After a successful year for the Research in Learning Technology Journal, here is a brief summary of the top ten most downloaded articles in 2022.
To find out more about the journal, or to submit an article, visit the Research in Learning website.
On December 6, the M25 Learning & Teaching Group met for a hybrid meeting, with its first in-person contingent since November 2019! The presentations were also streamed for online participation. The afternoon started with lunch for those attending in person at the new Royal College of the Arts campus in Battersea, before kicking off with a welcome from Puiyin Wong (RCA), Sue Harrison (KCL), and Geraldine Foley (City, University of London. Julie Voce, also from City, University of London attended online, along with many others (myself included).Building Belonging in HE (Sunday Blake, WonkHE)
The busy afternoon then started with Sunday Blake presenting the main findings from the WonkHE report on student belonging at university. It was interesting to hear that one prompt for this project was the lack of clarity around what “belonging” means in higher education, one of the aims of the project was to determine what this meant to students. The scale of the research was impressive: over 5,000 students participated in surveys across 15 universities. Further, nearly 250 of those students kept in-depth diaries for researchers to analyse to get more qualitative understanding.
Bringing together all these responses, Sunday shared the report’s theory that connection, inclusion, support, and autonomy are the key pillars, all of which should be supported via holistic mental health support. Interestingly, more students (55%) reported a sense of belonging at course level, compared to at university level (39%). Digging into that finding, the report found that best practices at course level included students interacting with others on their course, but that the emphasis from students was not around seeking friendships per se as simply connections. Examples that students reported effectively created this included informal coffee mornings initially set up by staff, then taken over by students. In online spaces, they suggested WhatsApp groups that are created by staff, but then staff leave, and students continue. The groups being created by staff means that students are equally aware of the opportunity, but then students taking them over and staff bowing out ensures they can be effective peer support spaces. Notably, there were differences reported between what mature students wanted versus younger students. Primarily, mature students emphasised wanting to be part of a learning community and improving their academic experience, rather than seeking support networks the way that younger students may more frequently seek. This was a popular discussion theme throughout the rest of the day.
When assessing how inclusion fits into belonging, the report found that inclusion tends to be about accessibility of teaching & learning materials as a default. Students reported significant benefit in having accessible materials without having to go through intensive bureaucratic processes and potentially “other” themselves to request them. Unfortunately, 54% of staff surveyed reported that accessibility does not have a clear standard, and 72% reported a lack of staff knowledge in making materials accessible. The report strongly recommends that staff receive neurodiversity and inclusive design training including how to communicate neurodiversity support to students.
Another aspect of inclusion was wanting course materials to be representative. Perhaps contrary to staff perceptions, the students reported that this was not about having students’ own identities necessarily being represented in the course content. Instead, student concerns were more about academic rigor and employability considerations of not having access to breadth of examples and knowledge. For example,
students are concerned that medical textbooks not including examples of symptoms on different skin colours negatively impacting their ability to succeed after graduation. Students suggested that acknowledging gaps in the curricula was better than ignoring them, for example a module on “world cinema” should consider its title if only some parts of the world are discussed in depth. The report also recommended that staff could ask for students to volunteer new additions to the curricula.
The report also found a correlation in students reporting a sense of belonging and self-perceiving strong academic skills. The report therefore recommends embedding academic skills training throughout university, not via a deficit model. Similarly, the report recommended a variety of assessment styles across the curriculum. It also suggested that institutions help staff consider a “feed-forward” approach for responding to student feedback.
WonkHE is now working on research to think about what factors influence staff feelings of belonging, the biggest threat found so far in the research is job insecurity. This is similarly a survey-based effort, so far with 430 staff responses across institutions.Student Digital Community (Elisabetta Lando and Rae Bowdler, City, University of London)
Our second presentation featured Elisabetta Lando (City, University of London) presenting an evaluation of staff and students’ experiences of using Teams sites to support learning and teaching that she conducted with Rae Bowdler (City, University of London). They conducted this evaluation with ten staff members and twelve students across different schools of City about their experience of using Teams.
From student focus groups, Elisabetta and Rae found out some themes. First, students reported that Teams in a module works well when staff have good organisation and skills in using the capabilities of the technology. Students appreciated the ability to communicate easily with lecturers, both via chat and via calls (when invited by the lecturer). Teams was additionally seen as beneficial for students because of how it enabled students to work in groups and collaborate via channels and chats. However, existing challenges around cameras on/off in meetings and the implications for engagement in live sessions remained.
From this work, Elisabetta and Rae recommend helping students collaborate on Teams via chats and channels instead of non-university alternatives like WhatsApp, as Teams is more professional and secure. They also suggested building positive feedback from students on working together, creating guidance for students on how to create their own spaces on Teams, and ensuring staff know how to use all the features in Teams. They are already building a community of practice for staff throughout the university on using Teams to continue to expand this work.Bake off and bingo!
Following this presentation, in-person attendees participated in the first ever in-person #EdTechBakeOff and a networking & learning technology bingo. Meanwhile, those of us online were led by Julie Voce in trying to complete the bingo with online attendees.
I am pleased to report that we nearly got there! If you were a webmaster in the old days of the internet, or currently work in library services, or still use Mahara, let us know! We have made the bingo cards available via a Creative Commons licence for anyone else who would like to use them.
Congratulations to Bake Off winner Emma Bayne from the Royal College of Art.https://twitter.com/Puiyin/status/1600176197224128526 Blended & Hybrid Student Community (Puiyin Wong, Royal College of Art)
After being stuffed with cake and interrogating peoples’ history of using various educational technologies, we heard a presentation on building intercultural student communities with the aid of technologies from Puiyin Wong (Royal College of Art). For this research, Puiyin looked at 23 students across 15 countries and 9 ethnicities and 5 staff across 4 countries to determine how cultural backgrounds impact student community formation. She found that 43% of students reported a good experience with building a sense of community via blended learning. However, 56% reported that peer engagement was harder with distance learning. Key findings from student feedback on hybrid learning: 43% found it hard to engage with students from other cultures when everyone is in different modes of attendance. 56% thought that hybrid “created a two-tier system” and 72% thought that it was easy for in person students to ignore online students. Puiyin aimed to make her presentation interactive, with a Padlet for people to engage with ideas and discussion questions.Community Building for Learning Technologists in the Conservatoire Sector (Evan Dickerson, Guildhall School of Music & Drama)
The penultimate presentation focused on community building for learning technologists in the conservatoire sector by Evan Dickerson (Guildhall). He outlined how there was a lack of community amongst conservatoire educational technologists, despite there being some people working in this area. He then detailed the initial steps to create a community, which were received quite positively. We look forward to seeing how this specialist community continues to grow!https://twitter.com/Puiyin/status/1600158976913469440 Transferring interactive academic skills to an online learning experience (Sian Lund & Juli MacArthur, Royal College of Art)
Finally, we heard from Sian Lund and Juli MacArthur, both at Royal College of Art, about their experience transferring interactive academic skills to an online learning experience. They explained how they used Talis and Padlet in four- and eight-week pre-sessional summer courses to support the English language skills for 150+ students coming into postgraduate degrees. Sian and Juli discussed how Padlet was used as a micro-blog type activity for students. Although this is not the most common Padlet use case, students found it easy to learn and use, it looked more modern and professional compared to built-in Moodle versions, and it was easy for students to write in and read from. Students then engaged in the learning process of reading and assessing English language sources via Talis to develop skills interactively. They reported these two uses of educational technology being quite successful in improving skills and popular with students.
The day then concluded with a pub visit for those attending in person. Looking forward to the next M25 session!https://twitter.com/Puiyin/status/1600188699316133888
Miranda Melcher, Educational Technologist, City, University of London
Julie Voce, Head of Digital Education, City, University of London
I am deeply grateful for the role GO-GN/ALT/OER plays in my scholarly and personal life, particularly over these past few years. That gratitude bookends my work, and I hope that my research and practice make visible the impact this community has on those in and around it.
The OER23 Conference theme is “Advancing Open Education Practices.” Pondering this theme provides an opportunity to consider ways in which we have employed “Care in Openness”, asked “Open For Whom” and thoughtfully enacted research and pedagogy in a time of crisis. I have been fortunate to receive support from my institution, GO-GN and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to participate in these conferences in my role as coordinator of OpenOKState.
OpenOKState is the Oklahoma State University Libraries’ program initiating campus support for open practices. Priorities of the OpenOKState program include intentionality regarding the ethical use of learning analytics and identification of shared vocabulary highlighting alignment of open practices and scholarly work. The interventions the OpenOKState team has designed to move toward those priorities are largely influenced by the research and practices shared at ALT/OER conferences. This year’s theme prompts us to evaluate not only the effectiveness of our program interventions, but why and how the ALT/OER conferences have been so impactful.
It boils down to feeling safe enough to consider brave ideas. Let’s take a two minute time-out for some theory.Diffusion of innovation theory
Diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers, 2003) is commonly used to make sense of the rates at which innovations diffuse, but our program is particularly concerned with what the theory suggests about how communication in and among people impacts whether the innovation diffuses at all. The theory defines an innovation as an idea or practice perceived as new (Rogers, 2003) which diffuses through social communication channels over time. Bridge communications can increase diffusion by connecting people from homophilous groups to create new heterophilous groups. The theory states that interactions outside our local social/communication network can increase our consideration of ideas or practices we perceive as new.
