Learning with iPads

Last Wednesday (8th March) I attended a ‘Learning with iPad’ session at the Essa Academy in Bolton, organised by MCC.

After an introduction from the Keynotes: Essa and the Bolton School about the Essa Academy  and Bolton School  technological journeys, we then went into different workshops. The choices were varied from the technical side with coding with swift and iPad deployment workshops to the softer skills sets with Apple Teacher and Assessment and Feedback with the iPad.

Due to personal time restrictions on the day I could only attend the initial Keynote and 2 of the workshop sessions.

Keynote: Introduction to the Schools

The introduction to both schools showed how iPads could be effectively integrated in very different schools (funding differences, student backgrounds, socio-economic areas etc)

The Essa Academy had effectively redefined their use of technology rather than substituted it, much like the SAMR model. They had classed it as transforming the teaching and learning rather than translating it.

They used technology to create consistency and transparency. Essa swapped their old VLE for iTunesU. This change was more redefinition rather than substitution due to the cultural change in regards to how to use iTunesU rather than an off the shelf VLE, being less of a repository and more of a learning space to assess and feedback to students.

The online resources within iTunesU became interactive  iBooks with multimedia resources within them, rather than the traditional PDFs, PowerPoints and Word Documents. They then integrated apps like Showbie to integrate assessment and feedback. It all threaded through and blended into the learning.


The Bolton School also used iTunesU (as a student resource and for teaching lesson cover) and had blended the technology within the older setting of their school. The focus was more on the psychological framework for pedagogy to apply technology to fit within that, and building the digital competency and literacy of the teachers.

Within this on the development of the digital resources was less on the polished look of resources and more on the students creating their own resources to revise and be assessed and fed back on. Again they used a similar system with what apps they used and how they used them.

Both schools share best practice with each other and learn effective ways of using technology to enhance learning and teaching.


Session 1: Apple Teacher

This session opened my eyes to the wealth of information available at appleteacher.apple.com in relation to how to use Apple apps and technology. Like the microsoft.edu innovators project which is specific to Microsoft technology, Apple Teacher acts as bitesized CPD which can be done in the tutors own time. Again like the Mircosoft.edu course it offers badges, so you can see who has done which training to allow for peer to peer support. For example if Jo Blogs is great with Keynote but I’m not as confident, I can always go to Jo for some tips and pointers on how they use it.

We were also shown the apps Pages (multimedia document app) and Keynote (presentation app) and given examples of how they were used to gain a context to how Apple Teacher can take the app knowledge and use a step further.

Pages – Task designed for students to create a resource/poster on  a specific topic, using multimedia (images, audio, video etc) to show subject knowledge.

Keynote – Task get students to design a presentation on a specific topic to present to the class using multimedia resources (such as videos, or creating their own animations to explain the subject i.e how atoms move)

The knowledge and passion of the presenter reflected the positive difference that technology could make to the students and staff. Engaging learners and saving staff time.

Session 2: Assessment and Feedback

This session was mainly practical and based on delegate participation. The first part of the session was aimed at briefly understanding the pedagogy of using technology and digitising Assessment and Feedback.


The apps demonstrated in the more practical side of the session were:

Kahoot – A fun way to quiz students based on speed and knowledge. Students can retake the same kahoot in ghost mode and almost compete against themselves.

Socrative – Tutor gets instant analytics of how individual students within the group are doing, so you can see strengths and weaknesses.

Showbie – A great way of showing feedback, as it can be given in audio and visual annotation forms.

From the whole day it was amazing to see how the schools had successfully implemented iPads in their educational institutes. However for an F.E college whose funding is different and are not completely Apple, nor Microsoft based, and who can’t supply 1:1 devices for students, the only things to successfully take away from such an inspiring day is how the apps are used and ‘app smashed’ together to work effectively. As well as the Apple Teacher free self study CPD. This in itself is a brilliant thing to take away. I would suggest to attend as many sessions to do with iPads and tablets as possible, you never know which new app or new way of using the same app you’ll find!



BETT – Thursday 26th Jan 2017

This was a jam packed day with back to back seminars and and about half an hour for lunch, all planned that way. Definitely no missing out on anything this time around for this E-learning Developer!

F.E Learn Live stage – Digital Storytelling: Engaging Learnings: Developing Digital Literacies (session by Gordon Duffy-McGhie)

The case study was based in Middlesbrough College using a drama class with the understanding of the class issues being attendance, student engagement and students being spoon fed for assessments rather than learning.

The solution was to restructure the communications architecture to move away from the traditional model of teaching, based on content regurgitation, to peer collaborative learning. The Process is shown below:

The Process. Phase 1: Information and communication infrastructure.

  • Tackled the VLE first – moved from a folder based navigation and look VLE to a website based navigation and look VLE
  • Used students work to show case and create into journey or show case a journey using multimedia materials (videos etc)
  • Class expectations of what they’re there to learn – analytics showed previewed material increased and looked through each week of subject and interest was maintained after session. This was done using quick 1 minute videos as a hook for the students, using student work.

