Learning Technology jottings at Goldsmiths

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The Future of Pedagogy – The Concept and the Disaster

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Goldsmiths’ Research Group in Continental Philosophy – InC – is hosting a programme of three weekend seminars at the ICA, each followed by public talks by leading philosophers including Dr Alberto Toscano and Prof. Alexander Garcia Duttmann. These events – conveyed by R.Cavallini, D.Rugo, S.McAuliffe and D.Smith – will address the future of pedagogy and question whether teaching can still serve as a site for critical thinking. The seminars will function as focused events built around a set reading list, with the subsequent talks intended for a larger audience.

Find out more on the ICA site.


Written by Mira Vogel

September 2, 2010 at 17:59

Plagiarism and music

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Dr Daniel Müllensiefen (Musicologist at Goldsmiths’ Computing Department, and academic consultant on plagiarism) on the BBC World Service’s The Forum, demonstrating software which detects similarities between pieces of music which may indicate plagiarism. Daniel introduces some historical incidents and, with the guests, discusses stylistic constraints on originality, whether there is a limit in the number of original popular music tunes which can be written, and how to gauge whether these are incidental. And the inevitable discussion about intellectual property, litigation and profit.

Written by Mira Vogel

August 10, 2010 at 11:51

Posted in music, plagiarism

Exemplars of Twitter and social bookmarking in Higher Education

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Twitter in Higher Education is a 20 page paper by Tony McNeill, Principal Lecturer in Blended Learning and Educational Technology base in Kingston University’s Academic Development Centre. The case studies begin in Section 2. Dr Sabah Abdullah’s students used Twitter as a broadcast tool in an economics course at the University of Bristol. Dr Monica Rankin used it as a conversational medium in a large cohort learning history at the University of Texas, Dallas. Sheffield Hallam used it to collect feedback; many students tweeted via SMS. The University of Colorado, Denver used Twitter to enhance social presence and so promote involvement, commitment and retention. There’s little in the way of large-scale studies and evaluations but lots of ideas – that’s how it is with very new tools.

On social bookmarking, the ever-creative Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard have produced something called H20 Playlists, “a shared list of readings and other content about an area of intellectual interest” giving learners a “wide open dialogue”. It enables learners in one community (and H20 is open to all) to gain a sense of who else in the world is thinking about the things they’re thinking about, often from very different perspectives. The video explanation is a good introduction to this ethos, or read Larissa, a Masters student in Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, who explains in more detail what it does. And finally, here’s one of the featured playlists, on remix culture.

Written by Mira Vogel

October 30, 2009 at 12:42

Posted in library, social networking

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Technophobia and other responses to technology

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You may have heard of Michael Wesch, professor of anthropology and digital ethnographer, known for his outstanding videos about the impact of information and communications technology on global society (particularly university learning). After listening to his keynote at the 2009 Association of Technologist Conference, I went to Wikipedia to find out more, and there I learned that in 2008 he had won something called The John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in the Field of Media Ecology from the Media Ecology Association. So, because Michael Wesch’s videos are important and he has been called ‘the explainer’, I went to see who had won the award before and since.

I came across the best-articulated piece of technophobia I’ve encountered in a long while (and I don’t use technophobia in a rhetorical pejorative sense but a straight descriptive one). It references Postman, Debord, Ellul and Mumford (you can see most of their pictures along the top of the Media Ecology Association site), and I understand technophobia a lot better now. Here it is.

Michael Wesch is more interested in rethinking things.

Two such different winning presentations for an award overseen by an organisation which included Marshall McLuhan. Is the medium the message?

Written by Mira Vogel

October 18, 2009 at 22:23

Findings from Educause’s 2009 Top Ten IT Issues Survey

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It is a job and a half being in an educational institution’s IT Services these days. Rationing is acute, and technological obsolescence endemic.

