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    We support Staff and Students using technology to enhance teaching & learning.

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    Digital Literacy at UCL

    By Stephen Rowett, on 24 June 2015

    (Posted on behalf of Moira Wright)

    In my notes for this blog are the headings which include student networking, UCL digifest, partnership working, UCL Teaching and Learning Portal, Westminster Briefing and UCL QAA HER, UCL ChangeMakers and Lego. This list is a somewhat typical of the diverse aspects to my newly created role as Digital Literacy Officer at UCL (I think under 2 years still counts as new?). A lot of ground to cover in this post so will try to be economic with my words (for those that know me – no easy thing).

    Firstly some highlights from the London Digital Student Meet-up (LDSM).

    Early in June a group of 50 students and staff from different institutions in the London area met for a morning at UCL to discuss digital literacy and student engagement projects. LDSM was co-organised by LSE and UCL and aimed to provide a platform for student networking it was open to all students. To ensure a high ratio of students the invite stipulated staff were welcome as long as they were accompanied by students.

    London Digital Student Meetup, June 2015

    The event had come about from attending the Jisc CAN conference in April with 3 UCL students. They had participated as panel members and given elevator pitches on the UCL digifest – which they had all worked on as volunteers. Hold the date for UCL digifest 2016 – February 24-26th

    Feedback from the UCL students had been that meeting other students and hearing about their projects had been one of the main benefits in participating. That, and a conversation during the conference with Dr Jane Secker, Copyright and Digital Literacy Advisor from London School of Economics about the limited number of opportunities for students to network convinced us both that an open informal student networking event would pique interest.

    London Digital Student Meetup, June 2015The morning was very informal with a lot of time in the agenda for discussion and networking and a world café table topics and Lego*. From the anecdotal evidence I heard at this event it is clear that student digital literacy projects are proving to be increasingly impactful and insightful for those involved.

    Jane introduced the event with reference to the Jisc six capabilities model. The model is being updated and modified from the seven capability model. The new model (awaiting release) includes wellbeing.

    Peter Chatterton was next up for a talk and group discussion about the Jisc Change Agent Network . There were also updates about the pilot for the SEDA Institutional Change Leader award – which is just about to complete its first iteration this summer – the news is that there are plans are to run it again in the new academic year.

    Helen Beetham then introduced a draft of the new Jisc Benchmarking the student digital experience tool which was made available to participants for consultation. The tool has been designed to provide institutions with a benchmarking framework to help improve the student digital experience – awaiting release – but once complete the tool will then be rolled out to universities via the NUS ‘student voice’ network. The work is part of the Jisc Digital Student project and once launched will really help universities to assess institution provision against existing evidence of student expectations.

    By the end of the morning several things had become apparent to me. And they are, digital literacy must be embedded as a cultural approach in organisations, and is a life-long learning need, that giving ownership to students in this debate is mission critical and joined-up. The other thing was how universal the love of Lego is and how useful a tool it is for engagement*. We have future venues offers from two participants and plans to take them up.

    Work has started on the new Digital Literacy pages for the UCL Teaching and Learning Portal. An exciting first project for the Digital Literacy stream of UCL ChangeMaker projects with students developing content for the student pages. The excellent UCL ChangeMakers programme is making this possible and has just completed its successful pilot year with an impressive list of projects – summaries of UCL ChangeMakers projects are available by following this link . I am really looking forward to working on more digital literacy student projects in the new academic year.

    The Westminster Briefing I attended with Fiona Strawbridge last week in St James was full of useful information for the upcoming QAA Higher Education Review of UCL with the theme Digital Literacy that UCL has self-selected. UCL will present a snapshot of digital literacy at UCL for the review so I was really looking forward to hearing what Gemma Long, Review Manager from QAA had to say. Firstly we heard that the two themes chosen (employability and digital literacy) were chosen as they are ‘areas that are particularly worthy of further analysis or enhancement’ no surprise for anyone – particularly those who had read the House of Lords Select Committee report on Digital Skills which was released in February. QAA seems realistic in where they think universities are in developing digital literacy for their students but the emphasis has to be on staff developing the capabilities and confidence in their own digital skills sufficient to meet the student needs and expectations.

