RSCl8trs marks the end of RSC London at ULCC

Delegates at Jisc RSC London goodbye reception

Delegates at Jisc RSC London goodbye reception. Click for more images.

Today the Jisc RSC London held its last event to mark the end of our activities from the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) our host institution for over a decade.

I was grateful to all those who could spare this last time to be there with us.

I thought it right to focus on celebrating our achievements so that the members of our team will end this journey feeling proud of the work they have done, whether they continue working with Jisc or chose to do something else.

I know that because of the work of the RSCs the sector is better placed to deliver on their ambition for technology. This has been backed up by customer responses to our work and by the very many independent verifications of our service over the years.

Over the last 14 years, we have played a pivotal role in helping the sector make sense of the multitude of government policies, strategies and initiatives related to technology.

We expedited the spread of solutions found from within the sector to help achieve balanced progress. At the RSC London, we have always been concerned with each and every single provider, from those with limited resources to the high flying ones. Our role has been to champion them all.

We found creative solutions for challenges and allowed ourselves to go above and beyond our remit to promote the use of technology in the sector. While providing vision through innovation, we also focused on helping you achieve your most immediate objectives.

You asked us to,

  • sit in on your ILT strategy groups
  • mediate meetings with suppliers to ensure you always got the best deal possible
  • visit you regularly to discuss your needs and plans
  • review your digital technology plans and deployment.

Most recently, we organised popup forums across London to show to organisations with limited resources how to use affordable solutions available to you.

  • we connected with your staff, through targeted webinars to reach the HE in FE community and offer ESOL practitioners a chance to join our online events.
  • we stimulated independent learning providers to embrace collaboration as a way of accelerating their digital capacity.
  • we provided over 300 events targeting over 8,000 staff at all levels and roles, particularly those with responsibility for quality, IT, staff development, library, e-learning services, curriculum, and their leaders.

The list goes on, but the last achievement I’d like to mention is the transformation I have seen in the staff across London working with technology, including their leaders.

While five or six years ago we had to search high and low for presenters at our events, in recent years I have seen how much more confident staff, both in teaching and supporting roles, feel to showcase how they are using technology.

An obvious thing to say is that the future of technology is going to be much bigger. I have no doubt in London a big part of it will be due to the seeds the RSC team have planted.

Please join me in thanking

  • our host institution for providing the necessary environment and conditions for us to deliver a great service year on year;
  • the members of our Advisory Group for the incredible support in verifying our plans and sticking with us in time of difficulties;
  • everyone else we have worked with in the region but who could not be hear today. I am grateful for their expressions of sympathy;
  • and finally the members of the Jisc RSC London team: Elisabetta, Shri, Max, Evan, Rosemary, Martin, Kav, Bernard and Julian who I can only describe as a vibrant team with the wellbeing of our sector at its heart.

Below are a few images and notes collected throughout the day.

Graciano de Santana Soares
Regional Manager, JISC RSC London

Views from delegates collected on the day

Cardboard and Reflections

goodbye tweet

Here is my goodbye Tweet to the RSC


How many RSC events have you been to?

2015 challenge

A significant challenge for the sector in 2015 will be …

educational technology

What educational technology will be all be talking about next year?

rsc member

Describe an RSC team member in one word

rsc event

You know when it is an RSC event when…


Over the years I have been able to share these things with the community:

most important

The most important thing for educational technologists to do right now is…

magic wand

If I had a magic wand I wish I were brilliant at…


Writing on the Wall


Final Jisc RSC London event – writing on the wall activity

Some highlights

  • Learning new skills and taking part in training that you then put into practice and see it having an impact.
  • Getting your advice and guidance
  • e-Factor – the event of the year! Put lots of it into practice.
  • Like minded networking. Every moment when IT and curriculum come together to do great things with learners
  • We shared, you shared= we had fantastic support and ideas thanks!
  • Learning and sharing. Good people who kept edutech visionary, relevant and fun
  • Bringing colleagues from across the sector to share ideas, best practice and new technologies all with the same aim of providing the best service for learners. Thank you RSC London and best wishes for the future.
  • Sharing good practice for example on e-learning strategies
  • Excellent support. A genuine loss and will be missed greatly😦
  • A wonderful platform to share and present. What will we do without you?

What next?

  • Taking the digital divide out of the digital by default
  • Making the 10% happen
  • Blending and flipping
  • Rolling out content standard
  • %online delivery
  • Getting staff to improve e-learning and content
  • Getting learners to create
  • Google classroom?

