This highly visual post comprises a gallery of my observations and thoughts on my first visit to the University of Northampton. You can jump in by clicking a photo below to see captions and titles that detail the photo and why I’ve shared it. I hope you enjoy seeing my journey through the Learning Hub as part of attending the ALDinHE Conference.
I’ve recently just made it back home from a conference. While I was there, I mind mapped the keynotes – something I have done at previous events. I received some really nice feedback on these and thought it would be nice to write up a quick guide of how to do it!
The first thing you need to do is decide on a medium. While you can hand draw them, you generally need a very big sheet of paper – so unless you’ve got a wall to hand, software if your best bet. There are LOADS of mind mapping tools, both free and paid for. Biggerplate has a ranked list of mind mapping software on their website. I personally use iMindMap. While most software has a broadly similar feature set, I feel iMindMap has a couple of unique modes. Most importantly, I think the maps it produces are the most aesthetically pleasing. If you’re going to do this – it may as well by pretty!
If you go digital, you’ll probably find it faster if you have access to a keyboard. This can either be a laptop, or a tablet with keyboard cover or bluetooth keyboard.
Practice the method
No matter what tool you are using, paper or software – you must practice. You need to be very confident with the process of creating a mindmap, especially when you are doing this for a keynote or lecture. This is because you need to be fast. If you’re not used to the software or the process, your notes will be slow and the mindmap will hinder your notes – not help them.
I think mind mapping from existing notes or book chapters is an excellent place to start. If you are using software, it will help you with the map format. If you are going hand-drawn, the iMindMap website has a great page on the technique and a fully detailed PDF guide that goes into the science. Still – I recommend the software!
At some point you need to practice mind mapping a live event. It’s best to do this for something recorded or something that doesn’t really matter. As this is your first event based map – you may miss some points or not be as quick as you need. Don’t rely on this approach until you’re confident with it!
Practice with the software is particularly important. They all tend to be pretty intuitive, but it is best to practice capturing at speed.
Mind mapping a live event
This bit assumes you are confident with mapping:
When you are mind mapping an event, you need to focus on getting everything down. You should try and make sure you get things into the correct hierarchy and tree – but don’t worry if you don’t quite manage this. The beauty of software is that you can copy/paste/move things around easily. If you decide to go for a paper map, you may need to make a tidier version once you’ve finished.
Don’t worry too much about the overall structure. As your map grows through the event you will get a better idea of the more important elements. Then you can begin to re-order things as you go. If your software supports multiple ‘central ideas’, or concept mapping, it may be easier to split/move your tree around afterwards.
Whatever you do – do not focus on branch shaping and location. Let your map be messy! At the end of the event you can reshape everything and move it to where it needs to be. Do not let this distract you from capture as you can only do that in the event. Smartening things up is a job for later.
You will find most software has an automatic structuring feature, snapping feature or ‘clean up’ feature. This will keep everything in some form of order as you go. The software I use, iMindMap has a really good clean up feature that tidies things up and makes sure everything is legible and in its own space. If you’re working from a single central idea, it also has a special capture mode that explicitly lets you focus on getting things down – and not on structure.
If you want to include images or photos in your mindmap, these can be done afterward – or as you go along. It tends to be easier to do this afterwards, but if you’re quick, it is nice to capture as you go along to ensure images are in the correct place. I do this a lot when capturing slides that I embed inside my map. As I have an iPhone and a MacBook Pro this is an easy process. I use Microsoft Office Lens to capture board pictures and then use AirDrop to send it to the MacBook and then into the software. That sounds like a fair process – but it is quite quick with practice!
As an example, here is an initial screenshot from the capture and another towards the end:
This final version is finished after the event. I spend time tweaking the branches and central ideas so everything fits. Sometimes I add in a few more links, reflections or questions to further reflect my thinking. Checking spelling and grammar comes at this point too, as does the inclusion of additional images.
Here is my MindMap summary of John Hilsdon’s keynote talk at the Annual Learning Development in Higher Education Conference 2018:
Download version: Learning Development: pedagogy, principles and progress
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.
— Lee Fallin (@LeeFallin) 13 December 2017
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!
