I hope the message earlier this year reached you but in case it didn’t, let me introduce myself. I am ALT’s Interim Chief Executive (CEO) and Chief Operations Officer (COO). I joined ALT in 2022 as COO having worked in learning technology roles for over a decade in Higher Education. As COO, my role has been to manage the day-to-day running of ALT and now, as Interim CEO, to work with Members, the Board of Trustees and external partners to deliver ALT’s Strategy. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly and, as we begin the process of finding new leadership for ALT, my focus is on delivering all of ALT’s strategic and operational plans. We have achieved a lot this year and there is only more to come!
Our next big event is our Winter Summit on ethics and artificial intelligence.ALT’s Winter Summit on ethics and artificial intelligence
Our online Winter Summit on ethics and artificial intelligence on 12 December is fast approaching. Registration will close on Monday 11 December at noon GMT so don’t miss out!
We have a fantastic programme co-chaired by Natalie Lafferty and Sharon Flynn who were part of the development of ALT’s Framework for Ethical Learning Technology on which the conference focuses.
Speakers include Helen Beetham, Dr Tarsem Sungh Cooner, Dr Olatunde Durowoju, Mary Jacob and Sue Beckingham and Peter Harley and their student panel. Each speaker brings their own perspective to the topic of ethics and artificial intelligence and it is set to be a great event. I hope to see you there.Looking back at ALT’s Annual Conference
It was a joy to see so many of you join us online and in-person at ALT’s Annual Conference at the University of Warwick in September. Our Annual Conference was extra special this year (not only because of the extraordinary heat) but also because we celebrated two big milestones in ALT’s history.
First, we said thank you and good luck to ALT’s CEO of over ten years, Dr Maren Deepwell at our AGM. Maren’s contribution to ALT has been immeasurable and hers are big shoes to fill. She remains with us as Strategic Lead for the AmplifyFE project and has been a huge support to me. We wish Maren every success with her new ventures.
Secondly, we celebrated ALT’s 30th year. Founded in 1993, ALT and the learning technology sector has changed a great deal. To celebrate, we had the Museum of ALT, ALTC radio, Jisc Afternoon Tea and Gala Dinner. In true celebratory style, we had a live 90s cover band.
The Gala Dinner included our Annual Awards which celebrate the work of our community and acknowledge individual and collective achievements. Congratulations to Johnny Lee, City’s Digital Education Team, Julie Voce, Hull College and University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering for their awards. Honorary Life Membership, which recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to ALT and its aims, was awarded to Lorna Campbell. Read about our award winners.
For the first time ever, we live streamed and recorded (almost) every session at the conference. It was no mean feat and not without its teething problems but it was important to us to broaden access as much as we could. It also enables us to share more of the conference with the wider community. 132 sessions to be precise.
A huge thank you to Santanu Vasant and Lawrie Phipps, this year’s Co-Chairs, and the entire Conference Committee for their hard work and dedication. A special shout-out to those on the accessibility sub-group for their invaluable input and to Dom Pates for making #altc radio a reality.
If you were unable to attend this year or missed a session, watch them on our #ALTC23 YouTube playlist.ALT’s Impact Report
Alongside the Annual Report and Annual Accounts launched at the 2023 AGM in September, ALT’s Impact Report 2023 provides important information for all our stakeholders, especially our Members, and shows how we make an impact as an independent charity, how we serve Members across sectors and how we contribute to the public good.
The report charts how ALT has evolved over the last year and also sets out what’s ahead.ALT and SEDA’s 30th Birthday
It was not only ALT’s 30th Birthday but SEDA’s (Staff and Educational Development Association) too. We held a joint event with other sector bodies that explored what challenges Higher Education will face in the future. A blog post will be released in December reflecting on the event and we have more joint activities planned for next year.Open Education Conference (OER) 2024
At the Annual Conference, we announced that next year’s OER conference would take place in Cork, Ireland at Munster Technological University thanks to our Co-chairs Dr Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin and Dr Tom Farrelly. We had a wonderful response, as ever, to join the conference committee and an incredible response to the Call for Papers. Our committee are now in the midst of peer reviewing the papers and registration will open shortly.
We are really looking forward to bringing OER back to Ireland for the first time since 2019. The Co-Chairs and Conference Committee have a lot of fun planned so I hope to see you there in March.
The #AmplifyFE team was busy last week presenting and meeting practitioners online and in-person at Ufi’s Week of VocTech. The week was a huge success and they launched their Insights Report 2023 which provides valuable insights into ‘What really works’ in vocational education.What’s next?
We still have plenty to do this year with our remaining events, CMALT in-house pilot and course, development of the Framework for Ethical Learning Technologies and planning for next year.
We now look ahead to next year and plan our strategic and operational activities. There is a lot to look forward to and I am excited to get started.
Of course, we look forward to the festive break and the rest and company of family and friends. We wish our Members an enjoyable and restful break and Happy New Year.
Written by Rob Treharne (Founder and Director – FizzyNewt)
>> Thanks for reading this AmplifyFE post! AmplifyFE is a strategic partnership between ALT and the Ufi VocTech Trust. AmplifyFE connects over 2500 professionals in Further Education and Vocational Education, providing a strong networking community to share, collaborate and learn. We connect innovators, industry and educators, therefore, AmplifyFE posts may include contributions with a commercial focus.AmplifyFE’s posts are included on the #altc blog to support networking, collaboration and sharing. For more information, please check AmplifyFE’s dedicated submission guidelines.
The #altc blog submission guidelines detail who can post and the type of posts accepted to this blog.
In my journey as a university lecturer, I’ve encountered the cumbersome nature of traditional attendance management systems, filled with inefficiencies and unnecessary complexities. It’s a task that, while essential, often detracts from the essence of education. This realisation sparked a passion in me: there must be a better way.
I am a big believer in empowering students to manage their attendance, fostering autonomy and responsibility in their educational journey. When students are given the tools and trust to self-report and monitor their attendance, it instils a sense of ownership over their learning experience.
This not only enhances their engagement but encourages a proactive approach to their education, making them more aware of attendance’s impact on their academic progress. Furthermore, entrusting students with this responsibility cultivates essential life skills such as accountability, time management, and self-discipline, invaluable beyond the classroom.
Enter FizzyNewt, a platform born out of a desire to transform attendance tracking from a tedious chore into a seamless experience. My Co-Founders, Andy (my brother), and Simon, launched our innovative solution to simplify the attendance process, eliminating the need for intricate hardware and cumbersome administrative tasks. Our aim is to give time back to educators and instil a sense of responsibility in students.
We envision FizzyNewt as more than just an attendance management tool; it’s a platform that enhances the educational journey for both students and educators. With its intuitive design, students can easily report their attendance, fostering a sense of ownership over their educational journey. This shift in approach not only alleviates the administrative burden on educators but also redirects focus towards meaningful learning experiences.
By intelligently analysing attendance data, FizzyNewt also serves as an early warning system, identifying students who may need additional support. This proactive approach ensures that no student falls through the cracks, contributing to their academic success and overall wellbeing.
Finally, we have introduced a unique “micro-feedback” feature, allowing students to share their thoughts and feelings about their learning experiences in real-time. This immediate insight is invaluable for educators, providing a clearer understanding of student engagement and comprehension, and informing future teaching strategies.
In my experience, it’s the small changes that make the most significant impact. FizzyNewt is a testament to that belief, transforming a mundane administrative task into an opportunity for empowerment and engagement.
We are currently seeking partner institutions to help test the system and would like to invite you to join us on this journey. As a partner institution, you will have the opportunity to use the full application for free.
This is a fantastic opportunity to evaluate the benefits of FizzyNewt for your institution and see how it can improve attendance reporting for your students, teachers, and administrators.
For more information, get in touch with our Head of Partnerships firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Dr Jim Turner Learning Technologist and Current Chair of ELESIGIntro
“Educational video policy is up for review, better see what’s new. Hold up!”. That was my internal monologue a few days ago when looking at that week’s jobs, one of which is to review our current policy. For years, lecture capture has been implemented at universities to increase access and flexibility for students. This routinely involves recording the live presentation of materials, slides, audio and lecturer. Complex infrastructures have been built, expensive technology rollouts undertaken, and even more complex negotiations held over video policies. But with the rise of AI, we have to ask – is lecture capture still relevant?
Lecture capture has helped make lectures available anytime, enabling flipped classrooms and broader access. Whether you were opt-in or opt-out or something else, institutions have utilised this flexible technology at scale to seemingly meet many external and internal pressures (Ibrahim, Howarth and Stone, 2021). But in a sense, lecture capture took a surface approach to educational technology. It digitised lectures, but didn’t fundamentally reimagine teaching and learning. While lecture capture provided some student benefits, it was arguably a sticking plaster solution. The deeper, more difficult work of leveraging this technology to truly transform pedagogy rarely happened. Change was incremental rather than revolutionary (Morris, Swinnerton and Coop, 2019).
Now with the rise of AI services, we are beginning to see new ways of creating learning focused videos. With the speed of development, any mention of a particular tool will become rapidly out of date. However, an interesting example is Synthesia, UCL start up company which achieved ‘unicorn’ status in June 2023. This system allows you to develop talking head video content driven through text. Yes, things are a little wooden, but as the current saying goes ‘this is the worst it is going to be’. It doesn’t take much imagination to think through what might be coming in the near future. So let’s indulge in a little speculation.A little speculation
Ownership: during the past 10 years careful negotiations around performance rights have helped distinguish lecture recordings from say lecture slides. One, being owned by the ‘performer’ the other, just part of normal work. The script for AI video creation, I’m guessing, would probably fall into that second category. But the video image and audio might end up under licence. Synthesia have tried to make their rights and data protection clear in their terms and conditions. This may become more complex as companies try to monetise their technology. Resolving these issues will require new policies and legal frameworks. However, as I review my university’s educational video policy, I’m conscious that AI-generated video disrupts the status quo.
Authenticity or efficiency: The mirror of AI content might help us identify the uniqueness of our own creative and quirky selves versus the current more ‘wooden’ AI self. Students might value the distinctive human qualities. However, taking a cue from Meyers research into video enabled learning perhaps there will be a more scientific data-drive and efficient learning process on offer. This also links with the ‘uncanny valley’ effect and the importance of developing trust between tutors and students, and a reduced sense of value in this type of media.
Rethink lecture capture’s role: This is a pivotal time as we rethink lecture capture’s role. Thoughtfully applied, AI-generated lectures provide scalability and access. But we must balance innovation with protecting what makes learning profound – the human connection between educators and students. If we keep sight of this core principle, then the AI revolution offers a chance to evolve into a new, human-centred era for teaching and learning.
