@PIOE news and views

January 2016

University News

As you know, we are in the middle of a review of our Portfolio, which is challenging, but will prove useful in the long term. It has certainly brought to light forgotten corners of our work, and will help us be even more effective than we are at present. I have received good feedback on our work from the Dean and Deputy Dean, and have been able to take colleagues in the Faculty through the excitements of educational policy. Our Faculty is the first to met the new VC, and I am looking forward to filling Judith in on our work more generally in the region, and inviting her to the Institute very soon.

Quick reminder that there is a very exciting series of research seminars coming up, which Linda is organising, plus supper seminars on several of those days. There should be an opportunity for all to learn something new . My particular plug would be for Geoff Whitty on 24th February, as no one knows more about educational policy in my view.

Looking forward to a proper spring, some enjoyable sessions, and coffee mornings plus the arrival of Garry Hornby. I was reminded at the weekend of Terry Wogan's famous phrase - "time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana". We need light hearted moments too.


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PROJECT: PhenoloGIT Spatial Data Analysis and Mobile Learning for Schools

Partnership initiative using technology to enhance children's understanding of the natural world

Plymouth Institute of Education is leading a European project to develop software which will give young people an enhanced understanding of the natural world. The project, led by Linda la Velle with Jan Georgeson, runs over three years to 2018, and is their third and most significant Erasmus+ project to be funded in the last round of bidding.

PhenoloGIT will design, build and test an educational platform which teachers and students can use to share information about the physical environment and the living world. This will then be used to create teaching plans, a mobile app and spatial data infrastructure so that young people can use real-world data to learn about seasonal changes in the natural world all around them.

The project is centred on phenology, the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events, and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate and habitat factors.

Plymouth Institute of Education is the lead partner, working with the Galicia Supercomputing Centre, Spain (CESGA); the O Cruce school in Galicia, Spain; the Centre of Information Technologies in Education (CITE) in Vilnius, Lithuania; and VIA University College in Horsens, Denmark.

Professor Linda la Velle, Professor of Biology in Education and Associate Director (Research) at the Plymouth Institute of Education, said: “This is a hugely exciting project that has the potential to change the way nature is taught and learned in both primary and secondary schools. We believe it will raise interest in biology as a subject and enhance young people’s understanding of big issues in science, such as biodiversity and climate change. It also embraces elements of citizen science and encourages students to use the 21st Century 4Cs skills: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication.”

Many national and international organisations are already generating large volumes of phenological information in high quality geographical databases, but much of this data is unusable or unknown for most teachers.

PhenoloGIT will build a platform that allows European teachers and students to use everyday mobile devices and open source technologies in an easy but flexible way to collect and upload high quality data.

Initially, the project will be piloted in four schools in each of the four host countries – UK, Spain, Lithuania and Denmark, with the aim of expanding its reach in the future.

Maria Malmierca, e-Learning Department Manager at CESGA, said: “This project will be trialled with students aged seven to 14, but they will be helping to build a Europe-wide database of information. It will enable them to see what is happening in their neighbourhood and relate it to developments in other parts of the continent. It will also provide valuable information for researchers, who will benefit from data collected to recognised standards and from a variety of new and existing sources.”

PhenoloGIT is being funded with a grant from the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme, which aims to boost skills and employability, as well as modernising education, training and youth work.

For more information please contact Joanna Watt, Joanna.watt@plymouth.ac.uk, Jan Georgeson tel 01752 585348 janet.georgeson@plymouth.ac.uk or linda.lavelle@plymouth.ac.uk

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SRHE Conference in Wales

Julie Anderson and Liz McKenzie attended the SRHE conference (Society for Research into HE) in December at Celtic Manor, S Wales.

Liz presented two papers. One, entitled ‘I’ve been on a real journey . . . the experience of mature women students in Higher Education’ formed part of a four paper round table discussion. It celebrated the achievements of a group of mature women teaching assistants who had begun their HE study with a Foundation degree and went on to complete not just an Honours degree, but also a teaching qualification. All mentioned the importance of the support they had received, both financial and emotional. The second paper, presented jointly with Cathy Schofield from Truro and Penwith College and Becky Turner from the Teaching and Learning directorate, looked at the impact of research funding on the experience and status of college-based higher education lecturers.

Julie presented with colleagues from University of Bristol and Marjons on a new project started Spring 2015. The paper, “An autoethnographic conversation between colleagues across three different universities. An invitation to reflect on women in academia” saw a packed room with standing room only suggesting that perhaps the work had hit a nerve.

BETT Show presenters

Last week, Steve Wheeler and James Bettany both presented sessions at the annual BETT Show at the Excel Centre in London. Steve's session focused on the benefits and pitfalls of social media in higher education, and James presented a session on digital badges and their growing impact in education. The event, which attracted an audience of 35,000 teachers and education professionals over 4 days, also featured a panel discussion by five of our first year computing and ICT specialist BEd Primary students, Sarah Locke, Adam Green, Woody Barnett, Robin Holroyd and their chair for the session - Jake Thurman.

Autism in PIoE

Rebecca McKenzie is working with clinical partners and the School of Psychology to develop the Welcome Research Hub. This centre will support research and therapeutic practice with vulnerable groups. Rebecca leads an interdisciplinary team who have developed a new support package for families of children with autism and is currently collecting data on the effectiveness of the intervention with the support of local families, the Plymouth Child Development Centre and the The Cornwall Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment Team. Rebecca also runs the Plymouth Autism Network, a forum for individuals interested in autism to meet and discuss research, ideas and experiences. The Plymouth Autism Network is collaborating with Positively Autistic to host a two day event exploring 'Autism and alternative therapies' on April 4th and 5th of this year. The event will include a conference and a one day certificated course on Autism Movement Therapy run by Joanne Lara.

Co-operative Schools Research

Cath Gristy and Julie Anderson have been invited to attend the inaugural Co-operative Education Conference in Manchester. Their presentation will be on the work of the Co-operative Schools Research Group (CSRG) - ‘Developing a Collaborative Research Group with Co-operative Schools: Exploring the Principles and Practicalities’. A number of South West teachers who are members of the CSRG, will present their work together with Julie and Cath.

PedRIO workshop

There is a workshop coming up on 8th Feb which might be of interest to staff in Education looking at the impact of educational/ pedagogic research. More information and registration available here: