Jan 282016

These notes were taken live at the first Learning Teaching and Web Services and eLearning@ed joint Monthly Meet Up, which took place at Appleton Tower on 28th January 2016. The definitive version can be found on the elearning@ed wiki, where you’ll also find related resources. As these were live notes the normal caveats apply and comments, corrections, etc. are very much welcomed.

Jo Spiller – Introductions

Welcome to our first Monthly Showcase and Networking session, which will be around five key areas here.

A few things coming up that may be of interest. We have the soft launch of MediaHopper as of 21st Jan. We also have the launched of Open.Ed showcasing OER best practice on 4th February. And we also have OER Workshops on 3rd March in Central area, 4th May in Kings Buildings.

Innovative Learning Week runs 15th-19th February with loads of events including a Wikipedia Editathon, Photogrammatry on 16th Feb, and Plotting the Campus on 17th Feb. We also have Learning Technology Fairs – School of Geosciences (15th Feb); ECA on 22nd March.

Marketing ODL

Dissertations at a Distance & eLearning@ed

Prof Jonathan Rees – Using video in the clinical medical curriculum. What are we learning?

I’m going to talk to you about what the challenges are in the medical school. In clinical medicine we work on a “Carousel” model. There are 18 carousels, each lasting 2 weeks, over 40 weeks each year. 15 students per carousel. 14 hours of tutorial each week, and 30 hours of clinical observation. Each student engage with around 8-10  staff. You have 3 hours of lectures, spaced up to 3 months away from the carousel. So, that’s not a system you’d necessarily design so there are problems to solve…

And we’ve made a video here to show you how we addressing some of those challenges. This video addresses key concepts and introductions to material they will see in the course. So, essentially we’ve been trying to use videos to overcome some of these challenges. Many of our students don’t know who some of our staff are here – which means that a challenge for our modules is to put a face to the name, to make this course personal, to make those connections to the people in charge of their teaching.

People did use video when I was a student… But they work very well for procedures. We want to put some things online partly as students are based throughout the region, and that means it’s available close to when they need it. In some ways our course structure is not linear. Some of our material in year 4, is the just in time learning for year 5. One of the interesting things about videos is you get to see what other people are doing and thinking!

Q1: How do students respond to them?

A1: they look at them, we get told if they do’t work. They say that they like them and request them.

Q2: Now that staff are more recognisable does that change anything?

A2: We only started doing this in September properly, but too early to say.

Q3: You did something interesting on quality of iPhone recording and mic.

A3: One of the talking head ideas was to get students to know who the module leaders are, to make those connections… If you have to cross town to do things it can be a nightmare… The phone is good enough to create short content, timely content when needed. Even cheap mics in a good room are amazing.

Q4: Do you have a limit on videos to keep them short or is it any length?

A4: Some are 2 and a half minutes, which works great. We try to keep them under 5 mins or around 5 mins.

Q5: Are they scripted?

A5: No. The talking head ones we are still learning how to do that… No scripting but sometimes two or three takes to get the right version.

Q6: Editing can take the time, how have you managed this?

A6: In theory there will be a system in the college. Right now we can edit, it’s not great. But generally we try to do everything in one take… With maybe a stop and restart. But we try to avoid too much editing.

Comment: I do a few online sound clips with a PowerPoint… I find I have to do it twice… Run once with timer, then second go I capture it.

A6: I’m still learning… The more we do it, the better we’ll get at it… We’ll get used to doing it.

Imogen Scott – Creating high-qualiy media for teaching (advice from MOOCland)

I’m talking here about video for a much wider audience. You would’t always invest this much time and work for a video for a small group etc. I work in the Media Production Team, with my colleagues Lucy, Tim, Nichol, Kara, Andy and me. We create media for MOOCs and I’m going to draw on a couple of examples here, particularly from our Andy Warhol MOOC…

Imogen is playing a video from our Warhol MOOC.

So in that clip we had some locations – an art studio (not Warhol’s!), and he also found some Warhol images that we could use online. Now that is a very tricky thing to do… It was only possible because of our lecturer, Glyn’s involvement in a large scale research collaboration, and that brought it’s own challenges.

The Warhol course was 5 weeks long with a lot of video content each week. We had multiple stakeholders: Tate, Artist Rooms, Arts Council, National Galleries of Scotland. And they needed to negotiate rights etc.

By contrast we also made the Nudgeit: Understanding Obesity course, a 5 week course, 3 hours per week learner effort, 35 mins per week video content. This was all content created by the team. We used teaching spaces, we used the anatomy museum, and they created their own resources for the course – interpretations of data, visuals, etc. And they documented that process for the course.

We also did Mental Health: A Global Priority. This was done mainly with audio materials as this was designed to be used in the developing world and audio means much smaller downloads. And it also enabled anonymity for some participants, particularly important given some of the interviewees discussing mental health. (We are now hearing audio from the course.)

This course was quicker to source – no locations needed, minimal visual content. But it took a long time as the challenge was both the location and time zones of participants and partners, as well as the less reliable internet connections in some locations. We had plenty of time but only just got this completed when we needed to.

So, if you are thinking of creating video or audio. When you are putting together ideas we strongly advise creating a video script. That helps you finalise the words, but also to think about the visuals (which may be a talking head, but may be many other things). Think about what you want to say, look at other videos to think about visual aspects. Source images from creative commons, take your own images… And sometimes if you have an abstract concept to describe think about how you might do that…

You also want to think about what you want to call your video and how long it would be – we try to keep videos under 6 minutes. For Philosophy and the Sciences we filmed in a really lovely library… That looked good and let us do separate takes and do cutaways as part of the visuals.

If you do grab creative commons images do keep track of your sources. You can use our spreadsheet if you want to – capture source, source link, etc. And that means you can license your own work openly if you want to. You can’t always do that but when you do you want to provide a license, evidence any research used, evidence any source materials used.

For scheduling a production you need to think about equipment, location, contributors, script, images or other source material, licenses for these, and time to create transcripts.

Q1: Is there a university transcription service?

A1: We outsource at present. We think that there may be some opportunity to do this in house.

Comment: If there is a need here then it would be really useful to gather evidence of that need.

Ross: There is also some discussion from the Web Publishers Clinic around this too which I’ll share.

Comment: And Informatics has masters students working on automated transcriptions.

Imogen: The timescales here tends to be 6-8 months – including emails and preparation etc. More collaborators can mean that it takes longer. For about half an hour of video content you need to allow 1-2 days to record that, and then about a week or more for editing. Editing is where a lot of the creativity happens.

We have a webpage that lists our DIY media kit for hire. We also have our attributions spreadsheet template, and Creative Commons attribution guidance.

Q2: Have you found that you are required to put any of the people you record through media training? Is that something you advise?

A2: We tend not to advise that. It’s geared towards giving an interview on the news. For course materials it’s a different style – and being comfortable with the material and the setting. In some ways the MOOC production timeline is getting used to creating video. Every team we get is new to this… You try it and you learn it…

Q2: One thing from the previous speaker is that people seemed very natural…

Comment: But that’s a second or third take thing… The first take isn’t likely to have been as natural.

