This mumble features a fair bit of bathing in my own glory (so no change there then).
I’m delighted to say that the CILASS for Students website is complete. It won’t be officially launched until the next academic year, but I won’t be around then, so I thought I’d quietly launch it to my friends now …as I made it 🙂
The aim of the student-targeted site is to promote an understanding of and engagement in Inquiry-based Learning, raise
awareness of the work that CILASS does, and provide an opportunity for the amazing Student Ambassadors to tell the world about the incredible things that they do.
It’s based upon an original site created last autumn by all of the CILASS Student Ambassadors, with further input from the CILASS core team. Being an ‘official’ university site, last year’s attempt to communicate with students was severely limited by the uni’s CMS (Content Management System) which basically guarantees that even the most exciting of ideas end up looking about as interesting as a pile of rotting onion skins. Here’s the most exciting page on the university website :-p
I think it was around March when I proposed that we do our own thing. Take it out of the university template. Create our own site from scratch. I wasn’t really imagining that I’d end up creating a 50-page site. Bloomin’ crazy idea if you ask me, end of my final year and all. But it was something I really wanted to do, so it just sort of happened. I was able to use the material supplied by the SAN for the first site, and benefited from lots of feedback from them during the development process – special thanks to Emmy and Ali.
I must say, I’m really pleased with the result, and I’m delighted by the response it’s received. The CILASS core team have been very complimentary; seeing the site for the first time the director told me it had made her day. The university’s Pro-vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning also emailed to say how good he thought it was, whilst central support staff were also very impressed by how comprehensive it was – yet studenty in appearance.
I should add that it is still in need of a lot of padding. My goal was to create the basic structure and core content – the plan now is for the SAN to fill in the holes and make it into a great resource.
I’d like to thank Sabine and Nicola for allowing me to do this, for giving me the freedom to pursue the project in google 20% time style.
I’m now in the process of creating support materials for the site (using the gorgeous Screenflow – OS X 10.5 only). One fear of mine (and of the core team) is that without me there to supervise the site might fall into dissaray (look what happened to the beautiful site I created for Milky House 5 years ago! Talk about cannabalisation). Thus, support material is vital.
I’d like to be able to use the site as a part of my portfolio. I don’t see myself going into website design for a living, but nonetheless, I think it’s a good demonstration of versatility (and I don’t want to be pointing employers at TGW now do i?!).
Thanks to everyone who contributed, a great team effort! I look forward to seeing it being developed further over the next year.
Google Alert: Information Commons, Sheffield (tee hee)
I worked out what I got for my degree the other day. Whilst grades aren’t officially published until the 14th July, with the results for all but one of modules (language) having been announced, it’s not hard to tot it up. I’ve guessed my mark for the language module based on my previous results and my feelings about how it went (it went very well!)
I got a 2:1, approximately 66~68%. That’s what I was aiming for, so I’m happy with that. Well done me. 5 years of study have paid off.
I remember Earl Nightingale talking about how we react to reaching our goals. Reaching goals doesn’t give us half the sense of satisfaction / happiness as working towards them does, and I’d say that that’s certainly the case here. I have this idea that I ought to ‘feel more’ about this result, but the truth is that the real achievement was in doing it. For me, the happiest days were those when we were in class, doing stuff. Those were the days of real accomplishment.
After all, what do we do when we reach a goal? Set a new goal! I find that knowing that now helps me deal with the unexpected a little better than I did in the past. With no goal ever being ‘ultimate’, if plans do go eschew, I know that that’s ok, that the goal was just a guide, and really it’s all about the journey.
That was certainly the case with my degree. It’s all been about the journey.
Inverse vapour trail – I’ve never seen one of these before
Today was my last day working at CILASS. The morning was spent with a group of staff from Hong Kong who are on a study-space research trip. That was good – the vegetable samosas were particularly tasty, and I’m always a sucker for those cheese and tomato stick things. :-p
This afternoon I created a few screencasts for next year’s webgroup (is Screenflow the sexiest Leopard app in the world or what?!), and spent some time with Emmy. I like hanging out with her (I mean, how could I not – she has the same Macbook as me!). After that it was off to the pub, drinks on the house. I did enjoy that. Such a groovy bunch those CILASS folks. I will miss them.
Leaving the University Arms I was well and truly lost. It was the first time since arriving at Sheffield in 2004 that I’ve had no ‘place’ at uni. Two pints of beer had to be factored in as well: they’d made me feel desperately lonely and in need of *Twinkle* – confirmation that not drinking has possibly been the cleverest thing I’ve done this year.
Ho hum. I’m off to London tomorrow, staying in a capsule. Best get some kip.
It’s now the day after the closing of the LTEA (Learning Through Enquiry Alliance) conference 2008, and my head is beginning to clear. I attempted to write about my experience of this event last night, but I was “all conferenced out” as fellow student ambassador Barbara put it – my mind was just a sea of tags:
It was an intense week. In the days leading up to the event’s opening on Wednesday, I worked with the CILASS core team to help prepare the conference Wiki, a virtual space in which delegates could share, discuss and reflect upon their experiences of Inquiry-based learning. Aside from passive use of Wikipedia, I had no prior experience of working with Wikis, and thus found myself engaging in an intense IBL activity on my computer. Once I’d familiarised myself with the basic structure, I was surprised by how easy it was to manipulate; this has encouraged me to contemplate how I might include a wiki within my own website (another project to add to the IBL-inspired list!).
In addition to co-ordinating the wiki, my duties (most of which were of course shared with my amazing friends in the Student Ambassador Network) included: taking photos (that was a self-assigned role! Thanks for indulging me, CILASS), processing and uploading them to Flickr throughout the conference; ensuring that the technology was working for those presenting; uploading powerpoints to Slideshare (still a lot to do there); facilitating sessions; being available for delegates should they have any problems; watching over the luggage, drinking coffee, and eating chocolate.
Thinking about it all now, a few episodes come to mind. I’d like to share those with you.
It’s Wednesday morning, 9am. As the other Student Ambassadors arrive there’s a feeling of great excitement and happiness in the office: the months of preparation are over, and it’s too late to worry about anything. We’re blowing up balloons to tie to lamp-posts in order that delegates don’t get lost on their way to the Keynote in Firth Hall. Turns out that Jamie is a Balloon-mungster, and prior to joining the CILASS team was at the forefront of a new movement which campaigned to promote the simultaneous blowing up of multiple balloons. Jamie’s love of balloons spreads across the office, and before long the balloon bath is the hottest attraction in Sheffield.
11am, and the delegates are now arriving. They are greeted by the blue T-shirts and big smiles of the Student Ambassadors – a welcome sign of the kind of atmosphere that will embody the entire three-day conference.
Photo: James Gould
It’s now Wednesday afternoon and I’m facilitating a presentation by four members of Sheffield Hallam University’s CETL. They’ve all been using Inquiry-based technologies to help enhance the learning and teaching experience. As I sit there hearing about their successes I find myself getting tremendously excited and inspired – the work that these tutors are putting in to help students become autonomous learners really is something to be shouted about. When bringing the session to a close, I think it might be appropriate to offer a quick bit of feedback as the only student in the room:
“I’m very happy to have just completed a four-year degree, and am looking forward to moving on into the workplace. But I tell you, hearing what you’re doing with IBL inspires me to such an extent that I’m thinking I’d like to start another undergraduate degree!”
And I meant it. I am so impressed by the effort that is being put in by IBL-orientated staff to help students engage with their subjects, and by the positive results they are achieving. People must be told about IBL! It should become a norm for prospective graduates attending university open days to ask, “Could you tell me what inquiry-based learning techniques are employed within the department?”
We’re now between sessions, the busiest time for me and my USB stick. Myself, Pam from the CILASS core team and Pepe the penguin have to make sure that the presenters in all five of the simultaneous sessions hosted in various spaces around the IC have their presentations/videos lined up and are ready to roll. Remarkably, there’s not a single problem with the technology at any point during the conference – it all goes like clockwork.
