DREaM Conference another great success

Filed Under (Events, General, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 12-07-2012

Tagged Under :

Image of Ben speaking

Ben Goldacre in full flow

Getting the speakers, the venue, the content, the tone, the audience and even the food perfect for any event is a difficult trick to pull off. But this is just what the DREaM Conference which I attended Monday at the British Library in London achieved. And they achieved it with some considerable style.

Contributions from Professor Carol Tenopir, University of Tennessee; Dr Louise Cooke, Department of Information Science, Loughborough University were excellent and very well received. Star attraction who lived up to his reputation and gave a frank and fairly hard-hitting talk was Ben Goldacre who according to his blog:
“is a best-selling author, broadcaster, medical doctor and academic who specialises in unpicking dodgy scientific claims from drug companies, newspapers, government reports, PR people and quacks. Unpicking bad science is the best way to explain good science.”

The “One Minute Madness” was good fun with some deliveries timed to perfection – very impressive.

For futher details of the conference and the Coalition go to the Library and Information Science Research Coalition

P.S. —  I won a book in the raffle!  “Dale, P., Beard, J. and Holland, M., Eds.  (2011) University Libraries and Digital Learning Environments. Ashgate,  England.

Re-engaging with research: some thoughts from the Library and Information Research Group

Filed Under (Events, Research) by ronan on 26-06-2012

Find my blog post on the LIS Research Coalition Website by clicking  here

Structuring Knowledge: New visions for higher education

Filed Under (Events, General, OpenSource, Research, Technology Reviews) by ronan on 26-06-2012

Yesterday I attended the Society for Research into Higher Education conference at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford. The three main speakers were excellent and the debates which followed each presentation were engaging and thought-provoking.

Ron Barnett who talked about structuring knowledge in an Age of Non-Structure made some enlightening assertions about the use (or lack of use) of the imagination as a key aspect of student life and more importantly a key aspect of critical thinking.

Tina Besley all the way from the University of Waikato, tackled the fairly controversial area of academic entrepreneurship – but not as I had expected from the “academic capitalism” position of Slaughter but from a new perspective of social and networked creativity that encourages new imaginative and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. She also teased the audience with some exciting images of Bangkok university’s new and slightly off-the-wall building programme – more of which I will post later.

Michael A Peters – of Open Science Economy fame treated us to an entertaining and wide-ranging overview of “openness” as a political economic and social concept. He was of particular interest to me because he had an inherent appreciation of the “library” and “librarianship” in all that is currently happening. He mentioned of course open access publishing and scholarly activity – but also noted the importance of metadata and nodded enthusiastically towards the future with references to the semantic web and quantum information theory.  I found his “informaticisation of biology” and his “biologisisation of information” to be an intriguing juxtaposition.

A very good day spent debating theories of knowledge in nice surroundings – well done SRHE for organising this pity I could only stay for the first day.

ALDinHE Conference 2012

Filed Under (Events, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 13-04-2012

I attended recently the 9th ALDinHE Conference: University of Leeds “Learning Development in a digital age: emerging literacies and learning spaces”. This is the Assocoation for Leaning Development in Higher Education, its aims are described on its website:  “informed by values of empowerment and partnership, a Learning Development perspective encourages and supports all students to be actively engaged in their own learning and to analyse and assess their own development within experiential and social contexts.”

The conference for which I could only attend one day was at the University of Leeds and was well organised – unfortunately I missed the social events. I did catch the Keynote speaker Helen Beetham who was excellent – I had come across her work in digital literacies in particular a JISC funded project which I rate highly and have returned to on a number of occasions. Helen’s keynote was engaging and well put together deploying a number of devices to put forward a well thought through argument – I was particularly interested in her thoughts about referencing and citation and her assertion that today’s learners are more likely to use Delicious or Mendeley rather than come to terms with the less intuitive Harvard 18th or Chicago 15th. I agree – it is probably the case – I use Mendeley and WorldCat all the time. I was even more surprised that a group like ALDinHE were aware of or interested in what I would have thought were “librarianship” issues. Indeed throughout my short visit to the conference I kept wondering where this group of people fitted into the modern university. They weren’t professional libraians nor could they be labelled “academic staff” whatever that means. I suppose they had some support role – widening participation seemed important judging from the poster session, and encouragingly many of them were keen researchers. It is hoped however that they do not have any role in supporting students with their academic writing because they described their keynote speaker as having been a Principle Researcher!