— Lee Fallin (@LeeFallin) 13 December 2017
Do some of the common conceptualizations of student engagement overshadow what is really important? This post will somewhat (intentionally) overstate an argument, but I want to summarise some of the discussions from the SRHE Conference with the respect of ‘student engagement’. It has been argued that in the UK context, ‘student engagement’ has been under-theorised (Gourlay, 2016). This is not to say there is no theory. Trowler (2010) has demonstrated some diversity in how ’student engagement’ is understood and while this isn’t surprising for any ideal in academia, it is suprising how rarely it is defined in use. To consider one such definition, Trowler (2010) introduces ‘student engagement’ as:
concerned with the interaction between the time, effort and other relevant resources invested by both students and their institutions intended to optimise the student experience and enhance the learning outcomes and development of students and the performance, and reputation of the institution
Still doesn’t really say much…
At the SRHE conference, many speakers suggested that outside the UK context, ’student engagement’ is better theorised and this is reflected in Trowler’s (2010) introduction, arguing the term is more established in the North America and Australian literature. Perhaps the problem with the term in the UK is that it is associated too heavily with league tables, metrics and university advertising.
So why is ’student engagement’ a dangerous concept? In her session, Gourlay exemplified ’student engagement’ with the use of Coats (2007) definition. This is because it is a widely used definition, which constructs student engagement as “a broad construct intended to encompass salient academic as well as certain non-academic aspects of the student experience” (Coates, 2007:122). This is :
- active and collaborative learning;
- participation in challenging academic activities;
- formative communication with academic staff;
- involvement in enriching educational experiences;
- feeling legitimated and supported by university learning communities.
All of these words focus on participation with others. This is problematic for many reasons but I want to focus on two:
1 | Where is learning?
Okay, so this isn’t just learning. It’s to do with everything related to education. Most definitions of student engagement focus too much on process and do not necessarily make learning, knowledge application and knowledge creation clear. Surely the most important aspects of student engagement is engagement with learning? There are often too many references in the ‘student engagement’ literature to wider and extra curricular activities/experiences. Yes – all of this may be an important part of higher education, but it isn’t the sum of higher education.
2| It’s all interaction
‘Student engagement’ focuses too much on interaction between students, staff and others. To engage students (or for them to be engaged) there must be some physical or measurable interaction. They must actively participate. This could be group work with others, discussions with the lecturer or participation in a debate. Perhaps attending lectures alone is enough to class as engaged in some situations! In the world of metrics and learning analytics, interaction can also include usage of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). These are all quantifiable, observable and measurable interactions. The interactions of the engaged!
But not all people want to engage like (nor do they need to all the time).
What does ‘student engagement’ hide?
The essence of ‘student engagement’ focuses on active forms of engagement (collaborative, participate and communicative learning). However, not all students learn like this – or at least not all the time. Gourlay (2016) argues learning can be placed on a spectrum:
The ‘intense’ and ‘collaborative’ forms of working very much align with the active forms of working expected within the ‘engaged student’. The problem is that this overshadows the ‘independent’ and ‘passive’ forms of working. These forms of working can be seen as ‘unengaged’ as they are counter to the active, collaborative, participative and communicative learning. Somehow along the way this has become seen as problematic for it is not representative of the ‘engaged’ student. Yet, independent, solitary work is a major part of learning in higher education. Such independent work is a vital part of assessment in higher education and, as a learning process, it enables students to grapple with their own understanding of key concepts. As suggested in Gourlay’s (2016) paper, this is problematic as an important part of the learning process has become labeled as ‘unengaged’. This a damaging perspective for something that is core to the student learning journey. Even more problematic when considered in the terms of league tables, the TEF and university marketing…
Okay. So ‘student engagement’ may not be dangerous – but it can be problematic. The focus on active and measurable engagement overshadows legitimate working practices. This is an important for consideration for anyone researching student engagement as it is far too easy to sideline learning. This is perhaps further problematic for prospective students as universities sell their courses based on the whole range engagement opportunities. While these are valuable for building student experiences and employability skills, they often neglect learning and learning support.
Coates, H. (2007) A Model of Online and General Campus-Based Student Engagement. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 32 (2), 121–141.
Gourlay, L. (2016) ‘Student engagement’ and the tyranny of participation, Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE) Annual Research Conference, 9-11 December 2016, Celtic Manor, Newport, South Wales, UK.
