Part One: Getting Creative and Engaging students in a changing HE environment

I went to the Education in a Changing Environment 6th International  conference and this year’s theme was Creativity and Engagement in Higher Education at the University of Salford, 6th to 8th July 2011. The theme was explored by looking at the use of Social Media; Learning, Teaching and Assessment; Networking and Partnerships.

I was really useful that prior to the event, the conference organisers used Crowdvine so that delegates could find and connect with each other before, during and after the conference.

There were so many great learning opportunities at this event that this blog post could go on for a significant amount of space but I will have to stick with some of the highlights and then you can go to the website and explore on your own. And this is part one of two, so look next week for the second post on the conference.

Even postmodernists need umbrellas

The first keynote speaker Professor Glynis Cousin reminded everyone that research interviews are social encounters and a site where meaning is co-produced. Meaning is not a stable entity waiting to be extracted by the interviewer. In response to the problematic “anything goes” interpretation of social constructivism, Cousin said:

  • Research is fiction but not any old fiction, it needs to be good fiction
  • Even postmodernists brought an umbrella this morning when they saw the weather forecast

She also highlighted the importance of co-inquiry and including students in research.

The importance of networks and collaboration for learning in a digital age

Another inspirational key note was given by Alec Couros (find him on twitter @courosa), Professor of educational technology & media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina, Canada. His talk focused on the importance of networks and collaborations rather than technologies, although with the underlying thread that technology can facilitate and sustain networks and collaboration to a much greater extent today than previously. It is well worth looking at the recording of Alec Courous keynote

Alec highlighted that students used to go to university for four reasons:

  1. the content, i.e. the knowledge
  2. to get a degree
  3. take part in the social life
  4. for the support services available

But we need to re-examine these as they are changing because of the way access to information and knowledge has dramatically changed. Throughout his talk, Alec demonstrated how the way (and the tools we use to) we learn and acquire skills is developing and he showcased how digital technology plays a large part in this. Alec had already demonstrated this by his approach to answering previosuly submitted panel questions by crowdsourcing. He set up a Google document and tweeted his followers for help and support in answering the questions.

Some key points that I took away were:

  • Universities are giving away content as the content is no longer what defines the value of the HE education/experience
  • Technologies come and go but the connections and collaborations are key
  • The importance of having a positive digital presence that you control (and the importance of supporting students in developing this)
  • The power of a digitally enhanced personal network

Further information to explore:

You can access the Programme at

Slides from ECE 11 shared at:

Conversation is still going on at Twitter!/search/%23ece11
Videos are at this channel, Snapshots of ECE 2011 at

Kathrine Jensen (if there are any errors in the representation of presenters’ point of view, they are mine alone)


About talintuoh

Supporting and connecting colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
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