Digifest2015, where we connect, explore, and learn.
After two months of joining Jisc as an Augmented Reality intern, I was fortunate to attend the Jisc Digital Festival conference (Digifest2015) in Birmingham and take part in one of the sessions presenting about Future Applications of AR and the Evolution of Wearable Technology. I was really looking forward to our session in addition to attending some of the interesting presentations concerning mobile learning and practices, open access, 3D technologies, e-assessment and adaptive learning.
Needless to say that the event was a great opportunity for me to communicate with people from Jisc who are located in different offices as well as visitors and exhibitors. The Jisc event app had a great impact on this experience, being able to share my excitement and preparation with everybody before and throughout the event was a source of motivation.
What’s more, we had a lot of interested people in our session as people kept popping in and attending it until the very end. This was very encouraging and rewarding for me.
During the two-day event, some buzzwords were evident – open access, mobile learning, wearables, 3D, digitisation, student engagement, enhancement, augmented reality etc. There was a good number of sessions that showcased best practice for technology in education/ research, with focus on pedagogy and enhancement in education. This wasn’t a surprise as Jisc tries to always ensure that the pedagogy is the driving force, not the technology.
Although sharing best practices can be extremely useful to provide audiences with shared frameworks, what I found more useful was bringing focus to the problems and challenges they encountered in their projects and discussing them with the audiences. For me this type of session, such as the one I attended about “Electronic Management of Assessment”, was very inspiring as it stimulated dialogue between presenters and the audiences who came from different backgrounds, rather than just disseminating their outputs. This discussion resulted in exploring more realistic and applicable solutions for any initiative of integrating technologies in education.
Throughout the event two words stuck with me as they were very often mentioned in most of the sessions; while “Enhancement” and “transformation” are used by a lot of us there is a lot of variations in how we relate to them and what they mean. While it was very exciting to see all the new innovations and technologies around us in the event, I was trying to explore what these technologies can bring to education and to the learning. I think the last keynote talk was brilliant to close digifest2015 as it answered some of these questions in my mind!
Digital vs Human
Richard Watson was able to bring us back to the role that technology should have in our life, “enhancement” for him means supporting and not replacing our human attributes.
“Digital technologies need to enhance human communication, not replace them”.
Mentioning so many examples about how digital technologies is impacting our day-to-day life and interaction with each other feels like technology is a negative thing. For me it is not. However, I realize that it is essential to be aware of how technology is changing our lives, as we are all involved in some capacity in enhancing learning experiences for learners. When students are also aware of how technology is influencing how they think and interact, we will be able minimise its downfalls and maximise its potentialities.
“Enhancement” in that sense can be achieved when technologies are being used to engage learners as active partners in the process of their continuous improvement and development.
Students like to see the benefit of technology, i.e. not being used for the sake of it.
This is exactly our goal when planning any of our augmented reality development for FE and HE; involving students as early as possible in the planning process has been key to the success of our projects. The more effort we place in getting the students’ voice heard early in the project, the more robust the learning experience, leading to a resource students will deem credible and ultimately use.
This closing talk in the Digifest2015 makes me feel really proud to be part of Jisc, an organisation that aims to establish the UK as the most digitally advanced nation in the world, as well as unleashing the extraordinary potential of our minds.