Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Curriculum liaison

Today I attended the Teaching & Learning Director of Programmes meeting. It's usually quite interesting as lots of discussions and strong personalities. It gives me an important insight into the curriculum and teaching eg observations, teaching squares etc. Today I wanted to talk to them and get support for the idea of improving our LRC curriculum liaison role and creating greater awareness of what the learning resources department can do for them. We have a member of staff who is connected to each department SMS it is their role to ensure that teaching staff know about new resources and books that are available and how to access them, to check out reading lists and generally build up a relationship. This year my target is to strengthen the role by delivering awareness sessions - basically "What we can do for you" and "What do you want from us" and at the end of the year "Is what we do effective". It went down quite well - some departments wanted the session as a whole dept presentation others thought it should be focused on course teams so more dedicated to courses. Now I just have to set some dates and plan the sessions with the team.

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Friday, 24 September 2010

E-L&ICT meeting.......

I took along netbooks with the meeting papers on in order to encourage partcipants to be paperless.
Some members bring along laptops but in order for everyone to use the electronic copies of the papers I take them too.  The chair of the meeting uses the IWB to display the papers so that people can view them easily.  I think it only works if you have the information available on the IWB plus on laptops / netbooks ready for use.

E-Learning & ICT Strategy Group Meeting

Today was the first meeting this year of our E-learning & ICT Strategy Group meeting.  It is attended by Assistant Principals, Directors of Programmes and other interested parties.  It is co-chaired by myself and the Assistant Principal for Information Services - we take it in turns and it was my turn today.  The meeting works well as an opportunity to discuss the strategic development of IT and e-learning across the College and to make recommendations for the roll out of new hardware and software and projects.  We aim to have curriculum involvement and business support involvement to ensure a cross college interest.
Discussed e-learning plans, Blackboard issues / situation, Turnitin, developments including Bb9, Windows 7 , Office 2010 and SharePoint for the staff Intranet.
It is important that we remember that the purpose is strategic and we don't get 'bogged down' discussing operational activities e.g. how many new PCs have been installed. We have a variety of other groups that feed into this main strategy group i.e. Blackboard User Group, IT User Forum, LRC User Group.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

ALT Conference

I attended the ALT conference last week - it was held at East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham University Park.  This is a really nice venue, compact building but actual rooms are a good size especially the main hall.  I prefer it to both Leeds and Manchester.  The conference lasted for 3 days (at least) but i was only able to attend for the one day i.e. Wed (more about this later maybe).
The first session I attended was the symposium in the main hall entitled 'New Bottles, Old Wine'. (John Traxler, Frances Bell, Andy Black, Mark Childs, Steve Wheeler) There were some good points raised about global connections and whether it is possible to have a private personna or is it the case that everything is shared as it is all interlinked.  An interesting point is about mobile phones having projectors which would then be even more useful. There was also some interesting points about video games (Mark Childs?) along the lines of  FarmVille is sociopathic and Angry Birds is extremely violent -which I didn't particularly agree with.  I think it is a little condescending to say that people can't tell the difference between games and real life. Also it doesn't necessarily make you a numpty if you play Farmville - I enjoy Farmville (occasionally), and Angry Birds is brilliant - only second to Peggle.  I was also a bit worried about the idea that we should deliberately offend students sometimes in virtual worlds so they are more realistic - sounds like desensitizing to me.  Another topic that was brought up was ethical responsibility and that this should be decided by an ethics committee??? No, it should be the moral responsibility of all educators to make those decisions themselves and be aware at all times.  There was some discussion about the twitter contributions / wall / stream - I think twitter is great (despite missing the c from my altc hash tag at times but ....... back channelling has pros and cons (maybe moral responsibility again))
The next session I attended was the one I was chairing entitled Learning Environments.  There were two presentations.  The first by Trevor Barker was about using Second Life with his computing students.  It was really interesting and I liked it because it was about using Second Life with actual whole classes of students as part of their course and not just creating a Virtual world for no reason (made me miss teaching ICT).  It was used as a tool for real life skills which can be transferable.  The students created a program in real life then played it in the virtual world.
The second presentation was by Steven Verjans and was interesting too and focused on learning needs across all aspects of life - institutional needs, cross sectoral needs, individual learning need v organisational.
I enjoyed chairing the session and would like to do it again.
I then went to the session about Changing Staff Development.  One presentation was about Heads of e-Learning and their personal growth and feelings of being imposters????  i understood the theory possibly but I have to say that it has never crossed my mind to think of myself as an imposter - this is not meant to an arrogant attitude - but just that a) I think I do my job quite well b) it doesn't matter what your title is as long as you can perform effectively and c) someone would soon tell me if I wasn't doing a good job.  I accept that this may be a FE focused attitude but realistic.  The next presentation included some valid points about the problems of teaching students from Net Generation the basic ICT skills.
The key note speech after lunch by Sugata Mitra was fantastic.  I have heard him speak before at the RSC Northern conference last year and it is really fascinating to see the videos of his 'experiments' with hole in then wall computers in India and other countries.  It is interesting yet disconcerting to see and hear about his work in schools in Gateshead as it is close to home.  It would be brilliant to instill that motivation and interest in all children and particularly in teenagers to strive to learn and for it to be cool to learn........
I then stayed in the main hall for the talks by Josie Taylor and Heather Fry which were very informative.
Next came the ALT AGM which has quite an upbeat feel for an AGM and I find very interesting.  I think it must be because of the people involved and I like being involved too.
Unfortunately I then had to set off to drive home.
I enjoyed the conference - will definitely go again next year and am determined to attend for more than one day (hopefully) and submit a paper (hopefully).  There was some comments about the lack of FE presence - yes, it is difficult due to time and money constraints but it doesn't feel overwhelmingly HEish.  Also I think this shouldn't be emphasised as these things fluctuate year by year and it is important if FE people are thinking of coming along that they don't think it is just a HE thing. I enjoy being part of the ALT FE Committee and hope that we can encourage more people to attend next year,

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Air con and error messages

The training room has always been cold but has recently got so cold that staff won't sit in there for an hour. Today, finally, a fault was tracked down ( yes, it is actually cold air not warm air)......hopefully this means that it will be fixed soon.
Meanwhile we have had a challenging day with Windows7 / Office2010 - a nice variety of error messages but still hopeful to get it working by next week.

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Monday, 6 September 2010

Student LRC / IT inductions

Planning the student LRC / IT inductions which begin next week.
The format is going to be much the same as last year as it was quite successful.  The sessions are practical 'hands on' hour long sessions as this suits our learners, and staff, best.
Basically it includes logging on to the system, logging on to Blackboard and accessing their courses, logging on to and accessing college emails.  Then all the information about the LRC, how to find books etc. and how to access online resources such as databases and e-book collections. Our e-book collections especially
e-brary have proved very popular.  We set up their printer accounts and show them how to use the MFDs (networked printers, scanners and copiers). This year we are adding an e-Safety part to the inductions in order to ensure students have some awareness of e-Safety issues.
Last year we delivered inductions to nearly 3000 students - this year we are hoping to do even more.
It is a very busy time for us and it is quite labour intensive as it takes a lot of staff time and effort but it is definitely worth it.  By making sure the students have the skills they need to access all the various college systems and resources in the first few weeks, it means that they have less problems during the year and can make the most of the learning experience.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Friday afternoon

It has been a long day but successful. I am the last one here in the LRC manning the desk and it is wonderfuly quiet after the hurly burly of the day.