Getting the next generation of bloggers …

Work is fairly busy at this time of year – you think you have the VLE all set up for the new students, then there are the Turnitin Assignments to help people set up, weird glitches that seem to happen unexpectedly …
However, one job that should be fun is that I’ve been asked to run a workshop to help students set up blogs, they’ll be using WordPress.com, rather than one within the URL. It’s a careers related initiative – the students and work place mentors will be using them. An ex-colleague from Portsmouth asked me about blogging on Blogger the other day – he was doing it for some placement students.  I’d totally forgotten that one reason I’d not used it all those years ago when I first got students blogging was the inability to set individual posts to be private. It was an all or nothing approach. Given that the students I’m helping on Monday are also doing externally facing blogs about work related activities, I’m glad to have discovered that while the hosted wordpress might not allow one of the plugins that has multiple user permissions, at least it does allow individual posts to be password protected. (I’d used Post Levels to facilitate different users having access to ‘private’ posts – without giving them full admin rights)

I thought I’d try to find a post that compares WordPress (hosted, not self hosted) and Blogger. It’s surprisingly difficult! Most have a particular bias (SEO), or they’re actually self hosted WP vs. Blogger. The Current State of Educational Blogging (Sue Waters) favours Edublogs (based on WP). I’m sure there’s a handy chart out there comparing the features (esp. those I’m interested in!) I’ve yet to find it.

It’s also good to see that we do have some enthusiastic student bloggers at Dundee – will be keeping an eye on their blogs.

The OLPC renewed?

The new Infinity:One has grown from the OLPC project and from a visual point of view, there’s a definite family resemblance.

flickr photo by Emmadukew https://flickr.com/photos/emmadukew/8390141934 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Educational Computers – including OLPC: flickr photo by Emmadukew https://flickr.com/photos/emmadukew/8390141934 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license


(Excuse the clutter in that pictures, I hadn’t got a clearer one of just the OLPC; which is currently in a packed away in a box with the Pi)
Source: http://one-education.org

Infinity One: Source: http://one-education.org

Both also use low cost technology, and, while the Infinity One uses Windows 10 (rather than the Child friendly SugarOS that is linux based); it’s much easier to update the Infinity than the OLPC ever was. Would have been great had they been able to include the screen that could be both backlit and eInk of the original; I think they had great potential. Meanwhile, I’ll just wait for the Infinity to get to the UK, and then my wee family of educational computers might get a new member 🙂

Changes ….

Change is something that has cropped up a lot for me, both personally and from a work point of view. Around this time last year, I decided to leave my job, sell my house and move North (there were personal reasons for that, it wasn’t a wild whim). That involved leaving a job I’d had for about 3 times longer than any other job I’d had, a place I’d lived in for longer than elsewhere, and possibly a change of country (depending on your view of the relationship between Scotland and England).
Since moving, I’ve now found a new job; in a different, albeit related field. I’ve arrived in a University that’s undergoing changes itself, into a team that’s undergoing change. I’m working in a field that is changing rapidly – if I think about my first computer, things have changed a lot
flickr photo shared by Emmadukew under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license
So, from that point of view, I’d have thought I’d find change not too difficult, but it’s not as easy as just learning a new OS. Well, not to me!

I was recently lent Who Moved My Cheese, which is a bit “American”; but makes a good point, about how different people react to change, and, I think, different types of change. I think I have a bit of “Sniffy” “Scurry” “Hem” & “Haw” in my, I suspect everyone does.

All of that said, I am enjoying my new role, working with new colleagues, getting to see an Educational Technologists view of eLearning, getting to grips with different systems, both organisational and technical, and even getting used to a train, rather than a bike in the morning. (It’s a lot drier!)

One of the changes I’d intended to make was to start blogging more often; there is time yet for that to happen! (Oh, and we’re moving house again soon, though this time about 1 mile across town, not 700 miles north!)

And it’s tiring! I’ve got a long weekend – so am really looking forward to it.