The next parallel session has begun, and I’m back in the office processing photos and slides. We’re all buzzing – things are going really well. I’m starting to think about what a great team we make, students working with the core CILASS staff. I reckon we could be hired out (at great expense, of course) to dazzle and amaze conference delegates around the world!
Tom, Barbara and Nat point delegates in the right direction:
It’s nearing 7pm – time for the conference dinner at Whirlebrook Hall. Myself, Nat and Sabine have a true Inquiry-based learning journey to the venue as we don’t know where it is: we stop at two pubs and a private house to Inquire as to where we might find it. Finally we locate it, and we’re actually almost the first to arrive (further proof of the effectiveness of IBL)! Champagne in hand we move out to the terrace, where I soon whip out my camera once again to try and capture the atmosphere. Dinner is then served: a melon slice creation, soup and then a main dish of goats cheese wotsit on rice. Delicious. Finished off with a dessert, and more wine. I must come to these conferences more often… I’m really happy to have the chance to talk with Pam and Sabine. I learn about giving birth, and breastfeeding, things I feel I ought to know about in preparation for the birth of our children in 2010 / 2011.
Nat, the new CILASS Student Co-ordinator for the Student Ambassador Network
Tom, and Laura: Clearly the stress of being the outgoing SAN co-ordinator is getting to her
Day two of the conference, and we’re on the coffee. It’s going to be a long one, but with a timetable in my pocket detailing what needs doing when, it’s actually pretty relaxing. It offers reassurance that things are going to happen as planned anyway, just do your bit: the power of teamwork.
Now and then someone will come into the office raving about this AMAZING session that they’d just been to – onto the award winning CILASS student blog it goes.
The delegates are happy. The keynote address, given by the President of the University of Miami, is both relevant and thought-provoking. As the day moves on so notifications of changes to the Wiki increase in number – it’s being used as hoped!
Thursday evening sees us take a coach from the IC to The Edge, the new student village where the delegates are staying. I’m happy, relaxing with friends, eating olives and parsnip crisps, chatting with a member of Sheffield Hallam’s CETL. We’re then ushered through to a large room adjoining the bar: time for a bit of entertainment and reflection with Playback Theatre (York).
Playback Theatre are quite remarkable. Consisting of teachers, counsellors and actors, they literally play back to the audience thoughts and feelings that have arisen from the conference. An academic might express her feeling of fear that arises from embarking upon new adventures in IBL, and the joy of then seeing students come into their own through the new module. The actors listen to the story, and then spontaneously create a short performance that sums it up. There’s little in the way of ‘lines’ as such,rather, movement and sounds take centre stage. I was delighted, amused and entertained by their production. Others in the audience were deeply touched; tears were shed. For me, it highlighted just how much passion the delegates had for what they were doing, how, at the end of the day it’s about doing the best one can to make a difference, and finding satisfaction though helping others.
The closing plenary saw us once again in Firth Hall, summing up the questions and ideas that had arisen through the conference. Thanks were then given, with special mention made of the CILASS core team, and the Student Ambassadors. My mind flicked back through the previous few days, and indeed us SA’s really had had a positive impact upon the entire conference. By participating to the extent that we did, we were able to not only paint the place with bright happy blue t-shirts, but also to provide the student point-of-view in many of the discussions – this of course is vital as students are half of the equation when it comes to Learning and Teaching.
I feel that this conference was a model for what a conference should be, and I hope that everyone who attended from other universities goes home and sets up their own Student Network!
Me, demonstrating the brand new CILASS student website – made BY students, FOR students
Photo: Sabine Little
The overall feeling I have looking back on the LTEA Conference 2008 is one of gratitude. Gratitude for having been able to take part in such a fantastic event. Gratitude for having been a part of such an amazing team made up of such genuinely lovely people.
Photo: James Gould
There was very much a feeling of partnership between students, staff and visiting delegates throughout, with little sign of hierarchy. I felt very much valued and appreciated as a student: this makes me feel incredibly positive about the future of higher education in the UK, and I won’t hesitate in moving back to the UK from Japan 10 or 15 years down the line in order that my own (as yet to be conceived!) children are able to benefit from it.
Long Live IBL!