Guest post – DigiLearn: From ‘Floating heads’ to simulated prisons: Reflecting on the endless possibilities of the DigiLearn Sector for Technology-enhanced learning (TEL)
Author: Sam Pywell – Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, University of Central Lancashire
This blog is being written on the back of initiatives which have arisen from being a part of the DigiLearn Sector community. These have included: ‘Floating heads’ – the start of using video calling clinical practitioners from a physical classroom, the ‘SIMulated Hospital’ and subsequent chatbots work, and now the construction of a simulated prison – which may connect a wider student group within Interprofessional Education (IPE).
There is significant value in cross-faculty and cross-organisation collaboration throughout the DigiLearn Sector. Within three days of posting an invitation of interest in collaborating to start the simulated prison for Autumn 2021, I had received a significant number of responses from individuals across the sector. These were from individuals working across HE, FE and schools. Early responses included critical content which has help construct parts of the simulation. For example, I posted a request for 360-degree images of a prison – so students could see what the inside of a prison and cell in order to complete tasks in the simulation. One organisation had a ThingLink already constructed. It was enormous and contained the entire inside of a prison – with the relevant information already attached. I got a bit overexcited and tried to view this at home on a VR headset I’d picked up in a local charity shop for £3. The ThingLink worked, as did the links within it. However, my phone crashed and got a bit hot…. But the idea had worked!
The DigiLearn Sector is somewhere which has helped me future-proof my Technology-enhanced learning (TEL) content, and let me connect an initial idea with the practical steps for its future implementation.
I’m currently also looking into the potential of hybrid classrooms – which is an idea I’d also seen shared within the DigiLearn Sector. It feels like we are getting closer to discussing more of this…. What would happen if we gave students (for some, but not all sessions) the potential to choose where, and when, they took their learning? What if a student who has the VR or AR kit at home, chose to access a session that way, and was able to interact with a student on campus wearing VR gear and hooked up to the session? (Again, wherever they wanted to be on campus – either in the library or sat outside on a nice day).
The concept of a classroom has drastically evolved over the past year, with more examples for ways to flex its current structure away from all being ‘present’ in one physical space. Since my blog on ‘Floating heads’ and the potential for us to video call clinicians into the classroom, this is now reality!
Perhaps if we as facilitators can explore the potential of the VR, AR, bots and hybrid classrooms – we may contribute to, and be a leading competitor in digital innovation and the hybrid classroom using TEL (Kellerman, 2019).