14 September, 2007

An Introduction to Blogs and Podcasts: Video

A group from Lancashire County Council came this month to learn about new technologies that they could use in their work. As I was asked to do a session on blogs and podcasts, but as I was at ALT-C I recorded a screencast of the presentation for them, and then left some tasks for them to do.

This might be of interest to someone as an introduction to the technologies. I'd like to develop it further as a staff development session, but I'm not sure that most of the academic staff here really want to create podcasts. I'm even less sure that the students want to subscribe to them on a large scale. It might be better to develop staff development sessions about on-line audio and include podcasting as a small section of that.

Basic Internet Security

I was asked by a member of academic staff to come up with advice for the occasional students who haven't got anti-virus software or similar security software.

I wrote this document advising on useful software. I'm no expert on internet security so any feedback would be appreciated before I put it on the web site with our other documents.

07 September, 2007

ALT-C 2007: Looking Back... and Forward

Well it's OK going to a conference and hearing people speak... but how had that affected the way I intend to go about my role as a Learning Technologist?

What we using the potential of the technology for?

I think I've had time to reflect on how we work while at the conference - helped by talking to people in similar role. I see a clearer distinction between the work we do enabling administration using technology, and the work we do enabling learning using technology. I think that is an important distinction to use when talking with academic staff and will help us and academic staff keep away from investing all our time in what is really administrative work. Examples would be putting course booklets online, or using discussion tools for announcements. Even uploading learning resources that would otherwise be photocopied and handed out in class is using the technology for administration, rather than using it's power to aid learning in a way that photocopied documents couldn't.

Formative Feedback

Partly because it is part of the focus of my SOLSTICE research I noticed a lot about formative feedback, both the importance of it and potential ways of using computers to assist with this. I want to do a bit more thinking and reading in this area and then perhaps work with some staff creating learning objects. These might involve creating complex multiple choice questions for use in sessions with voting software, and for use on the VLE. It might involve games that give immediate feedback on actions, like the Traveller IQ Challenge game on Facebook.

Recording Lectures

Regarding recording lectures, I can better see that there is a definite limit to the amount of lectures we can really manage the recording of manually. If the institution wants to record all, or most lectures we'll need a automatic lecture recording system like Lectopia. I'm not sure of my opinions on the benefit of recording all lectures, but it has certainly been beneficial to record some, from an accessibility point of view.

Don't Be Scared!

Talking to people and listening to presentations, I feel a lot more comfortable about trying things on Mobile devices and in Second Life. Small projects might not be as time consuming in development and student support terms as I had thought.

It was well worth attending a conference to help me move these and other projects forward a bit. I hope next year I can perhaps present, and put a little more into the pot of ideas, as it were.

06 September, 2007

ALT-C 2007: Day Three - Automated Formative Feedback


Today I've been to the 9:00 session William Billingsley from the University of Cambridge and Pete Thomas from the Open University.

William was talking about the use of Intellegent Books and Massively Multiple Choice questions. Intellegent Books are an attempt to create a reactive learning environment (Brown, Burton and Bell, 1974). They give students feedback on their actions, perhaps calculating the consequences of a decision in a model simulation.

Massively Multiple Choice questions are an attempt to remove the possibilty of students guessing answers, and giving teachers a better chance at understanding how the student understands the topic, like what Dylan Wiliam was talking about yesterday.

Pete Thomas spoek about their work on automating the assessment of flow diagrams in subjects like computer science. Their ER Tutor Tool can work out how a students model of a process differs from the correct one and gives feedback on it.

In Conclusion

I've seen a lot this week about formative feedback and the potential use of technologies to automate the process or to simplify the process for the teacher. After what Dylan Wiliams said about remembering that the most important piece of the process is the teacher, and the teacher's skills, we should remember that the teachers need to do the designing of automated feedback alongside Learning Technologists (in a 'New Academic Team') who can advise from a technical point of view.

05 September, 2007

ALT-C 2007: Day Two - Formative Feedback and Mobile Learning Resources


Formative Feedback

This morning got off to a good start with Dylan Wiliam's Keynote about the importance of formative feedback, and how technologies can play a part in helping teachers with this task.
His work focussed on school children rather than Higher Education (see Inside the Black Box for details), but what he talks about relates to us in HE too.

Research shows that adding technology (for example whiteboards) to classrooms has no effect on attainment overall. Of all the things looked at the biggest factor is the teacher. Teachers who have developed their teaching skills over many years can help students much faster.
He quotes the work of Nyquist, 2003, on types of feedback and talked about how formative feedback was effective in promoting learning.

Wilson and Draney, 2004, have done work on creating multiple choice questions, for example with more than one correct answer, or questions that don't have correct answers as such. These allow teachers to get an idea of how the student is understanding what they have been learning. Dylan spoke about ways in which this feedback could be given instantly to a teacher in a class situation, allowing them to talk with students there and then about their understanding, help them develop better understanding, and get everyone involved in the classroom.

Voting systems kind of go there, but from what I've seen I'm not sure whether they tend to allow this more complex questioning. I'll have a look at Optivote, which we bought, when I get back to Edge Hill.

Mobile Learning

Creating resources for mobile devices has seemed overwhelming to me, because of the massive amount of devices and platforms. Therefore I was interested to hear Geoff Stead from Tribal CTAD talk about their work.

They have 2 main projects. MyLearning Author is software that allows teachers to create simple games/quizzes for mobiles. The Media Board is web based tools that enable the students to upload resources that they have created on their mobile devices to the web, either individually or as a group.

I'll need to look at this further, but I left this session a lot more confortable with the idea that we could create resources for mobile devices without spending most of our time supporting students with issues.

By the way, if you want to learn where Tanzania is, log into Facebook and have a play with TravelPod's Traveller IQ Challenge. That'a formative feedback in action.

04 September, 2007

ALT-C 2007: Day One - Podcasting and CMALT


So I'm at ALT-C, and here's what I've heard about today.

Keynote by Michelle Selinger, CISCO.
This was on at the unearthly hour of 9:30 :) Frances Bell was paying attention though.

Online Audio and Podcasting
Charlynn Miller and Leon Newnham from the University of Ballarat spoke about a project they had been doing related to online audio. This project involved incorporating a 5-8 minute audio recording into the Business Information Systems programme each week. This recording would cover what was to be learned that week and contain a FAQ section.

At the end of week 7, students completed a survey that they were given and it was found that 97% used the audio files and 90% said that they made the lectures easier to understand. From the server stats it looked like perhaps half the students were using the RSS feeds, although they weren't asked directly about this.

Someone from RMIT University spoke about a larger scale project where the audio from lectures were recorded by 6 lecturers in 7 subjects, covering 2100 students.

Their process involved the lectures having voice recorders, recording the lectures, and sending the .wav files to the technical team. The files were then converted to mp3s and made available both via the Blackboard VLE for download and via a podcast.

It was found that 51% of students used the files. Of these only 4% used the podcast feed, 14% downloaded files to Personal Media Players, and 71% downloaded the files to off campus PCs.

43% of students who used the files did so becasue they had missed a lecture, 34% to revise for exams and 23% to review a lecture after class. Interestingly 10% seemed to struggle with the sound quality, and there were issues surrounding the time it took the technical staff to edit the files, sort problems with lost equipment and low batteries... all stuff that we faced when we did something similar (see link)

They are currently looking at the Lectopia (now Echo360) system as something that will be more scalable that that time intensive manual system. I think that if we wanted to record a lot of lectures, we would have to use something similar.

Relating these presentations to us in other ways, it seems that students aren't using RSS feeds to syncronise media files with their portable media players. Perhaps more would if they had a good few podcasts to subscribe to - both produced in the institution and elsewhere?

Introduction to CMALT: Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology
CMALT is a scheme to enable professional accreditation for Learning Technologists. It involves a peer-reviewed portfolio of your learning technology related work being submitted, and if it meets their standards you gain accreditation.

This seems straight forward, and it is advised that the process of putting the portfolio together should take about 6-9 hours and be about 8 sides of A4 with hyperlinks.

The cost is quite high though. £95 for each attempted submission and you will be required to pay £80 per year for Certified Membership of ALT. That's where it lost me, otherwise I'd be saying that all the LTD team should go for it and Edge Hill should pay the £95. Perhaps if I start looking for work elsewhere, it might be useful to be a Certified Member of ALT though.

All in all I'm glad I've been to the sessions that Ive been to, but part of the benefit of coming to a conference like this is that you get inspired by the people around you and think of ways to move forward projects that you are already working on. That's definately happened here.