CMALT Portfolio 2012

Table of Contents

CMALT Portfolio Submission Form.. 3

CONTACT AND EMPLOYMENT DETAILS. 3

AFTER BEING AWARDED CMALT. 4

CONTEXTUAL STATEMENT. 4

  1. Operational issues. 6

Description. 6

Reflection. 7

Analysis. 7

A The constraints and benefits of different technology. 7

B Technical knowledge; ability in the use of learning technology. 8

C Supporting the deployment of learning technologies. 10

  1. Teaching, learning and/or assessment processes. 12

Description. 12

Reflection. 12

Analysis. 13

A An understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes. 13

B An understanding of your target learners. 14

  1. The wider context. 16

Description. 16

Reflection. 17

Analysis. 17

A Understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards. 17

  1. Communication – a) Working with others. 19

Description. 19

Reflection. 19

Analysis. 22

  1. Specialist Options. 23

Description. 23

Reflection. 23

Analysis. 24

Examples. 24

  1. Future Plans. 25

Appendix. 26

Appendix 1 – PhD Abstract. 27

Appendix 2 – Consent and agreement forms. 28

 

 

 

CMALT Portfolio Submission Form

 

Portfolio submission form for Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology

 

CONTACT AND EMPLOYMENT DETAILS

 

Title:                    Dr.                    Given name: Fern                                  Last name: Faux

 

Address:              National Star College, Ullenwood, Cheltenham, Glos.

 

Postcode:            GL53 9QU

 

Job title:               ILT Coordinator

 

Department:      College Development

 

Email:                    ffaux@natstar.ac.uk

 

Please indicate how long you have been working in a learning technology or learning technology related area.   More than 12 years

 

Are you an existing ALT member?    Yes    No

 

Please list any other professional bodies or associations to which you belong. IfL

AFTER BEING AWARDED CMALT

  1. I note that my details will be contained in the public register of CMALT holders maintained at the ALT Office.               Please tick to acknowledge. 2. I agree to my name and affiliation appearing in a list of CMALT holders on the ALT web site.                          Yes  No 3. I agree to my name and affiliation being included as a CMALT achiever in the ALT Newsletter and/or in the ALT fortnightly emailed digest.

Yes  No

CONTEXTUAL STATEMENT

My role as ILT Coordinator at the National Star College encompasses a range of activities such as providing ILT support to both staff and students, designing and delivering training courses (mobile technologies; video editing; Moodle; teacher training), trialling innovative technologies, and researching such technologies and their application within teaching and learning. My background is in teaching but increasingly my own area of interest became the use of IT in teaching and learning. My Master’s Degree looked at the use of ICT in the literacy development of SEN students and I extended that work through my PhD. Since then, I’ve been involved in a range of research projects, including e-learning at the University of Glamorgan, and researching mobile technologies whilst at Bristol University. More recently, I was the lead project researcher for a consortium funded by MoLeNET[1] (Mobile Learning Network) and I am currently working on the development of a video database which will enable assessment of soft skills developments in students with learning disabilities. I have provided training on the subject of multimedia literacy and my publications include:

 

 

In the day to day business of coordinating the ILT Department, it is not always easy to remain up to date on new and emerging technologies, yet an awareness of what is current and offering potential to educators is an essential part of the job role. I anticipate that involvement in the CMALT Community will help to keep me well informed in this regard, identifying areas on which I can, or should, be focussing. Additionally, it can be difficult to quality-assure one’s own work so peer-review will be of benefit in reflecting critically upon my own practice as well as further developing my areas of expertise. The CMALT accreditation is highly regarded within the profession and I anticipate that in addition to supporting my own CPD, I will also be able to offer such support to others. Ultimately, this would then impact positively on college use of, and development and expertise in using, Information and Learning Technologies.

 

Having already gained academic qualifications relevant to my area of employment, it is useful to now undertake professional accreditation which allows me to demonstrate my commitment to the use of learning technologies within education. This will not only contribute to my personal development, but should also enhance my skills in applying the learned theory within contextualised practice. This would be of particular significance given my long-term career goal of developing the college ILT Department by adding a research division to its responsibilities.

 

 

 

 

1.     Operational issues

 

Description

Driven by the ILT Strategy, I was part of a development group that led a consortium of four specialist colleges through the MoLeNET 3 [2]Research Project. This project looked at promoting greater autonomy in learning with less reliance on support from learners with learning difficulties and disabilities (LLDD) in community contexts. It was also important in meeting college commitments to keep up to date with new technologies. Mobile technologies were used to (i) encourage staff development and (ii) enhance student autonomy. I developed a 10 hour bespoke ‘mobile technology’ training module for teachers working with LDD learners; I provided staff training through the Certificate and Diploma for Teaching and Learning in the Lifelong sector (CTLLs/DTLLs). I followed up these taught sessions by providing in situ support. I ensured that there was a focus on technological pedagogy, functions of devices, and competencies in using learning objects. Participants included teaching staff, therapists, mentors, technical support staff, residential managers, and educational facilitators and careers advisors. Use of devices focused on staff and learners in a range of contexts (classroom, community, social and leisure and therapy sessions). The involvement of technical support staff ensured support with technical issues and widened the scope of the work undertaken and, within the consortium, I set up a virtual learning environment (VLE) to enable communication and collaboration.

 

Project Portal – VLE (Moodle)

Reflection

The project reached significant numbers of staff, raising awareness of mobile technologies throughout the partner colleges, with many more staff now keen to ‘have a go’ with this form of technology.   In part, I believe this is because I worked hard to ensure staff felt supported in their use of technology, minimising the fear factor which tends to accomplish any change of teaching method, or approach. Awareness of mobile technologies was raised throughout the colleges – predominantly with staff but, to a lesser degree, also with students. The VLE which I had set up contributed to this heightened awareness as sharing of good practice, and discussion of more problematic areas, meant that a wider range of technological issues were highlighted than would have been the case had participants only been aware of their own undertakings. I was able to show staff that the value of multimedia was greater than just being able to provide an enabling form of technology for students – it was also a significant time saver for staff, enhancing the quality of teaching and learning by releasing more time for them to spend with students, as the technology increased the students’ ability to work more autonomously.

 

“There’s this one particular student … I could say ‘take this’ and he could go and take the evidence that he’d done it and that freed me up to work with another student for 40 minutes who really needed it.”

 

Each college’s regular updates on the project portal proved useful as achievements, ideas and difficulties were freely shared. Further, where those ideas had been implemented by staff, their discussions on the forum were informative for all. Senior managers had an important role to play in recognising the need for, and supporting the use of, mobile technologies within teaching and learning. I was responsible for ensuring that emerging findings were shared effectively in order that they could impact on practice in a timely manner and this was achieved via the project portal established on the lead college’s VLE (Moodle) to allow sharing of materials, resources and discussions between partners. Project participants were able to access all such resources and found this useful.

Analysis

A The constraints and benefits of different technology

The devices (a wide range of mobile technologies) encouraged new and innovative ways of delivering learning objectives and learners were motivated and responded enthusiastically to the greater autonomy afforded by them. For example, one student, with very low weight, was able to take greater control of his own dietary requirements by way of an iPod Touch and calorie App. The increased autonomy was also of particular significance when used as communication aids, where learners declared themselves more comfortable using an iPhone than traditional communication aids which, they claimed, made their disability more obvious. As one participant teacher commented,

 

Getting her to use her communicator was terrible and she is now doing so well with this (iPhone) and she loves it – it’s cool, it’s funky and she can move around without this great big communicator.”

 

With visibly increased student autonomy, staff were increasingly enthusiastic about using the technology, including it in their teaching plans and planned resources; this was particularly beneficial for those learners with literacy difficulties, freeing them from the constraints of their limitations and enabling them to be more creative in the expression of their ideas.

 

What I learned by doing the above

Whilst I was somewhat surprised that staff had not independently initiated some of these technological activities prior to their involvement with the research project, it highlighted the importance of my role in actively leading and supporting staff. Whilst I know this to be an integral part of my job role, it is easy to assume that others are undertaking these tasks and to overlook the fact that I may not actually be providing this as much as much as I should be, or like to think I am.

 

Despite the fact that participant staff had been told they would receive an Apple iPhone 3GS to use for their own support throughout the duration of the research project, some had difficulty in recognising that the ‘phones had been distributed primarily for their use, rather than student use. This led to some declarations that the iPhone was not suitable/accessible for their student and, where this was the case, it was much more difficult to then offer alternative forms of technology to the staff member for student use because they had already decided that mobile technology was of no use to their student/s. This does make me wonder whether the perception of staff is so deeply ingrained in the notion of technology supporting students that they fail to see that they, too, might benefit from some technological support. It also highlights the importance of setting the context very clearly at the outset of any project as trying to rectify it mid-way through can be immensely difficult, if not impossible.

 

What I would do differently if I were to do similar work in the future

Were I to repeat this work I would spend a longer period of time at the project outset, not only to ensure that staff fully understood the premises of the project but, also, to allow them more time to become ‘expert’ users of the technology. I think staff might have benefited from undertaking, and witnessing, a series of micro-teach sessions, where the technology was used as a support tool for both teachers and learners. This would have offered at least some degree of experience with what was being asked of them prior to going into the classroom/teaching setting with students. Additionally, rather than advising staff to go out and use the technology in what they considered to be an appropriate way, I think it would have been more beneficial had I insisted on being informed of their plans before any teaching took place – in this way I would have been better able to both guide and support teachers in their undertakings, minimising potential problems before they became a real issue.

 

B Technical knowledge; ability in the use of learning technology

The 10 hour bespoke training module which I had developed, provided an opportunity for staff to embed mobile learning within their teaching sessions in a supported manner. For this to succeed, it was essential that I was able to use, demonstrate, and support the use of a range of technologies.   These included iPod Touches, iPhones, digital voice recorders, digital key rings, Flip video cameras, Canon digital cameras, a range of notebooks, PCs, Apple Macintosh computers and interactive white boards. I also had to be competent in the use of a range of software products, not least the Moodle VLE which was used to support this project. In addition to setting the course area on the VLE, I also maintained and administrated it, as well as supporting users who may never have used the virtual environment previously. I was also responsible for setting up and administrating a college iTunes account, and demonstrating to participants how to use such an account.   This was not always simple given the restrictions of iTunes within a college environment (Group permissions, firewall issues, downloading and sharing of Apps etc). On reflection, had I realised the enormity and complexity of the issues I would encounter in pioneering the use of Apple technology at this time, I might have taken a more conservative approach! For example, I wanted participants to be able to use their own iTunes accounts so that they had full freedom over what programs and Apps they chose to use – this formed an intrinsic part of the research. However, because of the difficulties encountered with this, once the research project was finished I ensured that only a college iTunes account could be used.   This is maintained and administered by myself and colleagues within the department, thus avoiding the problems associated with multiple users, for example.

