Seville November 16th -18th 2015
By Neal Sumner
I was pleased to return after two years to the ICERI conference held in November in Seville to present a follow-up paper entitled ‘Moving forward with a blended learning curriculum: a case study in collaboration’, which I had co-authored with Karen Rawlings Anderson from the School of Health Sciences. This conference attracts a truly global audience with over 600 delegates from 75 countries. Such a large conference, condensed as it is into two and half days, requires the delegates to be very focused in the sessions attended. I was asked to chair the session on blended learning which lasted for most of one morning. The other areas of particular interest to me were on the Flipped Classroom and Learning Analytics, on which I report more fully below. However the most exciting and inspiring parts of the conference were the keynote addresses, particularly those given by Miguel Brechner and Dave Cormier (this latter person who, among other achievements, coined the term MOOC in 2008).
Plan Ceibal, originated by Miguel Brechner, is a project which has transformed Primary Education in Uruguay, as well as empowering citizens in their third age. Combining the power of technology with the Uruguayan passion for football (using World Cup tickets to incentivise participation) has seen a profound uplift in the literacies of schoolchildren and their families across Uruguay and demonstrates how technology can be used to harness the power of a global community of educators for the benefit of the wider society. Like the Geekie project in Brazil, the aim of Ceibal is to provide personalised learning pathways enabled by technology to raise educational standards for all. It seems to work.
Dave Cormier gave a summary of his views on why an understanding of rhizomatic learning (a term originally coined by Deleuze and Guattari) provides a model for teaching and learning in an era of the superabundance of information. The university system to date has evolved in the context of information scarcity; how is this changed and challenged in the digital age? What are the implications for teaching and assessment? Dave offered some interesting thoughts on the future impact of technology on education, some of which can be read here
No clear consensus emerged from the various papers in the session on the Flipped Classroom as to what constitutes Flipped learning. For some practitioners this means a structured approach to providing materials for students to study on their own (using technology as a delivery mechanism – including video, podcasts and readings) where previously such materials would have been delivered in the traditional format of the lecture. Face to face time, which had previously been used to transmit information through a lecture is, on this model, used to promote ‘active learning’, which can take many forms. Most of the papers in the session reported on evaluations which purport to demonstrate the benefits for ‘deep learning ‘of the flipped model over more traditional methods. These claims, as with so much educational research, are difficult to substantiate in a rigorous, scientific way, though anecdotally both students and their teachers seem to find the experience rewarding.
Learning Analytics are seen in some quarters as the next big idea in terms of how digital technologies can impact learning and teaching, in particular in relation to creating personalised learning pathways and providing an ‘early warning system’ for at risk students. (See for example SOLAR). The papers in this session offered a variety of ways of analysing data to monitor student progress and performance. Some of these were based on Virtual learning Environments, such as Moodle and sought to produce a dashboard which would alert teachers to students who were falling behind on allotted tasks. Others analysed students’ participation in social networks (Twitter, Facebook, linked-In) to identify which metric best predicts the student’s results in terms of engagement, involvement, participation, contribution and communication. Thus far it seems that this area of digital development is still in its infancy, but, given the pace of change, analytics could soon become a familiar tool in the academic armoury.
The Blended Learning session which I chaired held no surprises. Again there is a variety of practices covered by this term, some of which embrace the integration of online and face to face interaction, whilst other papers focused on specific aspects such as how Connectivism can influence the design of a blended curriculum
The Conference venue
Other sessions I attended included developments in primary and secondary education, technology in Health Education and lifelong learning. I have a digital copy of all the papers if anyone is interested in reading them please ask me firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior lecturer – LEaD