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.





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…

Stopping and Thinking at the #CRAResidential2014

I’m up in Birmingham (Aston University) with the Centre for Recording Achievement for their Annual residential conference.  There seems to be a lot of reflection going on, and in the interests of that I thought I would write my own reflective piece.

As usual there are a lot of people here from a range of universities and organisations.  The conference started with us reflecting on how students reflect, with immediate discussions from everyone.  I think we all agreed or came to the conclusion, that reflection was becoming a dirty word with students, along with the likes of a variety of other, over used terms thrown about  in education.  ‘Stop and Think’ was suggested as a viable alternative.

I’m up here because I was talking about Digital Badges.  I wasn’t going to talk about the technology behind the badges, we had a lovely workshop last year with Chris Millsom (York) who gave us all Badges.  My talk was more about the thinking process behind the badge, the stages of development for an institution.

The focus of the session was really to encourage colleagues to identify what awards they already offer and apply the stages of Badge development to them, getting them to think about how they might ‘Badgify’ these.  Each table (3 ) were asked to pick one and work through from identifying stakeholders to gathering evidence, authenticating and issuing.  I think the general consensus was that it was much harder than you think, but it is a valuable opportunity to get a range of different perspectives and those who attended really engaged and provided us with lots to think about.  I always think that networks like these are invaluable to innovation in institutions and this was no exception.

Building Badges workshop

Badge Resources

I had some feedback that the session was useful but I used an acronym that was unfamiliar – MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and Credly – oops!  Follow those links for more information.

I attended the AGM where there was a discussion about more collaborative working between organisations and in particular there was a mention of ePortfolios.  This seems like a natural collaboration between the CRA and the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) so hopefully something will come of this.  The CRA also want to run Special Interest Groups as suggested by the CRA community.  I know that Badges is definitely one and I noticed that someone had suggested a region specific group, and London and South East was listed.


The final presentation this evening was from students and their lecturer who have used ePortfolio (Mahara) within their module as an assessment.   The module was ‘Land Law’. The two girls who came along were confident and gave a ‘warts and all’ presentation. They were a great example of the community itself, in that they were friendly, interactive and informed and t was great to hear from them. One thought I had is that there could be scope to use the CRA to perform some research across other institutions to see what their experiences of using ePortfolios had been like.

The conference dinner was great as the girls sat on our table so we had a long chat with them and I got to show them Twitter.  They are both graduating next year and I reminded them to capture this experience for their own ePortfolios



Women’s Voices being heard – UCU Equality conference in Manchester

http://instagram.com/p/vV9K7aoi5l/In my spare moments I am the Equality Officer for the local branch of the UCU at the University of Southampton.  I haven’t been in the role very long and they have very kindly sent me all the way to Manchester to the Equality Conference.  I am always intrigued if I attend non-educational techy events because I see how people would normally talk/present.  Normally there is Powerpoint but the speakers just got up and talked (using notes but that’s fine).  If they’d had used electronic media we could shared their talks and you’d had been able to comment too.

The conference is over three days and I am here for the Women’s conference which was today and the conference for everyone tomorrow. The UCU Women are very passionate and have talked frankly about issues that are of huge importance.  The conference today has provided me with mixed emotions from listening to Diane Marsden an employee of Care UK the people who won the bid or as she put it the won because they were the ‘lowest bidder’ the poor employees are victims of the gradually privatisation of our NHS.  She told us stories of incidences of inappropriate staff attending to people who could suffer because of their lack of experience, she talked of having her pay cut by 23%.  23% whilst her new boss is on £800,000.  She said they went on strike because they believed in what they did, they care about their work, they worked in the NHS because they wanted to help people.  But Cameron came in a sold it off to people to make money from the sick.

Next up we heard about Sex workers and how the policies and practices put in place have had a negative impact on their lives and their safety.  It seemed we had two speakers with two differing (not completely different) viewpoints.  One represented Object and the other represented the English Collective of Prostitutes.  Horrible stories of mistreatment of victims, criminalisation of sex workers has led to terrible things happening.

Then Julian Blanc was mentioned. I’d never heard of him until today and I wish I hadn’t. Apparently he thinks he’s a stud and he can show men how to pick up women.  One method, hugely successful, is to show men how to grab women and attack them, #chokingwomen (literally) by the neck and put them in an armlock.  Nice.  I’m sure he’ll live happily ever after.  15 minutes of fame and all that. I’m not even going to bother linking to articles about him. It made me angry to think that he hasn’t been sectioned.  I don’t wish him harm. I wish him help.

More importantly, the issue was raised about our pensions and how equality is an issue here.  Many women work part-time, earn less than men (because they are women) and are on zero hours contracts.  A perfect cocktail for no pension fund.  What little pension they may get is being looked after by men with lots of money and higher salaries who have little regard or insight into their circumstances. I’m paraphrasing but feelings were running high and the mood was that equality hasn’t been very high on the agenda in the fight against the destruction of the pension scheme (in the press or otherwise).

One last thing, the NUS Womens Officer, Susanna Antubam came along.  She has been working on a report called Lad Culture (actually the title was ‘What she said’) she has been raising awareness about things people say, its not just about going out and getting drunk.  It’s about making comments and the impact words can have on people. Something positive to end the day really because she said what she has been doing has been making a difference.  The campaigns included “I heart consent” raising issues around what consent is at university and other education institutions.  The focus should be education not punishment.

Now, enough.   It’s nearly time to go and meet more people and chat about making a difference. Which is why I’m involved in all of this in the first place 🙂