From education to employment

Sharing inspiration leads to breakthroughs in learning and assessment

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology

A remarkable array of new technology-based tools for learning  were explored at the Association for Learning Technology annual conference last month – from innovative games for primary-age pupils to undergraduate guides to independent learning.

They had two things in common: first, they were created in classrooms and workshops by teachers and tutors; second – and the theme of this month’s FE News column – they were the result of shared inspiration.

Enthusiasm for the inspirational approach was evident in a conference session called A Few of my Favourite Things, by, James Clay, ILT & Learning Resources Manager at Gloucester College. Participants were invited to share, show and explain their favourite apps when using mobile apps in learning and teaching using tablets, mobile phones and similar devices. And at the end of the session they voted for their favourites.

The seeds of this approach were nurtured during the 2011 ALT Conference when Google announced it would work with us to seek out and celebrate examples of excellent uses of Google Apps in learning and teaching. A competition was launched and the winners and commended entries were announced at this year’s conference in Manchester.

The overall winner was Gary Wood from the University of Sheffield, for All About Linguistics, a website designed and built using Google Apps by first-year undergraduate students at the University. The site formed the students’ assessment for an introductory module in linguistics, and encouraged them to work as independent groups to investigate a topic in detail.

The collective inspiration behind Map My Programme, by Mark Kerrigan, Rita Headington and Simon Walker from the University of Greenwich, was Highly Commended. It is a tool that enables individual teachers to insert course design data and then view the resulting assessment and feedback experience of students by ‘playing’ a simulation that represents the academic workload over time.

Sometimes we do research only to see the project fail. But is there anything we can learn from it? A study of the results of six years longitudinal participatory action research in mobile learning (from 2006 to 2012) offers sound reasons why mobile learning projects don’t all succeed. Written by Thomas Cochrane, at the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Auckland University in New Zealand, Secrets of mlearning failures: confronting reality, won him the award for Best Proceedings Paper at the 2012 conference.

And if you are looking for ways to enhance learner engagement with artefacts or bring library collections and exhibitions to life, then turn to the pioneering SCARLET Augmented Reality (AR) toolkit. This is a practical guide for everyone interested in developing AR applications particularly based on Open Source frameworks already available. Team SCARLET was awarded joint Runner-up in this year’s ALT Learning Technologist of the Year award.

Highly commended in the individual award category was David Renton, Lecturer in Computing at Reid Kerr College, for his creative development of innovative education games for primary school children. Andy Smith, Blackpool & The Fylde College was also highly commended in the individual award for his outstanding design of a Virtual Learning Environment for foundation degree students in Project Management.

The joint winners of the individual award were Steph Ladbrooke, a teacher at Pedmore CofE Primary School, and Phil Tubman, based at Lancaster University while the winner of the Team Award was the Lambeth City Learning Centre. Each and every entry received for the award showed how personal commitment, inspiration and a lot of effort can bring results for learners and for colleagues that really do change reality and might lead us to find a few new favourite things along the way.

So, if you have inspirational ideas you are burning to share, why not have a go? You can find out more about the award and all the winning and commended entries online at http://www.alt.ac.uk/get-involved/awards . Next year’s award will open for entry in spring 2013. Read more about the Google/ALT competition here and freely access Secrets of mlearning failures by Thom Cochrane.

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), an independent membership charity whose mission is to ensure that use of learning technology is effective and efficient, informed by research and practice, and grounded in an understanding of the underlying technologies and their capabilities, and the situations into which they are placed


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