I’ve recently come back from the European Conference on eLearning (ECEL) hosted by the University of Hertfordshire so I thought I’d pen a few words to describe how it went and what I learned from it.
First of all, I have to mention how fortunate I feel in being facilitated to go to an event like this. It’s not cheap visiting the UK at the moment (makes Dublin seem like good value!) and it certainly costs DCU a few quid to fund a three-day visit. As a former self-employed contractor who had to pay for any form of professional development (not to mention self-fund any sick leave and maternity time), I’m grateful to have this cost funded by my employer and facilitated by my manager, Mark Glynn. I wasn’t told that I had to go this conference, it was something I wanted to do once I saw the mini-track on wearable technology, so I think that’s something very positive to reflect on. I won’t harp on any further about the dismal financial ‘entitlements’ of the self-employed in this country but suffice to say that it won’t escape the ears of any politicians calling to my door come election time. But I digress, and for now will stay in my happy place and think further on the conference itself…
The main difference between this and other educational technology conferences I have attended were that 1. the audience was truly international, and 2. I was, for the first time, co-presenting a paper at the conference itself. Three of us from DCU (Dr Tatyana Devine from the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, Patrick Doyle from the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, and me from the Teaching Enhancement Unit) had a paper accepted for the conference for a mini track on wearable technology. Our interest lay in the use of head-mounted wearable cameras for videoing laboratory practicals. For this project, our lead academic used this type of camera to record the steps involved in performing a particular biomedical test so that students could view this procedure in video form. So far, feedback has been very positive and you can see the slides from our joint presentation below:
On a personal note, I found speaking at the conference extremely valuable, and compared with events which I have attended (but not spoken at), the difference was very striking. I felt much more involved in the conference itself, rather than skirting around the edges as an observer. And despite being fraught with nerves beforehand, the discussions that ensued afterwards were well worth it. As for the presentation itself, which included a brief demo of the point-of-view video, it went well and the conversation afterwards was very active, which we took as a good sign.
As always, there is certainly room for improvement and attendees seemed to nod in general agreement with the students suggestions to add subtitles/annotations on chemicals used and volumes to the video. Amongst the comments and suggestions made on the day:
- It would be useful if the academic showed the inevitable ‘glitches’ that occur while performing the experiment, which would also represent useful learning for students (so it doesn’t have to be all about modelling the ‘perfect’ experiment)
- It would be helpful to see the ‘dos and don’ts’ of using this type of camera in education, perhaps in the form of guidelines for academics
- Care needs to be taken to avoid ethics related issues if students come into frame
One biomedical science lecturer from Denmark spoke to me about how she is planning to try the technology in her lab and – and even better, she is going to get students to try it out which is a logical next step. She immediately recognised the space and physical limitations of recording in a laboratory so that will be fascinating to hear more about how that pans out. Another UK lecturer, who uses video extensively, said that she now planned to try it out and hadn’t realised it had become (relatively) inexpensive. Another attendee (Stine Ejsing-Duun) and I chatted on Twitter about the need to break the video down in to short sections (our one being a little over the mark at approx 10.5 minutes).
So in all, an excellent trip which as well as being thoroughly enjoyable, was also very informative and fruitful. There are a number of wearable camera-related projects underway in DCU’s School of Nursing so here’s hoping we’ll be seeing more use, and indeed more research into use, in the months ahead.