Hebert, E. A. (1992). Portfolios invite reflection-from students and staff. Educational Leadership, 49(8), 58–61.
Reflectors’ Toolkit | The University of Edinburgh. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from https://www.ed.ac.uk/reflection/reflectors-toolkit
Cornwell, L. (n.d.). What Is the Impact of PowerPoint Lectures on Learning? A Brief Review of Research. Retrieved from http://www.hagerstowncc.edu/sites/default/files/documents/14-fletcher-powerpoint-research-review.pdf
Flynn, S. (2018). A module on Learning Technologies for teachers in Higher Education. Italian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 119–129. https://doi.org/10.17471/2499-4324/995
Dutton, W. H., & Fernandez, L. (2019). How Susceptible Are Internet Users? SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3316768
Bower, B. L., & Hardy, K. P. (2004). From correspondence to cyberspace: Changes and challenges in distance education. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2004(128), 5–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.169
Visitors & Residents. (2014, September 9). Retrieved January 29, 2019, from http://daveowhite.com/vandr/
Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 135–142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.06.001
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1108/10748120110424816
Sime, J.-A., & Themelis, C. (n.d.). Exploring Video Literacy and the Practice of Educators. Retrieved October 8, 2018, from https://viliproject.eu/index.php/publications/41-exploring-video-literacy-and-the-practice-of-educators
Williams, J. B., & Jacobs, J. S. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20, 232–247. Retrieved from https://eprints.qut.edu.au/13066/
Mimirinis, M. (2018). Qualitative differences in academics’ conceptions of e-assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1493087
Mitchell, K., Simpson, C., & Adachi, C. (2017, May 12). What’s in a name? The ambiguity and complexity of technology enhanced learning roles – ASCILITE 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2018, from http://2017conference.ascilite.org/program/whats-in-a-name-the-ambiguity-and-complexity-of-technology-enhanced-learning-roles/
Frensen, J. (2018, May 14). What is a Learning Technologist? | Digital Education [Blog]. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.digitaleducation.ox.ac.uk/article/what-is-a-learning-technologist
Hopkins, D. (2009, August 13). What is a Learning Technologist? – Technology Enhanced Learning Blog [Blog]. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/blogging/what-is-a-learning-technologist/
Vaona, A., Banzi, R., Kwag, K. H., Rigon, G., Cereda, D., Pecoraro, V., … Moja, L. (2018). E‐learning for health professionals. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011736.pub2
Raynis, M. (n.d.). Analysis of Instructional Design Job Announcements (2016), 59.
Kang, Y., & Ritzhaupt, A. D. (2015). A Job Announcement Analysis of Educational Technology Professional Positions: Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 43(3), 231–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047239515570572
van Horne, M. (2013, October 17). Introducing the ASU Instructional Designers [Infographic]. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://teachonline.asu.edu/2013/10/introducing-the-asu-instructional-designers/
Hobson, S. (2015, October 7). So What Do You Really Mean By “Instructional Designer”? - EdSurge News. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-07-so-what-do-you-really-mean-by-instructional-designer
International Higher Education as Catalyst for Social Change | Journal of Educational Leadership in Action (ELA). (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2018, from http://www.lindenwood.edu/academics/beyond-the-classroom/publications/journal-of-educational-leadership-in-action/all-issues/previous-issues/volume-4-issue-2/faculty-articles/patel/
Patel, F. (2010). Exploring a New Model and Approach to the Scholarship of Teaching: The Scholarship Teaching Academy. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1). https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2010.1.3
Green, D. A., & Little, D. (2016). Family portrait: a profile of educational developers around the world. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(2), 135–150. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2015.1046875
Fraser, K., & Ling, P. (2014). How academic is academic development? International Journal for Academic Development, 19(3), 226–241. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2013.837827
Scott, D. (2018, October 9). Critical Publishing | Learning Technology - A Handbook for FE Teachers and Assessors By Daniel Scott. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.criticalpublishing.com/learning-technology
JISC. (2014). Learning technologists. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/enhancing-staff-support-for-learners-with-disabilities/learning-technologists
Roxå, T., & Mårtensson, K. (2017). Agency and structure in academic development practices: are we liberating academic teachers or are we part of a machinery supressing them? International Journal for Academic Development, 22(2), 95–105. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2016.1218883
James Jacob, W., Xiong, W., & Ye, H. (2015). Professional development programmes at world-class universities. Palgrave Communications, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2015.2
Knapper, C. (2016). Does educational development matter? International Journal for Academic Development, 21(2), 105–115. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2016.1170098
Gibbs, G. (2013). Reflections on the changing nature of educational development. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(1), 4–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2013.751691
Anagnostopoulou, K. (2015, February). Delivering flexibly: Working with programme teams. Presented at the HeLF. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1XOOkDzucom2gv_4txGnwsG95a3l01DoB70kfXJnNIlA/embed?start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000&usp=embed_facebook
Deaker, L., Stein, S. J., & Spiller, D. (2016). You can’t teach me: exploring academic resistance to teaching development. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(4), 299–311. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2015.1129967
Medway, D., Roper, S., & Gillooly, L. (2018). Contract cheating in UK higher education: A covert investigation of essay mills. British Educational Research Journal, 44(3), 393–418. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3335
Tomas, C., & Jessop, T. (2018). Struggling and juggling: a comparison of student assessment loads across research and teaching-intensive universities. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1463355
Husmann, P. R., & O’Loughlin, V. D. (2018). Another nail in the coffin for learning styles? Disparities among undergraduate anatomy students’ study strategies, class performance, and reported VARK learning styles: Study Strategies, Learning Styles, Anatomy Performance. Anatomical Sciences Education. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.1777
Pangrazio, L., & Selwyn, N. (2018). “It’s Not Like It’s Life or Death or Whatever”: Young People’s Understandings of Social Media Data. Social Media + Society, 4(3), 205630511878780. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305118787808
Gravett, K., & Winstone, N. E. (2018). ‘Feedback interpreters’: the role of learning development professionals in facilitating university students’ engagement with feedback. Teaching in Higher Education, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2018.1498076
Emery, R, & Atkinson, A. (n.d.). A Word in Your Ear Group Assessment Feedback: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Nordmann, E., & Mcgeorge, P. (2018). Lecture capture in higher education: time to learn from the learners. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/UX29V
Hole, A. (2014). Open Badges: Exploring the value, potential and practicalities of a new way of recognising skills in Higher Education. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 0(0). Retrieved from http://journal.aldinhe.ac.uk/index.php/jldhe/article/view/281
Harper, R., Bretag, T., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Rozenberg, P., Saddiqui, S., & van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university staff. Studies in Higher Education, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1462789
Bretag, T., Harper, R., Burton, M., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Rozenberg, P., … van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university students. Studies in Higher Education, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1462788
Masters, K. (2013). Edgar Dale’s Pyramid of Learning in medical education: A literature review. Medical Teacher, 35(11), e1584–e1593. https://doi.org/10.3109/0142159X.2013.800636
Costa, C., Murphy, M., Pereira, A. L., & Taylor, Y. (2018). Higher education students’ experiences of digital learning and (dis)empowerment. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.3979
Rolfe Vivien. (2010). Can Turnitin be used to provide instant formative feedback? British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(4), 701–710. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01091.x
Rayner, G., Papakonstantinou, T., & Gleadow, R. (2016). Comparing the self-efficacy and writing-related abilities of native and non-native English-speaking students. Cogent Education, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1179164
Havemann, L., & Sherman, S. (2017). Assessment, Feedback and Technology: Contexts and Case Studies in Bloomsbury (p. ). Figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5315224
Meer, N., & Chapman, A. (2014). Co-creation of Marking Criteria: Students as Partners in the Assessment Process. Business and Management Education in HE, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.11120/bmhe.2014.00008
Farzan, R., & Kraut, R. E. (2013). Wikipedia classroom experiment: bidirectional benefits of students’ engagement in online production communities. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 783–792). Paris, France: ACM.
Rose, E. (2016). Reflection in asynchronous online postsecondary courses: a reflective review of the literature. Reflective Practice, 17(6), 779–791. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2016.1220936

