Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Dare to be different: #ocTEL Activity 0.3 Exploring and experimenting

Today was the first webinar. This took us through the expectations of the course,  a look around the course site and some advice from past participants and facilitators. At the end we were given a password to submit on the badges page to claim the first 'webinar badge'. What is really neat is that the badge shows on my personal page slightly grayed out, but once the code had been verified it changes to green and white. You can also see the other badges you can choose to work for. The TEL Explorer badge can be claimed 3 times in a week by completing the designated activities and evidencing this with a link to your blog post or by uploading a file. I will come back to the motivational factor of badges and the principles behind how you can collect them in another post. Suffice to say for now it is working for me!

Activity 0.3: Exploring and experimenting

During the webinar Martin Hawksey told us that #ocTEL was about curating opportunities to make connections to knowledge AND people. This he said could be done within the course site by joining a group or forum discussion, but he also encouraged us to find different spaces of our own, to explore and experiment. Dare to be different and try something new. 

Shortly after the webinar had finished a LinkedIn group had been set up, last year's Mendeley group signposted and an invite to join a small group to curate an #ocTEL page (all of which I joined)! I am interested to see how the interactions differ in these spaces or what is said about these spaces. I have not yet used Mendeley to its full potential so I look forward to experimenting there. 

I also set up a Yammer group as a space for my two Sheffield Hallam course buddies and myself to explore and use to engage in discussions about the course. I've been a member of Yammer since 2009 and set up a variety of groups but to date have had only limited engagement. As it happens the colleagues who did engage have now moved on to other jobs outside of SHU. Having a focus to use a new social networking space of course is important. Without, it just becomes a repository for the odd link or document shared. Perhaps the motivation to interact needs to be by starting with a question? An invitation to get people to share their views. The group is currently private and as access to Yammer is ring fenced to the institution (or company) you work for having an open group would not benefit other #ocTEL students. 

For now the main relationship forming and community building seems to be happening within Twitter. New blog posts links are being tweeted and there are discussions forming around these both as tweets and comments in the blog posts. I keep skimming down the list of tweets (saved as a search for #ocTEL on my phone) as I travel to and from work, over lunch and other windows of opportunity. For me this makes it a manageable space to keep abreast of. It allows me to quickly respond to a question or comment. I think if I left it until the end of the day the attempt to catch up it would be overwhelming. Twitter is a space I feel comfortable in. A space I would say I am resident in (Visitors and Residents, White and LeCornu 2011). 

It's possibly too early yet to say if things will develop in other spaces. I get the feeling that participants are still feeling their way around and orientating themselves to the course site and for some getting to grips with Twitter as a new communication tool itself. 

Fringe groups



Yammer: 2014 ocTEL SHU Co-Learners Sub Group

Experimenting with new tools

Share your location map should have been a quick and easy task but it took me a little while to fiddle with it. Participants were invited to add their university and location to  

Not to be beaten I then went back and took another look and discovered you can change the colour of your 'pin' and its shape! There is also an edit box so in addition to labeling Sheffield Hallam Uni, I also added my name and my two colleagues David Eddy and Kelly Snape who are also taking the course.  

The tool could be useful for a variety of activities, particularly if you have an international cohort of students, are going on a field trip or want to mark the locations of specific attractions.   

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

'Big and little questions about TEL' #ocTEL Activity Week 0

Activity 0.1

My BIG question has to be:
"Why when there is now so much evidence that our future graduates need to develop a range of digital skills and understand how to use these alongside social media to communicate and collaborate, do we not see all courses embedding opportunities for students to learn how to confidently and effectively develop digital literacies?"

My next question is:
"Why is the supported upskilling and development of educators who are teaching our students not a priority?"

The biggest factor seems to be time. 
"How do we get to a point where staff development is something time planned in and achievements are recognised?"

Reflecting upon learning new skills

Despite my passionate interest in the use of social media and technology to enhance learning, I do not consider myself to be a 'techy'. I'll be honest, I've often struggled with new technology and will pour over instructions for ages, re-reading or re-playing a 'how to' video. Where others may listen to a few instructions or simply have a go and get it almost immediately, technology for me is often hard work! However I do get there in the end. What has helped me considerably is drawing upon the skills and expertise of others who have got there before me. Asking questions and looking for alternative ways to learn a new skill all help. We have all felt daft asking yet another question when learning something new, but unless we do progression is so much harder. Technology can be frustrating but it also brings rich rewards when used for learning. As Educators we are always learning and technology opens up new and exciting opportunities to continue this journey.  