ESOL in the community with little or no technology

The accessbilityirony of this last technology webinar on ESOL in the community was one where the downside of using technology manifested itself fully as unfortunately we had a bit of an issue with the audio. Nonetheless, it was still a useful session as we had Julie Day from the British Council talking about English my way; some great resources for lower level learners including some very high quality videos – but seeing that the theme was what to do in community venues with little or no technology, Julie did go on to say that these resources can be downloaded for when there is no internet connection and can be accessed via mobile devices. Furthermore, you can order free resources, there is also online teacher support and you can become an English my way centre; to find out more follow this link

A lot of the ideas that we were trying to explore in this session came from the shared Google doc where people had written about the challenges as well as the strategies they used when teaching in community venues. This included what to do when learners were reluctant to engage with technology; so getting them to use their mobile phones for learning seems a popular one (though not everyone has a smartphone). With this in mind we were hoping to have ELATT tell us about their work but the technology malfunction occurred. However,Nafisha from ELATT managed to tell us in the chat pane that they carried out a needs analysis with their learners and one of the things they realised they had to do was to work with them to explore the full functionality of mobile phones (as not doing so was a disservice to the learners). So ELATT developed some learning strategies using Google translate, calendars and other simple apps. They also got class kits of smartphones so everyone could have access to one. A strategy aimed at not only teaching English but helping learners to develop critical digital skills.

Another presentation we missed out on because of technology breakdown was Fatima from Westminster Adult Education Service-but again through the chat pane Fatima did tell us how big community learning is for them as they have 60 community learning venues! Here at RSC London we do know that WAES does some fantastic work teaching in the community. This presentation from the e-Factor 2014  explains how they focus on simple steps; using a set of ipod touch for the classes that teachers can easily carry around with them. Crucially they also  offer training and support in the learning resource centres for both teachers and learners. Other simple steps mentioned were using a flipped approach by getting learners to explore materials before they come to the lesson, getting them to take photographs with their mobile phones of the class whiteboard and using a padlet to upload work. The advantage of using Padlet is that it does not need a login which can make it easier to access for some learners and easy for teachers to set up.

Finally, the question came up of what to do when there is no internet connection and a participant really recommended MiFi, a portable hotspot solution, as she said it could take up to 11 users and was extremely reliable- so a possible cost effective solution there.

Overall, what came through is the importance of support when teaching and learning in a community venue. It is probably not so much an issue of sparkling technologies but more about communication with IT support and management, accessibility to some basic resources as well as time to explore to see what can work in different teaching situations with different learners.

What College leaders need is a Gaga Strategy

Lady Gaga as a child

Lady Gaga as a child

Dining amongst some of those who support the traditional dinner of the Network of Black and Asian Professionals network as part of the AOC Conference last night reassured me. So, I doubt that the creative leadership talk by Professor Jaime Anderson on the first day of the conference will change many of them. Though, it could change a few and I would love to see how applying a “followship strategy”, rather than a leadership one, possible via a Youtube, twitter or a blog that has over five million followers, pans out.

But let’s face it. The Gaga Strategy as he advocated could be just the approach needed to reveal the way out of the funding conundrum the sector faces – a robbing Peter to pay Paul scenario reflected in the predictions of AoC Chief Executive Martin Deol, BBC Newsreader Emily Maitlis and BBC Radio 5’s Chief Political Correspondent John Pienaar when they addressed the packed auditorium just before the political party reps came on stage.

As Martin Doel said to FE News, he saw little difference amongst the political parties because the headlines are much of the same and we will all be keen to see the details of their pledges in the next six months before the general election.

Being humans, principals will wonder what the heck Professor Jamie’s message was. Yes it was clear that the ease of access to technology and how anyone has been able to broadcast themselves since the emergence of Youtube was central to his message.

Yes, the education sector can and should capitalise on that. There was some sort of reverence to “meaningful intimacy” allowed by technologies such as twitter that has seen Lady Gaga and the likes of Justin Bieber create a group of followers that could win elections.

The irony is that his call to engage with generation-y in the FE and Skills sector immediately hit the barrier of diminished resources. While private schools charge higher fees for the 16 plus cohort, the FE and Skills sector has seen funding for this cohort dwindle. Principals have also been feeling the difficulty in recruiting and keeping good English and Maths teachers since the government handshake to attract these teachers to schools.

But perhaps Professor Jamie’s 4Es of the Gaga Strategy might provide the blue sky thinking the sector needs.

e1 Excellence
e2 Empathy
e3 Exclusivity
e4 Engagement

Those who weren’t there might want me to spell out those Es. Well, anyone who can workout what the Gaga Strategy is will do so without trouble. So I’ll leave it to you. A tip, though: it does require blue sky thinking about blue sky thinking… and maybe we will find the answer to inject funds in the sector while reducing the deficit.

