5 takeaways from #epforall Expanding the learning environment

catalonia plaza hotel with sign outside advertising the Epic ConferenceImagine you are not in any way involved in online learning or the development of education and training.  Have you heard of Digital Badges? At the ePIC 2015 (@epforall) conference in Barcelona we have been hearing from educators but also from organisations who are interested in developing their staff through the use of online open badges. The world is changing.  There are so many reasons why an organisation should use open badges, but today we heard lots of exciting ideas and experiences from people all over the world who are exploring and engaging with digital badges for extending the learning environment.  It’s just day one (8-10th June) Programme for ePIC forum conference.

1.  Its all about trust and value (and quality).IMG_1145 2

The theme for today has been about trust and value.  Trust the people issuing the badges, trust the recipients (earners) of the badges to display what they value.  If a badge has no value to the person you earned it then it won’t be shown anywhere.  It will die.  I think we established that badges could and should be issued by anyone, for any purpose.  So if a student decided to issue themselves a badge they could.  It may not hold much value for anyone else but if they wanted it and and could evidence that they warranted getting the badge, then maybe they should have it.  If an employer looked at it, then it may qualify as useful or not, depending on the value that employer had for it.  So its all about value and trust (in context).  I found that interesting.  I was looking at badges from an institutional point of view.  In the way we issue awards we might issue a badge.  But the beautiful thing is, we don’t have to.  If the evidence behind the badge leads us to demonstrate capabilities and it was issued by an institution or a individual respected in their field, then that is good enough.

2. Badges don’t make you awesome.

You make you awesome.  Just like technology doesn’t make you a great teacher.  You have to be good, it just helps you out to make your point.  If you have a collection of badges that really don’t tell anyone much other than you showed up to a few events, maybe you scored highly in test or everyone liked you on a Monday, then these are not going to do you any justice.  Find and create badges that allow your students or your employees to develop.  We talked about employers defining levels of badges for their employees and that was interesting.  This came from the question about values (again) but if you could measure or define levels of competences through badge attainment, supported by evidence you provide a 3D view.

3. Tools for issuing badges are getting easier.  

IMG_1141 3I heard about the Open Badge Factory and the Open Badge Passport.  We heard from Gemma Tur (@Gemturfer) who trialled their use with her ‘Digital Seniors’ I thought she was talking about seniors in high school but it turned out that she had taught a class of seniors as is aged between 55 and 67 years. They had all gained their Digital Seniors Badges. Her model was similar to the iChamp model, in that it was smaller badges building up to an overall (or Uber) badge.  She wasn’t familiar with badges and neither were they but using the systems above she taught her class and issued the badges to recognise their achievements.  They valued it and were engaged with their learning experience.  I had a look and it looks easy.  I created an iChamp badge very easily.  Just a few tweaks and we will be there.

4. Community matters

All through the day we discussed how models of power have changed from the institutions to the learners.  This was apparent in cMOOCs where barriers to learning through classrooms walls have come down.  Badges have the same appeal.  Social interactions can raise the value of a badge.  Ranking badges; rating the badge (“yes, I think you can do that” etc).  We also discussed how there was great value in sharing the badges within a community of practice.  Bringing groups of people together from across a range of organisations and institutions highlights groups with specific skills sets, makes sense of badges.  This could be of value to employers.  The impact of community was referred to a lot and I think that this could be a great feature of the social aspect to badges. Building a community of credibility through demonstrable skills sets is important and may offer a new approach to recruitment.

5. It’s all in the (Open) data  

Inevitably, when you talk about badges you must mention data.  The data is what makes a badge because without it, it’s a picture of a badge.  The data holds information about trends, location, skills, etc.  We heard from Adam Doyle (MyKnowledgeMap) who talked about repositories and how they could be useful (with permission) for employers.  This reminded me of the early MOOCs conversations when looking for business models. I think it was Udacity that suggested that they could sell their learners profiles to employers, suggesting that they had demonstrated aptitude and abilty and may be worthy of interviewing. Not that this is what is happening but it has potential – the data aspect of badges, along with communities provides groups of interesting data that can provide learning organisations with useful info.

So there you have it.  Five things to take away from #epforall.  There was lots more but applying what we heard about today to HEI’s and organisations would be a huge step and a big change.  Possibly that would be awesome…


Up Persicope – Adventures in Wonderland

On Wednesday I decided to try out Periscope, the live streaming app that allows you to take your phone and turn it into a live broadcast.  Have a look at their website – “see the world through someone else’s eyes” that’s pretty powerful stuff.

Although I’d had it on my phone I’d never actually felt the need to share anything live with the world.  I thought I have nothing to say, but then that was me thinking like an old fashioned regular person.  Then Stephan Caspar (our Media guru at University of Southampton) inspired me with his enthusiasm for it. He warned me it was ridiculous. He told me, “anyone can comment, they say the weirdest things”.  So I thought I’d give it a go. Stephan records walking to work. Yes, really, like the early days of Twitter, when people tweeted about washing their hair and drinking coffee, he records walking into work.  But it’s actually not really about that.  It’s about interacting with people.  It’s actually great fun, I recorded a few on Wednesday during our conference, but I’d not given it much thought. What I should have done is planned it out and live streamed one of the sessions, but that will come.  The first part of all of these innovations is playing.  I’m in the playing stage and I think it will be successful.  After all, I understand that the tool itself is only as good as the person using it.

So things move fast in my world and the lovely people at Persicope put me in touch with another creative genius on the other side of the world called Clare Edwards (@ClareEdwards76) she wanted to hook up with educators to try out Periscope. So I’ve got in touch and I think we can bring the Champions together to see how we can broaden the reach of this into education (my wonderland).

Watch this space, Stephan and I will talk about it for a podcast and I’m planning to write up what we do.  There must be something here about student engagement, maybe even more reflection, you never know.

I’m off down the rabbit hole.

Plymouth – it’s lovely when it’s not raining

Just on my way back from a lovely conference at Plymouth University – Evaluating and Researching ePortfolios.  The title was a little posher than that but that’s the gist of it.  It was run by the Centre for Recording Achievement who have yet to run a naff conference.  This is my third one and each time they’ve got better and better.  I actually think it’s because technology has just become part of how we teach and support students so my interests are covered here.  

So what was I doing? Well first of all , I’d better explain the title.  I loved Plymouth – and of course in my usual enthusiasm I told everyone. Every local I spoke to always responded “When it’s not raining”.  But really, I had two really lovely sunny and warm days there. Luckily we were housed within the Rolles building, on the 6th Floor which meant the view was spectacular and I could see the coast, so that was awesome.   I was also playing with the Persicope app – OMG I love it! Literally allows you to live stream and you get comments and reactions instantly from people all over the world.  Now, there’s no quality control but it’s hilarious and I think there must be some kind of pedagogical application for it.  Not really for delivering content but for student interactions and learning. 

Back to the conference, I was chairing a session live from Melbourne, Katie Coleman from Deakin University who is doing some wonderful things with badges and gave a great talk.  I also attended another inspirational session with Alison James (@alisonrjames) who talked about creativity and reflection (you get a lot about reflection at ePortfolio conferences) she had Playdo and Lego which was great but she was also very engaging and had some great ideas for engaging with students. Including an idea about giving everyone coming to a conference a piece of quilt that they had to decorate with ideas about teaching and learning which became their plenary.   Another great talk today was from Agnes (Tracy) Hooper, Student Affairs at Seton Hill.  I’ve read a lot about Seton Hill as they were using ipads at one time. They have an brilliant eportfolio implementation project that they’ve run since 2005.  I took notes so will draft that together when I’m not on the train. 

Yesterday was about Badges for me – the use of badges for recognising and rewarding learning through using badges and I met Serge who is cool.  They also asked me to submit something for the EPIC2015 conference in June so I’ll do that over the weekend. 

So, I highly recommend attending conferences that allow you to connect and exchange ideas.  So many opportunities open up that way and who knows where that will take you.  

Education Innovation comes to Maghreb

Digital Technology is something that many of us have been working with for some time. We realize the benefits for education and have developed knowledge and understanding about how we can make the best use of this for education and research. I have just been speaking at the Maghreb Digital Learning and Innovation Conference in Tunis, Tunisia with the British Council and 100 enthusiastic interested academic staff, students, policy makers, social entrepreneurs and international technology experts all eager and enthused about doing the same thing within their countries.