Student experience: Students might have reached peak video consumption. This recent tiktoc shows how a student is trying to create their own efficient revision notes from transcripts of lecture videos run through ChatGPT. All of these stages are highly questionable, but it illustrates a frustration with learning from “boring lecture recordings” and balance other aspects of their life. For students, AI-generated lectures can increase flexibility even further. Videos could be customised to individual learning needs, with adjustable length and examples. Passively watching lectures, while sometimes necessary, is inherently less engaging than live participation.
Active learning: However, we have to consider the implications for student engagement and learning. Watching a video, no matter how slickly produced, is inherently more passive than participating in an interactive live lecture. There are concerns students may retain less and feel less connected to instructors and fellow students. Does this now open up more possibilities for video assessment, student-generated content, and open course resources to support learning beyond the institution.
Is video just too static: Except for very specific cases, such as demonstrations, will the AI assistant, possibly enhanced through visual avatars, just mean the talking head video is replaced with the AI talking head. This is probably a little further off, I think, he says tentatively, but at the very least it offers some level of interaction beyond play/rewind.Conclusion
So just as AI has changed our relationship with text, we now have to address its impact on video creation. But was lecture capture technology always a bit of a lazy answer to a deeper, more purposeful use of technology that complex institutions couldn’t achieve at scale? Perhaps it’s time to go back to first principles. My view is a balanced model combining the best of both approaches is ideal. Use AI for foundational concepts, freeing up resources for human-centred sessions focused on discussion, problem-solving and collaboration. While AI-generated videos offer many benefits in terms of flexibility, cost and scalability, challenges remain. As with any technology, it is not a magic solution. Thoughtful integration and policies around rights, ownership and student experience will be needed to successfully leverage AI video in education. “Right blog over, must get back to that policy”
Ibrahim, Y., Howarth, A. and Stone, I. (2021) ‘Lecture Capture Policies: A Survey of British Universities’, Postdigital Science and Education, 3(1), pp. 144–161. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00102-x.
Morris, N.P., Swinnerton, B. and Coop, T. (2019) ‘Lecture recordings to support learning: A contested space between students and teachers’, Computers & Education, 140, p. 103604. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.103604.
Dr Jim Turner Learning Technologist (LJMU) and Current Chair of ELESIG
Alex Spiers, Build and Visual Design Manager, King’s College London
Written by ALT South
Now we’re fast approaching the end of the Autumn term, it seems a good time to take a breath and to take stock of where we have been, and where we’re heading as an ALT special interest group.
Amongst other things, ALT South’s remit is to support the activities of ALT Members in the South East and the South West in line with ALT’s strategic aims. Restricting our reach with geographical boundaries when we live in a virtual world seemed a little odd, so we welcome anyone to our community and talks – the more the merrier! We are an informal, supportive community which comes together to explore issues and best practice in our day-to-day working lives. It’s a safe space to find knowledgeable colleagues to run your ideas by and vent your frustrations with, and an interested, kind audience to which to present your work.
Primarily, we run Tech Thursdays, a series of presentations and discussions based around a yearly theme usually on the last Thursday of a month. Last year’s theme of Assessment: Innovation and Inclusion was very well received, with a talk on AI, Chat GPT and assessment including an introduction to GRAIDE from Dr. Manjinder Kainth, garnering an audience of 130 people and over 328 views on our youtube channel. Over the year, representatives from over 40 different institutions worldwide attended one or more Tech Thursdays.
Our 2023-2024 theme is ‘Humanising Learning Technology’. We’re exploring how learning technology can be given a more human touch, encouraging engagement and minimising learner isolation, as well as the role emotions play in online learning. We’ll be considering online student friendships and top tips for engaging online learners amongst other subjects.
New for 2023-2024 we’re also running two projects – a systematic review with Manish Malik (Canterbury Christ Church University) and Lucinda Bromfield (BPP University) is compiling an open access toolkit of engagement techniques for online learning. The resource will be published on the National Teaching Repository and all contributions will be appropriately credited.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the systematic review (subject to be determined depending on participant interests), please email email@example.com.
If you’d like to contribute (and receive the credit for your contribution) to The Big Open Resource of Engagement Techniques for Online Learning, please fill in this form or use the QR code below.
Don’t forget to include your job title, email and institution so we can credit you appropriately. Contributors will get to see a copy of the resource before it goes live to check their entries.
Get in touch with us:
It is Trustee’s Week, 6-10 November, and here at ALT we are celebrating the invaluable work of our Trustees, past and present. ALT’s Trustees set ALT’s direction, and are responsible for ALT’s strategy, and for the overall performance of the Association.
Trustees are an integral part of ALT’s governance and we celebrate them this week and thank them for all they contribute to ALT.
Meet some of our current Trustees and learn what being a Trustee means to them.Meet David Hopkins
David is the UK Director of Content Services for LearningMate.How long have you been a Trustee at ALT?
I joined ALT at the beginning of my career as a Learning Technologist in 2007. From attending events and conversing with ALT members on LinkedIn and Twitter over the years I’ve taken a more active involvement, achieving my CMALT in 2013 and joining the group of CMALT assessors simultaneously. Being a committee member for several ALTC annual conferences over the years gave me an insight into the activities behind the scenes and, in 2022 I chose to put myself forward for the post of ALT Trustee and, alongside Puiyin Wong, joined the Board after the membership vote.What made you become a Trustee?
Having an opportunity to take so much from ALT and the ALT membership over the years through conversations, meetings, tweets, etc has always meant I want to be able to give something back to the organisation and community, and becoming a Trustee was a logical next step for me.What does being a Trustee mean to you?
A huge amount of trust has been put in me by the ALT community, to help guide their representative organisation, and this is something I take seriously. My activity with and through ALT over the years has enabled me to develop skills and knowledge, about myself and my capabilities, the roles I have had, and those I have worked with. Becoming a Trustee is a different direction but ultimately one that is enabling me to learn new things.What have you learned about being a Trustee?
It’s still quite early days for me as an ALT Trustee, so I am still learning. I will say that I am very impressed with the governance that ALT operates, and have enjoyed the regular conversations the Trustees have.What have you gained personally, if anything, from your experience as a Trustee?
I have gained quite a lot from being a Trustee of ALT, along with my previous role as a Trustee of Learn Appeal between 2015 and 2019. My development as a learning professional has seen me move into more senior roles, to my current one as Director of Content Services, and I believe my Trustee status has helped me demonstrate my abilities concerning these more senior roles through the application process.Meet Puiyin Wong
Puiyin is the Digital Learning Producer at Central St. Martins, University of the Arts LondonHow long have you been a Trustee at ALT?
About a year, since 7 Sept 2022.What made you become a Trustee?
The opportunity to represent our members and being able to support ALT with various projects and initiatives etc that leads the development and direction of travel for learning technology.What does being a Trustee mean to you?
Having the confidence from our members that I can be a voice for the at the Board meetings. A year later, to date, I still get members coming to me to say they voted for me in the election. It’s been a very humbling experience. Also, the support network with the other Trustees and the ALT staff team, I have learnt a lot already.What have you learnt about being a Trustee?
How important decisions that could affect a large number of people are made. How such a small but well organised team at ALT manages everything so well. Joining the “staff side”, I honestly thought ALT was a big team with dozens of people. So hats off to the hard working staff team! I am only too glad to have the opportunity to work with other Trustees to support what the staff team do.What have you gained personally, if anything, from your experience as a Trustee?
I think I am probably the most junior person in terms of our day jobs among all the Trustees, so learning from others in Board meetings, leadership and strategic experience has been very valuable. Also, the friendships with other Trustees and the staff team has to be the absolute highlight! :-)Meet Peter Bryant
Peter Bryant is Associate Dean (Education) and Professor of Business Education at the University of Sydney Business School (Australia).How long have you been a Trustee at ALT?
Just over six yearsWhat made you become a Trustee?
To help find new connections for ALT within our every expanding and changing community.What does being a Trustee mean to you?
It means engaging, hearing and bringing together our community through outreach, research, practice sharing and connection.What have you learnt about being a Trustee?
The challenges of finding commonality, the challenges of recognising our development, fracturing and expansions that came from the pandemic and how different we are from six years ago (and then how different we will be in six year’s time)What have you gained personally, if anything, from your experience as a Trustee?
I was able to hold a lifeline to people, place and space that for three years felt a long way away (I live and work in Sydney, Australia). I was able to see that the work to support and engage students that we all do transverses the impacts of the crisis and the shrinking of our worlds.
by Sonya McChristie, Learning Design Manager at The University of Sunderland
No-one working in higher education over the past six months will have been able to escape the frantic discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) and what it means for the future. It’s not my background, and I’m certainly no expert. But I have had to learn a lot about it to get myself into a position where I can try and help guide academics and students as we navigate these issues together. One thing I find troubling is how overblown some of the myths and misconceptions have become. Within this blog post, I will try to dispel some of them, and offer my take on real impacts that we are going to have to deal with.The End is Not Nigh
Let’s get the big silly one to get it out of the way – the robot apocalypse is not imminent; super-intelligent computers are not going to take over the world, and you are not going to be able to upload your consciousness into a computer. Maybe some of these things will be possible in the future, but not with our current technologies and level of understanding.
ChatGPT and the other systems which have appeared over the past year are fancy, and to be fair very impressive autocomplete systems. The same technology you’ve had in your phone and Email for the past 10 years predicting the next word taken to an extreme level with monumental quantities of data for training, and computational power for generation. That approach has its limits, and OpenAI have been clear about this, stating that they are coming to the end of this approach (Knight, 2023). Success in a narrow field, no matter how impressive, gets us no closer to general artificial intelligence.
Another limiting factor on these models is that they are reliant on a particular type of intelligence, known as inductive reasoning, which works by finding patterns from data or experience. Human level general intelligence also requires the ability to draw conclusions or make hypotheses from incomplete information utilising prior knowledge and experience, or abduction (Ahmed, 2023). No-one really understands how we do this, let alone proposed how this could be reduced to a process, or set of rules which could be programmed into a computer.Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash It’s a Bubble
If I had been writing this any other time in the past five to 10 years, I would be talking about machine learning instead of artificial intelligence. People said the same things about machine learning then that they are saying about artificial intelligence today; that it’s going to change the world, steal your job. Or perhaps, if you’re slightly more optimistic, that it’ll usher in an era of post-capitalist techno-utopia. The reality is going to be much more mundane and far less dramatic.
