Monday, 19 January 2015

App Swap Breakfast at TELFest

I co-delivered a one hour App Swap Breakfast as part of the University of Sheffield’s TELFest last week. TELFest is a three day long festival of learning technologies hosted by the Learning Technology team from our Corporate and Information Systems department.
The aim of the event is to encourage staff to find out more about the many technologies, in house and otherwise they can use as part of their teaching. It is a way of showcasing the expert knowledge of the department at a time when students are just returning from their Winter break. As you can imagine with an event called App Swap Breakfast TELFest had put on a nice breakfast of hot and cold drinks and a nice selection of pastries to help everyone get going.

I was invited to co-deliver a session by CiCS Learning Technologies Manager Farzana Latif in tandem with the University’s Senior Learning Technologist Graham McElearney based on the App Swap Breakfast model I’d started on campus last year. As previously blogged, the idea of the App Swap Breakfast came from Fiona MacNeill and colleagues from The University of Brighton. It’s an idea that has been adopted by other campuses including our own. The model is very informal and involves interaction from all participants discussing and sharing apps they have found useful in an educational setting. In addition discussions revolve around issues relating to mobile technologies such as platform choice, costs, privacy, connectivity and ethics to name but a few.

At the TELFest workshop we asked delegates to form into groups and asked them to design their own perfect mobile app homescreen for education. We gave them a blank A3 printed tablet screen and a bunch of blank app icons along with some coloured pens. Delegates were asked to argue the case for which apps should be included and how they would be used. As a clue we gave attendees a criteria list of the various applications they should be aiming for, such as apps for curation, productivity, communication etc.

Image © Farzana Latif

We also asked that the delegates avoided choosing obvious apps that colleagues would have heard of, such as Evernote, Facebook, Blackboard and Google Drive.
It was interesting hearing the many apps that were proposed by both groups, with the productivity app Trello being the only one to feature more than once. I got to find out about new apps which was useful but even more useful for finding out how people had used three apps I have on my iPad but have not as yet properly tried. After the session I will certainly explore these installed apps, those being Adobe Voice, YouTube Capture and Skitch. I was also impressed with the ‘to do list’ app Wunderlist which one participant had made great use of across various platforms. Some of the apps delegates curated for their home screens are listed at the bottom of this blog post.
We then got one member of each group to feedback to the room the apps they think should be included on a learning and teaching homepage. In total there were about 16 apps suggested, pretty much all of them useful. We had apps suggested for recording audio, such as AudioBoom and apps for keeping files accessible and secure on the Cloud with Google Keep, whilst the much underrated QR code reader got a mention.
I delivered a short presentation based on the one I’d given the previous week for the Faculty of Social Sciences Ignite sessions on 12 apps to use as a new year resolution, which can be viewed below.

The one thing for me that comes from this session and others like it is the sheer amount of tools and technologies out there and that they will continue to grow at a rapid pace. No longer is it possible for one person to stay in touch with new technologies as they happen, it is simply impossible. For Web based productivity, creation and social tools that pretty much ended about five years ago. For a while it was possible to discover alternatives to established technologies, i.e. Prezi over PowerPoint, Google Docs over Microsoft Word. Now there are dozens of tools for the simplest of tasks, reading journal papers, taking notes, creating to do lists or capturing video. Add to that the issues relating to digital literacy, privacy, who pays for the apps and devices, security and how do you connect these devices to projectors. Whilst the number of apps and platforms have increased, how do you find out what is the best app for the job you want to do. Everyone regards their time as previous and investigating new ways of doing things can be very rewarding yet incredibly time consuming. This is where something like App Swap Breakfast can help and just one hour first thing in a morning, an hour often lost of chatter, email and idle distraction it can be very rewarding to discover a new way of doing something which in turn speeds up processes. 

Below is a list of the apps curated by the two groups
Group 1
Idea Catalyst - productivity and management
Trello - project management
Wunderlist - to do list - collaborative
Popplet - collaborative mind map tool - easy to use, used in schools
Skitch - take photos, annotate
Adobe Voice - digital storytelling app - ipad only but free
Voice Recorder HD
AudioBoom - used to be Audio Boo -
Responseware - i.e responding in class

Group 2 -
Voicethread - visual presentation/digital storytelling
Storehouse - IOS only - storytelling tool - take pics, vids etc, build story - Journo students actually using this
Pixlr - very good image editing tool - better than all the others according to Angie
Capture - good video tool linked to YouTube
Notability - PDF annotation tool
QR code reader -
Quizlet - flashcards
Trello - again
Google Keep

One thing is for certain, no one has created the ideal home page of learning and teaching apps. They might think they have but right now someone has developed an app that you need but just don’t know about, the chances are one of your colleagues will have it already! That said it is not about the fear of missing out apps, which is a problem many suffer in relation to email and social media, in that people are scared of missing some important snippet of information. It is very much about finding a good way to navigate the mobile technology highway, a highway that is traversed by many other colleagues. By crowd sourcing new technologies and peer-reviewing them in a learning environment we have a much better chance of getting more from those little mobile devices than just email and Candy Crush.

The next App Swap Breakfast takes place on March 18th at 9am in the View Deli within the Student Union. At this session we will take a look at video and audio apps, especially those for creating, editing and sharing, we would love you to join us.

More blog posts from the TELFest can be found on the CiCS Learning Technologies Blog.

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