Imogen: And you get used to that experience anyway, you become more natural on camera.

We are now watching the Edinburgh MOOCs showreel… 

Prof Clive Greated – Use of video and sound in fluid mechanics and acoustics teaching

I have been teaching fluid mechanics at Edinburgh since the 1970s but back a while ago I began getting involved in teaching acoustics and becoming interested in sound. And one of the things that I created for this course were a series of podcasts of different instruments and although I stopped teaching the acoustics course ages ago I happened to mention that I had these. Now maybe 5 years back I was asked to take over a third year fluid mechanics students, and I wanted to use that idea of podcasts, or something similar, to bring out the practical aspects of engineering.

So my idea was to go into the field and look at real engineering sites, so students had a feel for the kind of realities of a real system. A large section of my course is on turbines, used in hydrostations etc. It’s quite difficult to visualise those for the students… But I wanted to encourage students to go take a look at real systems as there are 100s in Scotland. (We are now watching a video on hydroelectric systems). The videos are about 3 minutes long. I’ve made 50-60 of these. Some are a bit longer – one on the physics and astronomy department are 30 minutes long.

So, I’ve taken the various topics and made videos around that… One of the topics is waves and wave power, and Scotland had the first wave turbines attached to the grid, so again just giving students a view of what that looks like in practice. (Watching a wave turbine video now, showing a decommissioned turbine to explain the working).

Again, I have another clip and then I’ll share some reflections on using these. Now, another topic is high speed flows and super sonic flight. We have the museum of flight just up the road so I made just a short clip about that (now watching this, which discusses the power and inefficiency of Concorde).

So for all of these I’ve tried to get real examples for students. And I just want to talk briefly on practicalities. You’ll see that in some of those videos I’m in the video… Sound recording is absolutely crucial – you have to monitor that really carefully. So you need a camera with proper sound facilities, XSLR inputs etc. And in most of these videos you have voice over… A very useful facility in the University is an anechoic chamber. You really need that sort of soundproofed space to do audio for video recordings. There is a small semi-anechoic space in Informatics. The high quality space is also available to use in Kings Buildings – you need to call to book it but that can be done.

In terms of audio, many of our students listen to recordings through iPads/iPhone and that’s an opportunity to record in binaural sound (now watching a video with binaural sound of a wave tank). In fact the first recording I made of the wave tank – recorded in slow motion and with binaural audio from the sea – had over 750k hits on YouTube.

I have found a real interest from students in this which I’m really pleased about. It is really good to incorporate the sound and the video. I’m an actually retired, but still teaching (full time!) so probably have more time than most.

Q1: I hope you’ve been nominated for teaching awards?

A1: I have been nominated every year, and students always cite that material as being helpful.

Q2: How have the rest of the faculty responded?

A2: I haven’t had a huge response. I have Video PremierPro editing on my machine, but I basically do this all myself.

Q3: Did you have a challenge getting people to be natural on camera?

A3: I have to confess my wife is my sound recordist – I drag her around Scotland.

Q4: How do you get to film on location – do you just call people up?

A4: Yes. My next film is in Orkney with Scot Renewables and that’s going to be the largest tidal generator in the world. We’ve already been to Harland and Wolf in Belfast, where it is being constructed so there’ll be that full lifecycle. People are keen to be in videos. You have to ask people, but they are generally happy to take part. It may be that for some commercial stuff there might be concern, but generally this is fine. People are quite up for that.

Q5: Are these openly on YouTube?

A5: I think they will be on the Open.ed website. And will be available there. So I have changed all the licenses ready.

Hands On MediaHopper Session – Stephen Donnelly and Mark Jennings

We are going to quickly show you how how to login to MediaHopper and download the CapturEd software. (Demo taking place).



 January 28, 2016  Posted by at 3:10 pm LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jan 282016

Today I am at the eLearning@ed event “Using Pebblepad/Atlas for managing the student dissertation life-cycle“.

As usual these notes are being taken live so all comments, corrections, etc. are welcome. Update: In addition to these notes, slides from this session are now available here.

Dissertation Marking and Feedback using ATLAS – Graeme Ferris and Paul Caban

Paul: I’m going to start with a brief history of dissertation management in the Business School. Up until 2002 we were using a paper-based system (version 0). That was great but not scalable. We were expanding so we needed something new.

For version 1 the school had it’s first dedicated developer who built us a system using ColdFusion and SQL. That managed the process but it wasn’t great. ColdFusion is also not a tool particularly well loved in the University. So for version 2 we had started working on php and Postgres… But that project became problematic in lots of ways and didn’t result in a working version that achieved what we needed it to do.

Version 3 was built within the school and was based on php and Postgres, it was built swiftly but needs were changing, the requirements were diverse, and it was becoming unmanagable.

So the dissertation process is loosely:

  1. Sign up – supervisor choice and allocation. People state their preference, allocations are made.
  2. Supervision and submission. Ethics etc. processes are gone through.
  3. Marking. Currently on paper. Agreement and audit trail between markers. Then marks and feedback goes to the students.
  4. Reporting and Quality Assurance processes.

However… The developer that had built this system decided to move to a new role. At the same time we saw this system as in need for reconsideration, high on our risk register, and we had new needs to accommodate. We wanted to provide electronic feedback, other systems looked possible, there were various things already in the VLE which we’d previously had to hand code. We then had an external review and recommendations… Part of that was a steer towards internal tools. Sharepoint was one possibility… Atlas/Pebblepad was the other option and it is really simple to use. By this point we were in late autumn 2014, and needed a new system in place by February for dissertations. So, we decided to use the old part of our tool for student sign up, but do something new with Pebblepad for the rest of the process.

So, for the project we created a design brief. We did a massive stakeholder involvement process, spoke to committees, spoke to lots of staff. We designed a project that would have no (negative) impact on students. And ensured that training and documentation would be in place.

Graeme:With a custom system we have endless freedom… But that was the problem with the previous systems – there were too many options that led to unnecessary complexity. So, for this solution, we wanted to ensure the essentials were in there but jettison some of the more obscure processes requests – exceptions for those not wanting to follow the core process.

So, one of the key things was double-marking – that is a University requirement for any single piece of work over 40 credits. Blind marking is not mandatory across the university for double marking – but it is Business School policy. The difference, to note, is that for anonymous marking you don’t know who the student is – tricky with supervised dissertations of course. Blind marking is where one marker does not see the other’s marks until initial marking has been completed. That requirement had design implications. And once that double blind marking was done the markers have to see each others marks to reconcile and discuss.

In terms of the reconciliation we needed some depth of reasoning to be captured. So, in terms of managing this we wanted a process that involved:

  • Initial marking blind
  • Reconciliation
  • Recording reconciliation notes and comments – crucially always ensuring that the student had the appropriate feedback to the final mark. The supervisor has to manage this to ensure it is correct.
  • Marks fed back.

Early iterations were a sort of time-based model, making use of the permissions for different roles within the system. So permissions set for blind initial marking, meaning that at an agreed data permissions changed to allow reconciliations. That was suggested but… Actually the feedback was that that was unacceptable since markers mark at different paces and timings, it wouldn’t be possible.

