This time I am delighted to be talking to Sue Beckingham, National Teaching Fellow and Principal Lecturer in Business Information Systems and Technology, LTA Lead in Computing at Sheffield Hallam University as well as one of the highly anticipated keynote speakers of the 2019 ALT Annual Conference, taking place 3-5 September, in Edinburgh.
Maren: Tell us about what you are currently working on?
Sue: The last month has been consumed with marking, moderating, preparing for the exam boards and writing module reviews. It was good to take a few days out to attend SOLSTICE Conference at Edge Hill in my role as Visiting Fellow where I co-ran a session with my colleague Prof Peter Hartley on ‘Communication revisited – new perspectives and their implications for our practice in learning and teaching.’ This gave us an opportunity to shine a light on the use of new technology for learning and how we could communicate with students, for example through chatbots to provide 24/7 answers to FAQs and hologram lectures to bring in speakers from afar! We are also working together on new editions of two books Peter has written ‘Success in Groupwork’ and ‘Interpersonal Communication’, to bring in the use of technology and social media. Technology wise I am re-exploring the use of augmented reality and how this can be used to evoke curious learning and animated videos to share information.
My interest in the use of social media for learning is always at the forefront and I love having the opportunity to develop student partnerships. The SMASH (Social media for Academic Studies at Hallam) team formed in in 2016 will be looking to share an open web site of resources and activities they have co-created. This project has resulted in a collection of opportunities for the students to present their work at conferences and a recent publication co-written titled ‘A SMASHing approach for developing staff and student digital capabilities within a Community of Practice‘ in the Journal of Educational Innovation. I’m excited to see how the students take this project forward in the new academic year.
I am involved in the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium and about to take on a new role to co-facilitate the social media channels. This is an annual conference for women students of computing and related subjects, which provides a forum for networking, sharing of ideas, and advice from academia and industry about careers in computing. As a female working in a department that is predominantly male I truly value opportunities to network and this event brings many women together, both staff and students.
Last but not least is #SocMedHE19, an annual conference with a Social Media for Learning in Higher Ed focus. A seed planted in the summer of 2015 resulted in the inaugural event that December at Sheffield Hallam University with Eric Stoller as keynote, co-facilitated with Helen Rodger and Alison Purvis. After three iterations the baton was passed to the wonderful Rachel Challen at NTU and this December the brilliant Dawne Bell and Sarah Wright at Edge Hill University will lead the event. I’ve continued to contribute as part of the organising team as well as presenting with my students. Do take a look at and consider submitting a proposal. https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/clt/conference-2014/social-media-for-learning-in-higher-education-conference-2019/
Maren: What influences your work?
Sue: The NSS, TEF, and more recently the Augar Review all contribute to an ongoing analysis of the way we work; as do restructures, cuts in budgets and new policies. Whilst not an advocate of incessant change, I do see the value of new interventions that will enhance the student experience and be both inclusive and accessible. Taking time to step back and reflect on my own practice is important; and I frequently seek inspiration from my peers through the use of social media and my international network which extends way beyond my institution
Maren: Current recommended reading?
Sue: Hot off the press and highly recommended is Social Media in Higher Education: Case Studies, Reflections and Analysis edited by Chris Rowell and is available to read online for free! The book is split into seven sections: professional practice, teaching and learning, leadership, building networks, innovation and finally the personal journey; so has something for everybody. I contributed one of the chapters which is about developing a professional online presence and effective network.
Maren: How do you make your to-do lists.. analogue or digital or both?
Sue: Both! I use the notes app on my phone and when working collaboratively with colleagues we have made use of Google Docs, Trello and Slack. I’ve tried a few other apps like Todoist but frankly I still like post-its and my notebook! That said I am going to revisit OneNote next academic year, having seen a colleague use this.
Maren: On work travel, you are never without..?
Sue: Tech wise I’m never ever without
- my iPhone, charger, and for back up my ‘recharge’ in case there is nowhere to plug my charger cable in to
- a notebook and pencil
- my Kindle if there is time to read.
- I may also take a laptop to work on (and of course its charger).
Maren: Which learning technology makes the biggest difference to your work (and why)?
Sue: It is without doubt my smart phone and access to the social media spaces that I use to connect with my learning network. Yes I can also use my iPad, laptop or desktop, but it is my phone that gives me the connection whilst commuting to work, in between meetings, and other snatches of time. Every day I learn something new that is valuable and relevant to my practice from so many wonderful educators who openly share their practice via social media.
Maren: Who are your learning technology heroes?
Sue: Ooh where do I start? The #altc community as they openly share so much. On Wednesdays at 8pm I am constantly learning from the #LTHEchat community both the guests that lead a topic relating to learning and teaching and those who engage in the conversations. Thinking about individuals, there are so many… I couldn’t call out just a few. That’s the fantastic thing about this community – everyone has the opportunity to contribute and be a learning technology hero through sharing their perspectives on learning and teaching and how technology can support this.
Maren: If you had learning technology superpowers for a day, what would you change?
Sue: From a practical perspective I would deploy free and secure WiFi everywhere!
I’d like to relook at the IT spend on PCs and provide all students with an “intelligent device”, which would become their personalised, interconnected virtual learning hub. This would hold a profile of their academic and personal life, syncing all their work to their tutors, connecting to university services with options to communicate in text chat or voice, and linking to their extra-curricular life and their peers. Students would also submit work and get feedback on this device and have a space to reflect using multimedia that feeds into a professional development portfolio. These are not new concepts but currently are fragmented as they happen in different spaces. I expanded on this at the Jisc Network Conference, where I was invited to join a panel to talk about what a university would look like in 2030. I told some of my MSc students about this idea and one contacted me with a view of investigating this as a PhD. Watch this space!
Maren: What are your favourite hashtags?
Sue: I’d say #altc which is a constant stream of so many interesting conversations relating to learning technologies and #LTHEchat which is a weekly conversation on all things learning and teaching. Each week there is a different theme and a guest leading the conversation with questions. If you’ve not come across this do follow @LTHEchat and take a look at https://lthechat.com.
Maren: What’s the best way for someone to learn more about what you do?
Sue: I’d suggest follow me on Twitter (@suebecks) or via one of two blogs I write. One is about Social Media for Learning; the other is my own musings about my own learning journey and the work that I do. I also have a site called the The Project Based Learning Toolkit that I created as an output from a project.
Maren: Thank you, Sue, I really excited to see your upcoming keynote #altc!
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