Our new obsession.....

I love gadgets. After a tough week of waiting, and tracking their every movement from order to processing, from delivery centre to courier, our shiny new Samsung NC10 netbooks have arrived at last!

Spec-wise, they seem to be market leaders - bigger hard drives (160gb but not SS), proper battery life (we're read reviews which suggest 6 hours unlike the Acer Aspire One's 2 hours), along with all the standard features (webcam, wireless, lots of ports etc). But the biggest incentive has to be the size - it has a 10inch screen which is great but better still it means that the keyboard is much more usable than the smaller 8.9 inch competitors (like Asus eeepc). In fact it's 93% of a standard keyboard. Right that's enough nerdy-ness for now, I have a new toy to play with!

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Beanbags - the future of meetings

Last week I attended the JISC Curriculum Delivery projects start-up meeting. JISC InfoNet are leading the support project that organised the meeting, and there were quite a few differences from the usual JISC programme meeting. The seating arrangements were perhaps a bit more relaxed than the norm, and the meeting itself was arranged on a seventies TV theme.

One of the highlights on day one were the project pitches. I particularly enjoying the Great ESCAPE theme, which was used to the full by the team from the University of Hertfordshire. See the ESCAPE blog for more on the Effecting Sustainable Change in Assessment Practice and Experience (ESCAPE) project.

We are providing the evaluation support for the Delivery and Design programmes, so it was a great chance for me to find out more about the projects, and meet some of the project teams. We were asked to run the closing session for day two, which was essentially a visioning exercise. We'd been given the title of 'Tomorrow's World' so we asked projects to think forward two years and consider what the main achievements would be, particularly from the view point of different project stakeholders. It was the last session on a Friday, but some of the projects really steamed ahead.
I've put the outcomes from one into a mindmap. Amazing what can be achieved in an hour!

Transformational change without control?

Update from Innovating e-Learning 2008

The closing days of JISC online conference saw some deep discussion. The session we were facilitating asked whether we should free the maniacs (or students!). Prof Mark Stiles was interested in the reasons education tended to be "controlling". He saw a downward spiral where embedding innovation led to regulation, which could act as a barrier to further innovation. Mark felt a philosophy of "minimum control" within institutions was the way forward.

Various examples of control (and concerns over relinquishing it) were cited, with the inference that we need to 'unpick' what is meant by control. Mark offered a spectrum of control to act as a guide:
  • Control - to exercise restraint or direction over; to hold in check
  • Manage - to take charge or care of; to govern, or control in action or use
  • Facilitate - to make easier; help forward (an action, a process, etc.)
  • Enable - to give power, means, competence, or ability to; to make possible or easy
  • Recognise - to identify from knowledge of appearance or characteristics
He highlighted that "as [organisations] move up from merely 'recognising' something happens to having a fully 'controlled' institutional approach that we stop at the LOWEST level needed". Peter Bullen (Mark's co-presenter) reminded us that while controls are normally introduced for a good reason, they can become embedded and later, as organisations change, the original reason can be forgotten and the control can become unnecessary. A clear example of why process improvement or continual review is essential.

Both presenters had outlined the change processes introduced within their organisations. With particular emphasis at the University of Hertfordshire of involving students in this process. This process is called CABLE (Change Academy for Blended Learning Enhancement) and is described in detail in 'CABLE: an approach to embedding blended learning in the curricula and across the institution'.

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JISC Online Conference: Innovating e-Learning 2008

Day three of the JISC online conference sees the opening of the second theme - "Going boldly into the dark". The session we are facilitating ('Achieving Transformational Change - making it happen') features presenters Mark Stiles from Staffordshire University and Peter Bullen from the University of Hertfordshire.

Some really interesting and varied discussion has started on this first day about encouraging change at institutional, departmental and individual levels. Just as a taster these included discussion around 'Collaboration in transformational change'; whether embedding is a barrier to innovation and the question of how we measure transformation (and related to this - what is transformation!).

Other discussion covered issues such as ownership and control; motivations for staff to participate in transformational initiatives and what approach to staff support is taken (DIY or DIFM - do it for me!).

Lots more discussion to come from the second day of this theme!

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