Blog - Latest News
You are here: Home
VocalEyes Digital Democracy took centre stage at the National Union of Students Wales Zone conference recently thanks to the presence of Pembrokeshire College’s two student governors and union representatives – Georgia and Osian along with the college’s Learner Voice practitioner Gareth (pictured). The event attracted members of the NUS’s London and Birmingham representatives alongside the Cardiff Bay team including (pictured) Ebbi Ferguson, the NUS Wales Vice President.
The Learner Voice Practitioners’ Network invited Sarah Hoss to present an update on progress to its members enabling representatives from many colleges across Wales to hear that VocalEyes is now the digital platform of choice for Learner Voice across south-west Wales and beyond. More Welsh colleges will be joining the VocalEyes Learner Voice project soon.
VocalEyes was the platform presented at the inaugural Code Mole event held in the Swansea TechHub recently – and it was also utilised for capturing feedback to show that VocalEyes can be effective in a live event or conference to enable leaders to confidently engage with their audience both face to face and in the digital space at the same time and continue the discussion afterwards.
The main focus of the event was to raise awareness of the importance of teaching computer coding to young people as a modern language and promoting the subject to students as a career prospect so students could progress to fill the millions of unfilled employment opportunities within this area.
The event keynote speaker, former teacher and coding campaigner Neil Evans who promoted the idea of getting more girls into coding in the UK.
Sarah Hoss introduced delegates to VocalEyes Digital Democracy as a tool to deliver meaningful learner engagement in schools. This was well received by the rest of the attendees.
Sarah also set up a VocalEyes group to discuss future Code Mole events and offer feedback to the conference organiser instead of the usual post-it note or feedback-form method, showing how easy it is to use VocalEyes in a live conference situation.
Neil Evans, Code Mole’s MD said:
”There is a real opportunity here for Wales to be in the lead among digital nations and on the right side of the digital divide. If we don’t grab this opportunity and introduce Computer Science in primary and secondary education now then there is a real danger that schoolchildren in Wales will fall into the class of ‘digital have-nots’ as opposed to ‘digital haves.”
The event itself was very well received and it was clear to see that VocalEyes enhanced and furthered the notions of a digital democracy.
Renew Wales – an organisation funded by the Welsh Government that provides 200 local community groups across Wales to develop sustainable policies that address climate change – is also utilising VocalEyes to communicate with its team of 25 community coordinators across the country.
Renew Wales director Robert Proctor said:
“Ever since Renew Wales was first formulated, we have been seeking ways for our members to communicate and develop their ideas. In VocalEyes, we have found a tool that may be able to support community decision making and action. Vocaleyes could help groups to gauge how people feel towards certain ideas with a simple rating system, but can also learn how they might develop their projects via ideas and comments submitted from other users of VocalEyes.
“We feel that this could be useful to the Renew Wales programme and we are looking to trial it with some of our willing community groups and through the Renew Wales programme itself. We also hope to use it as a way of getting constructive feedback from those working on Renew Wales as a transparent way of helping to improve the delivery of Renew Wales as a programme”.
Photographed: The Community Coordinators for Renew Wales at their training event to use VocalEyes.
Milford Secondary School
VocalEyes has undertaken its first pilot in a secondary school with the successful onboarding of Milford Haven School, in Pembrokeshire. During two ‘Digital Democracy Days’ the pupils were encouraged to add their ideas for improving their experience at school and to also consider how they and their communities could improve opportunities for young people outside of the school environment.
Pupils involved vocalised 66 of their own ideas with nearly 2,000 ratings and 200 comments and replies.
The school’s head teacher Mr Rod Francis said:
“Listening to our young people is vitally important to progress the school and be able to respond promptly. We also want to encourage our young people to be polite and respectful in their dealings with each other whilst online. VocalEyes fosters a culture of respect for other people’s opinions and also assists the school’s senior leadership team to engage with our learners.
We are now considering the pupils’ ideas and will be reporting back proposed actions via VocalEyes. I’m also keen to see this system adopted in secondary schools to deliver an efficient process for capturing the learner voice and encouraging young people to participate in democratic decision-making”.