New places, new people, new ideas.Polyvagal theory
I’ve been digging into polyvagal theory as part of an exploration of how to design and enact trauma-informed pedagogy. Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory provides “physiological and psychological understanding” (Dana, 2018) about how our autonomic system drives the way we respond and interact with and on our surroundings. The theory articulates levels of response from (level one) surviving to (level four) thriving, depending on the threat level we identify in our surroundings. In the level four response we identify a relatively threat-free environment, activate our social engagement system and “have access to a range of responses including calm, happy, meditative, engaged, attentive, active, interested, excited, passionate, alert, ready, relaxed, savoring, and joyful” (Dana, 2018, p. 26). When our social engagement system is engaged we receive and send “cues of safety and invitations to come into connection” (Dana, 2018, p. 27).
And when we connect, we can experience ideas or practices we perceive as new. We innovate.The So-What
I heard about GO-GN and the OER20 conference from an ed tech research friend I knew from another professional organization. She pointed me to FemEdTech on social media and sent me links to the OER19 conference recordings. Intrigued by the presenters’ emphasis on relational and process aspects of open practices, I applied to join GO-GN, partnered with Deb Baff on a square for the FemEdTech quilt, and requested support from my university to attend OER20. My funding proposals spoke specifically about the conference as an opportunity to, in theory terms, innovate my scholarship by interacting with people outside of my local social network.
The OER20 conference was scheduled April 1-2, 2020. The theme was “Care in Openness”, and the ALT team was uniquely qualified to adjust the conference format as the scope of the pandemic became apparent. The conference planning and programming committees were attentive to communities’ need to feel safe while also committed to facilitating connection. They communicated regularly as the conference format shifted, including logistical information as well as memes and gifs about fun and safe ways to greet each other.
Once the conference moved online, this commitment to safety and connection continued. Moderators were present in each session to provide tech support as we made our way together in what felt then like an unfamiliar space. Participants were invited each day to share pictures of their slippers as we nervously joked about presenting in our pajamas. We chatted with new friends about families, shared what was outside our ‘temporary’ home office windows, and laughed together as our pets barked or crossed nonchalantly in front of the camera.
The ALT team and their partners were scholars, researchers, and expert practitioners who, intentionally and with care, facilitated our ability to send and receive “cues of safety and invitations to come into connection” (Dana, 2018, p. 27) in unaccustomed spaces during a scary time which necessitated ideas and practices considered new (Rogers, 2003). It might have been hard on-screen to see eye crinkles, but they found other ways to help us communicate safety and engage with each other. For me, the OER20 conference experience provided a meaningful foundation for interaction in other conferences whose format shifted from F2F to online. I took ideas and practices with me from that conference to the next, and the next, continuing to identify opportunities to cue safety and invite engagement.
By the end of the year, the slippers I had laughingly posted a picture of during OER20 had holes in the toes. Many of us have holes in our hearts and homes.
But I also know that Jeff’s dog is named Rocket, and that karaoke across an ocean is difficult but not impossible. I know that people and practices soaked in care can create an environment that sustains connection and curiosity, even when life is scary and uncertain.
Putting these experiences in the context of theory helps me understand why what the ALT/OER20 team did worked and transfer that understanding to my own practice with intentionality and care. OERX and OER22 reinforced these understandings. I am certain OER23 will do the same, and I am gratefully looking forward to connecting with you all soon.
Guest post from our OER23 Committee Member Kathy Essmiller. For more information about this year’s conference and to join us from 4-6 April 2023, head to the conference website.
Yesterday saw the start of a new server experiment on Mastodon. Over the next three months ALT Members are invited to join in an exploration of this social space, and learn more about how to use it for personal and professional use along the way.
We are excited to partner with Reclaim Hosting to offer 3 fun, informative sessions focused on Mastodon. The sessions are open to all and free to attend so you should have no issues accessing them here. The sessions will offer interested parties valuable insight into how the federated social media software Mastodon works, with everything from joining a server, to helping them find their way around, as well as providing a peek behind the scenes of the moderating and hosting process. We need you to join the sessions, participate and report back:
For any of the above sessions you can join the Reclaim Discord server to join the chat during the live broadcasts: https://reclaimed.tech/discord .
If you’d like to register and get reminders about each session, head over to the ALT website and register now.Why are we doing this?
The server we set up will act as a platform for our communities to explore and get to know Mastodon. The server will be temporary, but depending on what we learn along the way, we will decide how to proceed. So, whether you are completely new to the fediverse, or looking for other edtech folk to connect with, join us to explore and learn together.
ALT and Reclaim EdTech are already active on Mastodon, and many in our communities are, too. We are looking to learn more about how we can support folk in this space, how community servers might function, how they could be moderated and what the costs involved might be, too.
This is an opportunity to learn more about being active on Mastodon as well as learning about setting up, hosting and moderating servers for communities like ours and complement what we can learn from already established communities and servers with hands-on experience.Join the server
This is a special year for our Association as we celebrate thirty years since ALT was established in 1993. As we prepare for to mark this important anniversary as the leading professional body for Learning Technology in the UK and as an independent charity serving our membership, we want to focus on how we can build on what has been achieved as well as what’s ahead.Help shape what’s next
Our work across sectors, serving a growing community with diverse needs and priorities depends on your input and we invite you to complete ALT’s Annual Survey for 2023. Help shape what is ahead and contribute to our unique insight into how Learning Technology is used across sectors as well as identifying emerging trends in current and future practice. The survey provides an important insight into how professional practice within the field of Learning Technology is developing. The purpose of this survey is to:
The Annual Survey also helps to improve ALT’s monitoring and reporting in order to promote equality, diversity and inclusion. The closing date for responses is 5 February 2023 . Complete the survey now.New events programme launching for 2023
Our events programme is at the heart of the work we do and attracts over 5,500 participants a year. Through a varied programme of webinars, workshops and conferences we increase access to expertise and continuing professional development (CPD) for Members and participants from across education and training sectors. ALT’s new events programme that has been developed to meet the needs of our community and deliver value for our Members.
We are really excited to bring new events into our established calendar of activities and to continue our CMALT Webinars and support the work of ALT Member and Special Interest Groups.
I am delighted that we have an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ASCILITE. There is a long-standing collaboration between ALT and ASCILITE and in recent years we have actively worked together on initiatives including CMALT Australasia and baselining best practice Open Access journal publication.
This Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) provides a framework for areas of joint working between ASCILITE and the Association for Learning Technology. It sets out how the two organisations will work together to ensure that shared objectives are taken forward and provides a platform on which to build joint working.Did you miss…?
A quick summary of highlights from across our community:
By Dr Teeroumanee Nadan for the ARLT SIG
Following the Black History month meeting and what this means for Learning Technologists the ARLT SIG community met in November for something closer to the day-to-day job: anti-racist approaches in technology.
I provide in this blog post a short summary of the session supplemented with some examples, along with a summary of the Q&A session and additional links for you to read. Sadly, there is no captioning embedded in the recording, and YouTube captioning is one of those technological features that will fail a discrimination test. I will request for chapters to be added to the video so that you can read this blog and pick relevant questions to you and watch the video from that section if possible.
Coding Black Females & FutureLearn Course Summary
Coding Black Femalel is the organisation behind the Antiracist Approaches in Technology FutureLearn course. They have been around since 2017, and it has been a much-needed space for Black women in the tech sector. The slides (at the bottom of this post) and their website has further information on their mission and their aim.
The FutureLearn course highlights racist stereotyping in technologies (in particular consumer products) along with outlining concepts to be considered to create technologies that do not have biases into them. The course is split into 3 weeks with a reflection every week:
Antiracism in Tech
I would like here to highlight here some common examples of how AI with racist algorithms. In 2015, Google Photos’ face recognition “Face grouping” has been the subject of criticism because of its racist algorithm – Google Photos Tags Two African-Americans As Gorillas Through Facial Recognition Software and Google apologises for racist photo blunder. In addition, Google had restricted its AI recognition, thus a search for “black man” or “black woman” would only return pictures of people in black and white, sorted by gender but not race. This is, however, not the first time that racist AI was widely rolled out in consumer products. In 2009, Nikon’s famous “Did someone blink?” screen message would frequently pop up when an Asian person got photographed, despite being a Japanese company headquartered in Tokyo – Nikon camera says Asians are always blinking. Another Google feature, Google search autocomplete, has been in the headlines since early 2010 and we still hear of how discriminatory Google’s algorithm is – How Google’s autocomplete reveals racist, sexist and homophobic searches: Researchers claim search function ‘perpetuates prejudices’, Google Has a Striking History of Bias Against Black Girls and Ten years on, search auto-complete still suggests slander and disinformation.
You might also recall another count of racism, this time closer to home, when in 2019 Cat Hallam simply wanted to renew her UK passport online (https://bit.ly/3YzWyP4).
During her talk, Liza highlighted that diversity is not the answer; you, in fact, need a team that has inclusion and equity. In your work environment, you need to incorporate an understanding of how (ethnicity) data can be used in order to make sure that we have an “even spread of individuals that represent society as a whole”. I could not but reflect on what this means to us in our day-to-day work. Are we taking representation into consideration when forming teams? Are we capturing ethnicity data? It is no surprise that time and again, within ARLT SIG, it has been highlighted that antiracism work in tech tends to come from the US, while we shy away from addressing systemic issues within the UK. Liza highlighted that “when we talk of racism in the UK, it is more than likely rushed over”.
Summary of Question & Answer
As backup chair, I had a few questions prepared so happy reading and most importantly happy understanding! Note: This is not a word-to-word captioning of the video.
Q1. In the UK, Black people represent 1.9% of the tech industry and Black women only 0.7%. Given that software project management is very cyclical, 1.9% Black people throughout the cycle of product design and development is very little.