The tech sector and speculative financial bubbles fit together like a hand in a glove. Machine learning was going to change the world, until it didn’t. Cryptocurrency was going to revolutionise the global economy, until it hit the brick wall of regulation and accountability. Then we were told the next big thing was going to be the metaverse, a rebranding of virtual reality, which itself was going to change the world back in 2012. Facebook even went so far as to change their name to Meta, and the world collectively shrugged and laughed about the lack of legs (Mehta, 2022). Now it’s the turn of AI again. Of course, it is going to have an impact, for good and ill. As all of these technologies have. However, we are at the limits of what is currently possible. I don’t believe improvements from here on are going to be much more than incremental. But that doesn’t generate investment, or inflate shares, and so the industry will hype and hype, until it fizzles out… and we move on to ‘The Next Big Thing’.We Need to be Clearer About Language
OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and all the others that have been behind the current wave, are a very particular type of AI called generative artificial intelligence. They generate text, images or other media based on their training data and appropriate prompts. They are not ‘general’ AI, and the common practice of flattening the terminology to just ‘AI’ is unhelpful. It feeds both people’s misunderstanding, and ‘the bubble’. General artificial intelligence, or ‘strong’ AI, is the ability to perform any kind of intellectual task. It is, for many, the ultimate goal. For some, the doomsday scenario.
Whether general artificial intelligence is even possible remains a question for the future. One thing is for certain, it is not going to come from ChatGPT. ChatGPT, like every artificial intelligence system that has ever been created, is a narrow AI. It’s designed to perform one very specific purpose alone. I think it would be very helpful if everyone could be precise and specific in our use of language and take care to refer to these systems as what they are. ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion are generative AI systems: they produce content. ChatGPT is also a large language model: it works largely by having been trained on huge quantities of textual data. Unfortunately, I don’t hold out much hope of improvement about the language we commonly use, because that doesn’t help feed ‘the bubble’. This various terminology is all just ‘a bit clunky’.Image by smoothgroover22, from Flickr AI is Deepening Inequalities and Making the Climate Crisis Worse
Nearly 15 years ago, there was a short-run and underrated sitcom called ‘Better Off Ted’ (2009) about an ‘everything’ tech company along the lines of General Motors Company (GM) or Philips. In the episode ‘Racial Sensitivity’ (Aishah, 2018) the company, Veridian Dynamics, installed automated sensors to open doors and activate devices such as water fountains. It worked great, with only one small problem – the system couldn’t recognise black people. Their solution was to employ low-skilled, low-paid white people to follow their black scientists around all day. What was an absurd satire in 2009 has become a grim and tragic reality in 2023, where we now have to contend with self-driving cars that are less likely to detect children or people of colour (Hawkinson, 2023). The facial recognition systems used by the police have also been shown to be racially biased in review after review (Clark, 2023), not that this is stopping the rollout.
This is a classic example of the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ problem in computing. The training data used for AI models is often full of biases, from favouring whiter skin tones to preferring masculine forms when translating between languages. Attempts have been made at creating clean, unbiased data sets. But this task has often been outsourced to poorly paid unskilled workers in the developing world, who are given the soul-crushing task of identifying and removing hate speech and explicit pornography. One of the hidden human costs of our ‘AI revolution’. Notably, this is the same model that has been used by social media companies to hide the human costs of content moderation.
Another unethical aspect of generative AI to consider is that the quality of their outcomes is directly related to how much data can be fed into them. The entire open internet is now regarded by Google, OpenAI, and others, as fair game. Earlier this year, Reddit came in for a lot of criticism after making changes to their API pricing model which effectively killed off third party apps. This was, at least in part, because those APIs were also being used to give AI models access to the entirety of Reddit’s community forums. This data theft is particularly egregious when it comes to visual art. It can take artists years of hard work to develop their skills and styles, only for generative AI companies to regard everything they have put online, however copyrighted, as fair game for training and imitation.
Finally, we must, but so often fail, to consider the ecological impact of generative AI. Both the training of models and production of outputs requires enormous data centres and huge amounts of computing power. Those require electricity to run and water to cool. A recent Associated Press (AP) study found that Microsoft and Google had substantially increased the amount of water their data centres were consuming over the past couple of years, with a standard ChatGPT session requiring as much as a 500ml bottle of water to produce (O’Brien and Fingerhut, 2023). Woolly claims about being carbon and water neutral by a future date picked by throwing a dart at a calendar ring hollow. Unless they are also looking at ways of breaking the laws of thermodynamics.Photo by Lee-Sean Huang from Flickr Jobs Will Change, Rather Than Be Eliminated
Is AI coming for our jobs? While some industries are certainly going to be hit, I am confident that the wild claims of mass disruption in the information economy are wildly overblown. Instead, I think we will see many more jobs changing from production to verification (Dzieza, 2023). Two things lead me to think this way. The first comes from looking at an area where disruption has already begun – language translation. In the 1950s and 60s, when the AI field was nascent, machine translation was thought to be a relatively easy problem to solve. It wasn’t until the 2010s, when the internet was making massive sources of information readily available in different languages, that major breakthroughs were finally made. Machine translation has got to the point of ‘good enough’ for most purposes. Though not where stakes are higher, such as in business and politics. In these areas, human translators are essential for verification and providing nuance and the context that only comes from intelligence, as located in a society.
Secondly, however impressive generative AI may appear to be on the surface, it is utterly incapable of original thought and creation. AI is limited instead to reworking whatever it has been trained on. That ‘spark’ of originality which human intelligence seems to be uniquely capable of is related to the type of abductive reasoning discussed above. Until someone can offer a theory of how we do this, there is no hope of being able to reproduce the process in a computer. Also left out of the AI hype are notions like desire and aspiration. As human beings, we have an innate drive to create things, from works of art to new inventions such as generative AI itself. This article could have been written by ChatGPT, but ChatGPT doesn’t want to write it. I did. I wanted to engage in an act of writing and creation to help put my own thoughts in order, and then to share those with others as part of the ongoing cultural debate.
Computer programs are incapable of doing anything without human intentionality to initiate the process. So, while we are inevitably going to be subjected to an AI written Hollywood film at some point. I suspect it will just as inevitably be quite bland and unoriginal. Though that still may be an improvement on the current glut of generic superhero movies.Photo by iammottakin from Unsplash Detection is a Lie
In the higher education sector, discussion has largely focused on student use, and specifically about the potential of ChatGPT to aid in cheating. Everyone wants a silver bullet to this problem, a simple detector that will tell you if a piece of writing has been produced by generative AI or not. Especially those of us who are having to deal with a massive increase in student referrals for alleged academic misconduct. Unfortunately, it is just not going to happen.
Back in March when the new hype wave was at a peak, and I was marking my own students, the first claimed detectors started to appear. I decided to do a little careful, and anonymous experimentation. One assignment came back with a reported confidence of over 90% that it was AI generated. However, knowing the student and their style of writing from previous submissions, I was doubtful. Another red flag was that the student has English as a second language. Sure enough, studies soon followed showing that not only were detectors practically useless (Williams, 2023), they were particularly bad when a paper was written by someone with English as an additional language. In the run-up to the new academic year, even OpenAI have stated that detection is futile. Turnitin claim that their generative AI detector is built on different principles and will work. The early signs are not encouraging (Williams, 2023). I eagerly await the experience of those few institutions who have taken the leap of faith with them. Just as I do those few with no faith whatsoever who have banned the use of generative AI outright. Good luck! The hard solution is, of course, to redesign assessment with authenticity and originality in mind. Easier in certain subject areas than others.
As well as the impossibility of putting the genie back in the bottle, I would also argue that students who don’t use or have access to generative AI will be disadvantaged when they graduate and go into industry, where there is going to be far less analysis and ethical contemplation. There, students will need to know how to use the tools in the exact same way they are expected to be able to use Word and Excel. Further, as things currently stand, those who have the means to pay for premium subscriptions have an advantage over those who can only use the free versions. There is therefore an argument to be made that in the name of egality, never mind equality: All students should have access to generative AI tools. What brave institution will be the first to entice students with a site licence to Chat GPT? I feel like we’re all holding off, waiting on Microsoft (who have invested over $10 billion into OpenAI) to bring it into Office 365 with their Copilot tool (Warren, 2023), which will make it a fait accompli.In Conclusion
Generative AI systems like ChatGPT have become exceptional at what they do, but it’s in a very narrow field. Just like every AI program we have ever been able to create. General artificial intelligence which can work across domains and applications is a very long way off. The technical hurdles to overcome may even prove to be insurmountable, for sound philosophical reasons I’ve barely touched on here. For a more detailed exploration of this, I would highly recommend The Myth of Artificial Intelligence by the philosopher and computer scientist Erik Larson (Larson, 2021).
In the meantime, those of us working in academia need to adapt by changing how we assess, while coping with the ever-increasing pressure of academic misconduct boards. We need to be vigilant against false solutions, and it warms my heart a little to see the resistance to supposed technological solutions (Quach, 2023).
Finally, I will leave you with one last recommendation. The always excellent Tech Won’t Save Us podcast (2020) has featured some excellent episodes recently on AI, including an interview with Timnit Gebru, former AI ethics advisor at Google (Gebru, 2023).References
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Written by Dominic PatesOn farms and lockdowns
When I was a far younger man than I am today, I used to make the Glastonbury Festival my annual summer holiday. I got to experience the likes of Blur, The Orb or Primal Scream in their heyday and witness surprise revivals like The Velvet Underground, reunited on the Pyramid Stage. The festival is such a full-on experience that it can be as much an investment of energy and emotion as it is of cold hard cash, but for a music fan, you’d get to see at least a year’s worth of gigs over just a few days. By the mid-nineties though, as levels of security increased around the perimeter fences and ticket prices started rising to significant levels, I decided that my Somerset festivalling was over and that I was only going back if I was on the bill. As I was tinkering around in various bands at the same time, it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility, but it was not exactly that likely. My last Glastonbury Festival was in 1994, the year after the first ALT conference.
Two decades on, I attended my first ALTc, at the University of Warwick. Although a professional conference is a very different proposition from a music festival, there were a few intriguing parallels. It was three days away from home, with a concentrated hit of as much of the best of what the sector represents, compacted into a full programme. The keynote speakers were like the headline acts, just at the start of the day rather than at the end of it. And the conditions were there for serendipitous conversations that would forge connections and spark discussions that just wouldn’t have happened otherwise. A Glastonbury for learning technology, in its own way. Fairly new to the sector as I was, ALTc 2014 was a professional highlight of the year. It was also pretty full-on to get to the end of. I recounted my personal pledge not to return to Glastonbury until I was on the bill and thought to myself, ‘I’ll be back at ALTc again, but not until I’m on the programme’. That set me a professional goal to aspire towards.
I didn’t manage to stay away entirely, as I continued to tinker with participation via remote means, mainly through things like hanging out at the keynote live streams on YouTube or descending down hashtag rabbit holes in the fringe conversations that would pop up on Twitter around the time of the conference. By ALTc 2019, though, I hit my Glastonbury goal and made it onto the bill with a workshop titled ‘Interrogating the Holographic Academic: A Speculative Design Workshop for Telepresent Future Learning’. It turned out that if you propose turning academics into holograms, you end up with people in the room wanting to explore the idea or push back against it, so I even managed an audience too.
Of course, the following year, the usual timetable of professional events and general social activities got thrown completely out of kilter. The first 2020 lockdown, and like many other people, my professional and social life temporarily contracted to take place almost wholly on a landscape-oriented rectangular screen in my living room. One of the things that I’d been doing even before I became a learning technologist was co-running an Internet radio station, called The Thursday Night Show (TTNS). At the point when things like family commitments stopped a bunch of us in Brighton going out to the clubs of an evening, we ended up trying to recreate the experience in a browser and went out by staying in. When suddenly nobody could leave their homes by law to socialise and hang out with each other in Spring 2020, this led to a surge in interest for places where community was possible and already gathering in online spaces. TTNS started seeing some big audience spikes and we opened up a Zoom feature, and people would dress up for a night in and dance, alone together. Running a nightclub online was certainly a different way to experience that first lockdown.Bringing radio to a conference
ALT couldn’t run an in-person conference in 2020, so the format for the online Winter Conference was borrowed from to bring the learning technology community together for a Summer Summit. If anyone could show other organisations and institutions how to run a conference online, it was the one that was already pretty well versed in how to do just that. Sat in my house alone, with family marooned overseas for months, I pondered the two online communities that I engaged with and socialised amongst and thought to myself ‘I wonder if I can somehow bring the two of these together?’
And so, we somehow did. ALT were responsive to the idea, as an interactive radio component added something extra to the online event. I put the call out for expressions of interest from the learning technology community and ended up with four new DJs on the show, including Anne-Marie Scott (who already did radio, with ds106) and Pip McDonald. On the Thursday night, after the conference has drawn to a close, I also played a set of songs from and about London as ALTc 2020 had been due to take place in London for the first time.
Bringing learning technology and music radio had worked well enough that ALT asked me back for more. At the 2020 Winter Conference, I managed to recruit another cluster of new DJs that also included two volunteers from the conference committee (Richard and Lyshi), who decided to do a joint show together despite having never met each other before. Learning technologists being what we are (and with a lot of help from existing TTNS crew), we manged to pull together a live show in this way that passed off with barely a hitch. The UK was still undergoing waves of lockdowns by Autumn 2021, so for the main annual conference, it was back to three days online and with some added radio. Two more new DJs joined the stable on this occasion, as Darren Gash and Coco Nijhoff came on board.
By 2022, ALT was tentatively stepping into the precarious world of running a conference in a hybrid way and TTNS remained along for the journey. The DJ stable was becoming more settled, I played a set of songs from Manchester (the physical location of the conference), Darren did a set as DJ Wafflemeister, Pip played as Notorious P.I.P. and Coco completed the line-up. It also ended up one of the more memorable times I’ve ever spent on the radio as it turned out to be the day that Queen Elizabeth’s death was announced. I had to figure out at pretty short notice whether my little Internet radio station had any broadcast obligations in the circumstances to respond to the moment. Internet radio being global, we concluded that we didn’t and that the show must go on, so we ended up soundtracking delegates’ journeys home (or moments of switching off, if they were joining online).
Bumping into each other at a sectoral event in early 2023, Maren Deepwell asked me if I’d again be up for bringing radio to the next in-person conference. The difference being that this time it would be a more substantial part of the overall programme, rather than just an after event. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I jumped at the chance. To extend the 90s Glastonbury metaphor that opened this post, what I didn’t realise was that it would end up something like organising the John Peel Stage at Pilton, while the main team focused on the Pyramid Stage and ancillary events.Scaling things up
Figure 3: View from inside the booth
Fast forward to Warwick, then. ALT provided a glass-fronted booth for the station amidst the exhibition stands, making it an actual pop-up radio station rather than just another DJ broadcasting from their home. We broadcast live over the Internet throughout the entire conference and throughout the two exhibition floors at the venue too. This meant that delegates arriving at or wandering through the venue were confronted with music as part of the sensory mix of the event – not as common as it might sound. The programme consisted of a mix of on-site music sets from the booth, live online ones beamed into the venue and onto the Web, and pre-recorded shows, including a spotlight of various podcasts that explore different issues across post-secondary education and learning technology. The roster included well-known figures from the learning technology sector making radio debuts, a handful of new voices to add to the mix, and some of the existing TTNS DJs that had come via previous iterations of ALT Radio.
On Day One, Julie Voce and myself opened proceedings with an ‘ALTc Radio Breakfast’, intended to bring a little wake-up call to the event. We were followed by Peter Bryant from the University of Sydney, with a look at Australian interfaces between disruption in music and disruption in education. ‘Hosts’ Corner’ followed, where I got a chance to speak to ALTc 2023 hosts Santanu Vasant and Lawrie Phipps, with ALT Trustee Puiyin Wong making her radio debut after that. James Clay from Jisc and myself held a ‘Listener Requests’ slot, then we handed over to two live online sets to soundtrack the drinks reception at the main venue – DJ Wafflemeister, MC Hermit and Daveobotic, topped off by Coco with a ‘Post Punk Potpourri’.
Day Two on site had DJ debuts from Alice Chapman (amongst the ALT Awards winners and a committee member), Donna Lanclos (joined by Peter Bryant), and Lauren Ketteridge (another conference committee member). Live online, we had Maha Bali and guests live from Cairo with a breakfast pre-note discussion on AI and education, and Notorious P.I.P. closed the day with a set titled ’The Sound of Learning Technology’. Live on site on Day Three, we had Day One keynoter and TTNS returnee Anne-Marie Scott interviewing the previous night’s ALT Award Winners, and Anne-Marie again in conversation with outgoing CEO Maren Deepwell. Mark Childs make his live online DJ debut as Dr Rock to close conference proceedings and pave the way for another Thursday Night of regular programming.
All three keynotes were being live streamed on YouTube, so this was added into the overall radio mix. New pre-recorded sets included ‘Digital Education Playlists’ with Jane Secker and Julie Voce, a discussion on ‘Podcasting as Pedagogy’, and special edition of ‘My Liminal Pod’ on TEL Research, with Puiyin Wong and John Brindle. Podcasts showcased included ‘Teaching Here And There‘, ‘Talking HE‘, ‘Amplify FE‘, ‘Pedagodzilla‘, and more of ‘My Liminal Pod‘.
The main kit on site (a laptop, two mics with headphones, an audio interface, and a mixer) was provided by the external contractor working with ALT on general AV equipment provision. This saved me having to carry broadcast gear across the creaking train network and meant it was all set up when I arrived. There was also on-site AV support, as was needed for the main event. This meant I didn’t have to do all the audio and technical troubleshooting whilst also trying to run the programme and was therefore an absolute godsend. We used the existing TTNS infrastructure, which includes a website where the radio signal is broadcast from and a public Discord channel for interacting with the DJs and audience.Post-event reflections
So, now that the dust has settled and I can reflect a little, what was it like to bring a radio station to my profession’s main annual conference?
There was an awful lot of planning that went into it, so my huge thanks go out in particular to Katie from ALT for making it so much easier on my end than it could otherwise have been! As there were so many people new to radio broadcasting and I was going to need a break away from the booth from time to time, I decided that I should make the set up as simple to operate as possible. This meant asking presenters to give me a list of their songs in advance or an actual playlist. My Spotify account then acted as the music library for the event. I tried to keep the music levels consistent and just used faders on the mixer for speech. I mention all this more as an aide memoire to self for next time I ever agree to do something like this – there’s much to be said for ‘keeping it simple’.
I’ve been an ALTc delegate before. I’ve been a presenter. I’ve been a member of the conference committee in the past too, which gives quite a peek behind the curtain (this blog post tells that wider story). This, however, was akin to being a member of the ALT staff (or at least a contractor to the main event), which was quite a different experience to all the other modes of participation. Although it was a significant amount of work to both plan and run and it was difficult to fully participate in the rest of the conference as an actual delegate, I also really enjoyed it too.
Being able to infuse a conference with an eclectic blend of music and range of different voices brought a very different feel to the event than many of the other conferences I’ve attended. As a rule, music at conferences is rare and is usually only played in discrete areas or deployed as filler when it is included. Music, however, can bring joy, create nostalgia, generate rhythm, and forge community – the latter aside, not typically things associated with a conference. For the presenters, it allowed them to showcase a different side to their professional selves than the ones they may usually present at these events. The overall community, whether in-person or online, seemed to respond really well to having a (licenced) music layer to their annual gathering.
Figure 5: Screenshot of Voicemeeter Potato Virtual Audio Mixer for Windows
Naturally, there were challenges. For one of the sets, I’d agreed to facilitate playing the music into the mix from Warwick while the speakers were offsite at another location. I didn’t quite have the optimum setup or knowhow to be able to put a hybrid live broadcast together in time. I spent my first night on a borrowed laptop with a member of the TTNS crew trying to figure out a piece of software called Voicemeeter Potato – popular, apparently with Windows-using audio engineers. I couldn’t quite get my head around it. I tried alternatives approaches on the day but couldn’t quite get all components of the broadcast in place. The show went ahead, but without music.
At another point, I had to shuffle the schedule around at fairly short notice. This meant quite a few negotiations over different slots and me running around the venue trying to get confirmations sorted. It also meant having to reconfigure the material that was prescheduled for automated online broadcasts. For a short period, this somehow resulted in different recordings playing on top of each other on the radio stream, which was a little jarring to listen to. Again, huge kudos to colleagues on and off site who kept their heads and helped out while I was trying to do the same to keep the show on the road.
To some extent, it felt like being at the breaking of a new medium. I spoke to quite a few people at Warwick who might consider themselves ‘seasoned conference attendees’ and none of them had encountered something directly comparable from the different professional gatherings that they had collectively attended. We’d all encountered things like recordings being made amongst conference crowds for appearing in later podcasts, or things like ‘backstage’ interviews of supplementary materials to the main programme. This was a feature at Jisc’s 2023 Digifest in Birmingham, for example, where delegates could watch interviews with key speakers that was then live streamed onto YouTube. Jisc’s James Clay had previously been involved in something similar at ALTc itself, having developed the ‘ALT Live Beta’ experiment at ALTc in 2011, modelled on the likes of televised backstage interviews at Glastonbury.
