Photograph courtesy of Lars Hammar on Flickr

Last Friday I attended the University’s annual Teaching & Learning Conference. It was a good event, organised by the Teaching & Learning Directorate, and a great opportunity to catch up with practitioners from around the University and find out what they’ve been working on. Here are my particular highlights…

Supporting student blogging and communities of learning’ (Oliver Quinlan, Peter Yeomans and Steve Wheeler) – was a presentation illustrating the power of networking through creating your own Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Students on the BEd Primary Education Programme of Initial Teacher Education use Twitter and manage their own free form blogs to learn and communicate with each other and external influencers. I was surprised to learn that these blogs are not assessed. Another interesting point was that students blog live from their lectures, publishing and sharing their notes immediately. Oliver demonstrated this throughout the day, providing instant articles from the presentations he attended. These are very factually written (and well written I think) which is a great skill for journalists, but shouldn’t an educator’s blog be more reflective? We encourage our students to think and write reflectively, and a major part of obtaining my CMALT qualification involved being critically reflective… My posts take quite a long time to write, although I’m now tempted to give ‘live blogging’ a try – I just need to ensure that I have enough battery power!

I also found out what a ‘Pecha Kucha’ is – a presentation where you are limited to 20 seconds to talk about each slide (usually around 20). I’ve seen that this format is currently very popular at conferences such as ALT-C, but have yet to participate in one. Apparently it’s often used for describing design projects and presenting research. I used to teach on the University’s ‘General Teaching Award’ programme where we asked students to do a 5 minute presentation. I guess this is a similar challenge and again, it would be good to have a go.

Oh, and I learnt a new ‘ogogy’ – ‘heutagogy’ is ‘self-directed’ learning; Web 2.0 tools provide an environment that supports this approach. Lisa Marie Blaschke explores this theory further in her paper, ‘Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning’ (January 2012), published in ‘The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning’ (IRRODL) eJournal.

Expanded narrative: An online resource for students, lecturers and practitioners’ (Emma Whittaker). This excited me as the community includes developers and researchers from artificial intelligence, theatre, digital arts and game development (taking me back to life as an Undergraduate). Unfortunately Emma was unable to attend so the presentation was a bit dry – the site has some great features however, with links to free interactive story apps. They are also working to showcase students’ work here so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. See

‘Changing 21st century teaching and learning: future proofing Plymouth University’ (Pauline Kneale, Jane Collings, Debby Cotton and Laura Lake). This talk, presented by our current Director of Teaching and Learning, Pauline Kneale, focussed on a research project funded through the Curriculum Development strand of the JISC Future Proofing Project. She asked us to consider “what are today’s 10 year olds doing?” She then discussed how creative thinking could be cultivated and mentioned ‘walking seminars’. Unfortunately I didn’t note who she was referring to, but found ‘The Walking Seminar Blog’ hosted by AnneMarie Mol who has written some interesting posts around this. Pauline also highlighted the use of labyrinths for creative thinking at the University of Kent, which has a permanent one in its campus grounds and also 2 portable indoor ones.

If you would like to find out more about the Conference, visit the website where you will find links to the programme, abstracts and posters. See also Lee Marshall’s Storify for the #PTLC twitter feed.