That is why the US fixes racism in technology first, they record ethnicity, but in the UK we do not record ethnicity. Some level of consideration is taken in the product life cycle, however even this is questionable as we keep hearing about instances every year. For example, Google search autocomplete with racist prejudices. What does a diverse team mean? A point worth reflecting here is : does a team with two people of colour (but of the same ethnicity and perhaps different gender) count as diverse?
Q2. How to overcome the issues with Black people trying to fit in and not wanting to raise issues or looking for reaffirmation of their competence? How do we encourage the younger generation when there is only 1.9% Black people in the industry?
We need to raise awareness that it is not easy to get through to the career ladder, we need to have role models and we need to speak up. In the tech industry, there have been gender biases in the past (and even to some degree now). Black people are here and are present, but remain untapped because people choose to ignore that Black, competent people are here. We need to have conversations and show different role models, showcase different pathways to tech (not necessarily the traditional pathways). We also need to encourage people to stay in their posoitions. Because of racism, many people reach a crossroad whether they have to decide whether to leave or to stay. It is rekatively easier to get some people up the ladder, but it is difficult to make them stay, because of the burden of racism.
Q3. Experience of working with 10000blackinterns (https://www.10000blackinterns.com/)
There are many internship programs that help young people, in particular girls. However, we have to question where do these women go, where do they end up? Do these young women stay in the tech roles? Do they go sideways because they feel they have hit the glass ceiling even at the entry level? It is great that we are getting people to some junior positions, but then what happen to them? Women of colour still feel reluctant to speak, their expertise is still not called upon as much as the white male.
Q4. We live in a capitalist society, what can leaders do to influence political leaders to make the tech industry more equitable (although some laws have loopholes and laws are not entirely deterrent to racism)?
Networks help a lot, but at the same time we need to make people visible. We need to capture matrix on what is going on in organisations. Everybody should have the opportunity to speak up ?(if they feel comfortable doing that). In the US it is easier to lobby for certain things, they record ethnicity but there is still some other biases. In start ups of less than 200 people, they do not have to record ethnicity. There are many good good organisations e.g. Tech Talent charter (https://www.techtalentcharter.co.uk/home) It is also important to have people who are willing to stand up for you, you are stronger if you have the people help support you.
Q5. Black History Month
It is nice to highlight individuals, but Black people are Black throughout the year. It is also the same with Pride month. If you fall in a particular category, it remains so throughout the year, not just for one year.
Q6. Black people within Academia
There used to be very few Black people in Academia, but this still continues as there are still very few Black people in higher positions. There tends to be over-exploitation of Black people with expertise either to join committees or project groups, you need to pay the people to do these, not request free work. This is an issue in a lot of industries, but until we come to the point where we record ethnicity data, we will not come to a point where we can understand the real issue, there is a big problem of the visibility of Black people at mid-level in all industries, not just tech. Women (in general of any colour) they drop off.
Recording & Presentation
YouTube recording for Liza Layne’s presentation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO913NCCMzw
Liza Layne’s presentation slides are available at: http://bit.ly/3UMJVO9
Did you enjoy reading this? To become a member of our community see Membership details here – https://www.alt.ac.uk/membership
In our sector, we know that stickers and badges are not just enjoyed at school. There’s something special about earning something tangible that you can show off, even if it’s just to yourself, in your own diary or notebook. Digital badges can provide this feeling of value and kudos in the same way and so much more!
Organisations and institutions use open digital badges for multiple purposes, not just recognition of achievements. They can be used to motivate and reward, showcase official memberships, and accredit continual professional development.
ALT offers a range of digital badges to recognise professional development and active engagement in peer review, peer assessment and governance, with a total of 10,000 badges issued to date (ALT Impact Report, Sept 2022). Badges have been awarded for hosting a webinar, attending a conference, being a CMALT assessor, and writing a blog post alongside many other recognitions. The AmplifyFE team has been busy creating the following digital badges.
The AmplifyFE Community Space Member Badge from the Open Badge Factory is awarded for:
The AmplifyFE Community Space Presenter badge is awarded for:
Open Badge Factory is the platform we use to share open badges with our community space members. Badges are fully verifiable and show who and when the badge was awarded, alongside details about the badge.Example: AmplifyFE Community Space Presenter Badge
If you haven’t already received a badge, sign up to our mailing list to stay updated and receive one during our next allocation of badges.What can I do with my AmplifyFE open badge?
Amplify FE works to connect and amplify communities of practice for digital learning, teaching and assessment. The AmplifyFE Community Space works across the whole Further Education and Training sector in its widest terms engaging with vocational educators and those who support them.
Did you enjoy reading this? To become a member of our #altc community see Membership details here – https://www.alt.ac.uk/membership
By Sammy White
FE is the most inclusive sector of education, everyone is welcome to come and learn with us. Yet it can be exclusive in its application of technology. From campus to campus within the same college group levels of access to technology can vary wildly. Examples of Level 3 graphics work on the latest Mac’s yet entry 1 ESOL have one hour a term in the library on the campus desktops are sadly common. How with such varied levels of access to technology do we ensure that when we do use technology, it has meaning?
Imagine that dreaded OfSTED deep dive into your area and that conversation about your use of technology. What does a good use of technology look like for you? There are models of SAMR or TPACK to help reflect, but ultimately you know your subject and you know your students. Therefore you know how to make the use of technology meaningful in your setting.
It is obvious to a visitor when students are doing something new and special because of the need to use technology in the session. Routine therefore becomes important but how do you avoid a tokenistic routine where you use technology for the sake of it? A formative assessment done on a device using technology might be a great routine but what do you do with the results of that formative assessment? How do you adjust the direction of learning informed by those results?
In truth that can be challenging to do without the use of technology. But having to access the results on an online quiz platform, digest students results and then adjust mid session can be cognitively challenging. Another option might be an exit ticket reflection where students share their thoughts on the session and describe what they learned. A quick rating of their progress against the learning intention with a follow up question where students describe their learning or define where they want toe extend their learning is a simple 2 question format.
Capturing this digitally in a Form that results in a spreadsheet means you can digest the results, when you have time, and adjust the direction of learning, ready for the next session. Students could access this form via a link shortener every lesson, building that routine or via a QR code on the wall. With date and time stamps allocated in the spreadsheet this could be routine across all your groups. Could you capture this student reflection in another way? Yes, but would students be as honest? This might make technology a good option to elevate this learning experience.
Professional trust is a key part of making the use of technology meaningful for students. Teachers, lecturers, workshop leaders are the experts on their students, they know what works best. Let’s trust professionals to find meaning for their use of technology in their classroom, with their students.
This blog was written as a draft formulation of the author’s ideas before submitting her contribution to the new open source journal Future FE Pedagogies. Sammy would welcome your thoughts, ideas and comments to help her extend her thinkpiece. You can share them via a Mentimeter poll here: https://www.menti.com/alf51ub9pomt
By Anne Reardon-James
I too, am sure like you many of you, was indoctrinated with the cult of learning styles during teaching college. It seemed such a neat theory – find out whether your learners have visual, auditory, read-write or kinesthetic (VARK) preferences and adapt your teaching style to suit. It was fun to give new learners a learning styles quiz to fill out during the induction and share results with the group. It also made you think about your own learning style biases too and reminded you as a tutor to make sure you weren’t just facilitating learning using a single method of delivery.
Popularised in the 1970s, learning styles were advocated by theorists such as Fleming, Honey and Mumford. But now, more recently we are being told that these ideas in fact do not have validity in education and are based on ‘neuromyth’. This critique is based on research developments, advanced knowledge and understanding in neuroscience. These ideas are being replaced with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), first defined by David H. Rose, which proposes a set of new principles to meet learners’ diverse needs. According to UDL, curriculum should provide:
Multiple means of representation – with various ways of acquiring knowledge,
Multiple means of expression – providing learners with alternatives for demonstrating learning; and
Multiple means of engagement – to motivate learning with appropriate challenge.
What does this mean in practical terms? At first glance, UDL knits together well with digital pedagogies. The explosion in digital literacy tools and techniques, accelerated during the Covid pandemic, has enabled a vast array of ways for multiple means of representation, expression and engagement. Learners now have quite a choice of
learning methods available either in person, online, hybrid, independently or in groups, using anything from traditional textbooks, handouts and worksheets to YouTube videos and experiential ‘learning by doing’. Similarly, assessments to demonstrate learning could be vlogs, blogs, recorded professional discussions, Kahoot quizzes, infographics…the list is endless. Engaging with learners is no longer simply in structured in-person tutorials and sessions, but can be carried out via virtual forums, Zoom, Teams or Googlemeet calls.
So now when I introduce learning styles to trainees (as it is still in the standards for many introductory teaching qualifications) I use a strong note of caution against pigeon-holing and encourage learner choice and creativity in learning and assessment. Essentially teaching and learning needs to be inclusive and multi-modal, with variety to meet the different needs and preferences of learners. Based on constructivist theory, many argue that learning should be co-created through collaboration, and ownership taken of learning by adult learners. This seems to make good sense. I first ‘cut my teeth’ in adult community learning (ACL), where a democratic model of learning was advocated by those such as Freire, in contrast to the ‘banking model’ of assuming learners are empty vessels to be filled with knowledge from the teacher. Adult learners have many options of engaging with learning for themselves.
