New Year, New PhD

celebration-1551593-639x918.jpgHappy New Year.  I start the New Year by starting my PhD with Lancaster University on e-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning after it being introduced to me by Sheila McNeill, fellow ALT trustee and all round techy superstar.    It’s a totally online programme with residential’s in the first and second years.  I am really looking forward to it, I am pleased to see that they use ePortfolios as a reflective tool and I am using tools I haven’t played around with before like Moodle and Mahara.

I’m feeling a little nervous about the huge undertaking that I have embarked on but I am really excited as I am sure I will be able to explore in depth somethings that I have been interested in for a while, like Open Badges, digital literacies and eportfolios (for assessment).    I am also looking forward to finding out who the others are on the programme as some of them have put up details in their profiles and they are a varied bunch.

There are a couple of the papers as pre-reading and it was interesting to read about perceptions of what a PhD is.  For most of the interactions I have had with PhD students, their PhD’s have been about learning how to research for the sake of those skills.  They will then go on and do something completely different or they will become Faculty members.  In “Learning to Become Researching Professionals: The Case of the Doctorate of Education” by Alexis Taylor from Brunel University she talks about PhD’s as a tool for ‘researchers to become professional’ and then Professional Doctorate for ‘researching professionals’.  I like that, I can see exactly where she is coming from, but had never thought about this difference.  The other paper is a rather longer paper (32 pages) is a much more personal account from Justine Mercer “The Challenges of Insider Research in Educational Institutions: Wielding a double-edged sword and resolving delicate dilemmas” who writes about her perspective of two different areas of investigation into researchers where she works.  I’m halfway through, but I can relate to her views and have some questions about bias.

This is also a good opportunity to try out apps that I have read about and played with so I am using Liquid Text to read the PDFs on my iPad.  So far so good, I really like how I can link the notes and highlights together.

Raring to go and very excited about what I will bring into my work with this, so the ‘real thing’ starts Monday, working full time and doing this PhD will be fun (yikes) but I know it has to happen.




Open Badges, Digital Skills and O2

I was invited to the launch of the Open Badge Academy at Air Street in London, the HQ of Telefonica (O2) yesterday.  Hosted by the TechPartnership which used to be eSkills we were introduced to the latest system for issuing, creating and displaying open badges.  They are built on the open standard created by Mozilla and it looks very impressive.  The system was supported by Digital Me and both based in Leeds and have huge expertise behind them.   There are sets of badges that are available and being trialled by 14-16 year olds, around Cybersecurity and Employability.  The event had attracted a great range of employers, local authority members, SME’s and of big employers like Samsung and our hosts, O2.  There were a few start ups that were interested in how they could vet employees using  badges and our conversations were around the importance of digital skills for the digital economy.

The format of the event was for an introduction, demo and then a couple of break out sessions. I attended a break out session from TAS who are a company with 300,000 employees, 9,000 in the UK. They already offer online challenges, so a Badge was a natural extension for them. They offer their badges to school children and the teachers organise and issue the badge to their own pupils.  I did ask a question about copy right and who owns the data.   I was thinking that if one of the tasks that the pupils did to earn a badge was to create a 6 second video, then who owned the video once it was uploaded into a system?  My reasoning was not to disrupt but to think about the implications of use, for the person uploading as they may want to earn another badge from another employer,  which might entail them using the same video.  In their minds, they created and own the video but what if the organisation issuing the badge decided to use the video as a promotion for their activities?  Who can say yes and no?  The question was answered in the next session when we discovered that the Tech partnership owned the content.  I don’t think there was anything particularly unsual about that, common practice (you are the product after all) but I think awareness of the fact that your creations may not stay your creations and the implications to that are important to consider.

I do like the Open Badge Academy.  It was very sleek and nicely designed.  It seemed very useful as well. It isn’t another displaying system, it allows the creation of the badge, endorsements, the ability to see who else has the same badge and how you are part of a community.  It was also connected to LinkedIn (that is how your recommendations happen).  It is free to education to use and worth taking a look at.

If you are interested in Open Badges in Higher Education then look out for further information about the Badge Conference to be held at the University of Southampton on March 8th 2016.  We are planning the conference now with colleagues from Warwick, Open University, Sussex and now South Wales.  More details to follow.

Exploring Digital capabilities #JISCDigLead

Digital capabilities #JISCDigLeadA couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend the pilot of the JISC Digital Leaders capabilities programme.  There were over 40 people from across higher education institutions, all involved in exploring the new pilot for the leadership angle of digital capabilities.  Digital Capabilities being the application of digital literacies, and fall into six elements detailed in their presentation. The programme has been designed to support those in leadership roles to develop their own competences and use of digital technologies.  Most of the people in attendance were familiar with technology enhanced learning and were there to support JISC to improve and try out the activities before the programme goes live.  Some of those who were there were in senior roles and who did not consider themselves particularly digitally savvy but they were willing to indulge in the activities.   I invited two colleagues from the University of Southampton, the Business School and Professional Services (Library).

