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Dr Joe Cain, Dept of Science and Technology Studies


Summits & Horizons

Media-Savvy Teaching

‘It’s ok to play’

Last year’s Summits & Horizons opened with snow falling. This year we had the ‘worst storm in years’ to contend with. But, regardless of the weather, the first session of the new series of Summits and Horizons got underway. Following on from last year’s success, the series asks colleagues at UCL to share experiences of their e-learning initiatives. It is an honest and practical look at what other people are doing with e-learning technologies in their teaching.

Dr Nick Grindle (Senior Teaching Fellow, CALT) welcomed those who had battled against the elements, and a depleted National Rail timetable, to an interesting and informal look at media-savvy teaching. Media-savvy teaching, Dr Paul Walker (CALT, Principal Teaching Fellow) tells us, is not giving interviews to journalists. It’s about gaining knowledge and using the technologies available from the world of media in teaching.

Having realised there is a nucleus of teaching staff interested in experimenting with using technology to enhance their teaching, Paul ran a two-day Media-Savvy Teaching workshop in June 2013. In collaboration with media experts Dr Mike Howarth and Pete Bailie, participants learnt it’s not hard to improve the quality of the resources you produce for your teaching; a little bit of savvy goes a long way. Taking the time to gain an awareness of recording – the mechanics of framing a shot, the benefits of good lighting, how to speak to the camera – will make the material far more engaging.

Dr Jane Burns-Nurse (Senior Teaching Fellow, Department of Management Science and Innovation), was an attendee at Paul’s workshop. As a self-identified enthusiast, rather than an expert, Jane valued the space and opportunity the workshop gave participants to play with different technologies, techniques and apps. Becoming media-savvy for Jane is about saying its ok to play. Playing is great way to discover how you can make media work for you. And judging from the list of apps she rolled off, she has done some playing! At first, she says, she felt like an inept juggler but eventually started to find a way that worked for her. It would seem the secret to media-savvy teaching is to remain in control – use those apps you’re used to and continue practicing with those you aren’t. Jane’s advice – ‘practice, practice, practice’ because at first you will not get it right. But that’s ok. Students appreciate the effort, however much of a work in progress the result is.

Jane’s journey into media-savvy teaching has been driven by a commitment to improve the student experience by engaging with technology to in turn engage her students. However, the technology must serve the teaching and not the other way round. Jane was already a user of Lecturecast when, like today, England’s weather set out to test her. Faced with being snowed in and unable to make her lecture the following day, Jane set about pre-recording a lecture, littered with activities, and uploaded it for her students to engage with while snowed-in themselves. Only later did she find out this is what is called ‘lecture flipping’, spoken about last year at Summits and Horizons by Carl Gombrich (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/news/event-report-beyond-lecture-recording).

Jane found that students do not get bored watching these online lectures, as they interact with them differently to the traditional lecture format. Using analytics, she found students dip in and out of these lectures, perhaps watching the introduction and finding out the objectives and then jumping to the conclusions and further readings before returning to earlier parts of the recording. It would seem it’s not only teaching staff using their initiative with this new technology; students are using their learning time selectively and efficiently. So being media-savvy is not just about improving our own teaching, but responding to the newer, less linear way that students learn.

Page last modified on 28 may 14 09:01

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