3 Rivers Consortium:The North East Regional Staff Development Learning & Teaching Conference

This year the annual 3 Rivers Consortium conference took place on Tuesday, 12th April and was hosted by Northumbria University.  The theme of the conference was “Curriculum Change – A House of Many Rooms?” 

Representatives from all five North Eastern Higher Education universities attended giving talks or poster presentations. 

So at 8.30 am a merry band of Durham staff set off for an interesting journey to Newcastle to the prestigious Sutherland Building which has recently undergone some sympathetic updating, and to the Great Hall for start of the Conference.

My own interest in attending was to listen to speakers on the use of Feedback in higher education and so started off listening to Maddalena Tarras from Sunderland University talk about her own personal model for ensuring students “use” their feedback. Maddalena would give students a feedback sheet and then arrange a follow on session to discuss the feedback and only then did she give the grade.  Then onto Liam O’Hare from Teesside University talking about the implementation of a batch feedback tool within their Blackboard installation that was being used and the perception of it use from Staff and Students – I found this of particular interest.  Then onto a talk by Georgia Giannopoulou and Ashley Wright from Newcastle University talking about their development of a WordPress blogging site instead of the traditional VLE site to create a “live space for reflection, interpretation, debate”, and the assurance that student’s experiences shape the development of this space. 

The keynote presentation was then given by Professor Paul Blackmore from King’s College London who gave an overview of several worldwide institutions who have been reviewing their undergraduate curricula. Several institutions following on from this had developed liberal arts style degree programmes.

In the afternoon I attended a session on “How International Are We?” – a study of the barriers to internationalisation of UK Higher Education by Kevin Thomas from Northumbria University who was presenting his work from his upcoming PhD submission.  Followed by a session on “Enhancing the Student Experience through Online Learning” by another Northumbria academic, Jean Brown who had developed two work-based online learning courses – this was themed around Museum artefacts and their conservation – I found this was a really interesting session because Jean discussed a different use of time to develop an online learning module.  Finally onto “Involving Service Users in Student Assessment” by Sue Lampitt from again Northumbria who, with her team running an MA in Social Work created assessments with the Service Users (trainers with learning difficulties) who were involved with assessed role play interviews with students, offering feedback on their performance. 

So all in all an interesting day, and despite nearly leaving one member of staff behind, the coach set off back to Durham. I am sure that all those who attended took something away with them of interest.  Roll on the 3 Rivers Conference next year at Teesside!

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Copyright, IPR and digital content

The Strategic Content Alliance – a joint venture between the JISC, the British Library, the BBC, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Wellcome Trust has just released a new resource aimed at helping people to understand the concepts of copyright, intellectual property rights and how these apply to the creation and storage of digital content.

They have created an online module which looks at this issue in six stages:

  1. Introduction to IPR and Licensing
  2. Creative Commons Licences
  3. Orphan Works and Risk Management
  4. Digital Economy Act
  5. Accessing and Using Third Party Content
  6. Protecting and Managing Rights

Try it for yourself at:  http://www.web2rights.com/SCAIPRModule/

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Mobile Learning – Blackboard’s thoughts

Yesterday I caught the keynote presentation that opened the 2011 Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference in Leeds. It was delivered by Kayvon Beykpour, an ex-Stanford student who started up Terriblyclever Design and now heads up Blackboard’s Mobile division.  He gave a very entertaining talk, looking at the potential for mobile technology to disrupt education (in a positive way) and embolden students to improve their learning. He wondered why googling “ABC lost community” returns almost 63 million hits, but googling algebra returns 10 million less. What is it about this cult TV show that has captured the imagination of so many people that has lead them to document, discuss and analyze this series in such depth? He raised a laugh when wondering why people were happy to favourite the TV show “lost” but not “algebra”. Even those who do love maths, rarely go home at night to blog about it. He also talked about popular online games such as World of Warcraft and how a study of learner actions has shown that these game players are actually carrying out just the sort of social knowledge construction many lecturers want them to replicate the next day in the classroom/laboratory/tutorial/field/etc., etc.

He then talked of the benefits of mobile devices (particularly tablets such as the iPad) that can store hundreds of electronic textbooks, freeing up space in your bag, and meaning that you are more likely to have them around when you need them. That’s a fair point, but there was something slightly unnerving about the whole presentation. It was definitely given from the viewpoint of a consumer of education (and I use that term deliberately) not a provider, enabler, facilitator or catalyst. For me, I was concerned that he seemed to make the jump from engagement straight to learning, and promoted the virtue of rapid knowledge acquisition/retrieval (e.g. his discussion of Marco Torres’ vuvuzuela challenge) , but failed to ask whether there was any critical analysis. Often when I’m coding, I may google a method rather than dig up the formal documentation. It is surprising how often the first code sample it returns turns out not to be the best way to achieve what I want to do. Information alone is not enough…

Am I being too harsh on what was without doubt a thought-provoking presentation? Perhaps, but the conference title does include the words learning and teaching… He probably rescued himself by summing up with this quote from the American social philosopher and writer Eric Hoffer:

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Now that is a thought to leave the room with…

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