Saturday, May 9, 2015

Reporting back from the Networked Learning Seminar at Cardiff 6th May 2015

On Wednesday 6th May 2015, two friends from Bristol University traveled to Cardiff to head up our networked learning seminar: Dr Sue Timmis and Dr Jane Williams. At just after 1pm, around 30 of us were welcomed by Patricia Price (Pro Vice Chancellor Pro Vice-Chancellor, Student Experience & Academic Standards) who was on hand to open the seminar, kindly sponsored by the recently formed College of Biomedical & Life Sciences. I was personally very thankful to Emma Humphries from the College. Her fulsome help with the administration of the seminar was superb - it was so reassuring all through the surprisingly long run-up to the seminar.

Sue Timmis expertly traced out the tensions in Higher Education that keep the learning and teaching theory-practice gap wide open. For example, that theories of learning are far more contested than those within many disciplines. However, Sue challenged us to seek and engage students in participatory learning activities.  PowerPoint MP3

Jane Williams discussed her work with medical students who elect to develop e-learning materials for their optional module. Unlike the more programmatic materials developed by the department, the students target courseware that directly addresses content areas which they found challenging, thus increasing its value for ensuing cohorts. This was a perfect example of ‘participatory’ collaborative and cooperative learning that Sue had offered as a means of enriching and deepening learning. MP3

After a brief comfort-break, it was the turn of the Cardiff three... 
Karl Luke outlined a small-scale study in which he explored Nina Dohn's critique of the assumptions made in education when Web 2.0 tools (especially wikis) are deployed in hopes that they will succeed unproblematically. He went on to offer practical solutions to Dohn’s points. PowerPoint MP3
  Joe Nicholls used his slot to present long-standing work around 'learning literacies'. He argued that only a fully integrated approach to deploying these literacies could be effective and that, even then, context was key for securing worthwhile outcomes. PowerPoint MP3
Sadly, a few things, not just my relaxed approach to time-keeping, made us run out of time, leaving me with just a few minutes before the close. But even in a very short presentation there were practical and theoretical lessons gleaned from a mini-project carried out last year into aspects of informal learning by staff using an innovative application of blogs for shared academic supervision record-keeping. PowerPoint MP3

I was personally very pleased with the way that the seminar gave a real flavor of the conference. Networked learning does not do 'snake oil' and that can be confusing in learning technology circles... much the same as when my landline rings these days, I expect a sales pitch in broken English. The source of networked learning's 'non-splashy' power is in the humanistic values, transparent evidence and scholarly insight, and that should be good enough for anyone. Concluding comments MP3