#altc 2019 Winter Conference Day 1

I’m really really trying to blog more … so I’ll be capturing notes and highlights here on sessions from day 1 of the ALT 2019 Winter Conference as the day progresses.  Expect a mess of notes and thoughts which I’ll tidy up later …

Maren Deepwell and Martin Hawskey opened the conference confirming this is now in its 6th year.  This event is completely online and free to attend and for members of ALT to share their work with nearly 500 registered participants this year.  The conference is offering a wide range of webinars, twitter chats, edit-a-thons as well as some wildcard sessions.  Click here for the full programme.

Maren shared the release of the ALT Impact Report to demonstrate how the community is growing and the work that has been done.

Martin announced the release of this years ALT Annual Survey which is used to help map the ALT strategy by understanding current and future practice.  http://go.alt.ac.uk/ALTSurvey2019.

First session of the day for me is GDPR for Rebels: An empowering approach to using external technologies by Liz Hudson (@lizlovelearn) Educational Design and Development leader from University of Highlands and Islands.

In 2016 Liz joined Coventry University, and would be frequently asked for tools that educators could and could not use.  They were allowed to use institutional systems such as the LMS and those procured such as MS Office and those inside security controls of the university, but people wanted to try social media tools.  Pedagogical innovation which the use of new technology however is often low priority.

Once GDPR was approved the university was making a list of approved tools and a legal team started preparing for the deadline and the use of external technologies for teaching would also go via that team, but they were a lower priority than other systems in the university.

Making a list however made no sense, needed a new approach for a new set of rules which needed to be approved by various committees including the legal team.  Policy was implemented.

At UHI they have a rigorously assessed set of tools and technologies and no other tools are permitted to be used.   With a focus on pedagogy and innovation any technologies used must meet GDPR however the question is are WE are acting as controllers and processors on those external technologies?  This is a pivotal point not a loophole!

For the pedagogy, the legal contract is between the user and technology provider.  As such it must be voluntarily rather than required such as submitting assessments.  As educators we have ethical responsibility and the teaching environment is based on trust.  GDPR is case based and the onus is on the policy makers to predict situations.  What if a student did not want to use the tool, but the rest of the class did, are they disadvantaged and is that fair?

Potential of financial and reputational damage are extremely high and so lots of things get locked down and permission refused.  Liz highlights if we are not compliant already, we probably haven’t been for some time.

At Coventry they had a set of rules : students must be informed that the tool or service is external, must be clearly told what information is accessible to the university and service provider, they must sign up themselves and not have the university do it for themInstitutional devices must be provided if students which to protect their location / identify should they choose not to use personal device.  (there are more I will add later)

There might be an argument to say that some institutional technologies should be optional for students to use (** this is a really key point and very relevant given recent Instructure announcement, how are students protected from their data being marketised? ** )

Sticking to ‘authorised’ tools does not guarantee compliance with GDPR … if something happened the institution would still be liable.

The focus is on mitigating risks – data privacy is not the only area.  Once you permit the use, other areas of risk will flag up.  What if scenarios – inappropriate behaviours, students losing their work but these are not GDPR.  Liz has used all questions and obstacles raised to strengthen the policy.

Will students/staff pay attention to the rules, how can it be demonstrated that they made an informed decision.  Many issues are related to digital literacy that can be addressed through training and development and embedding in the delivery.  Root literacies are also being identified of what would be expected for someone to be able to assess and determine the suitability of a tool.  Such as being able to identify when a specific tool may exclude groups of students.

What if all but one student wants to use Facebook – students need to be informed of the implications so they can make an informed choice.

Students may challenge the use of existing systems, but Liz argues this is where innovation comes from and we are here to embrace our responsibility as digital citizens.

Q – could making technology optional isolate students who dont want to use it.  Concern that we should not just push the decision on to students.

A – the approach is that legally you cannot disadvantage students who chose to opt out.  there will be profiles for tools which will declare the pros, cons and risks and students can decide to find out more, defer a decision and educators then need to guide them on their decision making.  Decision making as a group can be questioned, on a ‘how did you come to this decision’ basis, ‘does everyone agree’.  Building them into the discussion.

