Project briefing for Contact North, Ontario

At the London Knowledge Lab, we hosted a meeting with Prof Tony Bates and Maxim Jean-Louis, from Contact North, Ontario. They are looking to develop a research network around online learing. As part of this, we provided a briefing about this JISC project.

The briefing seemed to be well received, and in addition to some quite specific questions, Maxim asked a simple but quite thought-provoking question: what from this research was most surprising? While I could think of some wonderful bits of data about student experiences, the answer I gave was a little more general: simply the incredible persistence, resilience and creativity of students as they persist – sometimes in the face of incredible difficulties – with their studies.

Presentation at the JISC online e-learning conference

We have just completed a presentation on the project as part of the JISC’s online e-learning conference. This focused on the process of institutional change, analysing two parts of the work of our project, using ideas drawn from Actor-Network Theory. This was an opportunity for us to work through (for ourselves, as well as for the audience!) accounts of change that didn’t rely on top-down, imposed, rational accounts of change. We had some very positive feedback, which was reassuring.

The session was recorded and we’re assured that this will be made available in the new year. We’ll provide a link through to this once it’s available.

Cluster meeting at the IOE, 8th November

Here’s our timetable for today:

09.30 – 10.00  Coffee, arrivals

10.00 – 10.15   Welcome (Carol)

10.15 – 12.30   Project updates – 10mins presentation and 20mins discussion

(With a short comfort break 11.15)

12.30 – 14.00  Lunch and networking

14.00 – 16.00  Planning for year 2

16.00 – 17.00   Planning and action points

17.00 onwards ‘cultural hour’.

Resources from the programme meeting, Brimingham

Last week, we gathered in Birmingham for a programme meeting; as part of this, all the projects presented outputs from their work in a ‘trade fair’ activity.

We offered two resources: a poster, that gives an overview of some of the evidence from our studies and raises questions for institutions to consider; and a guide to using qualitative data about the student experience to inform institutional decision making.

We chose these because between them, they cover both the process and the substantive findings of the work we’ve done to date. We designed them to give people resources to think with, without pre-judging what issues they might be facing locally. Since we recognise that our institution isn’t typical, we wanted to prompt people to think about how these concerns might play out for them.

Presentations at ALT-C 2012

We’ve just completed a very enjoyable pair of presentations at this year’s ALT conference in Manchester. The first of these was a programme-wide symposium called “Technology: the new mainstream?“, chaired by Carole Baum, and involving the projects at the IOE, Exeter, Bath and the University of the Arts. It focused on some of the challenging questions raised by the projects, leading to a lively panel discussion.

The second, called “Developing digital literacies in your institution“, was also chaired by Carole. This focused on the ideas developed by the projects that have resulted in change within the project’s institutions, and invited participants to think about how these might relate to activities in their own institutions. This was a cluster-based workshop, bringing together the IOE, the University of the Arts, the University of Greenwich and UCL.

Slides from both of these will be available from the papers, reports and talks page soon.

Update: the slides are now available.

Cluster meeting

Yesterday, we took part in a meeting with our cluster partners. Kudos to Greenwich for providing a fabulous venue for the event.

It was a useful opportunity to review progress (including the videos each project had made), talk frankly about some of the challenges we’ve been engaging with and also to go into more detail about ideas around dissemination, in particular.

Cutty Sark

Project deliverable delivered

Congratulations to Jude Fransman & her partner Jeff, who have just had a new baby. Jude is taking a well deserved break from work, although she’s still managing to keep in touch and keep an eye on how Lesley & I are handling the data.

Not quite the first baby of the programme – Sarah Knight beat her to it by a few days – but pretty close!

Keynote at “Losing Momentum” conference, Oxford

I had the great pleasure of being one of the keynotes at the Losing Momentum conference in Oxford this Thursday. The event was conceived of and organised by doctoral students, who did a great job of it. The quality of presentations was really high; this lot could give many mainstream conferences a run for their money. Presentations ranged from very pragmatic studies of technology implementation to philosophical critiques of Open Educational Resources, taking in theory and methodology en route. Neil Selwyn provided a rousing and challenging opening keynote (10 things Educational Technology research ought to do better), and I was in the post-lunch slot.

My presentation looked at the metaphor of “momentum” and the appealing but over-simplistic idea of linear progress that it conveys. I used this project to illustrate that, taking a slice through the work that focused, primarily, on the design and organisation of the institution’s infrastructure.

Lots of good feedback, and some very interesting questions – including an interesting discussion of whether we were talking about “learning”, when I was using words like “literacy” and “study”.

Highly enjoyable day, and an helpful opportunity to think through this strand of the project in a little more depth, too.

Keynote at EdTech 2012, Maynooth, Ireland

On Thursday, Lesley and I did a double-act keynote at the EdTech 2012 conference. This is the annual conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association, who were kind enough to invite us, ship us over and act as excellent hosts throughout the event. It was an interesting mix of research talks, practitioner reports and some awards for some really stunning learning and teaching initiatives.

The day opened with Doug Belshaw providing a very engaging keynote that included an overview of the JISC digital literacies programme; this was really helpful, as it framed the talk we gave later.

Our talk picked up on discussions during the day about definitions of digital literacies; Lesley suggested “un-defining” as a title to respond to this, framing the way that we’ve sought a grounded, emergent way of engaging with this concept to get out of conceptual knots. We argued for a social and situated account of literacies, and used examples from our data analysis to illustrate how this looked for us. We also talked about the ways in which this analysis led us to change institutional structures and practices, and suggested questions that the audience could ask about their own students’ literacy practices. We also introduced our current, tentative thoughts around stances or orientations (instead of “skills”), and around resilience, and referred to Helen Beetham’s ideas from the Cascade project, shared at a one-day event in Exeter, about developing students’ repertoires of academic practice.

All sorts of interesting discussions have followed, since. Several people commented on the links we’re making between theory and data, and seemed really interested in the links between our studies and institutional policies and change initiatives. I also had some good discussions about some of the theory I am working with around technology, for example.

The slides we did for this are available on slideshare. We’ve been told that there might be a recording of the talk available soon; we’ll link that as and when it’s released.