I often draw upon these very feelings when I am working with colleagues, giving a workshop or a class with students. Those very words "It's easy to do x" are ones I try not to use. Very often it is not easy until you know how. Key things I have learnt as an educational developer introducing technology:

  1. Don't make assumptions about the level people are starting from
  2. Avoid using jargon
  3. Start with exemplars of how it (the technology) could be used
  4. Explain in bite sized chunks how to use it
  5. Encourage questions
  6. Let individuals practice what they have learnt

At this point we should encourage individuals to reflect on what they have learnt and to evaluate the impact on the learning experience of others once the new technology is introduced. This is where it starts to get messy... 
How do I know if the developmental session I gave was a success? Did it change practice? Were the outcomes positive? Could I enhance my development session? Do I need to? How was the teaching innovation received by students? Did it run smoothly? If there were issues, what where they?

Very often we don't have the opportunity to see the impact a TEL development workshop has. This is not because we are not interested but simply a lack of time and yet unless we take this opportunity how can we be sure what we are doing is effective? How can we make this process easier? How can we best share this information with others so we are not continually trying to reinvente the wheel?


By taking this course I am already starting to reflect on my own practice and that of others. It will be a very useful opportunity to re-visit my CMALT application and see how I can align the two. This is the Certified Membership of the Association of Learning Technology

I am going to take this learning opportunity to learn with others and hope to both gain new ideas and approaches but also share with others things I have found useful. The reflective process will also help me to consider areas of my practice I can improve upon. It will help me to stop and question. 


This course is using the hashtag #ocTEL and along with the very useful course reader that Martin Hawksey has set up, I will not be short of information to read! This is where the warning comes in for anyone new. Based on previous involvement with a variety of open courses similar to this one, you will not be able to read everything and that is ok! It takes a while to accept this. Instead come to enjoy the serendipity of happening upon tweets and look to join groups you take an interest in - these are beginning to form on the course site. Connect with new people on Twitter and use this forum to ask questions. Chances are someone else will have the same question. Look out for other people's questions and jump in if you can answer any. That's what makes the learning community.

....Let the learning begin (or continue)!

Monday, 28 April 2014

The lure of the #ocTEL badge

ocTEL is the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning led by ALT, the Association for Learning Technology. This is the second year it has run. 

What drew me in

Below is the opening invite on the enrolment page. What struck me immediately was the clear message that it was ok to drop in and learn when I can and focus on my choice of topic. Having been involved in a number of MOOCs I know from experience that life and work have a habit of getting in the way and best laid plans for dedicated participation have for me gone out the window. The message below is both reassuring and inviting. 
ocTEL doesn't follow a traditional format and whilst we'd love everyone to complete 'the course' you can drop-in for the material and events most useful to you (currently outline of weeks below). Ultimately our aim is to help you make connections between people and knowledge to aid your personal development. ocTEL is an ideal opportunity to consider the connection with your existing skills and experience and Certified Membership of ALT (CMALT).
I then took a look at the course hashtag #ocTEL to see who talking about it. A few tweets later and I already felt part of the start of this new community.
For me this is what it is all about. An opportunity to learn more about technology enhanced learning with other like minded people in bite sized nuggets, but also to discuss and debate, make new connections and expand the rich and valuable personal learning network I have. Opportunities like this would not be possible on such scale without such free and open courses. 

The lure of the badge is an incentive! Why? Because it requires me to reflect on my learning and evidence this as blog posts. I have written before that this particular aspect does not come easily, but have discovered that short posts are manageable and you find that once you get in to the flow words start to tumble out. This isn't polished report writing and you have 'permission' to write as much or little as you wish. This is writing for you. If others read your posts and find it useful, well that's a bonus. 

I look forward to this new MOOC, the conversations I will have and the opportunity to continue my learning with a community of educators who I am sure will open my mind to new ideas and approaches. 

Maha sums this up with her tweet:
The ocTEL course information page further inspires with its intro

the open course you cannot fail......unless you fail to find something interesting
Somehow I doubt that very much!
Week 0: TEL & the future (induction) - 28 Apr 2014 
Week 1: Concepts and approaches - 5 May 2014
Week 2: Learners and learning - 12 May 2014
Week 3: Materials, platforms and technologies - 19 May 2014
Week 4: Support, feedback and assessment - 2 Jun 2014
Week 5: Leadership, management and keeping on track - 9 Jun 2014
Week 6: Enhancement, review and evaluation - 16 Jun 2014

Key links

Hashtag: #ocTEL

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Smart Devices for Learning #3: using smartphones, tablets and apps to enhance learning

Image source: Andrew Middleton

Yesterday I was in Manchester for the MELSIG event - the third in a series focusing on smart devices for learning. (The previous two were held at the University of Huddersfield and Sheffield Hallam University).

The day started well sharing the scenic train journey across the Pennines with Anne Nortcliffe and coffee on arrival at Manchester Met University in the Business School with David Eddy. It was good to meet up with old friends and meet connections I have made over Twitter for the first time face to face

The programme for the day was jam packed and promised opportunities to learn and share good practice using a whole range of apps all accessible from our smart devices. Given the vast range of tools there are available it was good to hear about specific examples and how they had been put to good use both in a personal context and for learning and teaching.

Chrissi Nerantzi and myself also shared the highlights of our recent open course 'Bring Your Own Device for Learning'. It was great to be able to draw in comments from some of our co-facilitators Alex Spiers, Chris Rowell Neil Withnell and Andrew Middleton as well Anne Nortcliffe who was a participant of the course. The opportunity to communicate in new social spaces previously not used in an educational context and having the opportunity to learn with new people across different institutions was valued.

Where ideas grow #BYOD4L from Sue Beckingham and Chrissi Nerantzi

Key take aways

I need to go away and explore the iPad app Penultimate and Evernote! There is also scope to make use of augmented reality and whilst I am still mulling over possibilities for use, this is something I need to look into.

During the final session which was a series of 5 minute 'thunderstorm' presentations, Terry McAndrew reminded us of the importance of thinking about accessibility when introducing technology and to inlcude this apsect in project write ups. Terry is Academic Lead (HEA) for Educational Learning Technologies and a JISC Techdis Advisor.

But this is just a mere few and as I go back through my notes and tweets I will be reminded of more. Clearly I was not alone! Twitter was on fire and so many delegates went away with numerous ideas. Terry made his own summary using Padlet.



Sunday, 13 April 2014

Embedding Digital Skills into Education – Increasing Employability and Lifetime Prospects from Sue Beckingham

In February I was an invited speaker at the Inside Government Forum Digital Inclusion 2014: Ensuring the Delivery of ‘Digital by Default’ #IGinclusion14. My talk focused on the importance of digital skills within the curriculum and the support Sheffield Hallam University provides. 

We want our students to: 
  1. develop confident face to face and online communication skills
  2. work collaboratively both synchronously and asynchronously
  3. develop a professional online presence
  4. use digital tools responsible and effectively
Key to this is providing regular and scaffolded opportunities for students to develop their digital skills and confidence to use these in a professional context to both support their learning experience and also to prepare them for graduate work. 

A journalist from UKAuthority present at the event has wrote an article about my presentation which is available on their website. The article is titled:
 Wired-up Sheffield Hallam students become wired-up jobseekers


  • presentation:
  • shuspace social media guides:
  • shuTech blog:
  • SHU Careers and Employability Centre:

Friday, 11 April 2014

Committee of University Chairs (CUC) Spring Plenary 2014 #CUCTech


The Committee of University Chairs (CUC) represents Chairs of UK University Governing Bodies and develops and promotes governance standards for higher education in the UK.

It provides an opportunity for Chairs of Governing Bodies to share advice, experience and expertise on all matters concerning university governance.

Spring 2014 Plenary

For the first time the Spring Plenary event at which CUC members gather, was live-streamed and included a Twitter Wall. Comments and questions to the panel were invited by both member delegates and the audience watching the livestream via Twitter using #CUCTech. 

Members were given the opportunity to consider the impact of technology on their institutions and their own governing bodies. 

To stimulate this debate Professor Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth)was invited to address CUC. on 'What technology means to students'. As expected Steve provided an engaging and stimulating presentation which included a number of video clips where his students expressed exactly how they were using technology. Examples included using Twitter, blogs, Evernote and mind-mapping tools. 

The Back Channel

Both attendees in the room and virtual contributed questions. It seemed clear that this was just the beginning of a conversation around the value of technology in learning and teaching and that the Committee of University Chairs would be continuing the conversation. The key message Steve put across was the importance of including the students in this conversation.

You can follow Steve Wheeler on Twitter as @timbuckteeth. His presentations can be found at

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Future of Education April MiniCon

On Sunday 6 April I gave an online presentation for the half day MiniCon, one of two events leading up to RSCON5. The official online conference, RSCON5, takes place July 11-13th, 2014 and will feature 60+presentations, 2 plenaries, 10 keynotes, student presenters, a tech/app/lesson smackdown, and the EdInspire Awards Ceremony. Make a note of the date!

