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Media Zoo to be launched at University

Opportunity for staff to experience, interact and understand collection of technological ‘wildlife’ on display

A Media Zoo to be launched on 10th January 2007 at the University of Leicester has been designed to provide a supportive, experimental environment to encourage understanding of the design of learning activities using learning technologies to members of staff at the University.

The Media Zoo will be formally opened by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Burgess. The launch will be followed by tours, and opportunities for staff to have a look at what is on offer at the Zoo.

Professor Gilly Salmon, Professor of e-learning and learning technologies at the University of Leicester, commented: “The Media Zoo is, ‘an open, online and on-campus, for Staff to come and explore new learning technologies with colleagues, in order to experience, interact and understand the collection of technological ‘wildlife’ on display’. At the Zoo, exhibits include the safe and familiar as well as ‘species’ new to captivity. Explore the relationship between technological creatures and your online educational world...”

The conceptual layout of the Media Zoo is based on Professor Salmon’s 4-quadrant model. These include, the Pets' Corner which in the words of Professor Salmon ‘demonstrates what we can achieve with our established technologies. These include our virtual learning environments, such as Blackboard™ and widely used technologies such as Macromedia Breeze™’.

Members of staff are encouraged to explore how they can embed these into learning and teaching processes, helping them grow their personal confidence and expertise, to benefit students, and maybe save themselves some time and effort.

The Safari Park demonstrates the use of expertise and technologies that have already been developed, but are now being applied in new ways. For Professor Salmon, ‘these can be used to address new markets, new missions, and new levels and disciplines of learning and teaching’.

The Breeding Area demonstrates the many new, learning and mobile technologies available. Most such technologies - smart phones, i-pods, GPS etc - have not been specifically developed for learning, but are becoming widespread for entertainment, business and communication.

The Exotics House is the most challenging, risky and potentially rewarding area of the zoo. Research about e-learning is being published and goes beyond the simplistic 'what works' scenarios of early technology introduction to focus on the potential and realities of embedding e-learning as an integral part of our teaching and learning mission.

“This area is the power behind the e-learning movement and the greatest potential to put us all on the global e-map,” Professor Salmon said.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor John Fothergill said: “E-learning is becoming an expected way of learning by today's students. It offers huge benefits in terms of flexibility and it complements existing teaching methods as well. The Media Zoo will offer an excellent non-threatening way for academics to experience the technology for themselves and get professional advice on incorporating it into their courses."

The launch of the University of Leicester Media Zoo will take place at 5pm on Tuesday 10th January 200, in the foyer of the Attenborough Building, University of Leicester.

The launch is a part of the two-day international conference, ‘Learning Futures’, held at the University of Leicester on January 9th – 10th, 2007. A number of leading worldwide experts, both practitioners and thinkers of e-learning will be addressing this conference.

Speaking about the conference, Professor Salmon commented: “The Learning Futures conference aims to get a complex community together – learners, teachers, technologists and creative practitioners – to start and consider practical, sustainable approaches to developing and planning possible and preferred futures.”

For more information please see: http://www.le.ac.uk/beyonddistance/conference2007.html

Notes to editors: About the BDRA In October 2004, The University of Leicester set up the Beyond Distance Research Alliance (BDRA) with an aim of bringing together teachers, practitioners and researchers, interested in the field of innovation in teaching and learning, from any discipline or level of education. The Beyond Distance Research Alliance – which comprises a strong, and growing, group of multidisciplinary researchers and practitioners – will focus on scanning and bringing forward 'weaker' signals from the technological and e-learning environments for deployment in the University’s campus-based and distance education programmes.

More information is available from: http://www.le.ac.uk/beyonddistance/conference2007.html or from Mr Jaideep Mukherjee, Media and Communication, University of Leicester, tel 0116 252 2818, email jm118@le.ac.uk

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