Friday, September 23, 2016

From Outside Looking in : Highland Council and Tablets #slf16

Thanks to Donald Clark for reminding me - that sometimes you need be vocal.

I forget sometimes that now as a freelance consultant rather than someone tied into the education establishment I can voice informed opinions about changes in the system.
On the surface an announcement like this week's one that Highland Council is to roll out
20,000 tablet computers to teachers and learners sounds great.

It is a long overdue development to see a whole education authority in Scotland move into this space , it closes the digital divide , gets a browser in to the hands of every learner and teacher and as importantly into their households too and I hope the programme enables enough wifi and bandwidth in their schools so that these tools can be used meaningfully and that other devices can some along too.

I hope the tablets are not mainly used for note taking. If they use the arrival of the technology to rethink learning and curriculum delivery and engage the learners in this redesign then they will move learning along at pace across the region.

The ambition of the local authority has to be applauded. I hope too someone is having a look at the lessons that should have been learned from wee places like Islay High School who were doing this more than 10 years ago and the numerous pilots with mobile devices that were done across Scotland five or so years ago. I heard unofficially at #SLF16 that some of the cohorts of learners that were involved in these mobile learning initiatives were now getting exceptional results in their school leaving certificates ( Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers in Scotland) I am not sure that this is being tracked officially anywhere ? Where is Scottish Higher Education with the data and research ?

But here's the rub - tablets don't change practice as much as a laptop would. It's probably too late but if any other local authority is thinking about this , have a look at the global evidence before being seduced by a tablet.

Have a look at Donald's well structured critique from 2013 and have a look too at the commentary . 

I've got a tablet and I use it a lot and it gives me a great window on the world - but when I work and move out into the online world I use a keyboard and a laptop or today my trusty desktop - this lets me create things, a tablet can only consume. I love being a consumer but being a creator - that is way cooler and much more empowering.

My kids love tablets too - but they work on netbooks and laptops !

Update - sometimes it is worth having a rant - the BBC article was incorrect ( fancy that, I thought they were infallible ) In fact Highland Region are going to adopt Chrome Books to sit on top of the well developed Google for Education platform that has been adopted across the region.

I was not saying that Tablets , phones and other devices do not have  a place in learning. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

#ulab, #ulabscot #ulab2016 Discovering ULab

I did an interesting piece of consultancy work earlier in the year looking at the impact that Massive Open On-Line Courses have had to date on learners in Scotland from an institutional perspective. 

It is actually quite hard to build an evidence base for this as the big platforms Coursera, EdX and Futurelearn  usually supply IP addresses but not postcodes. However, in the course of my work  I discovered one outlier that had engaged hundreds  of learners in Scotland and I am now having a shot at this to see why ?

Have a look at #ulabscot if you want to explore this phenomenon with me

The natural cynic in me wonders if it will be as transformational as it promises but I am suspending my disbelief as everyone should when trying something for the first time. 

You can find out more about the Scottish community of learners doing U-Lab here 

I've now joined  a vibrant global field of entrepreneurship and change that has reached over 85,000 people from 183 countries – with more joining every moment. Your fellow participants come from many different backgrounds and life experiences. You'll have a chance to get to know each other very soon.

This is an action-learning course, which means you'll be invited to do much more than just watch videos. 

Here is my first bit of homework from the introductory course. This will give you a flavour of the U-Lab tasks 

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

#altc Association for Learning Technology Conference 2016

I composed this on the train on the way to this year's #altc at the University of Warwick and looking forward to the  luxury of having three days thinking and inspiration time which is what #altc is.

I think my first #altc was in 2000 and in 2001,  really through circumstance,  I found myself on the organising committee for the conference at Edinburgh University . Thereafter, I've tried to get along to either the full conference or at least one policy forum or special interest group event in any year. Though sometimes due to external commitments it has been a flying visit for a day. My timeline is reminding me that I missed the 2009 conference as my six year old daughter decided she needed her appendix out that week in September. 

I'm looking at the delegate list. There is still more scope for a much deeper engagement with learning technologists in both further education colleges and in the training provider sector. While Jisc supports infrastructure  and innovation across these sectors Alt has the networks of practitioners that give learning technologists the community of practice to support them in experimenting with new approaches confidently but also the practical support to run existing systems and gain professional recognition. 

The main conference always runs in the early September window which utilises the university down time and gives university learning techs a quick inspiring burst of ideas before the new university term begins. Unfortunately this clashes too with period in Scotland when FE colleges start and learning techs are on boarding this year's cohort of learners.  

In terms of professional development and progression both membership of ALT and completion of CMalt certification  gives  learning technologists in FE an opportunity to access the breadth of understanding and knowledge or even mutual 'uncertainty' that can support continued professional development across the sectors, while CMalt offers appropriate professional recognition.  Even if you engage with alt community through special interest groups or regional forums you will get a lot back. The Scottish Special Interest Group now has around 150 members .

It would be good to see more learning techs from Colleges and training providers engaging directly with ALT , I think too there is increasingly a new group of learning technologists supporting the school sector that should be welcomed in too - there is a lot of learning around the system but still too may people and sectors re-inventing wheels or worse.

Josie Frazer just delivered a superb session on the issues around Trolling relevant for all sectors and I  am sure all the sessions and keynotes will be as relevant as this. 

If you are not here today follow the hashtag #altc and you will pick up something useful. If you are based in Scotland look out for the Scottish special interest group and their events. If you are a learning texhnologist in a Scottish college,  the college development network works closely with ALT and currently has a limited offer on access to CMalt certification.

Declaration of Interest
I've been a member of ALT since last century, served on number of committees over the years one year went from organiser to chairing the conference . I am co-chair of Scottish SIG with Professor Linda Creanor of GCU and an ALT UK ambassador.  I've made sure any organisation I have been involved with over the years has become an institutional member of ALT.
And no I didn't do it for the Lulz - I hope this is helpful !  I think the public education sector has been getting some constant Trolling from the press and political establishment.

noun: lulz; noun: luls
  1. fun, laughter, or amusement, especially that derived at another's expense.
    "the splinter group embarked on a spree of daring cyberattacks for the lulz"