ALT-C 2016: Conference round-up

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This will be my 7th ALT-C conference and it’s always a great opportunity to friends and colleagues from across the UK and catch up on what they have been doing over the previous year, ALT-C 2016 was no exception. As with my posts on previous years I’ll link to a few examples where I can.

Full Event Program: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2016/programme

Event Theme

This year the conference was held at the University of Warwick and its theme was Connect, Collaborate and Create.

  • Connecting data and analytics to enhance learning and teaching: exploring possibilities and making links.
  • Collaboration and innovation in the open: taking risks, sharing lessons and the importance of open practice.
  • Creating new learning, teaching and assessment opportunities: play, experiment, discover, embed to enhance learner experiences.

Learning analytics featured heavily in the program with a number of institutions talking about how they have begun to tackle this complex and thorny issue. Universities are having to balance both the practical requirements of this (How and why are we collecting this data), against the ethical considerations of should we. What if any amount of collection is too much and what options or not do the students have to opt out of the process. I’ve linked to a selection of the abstracts bellow.

Keynotes

There were the usual high standard of keynote presentations but for me the highlight was the Wednesday keynote by Ian Livingstone. As a life-long fan of the Fighting Fantasy series of books, which I credit as an important part of getting this (undiagnosed at the time) dyslexic through school, I had high hopes. I’m glad to say Ian didn’t disappoint. His presentation was informative and amusing, I’ve included it bellow. Along with a recount of his journey through the world of publishing (games and books) a common thread was the way in which we learn so much through the act of play and why has much of this been lost (or purposefully removed) from formal learning today.

Josie Fraser’s talk ‘In the Valley of the Trolls’ looked at the fascinating world of online trolls and provided thought provoking insights on how we might deal with them “Do Not Feed!’. A humorous example of the impact of trolls looked at Microsoft ‘Tay’. Launched on the 23rd March 2016 Tay was designed as an AI Twitter Chabot, developed to experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding. Tay would learn from the questions posed her and the more you chated with her the smarter her responses became. Within 16 hours Tay had become a racist, conspiracy theorist sex-bot and Microsoft had to take her offline. This happed as Twitter users targeted the Tay account with Hate speech, conspiracy theories (lots of conspiracy theories!) and lude text. The media’s response was predictably naive and only fuelled the Trolls activity. Full presentation bellow.

Other Keynotes

Sessions

Over the course of three days I attended over 20 sessions so I’ll just comment on the few that stood out for me.

Welcome to the m-assessment quiz show! 
I enjoyed this session which involved a lot of interaction for the audience. Lisa Donaldson demonstrated a range of online/mobile services which could be used for formative assessments, along with examples and suggestions of possible uses from simple classroom pop quizzes to deploying quizzes while on field trips. With the number of students owning a mobile smart devise somewhere in the region of 98%. Though not particularly scientific I recently asked a cohort of students (approx. 120 students) about smartphone ownership and everyone had one.
Such ubiquitous access to these devices and such a choice in platforms (both free and paid for) this is a great opportunity to make student teaching interactions far more interactive than previously

Other’s mentioned

 

TEL innovation in the open: engaging students as a route to sustainability
Dave Vance and Liz Ellis talked about some of the approaches to innovation and how to be quicker at it. They started out that in the case of the Open University the distance between the students and the academics isn’t just geographical it’s also cognitive, cultural and digital. Other than probably geographical this is true for most universities.
The thrust of their talk was around the concept of ‘Human Centred Design’ and how the adoption of Lean processes (Agile, Scrum, Kanban etc) more associated with software development and business has played a key role in this.
One particular initiative is the Hack-in-a-Box, a set of resources aimed at helping people run their own education Hack Days.

http://learninginnovation.open.ac.uk/hack-in-a-box/

Useful Links

 

It was quite interesting that there were a number of sessions which had a strong focus on staff development (more than I remember from previous years). Broadly these sessions looked at techniques such as the Flipped Classroom model, Employing tools such as Blackboard Collaborate for at desk scheduled or Just in time training and finally the use of micro-learning.

I also noticed much more interest in aligning training with recognised accreditation such as the UKPSF, CMALT and SEDA in the hope of creating more value to the training and attracting more staff interest (links to abstracts bellow).

Flipping heck! Be careful what you wish for

An experiment in open-access, micro-learning for educational technology training
Learning Technologists at MMU in response to increasing frustration at low engagement with training sessions came up with the idea of the 1 minute CPD. This consists of a daily one minute blog demonstrating one specific task, feature or concept encapsulate in a single one-minute video. The response that have had from their staff (and the wider learning community) has been very positive. The blog and it’s content has been licensed under creative commons so anyone may use it. I have even heard of others creating their own 1minuteCPD content so we may well start to see a network of 1minutecpd content accessible to all.

URL: 1minutecpd.co.uk

Using Microlearning to Drive the Adoption and Mainstreaming of Technology Enhanced Learning Tools in Higher Education
The Cork Institute of Technology has developed a collection of free online resources based around teaching with technology. The focus of the micro lessons are around themes rather than specific technologies. Examples of these are Online Discussions with Students, Student Managed Projects and Student Collaborative Development.
Along with the current 50 courses, more are on the way. There are also a wide range of case studies here as well.

URL: telu.me

Round-up

All-in-all another great event which has provided me with much food for thought and ideas for my own practice. A final thought that resonated with me comes from Donna Lanclos and David White keynote presentation. To paraphrase, they said…

You can’t solve ‘Teaching and Learning’. Teaching and learning is a set of practices, it’s something that we need to keep working at. To frame teaching and learning as a problem then you look for a solution and too often we see technology as that solution. In teaching and learning tech is not a solution, it is not the future, tech is here, now, all around us and being used on a daily basis by everyone.

This is a sentiment I have talked about often and should underpin much of how we engage with technology.

The above is just a snapshot of the event but it gives you a flavour of what was available. I’m looking forward to implementing the ideas generated from this and looking forward to next year.

If there is anything from this post that you would like to know more about contact me (b.parkinson@leeds.ac.uk) for a chat.

 

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