Tuesday, 17 March 2009

active learning?

A presentation I gave last September on Active Learning. Feel free to download and reuse it.

Comment: What I see is mere activity masquerading as learning | Education | The Guardian
"Genuine active learning ensures students gain a thorough conceptual understanding. It makes them reflect and check they have properly understood. It encourages them to test their understanding by applying the learning in different contexts. This is sometimes called deep learning."

This comment by Rosmary Clarke in the education supplement today really caught my eye, as this encompasses the main reasons for new builds (incorporating flexible learning spaces) and effective use of learning platforms (VLEs)! It fundamentally exemplifies good teaching/learning by ensuring differentiation is attained by group work, peer learning, etc.

The Guardian today also featured a mini supplement covering the building schools for the future (BSF) programme currently sweeping the country. It was encouraging to read of some local stories of good practice from Walsall, Telford, and Solihull. It's all about change management and supporting staff in the process. The supplemnet also covered in depth the option for local autorities to opt out of a managed ICT service for their schools (or consortia). Most have opted to saty in which means rich pickings for RM & other preferred suppliers. This links with my previous post on a managed service and Open source solutions. It appears thay BECTa & the BSF programme have already decided what's good for all - a managed service! Is that a good idea? It could be, but one size does not fit all, and where does the likes of Mahara , Mahoodle, and Magoogle fit into RM's plans? I constantly argue for the option to consider buying in external expertise for skill and cashh strapped orgnaisations, but this is the opposite end of that nightmare! surely there must be a middle ground in these two extremes?

BTW , I blogged this using SCRIBEFIRE a plugin for the Firefox web browser, whilst surfing the web in the way to a meeting , using my laptop + mobile connection. Truely deeply mobile & lovin' it :o)

Magoogle or is it Moogle?

We've had Mahoodle (Mahara eportoflio + Moodle + single sign on) suite of tools, now we've got Magoogle (Google docs + single sign on). Last week in our recorded discussion Martin mentioned Google Docs + Moodle VLE. Since then I've come across some interesting articles relating to Open Source applications and their cost, etc.

First of all here's the full skinny on Moogle. The same (Open Source schools) website also discusses the government's new stance on "levelling the playing field" with purchasing Open Source software. Please remember that OSSwatch another JISC service also have a wealth of knowledge and experience with this subject and have plenty of resources to help ogfnasiations understand the cost of OSS.

Thanks to : Bruce Nightingale for this info

Google applications have proven to be a very useful set of integrated applications enabling collaboration, peer review and other types of formative feedback. But now Google have released an education edition of Google applications. Google Apps Education Edition includes communications tools like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Talk; collaboration apps, such as Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google Labs (for software code review); and various administration features and APIs for integration with existing systems.


A moodle developer http://moodlerooms.com/ is launching a new enhancement to MOODLE in collaboration with Google to provide access to the application suite using a single sign-on. Through integration, users loaded into Moodle will be automatically loaded into Google Apps Education Edition, providing users with Web-based e-mail, document authoring, spreadsheets, presentations and sites, all integrated with their online learning platform. From a teacher's perspective, this provides an easy way to assign students to collaborative tasks without having to worry about the students having different operating systems or incompatible software or being unable to access an online system. From an IT backoffice perspective, this provides an integration tested with large-scale data loads and built to industry standard SAML 2.0 and OAuth protocols for secure single sign on and information transfer.

The comon misnomer with Open Source is that the word "free" applied does not take into consideration total cost of ownership (TCO) of running a VLE. Recently I've come across some posts and been involved online discussions concerning the options available to run a Moodle VLE in house or "out source" the hosting and and support of sed VLE. Needless to say the options are many and varied. And I personally feel that external hosting is a viable option for cash strapped organisations, and those whose IT support dept' concerntrates soley on on maintaining a secure and stable "network", where the users wants and needs come second place! Sound familiar?

thanks to
Laurence Fouweather for this info

these are some of the factors involved in any software system acquisition:-

1) Server costs -- hardware purchase, operating system setup and any licence fee, ongoing server support (maintenance, bug fixes and routine updates), backup device and media usage, network cards and high speed access point to school network.

2) Application system support costs - this is the cost of just keeping it going (i.e. with no one using it) in terms of initial installation, diagnosis of problems, installation of bug fixes and other updates, backups and data security.

3) Integration costs to other systems - e.g. Student records/ assessment systems

4) Content provision costs - e.g. bought in or teacher provided

5) User support, training and conversion costs - internal or external

Don't forget that most of the costs will be of staff (either direct or indirect) and that any salary needs to be increased by the overhead cost (Usually 40%+ but your HR/Accounts department will usually be able to give a figure).

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Everything Bad Is Good for You

I've just completed reading the thesis by Steven Johnson "Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. "

In this book he describes how the sleeper curve that defines the increasing rise and complexity of popular culture is actually making us smarter. Rather than popular entertainment (films, DVDs, email, texting, instant messaging, computer games, and TV shows) dumbing us down, the effect is opposite. Johnson attempts to persuade us that the increasing complexity and multi threaded narratives that exisit in shows like 24 & lost, games like world of warcraft (WoW), simcity, and grand theft auto require greater congnitive processing than their forbears (Pacman, Starsky & Hutch, for example). The net effect of us being exposed to ever increasing multimodal channels of interactive edutainment is improving cognitive ability, he argues. It is a very persuasive arguement and makes great research for anyone interested in gaming/simulations for educational purposes.