The Process. Phase 2: Integration.

  • Flipped content
  • Blendspace
  • Less delivery – presentation by tutor
  • Peer review as a digital story – power of the student voice
  • Formative tasks.
  • Replaced essays with short video and video planning (where appropriate) which made students be concise and more engaged due to time limit, and there to be a review of what marks and what makes a merit and distinction.

Overall the results showed that:

  • Marks went up
  • skills gained for the course – preparing them to be able to adapt in real life scenarios and potentially in future careers.
  • Class attendence went up
  • Skype interviews improved their interview skills due to students being able to hear and see how they present themselves.
  • Increased confidence with technology.

The takeaway from the session was in relation to the technology being there for learning and not learning for technology. For the tutor it became less about delivery and more about the student’s learning journey and progress rather than the destination. This meant that the students voices and opinions were crucial so it is important to encourage student speaking and communication.

Secondary Learn Live stage – Flipped Meetings: An Effective, Innovative and Sustainable Approach to Leadership Communication (session by Jon Tait)

This was a sneaky management one I wanted to look at. After listening to the session it made complete sense and was also nice to see that at one level or another we are already doing this at the college.

The problem faced by the secondary school which lead to this solution was that looking at it from a management level, face to face time is costly. Both in financial cost of people wages wise and cost of time, time which could be better spent for teachers lesson prepping and marking and for mangers actually being able to plan and act on the school’s needs (financial etc).

The whole crux of the session relied on sustainable leadership and the idea of a flipped paperless classroom applied to meetings. The case study at Acklam Grange School, which is Microsoft Showcase School, means that the software used was Microsoft based. In this case they used OneNote and Office 365 to create paperless meetings to share documents to read before the meeting and then edit within the meeting, using the meeting time to discuss the information. This meant that decisions which were previously taken lightly, as people didn’t have time to process the information given, were now thought of in-depth and the information  was effectively processed from reading it previously to the meeting. This lead to meetings being shorter but more effective with actions and outcomes.


  • Before meeting: Info given out prior to meeting
  • Before meeting: People read before meeting
  • In Meeting : pose questions
  • In Meeting : review
  • In Meeting : create action

From this meeting times were quicker, the school saved money (both in peoples time and printing costs)and higher thinking skills were used to make decisions.

The official takeaway from this experience was that face to face time is precious and that you should assess as a company and an individual whether you’re getting value for money from your meetings. Unofficially I got the takeaway that with anything relating to learning you should always apply learning theory, for example within a meeting where you’re expected to learn and understand information to be able to make a decision on it should be treated as learning rather than an exercise in quickfire thinking.

F.E  Learn Live stage – Blended Learning Consortium (session by Peter Kilcoyne)

There is some amazing work being done with this consortium, it’s an initiative where you pay so much a year as a membership fee and you get access to all the information, learning resources and discounts on learning package and content authoring tools.


Key values of consortium:

  • Good to share
  • Democratic decision making – ideas for learning materials go through a process and panel to get created.
  • Collaboration and mutual support – there’s already so many colleges in it and you get their support and input too.
  • Accessibility kept in mind – when the packages are produced they are produced with accessibility options.

The content had some great uses for tutorial provision, supporting the FELTAG initiative, absence cover, revision, adapting and badges. Especially as you get more out of it then you put in financially.

However when the purse strings are tight, it doesn’t necessarily work as a viable and sustainable option. But that is down to your institute.

BETT stage – Can VR Become a Classroom Reality? (session by Sanjesh Sharma and David Mann from Class VR)

This main stage event was great to see the different case studies of VR currently.

Uses of VR:

Visual Literacy/Realisation – Creation of real world experiences to allow for emotional learning through sensory context. For example immersing students into a world described in a book to give the student an ability to understand the experience so that they can describe it. Or showing students a worn torn country for an ethics assignment with immersive real life sights and sounds to generate an emotional connection to allow for emotional learning (the example given was a walk through the streets of Syria)

Simulations – 3D simulated working models. Examples shown were the pumping heart, where the student could walk around the heart and see how the mechanics work.

Field Trips/enrichment – Allowing students to access places they might not have been able to access before. The example shown was a virtual tour of the Smithsonian in America, which anyone around the world could access. This would make enrichment activities such as field trips more sustainable due to cost and ability to visit places.

Additionally accessibility came into play – engaging students who may previously not been engaged with the subject due to lack of practical examples or different methods of learning.

Again this technology has been stressed that the why, how, when and where of the content and pedagogy need to be thought of in it’s use. Technology for learning not learning for technology.

Not a tablet replacement

Though VR is the near future, and in some institutions a working technology at present, there is an undercurrent of mixed reality becoming an emerging future educational technology tool for a more interactive experience. However this seems to be a while off, but it’s always something to keep an eye out for.

