Home > Conference, CPD, Social Media, teaching > JISC Winter Fayre 2010/11

JISC Winter Fayre 2010/11

This was an inspiring event overshadowed by sadness. In the wake of education cuts the JISC Regional Support Centre, North &  East is to be disbanded in July and the National E-Science Centre will close, so this was the last ever JISC Winter Fayre.

Despite the gloomy cloud hanging over the event, there was a lot of positivity and enthusiasm at the various workshops, seminars and keynotes throughout the day.

The day kicked off with keynotes from Mandy Exley, principal of Jewel and Esk college and Professor Derek Law, Chair of the Board for JISC Advance. Steven Grier from Microsoft finished the morning’s keynotes by demonstrating a range of free software and tools for education and also giving us a glimpse into the future with a video demonstrating some concepts  for future user interfaces. The afternoon keynote was from the very entertaining Hugh Dailly, Deputy Manager at JISC RSC N&E. His session Inkwells to i-Pads was an amusing romp through the history of educational technology, which included everything from chalk and posters to the Lochgelly belt!

There was a huge variety of seminars and workshops to attend throughout the day, but I only managed to make it to a few of them.

  • First I had a chat with Alan Muirden from The Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). The RCAHMS keeps an amazing photographic record of buildings and constructions in Scotland. Their database is available online and much of the images can be used in education. They recently did a project with the BBC to get photographers to visit the locations in old photographs and rephotograph the scene in modern times. Alan also demonstrated a new feature of the RCAHMS website where anyone can contribute to the archive by posting their own photographs. This part of the site utilises the Flickr API, so is a robust and very clever system. The RCAHMS is also open on Mondays for educational tours, and I think I may book a session for our photography students.
  • I then participated in some of the challenges that had been set up throughout the E-Science Centre. First I played some games on XBOX Kinect – taking on JISC’s Kenji Lamb at football, then having a go at bowling and volleyball. This was the first time I’d use Kinect, and it exceeded my expectations. The sensor really is very accurate and followed my body movements very well, with only a small perceptible lag that didn’t detract from the gameplay. Next I tried the skiing challenge on the Wii. I held the downhill record for quite some time, but was beaten into second place by only a fraction of a second. The final challenge was a general knowledge quiz, and although I only scored 10 out of 20, it was the highest score of the day, which earned me a £25 Amazon gift voucher!
  • I dropped into a short session on using Twitter as a Personal Learning Network with Dave Cullen (@esoldavescotland), an ESOL teacher at Glasgow Metropolitan College. We had a good discussion and tried our best to convert a sceptic in the audience. Afterwards Dave and I had a go on Kinect, because it really was that good!
  • My own session was about using Facebook as an alternative  to a VLE. We’ve been using Facebook with students at Carnegie College for quite some time, and it has proven more successful than other tools for communicating with students. I gave lots of examples of how we’ve used Facebook including online assessment, discussion, peer support and peer evaluations of student work. My main criticism of VLE’s is that they’re closed environments, and only teachers and registered students can access them – but education happens everywhere and shouldn’t have these boundaries. Facebook knocks down many of these boundaries – opening up the discussion to a bigger audience and offering the potential of tapping into the knowledge of a wider range of people. I also talked about how we used Adobe Connect to provide online lessons while the college was shut due to snow.
  • Finally I attended a workshop on iTALC, free software for  screen sharing and monitoring students computers. The system has most of the features that are available in similar tools which are often very expensive. Certainly in this time of austerity it is worth looking at these open source alternatives in order to keep within our leaner budgets.

All in all, a good day – lots to learn and lots of people to meet, but sadly the last event if its kind, or at least until the country is back on its economic feet again and the education funding system is sorted out.

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