As technology continues to influence our lives with us reading more from screen, writing more blogs and emails, we begin also to use hyperlinks as a mode of search strategy and information research. An attempt to define this new epedagody has emerged recently called connectivism.
I recently witnessed an undegraduate nursing student give a presentation using her eportfolio. She described quite matter of fact, how using hyperlinking to connect and display assessed pieces of work (reflective pieces) could not be achieved using traditional paper based portfolios. That was quite a eureka moment for me, when I witnessed first hand the difference between product & process. She was demonstrating that an eportfolio tool was not a mere product (like a VLE), it was enabling her to adapt a perfectly natural process of hyperlinking related education using an electronic eportfolio. The google generation that are comfortable with myspace & facebook, etc, routinely use hyperlinking in the creation of profiles and updates.

This also attempts to make sense of the use of 'tinternet for our primary mode of communication and research. Of course you can't beat a good book, and Johnson acknowledges the complete and total immersion that one experiences when engrossed in a good book. Of which most modern entertainment channels often miss out on. But, you try telling that to an online gamer who invests hours & hours & hours of time online (with friends) building characters abilities and learning the complex nuances of games like WoW. I love the types of open architecture of games like Halo 3 and Grand theft auto, and can become deeply engrossed, in a similar way to a good book. It's real escapism. As is a good film like Starwars or Lord of the rings. Both of which require a degree of concentration to follow complex intertwined characters and subplots.

Of course there are counter arguments that insist that the sheer volume and complexity of multimedia information at our finger tips, is proving too much for us to handle, evaluate and synthesise. The terminology Agnotology is used to describe this increased ignorance, proportional to the increase of (mis)information we have access to. I suppose that the rise of blogging of which we are all pseudo experts, exacerbated by casually linking to hastily scanned stories is part of this problem? Myself included! Yes, there is a definate power of the crowd mindset on the increase, proliferated by web 2.0 types of tools ( wiki, blogs, twitter, etc), but how accurate is it? The shear quantity information we can access is also compounded by new ways of accessing it (like the new Kindle ebook reader). But few web 2.0 contributors/authors are real experts? That's one of the main arguments against the reliance of user generated information repositories such a Wikipedia. Then again there's always RSS feeds and the semantic web which should help us filter and search information more efficiently?

Thursday, 5 March 2009

How to use video

Image displayed under creative commons distribution rights

For those who are delivering staff development sessions covering the use of video, or any one interested in the subject of video and education.


I have just updated our RSC wiki page covering:

streaming video (definitions and options), pre (storyboarding) and post production (shooting & editing software), tutorials, applications of video for learning, CODECs, copyright, and resources.

Hopefully it's a one stop shop. Please feel free to link to/pass on.

Please feedback on any dead links, typos, errors or omissions, and of course juicy updates to keep it current. Please add a comment to suggest new links.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


A monthly summary of HE focused e-learning news and events

Each month we will interview a guest speaker and also record a conversation between us discussing current issues contained in our blogs (see links below). This month we interviewed Professor Terry Mayes emeritus professor at Glasgow Caledonian University. Professor Mayes discusses the current shape of higher education and the challenges of 21st century learning as well as some of his current work with the Higher Education Academy. Click here for the interview with Terry Mayes in full. Listen to our chat using the player on the right of your screen.

Access all the links, articles and notes form our two blogs in Martins MASHE blog post here>>>>>.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Mahoodle Hub

Last week I stood in for our work based learning advisor (Theresa Welch) to deliver a short presentation to a consortium of local training providers. This was part of a two day launch for the Staffordshire Providers Association and the Black Country Training Group. They work across the West Midlands with training organisations delivering a range of vocational education and training for Young People, Adults and Employers.

These two organisational networks work independently of one another, but are being funded under two unique projects funded by the Association of Learning Providers, which could allow closer collaboration. Both networked communities of trust will use two interconnected suites of virtual learning environments (VLEs) that can connect via a central (Moodle) HUB. This ability to link once previously separate Moodle VLEs together has been available for a while. This ability for students and co-workers to share resources across VLEs has much potential for collaborative working and partnerships with Colleges and Universities for example. Coupled with these networked VLEs these training providers also have the option to utilise an embedded (single sign on) eportfolio system called Mahara. (Left click above image to understand the HUB). This modular and therefore scalable system was first instigated for some training providers in Devon and Cornwall a few years ago. Derrin Kent, the man who put that together has learned some lessons and is keen to help West Midlands training providers benefit from this unique network idea based around a central HUB.

Follow these two links (Provided by Carnegie College) for short video clips on what Mahara can do:

These two separate work based learning networks are being trained up in the use of Moodle and the importance of change management to allow the embedding of e-NVQs and general distance learning concepts to become reality. This is all being provided by a local company who specialise in Open Source software, training and course creation services. The holistic way that TDM ltd is approaching this project sounds very pragmatic and is pointing to educating providers to adopting change of practice and the embedding of technology as a long term solution to assessing and training busy workers and professionals. It is a model of awareness, training, collaboration, and technical solutions that could benefit other sectors.