The US not-for-profit organisation Educause has published findings from its Top Ten IT Issues Survey of institutional ‘Chief Information Officer” (in the US I believe this is a board level head of information technology). I’ll reproduce the issue on Learning and Teaching with Technology:

“Teaching and Learning with Technology — formerly E-Learning / Distributed Teaching and Learning — ranked #5 this year, moving up from #9 in the 2008 survey. With the increasing availability of technology-based learning tools both internal and external to the institution, the role of the CIO and other IT leaders is expanding to encompass many teaching and learning domains. The trend toward augmenting instruction with technology creates opportunities and substantial challenges for those who must respond to increasingly diverse and fluid instructional environments. CIOs have become crucial to instructional units because they provide leadership in evaluating and supporting the teaching technologies that underlie multiple forms of distributed learning.

A growing proportion of learning takes place outside the traditional boundaries of the classroom, facilitated by applications such as social networks and technologies that support a culture in which everyone creates and shares. In the current economic environment, IT leaders must make decisions about whether or not to accommodate these miscellaneous technologies. Further, they are being asked to provide technological direction for cultural transformations — such as information fluency — that involve library faculty, department faculty, technology specialists, and students as co-creators of knowledge. Finding the proper balance between systemic and ad hoc technologies will be fundamental for IT leaders as they respond to a student generation that prefers less passive and more agile learning. These instructional modalities will foster transformational innovations such as the need for e-portfolios in a reflective, contextual, authentic, and active learning environment.

All of these developments play out in a landscape where IT leaders bear responsibility for systems that support institutional functionality, that protect the privacy and security of faculty members, students, administrators, and staff, that safeguard information and intellectual property, that respond to the data and information needs of the institution, and that provide effective means of communication. This responsibility forces IT leaders to function in a mediated environment — one in which they must manage dwindling resources, increasing demands, and the necessity for a collaborative establishment of effective priorities with administrative and academic constituencies.

Critical questions for Teaching and Learning with Technology include the following:

  • To what extent are IT leaders involved in active communities of practice, sharing ideas that facilitate consensus for information and instructional technology?
  • What mechanisms are used to provide information about the effectiveness and possible reformulation of institutional technology? Are evaluation results shared on an institution-wide basis with opportunities for reflection?
  • How are IT leaders taking an active role in informing key stakeholders about the necessary policy realignments caused by emerging technologies?
  • What mechanisms are in place for faculty development? How are faculty members involved in the process?
  • What system is in place to examine and reevaluate institutional structures for campus technology on a regular basis?”

Written by Mira Vogel

July 31, 2009 at 16:56

Posted in ITS, technologies

The MP3 Experiment

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This, via Museum 2.0, about the evolved flashmobs staged by the participatory public art group Improv Everywhere (“we cause scenes”) is quite lovely!

“I particularly like the MP3 experiments, events at which Improv Everywhere  distribute an audio file to people for free as a podcast. Participants gather in a physical venue with their own digital audio players, and everyone hits “play” at the same time. For about half an hour, hundreds of people play together, silently, as directed by disembodied voices inside their headphones. The MP3 experiment is a model for how a typically isolating experience—listening to headphones in public—can become the basis for a powerful interpersonal experience with strangers. In this way, the MP3 experiment is an example of the ways that technological barriers can become benefits by mediating otherwise uncomfortable interactions.

The MP3 experiment is an exercise in following instructions. The voice tells you what to do –stand up, shake hands, play Twister, make silly shapes—and you do it. Over the years, the experiment has grown in popularity (recently, thanks to this NYT article), and the participants have a sense that they will be asked to do something a little unusual in the context of the event. But it’s still impressive how quickly the recording sets a supportive tone in the face of absurdity. And I think there are lessons in the details of the recording for anyone interested in encouraging visitors/users/participants to step outside their comfort zones and try something new.”

Written by Mira Vogel

July 29, 2009 at 15:36

Posted in art, Drama, event

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Demonstrating our PRS system at a departmental Away-Day

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In 15 minutes I had, I thought I could show JISC’s 5 minute case-study video from Strathclyde, meanwhile distribute some unallocated clickers to the 40 participants and then move to a series of survey questions about:

  • Engagement of students in lectures
  • What most interested them about the PRS
  • Plus an MCQ about what GLEU stands for (to demonstrate correct answer).

I wouldn’t show them a grid of responses, or allocate identities to the clickers on a roster, but I would show a barchart of stats after each question.

The questions (approximately):

  1. Do you feel that students are engaged during your lectures?
    • Always
    • Usually
    • Sometimes
    • Rarely
    • I’m not prepared to answer that question!
  2. What aspect of PRS most interests you?
    • Diagnostic formative assessment at intervals during lectures to check understanding.
    • To keep students critically engaged throughout lectures
    • Opinion polls
    • As a stimulus for group discussion
    • Another aspect – ask me
  3. What does ‘GLEU’ stand for?
    • A number of options
    • Goldsmiths Learning Enhancement Unit [CORRECT]

I set up early – other presenters were going to switch between my laptop and another presenter’s mac – went away and came back.

A number of issues came up, outline below with some possible resolutions:

  1. The first survey question the barchart was empty. The  IR receptor was no longer responding to port check – it wasn’t communicating the clicks to the software. Since I was the last session of a long morning, there was little float time. I had checked this in the morning but I think maybe the receiver was disconnected while I was away. This should have been OK – systems should be robust enough to cope with this kind of thing – but ours is not the newest. After a number of attempted remedies, I restarted. This worked. A few people were interested enough to come back from lunch and have a look. So, if you are sharing kit, do a port-check before starting the presentation. And if there’s a problem, try restarting first. And I need to check we have the most recent driver installed, so that disconnecting doesn’t flummox the whole thing.
  2. Some participants wanted the feedback that they had clicked, and what response they had chosen. I had decided not to show the grid because it obscures some of the slide. It is possible to arrange the slide so that the grid can be positioned alongside. Or it is possible to make the questions available (for reference) on a different screen or in a different way. I think confirmation of choice might only be important if the clickers were allocated to individual students, and the responses counted towards something. But AP did mention that he gets students in class to write down their responses, because otherwise with more complicated questions they often forget what they initially responded. There is feedback of how many people have responded, which can be seen in the top row of PRS controls
  3. JM has used clickers as a student at the University of Colorado, where they were a compulsory purchase and used in summative assessment which took place during lectures (5-10% of final mark), and to register attendance. This was very motivating, students did the reading and turned up for sessions.Collect some research evidence on effects on a) engagement b) pre-session reading c) attendance d) other uses.
  4. To issue each student with their own (loaned) registered clicker, or not? If the principle concern is to keep students engaged, then maybe it is enough to do things anonymously. However, it may be helpful for students to think about the correct answer, or the other options, in relation to what their answer was. If they are being used for assessment, then each clicker could be allocated by student number. This would preserve anonymity and allow a single gradebook to be presented to all. Is there a Moodle plugin to make Interwrite talk to the learn.gold gradebook?
  5. Distributing and collecting the clickers. The best scenario is that they are issued to students at the beginning of the year, perhaps via the library. But if they cannot be issued, or there aren’t enough to go round, then perhaps it could be workable to delegate handing them out and collecting them each session, or to get students to replace them in the case themselves. Some thought is needed to streamline this. It is impossible (and probably unnecessary?)  to store the clickers in number order. But it’s likely that a few will be lost each time unless there is some way to count them in and out.  So I think that distributing and collecting them each time will be a challenge.
  6. Battery changes. There need to be some spare clickers handy, and some spare batteries too, during sessions. If we are not longterm-issuing clickers to individual students, and if there’s to be a bulk battery change, I think that students / users can do this (with batteries we supply). It’s not possible to use rechargeables on an institutional scale, but we can recycle with BatteryBack. The batteries last a long time.
  7. The kit is heavy and bulky. Departmental laptops can have the software, and it can be installed on teaching pool room machines. Loaning the clickers out longterm to individual students is the most convenient option but otherwise we can make them available in bulk in a carry-case and allow some to be kept in a department along with the IR receiver(s).

I think it would be ideal if a tutor for a given course piloted PRS, and let us know what the opportunities and issues are. We would offer solid support for a pilot like this.

Written by Mira Vogel

June 18, 2009 at 14:59

Posted in assessment, PRS, psychology