This was a particular concern as the available functionality was via role based permissions – which means if you were marking 4 students, and second marking 5 students, all of those marks would be out of blind mode at the same time. To overcome this we created a model using separate workspaces for: initial marking (blind) – marker view and completing marking template, admin view and moving marked submissions; reconciliation – marker view and completion of reconciliation inputs, admin view; archive – locked down for exam board / feedback to students; Reporting function.

So, I’m going to demo all these workspaces now… All academic staff have a tutor role. Admin have lead tutor role – they can see everything. For academic staff it’s anonymous and blind – they can’t see names of students, each other’s names or marks. And we also made use of the inbuilt Atlas concept of “sets”… Very useful indeed. You set up a set… Academic A marks 4 students, make a set for that. When the marker goes in they only see the set they are allocated to… They don’t have to find their students… We have sets for first markers, sets for second markers… Can pick/filter between them. And the other reporting aspect uses sets – for cohorts, for groups, etc. So that you can account just on one MSc, or on a cluster of MScs in the same area, etc. So that’s really lovely. And admin can see all of the sets…

So, as a student you go in via Learn (the VLE), and go through to the submission area via a simple web form. Students were already submitting work via Turnitin in Learn. There is an integration for Turnitin and Atlas… But we aren’t keen on that as it looks at the moment. So, instead, they just submit once via the Pebblepad web form… And that is submitted to Turnitin and is available there for staff to check as appropriate. And the submission goes into the Pebblepad pipeline. We wanted this to be as simple as possible. I am looking at using Turnitin for the next round of marking, but the delay for now is about students seeing their own originality reports – something we usually do as standard in our use of Turnitin in the Business School, but not something that is currently part of the integration with Pebblepad.

As a marker you go in and see the students available to mark, you can view by whether you are first or second marker – based on the set those submissions are in. Our process isn’t sequential so the indicator in the workspace – a green tick – shows that I have marked a submission (there is a second set of indicators but as first marker I won’t see the second marker’s progress – and vice versa – but it is logged).

Then, as you open up a dissertation you can add comments as you read but… It is hard to get these out at the end. We want to be able to get that content out for quality team to look at rubric etc. BUT you can’t turn the comment panel off. Nor can you edit the text in that panel. So, we have feedback template – clicking on that brings up the appropriate template to complete, which guides the markers through the various aspects of the rubric. There is also a space for comments in the box. Originally I expected that to be comments for the other marker but the reality is that this box is used for comments for the students – which makes sense. Once the template is closed it is temporarily cached but you have to click “save and close” in the comment panel to capture that feedback. Then it is added to that comment panel again.

So, that’s initial feedback… When it comes to reconciling the marks… As a marker you’ll see submissions. You will want to know if you are first marker – with responsibility to feedback comments etc – or a second marker – in which case you are just needing to approve marks and feedback. So visually that difference is and has to be clear in the reconciliation panel/dashboard.

When you open up an assignment for reconciliation you can read the assignment, add reconciliation comments etc. There is also capacity for a third marker if the marks differ hugely. But it is crucial to use the correct templates at this stage – one is for student feedback, the other is for reconciliation comments. And there is no easy way to check which content has been added to which template other than manual checking.

As an admin of this system you are able to move submissions around, and to notify markers about that. Submissions are moved 5 or 6 times a day so markers rarely have a long wait for submissions to mark. This is straightforward to do – you just move between the various sets.

The only issues in the system has been around reconciliation of marking because we need to check every single submission to ensure the right type of comments and feedback are captured in the right place. If that needs fixing… Well initially that sat with me but the PG office came on board later last year, but we’d like to devolve the administration of this.

The feedback area is the locked down area. Once everything is verified it becomes non-anonymous and grade shown ready for admin staff to use or report on the submission. One of the limitation of Atlas is the reporting and the ability to summarise the reports. I have to create separate reports for each type of report – would like to do that as a single report for our QA team though.

So, finally… This system does fulfil the remit of anonymous double blind marking. Markers only see their own submission. Initial feedback isn’t released to students. Information can be locked down. But there are issues with templates being a wee bit clunky and problematic. The functionality is limited, reports are too separate and not able to combine at present. However…

We met with Pebblepad just before Christmas. We have asked for reporting from the comment panel – with that we wouldn’t need another template. We’ve asked about integrated reports. And also asked about the ability to turn off functionality if not being used.

Paul: Pebblepad are receptive to feedback, and they have made changes in the past – for instance they captured but didn’t show that matric number, which they have now added.

Ellen: Pebblepad is used in lots of different ways, which is great, but it was initially designed for personal reflective portfolios so they have thought these things through but assessment wasn’t their initial purpose for this tool and that is reflected in some of those challenges.

Graeme: We are also looking at this system for UG dissertations.

Paul: And what we learned here… Know your process… We would have saved loads of development time by knowing who to speak to and what they needed. Some people confused process changes for the new tool. We really needed a very active academic champion because of this. Engagement – you can never have enough. Graeme did loads of training and documentation – many didn’t engage in that and wanted one to one support, so we had to do that too. There has to be someone doing quality control – that is also about quality and level of feedback, not neccassarily to do with technical challenges. And in terms of limitations…. reporting was a real limitation, the data management – we wanted to report by set and couldn’t at the time (Ellen notes that there have been changes recently), and we needed to devolve that system. We also realised it was hard to develop a system without real data, and an understanding of how it could go wrong. But having done this for real we now have that much greater understanding.

Q: Can you integrate with groups in Learn?

Graeme: You can pull across sets, I haven’t tried it with groups.

Connecting up feedback – and possibly everything else – through an eportfolio – Paul McLaughlin, School of Biological Sciences

I wanted to talk about use of Pebblepad with undergraduates, particularly for getting them to connect ideas between courses. I’ve also been trying to induct undergraduates into Senior honours to get them to understand the importance of this… Understanding the importance is like being an actor… to get an Equity card you have to be an actor but to work as an actor you need to have an Equity card…

So, in our first year all biology students do a large biology course. They get extensive video feedback on their first undergraduate essay. We also ask them now to enter a feedback form via PebblePad of the feedback they are likely to get before they get their feedback. And then later on we ask them to reflect at the end of the course about what they have done, and how they will take that forward. They are asked to make an action plan – a bit formulaic but helps students take control of their learning. In the second course we are leading them towards an assessment problem that they need to complete. They get exam feedback around week 4 or 5 and then we encourage them to meet their tutors. Students post their action plan as a note into Euclid. They don’t need to know anything of Pebblepad to use that but they have a good place to start from with students.

Then, at the end of the year we ask them to look back at how it went, to reflect on what went well and less well. To compare semester 1 and semester 2. And students sometimes capture other aspects of life with impact on what they do – e.g. that they need to plan around flat hunting.

In terms of completion of tasks we see that the first few tasks around assessment we get good completion rates. When the process is only for their own benefit in the longterm we see less high completion rates.

