Lost in Disruption #DMLLExpo

IMG_4596The Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University is one of those places that when you enter it you start saying “WOW”.   I was there yesterday for their “Lost in Disruption Expo“, invited to give a keynote with Jacqui Speculand (raising her hand above) who is their Principal Project Lead. I met Jacqui when she came to Southampton University for our Open Badges in HE conference in March, although we had been in touch via Twitter we had never actually met before but our common interest in the use of Open Badges meant we had so much in common.

I have to say something about their Lab space.  On the top floor of their Lanchester Library (another link, we have a Lanchester building at Southampton University) named after Sir Frederick Lanchester   an important engineer of his time and soon to be featured as part of a Heritage Funded project at Coventry University.  This space is a complete conversion of the third floor of the library.  As soon as you open the door you feel inspired to learn. It has that feeling of open space it is light and well laid out with jazzy spaces for sitting, I think they called it the “Google hill” a wooden tiered structure for sitting and holding talks.  There are spaces for collaboration, sectioned off by huge whiteboards, tastefully designed and used by students all the time.  I have created a little video about the space here.  It is the sort of space that you are probably best describing with images so I’ll let that video speak for itself.  One of the takeaways I had from the space was that it was well designed, well used and because of the light and the layout it made you want to learn.  It is so true that your environment has a huge impact on how you feel and your behaviour.   Part of the space belongs to the DMLL team.  That is also a revelation.  The team consists of Subject Librarians, Teaching staff, Education Developers, technical innovators, I call them that, they are not their real titles but they are not Learning technologists, they don’t look after a VLE and get people to use it.  They are much more than that, the team is like an innovation engine, all working together, to explore ideas and get it right.  Jacqui mentioned that it was a safe space to fail, somewhere to try out a concept, tweak it and adjust it before it is no longer a project, where is can be rejected or adopted by the university. You so need that.   In addition to all of these people they had student interns working with them, and some of them they took on to be members of staff.

The Expo itself was held in the space, ably Chaired by Helen Keegan. There are teaching rooms all round the edges of the space, some with glass walls and some as regular spaces but all have Apple TV, so the use of iPads to connect wirelessly is in place and has been for some time.  Each of these rooms can be booked via the devices on the walls using Outlook as the booking system.  No need to complicate it by using the regular university-wide booking system.  We were talking in “The Grass” an intimate tiered space, covered in fake grass.  It was a completely different experience to talk to 60 0r 70 people and being able to see all of them.  People were not just sitting up, but they were relaxed and listening, genuinely listening, it was much more engaging to talk and listen here, again, because of the environment.  Yes, we could have a room with 70 people in it.  It is not the same, even the grass had something to do with it!

The talks were excellent – I listened to Brian Lamb talking about how the VLE has been designed to put is into the silos that we are trying so hard to get out of.  He also talked about “Splot“, a tool he has created to make it so much easier to write.   He spoke of Sandstorm, a collection of open access apps that are a toolbox of web-enabled tools for academia.   Jim Groom (DS106) talked about how we need to be more aware of how our data is used, he talked about lots of things including “A domain of ones own” project at University of Mary Washington to encourage academics to write more about their work so that they raise their academic profiles but they own their presence, and it is syndicated to the university.    MOOCs and their corporatisation. And he showed us the “back to the future” 80’s console room.  I could go on and on.  Both Brian and Jim gave inspiring talks , I even listened to the podcast by Jon Udell on the way home on the train.

There was so much to see and listen to I hope we can see it all again.  I missed some sessions because I was preparing for my talk, but the tweets looked really interesting.  They asked me what my takeaways were from the day and I said about the space because that just hit you as it was so different from the ‘usual’.    But I also think that it is essential for progress and for the students to experience something like that.  You need the space to explore and develop, and to meet the challenges of the new world of Higher Education.  We can’t keep doing what we have always done. We will become irrelevant and students need to have the benefit of this in their own space before they face the real world.   I hope that I can go there again and show others, and to work with the Innovation Engine that is the DMLL team.

The day captured in social media (Storify)


Up to much Fiona?

I have been remiss in recording where I have been talking and where I will be going over the year (2016), as I keep being asked I thought I’d give a little synopsis of where I have been and where I am yet to go.  My conclusion is that I am up to quite a lot, but it’s all good and useful for the work I do at the University of Southampton.

So, here goes


I gave a keynote to academics at the Open University in Milton Keynes.  I was talking about interesting and innovative solutions to common issues using technology enhanced learning.  The talk was entitled ‘Action not words’ just because the idea was that active learning was the key issue. These are my slides, not always useful because I use a lot of images but I have been asked for them anyway.

JISC Stakeholders forum – I was invited to this as part of my role for ALT.  This is interesting because I gain a perspective of FE, HE and also other education providers (apprenticeships etc) which is always interesting.  JISC are very interested in supporting at varying levels and to determine what their ‘offer’ should be.  Interesting times.

Women in Tech conference

Loved this.  I met awesome women and some cool men, all supporting equality of opportunity for careers in tech.  I was a panel speaker, talking about how digital literacies, in particularly communicating effectively online, supports women to promote themselves.  The panel was great, I was with YouTuber,

Fashion tech specialists, engineers and Mashable. Other speakers included Sky TV, Laterooms.com, Techcity UK and BBC.  Worth going if you can make the next one.  Look for the #WinTech16


At the University of Southampton, our Student Champion Network Group are part of the HEA Strategic Enhancement Programme activity.  I attended as a member of that group to meet with other partners and to hear about their activities. In particular it was good to hear about other student partnerships as well as internationalisation projects.  I also go to meet Sam Elkington who is the Academic Lead for Assessment and Feedback.  We had  a chat about incorporating technology enhanced learning into activities and what we are already doing with open badges.

The StoryStephan Caspar, Media Lead in ILIAD at the University of Southampton invited me to go to this innovative event. It was very diverse and held in Conway Hall which is a great venue. We heard from podcasters and archivists, including Wolfgang Wild and Helen Zaltzman (Podcaster).  They even had Werewolf biscuits.

ALT Committee meeting (London) – I love these because everyone is committed, enthusiastic and very positive. We had an interesting talk from a director of the Tinder Foundation (the training people not the dating people!) This activity fits very nicely with work I am involved in at University of Southampton, which is so often the case with ALT.

Big Bang Data exhibition – this was an educational trip for the iChamps to see how data can be visualised and hopefully bring to life some more of the technical implications of how we use data.  It was very interesting and was part of their CPD for their roles as champions of digital literacies.


Designing and Delivering a Quality HE Curriculum

I was a speaker for Inside Government Conference ‘Designing and Delivering a Quality Higher Education Curriculum’.  In particular my talk focussed on the value of digital literacies skills and how the use of students as partners for this development is important. Everyone loves the open badges at the moment and we use it to gather evidence of activities.  I met Professor Peter Lawler from Manchester who talked about their University College Curriculum Innovation model which is really nice.  There was a lot of interesting and useful talks, and a lot of interest in our iChamps.

Open Badges in HE – this was the day of the Badges.  Organised by a collective of awesome women and hosted by the University of Southampton we held a conference about the use of #OpenBadgesHE

Biennial International Conference on iPads in Higher Education – I am a speaker for this conference in San Francisco from 16-18th March.  I am going with Judith Lock and iChamp Charlie Cosstick.   We are all presenting papers on the use of iPads with the iChamps and for the projects that they work on.


I will be attending my residential for my PhD in Lancaster Uni at the beginning of April.  That will be great, I finally get to meet the other students on the programme and I have never been to Lancaster before (it’s a long way!).

I’ve been invited to talk on behalf of ALT as a special keynote Inside Government conference  on transforming learning with mobile technology in London.  On the same day I am attending the Apple organised mini conference in the pm back at Southampton. This is focussing on the use of iPads for medical education.

The Disruptive Media Lab (I love that name)  in Coventry University  have asked me to come along and talk at their conference. I think we are planning to present together so we can cover Open Badges.  So that’s going to be fun.


There are ALT meetings and also I have been invited to be keynote at a technology enhanced learning conference at the University of Portsmouth.  The programme looks brilliant and I am really excited to go along and talk there. I haven’t been there for a very long time so it will good to go along there again. I think the last time I was there was for a Second Life event which tells you how long that was.

I have just had a paper accepted for a conference on ePortfolios and experiential learning in Edinburgh in June.  That will be awesome.  I am hoping that my fellow colleagues from the University of Southampton can come along as well as I have submitted the paper about our project piloting the use of Open Badges and ePortfolios.  The conference is still accepting proposals, and looks like it will be a busy three days.





Open Badges, Digital Skills and O2

I was invited to the launch of the Open Badge Academy at Air Street in London, the HQ of Telefonica (O2) yesterday.  Hosted by the TechPartnership which used to be eSkills we were introduced to the latest system for issuing, creating and displaying open badges.  They are built on the open standard created by Mozilla and it looks very impressive.  The system was supported by Digital Me and Makewav.es both based in Leeds and have huge expertise behind them.   There are sets of badges that are available and being trialled by 14-16 year olds, around Cybersecurity and Employability.  The event had attracted a great range of employers, local authority members, SME’s and of big employers like Samsung and our hosts, O2.  There were a few start ups that were interested in how they could vet employees using  badges and our conversations were around the importance of digital skills for the digital economy.

The format of the event was for an introduction, demo and then a couple of break out sessions. I attended a break out session from TAS who are a company with 300,000 employees, 9,000 in the UK. They already offer online challenges, so a Badge was a natural extension for them. They offer their badges to school children and the teachers organise and issue the badge to their own pupils.  I did ask a question about copy right and who owns the data.   I was thinking that if one of the tasks that the pupils did to earn a badge was to create a 6 second video, then who owned the video once it was uploaded into a system?  My reasoning was not to disrupt but to think about the implications of use, for the person uploading as they may want to earn another badge from another employer,  which might entail them using the same video.  In their minds, they created and own the video but what if the organisation issuing the badge decided to use the video as a promotion for their activities?  Who can say yes and no?  The question was answered in the next session when we discovered that the Tech partnership owned the content.  I don’t think there was anything particularly unsual about that, common practice (you are the product after all) but I think awareness of the fact that your creations may not stay your creations and the implications to that are important to consider.

I do like the Open Badge Academy.  It was very sleek and nicely designed.  It seemed very useful as well. It isn’t another displaying system, it allows the creation of the badge, endorsements, the ability to see who else has the same badge and how you are part of a community.  It was also connected to LinkedIn (that is how your recommendations happen).  It is free to education to use and worth taking a look at.

If you are interested in Open Badges in Higher Education then look out for further information about the Badge Conference to be held at the University of Southampton on March 8th 2016.  We are planning the conference now with colleagues from Warwick, Open University, Sussex and now South Wales.  More details to follow.

Exploring Digital capabilities #JISCDigLead

Digital capabilities #JISCDigLeadA couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend the pilot of the JISC Digital Leaders capabilities programme.  There were over 40 people from across higher education institutions, all involved in exploring the new pilot for the leadership angle of digital capabilities.  Digital Capabilities being the application of digital literacies, and fall into six elements detailed in their presentation. The programme has been designed to support those in leadership roles to develop their own competences and use of digital technologies.  Most of the people in attendance were familiar with technology enhanced learning and were there to support JISC to improve and try out the activities before the programme goes live.  Some of those who were there were in senior roles and who did not consider themselves particularly digitally savvy but they were willing to indulge in the activities.   I invited two colleagues from the University of Southampton, the Business School and Professional Services (Library).

Mapping digital activityOne of the key tasks over the two days was to establish the personal level of involvement with technology.  This was based on the Visitors and Residents spectrum devised by David White.  The idea was to plot your own involvement and then the following day your institutions.  It was an interesting exercise which was developed into ascertaining how engaged our institutions were with technology.

There is a follow up of two more days towards the end of November where we will all meet again and make recommendations about the programme.   The intention being that we bring the digital capabilities projects into our own institutions for all levels of staff – and not just academic staff.  Professional services staff would be a great set of staff to trial digital capabilities, supporting staff in administration to give confidence in the use of technology.

The same people will meet for the next wave and it will be interesting for us to get together again to see how the programme is shaping up.

Techys, Librarians and #PedagooLondon

I have a particularly interesting week coming up for which I have been preparing all weekend.  It’s a strange week because on Wednesday I have been invited up to Reading to visit the Microsoft HQ for an ‘Immersion event’ sounds a bit like a religious experience but I have been informed that they have some cool and interesting ideas about education that I should know about. Our IT department have organised it and colleagues from around the university will be attending. So I will go and share what I find out, unless I’m sworn r

On Thursday and Friday I am talking with my colleague Jane Stephenson at the SCONUL annual conference on blended learning, really from an ALT perspective and also linked nicely to how our Library has been engaging with blended learning to support student academic skills.

What a difference a web makes

On Saturday I have the pleasure of working with Rachel Jones (Change the Lightbulbs etc) at the #PedagooLondon2015 event. We are both passionate about educational tech and we have 50 minutes to get all talk about all of our most interesting and favourite apps and websites for education. That will be fun, we have 50 in 50 minutes so its a no holds barred whirlwind of techy innovation.  I even got distracted looking through our own list so I have no idea how our colleagues will survive the onslaught.

It will be an interesting week of different approaches to presenting educational technology and innovation.  On top of this we have 7 interns and 2 new iChamps starting for summer internships all of them working on digital skills aspects of cross university life and discipline specific education.

So much to do and so little time…