Designing an Educational Superhero at the ANTF Symposium

Today I’m attending the 2024 Association of National Teaching Fellows Symposium and I am looking forward to a day of inspirational speakers. I’m primarily here to present the work I’m doing on an ANTF-funded project as part of a plenary panel later today. Although – as an aspiring National Teaching Fellow (NTF), the day is an excellent opportunity to connect with like-minded colleagues.

While I missed day one due to other commitments, I was fortunate enough to make last night’s Gala Dinner. Other than reconnecting with friends and meeting new people, the dinner was an excellent opportunity to get crafty! The Gala Dinner was joined by Prof. Liz Mossop NTF, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, who set us off on an activity: Create your own Educational Superhero. Here is mine –

An educational superhero made from lollypop sticks for a body, sticky gems for decoration, googly eyes and pipe cleaners for arms.

For anyone who knows my work, it won’t be a surprise to see this superhero is focused on Equity. It has a BIG heart for empathy, reflecting my work around design thinking. There are big eyes so they can see what is going on, spotting opportunities to move education from ‘equality’ to equity. My favourite piece is the giant mallet – a tool to knock through the barriers that face students and the ???????? excuses that prevent them from being addressed. Oh – and the pink sparkly shoes are to bring a bit of fabulousness.

Perhaps I should call my superhero “The Educational Equaliser”.

Using prompt engineering to find out what GTP-4 knows about you

Last night, @S_J_Lancaster suggested we ask GTP4 to:

Say something profound and insightful about the impact of AI large language models in higher education in the style of a @RacePhil collaboration with @ProfSallyBrown #lthechat

Well… I couldn’t help but give it a go! I copied Simon’s tweet and used it as the prompt for GTP-4. Here is the response:

In the harmonious melding of @RacePhil’s emphasis on assessment and feedback, and @ProfSallyBrown’s dedication to transformative learning experiences, the advent of AI large language models in higher education serves as a catalyst for innovation and equity.

As digital companions, these AI models foster an environment where learning transcends traditional boundaries, enriching the educational tapestry with the threads of diverse perspectives and personalized support. Empowering students and educators alike, these models facilitate the co-creation of knowledge, nurturing critical thinking and adaptability, essential skills for the ever-evolving landscape of the 21st century.

However, we must remain vigilant in the face of potential ethical pitfalls, ensuring that the AI-driven future of higher education is built on a foundation of transparency, fairness, and inclusivity. By mindfully integrating AI into pedagogical practices, we can harness its transformative potential to augment human intellect, democratize access to quality education, and inspire a generation of lifelong learners. #lthechat

GTP-4

I was honestly surprised it managed to do it!

This raises a serious question:

What does GTP-4 know about us?

Read More

List of Generative AI Tools

This post lists the leading Generative AI tools that produce outputs based on natural language text prompts. This page is inspired by @aaronsiim’s Generative AI list, but focuses on the text-based tools and provides accessible links to them.

Text-based tools

Text-to-audio

These tools turn text into audio using AI to produce more human-like speech, including tone and inflexion.


Text-to-code

These tools can turn text-to-code or can be used to complete/suggest parts of code based on what is already done.


Text-to-image

These tools use natural language prompts to create an image.


Text-to-text

These tools use natural language text prompts to generate text (and are perhaps the most famed!).


Text-to-video

These tools use natural language prompts to make video (often inclusive of speech).


Learning Development in a Time of Disruption

This blog post shares my latest conference poster titled: Learning Development in a Time of Disruption. This poster presents the research I have undertaken for my Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PCAP). This full version of the poster is hosted on the National Teaching Repository and can be accessed below:

Poster for Learning Development in a Time of Disruption. The alternative audio and textual version of this poster is linked in the caption of this image.
You can Download the PDF copy, or read the Accessible Linear & Audio Version via this blog.

Abstract

The Covid-19 Pandemic had (and continues to have) a significant, worldwide impact on Higher Education. This research project analysed a special issue of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (JLDHE) to identify how third space professionals respond to this challenge.

