15 November, 2011

Introduction to Using Clickers in Higher Education

Clickers (also known as Audience Response Systems, Classroom Communication Systems, and Personal Response Systems, among other things), are systems that support audience participation in lectures.

Some use these tools are used in large group sessions as part of efforts to -:

  • Allow anonymous interaction
    • These systems can be used to encourage anonymous answering of questions where the teacher feels that would be beneficial to encouraging participation, or for ethical reasons.
  • Increase engagement
    • Some teachers believe that asking the students questions at the start, or part way through a lecture can help keep the students focused.
  • Start discussions
    • Perhaps the most talked about use of Clickers is as part of the Peer Instruction method. In this method students would be asked to answer a question which is designed so that only students with a grasp of certain concepts will be able to answer it correctly. Students see the range of answers on a big screen and are asked to defend their answer to the people sitting next to them. They then vote again, and there should be a move towards the correct answer. The lecturer can then take over if they feel that is necessary.
    • This seems to work best in subjects where a key to learning is helping students understand none-intuitive concepts. Examples are Physics (see the work of Eric Mayer, and watch a video of a presentation by him) or Mechanical Engineering (see the work at the Univerisity of Strathclyde).
  • Aid Contingent Teaching and diagnosis of common misunderstandings
    • A lecturer with well written questions can identify where lots of the class are misunderstanding a concept.
  • Record answers
    • If anonymity is not required, it is possible to record answers for individual student’s summative assessment.
If you want to look a bit more closely at some of these methods, especially Peer Instruction, the following journal articles might be of interest. 

10 November, 2011

ALT-C 2011: The Videos

Selected talks from ALT-C 2011 are now available on YouTube.

To give you an idea of what might be interesting to you I've listed the talks along with a quick overview of those that I've watched.

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23 June, 2011

Make the Web come to you: Simple tools and techniques to keep you in the loop.

[Session Notes]

I ran a new session on Wednesday about using web feeds to keep track of online information. This has made a big difference to the number of topics I can keep track of, and so I'm keen to share about them more widely in the institution.

A section was added about online social networking sites such as Twitter, as some people find that they replace the need for feed readers in their own lives.

I thought I'd share a link to the session notes which contain a link to a screencast version of the session, and some extra resources to expand what we talked about. There's no real replacement for getting a group of people together to talk about experiences and help each other learn, but these resources might be of some use to you.

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13 June, 2011

Using Blackboard 9.1: Uploading Content into Blackboard

This guide is designed for those who have lots of resources to upload into Blackboard 9.1 in Learning Edge, for example those manually migrating from Blackboard 8 or those who are running online courses.

We’ll present you with several ways that you can manage and upload those resources, allowing you to choose the best solution for yourself.

Basic file uploads.

Using WebDAV
  • WebDAV allows you to map a Blackboard 9.1 section to your network drives so you can use it as you would use your G: drive. You can drag files and folders into Blackboard.
    • Note that this system will not work on every computer and we can only currently tell you how to set it up on Windows XP.
    • Firstly you need to get the URL for the Blackboard section in question.
    • Secondly you need to add the web address to your Network Places (or equivalent). Our video shows how this is done on Windows XP, but the process may change a little or stop working when we move to Windows 7.

eLearning Content Creation Tools

12 May, 2011

Initial Thoughts on Livescribe Smartpens and 'Pencasts'

I finally got to play with a Livescribe pen last night, and the possibilities of using look interesting.

The company describe it as a ‘smartpen’, and it records both what you write and the audio in the room at the same time. I’ve mainly heard people talk about students using these tools to take audio enhanced lecture notes, but the Flash based file that you can export could be used in a very similar way to some screencasts.

The pen requires special paper for it to work but you can print that for free, and you also need to install the free software on your PC or Mac.

An important question regarding this tool would be related to the ethical aspects of recording lectures and meetings. Would students have to declare that they were using one of these in a lecture? Then again some students bring other recording devices to lectures already, so perhaps there is already an expectation that these events will be recorded.

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15 March, 2011

Thoughts on Gamification and Higher Education

We've talked about games before on this blog from the perspectives of using them as learning experiences, and learning environments. What we've perhaps explored less is games' role in motivation.

I think that a fair number of teachers see the potential for using technology and games as a novelty to get students' attention. While this might work, it seems to me that there is a high cost of development when novelty only lasts a short time.

With the resources available we might gain more from using techniques from games to increase motivation. I've watched some talks over the last year or so which bring different perspectives, but look at how games and game techniques can change our culture.
Game mechanics is a very interesting area to look at. As Seth says, we see those used by business in many ways. But how can HE use them? And how do these claims fit in with the work of people like Alfie Kohn who see issues with extrinsic rewards?