Ofcom in the UK offers something called a ‘Restricted Service Licence’ (RSL). RSLs are for legal and limited spectrum allocations that are typically granted to radio and television stations looking to broadcast within the UK to serve a local community or a special event. These licenced services are typically broadcast on low-power FM or AM signals, are time-limited, and tend to be used for things like trialling a radio project ahead of an application for a permanent licence. Worthy FM, Glastonbury’s official onsite radio station, operates under an RSL. Being Internet radio and with a different context, this set up didn’t require sorting out an RSL beforehand. One less thing to do, at least!Do it again?
Here are 10 things I’d do differently, if there were to be a next time:
If you’re curious about what learning technology sounds like and missed it during the conference, you can catch selections from ALTc Radio replaying on Friday afternoons (13:00 – 16:00) on TTNS.
by Laura Kayes
The landscape of educational discourse in England is one of shifting sands, and nowhere does this sifting instability feel more tumultuous than in further education. It has long troubled me that a significant imbalance exists between research in further education and research in schools, and the result is a college sector that is ill-equipped to bargain in the currency of data. Data, particularly numerical data, is a powerful persuader in this digital, marketised world. Yet, whilst schools speak in numbers to policy and press, further education finds its voice lost in a dialogue we are not yet fluent in. As a result we are disempowered when challenging the systemic neglect and reactive reform we continue to have imposed upon us.
Before I continue, I’d like to acknowledge that it is not my intention to diminish the role or contributions of our school colleagues, but only to request equity of representation and recognition for the further education sector, and a space at the table to contribute to the broader discussion.
The dynamics of colleges, vocational programs, apprenticeships, and adult education differ significantly from those of primary and secondary schools. Education policy and evidence-informed practice has been a saturated school-centric narrative for too long, relegating further education to a blurry periphery. This language and focus has contributed to negligence of policy and public mistrust in a further education sector perceived as a secondary option for ‘other peoples’ children’. A spotlight on the unique challenges and celebrations of our colleges is long overdue. It is my belief that such a transition begins with context-specific research and a shared, accessible platform to voice the experiences, needs, opinions, hopes, and frustrations of individuals and communities within and served by further education colleges.
There is already a hopeful momentum building with further education research communities. There are organisations and individuals championing the sector’s voice, delving deeply into stories of joy and justice locked within this muted sector. There is also rich dialogue emerging on how a collective voice can be crafted and amplified outwith the confines of traditional research hierarchies. For whilst there is much to celebrate in the potenia of such a movement, it must also be recognised that some voices are unwittingly excluded by the structures and hierarchies of our institutions. Many of us driving forward research in further education are removed or partially removed from the classroom; we’re in leadership, higher education, administrative or consultancy roles that allow a flexibility in our schedules that the rigid timetable of a teacher does not. Many researchers are undertaking their projects as part of formal qualifications, and whilst some of us are privileged to be financially supported to do so, others are self-funded or prevented from embarking on their research journeys by a monetary inability to do so. These roles, these qualifications, these funders and these financial arrangements all shape the research that takes place, or does not. This is not to detract from the value of their contribution, but to recognise that it does inevitably guide the direction of travel.
For any sector to flourish, the voices of practitioners, those in the classrooms, breathing life into policies published in darkened rooms, must also be heard. Their experience and insights are essential, unheard components for shaping effective policies and practices. Empowering further education requires not just acknowledgement but active engagement with expertise from every role within the sector. By including practitioners in decision-making processes, policies can be grounded in the reality of classrooms and the experiences of students, teachers and communities.
Inspired by the success of the Teacher Tapp app, which provides a platform to the voices of thousands of school teachers every day, I have launched a weekly poll for further education practitioners. Teacher Tapp, with their regular engagement with policy makers and media, has successfully demonstrated how the collective voice of educators can be heard and can effect change. It is my hope that our own small, weekly poll will lay the fragile foundations of a soon-to-be mightly bridge between policymakers and practitioners.
The poll will generate a new question every Wednesday at midday, and results from the previous week will be released alongside this. You can access the poll every Wednesday at midday here:
You can also submit your own research question for the poll using the form below:
Poll entries are anonymous, and no personal or identifying data will be released to third parties.
So there it is! A simple poll with a powerful objective; to enrich this precious sector in the currency of data. Thank you in advance for your investment.
by Kerith George-Briant, Abertay University and Amy Aisha Brown, King’s College London.
Working in areas including learner development, English for Academic Purposes (EAP), and technology enhanced learning, we often advocate for the use of assistive technologies (such as Grammarly) for students who might benefit from using them in their studies (those with or without recognised disabilities). Although assistive tech is often conceived as tools to support those with disabilities or other specific needs, we align with the broader conception from the World Health Organization (WHO) of assistive tools being any that promote independence, productivity, and participation in society. Generative AI Tools (GAITs) (e.g., GrammarlyGO, Otter.ai, and ChatGPT) have the “potential to revolutionise the way students with disabilities learn” (Marino et al., 2023). GAITs are already being used by some in higher education (HE) yet we feel that there has been a lack of related discussion, policy and guidance.Examples of current practice
A particularly good example of the use of GAITs in HE comes from Chard Hall, a specialist study skills tutor and postgraduate student who is neurodivergent. Chard Hall advocates for the positives of GAITs: “students don’t have the time to be neurodivergent (deal with all that comes with it) and learn in the way other people learn” (personal communication). GAITs could help students turn academic English into “fluent ADHD” and fill gaps in the “hidden curriculum”.
An academic with ADHD makes similar points about the utility of ChatGPT as assistive tech: “I am constantly living on “hard mode” and this technology helps level the playing field in ways I couldn’t anticipate” (Melo, 2023). In our own work, we also make use of GAITs: one of us (who is neurotypical) runs everything through GrammarlyGO, whilst the neurodivergent one has ChatGPT as a loyal sidekick.
We worry, however, that the freedom some of us experience in using these tools may not be extended to all students. We’ve all heard of calls for AI to be banned. But what about those who use the tools as legitimate assistive tech? There’s also evidence that students are afraid of using GAITs for fear of being accused of academic misconduct (Webb Davis, 2023). But what about if students are too scared to use the tools even as legitimate assistive tech? And we’ve heard where Turnitin’s AI writing detection capability has been switched on and students have been reported for misconduct, students have defended their actions by stating they have only used Grammarly (e.g., Douglas, 2023). Is that fair, especially for those who use this tool as a legitimate assistive technology? We worry that not considering the use of GAITs as assistive technology could create what Trust (2023) calls “an inaccessible, discriminatory learning experience”.Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels Making education inclusive
As argued, active discussion of GAITs as assistive technologies is sparse. However, we have found one useful journal article by Marino et al. (2023) that directly addresses their use. While the writers call for more research on the benefits (a sentiment reiterated more recently by Bentley et al., 2023), they argue that banning the use of GAITs is currently misguided because it would remove critical tools from learners. They conclude that the challenge is to think about how we work with AI to make the worlds of education and work inclusive for all.
This call to action aligns with the strategic approach to inclusive education that has long been advocated by Jisc (2017). A tenet of that approach is that accessibility should be embedded across policy and strategy. Despite this, after reviewing key HE guidance, including UNESCO’s Quick Start guide (Sabzalieva & Valentini, 2023), Jisc’s own Generative AI primer (Webb, 2023), and the Russell group’s principles on the use of generative AI (Russell Group, 2023), we failed to find a specific mention of GAITs as assistive technologies. Nor did we find information on how they should be accommodated. So, if such guidance isn’t in those documents, where does that leave GAIT users?
We know the position of AI in HE is still in flux and is likely to be for some time, and we don’t dismiss what are now well versed calls for assessment (and educational) reforms, the need to develop AI literacy in staff and students, and the litany of other concerns that currently need to be taken into consideration. We also recognise that there is a clear need for further research into the use of GAITs as assistive technologies. But in the meantime, HE needs to recognise that GAITs are being used as assistive tech and then take a strategic approach to integrating appropriate accommodations.Call to action
What might that look like? At the institutional level, there is a clear need for collaboration with all stakeholders (policymakers, lecturers, support units, students etc) to create and add information to documentation around the use or non use of GAITs as assistive tech, especially in relation to assessments. There is also a need to ensure all students and staff understand how these policies and procedures apply to them.
A day to day example of this could look like a lecturer stating in an assessment brief which AI use would or wouldn’t be acceptable. They could state that they are happy to discuss any use of GAITs as assistive tech that might seem to be prohibited or excluded by any statements, or policies in student the use of AI. If a student then contacted the lecturer, the lecturer would be clear about what to do to ensure that the student is treated fairly. However, this scenario is unlikely to happen unless there is a culture of open discussion, without fear of penalty or stigma, around the use of GAITs or other AI tools as assistive tech.
So, as we go through this period of adjustment and transition, we call for a deeper, more open dialogue around GAITs. We hope that you’ll join us, and prompt others, to actively recognise and plan for the use of these tools to create an inclusive, non-discriminatory educational environment that serves the needs of all students. Can we afford not to?References
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The diary of a new Head of Learning Technologies in FE
by Isla Flood
I’ve been back in college now for about a month. We’re lucky enough to have had our canteen and student spaces spruced up and college is buzzing. We’ve hit target and classes are full and college feels lively and purposeful.
In the first couple of weeks back I spent a lot of time shadowing my team across different campuses, yes that’s right I can now issue a book in the library, know what happens in the student IT induction and solve a crime in our brilliant escape room style library induction! (all credit to Nei Phillips our very creative library assistant). Our focus now is the college vision for digital elevation so last week I did my very first presentation at CMT (Central Management Team meeting?) I’m still a noob in this role and am finding my feet so felt very nervous, so much so that I totally lost the plot with the slides (not very good for the new head of learning technologies) and may have uttered a minor swear but I think I got my message across. My manager said I was funny, and funny is good right? My aims are to enable people to use technology for the greater good, ‘to make the world a better place’, to help people to develop their digital skills, to increase accessibility and equity and to save people time. Broad and bold, I then set out the more focused plan which will use Jisc’s Digital Discovery Tool results to start a staff wide self assessment on digital skills that we then support through a varied and engaging suite of development. So yeah, that was quite big for me. I am tackling a whole college at the moment and that feels huge.
Last week also saw the team and I (but mostly the team) very busy with Freshers week. As a result I’m now writing this with a runny nose and head cold from the inevitable freshers flu! Freshers was fun. Our brilliant enrichment team put together a freshers event per campus with lots of stalls from local and internal services and most importantly free food and drink. Our team ran a BeatSaber VR competition which proved really popular, it was great to meet and engage with lots of students and spend time across sites with the team.
