Looking Back, Facing Forward (2)

Following on from a blog post that we (SALT) created in January 2016 on New Year’s Resolutions, and given the changes that have taken place in 2017, here in SALT we thought it might be a good idea for some of us to reflect on what we’ve achieved in 2017 and what we hope to achieve in 2018.

This is the second of a series that will be published during January and February, and some of the post will give you the chance to meet some of our newer team members.

Looking Back

image depicting 10 years in SALTI’m now heading into my tenth year as part of the Blackboard/elearning/SALT team.  In those ten years, I’ve seen SALT develop and grow from the 4-strong Blackboard team into the 15 strong SALT team that we are today.

As the team has grown and evolved, so too have our roles.  This has been particularly significant for me as I have changed jobs slightly and now carry more responsibility, which is rewarding in many ways.

Among other things, 2017 saw me take on more mentoring and assessing for the internal Fellowship route, and attending the SAR Panel for the first time as lead assessor for the group of applicants that I assessed.

2017 also led me to design and online course based around the concept of the Flipped Classroom.  This, in turn was designed in a format that I experienced in 2016, through Jane Hart’s “Modern Workplace Learning” course.  You may have seen Jane Hart in last year’s SALT Conference.  (That was the one with the sketchnote by the side).  The flipped classroom CPD module is still running and set to be evaluated in February 2018.

Facing Forward

I’m anticipating several challenges in 2018, but also looking forward to them.

As well as maintaining the current levels of support that we offer in the TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) team, I would also like to develop further TEL-related CPD, in an online environment, but how this will look will depend on the outcome of the evaluation of the Flipped Classroom.  However, I am keen on the concept of the #1minuteCPD as driven by Manchester Metropolitan University, but maybe adapting it to #10 minute TEL?  Plenty of room to explore.

I also would like to revise my personal blog.  I returned to blogging in 2016 but, like most New Year’s resolutions they tailed off, and I blogged sporadically.  However, I have some strong ideas for reviving the blog, and in order to facilitate some of these ideas I am looking to migrate from the blogger platform to WordPress.

Image of the Internal Combustion Engine
Technology is not the only way: The internal combustion engine was invented in the 19th Century and is still widely used today despite better technology invented in the 20th century such as the electric car

Finally, I am looking forward to working with two of my SALT colleagues, Rhian Ellis and Professor Jane Thomas on an event looking at ways of enhancing traditional teaching.  All too often we expect teachers to innovate, and the majority of people assume that innovations must involve technology, when in fact, sometimes the simplest, or more low-tech technique is often more effective.

Furthermore, are today’s younger generation so immersed in technology that they see teaching without technology as innovative in itself, or whether this is a concept for the future?

[:en]Looking for inspiration in your teaching?[:]

[:en]A while ago, I came across a website (via twitter, incidentally) called Learning Wheel.  This particular site is a community site where you can collaborate and share resources or technology that can be used to enhance your teaching or professional development.

Each wheel is split into 4 sections and each section has a series of ‘spokes’.  To quote Learning Wheel themselves:

“LearningWheel is a model of digital pedagogy designed to enhance learning and develop digital literacy skills. It has several unique layers:

  1. Visual pedagogically informed tool
  2. Created by practitioners for practitioner
  3. Categorised in to four pedagogic ‘modes of engagement’
  4. Can be ‘Resource’ specific
  5. Can be ‘Contextualised’ to a subject area
  6. Can be ‘level’ specific
  7. Promote free and accessible digital resources
  8. Collaborative approach
  9. International perspective
  10. Scalability: flexible and adaptable”

There are two that stand out particularly for SALT, and one of these are in the subject resources and is aimed at the trainee teacher, although it’s just as useful for practising teachers too:


The other can be found in the resources section, and is focussed on Assistive Technologies:


There are lots of subject specific wheels too, so have a look.  You may find some useful resources for your discipline!  If you feel you can create one, then there is an option to be the captain of your own learning wheel.

As with all collaborative resources, the resources contained within each of these learning wheels are not necessarily used by Swansea University, but if you are interested in any of these tools and want to know more then SALT would be more than happy to look at some of these with you and suggest alternatives where possible.

If you do use some of these learning wheels, please share it with @learningwheel and also with @susaltteam or contact SALT so that we can promote the good work that is going on, not just in Swansea but further afield.




Learning Innovation Group – a place for learning and innovation?


Being part of the SALT (Swansea Academy for Learning and Teaching) team at Swansea University has its perks, some more obvious than others.

Having attended a meeting of the Learning Innovation Group (LIG) yesterday, I was reminded of some of the reasons I love the job that I do.  I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of meetings – the thought of sitting down trying to concentrate (both from an engagement and an accessibility point of view) for hours on end is certainly not fun.  But every so often, little nuggets crop up and make them worthwhile.

The topic of the meeting yesterday was “Learning Innovation” and the purpose of the meeting was to find out what was going on within the colleges, to facilitate discussions and try to encourage, nurture and foster collaboration both between the colleges and between SALT and the colleges.


It was heartening to see that innovation wasn’t necessarily perceived as being “techy”, particularly as within SALT we try to promote the ethos of “Pedagogy first, technology last”.  Perhaps it was unfortunate that numbers were low for this meeting (or maybe a blessing in disguise as it enhanced those conversations?) but it was good that the colleges who weren’t able to have representation at the meeting were able to supply valuable insights from within their colleges.

The biggest talking point came from “Flashback Friday” which is a method of encouraging reflection within the School of Management.  It employed a simple technique whereby students are given one question on a Friday and are expected to reflect on that question for the following week.  The concept was simple yet effective.  So simple in fact that it wasn’t regarded as innovative by the lecturer concerned and only identified due to a chance conversation between the lecturer and a member of the SALT team.

Flashback Friday also generated attention in the meeting because of the materials used to deliver it – students were given what can only be described as heavy duty cling film (I’m not sure what the material was called – sorry!) that acted as a whiteboard.

mcqI was also enthused by the amount of innovation in assessment that was on display, from giving students advance notice of a potential exam question (Gen Bio & Geography), the increasing use of in-class polling (Engineering) and the use of multiple choice questions as both formative and summative assessment, using both technical and non-technical solutions (Medicine, Science and Engineering).  Furthermore, I continued to be impressed by the “Authentic Assessment” that was being used throughout the university – the College of Arts and Humanities offered some excellent examples of how role play by way of running a fictitious company to aid translation, or a news studio to aid media students.

As the discussions progressed, it became apparent (in a nice way) that while there is a tremendous amount of good practice and innovation going on throughout the university, because staff are “doing it”, they don’t see it as innovative.  This was all very positive though, more of a “Wow, we do that in our college and I didn’t think of including that on our list”.

Having worked in SALT for 8 years, I have been party to several different discussions, projects and events that covered similar things and it’s not the innovation itself that impresses me, it’s that fact that there is so much of it, and that people are so humble with it, and so willing to share with others.  What I took away from yesterday’s meeting was the “so and so in my department does that too, why don’t you speak to them” – we don’t foster this type of conversation enough!!

In SALT we pride ourselves on being good teachers, but we are unique in that we come from all sorts of backgrounds and we continually look for new tools and technologies.  The best nugget of all for me from this meeting came from one of my SALT Colleagues – “This type of discussion is really good, but have you seen how they curate this in Manchester Metropolitan University” #101creativeideas

THAT is what makes me tick.  The sharing of knowledge, resources and tools as well as the sharing of the way things work.  My role, and that of the majority of the SALT team is to foster the wealth of talent that is teaching at Swansea University, and to nurture it.  In order for us to help others, we must help ourselves, and to do this we must start from within.  The subject of my reflections from yesterday’s meeting is therefore, how can SALT curate the knowledge, skills and resources within the team, how can SALT collaborate with each other and with the wider community to enhance the knowledge, skills and resources, and (most importantly for me), what part can I play in this process?

If we want teaching to be excellent at Swansea, we need to strive for excellence as a team and lead by example.


Getting Started with Xerte – TEL Month

[:en]Xerte-Logo cropped

Today’s session on Xerte was a combined event.  Nicole Chartier, from the Academic Success Programme, and a student on the PGCert here at Swansea, gave a demonstration of a Xerte Learning Object that she had created as part of one of her assignments.

This worked really well, as Nicole was able to show a variety of interactions, and was able to link it back to how her students would use the finished object.

I was able to use the first part of the session to create accounts for each of the people attending the session, and we were able to demonstrate how Xerte works, with a hands on second hour so that all the participants were able to practice what they had seen and look at the available features within Xerte.

Information about Xerte Online Toolkits can be found here, and to get an account, please contact Helen Davies in SALT[:]

Learning Technology and Innovation

I recently attended a conference run by National Training Resources Limited on the subject of Learning Technology and Innovation.  One of the primary reasons for attending was to try and glean ideas for developing some purely online courses as part of the Work Based Learning Project in Engineering, but also with an additional SALT hat on.

The conference brought together an eclectic mix of people from education, Government and industry, from apprentices to managers and from all four corners of the UK.  That in itself illustrates that innovation is open to all!

I picked out some interesting points and ideas that I feel I can take forward with the Engineering project, but I was struck by how much of this “innovation” we already do here at Swansea University.  Some of the tools and methods were held up as excellent practice in their sector.  Things we do here in Swansea but we don’t think of them as innovative because they are almost commonplace.

A particular favourite presentation of mine from the day’s speakers was that delivered by Mark Griffiths from NESTA.  NESTA is an charity whose main aim is innovation.  They have since launched a project entitled ‘Make Things, Do Stuff’ aimed at getting children and young people people to become digital makers. On the site, you’ll find advice, support and tools to help code a website, create a game or even build a 3D robot.  This may not necessarily be relevant to Higher Education but personally I found the methods used to teach them really good, and with backing from Nominet, Mozilla and the Chancellor, it’s high on the Government’s priority list at the moment.  The video below shows some of the comments from young people as well as the sponsors at the Make Things, Do Stuff launch:

[iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/67463449″ width=”500″ height=”281″]

Dr Andrew Manches led one of the morning keynotes in talking about a report (commissioned by NESTA!) which was the culmination of extensive research into how technology has been used in the UK education systems, as well as lessons from around the world.  This report provides a whistle stop tour of different types of innovative use of technology and provides links to several innovations.

Decoding Learning

Social Media also played a key part throughout the conference, with references dotted in almost every presentation, participants encouraged to Tweet with the conference hashtag #learntechconf as well as being the focus on yet another keynote, this time from Nitin Thakrar, Director of elearning Studios.

The video below shows the impact of Social Media on the world:

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/x0EnhXn5boM” width=”100%” height=”480″]

Be a Sharp Nosed Scholar !

cc licensed flickr photo by gak: http://flickr.com/photos/gak/371123091/

Are you regretting your choice of academic discipline ?

Is being a Professor of Economics* just not all you thought it was going to be and you’re wishing you’d followed your alternative dream of studying papyri in the shade of the shifting dunes on the west bank of the Nile, under the watchful eye of hungry crocodiles hoping you might accidentally stumble in their direction … and offer them lunch … ?

Well, maybe it isn’t too late !

Oxford University is looking for help transcribing 1000s of fragments of papyri from the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus (The City of The Sharp Nosed Fish) and has housed the scanned fragments in a new website:


The texts are all in Greek but cunningly the website contains all the necessary tools for you to start your career transformation into a classical scholar in no time !  (well … actually, quite a bit of time as this isn’t exactly fast paced work …)

*(amend as required)

Social media: A guide for researchers

“Social media is an important technological trend that has big implications for how researchers (and people in general) communicate and collaborate. Researchers have a huge amount to gain from engaging with social media in various aspects of their work. This guide has been produced by the International Centre for Guidance Studies, and aims to provide the information needed to make an informed decision about using social media and select from the vast range of tools that are available”

Not only is it a very useful guide but it features our very own Chris Jobling, whose Fresh and Crispy blog is listed as an example of academic research blogs in the Links and resources section http://www.rin.ac.uk/node/1009

Thanks to Katrina Dalziel @dalziel1 for the highlighting the guide

You can find the full guide here –

Super Book of Web Tools for Educators

Whilst trawling through a backlog of Stephen Downes’ outpourings I saw this.

You can find it here:

I know it is aimed at K-12, which isn’t actually us here, but pretend you hadn’t noticed that bit and have a look anyway as there are some nice resources here (including a link to a very friendly man trying very hard to demonstrate calculus before he’d worked out how to use his pen …).

The blog the link takes you to often has some interesting bits and pieces on it, so is worth a look every now and then !

Mr Downes has been even more philosophical, abstract and theoretical than usual recently, but still manages to find some good stuff, so it is always worth glancing before deleting …

Nuggets from JISC Innovating e-Learning Conference 2010: #1 Xpert and Xpert Attribution

Along with the other Chris (Hall), I’ll be attending the 2010 Online Conference JISC Innovating e-Learning Conference 2010. Unfortunately, as a paid conference, the materials, session recordings and discussions will not be available to the public until the new year but I thought that I’d nonetheless post links or comments on anything of interest that I see, hear, watch or discover. Maybe Chris will do the same.

 Taken from http://farm5.static.flickr.com/2393/1579132105_f15acb5a89_b.jpg on 2010-11-18
Original URL – http://www.flickr.com/95768329@N00/1579132105/ created on 2005-08-11 13:18:28
Heather Alderson CC BY-NC 2.0

The first of these are Xpert and Xpert Attribution, both developed at Nottingham University as part of one of the JISC OER projects. Xpert Attribution (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xpert/attribution) is particularly interesting. It is a media search tool that looks for copyright free or creative commons licensed comments and returns them as media objects with attribution added that you can use in your presentations, lectures, etc. The image of our Technium building included here was obtained by searching for Swansea University using this tool.

When you have the image, the tool will add an attribution string to the image itself or return suitable embedding code (as used here, after some adjustment for the purposes of this blog). Results can be also be imported into PowerPoint.

Attribution and use of freely reusable media is vital if you want to safely and legally prepare materials that you want to make publicly available. Xpert attribution makes it easy. There are some limitations: only Wikipedia and Flickr are regarded as having sufficiently robust attribution metadata and licensing to be used as a source. Audio and video media seem to stem only from OER projects in the UK and US.

Xpert (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xpert)is a search tool that looks for OER objects. This is perhaps more useful if you are looking for complete learning objects to use or adapt for your courses. The search engine could be improved here. I looked for control systems but needed to quote the search term to get relevant hits, and there weren’t many, except those from MIT and Stanford that I already knew about (an opportunity perhaps?).

If you want to follow the conference, the Twitter hashtag is #jiscel10 and I promise to report more goodies as I find them.

Play Learning Tool Bingo!

Jane Hart’s Centre for Performance and Learning Technologies (C4PLT) has just published the final list of the top 100 learning tools for 2010. The list is nicely presented on Slideshare (up two places to number 5 from last year’s number 7) and I’ve embedded it here.

Having gone through the list, and finding that I was using quite a few of the tools listed, I thought that it would be fun to turn the list into a game of “learning tool bingo” and see who gets closest to a full house.

How to Play
Here’s the Bingo form on Google Docs Go through Jane’s presentation and if you are using or have used the tool, mark it off on the form. The results in text form are here and as here as a graphical summary.