LEGO Serious Play starter kit for research & teaching

LEGO Serious Play was an essential aspect of my research method, getting participants to ‘build’ their answer, not just talk it through. I’ve also used it as a teaching facilitation tool to support critical and divergent thinking. LEGO is one of my most favourite research and teaching methods, as you can let people work through answers with the use of LEGO, and then capture the salient points when they share their build. It not only saves a lot of data processing for the researcher, but it is a lot more fun for participants. For teaching, it supports different forms of thinking and really gets ALL students involved. While LEGO Serious Play is a distinct facilitation approach and you can get trained to use it, there are also some helpful books to get you started. I recommend Blair and Rillo’s SERIOUSWORK as a good place to start.

To use LEGO for any aspect of research or teaching, you first need to buy some! This blog highlights the choices I made to build my budget LEGO Serious Play kit.

LEGO Serious Play sets are awesome! But expensive. There is a range of sets available on the official LEGO shop, but they were beyond my budget as a self-funded doctoral student. I had to improvise. This article will introduce the sets I purchased and how I think they worked for research and teaching use.

My haul

The LEGO sets I purchased for my LEGO Serious Play kit

LEGO classic

LEGO Classic sets are a brilliant way to bulk out your LEGO Serious Play kit. You get a lot of brick for your money, and the variety of colours is fantastic. I’m so jealous of children today – LEGO had about five colours when I was a child. I already had a Large Creative Brick Box (10698) – so bought a couple more to serve as the baseline of my LEGO Serious Play kit. The plastic storage boxes they come in are also the perfect place to keep the LEGO stored away between uses. In addition to these larger sets, I also bought a couple more classic sets, one featuring lots of windows and doors (11004) – the other featuring lots of wheels (11014).

The available sets vary over time, but I have found they usually have a classic set on offer with extra wheels and another with windows and doors. These are useful additions to any LEGO Serious Play kit so I’d advise investing in such sets. Windows and doors are not only useful in a literal sense, but they work well for metaphors. Wheels work well for movement, vehicles and more. I’ve also seen a set with extra roof tiles which I think could be useful. It’ll certainly be part of my next LEGO purchase.

Interesting bricks

Next up I wanted to add a set with some different/interesting bricks. To be honest, any set would do for this – but I wanted to avoid anything licenced. I felt items like a Star Wars brick or a Spiderman Minifigure would not serve as universal references, so wanted to avoid them. I think Minecraft LEGO sets are particularly useful as they have lots of transparent tiles and colourful bricks. At the time I purchased my kit, LEGO was celebrating its 60 year anniversary and had launched some special Building Bigger Thinking sets. I purchased World Fun (10403), which contained some useful pieces like a treasure chest, eyes, columns, helicopter and a couple of Minifigures. I also chose Ocean’s Bottom (10404) which has more eyes, wings, wheels and transparent bricks.

All these LEGO classic sets built the bulk of my LEGO Serious Play kit. This gave me lots of standard bricks, including windows, doors, wheels and more. The next pieces I used to build my collection were all a matter of choice. For example, baseplates can be useful for a lot of LEGO Serious Play kits – but they were not something I needed for my particular research. As such, I decided to forego them. If you need to facilitate collaborative builds then baseplates are the perfect way to bring this together.

Pick a Brick

To top off my LEGO Serious Play kit, I wanted to choose a few additional bricks. To help with this, I used the Pick a Brick station at a LEGO store. I focused on extra eyes, small tile pieces and anything else small. This would allow participants to build intricate/small/detailed models – should they wish.

Minifigures

Minifigures can be a bit of a divisive topic when considering their use in LEGO Serious Play. They can lead participants to focus on people (which may not be a bad thing) when they’re building their answers. For my research, I felt participants would benefit from Minifigures. Libraries are inherently social spaces – and people are part of that. I didn’t want participants wasting time in my research sessions ‘building people’ – so Minifigures it was!

Again, I felt the best place to get these was through a LEGO shop. There are build-a-Minifigure stations in LEGO shops allowing you to build three custom figures per pack. Four packs (12 figures) covered my needs.

