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JISC Winter Fayre

Was at the JISC Winter Fayre at the E-Science Institute in Edinburgh. The fayre set out to share what services JISC has to offer, and to showcase a variety of technologies which can be used in the classroom. As well as a ‘marketplace’ of information stands there were also a number of optional presentations and workshops to attend.

The keynotes from John Burt and Mina Welsh of Angus College highlighted some of the barriers preventing the uptake of classroom based technology, and it seemed that the strategy that should be adopted is ‘no teacher left behind’, i.e. all staff should be trying to use technology in their teaching and support should be given to help them get there. Of even more interest was a presentation by a computing student from Angus College who spoke about how he used technology for his own learning and the different experiences he’d encountered with different lecturers – those that were willing to use technology, and those that weren’t. He also spoke of an e-portfolio system developed on MySpace which students helped to design – a good example of involving the client in deciding on which tools are best suited to their learning.

The first presentation I attended was on the range of digital media resources on offer from JISC, including image banks and multimedia resources that can be used for teaching and learning. Although I knew about the existence of some of these already, I did find out a bit more about some newer collections and how to access them.

The presentation on Games Based Assessment was presented by a very enthusiastic Kenji Lamb, who demonstrated a number of fun games with educational benefits, including ‘Coffee Shop’ and ‘Fling the Teacher’. Although the presentation was good, it was a little light on content and I’d like to have seen more specific case study information about using games for specific subjects – but maybe this would be more suited to a lengthier JISC workshop.

Also on my agenda was WebPA, an online system for managing and assessing group work. This system looked interesting, however the presentation was so poor that I really couldn’t get excited by the product. It’s basically a peer assessment tool where students are given the opportunity to rate the participation of their colleagues in a group project, which can then be used to influence the final mark assigned by the tutor. The main benefit of this is the automated handling and collation of data, which can be a major chore for a tutor who takes a group working class.

Also of interest was a seminar from the Royal Commision on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, which I  just landed in by accident. This seminar demonstrated the range of materials and information available from this organisation which records information about historic sites and buildings through use of photography and digital imaging. It has a massive collection of aerial photographs from a number of sources, including Ordnance Survey and even reconnaisance flights from the Royal Air Force dating back to World War 2. New technologies such as 3D visualisations are also being used to re-create lost buildings and sites, and much of this information is currently online and available for use in research projects. Open to the public, the RCAHMS also offers guided tours and presentations for education, and I’m certainly interested in investigating this further, particularly to give my photography students an insight into a very different area of photography.

There was a lot on offer at the JISC Winter Fayre, and i’m sure I missed a lot of useful stuff, but on the whole it provided a lot of useful information and examples that can be taken back to the classroom. It has also given me a few ideas for my forthcoming staff development workshop ‘Developing Independent Learners’, which is coming up in January.

One last note, in his keynote Professor Derek Law used a phrase ‘digital overlap strategies’, which could easily be dropped into any management, curriculum or technology report – As in ‘We’re implementing a digital overlap strategy to overcome that issue’. While it sounds incredibly complex and impressive, it literally means ‘keeping your fingers crossed’!”

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