 

Interviews with participant staff showed that the provision of one to one support for participants proved helpful for them. The following example shows a participant’s views on their development in using mobile technologies in teaching and learning: http://www.moleshare.org.uk/case_studies.asp?ID=64.[3] The way in which I had designed the training, support, and resources, meant that opportunity was also provided for participants to experience a wide range of learning technologies such as a VLE, blogs, and a variety of mobile technologies. However, I discovered that those who most needed support in using them were those least likely to ask for help so I learned that it is essential to build support into the taught sessions, rather than relying on participants to seek it out for themselves.

 

What I learned by doing the above

Allowing staff to use their own iTunes accounts for this work was fine in research terms but it has set a precedent in college which it is now difficult to eradicate. It has been an uphill struggle to get staff to use the college iTunes account instead of their personal accounts. When lending staff college owned devices it is mandatory that the college account will be used and this is set up for the borrower but I am aware that some staff still change this to their own account. This has implications for creating and sharing resources, as well as aspects of safety and privacy.

 

I learned that participants who started the project with high levels of confidence in the use of mobile technology tended to widen their understanding of ways in which mobile technologies could be used to enhance teaching and learning, whilst those with lower levels of confidence at the outset showed significant confidence development. This shows that providing training is successful at some level for all participants.

 

What I would do differently if I were to do similar work in the future

Even though the use of personal iTunes accounts was helpful to the analysis of the research, if I were running this project again now, I would definitely insist on the use of the College iTunes account, rather than personal accounts; however, at the time this would have been much more difficult than it is now – Apple have since changed their own processes and procedures. The training provided to staff was successful whatever their pre-existing levels of experience, but it also, perhaps, indicates a need to make participation in such training a mandatory requirement.   This is because it transpired that those who most needed the training were those who would opt out when given a chance to do so. In order that our students can benefit from a staff body well equipped to support them using a range of technologies, such training is essential and is not something, in my view, which staff should be allowed to opt in, or out, of.

 

C Supporting the deployment of learning technologies.

Key findings from this research project indicated that a ‘one-size fits all’ model of staff training in mobile technologies may not be ideal; rather, a two-tier provision, allowing for differing levels of existing expertise and pedagogical understanding would be more suitable. The training provision encompassed input on pedagogical issues ensuring staff had an understanding of the implications of using mobile technology within teaching and learning and reinforcing the message that it should be ‘learning first, technology second’. Overall, staff valued the impact of mobile devices in the management of learning, and the training I had provided was well received, “I think nailing down what is pedagogy is a really useful thing – you know the philosophy behind your teaching.” This had a consequent positive impact on student learning as can be seen in this student video of teacher training: http://www.moletv.org.uk/watch.aspx?v=GUAGW [4]

 

What I learned by doing the above

Not only was there a wide and varied understanding of the meaning of ‘pedagogy’, there was also a wide and varied response to its inclusion in the training sessions. Whilst some staff were enthusiastic about learning some of the more theoretical underpinnings of teaching and learning, others failed to recognise its value, seeing it as an intrusion into ‘teaching sessions’.   Generally, those undertaking the higher academic qualification of DTLLs were more receptive to, and enthusiastic about, giving consideration to pedagogy, whilst those undertaking the CTLLs were more resistant and had greater difficulty in seeing its relevance to their own teaching. Even where the notion was embraced, there were a raft of differing understandings associated with the term – everything from teaching tools, to methods for teaching adults. I spent some considerable time teaching the participants about the importance of pedagogy, particularly in relation to how it might change when using technologies within teaching and learning, yet even at the end of the training, the comments I received from staff indicated a mixed understanding of the term and its importance in teaching and learning.

 

What I would do differently if I were to do similar work in the future

Were I to repeat this training across the two different groups (CTLLs and DTLLs) I would ensure a more in-depth coverage of pedagogical aspects with the DTLLs group but with the CTLLs group I would provide some underpinning learning theory relating to aspects such as scaffolding, by way of preparation for pedagogy at the next level of their training. So, for example, the CTLLs group might be asked to consider what, how, and in what ways a given piece of technology might offer some aspects of scaffolding to learners and if, how, when and why that support should be changed; in this way, differentiation across the two groups might improve their learning outcomes, as well as helping to make sure that the theoretical aspects of the training did not negatively affect the uptake and implementation of the technology itself.

2.     Teaching, learning and/or assessment processes

Description

I have been involved with the development of ‘InFolio’ (a specialist e-portfolio system) since its inception, trialling the product through its various developmental stages. I have been actively involved as a member of the steering group for this product, attending meetings and contributing the way in which the software was developed and then introduced to specialist colleges. It was developed for specialist colleges by JISC TechDis (http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/) and the Rix centre (http://www.rixcentre.org/). The system is simple and can be built up to produce a good body of evidence of achievement and progress. It produces an online, accessible e-portfolio system, perhaps for the creation of digital transition plans, online diaries or to store and view digital media such as photographs, videos or audio files. All resources must first be uploaded to ‘My Collection’ (see below) where they can also be tagged for more efficient retrieval.   Part of my role was to promote, organise and take part in a roll out of InFolio to specialist colleges. For this, I gathered together a small group of staff from across different departments in college (residential, therapies, education) and asked them, together with their students, to trial the product.   Their feedback then informed further developments. However, this did put an extra workload upon the pilot group; combined with the inevitable snags of using a Beta system, it was not always easy to ensure that this did not impact negatively on their perception of the product itself.   It was really important to maintain goodwill on their part so that InFolio itself was received well by both staff and students at large in college. In order to minimise any negativity, I took some of the workload upon myself where possible, and offered support where it was not. My aim was to ensure that participants did not feel isolated in their pioneering work, and inundated with work because of the extra tasks they were performing. I believe that this was achieved.

Reflection

The College has been involved with this cutting edge product since its inception; the product has been, and remains, in development. As might be expected, there have been some difficulties along the way and at times this has made it a challenge to maintain staff involvement and enthusiasm. One way of addressing this problem has been to remind staff of the many affordances InFolio offers to our learners, which cannot be found in similar products.   By constantly reinforcing the importance of a specifically tailored program, highlighting that which it offers, and by providing training where staff can voice their concerns, as well as seek answers to their queries, ways forward have been found and In-Folio remains high on the educational agenda. The use of In-Folio allows for achievements and assessments to contribute to the on-going learning process, where learners are active in directing future learning goals. Further, it is very motivational for students to quite literally see or hear themselves achieving a given activity. The ability for learners to share their portfolio with those significant in their lives (for example, families, staff and related agencies) has provided a platform for showcasing their achievements.

Analysis

A An understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes

Educational institutions must ensure a focus on targets, funding and quality assurance, but it is imperative that these do not negatively impinge on sound pedagogical approaches to learning, teaching and assessment. For example, although I recognise that assessment of learning is essential, traditional measures of achievement are often inappropriate for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities and so ways must be found where the assessment process can take place whilst supporting learners in their development. As evidenced in the highlighted sections of my PhD abstract, in Appendix 1, access to multimodal and multimedia literacies is hugely important for those learners who have difficulty in accessing ‘traditional’ literacy and InFolio’s multi-sensory software environment supports learners in showcasing their achievements, recognising, recording and presenting such progress in stylish ways, capitalising on the multimedia affordances of a range of products, including video footage, images and audio, and contributing to the development of learner autonomy. Having spent a number of years researching the affordances of multimedia for learners with LDD, it has been exciting to be involved in the production of software which accommodates and encourages engagement with learning in a multimodal manner and this has only served to confirm my belief that those who may not be able to access ‘textual literacy’ can, nonetheless, access, create and benefit from ‘multimedia literacy’.

                Example of student entry page on InFolio

 

What I learned by doing the above

As part of my job role, I accept that, initially, software may not function quite as intended and that it is often necessary to overcome barriers before the software bends to what is required of it; however, I had, perhaps, underestimated the difficulties of this organic approach to rolling out a piece of software to teaching staff who not only may not have specialist knowledge, but who also have a very restricted time available to them for successfully implementing the product.   In a teaching situation, software must work instantly and be visibly effective or it will very quickly be deemed to be an ineffective tool. I believe that, in part at least, this is because any difficulties with the software impact instantly on teaching sessions, causing problems of an immediate and practical nature – teachers do not tolerate these interruptions to their sessions for very long. That being the case, there is only really one chance to roll out a piece of software before goodwill is lost.

 

What I would do differently if I were to do similar work in the future

I am actually repeating this exercise currently in as much as InFolio has been moved from a hosted server to the College’s own server, and a new set of accounts created – in essence, we are starting afresh. However, this time around there has been a vast amount of testing undertaken in regard to the robustness of the product, the infrastructure and the longer term aims such as how and where the portfolios of students who have left college will be maintained. This time, the rollout out of the product will be in staged phases, all of which are agreed with the Director of Education, and a small test phase precedes each rollout phase. In order to develop a realistic set of expectations, any difficulties with the software are made very clear to those implementing it so that they have a clear understanding of both its affordances and limitations. I hope that this process of continuous consultation and discussion between the ILT Department and the Education Department will not only make addressing any emergent issues more effective, but will also help towards ensuring a harmonised project implementation, with goodwill as its driving force. When rolling out a new piece of software, it is not enough to focus on the software alone; it is essential to do this with the support of those who, ultimately, will be its prime users.

 

B An understanding of your target learners

Students of the college have physical disabilities and/or acquired brain injuries, alongside associated learning, behavioural, sensory and medical difficulties. Many have complex learning difficulties and disabilities, with high personal care, therapy, emotional and medical support needs. The College’s innovative use of Information Learning Technology (ILT) has enabled learners to become more autonomous in their learning, living and work and it was timely to extend this to eportfolios. Traditional e-portfolios are rarely appropriate for this learner group, neither do they recognise how such learners make progress in diverse ways – particularly in increased confidence, social skills and life skills.   I think that many of these small steps of progress often go un-measured, yet it is essential that learners are able to evidence progress which they have made, and to celebrate their achievements. Where InFolio encourages the use of a range of multimedia, this means that the learner can more easily show the progress they have made. Further, the program is accessible to those who require alternative access to computers (e.g. switch device and screen reader users) and this facilitates a greater ownership of their eportfolio. I have made a guest account available on InFolio (see below) so that the product itself can be experienced and, within that account, a video clip has been uploaded which shows how a learner was able to take part in a presentation about his use of InFolio – whereas words, written by others, to describe his role could not have communicated his achievement in the same way.

 

InFolio Guest Account: http://www.in-folio.org.uk/natstar/login.php

Username – natstarguest; password – natstarguest

 

Once logged into the account, navigate to the ‘Teaching and Learning’ tab and then click on ‘Understanding Learners’. The video clip can be activated from this screen.

What I learned by doing the above

Whilst undertaking the initial trial of InFolio, the sometimes sensitive nature of the information students put into their portfolios took me by surprise. I had not anticipated that the portfolio might be a useful holding area for students to detail, for example, how best to address their personal care needs. This made the matter of privacy, and the robustness of the system, a matter of absolute priority. Further, although InFolio is switch accessible and also offers a picture password entry system to minimise the possible difficulties of reliance on text, there are some students for whom the product remains something with which they require access assistance. However, it became apparent to me that ‘ownership’ resides in the decisions which are made by the students about the way in which their portfolios develop, rather than in any physical ability to manipulate the program.

 

What I would do differently if I were to do similar work in the future

As stated earlier, I am currently repeating this exercise and privacy, security and robustness are on top of the roll-out agenda. I hope to convey to staff supporting students in their use of InFolio that, for some of our students, autonomy lies in the way in which they are able to express themselves, rather than through any physical ability to interact with the program. Nonetheless, it is imperative that students retain ownership and editorial control of their eportfolios.

 

 

3.     The wider context

Description

Every activity I undertake within the specialist FE sector is underlined by the ethos of The Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) scheme, set out in the Care Standards Act 2000: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100407224235/http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/documents/digitalasset/dh_104922.pdf

and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006:

http://www.fairplayforchildren.org/pdf/1218205383.pdf

Additionally, BERA’s Revised Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research 2004, which remains the standard for academic research, is underpinned by the belief that,

“… all education research should be conducted with an ethic of respect for:

The Person

Knowledge

Democratic Values

The Quality of Educational Research

Academic Research”

(http://www.bera.ac.uk/files/guidelines/ethica1.pdf)

This has particular practical implications to me when undertaking research in a specialist college setting. Research participants (both staff and students) sign consent and agreement forms which relate to the use of media as well as research data. Those we used were based on templates provided by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) (see Appendix 2). These forms are designed to protect the participants and the institution, safeguarding them by providing an ethical framework within which to work, ensuring the implementation of professional and research codes of practice, respecting privacy and supporting data protection. I find it difficult through the specialist sector in maintaining ethical consistency in ensuring that the letter, as well as the spirit, of good ethics is maintained. This is because whilst a student might agree to signing a consent form, it is often harder to tell if they have truly comprehended what that consent might entail and realised the full import and implications, for example, of allowing their image to be used on the Internet. Throughout both phases of the research on the use of mobile technology (MoLeNET2 and MoLeNET 3), staff expressed huge concern that agreement to research activities might render students vulnerable. Additionally, staff sometimes felt pressured into consenting, where their natural inclination might have been to have refused to take part. However, by talking to both the staff and their students, I made every effort to ensure that students did understand what they were taking part in and how their information might be used – protection of the student was always an absolute priority. This was particularly important given the nature of their vulnerability and the hugely personal aspects of some of the information they shared, such as personal care details, for example. In order to facilitate this, as well as to reassure staff about their own involvement, during the MoLeNET research I allocated 30 minutes to a question and answer session, built into the first taught session, where participant staff could ask questions relating both to their own, and their students, involvement in the research.

 

Reflection

Within the specialist sector, despite all best efforts, it is not always easy to ensure that the letter, as well as the spirit, of good ethics is maintained.   This is because whilst a student might agree to signing a consent form, it is often harder to tell if they have truly comprehended what that consent might entail and realised the full import and implications, for example, of allowing their image to be used on the Internet. Throughout both phases of the research on the use of mobile technology (MoLeNET2 and MoLeNET 3), staff expressed huge concern that agreement to research activities might render students vulnerable.   Additionally, staff sometimes felt pressured into consenting, where their natural inclination might have been to have refused to take part. However, every effort was made to ensure that students did understand what they were taking part in and how their information might be used – protection of the student was always an absolute priority.   In order to facilitate this, as well as to reassure staff about their own involvement, during the MoLeNET Research 30 minutes was allocated to a question and answer session, built into the first taught session, where participant staff could ask questions relating both to their own, and their students, involvement in the research.