However, is there is a danger of ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’? I am enjoying experimenting with putting UDL principles into practice, but the main challenge I am finding is encouraging learners to take risks and try out different digital tools to demonstrate learning. Offering choice to learners for them to express their learning can often mean that they stick to assessment methods that they know. What do you think about UDL as a framework for inclusive practice? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. @areardonjames
This blog was written as a draft formulation of the author’s ideas before submitting her contribution to the new open source journal Future FE Pedagogies. Anne would welcome your thoughts, ideas and comments to help her extend her thinkpiece. You can share them via a Mentimeter poll here: https://www.menti.com/alu2o1cdvhne
By Joyce I-Hui Chen
Twitter Handle: @joyceihuichen1
In the summer of 2022 in the UK, the MET Office confirmed the new record-high temperature of 40.3 °C and a new highest daily minimum temperature record. Whilst enjoying the sunny weather, I could not stop thinking that this is an alarming reminder that the climate is changing, and we are all in this together. The Ukraine-Russia crisis is an ongoing cruel reminder that humankind is challenged and we as humans have yet learnt how to treat each other with compassion, kindness and love, despite the fact that history seems to repeat itself over and over again.
I recalled how the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown back in 2020 and 2021 in the UK somehow brought humankind back to our communities. Neighbours, friends and people, who we do not often have opportunities to make connections with, started out by setting up support groups online to help each other get through the darkest and toughest times. At work, I set up wellbeing initiatives and activities online to support teachers and educators to talk with each other through crafts such as origami and mindfulness. Technologies enable us to make connections and build communities beyond the physical space. Through the experiences of the last three years with the continuing pandemic and global crisis, we have learnt so much about the importance and values of being human – compassion, love, kindness, thoughtfulness and communities. Human beings are not perfect, but we should learn from what is around us and take actions to stop doing more harm to each other and the planet we are living in.
Being a teacher educator, I constantly reflect on what education means and what it is for. In the last three years, digital pedagogy and sustainability have been my main areas of professional development and learning. A really insightful report, published by the Association for Learning Technology, highlights key motivators which underpin digital pedagogy in further education and vocational education: developing ‘a learner-centred community model with values, identity, beliefs, purpose and needs’, balanced with ‘digital design strategies, tools and learning environments’.
For me, education should be grounded in co-creating communities with multidisciplinary skills, knowledge, perspectives, and cultures. Through continuing co-constructive communities, we build trust, openness and agency to be creative and innovative. Digital pedagogy builds on existing pedagogy informed by educators and learners. Through pandemic, I personally experienced the empowering effects of digital participative pedagogy in action. Online communities such as #JoyFE, #FEResearchmeet, the Learning and Skills Research Network, Women’s Leadership Network CIC, and #AmplifyFE have brought practitioners together for shared values and passion to support each other and drive social purposes. The importance of
these communities is to support and develop sustainable learning for educators and practitioners. One major learning from all the different communities is the culture of thinking and how the practice of thinking environment has brought innovative ideas in an equal and anti-competitive space such as an Ideas Room. As Nancy Kline (the originator of thinking environment) says, ‘The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first. The quality of our thinking depends on the way we treat each other while we are thinking’.
Sustainability requires all of us working on ourselves about how we treat each other, the living things, the non-living things, our planet, the environments and beyond. The time is now!
This blog was written as a draft formulation of the author’s ideas before submitting her contribution to the new open source journal Future FE Pedagogies. Joyce would welcome your thoughts, ideas and comments to help her extend her thinkpiece. You can share them via a Mentimeter poll here: https://www.menti.com/alvrssrka424
By Christopher John, Academic Content Developer, School of Design, University of Leeds (Formerly of Durham University Centre for Academic Development), and Dr Trudi Buck, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Durham University
Over the past twelve months, we have been working on a project to develop an online fieldwork activity for undergraduate forensic anthropology learners at Durham University. Involving the investigation of a clandestine burial scene and an analysis of human remains, the activity provides a companion or alternative to in person fieldwork. In doing so, increasing inclusivity of the learning experience for remote learners, learners with poor mobility or additional learning needs, and learners unable to attend the event, whist also providing an enhanced opportunity for all learners to repeat or prepare for fieldwork activities.
The online fieldwork involves a range of learning activities emphasising visual analysis, including:
The activities draw on a range of digital learning content, including aerial photography of the burial site, 360 degree photography of a dressed crime scene, and 3D models of human remains, as illustrated in Figures 1 and 2.Figure 1: 360 degree photography of a dressed crime scene, captured using a Ricoh Theta camera and rendered using Babylon.js Figure 2: 3D models of human remains, created using an Aztec Space Spider laser scanner and rendered using Babylon.js
Whilst developing the activity, we were keen to explore the potential for leveraging digital learning content across virtual reality devices in support of enhanced visual analysis activity, such as crime scene mapping or bone analysis.
As shown in the video (Slide 2), WebXR content is delivered via the headset browser. When the headset icon is selected, an immersive WebXR session begins with no appstore or headset sideloading required.
Babylon.js can also detect when content is rendered immersively, providing a mechanism for changing content characteristics or mechanics for virtual reality engagement, as shown in the following video (Slide 3) where a ground surface and 3D interface are introduced when a WebXR session begins. In doing so, providing a virtual reality space for the learner to organise and conduct a thorough visual analysis of human remains.
