Work Based Major Project – Dissemination

March 1, 2011

Below you will find a YouTube video containing my dissemination proceedings for the on-line event.

Once you have viewed the video, if you would please:

All three would be fantastic and greatly appreciated, but please leave what feedback you can 🙂

Looking back on alternative media

November 1, 2010

An excerpt from an alternative media assignment

Throughout my previous study, I have learnt many skills that I do not have the space here to list. One specific I want to unpack here is the concept of using alternative media to present assignments. University is all too often associated with 3,000 word essays and the like, but it really does not have to be that way.

I have made use of a variety of media to present my assignments and I am lucky that I work with a University / Faculty that embraces this medium. I have used everything from Poetry to Animation. As long as the medium accurately meets the outcomes required of the assignment, what’s the problem? I would even go to say that my faculty would prefer to see a 5 minute animation than a 1,500 essay! Some examples I have used in past study:

  1. Poetry – depicting a critical incident of a trip to China with Students, learning valuable lessons of pastoral care.
  2. Vlog – talking freely, prompted by notes, about an event. Feedback on this is that it promotes deeper reflection. I have to agree.
  3. Animated presentations – presentations done in Apple Keynote that allow the user to interact with the presentation and advance at their own pace.
  4. Emails to a hypothetical freiend – encourages persuasive techniques around an academic subject.

These are just a few examples of how I have utilised alternative media in my studies, I look forward to a time where assignment submission in these media is common place in all levels of education, because lets be real here, when do you write essays in ‘the real world’?

Trial dissemination method

October 24, 2010

Please feel free to rate and comment on the video.

ILLUMINATE – Anglia Ruskin’s 11th Annual Learning and Teaching Conference

July 8, 2010

Dr. Bill Rankin taking Q&A at the opening keynote

So yesterday I had the privilege of attending Anglia Rusking for the first time in my degree. It was for a conference regarding:

Sharing and disseminating information.
The conference includes two opportunities for you to participate in presentations and workshops on pedagogic projects undertaken by our colleagues. Many of these are the outcomes of work undertaken from current and past Learning and Teaching Projects.

Learning new things.
Throughout the day, and particularly during the lunch period and at the Conference Reception, there will be the opportunity to learn about and experience some innovative ideas that you can try for yourself. They include:

  • Library learning support resources
  • Assistive technologies for marking students’ work and giving feedback
  • Glo Maker – for developing adaptive multimedia learning resources
  • Using Turnitin for preventing plagiarism
  • Using mobile technologies.

In addition, delegates will be given the use of an Apple iPod touch for the day!  Conference information will be available on the iTouches, and there will be help for those of us who have yet to come to terms with this up to the minute technology!

Vice Chancellor’s address.
Our Vice Chancellor, Professor Mike Thorne, will give a keynote address in which he will focus on some of our strategic learning and teaching objectives for the coming year. This will be followed by round table discussions on the issues raised.

Announcement of Teaching Fellowship Awards and Learning and Teaching Projects.
For an exciting finale, we shall be presenting our new University Teaching Fellows, and will announce the successful applicants to our Learning and Teaching Project fun

It was a very enjoyable event with an inspired opening to the event by Dr. Bill Rankin on  ‘Next-Wave Mobility and the Three Ages of Information’ which looked at the development of learning materials from the Scroll to the iPad and beyond towards full interactive e-books for the future.

Next up was ‘Formative Assessment using Web 2.0 technology (blogging) to support students with Asperger’s syndrome undertaking their dissertation proposal’ another inspiring session that showed results of using blogging with Aspergic students.

The second session of the day was ‘New VLE – “same old, same old” – or new opportunities?’ which looked at the development of Anglia’s VLE system in hierarchical format of the different systems being used to create the environment.

All in all the event was mainly focused on staff from the University, but it was something that I was able to draw inspiration from and identify nuggets of information to improve my practice.

Apple Teacher Institute 2010- Cheltenham College

April 16, 2010

This year I was lucky enough to attend the Apple Teacher Institute where I engaged with 4 days of activities at Cheltenham college, all centred around using Apple creative products in Education. I met some wonderful people there, all wanting to develop their skills. There was a representative from Hull University there that offered delegates of the event the opportunity of accreditation through reflection, this was something I jumped at! Not quite the structured reflection I was used to as based on the guide, it was more like a learning log. I chose to produce it as a blog post, which can be seen at my departmental blog here.

It was a wonderful event and I strongly recommend future events to anyone looking to use technology in their teaching.

Development of a new skill within Moodle

March 11, 2010

How can I adapt and improve Moodle?

Previously, I had identified current strengths and weaknesses within Moodle. I will now look to develop a new skill to address a current weakness of the platform.

I had observed that the current system was being used to distribute materials and information effectively to students, but little was happening to gather these same things from the students themselves.

I am currently at the point in the academic year where coursework is being completed from both years 10 and 11. Based on experiences over the past two years, the biggest difficulty students have is ensuring that assessment criteria is met for their assignments, and therefore as a department, we developed paper checklists that students could use to tick off every objective as they completed it. The weakness with this system is that over the course of their assignments, checklists were lost entirely or became tatty in appearance and therefore difficult to read as tasks were added, removed and modified by hand.

As we now have a Moodle system in place, I will look at developing a method of checklists being completed on the Moodle platform.

Research in the official Moodle documentation did not reveal a simple way of achieving this with the standard feature-set of Moodle. I then did some broader research on the internet which lead me towards the official Moodle forums where I came across a thread where others were trying to achieve the same thing. At this stage I had gained knowledge of the extensive support network of other Moodle users from around the world. I then added to this forum post where I detailed my needs for the checklist. I was then quickly responded to by other members of the forum with suggestions that unfortunately did not quite meet my needs.

After a few hours, I then received a message from a forum member that suggested a Module for Moodle that would let me achieve my goal.

Planning and implementation

A Module is something that extends the functionality of Moodle beyond that of what it is capable of as standard. There are currently just over 600 modules for Moodle at the time of writing that extend it in a very many variety of ways. The module that I am planning to implement is simply called: ‘Checklist

From the author’s description:

This is a Moodle plugin for Moodle 1.9 that allows a teacher to create a checklist for their students to work through. The teacher can monitor all the students’ progress, as they tick off each of the items in the list. Items can be indented and marked as optional. Students are presented with a simple chart showing how far they have progressed through the required/optional items and can add their own, private, items to the list.

From the description and screenshot of the Module this appears to fulfil my needs of a Checklist and add the functionality of the Teacher being to able monitor progress, a benefit that I had not previously considered.

The extra information provided by the author of the Module provided information on how to install the plugin into my Moodle platform. This was much simpler that I had anticipated with only three steps to the install:

  1. Unzip the contents of file you downloaded to a temporary folder.
  2. Upload the files to the your moodle server, placing them in the ‘moodle/mod/checklist’ folder.
  3. Log in as administrator and click on ‘Notifications’ in the admin area to update the Moodle database, ready to use this plugin.

I performed the transfer of the Checklist files to Moodle with a free piece of Software called Cyberduck. A simple and effective FTP client I use to transfer files two and from my departments web server.

Once I had followed these steps, there was indeed a new item in my existing Moodle courses called ‘Checklist’.

Before I trialled it with students, I added a sample checklist module instance to a test course I created and created a test student account to see what the student would see and how the teacher can then control it. This proved that the module did provide the functionality I was looking for. I then added it to the coursework centric courses in Moodle and spent a starter of a lesson showing the students how to use it and ensured that I could see their progress once they had transferred their paper copies to the new system.

From this process of developing Moodle with Modules, I have learnt:

  • There is a wide and supportive community of like-minded educators that have a wealth of experience with Moodle that will more than gladly lend a hand if you ask for it.
  • There are many different features that can be added to Moodle through the use of Modules.
  • The skill of developing Moodle with features not currently available with the addition and installation of Modules.

I feel this is a valuable skill that will be used again as I now can combine the knowledge of the various modules available with the ability of how to add them to sculpt and develop my Moodle install towards the needs of myself and my colleagues. It may also occur that there will be issues as I further develop the site, but now my knowledge of the support network provides an experience driven knowledge base for me to seek advice, assistance and recommendations.

How does it work in practice?

Since the Checklist Module has been in use with both years 10 and 11, there are a few features that I feel are missing. As this has been rolled out across two large year groups, the teachers panel gets very cluttered with all the information coming from different students. This makes it difficult for teachers to see a quick overview of how a particular class is doing.

When a checklist is viewed individually, you can see a progress bat at the top that shows the overall percentage of completion of the checklist.

I thought that it would be useful for a teacher to see this view for a class of students together. I made this suggestion to the developer of the Module to which he swiftly replied that he liked the idea and will be including it in future updates of the Module.

UPDATE: Since this post was written, the module has been updated to include the features I requested from the developer.

Replacing the existing files with the updated files of the module was all that was required to perform the update of the module. A reflection of this is that someone who runs a Moodle site must manually check periodically whether module updates are available and perform them manually. This is in contrast to other web based services such as WordPress, another technology in use on the server. WordPress automatically updates itself and the installed modules plug-ins, something I feel would be a welcome addition to Moodle 2.0!

On the initial paper implementations of the checklists, the students were able to add notes to each item. This had the downside that this lead to the checklists becoming unreadable, but this was a feature that was missing entirely from the Checklist Module. This is easily fixed by allowing students to add their own individual items to the checklist. These are easily added, removed and modified leaving no mess as was occurring on the paper versions. Students can also tick these notes off as they achieve them.

So far, the use of the checklist module has not failed and myself and my colleagues continue to see a benefit of the technology and a positive impact on students ability to self manage their assignments.

February 15, 2010

A project over at that I have been working on with and for my department. I wont repeat myself, check out the bio and story so far: