Solent Learning and Teaching Community Conference 2017 + Sneaky trip to the Disney Store…

Ahhh! This was an exciting trip for me because not only am I planning on enrolling into Solent University in September 2018 which meant I got a sneak peek at the University beforehand, I also got to be witness to Zoe‘s first day out at an event!

*Disclaimer: Grammar is not my forté

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Holly, Will, Zoe and I visited Solent University in Southampton for the Learning and Teaching conference 2017. We left at 07:15 am to embark on a 45 minute road trip accompanied by comfort food (sweet popcorn) and sparkling strawberry water. I had promised myself to take lots of pictures and kept reminding the others I wanted as many photographs of this event as I possibly could get. Although, I didn’t manage to get many of the trip up or back (I am sure they wouldn’t have made great pictures anyway as we were all half asleep) I did, however, get quite a few whilst we were there as well as fit in some live streams; as a tip, bring a portable charger – they’re your best friends.

We were the first ones at the conference as we arrived at around 8:30 and the conference started at 8:45 for registration. The student who were helping were beyond kind and helpful, they helped us find our names for our badges and then sent us over to the back of the reception for refreshments. From what I was told, the pastries were great, I think Will liked them the most.

The University itself is so futuristic. As someone who is planning on attending the University, I am so thrilled and excited to start knowing how beautiful the University is. I started my first live stream after the team had all finished eating as I wanted to push myself and I knew Scott would be up for seeing the space we would be in. I fell completely in love with the University but possibly my favourite thing was the zebra I found at the stairs going down to the Jane Austen lecture theatre.

The first keynote started at around 09:15 when registration was complete and everyone was there and settled. We were led to the Jane Austen lecture theatre – it was a smooth transition to further that, I don’t remember the transition so there mustn’t have been any issues with the process.

“Make things rather than talk about things”

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We were introduced by Osama with a Solent alumni Dr. Eylem Ataka (MA in Media Studies) who told us about her journey within Teaching and Learning and how she uses real life issues and scenarios around the world with her students to help them develop. She released a film about child marriage and how children in other countries and even perhaps the UK are being put into forced marriages and how it affects them in later life. Her talk was inspirational, how she believes that just one thing can trigger something better – her trip and failure of exams got her the scholarship at Solent and she is where she is now. Her talk was inspirational, but not only by the things she has done but by the words she says and her overall charm admitting she was not perhaps great at technology and the constant reassurance to Osama she had not in fact broken anything but the way she took the audience by storm: her passion became our passion, what she wanted became what we wanted. The team took notes, and I’m sure Holly won’t mind, and here are some of the quotes we have taken and shall be using, or we have been using. 

“Positive impact on policy and social and cultural life within and outside the classroom”

This is something that the generations coming up to secondary school and college and higher education are increasingly getting to terms with. As students grow, they take without intent things that their teachers, lecturers, parents, guardians say and to start now, teaching and raising awareness about the different social and cultural topics in and out of education will help them grow and become aware of what is right and what is wrong.

“Make things rather than talk about things”

Scott repeatedly says this to us on a daily basis so we know it, but having someone else say it outside puts a lot into perspective. All the things we talk about, we’ll say we’ll do, but will we actually do it? What is actually stopping us from doing the things we talk about, can they be resolved or do we give up too quickly? We can’t. We can’t give up, we have to persevere no matter what it is – if it has a strong meaning, who’s to say it can’t be done? So now, as soon as I can get into the class I facilitate for Blended Learning, I want to do a 360 camera shot of them – and I will.

“Win a box of chocolates!”

 

We were given three hand outs when we originally came in that I forgot to mention until now. We were given a short quiz, a journal of learning and teaching and a programme of events. The quiz featured  a few questions with little rhymes to keep it interesting, the quiz was used as a way of testing knowledge and if submitted, you could win a box of chocolates! We had already downloaded a version and highlighted all the parts we aimed to go to so we did not need the new sheet but it was good to have anyway. The journal of teaching and learning, admittedly, I haven’t managed to get through. It’s a thick journal and incorporates how they use teaching and learning at Solent University – I am definitely interested in this as I hope to become a student at Solent next Autumn so I will be reading it as soon as I get the chance.

