Thursday, 29 December 2011

"...a good teacher who does not use technology is not a good teacher."

The Purpose of Technology in Education is Not to Enhance, Extend or Support Teaching | doug woods.

it goes everywhere (18.18.6)

Technology is not there just to 'enhance, support, and extend teaching'. It is now an integral part of education, so much so that it has become a delivery system. Woods argues that the danger in seeing technology as enhancing, supporting, or extending means that teachers won't use it unless they can make it fit one of those categories. What is required of teachers is to experiment with technology to see how it can be made to work.

Teachers in HE, being for the most part researchers, ought to be embracing such an approach to their teaching - try it out and see what happens.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Five Tips To Get Your Stuff Organised With Chrome Extensions

chrome logo

I like Chrome because of its unfussy layout, and speed. It does have its problems, notably in my line of work - if you want to edit a VLE such as Moodle or D2L it fails  to support some editing functions at all, or only supports others with a tweak to the code (e.g. the WYSIWYG editor in Moodle 1.9+). This is a minor gripe though.

What I like about Chrome is the extensions that can be added to organise your online stuff with the click of a button in your tool bar. The extensions I use include:

1) Last Pass is a password manager. It save all of your passwords in a secure 'vault', and logs you in automatically when you open a password protected page. It creates secure passwords for you, or you can use your own. It synchronises your data so you can access it anywhere. Just remember to check the box to log out when you close down your browser!

2) The main curation tools also have extensions for Chrome. Tools such as Delicious, Diigo, Pearltrees and Evernote all have their own buttons that can save your stuff. I have been a bit of a gadfly when it comes to these tools, trying out each one. My preference though is for Evernote and Diigo. I use Diigo because it is used by colleagues at work and they have a shared account. Otherwise I would only use Evernote.

3) Tweetdeck is a great app for bringing all your social networking (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Buzz, Foursquare) newsfeeds  into one space. If you can't download the desktop application due to network restrictions, then use the Tweetdeck extension for Chrome. One caveat is that the extension doesn't seem to have as much functionality as the desktop app and the settings seem to be limited too.

4) There is an extension for Google Reader that puts a button in your tool bar and lets you know how many unread articles are waiting for you. There is a also a Subscribe button which allows to to add a subscription easily. There is a similar extension available for Gmail.

5) Speed Dial 2 organises your favourite sites and apps. It opens in a new tab and allows you to categorise your favourite sites, and add an icon. It is much easier to use than a drop-down list of favourites, and more visually appealing.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A different Approach to Online Learning

Techno Punk

I like these three articles on the e-learning provocatuer blog: The Online Course Must Die; The ILE and the FLE in Harmony; and How to Revamp Your Learning Model.

The idea is to move the learning content out of the 'walled garden' of the VLE and into a space where learners can access them more easily, and use social media to share their experiences and ask questions. It's an approach that complements the informal learning approach to WBL.

The ILE is where learners can learn with freedom, and to explore the materials - and have the ability via discussion forums to collaborate and to ask questions. The VLE (or FLE - Formal Learning Environment) is where the course is managed - where the administration takes place, and where assessments are done. The idea is to separate the two in people's minds- the ILE is where people can explore without having to 'click through' in a certain order, or to worry about pass marks.

Monday, 19 December 2011

More Creationist Schools Planned

Berlin #6 - Darwin

Like any other decent normal human being I don't like to see children exploited, or harmed. Which is why this sort of thing makes me angry. Learning should be about developing people's skills and knowledge to help them be creative and fulfil their potential, and to be good citizens. To ask questions and be critical. Children should not have pseudo-scientific religious dogma forced upon them. This is child abuse.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Learning with 'e's: Conversation as curriculum

Another blog post from Steve heeler (I do read other blogs!)Learning with 'e's: Conversation as curriculum.

Exchanging life experience

Proposing a dialogue approach to teaching across all areas of the curriculum. This is to give students a democratic voice in the classroom and break down the 'power differential' between teachers and students.  This should lead to a full engagement with the subject matter rather than passive consumption. Students should feel that the learning is worthwhile if they engage with it in this way - instead of simply turning up because they have to, or that they're taking in just a bit more stuff to be regurgitated in an exam or essay that they don't really understand, but know is necessary for a pass.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

BBC News - Atos boss Thierry Breton defends his internal email ban

BBC News - Atos boss Thierry Breton defends his internal email ban.

ATOS ending internal emails (not external ones). My experience is that internal emails are mostly useless, and often get send out to people who don't need them anyway. Much better to use tools such as messaging or Facebook. The problem then of course is companies having to be persuaded to allow such tools on their network. I imagine complaints from IT people about compromises to their network, and from management suspicious of 'frivolous' use.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Every time you say 'learning styles' a kitten dies

KittensArticle by Guy Wallace. More arguments against learning styles. He quotes a number of people who provide evidence against the idea. Such as Harold Stolovich, who provides some good bullet points about what really matters in learning: meaning, structure, clear objectives, clear purpose.

Learning Styles don't predict learning under different instructional conditions. The psychological research doesn't support it either, and brain research suggests that when we are learning the whole of the brain, or at least many different parts of it, are at work - not just the 'visual' or 'auditory' areas.

Learners certainly differ in their interests, and in their preferences for learning. That doesn't mean that producing materials to suit those preferences makes any difference to their learning outcomes. You can't learn from a style independent of content - the materials that you use to teach a particular topic should suit the topic and the interests of the learners.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Learning Styles

An article from Steve Wheeler, about the fallacy of learning styles. He suggests that there is no valid or reliable evidence to support the 'theory' of learning styles.  people who prefer to learn visually will not always learn better when information is presented visually, similarly for people who prefer to learn by listening. What is important is that learners understand the meaning of what they are learning.

A holistic approach, with rich content is more likely to lead to good learning, even if it is simply used to provoke interest from the learners. Regarding the use of multimedia he quotes an article from Reiner and Willingham:
...learning-styles theory is sometimes offered as a reason to include digital media in the classroom. While including multimedia may be a good idea in general (variety in modes of presentation can hold students' attention and interest, for example), it is not necessary to tailor your media to different learning styles. We shouldn't congratulate ourselves for showing a video to engage the visual learners or offering podcasts to the auditory learners. Rather, we should realize that the value of the video or audio will be determined by how it suits the content that we are asking students to learn and the background knowledge, interests, and abilities that they bring to it. Instead of asking whether we engaged the right sense (or learning mode), we should be asking, what did students think about while they were in class?

Monday, 21 November 2011


Looks a bit sparse, but then these are the tools I use and get my information from. Where do colleagues fit on this - do they have to, given that this is an online PLN? I'd put them in the Staff Room.

Personal Learning Networks

An article from Steve Wheeler. Apparently everyone should have a PLN, otherwise you are not fully equipped as a professional. The tools listed are not recommended, but what perhaps should go in the respective sections. My version will follow.



Saturday, 5 November 2011

Pedagogy versus Technology

Pedagogy versus Technology - a  recent post by Doug Woods.  I have to agree with him. Did we have this debate when pencils replaced the slate and chalk, or when OHPs were invented? I think it's often an argument used by people afraid of technology and see it as a threat in the classroom. I think this view is often linked to Number 5 in this List of Myths of Technology in Education, also by Doug. You can pick up a piece of hardware or an application and just use it, see how it works, then think about how it could be used in teaching - have a go with it first - what harm can it do just to try something out? The formal training can come later.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Information overload: Victorian style

I found a good article recently by Terry Friedman. He writes about compiling a list of the worst 100 blogs, as a service to people to save them trawling through the mountains of crap that's out there. In doing so he provides a quote from Oscar Wilde, written in 1886.

Wilde was talking about compiling a list of the worst 100 books to give to university students, and in doing so he provides a remarkably prescient description of what we call 'information overload':

oscar wildeIndeed, it [the list] is one that is eminently needed in this age of ours, an age that reads so much that it has no time to admire, and writes so much that it has no time to think. Whoever will select out of the chaos of our modern curricula ‘The Worst Hundred Books’, and publish a list of them, will confer on the rising generation a real and lasting benefit.

The bit in bold could apply to blogs, and the 'noise' that we get from the internet. Information overload Victorian style! Some things never change.