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    e-Learning Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2013

    January 24th, 2014

    Oxford

    A little later than planned. Well 2013 was an eventful year for me, moving jobs after seven years at Gloucestershire College. I have continued with writing blog posts. There was a lot less writing on the blog this year with just 64 posts, which averages about one a week. Here are the top ten blog posts of 2013. Interestingly this year eight of the posts are from 2013. Half of the posts are app reviews from my series “App of the Week”.

    10. Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week

    I wrote about Frame Magic in June and it is one of the many photographic and image apps I have used and reviewed.

    9. Is the Scroll of Death Inevitable?

    This article from May looked at how the default setup of a Moodle installation, the way in which we do training will inevitably result in the Moodle “scroll of death”.

    8. Comic Life – iPad App of the Week

    Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.

    7. 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip

    This is an older post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE.

    It is from my ongoing series of ways in which to use a VLE. This particular posting was about embedding a comic strip into the VLE using free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet.

    It is quite a lengthy post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

    The series itself is quite popular and I am glad to see one of my favourite in the series and one of the more in-depth pieces has maintained itself in the top ten, dropping two places from last year.

    6. Show what you know [Infographic] – Updated

    I liked Tony Vincent’s excellent Infographic on apps that can be used for different activities. This post was showing off his updated version.

    5. Keynote – iPad App of the Week

    Probably one of my longest blog posts that explores the iPad presentation app from Apple. I used the post to help me to understand the app better and what it is capable of.

    4. VideoScribe HD – iPad App of the Week

    I talked about VideoScribe HD in July and was impressed with the power and versatility of the app for creating animated presentations.

    3. Educreations – iPad App of the Week

    I was introduced to this app by a colleague at Gloucestershire College in 2012 and used it and demonstrated it a lot to staff. It was great to see how they and their students used it to support their learning over the year. 2

    2. Thinking about iTunes U

    Maintaing its position at number two, is this blog post on iTunes U, which followed posts on iBooks 2 and iBooks Author. I discussed the merits and challenges that using iTunes U would bring to an institution. Back then I wrote, if every learner in your institution has an iPad, then iTunes U is a great way of delivering content to your learners, if every learner doesn’t… well I wouldn’t bother with iTunes U. I still stand by that, I like the concept and execution of iTunes U, but in the diverse device ecosystem most colleges and universities find themselves in, iTunes U wouldn’t be a solution, it would create more challenges than problems it would solve.

    1. The iPad Pedagogy Wheel

    This was my most popular blog post of the year (and if the stats are to be believed of all time on my blog). I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”.

    It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

    Allan Carrington who drew up the diagram has published a revised version, what I like about the original is the simplicity. The revised version is more complex, but as an introduction to what the iPad can do, I much prefer the simpler diagram.


    100 ways to use a VLE – #27 Undertaking a Survey

    July 5th, 2013

    clipboard

    Many curriculum topics ask learners to gather and analyse data. Hospitality and Catering students may want to gather data about spending habits on eating out. Travel and Tourism students may want to gather information on the costs of tickets for attractions, opening times and discounts. Students on a Business Enterprise course may want to gather data on customer habits to help them formulate a business plan.

    In addition to learners gathering data for a survey, teachers or other staff in the college may want to get data. We recently gathered information on how learners felt about the VLE and what needed to be done to make it better; we also gathered data on how they felt about tablets and their use in teaching and learning.

    There are a fair few ways for learners and staff to gather data for a survey. You can of course collect responses in paper format, enter all the data and then undertake the analysis. Another option would be to use a Google Form and collect the data in that way.

    Using the VLE, say for example, through the Feedback Module on Moodle, allows the learners to spread their survey across the complete college community. Once the survey is done there are some analytical tools included in the Feedback Module, or you can download all the data into an Excel file for further analysis. There is an element of consistency too, with learners using the same tool for the data collection and initial analysis.


    Best thing since…

    July 4th, 2013

    Bread

    The best thing that I did recently on our Moodle installation to was have the Grid format installed.

    If you’ve not seen it, what it does is change the format of a Moodle course from a long list of topics to a grid of icons that link to the topics.

    Or to put it more simply it kills the scroll of death.

    Moodle Grid Format

    I have written a fair bit about the inevitable scroll of death that seems to naturally occur in Moodle once you start using it “properly” to support learning.

    The grid format means that learners click the icon for the topic they want to view and the content pops up on the screen.

    This means that the learner doesn’t need to scroll down to get to the content or activities they want to engage with.

    In addition it makes Moodle courses look neater and tidier. It makes it easier to find the right topic. Initial reaction from learners and staff was very positive and they liked the new format.

    There are a few things that I would like to see changed.

    You can’t change the default size of the icons, the standard size of 210 x 136 is quite large and on a “normal” sized screen means that you really shouldn’t use more than 12 icons. If you were using a weekly schedule for your Moodle course you might have 36 or more topics. In this type of scenario then the grid format means you have a scroll of large icons instead. In that example a much smaller icon would make more sense.

    You do need to have the ability (or the service of others) to create the icons you need. Though you can use any image as an icon, and Moodle will automatically resize the image, this from a design perspective doesn’t quite work. The resizing is quite crude and if your image doesn’t have the same ratio as the default icon size then you will have gaps. I use Fireworks for creating my icons, though you could use Photoshop. For staff I have been recommending CoolText.com which is an online tool for creating logos and with a little tweaking can be used to create a series of icons for the grid format for Moodle. It would be nice though if there was a way that this kind of tool could be built into Moodle.

    A minor point is that the grid format is only really usable with 2.4 or later. Using it with earlier versions of Moodle is not to be recommended as there are stability issues. A key issue is that the grid format will break the backup and restore process in earlier versions of Moodle, and you wouldn’t want that.

    So if you are running Moodle 2.4 I would certainly recommend that you have a look at the grid format and see how it can change the way Moodle looks, but also the way that staff and learners engage with it.


    Assessing Assessment – ocTEL

    May 22nd, 2013

    This week on ocTEL we’re looking at assessment. As part of my thinking I reflected on the use of quizzes in Moodle.

    Designing Moodle quizzes is much more than just been able to use the quiz tool from a technical perspective. There is a real art to crafting questions so that they not only allow the learner to test their understanding, but also require a higher level of thinking.

    If we look at the following multiple choice questions, the format of which is one of many different types available on Moodle, it provides the structure and the practitioner provides the question and the answers:

    Which is these is a mammal?

    Shark
    Dog
    Spider
    Crocodile

    This question does not test understanding, most students would be able to guess the answer or would not find it challenging. Within Bloom’s Taxonomy this is testing knowledge only, the bottom layer of the triangle.

    Bloom’s Taxonomy

    In terms of feedback, you can design Moodle quizzes to provide feedback on questions. So you can explain why their answer is wrong or right and where to look for further information or support.

    Onto a similar question:

    What is the capital of Australia?

    Sydney
    Melbourne
    Canberra
    Melbourne

    If we look at this question if you didn’t know the answer then you would need to do some research. However as with the previous question within Bloom’s Taxonomy this is testing knowledge only, the bottom layer of the triangle. It’s more challenging than the first question, but if you didn’t know it already then a quick Google search and you have the right answer.

    So what about this question:

    Which of these is the odd one out?

    Odd One Out

    The “problem” with this question is that there is no single right answer. The answer needs an explanation, and it’s the explanation that demonstrates understanding of the question, not the answer.

    If we look at Bloom’s Taxonomy it is possible with this question to go all the way to the top.

    However Moodle will struggle with assessing a question with no “right” answer and certainly would not be able to assess the explanation.

    You could provide generic feedback on why there is no “right” answer, but that may not be useful for all learners. Feedback needs to be personalised to be really effective. Students generally don’t appreciate generic feedback.

    This doesn’t mean that Moodle quizzes aren’t an useful tool for checking learning, but its limitations in assessing higher order thinking needs to be considered when designing assessment.


    A Closed Group

    May 19th, 2013

    Discussion

    Back in 2009 at ALT-C we had the VLE is Dead debate. My view back then hasn’t changed much in the last four years. To save you watching the video, the heart of my viewpoint was that the VLE was the core of a student’s online presence and that other tools and services would plug into that.

    I was recently discussing with a group of Psychology students how they used and felt about the VLE. Their response was quite positive, they found the VLE useful and it helped them with their learning. What they also said was that they were pleased it was available. When I asked them about discussions and chat functionality, they were quick to respond that no they didn’t do this on the VLE, but were much more likely to use their “homemade” group on Facebook for those kinds of discussions. When I reminded them that learners had asked for Facebook to be blocked in the library, they replied that this didn’t matter as they preferred to use Facebook on their smartphones.

    You get a picture of how they were using different online environments and tools to support their learning. They were making choices about which tools they preferred and those that they didn’t. The students could have created a group on our Mahara site, but they preferred to use a familiar tool such as Facebook.

    The question we might want to ask is how do we “assess” these discussions or even access them? Another question might be, do we need to?

    If students are using a Facebook group for discussions, should we be trying to impose restrictions on their choices and make them discuss course related stuff on the VLE rather than in a closed group on a different service? Or should we focus on the importance of discussing over the importance of the platform?

    In face to face discussions, these do take place in a classroom or seminar, however the vast majority happen elsewhere, whether that be in the refectory, the coffee shop, the library, at home, in the workplace or while travelling. Can we be surprised that online discussions also take place outside the “official” discussion forums?