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We moved on shortly after that inspirational chat. We all parted ways in the different talks, Will and I are both previous Games students so the idea of gamifying lessons has always been something we have been interested in and we know first-hand that it works. We went along to our first one, hosted by Dr Tammi Sinha and Dr Kim Bradley-Cole from Winchester University. First thing we did was talk about how we can use games in sessions to help the students to learn, or even to bond. We were introduced to the ‘Spaghetti and Marshmallow Challenge‘ which I had never heard of beforehand but I will definitely be implementing into Blended Learning.

The Spaghetti and Marshmallow Challenge rules are as follows:

  • Students receive 1 piece of marshmallow, 20 spaghetti pieces, 20 yards of string and 20 yards of tape.
  • The challenge is to make the biggest tower in 18 minutes…

I absolutely love the idea of this game and I am planning on using it as an ice breaker after the induction period when the new first years start their Blended Learning. The team have done something similar, creating the tallest tower, creating a rap and the perfect paper plane but I think this is simple enough to excite and engage the learners and get them to work together and get to know each other. The only difficulty I think I may have is the introduction of it, most Games students stereotypically and from what I have noticed, don’t like to move around a lot but I am hoping because they tend to be competitive, I can grab them in that moment and it can be great.

I have learnt so many new tips with this workshop and presentation. I am already aware of most of the tips given I am a part-time student and being a student last year helps me know most of the learning methods and in this presentation, there was a lot of advice I could agree to. I think it’s really good that teachers know that we (students) learn best when we are relaxed, if we are stressed, we aren’t going to get immersed and we aren’t going to produce the best work. There are more tips that I haven’t thought of “begin with the end in mind” is a tip that scared me, I don’t like to think of the end at most times because I tend to get my hopes up too much and like to live in the moment; but then I thought about how motivational that is. If in a session, I begin a task and set where I want the students to be by the end, I am giving them an end target without putting them on the edge – they never have to know this target but it is a helpful push to me. If they don’t reach it, I need to know why – whether this be because I gave too much, perhaps expected too much or the students mood when coming into the classroom. I know my overall end goal so this is what it means – I did not start this apprenticeship with the end goal in mind, I knew what I wanted but I had no idea how to get there but now I can say I have a route that I am happy to follow and I am beyond lucky to have a team that supports that and will help me with my growth and personal development.

We should always know what our students are doing. This is a typical class control thing we should know but it goes further than that in this aspect. We should know what they are doing, their emotional space and their mood; if they aren’t doing what they should be doing, we need to be asking why but maybe we should be asking ourselves why first. Students need interaction, it’s all very well and good standing at the front pointing at a presentation – students like it when you move around. I am guilty of the standing in one position when I speak because that’s what I saw as a student through my childhood so it’s normal to me. But it shouldn’t be. Moving around keeps their focus on you, they don’t have time to be distracted because they will always be concentrating on where you are and what you’re saying, especially if you end up being closer. This all helps the energy of the room as a whole, if you’re standing in one place reading off and not interacting: students will  get bored – trust me. If you’re moving around, using the presentation on the board as an influence and constantly interacting (could be questioning or getting students involved), they will be alert, awake and ready to learn.

“What will a college look like in 2050?”

How important is this question? Just think about it.

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The quality of the above photo is absolutely awful as the light was hitting the screen (which is another issue for students) but we also went through using blogs for things like logging work and keeping up to date. When you set projects, 9/10 they will need a running log and weekly timetable of what, where, why, when and how it was done. This particularly excited me. I love the idea of creating blogs to keep work up to date and using it and showing off what you’ve done in session (my Blended Learning class hate it unfortunately but I think that’s just them having to move platform at such a late start) and above are some of the comments and results of Roy Hanney (School of Media Arts and Technology) and Laraine d’Antin (Solent Learning and Teaching Institute) students perspectives of using blogs to log their work. The results are quite positive and really boost what I wanted to do.

Playful learning is something I didn’t really think would work and wasn’t really into — until they gave us Lego. This was hosted by Kathryn Ballard, Hannah Porter, Celia Forrester, Kate Stephenson and Dan Smith from Solent Uni and I could tell Will was equally excited at the Lego as he grabbed it and was into it before we had any real instruction. We were asked to create a creature and then asked to leave it alone (difficult, right?), we then moved onto a game which was called ‘Crap!

How to play the card game, Crap!

  • You are given cards that spell out ‘CRAP!’
  • You roll the dice and have to answer the questions on the cards – if you get it right, you win the card
  • First person to spell out CRAP! wins
  • There’s an evil spin: there’s a side on the dice which means you have to give up the last card that you won!

I didn’t play and left Will to it. No-one won the game. By me not playing it showed that this might not always work. I was feeling a little down at this point and not really interactive as I wished I was but by this, it showed me that you could come up with the most creative and competitive (my favourite) game and it still not work for all students. The game, however, is a great to test learners knowledge on things and make it into a game. Of course you need a referee, someone to check answers and are able to know if they’re correct or incorrect which might be boosting for the leader-type students (or the nucleus’s as Scott calls them).

We then went back to our Lego creatures and the real motive behind it was revealed. One of the hosts chose one of the creatures someone had made and then asked them where one piece of the Lego came from (in the centre), the wrong answer led to that piece of lego being removed and the creature falling apart – this helped us to realise that if we don’t know where these pieces come from, it could ruin the final project. This is useful with things like work logs or bibliographies where you have to reference and know where things come from and why they are useful.

The next workshop we visited was Blending your Classroom with Augmented Reality which was hosted by Professor Debbie Holley (Bournemouth University) who showed us an AR app called ‘Aurasma‘. Unfortunately, we are already using Aurasma at the College and know how to use it and its uses so this didn’t really impact us much. The overall presentation was really good and explained the uses for students and allowed all of the members of the audience to try it out and create their own and explained how to set it up and then scan. I didn’t get pictures from this presentation/workshop unfortunately. However, I did manage to create a contact with this workshop – Graham Bond, who is a journalism lecturer and China scholar which was incredibly useful as Sky is getting into Journalism and I love China.

We then split for lunch which was a large table filled with sandwiches and crisps. I have a bit of issue eating in public with so many people around but I was really happy to be able to try it (with help from Will) and managed to successfully without making too much of a fool of myself. We also then took this opportunity to explore the big pod-like office at the top (lovingly referred to as Spider Man).

The video above essentially describes how amazing it was in the pod and the team are definitely jealous! I got overly excited (as you can see) and we got so many ideas afterwards about what we can use (especially the digital signage)!

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The last workshop helped us with our new library design and gave us ideas and techniques we could use when it comes to decorating it. There was a good idea about tracking where students go when they come into the library and putting advertisements, leaflets and promotional flyers for students or higher education as well as where they do not go and leaving that more for artwork and perhaps more books and technology. They also showcased some layouts for libraries (the ones in the images above – once again, apologies for the terrible photos) . We have also decided to rebrand our Learning Resources Centre to the ‘Learning Hub’ which makes it sound a little bit nicer and more modern, in my opinion.

Overall the trip to Solent was brilliant. After we had left, we took the time to go to their library and get ideas. We got so many great ones that we left feeling quite envious but then still filled with ideas.

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One of my favourite ideas that would definitely benefit the College to do, is the USB and charging ports in the Lecture Theatre. We encourage students to bring in their own devices and what better way than to encourage further by implementing charger and electrical ports for Chromebooks and other devices.

Before we completely left Solent though, we did stop to get smoothies and milkshakes and then of course, a sneaky trip to the Disney store. The Disney store was great – Zoe found it difficult to not buy the entire store (although we did not help), Holly bought a cute Disney Marvel bag and I have added yet another Eeyore to my collection.

Thanks for reading 🙂 You can connect with me on social media @CharlieLecuyer9

Next stop: Jisc Connect More in Birmingham!

 

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