On learning technology without borders

ALT Conference

The first day of the 2019 ALT Conference tool place on a day in which Brexit, hard borders and the future of the nation were being fiercely debated in Parliament. It was the first time I’d attended an ALT conference, and I wasn’t sure whether, as an Academic Support Librarian, I really belonged in the learning technology camp. But I was reassured by Sue Beckingham’s key note which quoted Douglas Adams’ How to stop worrying and learn to love the internet (1999) ; any friend of Douglas Adams is a friend of mine.

Learning technology isn’t a foreign country

Wandering around the supplier stalls, in the exhibition, I found that many exhibitors were familiar or working in areas that were familiar to me.  My colleagues who support Science and Engineering has just been engaged in the purchase of JOVE – science video content which is being embedded into online learning environments.  Other familiar technology included EDINA, with Digimap and Noteable computational notebooks, and JISC services. Although I briefly considered chatting a VLE supplier who had cuddly reindeer toys on their stall (which I knew my son would swoon over) I decided that with the best will in the world I couldn’t pass as someone likely to make decisions on purchasing a new VLE for the university, and moved on.

Students and data privacy

In Sue Beckingham’s keynote, I’d been struck by her point about the invisible algorithmic editing of the web. If two friends google something they won’t get the same results – they will get what their devices think  they ought to know based on previous searches. I’ve been asked by students whether Google can be used as a tool for systematic literature review, and the answer is no for this reason. A recurrent theme in sessions I attended was how we can raise awareness of data privacy with students, and embed student understanding of data privacy into our teaching. This extends to choices about how we teach, such as considering what personal data students are being asked to contribute if they use a third party tool such as Padlet or Kahoot.

Teaching tools

Our team are interested in using online polling tools in our teaching,  and we’ve been looking at Kahoot, Mentimeter and our institution’s tool of choice, TopHat. ALT Conference used another online polling product, VEVOX app, which allows live stream questions in session, as an alternative to using twitter. I wouldn’t use this myself in a solo classroom teaching situation, it’s certainly one for a team teaching situation, similar to a Collaborate session with multiple moderators.

Learning Analytics

One thing that stood out from sessions I attended was that learning analytics are pervasive and persuasive throughout the educational institution. The SHEILA project offers a framework to support challenges of Higher Education policy makers using learning analytics. This felt very relevant to recent discussions in my own institution, where the proposed greater use of learning analytics has generated a lot of heated debate. JISC offer further support for a data driven approach to student engagement, though the use of their digital experience insights surveys These aim to give a holistic picture of how technology is being used, with greater customisability of questions and detail than other student surveys such as NSS.  The 2019 Digital experience insights report was launched at conference.

Librarians and learning technologists

Chatting to other conference delegates, I heard that many worked alongside librarians, or were managing a team which included both.  We shared a common language and common priorities, especially digital skills. It was a good conference experience for future gazing and for raising my awareness of the wider HE environment.