Highlights from the International Blended Learning Conference in England

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DSC00142-225x300 in Heidelberg, 27.06.2012. The 7th International Blended Learning Conference organized by the The University of Hertfordshire’s Learning and Teaching Institute in partnership with JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee (The UK’s expert on information and digital technologies for education and research – an organisation promoting easy and widespread access to information and resources, with a focus on technology and information management) took place from June 13th to 14th at the University of Hertfordshire in England and provided the opportunity for University staff from around the world to engage in discussion and reflection on the innovative use of technology particularly in those contexts where it is embedded into the programme to complement face-to-face classes.

Papers presented ranged from work done using tools such as E-portfolios, Electronic Voting Systems, Course Management Systems like Moodle, for example, in pedagogically meaningful ways and in line with institutional and other national and international educational objectives.
Two of the keynote speakers, Dr. Norm Vaughan from Mount Royal College in Canada and Dr. Mark Brown from Massey University in New Zealand, joined us virtually to share their concepts and understandings of how we might continue to improve the experiences we provide for our students in blended contexts.
The support and advances made in this field by the Joint Information Systems Committee was also well featured at the conference.

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Tanyasha Yearwood.

It was definitely a pleasure, alongside such well known names in the international landscape, to have had my proposal accepted for presentation and to have had colleagues share their views and experiences as it related to my research on “Promoting participation via a multiple-discussion online forum: Student perspectives on the experience”.

This presentation detailed the results of an Appreciative Inquiry approach to determining the positive learning impact of online discussion fora and was based on a project I carried out within the Level 1 Engllish for International Business and Study Module.

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The conference can be said to have been complemented by the focus of the UK Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning Workshop which I had the privilege of attending on April 24th, 2012. This latter event, organized by the Staff and Educational Development Association focused on ensuring that all University staff are provided with the opportunity and encouraged to engage in reflective practice and that processes are put in place to allow them to obtain professional qualifications in Supporting Learning and, in this way, provide evidence of the dual professional which all teachers in Higher Education are required to be: subject and educational specialists.
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One final highlight of this conference for me, was the work of the graphic facilitator, Joel Cooper, whose ongoing artistic portrait captured all the ideas generated throughout the conference.

A masterpiece reflective of a very stimulating conference.
Tanyasha Yearwood

Conference update (I)

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Attending an international conference is always an exciting time for me. 

The pleasure of meeting authors of books or articles I’ve read, learning about new research and new ways of looking at issues and mingling with others from all over the world who are involved in the same kinds of activities as yourself is an experience worth having.  From March 27th to 28th, I had the privilege of attending and participating in a conference of this type held at the University of Oxford in England entitled:

First and Second Languages: Exploring the Relationship in Pedagogy-Related Contexts.

The event, hosted by the Applied Linguistics Group at the Department of Education, focused on the use of the mother tongue in the foreign language classroom as a tool: not one that takes away for promoting the foreign language, but one that constitutes part of a healthy bilingual environment.  In other words, “code-switching” or the choice to move between languages is not a sign of the inability to function in either language and should, as such, not be seen as a deficit, but rather as a benefit to foreign language development.  Some of the research presented confirmed this view by providing evidence of the positive effects of the use of the native language in foreign language instruction not only on target language development, but on academic achievement in general.  One very provocative question arising during the conference was: 

Are we creating bilinguals or monolinguals of a second language? 

Wow!  That’s a lot food for thought, “oder?” Smile Regular in

Tanyasha Yearwood.