Making It Personal – London

Back to London, at least the weather was on the cooler side, this time the University of Greenwich for the Making It Personal conference. Unfortunately trains and tubes are still up in the air and I didn’t make it in time for the first key note. However I was able to follow the comments on the Twitter stream which I found really useful. Hoping this one gets put onto the web, but haven’t managed to locate it yet.

The first presentation of the day for me was Let’s get personal: Does your computer listen to what you say?,   (Abigail Mann, Chris Tilley), an intriguing title. The abstract was more so, using interactive audio podcasts, a bit of an oxymoron, within scenarios and enable the learners to have a two way conversation. Having seen how successfully podcasts were being used to extend tuition in the field of dance @ Wolverhampton, I was naturally keen to understand how this was being achieved and whether it might be of use to the PC3 project. Used in the department of Law for postgraduates the software shows a video podcast of simulated interviews. At key points the video is paused by the software and the learners are expected to ask the right questions that fit into the conversion in the simulation. Their responses are then recorded and feedback given on how they performed. Students found this to be a challenging and innovative idea, and they were able to practice thier skills within a safe environment. The whole process encouraged students to put more into the assessment and generally do better than previous methods. I did think that this might be a good way to do questionnaires (this might have been mentioned by the presenters), a means of adding the human touch, or maybe even semi-structured interviews. It also might be a nice way to provide a framework for those just learning how to reflect on their practice, something we will be doing a lot within PC3. It also links into a previous LeedsMet project SoundsGood which the presenters said they had drawn on in developing their system. Further information: including presentation slides and project wiki.

The next presentation (Mary Kiernan & Ray Stoneham from Greenwich) was more of an interactive workshop and raised several issues. The one that sticks in my mind at the moment is the assumption, particularly in undergrad courses, that all the students on a course have the same goal, but just require a personalised route to achieve it. This doesn’t ring true for me, and I suspect strong evidence against this will be found in the pC3 cohorts. While learners on a course may all have the goal of achieving the end result of the course, their individual perspectives of: why they want to achieve, and how it will benefit them, will vary considerably. It comes back to that niggling term that keeps cropping up, context, or multiple views of the same object. I’m hoping that that process of coaching will enable us to identify individual contexts more clearly, and thus define individual goals more clearly. Awaiting feedback on the activities the group undertook during this session, will post when they become available.

The third session was one I had seen before at a JISC workshop but wanted to find out more about. Tag clouds and skill conversations (Carol Shergold & John Davies University of Sussex), is a really interesting project, linking tagging to competencies. I think we need to look at this is more detail in regard to PC3. Their research found the tag clouds and evidence linked to individual skills, were invaluable during tutorial lessons. Having access to some sort of skills cloud during coaching conversations and the process of identifying underlying skills across university modules will be useful to us. I need to investigate this project more.

The final key note was by Serge Ravet, Chief Executive of the European Institute for E-Learning (EIfEL) some one I have bumped into several times over the last few weeks at these events. As usually it was an inspirational and controversial was well received by the attending crowd. The issues of fragmented digital identity and access rights to personal data were raised, and again he put forward the idea of a single data store for all individuals. A distinction between personalisation and individualisation was drawn, with the latter being the ideal. The drive towards self-directed learners is critical, but this clashes with current institutional tendencies towards having control, structuring the curriculum. We have already experienced some of the problems linked to this in developing the PC3 framework. All in all a worth while trip.

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