I met up online with Petra Hosey and Conrad Taylor, the elearning manager and technologies manager at City of Wolverhampton college and it was great to share ideas and ask questions. I basically stalked them both online and harassed them on LinkedIn as I’m really keen to get to know others in similar roles and have an informal forum where we can share good practice and help each other. Watch out learning tech managers, I’m sending out DMs daily and super keen to connect with others! Hope I’m not coming on too strong!
“Getting to know the Antiracism & Learning Tech SIG Officers” is a blog series by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan to provide visibility to ARLT SIG officers who undertake this role in a voluntary capacity and to highlight the importance of antiracism work in the sector. It is a celebration of how ARLT SIG officers have grown in this role!
In this blog, she introduces herself, as Chair of ARLT SIG.
Dr Teeroumanee Nadan is an independent researcher on Internationalisation, Digital and Inclusive Education. She is an advocate for Education for ALL. Her interests lie in Education, Technologies, BioSciences, Employability, Law & Ethics.
I am have a BSc (Hons) in Information Systems from Mauritius and a joint MSc in E-business and Centred Network Computing from UK, Greece and Spain, with an interdisciplinary PhD in Computer Sciences, Biosciences & Education. I also undertook my software engineering training in India and volunteered and lived in a few other countries.
My work background has been varied, from being a learning tech, to project manager, researcher and I have worked within IT & Computer Science, but also on internationalisation, immigration, employability, and various other sectors within the university. I am interested in supporting students and staff throughout their journey within Higher Education.My interest in ARLT SIG
I joined the ARLT group when it was founded and then became a facilitator and now Chair of the committee. I have always been interested in diversity work, and was working around gender equity and disability since my initial years in the UK. I became interested in ARLT from my personal experience in the sector, and also the fact that I can compare different educational and cultural systems to which I have been exposed. I am keen to apply my changemaker mindset to address the systemic issues affecting me and many of my peers in the sector.What motivates me to undertake your role of Chair in ARLT SIG?
I was born in a multi-ethnic society and grew up practising different faiths, so have a certain degree of understanding of the fragility of ethnic boundaries – miscommunication can easily weaken those ethnic boundaries and lead to ethnic riots. I grew up learning about and familiarising myself with British colonial history and in particular its impact on people displaced by the British empire. When I came to the UK, I realised that it was common practice to brush the uncomfortable topics under the carpet. I have observed this in every academic institution that I have worked at. What motivates me the most is treating the cause rather than the symptom!My biggest contribution so far
Shifting the community from a non-ALT group to an ALT SIG has been a big challenge, there was a lot for the community to unlearn and re-learn. My biggest achievement I would say is to have had the patience to set up all the necessary and much-needed administrative logistics for the long term for a committee working on an antiracism related topic. I came into this role, well aware that I need to hand it over to someone within a few years, so I do everything that I do with that mindset. My biggest recent achievement has been
As one of the officers has put it “IT IS HAPPENING” – impact is happening, and this is what antiracism is about. DOING IT!What has my journey in ARLT SIG been like so far?
My journey in ARLT SIG has been an interesting one, perhaps the most challenging DEI committee experience as I have had in the first year. Nonetheless, it has also presented me with opportunities to nip racism in the bud. I often find myself explaining over and over what antiracism is and is not and explaining the needs of the most marginalised ethnic groups.What am I doing to improve things within ARLT SIG, ALT, and the wider community in terms of antiracism & learning technologies?
That is quite a lengthy list, but put simply, I keep talking of inequalities where others do not naturally see it!
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By Denise Hough, University of Glasgow
Recent advances in generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) have made it accessible to the wider public through platforms such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. AI tools are very powerful and can enhance student learning experiences, but it is important to understand how to use it in a way that is conducive to good academic practice (see Table 1).
The default position of most higher education institutes will likely be that students are allowed to use generative AI tools as a resource in any course component where online tools are accessible. Although there may be specific restrictions on certain assessments, which should be communicated appropriately by teaching staff.
Remember, AI tools are tools. They are not substitutes for intellectual growth. This guidance will support students to embrace AI responsibly, engage actively in studies and uphold academic integrity. Thereby, students will be able to harness the power of technology to enrich their education.Course work itemResponsible useLimitations and things to avoidLecturesClarify complex concepts and reinforce understanding, focussed around intended learning outcomes.Avoid relying solely on AI. You should engage with content.
For written assessments, additional guidance on AI use is important to develop essential skills and uphold academic integrity.Not allowedAllowedDo not let AI generate facts.Check facts against reliable resources and include a citation to the source.Do not ask AI to rewrite your work, then copy it and present it as your own. Examples:
Using any form of AI in your university coursework, study, exams or research without acknowledging that input, counts as academic misconduct. The following actions are recommended:
Plagiarism software keeps improving in detecting AI generated text. If irresponsible use of AI is suspected in an assessment, teaching staff will need to investigate this further for possible student misconduct. Having a full record of your AI conversations is the best way for you to provide evidence of its responsible use, or to reflect upon for future improvement. Furthermore, it supports you in being transparent in your work, which is important for maintaining integrity and good work ethic.
See more detailed examples of how students can use AI:
Hough, D. (2023) Examples of using AI to support student learning & assessment in 1st year Life Sciences. University of Glasgow. https://sway.office.com/iNhP49DMrhOep2Uc
The diary of a new Head of Learning Technologies in FE
by Isla FloodWeek 1
Well not quite, let’s go a little retrospective as I opted to start my new role before the holidays for a week just to get going. The first week was interesting. My manager seems really positive and I feel like I can go to him for help and share ideas with confidence. I made a point to set up individual 121s with all the team (across libraries, open access and learning tech) to try to understand their roles better and get to know them. I was nervous!! I created a list of questions that I would ask everyone and sent them ahead of our meeting to allow for thinking time and ease anxiety. The responses were fascinating and I learnt loads about the team including their goals, ambitions and how they like to work. I was cringing slightly about asking and using set questions but I wanted to know the answers and thought they’d be valuable so tried to ignore that feeling and push on.
I got the opportunity this week to go see another college, I arranged to meet up with Richard Buckley and Kate Whyles from Nottingham College. Richard heads up learning technology there and Kate is a learning technologist. I brought my colleague and learning technologist Emily Cossey for the road trip and we had a great time noseying round the Basford Campus. We got to see their facilities including their impressive immersive suite and spent lots of time listening and chatting to both about their experience developing Nottingham’s digital offer. Kate’s done a lot of work using Minecraft with students and suggested I do the Microsoft training on this so I completed that over the summer and am interested to see how I can apply it in my new role. I’m keen to go out and see more places so please get in touch if you’d have us, I’m really keen to see and learn as much as possible from others.
I’ve got my own office for the first time, which I’m a bit uncomfortable about, it is amazing and I love it (please don’t take it away from me!) but imposter syndrome is out in force and part of writing this column has to be trying to quell that fear and get on with the job. So I’ve decorated and I’m happy but just going to miss my busy old team office chatter and banter but will be coming back for visits and staying in touch.
Anyway, enough about the material stuff. I get to start this job in a new technical age, AI is abundant and technology is never off the agenda, it’s integral to the way we learn and I’m excited to be part of this new era.
It might help to tell you a little bit about me and where I came from. I’ve been teaching, coordinating, programme managing and coaching at Solihull College now for just over 10 years, I previously worked in London as an ESOL teacher and worked in support in FE before that. I’ve pretty much grown up in FE (mum and dad both had a stint at FE colleges), so institutionalised I am but proud to be in a sector that picks people up and develops them no matter what their previous experiences or background. I really do believe FE is life changing and love working in this area.
So going from curriculum to support (kind of). My strengths are my experience in and out of college, creativity and communication. I’ve asked to keep teaching as I believe it’s integral to the role, will ensure I don’t forget the coal face and always have learning at the forefront of my role. My aim is to make a bigger difference. I really love teaching ESOL because it has an impact, it’s rewarding and I know I’m doing good work but now as my role changes I need it to have a wider impact in order to retain my integrity and keep the role focussed on improving learner experience.
So I’m excited, and still nervous. I start again this week after a long and wonderful break and am keen to plough out some fields of enquiry and ways of spreading the good work of the department so that it has the biggest impact it can on helping learners and staff develop. You’ll be hearing from me again soon, see you later!
“Getting to know the Antiracism & Learning Tech SIG Officers” is a blog series by ARLT SIG Chair, Dr Teeroumanee Nadan, to provide visibility to ARLT SIG officers who undertake this role in a voluntary capacity and to highlight the importance of antiracism work in the sector. It is a celebration of how ARLT SIG officers have grown in this role!
In this blog, she introduces Chris Rowell, the Events Officer of ARLT SIG, who has been one of the facilitators prior to the ALT SIG formation.
Chris Rowell is a Learning Technologist at the University of West London.
Chris: After working as a FE lecturer teaching Economics and Politics for 17 years, I moved into the world of HE – first as a Lecturer in Education and then as a Learning Technology Manager. Currently I work as a Digital Learning Producer at University of Arts London.What is your interest in ARLT SIG?
Chris: I have been involved with ALT for over 20 years now and really felt that it was time that ALT became more proactive in challenging racism across the sector. It is very noticeable that the world of digital education has a lack of diversity and this is especially true in the HE sector – the ARLT SIG can help to change this and create a more diverse and inclusive culture.What motivates you to undertake your role of Events Officer in ARLT SIG? What has been your biggest contribution?
Chris: As a individual it is difficult to know what to do to challenge racism – I’ve done this is the past by writing and contributing articles that show how we can challenge discrimination but what motivates me to get involved in the ARLT SIG is that I am working with like minded people who do not just want to talk about racism but actually want to do something about it. So my biggest contribution since joining the SIG has been to organise a number of webinars about some of the practical things we can do in the workplace to challenge and end racism.As a White male, how best can you summarise your learning so far as part of the ARLT SIG committee and ARLT community?
Chris: Whilst the consequences of racism impact on the Black, Asian and ethnic minority population, I’ve always felt that it is a ‘problem’ that needs to be tackled first and foremost by White people. Consequently, I think it is really important that as a White male I do something about it, helping to organise the SIG meetings gives me an opportunity to hear directly the issues my colleagues are facing and also provides a forum where we can discuss what can be done about it.What are you doing to improve things within ARLT SIG, ALT, and the wider community in terms of antiracism & learning technologies?
Chris: When the SIG was set up, I became the SIG Events Organiser. So over the last couple of Years, I’ve helped to organise webinars and reading groups tackling important anti-racist topics. I’ve also helped to develop the Learning Technologists’ Anti-racist Toolkit.What has your journey in ARLT SIG been like so far?