The conference aimed to provide a number of outcomes for the people of Maghreb, essentially it was about bringing people together and, as the British Council pointed out, ‘Create opportunity’. The days were fully packed with a variety of talks and inspirational speakers which were all designed to provide the delegates with ideas and solutions to the problems that they faced in their own countries. One of the biggest takeaways from the conference for me was the huge amount of good will and camaraderie within the room. Each table was allocated to specific delegates and we were placed there in order to support each other over the days of the conference. Each table was given a ‘Team Challenge’ and on the final day we were to present our solution in a Dragons Den type activity. The winner would win a lovely British Council Innovation Award and their ideas would be presented at a Maghreb policy forum by a member of the British Council in January. As leader of Digital Literacies in the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development at the University of Southampton, I was to support ideas and prompt our team to think innovatively and work together on our challenge.

My table (Team 7) included senior leaders, advisers and policy makers for their countries. Our challenge over the three days was to present a roadmap for introducing the UNESCOICT Competences for teachers in Higher Education. This was actually more fun than it sounds and in terms of creating a community the idea of team challenges was an brilliant way of ensuring that we all worked together for a common goal. Throughout the conference as we listened to the talks we could see how they may fit into what we were going to be presenting at the end of the conference.

I spoke about engaging with educators and students through the Champions model that we have been developing at Southampton and I introduced the idea of awarding Open Badges for staff development and for student development to encourage participation with the UNESCO ICT Competences. Others also took ideas into their own challenges and that was very rewarding, as it showed that the conference actually made a difference, and the ideas weren’t wasted.

Overall it has been a great experience to be part of such enthusiasm and willingness to get involved and bring digital literacies and skills to the Maghreb region. There is certainly scope for further development and engagement for ALT as a community of expertise and for Universities in the UK who have great academics and can really inspire and support the adoption of technology for education.

From Curriculum Innovation to Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Every week I think I can’t get any busier than I am but then I surprise myself and this week has been no exception!

It started with Curriculum Innovation and I met up with some people interested in running webinars with their students. New iChamps collaborations, both medicine and music this week, then I visited went to London, visited Queen Mary’s Uni with my daughter. She has applied and we went on a visit day. Queen Mary’s History department was our focus and she really liked it. I was interested in hearing about the opportunities they offered their students and I always like to hear from the students about their experiences.

I also met with the Association for Learning Technology Board of Trustees at the London Knowledge Lab. That was great as they are a great bunch and there was lots of interesting things to talk about, including the Winter Conferencein Scotland and other things ALT offers like CMALT. We were issued with new info packs which look very nice. Looking forward to the next conference in Manchester (Sept 2015), I was there last week.

In between all of this I’m trying to identify a uni supported tool to run webinars – and meetings. I don’t think we have one I can use with iPads though, so will probably end up running Hangouts (I discovered our version of Adobe Connect doesn’t support iPads).

Yesterday, I spent part of the morning discussing new mooc ideas with Futurelearn, lots of exciting opportunities to be had there. Then off introduce the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development (ILIaD) seminar with Judith Lock (Biological Sciences) and had a lovely chat with one of her students, James Thomas and Judith. I mentioned the MOOC discussions and I think that may have sparked something with them and I need to arrange a meeting with the relevant MOOC people.

Later on I met with the Chair of Governors for Itchen College, where I’m a Parent Governor.

I got a Digital Badge for contributing to the the Badge Alliance and Scoop.it told me I was a rockstar in curation 🙂

Next week we have Southampton Opportunity showcase, and Thursday and Friday I’m in Birmingham for the Centre for Recording Acheivement annual residential where I’ll be running a workshop called ‘building badges’. A hands on, non techy walk through for the content side of using open badges.

I also had confirmation that I’m going to Tunisia to talk about innovative CPD through student engagement.

Oh, and I also managed to discover and create wonderful peanut butter brownies.

