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METal and magnetism

Andrew Middleton

Category: Anglia Learning & Teaching

22 July 2019

I have a distrust of project titles that are acronyms that look too smart for their own good, but when I asked my project sponsors about the work they wanted me to undertake they said: “We want you to apply all that good work you’ve been doing in the sector for the last 15 years to meeting the aims of the Education Strategy. You know, media-enhanced teaching and learning.”

I made a note, and there it was: “METaL” I’d always referred to it as MEL - with the emphasis on the learning, because if you think like that the teaching follows. Ironically, that is also what happens when you marry METaL with the Active Curriculum Framework: you focus on learning because the rest will follow. While ‘teaching excellence’ focuses our collective mind in higher education, it’s actually all about learning.

And that brings us to ‘magnetism’ (well, if you’ve got an acronym for a project title you might as well play with it!).

One of the persistent outcomes of my research into how audio and video extend the learning environment is the evidence that bottling what academics and students say can become the focus for understanding and promoting personalisation of the student experience. In that research, it becomes clear that often academic innovators are focusing personalisation at high tension points in the student’s journey; those points when the student needs reassurance, challenge, trust, and above all some faith in their ability to succeed academically.

Unless we’re really thick-skinned, we all know a little care and attention works wonders. This is what my research into how we are using digital audio to enhance the learning experience has told me again and again, whether I have been looking at the use of audio feedback, audio assessment briefing, student audio notes, digital storytelling, or learner-generated podcast assignments (Middleton, 2013).

Underpinning our METaL project this year is my research-informed pedagogic framework on media intervention. Media intervention reveals that audio and video can make pedagogic impact when used for orientation, motivation, challenge, feedback and reflection. Within each of these areas (which are not always exclusive), it becomes clear how often small, decisive interventions can be used to reset learning engagement, and therefore promote successful learning outcomes.

METaL and the concept of media interventions are highly adaptable, whether that media already exists or it is produced by the academic or student as part of formal or informal pedagogy.

A further dimension to METaL is the principle that educational media should be accessible - however we are using it, we shouldn’t have to stop and think too much about the technology and media, where to find in or how to use it. If the engaging voice is what we are trying to work with, we shouldn’t have to interrupt our flow, excitement, or concentration to work out which button to press! I have a badge. It says: “Just press the red button!”

So, METaL is about engagement, empowerment, and agency and I look forward to the work this year that will focus on making sure we have the right accessible and highly usable infrastructure. To that end, it is important that I get to meet anyone with an interest in this area - academics, students and all those people who ensure that it really is as simple as finding the red button and that, whatever our role and idea, we can capture the essence of our teaching and learning experience. Our voice! Our magnetic charm?!

References
MELSIG’s Audio Feedback toolkit
Middleton, A., ed. (2013). Digital Voices: a collaborative exploration of the recorded voice in post-compulsory education.

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