UWTSD University our first University case study and collaborator is now in its second academic year of using VocalEyes. In the first year the college managed to majorly improve the college’s student feedback. The university actioned over 40 ideas suggested by their students. Following the introduction of VocalEyes the University received great news that their student satisfaction levels had improved and they now have their highest increase in student satisfaction (NSS 2014).
“I first used VocalEyes on moodle because I had an issue with my school and I needed to find a solution for it and someone told me about it I think here in the student union. So I went onto VocalEyes and wrote my idea and it got voted from obviously all the people in my school and after a bit I got a reply directly to me saying: “We are taking action!” and so my problem got solved. It worked really nicely” said one Carmarthen-based student.
Our university case study video is available on the VocalEyes homepage but here is a peak behind the scenes during filming:
Local groups are becoming more active as communities and are looking for ways to improve their high streets. Businesses in Bid Improvement Districts (BIDs) are being set up across the UK to improve local environments and communities. VocalEyes is being introduced in a pilot to support the Lifford BID in Birmingham spearheaded by Revive & Thrive, one of our promotional agents.
“Initially we are using VocalEyes to engage with businesses at various stages of their BID journey, from initial feasibility, to development and balloting,” said Hannah Bowden, CEO of Revive & Thrive.
“We are already seeing the VocalEyes Digital Democracy tool working to give people a voice across four town centres in Lifford, Birmingham. I feel very optimistic for the real engagement and empowerment that this new partnership between our organisation and VocalEyes will unlock across UK Towns and Cities”.
VocalEyes founder, Peter Anderson said: “VocalEyes is built to enable groups of interest or geographic communities to capture their collective voice to inform decision making, action planning and future strategies. Members suggest, rate and debate each other’s ideas so that a priority list can be identified where popular ideas areturned into action.”
“Where commitment is needed to action an idea successfully, VocalEyes Projects can be set up to crowd-source the requirements”
“We’re preparing the ground to work closely with the BID project in Swansea with interactive events using their big screen in the town center as one of our public engagement strategies.”
Congratulations to South & City College Birmingham – the first English college to launch VocalEyes to their students following a prompt onboarding and training process. Sarah Hoss switched on their VocalEyes widget with the support of Donna Hunt, Deputy Director of Customer Liaison at South and City College Birmingham.
“We are delighted to be the first English college to launch VocalEyes to our students. Listening to the views of our students is very important to us and VocalEyes will strengthen the process we already have in place.
“We have 10 campuses across Birmingham and VocalEyes gives every student the opportunity to contribute, debate and vote on each other’s’ views. This will make it easier for them, and give us a clearer idea of what our students are thinking across the whole college.”
At time of writing, the college has captured about 2,000 interactions with 30 ideas from an increasing and more than 300 actively participating students.
The nationwide network of community-led organisations held its UK annual convention in Cardiff recently, a fantastic opportunity for VocalEyes to showcase to fellow community engagement professionals from all over the UK. Peter Anderson, Dawn Davies and graduate trainee Adam Collins went along to the event to promote VocalEyes. Adam Collins said: “We had a great day and met a lot of like-minded individuals.”
Speakers included Stephen Williams MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) and Ken Skates, Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport & Tourism as well as a Question Time event including Maria Adebowale (Living Space Project) and Alison
Seabrooke (Community Development Foundation). The event provided a fantastic valuable networking opportunity.
The WEA Cymru workers’ education association – the democratic adult education provider in Wales is also harnessing the power of VocalEyes to engage its teaching staff. Their manager Martyn Reed said:
“We used VocalEyes during our tutor workshops. We were able to register over 100 members of our teaching staff. They generated 22 new ideas. This data was invaluable and was presented to our managers where each idea was considered and actions were assigned.”
VocalEyes founding director Peter Anderson and community Pembrokeshire College’s engagement specialist Sarah Hoss attended the annual Pembrokeshire Business Network event held recently where they were able to introduce VocalEyes to Nick Revell of Ledwood Mechanical Engineering Ltd who also represents Pembrokeshire in the Swansea City Bay Region project, Mark Hooper, the founder of IndyCube and Sian Rees Associate Dean at the Cardiff School of Management – valuable contacts indeed.