Mapping digital activityOne of the key tasks over the two days was to establish the personal level of involvement with technology.  This was based on the Visitors and Residents spectrum devised by David White.  The idea was to plot your own involvement and then the following day your institutions.  It was an interesting exercise which was developed into ascertaining how engaged our institutions were with technology.

There is a follow up of two more days towards the end of November where we will all meet again and make recommendations about the programme.   The intention being that we bring the digital capabilities projects into our own institutions for all levels of staff – and not just academic staff.  Professional services staff would be a great set of staff to trial digital capabilities, supporting staff in administration to give confidence in the use of technology.

The same people will meet for the next wave and it will be interesting for us to get together again to see how the programme is shaping up.

Do you like Cheese? Polls for the masses – Twitter gets interactive

“Do you like Cheese?” one question on everyones lips.  I knew that they were coming but wasn’t sure when, then over the weekend, I saw a Tweet via @EricStoller who drew my attention with his tweet poll.

I’d seen the links to Twitter Polls but not been able to do this myself (it wasn’t available) but then they arrived over the weekend. The first problem, what question to ask? I’ve been working with academic teams who have tonnes of questions that they wanted to ask their students, but I had nothing. Seems like I wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of tweets that reminded me of the early days of twitter.  The equivalent of the “What are you doing?”  prompts that create typical responses, hence the “Do you like Cheese?” question, always my goto question when I don’t know what to ask.

I pulled in a collection of responses here: TwitterPolls

I think these will pass and in particular, having asked my own question on the use of Open Badges, there were a couple of things that struck me.

  1.  Your networks are even more important now.  Following people on twitter that are like minded, or have something useful to contribute will mean that any question you ask will get better results.
  2. Engagement – through the one question on open badges I had responses from people that I wasn’t aware were interested.  My one and only qualitative response from the British Museum wouldn’t have happened, had I not asked that question.  It seems to me that the more interesting the questions the better the engagement.
  3. It’s not just for brands.  Of course, social media marketing gurus will see the potential and there is nothing wrong with that,  if you are following people that just push information at you then you probably should have a think about what you are trying to get from your networks.
  4. Education wise – have a poll for feedback on the session; who would you vote for?; What is more important?;  Is this answer right or wrong?;  the possibilities are endless.  Unfortunately, the customisation options are limited but that will improve.
  5. Value:  What is the value of the question?  Think about your responses and what you can do with it.  For in session discussion?  It won’t replace polling software like Socrative or Poll everywhere but it could be a good way of experimenting with this type of interactivity with students.
  6. Use images and other twitter usernames and hashtags in your question if you are trying to get a wide coverage.  That could stimulate further questions and could open up questions that you hadn’t thought about.
  7. Don’t over use it.  Golden rule: Everything in moderation.

Exploring ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’

Teaching in a Digital Age - Tony BatesI came across this wonderful open access book from Tony Bates ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’ I am still reading it but it is so completely relevant to the agenda for many of us that I had to share my thoughts here.  There are twelve sections all relating to aspects of online educational practice, from blended learning to Moocs there is something here for everyone.  One thing that I really like is that this book has made me think much more about digital literacies and their place in higher education.  I am particularly focussed on developing digital literacies skills at the University of Southampton and have been working with student iChamps to support this agenda.  I’ve noticed though that it is not necessarily a requirement to be ‘digitally minded’ to be effective online.   That term ‘being effective online’ probably is redundant anyway as so much of life is conducted through the web that it is an expectation and not an exception.  But then Tony nailed it when he talks in the first chapter of the skills for the 21st century.  These are not what I always considered them to be, solely digital literacies,  but skills that allow for the rapid pace of change in a knowledge society.  In this chapter he presents the Conference Board of Canada’s set of skills:

  • Communication skills
  • the ability to learn independently
  • ethics and responsibility
  • teamwork and flexibility
  • thinking skills
  • digital skills
  • knowledge management

Of course, all of the above have always been desirable but the task now is to map this set of skills to digital effectiveness.  This is something our students are already working on in collaboration with my colleague, Jane Stephenson from the University of Southampton Library senior leadership team and something that we can work into our new strategy.  The book is rich resource of evidence based practice and research that leads you onto a path of discovery for so many ideas around the online space.  I highly recommend it and look forward to discovery nuggets of inspiration that can enable me to support our online activities at Southampton.

Using iPads wirelessly with university projectors

For three years, I have continually asked how we can do this and thanks to the latest update from Apple, we can now use iPads wirelessly with projectors.   Two directors of our IT department and senior leadership have confirmed this to be working well.

Instructions (with thanks to Professor Simon Cox who has tried this out successfully within his lectures)

Both the iPad and the AppleTV need to be on the latest version of the OS (8 for the iPad and it needs to be the most recent hardware of the AppleTV A1469 to work)

See e.g.

This link has further help:

Toggling the Bluetooth on can also help with the peer to peer iPad to AppleTV as per the link above.

Problems we have heard of have been older generation iPads.  Probably works on an iPhone too if you have the latest one.