We were really impressed with Babylon.js, it has a lot of built-in virtual reality features such as teleportation and controllers, and the Mixed Reality Toolkit in support of interface design. Further, there is a vibrant developer community with lots of working examples available via the Babylon.js Playground and GitHub.
Whilst WebXR support and performance does currently vary, hopefully in future it will mature and provide a standardised and cost-effective solution for web-based virtual and augmented reality in support of digital learning.More Information
It would be great to hear what others have done or ideas they have – please do post them in the comments below.
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By Dr Teeroumanee Nadan for the ARLT SIG
On 20th October, members of the Antiracism & Learning Technologies Special Interest Group (ARLT SIG) (https://bit.ly/3zqImwT) community met for the first event of the academic year 2022-23. The meeting was themed around “Black History Month” (BHM) in the UK, and most particularly:
Within the non-White community in UK, we often distance ourselves from the problem of specific marginalised groups. Talking of BHM has helped re-instate that racism within the UK needs everyone to work hand in hand together to find suitable solutions. Nonetheless, BHM is and remains a problem where Black people MUST be the first to be heard, bearing in mind that the Black community remains the most marginalised and victimised group among the People of Colour (POC) community within UK.
While preparing the discussion slides for this session, I could not but take everyone back into history. Why so? Because we as humans tend to repeat history.Arkansas Gazette from 1959 – Fire kills 21 boys shut in dormitory at training school
In 1959, 69 black African American boys from ages 13-17 were locked in their dormitory (from outside) at the Negro Boys Industrial School in Wrightsville. A fire mysteriously ignited, with 21 bruning to death while 48 managed to escape.
This is not an event from the distant past, and nor is it an event that is not relatable to 2022. I wrote in an earlier blog about Modern Slavery in UK HEIs (https://bit.ly/3s7gmua) and also on a Digital Inequity (https://bit.ly/3s6IUUK). While in 2022, we do not lock our Black students in the dorm and burn them alive, we nonetheless continue to expose them to the digital divide which has naturally ensued from centuries of British control in British colonies and ex-colonies; we still regularly enforce “British projects/platforms” in the education system in Commonwealth countries. We obviously all have a choice, and we all have the responsibility to change this.What does Black History month means for LT?
Here are some of the pointers I used to guide the small group discussions. You may consider:
Here are some of the pointers I used to guide the small group discussions. You may consider:
We kicked off the discussion with a pertinent question “Why is Black History only talked about during one specific month?” Black History Month has been celebrated since 1987 in the UK but yet in the professional setting it is still being organised/celebrated at an institutional level. Within the group discussion there seems to have been some initial questioning as to whether it should mean something to LTs and if so, what should it mean?
The discussion was guided by the understanding of technologies: to what level should we be aware of the technologies and platforms that we use, are we aware of their limitations, are we aware of the biases of technology, are we aware of alternatives, have we adequately explored the different technologies? Simply put, if you do not know what you do not know, it is difficult to mitigate the issues. How are different groups represented in our materials (departmental webpage, learning content, etc), how about case studies, reading list, are black authors recognised adequately for their due contribution in the sector?
Of course, once we become aware of the issues, how do we address these? The group discussed forward planning for activities, which may include activism. Moreover, there was also discussion on equal opportunities for everyone. Although we did not specifically list the equal opportunities, these have to be present from hiring stage to the time a staff leaves/retires from their institution. It was highlighted that the case of lack of diversity in senior positions around learning technology is particularly prominent in some regions of the UK more than others, and Scottish institutions seem to have the same struggle. You may find some answers here: Equity analysis of 6 LT job blurbs (https://bit.ly/3WEgHTk)
One, rather not surprising, argument made, was the difference between the US and UK in terms of anti-blackness, and openness around challenges of Black people within the educational sector. The UK inadvertently uses softer tone and language, thus lessening the racism issue around Black people in general in the UK, an issue, that of course is naturally transcended within the educational sector and even among LTs. I often refer to the change in mindset, you may find materials and video on this blog useful Changing mindset to reduce discrimination at work (https://bit.ly/3zJTe9h)
While looking at solutions, the institutional solution to digital divide during the pandemic was discussed. We are all aware of how universities started to loan laptops to students, However, is this the strategy to be taken when we are looking at the already marginalised group? Should we be loaning or should we be providing? Are we having our priorities right – should we re-prioritise where institutional money and resources go? This is perhaps something that is beyond the hands of LTs, but more for Senior Leadership Teams to discuss and act on; however, this does not prevent LTs in starting the discussion and influencing their teams and HODs into the right direction for tackling racism.
The question now is what committment are you going to make to decrease racism in your work?Further Reading
Presentation slides on BHM available at: https://bit.ly/3U4Otiw (Edited version)
Full presentation slides of the ARLT SIG event available at: https://bit.ly/3WdsAPY
This post was originally published here.