    John Craig, Senior Director Education and Research, HEA talked about the idea of an information society where information expands and becomes more accessible with digitization accelerating this trend and a society that could become victim to Information Obesity “a failure to turn information into knowledge…..as physical obesity is not simply too much food, so information obesity is caused by more than just information overload” (Andrew Whitworth).

    Katherine Ready was next – she is Digital and Information Manager from the Open University shared the really excellent open resource Being Digital – a collection of short activities designed by the Open University Library Information Literacy group for developing digital and information literacy. You can choose developed Pathways where learning is on a particular theme so you can work your way through a topic and gain a deeper understanding.

    Charlie Inskip from UCL Department of Information Studies then discussed some of the findings from research funded by SCONUL as part of a wider project, Research Information Literacy and Digital Scholarship funded by Research Information Network (RIN). The findings highlighted the importance of teaching, research and technical skills in developing resources and a need for library and information staff to continually develop their digital literacy skills. He concluded that ownership of digital literacies should be shared across and amongst institutions and services and is not the purview of one stakeholder and the ever changing and flexible landscape of digital literacy and an awareness of the continuously changing context is required to successfully meet the current challenge.


    Footnote on Lego

    *I had been inspired by a presentation I had seen recently which had introduced me to the concept of ‘Serious Lego Play’ . (Alison James at the CRA conference in Plymouth)

    Also noted on 11th June that the University of Cambridge announced plans to establish a (link to) “LEGO professorship of play in education, development and learning” alongside a research centre, with £4 million of donations from the LEGO Foundation – news must have got out!


    Jisc Learning and Teaching Experts Group, June 2015

    By Mira Vogel, on 23 June 2015

    Originally comprising project fundholders from the E-Learning Programme and now more open, Jisc convenes the Learning and Teaching Experts Group three times a year. This meeting – the 35th – had sessions on the student experience, leadership, and students as partners, all with a digital focus.

    Helen Beetham introduced a new NUS benchmarking tool for the student digital experience (not yet released, but see their existing benchmarking tools), and further work on a digital capabilities framework for staff. Each table critiqued one of eleven areas of the tool, and contributed ideas to a twelfth on ‘Digital Wellbeing’.

    There followed a series of shorter presentations including two senior managers describing their respective institution’s digital strategy and approach to supporting digital leadership, along with staff at Reading College who presented on their use of Google, their ethos of ‘pass it on’ for digital know-how, and how staff can indicate that they are happy to be observed (by hanging a green or red coat hanger on the door of their teaching room – paradoxically and unsurprisingly the green one was redundant because everybody got the message and used it).  In case anybody remained unconvinced that there is any urgency to this, Neil Witt (another senior participant) tweeted a recent House of Lords report, Make or Break. The UK’s Digital Future [pdf]. He thinks that for institutions to build digital capabilities will require an HR strategy.

    During lunch I talked with Ron Mitchell about Xerte the open source suite for authoring interactive digital content, and made a note to ask for a pilot installation. I failed to find the roof garden (consulting the floor guide later, it’s close to the bottom of the building) and fretted about a very large fish in a very small tank on reception. Then came a session on cultures of partnership with a panel of students and student-facing roles. Like the previous session, this was full of tantalising ideas like staff being able to choose a student or staff colleague to observe their teaching, and Dan Derricot from Lincoln University starting to think of student engagement as a ladder where the course evaluation form is lower than, say, creating new opportunities. Partnership culture depends on visibility; at first staff need to take a lot of initiative but as students see other students’ work, they are more likely to step forward with ideas of their own. Eric Stoller tweeted this interesting-looking paper theorising student involvement. Jisc has a network of Change Agents and (separately) there is a new journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change with a call for papers.

