Event report: ALT-C 2013

Last week I attended the 2013 Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C) which was hosted at the University of Nottingham. Alongside hearing about some fantastic projects it was a great opportunity to catch up with the people I’ve met since I started my first role as a learning technologist four months ago. The event made me feel like I was part of ‘it’, with it being the learning tec community, as I was able to comfortably sit down and chat to people I’d previously met – being on the shy side this was a real achievement for me.

Despite being a really positive experience I had one minor niggle about the event. Although I predominantly attended talks about student centred projects I personally didn’t see any students presenting alone or alongside their tutors. This was a real shame as being new to working in HE and having studied my undergrad degree before computers became part of everyday life I’d love to hear the perspectives of today’s students. This point did get me thinking though as for the past four months I have focused soley on the needs of staff without really pushing them to find out about how they have thought through the needs and preferences of their students and how this relates to their planning with regards to TEL This will definitely be on my radar in future.

The presentation by Abington and Witney College on their JISC Advance Funded project Students 4 Webes has also provided me with lots of ideas to use. The college used video conferencing and webinars to develop the employability skills of their L3 students. The college did this by encouraging groups of students to set up and run a series of short webinars around the theme of ‘What does an employer want from an employee?”. The webinars were then recorded and put on the college system so that other students could access the information.

A full description on their project with resources can accessed via their Google site and their blog can be viewed by clicking here.

#MELSIG event report

On Friday I made my way back up north to attend the MELSIG event at the University of Huddersfield. As expected the conference was full of inspiring stories. Although all of the presentations and workshops were excellent the one that really stood out for me was Hayley Atkinson’s (@LadyColottes) presentation on ‘Designing and Evaluating E-Book Resources‘.

Hayley’s presentation highlighted a project that she is working on at the University of Leeds which explores the design and evaluation of eBook resources. A copy of Hayley’s slides are below whilst the Sound Cloud file is an interview that Hayley gave about the project earlier in the year.

Although the project is also examining the way that e-books can be used to create interactive course books I was particularly interested in how the project is encouraging creative assessments as students are able to author their own e-books as an alternative to writing essays.

I am currently working a dissertation study into the use of audio feedback and can’t wait to try out a few of the authoring tools suggested by Hayley so that I can present my findings in an interactive way. I’m planning on embedding video interviews, sound clips and links to the institutions resource website where the supporting materials for this project are hosted.

Event report: International Conference on Using New Technologies for Inclusive Learning

Yesterday was a ‘first time day’ as I attend my first accessibility conference. The International Conference on Using New Technologies for Inclusive Learning Conference was held at Glasgow Caladonian University and had been organised as part of ENABLE project.

After the keynote the conference was split into 2 halves with themed sessions running in parallel with each other. This is a little bug bear of mine as it meant that I had to miss out on quite a few of the interesting sounding presentations as I was confined to one room for two hours at a time. I  much prefer it when there’s the opportunity to move rooms in between presentations. Despite this it turned out to be a really good day and no that wasn’t because of the beautiful Cath Kidston bag and dress that I purchased on the way home.

During the day the two presentations that stood out to me where delivered by @AbiJames and @FilMcIntyre.

How do we increase accessibility?

How do we increase accessibility?

Fil presented on the accessibility of tablet devices and it was interesting to here that some providers, such as Acer, often decide to stop supporting a certain type of device which blocks software updates and therefore the user can be stuck with archaic accessibility options. Overall it was agreed that although providers are making an effort to develop accessibility features such as speech to text and contrast settings there still is a long way to go. As someone who suffers from colour sensitivity and prefers to read text against a dark green background I would love to see a colour filter introduced to tablets as it would make reading from the device so much easier.

Fil works for BRITE (Beattie Resources for Inclusiveness in Technology and Education) and there is a small selection of resources over on their company’s website.

Magic wand

Could Azzapt be a magic wand for accessible resources?

After Fil, Abbie demonstrated the document personalisation tool Azzapt. Azzapt is a cloud based solution that reformat documents into yours/your students preferred accessibility format. Simply upload the document to the site and after a few seconds you will be able to access the document in your preferred format – for myself this is on a dark green background, with the text presented in Ariel point 12. As well as changing the print appearance this tool can also be used to turn documents into mp3s.

Azzapt syncs with Dropbox so tutors can create a shared folder for their class, then the students can download the information in their preferred format from Azzapt. This could significantly reduce prep time for tutors compared to reformatting the documents themselves.

JISC Y/H Summer Conference 2013 #rscinspire13

Today wasn’t like a normal Wednesday, I didn’t get up at 6, I didn’t eat breakfast in the car and I didn’t drive to Derby. Instead I had a lie in, caught the train to Leeds and almost had a heart attack as I undertook the nerve raking task of delivering my first conference presentation.

I was delivering a session ar the JISC Yorkshire and Humber summer conference on ‘how to use interactive posters to engage learners’. My presentation explored how I had use ThinkLink with students in my previous role at Barnsley College.

Feeling rather unlucky my session turned out to be extremely popular and was fully booked before the day of the conference. When my session started they even had to turn people away at the door! Nervously I explained to the participants that this was my first time presenting and that they had to be kind to me. They certainly were as at the end of the session when they they filled out the JISC feedback form and I received two oks, 1 very good and 21 excellent marks!!! I couldn’t believe it. Being my own worse critic I though I thought it was awful as I didn’t feel overly confident or prepared.

During the session I gave a brief overview of ThingLink, demonstrated how to create a interactive poster using the software, discussed how I’d used the software in my lessons and then I worked with the audience to create a bank of lesson ideas. Below are the ppt slides from my presentation as well as a screen print of the lessons ideas that were generated.

ThingLink lesson ideas

Ideas for using ThingLink for teaching and learning

I was asked during the session if ThinkLink posters can be embedded into Moodle and the answer is yes. Once you’ve saved your image click on the embed button on the right hand side and a code will appear. Copy and paste this code onto your Moodle page and once published your poster will appear.

Below are a few ideas for using ThinkLink with Moodle:

  • Create an introduction to the module
  • Introduce yourself
  • Highlight key words and definitions
  • Introduce the equipment you will be using and highlight health and safety
  • Post homework task

If you are interested in using ThingLink  with your students you can download an information poster and how to guide that I created here. To help you generate your own ideas there is also a google docs site that already contains over 60 ideas for using ThinkLink in education – link.