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5 minutes with... David Byrne

Dr David Byrne is a Director of Technology Enhanced Learning in the Centre for Education. We sat down and took 5 minutes with David to find out about his career so far, what a typical day is for him and what advice he would give to his younger self.

Briefly, tell us about your background and career up to this point?

I did a BSc Physiology/Biochemistry & PhD in Human Hyperbaric Physiology and during my PhD was initially exposed to the potential of computers in education as our research digital data collection systems were also being used for undergraduate teaching ...early crossover from research to teaching in the early 90’s. 

Largely as a direct result of the passion my PhD supervisor had for “new” teaching methods, got involved early on with using a fledgling word wide web in the early 90’s as a teaching aide and opened my eyes to the possibilities it afforded as well as being involved with various government initiatives in the 90s funding the use of computer aided learning and developed a number of software tools focussing on the cardiovascular & respiratory physiology. 

Came to United Medical and Dental Schools to develop cardiovascular and respiratory software and teach in 1996. Professor Jeremy Ward was instrumental in terms of the career pathway I went down. Following the merger with King’s in 1998, main focus over the next 10 years was really around medical education and developing VLE functionality and teaching solutions both locally and wider nationally and involvement with various other international collaborations in medical education. Took on the rest of the Bioscience side of the Faculty in due course as both the University and the Faculty reshaped, restructured and evolved.

What is a typical day like for you? How did this change due to COVID-19?

In many years working here, there is no such thing I would consider as a “typical” day. Technology being what it is, is ever changing, new positives and negatives to be learnt, absorbed and addressed are our bread and butter in terms of what would be considered business as usual. Student demands and expectations additionally play a significant role in setting strategic directions of travel.

COVID-19 was an unforeseen catalyst to drive all teaching and learning online in a rapid period of time so a significant amount of time spend initially preparing, training, learning new systems and processes across the Summer of 2020 and this process still is continuing.

Whilst neither novel nor new, moving all high stakes summative assessment online at such a scale was a significant operational and organisational task across all of the Faculty Education Services teams but I suspect it’s a format we will likely be seeing utilised far more going forward.

Looking back, what has the pandemic and resulting lockdowns taught you?

It’s good to talk (face to face) as while most of our work can and is done online, conversations that do not require a planned Teams invitation makes one appreciate how much we all need human contact in our day to day working environment and how a fluid and evolving conversation in a room (socially distanced) can benefit discussions and decision making processes.

What is the best thing about the slow return to ‘normality’ we are now experiencing?

Like most people, I suspect having conversations that do not always involve a computer screen is welcome. One positive aspect of COVID-19 is the fact that while out of necessity all teaching moved online, as we return to a “normal” teaching experience hopefully there is a greater awareness and appreciation of the benefits (and challenges) of online and/or pre-prepared teaching content.

While encouraging uptake and use of the online environment in a blended model is something I’ve always been a passionate enthusiast for, I hope the positive coming out of the move to delivery of education online will allow academic colleagues to appreciate the benefits of this mode. Benefits that will feed forward and allow planning and development of a more blended curriculum both maximising the social and academic benefits of face to face activity while capitalising on the benefits on online activity that should continue to adapt to the needs and expectations of the Millennial and current Generation Z student demographics.

What do you think people in the Centre would find most surprising about you?

I fenced Internationally a few times for Ireland back in University days.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Absolutely nothing. Learning from our successes and failures are what make us. Live and learn and move on and let’s be honest what 18 year old would accept sensible life advice from a 50 something year old anyway!!

What do you do with your time outside academia?

I play guitar at any opportunity and will give any style or genre a go but fall back is the blues. Lots of reading, any type of DIY (except plumbing), gardening, painting and do like to switch off watching mentally unchallenging television!

What is your favourite thing about working at King’s?

Working with a fantastic digital education team, colleagues across professional services and wider academic community. Every day is a school day and never stop learning. King’s keeps one feeling young as while we grow older and hopefully a bit wiser, students stay the same age.

QUICKFIRE

Favourite London restaurant:

Do not actually have one absolute…although last good meal I had out was at Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse.

Favourite scientist:

John Scott Haldane. Early 20th century significantly moustachioed Clinician and Physiologist who did some early, influential and insightful work (and known for self-experimentation that health and safety would balk at) on the effects of high pressure environments and toxic gases on respiratory function. Also known for his “apparatus” I have memories of using in my undergraduate degree.

Favourite cuisine:

Indian (not too spicy)

Netflix recommendation:

Reflecting a range of genres: Ratched / Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed / Locke and Key

Coffee order:

Cappucino

One thing you could not go a day without:

My Family

Describe yourself in three words…

Calm, pragmatic, diplomatic

Most-used emoji:

👍🏻

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