Saturday, January 24, 2009

Curiouser and curiouser . . .

Curiouser and curiouser. . . was the title of the UCA Learning and Teaching Conference at the British Library on 23rd January. As an MA student it was a fascinating privileged to attend this conference and gain an insight into teaching and learning from the tutors point of view. Six of us had been invited to attend in order to contribute to the workshop Imagined Communities: Using Technology to support MA students at UCA Farnham.
The first workshop that I attended was Learning Through Teaching, led by Sue Shearer from Epsom. Sue and her team had been working with a group of blind and visually impaired students to find ways of allowing them to engage with the world of visual art. All of the participants on the workshop were blindfolded before being led into the room and remained that way for most of the workshop in order to give us an insight into the problems encountered by those who have limited or no sight. One of the most fascinating points to emerge was the difference between those who had lost their sight (as we had done temporarily) and those who had been blind from birth and never experienced the visual world. How do you explain light, dark and tonal variations to someone who has never seen them? An extremely stimulating experience that caused many of us to question how we would cope if deprived of our visual abilities.
Rebecca Skeels, Jewellery and Metalwork Technician at Farnham, led the next workshop; Encouraging peer learning: why did you do that,how did you do that? As part of her Post Graduate Certificate Rebecca had instigated a series of peer learning groups amongst the undergraduates that she helps to teach. The aim (and outcome) was to foster a groups support system amongst the students so that through discussion of their work they could problem solve and inspire as well as forming a community that might last beyond their college years. It would be good if this small beginning could be built upon in other departments, I am aware of how much this years MA intake benefited from having second year part-time students as induction assistants and how the integration has helped to link the two years together. The Peer Assisted Learning programme at UCA is being co-ordinated by Tine Bech.
After lunch came Imagined Communities, led by Sarah Sutherland (assisted by Leigh Garrett). Sarah's highly entertaining talk focused on the needs (and wants) of the 'non-traditional learner' and how the MA cohort was drawn together to form a community by the gentle introduction of the use of technology. (If I can set up a blog then anyone can!). The MA students then spoke, briefly, about our experiences of the Virtual Learning Environment and how it had enhanced our experience at Farnham. (I cannot remember the last time that I shook so much but I lived to tell the tale.) This was followed by a practical, light hearted, demonstration of the use of the Quizdom audience response system which went down extremely well.
An extremely positive experience.

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