Last week was very hectic as I travelled up and down the country to attend two conferences. The first was the Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C) in Manchester. The conference’s objective was to understand how technology can best be used to make learning and technology more effective and more efficient.
It was a brilliant opportunity for me to attend an international conference and see how so many different people from various institutions, sponsors and vendors come together to share experiences.
My two days at ALT-C started with a keynote speech from Eric Mazur, a Professor of Physics at Harvard University. Eric got the audience’s attention by stating that research is increasingly demonstrating that our gut feelings about teaching are often wrong. He explored his scientific approach to teaching and discussed some of his research on gender issues and on the effectiveness of classroom demonstrations.
Although focussed on science students, I applied Eric’s conclusions to my own research. He advocated how interaction makes a difference to learning, how using skills actively helps students to study and how demonstration without engagement is not very helpful. This relates to my own research looking at how work placements (interaction) help students to develop their digital skills (learning).
Later in the day the talk ‘Creation and Adoption’ helped me to appreciate the broader picture of research into digital literacies. Speaker Liz Bennett spoke about Sharpe and Beetham’s Development Pyramid (2008), which describes the development of ‘effective e-learners’ in terms of access, skills, practices and attributes. ‘Effective e-learners’ are defined as those who are using technology in positive ways to support their learning. This set into context what employers, staff and students have told me about work placements bridging the gap between students’ learning (skills) and how this is applied in the workplace (practice).
Although not directly related to my research I particularly enjoyed the debate ‘Open Education: Does it change everything?’ Being confronted with questions like ‘Will universities that offer Open Educational Resources be better off than those that don’t?’ encouraged us to think about the wider principles of education and envisage what kind of future Higher Education has.
The session on day two ‘Integrating Social Media into Learning Environments’ highlighted that people who are not ‘Digital Natives’ like me can really be very fearful of using social media in education. I will talk about this session more in an upcoming blog post.