Just returned from the typically heartening and uplifting Biennial DMU Technology Enhanced Learning Symposium. Biggest impact for me came not from any of the presenters but the attendance of the recently appointed Manager of ISAS (Information Services & Systems), Michael Robinson. It was obvious to see he had a keen and genuine interest in finding out what technology was important to staff at DMU. I had a very brief chat with Michael, but my impression is that he is not just a technical guy, but appreciates how important technology is to the culture not only of teaching and learning, but also to internal and external organisation communication. I hope my first impressions are correct because it will fit very well with all the excellent technology enhanced learning initiatives that our e-learning co-ordinator Richard Hall has driven through.
It's the Culture not the Technology
A lot of what has been achieved at DMU in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning has been derived from a culture that has encouraged innovation, self expression, self development and a sense of worth in contributing to organizational aspirations.
The general theme of the conference centered around the importance of culture in driving the technology and not the other way around. Keynote speaker Dave White warned of the dangers of not being clear about what your values and aims are otherwise technology will drive and push you to places that maybe you do not want to go. An interesting read related to culture and the use of new social media is Tribes by Set Godin
Keynote Speaker Dave White and the points that touched a chord
Other key points Dave made where having an appreciation of the types of students (customers) that we have and how this might affect how we deal with them. Using his excellent Visitors and Residents analogy he offered a view of how the student population will range on a continuum from those just visiting web spaces, getting information and retreating offline and those students that see being online in all manner of web spaces as part of there natural normal daily life, just like going to the park and hanging out with friends. I remember previously reading that Dave suggests that different approaches may taken in different area of life i.e. socially with friends, at work and educationally for example. Not totally sure of the implications for me in any teaching that i do, but i will give it some consideration in the future.
It kind of chimes in with another theme of Dave's which is the conflict of what a student wants and what they need. For example Students often take the strategic surface approach to learning in that they just want to learn about the things that will help them pass the assessment, whereas educationally what they might need to enhance their deep learning is group work and reflective work, which they may find an irritant, but is actually beneficial to them. Dave cited some evidence that just giving students what they want in online distance learning is not engaging enough and drop out rates are high. Dave noted that what students need is collaborative (and other deep learning) tasks to foster engagement and i wholeheartedly agree with this.
These observations tie in nicely with a Faculty workshop on plagiarism i attended yesterday and lead me to conclude that assessment strategies may benefit from a change in approach. Much better to have a series of ongoing tasks and assessments over the course of a semester, rather than one final assignment at the end. from a plagiarism and learning perspective progress can be monitored much more effectively resulting in better support and ultimately improved learning, improved work flow management and improved understanding of good academic practice, which should help in alleviating plagiarism issues in the cut and paste society that we now live in.
Another highlight from the conference was Dave's use of kinder eggs as prizes for his mini quizzes. It was not so much the eggs but the irreverent throwing of the eggs (very accurately) a la an America football quarterback to the winners sitting in the audience. Way to go Dave.
Attended an excellent presentation by Malcolm Andrew and Anthony Eland demonstrating two tools that can be used to develop e-learning materials Xerte And Adobe Captivate. Xerte is free and looks to me like a very useful 'rough and ready' ) way for lecturers to easily create interactive learning material for students.
Adobe Captivate looks slightly more complex for non technical lecturers to work with, but it looks very powerful to me and seems to have the upper hand on my favourite dektop screen recording software Camtasia in that there is much more opportunity to also create interactive learning material and with the added bonus that it can be integrated into Blackboard to collate grades in the gradebook center.
Pleased with the turnout for the workshop that myself and Richard Davies ran on Extending Learning through online synchronous classrooms. (embedded presentation is playing up - try link until i can sort it out)
I thought it was good getting a couple of different perspectives on how this technology can be used. Both examples related to distance learners, Richard delivering live lectures offering convenience to distance learning and a level of togetherness and connectedness that improves upon asynchronous activities and myself conducting more interactive participative classes trying to take advantage of the wide and varied learning tools available in the online synchronous classroom. Using Camtasia we managed to produce two videos that showed snippets of how we worked in this environment. There is definite interest in web conferencing technology, i hope we can build on the interest to enhance teaching and learning and professional development oportunities at DMU. One by product of presenting at this workshop was an opportunity to work more extensively with Camtasia, which I used to edit the recordings of the wimba and webex workshops that Richard and i showed as examples of our work and the decision to use prezi rather than powerpoint to present the workshop. I created a pretty basic presentation in the style of a powerpoint, but it has given me a good grounding in the basics of prezi.
A Triumvirate platform for success
And so to a triumvirate platform for success - What do I mean by this, well Dave White pointed out during his presentation how institutionally that there will be innovators and pragmatists and that there often tensions between the two. Tensions also to be found between the IT Hardware and Software guardians and the needs of a variety groups that have cultural and work practices that lend themselves to a wide variety of preferred approaches in how technology is best deployed.
I see Richard as the University e-learning co-ordinator having led strongly on laying the foundations for a positive and progressive culture for development here at DMU, both from a teaching and learning perspective and more widely in other areas of DMU. It seems to me that our new leader at ISAS Michael Robinson brings a positive approach in engaging with staff needs at DMU. This combined with the strong work that is done in Professional Development at DMU - Academically with Jane Clarke and her team and Generally with Vincent Cornelius and his team I believe lays a strong triumvirate platform for success in integrating technology into the DMU culture and not the other way around.
Go DMU Go :-)