulty of working with criteria which can appear ambiguous and needs careful unpacking;
  • the advantages of collegial review at both the developmental and final stages of proposals;
  • the need to think often 'outside the box' to come up with something original;
  • the danger of getting so carried away on a good idea it evades the call;
  • the danger of listening to rumour;
  • and that it is possible to have fun and still talk about research funding applications!

The feedback was gratifyingly positive and I'd suggest it's an excellent model for a half-day workshop that recognises the need for junior staff to benefit from the experience of more seasoned researchers whilst bringing creatively and innovation to the process. It was also fun! Any workshop where people willingly stand-up and start moving is good to see!

Great news yesterday from the 27th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on August 3-5 2011 as they issued a workshop invitation to Kevin Burden and myself to present the DiAL-e Framework.

We are really delighted to have this news and keen to explore with a US audience some of the resources outside the original JISC digitization projects which initiated our framework approach. This project started in 2006 as a very small 'assisted take-up' activity for JISC but has maintained a consistent level of interest, development and support.

We are also keen to develop with our US colleagues, at this specific gathering with the focus on distance education,  the 'spaces' dimension of the framework and look at how access to digital artefacts via laptops, tablets and handheld devices affects the pedagogical affordances presumed of them. We'll be tweeting at #dialeUS as we plan and prepare for the conference. We hope some of you will join us.

It was a great pleasure to work with colleagues at SRCE in Zagreb on Wednesday 8th for the 2nd National e-Learning Day (Here's a full programme for the day http://bit.ly/eqk68w ) My Adobe Connect Webinar was recorded and is available online. It's always interesting to watch yourself but I do feel confident at least about the argument. There is a need to ensure that teaching staff see the process of professional development as one that prepares them to support the learning of each successive cohort of learners in an appropriate way, not as needing to find a technologigy solution to meet the 'current' perceive need.

The 40 minute webinar itself has also been shared and is available from SRCE online here: https://connect.srce.hr/p39469103/

Webinar Image Screencapture
Webinar 8th December

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a great pleasure to be virtually present.

I am currently in a symposium session at the Media and Learning conference in Brussels, sharing our ideas about how we might engage students and staff in Higher Education with media rich resources. We have explored the issue in some depth with a particular focus on identifying what students want from their University courses, and whether they really know what they want (want .v. needs). The panel have skirted around what we mean by the term 'engagement' but perhaps not as directly as we are trying to achieve with the DiAL-e framework. Its purpose is to focus on what students are engaged in doing during a learning session, rather than what the teacher/lecturer wants to deliver or even achieve.

There is a strong tendency, particularly amongst some of the non-UK speakers, to orientate themselves towards a predominantly transmission model of teaching in Higher Education whilst the DiAL-e framework is predicated far more around a learner perspective.

The DiAL-e framework has already proven to be a flexible set of designs which can be used in a range of different contexts and one of these is the EduTubePlus European project which I am currently working on. Along with my colleague, Theo Kuechel, we are demonstrating how the DiAL-e framework can be used to engage students at the forthcoming media and learning conference in Brussels. Watch this space for an update on the outcomes of this presentation next week!

Back in August I attended a 'sandpit', brainstorming workshop at School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. This was the second of three such sandpits forming the  LIVE!Museum project, led by Dr. Ross Parry at Leicester’s Museum Studies. LIVE!Museum  (more detail on the Museum Computer Group website) is an AHRC / BT funded initiative, led by Parry,  to create viable research projects exploring ‘live’ content.

On the 14th September we held the Research*Mart, a 'final  stage', drawing together work from 3 earlier ‘sandpits’. Details will appear on the Museum Computer Group site in due course. There were some 40 people present from curators and conservators, to academics and researcher, commercial museum designers, sound designers, software developers and educators. It was a thrilling day, but having contributed to early discussion of 'SmartSpaces' and 'LiveTAG', my passions definitely lay with 'I, Object' (possibly to be renamed) which explored the idea of the  individual museum object or artefact  being made ‘live’. The project seeks to explore the idea that the object can 'draw in' live content about itself, its semantic relationships, and its contemporary relevance in response to visitor interaction.

The educational opportunities, for learner (visitor) directed and initiated meaning making are significant and we know have to work out where the funding for this interesting work might come from.

DEANZ 2010 - Quality Connections - Boundless Possibilities: Through Open, Flexible and Distance Learning.

I'm biased because I played a minor role of the Organising Committee but I have to say this was one of the most enjoyable conference I have been to in many a year. Te Papa was a great venue, and the conference (25-28 April 2010) was fairly fast-paced, well punctuated with some quality keynotes and plenaries and a rather amusing 'Great Debate'. The personal highight for me was the keynote by Professor Terry Anderson

Anderson, T. (2010) Three Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy [PowerPoint]. Retrieved May 2, 2010 from http://cider.athabascau.ca/CIDERSessions/sessionarchive/

In this presentation Terry defines three pedagogical models that have defined distance education programming - behavioural/cognitive, constructivist and connectivist. He talks about the challenges and opportunity afforded by each model, with a focus on the emergent development of connectivism.

A fascinating review of developments in the field that illustrated clearly the ongoing tension between central institutional 'control' of enabling technologies and the 'license and liberty' that we increasingly hope students will exercise.

My own small contribution was as leader of the winning debate team ! Humble in victory as ever.....

Simon welcomes the win decision at the Great Debate
Humble in Victory: the win decision at the Great Debate

Watching yourself deliver a presentation is always interesting.

Always fascinating to watch yourself. I'm one of those people who feels someone detached and sits there thinking "this guy said..."
I had really enjoyed time at the conference and really felt like I was learning something. Maybe just having some time to sit and reflect was what I needed at this point in the cycle. I found it an interesting exercise in reevaluating my professional identity and watching myself present is always a kind of 'peer review' challenge, How honest should I be with myself !
My address at the end of the two day conference is available to watch here:2077: The Future of Learning Design

estonian e-Universities conference site
Always fun to ask questions

The Estonian e-Universities conference website and photo gallery went live over the Easter weekend. All the sessions were captured on video and these follow shortly. There are Estonian and English versions. http://conference2009.e-uni.ee/

The photo gallery is also now available.

Always fun to ask questions

Interesting meeting with the CompendiumLD team at the Open University

Had a long day 7 April getting across country from Wantage to Milton Keynes. A worthwhile trip though none the less. Met with Simon Cross, Paul Clark and Andrew Brasher from IET at the OU in the old Jenny Lee Library now all revamped and unrecognizable.

Nice to be back, wish I had had time to pop round and say hello to a few people. Grainne Conole popped in briefly.
I shared with them the development process that Kevin Burden and I had gone through to produce the DiAL-e Framework (www.dial-e.net) and some of the very recent attempts to make these designs real, reusable and malleable to front line academics. I’m really quite optimistic that the use of PowerPoint and other slideware, MovieMaker or other AV editing software and tools such as the eXe XHTML editor will make designs very accessible. What is less clear to me is how this will work with ‘learning design’ tools like LAMS and Compendium LD. LAMS creates these runtime learning engagements, and element of which might consist of a DiAL-e design but they are different.

Compendium LD to me looks like a fantastic tool for mapping curricula and looking at issues of assessment stress, workload management and the relationships between learning outcomes. One can see how a project tool like this, emerging from an institutional way of working at the OU has an application. It will be interesting to see how that translates into other institutional contexts.

I think there will be time to make all these DiAL-e designs available in a range of desktop deployment tools by the time of the European LD and LAMS conference in July and the decision now is whether to participate in the design bash.

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