Microsoft Learn Live stage – Badges and More: An Introduction to Teacher Training and CPD (session by Paul Watkins from Ysgol Bae Baglan)


The session hinged on the concept of time being precious (similar to the earlier session of flipped meetings) but that technological CPD was crucial to tutors and support staff to help save then time in the long run by increasing their digital competency.

Again this was lead by a Microsoft based school, so is highly situated within Microsoft technology. The main selling point was the education.microsoft.com CPD that’s freely available to anyone, where collaboration is a great way of peer learning from other professionals.

The school implemented this system, which used badges to show the full amount of CPD a staff member had done and which mini courses they’d taken. There was reported school wide success as different levels of confidence in students and staff as they interacted and responded well to the bitesized training done at their own pace, which enhanced the digital competency of the whole school and in the end saved time for tutors in the long run.

A cheeky side note, I noticed that (unintentionally?) they’d accidentally used operant conditioning through reinforcement for the face to face sessions by having chocolates, cake etc and then at the end of the year the one with the most badges/progress were publicly praised between the staff. This approach is fantastic because it encourages a competitive yet supporting community environment where technology confidence can be safely encouraged.

Microsoft Learn Live stage – Learning Tools for OneNote (session by Microsoft and Jan Lusty)

This was a fantastic case of using OneNote as a accessibility tool for students. This case study was conducted at Knowl Hill School, which is a dyslexic specialist school.

OneNote as a learning tool, in the immersive reader option:

  • Focus Mode
  • Text to speech
  • change page background for visual crowding control
  • increase font size
  • syllables breaks into syllable parts
  • Nouns

For the case study from the school it was found that:

  • Pupils enjoyed using the technology
  • Impacted positively on writing
  • Lead to less emotional distress after intervention
  • Pupils progress was more in literacy and phonological skills than would be expected
  • Made the same progress in a few weeks which would be expected in a year
  • Reading fluency and accuracy increased more than expected
  • Pupil’s felt independence for writing.
  • Made the information more accessible

From this going forward I’m sure we’ll be trialing it here, there was a lot it could do which for a tool we already have was a brilliant eye opener!

Microsoft Learn Live stage – Windows 10 in Education (session by Ben Whitfield)

This was of particular interest to me and the college as we have recently moved over to Windows 10, so to see a fully immersed school as a living case study of effective use of Windows 10 sounded hopeful.

The case study related to St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic High School, and though from the software side (which is the side I was mainly interested in) was brilliant, it was only fleeting and again related back to OneNote and the Office 365 cloud based apps.  The focus was more hardware based on the surface tablets which Microsoft have released, which again was great because they utilised the surface for the drawing capability. However I have to admit at this point I switched off a little bit, as the tablet devices we have at college are Apple based and a lot of the information given about the use of the Mircosoft tablet with Microsoft software was redundant as the functions for the same apps and tech change from Microsoft to Apple device.

Though some of the ideas and methods implemented were somewhat eye opening, for example they had bypassed their IT department and given full control to staff to use the store to buy apps.  Though they had set specific staff to act as admins of the system, so that they could hide and lock down the tablets for students use (so they couldn’t download what they shouldn’t be able to)

To keep the conclusion short and sweet, everything from this day can be summarised in these key points:

  • Technology for learning not learning for technology – don’t use it just because it’s there, think why are you using it?
  • Move away from traditional models – ditch the regurgitation and welcome student lead learning.
  • Embed technological skills with your students – it will help prepare them for the future by being confident in technology skills.
  • Time is precious – with increased demands in education on tutors and organisations, smaller and more accessible CPD sessions are the way forward.
  • look at what you already have and see how that can be applied – For me it was the functionality of Office 365 as an e-learning tool rather than an IT system.
  • Device agnostic systems – everywhere seemed to be either specifically and Apple school or a Microsoft school, which can cause problems when you’ve got a bit of both.

BETT’s Bounty 2017

This was a revelationary learning curve and an amazing experience for me as an attendee. To understand why I’m so impressed I have to point out last year in 2016 I attended the BETT conference and wasn’t enthralled or in love with it, in fact quite the opposite. However in hindsight that was mainly due to a series of unfortunate and avoidable circumstances. So wanting to give it another chance I attended BETT once again this year.

To give some perspective, last year we went down to London as a team and it was a case of:

  • Jump on a minibus and spend an inordinate amount of time travelling down to London just to feel travel sick all day and then get back onto the same minibus and do the same journey just in reverse. The whole experience lengthened by the road works around Birmingham at the time, it ended up being a long 5am – 11pm working day. Never. Again.
  • We didn’t plan anything. There was an app (it liked crashing), maps and guides (people and paper versions) ……we just didn’t bother with any of it and winged the whole conference.
  • Only attended one or two seminars (mainly because the time taken to travel meant that we only had a few hours instead of the whole day) and mainly spent time looking around the stalls. This meant a lot of sales pitches and a lot of emails over the next few months.

