Thursday, 11 June 2020

Hello from lockdown maternity leave...

Online Baby Rhyme Time
Hello! So, I didn't really have a firm, pre-conceived idea about what maternity leave would be like - but it certainly wasn't this... The first half or so of Matilda's first year was spent going to baby rhyme time classes and (sometimes) visiting friends but for the most part, we were both at home receiving visitors - these included some BLE dignatories including Mandy Bentham (brainchild of the BLE), Caroline Bell (now Brown; former BLE Project Officer) as well as Bloomsbury digital learning specialist, Caroline Norris, UCL, and academics, Dr Anita Skinner (LSHTM) and Prof Jill Madison (RVC). Matilda also enjoyed meeting Julie Voce and Mimi Weiss Johnson from City.

photo of us video calling
Video calling with her friends
On Monday 16th March 2020, we drove over to see my parents and then had lunch with some friends - and that was the last time we went out until last week, when we sat in my parents' garden, 2m away from them. In that time, Matilda has become very au fait with video conferencing technology. She has participated in FaceTime and WhatsApp video calls, HouseParties, Skype and Zoom conference calls. At less than 8 months old, she gets as excited as we're waiting to connect with a grandparent on FaceTime as she would have seeing them in person. Luckily, she doesn't know what 'normal' means - she is truly a digitally communicating (dare I say it) native. She even joined the last BLE CMALT Cohort presentation session - she is already collecting evidence for her portfolio! 


photo of Skype call
BLE Brainstorm call with Nick Short,
Julian and Nancy
And as for me? Weekly life in lockdown maternity leave is pretty much Groundhog Day - nowhere to go, and no-one to see (apart from my partner who, like many, is working very long hours from home). I'm lucky that the baby (usually) has a long nap in the mornings so, amid the boundless amounts of laundry and washing up, I am keeping in regular (more-or-less daily) contact with the BLE Executive, Julian and Nancy; taking part in BLE-run online meetings and webinars; speaking to other BLE colleagues across the consortium and checking on the incredibly active Twitterfeed and discussions for the BLE's Get In MOOC. All this has really helped me to stay energised and enthusiastic.

Family celebration via Zoom
I'm still using @BLE1 on Twitter - and am still on the same mobile number - so call, text, Tweet, WhatsApp, etc if you'd like to take a break and say hello. I know it's been hard - colleagues are working crazy busy hours in isolated conditions. I hope things can safely start to improve soon. In the meantime, massive thanks to everything Julian and Nancy are doing to keep supporting BLE colleagues (the Digital Skills Awareness course for teaching staff is developing beautifully). Julian in particular is available to anyone in the BLE who needs an ear to listen to or some help with some creative thinking around digital education and planning. 

Take care, be safe, be well, be kind.
Sarah x


Wednesday, 18 March 2020

MOOC to the Rescue


As Covid-19 spreads round the world, and educational institutions shut their doors, academic and teaching staff are feeling the pressure to put their courses online. We all know this is a big ask -- you can’t magic up a brilliant online course overnight. 

However, you can make quick updates that add dynamism and encourage active learning. And you can set the foundation in designing engaging learning for future courses. Sad to say, the lockdown won't be lifted for a while. 

Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology
3-week online course. Free, or small fee for certificate. 

​Each week focuses on a particular topic:
  • Using multimedia for teaching and learning
  • Encouraging student collaboration
  • Formative assessment and feedback
Next start dates: 30 March, 27 April, 25 May, 22 Jun

Thursday, 12 December 2019

BLE Event: BLESS Meeting

BLESS group

3 December 2019

The BLESS group came together this month to look at current best practice with Xerte and H5P for content creation. Demos of the technologies were presented by Peter Leffek of Birkbeck (XERTE) and Ben Audsley of Queen Mary (HP5).

The group exists to bring about greater collaboration between the Libraries of the Bloomsbury Learning Exchange (BLE) and Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) colleagues by sharing, designing and developing future projects where technology is used to support online pedagogical offerings and associated information systems.

For more information, notes and links generated by the meeting, please visit the BLE website Events page.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Digital Skills for Teaching Staff


The world of digital learning technologies changes so fast, it can be hard for educators to keep up. The BLE's Get Interactive MOOC was one approach to helping teachers around the world use practical and popular technologies to enhance their teaching. Now, we're embarking on another approach to supporting teaching staff within their own university settings.

While we were working on our successful Digital Skills Awareness course for incoming HE students, which has received expressions of interest from 150 UK institutions so far, we started to hear about the need for a similar course for incoming teaching staff, who sometimes enter employment without essential digital skills. This led to a bit of market research and the confirmation that there is indeed a need gap.

This new BLE project will be along the same lines: a "template" Moodle course with basic structure and content, which institutions can adopt, adapt and install locally in order to give their new staff a heads-up about what skills they need for their work and - crucially - steer them to where they can acquire and improve these skills.

The course is being developed initially for and with the guidance of the BLE partners, but the expectation is that, upon successful piloting, it will be available more widely around the UK. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

The BLE Highlight Report is now available!

BLE Report cover

One of Sarah's last big jobs before heading off for maternity leave was to work with me (Nancy) on gathering together all the projects, events, changes, news, awards and accomplishments for the period 2015-19 and present them in a form that wouldn't put the reader to sleep. I think we've managed that by creating a document that balances coverage with brevity.

If you'd like to see what the BLE has been doing for the last four years (or to remind yourself what you've done, if you've been involved in any of our projects or events) you can download a copy from the BLE website ble.ac.uk/about (direct link to report).