Similarity detection

not plagiarism detection
I’m in the process of looking at the role that similarity detection tools (e.g. Turnitin and SafeAssign) can play in helping students improve their writing skills, and detect their own errors. My personal experience is that it’s a valuable tool – as long as you spend enough time explaining to students what should be similar, what shouldn’t and thus what to do about it. All the research I’ve found would seem to suggest the same (though from the work that Lynn Graham-Matheson & Simon Starr (2013) did the students were far more likely to think that the staff saw it primarily as Police force, than the staff thought they did). Morris (2015) suggests that could be the language used when staff introduced it.
What I’m looking for now, though, are any studies that counter this view? Has anyone got any work that suggests similarity tools are best used as a plagiarism police force?

Hebert, E. A. (1992). Portfolios invite reflection-from students and staff. Educational Leadership, 49(8), 58–61.
Reflectors' Toolkit | The University of Edinburgh. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from
Flynn, S. (2018). A module on Learning Technologies for teachers in Higher Education. Italian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 119–129. https://doi.org/10.17471/2499-4324/995
Dutton, W. H., & Fernandez, L. (2019). How Susceptible Are Internet Users? SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3316768
Bower, B. L., & Hardy, K. P. (2004). From correspondence to cyberspace: Changes and challenges in distance education. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2004(128), 5–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.169
Visitors & Residents. (2014, September 9). Retrieved January 29, 2019, from
Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 135–142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.06.001
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6.
Sime, J.-A., & Themelis, C. (n.d.). Exploring Video Literacy and the Practice of Educators. Retrieved October 8, 2018, from
Williams, J. B., & Jacobs, J. S. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20, 232–247.
Mimirinis, M. (2018). Qualitative differences in academics' conceptions of e-assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1493087
Mitchell, K., Simpson, C., & Adachi, C. (2017, May 12). What's in a name? The ambiguity and complexity of technology enhanced learning roles – ASCILITE 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2018, from
Frensen, J. (2018, May 14). What is a Learning Technologist? | Digital Education [Blog]. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
Hopkins, D. (2009, August 13). What is a Learning Technologist? – Technology Enhanced Learning Blog [Blog]. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
Vaona, A., Banzi, R., Kwag, K. H., Rigon, G., Cereda, D., Pecoraro, V., … Moja, L. (2018). E‐learning for health professionals. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011736.pub2
Raynis, M. (n.d.). Analysis of Instructional Design Job Announcements (2016), 59.
Kang, Y., & Ritzhaupt, A. D. (2015). A Job Announcement Analysis of Educational Technology Professional Positions: Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 43(3), 231–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047239515570572
van Horne, M. (2013, October 17). Introducing the ASU Instructional Designers [Infographic]. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
Hobson, S. (2015, October 7). So What Do You Really Mean By "Instructional Designer"? - EdSurge News. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
Patel, F. (2010). Exploring a New Model and Approach to the Scholarship of Teaching: The Scholarship Teaching Academy. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1). https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2010.1.3
Green, D. A., & Little, D. (2016). Family portrait: a profile of educational developers around the world. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(2), 135–150.
Fraser, K., & Ling, P. (2014). How academic is academic development? International Journal for Academic Development, 19(3), 226–241.
JISC. (2014). Learning technologists. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
Roxå, T., & Mårtensson, K. (2017). Agency and structure in academic development practices: are we liberating academic teachers or are we part of a machinery supressing them? International Journal for Academic Development, 22(2), 95–105.
James Jacob, W., Xiong, W., & Ye, H. (2015). Professional development programmes at world-class universities. Palgrave Communications, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2015.2
Knapper, C. (2016). Does educational development matter? International Journal for Academic Development, 21(2), 105–115.
Gibbs, G. (2013). Reflections on the changing nature of educational development. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(1), 4–14.
Anagnostopoulou, K. (2015, February). Delivering flexibly: Working with programme teams. Presented at the HeLF.
Deaker, L., Stein, S. J., & Spiller, D. (2016). You can't teach me: exploring academic resistance to teaching development. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(4), 299–311.
Medway, D., Roper, S., & Gillooly, L. (2018). Contract cheating in UK higher education: A covert investigation of essay mills. British Educational Research Journal, 44(3), 393–418. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3335
Tomas, C., & Jessop, T. (2018). Struggling and juggling: a comparison of student assessment loads across research and teaching-intensive universities. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1463355
Pangrazio, L., & Selwyn, N. (2018). "It's Not Like It's Life or Death or Whatever": Young People's Understandings of Social Media Data. Social Media + Society, 4(3), 205630511878780. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305118787808
Gravett, K., & Winstone, N. E. (2018). 'Feedback interpreters': the role of learning development professionals in facilitating university students' engagement with feedback. Teaching in Higher Education, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2018.1498076
Emery, R, & Atkinson, A. (n.d.). A Word in Your Ear Group Assessment Feedback: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Nordmann, E., & Mcgeorge, P. (2018). Lecture capture in higher education: time to learn from the learners. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/UX29V
Hole, A. (2014). Open Badges: Exploring the value, potential and practicalities of a new way of recognising skills in Higher Education. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 0(0).
Harper, R., Bretag, T., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Rozenberg, P., Saddiqui, S., & van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university staff. Studies in Higher Education, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1462789
Bretag, T., Harper, R., Burton, M., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Rozenberg, P., … van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university students. Studies in Higher Education, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1462788
Masters, K. (2013). Edgar Dale's Pyramid of Learning in medical education: A literature review. Medical Teacher, 35(11), e1584–e1593. https://doi.org/10.3109/0142159X.2013.800636
Costa, C., Murphy, M., Pereira, A. L., & Taylor, Y. (2018). Higher education students' experiences of digital learning and (dis)empowerment. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.3979
Rolfe Vivien. (2010). Can Turnitin be used to provide instant formative feedback? British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(4), 701–710.
Rayner, G., Papakonstantinou, T., & Gleadow, R. (2016). Comparing the self-efficacy and writing-related abilities of native and non-native English-speaking students. Cogent Education, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1179164
Havemann, L., & Sherman, S. (2017). Assessment, Feedback and Technology: Contexts and Case Studies in Bloomsbury (p. ). Figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5315224
Meer, N., & Chapman, A. (2014). Co-creation of Marking Criteria: Students as Partners in the Assessment Process. Business and Management Education in HE, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.11120/bmhe.2014.00008
Farzan, R., & Kraut, R. E. (2013). Wikipedia classroom experiment: bidirectional benefits of students’ engagement in online production communities. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 783–792). Paris, France: ACM.
Rose, E. (2016). Reflection in asynchronous online postsecondary courses: a reflective review of the literature. Reflective Practice, 17(6), 779–791. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2016.1220936

