This isn’t exactly news now (it’s so last week) but I keep thinking about the demonstration at the E3 games expo of an augmented reality version of Minecraft via Microsoft’s upcoming Hololens tool.
(The good stuff kicks in around 2:05)
Sadly from an ed design perspective – for me at least – this is a classic example of a solution looking for a problem. Working in a college of business and economics, the only immediate application for this is 3D bar graphs and pie charts. Wooo.
This post on Gizmodo caught my eye because I noticed the other day that one of our classrooms still has a blackboard / chalkboard that appears to be getting a decent amount of use. At first I just put it down to the conservative nature of some of our older lecturers.
As I read this article though, the arguments made for this older tech (in this case a particular brand of Japanese chalk that has just gone bust) actually made some sense to me.
Projectors do sometimes fail in the middle of a demonstration, solving an equation on a powerpoint slide doesn’t have the same flow and whiteboard markers can run out without you being aware of it before you start.
Even though I feel in my bones that there must be a tech enhanced option, these people – our users/clients – often have deep experience that has led them to do what they do now. We need to leave our assumptions behind and make sure we ask the right questions about current practices before we offer new ones.
(Maybe deep down I knew this when I designed my logo)
The iMoot online Moodle conference was held recently and while the overall standard of presentations was quite high, there were two stand-outs for me.
Jim Judges from the University of Warwick in the UK was probably the presenter of the conference for me – he was eminently comfortable in the online presentation space and kept the audience engaged with his Confessions of a Moodle Trainer. It is a 50 minute recording but well worth the time.
Some great practical tips for recording video – the number of times that I’ve seen people sitting or standing metres away from the camera still astonishes me. Make use of the screen space that you have, please.
In practice, LessonPaths was simple enough to use but not educationally inspiring. It lets you create – or rather curate – a playlist of online resources including weblinks, your own documents, your own created HTML pages and a basic true/false or multichoice quiz.
The weblinks embed in the tool (which I thought was frowned up on web design terms), the documents are also embedded but sit quite nicely, the HTML editor is basic, allowing text and images and the quiz has a nice interface but only provides the most basic of feedback (and no option for custom feedback)
There is an option provided to embed the lesson elsewhere but this just provides a sliderbox with links to each section that open a new window in the LessonPaths site.
In fairness, LessonPaths seems targeted more at a primary school level user and I’m looking at this from a higher ed perspective. While it is easy enough to use and visually acceptable, I don’t think it offers a particularly rich learning experience.
This is the Blendspace overview from EmergingEdTech.com
Blendspace appears to come from more educationally minded developers – they are mindful of grading and tracking student progress and provide options to search a range of education focused sites in the tool. Ultimately it is still a content curation tool.
It does have some other nice features including the ability to add HTML source code to the webpages you can create (I was able to embed the LessonPaths lesson that I just created to one section), you can link your Dropbox and Google Drives to the tool making it easy to import content from there and Blendspace also provides a browser plugin that enables you to bookmark URLs directly to your Blendspace account. You can also search Flickr, Educreations and Gooru (not familiar with the last two) directly from the tool.
The interface is elegantly simple and very drag-and-drop oriented.
Users can create accounts either as teachers or students and teachers can generate course codes so that student progress (comments and likes/dislikes on resources and answers to quiz questions) can be tracked.
As I mentioned, both are relatively simple tools lacking deep interactivity but might be useful in creating more stimulating resource collections than a typical LMS file repository. In terms of understanding and supporting educators, Blendspace is streets ahead of LessonPaths.
The last couple of months a little hectic, with wrapping up one job and starting another (I’m now in the College of Business and Economics (CBE) at the Australian National University (ANU)) and so I have some catching up to do with this challenge but I think I’m up to the task. (Even if they are currently on around Week 9?)
Here is a quick 3 minute overview from Emerging Ed Tech that sums up the TedEd web tool quite nicely.
In a nutshell though, it’s an easy to use web based tool that enables teachers to create a small lesson driven by a YouTube video that can also include reflection/understanding questions, further resources and a discussion forum.
Students need to register to participate in activities (questions and discussion forum) but this means that the teacher is able to give them feedback and respond to their discussion posts.
The teacher is able to choose which of the Think / Dig Deeper / Discuss / And finally sections to include (the ability to reorder them might be nice but this is a minor quibble) and the whole lesson creation process only took me around 5 minutes.
The Think section supports either open answer text or multi-choice questions (up to 15), Dig Deeper offers a basic text editor with support for weblinks and the Discuss forum is simple but cleanly designed and easy to use. It has no text formatting or options for attaching files – however I was able to use HTML tags to format text and add an image. Entering a URL does automatically create a link though, which is nice and there are options to flag or upvote other posts.
TedEd also provides the requisite social media links and lessons can either be set to public or privately listed. (accessible only if you have the direct URL)
All in all this is a very nice, easy to use tool and I could see a range of uses for it. It would be possible to replicate this kind of resource using the existing tools in Moodle however not as simply or cleanly. I would seriously consider having students use it to create their own resources for formative peer-teaching activities in a seminar based approach.
He has asked people to try the tool and post some comments on his blog. So, what the hell, I’m happy to see where this might go. First up is a basic classroom quiz tool called Socrative.
At first glance, this reminds me of Kahoot, which I’ve looked at before. Socrative appears to use a more serious design style, eschewing the bright colours and shapes of Kahoot for more muted tones. Overall, the Socrative interface is a little more user friendly for both the student and teacher, with a clean, simple and logical design.
Creating a basic quiz in Socrative was a very straight-forward process and it was nice to be able to create all of the questions on the same page. I did encounter some problems with creating a multichoice question – for some reason it took repeated clicks (and some swearing) in the answer field before I was able to add answers. Editing the name of the quiz wasn’t intuitive either but overall, the process was simpler than with Kahoot.
Running the quiz went reasonably well however I did encounter a number of bugs, related to network connectivity (3G) and an initially buggy version of the quiz that seemed to crash the entire system. (I had inadvertently added a true/false question twice, once with no correct answer identified. Clumsy perhaps on my part but I would kind of expect this to be picked up by the tool itself).
I liked the fact that the student sees both the questions and the answers on their phone and that the feedback appears there as well. Socrates gives three options for running the quiz – Student paced with immediate feedback (correct answers shown on device upon answering), Student paced – student navigation (student works through all questions and clicks submit at the end) and Teacher paced where the teacher takes students through question by question. In the final two options, feedback appears only on the teacher’s computer (presumably connected to a data project / smart board).
Overall I’d say I rate the overall usability, look and feel of Socrative above Kahoot but the connectivity issues are a concern and I’d say that Kahoot offers a slightly more fun experience for learners by playing up the gamified experience, with timers and scoring.
If you have an interest in gamification, this won’t cover a lot of new ground but I was quite taken with her approach to using leaderboards. She proposes using them to measure only individual improvements (e.g. Jenny improved her grade by 15%) rather than setting up purely grade based competition. This enables lower performing students to feel that they still have a chance to “win” and avoids the demotivating effect that leaderboards can sometimes have.
Having said that though, if a high achieving student performs consistently well, there is no room for them to show improvement – unless they game the system by deliberately underperforming at the start – and less recognition of their achievements. The leaderboard may well be seen as something of an “everybody-gets-a-trophy” prize than a true game mechanic.
So I guess what might work is a leaderboard that uses both direct performance but can incorporate improvement – or perhaps just two separate leaderboards?
Have you had any experience in using leaderboards in education that worked well or failed horribly (I mean, that provided a valuable learning experience to you?) Please feel free to share it in the comments.
(Don’t you hate it when you change your mind about an idea as you write it down)
For all the promise of digital badges, the fact that they still can’t easily be displayed and shared is a significant failing.
If we look at three of the four main types of digital badges that I have discussed recently – accredited, work skills and community – it seems reasonable to assume that a key function of these badges is a visual representation of a badge earner’s skills, achievements and participation in their field of interest.
While there is going to be a measure of personal satisfaction for the badge earner in simply having any of these badges, the ability to share these badges and let the world know who you are and what you can do seems like a vital feature.
Following from this, you would reasonably assume that sharing these badges in your online footprint would be a matter of a couple of clicks. Given the ubiquity of options to easily share every other aspect of our lives online, from where we are to how quickly we ran to get there, it doesn’t strike me that this is a technological issue.
Obviously some aspects of this are outside the control of badge systems such as Mozilla Open Badges, Credly and the like. Ideally – and this is something that I have been telling my teachers for some time now in the process of trying to sell them on badges – platforms like LinkedIn will add fields that make adding badges to your profile simple. At the very least however, it should be a simple thing to get html embed code from the Open Badges backpack that allows us to add our badges directly to any website or service that supports this function.
As it stands, the best we can do currently is add a link to a badge collection – like cavemen from 2009 had to do. Until adding a badge to your digital profile becomes as simple as tweeting or adding something to Tumblr, breaking through with badges is going to be a struggle.
But maybe I’ve missed something – is there an easier or better way?