Preparing the LEGO

The worst thing you can do is walk into your first LEGO Serious Play research or teaching session with a load of new boxes of LEGO. It’s worth spending some time unboxing and unbagging it to ensure it is ready to use. I also spent time assembling a few elements to make them ready for use. For example, adding tyres to wheels, putting wheels on axels, putting panes in windows and adding doors to their frames. While participants are free to switch things around, it does mean the bricks are ready for use without needing to combine these pieces.

From the unboxing photo below, you can see there was a lot of plastic bags to ditch. I also wanted to find a way to layout the LEGO without getting it everywhere – so I used the cardboard box lids from printer paper boxes. It worked really well to stop LEGO falling all over the floor during my research sessions.

Ready to go!

With all the LEGO purchased, unpacked and ready to go, I was able to start using it for teaching and research purposes. I still keep the LEGO stored in the big yellow boxes that came with the larger sets. I also bring a load of those empty box lids to pour LEGO out and stop it from getting everywhere.

LEGO works as a wonderful research and educational tool. I took this snap from one of the first sessions I facilitated three years ago. I can’t wait to share some more of my reflections on this.

LEGO, the LEGO logo, and the Minifigure are trademarks and copyrights of the LEGO Group. ©2021 The LEGO Group.

‘Normal’ or ‘New normal’ —Reflections on getting back into in-person teaching

Written on a train on a phone – so forgive any typos. I’ll tidy up later!

Since 18th March last year (2020), all of my teaching has been online. Obviously, this was the right thing to do. Society closed. We didn’t really know much about the novel coronavirus first identified in 2019, we didn’t know much about transmission and vaccines were still a dream. The situation also developed rapidly. The government told us not to be worried about the virus, that it was of little concern. Two weeks later, we were in lockdown. For everyone in higher education, this led to a monumental pivot online. Like every university, Hull responded and followed governmental guidelines.

When the lockdown hit, I felt lucky to be based in the Skills Team at the University of Hull. As a team, we all had experience of teaching online. We also had the software, the tools and training to deliver a good online experience. Nothing needed to be procured. No training was needed. We just picked up and got on with things. I’m not saying that the switch to online teaching wasn’t challenging — but we had somewhat of a head start.

As the pandemic evolved over summer 2020 and cases plummeted, we were able to open our library — the Brynmor Jones. This was done with an abundance of caution, following all safety guidance and with a lot of risk assessing. We were one of the first HE libraries to re-open, recognising not all of our students had access to the technology or connection they required to be successful at home. The library formed an important part of social and cultural capital for some students — helping provide what they may not readily have. While open, as a library we also focused on safety, still delivering our support digitally. This meant that our service points were not staffed in the same way and we focused on self-help, live chat and query management. The library was primarily open for socially-distanced study.

While the library was open, teaching and appointments we’re still off the agenda. At the point of initial opening, we still kept these online. This doesn’t mean I’ve been working from home all this time. As soon as the Library re-opened last year, I was in the occasional day, usually once a week. I figured that if our frontline staff were in – I should show face too. I eased myself in. By January 2021, I committed to three days a week.

For most of the year, while I was on campus, my students weren’t. All classes will still online. In May 2021, we were able to offer face-to-face appointments again. It was strange (but lovely!) to see students again. I felt connected to my work again. It reminded me why I love my job — I’d missed that interaction more than I realised. While appointments slowly ticked over, class-based teaching, workshops and lectures face-to-face were still some time away. At this point, it meant that while none of us stopped teaching, many lecturers hadn’t ‘lectured’ or taught on campus for over a year. That’s a long time!

My timeline now lands on last week. The 6th September. My first on-campus teaching for over a year and a half.

I was a bit nervous. Not going to lie.

Was teaching in a room like ‘riding a bike?’. That is to say — can I easily pick it up again despite all this time away? As I walked over to the Cohen building, the nerves melted away to make rookie excitement. I was so excited I took a selfie to make the occasion – but decided to do this outside the building so the students didn’t think I was odd before I even started teaching them.

Yup! Me stood outside Cohen.

A quick photo later, I found myself stood in a room much larger than needed to facilitate some social distancing, I looked over a sea of faces (well… 25 faces), and I began to teach.

Thankfully. It was like riding a bike. I just fell back into that comfortable space at the front.

