What am I?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Think Visual Course @BUFVC

The full title for this course on 20.11.2014 was Think Visual: video storytelling in education. It focussed very much on 'being able to identify what makes good video for teaching and learning purposes', and thanks to a good presenter from the Open University, Catherine Chambers, and a diverse and lively audience it turned out to be much more than just a pleasant day away from the office in good company. Here's my personal hit list of reminders and pointers to take away:

First and foremost: "hook" the audience - the trick is to make something engaging! But: how?

We watched a series of video snippets, mostly on YouTube, to identify the factors that make something engaging. When working with a presenter, a lot depends on the personality of the presenter, and how she/he manages to capture the audience, which is, of course, what makes TED (in addition to the production value) so successful. Considering your audience, telling a story, finding the right tone and style, nicely put into the appropriate setting, while considering different learning styles - visual, auditory and tactile.

This was all about reminding us of what I would call 'the basics'. The interesting discussions which came up throughout were about lecture capture, the 'flipped classroom' concept and using slides and still images in videos. This was (from my perspective) important because it all relates to a trend in our daily requirements as DMeLDs (Digital Media and eLearning Developers). Personally, I was especially intrigued by a presentation created mainly from (good quality) still images, connected with text based reporting, diagrams and good audio and even some music. So, the plan is to explore how I can put this into practice in my working environment. (To be continued ...)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Focus: Tools in Learning Technology

Increasingly, working as a learning technologist reminds me of 'looking for a needle in a haystack'. Sometimes, when trying to answer a seemingly straight-forward question along the lines of 'which tool should I use to achieve such and such', I find myself lining up a variety of tools. While talking in response to the question I try to figure out if there is anything on offer that provides the 'ideal' answer, and, of course, there never is. Some tools are free, but miss exactly the functionality that's most wanted. Other tools just cost a lot of money, and offer so much more than you ever asked for, and thus tire you out in the attempt to explore their potential.

The biggest issue is time. Who's got the time (or the will, for that matter): (A) to make an informed choice amongst a wealth of different tools, and (B) to spend hours on figuring out how something works? Does this not often end up in having figured out the tool, but then time's up, and no outcome/product? So, it seems I better start learning how to make a split second decision on what's the best tool for a specific purpose ...

Monday, 9 June 2014

Sustainable Moodle Design

For a particular project, we had a plan to create a moodle page which looks and functions just like a webpage. We were pleased to discover that it's well possible using a complex way of linking activities and resources into moodle pages, and 'orphaning' all sections so that they become invisible but are still accessible for design, and items in the section are still available despite being 'orphaned'. 

After some exploration, we've gone off the idea because it turned out to be rather difficult to maintain/update a complex site with a team of people working on it. I discovered that we're not the only ones who tend to give up 'the looks' in favour of sustainability, when I read the following blog post by David Jones:

Scroll down to the heading 'Avoiding the scroll of death' - that's about making moodle look like a website. David Jones, the author of this blog, thinks that it might 'bite you in the rear end' ... It would be really interesting to do some research to find out if there are alternatives to the 'orphaned' section solution ...

Monday, 17 March 2014

Dream Wall Pitch

This partition of the dream wall, which was created at the JISC Digital Festival 2014 (11/12 March) in Birmingham. At first I wasn't sure if I should post it, because it seemed a bit 'out of context' on its own, but I just discovered that it fits in remarkably well with 2 of the current SESE (Strategy for Enhancing the Student Experience) pitches at Brookes, which I strongly support:

Monday, 3 March 2014

Short follow-up on 'synchronous'

Today course tutors and TAs had a short snchronous online session to prepare for a new open online course about 'Teaching Online', see:

We used Adobe Connect as our conferencing platform, which is now also part of our 'normal' Moodle provision here at Oxford Brookes University. I do not often say this about technologies (despite being a learning technologist!) but I did really enjoy this online meeting. It was relaxed, no technical problems, and it suddenly felt more comfortable attending a meeting while sitting at my desk rather than being stuck in a meeting room! This might be partly due to the fact that I'm - finally - beginning to get used to meeting others online, but it was also nice to experience how easy and without any problems everything seemed to flow ... 

Perhaps it's a mind set which develops with time, and suddenly it just works? When the technology simply does its job you don't seem to notice it any longer. Might it perhaps become 'second nature' at some stage - even to the ones not being part of the young generation who is naturally tuned into all sorts of online communication technologies? Just wondering ...

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Synchronous or asynchronous - is that the question?

The TeaLaB session (Teaching and Learning at Brookes) on Friday 31 January was titled 'Synchronous technologies - the answer to poor online engagement?' Its focus was on Abi Ball's research about the use of synchronous and asynchronous technologies in distance learning programmes. Here's my short summary: It seems as if the research shows clearly that students want synchronous technologies to be used with great care - only certain (and not too many) topics are suitable for sessions using synchronous tools. While varying the format of delivery seems important, there needs to be time for students to investigate complex content, which is best done with well prepared and designed online material, which should include asynchronous discussion forums, which are best suited to a reflective process. Tutors are required to guide the work, especially by giving feedback on formative pieces of work. They are still considered as the ones "in the know", and their knowledge is what students like to benefit from, and online self-tests are perceived to help the learning.

I would not think this necessarily goes against the notion that learners construct knowledge for themselves, i.e. the constructivist approach. For me, it might indicate clearly that - while a lot of students are still guided by the 'platonic' perception of learning - this should be translated into the tutor providing students with opportunities to construct their own knowledge, i.e. engaging activities!