Raspberry Pi vs ZX 81

My first computer was a ZX 81 – cost £69.95 (assuming Wikipedia’s correct; I can’t remember!) That’s c £236 (This is Money) or 0.3% of an average house (House Price Crash). Came with 1kb of memory (expandable to 16kb) – Operating System & Keyboard inc; monitor required (monochrome output).
The Raspberry Pi goes on sale today … for £21.60 (0.01% of average house [does that say more about cost of houses or electrical components, one wonders!]) – you get 256mb memory, though you do have to add a keyboard and Operating System, as well as the monitor!

Me: I’d have one on order, were it possible to get through to a website!

What's in a name?

I’ve recently been involved with an email based discussion with other colleagues about aspects of “mobile” learning. There are various things we’ll be looking at, such as capabilities devices that students actually have, technical developments etc., and, the aspect I personally feel is crucial

…the pedagogical issues involved when delivering learning material on small form-factor devices

At the same time as answering the various messages that were flying around I read the 2010 Horizon report(pdf) – which has as “One year or less”, Mobile Computing. I then read a little further and noted that part of mobile computing is the area we’re interested in (small form factor), but it also encompasses wireless access in general.

The available choices for staying connected while on the go are many — smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices access the Internet using cellular-based portable hotspots and mobile broadband cards, in addition to wi-fi that is increasingly available wherever people congregate.

I therefore wondered if “Mobile” was the correct word for the group, and asked around. One suggestion was that “personalised” would be better, though my own view on that is that a student could have a “personalised” learning experience on the latest gaming machine with 2 24″ monitors – or her new android powered phone (clearly a rich student!); so it’s even more generic (though something, alongside aspects such as encouraging staff / students to make best use of OERs that should be being done anyway. )

My preference had been for “handheld”, so I asked on Twitter. Initially the answers had pointed towards “handheld” – possibly due to the leading nature of my posts! Simon Brookes included the point I’d forgotten – though would have known had I thought about it – about the frequent lack of keyboard. However, later in the evening, Jon Trinder and James Clay joined in, and the discussion swung back towards “mobile” (or learning mobility – which was Andy Black’s suggestion) – with the additional point that in that case a “mobile device” could be the coffee shop!.

In the case of UoP, I feel that we’ve already addressed many aspects of “mobile learning”. The wireless network is pretty ubiquitous (from talking to people at other Universities, it’s one of the most extensive), all our coffee shops (and, whether by accident or design, several local non-University ones) have it; we have both an encrypted and (more recently) non-encrypted option (I can now get the OLPC on it :)). We also have it in most teaching areas. So far, I’ve not heard that any academic staff have prevented students using laptops in lectures. There’s also a pool of loan laptops in the library. So, we’ve got good support and understanding, I think, for wifi access from laptops that are running reasonably recent versions of Windows (2000/XP/Vista/7), Mac OSx+. There are probably a few linux users – but the chances are they’re relatively geeky and installed it themselves. (The main drawback that I see to this is the lack of powersockets where you happen want them!)