Jessie Schell's talk includes a lot about reward systems. We’ve long had reward systems (Nectar points, Airmiles, etc) but the possibilities are expanding with services like foursquare and SCVNGR making it easier for smaller organisations to offer similar and potentially more interesting reward systems.

SCVNGR is especially interesting as you can easily set tasks for people to do, and even offer them a reward when they have. In the HE context this could be used as a potentially interesting, alternative way of giving new students a list of tasks to do for induction. It would have to be voluntary and done on trust, but we could create more complex location aware tours of campus with QR codes to scan, or tasks to do such as check out a book on your reading list from the library or access an ebook on a topic you are interested in.

I've created an example task to show how this works. You'll need the SCVNGR app on your phone, and you'll use it to search for the SOLSTICE Centre (there are two so find the one with the 'Pay us a visit!' quest on it). Scan the QR code on our door and you'll get 2 points. Woo hoo!

I couldn't resist thinking up a list of Xbox style achievements relating to an induction and library activity:
  • 10 - Borrower: Check out and return a book from the library
  • 20 - Book Worm: Check out 15 books from the library
  • 10 - Are 'Books' Electric?: Log into the library catalogue and access an eBook
  • 10 - What Shelf are the eJournals on?: Access an eJournal article
  • 20 - Virtual Learner: Access Blackboard
  • 10 - Big Spender: Spend some money from your UniCard
  • 30 - Egghead: Complete the quiz at the end of InfoZone with 100% correct answers.
However they wouldn't work in reality as they would require a big, complex system to track student activity.

Regarding concerns that motivational techniques might harm intrinsic motivation, I'm not really aware of the discussions around this. I think it might be less of an issue here as we are talking about games, which are by nature voluntarily participated in. Before you join in with the game you make a decision to do so, meaning that these techniques could be presented as a tool for the students to motivate themselves to do things that they know will help themselves learn.

This post is a quick overview of my initial thoughts on an area which is being talked about a lot, and I'd be really interested to hear other people's too.

[image by Bodum]

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25 February, 2011

Learning Technology Journals

Inspired by a recent conversation on the ALT-MEMBERS group on JISCMail, I've developed my list of all the Learning Technology related journals that I find interesting or useful.

The list contains:

1. Feeds for the journals so that you can subscribe with a feed reader (e.g. Google Reader).

2. Links to the journals' home pages so you can find articles and information about the journal.

3. Links to the journals' pages in the EHU library catalogue, for Edge Hill University staff and students.

4. The date when we last tweeted about a new issue of the journal in question. This is mostly relevant for me as I also try to tweet around the time that new issues of these journals are published. You could follow #cakesltd on Twitter to get these updates.

I hope this list might be helpful to people who are quite new to this area of using new technology in teaching and learning, and who are wanting to explore the research.

[image by the.Firebottle]

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

11 February, 2011

SOLSTICE & CLTR Conference 2011: Call for Abstracts

This year the SOLSTICE and CLTR conferences will be run as one, and the call for abstracts has gone out.

The conference will focus on the enhancement of student learning through evidence informed practices.

Day one, the SOLSTICE 2011 eLearning Conference will focus on effective practices from a Technology Enhanced Learning perspective and will build on the success of the SOLSTICE Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning’s previous conferences which have run over the last 5 years.

Day two, the CLTR 2011 Learning & Teaching Research Conference will focus on innovation and development in higher education learning and teaching practice, which has been at the heart of the CLTR’s mission for the last 9 years.

10 February, 2011

Thoughts on Personal Learning Environments for Formal and Informal Learning

There are various things that the term Personal Learning Environment (PLEs) can refer to, but any definition would look on them as student controlled environments to support either formal or informal learning. Stephen Downes' 2005 E-learning 2.0 article does a good job of talking through the changes that have been taking place over the last decade, which have led us to using and talking about this sort of thing.

We can gain a basic understanding of PLEs by comparing them to VLEs For example:
  • VLEs
    • Managed by institution.
    • Made of a few pieces of software.
    • Owned by Institution.
    • Student uses for the time that they are in formal education.
    • Content mainly provided by institution.
  • PLEs
    • Managed by student
    • Made up of varying numbers of pieces of software, people and networks.
    • Owned by student as far as that is possible
    • Student uses for the time that they are wanting to learn about a topic
    • Content provided by wide variety of people

This is a very simple comparison and Envisioning the Post-LMS Era: The Open Learning Network goes much deeper (see Table 1).

Some are looking at the idea of the Open Learning Network as trying to merge the best of these two 'systems' in a formal setting, with a different Informal Learning Environment as the solution for informal learning or small scale corporate learning.

Exploring these ideas leads me to two questions.

Firstly, can we see our VLE and supporting tools developing to include what an Open Learning Network is, or would we need to develop new systems to support this? I don't feel that I understand the concept enough to comment right now, although the development of the Learning Edge system, which is more than just a VLE, seems like it could be a foundation for something like this.

The second question is how do we support students and staff to develop their own Personal Learning Environment for their own informal lifelong learning. A good starting place would be to work out what it might look like. Sarah Stewart tried to visualise hers and how it changed over several years. If I was to examine mine looking at inputs and outputs from the perspective of work on my SOLSTICE Fellowship I might find:
  • Inputs
    • Face-to-face - Colleagues in the office, other Fellows, academic staff
    • Web content collected by Google Reader - Blogs, conferences, journals
    • Twitter - content and comment from around the sector
    • Personal experiences
  • Outputs
    • Face-to-face - meetings, conferences and conversations
    • Twitter - content and comment
    • Blog posts
    • Reports to institution
    • Relevant research list
    • Delicious bookmarks
Is this what we want a informal PLE to be for our learners? There are specific goals (reports, influencing people to use the technology where it is appropriate), there is communication and reflection about what has been learned (the process of writing blog posts and reports) but in writing this out I see different outputs and can recognise how chaotic this process is.

In conversations in the office it was noted that if we are to support the development of people's PLEs, we really need to know what process individuals go through when using them. There’s not a right or wrong way to manage your inputs (e.g. Web Feeds, Podcasts, Twitter networks, and Bookmarks), but advice on work flow could help people use appropriate tools well.

So it looks to me like we could:
  1. Encourage people to visualise their own PLE in some way to identify what is involved and enable developments.
  2. Raise awareness about various tools that can be used in your informal learning. (e.g. we could run face-to-face and online sessions, publish blog posts).
  3. Encourage sharing of how work-flows can be improved while performing tasks (e.g. using a feed reader rather than visiting dozens of web sites every week to check for updates, backing up your data).

09 February, 2011

2011 Horizon Report: A Quick Overview

I always enjoy reading the new edition of the Horizon report. It’s interesting to see what they think is close to being used in mainstream HE, what is far off, and how things have changed since previous years (2008, 2009, 2010). I don't think that they've been far off in their predictions, although uptake of the technologies by the mainstream has perhaps been a little slower than expected.

This year in the One Year or Less to adoption section we have Electronic Books and Mobiles. In the Two to Three Years to adoption group we have Augmented Reality and Game-Based Learning. Four to Five Years to adoption contains Gesture-Based Computing and Learning Analytics.

Over the next week or so, some of us in LTD hope to write up some thoughts on the report and the individual technologies discussed within.

07 February, 2011

What are the Barriers Preventing Academic Staff from Using New Technologies?

As part of my Postgraduate Certificate I'm starting some research into what the barriers/obstacles are to the use of new technology in teaching and learning in HE. To start with I wanted clues as to which areas might be worth exploring. I also wanted a change to play with Google Moderator, as I've not had a chance yet.

Have a look at the Series that I set up and it'd be great if you could add your own suggestions to it.

If you'd like to think about using Google Moderator with your students ktotheb's video gives you an example of how it could be used, and Penn State University have written an overview.

27 January, 2011

Getting Started Using Blackboard 9.1: Collected Resources

We've just started using Blackboard 9.1 for teaching on a select few modules. I've collected links to the resources we've initially been recommending to the teaching staff here.

An Introduction
  • Quick Overview of Blackboard 9.1 (v1. November 2010): This video introduces the new system and notes differences between this and our current Blackboard CE8 system.
  • Quick Overview of Blackboard 9.1 (v2. February 2011): Screencast version of the awareness raising session complete with Closed Captions, and Interactive Transcript (best viewed full screen at 720p).
  • 5 Essential Skills: Basics that will help you develop your section.
  • How to log into Blackboard 9.1 through Edge Hill University's Go Portal. This video is aimed at students but relevant to all.

Thinking about what you want to achieve

Creating content and setting up the section

Communication and collaboration


12 January, 2011

Technology and Radical Transformation

For those who are interested in the idea of technology and its relation to radical transformation of learning, I've read a couple interesting things recently which look at that idea.

Stephen Downes writes in his 'Half an Hour' blog as part of a discussion around the benefits of technology use in education. He sums up his own argument well, saying

  • "technology does not improve education by making what you are already doing better, it improves education by making what you are not doing possible."

The other resource to explore is the latest issue of the ALT-J journal, entitled 'The Transformational Impact of Learning Technology'. In the introduction the editors write that in this issue they "look for radical change, rather than just doing the same at a different scale." In this issue is the 'Web-based lecture technologies and learning and teaching: a study of change in four Australian universities' paper, where the authors do not see in depth change and conclude that "technologies have been added on, rather than integrated into the curriculum".

These three pieces all give us similar perspectives on learning technology. It's something that enables you to do what you could not before, something that encourages you to completely rethink the way you do things, and something that should be properly integrated into learning design. These ideas give us room for thought and discussion about how technology could affect both our teaching and wider institutional strategies.