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.

Is your class a bunch of wallies?

tweet wally

Tweetwally’s that is. Tweet Wally is a free Twitter wall that filters tweets via #hastags, usernames or key words.The tool could be used for a variety of in-class activities including as a starter by posing a question at the start of class and asking students to tweet their replies. A photograph or video could be tweeted out then students might be asked to express their thoughts on a certain subject such as  the emotions the picture provokes, what period in history the photo represents or what would the student do if they were in the situation represented on the photo? Tweet Wally could also be used at the end of he class to consolidate learning by using it to create a a quiz.

Maths 4 Us – the app index

Driven by NIACE, Maths 4 Us promotes maths education to adults. The app index does exactly what the title suggests  and provides tutors with a categorised list of mobile applications that can be used both in and outside of the classroom. As an ex basic skills tutor I think this is a fantastic initiative and ALT have done a really good job with the website – they layout is suburb!

Returning to education and learning basic skills can not only transform the individuals life but also their whole families. I saw many a young mother who had enrolled to class so that they could support their child with their homework in order to encourage an interest in education. As a direct result of the confidence she gained from taking an adult GCSE English class my own mother went from working on a supermarket checkout to pitching then successfully running an holistic therapist pilot before becoming the only Holistic Therapist for Derbyshire NHS. Therefor I know first hand how important it is to spread the word about this initiative and it’s also a good opportunity to make maths tutors lives a little bit easier by introducing them to hundreds of resources. Go on, do a good dead by going forth and spread the word about Maths apps index!

TEACHER DREAMS TRUE

Art and Design: Behance employability skills

Behance in an on-line portfolio and job site for artists and designers.

As well as uploading their work students can search the site for inspiration, follow their favourite artists and designers, show their appreciation by liking a post and leave and receive comments about theirs and others work. The job tabs allows users to search for vacancies by company, specialism or geographical region. This is my favourite feature as students can read the personal specifications in order to increase their awareness of the skills and qualifications that they need to gain to be able to secure a post in their desired field or company.

Behance job search

Flying high: social media and international student advisors

planeOur International Student Advisors have purchased iPads to help them keep up to date with their work and deliver presentations to prospective students whilst working abroad. Having never owned an iPad before these colleagues had requested a session to discuss the different presentation apps that are available. They were also interested in the different ways they can use social media to market their service as well as support students once they had started at the university. Below are links to the apps that I discussed with them:

Presentation tools

Google Drive – this can be used for assessing and delivering presentations that are created using Google Docs

Cloud On -‘ brings Microsoft Office to your favourite device’ enabling you to show Microsoft PPT presentations on your iPad.

Prezi - with the app you can run your Prezi presentations through your iPad even if your of-line

DropBox – by uploading your presentations to DropBox you will be able to access then via the app or through the webpage. This is a fantastic back-up option if your likely to leave your presentation materials at home.

Social Media

Scoop It – the web version can be used to create a visual list of on-line bookmarks. My colleagues were particularly interested in using this to create folders of support materials such as guides to local tourist attractions and things to do in Buxton.