Second planned session Closed captions at Northampton by Al Holloway …

So I was running late, so I will catch up with this one later – thank you to ALT for sharing recordings openly.

Powering Student & Institutional Success on Blackboard Ultra – Richard Gibbons (Solutions Engineers) and Andy Holohan (Marketing) for a high level overview of Blackboard Ultra.  The focus is on:

Learner engagement – want it to be an immersive platform, engaging, seamless so students enjoy it.

Academic effectiveness – people are pushed for time, need the workflows to be seamless and easy to use to get people to the endpoint.  Consistent to help make things easier

Education insights – how are my students getting on, are they falling behind, interventions to be students back on track.

Richard then gave a walkthrough of Blackboard Ultra – I wont details here, you may as well visit the demo yourself once the recording is available.

I did ask whether BB Ultra is compliant with WCAG 2.1 given the regulations on accessibility.  It was confirmed that they cannot declare themselves fully compliant ( as pointed out not many can truly claim this) but they do have a third party assess their software and the results of this are shared on their help pages with known issues.  The results feed into their roadmap.

I found the following section on the Blackboard Help site https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Administrator/Hosting/Accessibility

It is possible to try a demo of BB Ultra, Collaborate, and Ally at blackboard.com/try


Embodying Leadership as a Learning Technologist by Evan Dickerson, Head of Learning Technology from the Bloomsbury Institute.  Evan started by sharing the following remark:

Education is by its nature a reflective activity, taking us from who we were and what we knew to a place new.  Only when we reflect on that can we realise the full impact of what we have learned and the importance of the journey we have undertaken.

If we think of ourselves are Learning Technologists (LT) and Leaders we thinks as someone who operates in that field in relation to colleagues, both in our own institution, nationally, internationally.  So where do we fit in?  What defines us a LT rather than an academic or researcher that we work with.

A 21st century educator is seen as a scholar, technologist, curator, teacher for learning, collaborator and experimenter.  The areas we may focus on is often in a state of flux.  Evan shared a slide highlighting variation of LT job titles in the field as a body of professionals as well as recent discussion on the ALT mailing list on what is really means.  Some of the titles reflect how the focus has changed over time (eLearning, TEL, Digital Education), but also some reflect how forward thinking places are.

Some LT careers will gradually progress in a linear path with a degree of variation of involvement.  Evan reflects on his own career path as being quite messy and unplanned without an end goal.  Gilles Deleuze asserts that as individuals “we are made of lines”.   Lines mapping identity development and becoming.  You have three different types of lines: rigid lines are major components such as work where live.  Subtle lines are constantly occurring major and minor changes and adaptation we make on a regular basis  such as day to day activities.  Lines of flight those of creation, mutation or transformation, impulse lines that interrupt.

Evan described his own experience as a LT having lines of flight were unplanned encounters with other professionals that have had a major effect on his career path.  Recommendations and advice they gave of things for him to consider and then do.  A new career path, a new VLE implementation approach.

Focusing on Leadership (vs Management), as leaders we innovate, develop, inspire, have a long term view, ask what and why, originate ideas, challenge the status quo, do the right things.  Can a LT be a Leader? Certainly.  Different aspects of leadership are needed at different stages of the career.  Making it effective is understanding the stage of the journey and is something that takes trial and error and will take skill and practice.  You need to be able to adapt to bring forward different skills and experience for different situations.

Evan advised to work with low hanging fruit, collaborate with others, empower them to be advocates.   You need to be credible – being trusted and believed in, be convincing and believable.   Think about how you stand in competitions against others?  Agency – do you have the ability to influence and affect the choices and decisions of others.  Evaluation and impact – if it is going to be done, it needs to be done properly to help people understand the worth of what LT to.  We can use tech as the evidence and the way its being used.

Evan prompted us all reflect on where we have come from, what we have done, what career path we are on and where this is leading us and whether this is what we want.

OER digital curation using Xerte by Alison Christie (@mumtech2012) and Brendan Owers (@brendanowers) from University of Edinburgh.

MSc in Public Health is fully online with students all over the world  about 140 students – health professional, practitioners, researchers and they are often studying while working alongside.    Non communicable diseases in a global context is a 5 week online course for 2nd and 3rd yr students with a group assignment with students staff across different timezones.  They are asked to create something in Xerte that could become an OER and be available to others.

Xerte – free, open source since 2009.  rapid content generation tool from University of Nottingham.  Sandbox by Jisc was discommissioned so universities had to install it themselves if they wanted to use it.   Largest college in Edinburgh (CAHSS – arts, humanities and social sciences) funds the service, but it hosted centrally by the university.

Xerte Online Toolkits has interactive content, is template driven – users select categories, then pages and users fill in forms.  E.g. media, graphics and sound template the user adds a title, page contents as well as further properties for sounds, backgrounds buttons, additional styles.   Xerte supports collaboration and sharing – students had to form groups select a key person who would create the toolkit initially and then share it with the rest giving co-author or editor rights.

Students were given some basic instruction and guidance.  They had to justify their choice of project (of which they were given some to choose from), responsibilities were distributed amongst the group with active learning through inquiry, collaboration and production.

Staff attended a Xerte support workshop and resources were created to help them understand what they needed to do – through video guides, pdf guides, webinars and discussion forums.

Students were provided with group spaces in Blackboard Learn to use if they wanted to.  Some groups decided to use other spaces including WhatsApp and emails.

Students gained general transferrable skills around communication, collaboration, exploring and interpreting data.  Developing their digital capabilities.  Empowered to create web content and challenged to think about that larger audience.

(Xerte links are not openly accessible as it is a project they are behind institutional firewall at this time, but it is hoped they will be open in future.)

Open source for skills acquisition twitter chat facilitated by Teresa Mackinnon and Sam Taylor.

Okay so I’m not going to attempt to capture this on the fly!  You can follow this by using the hashtags #altc #opensource

Click here to access the curated twitter chat on Wakelet by Teresa Mackinnon.

MoodleNet: federated resource-centric social networking for educators by Doug Belshaw

What is MoodleNet – Moodle is about empowering educators to improve the world.   The is  the Moodle LMS and surrounding tools and support.  LMS was created as a private space for teaching and learning and the idea behind MoodleNet is to be able to connect together educators and resources across these spaces.  Research was done involving people both inside and outside of the moodle community which showed that people use a variety of resources and tools and sometimes they can be confusing and don’t always work together.  It is based on what Moodle has heard that educators want.

MoodleNet has the ability to join communities, e.g. instructional design in HE, Australian moodlers.  Once in the community you can have discussions and you can create collections.  Inside the collections will be resources and individual resources or a set of resources can be imported into Moodle courses in the LMS.

How does it help day to day – it will help educators find high quality resources, help learning technologists try to find like minded peers.  Reflecting on Jorum and other OER repositories they have great resources but are often not user friendly, the focus of MoodleNet is making it a social space.  Help trainers and teachers showcase their resources.

How does federation work – this is extremely important and a key distinction between MoodleNet and other social networks.  The new social protocol ActivityPub which is a standard for sending messages between social networks.  Moodle is using this as well as the individual instances of MoodleNet.  It wont be necessary to sign on to different instances to send messages between communities on different instances of MoodleNet.

The difference with MoodleNet is there will be a ‘mothership’ which will index each instance.  You will be able to apply for an API key that allows you to connect to the mothership and data can be searched (apologies audio was cutting out so additional details may have been missed here).

Everything is starting with open being the default; OER, open communities.  In time options for more private spaces will be introduced.

Priorities over the next few month includes: flagging and moderation, resource upload tagging and licensing (CC-0, CC-BY, CC-SA), notifications, mentions and following other users.

MoodleNet will be a standalone instance and work will be done on plugins to allow integrations with Moodle LMS, but the hope is that other LMSs will want to integrate with it too.

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