It struck me how odd it was being able to move and use body language again. It was surreal! I didn’t realise how limiting a webcam could be until I was freed from those constraints. I could gesture. I could easily point to my slide visuals. I wasn’t trapped behind a screen. Teaching in-person went beyond this freedom. It was easier — and I hope — better!

I was in the middle of explaining a model of criticality, and my students looked puzzled. I’d not explained it effectively. I’d lost some of the room. Immediately — I was able to change track and reframe my explanation. I could see the metaphorical lightbulbs switch on. They’d understood what I said. I’d explained better. I have missed that more than anything with online teaching. The tendency for students to not turn on webcams removes this valuable tool from educators. We can’t see how our students are doing. This, more than anything, I had missed.

It isn’t just about understanding or not. There are other visual queues to respond too. There were some clear points at which I could see students were a bit overwhelmed, worried or even frightened of the expectations ahead. However, in seeing this, I was also able to reassure them that we would support them to get there. They have a wall to climb, but we’ll help them build a ladder.

My final reflection focuses on energy. I’m well used to being on campus with my regular three days now part of my schedule. I had previously found it a tiring transition when I first adjusted from vegetating at home to being in the office. But I was past that. At least the main hit. Teaching, however, did exhaust me more than I expected. It takes a lot of physical energy. Standing, gesturing, thinking, watching, projecting my voice — as much as I loved my first session, I was sure tired after!!!

My advice to anyone easing back into campus is to be prepared. Getting out of the home for working is tiring. It’s an even bigger hit when you throw in some lectures.

The development of university teachers vs. the learning developer

Today I had the pleasure of starting my Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PCAP). As a learning developer, my journey is atypical to the peers on my course. This article serves as my first reflection about this. Our first reading was Kugel’s (2006) How professors develop as teachers. Kugel discusses a typical development pathway for lecturers — moving from an understanding of how to teach students towards an understanding of how to support their learning. In this, there are six stages, each characterised by the changing focus as lecturers develop their practice:

The transition from teaching to learning

This model was interesting. Kugel discussed how new teachers tend to focus on themselves as they begin to teach. They move towards solidifying their own discipline knowledge before starting to take into account students. These initial changes focus on teaching. The understanding of students develops, acknowledging them as receptive, then active learners. These later stages begin to focus on learning above teaching. Finally there is an understanding of learners as independent — with the core role of the teaching being to support students to teach themselves.

While I can see much in this model, it’s an interesting reflection for me as a learning developer.

The primary role of a learning developer is to help learners achieve that end goal — independence. While there are many nuances to this, ultimately learning developers are aim to work with students to help them develop their own autonomy and self-sufficiency. So… do learning developers really jump to the final stage of Kugel’s model?

Perhaps. At least at first. As a new practitioner starting in the learning development field 9 years ago, I feel I started from day 1 as a practitioner supporting this goal. Perhaps somewhat light in the tools I had at my disposal – but a focus on independent learning all the same. What I didn’t realise was that learning development itself had an underlying literature I needed to understand. As such, I perhaps worked backwards through some of Kugel’s model. I had to back-step and develop myself and my disciplinary knowledge to ultimately make me better at supporting that learning.

That backwards learning was important. It made me appreciate the diverse ways in which most academic tasks can be achieved. Without this understanding, there can be a focus on promoting your practices — or at least a narrow range. Inclusive higher education practices should never aim to reproduce yourself. More importantly, it required me to understand what teaching means, and how in reality, it wasn’t really that important in most learning development encounters. Indeed, it wasn’t even something I did that much. That brings me to my last reflection on this paper.

This final reflection relates to ‘teaching’ itself. The paper focused on teaching alone. However, as educations, we have more tools than teaching alone. As learning developers we are coaches. We are mentors. We are cheerleaders – and yes! Sometimes teachers. Yet, teaching isn’t everything. It is just part of the story.