The new group, however, is looking at netbook & smaller devices so:

  • huge range of OSes (and is more likely to include novice computer users with linux based netbooks);
  • small screen
  • limited input options
  • access via wifi or 3G

That’s why I feel that the word “handheld” is, in this case more appropriate – and could guide us when considering “the pedagogical issues involved when delivering learning material on small form-factor devices.” (by default, I’m assuming we’re thinking about using them to get students involved via discussion etc., as on paper, “delivering” could be seen as one way). There’s also raising staff awareness; most are, as I’ve already said, tolerant of laptops on desks. Most assume that phones on desks = (non-academic related) texting!
Any other comments?

Trying to update a Unit!

I’m currently teaching a Unit called “Educational Computing” (warning: server often slow/down)
The current unit looks at how to design & create what’s essentially a learning object – for something that is fairly fact based – things like GCSE revision are common choices. The software the students create (currently using Flash or HTML) is designed to be used by a single user, and tends to be pretty traditional (in no small part, that’s due to the fact I tell them they have to identify how you’d both teach and assess someone online).
They also have a group research project, looking at recent developments in eLearning, so, research into Mobile Learning / SecondLife for teaching etc.
The unit was created several years ago, when most students were enthusiastic programmers. Now we’ve got far more who are on a range of degree schemes, many of whom aren’t keen programmers. (Not to mention the fact that Flash has a much greater learning curve than Authorware).
However, I want to radically rethink the unit! I want to make it more community based, but still recognising that there are some subjects for which a fairly traditional approach works well – the drill / practice tools that are easy to build – and useful if you’re trying to learn your tables etc!
I’ve had a few ideas and have also been talking to one of our online developers; so my current plans are:

  • Maintain the overview of how people learn, including (among things) that some things need lots of repetition and essentially have a “right” answer, while others lend themselves far more to discourse and don’t have a right answer.
  • Get students to find & evaluate a range of different types of online learning resources – for different subjects / ages / etc.
  • Develop a community of online course developers through a range of Web2.0 tools – I’ll suggest some – whatever happens to be current next October, and get them to find others. [Get them to develop their own PLE?]
  • Have a set of real life projects by asking round the Uni / friends who happen to be teachers. e.g.
    • 1st year history undergraduates studying pre-Industrial communities
    • Newly qualified nurses wanting to develop professional links with their peers
    • A class of primary children studying their local area in Geography
  • Get them to create a website / set of resources to suit the above. Not quite sure at this stage, how much I’d want them to actually *create* material, and how much to evaluate existing resources & draw them in to form a coherent whole ..
  • And then some form of group research project – perhaps getting them to use CiteULike etc., more than I currently do; … not sure

Any suggestions?
It’s going to have to be something that I can set up in our VLE (WebCT Vista), and a certain amount of my teaching material will have to be there – however, there’s nothing to stop me having lots of links out!
I have to work out how to have the balance between discourse happening within the VLE (as that’s where it’s meant to) and that outside (issues of services ceasing / students not wanting to set up yet another account being balanced against the real world that’s out there.)

Laptops vs. Computer labs

Several in the blogosphere have pointed to the Ars Technica report this week about the decision of the University of Virginia to re-think computer labs, after only 4 new students arrived sans computer (didn’t state if they were laptops or desktops).

Naturally, the reaction was mixed – mostly anti the decision; based on aspects such as weight, printing, specialist software etc. Views I generally agree with.

However, there have also been increasing numbers of reports of individuals/ departments banning the use of laptops in class. (None that I’ve seen so far from Virginia). So we have an interesting dilemma; some would prefer students to have laptops on campus, but not everyone wants them to use them.

As far as I know, no UK universities have yet thought of removing open access computer space, nor have I heard of any banning students from using laptops – though mobile phones tend to be frowned on – presumably because most assume students are texting social messages, ignoring  the fact they can be used for internet access; for translation tools [international students]. I tend to restrict myself to a glare when the things actually ring. (The student is generally to busy turning it off in an embarassed manner to notice!)