The special issue of JLDHE contained 102 peer-reviewed reflections, identifying numerous challenges and responses to teaching in Covid-19. All reflections were analysed using structural, topic and thematic coding to identify common responses and challenges to pandemic teaching.

The findings of this study have identified a range of individual and shared challenges for both students and third space professionals. One of the core findings relates to the diversity of responses that have been designed to meet these challenges, with over 100 distinct pedagogic and technical solutions to pandemic teaching. From these, five core themes have emerged: emergency remote teaching; reflective practice and evaluation; pedagogy and technology support; collaboration and shared practice; and, course design for the long-term.

There are four core implications for future practice. Firstly, it is important to develop flexible policies and procedures to allow practice to develop in times of disruption. Secondly, rich educational research and case studies can support innovative and adaptive practices in times of disruption. Thirdly, university staff need support and training to ensure online pedagogies and technology are supported. Finally, reflective practice and evaluation are required to ensure continuous monitoring and improvement.

Keywords: Covid-19, Higher Education, pandemic, teaching, third space professionals

Serious games for learning, collaboration and knowledge exchange

This somehow failed to publish in May – but better late than never eh?

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending a Flood Resilience Workshop designed to help inform best practices in flood recovery. One of the distinctive parts of this session was that the substantive part of it was based around a board game. The Flood Recovery Game was built to facilitate dialogue with flood recovery stakeholders. With representatives from the Environment Agency, major insurers, Fire and Rescue, academics and more — it definitely delivered.

The Flood Recovery Game is a ‘serious game’ – serious as it is a learning and debate tool. There were several modes of play, all getting players to consider different scenarios and how they would deploy scarce resources. Money, emergency services, volunteers, council workers and recovery workers could be deployed to address the scenario. As the game developed, those resources became more scarce — and were deployed in different forms.

The games begin!

For the entire morning, we worked through The Flood Recovery Game in groups. The game started off with in quite an idealistic response. Resources were fairly unlimited — and you could deploy what you wanted. It reminded me a bit of those card games where all players pitch a response to a given scenario. The winner is chosen by the rest of the table, voting on their preferred response. The game starts to ramp up difficulty where resources become ‘spent’ and you start to earn random resources back. At this point it’s important to collaborate, especially when you have an uneven hand. At one point, I had lots of money and workers – but no council workers or emergency services, I just had to support the plans of others – but to their success!

I think my favourite modes of play came later in the game. At that stage, resources become finite and you don’t get them back (even at random)! At these end stages of the game, you get to role play one of the key stakeholders – the council, business, insurers, flood groups, NGOs, emergency workers and others. This is played on the second side of the board (see below) and gave much more opportunity for bartering resources.

The Flood Recovery Board Game. The game is based on cards that are played in response to flood scenarios.
The Flood Recovery Game

Reflecting on the game

I really enjoyed working with the others on my table. I was along to bring an ‘educational perspective’ – I’m still not 100% sure what that meant — but my geographical background and experience with local political really helped me get stuck in. I even won the first part of the game (?). Collaborating with a student, an academic, a representative from Fire and Rescue and an insurer made for really interesting dialogue. Some of the participants noted that it was an excellent conversation starter and wanted to try it outside the Humberside region (we’re not bad for flood awareness apparently!).

One of the more useful aspects of this game was the opportunity to identify gaps – and perhaps, opportunities (see below). For example, our group identified a potential to leverage Fire and Rescue data to help Insurance Companies priorities their response to vulnerable customers. With some legal consideration or consent – that data could make all the difference in a disaster. There is even potential for that idea to leave the session — and there is an example of how the session also worked as a form of knowledge exchange. It allowed academic knowledge to breach the walls of the university to a place it could impact people, business and government.

Flip chart paper pads to identify gaps in flood response
GAP! Identifying gaps

Games in my practice

Developing games like this take a lot of time – and money too! Fancy printed boxes, boards and game cards don’t come cheap. For this reason, I’ve never had the inclination to develop something like these, even though I’ve always believed them to be pedagogically effective (considering teaching at this point). The quality of the discussion from playing the Flood Recovery Game, however, has made me consider their potential for teaching critical thinking. I’ve seen many structured approaches for debate, teamwork and so in from a business context — there is clearly educational potential too. I’d certainly like to see a criticality game – may provide an alternative approach to just another workshop.

