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    Enhancing the student experience

    December 4th, 2013

    Untitled

    Technology allows us to do things faster, easier and at a time and place to suit our individual needs; sometimes technology provides new opportunities and new experiences.

    From a student experience perspective technology can improve their experience. Technological advances and new media rarely replace existing practice and media, but often supplement, enhance and enrich them.

    e-Books for example have not replaced paper books, but allow access to collections that may either not be available or allow easier access at a time and place to suit the student.

    e-Journals similarly make it much easier to find relevant articles and access can be from home, college or in the library.

    The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is used in many different ways, but the key again is access to learning where and when the learner needs it. It allows access to resources, discussion, interactivity, assessment from a computer at home, in a computer suite, from a laptop in a coffee shop, via a mobile device on the train. Whereas learning may currently only take place within the institution or individually outside the institution, the VLE allows learning, both individual and group learning from anywhere.

    Technology can also be used to enhance existing practice, making it more engaging and interactive. The use of video, audio and voting handsets (clickers) allow traditional learning activities to be enhanced and enriched.


    The Journey to Information

    December 3rd, 2013

    Road to nowhere...

    One of the benefits of the internet revolution is that is has widened access to information and knowledge, whilst at the same time reduced the time it takes, the journey to get that information.

    Illustrated London News

    The newspaper pictured above is available to any learner (or member of staff) across Activate Learning anytime, and anywhere they have an internet connection.

    Forty years ago, if you wanted to access a newspaper archive you would probably needed to have been a PhD student or more likely an academic, as the only place you could go was to the newspaper offices and access their archives.

    Twenty years ago, newspaper archives were available on microfilm, I remember when I was at university ploughing through the microfilm archives trying to find a series of articles. There was no integrated search with microfilm.

    Ten years ago we were all accessing newspaper archives on CD-ROMs. These opened up access to the said archives to schools and colleges. They were searchable by keyword, but could only be accessed inside the institution. It was also restricted, as we only had one CD-ROM to one person at a time. Not all newspapers were on CD-ROM and generally the collections only went back a few years.

    Today we have newspapers, digitised, searchable and accessible from any device with an internet connection. We have archives that go back hundreds of years or as recent as yesterday.

    This has made it much easier to access newspaper archives, but brings with it the challenge of managing information overload. Learners need different skills to manage the amount and ease by which information can be accessed. The information skills needed today are very different to those of a few years ago.

    It also means that we need to rethink assessment, ensuring that it is doing what we need it to do. In many ways the journey to information was in the past a way of assessing learning. However now that the journey is so much shorter, we need to ensure that assessment is based on understanding and not just discovery of information. Using something like Bloom’s Taxonomy ensures that when designing assessment it is more than just discovering knowledge.

    The internet and web have ensured that the journey to information and knowledge has got shorter and shorter over time, this is a real opportunity to add depth and breadth to learning.


    Webinaring it

    November 27th, 2013

    .: Any question??? :.

    Webinars are quite popular these days, they allow multiple participants to gather and learn about stuff. They are in many ways a virtual classroom.

    Unlike tools such as Moodle which allow for (mostly) asynchronous learning activities, the core of a webinar is that the learning is synchronous; everyone is online at the same time, all doing the same stuff.

    It is possible to use other tools such as Google Hangouts or Skype for a small scale experience, but professional webinar tools such as Adobe Connect or Blackboard Collaborate allow many more participants and offer much more functionality, as well as recording facilities.

    Webinars allow for:

    • Live Video
    • Recorded Video
    • Video Conferencing
    • Presentations
    • Whiteboards
    • Collaboration
    • Quizzes
    • Polls
    • Breakout Rooms
    • Simulations
    • Learning Objects

    These tools allow teachers to design their curriculum to be delivered to a range of remote participants on a device of their choosing, regardless of connection or location. I have seen people use iPads, Android phones, as well as laptops and PCs, to access webinars.

    In many ways a webinar should not be seen as a replacement for a classroom session, though it in many ways does replicate such sessions virtually, it should really be seen as a solution to not having a session.
    Webinars can be used occasionally, useful for guest speakers or across campuses. They can also be used as a core part of the delivery of a blended delivery programme. From a curriculum design perspective, webinar tools (alongside tools such as Moodle and Google+) allow you to deliver a blended curriculum to learners who may not be able to access a traditional learning environment on a regular basis. For example imagine a course where the learners attend once a month at the campus, but meet weekly in a webinar, and have additional support and materials delivered through the VLE (Moodle), whilst using a closed Google+ community for collaborative activities, sharing, discussion and peer support.

    Webinars are a great tool for widening participation, inclusion and increasing accessibility.

    I have been delivering webinars for many years, sometime to small groups or individuals, and also to over a hundred delegates at an online conference. I have used a range of different webinar technologies, and understand the advantages and challenges of the different tools, both from the perspective of a presenter (host) and a participant.


    It’s not just about the rules…

    November 19th, 2013

    Cassoulet

    At lunchtime today I was at my desk eating a very nice bold cassoulet soup from EAT reading e-mails from the various mailing lists I subscribe to. There was an interesting discussion on one of the lists about how different colleges deal with food and drink in their libraries.

    I know from experience and walking around that most staff eat their lunches in their workrooms. I also know when writing or working that I quite like having a cup of coffee or a cake (or two). What this tells us is that most people may want to at some point eat or drink while they work and write. It is not too difficult to understand why learners may want to eat and drink as they study. Of course you may not always be able to accommodate eating and drinking; not everyone likes the smell of food, there is the issue of rubbish and there may be an overarching policy that says no food or drink in learning areas. So it may not be that easy to allow food and drink and that rule has to be in place.

    Even if there are rules, these are often ignored so as a result the library staff are spending too much time “policing” the library rather than helping learners. Another strategy is to attempt to change behaviour by putting up signs, but experience says that doesn’t work.

    One way that I have been looking at this problem, is by asking why is it a problem in the first place. Rather than ask how to stop students eating and drinking in the library, ask why are they eating and drinking in the first place?

    Most colleges are providing some kind of area for eating (where do they buy the food from), why aren’t they staying in those areas to eat or drink, what’s making them move from those areas to the library.

    On one campus of my current college, the eating establishments only provide food in takeaway containers, partly I guess to save on washing up and partly I guess to encourage students not to stay (as the spaces are quite small). So guess where the learners go when it is cold (as it is today) a nice warm place, the library. On another campus they use proper “china” and the library doesn’t have the same issue with food and drink. Sometimes the issue is outside the control of the Library and a more holistic approach needs to be thought through.

    Conversely why aren’t they using the eating spaces for learning, why do they feel they need to move from the canteen to the library? Why not turn the canteens into libraries? Make them environments for learning.

    When I was at my last College our (final) policy was to allow bottled drinks only. We had NO signs about food or drink and to be honest it wasn’t really a problem. I remember when we merged with another college, their library was full of “no food” signs and the library was full of half-eaten food. By changing the culture and the respect that the learners had for the environment, the food issue became a non-issue. The main way it became a non-issue was the respect the students had for the space and the staff. Build relationships with the learners and most issues such as rubbish disappear. I also ensured that the team went around and picked up any rubbish, regardless of the fact that there were bins about. The key was ensuring the environment was tidy and nice, not about getting the students to throw away their rubbish. If the learners see a nice environment they generally like to keep it that way.

    Of course there will always be exceptions, but I see food and drink in libraries is more about external factors and respect than just what happens in the library and signs.


    Flickering

    November 7th, 2013

    Mac Keyboard

    Over the past few years I have delivered many keynotes and presentations. One constant, well apart from the fact I prefer to use Keynote on the Mac, is my use of images. Some of these are mine, but many are creative commons licensed images from Flickr. I like Flickr, not just for a place to upload my photographs, but also as a place to find photographs.

    It’s very easy to search for creative commons licensed images on Flickr, but getting to the advanced search is not the easiest route (or if it is I haven’t found it). So I usually add the direct URL as a bookmark or a favourite.

    http://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/

    Make sure you tick the box “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”.

    As you can see from the blog post it is also very easy to embed images from Flickr into Sharepoint, webpages, Moodle pages or Google sites.

    There are lots of images on Flickr, this one was used by a Law Lecturer teaching about theft.

    Theft

    I like this one for when I want a group to ask questions.

    .: Any question??? :.

    This one I use for Turnitin and Plagarism.

    Pen en papier / Pen and paper

    How are you and your learners using images for learning?