Trowler, V (2010) Student Engagement Literature Review. York: Higher Education Academy. Available online: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/studentengagementliteraturereview_1.pdf
Today I attended the SRHE Newer Researchers Conference at the Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales. Titled Exploring freedom and control in global higher education, the conference has been a fantastic networking opportunity to meet other researchers and look at some of the latest developments in diverse fields. The day started with an icebreaker where we got to meet everyone on our tables:
— David Adams (@David_Adams8) December 6, 2016
Which leads well onto the keynote:
Knowledge creation – a dialogic approach: the power of networks and networking, mentors and mentoring
Helen Walkington opened the conference with a very throught provoking keynote. She demonstrated the importance of dialogue in the creation of knowledge, but also stressed the importance of involving undergraduates in this. A core part of this process was the use of students as researchers, engaging undergraduates in real research-based courses that enable them to make their own discoveries.
From the library perspective, this was particularly interesting as their institutional repository was used to disseminate the student outputs (or at least those that have passed the assessment criteria). This emphasis on real and meaninful research was very interesting and it is easy to see how this can be very engaging for students. Arguably, the role of student as researcher highlights a new liminal space providing students a real taste of academia, particualrly when research outputs are later disseminated via papers and conferences.
While this summary does the session no justice, it was very useful for my work and research.
[NOTE: Take a look at Universities, the Citizen Scholar and the Future of Higher Education, this was recommended by Helen and it is something on my list now!]
The parallel sessions (which included my own contribution on rhythmanalysis) were really interesting. The first strand, research methods and methodologies contained presentations looking at diverse tools in interviews, models for research-based learning and research risks. From a work perspective I was quite interested in the card sorting, network maps and documentary analysis of the first presentation. In particular I would like to thing about how this could be analysed with software like NVivo 🙂
The next set of parallels looked at supporting student success with presentations on student leader development, perceptions of failure and mature student experiences. Choosing one again the paper on student leader develop was particualry interesting as it looked at the advantages of a monastic retreat in helping leaders develop, reconceptualise time and realise the benefit of their volunteering on others. While the context for my own work is very different, I think there is a lot of benefit to be gained from remote retreat in helping students cope with pressure.
The final session looked at educational futures including my own peresentation. This strand was interesting and featured other presentaitons considering the REF and gender conceptualisaiton in Turkey. The feedback for my own contribution was very productive and I look forward to taking some of the ideas sparked from this in my own work.
Sadly – no fire, but lots of chat. These sessions were an excellent opportunity to network with experienced researchers and get general advice. The group I was in focused heavily on work-life balance, time management and general career advice. It was good to know my concerns are not mine alone and to realise there are a whole range of pressures researchers face. It seems emails continue to be a major problem for a lot of people and it was interesting to see a number of people choose to only check their emails once a day. I’m not sure I could manage that but I am interested in the different management techniques people choose. I was also facinated by the different spaces people chose to work in and it continues to highlight the beauty of ‘finding a space to work’.
— Lee Fallin (@LeeFallin) December 6, 2016
I have already made some connections from the conference and look forward to making more at the main SRHE Conference tomorrow through to Friday. So fortunate the SRHE Newer Researchers Conference provides us with business cards.
Last week I attended both the Freedom to Learn Conference and Liberal Democrats Spring Conference. After two excellent events, it’s hard to avoid the urge to blog about freedom, education and civil liberties. They are all under threat…
This Conservative Government keeps trying to erode our civil liberties all in the name of security. They want to keep us safe. Apparently. There is no doubt that targeted surveillance of criminals should be allowed. I am not disagreeing with that, I don’t think anyone is. What I am arguing against is the wholesale collection of bulk data and essentially spying on every citizen in this country. This amount of data is dangerous and no-one should be trusted with it, least of all our government. After a string of hight profile data breaches, how can they be trusted to keep this data safe? Even if you trust a conservative government with this data, what is UKIP or Greens achieved a majority… would you be happy then? Hasn’t Snowdon’s high-profile whistleblowing demonstrated how our data is at risk?