 

Analysis

A   Understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards

Whilst it is essential that staff should act to protect vulnerable students, it is also essential that staff fears should not limit student involvement in activities, such as research, which may well be to their benefit. Whilst it is better to err on the safe side, rather than compromise a student’s safety, staff concerns and fears about their own responsibility and culpability, as well as taking them outside of their own comfort zone, could lead to them effectively blocking student involvement in research activities. For example, if a member of staff prefers not to take part in a research activity they could easily maintain that ‘their’ student cannot, will not, or should not, take part in such activity, thereby also conveniently relieving them of any involvement. One way in which I tried to allay fears was to provide a question and answer session prior to distributing consent forms. As well as providing a general overview of the intended research, this addressed matters such as data protection, participant privacy and wide-ranging safeguarding issues. It was also helpful to assure participants that they were able to agree and approve any material involving them, before it went into the public domain.

 

What I learned by doing the above

When designing consent forms for adults, there is a tendency to ‘cross the I’s and dot the t’s’, resulting in the use of complex, virtually legal terminology which aims to cover every eventuality.   However, consent forms designed for students should be as clear and simple as possible, with the use of accessible language.

 

What I would do differently if I were to do similar work in the future

In light of the above, when research involves both staff and learners, the consent forms may need to be differently designed for each participant group. For learners, it may also help if the form includes some pictorial representation, or use of symbol systems, to bolster the message to be conveyed.

4.     Communication – a) Working with others

 

Description

I was part of The Technology Exemplar Network which was jointly led by Becta and the LSC, focusing on using technology to support learning and sharing good practice through peer support. As ILT Coordinator within an exemplar college, I carried some responsibility for hosting network visits, planning and developing network meetings, organising video conferences, giving information, advice and guidance, and showcasing good practice. Some of the themes addressed in order to develop and share good practice included: Enabling and Access technology – including e-safety; management of information including e ILP’s; mobile technology; learner voice; staff development and the impact of the becta Generator. Additionally, the College held two open days “to increase peer networking, share innovation and expertise” (http://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/exemplarnetwork).

 

The second of the open days was attended by visitors who enjoyed interactive sessions where they could try out various technologies for themselves, such as an on-campus treasure trail, using QR Codes, which also meant that visitors could explore the college grounds for themselves, in a semi-guided way. As with the previous event, a text wall was used to collect feedback and this was harvested to generate a word cloud of feedback comments. Responses were very positive, for example, “Great Day lots of technology to play with!” and “So much to see and do. Amazing.”. The day was filmed by ITV and shown on Points West (http://www.itv.com/westcountry-east/star-college-progress48916/) and local press (The Echo; The Citizen) were also in attendance. Overall, the day was hugely enjoyable and a great success.

 

Reflection

It was important that members of the Technology Exemplar Network had an empathy with, and willingness to learn from, colleagues from different backgrounds and specialisms, with a commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice and to try out new ideas (e.g. wordle, textwall) within teaching and learning.   On the first of the two open days, tours of the college were conducted. Showcase spaces were held in the morning, where visitors took part in ‘hands on’ sessions and watched demonstrations, whilst in the afternoon two different themed discussions were selected, from five different topic areas.

 

 

 

 

A text wall was used to collect feedback about the event and this was harvested to generate a word cloud of feedback comments:

 

There were some lovely comments, reflecting how people felt about the day. For example,

“Thank you very much for a wonderful day at the National Star College. I will be taking away with me some brilliant ideas to share at my college”.

 

The second of the open days was attended by visitors who enjoyed interactive sessions where they could try out various technologies for themselves.

 

Tours of the college took place and an on-campus treasure trail, using QR Codes, also meant that visitors could explore the college grounds for themselves, in a semi-guided way. As with the previous event, a text wall was used to collect feedback and this was harvested to generate a word cloud of feedback comments.

 

 

Responses were very positive, for example, “Great Day lots of technology to play with!” and “So much to see and do. Amazing.”

 

I did not always find it easy to coordinate the network, because of its wide geographical spread, nor was it easy to ensure that those ideas discussed were actually implemented, but there was a positive focus in widening participation.   Open Days worked well bringing a wide range of participants into the network. Support from the RSC’s was good and the publicity the network was given did much to improve our recognition as an exemplar college. In order to model and share best practice in the use of ILT and enabling technology, I first had to ensure that the college was using various innovative practices itself and the fact that there was a firm deadline for doing so proved very motivational! Given the number of staff involved and the impact on students in terms of timetabling and availability of teaching staff etc. ‘interruptions’ to the usual regime were not always welcome and I had to employ both diplomacy and effective organisation. Although I found that these events were often complicated to organise and implement, they were made manageable by the will of the college as a whole to pull together as one, enabling the sharing of innovative practice. However, at times it was quite a challenge to ensure timely staff involvement, given other competing foci, and tact was key as without the goodwill of the staff these events could not have succeeded.

Analysis

Given its wide geographical spread, it was not always easy to coordinate the network, nor was it easy to ensure that those ideas discussed were actually implemented and so gentle follow-ups were made either by ‘phone or email. However, Open Days worked well, both because they brought a wide range of participants into the network and because the publicity the network was given helped to gain us recognition as an exemplar college. In order to model and share best practice in the use of ILT and enabling technology, substantial demands were made on the staff.   There were impacts both on their time and on students in terms of timetabling and availability of teaching staff etc. ‘Interruptions’ to the usual regime were not always welcome and diplomatic and effective organisation was crucial.   At times it was quite a challenge to ensure timely staff involvement, given other competing foci, and diplomacy was key – without the goodwill of the staff these events could not have succeeded.

 

What I learned by doing the above

Planning an event of this size takes a considerable time and should be started as soon as possible. Although I had a very clear focus on the types of technological showcasing I wished to provide, and made arrangements with relevant personnel in good time, I had not given sufficient consideration to matters such as invitations, registration, catering, parking, badging, security etc.   I learned that many different people and areas go into making an event of this nature a success. If due consideration is not given, and time allowed for, the ‘invisible’ components, then they may well impact negatively on the event generally.

 

What I would do differently if I were to do similar work in the future

Learning from the above, I have since planned events with much greater consideration of the organisational aspects. I now appreciate that whilst the focus of attention may be on the technological event, this will only succeed if all of the background support runs smoothly and, to a large extent, invisibly.

 

 


5.     Specialist Options

 

Specialist area: producing learning materials/content/courseware

 

Description

With a college focus on independent living and travel training, as part of the MoLeNET[5] 2 Project, students used mobile technologies (Samsung Q1 Ultra-Light Mobile PCS [Fig. 1] and Flip Ultra Video Cameras [Fig. 2]) to support undertaking journeys independently, or with decreased dependence.

                                                      

Fig. 1   Samsung Q1                                           Fig. 2 Flip Video Camera

The ILT Team worked closely with the participant teaching teams, supporting them to develop an interventionist approach which built on existing lesson materials and methodologies to design the modules, which were added to a bespoke software application, pre-loaded onto the Samsung Q1s. As many of the students have low literacy levels, the use of spoken text and voice-recorded responses were prioritised in the software design. Students used Flip Ultra Video cameras to record their journeys and this data was also loaded into the Samsung Q1s, forming personalised travel plans.   Additionally, an interactive game which was activated by a dummy dialler, triggering 6 questions with audio reading where students were required to voice record their answers, offered a truly interactive resource which simulated a possible real life experience.

 

Reflection

Mobile devices aided memory retention when a journey planner was used which facilitated student rehearsal of journeys, reinforcing key landmarks and acting as a memory prompt. In this way, student autonomy, self-determination and increased confidence to self-reflect and self-evaluate were developed and enhanced. Students found the provision of personalised images helpful in keying them into the subject and prompting memory. When freed from concerns about handwriting and spelling, students were better able to focus on the subject of the lesson. Whilst this would not be appropriate for all students, or all activities, it has a useful role to play within learning. Teaching staff were nervous of using the new technology and even though it was integrated into existing teaching plans, it remained something of a ‘bolt-on’ activity which, in addition to the use of paper resources, was difficult to manage.

 

 

Analysis

Staff were actively involved in the project from the outset, which required them to consider in some depth the implications of using mobile devices in teaching and learning. As such, the profile of mobile technologies as a teaching tool was highlighted and consideration given as to how these activities might be amended, extended and embedded. It is unlikely that this would have taken place so rapidly if participants had been at a remove from the project, rather than involved actors.   Nonetheless, it remained difficult to move them away from their paper-based resources and teaching methods and it was clear that more time was needed, both for training and implementation.     However, the provision of spoken text and voice recorded responses were beneficial for the majority of learners, bypassing difficulties with low literacy levels, and the interactive game, simulating a real-life experience, was considered to be the most useful and effective of the resources developed.   This confirms the importance of ensuring technology has an authentic and appropriate role to play, focusing on its interactive affordances, rather than trying to convert existing resources into electronic resources.

 

Examples

 

1      Student use of a flip camera to record his journey to college/home:

http://www.moletv.org.uk/watch.aspx?v=H6MF2 [6]

2      An interactive resource developed by the National Star College,

offering a simulated ‘phone call to the non-emergency services:

http://www.moletv.org.uk/watch.aspx?v=45JZV [7]

 

What I learned by doing the above

Even though teaching staff had been involved from the outset of the project through activities such as consultation and incorporation of their ideas into storyboarding which would inform the development of the learning resources, nonetheless, participant staff still seemed to lack an overall feeling of ownership of the product, or the project.     I suspect that this was more to do with the cultural shift being somewhat imposed on them than any specific resistance to the use of the technology per se.

 

What I would do differently if I were to do similar work in the future

The whole notion of a cultural shift is centrally important when practices are in flux, particularly when these are imposed from the outside. If I were to repeat this activity, I think it might be worth spending some time at the start of the project to gain a clear picture of the culture within which the Team are currently working. This might be achieved by an audit, and an open discussion of ways in which the intended use of technology might impact on existing ways of working. In that way the potential for problems would have been openly discussed and solutions could more easily have been found.

6.     Future Plans

 

The college has just completed a new-build for its Technology Centre, which will showcase our ground-breaking practice. This will include training, hosting seminars, workshops and mini conferences on the use of learning and enabling technology. It will also act as a video conferencing and research centre where the college will partner with other institutions, trialling various activities, approaches and products. As ILT Coordinator, I will take much responsibility for equipping this area, as well as developing plans for its innovative use with students, staff and public visitors and ensuring its smooth day to day running.   The learning which this will engender will be a two-way process where those, including myself, with different experiences and areas of expertise can learn from each other. In order to do this effectively I will need to:

 

  • ensure continued professional development relating, particularly, to the development of new technologies, and knowledge of new products together with an understanding of how they relate to learning, both in academic and non-academic environments.
  • ensure that my research knowledge is current, particularly in relation to research ethics.
  • Develop my knowledge of the dynamics of video conferencing as a form of communication and collaboration.

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

 

Appendix 1 – PhD Abstract

 

 

Literacy, Special Needs and the Use of Information Technology

 

 

Fern Faux; Graduate School of Education; December 2003

A dissertation submitted to the University of Bristol in accordance with the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Social Sciences

 

 

 

ABSTRACT

This thesis was set in the U.K. context of an increasingly technological society, where there is an emphasis upon both ICT excellence and literacy standards. One result of this twin-focus has been the development of multimodal literacies, offering potential benefits to students who have difficulty accessing ‘traditional’ literacy. However, to date there has been little research into how students deemed to require special educational provision might use ICT to produce these literacies, and a corresponding lack of investigation into the role that learning theories play in this development.

 

The research investigated three case studies, where the focus was on the process, rather than the result. Through a detailed analysis of students’ processes when creating stories with multimedia software, emergent themes led to categories of analysis, thus supporting final conclusions. There was consideration of interactions between the students and the computer, as well as between the students and the researcher, with a particular focus on the spoken word. The sociocultural environment in which these communications took place was also taken into account.

 

The research findings suggest that the software environment allowed the students to produce a quantity of high-quality presentations, and contributed to the development of an autonomous working style. It also found that the provision of scaffolded support, particularly in relation to spelling, gradually shifted from the researcher to the computer. Largely, this shift was possible because of the multi-sensory support structure offered by the program, which allowed the students to externalise a variety of processes. However, it is important to note that whilst the role of the computer was important, so too were human agency and other artefacts within the setting.

 

 

Appendix 2 – Consent and agreement forms

 

CONSENT FORM

This is an agreement between the National Star College and participants in the research activities of the MoLeNET project. The idea is to make sure we are all clear about the purpose of the research and that the participant is happy to take part and understands their responsibilities. I acknowledge that:

  • The aims of the project have been fully explained to me
  • I have been given an opportunity to ask questions
  • I wish to participate voluntarily and consent to do so
  • Any information collected about me (e.g. from interviews, text messages, photographs, videos made by me, lesson observations etc) will be stored securely
  • The results of the research may be reported in books, journals, at conferences, or using other media (e.g. on the Internet) but my name and personal details will not be disclosed
  • I can withdraw from the project at any time and, if I do, any information obtained from me will not be used.

 

I agree that:

  • I will look after any mobile devices and accessories which may be lent to me and do my best to ensure that they are not damaged, lost or stolen
  • I will promptly report to my tutor {or ILT Coordinator} any technical problems which may occur
  • I will actively contribute towards the research process
  • I will be considerate to, and respect the privacy and feelings of, other people participating in the project. I will not send any messages or take/use pictures which might upset others
  • I agree to provide research information requested, eg by completing questionnaires, taking part in interviews, photographs, videos etc
  • At the end of the research, if required I will promptly return all mobile devices and accessories which may have been lent to me

 

 

To be signed by the PARTICIPANT TO BE SIGNED BY PARENT/GUARDIAN (IF LEARNER IS UNDER THE AGE OF 18)
Name of participant:

 

Name of son/daughter:
Signed: Signed:
Date:

College/school:

Name:

Date:

 

[1] N.B. at the time of original submission all MoLeNET, MoLeTV and MoLeShare links were active. During the revision period, all of these links ceased activity. The links have been retained in this document for the purposes of original authenticity.

[2] N.B. at the time of original submission all MoLeNET, MoLeTV and MoLeShare links were active. During the revision period, all of these links ceased activity. The links have been retained in this document for the purposes of original authenticity.

[3] N.B. at the time of original submission all MoLeNET, MoLeTV and MoLeShare links were active. During the revision period, all of these links ceased activity. The links have been retained in this document for the purposes of original authenticity.

[4] N.B. at the time of original submission all MoLeNET, MoLeTV and MoLeShare links were active. During the revision period, all of these links ceased activity. The links have been retained in this document for the purposes of original authenticity.

[5] N.B. at the time of original submission all MoLeNET, MoLeTV and MoLeShare links were active. During the revision period, all of these links ceased activity. The links have been retained in this document for the purposes of original authenticity.

[6] N.B. at the time of original submission all MoLeNET, MoLeTV and MoLeShare links were active. During the revision period, all of these links ceased activity. The links have been retained in this document for the purposes of original authenticity.

[7] N.B. at the time of original submission all MoLeNET, MoLeTV and MoLeShare links were active. During the revision period, all of these links ceased activity. The links have been retained in this document for the purposes of original authenticity.

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