Thursday, 28 May 2009

It's a Two Day Event

Things are starting to pick up speed with the project. We are planning a two day off site event at the university conference venue - the Fielder Centre. The likely date is towards the end of July - once all the exam boards are out of the way. The aim of the event is to give the nine module teams that we are working with the time and space to critically examine their assessment and feedback practices. And also then to start the reengineering process. We are planing ( at this early stage)the two days to be a mixture of presentations , facilitated workshops and module team meetings. The module teams will be able to call on the resources of BLU and the LTI to examine the particular pedagogical and technological aspects of possible assessment scenarios. In particular we are calling on our experts in curriculum design and change management.

By the end of this week all the module coordinators will have had appreciative enquiry reflective interviews in order to build up case studies of how the module is delivered and assessed . These case studies along with data from the student assessment surveys that we are carrying out, will give us a really clear picture of the issues surrounding each particular module. They will become the jumpimg off point for the reengineering process .

Friday, 15 May 2009

What if ?................

It has been another busy couple of weeks.The reflective interviews are continuing with the module coordinators and module teams from the four Business School modules that we are working with. As I transcribe these interviews the passion that the lecturers have for their subject shines through. I suspect as long as the passion is there any problems can be overcome. I have had a positive reception from every one in the schools I have been working with and people are keen to share what they feel the issues are and how they (and we!) can work towards a improving the student engagement and attainment.

The next phase is to start to build up case studies using the interview material and the information gleaned from the base line audit of assessment practice that we have carried out. The case studies are quite comprehensive as the explore the module assessment landscape from the perspective of the people who set and assess the assignments . It will detail the role played by individual lecturers in assessment and teaching on a module and look to build a holistic picture of the subsequent assessment experience of a student taking the module. We are looking beneath the surface of the assessment practice to see exactly how and why the module works the way it does.

We are also trying to capture the student view via a student assessment questionnaire and are looking to conduct some focus groups. This information will be critical to our evaluation of the project to look at the before and after picture of student engagement and attainment on the modules.

We are now starting to thing about the next phase of the project - the most exciting - that of the re engineering of the module - this is when we dare to ask "What if ?"

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Twitter - a tool for education 2!

Had a really stimulating comment to my earlier post re Twitter and education - Thank you Anne Marie - It's just great that people read this stuff :-)

Okay, I know I should post this as a comment but I did not want to lose my thoughts in a comment - I also cheekily thought that other comments might flow to this post with some other ideas.

Blogging, by the way, is just great for getting you thinking and comments on the blog take that thinking to the next level. I like blogging me and I like learning too :-) Keep them comments coming. Rambling now. hmm, not so good after all. To business ...

The comment related to the use of Twitter as a tool for educational purposes and what might it *really* add in terms of communicating with students. I have to agree that was aligned with my original thoughts too. i.e. What seriously can we do with 140 chars? But after my introductory tour from Lindsay Jordan, and observations that I should immerse myself and have a go, I have become converted.

... and so I can honestly see some uses of Twitter for genuine educational gains. Sure, it's not the answer to everything, but little is. An essay does not explore students' numerical understanding nor their practical problem solving ability. In fact you might argue that a 3000 word essay does little to promote crispness of thought. Equally, Twitter has a certain functionality that might limit it's use but its functionality might be useful in specific situations.

I have dumped a few thoughts together with a minor preamble ...

I'm keen on Just-In-Time-Teaching (JiTT) (Novak et al) and also the Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT) wonderfully described, collated and themed by Angelo and Cross.

Hence how about using Twitter as a tool to collect responses to a One Minute Paper?

* What did you learn today?
* what was the stickiest / muddiest point?
* What questions remian uppermost in your mind?
* What two things do you want me to cover next week?
* What question do you think your peers should be able to answer based on this weeks lecture.

I'm sure you get the picture and can add to my quick question list. Using a #hashtag will allow you to keep all the response together for each weeks questions. Not only do you get them thinking but you get a large resource for them to review.

I'm keen too that we see our students as valuable resources and so from one post each (in a class of 100) they get to see 100 posts - not a bad return.

I have written elsewhere that some of these questions they might just copy - and indeed that might be okay for the muddiest point etc, but other questions might explicitly require an individual response.

i.e. drawing on today's lecture relate the content / concept / idea to an experience that you have had. i.e. get them to relate it to them. That way they can't copy.

And then you write if your idea is already on the list then you have to write another. Not only does that get reading what others have posted, which in itself is good, but it gets them doing stuff quickly - i.e. reduces cramming - helps develop reflection and inculcates an appropriate study pattern

* What about asking students to post think-alouds to Twitter outside the class as they are thinking about the module? Guess these should really be called tweet-alouds (Russell, 2009).

* You might go further and ask if you had 140 characters per post and you could 5 posts two days after the lecture what would you posts be? Make those posts now.

* Or, as you open up the coursework what things are you thinking?
What theories will you draw on?
How will you show that ...

I think all of these have some genuine potential and could be used both inside the class (CAT) and also outside the class Non-CAT! and to support adaptive teaching, student centered teaching or JiTT.


(ps am I rambling still?)


Twitter - a tool for education?

A couple of weeks back I posted a fairly edgy item to a discussion forum entitled ‘twitter – tool or toy?’

My motivation was to see how it was being used and gain some insights into what we can really do in a teaching, learning and assessment context with 140 characters.

Twitter is limited to 140 character input and also was founded on the simple premise of the staus update found in Facebook etc. i.e. what are you doing now.

The forum entry took a couple of quick responses (notably from Twitter enthusiasts that were gentle enough not to berate my ignorance but to say, ‘have a go’. I wanted to make a reasoned judgement on its usefulness and so ‘have a go I did’ Or rather am!

I was fortunate enough to get a bit of a guided tour and given advice as to what it might / might not do. Twitter, I was told, does not do everything and rather than think of it a tool to engage in meaningful dialogue, why not use it as a seed to establish the dialogue and then take it elsewhere?

Well, I have to say that (at the moment) I’m sold. I like the connections I am forming and I like the so-called micro-blogging. I have used it to engage in back channel conversations at conferences and also at JISC meetings. I tweeted whilst at the recent Curriculum Delivery Programme meeting relating to Change and enjoyed reading the tweets coming out of sister Curriculum Design Programme meeting relating to Change.

Sure, I tell my followers what I’m up to – which includes my gym habits but I also use it for throwing out some thoughts relating to teaching, learning and assessment.

I really think Twitter-type tools have a place in education. 140 characters is much less daunting to a student than a blank blog page when responding to the questions such as ‘what did you get from today’s lecture?’

I’m going to take twitter to our ESCAPE teams and see what they make of it.

Oh, want to follow me and my gym exploits? I’m MarkRussell

Electonic Voting Systems - a workshop to the University of Northampton

Out of the blue I received an invite to present some of my Electronic Voting Systems (EVS) activity to the University of Northampton - which was nice :-) It’s always good to get invited out, show your stuff and gain insights from others too.

After a few false starts we finally managed to fix a date.

I am always slightly weary of being asked to talk about technology. I’m much more interested in talking about teaching, learning and assessment and then, and only then, move to discussing the potential for technology. I took the same slant at my two hour session in Northampton. Numbers were much lower than I had anticipated, and hoped for, but nevertheless those that turned up were really engaged and contributed lots to the session. Thank you!

I opened by asking them to describe what they thought supported learning in a non-technology rich space. Lindsay Jordan and I did the same exercise at a workshop at the Plymouth e-learning Conference.

Lot’s of useful things came out including the value of

* Feedback
* Safety of the environment
* Being able to show what you know and what you don’t
* Dialogue
* Collaboration
* Enthusiasm

I collected these ideas and located them against what we already know about good learning. Anyone that knows me will be bored with my affinity with the Seven Principles … (Chickering and Gamson), the How People Learn framework (Bransford et al) and also the ideas behind Learning that Lasts (Mentkwoski and associates).

The idea was to show that good learning is good learning. We then moved to see how EVS might respond to some of the principles. I showed some of my work which also included the linking of questions to show the irony of some of the students’ answers, answer guessing and genuine knowledge of concepts.

I think the participants liked the idea. It makes a change from the more obvious use of EVS. I also showed the students views on the use of EVS in the module.

I closed the session with a rather non-conventional slide for an EVS session. I was really saying that my approach was not about EVS but rather about responding to principles (relating to learning) and that might these principles be served by technologies – and as for my last slide, by other technologies too.

Why do I need to buy expensive handsets when many students have mobile phones? What about digital ink on student own pc’s? Further, given that most disciplines, like life, is not multiple choice, what about technologies such as Twitter to engage students in class?

I enjoyed the session and got some great feedback afterwards – people buzzing apparently!

I am aware that Northampton is about to ramp-up its EVS activity and I wish them well with their endeavours

Thanks for the invite and for giving me a chance to hear about your work and present some of mine.

Both the Schools engaged in the ESCAPE project (Life Sciences & the Business School) use EVS but I would want to run a session with them to see how systematically they are using it to support student learning - I would also like to show them the last slide too.

i.e. what else might they do to support their students?

The session made me think – which was just great