As we live an increasingly large amount of our lives online, it is important to think of what that means. The data you share online is your communication with family and friends. It is your photographs and memories. It is your ideas and studies. It is you. Even if you have nothing to hide – do you not have something to protect? All of this stuff is precious and needs to be protected. I know the risks and benefits for engaging with this technology. I fear many young teenagers don’t. My biggest fear is that they ‘expect’ the government to spy on them to keep them safe. Is this a fair trade off? Bulk surveillance is the equivalent of the Home Office steaming open love letters sent in class. Even with this metaphor they don’t seem bothered…
This is where education comes in. While we can lobby the government, there may be no stopping Theresa May’s desire to know everything about everybody. Despite her lack of technical competence, there is a real chance the government will sink an awful lot of money to achieve the near impossible. The bulk collection of data about it’s citizens. So how can we fight back? I think education has a real power to make a difference. We need to teach, train and education our citizens to make sure they make informed choices. I share a lot of stuff about myself online. I use cloud storage. At least I don’t do this in naivety. I want everyone to know of the advantages and disadvantages of sharing their information so they can make informed choices too.
If we don’t do something, I genuinely feel we will raising a generation that expects to be observed and surveilled. The fight that we are having to protect our civil liberties is under threat unless we educate our teenagers to pick up this fight also. I am deeply concerned about the lack of education available, but maybe there is light. I had a brief opportunity to discuss this with Shami Chakrabarti and was heartened to hear there is a fight back. Some teenagers are looking carefully at what they share online and deciding against it. Some teenagers are shying away from Google and Facebook, aware of the consequences for sharing so much data with large companies. Lets hope this critical approach to sharing online is picked up by more.
So where does freedom to learn come in? Wherever our civil liberties are under treat, there is no freedom to learn. There is no freedom to debate. There is no freedom to think. Control just drives thinking underground not out in the open where it can be challenged and debated. This, if anything is the biggest threat to freedom to learn.
Helen Webster (@scholastic_rat) ran an excellent workshop on ’23 things for digital literacy’, a project she has been working on to help support PhD students and early career researchers. Like Emma, Helen hails from the University of Cambridge, source of the 23 Things Cambridge blog – “the online home of the Web 2.0 programme for University of Cambridge departmental and college librarians”. The essence of ’23 things’ is simple. You start a blog, updating it weekly. The updates are structured around a ‘thing’ of the week, introduced by the programme leader. This could be something like using wikis, twitter, LinkedIn or RSS feeds. As it is done in the individuals own time, the discovery and use of the ‘thing’ is within their own context.
What Helen has done with the project however, is to adapt it to work with research student support. Digital literacy is of great importance for any researchers and ’23 things’ is a brilliant way to break away from ICT training sessions that simply force all the students to sit at machines while some tools are dictated to them. Breaking out of this classroom, 23 things enables students to use their own equipment, helps them to learn by doing and ensures what they are doing is within the context of their own research. The crucial element is NOT the ‘thing’ itself. It is the process of engaging with a ‘thing’ and the confidence to try something new. This is important as any given tool could quickly become defunct, obsolete or even closed – as is the case with Google Reader.
The Summer School is a two-day event offering an immersive environment for staff to experience all of the tools and technologies available to them at the University and to engage in wider discussions about Technology Enhanced Learning in Higher Education.
The Summer School operates like a mini conference with invited guest speakers, parallel workshop sessions and interactive discussion groups. Attendees have plenty of opportunity to network with their colleagues and to share their own practice.
This event is open to all staff, regardless of whether you currently use technology in your teaching or not. It may also be of interest to staff who are new to the University of Kent. (University of Kent, 2013)
From the conference presentation, what they achieved seemed to have worked. I think the peer-based elements went a long way to securing this success as, from experience, involving academics helps to show the practical implications for technology. This was also seen with the use of guest presenters to provide tangible examples. Sometimes learning technologists are too abstract and this seemed a really good way to make the sessions practical.
I particularly liked the use of parallel workshops to enable staff to choose strands depending on their ability and interests. I think this is brilliant as it avoids patronising staff familiar with tools while providing those comfortable with technology the opportunity to look at more advanced stuff. I think this model has a lot of potential to break the cycle of dull workshops that no one has time to attend. Running this in summer gives staff the real potential to embed ideas into their teaching.
If you are interested and want to learn more: