Learning Technology jottings at Goldsmiths

Thoughts and deeds

Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

Which ICT innovations could be disruptive to current higher education?

leave a comment »

One of the things about working in the area of e-learning is that you’re exposed to so many radical innovations that you have to be careful to keep your perspective about the difference between where they are and where we are now (while also, of course, being unendingly enthusiastic about the possibilities).

So when the JISC Observatory posed the follow question:

“We invite you to contribute to a brainstorm on the question: “Which ICT-based innovations are potentially disruptive to current models of higher education (forms of teaching, assessment, course structure, estate, research and research management, student management, etc…)?”

I wondered what the responses would be.

The survey consists of some paragraph responses, followed by some drag and drop questions which get you evaluating other (anonymous) responses. It’s interesting to see what other people thought. The deadline is December 10th 2010, so there’s plenty of time to think about it and respond.

I committed myself to two predictions. The first was to do with the open access movement and I wrote the following:

“It’s probably going to be this that focuses educational policy-makers’ minds on what makes higher learning distinct from the provision of materials and knowledge objects, and stimulates a diversification into the genuinely constructivist approaches to teaching and assessment that are already widespread in creative subjects like Design and Drama. If open access wins out over the current holding patterns of commercial providers, HEIs won’t have to provide materials for students any more – there will already be plenty out there, and in fact offering them on a plate will be denying students an opportunity because I think the HEI educator’s role (coming into sharper focus) will be much more about helping students identify good questions, turn those into objectives, work out what they need to do meet those objectives, find good supporting resources (material, human, infrastructure, etc) and put them into service. Assessment will still be about currency, accuracy, completeness etc, but much more it will be about how students can see clearly, work systematically and hunt out meaning in the glut of information.”

Of course, many educators already work like this – but in the face of opposing pressures such as forms of assessment, fees, some interpretations of the employability agenda, and some students’ expectations. Natalie Dohn (2009) writes about the consequent inertia of higher education institutions and their enduring view of learning as acquisitionist, having an “individualistic, objectivistic view of knowledge and competence” as “an individually possessed object which can be transferred between practices” as if higher learning could be boiled down to skills.

The second prediction was to do with the onlinification of the lecture. I wrote:

“There’s going to be a renewed interest in distance learning which will be mainly to do with the financial impetus to investigate new markets. The sector will begin to deeply understand the difference between technology-enabled distance learning and face-to-face learning, and the strengths and limitations of each. I think one-to-many lectures where students sit together but without interacting, will become rarer and rarer, limited to presenters who are both eminent in their area and also phenomenal live educators that way. Lecturing as we know it – where students sit silently listening to a academic at the front, without interacting together – will start to seem like a missed opportunity. I think what will happen is that students will be required to watch and listen to anything that can be transmitted in advance of the contact sessions, and it will only be carrying out these weekly tasks which enables them to fully participate in their course. Students will be required to work hard in every session, and they will be interdependent on each other. Face to face students in some disciplines will be joined by students connecting at a distance, and there will be a heightened appreciation of the role of togetherness in learning, which will begin to be educationally designed for. I worry that this will lead to segregation, by income, into face-to-face students who can pay for more opportunities to interact in person, and distance learning students who will have less interaction.”

I could have also mentioned freely available online communication and authoring tools (including multimedia editing and mashup tools) which will allow for different forms of assessment, and help to place more emphasis on process of authoring rather than just the finished product.

I ran out of steam for the next written answer questions, but then arrived at an interesting drag and drop question where you decide where to position others’ responses in relation to an epicentre of impact. Other people had mentioned open access and open data, and then there were mobile technologies and cloud computing, but the responses I positioned closest to the centre were the things whose use would prevent us from reproducing what we are already doing, or which I thought might dramatically catalyse existing social phenomena. I was bamboozled by the idea of brain enhancement. Sounds too expensive to be disruptive any time soon.

For a mixture of futurology and here-and-now see also this year’s Edge World Question Center’s annual question: how is the internet changing the way you think?

I’ll post the findings here once they’re published.


Dohn, N.B., 2009. Web 2.0: Inherent tensions and evident challenges for education. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(3), 343-363.


Written by Mira Vogel

December 1, 2010 at 20:26

DIY video – Steve Hull at DIVERSE 09

leave a comment »

Kris Rogers, learning technologist at LSE (I think of LSE as a kind of nature reserve for learning technologists – they are supported, enabled to experiment, and they get a lot done) blogged his experience at the 9th annual DIVERSE conference in Aberystwyth last month.

Lots of links out and – naturally – on the conference site you can get video, audio and slides for any of the presentations captured, with questions, via the Echo360 system, including a screen-reader version.

Kris recommends:

“… today’s most entertaining presentation was by Steve Hull from JISC Digital Media who gave a talk on the basics of producing good quality films using basic equipment, such as a Flip camera.”

Hull’s talk was titled ‘Improving the quality of visual media in education, or anyone can make a movie‘. Aided by some amusing examples of not-so-great practice (these aren’t quite optimised for Echo), he deals with technical, practical and theoretical aspects of DIY video, including: making the speaker stand out against the background; a bit of mise en scène, techniques for steadying the camera without a tripod); interviewing techniques, eg eradicating the ‘barnyard sounds’ of the interviewer through the development of non-verbal acknowledgement e.g. smiling and nodding; simple editing on freely-available software or, at a pinch, in-camera .

(Tangentially, this is DIY but is it edupunk? I can’t imagine a self-respecting punk would have been caught dead in a discussion about developing the quality of their self-expression. Maybe I’m too literal…)

JISC Digital Media is an advisory service and well worth a look – it’s FREE, FREE, FREE (and there is consultancy, with a view to embedding skills, which you can submit a proposal to get).

Written by Mira Vogel

July 9, 2009 at 11:17

Notes on our Interwrite Public Response System (PRS aka ‘clickers’)

leave a comment »

Goldsmiths has a public response system with something like (before my time) 200 handsets. It’s straightforward to set up and can be used to:

  • Keep students critically engaged throughout a lecture
  • Check students’ understanding at intervals (i.e. diagnostic formative assessment)
  • Poll opinion
  • Stimulate discussion

See it in action – 5 minute video from Strathclyde University, and more on the vendor’s site.

Written by Mira Vogel

June 16, 2009 at 17:29

Posted in teaching, technologies

Tagged with

What do students value in their teacher?

leave a comment »

Yesterday the London School of Economics had its first annual Teaching Day. It was an impressive and very worth-while event (maximum credit to Athina Chatzigavriil, who planned and coordinated it and also to the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC – cute) and the Centre for Learning Technology. I was lucky to be there – I hadn’t realised that other than me it would be an entirely internal affair. For this I have Sonja’s chutzpah to thank (Sonja will be working there from July).

There were two plenary sessions, four break-out sessions, a civilised 15 minutes between each, various stands and poster presentations over lunch, and a wine reception on the top floor of the law building at which the 2008/9 Teaching Excellence Awards were presented.

LSE’s Teaching Excellence Awards are a student union initiative funded by the Teaching and Learning Centre. Nominees can be anybody employed by the LSE to teach over 20 hours that academic year. Nominations involved 7 students completing a nomination pack (linked from the bottom of the page above). There has been a high degree of motivation to nominate tutors, fluctuating somewhat depending on the effectiveness of the publicity. A student panel weighs up the submissions.

The head of the TLC told me that the warmth of the nomination statements was remarkable, and Athina had had the bright idea to have the day’s final plenary presented by five students, each of whom had nominated a teacher. It was actually very moving to hear them – here are my notes from that session. Sadly, I don’t have a list of the names, so some I can’t link to.

Uli (Ulrike Theuerkauf I think – Economics and Government)

  • Pre-class prep. Clear slides. Understanding of obscure points – footnotes of the reading material. Rx reading. Ability to justify reading choices with respect to key aspects.
  • Clear and varied delivery methods. Group work, brainstorming. Simulation. Structured discussion.
  • Ensuring focus on a course with a huge range of time and geo-location. Teasing out of key themes; anticipating where these might be lost
  • Availability – reliable in office hours and approachable outside them; flexible
  • Feedback on written work extended to paragraphs.
  • Solid exam support
  • Extra stuff: extra class in week 5 Michaelmas term; passion for the course; gained respect and accommodation of the students – goodwill

PG Programme in Economic History – Tim Leunig

  • Enthralling story-teller; quick witted; comedic; articulate; interesting;
  • Good judge of audience – adapts a lecture to the audience; a tweaker; responsive; sensitive
  • Excellent structuring of the programme: keeps smaller classes; divide into rotating groups of 3 or 4; present a topic question each week as well as coordinating as a team and gaining experience presenting – v. motivating; followed by Q&A, then breakout sessions for discussion. Then Tim would tied everything together for the final 20 minutes. Format was conducive to preparations for exams. Everybody felt very confident. They had been active in preparation throughout the year. Proctor said he’d never seen a group of students so relaxed before.
  • Mock exam with thorough feedback and follow-up email with further feedback.

Masters in Human Rights – John Gledhill

  • Gave students the impression that teaching was his first priority – that he cared about them
  • Passionate
  • Very well-structured classes, reminders about reading lists prior to each class, including thought-provoking questions to make reading more interactive, and the sessions themselves more stimulating.
  • Adaptive and flexible to student needs. If students were shy, he broke the group into smaller groups to ensure that they were included
  • Synthesised theoretical work with the real-world to keep the subject alive and relevant to the ongoing debates and struggles in human rights.
  • Feedback was thoughtful, in-depth and concrete.
  • He was approachable, engaged, interested, cared about students’ interest in the subject
  • Arranged extra-curricular stuff like video nights, which communicated that the subject was important.
  • Left student with a deeper critical understanding, and the tools and skills for analysis in the subject

UG Accounting – Annette (I can’t find her)

  • Annette brought out students’ personality. You didn’t feel shy. You could try out bizarre ideas. She had a good sense of humour.
  • All the most crucial information about the industry and adjacent industries. Real-life cases to stop you getting lost in numbers.
  • Comfort in the classroom made presenting more fruitful.
  • You felt like you had a personal relationship with her, even in a single hour a week.
  • She was reassuring – you felt that she was there to support you through the pressure, and you could make a fresh start.

Denisa Kostovicova – From Empire to Globalisation

  • An atmosphere of respect, enthusiasm and academic discovery. You looked forward to coming to class every week.
  • As LSE students, we thrive on structure and feedback. We make strategic decisions about which seminars to prepare for. Denisa achieved a place in our priorities through positive reinforcement
  • We posted questions we had about the readings. Denisa made sure that our questions had a response. We knew somebody was listening, and that they cared. You are desperate for feedback and attention from your tutors, and Denisa went above and beyond. She would send email feedback about what we could improve on – to have that sense of engagement from your tutor was a huge benefit
  • She brought a sense of discovery and interest to class which I didn’t always feel with my other seminars.
  • You had the sense that Denisa thought we might say something interesting and relevant. She was listening hard from what we were saying. Sometimes she would praise us, and that would make us hungry for more praise.
  • She knew our names, and she used this to structure the class and organise the discussion. We were not all the same. We listened to our peers. Those of us who were shy had a chance to participate – everybody was encouraged to respond and to listen respectfully.

These were only five of the many nominations.

Written by Mira Vogel

June 10, 2009 at 10:11

Posted in teaching