[:en]September IT Month 2016 – Enhancing Teaching, Learning and Assessment[:]

[:en]SeptemberITFrom September 8th through to October 7th there’s a comprehensive and exciting array of lunch-time seminars available to help staff at Swansea Make One Change, and have a go at using some technology to enhance your approach to learning, teaching or assessment and supporting student engagement. Have a look at what’s on offer!

The sessions include using Twitter and other tools to enhance student engagement, tools for groupwork, recording lectures, creating TedEd talks, blended learning as well as perhaps more familiar technology – Blackboard, the University’s virtual learning environment. But this isn’t just about covering the minimum requirements in Blackboard – its about using enhanced tools and techniques to engage and enthuse learners. Sessions will be covering what more you can do with Blackboard and some of its features, such as Campus Pack. There will also be Blackboard Drop-in sessions to help you with difficulties during the year.

Some will be delivered by SALT Team members, but others by your peers who’ve had experience of using these technologies in their courses. Come see them use it, listen to them talk through their challenges, discuss what has worked, and in most sessions try out the technology for yourself. Ask them questions!

Have you been reflecting on how you can enhance your teaching and/or support student learning? If you are already a Fellow of the HEA, how can you demonstrate that you are remaining in good standing? Are there any targets in your PDR regarding improving your teaching?

The sessions are being held in our refurbished Training Room on the Top floor of the Taliesin Building.

Finding us can be a challenge, but if you go the main library on the Singleton Campus, turn around to face north, and follow the gap between the Egypt Centre and the Keir Hardie Building you’ll find us! For a visual description, see our website contact details.

You do have to register for these sessions and spaces are limited to the first 20 registrants. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up![:]

HE/FE Show London – Engaged staff a blank Canvas?

Thursday 15th October was the HE/FE Show in London billed as the only show of its kind for HE and FE. Arriving at Earl’s court I was surprised to see that the train was not running and a circuitous route via West Brompton was needed. When I did get to Olympia there seemed to be no sign of the show. Had I got the wrong place? The wrong date? eventually I saw a sign point round the corner onto Earl’s Court Road. Olympia this was but BETT it wasn’t. It’s was just one small room, for a show as it was billed, about twice the size of the refectory in Fulton House. Despite it’s small size there were some interesting things there as well as plenty of not so interesting. I’ll stick with two of the interesting.

Canvas – there has been a lot of talk recently about Canvas, especially since Birmingham University switched completely to Canvas from Blackboard in 4 months last year. They have got nice shiny videos, glowing endorsements etc but as we know anyone can do that. So is it worth the hype? At the moment I don’t know. I had an interesting discussion with two of their team on their busy stand, which was probably the busiest in the show when I was there. They have an event in London on 4th November when the plan to reveal more. Have a look at the video and watch this space.


I was intrigued by the prospect of hearing Professor Peter Slee, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Huddersfield, talk about ‘An Engaged Workforce’. They reputedly have 100% of their teaching staff with HEA fellowship or a teaching qualification and it seems to be a great place to work judging by some of the awards they have won.

The Times Higher Education Best University Workplace 2014
The Times Higher Education Awards – University of the Year
The Guardian Higher Education Awards – Inspiring Leader Award

Professor Slee argued that many interactions drive the success or otherwise of their strategy. Therefore everyone needs to be able to understand and own the strategy. So the Huddersfield strategy is 2 sides of A4 – no preamble, no waffley management speak, no vanity fueled stats, just a simple strategy for all staff. There isn’t a separate document for managers and other staff. They all work from the same document and go in the same direction.

He followed this by saying that –
Bad managers tell people what to do.
People who think they are good managers explain why they want people to do what they want them to do.
Good managers involve people in designing what is best to do.

He then had three questions for teachers and managers –

Why would someone want to be taught by you?
Why would anyone want to be led by you?
If you had to apply for your own job, would you get it?

Tough questions especially the last but I think he was presenting it in a positive career development way. Everyone needs to keep developing their career and from what I can make out Huddersfield intend to empower people so that they are able to do it. CPD as a positive aid and not as a punishment.

Will our new Values based approach lead to a situation like this here at Swansea?

You will find the presentation slides here – http://www.thehigherandfurthereducationshow.co.uk/seminar/best-practice-an-excellent-and-engaged-workforce/?presentations=1

Some thoughts from the SALT Conference (morning presentations)

As you will be aware, the 6th Annual SALT Conference took place on Thursday 26 June 2014. For me, personally, I love to attend because I like to hear what others do in their teaching, and I usually take away plenty of ideas. This year was no exception, and the lateness of this blog post is because I wanted time to reflect on the conference, and to gather my thoughts and ideas together.

Within the SALT Team, we tried to split ourselves out across all the streams so that each of the presenters had someone on hand if they had any requirements. If I don’t mention any of the round tables/presentations it was because I wasn’t there (apologies!)

For me, there were a lot of highlights, but one of the things that stood out in particular for me was the panel and question time. I thought that being able to write questions down during the registration was useful, and I thought that the panel had some different perspectives which lent itself to some interesting discussions and room for further discussion. More on this in another blog post.

I stayed in Faraday A for the three presentation sessions, all of which were very good, and gave plenty of food for thought going forward.

Stuart MacDonald kicked off the presentations in style, talking about Live Tweeting in Lectures. As someone who tweets often, I was interested to see how it was used in the classroom. Stuart’s presentation took the audience through how it was used, and I liked the way the use of the hashtag for each lecture was used, thus enabling students to easily find what they were looking for.

The pilot of the live tweeting had some really useful benefits, such as academics from other institutions chipping in to discussions, which added weight to what the students were learning/discussing, as well as offering alternative viewpoints.

Ideally, they would like more learners to actually participate and ‘tweet’, though they did stress that several students were reading the twitter posts without actually sending tweets and so were participating after a fashion.

I feel that there is a lot to be learned from this pilot, and there is also a lot of potential for development – particularly in using twitter as a form of revision tool – for example using third party apps such as storify, to collate tweets around a specific hashtag. One to watch I think.

View the presentation here

Mark Jones and Sally Williams were up next with their presentation “A Blended Approach to work based learning. Experiences of learners in enhanced professional practice”.

I spoke to Mark briefly at the arrival and registration and he was rather nervous, this being his first conference presentation. I wouldn’t have thought it though, and was really interested in what he had to say. Though his research and presentation was around Health Care Practitioners who may be on placement etc, I felt that the lessons learnt were easily transferable, and I can certainly see a lot of potential for the Bay Campus.

Key points for me were the emphasis on the learning being student centred – “Learning starts with the learner and is focussed around them” and the extremely positive feedback from both the learners and practictioners. As a result of the blended learning, improvements were made to practice, service delivery and patient care.

The recording of the presentation can be found here

Feeding forward, Mark and Sally are looking to collaborate with other colleges, so if you are interested in finding out more then please contact Mark or Sally, or the SALT Team.

The final presentation came from Dr Michael Draper and one of his students (and president of the Law Society), Jack Golpin. What I particularly liked about this presentation was that the student perspective was very much integrated into the presentation, and Jack’s contribution only served to emphasised how valuable the role of the academic society was to their education.

Jack mentioned that first year student members of the Law Society are assigned mentors – could this be transferable to new staff? It was also noted that some students indicate that they join for networking and mentoring reasons.

Both Michael and Jack indicated that the society receive quality external speakers, and host events open to externals, thus giving students the opportunity to complement their studies, and being able to network with current practitioners in an informal setting.

Jack stated that “the main focus of [academic societies] is to assist students in studying [their subject]”

Their presentation can be found here

Sugata Mitra star turn at ALT-C

Without a doubt, the star of ALT-C 2010 (at least so far) was Prof. Sugata Mitra (who tweets as @sugatam). His keynote, The hole in the wall: self organising systems in education, was entertaining, mind boggling and exptremely inspirational. You can get a pretty good flavour of the talk from this TED talk filmed last July and recently released as Sugata Mitra: child-centered education:

Some pretty amazing results have been achieved, both in the slums of India and the relative prosperity of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear and Italy, just by giving small groups of primary school-age kids access to a computer and a problem to solve. Prof. Mitra is now looking to test his thesis that Education is a self-organizing system for which learning is an emergent property.

Asked at the end whether the method would work with adults, Prof Mitra’s answer was “yes, while they are students and if they can work in groups around a single large display”. In other words mobile wouldn’t be as effective. Post education adults, find it harder because we have bigger egos and are afraid to try and fail in front of our peers. I just wonder if I would have the courage to use it with any of my courses.

Some other interesting post-keynote reflections are to be found in Steve Wheeler‘s and Bryony Taylor‘s blogs.

What education will look like in 10 years

From the Reverend on Bava Tuesdays I was grateful to receive notification of this brilliant presentation on the prospects for the future of education from Andre Malan, an undegraduate student at the University of British Columbia. It is so good, I feel that it’s worth putting on the learning lab community blog. A key quote (somewhat paraphrased) is “I have a professor who told us that he was going to teach his course in the same way as he taught it twenty years ago, and he plans to teach it the same way in twenty years time” addresses the disconnect between what modern university education is and what it could be.

Here’s the video, grab a coffee and set aside 30 minutes, you’ll be inspired: