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It’s not just students who have fun with active learning- so do our conference delegates!

Tuesday 11th June heralded the start of the 3rd Active Learning Network conference here at Sussex. With everything from the use of magic to building metaphors with Lego to walking, standing and crawling to “stand-up pedagogy”, the conference showcased a variety of innovative and engaging active learning methods leaving us with a number of tools and ideas to take into our own practices. Whilst we cannot review every session in one blogpost, here are a few tasters of what the day held in store:

Putting Magic into Teaching!

Would you like to make your teaching more engaging by using tried and tested techniques from the world of magic? Gustav Kuhn’s workshop introduced and demonstrated a range of strategies employed by magicians which can be applied to learning and teaching. For example, misdirection, authority, crowd control and making people care about an event are all components of a magic show which can be translated into enhancing student engagement in lectures. He also introduced how magic can elicit a unique sense of wonder and how learning environments can harness this to create more memorable learning experiences.

Gustav Kuhn puts a little magic into the proceedings!

Standing, Walking and Crawling

How you ever wondered what future classrooms might look like? Andrew Middleton made us ponder on how a furniture-free environment might facilitate learning. He led a workshop exploring potential for activities that involve standing, walking and even crawling, and get rid of the need of tables and chairs. The participants generated a wealth of ideas. We never knew there were so many ways to encourage people to use the stairs instead of an escalator! The generation of ideas, and then extending these into a workable template for a learning activity, enabled us to transform our thinking away from the “table and chairs” limitation on learning spaces.

Team-Based Learning

Have you ever questioned the merits of team-based learning (TBL) or wondered how it could be applied to your context? Marta Vianya-Estopa gave us a rare opportunity to experience the benefits of TBL by using it to teach us what happens in an eye exam. Through her teaching method, which included authentic learning experiences such as trying different strength lenses, we increased our own understanding of optometry concepts and experienced the benefits of adopting a TBL approach over traditional teaching approaches.

Lego Serious Play

Have you ever asked how you can keep your students on task in the classroom? Enter the use of Lego Serious Play which holds students’ attention by giving them the opportunity to create a physical representation of their thoughts and a focus and a prompt for them to communicate them. Two Lego Serious Play workshops guided us through different ways of using lego to promote, not only good teaching practice but also to make meetings more effective! Tosin Adebisi and Vasilis Gkogkidis guided us through ways that Lego could be used to facilitate communication, explore different perspectives on the same task and build metaphors!

Podcasting, an auditory revolution

Would you love to spur student engagement, encourage peer learning and foster a sense of community with the classroom? George Robinson’s workshop introduced the use of podcasting where he convinced us that podcasting is a great fit for an active learning classroom environment. We all got the chance to plan, record, edit and publish our own podcasts while learning how we could use it in our teaching to inspire and stimulate our students’ engagement.

Year on year, the annual conference attracts more delegates from a range of backgrounds- educational developers, learning technologists, academics, freelance consultants and librarians. In short, anyone with an interest in transforming education. Around twenty different institutions sent one or more representatives. It seems clear to us that active learning is becoming the focus for many teaching places across the country and further afield. Our satellite groups are now growing (more about these in a later blog post!) but there is always room for more. If you would like to lead a satellite group at your institution, please contact activelearningnetwork@gmail.com and we can forward more details.

Sony Professional Solutions attended the conference and showed off the latest technical tools for facilitating active learning in the classroom. Thanks to their generous sponsorship, we were again able to offer the conference as a free to attend event, making this accessible for all.

We are continuing to collect resources from those who presented at the conference and we will be sharing this link with you soon, so watch this space.

So what comes next in the story of active learning? For that, I will take the title of one of the workshops run by Marcello Staricoff, “the joy of not knowing”. The exciting thing about active learning is that there is an endless bounty of methods, ideas and strategies and with our next conference due in June 2020, we look forward to seeing what some of those might be.

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