Monday, 17 February 2014

ScHARR Bite Size at UCISA Conference - Changing Landscapes

This week I was lucky to attend and present at the UCISA one day conference hosted by the University of Sheffield at the excellent Edge conference centre. I didn’t know much about UCISA when I was asked to submit an abstract based on their theme Changing Landscapes back last year, and was pleasantly surprised by what an innovative and interesting conference it was and how much of it mattered to my own work.
UCISA’s aim is: “to promote excellence in the application of information systems in support of teaching, learning, research and administration in higher education.” The presentations came from a mixture of learning technologists, educationalists and IT experts and myself an information specialist.
The morning plenary was delivered by our own Dr. Christine Sexton the Director of the Corporate and Information Services based at the University. Christine’s talk looked back over the last couple of years where her team has seen rapid changes mostly thanks to Google Apps, rise of Social Media, customer demands for immediate and flexible services, security and growing appetites for wireless connectivity across a large university campus. We heard about the two little robot cleaners in the computing centre (one of them allegedly called Christine) and how even when a student cannot get an online computer game working in student halls it it treated no different from if their laptop was faulty. The ethos that the students are in our care and are our customers and therefore we have to support them quite rightly and very much heralded.  Christine touched on the Internet of Things from her use of the Nike Fuel band that talks to her scales which in time will talk to her fridge. It all makes for an exciting if not cumbersome future where we spend half of our time setting this tech up and then updating malware, but that’s a different story. Christine as ever was good value and reinforced the idea that Cloud Services are not about saving money but improving services and systems - it is a no brainer for the modern organisation.
Christine has blogged about her talk and you can read about it here.

Next up was the winning case study for the conference, Anna Armstrong from Nottingham Trent University who talked about their initiative to develop digital skills through flexible practice. The focus of talk was their work at Nottingham Trent to encourage a large group of staff to develop the digital skills and knowledge to deal with a huge number of phone calls using software to help students gain places via clearing, no small feat.

I then attended a superb presentation by Fiona MacNeill, Joyce Webber and Bethany Hewitt on their App Swap Breakfasts. This is a great idea, and felt like it had the same ethos as ScHARR Bite Size in that it is about making new technologies and ideas available that don’t eat into people’s time with a real informal fun feel about it. Their presentation was delivered on the superb nearpod app which I hadn’t seen before but will make a point of using in the future. The app allowed for voting and audience interaction via being able to draw remotely on the slides on your own tablet device whilst the presentation was happening live - I was sold on the idea and plan to try and start our own App Swap Breakfast on campus very soon.

After a lovely lunch which featured some nice cake I went to see The University of York’s presentation on their migration to Google Apps in 2012 delivered by Mike Dunn. The presentation resonated with many of the audience who too had come from organisations who had moved over to the technology giants productivity and communication suite. The University of York had first moved their students over to Google Apps before finally moving their staff over. Mike explained the many considerations the university had taken in their decision to move over, very much like Sheffield and like my own institution have not looked back since.

I then delivered my own session on ScHARR Bite Size - something visitors to this blog will be all too aware of. It was well received and and I got a few interesting questions about location, timing and how I generate new sessions. This is probably the last time I will deliver a talk about Bite Size as I hand it over to someone else after four years at the helm, it was the fourth time Bite Size had featured at a conference and was a nice way to sign the 20 minute method off. My slides from the presentation are below.

After another break where I was able to catch up with the University of Sheffield’s ex learning and teaching manager for CICS Sarah Horrigan (now at Derby University) for a chat and share some ideas about pedagogy, digital literacy and technology. After that it was back into the main conference hall to hear the final plenary from Doug Belshaw from the Mozilla Foundation talking about digital literacies delivered on the big screen via a Google Hangout. It was a great presentation, very interactive and thought provoking - Doug discussed the ideas about digital literacy spanning back to his time as a teacher, employee of JISC and through his own PhD. studies. Doug listed the eight key elements of digital literacy, that being; cultural, cognitive, constructive, communicative, confident, creative, critical and civic.
His presentation on the big screen reminded me of a scene from Big Brother, or the old Apple advert from the 1990s where a big face on the screen dictates to the nation. Except on this occasion it a good man trying to help us all understand how we can actually navigate around this massive technology and information maze better.

@dajbelshaw speaking at Changing Landscapes

I have to say my expectations were more than met by attending Changing Landscapes, I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was a collection of brilliant presentations, lively debate and great people. I always recall speaking to Christine Sexton at the Online Information Conference in 2012 as I was about to talk about Google Apps at our University. Sadly the conference is no longer with us, and it was one of those conferences that someone in my profession gained a lot from. Christine commented that it wasn’t really her crowd (professional peer group) so to speak but that she got a lot of knowledge from being there. I think I can say the same about Changing Landscapes, despite it not being a collection of individuals I’d really come across on my various travels and networks, I did actually come away with a lot of ideas, thoughts, questions and a few connections. What more can you ask of a one day conference?

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