Tag Archives: edtech

“We are really important to the future of education”

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

ALTC 2018

Last month, courtesy of being awarded a UCISA bursary, I travelled up to Manchester (the city of 100,000 students) for the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Conference 2018. While it was my first ALTC, it was actually the 25th in the series and there was considerable reflection on changes to the learning technologist role and in learning technology itself.  In my posts about ALTC, I want to share some of the noticeable themes and my favourite moments.
The ALTC 2018 committee team launch the conference

I am woman

This year saw three inspiring women providing the ALTC plenaries, unfortunately, unusual enough an occurrence that it warrants comment. On day 1 Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, gave a sociological unpacking of educational technology and explored the idea that context matters and learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Tessie suggested that the time is right for us to deconstruct learning technology and consider how we want to put the pieces back together. Learning technologies have (in the US) emerged as administrative units but would they benefit from being a unique academic discipline? She shared the example of the born digital programmes she has led on where “edtech is not just a set of tools but a philosophy about how we think about things” – offering opportunities to the non-traditional student.
On day 2 Amber Thomas, Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick, gave a wonderful talk considering ‘Twenty years on the edge’. You can read a summary on her blog: Fragments of Amber.  Way too much good stuff to write about here but the main take away was a pat on the back for those of us working with learning technology in HE.
ALT’s 25 year anniversary playing card pack
Things aren’t easy – not only do we suffer from impostor syndrome when we do well but there is also a misapprehension that innovation is isolated to the commercial sector and that governments and agencies are blockers of change. Amber pointed out some of our collective work, from 3.5 million spent on MOOCs, to great collaborative projects and organisations including Ferl, Jisc and EU projects. However, change in universities requires patience and it is important that we listen to the mainstream, after all digital is really about people. We need to be ethical, respectful and useful, for we are “really important to the future of education”.
Dr Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of ALT, gave the last plenary of the conference ‘Beyond advocacy: Who shapes the future of Learning Technology?’. She brought together the conference themes, a good dose of ethics (“equality is everyone’s responsibility”) and empowerment pants.
Amber Thomas presents her twenty years on the edge
She considered the difficulties learning technologists face in being both advocate and critic in a “risky business” where things often go wrong. Perhaps we need to get better at sharing our failings. Maren concluded with a personal reflection that “EdTech is a field of practice, not a discipline”. You can read Maren’s recent post on the state of Education Technology in HE on WonkHE.

Beetastic Manchester
More to follow on the noticeable themes and favourite moments at ALTC.
This blog first appeared in the ‘Digital Transformation at RAU’ blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Getting into the zone for Educause 2016

liz_ellis

 

 

Elizabeth Ellis
Product Development Manager
Learning Innovation, Learning and Teaching Solutions,
The  Open University

So, here I am, in a hotel in Anaheim, California, getting into the zone for my first Educause experience. To say that Educause has been a bit of a holy grail for me conference-wise would be an understatement. All the information I’ve received about the conference from colleagues who have attended before has been that it is a unique intersection between edtech, IT, and learning and teaching practice.

I’ve identified already the tracks

that I’m going to focus on and which have the most immediate relevance to my work. I’m hoping to bounce between ‘Driving Innovation in Teaching and Learning’ and ‘Transforming the Student Experience’. As a product development manager in Learning Innovation/Technology Enhanced Learning at The Open University, you get used to having to slightly squint to see the direct relevance of approaches, methods, and findings to your own situation. But increasingly over the last few years, that squinting has had to become less and less as the sector has moved more into the OU’s realm of Supported Online Learning (SOL). So, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the sessions have to offer.

My work in particular over the last year has come to focus not just on the development of new tools and technologies for our students to use, but also on new methods to involve them in that process, in an appreciative and empathetic way.

Perhaps the most challenging part of these types of events is running the vendor gauntlet. But this time I’ve come prepared, and have put some thought into the sorts of criteria I can use to make assessing new technologies more useful over the long term (and also make reporting back to my colleagues more helpful).

  • Is this technology a disruptive or incremental innovation
  • Does this technology support:
    1. Participative learning (students contributing in non-assessment ways)
    2. Learning to learn (students becoming more digitally confidence and creative)
    3. Deeper engagement with learning materials (new strategies for immersive learning)
    4. Collaborative learning (the ongoing curse and joy of group work)
  • Does this technology demonstrate:
    1. Improvements in student attainment
    2. Improvements in student progression
    3. Improvement in student retention

At the very least, it will hopefully spark a useful conversation or two.