So, I also wanted to talk about something else we do where we induct into senior hons as part of a tutorial and encourage both personal and group reflection. The idea is to help students prepare to make the jump to honours level work. We use Padlet as part of this. And we also have two summative exercises as part of that where we use Pebblepad for capturing reflections.

Finally I wanted to talk about work on our distance MSc. I was thinking about what it feels to be a distance learner, and the importance of feeling like you are making progress. I wanted the portfolio to be available for students to support themselves. Now, Pebblepad has the idea of a workbook that you can add ad build up… Overarching this is the graduate attributes the university has put together. So, a student can look at the graduate attributes – we give them three attributes that we think a given course can help provide evidence of. Students can then self-assess and add evidence to back up that attribute and their rating of their own achievement of that.

As the course progresses students choose their own attributes. By the end they have those attributes and the stories that tell where they are with those attributes. This is very connected to careers, to job applications… They have the information to look over and draw upon in their applications and interviews. In fact we also did some mock interviews with colleagues from Careers, using Collaborate. They then had to make an action plan based on that careers interview.

In that online MSc the students use their blogs for reflections and exercises like the interviews must connect back to these, to emphasise the value of regular timely content, engaging throughout.

But there are questions here… How do you assess this efficiently? How do you do quality assurance – especially if all very distributed? Should it speak for itself?

One of the things we’ve been talking about… We do see that that engagement can fall off if we don’t assess or push the issue. In the first two years of undergraduate courses there can be this issue of feeling that this doesn’t count. So, in the future perhaps the best measure of success is engagement – let’s just assess engagement and that can count towards a synoptic course (capstone) that is about reflection based on solid evidence collected through all four years. That would make reflection in the first two years really count. The missing thing for me is how to assess that efficiently.

Comment: I think we have a metric for engagement. We’ve just gone through SLIC’s pilot. That is basically this… 10 credits for additional credit. We had maybe 12 students go through this… We independently double marked, and all that was marked was how the student had responded to the learning outcomes. The students set the learning outcomes. We came up with the rubric and we gave halfway comments on their blogs if they wanted it. And all that we were marking was the reflection on that learning, and specifically the report on that experience at the end. It was remarkable how consistent the richness of engagement etc. was from people across schools, in areas that were not their speciality, and how consistent the marking was.

Paul M: The SLICs… If I wanted to see the SLICs would I be able to?

Commentator: Yes, you can see that by arrangement.

Paul M: In Pebblepad students have control… They can choose how things are shared… But that is also a challenge to see how these things have been used before…

Ellen: There are some case studies… And workflows… But we are also talking about setting up a local user group.

Q: Portfolios are things you might want to actually show an employer… Have you had much experience of employers etc. coming in?

Ellen: You’d actually share a web folio – like a website – which draws on it. But you wouldn’t give them Pebblepad access.

Paul M: Which is why it matters so much to tag things. But those web folios can be shared with named people, or wholly public… And I believe that Pebblepad is for life…

Ellen: Students don’t automatically keep student logins… But they can sign up for free lifetime account between completing course and graduating…

Me: I think it would be useful to look across how blogging is being used in other programmes for reflection, and how assessment works there, and can work there…

Paul M: There is lots of work but in terms of the pedagoguy here… I would also wonder how easy this stuff is to game…

Comment: For the SLICs (Student-Led Individually Created Courses) the quality of students was good, but actually the quality of material was actually brilliant… So you’d immediately see if someone was trying to game it…

Paul M: And it probably would take more to game it than to do it… I’m more concerned about students at the middle or bottom of the distribution, than those at the top… I’ve been considering a 10 credit course… For 20 credits that would be better perhaps but scary perhaps…

Comment: Senate have approved SLICCs. There is a very very strong recognition that students need to take ownership of their learning, and this is a strong way of moving forward on it…

Q: My question is a bit off topic… What happens if the student actually does see the first marker, the second marker, and the reconciliation comments. I think that’s a recognition of differences of opinion, academic discussion, and compromise of views through a different lens.

Paul C: I don’t think it’s a problem as long as everything is properly evidenced.

Greame F: It isn’t a problem… But the concern is about the potential for student appeals and questions… The process is good… But whether students should or shouldn’t see that hasn’t been part of our role here.


Question: Has anyone tried the next version of Pebblepad?

Greame F: I don’t think we’ll have access until summer 2016 or 2017.

Paul M: Our version is much more agile than it was… But still some challenges there.

Questionner: But MediaHopper (the new University media service) may also address some of those.

Question: How can this be used for peer assessed group work?

Paul M: You can use Pebblepad for group work, using various permissions etc, but haven’t tried that for peer assessment.

And we finished with some discussion of the Pebblepad responsiveness to feedback – they seem very responsive – particularly for new or unexpected use.


 January 28, 2016  Posted by at 1:18 pm LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jan 192016

This evening I’m at Open Knowledge Edinburgh Meet Up 19, at the National Library of Scotland on George IVth Bridge, organised by OK Scotland.

I’ll be liveblogging so, as usual, any corrections, tweaks, comments etc. are very much welcome.

Tonight’s event has a number of lightning talks including:

  • Gill Hamilton (NLS): Welcome
  • Pippa Gardner (Urban Tide): Scottish Government Open Data Training Pilot
  • Allan Brown/Gill Hamilton: Identifying People in Scotland’s Post Office Directories
  • Ewan Klein: The UK Local Open Data Index
  • Fred Saunderson: The NLS Open Data Strategy
  • Akiko Kobayashi: The Fountainbridge Community Wikihouse
  • Jeremy Darot: Data Linkage in Scotland / Greener Leith‘s Edinburgh Open Data Map

Gill is starting us off with an introduction to the venue and the meet up – which is number 19. She is also giving a shout out to two Wikimedian’s in Residence: Sara from Museums and Galleries Scotland; and Ewan from Wikipmedian in Residence for Edinburgh University. And now over to Ewan Klein

Welcome to old faces and new. We have four talks today, then a break, then three more talks. It’s very informal, you can ask questions and obviously there is chance to discuss and ask more later on…

Pippa Gardner (Urban Tide): Scottish Government Open Data Training Pilot

This is Pippa’s first visit to OK Edinburgh – I’ve been to the Glasgow one before a few times though. So this is basically a big plug for #scotopendata, https://scotopendata.eventbright.co.uk.

ScotOpenData is a free open data training pilots for public sector organisations across Scotland, funded by Scottish Government. We are running 28 courses over the pilot year and this is a pilot – we are interested in content, style, duration, everything. It’s being handled in a very open way. We can get round about 560 people in that year but that’s just a drop in the ocean of the sector and the people working with open data. We’ve run 5 courses so far, two more this week (Aberdeen and Inverness) so do pass on the message.

At the moment there is a 1 day course: Open Data Opportunity – an introduction to what open data is, the cultural changes not just the technical issues. That’s covering background, strategy, aims of Scottish Government, engagement. The 2 day course then goes into much more detail and covers more technical aspects.

The 1 day course is designed with the needs of public sector leaders, senior managers and data owners in mind – although we see a wider range of people coming along. It’s quite high level, not technical at all but talk best practice and engagement.

The 2 day course is about the publication process, the publication chain, platforms to use, APIs, licensing, etc. And one of the things we are finding already is that the 2 day course is more popular than the 1 day course. There is a massive appetite for this throughout the country, for that detail not just the “what is” aspect.

A really interesting journey so far. Started in October, running until September… Have first quarterly reporting coming up in the next few weeks. We have had 52% take up already. We have had strong representation form local authorities, NHS and a range of other public sector bodies so far. And we have used networks and social media to spread the word but do share onwards, all are welcome.

Feedback so far has included a lot of people reassured by knowing that there are others in the same boat as them – commenting that they feel they are “Not alone”, “struggling with limited resources”, and that there is a “great deal to gain from greater collaboration”. There is a particular interest in making business cases etc. We think the exchange of ideas and experience and networking is a hugely valuable part of these sessions and we need to think about how to sustain that network on an ongoing basis.


Q1) What are the reasons people are giving for coming along?

A1) For the 2 day course the technical aspects have been really important, there is a real appetite for that. They want to know how to do it and how to coordinate across Scotland. The 1 day course is a lot about people starting out, de-mystifying, and really wanting a focus on benefit and business case – what can I use to take to my senior managers to make my case?

Q2) What is the eligibility here? Are community councillors eligible?

A2) As long as you have an association with an eligible public sector body it should be fine, but I can check. There is a list you can look at too. The only people we’ve had to turn away so far have been academic sector – their training is funded separately.

Q3) Has there been any follow up with participants?

A3) We ask questions through eventbright at sign up, we ask again at the end of the course, and then we do 3 month follow up. Some show a dip after the course – we think that may be about them judging their own skills and then reassessing them in light of learning more. But they are quite engaging workshops, getting people talking about what they will do when they go back…

Allan Brown: Identifying People in Scotland’s Post Office Directories

I’m going to be talking about my honours project using the OCR data from scanned historical Post Office Directories (PODs). And taking those original directories and making them into a searchable database – looking for surname, first name, address, business name etc.And I am using machine learning to do this.

So we wanted to identify feature vectors – what a forename looks like, what a surname looks like etc. so that the system can use that as a training set to learn what those features look like, so that it has a mathematical model to predict what kind of word new ones might be.

So, an example of doing this would be to take feature vectors of the form [cloud coverage, temperature, wind speed] and to predict if it will rain. The system looks for features that can differentiate rainy and non-rainy days…

So, we are doing that sort of prediction for the PODs. Why use machine learning for this? Well it handles format differences between directories well – which is good as the directories from across 100 years vary here. It handles format differences within directories… and ambiguities. OCR errors mean its not just a case of looking up words in dictionary (70% accuracy when we tried that) and our machine learning is hitting about 80% accuracy.

The benefits of this project is to provide historians with open source tool for exploring Scotland’s history. And a free resource. It serves as a springboard for further work with similar data. And demonstrates what can be done with open data and a broad range of experts from different field – showing the benefit of using this data beyond historians so that more can be done with the data, making it more useful.


Q1) This is important stuff. Are the NLS, and are you, relaxed about copyright and open data?

A1 – Allan) The data we are using is already open source. But the format isn’t that searchable or sortable. So the idea is to attribute metadata to it so we can attribute people to it. I think it will be almost entirely open source.

A1 – Gill) We license transcriptions as CC0, images as CC-BY-NC. But we are using the giant XML transcriptions.

Q2) If you took current valuation data rolls, could you do the same thing? The valuation rolls of commercial properties etc. the NRS data.

Comment) Better to ask for the current owner of the data.

A2 – Allan) This is very much designed for Edinburgh post office directory. Very

Q3) How far through?

A3) About half way through… Can take a page, identify people in that data… Looking to de-depulicate data across directories…

Q4) We worked with these same directories a few years ago (for AddressingHistory), looking for locations based on file structure rather than machine learning but that work might be of interest to combine with the person work you are doing.

Comment) I think you already have the POD Parser from that

A4) Yes, but would be useful to discuss.

Ewan Klein: The UK Local Open Data Index

The UK Local Open Data Index is part of a wider OK Foundation project looking to measure and see how mature, and how open countries are.

So, you can look at the US City Open Data Census and this compares data sets deemed important, then ranked (with a traffic light colour system) by openness.

So, if you want to run a census for your country you can do that nationally or locally. The community agrees the key data sets. Then we have a hack or sprint event doing some leg (desk) work to see what is available – what open data is available on crime in LA, say. And then from that the ranking by importance is done.

A census was started for the UK but it didn’t get that far. Nottingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester etc. were looked at but the data gathered wasn’t terribly thorough. The default data sets include things like real-time transit; air quality etc. These are reasonable… But are they useful for Scottish cities? For instance:

  • Real-time transport data – is controlled by transport operators
  • Air quality – is published by Air Quality Scotland, collected locally
  • Transport timetabled – again, transport operators
  • Crime statistics – collected by police, published by Scottish Government
  • Procurement contracts – published by Scottish Government
  • Food Safety inspections – published by Food Standards Agency
  • Traffic accidents – Published by UK Dept for Transport

Many of these data sets are not at city level, and many cities in scotland will have the same data available so not useful to compare.

In Australia they used different data choices: public amenities; addresses; trees; garbage collection times and places; bike paths and footpaths; ward boundaries; property boundaries; public buildings; building outlines; etc.

I think it is up to the community to decide those data sets that matter, that have relevance and meaning to those communities. I’d like this community to be involved in that. Saturday 5th March is International Open Data Day and I’d like to do a sprint and to carry out an Open Data Census for Seven Scottish Cities! Join me!


Q1) Aren’t there standard city measures?

A1) There is an ISO standard for city indicators – with about 400 measures.

Q2) Can you find those automatically with web crawlers etc.

A2) There are limits – for instance on whether the license is machine readable. And whether available for download, or by API etc. I’d be happy to sit down and look with you at the data sets… Doing some of this automatically is useful to a point, but you need human judgement too. But first you have to decide what is important.

Q3) Are there clear requirements for openness?

A3) There are quite specific criteria to use.

Q4) It’s maybe dull at city level but it’s a good thing that Scottish Government is ensuring data is comparable across cities. That’s a good thing. And there are things that aren’t being done nationally that could be done more, collected more…

A4) I think that’s important and you could argue that having green all the way down might be a good thing.

And we’ve just had a wee break here… Now onwards… 

Fred Saunderson: The NLS Open Data Strategy

We published our NLS Open Data Publication Plan last week. This comes out of the Scottish Government Open Data Strategy which builds on the principles of open data by default, quality and quantity, usable by all, releasing data for improved governance, releasing data for innovation.

That Scottish Government strategy calls particularly on public sector organisations to publish their data in a format more appropriate for reuse – 3* or above on Tim Berners-Lee’s Deployment Model. So this is really exciting for us, it’s a really strong encouragement and a reason to talk to senior managers, to get buy-in on a plan. There is an appetite for better understanding, better structure, it’s a really nice way to go about it.

So, last month we published our Open Data Publication Plan (http://www.nls.uk/about-us/open-data/). And our plan is to provide our data in 3* and above. Unlike many public bodies we are set up to provide information, we have been thinking about this for a long time, so we are in a good place to get our data to a good standard. We benefit from already having the culture and mindset of data and data sharing.

Fred is explaining Berners-Lee’s deployment model.

So, our plan lists the data we have and will make available and two major priorities:

  1. To make available as 3* open data the data that we already make available
  2. We can also identify what we aren’t yet supplying at that level. And we aim to publish appropriate non personal and non sensitive data as 3* open data.

So, we want better data. But we also want better reuse which will benefit us but also will benefit wider society.

Generally we wil be licensing under CC-0 or CC-BY for data. And we aim to release as CSV, EAD (Encoded Archival Description) and MARCXML. We may release in other formats but those are our main formats.

We will have 14 datasets opened by the end of 2016; a further 8 identified by the end of 2017. We have a list of the datasets – it is online – but I wanted to point out that it’s an amalgamation of collections metadata and corporate information. For instance the Emigrants Guides to North America, the Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation (BOSLIT) – these are things we collate or use. But we also have datasets like Payments with a value in excess of £25,000 – much more data on the running of the organisation.

In terms of other datasets we need to identify those datasets that we can open up. We have that list of what is already available, but we will be adding to that. We will release this data on our website to start with. But I know that the Scottish Government is also working on a data discovery site where it will also be discoverable.


Q1) You mentioned some difficulty identifying non personal, non sensitive data… I was wondering if you’d seen the ODI Data Spectrum as that helps a lot with clarifying that.

A1) I’ll take a look!

Q2) What about 4* or 5*?

A2) We haven’t done any yet, so we want to get some institutional buy-in early, and get to the 3* place first.

A2 – Gill) We will get there… But it’s a step process. We have to do what the government recommends first, and then move onwards.

Q3) Isn’t this a legal requirement? There is a directive… I thought it was a mandate to publish a plan.

A3) That’s different, that’s an EU directive perhaps…? The Scottish Public Sector has a different specific requirement on public sector bodies, which is what we are working towards.

Akiko Kobayashi: The Fountainbridge Community Wikihouse

I’m an architect and I’m going to give you an overview of a project I worked on last year. The site is in the Fountainbridge area. The council acquired the land for Boroughmuir High School and, once it acquired that land, we ased if we could set up a community project. So, our project is Fountainbridge Community Initiative, and brings in the Community Garden and The Forge. The Wikihouse was a project undertaken for £3500 of public and housing association funding.

For me a Wikihouse is about open source design – a whole other talk on the meaning of that. It is also about digital fabrication; and the ease of assembly.

So, Open Source Design… There are hundreds of projects on the Wikihouse website. Earlier designs formed portal frames with two layers sandwiched together – still in use but now the design uses box beam… (cue exciting presentation of samples!). So, you have one layer, with sides, build of plywood to create a very strong cross-section.

I used the design, with some additional privately shared designs, and some hacks. So we have a frame design that builds a strong building but, as it is temporary, we don’t have foundations but instead use breeze blocks as ballast to help hold it down. Then throughout the structure we have a waterproof membrane to keep it water tight.

So if you go to the ecommons folder the models and designs are provided in SketchUp – as that’s free. It’s fascinating to explore and play with those designs. There is little documentation so you have to pick apart the design that way anyway, and you have to personally take responsibility to decide if that’s a sensible approach.

In SketchUp you can then explode the design to see the components and use a tool (e.g. AutoCAD) to make changes etc. Then you use ? software to allocate the pieces to your plywood. That is then turned into instructions for a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router to cut and create those pieces. I’m sure many of you love learning new things – and what I love about new things is sharing that with people. I loved learning how to use the CNC machines, so I trained a bunch of people (from all sorts of backgrounds) to do that to, to help fabricate the pieces.

To me open is also about ease of assembley… Making this as easy as possible means as many people as possible can get involved and be part of the process. To find out how easy it was to do I tried a test assembly of one 1-1 frame to see how long it took, if it worked, was it easy enough to do. The version (v.4.2) I was basing my wikihouse on hadn’t ever been built before so it was a major test. And I was feeding back to the Wikihouse Foundation a lot on that. And we got a lot of feedback from the community on how they found the process.

There was one sequence issue – not readily obvious in the 3D model – that I found in building this. So I fed that back to the form for version v.4.2… But no one saw it unfortunately (but it was fixed another way!).

We also did some load testing (with human and a keg of Guiness!) and alongside design and fabrication I undertook some 1:3 scale workshops (for context Akiko’s model along today is 1:10) to get a sense of how this would work – with community members, with Primary 2 students, with structural engineers (very competitive but also very lovely in coming up with fun and useful testing suggestions!) etc.

The event and build took place in October. There is one other building on site, the Rubber Mill (shortly to be the home of Edinburgh Print Makers), where we were allowed to store components.

So, we began the project building frames.. We had half our volunteers from Canmore Housing Association, school children visiting… We built the frames, lifted them and made connections with pin connectors and joints. We had a rockclimber on roofing duty… Companies donated some of the materials. The developers provided a camera to take images of the building. My favourite picture is one where an early mock up was pretty much happening during the build!

One of our participants said: “I can’t believe I helped to build a building. I thought only professionals could do that.”. Now, obviously there are some things that only professionals should do but there are lots of things we can all build, do, and be part of. I’m interested in self-build houses and that idea of how much you can do yourself is part of that.

So, take a look at #wikihouseEDIN (@fountainbridgec; @WikiHouse) – do get in touch and use the space – we have community stuff taking place there, Collective Gallery’s Marxist reading group meets there!


Q1) Is the issue with self-build homes that we don’t have the land?

A1) The land is there for developers to use. There is a bigger policy issue around land banking.

Q2) What are the future uses for the system?

A2) People see this in different ways. Alastair Parbin, who leads Wikihouse, he’s in touch with development companies. There is wastage. As nice as digital fabrication is… I had a nightmare founding an affordable CNC machine I could use affordably… For remote spots, non developed countries… CNC is a big ask. I don’t know how he’s getting on with that. The strongest feature for me is ease of assembly. My idea for this site was as a catalyst to help people to understand that they could get involved in their own self-build house, or whatever… Self-efficacy. Maybe even just for confidence in building a piece of Ikea flat pack furniture…

Jeremy Darot: Data Linkage in Scotland / Greener Leith‘s Edinburgh Open Data Map

My day job is as a statistician at the Scottish Government working on making data available as Linked Open Data. Up until now it has been difficult to link data sets together to get the maximum value from open data sets. So the Scottish Government has put together a framework to make that happen, particularly for research and statistics purpose. So, if you are researcher and have a question that you think would be answered by combining several data sets, and would benefit Scotland, we can offer some support. So please come and speak to me.

Outside of work I work with a charity called Greener Leith with a crazy plan to plant 1000 trees in Leith, but we are also working in sustainable communities and sustainable development. It can be really hard for individuals to track planning, to engage with it, and to have a voice in that. Happily Edinburgh Council are getting better at making data available as open data on their website though.

So, I decided to take this data and create a map of Edinburgh… This is a really simple map, created in R (used in academia and government) and it’s a little bit of server side and client side. I didn’t even have to use a GIS to do the spatial data analysis with this. So, I started taking a small data set from the Leith community council – a curated database of major projects. For each project – such as the tram extension – we have status, information, a link to the Council website and any consultation links. Ideally I’d like to do this for all of Edinburgh. I know the Improvement Service will be launching a website to do this for all planning applications… But some manual curation is needed… Actually things are only going to be in there when an application is made, and often as a community one wants a voice before that stages, before an application is made.

So, that was my starting point… I have also brought in the Local Development Plan… Protected areas (including listed buildings). This is a framework… But also with planning you need to understand infrastructure. For instance, in Leith we are a highly populated and growing area… but if anything access to GP surgeries has been decreasing… So I wanted to map GPs (and ideally catchment areas – I have a request in for that), dentists, care homes, and also things like shops. And i have also added options for air quality, based on the University’s air quality monitoring station. It’s possible to add lots of things to this map… One thing that is quite useful is to view administrative boundaries. And you can search the map.

I provide links on the map to the Greener Leith site, and a page with much more information, the data sources etc.

So, this was a weekend pet project… I want to add census data, data on population health, Council Tax paid… And will also use a MungoDB to let people save views, add data, etc. I’ve no idea if this is useful and usable so do play around with it and let me know any feedback, bugs etc.

The map that Jeremy built can be found here: https://myleith.shinyapps.io/myedinburgh/.


Q1) How will all this information, these maps help developers? And infrastructure shown?

A1) Ideally I’d want it to be useful. I’d like to think developers will look at this stuff when planning. I got some early data under a data sharing agreement… The Council holds this data but not all open. The idea is that this sort of data levels the playing field a little bit for consultations and planning processes.

Q2) Can we get access to the R code that drives this?

A2) Yes, I’ll ping the code on GitHub… And my code is built on that.

Q3) A lot of this data is available on Edinburgh’s atlas actually…

A3) A lot of open data is available, but

Q4) Did you say that you did this over a weekend?

A4) I did, yes. And for free – thought it costs me $9 a month to host. I used CartoDB and Leaflet, etc.

Q5) Could this be your day job?

A5) I have a day job! But I know that the Scottish Government has a great open data portal that is really lovely.

Ewan: I should note the MESH project and the contributions to Open Street Map for that, and we have Richard Rodger, the leading light of that there.

Richard: Indeed. We have what will be the most detailed map in Europe, and we want that to be 100% accurate. So when Jeremy zooms in you can see every single garden… Every house number. They will all be there and that work continues. All of the plots in huge detail. And every business listed is actually accurate at the moment – it’s really really useful. You could use that for checking what else is already open/nearby etc. (e.g. to find the best place for a new pharmacy near a GP’s surgery etc).

And policy isn’t best made with contemporary data, but with 5 years or 10 years’ data. I would like to take the last 10 years of planning data, put in a georeferenced database… And contact community and community organisations to see what is happening, and the upcoming planning proposals. Most importantly it would be great to know if data sets would have 5 or 10 year back projections – so useful for policy making.

Jeremy: There is data going back to the 80s on changes of use that could be useful…. Would be great to work together actually.

 January 19, 2016  Posted by at 5:52 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jan 062016

Today I am delighted to be hosting – in my eLearning@ed Convener hat – a talk from Martin Hawksey, from ALT.

Note: this is a live blog so apologies for any typos, errors etc – corrections always welcome.

I am one of about four members of staff at ALT – the Association of Learning Technologists. How many of you are ALT members? (a good chunk of the room are) And how many of you have heard of our conference? (pretty much all). I’m going to talk today about what else ALT does, where there are opportunities to take part etc.

A key part of what we want to do is improve practice, promote research and influence policy around information technology. We support learning technologists of course, but our members cross a wide range of roles reflecting the range of learning technology use. ALT itself was established in 1993 – before the internet which is an interesting marker. ALT has 1700+ individual and 180 organisational members at present. ALT works across sectors including Further Education, Higher Education and research, and ALT is also an international community. And, as you are all part of the University of Edinburgh you can join ALT for free as an associate member. To become a voting member/get involved in governance etc. you do, however, need to apply for full membership.

Before I worked at ALT I didn’t really appreciate that ALT is truly a membership organisation – and governed by its members. And that genuinely drives the organisation.

In terms of the benefits of membership there are three areas particularly relevant: keeping pace with technology; developing skills; recognition for your work. We also have the ALT-MEMBERS list (a Jiscmail list) and that is a really rich resource in terms of people posing questions, receiving feedback on what they are doing. You obviously have elearning@ed giving you a great insight into your local community, that ALT-MEMBERS list does some of the same stuff on a wider/global scale. For instance discussion on VLE Review (a conversation including 24 replies); tracking Twitter hashtags (a conversation including 14 replies); a post on appropriate use of social media and advice on inappropriate behaviour (had 15 replies and became a blog post drawing resources together); review of web conferening tools had 23 replies. So you can see there is huge interaction here, content to draw upon, trends to pick up, information being shared. If you aren’t yet a member of that list then you can sign up – it is a closed list and you need to be an ALT member to sign up.

Do you have any feedback on the mailing list?

Comment: It is just too busy for me, too many emails.

I think it is useful to have that health warning that there is a lot of traffic. You can manage that with filters, subscribing to the digest etc. But you need to be aware of the volume. In terms of posting we’d recommend a good subject line – to catch those eyes – and as with any list it’s good to do a bit of research first and share that in your post, that makes it more likely that you will have replies and engagement. Despite all the other technologies we have available email is still suprisingly important.

ALT also has Member Groups and SIGs (Special Interest Groups) on areas such as games and learning, open education, MOOCs, FELTAG.The SIGs tend to change as different trends go in and out of popularity – the open education group is especially busy at the moment for instance. There is also a specific ALT-Scotland group. So, for instance ALT-Scotland recently held a policy board with funders and policy makers to understand what they are thinking and doing at the moment which was hugely valuable.

In addition to email we are also using Twitter. For our conference and events we’ve moved away from specific hashtags for each towards a since hashtag – #altc – and that’s a great way to share your message with the community. We monitor and retweet that hashtag – and we have around 7000 followers. That hashtag can be used for projects, events, blog posts, etc. It’s pretty all encompassing.

As I mentioned ALT is your organisation, as a member. Our governance model is that we have a board of trustees including ALT members in Scotland – currently we have a member from Glasgow Caledonian, and another from Heriot-Watt. Our current vice-chair is Martin Weller, OU, our chair is ? and our current president is ?. We also have operational committees – a rewarding thing to do, enabling you engage with the community and good for your CV of course. And we have editors for the ALT journals as well.

I also mentioned recognition… How many of you have heard of CMALT – Certified Membership? (pretty much all in the room have) What do you want to know about it? It is a portfolio-based accreditation – you submit electronically and you can do that in whatever electronic format you like. That portfolio is certified by peers, and you can nominate one of your assessors. And they will give you feedback. There is a cost – about £150 – but if a group of you want to submit there is a reduced group rate.