Just call me Wonder Woman 😄

Developing Digital Skills with iChamps

One of the joys of working at the University of Southampton is that I get to work across all the faculties and meet with some brilliant innovators. There has been a flurry of activity over the last week or so.

I met with Scott Border today who has chosen to work with Oli Galgut (Medical Student) to support him in the development of digital skills for his students. It just takes ideas, some cool tools and lots of time (and support) to make it all happen. Scott is planning to work with Oli over the next year to use digital technology to work on some of the ideas raised by students through the feedback that they gave on his modules.

For Humanities we have two new iChamps – both in Music and working with their academic team, led by David Bretherton. Harry Williams and Anna Kent-Muller. They both have key roles to develop particular digital skills for both students and staff through workshops with students and supporting innovative ideas that staff have for their modules.

Last week I met with John Shrimpton from the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment. He has two iChamps working with him, Bradley Heslop and Barnaby Abbott. Both students are in their fourth year and have exciting ideas to support the digital agenda.

The students are part of the Innovation and Digital Literacies Champions (iChamps) network of students working with academics across the university. The scheme is now in its third year and supported by the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development (ILIaD). The iChamps are part of a wider university initiative called the Southampton Opportunity.

Women’s Voices being heard – UCU Equality conference in Manchester

In my spare moments I am the Equality Officer for the local branch of the UCU at the University of Southampton.  I haven’t been in the role very long and they have very kindly sent me all the way to Manchester to the Equality Conference.  I am always intrigued if I attend non-educational techy events because I see how people would normally talk/present.  Normally there is Powerpoint but the speakers just got up and talked (using notes but that’s fine).  If they’d had used electronic media we could shared their talks and you’d had been able to comment too.

The conference is over three days and I am here for the Women’s conference which was today and the conference for everyone tomorrow. The UCU Women are very passionate and have talked frankly about issues that are of huge importance.  The conference today has provided me with mixed emotions from listening to Diane Marsden an employee of Care UK the people who won the bid or as she put it the won because they were the ‘lowest bidder’ the poor employees are victims of the gradually privatisation of our NHS.  She told us stories of incidences of inappropriate staff attending to people who could suffer because of their lack of experience, she talked of having her pay cut by 23%.  23% whilst her new boss is on £800,000.  She said they went on strike because they believed in what they did, they care about their work, they worked in the NHS because they wanted to help people.  But Cameron came in a sold it off to people to make money from the sick.

Next up we heard about Sex workers and how the policies and practices put in place have had a negative impact on their lives and their safety.  It seemed we had two speakers with two differing (not completely different) viewpoints.  One represented Object and the other represented the English Collective of Prostitutes.  Horrible stories of mistreatment of victims, criminalisation of sex workers has led to terrible things happening.

Then Julian Blanc was mentioned. I’d never heard of him until today and I wish I hadn’t. Apparently he thinks he’s a stud and he can show men how to pick up women.  One method, hugely successful, is to show men how to grab women and attack them, #chokingwomen (literally) by the neck and put them in an armlock.  Nice.  I’m sure he’ll live happily ever after.  15 minutes of fame and all that. I’m not even going to bother linking to articles about him. It made me angry to think that he hasn’t been sectioned.  I don’t wish him harm. I wish him help.

More importantly, the issue was raised about our pensions and how equality is an issue here.  Many women work part-time, earn less than men (because they are women) and are on zero hours contracts.  A perfect cocktail for no pension fund.  What little pension they may get is being looked after by men with lots of money and higher salaries who have little regard or insight into their circumstances. I’m paraphrasing but feelings were running high and the mood was that equality hasn’t been very high on the agenda in the fight against the destruction of the pension scheme (in the press or otherwise).

One last thing, the NUS Womens Officer, Susanna Antubam came along.  She has been working on a report called Lad Culture (actually the title was ‘What she said’) she has been raising awareness about things people say, its not just about going out and getting drunk.  It’s about making comments and the impact words can have on people. Something positive to end the day really because she said what she has been doing has been making a difference.  The campaigns included “I heart consent” raising issues around what consent is at university and other education institutions.  The focus should be education not punishment.

Now, enough.   It’s nearly time to go and meet more people and chat about making a difference. Which is why I’m involved in all of this in the first place 🙂