Improving the Everyday #pelc13

Presentation at PELeCON #pelc2013 on our user testing work at City to improve the VLE interface

At the 8th Plymouth Enhanced learning Conference this year I gave a short talk on our User Testing project involving the City Interaction Lab. In the same session Emily Allbon, the Law Librarian at City, presented Lawbore – her excellent law portal for undergraduate Law students.

Sadly this was the last time PELeCON to be held in Plymouth. I’ve really enjoyed the four I have attended and although the organisers plan to relocate next year it will never be quite the same.

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VLEs, Identity & Engaging Staff

Themes from the short history of the M25 Learning Technology Group

M25 motorway at night - blue skyThis month the informal London network of learning technologists became an ALT Regional Special Interest Group. Big deal? Perhaps not huge, but of interest to me as both an ALT Trustee and regular M25 attendee & contributor.

As M25 LTG approaches its 11th birthday I have put together an M25 Learning Technology Group timeline. It’s not quite complete and any corrections or additions would be most welcome. I wasn’t there in the very early days so to produce the timeline I have trawled through the M25 JISCMail archive & called on the memories of other London folk.

Here we go again

There are three topics that have been returned to regularly over the years:

  1. VLEs – no suprise there. In the first meeting one participant asked: “If we invest in a VLE will it still be useful/current in three years time?”  No comment.
  2. Learning Technologists’ role & identity In 2001 accreditation was discussed and the meeting notes reveal “there was a suggestion that accreditation by our professional body might be preferable. However, no-one thought the ALT was (or was about to) fulfil the role of professional body”. Note: the first CMALTs were awarded only 3-years later. At London Met in 2006: “Being mistaken for Computer Services is a common experience… There was some concern about how the Learning Technologist career can develop…”. The future of the learning technologist was debated and discussed at Goldsmiths in 2008 and again at City University in 2011.
  3. Engaging staff – in 2001 somone asked “How do we persuade reluctant staff?”. At Kingston earlier this month the meeting ended with a discussion on ‘Engaging Reluctant Academics”… Sigh

Another constant over the years has been discussion around the group membership; should the group include academics (?!), FE, private sector, those beyond the M25.  As numbers attending meetings have grown – regularly over 40 now – the ‘rules’ have become stricter.  Definitely no academic types 😉

The group has been extremely valuable as my edtech career has developed on my travels around London (coincidently over a very similar time period to M25LTG’s lifespan).  In particular the networking & relationship building aspect. In the global digital age of Twitter & Skype, our termly local get-togethers remain as important as ever.

VL-istically speaking

Yesterday Steve Wheeler raised a two fingered salute to open another chapter in the ongoing VLE-PLE debate  (see VLE vs PLE fight club for an earlier installment).  It’s an excellent post but I’m not wholly convinced.

Firstly, some points that Steve and I probably agree upon:

  • Personal Webs have an important & central role in the future of technology enhanced learning
  • Wherever appropriate teachers should be given freedom to teach with the web technologies of their choosing
  • Students should also be encouraged to use the web technologies of their own choosing to support their learning
  • More focus is needed on the teaching activities and not the tools that enable them

However, unlike Steve, I believe that VLEs (institutionally managed webs for teaching & learning) are here to stay and have an important role in the future:

  1. Not all teachers are tech-savvy ‘edupunks’.  Many are not interested in developing and teaching with their own personal webs.  Some would need considerable support to do so.  This will undoubtedly change over time but for a good while to come many teachers want to be provided with a single, simple, managed & supported platform. Continue reading “VL-istically speaking”

Storing Stuff

Not quite sure where I’m going with this one but the issue of storing stuff has cropped up a few times in the last week.

  • Eportfolios – a place to store stuff and make it available to different audiences – yourself, your peers, your teacher, your employer, the world. At work we’re looking at Mahara & Pebblepad
  • Repositories – see my earlier post on Language Box, a place for teachers to store, organise, share  teaching material
  • A course team needing to share material for developing a new module – we’ve been looking at delicious, Google sites & our VLE, Moodle

So lots of people with similar requirements, storing and sharing stuff online…. still no idea where this is going so will need to return to it…



I’ve been looking at “eportfolios” recently – specifically Mahara & MyStuff, though previously I’ve experimented with elgg too. I say “eportfolios” because I’m not 100% certain what an eportfolio is and just to confuse me further elgg seems to have repositioned itself and dropped that moniker completely:

electronic portfolio, weblog, resume builder and social networking system [Mahara]

OU’s ePortfolio tool [MyStuff]

social networking platform. It offers blogging, networking, community, collecting of news using feeds aggregation and file sharing [elgg]

And one more I haven’t looked at yet (because it costs!)

much more than an eportfolio. It is a Personal Learning System [Pebble Pad]

Blimey! My exploration has been partly initiated by some interest from within the LSE but also by the need to keep an eye on what’s out there… and there’s certainly plenty of talk about eportfolios. I’m still uncertain as to how such a system might be used here, so some initial thoughts: Continue reading “Eportfolios”