Chris: The ‘journey’ has been great – the most important thing for me is to to meet with the ARLT SIG community – I’ve realised I am not the only person who wants to do something about racism in this sector and there are loads of good people ‘out there’ who think like me and want to organise and get things done to create a better and inclusive world!
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“Getting to know the Antiracism & Learning Tech SIG Officers” is a blog series by ARLT SIG Chair, Dr Teeroumanee Nadan, to provide visibility to ARLT SIG officers who undertake this role in a voluntary capacity and to highlight the importance of antiracism work in the sector. It is a celebration of how ARLT SIG officers have grown in this role!
In this blog, she introduces Dr Olatunde Durowoju, the ARLT SIG committee Vice-Chair, who has a particular interest in antiracism within the HE sector and the impact it has on certain groups.
Dr Olatunde Durowoju is a Reader in Education Management and Associate Dean EDI at the Liverpool John Moores University
Olatunde: “My first degree was in food science and technology, and that evolved into the field of operations and supply chain management by the time I got to my PhD. It wasn’t planned, it just evolved as my interest evolved. I worked in the food industry for a few years, sandwiching my Master’s degree, before transitioning into academia after my PhD study. I am currently a Reader (Associate Professor) in Education Management and also the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion for the Faculty of business and law at Liverpool John Moores University. I have been teaching in HE for over 13 years and been a program leader for over six years, looking after several management Master’s programmes, including large collaborative MBA programmes.”What is your interest in ARLT SIG?
Olatunde: “Before being elected as ARLT SIG Vice Chair, I had been doing a lot of work around inclusion within Higher Education (HE), specifically racial inclusion. It was clear to me that, to achieve racial inclusion, we need to have anti-racist institutions. It also became apparent, through some of my research projects, that the HE sector has still not fully explored the use of technology in addressing many of the racial inclusion challenges facing the sector. That, to me, is a big shame and I started to explore the existence of groups whose remit is to address this issue. I believe ARLT SIG is a place where people with special interest (unique focus) in the role of technology in achieving antiracism and the role of antiracism in developing inclusive technologies within HE, can discuss, resource and collaborate to achieve this.”What motivates you to undertake your role of Vice Chair in ARLT SIG?
Olatunde: “ There is an urgent need to have anti-racist technology within the HE space. For the most part, technology design in HE has been about addressing issues such as engagement, retention, poor student experience etc. These appear to be important in HE, and rightly so. However, issues such as inclusivity are often treated as surplus to requirement, despite their importance, and most technology design for inclusion are often focused on disability. There is a failure in HE here with regards to technology design for racial inclusivity which is symptomatic of the failure of HE and technology providers to understand the importance of how our experiences have been shaped by race. My motivation is that I can contribute in a small way to centering this issue within the HE sector and Education Technology industry, and ALT ARLT SIG is a good platform for this.”What have you learnt so far in your journey in the ARLT SIG committee?
Olatunde: “It has been a very good experience working with colleagues within the SIG committee, including the Chair. I am encouraged by the shared vision and commitment of the SIG to promoting anti-racism within edtech design and deployment in HE. There have been many innovative ideas coming through the SIG, which is important to addressing our shared goals.”
(From ALT processes, from ARLT SIG, from the Chair, from meetings, etc)What are you doing to improve things within ARLT SIG, ALT, and the wider community in terms of antiracism & learning technologies?
Olatunde: “I believe centering the issue of antiracism is very important. Making people aware of how racial experiences shape the way we perceive things, our decisions, and what we prioritise is crucial. For example, how can any design team create a product or service that adequately addresses the needs of their clients without having the lived experience of that need. Who are we designing for? Are we designing for the needs of the majority, whilst disregarding the needs of the minority? How do we build capacity to address the needs of the minority as well? How do we understand the issues facing certain groups of people? How do we translate those needs into effective solutions through inclusive technology design and deployment? These are some of the questions we are trying to engender within the HE and Edtech collaborative space, so we can be proactively anti-racist as a sector. We have a long way to go, but we hope we can start moving in the right direction.”Since you joined in April 2023, what has been your greatest achievement so far in ARLT SIG?
Olatunde: “I wouldn’t say my achievement, I believe it is a collective achievement as a SIG. I contribute to the discussions shaping the direction of the SIG and building momentum towards achieving our goals. I also have assigned responsibilities such as compiling and creating documents essential to the smooth running of the SIG. As Vice Chair, I meet regularly with the Chair to discuss some of the excellent ideas of the Chair and of other members of the group, and also the issues facing the group, with the view of sensing any associated challenges and exploring potential interventions. These meetings have also been the Chair’s way of helping me, as a new committee member, understand the dynamics of the SIG and ALT in general.”
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By Oliver Moore and Tracey Webb, Bournemouth University
Learning Technologists at Bournemouth University (BU) have been exploring the concept of escape rooms and how they might be used to promote innovative technologies to staff. At our recent internal Fusion Learning conference, we took the opportunity to run our escape room prototype, incorporating both online and classroom activities, during one of the sessions. Our goal was to showcase the various digital tools and technologies available to staff at BU, and to inspire them to create their own escape rooms or immersive learning scenarios. The aim was to demonstrate the capabilities of the tools, keeping the content relatable and engaging for participants, whilst also highlighting the potential of escape rooms in education.
To achieve this, we incorporated several different technologies into our escape room. We used AI generated ‘mission brief’ videos, 360 degree photos with interactive elements to provide a realistic and interactive backdrop for remote exploration; virtual reality (VR) headsets to demonstrate the potential for immersive environments; and the H5P interactive content authoring tool, to add an extra layer of engagement and problem solving for participants. We integrated all of this into our Brightspace VLE, structuring the escape room using Brightspace’s tools and functionality (such as release conditions linked to quizzes), to stagger content. By solving the puzzles and completing tasks using the digital tools, participants were able to experience how some of the digital tools within the BU toolbox could be used with Brightspace.Bournemouth University (2023) Creating a narrative
When it comes to building fuller experiences like these, it can be difficult and time consuming to build a cohesive narrative and also prioritise learning content. The narrative was critical for maintaining engagement in the scenario and creating a sense of fun. The narrative was also functional as it created a flow which made sense to the participants. Escape rooms are often put together in a way that directs participants by anticipating their decisions and outcomes. Anticipating these decisions and outcomes is a lot easier when a course of action makes narrative sense.
Our narrative was shaped around the digital tools we wanted to promote. As the common thread was technology, we framed our narrative around topical issues surrounding AI and ChatGPT. We drew on pop cultural themes and references (e.g. HAL from Space Odyssey) to reinforce the relatability of the content and to support an understanding of narrative points. We found ways within the narrative to purpose the use of each digital tool; whether it was the live 360 footage acting as ‘CCTV’, or using the ‘Image Juxtaposition’ content type from H5P to create a ‘password encryption’ puzzle.Bournemouth University (2023) Using Gamification to embed learning
Estimated time for completion of the challenge was thirty minutes. Gamification worked well to engage participants in this slightly more involved learning experience. Participants were fully motivated to undertake each activity and unlock each level. They collaborated well within their teams (but did become quite competitive against the other groups). The narrative we’d devised was complex, but that helped foster a logical way to progress through each element, and so participants connected well with the story. In fact, the game became the priority and the learning was incidental. Brightspace was effective in scaffolding each task and clearly mapped progression through each stage.
We added a debrief module on our processes, spelling out exactly how each task was created and the tool that was applied, with links to further guidance. Participants who completed the escape room would therefore have a reference point to return to if they want to adopt any of these approaches in their own teaching.Bournemouth University (2023) Reflection and next steps
We had some very positive feedback during the session and believe we achieved our intentions of raising awareness of some of the digital tools available to staff at BU whilst also instilling ideas for their potential application in teaching and learning. The escape room was pitched at the right level; it was challenging but still fun, and no one became disengaged. Resource wise, we hope our escape room demonstrated to staff that a large budget isn’t required. Any colleagues wishing to incorporate any of these activities in the future can lean on the support of their Learning Technologist. The creation of the escape room was time intensive, however it proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable process which was fun for both the educator, and the participants. Playing up to the limitations of ChatGPT in an AI themed story, and adding niche jokes that might be missed was fun, especially when participants recognised the nuances.
The escape room was designed for a face to face conference situation and worked well in that environment, but we want to explore now how we might improve the sequencing of tasks; to enable multiple groups to complete challenges at the same time, without crossover. We are also currently working on adapting the escape room to create an inclusive, fully online version to engage with other members of our staff community. The same tools and tasks will be included, with the aims and learning outcomes adjusted to be accessed asynchronously. The original escape room will continue to be used as a showcase, and we’ll look for further opportunities to demonstrate this with groups of staff.
Veldkamp, A., van de Grint, L., Knippels, M.C. and van Joolingen, W., 2020. Escape education: A systematic review on escape rooms in education. www.preprints.org/manuscript/202003.0182/v1
Woods, B., 2023. Game Over or Game: Knowing when Gamification is Right for your Course [online]. E-Learning Heroes. Available from: https://community.articulate.com/articles/game-over-or-game-on-knowing-when-gamification-is-right-for-your-course [Accessed 19 July 2023].
Clapton, W. (2015) Pedagogy and Pop Culture: Pop Culture as a Teaching Tool and Assessment Practice, www.e-ir.info/2015/06/23/ pedagogy-and-pop-culture-pop-culture-as-teaching -tool-and-assessment-practice/ [Accessed 20 July 2023]
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“Getting to know the Antiracism & Learning Tech SIG Officers” is a blog series by ARLT SIG Chair, Dr Teeroumanee Nadan, to provide visibility to ARLT SIG officers who undertake this role in a voluntary capacity and to highlight the importance of antiracism work in the sector. It is a celebration of how ARLT SIG officers have grown in this role!
In this blog, she introduces Amin Neghavati, the new External Engagement Officer of ARLT SIG, who has been a keen community member willing to join hands to work on antiracism practices in the sector. Connect with him on LinkedIn.Tell me a bit about your educational and work background?
Amin: “I have a diverse background with an MSc in electrical engineering (I worked as an engineer for a couple of years too) and an MA in digital technologies in education. I have 23+ years of expertise in education management, workplace learning, leadership development, and technology management and have worked in 10 countries. I moved from Singapore to the UK in August 2022 and currently working at the University of Bath in a really exciting role focusing on management and leadership development as a learning and organisational development manager. I’d like to think I have an entrepreneurial mind and have been involved in setting up EdTech businesses a few times. I have a non-executive role at FuturEd Solutions which is an instructional design firm founded in 2019.
Going back a little, I was born and raised in Iran and perhaps my first official involvement in all things EdTech was the management of an in-person language training centre in Tehran which back then was the only training centre in the capital with interactive whiteboards, instant teaching note transfers to personal devices and an online learning platform.”What is your interest in ARLT SIG?