It was during the keynote that disaster struck! When the keynote was warming up, in fact at the precise moment when we were listening to the “sound of  data” the fire alarm sounded and we evacuated the lecture theatre. What a pity. I got bored and cold standing outside and there was nobody able to give any information so I took the opportunity to visit the Brotherton Library which is always a treat.

I now know that Learning Development is a “thing” but not sure what nor how it fits in with library services.

The ALDinHE website can be found here:  http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/home.html

HE Forum Online Session – Quality in VLE – a Delphi Study

Filed Under (Events, Research, VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)) by ronan on 18-01-2012

Tagged Under : ,

Research from the comfort of my desk.

Last week I took part in a live online forum and presented some research that I had carried out on behalf of JISC and MEG (Mixed Economy Group of colleges).

It was a very interesting excercise both in terms of the technology use and the feedback and discussion that followed. This research was carried out in the Summer of 2011 and looked at perceptions about quality issues in virtual learning environments of staff in colleges who offer higer education.

I presented the findings firstly to the funders in Preston to colleagues from MEG and further afield. I also presented a very shortened version to the MEG Committee meeting in London in December 2011.

There has been quite a bit of interest at all dissemination events in the use of the Delphi technique and in particular the use of the Moodle system to manage the roll-out of the Delphi technique.

The reason I used Delphi in this instance was to test its validity in terms of exploring issues of technology – I was particularly keen to see how it might give up – good quality data about future directions in the use of technology within learning environments. On this occasion, perhaps due to the small scale of the study, the dataset did not provide significant indications of current issues or future challenges.

I hope to use the Delphi technique to undertake a much larger piece of research that will look at changing perceptions of knowledge and scholarship within learning environments and education systems.

The link is here if you want to view the whole session.    http://infodb.rsc-yh.ac.uk/events/event_details.asp?eid=846

HEA Event at Newcastle

Filed Under (Events, General, Research) by ronan on 29-11-2010

A little tired and very cold I landed in Newcastle airport from Sri Lanka via Dubai, and took the very efficient and economical (£2.90) metro to Central Station and to my hotel, where after a quick sleep, I made a rendezvous with colleagues who were presenting at the research in HE in FE event the following morning. We visited Chinatown in Newcastle and had a good meal – cash only.

The event the following morning, despite its start being delayed by a fire alarm was another success, and the venue, Newcastle College, was excellent.

Again I was surprised by jusr how much research is actually taking place in FE colleges and by the quality also – always lean and highly focused on teaching and learning.
Looking forward to next workshop which will be in North Wales in December.

Colombo Swimming Club – Sri Lanka

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, Events, General) by ronan on 29-11-2010

On my final day in Sri Lanka I stayed at the Colombo Swimming Club hotel and availed of their wonderful outdoor pool. Olympic gold medalist David Wilkie learned to swim in this pool. But I suppose of more significance was the fact that scientist, science fiction writer and Sri Lankabhimanya, Sir Arthur C. Clarke CBE FRAS swam laps of this pool on a daily basis during the second half of his life. Apparently he called this pool his “million dollar pool” and according to the hotel website he used the daily swim as a meditation that spawned the plots and characters for his fictional work.

Arthur C Clarke died in Colombo in March 2008 he had lived here since 1956. He obviously grew to love the country…….

The island of Ceylon is a small universe; it contains as many variations of culture, scenery, and climate as some countries a dozen times its size. What you get from it depends on what you bring; if you never stray from your hotel bar or the dusty streets of westernized Colombo, you could perish of fulminating boredom in a week, and it would serve you right. But if you are interested in people, history, nature, and art – the things that really matter – you may find, as I have, that a lifetime is not enough.” (Clarke in The View from Serendip, 1977)

Colombo Public Library

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, Events, General) by ronan on 16-11-2010

I found time Saturday afternoon to go to a sevens rugby tournament at the headquarters of the SLRU Longden Rd Colombo. It was an incredibly hot day for rugby and the humidity made it even more difficult for the players. Luckily I was in the shade of the stand thanks to our hosts. We sampled the local brew Lion lager (4.8 abv) and enjoyed some good rugby played with real passion – a sin bin in sevens is just two minutes – not really enough time for proper atonement and reflection. Despite the recent flooding that there was on the day we arrived, which made thousands of people homeless, the rugby pitch was rock hard and made for a fast game.

The traffic here today on the Galle rd is very heavy due to the cricket test – Sri Lanka take on the West Indies. I ventured out to see if I could find the National Library of Sri Lanka but gave up – nobody seems to have noticed its fairly recent construction. I discovered later that the national library is part of or housed in the national museum – but the public library is the building I am interested in and I did manage a photo from the car as I passed it by. Fish curries are superb.

College students feature in fashion show

Filed Under (Events, General) by ronan on 16-11-2010

Five students from Bradford College were taking part in the Sri Lanka Design Festival 2010 here in Colombo. Three graduate designers have been living here for the past three months as part of a bradford College, British Council and Academy of Design joint project. Karl Newton BA (Hons.) Fashion Design  had his collection of woven tailored garments on the catwalk. Jade Hannam BA (Hons.) Fashion Design was also featured on the catwalk with her batik designs based on Buddha wheels. Juliette Hadland BA (Hons.) Contemporary Surface Design & Textiles has created a collection of loungewear and bed linen. Juliette has worked with the craftspeople and artisans in the Kandy region who have an exhibition of their work in the craft village.
Laura Rupkus and Carla Dyson travelled out with me from Bradford and both played a big part in the fashion show. Laura, Foundation Degree in Creative Hairdressing, styled the hair of a large number of the models that were working on the two nights of the fashion show. Laura’s ability to work calmly in the highly pressurised environment backstage at an international fashion show was impressive. Carla – BA (Hons.) Special Make-up Effects & Artistry – has recently found herself in a new role as a model. She rose to the occasion on both nights this week and demonstrated her understanding of the industry by taking to the catwalk with confidence and flair.

Designers featured in the show included Barefoot, Yoland, Buddhi Batiks and Kolaro. Carla’s photograph along with other professional models appears in today’s Sri Lanka Daily FT newspaper.

Design Festival – Sri Lanka

Filed Under (Events, General, Research) by ronan on 14-11-2010

Greetings from the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
I have travelled to Colombo to attend the Sri Lanka Design Festival 2010. I am speaking on how information and communications technologies might support the design and fashion industries in the future while having an absolute minimal impact on the environment. 
In the words of the organisers: “Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF) 2010 is a unique Festival designed to promote Sri Lanka’s creative and design industries, both traditional and contemporary, as well as the Sri Lankan apparel industry’s incredible capabilities and creative strength on a global platform.”

I am impressed by the enthusiasm and drive of the design and fashion people here; and this, coupled with the emphasis on ethical sourcing and ethical consummerism makes it a unique event.
“The Festival is equipped to engage both the Festival-going audience and the commercial visitor, with a range of workshops and talks in all fields of design- Graphic, Fashion, Jewellery and Interior – led by both international and local delegates”.  The government paper here this morning the Sunday Observer talks about reviving the textile industry while maintaining a strong ‘garments without guilt’ approach – this entails legislation which the government is pleased to pass. The paper quotes Mr Rizad Bathiudeen Minister of Industrial Development and International Trade “The ethical sourcing and sustainable development practices in the garment industry aim to empower women and support their communities through poverty alleviation and offering opportunities for education and personal growth.” 
More to follow on this excellent event and my experiences