This year was the complete opposite, it was just me and it was a case of:

  • Get the train Wednesday morning, spend all day at the conference and then head to a hotel.
  • Woke up Thursday checked out of the hotel, well rested and ready to go, and spent the full day at the conference bright eyed and bushy tailed and got a later train home for a cheaper price.
  • Everything was planned. I mean there was an app, maps and guides (people and paper versions) the same as the year before but this time they were all used to their full extent. The people guides/attendants were brilliant; friendly, knowledgable and great with directions. The paper guides were informative and the maps easy enough to follow. The app was great as well, the year before it had a few bugs and crashed a lot, but this year there were no issues, the only fault was on the first day it didn’t update quickly if there were changes to seminar times and places, however it seemed on the second day they’d found a way around it. There was a favouriting system which made it easier to understand which sessions I wanted to attend and plan my time around that.

Listed below is a breakdown of the sessions attended, each day will have a detailed and informative post linked to it (it’s just too much in one Blog post!):

Wednesday 25th January:

  • Secondary Learn Live stage – Using Cutting Edge Technology to Drive the Strategic Leadership of Student Behaviour
  • Primary Learn Live stage – Wall to Wall Learning: Developing Collaboration and Showcasing Student Digital Creations
  • BETT Stage – HundrED: Bringing Innovation in Education up to Speed
  • H.E Learn Live stage- Learning to Fly
  • H.E Learn Live stage – How the iPad Contributed Towards a Vision and Plan of Paperless Teaching and Learning Environment
  • H.E Learn Live stage – Ensuring Technological Plurality through Effective Learning Design
  • H.E Learn Live stage – Transforming Higher Ed with Mircosoft Hololens
  • F.E Learn Live stage – Empowering Teachers to Create Bespoke e-learning resources

Thursday 26th Jan:

  • F.E Learn Live stage – Digital Storytelling: Engaging Learnings: Developing Digital Literacies
  • Secondary Learn Live stage – Flipped Meetings: An Effective, Innovative and Sustainable Approach to Leadership Communication
  • F.E  Learn Live stage – Blended Learning Consortium.
  • BETT stage – Can VR Become a Classroom Reality?
  • Microsoft Learn Live stage – Badges and More: An Introduction to Teacher Training and CPD
  • Microsoft Learn Live stage – Learning Tools for OneNote
  • Microsoft Learn Live stage – Windows 10 in Education


The overriding themes of the whole BETT experience seminars and selling points seemed to be of collaborative working, blended learning and the future of educational technology being heavily intertwined with mixed reality rather than just VR and AR.  Even though I reduced time in looking around the stalls which were selling systems, hardware etc there seemed to be a lot more variation compared to the year before. Especially with technology enhanced learning (TEL) examples from other countries including the UAE, Korea and China. Then again that might just be my view from the seminars and stalls I chose to go to.

Few tips:

  • Mix it up with educational level – Don’t stick to what you know. Yeah you’re a F.E tutor but what’s good is the wealth of information from other educational levels. For instance in this occasion it was great to see how iPads and the Hololens could reshape the learning process, found in H.E but could easily applied to any educational level (primary, secondary, F.E etc)
  • Go as a team – even if it’s just two of you, because to use an old saying, sometimes 2 heads are better than 1. The amount of information can be overloading and it works best if there are at least two of you to understand and process the information differently, you get two view points and a more rounded picture of what the seminars.
  • Be open minded – Again this relates more to how the technology, teaching and the learning instances are applied. Don’t think you know it all, there’s always a new angle for the same tech or new tech for the same angle. You might just stumble across something amazing. Like I did in relation to the Office 365 and how to use it from an e-learning angle rather than an IT level.
  • If possible go for a few days – You’ll get the most from it if you’re not travel worn, especially coming from outside of London. Cost can be an issue but sometimes you can find the cheaper deals with a stop over than getting the train on the same day (I managed to save a lot of money doing it this way)
  • Participate – Ask questions, involve yourself, get into the discussions and be present. It will make it easy, you’ll learn everything you need to know and it makes it easier, don’t feel like a fool better to ask questions then get the wrong end of the stick.

From this experience all I can is I’ll definitely be going to BETT again next year and hopefully some more of the team will be able to join me!

~ Laura

BETT – Wednesday 25th Jan 2017

For the first day of BETT it was amazing and there was a buzz in the air in relation to seeing the seminars, discussions and demonstrations that were around the conference.

Secondary Learn Live stage – Using Cutting Edge Technology to Drive the Strategic Leadership of Student Behaviour (session by Jon Tait)


The case study from Acklam Grange School demonstrated effective use of data in relation to leadership and organisation effectiveness. The big data that the school collected lead to the understanding of issues, rather than firefighting, to see the trends, sub groups, student behaviour and outcomes all based within the use of the VLE and other school systems and technology.