Learning development and student narratives – Professor Shân Wareing

Professor Shân Wareing delivered an incredibly relevant and interesting keynote today at the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) Conference. Here are my notes (in mindmap format) from this session, which include elements of the discussion and wider definitions:

See link below for accessible, linear download

The University Library Emerges

Britain’s two oldest universities prove good examples of the first university libraries. The University of Oxford’s first library emerged in 1320 as part of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin (Bodleian Libraries, 2016). This continues to represent the link between early academic libraries and religion as discussed above. It was not until 1488 that this was replaced with the Duke Humfrey’s  Library and even then, it was housed in the second storey of the Divinity School (Pugh, 2000). This library was named after the Duke for his generous donation of 281 manuscripts (Summit, 2008; Bodleian Libraries, 2016). This early academic library was not the most hospitable place. The room was poorly lit, functionally furnished and all of the books were secured with chains (Pugh, 2000). What follows is a reflection on such spaces and what they would be like to study in.

The lone scholar sat on a hard bench in the poorly lit room. He was using one of the lecterns which were all set at a right angle to the windows. The light this provided varied with the sun and once again he found himself straining to see the hand-written pages in the dim light. The library was not heated so the cold had begun to sink into his aching bones. The uncomfortable furniture of the library was not helping the matter.

He was studying from a large manuscript that was, like all other materials firmly chained to the desk. This was of course to ensure the books were kept save but would not allow him to move the volume to somewhere with more light. He should not complain. No, he would not complain. Access to these precious leather-bound volumes was a real privilege, a luxury courtesy of his membership of the university. Still, it was with some surprise that he realised he was still the only student in the room. The same as the previous day.

While the library presented a valuable resource, it was not the most welcoming place. In fact to anyone not interested in the collection this library was awful. No natural light. No heating. The constant vigilance from the scholars charged with the protection of the books. Everything was make of hard, dark wood and nothing was comfortable. This was not a space that was used by many.

Based on (Pugh, 2000; Bodleian Libraries, 2016)

Duke Humfrey’s Library only lasted 60 years and was purged in 1550 as part of the attempt to clear the English church of all references to Catholicism, it was rescued in 1598 by and offer from Thomas Bodley (Bodleian Libraries, 2016). He pledged to refurbish the university library and procure books for it (Philip, 1983; Pugh, 2000). This was amid the rise of libraries across Europe, with some scholars arguing that this was the “age of the libraries” as it was at this point the focus moved form library as collection to the library as a specific space (Summit, 2008:11). Unsurprisingly Bodley’s offer was quickly accepted by the Vice-Chancellor of the university (Philip, 1983).

Roman Kirillov (CC BY-SA 3.0) – WikiCommons

Bodley’s refurbishments made to the library included the installation of new shelves, chains and locks, with the work completed by mid-1600 (Philip, 1983), enabling Bodley to focus on procurement of books. Much of the initial collection resulted from donations of money and books, demonstrating the importance of philanthropy in the development of such libraries.  The new library opened in 1602 (Bodleian Libraries, 2016; Taylor et al., 2016). To assert the importance of preservation, this new library required readers to take the following ‘Bodleian oath’ before being allowed access:

“You promise and solemnly engage before God… that whenever you shall enter the public library of the University, you will frame your mind to study in modesty and silent, you will use the books and other furniture in such manner that they may last as long as possible. Also that you will [not] steal, change, make erasures, deform, tear, cut, write notes in, interline, wilfully spoilt, obliterate, defile, or in any other way retrench, ill-use, wear away or deteriorate and book or books, nor authorised any other person to do the like.”  (Clapinson, 2006 reproduced in Pettegree, 2015:80-81)

This oath is an interesting insight into the importance of preservation. Over twelve words are used to identify every possible form of damage a book could undertake to ensure the reader swears against it and a version of this oath is still in use today (Goodall & Britten, 2012).  Pettegree (2015) notes that previously, libraries had been places for discussion and it was this oath that introduced the new emphasis on silence. According to Pettegree (2015: 81) it is here that the “long decent into silence” began.

Since then the library has developed over subsequent years, spanning several buildings/libraries, becoming a library of legal deposit and an internationally regarded institution (Bodleian Libraries, 2016). Gained in 1610, the status of legal deposit allowed the library to receive any published volume in the United Kingdom that it requests and this status remains today (Bodleian Libraries, 2016; British Library, 2017).

There is a similar story at the University of Cambridge University of Cambridge (2016), where in the 1300s the university stored its books in chests within the university treasury, with the university building its first library around 1410. Similar to Oxford, Cambridge suffered book purges, but later grew from strength to strength, becoming a library of legal deposit and world renowned library (University of Cambridge, 2016). For both libraries, this growth was slow, especially as heating and artificial lighting were not widely available until 1800-1900.