    Finally the members showcase. I attended Lina Petrakieva’s session on assessing students’ digital stories at Glasgow Caledonian. They had to deliberate about similar things to us, namely whether to require the students to use a common platform (they did) and whether to change the assessment criteria in recognition of the new modes of expression (they did). I caught the end of a talk from the Lisette Toetenel at the Open University about setting up a network to share designs for learning.

    Participants used the Twitter hashtag #JiscExperts15 mostly to amplify the event but with a few conversations sparking – including this one on helping champions and when James Kieft (a runner up for last year’s Learning Technologist of the Year) from Reading College dropped the bombshell / reminded us that they’d turned off their Moodle in 2014 and moved to Google applications. This set quite a few people off – not for reasons of rent-seeking and fear of change though I’m sure we all need to check for that, but business models, orientation, and the risk of abruptly-retired services. It also gave other people a frisson of liberation). I should reassure (?) at this point that there are no plans to turn off UCL Moodle. Then somebody asked what the purpose of learning technologists would be in the VLEless future but the session ended before another round of “What is a learning technologist today?” could get underway. Sometimes I think of these (what we’re currently calling) digital education professional services roles as midwife, sometimes I think of them as more specialised educational design roles in waiting until the ‘digital’ becomes more taken-for-granted. As long as education isn’t served up pre-programmed or decided centrally, the roles are likely to endure in some evolving form.

    Thanks to Jisc and all contributors for a stimulating day.




    A Creative Challenge

    By Janina Dewitz, on 22 June 2015


    This post is several weeks (months?) overdue. Motto: Good things come to those who wait. Maybe. It’s been a laborious project. Some things just take a while to compile.

    Back in April, UCL had its annual Teaching and Learning conference. My colleague Mira and I had proposed a session on Domain of One’s Own. Our session had been accepted, however, we had been allocated a mysterious new conference format: Fair.

    From the FAQ:

    The fairs are being tried out because we could not accommodate all the submissions that the reviewers wanted to accept. Instead of a room where a single presentation is going on, there will be three or four (or five, in one case) parallel ‘fair’ sessions of half an hour each. The rooms are quite large so this should be perfectly viable.

    Each fair presenter will be allocated a table area which seats 8 people maximum (but there is no reason not to expand that group within practical constraints on the day if needs be). In other words, it is a tutorial-size arrangement.

    Um. Ok. I have to be honest: I was disappointed. I had hoped to have a bigger audience. And also: how was this supposed to work? Would we have screens? Projectors? Wifi? No idea. Would it be a laptop or simply a tablet in the middle of the table and eight people craning their necks in order to see? The fair just didn’t seem fair at all. Meh.

    When life serves up such annoying little hurdles, I grumble a lot at first¹, then eventually reach for my favourite Tom Stoppard quote:

    We keep to our usual stuff, more or less, only inside out. We do on stage the things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else.

    [Player, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead]

    But how do you turn a big traditional conference slideshow inside out? Well, of course, you make it small and on paper, but keep to the usual stuff, the slideshow, more or less. – No, not A4 handouts. That would be lame.

    The only format that seemed truly suitable for this type of conference session was ………..

    THE POP-UP BOOK. Yeah!

    Only one small hiccup: I had never made a pop-up book before. How does one make a pop-up book?! One turns to YouTube, of course. Isn’t that what everyone does these days when the need to learn anything arises … ?

    And so over the course of a day or two  I watched probably every video tutorial there is on pop-up cards and books, from the simple

    to the impressively complex (but downright scary):

    Ok, so it was clear that Peter Dahmen’s creations were way beyond what I would be able to accomplish. Yet I still added his tutorials to my watch list because he provided ideas and insights into the different techniques I could consider using for my much more modest project.

    I started with a rough draft of a storyline and possible pop-ups for each of the main slides in the slideshow Mira and I had presented at previous events.


    Next, I cut paper. Lots of paper. Occasionally the paper cut back. Ouch².


    Towards the end of a long weekend of snipping and gluing, my living room looked like it had been attacked with a confetti bomb.

    under construction

    The resulting pop-up book was interactive: full of little hidden surprises, it could be passed round for the audience to take active part in the session. It was a resounding success.