April MiniCon

This event featured Keynote, Steven W. Anderson @Web20Classroomeight international speakers from six different countries, an exciting technology smackdown and sharing of tools for learning. The event was hosted by the lovely Shelly Terrell @ShellTerrell. Thanks Shelly for making us feel so welcome!

The conference was held online using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. People worldwide attended this online event for free from anywhere with Internet access, including their mobile devices. Participants were able to use the chat facility to leave comments/ask questions. The event was also recorded so there is still time to watch it!  

Alongside the webinar the Twitter back channel was lively via #RSCON5. 

To say it was a 'minicon' the event was far from mini and jam packed with useful tips. It was a tremendous opportunity to learn from other educators and share ideas. Steven a reknowned speaker worldwide in the education field and beyond, spoke about how technology is at the finger tips of our children and used for both entertainment and learning. Talking about introducing technology into teaching and learning Steven said "using technology takes guts". As educators, learning about how we can enhance learning and teaching is now possible by building our own personal learning networks. By connecting to other educators across the globe we can share and develop ideas together. 

The Inspire Speakers who followed gave rich examples of just how this can be done. You can find details of all their talks below and listen to the recorded webinar. I would also recommend you follow these Educators on Twitter.  

My Presentation

My presentation highlighted the importance of a professional online presence, what this might look like, and how to achieve it.  

Why you need a professional online presence and how to do it #RSCON5 from Sue Beckingham

April MiniCon Inspire Presentations
André J. Spang, Germany, @Tastenspieler
Title: Be a Maker not a taker!
Description: "For children and adolescents digital media and the internet don't mean technology, but natural environment and culture." - For a 21st century learner, it is important to create and share content and connect, collaborate and learn from and together with others - sharing is caring!

Sue Beckingham, UK, @SueBecks
Title: Why you need a professional online presence and how to do it!
Description: This presentation will highlight the importance of a professional online presence, what this might look like, and how to achieve it.

Eva Buyuksimkesyan, Turkey, @Evab2001
Title: Flip Quiz
Description: In this short presentation, I'll introduce FlipQuiz ( and explain how I use in the class and tell how my students react.
Sylvia Guinan, Greece, @ESLBrain
Title: Brainfriendly ways to help students memorise language creatively
Description: Memorising language chunks creatively helps students to develop fluency whilst improving critical thinking skills. The ideas are short, practical, and based on experience, research, educational psychology , technology and best practice. and experimentation. Inspired by literature, poetry, arts, mnenmonics, mindmapping, visual thinking, and multi-sensory associations.

Matthew Miller, Egypt, @matthewm1970
Title: Playing to RAMP up learning
Description: What would our classrooms be like if
* students picked their own projects?
* students graded themselves?
* thinking about their own learning was exciting to students?
* class was so interesting students voluntarily showed up early and stayed late?
Want to find out? Join me to look at my class!

Paige Hale, US
Title: Working together: Apps and tools for collaboratively building students' writing skills
Description: This session will explore online apps and tools for building students' writing skills. It will focus on tools that allow students to work collaboratively and encourage networking and social interaction. Tools covered during the presentation will include Google Apps, blogging programs, and social media formats including Edmodo and others.

Valerie Burton, US, @MsBisOnline
Title: Publish your ePortfolio using Weebly
Description: This session highlights Weebly allows you to create a class website, ePortfolio, publish announcements, tips and reminders for parents and students. Share your work and the work of your students by highlighting classwork, community service activities, awards and recognitions.

Jackie Gerstein, US, @JackieGerstein
Title: STEAM and Maker Education: Inclusive, Engaging, Self-Differentiating
Description: A brief overview of the characteristics of a STEAM-driven Maker Education will be presented:
• Maker education lends itself to 100% engagement by 100% participants almost 100% of the time.
• Age levels and gender are blurred; does not affect participation, engagement, and interest.
• Maker education has roots and traditions in progressive and experiential education.
• Maker education is self-differentiating.
• Maker education reinforces and teaches resilience

Malu Sciamarelli, Brazil, @malusciamarelli
Title: Creative Writing can be taught!
Description: Is it true that writing is the most difficult skill for L2 learners? In this presentation, we will see the factors to consider when teaching writing, build on what the best practices should be based on teachers themselves and their experiences, and use some activities to develop students’ creative writing.

Other links



Visit The Future of Education

Featured Presentation

I was thrilled to find that the day after my talk had been selected as a featured presentation on Slideshare.

Date for your diary

Remember the official 3 day FREE online conference, RSCON5, will take place July 11-13th, 2014.

To find our more visit the conference website