The problems and purges of the sixteenth century were more troublesome than the brief history above suggests. First, the growth of printed books allowed scholars to easily create their own up-to-date collections of books, often more relevant that the books donated to the university libraries (Pettegree, 2015). The greater challenge perhaps was reflected in the purges hinted at above. As the conflicts between Catholicism and Evangelicals grew, library spaces found the themselves subject to the will of whichever faction was in power (Pettegree, 2015). This led to regular searches for anything deemed heretical or forbidden so such materials could be destroyed. This led to the eventual closures of both libraries in the middle of the sixteenth century, even including the disposal of the books and furniture at Oxford.

Academic libraries have a 700-year history due to these universities and this very brief history has demonstrated that crisis, redevelopment and reconceptualization is something libraries have had to deal with for hundreds of years. It is important however to reflect on what these libraries were like as spaces. There is some evidence that suggests the library customs of Oxford and Cambridge Universities directly followed monastic customs (Mullinger, 1907-21). This would in particular regard the preservation of books and their protections. As suggested in the histories above, as spaces they were not particular hospitable. The early libraries of these two universities defined the very first academic libraries.

 

Bibliography

Bodleian Libraries (2016) History of the Bodleian. Available online: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/bodley/about-us/history [Accessed 14/04/2016].

British Library (2017) Introduction to Legal Deposit. Available online: http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/legaldeposit/introduction/ [Accessed.

Goodall, H. & Britten, N. (2012) Bodleian Library considers lending books after 410 years, Telegraph.2012 [Online]. Available online: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9327429/Bodleian-Library-considers-lending-books-after-410-years.html, [Accessed 15/06/2017].

Mullinger, J. B. (1907-21) The Foundation of Libraries, in Ward, A. W. & Waller, A. R. (eds), English Prose And Poetry Sir Thomas North To Michael Drayton. The Cambridge History Of English And American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pettegree, A. (2015) The Renaissance Library and the Challenge of Print, in Crawford, A. (ed), The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 72-90.

Philip, I. (1983) The Bodleian Library in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Pugh, S. (2000) The Problem of Light in Duke Humfrey’s Library. The Paper Conservator, 24(1), 13-25.

Summit, J. (2008) Memory`s Library: Medieval Books in Early Modern EnglandUniversity Of Chicago Press.

Taylor, S., Whitfield, M. & Barson, S. (2016) The English Public Library 1850-1939. Available online: https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/iha-english-public-library-1850-1939/heag135-the-english-public-library-1850-1939-iha.pdf/ [Accessed 14/04/2017].

University of Cambridge (2016) History of Cambridge University Library. Available online: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/about-library/history-cambridge-university-library [Accessed 14/04/2017].

Attending an online conference: The ALT Winter Conference 2017

This week I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Winter Conference. This free conference was entirely online, delivered via a series of parallel sessions. Webinars, Twitter chats and wildcard sessions formed the basis for these sessions, with a good mixture of each across both days. It was my first time taking part in an online conference and so I wanted to reflect on the format here. Technologically, I thought BlackBoard Collaborate Ultra served for the webinars very well and it was nice to experience this first hand. I usually use Adobe Connect in my own practice so it’s always nice to see another system working.

The first thing that is important to note is that I attended from my open plan office at work. This of course makes a difference as I was surrounded by colleagues, and I was fitting conference sessions in alongside other work commitments. This means I wasn’t fully dedicating all my time to the event, which is a very different experience to being at an actual conference where you are fully immersed. This had advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, I was able to take part in the first place. I simply would not of had the time or money to travel to any conference at this time of year. On the negative, I felt it was not as good a networking opportunity as face:face conferences, and, that it did not provide the same ring fenced development time that you get with being away.

It would be unfair to say networking opportunities were absent. Dialogue and interactivity was present in every parallel session. There was also the #altc hashtag on Twitter for the backchannel conversation throughout both days. However, this is no different to the opportunities afforded at any conference. What I really missed however were the little conversations after sessions, in traveling, between parallels, over coffee, throughout lunch, at evening events and through drinks. I find a lot of the benefit of traditional conferences can be found around the formal programme, not just within it. I should note, the conference did have an always-on cafe for conversation. It was just empty the couple of times I tried to visit. Perhaps Twitter was the better forum?

Pacing the conference around work activities was fairly easy, and I imagine I was not the only person doing this. This did mean some times of day were perhaps busier than others, but this could have been depended on the sessions. The only frustrating thing about attending remotely is the clash between a very useful parallel and a work activity. Of course the work activity takes precedence! It just always tends to coincide alongside the one session you really wanted to see.

The aspect of time away is a difficult one. One of the things I like about a traditional conference is the mental break you get. The time away. The opportunity to focus on self-development, learning, thinking, networking, idea sharing, collaborating and more. The day job, research, writing or whatever else you are doing is placed on hold. Not forgotten, but you put yourself in a different space away. I’m not saying this is absent in an online conference, but because there is a tendency to take part from home or work, it is not the same kind of break. As above, this is advantageous as it means work does not need to stop for your to take part. But it prevents gains in some areas.

While I missed the face to face elements, I think this kind of conference is a fantastic opportunity. As I stated above, I would not have been able to take part were this a traditional conference. I also liked that I did not have to dedicate two whole days and travel to this. While I would usually gladly do this for any conference; work, my research, volunteering and general life are too busy to take all that time out! I’d like to extend a thanks to anyone running a session I attended at the conference. They were all engaging and I look forward to enacting some of this stuff in practice. Huge thanks to ALT too for putting it all together and making it possible.

Maybe I should also celebrate the fact an online conference helped me avoid a few wet days!

The bitesized EdD: Finding slots of time for a professional doctorate

Over the last few weeks I’ve been able to find more time for EdD writing (and reading). This hasn’t been large chunks of time, but just making better use of the small pieces of time I would usually waste.

It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling a doctorate needs whole days and afternoons of time. Yes. This helps. But actually, small bits of time really add up. Finding a couple of fifteen or twenty minute windows per day easily leads to a few hours over the week. This is where I’m finding my time.

I’ve been able to get a good twenty minutes on a fair few mornings to squeeze in some work. Instead of waiting for weekends or a whole free evening, I’ve found additional EdD time by squeezing in an extra hour or two on a few week nights. This hasn’t really impacted my personal life as I’ve fit this in after my fiancé goes to bed.

Being able to pick up work in small chunks like this requires a lot of discipline. It’s hard to put the work down after a few minutes. But when you have only twenty minutes – that is what you have to do! It also means you need to jump into productivity quickly and get yourself used to picking up where you left off quickly. This also requires discipline and practice.

I find technology really helps with this. Microsoft Word handily tells me where I left off. One Drive allows me to pick up work on any Mac, computer or iPad tablet. OneNote keeps my notes available everywhere. EndNote lets me take my library with me. All of these tools together allow me to quickly pick up bits of work. Quite often, I find OneNote is the largest enabler. I can quickly pick up some reading and make some notes or record some thoughts.

Track changes and Microsoft Word comments are also a great way to keep up with where I left off. One thing I’ve yet to try is a recommendation for @JaxBartram, she recommended always ending mid sentence. The idea being it is always easier to pick up work mid-sentence than it is to start afresh.

One one way to see if that works!

Home Office

Digital Transformation – responding to the challenge in academic libraries (Northern Collaboration 2017)

Today I attended my first Northern Collaboration Conference, with the added pleasure of delivering a workshop with Mike Ewen. This conference had the added bonus of being relevant for both work purposes and for my EdD research. The conference theme, Digital Transformation – responding to the challenge in academic libraries certainly aligned across work and research interests, with a good mix of educational technology thrown into the mix.

Digital transformation is a very topical theme for academic libraries, with the conference website presenting the following definition Brian Solis

“the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”

In the library context, this definition really highlights the role of technology and related business models in the engagement of students throughout their student journey. This of course is very topical, and something my thesis touched on in guise of space. The conference theme and its constituent parts were really well brought together and contextualised in the closing keynote from Anne Horn (Director of Library Services, University of Sheffield). Anne highlighted how libraries are embodying such digital transformation(s) through:

  • service enhancement
  • energising our teaching
  • enriching library spaces
  • developing staff digital capabilities
  • utilising new digital processes, channels and platforms
  • pioneering new technology.

In her keynote, I particularly enjoyed the speculation on new technological megatrends and their potential impact on the library sector. With augmented reality, the internet of things, automation, robotics, personal assistants, big data, data visualisation, artificial intelligence, information exchange, makerspaces and wearables all featuring in the discussion. It could certainly be an interesting future for libraries. A great deal of this will depend what technological hypes settle into the mainstream edtech.

I think one thing we can be confident in, is that libraries will be still here (or, at least for some time yet!). Anne gave an interesting angle to the argument. As often said, there was conjecture that libraries would die as paper books and journals diminished in a world of eBooks and eReaders. This did not happen – and will not happen anytime soon. It was here that Anne’s argument got interesting. We are in a world where Uber can be a global leader in taxi transport provision – yet it does not own a single car. Airbnb is a leading hotelier without owning a single premises. So it has to be suggested. Can libraries not continue to exist in a world where they may not own the content (particularly with the vast quantity available freely on the internet)? This begs the question “What is worth owning… the platform or the underlying asset” (Schwab, 2017). Libraries are perhaps another industry that presents a platform more powerful than the assets it provides access to.

I strongly believe that as long as libraries continue to provide compelling services and spaces (both physical and online), they will always have a popular and needed platform, even if it does not directly own informational assets.

I will leave my conference discussion here for now. I would just like to add that I thoroughly enjoyed the parallel sessions that I attended throughout the day from the University of York, Sheffield Hallam, University of Bolton, Open University and University of Sheffield. All were very thought provoking and I believe they will feed into my wider digital literacy and general skills provision work, particularly online. Thanks to the organisers for a wonderful conference.

p.s. Mike and I intend to collaborate on a blog soon to review our session in a bit more detail.

Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert 2017-2018

 

Monday this week I had the great pleasure of receiving an email from Microsoft to congratulate me on being selected as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) for 2017-2018. This was a wonderful surprise, following my application submission earlier this year. The application process involved putting together a PowerPoint Mix or Sway to overview my work. I chose to create a small portfolio in Sway which was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the last academic year. Now I am part of the MIEE programme I look forward to continuing to model the use of Microsoft technologies for learning and teaching. More importantly, I look forward to training and supporting colleagues in their own use of Microsoft technology for learning and teaching.

The year ahead

The MIEE status stays with me for a year and over this time I’ve been thinking about what I want to work on. Like any other commitment I take, I took to Twitter to outline my plans for the year:

As outlined in my tweet, I have three areas I want to work on and in this blog I’ll add a fourth – my own CPD.

Sways and Mixes

I think Sways and Mixes are fantastic educational tools. I especially love how I can quickly create a Mix in PowerPoint. While I can use more complicated tools, they take valuable time. Time I don’t have. For Sway – I love the dynamic and responsive nature. They work really well for content heavy pages that need to be accessible on any size of screen. The ability to set image focus points always ensures the most important elements of any diagram are preserved no matter what device someone is on. I am looking forward to getting some Mixes and Sways online.

Support colleagues with digital literacy and Microsoft 365

Over the last couple of years I’ve been doing a lot of work on digital literacy. My work over the last few months with Microsoft Office 365 and a whole range of Microsoft tools and apps (Learning Tools, Sway, Office Lens, Snip, PowerPoint Mix) has brought new perspectives to this work. Having built my own expertise through practice, I’m now looking forward to supporting colleagues developing their use of Microsoft educational tools, apps and Microsoft Office too. I’m also keen to update some of my existing resources with the latest tech solutions.

Promoting OneNote

OneNote has long been a component of Microsoft Office. It is however, often in the shadow of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I think it is one of the most undervalued aspects of the office suite and I always love introducing users to it. Often, students have OneNote installed on their computer but have never even opened it. I want to try and promote it more within my own institution. I think OneNote combined with Office Lens is the perfect solution to all a students note taking needs! Additional aspects of this including further experimentation with Class Notebooks, and I look forward to seeing how they can replace some wikis I am currently using in the VLE.

CPD

Technology is always developing and I aim to keep myself up-to-date on any new tools Microsoft release, and any updates to existing tools. I’m also keen to continue developing my knowledge through the Microsoft Educator Community.