Ambassadors

On Thursday last, at Guildford College, we launched the TechDis Ambassadors programme.

The purpose of the programme is to create and develop a community of TechDis Ambassadors in the south east of England. Ambassadors can be students or staff.

Our aim is to promote and celebrate the use of technologies that help the learning process, especially for those who experience difficulties with their learning. We explored a number of these at last week’s launch event.

Three TechDis Accredited Trainers were present: myself, Sally Betts and Lilian Soon; along with three TechDis Senior Advisors (Alistair McNaught, Simon Ball and Lisa Featherstone) and two representatives from the JISC Regional Support Centre in Canterbury (Amanda Riley and Artie Vossel-Newman).

Following a quick overview of the project and brief introductions, we began with a game of Taboo!  Lilian led this, with the intention of getting everyone present working together with a common aim – it worked very well and by the end everyone was talking happily to everyone else. And smiling.

We then had introductions to a variety of easily available, easy to use and free technologies. I showed some simple techniques in Microsoft® Word that might have passed people by.

  1. Scroll Wheel+Ctrl easily increases/decreases text size (not Word specific),
  2. Web View overcomes the problem of horizontal scrolling caused by 1. above, and
  3. Drag ‘n’ Drop – using simple techniques to create an interactive resource.

Sally discussed some video creation techniques including:

Lilian, Lisa and Alistair continued the theme by showing a variety of audio creation techniques, uses for Xerte and a variety of uses for everything we had shown. By lunchtime there was a real buzz about the room and everyone was keen to speak with their appointed mentor.

I’m not sure whether ‘mentor’ capture the role properly. Certainly we are there to help, to offer guidance, to train, to be a critical friend, to keep the project on track – but in the end, each person working on the various projects will be the real stars: The TechDis Ambassadors.

You can find the TechDis Ambassadors on Facebook.
You can find the TechDis Ambassadors on Twitter – #jtdambassadors

I’m looking after five projects. All are currently working on their action plans, whilst I work on the logistics for travelling extensively across the south of England ;-).

Also see my previous post:
https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/techdis-ambassadors/

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Innovative Programmes

I was recently asked a question about innovation. .. what are some characteristics of truly innovative programs (sic) using technology ..”

I had to say that I no longer have any confidence in programmes.

Like ‘project’, the word programme conjures up something that has a defined beginning and end, and which can be put away when finished. I’m sorry to say that this is my jaundiced view of many such programmes that have taken place over the past ten years or so; there seems to be a nod in the direction of sustainability but no more.

MoleNET for example, was at its outset a truly innovative and far reaching programme. As time progressed (it lasted three years until funding stopped) its value became more widely understood and it became a catalyst for understanding the potential for pedagogical use of technology per se and not just for mobile technologies. Mobile became interactive web and then cloud; each development being incorporated into projects and disseminated via the team of MoLeNET Mentors. It was just beginning to work when the financial rug was pulled. Despite the £millions pumped into MoLeNET and its requirement for sustainability the hosting websites have disappeared from view – they don’t even show up on Google anymore. In fact the Programme administrators, LSN are no more!

I’ve been asked lots of times what innovation is and I’m not sure that I know. Not for certain. I’m sure that it means new things, useful things, exciting things? But what is the purpose of innovation? Is it simply to exhibit new, useful and shiny things or is it to see these through to mainstream acceptance and understanding? I suspect that the latter is right but that innovators get bored once mainstream gets ahold and they move on. In that case I’m not really an innovator. I see the point and given the opportunity will try to mainstream that point.

With MoleNET we were able to see a widespread acceptance for the use of mobile tools and technologies throughout Further Education but I’m not certain that this innovation transferred to schools or universities. Schools are still running scared of mobile tools (unnecessarily in my opinion) and H.E. simply doesn’t get it. e.g. I delivered a workshop at an ALT conference some time ago, showing the then innovative use of PDAs (this was just before the iPhone) to those attending. Afterwards, someone from a university came up to me and asked if I really thought that PDAs would replace PCs because if that was so it would save the university £1,000s. First of all – I’d never said that anything mobile would ‘replace’, only ‘supplement’ and ‘add value’, and secondly, all this person could see was a way of saving money for her Chancellor.

I know that this isn’t the place to say it but … hey ho … the programme we most need is one that doesn’t finish: one where all those of us involved in education constantly seek effective ways of reaching our learners, we use what we can (whether it be a new method or technology or an old one) and move on from what doesn’t work.

Also see:

http://www.m-learning.org/