Amin: “More increasingly than before, education and educational practices are mediated and influenced by technology. This is not a new trend, but the speed of change and AI-enabled technology adoption has gone up dramatically and will be even faster in near future as AI is moving from its stage of disruption towards demonetisation, dematerialisation, and democratisation in its journey of exponential development. These technologies are being and will be used by a wide array of learners from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds all over the world yet there is a noticeable lack of diversity in the world of EdTech and digital education.
ALT sits in a very critical position in this landscape with a particular HE focus and the work of the ARLT SIG can help initiate important conversations around how diversity and inclusion can have a positive impact on the development of tools for learning which is an inherently cultural process.”What motivates you to undertake your role of External Engagement Officer in ARLT SIG?
Amin: “I enjoy building professional relationships, connecting with people and growing my network to see how I can join forces with others and make the world a better place. What’s better than joining a team of like-minded people who are genuinely passionate about having difficult conversations about anti-racism in learning technologies in the most humane way to change the world one step at a time.”What have you learnt so far in your journey in the ARLT SIG committee?
Amin: “I work more closely with Rachel and Teeroumanee in the SIG and there is always something to learn from them. Like all intercultural settings, I have also enjoyed observing how our similarities and differences show themselves in the way we work together and how they can help us grow as a team so we can all benefit from the diversity bonus in achieving the objectives we have set for ourselves.”What are you doing to improve things within ARLT SIG, ALT, and the wider community in terms of antiracism & learning technologies?
Amin: “Rachel and I work on all things External Engagement and we have some plans to work on to develop the visibility of ARLT SIG in the digital education space. I’m particularly working on steps we can take to connect with more people on LinkedIn to raise awareness and invite more people to our events.”Since you joined in June 2023, what has your journey in ARLT SIG been like so far?
Amin: “It hasn’t been that long yet but it has definitely been an interesting journey of meeting people from various professional and cultural backgrounds who work in various places but have come together for a common goal and have decided to give up their time to make an impact.”
Written by Chloë for the AmplifyFE team
As we head into a new academic year, I wanted to take a moment to pause and appreciate all the #FEsuperHeroes who have supported the AmplifyFE community space the past year. These FE practitioners have written blogs, shared spotlights on their practice, hosted webinars and chatted with me on the podcast. These contributions are integral to the AmplifyFE Community Space and have helped it grow from strength to strength. So thank you to everyone named below for sparing your time and sharing your wisdom with your peers in the sector. Likewise of course, many thanks to those watching, reading and attending. Let me know if you’d like to contribute in some way over the next year by dropping me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org .
You can access all the content shared by the contributors on the AmplifyFE website but I thought I’d share a selection from the past year of the most popular contributions based on our access statistics. Whilst we value every blog, webinar and podcast – we can’t list them all in one blog, so I hope you can find some time to explore the AmplifyFE website and learn more from FE practitioners.Top 3 Blog Posts:
Getting to know the Antiracism & Learning Tech SIG Officers” is a blog series by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan to provide visibility to ARLT SIG officers who undertake this role in a voluntary capacity and to highlight the importance of antiracism work in the sector. It is a celebration of how ARLT SIG officers have grown in this role!
In this blog, she introduces Rachel Branham, the new External Engagement Officer of ARLT SIG, who started her first committee journey in UK HE in June 2023.
Rachel Branham is a Learning Technologist at the University of West London. Connect with her on LinkedIn.Tell me a bit about your educational and work background?
Rachel: “My primary background is in visual arts education, where I have been utilising technology in many different forms. Engagement in distance learning as a student and as an instructor has brought me to the field of learning technology. My pedagogy is rooted in expression, equity, and joy, and I believe these tenants are essential to the work we do as educators. I’m from the United States, where “learning technologists” are not really a thing – coming to the United Kingdom has demonstrated the importance of this unique intersection of education and tech that I hope more institutions will acknowledge!”What is your interest in ARLT SIG?
Rachel: “I joined the ARLT SIG because I want to be aware and informed about complex issues of oppression in education and technology. I joined to learn, sure, but also to lead – as a White woman, it is my responsibility to use my privilege to dismantle racist systems wherever it lives. For me, this work is about equal access to high quality education and without understanding limitations to that access, we just are not doing our jobs.”What motivates you to undertake your role as External Engagement Officer in ARLT SIG
Rachel: “I have never been involved in a role like this within a professional organisation, so this is an opportunity to understand how a group develops its central tenants and sticks to them in the day-to-day. It also allows me to meet more colleagues who share similar values, and to grow my network in the UK.”What have you learnt so far in your journey in the ARLT SIG committee?
Rachel: “Since I do not come from a traditional computer engineering background, I am learning so much about the development of AI systems and all the “bad data” that can influence their function. I am also increasingly aware of the built in pedagogy of learning technologies, good or bad, and using my role to share this information and better practices with academics and student-facing staff in my workplace. Adjusting my own communication on this topic has been a big part of my development as a Learning Technologist and as an External Engagement Officer within ARLT SIG.”What are you doing to improve things within ARLT SIG, ALT and the wider community in terms of antiracism & learning technologies?
Rachel: “I am making myself available! I am taking part in the offerings! And I am communicating what I learn with my team and my university. I am also serving on my university’s EDI and Education for Sustainable Development steering groups, so there is a lot of overlap in these spaces that can be used to further positive influence.”Since you joined in June 2023, what has your journey in ARLT SIG been like so far?
Rachel: “I have mostly been knee-deep in Google Drive folders! I am also practicing my ability to set benchmarks and actionable steps to meet team goals, to generate media (images and blurbs), and to focus on messaging to others.”
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By Chloë Hynes on behalf of the UKFEchat teamA Little Background
#UKFEchat is entering its 10th year of bringing educators from right across the FE and skills sector together. It would not be overstating its popularity to say that it is an institution that is widely known, respected by the sector it seeks to represent and is loved by practitioners from all corners of FE.
The original weekly Twitter chat for post-16 educators was founded by the inimitable Sarah Simons @MrsSarahSimons and is still going strong after almost a decade. No other forum has done so much to bring practitioners from across an incredibly diverse sector together to discuss the hot topics and challenges faced by educators and learners alike. It has been a pivotal place to share ideas and experiences as well as learn from your peers.
At 9pm every Thursday during term time diverse groups of educators gather to discuss a topic of the day; anything from curriculum planning to inclusion to the impact of new Innovations such as AI. Topics are proposed by the community for the community in an egalitarian and collegial environment.
The chats are free to join and happen openly on Twitter. A real strength of the community is that hosts self-nominate bringing along their expertise on a subject and proposing questions which are then answered by the community. For some, leading a chat is an empowering exercise while for others it has helped garner ideas or responses for their own research. Infact two members of the current volunteer team have conducted research in informal professional learning on online platforms using UKFEchat as a source of inspiration (see the work of Dr. Diana Tremayne and Dr. Lynne Taylerson).
As well as the weekly chats and ad hoc posts every week’s chat is archived via a Wakelet collection which means that the chats are viewable outside of Twitter for those who are not on that platform. The diversity and breadth of the chats mean that busy sector practitioners can dip into them for one hour each week, asynchronously (often Friday AM) or via the wakelet curations. This means that in an extremely busy working life, practitioners are able to get bite-sized CPD on dozens of topics chosen by the community, hosted by the community and populated by the community.More than a Bit of Chit-Chat
As well as a powerful discussion forum for all FE professionals the chat has proved to be a valuable supportive social space particularly in recent years during lockdown where educators can openly discuss their challenges in an entirely safe space and receive support from colleagues whilst doing so.
A true strength of the chat is how it has brought together practitioners from right across a diverse sector. Hosts and participants have come from large general FE colleges, independent training providers, work-based learning, adult and community education, charity based provision, as well as more under-represented parts of the sector such as offender learning.
Over the years, #UKFEchat has nurtured a vibrant and altruistic community which has enabled, for example, ESOL practitioners from right across the UK and in some cases beyond to come together and share challenges, and discuss expertise. The chat community is a long-standing and valuable professional network which has walked alongside sector practitioners through some very difficult days recently, as well as giving them more light-hearted moments such as relaxing end-of-term chats, which might be centered around movies and television related to education.
The incredible success of the chat has led to several full-day in-person conferences, bringing together professionals from different organisations, sparking conversations in classrooms and staffrooms alike as well as pointing trainee teachers towards the chat as a valuable source of professional networking and industry knowledge.Interlude: A Personal Note
I joined Twitter about 5 years ago because I had been told that it was a good place to connect with other FE practitioners. I had just left my job in ACL where I was quite isolated as a teacher in the sector. I didn’t post on any of the #UKFEchat questions for a long time, but I read all the posts of the weekly chat and was inspired by my peers and the work they were doing. Over time I made connections with practitioners via the chats because it was a hub of FE activity! I learned a lot about myself as a practitioner in FE and grew an appreciation of how vast and diverse the sector is. I eventually took the plunge and began posting my own replies and felt a confidence buzz when the host replied and engaged with me. From this experience, I eventually led on a few of my own chats following encouragement from my peers. I am proud to now be on the #UKFEchat team encouraging other practitioners to give it a go, too.
UKFEchat (and social media in general) has successfully brought many FE folks together over the years. Diana Tremayne (another member of the current UKFEchat team) has written a blog in a similar vein, called Reflecting on the future of #UKFEchat, Twitter and online spaces.Why the Pivot?
About two years ago, Sarah asked a group of volunteers to take the mantle of UKFEchat and we have worked hard to keep the legacy of UKFEchat alive and well dependent on the need we see across the sector. But times have changed (so has Twitter or X or Y) and we feel a breeze from the south encouraging us to move on so we’re listening to the sector and the communities who utilise the chat to learn what they need from us.
As such going forward we have decided to trial a new time and regularity. UKFEchat will now take place on the third Thursday of every month in term time between 8 and 9pm. This will give us time to organise hosts and promote the chat via various channels (on and away from Twitter) throughout the month. The first chat of the year will be hosted by the UKFEchat team. The dates for term one will be:
21st September 2023
19th October 2023
16th November 2023
21st December 2023
The #UKFEchat ‘wrangler’ team provide a supportive space for new hosts and have welcomed on board dozens of new chat hosts in the past few years. This experience has boosted people’s confidence and raised their professional profiles in their organisation and beyond. UKFEchat is a pioneer within FE and has led to many other chats over the years, mirroring the format. We, like many see the value in it and we don’t want to loose it but we need you to help us keep it alive.
Please put these dates in your diary and let us know if you would like to host. Everyone is invited to come and host but we’d particularly like to support folks who have never hosted a chat before.