Children's hands - togetherness and friendship

World Children’s Day: What my little one’s think

Today is World Children’s Day – designed to promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide to focus on improving children’s welfare.

The theme for this year is inclusion for every child, calling on children to stand up for a more inclusive world. As a father of three adoptive children, my little ones that have experienced some of the hurt and harm that World Children’s Day hopes to highlight and stop. I’ve asked them for their thoughts.

The three-year-old

Boring

Three-year-old

To be fair, this one isn’t very well and didn’t want to engage. That’s okay – because the issue is about empowering children to have a voice. On this occasion – they’re saying no, and we can respect that.


The five-year-old

I don’t really know about this. But I think we’ve learned about this. It was before the weekend.

Listening is respect. If we say something, grown ups should always listen. But if daddy says something, we should do that straight away.

For children’s health. If children don’t eat, they won’t grow.

Five-year-old

It’s good to see this topic has been engaged with before. It was very cute for them to pick up on listening and respect.

It’s funny they mentioned listening to us as daddies, as that doesn’t work in practice. Suffice it to say – they certainly feel like they can represent their voice when asked to do something. It is interesting to reflect on that, though isn’t it – the impression that a grown-up is listened to without question, but maybe not the child. Obviously – they often need to listen without question for their safety – but sometimes their voice is essential. It’s a hard balance, and I can only hope I empower them to have that voice safely.

Totally not surprised to see health represented via food – it’s their obsession.


The six-year-old

Well. I think it is a really special day as – it might be about – like – how people believe in children.

Children can – Well. Grown-ups protect children. Need to make sure they have food, and are warm, and are safe, and make sure we brush our teeth, and have shoes on outside, and make sure we don’t have nits.

Mental health is also about children. Like when a child is talking, and someone else wants to talk, they need to wait until they stop talking.

Also. Like if I was a teenager, but you said don’t go too far – then I did and got lost. Someone could take me. If people did that they would be in trouble with the police.

Six-year-old

Children’s safety was forefront here – which perhaps represents how we’ve had to introduce some ideas of parental roles (in contrast to their previous life experience).

It was funny to see that represented in teenage reflections too. We’re a long way off that age – but it’s important to also reflect on maintaining that respect and care for older children too.

International Men's Day display from the University of Hull Library

International Men’s Day

I was asked by the University’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Team to write something for International Men’s Day. I’d like to share this here too:

If you had spoken to me about the importance of International Men’s Day a few years ago, I would have probably scowled or rolled my eyes. For years I had never felt the need for a dedicated day to raise the profile of men’s issues. As a man, I had never felt underrepresented, and I never felt society set up barriers for me. Even as a gay man, I’ve experienced little discrimination – though I accept that it is far from the norm. With the power of hindsight, I readily admit my disdain for International Men’s Day was based on both ignorance and my privileged and unproblematic upbringing. Here I reflect on its importance.

I had a strong role model in my own father, someone who not only portrayed the strength people associate with men, but an openness and willingness to talk about anything. We discussed how we felt; I was encouraged to do what made me happy (masculine or not), and it was okay to show weakness. I was never shouted at as a child and never experienced any violence. When, as an adult, I introduced my father to my boyfriend, my father showed me nothing but love and acceptance.

This is not the case for everyone.

I have volunteered in local politics and knocked on doors all over the city. I have volunteered as a governor at five schools and am now Chair of governors at two of them. I am a trustee of a local charity that provides grants to local organisations. I am also a Lecturer in Education, supporting the next generation of practitioners to support children, young people and families. All these experiences have affirmed the need for an International Men’s Day.

Too many children and teenagers have missing or toxic men in their lives. This is not a problem as long as male role models can be provided elsewhere. Celebrities and sports personalities only go so far. For me, the real problem is that nurseries, primary schools, care providers and other similar professions struggle to recruit men. This makes it challenging to provide young boys and men with positive and consistent male role models where they do not exist at home.

Role models

I know the importance of role models all too well, though my problem is somewhat reversed as my daughter has two dads and no mother. My husband and I have found the other women in her life are crucial to help her understand and shape her gender identity. We are fortunate to have a fantastic support network, and I can see why they say it takes a village to raise children. While my daughter is fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who love her, I worry for all the boys that don’t have similar networks of support men to help them.

I am also concerned about the toxic views of masculinity that prevent men from talking about their health and wellbeing. From self-harm and suicide to missed cancer diagnoses from not seeking help – there are severe issues with men’s health and wellbeing. As a school governor, I feel like we’re on the brink of a tsunami, with more and more young boys struggling with their wellbeing and mental health. A crisis is coming if change does not happen soon.

For me, International Men’s Day is about facing these challenges and working towards creating a better world for everyone. As a father, a lecturer, a trustee, a school governor and a citizen, I feel it is essential to embody and promote the values of International Men’s Day. It’s important to be an ally. It’s important to challenge discrimination wherever we see it. And it’s essential to weed out and challenge toxic masculinity wherever it may lie.

Official video: Helping Men and Boys

…and so it begins

Tomorrow marks my first day of teaching in my new role as Lecturer in Education Studies, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting the students I’ll be working with over the next academic year. My classes include the research and dissertation modules at both L6 and L7, which form significant milestones at the end of the UG and PGT programmes. Research philosophy and support is one of my significant areas of expertise, having supported hundreds of students across diverse programmes during my time working as a Learning Developer. I couldn’t be happier with this allocation.

What I am looking forward to the most is the opportunity to work with the same group of students beyond a single session. As a Learning Developer, I would see students in personal appointments, centrally-bookable workshops and in-programme lectures across every discipline. While this diversity was always fun – I would see so many people that it was impossible to learn names, see progression or develop those positive learner-staff relationships that build community. As a lecturer, personal supervisor and research supervisor, there will be opportunities for this. I know it won’t all be perfect – not everyone will engage or turn up – but there will be those opportunities! I think this is, perhaps, one of the most significant changes from working as a Learning Developer in the third space to being an academic member of staff. Time will tell if I’m right!

At the L6 induction, it really struck me that these students will be graduating in a year’s time. Over this academic year, I’ll have the opportunity to watch and support them in engaging in some pretty cool research projects. At the end of the year, I’ll get to see them walk across that stage. I want them to feel proud of themselves and what they have achieved. That, too, is something I wouldn’t see in the third space – or at least not in the same way.


I’ll leave this post as a quick one! This is all technically four days before my start date, and the early teaching is part of the benefit of an internal move. It’s also made the move from one role to the other super blurry. I am, however, VERY glad about this. I can’t imagine a hard start next week without any of the meetings, preparation and logistics (read: office move) of the last few weeks. I’m very glad the Library has facilitated this transition so well.

Leaving the thirdspace

For the last decade, I’ve been working in the thirdspace as a Learning Developer based within the University Library at Hull. Learning Developers work to support student learning, often working to challenge and expose the hidden curriculum to empower student success. This support is delivered in many ways and can include personal appointments, bookable workshops, online courses, resource development and in-curriculum teaching. Over my time as a Learning Developer, I regularly engaged in all these formats. It is also important to note that as a profession, Learning Development is diverse – with some based in Faculties and others in central services. Whatever that base, it is usually a defining aspect of that specific learning development role, framing the role, responsibilities and relationships that surround it.

Learning developers as thirdspace professionals

The position of Learning Development can also impact contracts – either professional or academic. Here lies the problem. Learning Development rarely aligns with the academic-professional dichotomy, and this is the same for many professions that engage in academic-related activities. This has been heavily investigated and theorised by Whitchurch (2003, 2008, 2009) as The Rise of Thirdspace Professionals.

[Thirdspace professionals include] teaching and learning professionals, research managers, learning technologists and staff in academic practice, library and information systems. The situation would therefore appear to be more complex than a straightforward ‘academic’/‘non-academic’ extrapolation from employment statistics. Although they may be classified for employment purposes as non-academic, an increasing proportion of such staff are likely to have a mix of academic and professional credentials, experience and roles.