They used the following technology to help implement a long term sustainable strategy to combat behaviour:

  • Classcharts (software/app) – it creates seating plans and pulls information from the LMS and other systems through. It is a behaviour management tool where you can give and remove points from students, attached praise or negative behaviour, flags up specific issues, change the seating plan to put people next to others who may benefit overall class behaviour etc.
  • VLE – class statistics, engagement
  • Registers – attendance

After using all these technologies combined with each to create a forensic behaviour analysis and map students progression throughout the year.  The results showed that:

  • Their Ofsted rating increased
  • Behaviour reduction in exclusions by 98%
  • Results up by .6p 8

The overall takeaway from this session was considering how your institution uses data and would better student behaviour lead to improved, results, retention (both staff and students) and morale (both staff and students) Which if data is used effectively, according to this study, could be a vast improvement on what you already have. It’s just understand what the data is for and how it’ll be used.

Primary Learn Live stage – Wall to Wall Learning: Developing Collaboration and Showcasing Student Digital Creations (session by David Whyley)

This was specific to a smaller campus environment, and used the idea of an installed digital wall to display students digital work in real time. The idea being that it would give the student work a place rather than being stored away on a file on some networked drive somewhere, never to be seen again.

The simple installation of the wall and connecting every digital device to it, so that any work done could be displayed, lead to unforeseen results for the students.

What happened in relation to learning theory?

  • Students had ownership of work through the display
  • Communication skills developed, due to discussions about work posted
  • Social and organisational skills developed as peer to peer learning took place
  • Emotional skills developed due to group activities, reactions to works, peer to peer learning  etc.

While I enjoyed this session it is something, for this academic year at least, that would not be feasible due to monetary needs. Thinking through how it would work at F.E would it be more based on digital signage rather than students assignment work? Or could it be used for in class tasks and activities, such as a place to put the student work done on apps (Sparks Video, Pic Collage etc) which usually would be lost to the ether.

BETT Stage – HundrED: Bringing Innovation in Education up to Speed (session by Kate and Saku)

This was one of the main stage sessions at BETT and was brilliant in it’s thinking. It’s 100+ free resources and innovative ideas for education (can be found at www.hundrED.org )

The reason for it being a free resource is that the world is changing faster than the educational institutions and infrastructures can keep up to. This is due to faster digitalisation, globalisation and climate (social and economical) than previously seen before.

With the free resource it means that what happens in the classroom, with best practice, is shared between different countries, institutes and teachers instantly or quickly. It’s no longer kept in the classroom and doesn’t go anywhere.

A similar initiative was launched in conjunction with it called Global Oneness (it can be found at www.globaloneness.org )

As the plethora of resources is so vast I would suggest checking out what’s on offer and potentially joining in as an ambassador to collect in a specific topic. Think about creating resources on topics/subjects/skills which can be saved simply by sharing best practice and innovations in that area. Potentially saving skills and skill sets which previously may have died out.

H.E Learn Live stage- Learning to Fly  ( session lead by Dom Pates and Dr Sikora)

The premise for this case study was based into student work flow, student attention and infrastructure affects on learning. This was done using aviation students and teaching rearranging the learning experience for teaching them how to fly using remote guest lectures, flexible learning spaces with node chairs, web cams with mic to pick up the whole room, and used the connect app for text questions with the guest lecturer and with the tutor.

The feedback from the study had it’s positives and reworks. The main result found from the study was that it was labelled as inspiring from both the students and the tutor, both sides were keen to do it again as a form of teaching and learning. The students also enjoyed the  insight into the industry that they might previously not had, due to the web cam and remote guest lecture. However there were a few cases where the students and the tutors would have preferred more interaction with each other, not necessarily as a feedback tool but as an interactive learning experience. The evidence was qualitative and based on the ‘flow’ of work, this was measured through the students interactions as it was found that students wanted to talk and keep interacting in the more successful sessions.

Tips learnt from Case study included having the technical issues ironed out, the IT infrastructure, technical know-how and support needed to be in place for the tutor, as when this faltered it affected the students’ attention and therefore work flow. However it was also found that having the technology ‘hidden’ or embedded increased flow for the students as it enables rapport and ease of interaction.

Tips and Takeaways from the session:

  • Get feedback
  • Embed tech
  • Break up a talk
  • Record the session (reflective learning resource – student and tutor)
  • Wherever possible, make learning an experience not just a traditional regurgitation of information
  • Build Interaction into remote guest lectures from the beginning, helps with the flow of learning
  • Hide the technology (don’t make it obvious) embed the tech so it’s just part of the experience.

The session was brilliant in thinking about how learning is about the students’ experience of learning not just how to the tutor regurgitates information. It was also great to see that on some level we already take this into account with our learners here at the college, though there are a few takeaways to take back too.

