CanvasCon 2018 A Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Learnin’ Experience

CanvasCon 2018, The Barbican, London, 9 October

I attended this event with Karen Ullman and it was a great opportunity to mix with the educational community and share successes and issues in a lively, creative environment at the Barbican Centre in London. It was good to see the hipster vibe alive and thriving in the world of education – some great beards and blazer/sneaker combos going on 😊.

Highlights for me were Alex Beard’s inspirational talk about the 4 ps of education: passion, projects, peers and play and a ‘lifelong kindergarten’ culture.

Alex Beard talked about harnessing technology intelligently to challenge and further our exploration rediscover the importance of learning (not to make learning tasks easier). His checks of great learning are ‘does it work, does it have value, is it magic?’. That joy of discovery and those moments of success/failure, reflection and being open to innovation are what it’s all about for me, professionally and personally, and something we wish to inspire in our students at UCEM.

He talked about the radical and successful education system in Finland, where teachers are really valued as charismatic individuals who inspire their students to question rather than stuff them full of facts. Alex also talked about the increasing importance of teachers being technologists, AI specialists, neuroscientists, all rolled into one. He talked about sustainability, and our imaginations being ‘the only inextinguishable resource we have’ enabling ‘the 4th revolution’ (the learning revolution).

The theme of the conference was making small changes – and how these small changes can sometimes make the biggest difference.

Keynote speaker Jared Stein (VP of Higher Education Strategy at Instructure) talked about challenging our students to find solutions to problems and get them to work through issues for themselves. This is at the core of our active learning design at UCEM (tick).

‘Two-stage mastery assessment’ – getting students to score 80% in as many formative assessments as they need before allowing them to go on to summative is something we could consider at UCEM.

There was an interesting talk by Dr Tim Linsey about module evaluation at Kingston University – MEQs were sent out across the university in an orchestrated approach: MLs and course reps were trained in how to present the questionnaires to students, students were emailed in advance letting them know when the MEQs were happening, and were then sent a reminder, and then MLs and reps introduced the surveys in a seminar and left students to get on with it. The survey was open for 16 days and then reports were pushed out (using Blue) to assess qualitative and quantative data. Closing the loop, the MLs then wrote a summary of the students’ qualitative feedback (used to enhance performance) and then presented the feedback to students during a seminar two weeks later. Qualitative data was used to produce themes and quantative data was used to populate themes. The MEQs had a 37% response rate (UCEM has a response rate of about 10%) and Kingston think that number will increase once students are included in the feedback loop.

Amazon Web Services talked about how campus-based students had been given an Amazon echo box in exchange for giving Amazon permission to use the data they generated. AWS envisage that echo could be used as a sort of personal assistant to get answers to questions like ‘when’s my next lecture?’, ‘what studies do I need today?’ and spotting patterns in the huge amount of data Ai can generate and store in the cloud to highlight issues or trends.

Oxford University talked about how their flipped learning design for careers section. They said the most common complaint re VLE is ‘I can’t find my stuff’. To address time challenges they include approximate timings of activities and a progress bar. Giving the learners choice so they can ‘dive straight in – this is how adult learners want to learn’. Using dynamic 3-minute videos (they send SMEs a video about what to expect 6 weeks before shooting, give SMEs training and book extra time in studio for people new to videoing’.

e.g. upload their CV to V-mock for review, then self-reflection in an e-portofolio. Students can ask questions and tutors reply with videos.

  • Mastery paths – personalised learning
  • Dynamic activities – knowledge and skills
  • Ungraded survey – what their questions are
  • Groups – pre-work
  • In sessions, use good mix of activity types, polls etc
  • Menger’s visual design principles.
  • After sessions – discussions/ quizzes – recall 2 to 3 times within 4 weeks.
  • Start small – do less, do 1 thing really well and build on it.


(See also Derek Muller ‘The key to effective educational science’ TEDx talk [YouTube video, accessed 12 October 2018]. )