(Whitchurch, 2003)

My life in the thirdspace

Serving as a thirdspace professional has been a hallmark of my career for the last decade. It has brought advantages allowing me to: engage across a broad range of academic disciplines, develop different forms of (non-academic) expertise and embrace networks of other thirdspace professionals. I even recently collaborated on a book chapter (in press) with a colleague that embraced the benefits of this thirdspace position. There have, however, been disadvantages. Thirdspace professionals can lack the same development and progression opportunities as academics, can have limited opportunities for scholarly practice (contractually) and rarely engage in the holistic whole of academic practice. These opportunities and challenges have characterised my practice and development for 10 years now – but this is all about to change. As I discussed in #NewJob, I’m starting as an academic in my new role: Lecturer in Education Studies. In short, I’m leaving the thirdspace in 10 days time.


The photograph at the top of this page is my empty desk in the Library. Everything is all cleared out and moved to my new office. This moment was kind of symbolic for me. For me, the empty desk represents leaving the Library, leaving colleagues and moving towards something new. BUT, one thing is clear. It isn’t only the Library that I am leaving. I’m also leaving the thirdspace.

The academic space

My new career will see me enter the academic space (whatever that is). I’m on the teaching and scholarship pathway, which should see the majority of my time spent on teaching with some space for scholarly activity – including pedagogic research. What that means in contrast to the thirdspace, I’m not sure. Some people tell me it won’t be so different. Others say it will be different – a new journey. Time will only tell what the reality will be. I look forward to sharing that journey here. ?

I opened this post with a photo of my old, empty desk. My old workspace. As this post marks the start of a new (academic) journey, it feels fitting to close the post with a photo representing that start. So, in contrast to my cleared-out desk, here I am, all set up in my new corner of the office. This is going to be my new home for a while, and I look forward to reflecting on the journey. ?

Far from the thirdspace, this photograph shows my new office. Three bookshelves sit above a computer desk with two monitors. The space is colourful with plants, books and posters.

One final note – I’m clear that this new role does not mean leaving Learning Development. As a Lecturer in Education Studies, I intend to have a scholarly interest in Learning Development, and I hope to take everything I have learned from learning development practice into my future teaching. I’ll also remain involved with ALDinHE, though accept my contributions are from a different position now.

Reference list

Whitchurch, C. (2009) The Rise of the Blended Professional in Higher Education: A Comparison between the UK, Australia and the United States. Higher Education, 58(3), 407-418.

Whitchurch, C. (2008) Shifting Identities and Blurring Boundaries: the Emergence of Third Space Professionals in UK Higher Education. Higher Education Quarterly, 62, 377-396. 

Whitchurch, C. (2003) Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The rise of Third Space professionals. Routledge.

#NewJob

Reposted from Twitter

September marks my last month working for the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull.

I am thankful for the amazing 10 years I have had there, working as a Learning Developer over a couple of different job titles. ?

From next month (October), I will join the University of Hull School of Education (@UoHEducation) as a Lecturer in Education Studies. ?

I am very excited about this career change, and the new opportunities it will bring.

Very excited

I'm still working for @HullUni_Library for the rest of this month, & when I do leave, I won't be going far.

As my new start approaches, I can't wait to work with new & old colleagues @UoHEducation. I look forward to helping teach/develop the excellent programmes they offer.

While I have worked in Higher Education for 12 years, by the end of this month, this new job will mark my first academic role and (scholarship & teaching) contract. I welcome any advice as I embrace this new journey. ?

While, on paper, this transition is a move from Learning Development, I don't see it that way. A fundamental understanding of how students learn & how the hidden curriculum undermines them is something I intend to take into my practice!

#loveLD has not seen the last of me!

In particular, I also need to thank the amazing @KEHplantsci and @DebbieHolley1 for their support and coaching. I owe both of you one. ☺

I admire how you champion and appreciate professional services. I hope to follow your example as I move into the academic world! ?

#PhDchat #HigherEd #NewLecturer #PhDlife #loveLD #CareerChange #NewJourney #NewJob #LTHEchat

Originally tweeted by Dr Lee Fallin (@LeeFallin) on September 1, 2022.