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Ed tech must reads: Column #33

First published in Campus Morning Mail 3rd May 2022

Enabling Online Learning: who are the educators? From The Open University

This chapter from The Handbook of Digital Higher Education is of interest for the way it blurs the idea of what ‘teaching activities’ are – placing a surprising number in the ‘third space’ between teaching and administration. Papathoma et al. examine teaching activities most commonly undertaken by 28 people teaching in MOOCs on the FutureLearn platform. Among these, they identity ‘securing funding for course development’, ‘allocating work’ and ‘ensuring rights clearance’ – alongside facilitating the course and presenting videos. It raises some interesting questions about what teaching is in the digital age.

Face to face lectures aren’t dead from Paul G Moss

Paul Moss (Uni Adelaide) makes an impassioned defence of students attending lectures in person, celebrating the cognitive and social presence they provide. He suggests that they should not be livestreamed but that students should still have access to recording for later review. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he has to say – even pre-pandemic, lecturers commonly complained about a sharp drop-off in lecture attendance after the first weeks of semester – but the pedagogical ideas are strong.

Developing feedback literacy: case studies from multiple disciplines from CRADLE

While the importance of good, timely feedback is slowly being understood, it is still not used as well as it might in Higher Ed. CRADLE at Deakin recently held a seminar focusing on Feedback literacy. This post from Juan Fischer Rodriguez summarises the key ideas emerging from this session, including the importance of equipping learners with the skills to take meaningful action informed by the feedback they receive.

Effects of captions, transcripts and reminders on learning and perceptions of lecture capture from IJETHE

Good accessibility (and pedagogical) practice demands the use of captions and transcripts whenever video (or audio) content in provided. For many years, this has unfortunately often landed in the too hard basket due to cost and technology limitations, with effort focused most on meeting legal requirements for disabled students. Fortunately this is slowly changing and we are seeing more research into the impact of wider provision of captions and transcripts. This paper in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education offers some quantitative insights into their impact.

Perusall Exchange 2022 May 16-27 from Perusall

Perusall is an online tool that enables learners to collaboratively annotate learning resources, supporting peer learning and deeper discussion of concepts. They are running a free asynchronous “social conference” from May 16 around the theme of Social Learning. This looks like a great opportunity to explore learning and teaching modes beyond our prevalent synchronous modes.

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Ed tech must reads: Column #32

First published in Campus Morning Mail 26th April 2022

Intel calls its AI that detects student emotions a teaching tool. From Protocol

Phrenology was a popular pseudoscience in the 19th Century that posited that we might be able to predict mental traits based on the shape of people’s skull. In unrelated news, ed tech vendor Classroom Technologies, which sells an overlay for teaching in Zoom called Class (that actually isn’t terrible), has announced that they are planning to test AI based tools to measure learner engagement using facial recognition technology. This handy article outlines how it may or may not work.

Webinar 28/4/22 12 noon AEST – Shouting into the void? Student engagement in the online synchronous classroom from ASCILITE TELedvisors Network

The question of student engagement in online synchronous classes like Zoom has been a hot topic in recent years, with wide ranging debate about the ethics of forcing students to turn their cameras on. Dr Katie Freund, the TELT manager at the ANU medical school, will discuss some of these issues and offer some useful strategies in a webinar this Thursday for the ASCILITE TELedvisors Network.

Catching AI generated assessments from Brenton Krenkel (Twitter)

Brenton Kenkel is a political scientist at Vanderbilt University. He recently fed some of his essay questions into GPT-3, an AI text generation tool from Open AI to see what it might create. He shares the surprisingly high quality responses that he got back in this tweet, which leads into a fascinating discussion about the future of assessment and academic integrity.

CC4 Collaborate22 – Collaboration in Higher Education videos from Vimeo

The tendency for teams, departments and disciplines to exist in silos has long been recognised as a weakness of Higher Education, with institutional efforts to foster interdisciplinarity achieving varied levels of success. The University of Calgary recently worked with London Metropolitan University to run a symposium on the matter and these 17 videos (~15 mins each) capture some of the rich discussion about work in the field.

Why Wordle Works, According to Desmos Lesson Developers from Mathworlds

By now, many of us have played Wordle and the many variants (Quordle/Octordle/Sedecordle/etc) and possibly even moved on. This piece offers some nice insights into the ludological principles that make games like these so successful and the elements to consider (e.g. many paths to success, freedom to fail) in wider learning and teaching activities.

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Ed tech must reads: Column #31

First published in Campus Morning Mail 19th April 2022

Blended vs Hybrid learning – the debate continues from Clare Major

If there is one thing we love in Higher Ed, it is an ongoing debate about what things should be called. The nomenclature of modes of teaching is certainly a key part of this. In this lively Twitter thread discussion, Clare Major (@ClaireHMajor) asks whether the use of “hybrid” to describe synchronous teaching with an in-person and an online cohort represents a recent definitional shift. It doesn’t necessarily resolve the question but there is a wide range of perspectives about the language used and why it is.

Do you have the skills to succeed in the online learning industry? From The Tech Edvocate

As the blended/hybrid/virtual/online/flexible learning space continues to expand – not just in universities but also in schools, government and corporates – a growing number of academics are considering career shifts. This brief (American) article outlines some of the key roles that you might find and the key (mostly technical) skills needed to be employable.

Integration of Instructional Design and Technology (Volume 2) from Pressbooks

This rich free resource was created by participants studying the EDUC5103: Integration of Instructional Design and Technology unit at Cape Breton University (Canada). It’s a mixed bag, ranging across project-based e-learning, the pedagogy of AR/VR, accessible student feedback and connectivism for ESL but is handy and also nicely showcases the functionality of the Pressbook authoring platform.

Mobilising screencast technology and ipsative design to transform feedback practices from Academic Voices

Ameena L Payne from Deakin University takes a deep dive into new ways to think about feedback from both technological and pedagogical perspectives in this fascinating chapter of a recent book about COVID led changes to learning and teaching. She offers a vision of feedback that is more dialogic and supportive of student engagement in the process via the use of well-considered questions and comments. It additionally adds richness by including video with audio commentary of work as it is marked up and discussed. Always great to see thinking on feedback moving forward.  

Moises – Mastering and audio extraction app powered by AI from Moises.ai

This is an interesting example of AI being applied to playing with music. It is far from the only tool like this but it is simple and fast and allows you to upload or link to music files, which it then splits into component tracks (e.g., vocals, drums, bass and guitar) that you can adjust or mute to create basic remixes or jam along. I was able to add links to YouTube video and songs on Bandcamp that it magically sucked in in a matter of minutes. It also supports basic remastering of poor-quality phone recordings informed by a better reference track. It is a Freemium tool for mobile and desktop

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Ed tech must reads: Column #30

First published in Campus Morning Mail 12th April 2022

Is there still a future for online and blended teaching? from WonkHE

WonkHE can be a bit clickbaity and this piece recycles some tired tropes about pandemic driven emergency remote teaching (ERT) that leans heavily on feelings over facts and draws questionable conclusions about online/blended learning based on an emergency response.(It’s a bit like complaining that the ER department of a hospital isn’t really addressing underlying societal health issues). Nonetheless, the authors do manage to find their way to some reasonable suggestions for the future.

Economics of Squid Game from Wooten & Geerling

This site from two academics at Monash and Penn State Universities expands on their previous work in using pop culture – the South Korean Netflix smash Squid Game – to illustrate and enliven principles of economics. Ranging across game theory, micro and macro economics and labour principles, they offer suggested teaching activities and prompt questions for students. (Thanks to the TaLT team at Monash for sharing this)

Beauty in online learning environments: A quantitative study of the impact of expressive aesthetics on student engagement in blended courses from Shane Kelley (Thesis)

This thesis from a student at Bethel University isn’t perfect (it’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize) but it does offer an interesting exploration of the impact of aesthetic elements in the LMS on learning and teaching outcomes. In a time where the discussion about an LMS can see to focus unduly on whether it looks tired or old-fashioned, it’s worth remembering that functionality still makes a significant difference.

BioRender Poster builder from BioRender

I don’t work in the sciences but I do know that making posters for conferences can be painful when you don’t have design skills. The excitement about this tool in the responses to the tweet about it was enough to convince me that this freemium drag and drop tool is well worth a look.

PolyCam 3D scanning app from TikTok

This is another tool that I couldn’t resist having a play with as soon as I stumbled upon a video about it on TikTok. It’s a phone app that lets you 3D map a physical space and then (apparently) use AR tools to explore it. There seems to be a little bit of a learning curve but within 10 mins I managed to create a photographic 3D model of my kitchen that I could spin about and zoom in on details in. No idea how to do the AR side yet – support materials are a little thin – but it has great promise.

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Ed tech must reads: Column #29

First published in Campus Morning Mail 5th April 2022

Zoom and Room: Hidden labour from Lawrie : converged

Sometimes the problem with doing a job well is that few people see how much effort is put in behind the scenes. This reflection from Lawrie Phipps, a UK based education technologist describes some of his experiences in the early stages of hybrid/hyflex teaching – or as he calls it “Zoom and room”. While leaders will say to skittish academics, ‘just turn up, do your lecture, some students will be in person and some will be online’, students online need to be supported, audio feedback in venue must be dealt with and recordings captioned and put online.

Why has higher education decided on Zoom? From Bryan Alexander

Education futurist posed a simple but revealing question on Twitter last week – why has so much of Higher Ed moved to Zoom for teaching? After all, Zoom isn’t a conventional education technology and there are many options in the marketplace. From the myriad responses, he has crafted this summary post. Some of the key reasons identified included reliability/stability, familiarity, cost and ease of use. But there are many more. He digs into the pedagogical side of Zoom’s success as well in this thought-provoking piece.

Short and sweet: the educational benefits of microlectures and active learning from Educause

While we are thinking about the use of video in learning and teaching, the continuing shift to recorded content has created opportunities to reimagine the timing of learning and teaching activities. Freed from synchronous time, the trend towards chunking ideas and content does appear to be providing more effective educational experiences. This piece from Hua Zheng describes such a scenario and offers some valuable guidance for doing it well.

AI art and copyright from Kate Crawford (Twitter)

I’ve shared my fascination with AI generated art here previously and this Twitter thread uncovers some of the interesting issues emerging in terms of where AI generated content sits in terms of IP law. (In a nutshell, without a human element, it can not be copyrighted). With AI flourishing in the text generation space as well and contract cheating services increasingly adding this to their bill of fare, this is an area to keep an eye on.

Libertas Veritas: Freedom and Truth from Luke Watsford (Deakin Uni)

Twine is a beautifully simple yet powerful free tool that can be used to build interactive decision tree type text games. Luke Watsford, the copyright officer at Deakin, has used it well to create an engaging simulation where you are tasked to lead the misinformation/propaganda unit for a foreboding totalitarian regime. Shift public opinion and keep the glorious leader happy as you explore key ideas in information and media literacy.

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Ed tech must reads: Column #28

First published in Campus Morning Mail 29nd March 2022

The value of a Weekly Preview Video from Teaching@Sydney

As Zoom continues to lower barriers to using video in education, more and more educators are normalising its use to communicate with students asynchronously. Preview videos that outline what is coming in the week can enhance teacher presence, contextualise learning and shed light on questions from previous weeks. This post from Matthew Thomas at Sydney Uni describes the use of preview videos in an education unit with multiple lecturers and offers both technological and pedagogical tips.  

Bourdieu and Higher Education from Meet the Education Researcher (podcast)

Most people no doubt have their own opinions about the root causes and solutions to questions of power relationships in universities, but the French theorist Pierre Bourdieu has probably given this more consideration than many. This 20 min podcast from the Education faculty at Monash is part of a rich series examining contemporary issues and ideas in education research. In this, Troy Heffernan (La Trobe) dives into ideas of power in the academy and the things that universities don’t want you to see.

Learner and User Experience Research from EdTechBooks.org

User Experience design (UX) is, not surprisingly, a field of increasing importance as we spend more and more time online. Every aspect of the layout of a webpage including colours, shapes, locations and images influence our behaviours. Naturally these design aspects also apply to education technologies. What is sometimes less well understood is that the principles that work for an online shop don’t always translate directly to the more complex world of online learning. For this we have Learner Experience (LD) design. This free e-book from Schmidt et al is an invaluable resource for anyone that needs to understand how to design online spaces to support learning and teaching.

Students’ perceptions of, and emotional responses to, personalised learning analytics-based feedback: an exploratory study of four courses from Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education

A lot of discussion around the use of student activity data to automate feedback and identify and intervene when students are at risk – Learning Analytics (LA) – has focused on what’s possible and the ethical side of things. As the tools and systems have matured, we are now starting to see more work exploring the impacts of the use of LA in teaching. This paper from Lim et al. looks at how this feedback affects student behaviour in four courses in different disciplines in terms of positive and negative activation and deactivation.

2022 PressEd Conference (tweets) from Twitter

This conference about innovative uses of WordPress in education and elsewhere has been and gone but deserves a mention for its interesting format. It is held entirely on Twitter, with presenters scheduled for set times where they make their presentations in a flurry of tweets, all using the hashtag #pressedconf22. This means that it is possible to discuss things in real time and follow the tweets back later.

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Ed tech must reads: Column #27

First published in Campus Morning Mail 22nd March 2022

Proof points: college students often don’t know when they’re learning from The Hechinger Report

Lurking in the background of discussions about student evaluations of teaching and collaborating with them on learning design is the question of whether students know what good learning and teaching practice actually is. This article discusses Harvard research demonstrating that while students taught physics with active learning showed greater mastery, they felt that they had learned more from traditional lectures. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t engage with students about their learning experiences – they will always know when it’s bad – but we do need to reflect more on what they think is good and why.

Big tech always fails at doing radio from Matt on audio

While this article is about moves by big tech companies like Spotify and Amazon to create ‘radio 2.0’ without a deep understanding of what makes radio work, it isn’t hard to draw comparisons to the edupreneurs who try to disrupt learning and teaching without engaging with educators. Matt Deegan identifies two key flaws in the approach taken by big tech with their radio replacements – a lack of understanding of how/why people consume radio and their walled garden approach to the medium. Both of these arguably are a result of the needs of these new platforms to be successful and the constraints of working only with music licensed in their particular ecosystems.

OK google: what’s the answer? characteristics of students who searched the internet during an online chemistry examination from Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education

As high-stakes assessment has shifted online during the pandemic, maintaining academic integrity has become ever more pressing for universities. This study from Schult et al. (2022) delves into the behaviours and motivations of chemistry students in online exams, with as many as a third being at least tempted to cheat for “maintaining positive self-perception and having a low expectation of being caught”. Part of their rationale was that they expected their peers to cheat and didn’t want to be disadvantaged. Lack of prior knowledge and low engagement were also tied to these behaviours. The authors go on to suggest options for designing better exams including more scanning of handwritten work.

Blogging an Unpublished Paper: South African & Egyptian Academic Developers’ Perceptions of AI in Education: Process from Maha Bali

Maha Bali is a leading light in the education design and faculty development space and brings vital perspectives from the wider world. She blogs here about a paper that she wrote about academic developer perspectives on the practical use of AI in teaching which missed a publication deadline but was recently resurrected and updated. It will be ‘published’ on her blog in digestible chunks and the first can be found here.   

GameGuruMax from The Game Creators

Building video games can seem like a massively daunting venture, with arcane coding, asset design and creation and the development of literal worlds. In truth, there have been tools on the market for many years to greatly simplify this process, reducing it to dragging and dropping. In a past life, I got very excited about using something called First Person Shooter Creator to build (non-shooty) educational games. The quality of my work may have been mixed but as a non-coder, making a thing was thrilling. The creators of that software are this week releasing GameGuruMax, a greatly updated version of that software. (It’s around $40 until Friday) I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.

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Thoughts on: Papers citing Whitchurch on the Third Space in HE

This is mostly just to capture my brief notes on works of interest with a focus on the Third Space in Higher Education that have drawn on the work of Celia Whitchurch (2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, etc).

Carroll Graham – Changing technologies, changing identities (2013)

Joint working and the building of communicative relationships and networks seen as more important than keeping to existing boundaries and structures

Bounded = standard
Blended = perimeter

Fyffe – Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable: a narrative account of becoming an academic developer (2018)

About people entering AD roles either from teaching OR third space professional roles (as though ADs aren’t third space)

Stoltenkamp – The third-space professional: a reflective case study on maintaining relationships within a complex higher education institution (2017)

Key aspect of TS work success is visibility and building relationships

Watermeyer – Lost in the ‘third space’: the impact of public engagement in higher education on academic identity, research practice and career progression (2015)

Academics moving into 3rd space roles and feeling like they are losing their academic identity (stature?)

Smith – ‘So what do you do?’: Third space professionals navigating a Canadian university context (2021)

Role ambiguity, liminality, self-advocacy

What are the defining elements that shape professional identity for TS staff?
What structures/practices limit/support the work of TS professionals?

Mapping staff structures and relationships
I CAN’T TALK ABOUT CROSSING BOUNDARIES IF I CAN’T DESCRIBE THESE BOUNDARIES

Edvisors need to be in the vision discussions about institutional directions and initiatives

Veles – Imagining a future: changing the landscape for third space professionals in Australian higher education institutions (2016)

Identity theory, boundaries and gatekeeping (Barth, 1969; Jenkins 2008)
How professionals see themselves in relation to academics (Krucken et al, 2013)

Smith, C., Holden, M., Yu, E., & Hanlon, P. (2021). ‘So what do you do?’: Third space professionals navigating a Canadian university context. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 43(5), 505–519. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360080X.2021.1884513
Whitchurch, C. (2008). Shifting Identities and Blurring Boundaries: the Emergence of Third Space Professionals in UK Higher Education. Higher Education Quarterly, 62(4), 377–396. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2273.2008.00387.x
Fyffe, J. M. (2018). Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable: a narrative account of becoming an academic developer. International Journal for Academic Development, 0(0), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2018.1496439
Whitchurch, C. (2012). Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The rise of “Third Space” professionals. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203098301
Veles, N., & Carter, M.-A. (2016). Imagining a future: changing the landscape for third space professionals in Australian higher education institutions. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 38(5), 519–533. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360080X.2016.1196938
Watermeyer, R. (2015). Lost in the ‘third space’: the impact of public engagement in higher education on academic identity, research practice and career progression. European Journal of Higher Education, 5(3), 331–347. https://doi.org/10.1080/21568235.2015.1044546
Stoltenkamp, J., van de Heyde, V., & Siebrits, A. (2017). The third-space professional: a reflective case study on maintaining relationships within a complex higher education institution. Reflective Practice, 18(1), 14–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2016.1214120
Graham, C. (2013). Changing technologies, changing identities. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 17(2), 62–70. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603108.2012.716376
Whitchurch, C., & Law, P. (2010). Optimising the Potential of Third Space Professionals: Final Report. Advance HE. https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/optimising-potential-third-space-professionals-final-report
Whitchurch, C. (2018). Being a Higher Education Professional Today: Working in a Third Space. In C. Bossu & N. Brown (Eds.), Professional and Support Staff in Higher Education (pp. 11–21). Springer Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-6858-4_31
Whitchurch, C. (2009). The rise of the blended professional in higher education: a comparison between the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Higher Education; Dordrecht, 58(3), 407–418. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/10.1007/s10734-009-9202-4
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how-to Interviews methodology

Thoughts on: Focus on Methodology: Eliciting rich data: A practical approach to writing semi-structured interview schedules (Bearman, 2019)

Well that’s a lot of colons.

This is just a quick post but I found this paper really insightful and accessible and wanted to share it. In a nutshell, Bearman lays out some sensible practical tips for getting the most from semi-structured interviews.

She starts with a general outline of what qualitative data offers in a research project in terms of providing insights into human experiences and behaviour that raw stats struggle to provide.

For this reason, she effectively hammers home the point that the questions used in this kind of interviewing need to be framed in such a way as to draw on a participant’s personal experiences, ideally tied to specific points in time rather than more generalised opinions, as it is the former that can yield richer descriptive data.

She spends some time outlining the hows and whys of creating more open questions that spark discussion and invite the participant to answer more in their own voice.

She neatly summarises the key ideas here:

Ten Heuristics for Interview Schedules That Elicit Rich Data
1. Know your phenomenon of interest.
2. Aim for experiences more than opinions.
3. Start with a good warm-up question.
4. Brainstorm around the experiences you want to know about.
5. Use open-ended questions.
6. Consider the valence of your questions.
7. Leave space for interviewers to improvise; probes can help.
8. Start concrete and easy, finish with abstract and hard.
9. Final reflections offer opportunities for interviewee open comment.
10. Pilot, adjust the schedule and pilot again.

As someone right at the point of working on my semi-structured interview questions, this article was immensely valuable. (Thanks Dwayne Ripley for sharing)

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Nicolini practice practice theory

Thoughts on: Davide Nicolini – The practice turn as an invitation to a common inquiry (2014 lecture)

Nicolini has been recommended to me for some time as someone with a practical grasp of “practice theory” (he makes the point that this isn’t really a theory at all) and this opening lecture from what appears to be a conference/symposium at Universiteit voor Humanistiek in 2014 offers a handy primer to some of the core ideas at the heart of all the various flavours of this way of thinking.

This is largely a transcription of my scrappy notes taken as I watched the video.