Teaching and Learning Conference – Experience and Practice within College based HE

Friday 4th July, University Centre at Blackburn College

With Alicia Nordstrom, Director of CETL at Misericordia University, Pennsylvania ‘Remember the Data: Teaching Critical Thinking through Research-Based Assignments’

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 20.02.25

Bookable here: http://www.blackburn.ac.uk/teach-learn-conf/

Extract from my presentation with Peter Shukie and David Meir

This presentation explores the project as a rhizomatic studio space, where the practice explored the use of virtual and real spaces to create in and share with others. The auto-ethnographic ‘self-surveillance’ process enabled observations to be made of a creative practice, gain insight into the creative process and consider the benefits of documenting, reflecting, and using recall techniques. The process of capturing and documenting not only informed the work but also formed the work itself with visual and audio narratives being incorporated.



How to Avoid Digital Dead Ends – A Teaching & Learning Conference

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 19.53.23How to Avoid Digital Dead Ends – A Teaching & Learning Conference

On the 9th July the University Centre at Blackburn College will be hosting an exciting teaching & learning conference. This year’s conference is open to external delegates and sees a range of speakers both present findings to research in relation to teaching and learning. Our keynote speaker Virginia Eubanks is flying in from New York to be a part of this exciting event and will present alongside a number of Blackburn College’s own staff members. We have 50 places available for this exciting event at £49 including lunch and refreshments. An outline of the programme is below:














9am – Registration

9.35 – Mindfulness Thinking

10:00 – Keynote Speaker – Virginia Eubanks

11:00 – Joanna Neil (Teaching by example and creating cultures of learning: digital tools and system for reflection and personal planning in teaching & learning)

The paper examines how case-studies have been used to promote a culture of sharing positive practice across college, enabling practitioners to learn from their innovative use of technology in teaching and learning. It focuses on studies that use technology to enhance reflection and planning such as Evernote, Mahara and WordPress. 

11:45 – Valarie Todd (Assessment: Feedback to feedforward)

The aim of this study is to formalise the process of assessment feedback to feedforward for student learning and growth. 

12:30 – 13:30 – Lunch (provided)

13:30 – Craig Hammond & Phil Johnson (Enhancing Employability via Community)

‘Community Challenge’ built on experiences acquired from involvement as a research partner in C-SAP’s ‘Cascading Social Sciences Open Educational Resources’ project in phase two of the UK-wide OER programme. The cascade’s reflexive research methods led to the implementation of a wiki-based staff development programme at UCBC called ‘Creativity for Edupunks?’

14:15 – Martin McAreavey (Herding Cats in Search of Employability Skills)

This paper looks at the development of a better process for matching students looking for an organisation to host their Business Research Project with employers seeking to benefit from ‘free consultancy with health warnings’ available through tapping into the intellectual resource available within our undergraduate student population.

15:00 – Alex Shukie (Supporting undergraduate engagement and achievement in STEM disciplines)

With funding from National HE STEM Project, the School of Science and Technology at UCBC developed an innovative, engaging and practical Mathematics ‘bridging’ course for new engineering students enrolling onto Higher National programmes. In 2012 the project team developed an online resource to not only to reduce contact time within College, but more importantly to introduce a blended learning approach to make mathematics engaging and relevant to learners in engineering disciplines.

15:45 – Close


For more information and a booking form please contact Amy Musgrove – a.musgrove@blackburn.ac.uk or phone 01254 292874.

Specialist Spotlight: Blogs

The latest Case study on a subject close to my research interests:

Blogs or ‘web logs’ are a form of private and/or public self-publishing. Bloggers create ‘posts’ which can by written, audio, image, video, URL links and re-blogged content from other sources. Content can be sourced from the World Wide Web, directly formed on the blog itself or uploaded from other digital devices. Creative Arts students can use blogs as digital sketchbooks, research repositories and digital portfolios for their practical work. Popular blogging platforms are Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger .

This case study has been formed through conversations with Jamie Holman, course leader for the University of the Arts, London (UAL) Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, and students, Melissa Houghton and Sarah Smith, both fine art students on the UAL Foundation course.

The Creative Arts team in FE have been using blogs with their students over a period of a few years now, each year building on how they are integrated into the course and used by staff and students. Students on the UAL Foundation Diploma in Art and Design specialise in a range of disciplines including moving image, audio production, photography, graphics, fashion and textiles, fine art and three-dimensional design.

They are introduced to the concept of blogs at the start of their course, which is important in terms of students documenting their work effectively from the start and them being open to different forms and ways of working. The blogs are constructed by the students and accessible to staff. The blogs are viewed by staff and used to help construct feedback, which is given verbally, face to face to students in tutorials. From this exchange students are encouraged to write their own feedback onto their blog in the form of a reflective and target setting post. Kylie Budge describes blogs as a ‘socially-wise approach to creativity’ and  blogging as a ‘form of social media where young creatives have a very active voice’ (2012). This type of process further encourages students to have more ownership of their work, partly because the feedback becomes ‘their own language’ as well as developing important reflective and target setting skills. The social aspect is an important feature ‘I see a social approach to creativity as being inextricably linked to the need fro developing creativity with wisdom…when linked, offer a powerful dynamic to stimulate, nurture and develop creativity (ibid p.46). The wider social context includes other stakeholders: external moderators are sent the links to blogs in advance, which gives the moderator a direct link to the students and a transparency to the process. The students are aware that the blogs will need to be read by different audiences and are encouraged to develop their reflective language as if speaking to the moderator.

The use of blogs needs to be seen in a wider context of how the course operates: importantly the blogs are not seen in isolation of other technology tools, students also use the course Facebook page to communicate with the arts team and peer group as well as gain feedback on work in a closed forum. Facebook is moderated by staff and also performs as a static repository for key course information. Vimeo, the public forum for uploading videos is also used for a wider audience and more open feedback on work. Students also use ipads for interviews at HE institutions where they can select and show images of their work as well as their blogs to interviewers. The ipad becomes a digital portfolio device, a platform, which is capable of showing many facets of the students work and process and something that students have more ‘control and input’ over.

Concerns over whether a student is confident and competent with technology might deter staff from using blogs with their students. Staff confidence and competency might also be a barrier here as well. The FE arts team introduce the blogs at the start of the course and show exemplar blogs to inspire and help students engage with blogging as a viable additional or alternative process to documenting and reflecting on their work, ‘a distinct characteristic of academic blogs is the fusion of personal narratives and critical reflection’ (Deng and Yuen 2012 p.450), it is this ‘fusion’ or juxtaposition of reflection, research and own work that is so clear on a blog.  How students use their blogs might depend on their specialism, a student studying digital media based subjects may find this form of sketchbook more naturally aligned to their practice where as a fine art student may have a preference for containing their work and reflection in a sketchbook. However, the two students I spoke to were fine art students both deeply engaged in their painting specialism and both enthusiastic advocates for using blogs on their course. Melissa and Sarah were aware of blogs prior to starting on the course, mainly through following bloggers and using them for informal chatting and sharing. When the course blogs were shown to them they were excited to use this method with their first impressions being that they could ‘see everything’ and ‘put materials that can’t go into sketchbooks’. They were keen to use something that would make you stand out at interview; both were aware that at tough interviews, interviewers were looking for something more. They also wanted to use something that would help them move on from A Level.

We had an interesting conversation about the process of writing in a sketchbook compared to typing for a blog, whether blog writing makes reflective writing and analysis easier, which I hope will form the basis of further research and case studies, ‘it has been suggested that more creative forms of reflection/learning can empower learners for whom writing is not their preferred way of learning’ ( Kirk and Pitches, 2012). The main benefits the students had experienced through using the blogs was that the blogs were an efficient way to research, document and write reflection and that they did not experience that sense of ‘being behind’ that had been common in a linear sketchbook. The sketchbook still had its place but a shift had occurred and the role of the sketchbook for these two students had changed. Their aim was no longer to fill the sketchbook, it was now one aspect of a bigger process. The students liked that they had control over which posts were visible and public and those they could make private, and although they found compiling research and documenting their work on the blogs easier, they were still selective of what went on. Being able to tag posts with key words enables students to catergorise and organise the content on their blogs; they can also revisit earlier work in new contexts with ease compared to the more linear sketchbook process.

The students saw the connection between their blogs, facebook and face to face crits and tutorials and that each served to enhance and support the other. This is important for the creative arts team as they want their students to be able to access important course information and manage their students learning in an effective way. An article by Chris Follows (2011), focuses on the processes of implementing blogs in the curriculum for students who work with video and animation because they ‘tend not to work in the formal arts studio environment and over time can become ‘less visible’ to staff and their peers’. This highlights how the use of blogs alongside creative practice: enable enhanced communication, make the students practice more visible, introduce open practice and ‘encourage students to reflect and explore how they operate online’ (ibid). and arguably for any student across any discipline.

Sarah’s blog: srhsmith.tumblr.com

Melissa’s blog: melissahoughtonart.blogspot.co.uk


  • Student ownership over working process
  • Professional repository of work
  • Instant research
  • Useful for collaboration
  • Encourage an anywhere, anytime approach to learning and therefore blurring boundaries
  • Fun to use

Try it out: Top 10 Free Online Blogging Platforms: http://sixrevisions.com/tools/top-free-online-blogging/


With thanks to Melissa Houghton and Sarah Smith for permission to use their comments


Budge, K. (2012), ‘Art and Design Blogs: a Socially-Wise Approach to Creativity’, International Journal of Art & Design Education, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 44-52.

Deng, L. & Yuen, A.H.K. (2011), ‘Towards a framework for educational affordances of blogs’, Computers & Education, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 441-451.

Follows, C.  (2011), Striking a balance between practice and open practice? University of the arts London http://process.arts.ac.uk/content/striking-balance-between-practice-and-open-practice (accessed  9th March 2013)

Kirk, C. & Pitches, J. (2013), ‘Digital reflection: using digital technologies to enhance and embed creative processes’, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, pp. 1-18.

Case Study – Evernote

Specialist Spotlight: Evernote for reflection and as a repository of evidence

Following on from the last case study on the eportfolio system Mahara, this case study looks at Evernote as an alternative. Evernote is a free ‘Cloud Based’ repository and organisational tool. It is a flexible digital, online notebook which gives you a single place to create or compile all your notes, web clippings, snapshots or documents to create your own repository for documenting, research and reflection. Content can be synchronised on a computer/ipad/mobile phone and supports a number of operating system platforms (including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Chrome OS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and WebOS) with online synchronisation and backup services.

Personal journey using Evernote

A colleague John Marsden reintroduced me to Evernote at the ‘Using OERs in HE in FE: degrees of edupunk?’ Conference in June 2012. I had looked at it before then but it was John demonstrating how he had been using it that encouraged and inspired me to give it another go. My Evernote has four notebooks each one for a different purpose and each one containing many ‘notes’ which contain images, pdf’s, text, audio, emails sent directly to them as well as content shared by others. I use it to store creative ideas for my own practical work so it functions a bit like a sketchbook as well as an e-portfolio which contains reflection posts as well as ‘evidence’ of my learning for my MA course (Online Distance Education) with the Open University. Finding the right way to organise content and evidence is really important and needs to fit in with how you like to research, store and retrieve information. I use the tagging system to catergorise individual notes within each notebook making retrieval of related content easy.

I have experimented with recording my voice directly into an Evernote note using my IPhone mainly to record thoughts and content for my essays or to record moments quickly. It has also been a convenient way whilst driving to ramble on to myself in a fairly unselfconscious way making it easy to revisit and extract the good stuff! Using the IPhone or IPad enables you take photographs, tag and store directly into Evernote.

I have also found that my own learning and development on reflection has emerged through my teaching: by teaching students I am consolidating my own learning, and agree that ‘one of the best ways to learn something is, after all, to teach others’ (Seely Brown and Adler 2008, p. 18). I began to use my Evernote as a repository and reflection tool/e-portfolio as a teaching resource for different research modules I teach on and also introduced Evernote to staff as development training as well as for a students on the BA English course who are required to maintain a journal of reflection for one of their modules.

Context in Classroom

All students were introduced to different tools to use as journals by tutor Karen Coe. I went into Karen’s session and introduced her student to Evernote, showing them how I was using it for my own learning as well as demonstrating the main features it has. Student Adam Connell took to using Evernote as his main journal and repository and was happy to feed back to me his experiences of using it to help me with an essay I was writing. I asked Adam:

  • How have you approached reflection writing/keeping a journal in the past?
  • What benefits did you find Evernote having over other methods of recording reflection?
  • Did you use different ways to record your reflection – audio, images, attachments etc?
  • What difficulties did you come across when using Evernote for the purpose of journal/reflection?
  • Did it concern you that it was part of your assessment (if it is)?
  • Was it initially a barrier that Evernote is a digital tool – did you have the skills/confidence at the start?
  • Do you think that Evernote helped you to keep a journal/write your reflection – if so how?

Adam’s response to these questions:

No problem at all regarding giving the feedback.  Even though I have been using it for a few months now, I still only use the basic aspects of Evernote at the moment.  After we discussed the various methods in class (which came in very handy by the way!), this method seemed to suit me more than the other options.  

This was the first time that I have ever attempted a journal in my life, it is something that I have always been interested in but always put off for some reason or other. I have decided to keep things simple and just write whatever that is in my head as that particular moment.  I actually find it therapeutic and after reflecting on my day/week I feel all the better for it!  

As stated above, at the moment I am keeping things simple at the moment and will start adding images, audio etc. as and when.  I like the idea of being able to do this and this will definitely become a prominent feature of my journal.

I have not really come across any difficulties at the moment, it is very easy to use (well what I am using it for anyway), but it will be much appreciated if I could email/call/drop in when I do have difficulties for some guidance.  

I will admit, that whilst I thought that doing a journal was a good idea in theory, I was worried about the amount of time it would take on top of my other things (assignments, homework, revision etc.) but it does not take that long to input so it is not a problem.  I have no worries about my journal being assessed because as Karen has stated to us, it is a new thing so as long as I do not do anything radical is should be fine.

In fact, I am going to use this as part of my reflection, so thanks!

In response to this I sent Adam a screen shot of how I had used some of his feedback in my essay and how he had been acknowledged and credited in my assignment:

Using eportfolios for PDP is excellent preparation for the independence and reflection required for WBL: ‘the structure of an e-portfolio appears to reflect cognitive processes in that elements of learning are chosen, combined and communicated according to purpose’ (Raiker, 2009). Jenny Moon (2005 p.2) suggests that ‘where the learner is able to consider his/her own learning behaviour, metacognitive ability is associated with effective learning. This was apparent in some feedback a student gave regarding their use of Evernote as a reflection tool. On being asked about using Evernote he stated ‘I have no worries about my journal being assessed…in fact, I am going to use this as part of my reflection, so thanks!’ (Connell, 2013). Andrea Raiker (2010) considers how ‘e-portfolios supporting and structuring PDP processes can enable transformative learning resulting in reformed knowledge leading to new structures of thought, affecting esteem and efficacy’.


With thanks to Chris Niblett and Adam Connell for permission to use their comments.


Beetham, H. (2005) ‘E-portfolios in post-16 learning in the UK: developments, issues and opportunities’ (online), JISC. Available from: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/e-portfolio_ped.doc

Connell, A. (2013) Email to Joanna Neil, 07 January 2013 17:46

Case studies

As part of my role as Information Learning Technologist Specialist Practitioner I have been developing some case studies on how staff currently use technology in their teaching practice. The case studies serve to highlight the good practice that exists within the college as well as to inspire and introduce different technology tools. They examine the affordances certain tools have in terms of supporting teaching and learning: the benefits, difficulties and issues that exist when trying different tools and methods. the first one is based on a colleagues experience of using Voicethread with her learners:

A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that can show images, documents, and videos.  It allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in different ways; using voice (with a mic or telephone), writing text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). It allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place from anywhere in the world.

Context in Classroom

Dr Val Jessop has been using VoiceThread with her students in a variety of ways. Val asked students from her B.A (Hons) English Language and Literature Studies course to debate utopian and dystopian views on e-literacies as part of their Language, Identity and Representation module. Val started the debate with a typed explanation of what the terms mean and additional questions as prompts for students to add their own views. Students engaged with the tool and process and were able to add their views simultaneously; the synchronous approach enabled students to explore the tool with guidance and demonstrated a different way to exchange ideas. There were students absent who were able to sign in and see what discussion had taken place and also contribute their own views so a good tool for inclusivity.

Some students found the usability of the tool challenging and became frustrated that they were not able to get the tool to work for them, however they were able to see the views of others being exchanged. The students felt this was a fundamental flaw of technology, particularly VoiceThread, in fact the use of the tool became part of their active debate! Their feedback raises the issue of how we integrate the use of different technology tools in teaching and learning and that our lesson design and course design to some extent needs to have the infrastructure in place to teach students how to use the technology itself. The students were exposed to an interesting method of debate and in a sense the ‘medium is the message’ in that some students’ dystopian views of technology were confirmed by their experience of using it. However, with reflection students saw the benefit of having collaboratively constructed a resource and could see the potential for revision later on.

The students used the typing function rather than recording their voices mainly because they were in one room, however confidence in recording ones own voice can also be a barrier. However when this element was discussed with students they did feel that ‘tone of voice’ and being able to emphasise points could be communicated more successfully in this way. Val intends to develop her use of Voice Thread by using it to create resources; uploading a poem that gets deconstructed over a series of explanations.


Voicethread is a tool that gives students choice and ownership over how they interact and contribute to a resource. The integration of audio and or video with online instruction ‘promotes higher levels of student engagement and may lead to increased student satisfaction and enhanced learning experiences.’(Revere and Kovach 201, p.120). Many technology tools align well with good pedagogy, Voicethread can be used as reflective tool for the individual or used collaboratively and ‘provides an easy way for students to listen to and add to the work of their peers [which] may encourage more authentic peer assessment.’ (Educause 2009).


  • It can be embedded onto your Moodle pages
  • Can be used synchronously/asynchronously
  • Learners have a choice over how they record their comments
  • No software to install.
  • Threads can be exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies.
  • Quick to create a resource that can be used and developed

Try it out:



Educause (2009), 7 Things You Should Know About VoiceThread, Education Learning Initiative http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/7-things-you-should-know-about-voicethread, last accessed 23 October 2012

Revere, L, Kovach. J V. (2011) ‘ Online Technologies for Engaged Learning A Meaningful Synthesis for Educators Online’ Technologies for Engaged Learning The Quarterly Review of Distance Education Vol. 12, No. 2, 2011

Learning and Teaching Conference University Centre Blackburn College 2012

The theme of the conference is sharing and engaging others in good practice to enhance learning, teaching and assessment. This is particularly relevant in a rapidly changing external context where maintaining and continuing to enhance high quality will be crucial.

Key note speaker Paul Trowler: Engaging Students: Concepts, Practices and Resources

I will be doing a session at the conference with a colleague Deb Millar on Technology and community enhanced practice: Tweet, Pin and Scoop – Creative approaches to engaging in and sharing research.

I have spent the last 12 months exploring social media tools like Twitter, Pinterest and Scoop-It as methods for engaging students in collaborative practice and research. My current research is examining pinterest comments boxes as forum structures, where students can record their observations, exchange ideas and share good practice. These tools allow for curation and aggregation of content allowing students to develop skills in research and community practice.

RSC NW Annual Event 2012

‘Tweet for Sweets’ at all the Fun of the Fair #nwae12 with @DebMillar24 and @_feltlikeit

Deb Millar and I are presenting our ‘Social Networking: More than engagement, a valuable research tool that fosters enquiry, collaboration and analytical thinking’ presentation tomorrow!

RSC NW Annual Event – All the Fun of the (technology) Fair

JISC RSC Northwest’s flagship Annual Event Southport Theatre Convention Centre.

All the Fun of the (Technology) Fair is from 10am-4pm and will be based in three areas which showcase different aspects of technology use. This engaging day out promises something for all supported learning providers whether you work in Further Education, Higher Education, Work Based Learning, Adult Community Learning or a Specialist College.

‘Social Networking: More than engagement, a valuable research tool that fosters enquiry, collaboration and analytical thinking’

Deb Millar and I will be presenting our ‘Social Networking: More than engagement, a valuable research tool that fosters enquiry, collaboration and analytical thinking’ presentation here:

RSC NW Annual Event – All the Fun of the (technology) Fair

Roll up, roll up, you’re invited to JISC RSC Northwest’s flagship Annual Event on Wednesday, June 27 2012 at Southport Theatre Convention Centre.

All the Fun of the (Technology) Fair is from 10am-4pm and will be based in three areas which showcase different aspects of technology use. This engaging day out promises something for all supported learning providers whether you work in Further Education, Higher Education, Work Based Learning, Adult Community Learning or a Specialist College.

Themes will cover:

  • Using technology to predict and guide learners (fortune telling)
  • Setting enthusiasm on fire for higher level vocational learning (fire walking)
  • Accessibility and Inclusion issues, breaking the chains (escapology)
  • Uploading and capturing evidence (riding and roping)
  • Understanding eReputation and Social Media (bed of nails)
  • Information, Advice and Guidance (juggling)
  • Equipping learners with digital literacy (knife throwing) and
  • New Emerging Technologies which are both free and sustainable (clowns).

RSC NW Annual Event – All the Fun of the (technology) Fair jiscrsc.ac.uk