Since I live for technology in education, a well devised and deployed Gaga Strategy will see unpredictable levels of sector engagement with students that will make them all want to follow, rather than attend, education, skills training and research.

RSCL8trs alligator, Jisc in a while crocodile

Graciano de Santana Soares, Jisc RSC London Manager

Graciano de Santana Soares, Jisc RSC London Regional Manager

This is the end, my friend

#RSCl8trs – on 4th December – will mark the departure of the Jisc RSC London from ULCC, our host institution for over 14 years. It will be an opportunity to re-live memories of the sector’s highlights and engagement with us.

In good RSC London fashion we will share your images, videos, or testimonials of our past activities online and at our offices when we will be saying goodbye to the past and welcome the future in whatever shape it comes.

There are many ways you can contribute, and you can start now, sharing one memory a day:

For many supporters and users of the Jisc RSCs across the UK, 2015 will bring important changes to the way they access their services and the way Jisc interacts with them. In fact those changes are well under way.

December 2014 will mark the end of the Jisc Regional Support Centres, at least in the current form, and the beginning of Jisc in the regions.  Although the new model is still being finalised, Jisc will bring the RSCs and services such as TechDis, Legal, InfoNet and Netskills in-house and restructure them.

With regards to the regional representation, there will be a reduction from 12 to six Jisc regions. Namely, Jisc North, Jisc Wales, Jisc London, and the combined regions of Jisc South and East; Jisc South West and Midlands; and Jisc Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Some of these regional amalgamations do present a challenge of accessibility, but Jisc will design systems that will make accessing Jisc support and expertise seamless whatever the location of a provider.

Though my focus for this piece is the end of the RSCs, I wanted to praise the way Jisc has undertaken the task of bringing together such disparate and successful groups of services that have given Jisc international recognition and the nationwide status of leading experts in technology in education.

I find it hard to imagine a future in which Jisc may fail to deliver on its vision of making the UK the most advanced nation in the world for technology in education and research.

Over the years I have seen a number of agencies come and go. Becta being the one with the greatest impact on agents driving the uptake of technology in education. Becta’s demise soon after the 2010 elections epitomised the then new government’s drive to reduce public spending and devolve decision making to schools. Jisc CEO Martyn Harrow’s report highlighting the savings achieved through a shared service such as Jisc should not be underestimated. Nor the danger of the scams that schools, colleges and universities can be exposed to when procuring IT, when the impartial support the RSCs were known for will no longer be available. The future of technology in the post-compulsory education has never been in better hands.

I grew up watching Ayrton Senna and his wondrous driving. As I write, Lewis Hamilton is a third place away from becoming world champion again. Nigel Mansell has said that the championship is his to lose. The future of technology for the UK envisaged by Jisc is the funders’ to lose.

But why should I be saying all this when the RSCs are coming to and end and I’ll be moving on? I guess that it is because as Regional Manager for the Jisc RSC London, I saw my team and colleagues across the regions strive to deliver to providers’ needs and wants.

We have sat in on providers’ strategy boards, held their hands when meeting with suppliers, reviewed their deployment of technology, sat in on interview panels to attract their best staff to lead on technology, mentored newly-appointed members of staff in colleges to expedite their understanding of the use of technology in the sector… the list goes on. Our drive was to help providers grow their use of technology and help the sector improve. How we achieved those aims took a myriad of shapes and forms due to the creativity of our team. Our targeted regional forums, popup events and our very own e-factor conferences are a few examples.

Providers have reported how quickly they have been able to align themselves to the changing technology-related demands of different governments. We saw the anxiety caused by the SFA’s 10% online request. Through the RSCs many senior leaders have come to understand the importance of embracing technology.

Having been through the process of change instigated by the Wilson Review from inside Jisc, I know that in a while, Jisc will be offering a lot more than the RSCs and the services combined, not necessarily in quantity, but in quality.

As Martyn said, “the digital future will be bigger than the digital past” and Jisc is getting ready for it. We at the RSC London believe that much of the digital future will be achieved thanks to the seeds we have planted in our 14 years of operation. My personal vision is that there should not be a single place where learners are studying in the UK where they cannot access the technology and online resources they need to succeed, be it a university or a community centre. I truly believe that Jisc has everything it takes to achieve that vision.

On 4th December 2014

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Graciano de Santana Soares
Regional Manager, JISC RSC London