    “You should make a video of it””, my audience demanded.

    Oh noes! Another creative challenge. *grumble*

    Luckily, the list of video tutorials I had watched during prep included this gem:

    I tried the photography method suggested in the TED video, but found it so difficult to get any kind of stable continuity. There are too many little interactive bits and my A5 book is much smaller than the one in the TED video: it lacks the weight to stay firmly put in one spot. Also, there’s not much scope for hiding any kind of stabilisation props, such as paper clips and bulldog grips. The whole thing was very frustrating. In the end I found it easier to just set my phone camera on time-lapse and edit out any duff frames afterwards.

    photo setup

    Editing was another painfully fiddly process. It took several days to do. Many re-edits later the result is still far from perfect, but I give up now trying to improve it further. Life’s too short. So much to do, so little time and all that.

    Looking back on it, in spite of the niggles and frustrations this has been a very rewarding project to do. I learned so much about paper folding and video editing in the process. Most of all, it’s been a fantastic project for practising patience!

    It was absolutely the right thing to do for the round-the-table session format: tangible and much more memorable than just another slideshow.


    ¹  It’s part of my creative process – a bit like a problem identification and assessment system. Or something.

    ²  I truly suffer for my art. 😉

    Introducing the ELE vlog

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 22 June 2015

    In E-Learning Environments (ELE) we have lots of useful and important information we need to communicate with staff (and students) who use our systems. We have various different ways of communicating with everyone who uses our systems (like Moodle, Lecturecast and MyPortfolio) including email, Twitter, Moodle News and this blog. However we also recognise that these are all text based mediums, and sometimes read chunks of information isn’t preferential. To try and make this easier, and offer an alternative way of communicating we are pleased to introduce the ELE vlog.

    We are launching this new vlog (or video blog) on our YouTube channel and hope to post a new video every month informing viewers of the most interesting or important things happening within ELE and our systems. If we get a good response, or have requests, then we may increase the frequency of videos, or make videos explaining particular topics. If you have any ideas of videos you’d like to see from ELE then please comment on this blog post or send us an email to ele@ucl.ac.uk.

    So, without further adieu, please enjoy our first vlog embedded below (and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more educational and hopefully entertaining content!)

    ELE Communication Channels

    Moodle News: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/mod/forum/view.php?f=1

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/UCL_ELE

    YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/LTSSUCL/videos

    Games, gamification and games-based learning SIG

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 18 June 2015

    Do you have an interest in games, gamification and games-based learning?

    If so we would be really interested in hearing from you, we are looking to put together a special interest group at UCL around these areas. The aim of the SIG will be to encourage interaction and discussion on these topics and others, ranging from research on games and play to their implementation within teaching practice (plus hopefully have a bit of fun along the way).

    Please join via our Moodle page if you are interested in taking part along and we will arrange an initial meeting of the group soon.

    Lynda.com continues…

    By Jessica Gramp, on 5 June 2015

    Lynda.comFollowing a successful pilot last year, UCL has now confirmed funding for Lynda.com for at least the next two years, until at least 30 November 2017.

    More than 5000 staff and students at UCL have already logged in to Lynda.com and it’s now becoming a key component of many teaching programmes.

    The online video learning environment already contains more than 3000 courses and holds in excess of 144,000 individual videos. All UCL staff and students receive unlimited access to this library of high-quality, current, and engaging video tutorials taught by recognised industry experts.

    So if you haven’t already tried it, get started at ucl.ac.uk/Lynda.

    On average 60 courses are added each month so there is bound to be something to help your professional development, academic studies or just personal interests. Subjects include business topics such as data analysis, communications and leadership; using CAD and design tools; a large range of programming and IT development tools; educational technology practice; and comprehensive IT administration support.

    And for teaching staff the admin interface enables you to track usage and completion of specific courses and create playlists to bring together a number of courses on a specific topic linked to your curriculum.

    Access Lynda.com…