Thank You!

Thank you! We are so pleased with the tremendous support shown to the project by those who participated in the recent Symposium in Galway. The ideas and suggestions that were scribbled down on the postcards we handed out, have been really useful and give us lots of possible avenues to explore (plus a few extra stations on our Metro Lines!). It was great to get the opportunity to speak with so many of you about our work and to get feedback through the survey and the twitter feed. Suggestions are still very welcome at any stage in the project.

It was a busy time for the project team and we followed it up with a project review presentation to a distinguished international panel in Dublin the next week, where we also got a chance to touch base with some of the other exciting projects funded by the National Forum. It’s great to see such enthusiasm and creativity across the sector.


Now that we’ve released the first draft version of the Digital Skills Framework, we’re moving on to the next of our project stages, including the development and trialing of a range of online learning materials, linked to badges. On the badges front, we’ve also been experimenting with the various available platforms, comparing and contrasting their features and exploring how they might integrate with or complement the capabilities of the learning management systems already in use across the sector.

For those of you who follow us on twitter (@AllAboardHE) you might also have noticed that we’re beginning to pass on links to useful resources and projects we come across, categorising them in terms of which particular topic or Metro Line they correspond to. That’s the explanation for the seemingly cryptic hashtags such as #AABlueLine, #AAYellowLine, etc.

Over the next couple of months we’re going to be busy preparing for a new academic year and welcoming new waves of students and re-energised staff into our institutions. It’s going to be a busy, but really exciting time, so make sure you keep an eye on @AllAboardHE for all the latest developments.

Free Lunch – there is such a thing!

On Friday June 19th, the All Aboard! project will be playing a very active role in the “Getting real about virtual learning” event in Galway.  This is the annual Symposium on Higher Education hosted by CELT which is open to all. Many of those who have participated in the past see it as a nice way of rounding off the end of another academic year and a great chance to pick up new ideas, swap stories and strengthen friendships.

CELT15This year’s keynote speakers are excellent presenters with a wealth of experience and perceptive insights into both educational theory and practice.  Sian Bayne (Professor of Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh) starts the day off with a provocative topic – if you can replace teachers with technology ,what happens when you give it a go (even if just for fun!)?  Sian has been teaching on Edinburgh’s highly regarded MSc in E-Learning (now called ‘Digital Education’) and on their fabulous “Digital Cultures” MOOC (I have to say that as someone who got a ‘certificate of completion’).

This will be followed up by a discussion on ‘open practices’ and teacher/student identity in online spaces, facilitated by Catherine Cronin.

Doug Belshaw is the next keynote speaker. Until recently working for the Mozilla Foundation (he now runs his own consultancy (Dynamic Skillset)), Doug is one of the key advocates for digital literacies and digital badges. His work is very much grounded in the real practice of teaching and learning across a range of educational levels and as one of the key figures in the Open Badges movement, we are delighted to welcome him.

We’ll also take the opportunity to share some of our ideas, including our draft Digital Skills Framework with participants and to give you scope to input to our work.

The afternoon will be where we will all get a chance to learn about a wide range of interesting online, blended and flipped learning projects and initiatives. Victoria Pavry will speak about how Epigeum coordinates consortia of institutions to develop high quality online learning materials for higher education, Mark Campbell will showcase some of the fascinating work of developing apps to teach anatomy, and we’ll hear from many other contributors who have kindly agreed to participate.   In parallel, Sharon Flynn (in association with Wikimedia Ireland) will be facilitating a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on the theme of ‘Scholars and Scholarship’.

The ‘free lunch’?  Well, yes, and free coffee, and free tickets to the whole event, after all we want All Aboard!

Crowdsourcing our Digital Skills Framework

The All Aboard! project team have the honour of being asked to develop a ‘National Digital Skills Framework’ for Irish Higher Education. As those of you who have been following our work (since we started in February) you’ll know that we’ve been busy reviewing, comparing and contrasting just some of the many excellent recommendations and suggested frameworks that various Digital Literacies projects and organisations have put forward. As ever, JISC in the UK provides a particularly rich treasure trove of high quality projects and reports, so also do the various working groups established by library organisations in this country and elsewhere. There’s certainly no shortage of possibilities, particularly if the focus is on the information skills dimension.


There is also, however, a great deal of agreement as to what the broad categories should be, just perhaps some variation in emphasis, nomenclature and perspective. In All Aboard! we intend though to be quite broad in our definitions and tend to use the terms skills and knowledge rather than literacies, but there’s plenty of argument in the literature about exact definitions of each of these and where each sits in the hierarchy of meaning. Perhaps we’re just being naive (although we’d like to think of it as ‘pragmatic’), but we’re not too angst-ridden about some of the finer details of some of those debates because our aim is to broaden awareness and confidence of technologies across anyone and everyone who engages with higher education, whether students or staff.

We also want to, if possible, avoid over-formalising the framework in a way that might lead to it ossifying and indeed which turns it into a bureaucratic artefact or a lumbering, outdated behemoth. Again naively (or, in this case, we’d like to think ‘optimistically’) we’d like to help establish a fluid but meaningful framework which everyone can feel is useful and, hopefully, also to which they feel a sense of ownership. That’s what we think ‘national’ should mean: something that we all own, share and shape.

OK, so what does that mean in practice, then? Well for a start it means that we intend to start the process off by suggesting some broad headings; listing skills, knowledge and capabilities by means of example; providing training materials (for self study, or group use); and welcoming contributions from anyone who is interested.

In effect, we’re looking to ‘crowdsource’ the framework and its components, recognising the tremendous efforts many of you have already put into this type of work, giving due credit (through CC and similar licensing), and connecting all those of us who are busy providing training workshops, taught programmes, etc, in digital technologies in education.

We will be collating as many existing resources as we can find and mapping to the emerging framework and have already started doing so as part of an exercise which also aims to identify the gaps — areas in which we will develop (shareable) new materials.

If you’d like to contribute (perhaps notes for workshop activities, online lessons, video clips, etc) please do get in touch with us. It’s your framework, your resources. We really do mean it when we say “All Aboard!”