Archive for category Conferences

Playful Learning 2019

Logo of the Playful Learning conferenceIn early July, I was in Leicester at the Playful Learning conference with other members of the Rumpus research group, running a workshop to develop a typology of fun and learning. We used balloons to gather, group and shape ideas.


8. Framework of fun (90 minutes, outside)
The Rumpus Group
This will be a fun way to identify the elements of fun. Using the outside space we will use a variety of media (including balloons) to draw out people’s ideas, and develop a shared understanding of what fun is, and what contributes to it.

A tweet relating to the event. It refers to 'popping a balloon to prove a point in a group of people I've never met'.

Consensus building workshop at the University of Sussex using balloons to bring ideas together

The methodology was later used at the University of Sussex


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Learning Analytics and Knowledge 2019 (LAK19)

If it’s March, it must be the LAK conference. This year it was in sunny Tempe, at the Arizona State University (ASU), and I was lucky enough to be a Program chair once again – this time in an ex officio role as a previous program chair. The role involves a lot of hard work during the year, and it’s great to see it all coming together at the conference.

Highlights of the event for me (apart from the analytics research, of course) were the conference dinner in the Desert Botanical Garden, and the outdoor poster session around the fountain as night fell. ASU were great hosts, and many people told me it was the LAK that they had enjoyed the most (and that’s against some stiff competition).

The final day of the conference coincided with International Women’s Day, so we gathered on stage after the day’s keynote from Shirley Alexander for a photo that brings together the women of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR).

LAK tweet

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Playful learning conference

Ghost sitting on the stairsFrom 11-13 July 2018 I was at the Playful Learning conference in Manchester, where I met a ghost carrying out research (pictured).

Conference description

Playful Learning is pitched at the intersection of learning and play for adults. Playful in approach and outlook, yet underpinned by robust research and working practices, we provided a space where teachers, researchers and students could play, learn and think together. A space to meet other playful people and be inspired by talks, workshops, activities and events. Based in the heart of Manchester, we also explore some of the city’s playful spaces with evening activities continuing the fun and conversations after the formal programme ends.


Among the activities I enjoyed at the conference was the Tiny Epic Battles ice-breaker game designed by Alex Moseley. The game scaffolds the creation of teams by getting people to work with each other in increasingly large groups while working on creating something together – and competing to defeat the other group.

I attended a keynote where we described song titles entirely in emojis, before going on to design beer mats. I took part in an escape-room challenge to learn first-aid techniques and unlock the box (apologies to all my patients who didn’t make it), dressed as a pirate, learned about a research methods game, tried out the learning game tool Kahoot, made some lasting research links through playing Pokémon Go, and found out how some Australian students are getting to know each other and their campus by helping out an alien.

Overall, it was great fun and gave me some new perspectives on how people around the world are supporting and encouraging learning. I’ve just submitted a proposal for a workshop at the 2019 conference, where we’ll be trying to establish balloon modelling as a legitimate research method.

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Learning analytics and learning enhancement

On 17 June 2018, I gave a keynote to the 15th Enhancement Conference of the Quality Assessment Agency (QAA) at Glasgow Caledonian University. The conference theme was Evaluation, Evidence & Enhancement: Inspiring Staff & Students. I also recorded a short video interview that considers the links between learning analytics and learning enhancement.


Learning analytics help us to identify and make sense of patterns in educational data in order to enhance our teaching, our learning, and the student experience. Since emerging as a distinct field in 2011, learning analytics has grown rapidly. Institutions around the world are already developing and deploying these new tools. In order to use analytics effectively, we need to take time to reflect on our aims. What does enhancement mean in our context, and how can analytics help us to achieve that goal? In order to do this effectively, one of the things we need to do is to look into the future and consider the changes that are likely to have taken effect by the time our analytics are up and running. In this talk, Rebecca will talk about the current state of learning analytics and the many possibilities on the horizon. She will also introduce ‘Analytics in Action’ – a framework that can be used to introduce analytics to support enhancement.


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LAK18 – Sydney

Banner - LAK18 was great (change my mind)A highlight of my year will surely be LAK18 – the annual Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference run by the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR). Together with Simon Buckingham Shum, Xavier Ochoa and Agathe Merceron, I was programme chair for the conference.

Our five days in Sydney were the culmination of more than a year’s hard work. We were really pleased with the attendance and the engagement at the conference, and the success of new initiatives such as double-blind peer review and the introduction of discussion around meta-reviews of the papers.

The next steps for us will be two special sections of the Journal of Learning Analytics – one related to the conference theme of human-centred design, and one including extended versions of the best papers. I shall also be ex officio programme chair of the next conference, at Arizona State in 2019.

Three images from the conferenceThe conference also provided a chance for many of the Learning Analytics Community Europe (LACE) organising team to meet up and make plans for the future.

LACE team


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Perfect Storm Utrecht

Sound sculptureWhile in Utrecht in February I also keynoted at the Perfect Storm. This innovative educational event is a collaborative conference designed to kickstart projects and ideas.

The organisers describe the event in this way: ‘The PerfectStorm 2018 is a unique concept called collaborative conference. Bring your team to kickstart your own innovation. Design Thinking, Learning Design and Leading Creativity collide in this energizing event where you work on your own goals, guided by international experts. Enjoy sharing learning journeys in campfire sessions where you experience a broad range of best practices, new tools and innovative insights.’

The Perfect Storm took  place in a working art school, with sculptures and art works to explore during the breaks (see picture for a sound sculpture by Dianne Verdonk that I enjoyed – sounds in the megaphone are transformed into vibrations in the body of the sculpture and thus transferred to the body of anyone lying on top of it.)

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Keynote abstract

Design thinking involves the creation of innovative solutions that address people’s needs. In the case of education, what are those needs? Are we educating people to be workers, citizens, good members of the community, rounded individuals or lifelong learners? Rebecca Ferguson, lead author of the Innovating Pedagogy series of reports, will talk about the challenges facing our learners, the problems we need to solve, and some of the pedagogies that offer a starting point.

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Utrecht: ATEE Winter Conference

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Utrecht, with conference venue in distanceIn March, I enjoyed my time as keynote for the Association for Teacher Education in Europe (ATEE) Winter Conference in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The conference was held on February 15th and 16th and was organised by the Archimedes Institute from the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht.

Keynote abstract

From educational radio and television, through virtual learning environments, to mobile devices – when we think of innovation in education, we tend to think of the technology used to deliver it. This technology has helped to extend access to education, but technology alone cannot bring about deep and sustained improvements in the quality of learning. The Innovating Pedagogy reports shift the emphasis towards innovations in pedagogy: identifying new forms of teaching, learning and assessment to guide educators. These innovations can be used to help learners deal with a changing world in which they need to make sense of increasing amounts of data and information, and make the most of their opportunities to make global connections. In her keynote, Rebecca Ferguson will talk about new pedagogies that can be put into practice in the classroom, the ideas that connect them and the skills that support them. Some of these approaches extend current practice, some personalise it, some enrich it and others explore new possibilities that have opened up in the past decade.

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