5a: Specialist area 1 – Collaboration & Community


This covers three key areas of my professional identity: the ALT NI Members Group, being an Open Education Practitioner and guest facilitation of the FemEdTech.


My talk on the Wikipedia module at OER19 and the Wikimedia Community Ireland Report 2018 which includes this work

Contributions to Wikipedia – new articles added: Ella Pirrie, Florence Elliott, Elizabeth McCracken

Contributions to Wikimedia Commons including Wiki Loves Monuments, 2018 to 2020


Being able to connect with a range of different people to collaborate on this project was something completely out of my day to day learning technology work. It also allowed me to directly teach undergraduate students.

Working with the students I learned just how easy it is to edit and contribute in many different ways from adding citations, linking photos from Wikimedia Commons or even simple proof editing changes. However, the challenge of addressing the lack of diversity is entirely different. Establishing whether someone has sufficient ‘notability’ according to the criteria is incredibly difficult for women and those from minority backgrounds. Knowing this the students preferred to choose medical topics or hospital sites.

5a: Specialist area 2 – Student Engagement & Creativity


Social and Engagement


LEGO® Serious Play®

This was also a journey that began with the Digital Education programme as another student shared their LEGO build in one of our discussion forums. After thinking about how beneficial it would be in education, I did some research asked for a small budget to buy a few basic sets and then introduced the workshops to year 1 undergraduate medical students. Due to its success, I then sought external funding to cover the cost of the official training and won two separate grants for that. I have since facilitated many sessions with staff and students and every time amazing and unexpected stories and learning take place. Being able to facilitate these online before the pandemic just highlighted how flexible an approach it can be.

Digital Escape Rooms

At the end of the academic year 19/20, colleagues in the Careers department approached me regarding an initiative they were launching but was complicated by being a lot wider than single module areas in the Virtual Learning Environment. The process was that students would attend a large live session in groups, then be given access to an area to work through content and answer questions, they would then receive a certificate of completion for their CVs/LinkedIn profiles etc.

I proposed using Microsoft OneNote and Forms in the form of a digital escape room, as it would be open to all students in the university via a single hyperlink. I created a demonstration of how it would then spent a session with the staff guiding them through how to build them step by step. Once the nine rooms were complete, I asked a colleague to add an automated email once the student had completed the room via the Flow environment. A developer then created a programme to generate the certificates via the CSVs that were generated by the Microsoft Forms. This launched at the beginning of 2020/2021 and to date there have been over 600 certificates sent to students.



LEGO® Serious Play® facilitator Certificate

Online Sessions for ALT Winter Conference 2018 and ALT Winter Conference 2019 

Thomson, C.; Johnston, J. L. and Reid, H. (2018), “Rich Stories: Embedding LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Into Undergraduate Medical Education”, International Journal of Management and Applied Research, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 313-325. https://doi.org/10.18646/2056.54.18-024

Digital Escape Rooms

Social and engagement webinars – as discussed in Communication section.


These creative approaches to teaching and learning are by far my favourite elements of my job. Every single session is completely different to previous sessions. However, the one thing they have in common is that success relies heavily on attendee participation and buy-in. I have worked hard at creating a warm environment with ‘a permission to play’ message. Experience as well as inspiration from others such as the Intention book by Amy Burvall and Dan Ryder (activities I have used are listed on this post), the book Playful Learning, Events and Activities to Engage Adults (which I reviewed for the Journal of Play in Adulthood) and during the pandemic the work of Maha Bali and colleagues via UnboundEQ and OneHEGlobal.

As I reflected in the Wider Context area this work overlaps more and more with my work around inclusion and accessibility. Playful learning is just as important within higher education as primary schools, however, I believe there is still a lot of work to change the perceptions that it is something frivolous and to be dismissed. It is hopefully, one of the positives to come out of the move to remote learning that it became clear that this socialisation and engagement work was not only important but that many educators found difficult to create in online spaces.

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