H.E Learn Live stage – How the iPad Contributed Towards a Vision and Plan of Paperless Teaching and Learning Environment:


This was a fantastic look into how slow TEL progression can lead to big TEL changes, and it all started with iPads in this case. It started with one tutor and one lab group and naturally scaled up bit by bit, with a small natural push from their TEL team.

Summed up they swapped lab books for iPads in their lab environments, and from this smaller changes occurred where more people used them and then found different ways to use them (flipped learning etc)

Overall it saved the institution £30,000 on printing costs and lead to more interactive lab books being created due to the different abilities an iPad offered over traditional pen and paper. The main takeaway was to concentrate on one thing, do that right and then build on it as it will naturally evolve bit by bit. Technology for a reason not a trend, don’t throw anything at the wall and see what sticks, but go in with one thing and do it well.

It was a brilliant reflection of how TEL does progress within an educational setting when it is allowed to grow and done well, rather than moving from one trend to the next. Fantastic to see how they broke down the initial barriers by rewording and giving sound logic and reasoning as to why that specific piece of technology should be used and from there grow the digital literacy of the students and staff by embedding the technology.

H.E Learn Live stage – Ensuring Technological Plurality through Effective Learning Design

I got somewhat lost in this session, as multiple models were produced and disseminated, thinking about it I wished I’d taken more pictures of the theory models!

However the main bit I can remember, and looking back through my notes, is that when creating a TEL learning theory model and effective learning design keep the following points in mind:

  • generic terms, not specific apps. This is due to the rate in which apps change, the functionality will be the same or similar ( a presenting app for example) but the name will be different.
  •  verb structures and semantics matter. The language which is used can provoke different responses within colleagues, so it’s best to use focus groups and discuss wording of theories with different colleagues.
  • Don’t overload it with information, keep it simple and easy to follow and always keep in mind what the reason for doing it is.

Overall Design tips:

  • Visualisation is key
  • Collaborative effort
  • students broader HE experience – it’s not just about learning academically at university it’s also about learning socially, emotionally etc.


  • Anticipate, plan and use technology n the pursuit of learning outcomes
  • Download taxonomies and share ideas.

The session itself from the design side of it was informative, we’re currently designing a new TEL learning model at the college and it’s great to see we’ve already thought about a lot of these issues. However with it’s continual development this has been a key experience and informative session to take back to the team.

H.E Learn Live stage – Transforming Higher Ed with Mircosoft Hololens (session by Microsoft)


The geek in me wanted to go and see this, it wasn’t disappointed. Though the Hololens was not presented to show the exact nature of the product, I was impressed with the amount of workable, varied and education based real life case studies were presented in using the Hololens currently in education both at F.E and H.E level (the case studies are American based but in the loose translation over from their educational system to ours they came out as F.E and H.E).

The following case studies were given (the Microsoft Hololens is Partnered with Pearsons educational packages) :

University of Washington in Seattle – Keeping students up to date in the future gaming and computer industries. Keeping the students up to date with technologies that are already used in industry.

Western Reserve University – Used for a biology interactive package to help students learn the human body.

Clackamas Community College – Automotive Department, teaching subjects and ideas that are complicated without 3D representation.

I was also intrigued in the idea of mixed reality, I had scheduled to go to the VR sessions on the Thursday so was interested to see how the progression of this type of tech worked. The idea being that reality is on a scale, as shown below:


The idea of mixed reality seems to lie in the nook between Actual Reality and Augmented Reality, while using elements from each stop on the reality scale.

This is the next step from AR and VR to mixed reality, it may be a while off becoming available to the wider educational community, but it is definitely on the horizon. Again the point of the technology is for learning, the case studies circled back to the idea that its technology for learning not learning for technology. I look forward to seeing it in education and in the wider environment in the future!

F.E Learn Live stage – Empowering Teachers to Create Bespoke e-learning resources (session by Jonathan Hills)


This session was an interesting insight. I’ll admit the title was rather misleading, for me, originally my thinking was that the tutors would be creating the resources, however this was not the case.  The concept was that tutors would write down the content and what they wanted, based on a template designed, and give that to the e-learning team for that college to develop, which in itself is common sense but at the same time very clever.

The barriers to tutors learning new technologies and creating learning resources can be summed up as:

  • Time – learning materials are time consuming to make in the first place
  • Knowing where to start – trial and error in how to make the learning materials
  • Lack of technical expertise – tutors are experts in their area but not necessarily with ever changing technology

Having a storyboard template for tutors to use means there is a guide for them to then build upon, which means that the tutors time is not wasted in thinking of the how’s but rather the whys and what knowledge. It also means that when the e-learning team is developing the learning materials they know exactly what is wanted, how it’s to be presented and what the outcomes for the learners should be. It also means the correct content is there to input and create into a learning material, as tutors are not technical experts neither are e-learning teams experts in Maths, English, Science etc.

The overall takeaway from this as an E-learning Developer was the template created was basic but effective, it kept the instructions easy to follow for the tutor and easy for an e-learning team to do the technical bit to develop content into a learning material for the tutor. This is definitely something we’ll be using here!

To keep the overall conclusion short and sweet, everything from this day can be summarised in these key points:

  • Technology for learning not learning for technology – don’t use it just because it’s there, think why are you using it?
  • Use your e-learning team – They are experts in their fields and are there to support tutors.
  • Why Big Data? – if there’s a problem, can big data solve it and why are you collecting it in the first place?
  • Collaboration is Key – In this digital age with the wealth of information out there, sometimes it’s good to share and there is no catch.
  • Paperless – Go paperless, it’s cost effective!
  • Embed technology – don’t make it obvious, embed the technology so it’s just part of the experience.

~ LP

What I learned about ‘The Power of Digital’

In a #TBT moment I realised it’s been a month since I volunteered to go to Digifest 2016, so in the style of reflective practice I thought I’d revisit my notes and do a retrospective write up about the day. Digifest is a 2 day technology in teaching and learning showcase run by JISC held in the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, it was called ‘The Power of Digitial’ and lived up to it’s name.

There was a lot of workshops, stalls and sessions going on throughout both days. So it may be worth noting that I only attended the second day (Thursday 3rd March) and this was my Agenda:

09:00 – 10:00 –  The power of digital for teaching and learning

10:00 – 10:30 – Break

10:30 – 11:15 – #HullDtn: a collaborative approach to digital pedagogies

11:45 – 12:30 – Designing and developing great courses together (sponsor session from Pearson)

12:30 – 13:30 – Lunch

13:30 – 14:30 – Having a nosey around at the stalls, meeting new professionals (and some I already knew)

14:45 – 15:45 – Leveraging the digital: capability, capacity and change in HE and FE

My teaching colleague went on the Wednesday and got a few different key ideas from the sessions they attended. For more information on what was on offer on both days, you can find out here.

So in a quick summary style, the key points I took away from Digifest were:

  • The need and use for analytics as a teacher and an educational e-learning professional
  • The importance of Play
  • Networking and open sharing is important
  • Virtual Reality is the way forward in education

Now I know a lot of these seem almost common sense, but believe me, when it’s a relatively new area where previously research has been scarce it’s refreshing to go to a conference with like-minded people. In this case there was research all around you to support the theories it’s easier to safely, and reliably, share and build on the ideas. Like all good research in education it’s always stressed that reputable, valid and reliable sources are key so being somewhere enriched with multiple case studies, research groups and living ongoing cases made information flow freely throughout the day.

09:00 – 10:00: ‘The power of digital for teaching and learning’

This session had a few varied speakers and brought up multiple issues such as learning analytics and play in education.

Now I will admit I only came into the back half of the talk about learning analytics, but the conclusions and atmosphere from the crowd seemed to be positive. The lead on this talk was Ian Dolphin, who is about open source and academia. He suggested that learning analytics are a digital key to students success and the way in which they’re analysed and used is massively important to help advance and develop learning. But there needs to be smart ways in which to do this otherwise we’re simply overwhelming ourselves with data.

The main part I got from the morning session was about the importance of play throughout education, specifically H.E. This mainly may be because I was there for the full talk, the ‘Wondering While Wandering’ session by Chrissi Nerantzi. The research suggested that using play, as a hands-on method of teaching, in H.E encouraged independent learners and engaged them with their subject more than those who were taught via the ‘traditional static’ method, supporting the blended learning pedagogy. There were a few significant points about how to implement play in H.E effectively and the issues that can be faced with introducing play into an academic environment. The main issues were cultural and how there might be negative perceptions of using play in F.E & H.E. This is because it is not a static view of learning and instead can be seen as childish or less academic both by educational peers (other teachers/researchers) and students.  However to combat this notion clear learning objectives must be given, with an evidence based approached used for reflective practice. Chrissi also suggested giving teachers a safe space to try out new innovative teaching ideas, such as a ‘learning laboratory’ without the fear of judgement, assessment and peer observation, but where they can reflect on themselves through recording the lessons to see what worked and what didn’t.

This method of hands-on play teaching lead to a discussion about how it would be viable to use this for educational technology, to help create digitally competent individuals who are ready for the digital working world due to a safe environment to initially learn and/or teach in. The idea of a safe space for the teachers to play, lead to students having more opportunities to use technology and become digitally literate through guided learning in lessons, as the idea of the digital native is not necessarily true. The assumption that people of certain generations take to technology more than others may be true but the fact is that there are still people out there who come from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and so may not have the opportunity to play with tech outside of education. Not only that but without context of application on technology the full use outside of simply tech for leisure may be lost. There needs to be understanding as to the reasons why tutors use specific tech for certain things, for example Twitter being used as a medium for CPD. Though this idea of ‘the death of the digital native’ was looked into in depth by Donna Lanclos in a different session, which unfortunately I couldn’t attend.

Moving on to the next part….

10:00 – 11:15: #HullDtn: a collaborative approach to digital pedagogies

It was all about networks, everywhere you looked and everyone I talked to outside of the sessions were all about collaborative working with other e-learning professionals at other institutes.

There was an amazing positive, innovative atmosphere to the day where collaboration and talking ideas out with other professionals was the norm. This was only supported in the #HullDtn: a collaborative approach to digital pedagogies session. Colleges in the Midlands and Southern part of England, specialised and otherwise, worked in a network together to provide technology enhanced learning support across the board. This initiative has lead to shared best practices and advancement of the use of technology within the different institutions, creating a support network for each e-learning team to feed back into and gain something from. The idea of different networks, or one large network to help each other in best practices of technology enhanced learning is appealing as it allows for case studies to be shared, best practice to be shared, ideas about technology to flow and develop further than they could have done in perhaps a single institution.


11:45 – 12:30: Designing and developing great courses together (sponsor session from Pearson)

This was an informative workshop about the concepts between course design and how to implement go through and develop courses effectively. Obviously as it was a sponsored session there was a little bit of a sales pitch however it was only small and didn’t detract at all from the overall workshop. The session lead to some amazing points about how to design a course, pictured below:


It made me think about how we design courses at the college and that we already adhere to most, if not all, the steps. The most interesting thing we have to consider here is that with us moving over to a new VLE the need to keep these points fresh in our mind is integral into making the new VLE a VLE rather than a traditional CMS repository where tutors dump files.


13:30 – 14:30: Having a nosey around at the stalls, meeting new professionals (and some I already knew)

You may have noticed that there was about an hour where I had a look around the stalls. What came from this wandering was the noticeable advancement of virtual reality, robotics, sharing platfroms and making technology mainstream. There was a robot called Neo, assistive tech such as exam readers, lots of virtual reality headsets anything from Google Cardboard to the Occulus Rift but there was also a BB8 sphero, which of course I had to have a play with!

What surprised me was the advancement of the technology for the mainstream, usually considered toys, and what this meant for cultural shifts of technology in education. It made me realise technology has previously either seen to be as either a toy or strictly for scientists….but there is a culture shift that has occurred in the change of attitude towards it. It can now be both for leisure and work, again I refer to Twitter for CPD or following your favourite celebrities or virtual reality headsets, which are being sold commercially, being used for orientation or viewing different worlds – think class trips without the long journeys, health and safety forms etc.

There was also a massive market for Virtual Reality and while unsurprising, this year seems to be about making virtual reality commercial, the idea that it’d be presented for education was interesting. As a general rule for new technology it is sold within education more towards the coding, software and hardware core IT skill sets. So mainly for tutors and  students on IT courses. However at Digifest the presentation of the VR headsets was presented more for this is what it can do, if you can find a way to apply it then go for it. This refreshing approach made it easier to look at the uses of VR at a more objective level, encouraging questions like is this applicable? How could we use it for our institution?…..surprisingly as a land-based college the answers to these questions were yes and in lots of different ways. The idea of VR is to make everything more interactive and as a provider of more practical based studies this really lends itself to our courses. We’re currently working on a project for Augmented Reality and are now looking into different ways we can make our own VR content as it seems like Virtual Reality is another way forward in education  that would suit our needs.

I also bumped into other e-learning professionals, some I knew and others who I networked with, at that point it was nice to see a familiar face and meet new people!

14:45 – 15:45: ‘Leveraging the digital: capability, capacity and change in HE and FE’

The final session I attended brought up an amazing toolkit being developed by JISC to help analyse and develop institutes digital capabilities. There isn’t enough time to go through what the whole project is but you can look for it on the JISC site.
There was emphasis on the term ‘digital capability’ and what this meant. It was not, as a few people understood, to be how capable someone was to use the technology but how open someone would be to using the technology. The overall meaning from the session was that it didn’t mean you had to know everything about technology and how to use it but you were willing to learn and there was a want to learn about the new technology. This linked in with the idea of the death of the digital native idea, where it wasn’t dependent on what generation you are as to how digitally capable you are but rather how open minded you are to learning new technology.

The overall view lead to the need for a toolkit to help measure digital capability. JISC have developed a toolkit used to analyse your institutes’ performance against other colleges, or between faculties within your institution. The whole scheme seemed positive, with the case studies already suggesting that this helped institutes to reconsider how to present and filter technology training throughout their cores to develop the overall digital capability to a higher level than previously done. It can also be done anonymously so that institutes don’t feel like they are in competition with each other but can still see the UK average for digital capability.

Overall thoughts?

Digifest turned out to be a useful conference as a college as it demonstrated ongoing case studies useful to implementation of e-learning, great ideas for design of courses, innovative ideas to how technology is advancing inside and outside of education and last but not least amazing networking opportunities which as a college we are currently undertaking to share best practices and technology use ideas.

I look forward to going to Digifest next year and the opportunities it will bring!

~ Laura