Networking, PHD talks and all round success.

It’s been one of the, really good weeks so far for me, as I mentioned previously I was invited by Dr. Simon Walker and Dr. Mark Kerrigan to attend the ‘Digital Literacy Dissemination Workshop’ that was held today (May 9th 2013) at The University of Westminster. Sadly me and Zahin (another colleague of mine) arrived late due to train delays and getting lost on the tube; which seems to becoming a regular problem for me. Nether the less, the sessions where great, the University of Westminster was an excellent host and it was an all round interesting and intellectual workshop.

I spoke for around 5-10 minutes with Zahin to the senior lecturers, consultants and employers about the why I joined the project as a student change agent, why we thought our roles were important. According to Dr. Kerrigan and Dr. Walker we did good; I know that may sound downgrading to some but this is the first face to face workshop/conference style talk I have done so I was pleased. What pleased me more, is the networking I managed to do whilst at the event, I got to speak to some key figures such as Richard Jones (from New Bucks University) who seemed overly excited to talk to the students as we where commonly referred to.

He raised some interesting points such as, “how student change agents maybe used to motive students in the lecture setting” to offer support and a go to line between lectures, tutors and students. This may sound like class representatives to some, but his suggestion was more along the lines of multiple change agents within the classroom setting getting regular feedback on the lectures so lectures could improve their teaching styles. This however didn’t not really comprehend with digital literacy and wasn’t discussed in detail, but it would be a rather good idea to potentially explore this at a later date. But was was briefly explored was how would you give students an incentive to apply for these position, Dr. Kerrigan went along side the route of suggesting that financial incentive is not for the long term and perhaps the use of a scholarship could be changed for another incentive, something more personal like networking opportunities and cv enchanting opportunities. Personally I really like the idea of CV and Networking opportunities, but being on a scholarship at the moment with the university where I am getting paid whilst also receiving these other benefits makes me wonder if other students would really care if there was not money involved. I am not a very money driven person, and if given the opportunity I would definitely go for the student change agent position again if I had the chance next January, but I am worried that if they reevaluate their incentive they will not get many applicants, but I guess that would suit me quiet well as it is less competition.

Also, whilst at the workshop, I was able to briefly meet and introduce myself to Fionnuala Duggan, who works for Coursesmart international. I throughly believe in the Coursesmart application and company. Who offer students a years digital rental of textbooks which can be accessed on iPads, mobile devices and the web at a reduced price in comparison to buying the book new. Unfortunately we did not get to talk much, but it was nice to have a brief introduction and chat about Coursemart before she had to leave for a meeting. Another very interesting person I met today was, Martin Harvey the director of e skills. He asked us if we would test out his digital literacy competency app for him, give him feedback on usability and functionality. Of course we said yes and it sounds a tad nerdy, but I am rather looking forward to testing out the app and giving him feedback.

There was one person, who really left me confused at that was the Deputy Vice Chancellor of The University of Greenwich. He seemed really keen to ask us; the students; about our work with plenty of questions, which we tried to answer as best as we could. He seemed enthusiastic about the project and accepted the fact that the project was aimed at the use if iPads in the laboratory setting, but has now ended up spiralling out into the use if iPads in our seminars and lectures. It’s unlikely we will ever see him again, as he is a very busy man, but I’d personally love to sit down with him, Dr. Kerrigan and my colleagues and really discuss the project in full. He did love the idea of us getting an app developed for specific use in Higher Education (I’m hoping the idea will catch on). I mean I know that app development requires a lot of investment in both time, money and testing. However, to have a dedicated app for laboratory protocols that pushed Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) could only be a good boost for the use of iPads and mobile technologies in higher education. Also, if the university was worried about the investment funding side of things, why not then put the app on the specific global app stores for other universities to purchase for their students, could they then start making a return on this?

Overall the workshop/conference was an all round success and I met some very interesting people. But I must say my favourite talk came from Dr. Kerrigan and his old student he used to supervisor whilst she was doing her PHD. It was all about helping me network and trying to get my foot in the door with some universities like Westminster for when I come to apply for a funded PHD during my final year. Until that conversation I never even knew universities would pay and fund you for doing a PHD! My first step to getting on in my career is to find current PHD’s that interest me and contact the supervisors and ask them questions let them know I’m interested in their research. Guess who is looking on findaphd.com right now, yup you guessed correctly me.its working as a wonderful distraction from my revision for exams next week.

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