Because there are a range of roles within ALT the skills assessed cover a range of core areas (operational issues; teaching, learning and assessment, wider context, communication), and specialist areas (such as leadership, tech development, administration, research, policy). The key thing is to certify your commitment to learning technology. It can feel like saying what you do but it is also about successes, reflection on success and failure, and working with feedback and support – about being a better learning technologist and making you have that professional journey. It isn’t just about the achievement of the certificate.

Question: How long does this take?

Once you are registered you have up to a year to complete and submit your portfolio. Obviously it doesn’t take that long to do. Maybe a few hours per area is sufficient – 20 or 24 hours perhaps for portfolios. There are examples of submitted portfolios and guidance on the ALT website. We also try to run regular CMALT webinars where you can talk to other candidates about the process and the detail.

Question: What are the benefits of doing CMALT?

Interestingly CMALT has been running for around 10 years now. We just passed our 300th CMALT certified members. And we have increasingly seen ALT members looking for CMALT as a desirable qualification for roles, which is obviously helpful for job prospects. The main benefit though is that process itself -the reflection, the capture of that experience, the opportunity to develop your practice.

Additionally CMALT maps to UKPSF and HEA Fellowship. We have mapped the requirements of UKPSF onto CMALT so that if you do either of those you may be able to reuse that work in applying to the other – there is more about this on the website.

Also we have the annual Learning Technologist of the Year Awards (#LTAwards), to recognise excellence in the sector. The awards are open internationally but most applicants are UK based. You can nominate someone else, or yourself. We normally announce these in April, so watch this space. Again, this is a great way to boost your CV but there is also a cash prize. This year the winner has been working on using Minecraft in teaching.

We have run ALT publications for years – we used to have the ALT Newsletter which we have now rebranded as the #ALTC Blog – anyone can contribute to this and we have editors who are all ALT members. We have around 225 posts and counting and look for posts of around 500 words each. Again, a great way to get information out.

We also have Research in Learning Technology (used to be known as ALTJ), and a great way to get full on research publications out there. It is a peer reviewed open access journal. It is rolling submission – although we have the capacity to do special issues. Again this publishing schedule fits with the roles and schedules of ALT members. There are no submission fees like some other open access journals – so little overhead to submitting. And the process can be very useful for preparing to submit to elsewhere. We have a bit of a boom at the moment so we currently have a call out for new editors – so if you are interested do take a look. Full details of submission processes can be found on the journal website.

As I mentioned we also have the annual conference, which is a really interesting conference but can melt your brain slightly – 3 very busy days! How many here have gone to the ALT conference? And how do you find it?

Comment) I find every second year works well. I like that you get a broad overview of what is happening in the sector, and a way to take the temperature of the sector in a fairly unique way.

Even if you can’t make it in person we do livestream a lot of the keynotes and plenary sessions, so we haven’t announced our keynote speaker. Last year we have Laura Cernovicz from Capetown, South Africa on ethics of education, open access, open education etc. We also had Jonathan Worth from University of Coventry, who has experimented with opening up courses to wider audiences and the challenges on informed and implied consent around use of social media in these. We also had Steve Wheeler. In the plenaries we had Rebecca ? from Oxford University on scaling learning analytics there. The videos of sessions are all available online on the ALT YouTube channel. It’s worth looking back to 2014 as we had some great speakers then including Audrey Walters, Catherine Cronin and Jeff Hayward.

In terms of other events note that OER16 is in Edinburgh next April – here at University of Edinburgh and co-chaired by Lorna Campbell and Melissa Highton.

Lorna: This year we are focusing on open cultures and making connections to galleries, museums. Submissions are closed at the moment – we are marking those right now. In terms of speakers we have Catherine Cronin, University of Galway; Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh; John Scally, NLS; Emma Smith, Oxford University on Open Shakespeare work; and Jim Groom from DS106 – a MOOC or perhaps a cult – and the forefront of open higher education. The conference is on 19th and 20th April and registration will open up shortly. And it would be great to see a good cross-section of Edinburgh folk there.

Martin: ALT’s work with OER is a more recent thing, in terms of supporting its’ running. And that is in recognition of the importance of openness. And it’s worth noting that the call for OER17 chairs is now open.

The other thing to be aware of is the ALT Online Winter Conference 2015 – a free conference online, open to anyone to drop into and participate. Presenters all needed to be ALT members. And we hope to run this again this year. The call will go out in September so keep an eye out for that.

Something else ALT does is the policy side. So, a big plug here for our ALT Annual Survey – which is our opportunity to understand current and future practice, to enable us to represent our members needs. And this information helps us understand those needs for policy responses as well, for instance on the development of the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. Currently ALT is preparing a response to the TEF as well.

One of the things I wanted to talk about was… last night I tweeted that I’d be talking here and was looking for what the benefit of being a member of ALT is… Originally I asked about technology and I realised there were technologies I wouldn’t have had access to without being part of ALT… For instance last year we ran an event here at the Informatics Forum where we got to use a real Oculus Rift – certainly at CES VR is supposed to be the big thing. Also John Kerr at Glasgow Caledonian had Google Glass along to see how his projects with it worked. There are opportunities to be introduced to new technologies. Also BuddyPress was something that in 2009 at the ALT Conference Joss Winn was experimenting with BuddyPress and finding it useful… Fast forward and we use BuddyPress in ALT activities, online courses etc. And it was that connection and chat that led to that solution… Again these are part of the benefits of being part of this lovely melting pot of people, contributing to the ALT community… Less about what than who in many ways.

Other benefits include discounts for the ALT conference (a big one), we also negotiate with other conferences – e.g. Online Educa this year.

Finally… Emerging areas and my advice on this…

This is related to the ALT community/membership thing. Throughout my career I have gotten the most out of technology by being flexible in what I focus on – but you do need to focus on things in some depth. A benefit of being part of a wider community means they can filter through those a bit, making you aware of them as they do. I have at various times worked on voting systems, peer instruction, Twitter, learning analytics… So, my advice is… With such a broad field keep half an eye of what is going on – and the ALT community is great for that – but also delve in and get lost in…

And with that Martin is done… and we open up for some discussion on emerging areas… this group suggests they include: policy; what an institution is and what its bounds are in the face of online education; teacher presence in various contexts, including the impact of MOOCs on student expectations.

Martin: Expectations are a really interesting area… In peer instruction you move things out of the classroom. Back when we trialled some of those approaches and moved a lecture out, the students resisted… They wanted that lecture, and to be in that room.

Comment: I think that depends on trust in peers… My undergraduate experience involved trusting some but there were also risks of social bullying dynamics and I would have had real concern about that.

Martin: The social aspect of being at an institution is a high priority… Whether an online experience can replicate that is interesting. And digital identity and the transitions between one form of digital identity to another, the move to professional attributes. Which is why learning technology is never dull!

And with that we broke for lunch and discussion. You can explore Martin’s magic live tweets and Lorna Campbell’s (less automated but no less impressive) live tweets in the Storify below:

You can also view the full story “Martin Hawksey talk on ALT for eLearning@ed (6th Jan 2016)” on Storify.