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Technical Services: supporting teaching

Technician demonstrates experiment to undergraduate student

This week we’re featuring a series of articles on the work of Technical Services with a mix of detail and first-hand experience. Technical Services colleagues use their practical skills to support and develop teaching, research, commercial and outreach activities. Today we’re focusing on the role Technical Services play in supporting teaching.

Many degree programmes in the nine Schools that we support involve students undertaking practical classes in specialist areas. Technical staff are key to the functioning of these specialist areas and in supporting and delivering these classes to students. We deliver approximately 2000 practical classes each year. Support may involve a range of activities, from laying out of basic art and science materials, demonstrating and running classes to liaising with academics, to design and trial new protocols and creative work. In addition, we often work very closely with undergraduate, MSc and MA students who are undertaking their project work. Whilst many of our support activities are laboratory and field based, we support two teaching workshops where staff and students are assisted in using traditional powered and hand tools.

Given our extensive involvement in, and impact on, teaching and learning, it is important that our accreditation status reflects our considerable contributions in this area. A few of our team members are already Associate Fellows and Fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and many of us are now working closely with our colleagues in CQSD to develop applications for HEA Fellowship which will increase the number of accreditations within the technical staff population.

In interacting with our students in practical classes and during their project work, many of our team have expressed a need to understand more about supporting individuals with disabilities. To this end, we are working together with Student Wellbeing Services and currently have a member of Technical Services seconded to work with the Disability Advisory Service team. The exchange of information and knowledge will hopefully lead to further improvements in working practices to meet the needs of students with disabilities and, in addition, give us an increasing awareness of how we support each other in our own team.

Here two Technical Services colleagues talk about their experience in supporting teaching:

George Ormisher is a Support Technician, based in the Minghella Studios- I studied for my BA Film and Theatre at Reading and during my time as a student I really enjoyed working with the technical staff. On graduating, I became a Support Technician and it has been very satisfying to be on the other side of the relationship and provide the support that I once received. This has helped me to engage and empathise with students and fulfil their technical support needs. Day to day I coordinate the logistics and loan of film and theatre equipment such as cameras, light and sound equipment. I help with props and sets, provide support with risk assessments and I am involved in running workshops, such as those covering cinematography and theatre lighting.

Last year, I was delighted to be part of a project team that won the University of Reading 2017 Collaborative Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and Learning. The project was described as ‘an outstanding example of inter-departmental collaboration between academics and support staff’. Last month I led an Outreach day focused around a short film production, encouraging potential students from target communities to take an interest in both a film degree and studying at university.  The least exciting part of my role involves archiving and managing our DVD library, but even then, you never know which Head of School’s 3rd year undergraduate project film you might come across!

Jordan Kirby is a Technician, based in the Knight Building ‘I completed my undergraduate BSc (Hons) in Microbiology in 2014 from Aberystwyth University. I worked for the NHS at the Royal Berkshire hospital in the Microbiology department for two years before moving to the University of Reading. I work as part of a team within the Knight building which supports the Microbiology Division of Technical services. One of my main responsibilities involves me organising and demonstrating in the student practical classes, some of which are delivered to up to 130 students and so may require hundreds of biological samples to be prepared beforehand. I am also the lead technician for a number of practicals and this involves me liaising with the lead academic to develop and organise new classes to their specifications.

The other part of my role, as a laboratory coordinator involves me supporting academics, undergraduate project students and PhD students. This support can involve providing laboratory inductions and training students to use sophisticated equipment that measures DNA.  I am also a part of the Staff/Student Postgraduate Research Committee and the Technical Services Wellbeing Group. I enjoy the huge variety of my role, no two days are the same. There are so many opportunities to learn and develop myself. One of my favourite parts of the role is the large variety of people I meet and work with. I am currently applying for professional registration as a Registered Scientist.

You can find out more about the work that Technical Services on their website.

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