I was recently invited to give a paper at the national HEA humanities conference in Brighton, entitled ‘Storyville’. I spoke on my use of digital modelling in the Classics curriculum – a pdf of part of my presentation is attached – and the paper seemed to be well received. The other speakers in my panel were from very different backgrounds; one was working on the archive of a design school, and the others were from a project looking at the history and practice of knitting and textile work. A thread (as it were) of interest in visual resources for teaching, and active learning through doing, connected the papers and provided a lot to talk about – I tend to find that discussion with colleagues, even from fields very different to my own, opens up all sorts of new ways of looking at what we do.
The conference as whole covered a huge variety of topics. I attended papers on the use of drama in the classroom for teaching ancient plays, and on podcasts for theology lectures (an impressive example of audio capture and the ‘flipped classroom’, but requiring an enormous amount of labour and goodwill on the part of one or two generous lecturers). Beyond that were papers on aspects of far-flung areas of higher and further education, from straightforward academic teaching to storytelling and imagination. I had been a bit puzzled, to be honest, by the conference’s title, but it became clear on reading through the programme and attending panels – and in subsequent discussions on MOOCs where the terms ‘story’, ‘narrative’, and ‘journey’ are frequently used – that this is a (quite loosely defined) strand of thought that is applied to a wide spectrum of teaching and learning activities at the moment.
On that subject, I used the informal break times in the conference to chat to fellow delegates about MOOCs and gathered an interesting if unscientific survey of opinions, which broadly reflect those I have heard here in Reading – a similar mingling of excitement and uncertainty. Let’s see what the next year brings!