Earlier in March, Jisc’s Digifest event comprised 90 speakers across 85 sessions. This post offers the reflections of three of the #ALTC community who travelled to Birmingham to experience #Digifest15.
Before you go on to read their experience, have a little watch of Jisc’s summary video from YouTube…
The Falmouth Takeaway #digifest15:
Amy Sampson and Mark Williams
JISC’s Annual Digifest offered a fantastic opportunity to connect with colleagues across FE and HE and find out what’s been happening across the education sector as a result of some exciting and innovative JISC projects. The event took place across two days at Birmingham’s ICC and was formed of keynotes, workshops, seminars and hands-on technology displays. We attended on behalf of Falmouth University and captured the event in Vines, Pictures and Words.
One of the key themes that emerged from the various keynotes and sessions was that of change and our roles in that process. The government’s recent digital skills report highlights a gap and states ‘Universities should ensure that all graduates are digitally competent.’ Many of the sessions within the conference addressed what we could be doing to improve digital capabilities and how we can educate staff and students alike in their application of digital tools to support learning and teaching. Bob Harrison, who has worked with FELTAG and BIS to enact change in the sector asked us to become a ‘paradigm pioneer’ within our institutions and challenge the existing model of education to enable the effective use of new technologies. Further breakout sessions continued with this theme; Jisc’s Sarah Davies looked at recent work around the #digitalcapabilty of our institutions and the evolution of our roles within them. ‘Students as agents of change’ is a very productive area for HE and examples from Southampton and Winchester Universities and also Blackburn College proved this to be the case.
It was also interesting to hear from Carole Goble, whose keynote addressed the application of open source tools to package up research objects, promoting reproducibility and sustainability of research data. This complemented Simon Nelson’s keynote from the previous day which highlighted the role of the internet as an enabler to learning.
Digifest proved a great opportunity to find out about the initiatives Jisc were working on in various educational areas. We’ve previously written of our support for the #digitalstudent project – student and staff experience are at the forefront of our work at Falmouth and it’s really useful to have so many examples of good practice from the project in support of this. It was enlightening and refreshing to hear from students talking about how they navigate around institutional tools like the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and email to support their learning.
Digifest15 was fun, enlightening and thought provoking; the return from Birmigham to Falmouth gave us plenty of opportunity to reflect and ponder some questions:
- How can we establish more student-staff partnerships and how do we get greater institutional support?
- What will the role of the Learning Technologist look like in the future as we address the digital skills crisis?
- How do we challenge educational paradigms and can technology support this?
- How could open source support qualitative research in creative subjects?
- If students find institutional systems difficult to use, can we promote and support alternatives?
We’re hoping to have answered these (or at least explored them) in time for next year’s event!
Physical and virtual spaces for connection:
As chair of Eurocall’ s Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) Special Interest Group I am very accustomed to spending as much of my professional life in virtual spaces online as I spend in physical rooms and conference halls. I often think of this as a form of amphibian existence, constantly moving above and below the waterline. This image taken during last year’s Eurocall conference in Groningen seems to me to a good representation of how teachers need to evolve to be ready to cope with the challenges of the future.
Jisc’s recent festival of all things digital in Further and Higher Education, #digifest15, provided me with a welcome opportunity to get out of the office and yet my amphibious nature brought a new dimension to the physical experience of conference attendance.
Birmingham’s ICC is a great conference venue, centrally located and easy to reach, with inviting and relaxing spaces. The talks took place across conference rooms and within a central hub which was colourful and maintained the ‘festival feel’ with its big top decorations and floating clouds. A conference app provided opportunities to connect with other attendees and keep track of our schedule. Combining that with the use of Twitter and the hashtag #digifest15 I was able to navigate across the waterline, having real time face-to-face chats with participants and engaging in interaction with presenters using online communication channels. The conference organisers provided opportunities to find out how Jisc is supporting our sector with the challenges presented by the digital in education and it is clear that we need to be more creative, to think in a new way and to embrace the affordances we now have to best advantage if we are to avoid becoming irrelevant in a world which is impatient for change. As is now my nature, I returned below the waterline to disseminate! My further reflections on the event are available here.
So #Digifest looked a blast and I’m sorry I didn’t make it myself. There are plenty of other personal reflections, such as Suhad Aljundi’s over on the Scarlett Augmented Reality blog; You can access some of the recordings from the Digifest pages on the Jisc website; and in the meantime, could there be a better Vine to leave you with…
Teresa MacKinnon: The University of Warwick
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