Digital content at #SUSALT17

On Wednesday, I chaired a presentation session at Swansea University’s annual SALT conference “Reaching for Teaching Excellence” (#susalt17). In the session the three speakers all presented examples of what might be summarized as authentic assessment of students engaged in content co-creation through problem based learning.

First up we had Tanya May from Modern Languages who presented “Start where you are, use what you can: an online professional portfolio in the Spanish Class.” For this work Tanya got her Spanish students to create a professional portfolio using Google Sites and therefore develop their language skills, professional profile, and digital skills. She was supported by her student James who walked us through his very professional portfolio.

We then heard from Patricia Rodrigez-Martinez of the Department of Languages, Translation and Interpreting on “Using Wix to create group websites for Business Spanish.” For this work, Patricia got her students to work in groups, form a fictitious consultancy company and set up a site on Wix (a web-site development tool) to look at various economic aspects of a spanish-speaking country or region. Again, this provided to be a valuable opportunity to develop the students’ language, research, communication, and digital skills. We again heard enthusiastic testimony from students who participated, this time in the form of recorded video.

Finally we had a presentation from Richard Davies reporting on some work done by himself and Pedro Telles of the Department of Law on “Using Whatsapp and Wikipedia as Learning and Teaching drivers.” Here, the brief was to investigate the messaging platform WhatsApp from a competition law point-of-view and record their findings in the form of an article on Wikipedia. Some interesting tensions between the traditional essay-writing style of student work and the neutral-point of view required by Wikipedia editors resulted.

All of the presentations were attempts to give the students valuable transferrable skills via a problem-based learning approach, an authentic task and the communication of their results through digital media. It was interesting that students were reported to have been initially reluctant using the same excuse “I don’t do digital” that many of my colleagues make (or are accused of making). Once the initial reluctance was overcome, it would seem that all found the experience valuable and the various projects seem to have been a great success.

The questions from the audience concerned the assessment of the work and one suggestion the speakers may wish to consider for next year is whether students could be involved in negotiating that as well. Peer assessment would also be worth exploring. It became clear from the presentation and questions that it is still important for teachers to scaffold the activity.  Tanya and Patricia established a timeline and checklist for their students. Richard reported that his students were well briefed but nonetheless, some of the work was only uploaded to Wikipedia at the last minute. So normal student behaviour in terms of deadlines was still in evidence.

It was also interesting to me that some of the University’s own procedures occasionally get in the way: for example for the Wikipedia project, the articles were checked by TurnitIn before they were uploaded to the wiki. It would be informative to see if Wikipedia’s own community standards would be sufficient to police that.

To some extent, we are already doing something similar to these reported works in our Group Design Exercise (EG-252) for which our Electrical and Electronic Engineers have been making websites for many years now. However, as an approach, portfolios and creation or co-creation of well-researched digital artefacts is not something we use widely in Engineering. But we are considering assessment reform and problem-based learning so there are lessons that we can learn from this session.

Personally, I quite like the idea of my students contributing to Wikimedia – a Signals and Systems Textbook created by students by students perhaps?

OneNote Class Notebook and Classroom Teams

At Wednesday’s SALT Conference, I presented a demonstration of OneNote Class Notebook to my colleagues. As it was a bit chaotic and unstructured, I prepared presentation in Sway that I made available after the session. (I also promised a video which is still on my to-do-list.)

Interestingly, our own Paul Manning (@PaulCManning) and OneNote Central (@OneNoteC) spotted my Sway and after a short twitter conversation that turned to Microsoft Teams, @OneNoteC tweeted a useful collection of resources on Teams for Education:

Within this collection, there is a link to a Webinar “Modern Classroom Collaboration: Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education” hosted by Raanah Amjadi et al. of Microsoft Canada (Jun 8, 2017) which I signed up for yesterday and watched this morning.

It’s well worth doing the same to get an inkling of how Microsoft is pitching @MicrosoftTeams and @msonenote as a classroom environment that looks viable as a replacement for institutional LMS and VLE offerings. I think that it may well disrupt the market for the simple reason that it’s built on Office 365 and uses the same content delivery and collaboration tools that students will use after graduation. Perhaps, for the first time in this market, there is a set of tools that teachers are already using in their day-to-day work, that can be used to develop courses and activities that provide an authentic and transferable experience to students.

Office 365 for Education is free for all institutions from K-12 through Higher Ed so this is a very smart move!

I intend to introduce students on EG-252 to Teams and Planner (already available at my University) but if the Teams for Classroom features are activated in time, I may well use it for my modules EGLM03 and EG-247 next year.

My Open Story for #101openstories

Open complementing closed - PLE and LMS - why, what for and how?

As an engineer with a keen interest in software development and the web I suppose I come to “Open” with a philosophy formed from my exposure to the Open Source Software movement. I remember reading Raymond’s The Cathedral to the Bazaar, and being fascinated by Richard Stallman, the Gnu Project, and his idea of Copyleft introduced by the Gnu General Public Licence (GPL). When it came to YouTube and Flickr, making my works available via a CC-BY licence seemed the right thing to do. On the web, I’ve used Wikipedia extensively (as you can see from this post) and would agree with others that it’s one of the greatest Open Educational Resources that exist. I have a source code repository on GitHub where the sharp eyed may find the odd teaching resource made available to the public without necessarily having the right permissions.

As a practitioner, I suppose my Open Educational Practice began when I launched this Blog back in 2004. Fresh and Crispy (the name is a pun on my initials) was originally hosted on Blogspot. It has moved a couple of times to a various hosted WordPress and Ghost blogs on shared servers and virtual private servers before ending up hosted on WordPress, albeit with my domain name attached. Most of my early posts were around programming technologies like Java and Web applications. I joined Twitter in April 2007:

and a lot of my early tweets are about the Swansea Learning Lab, an early community of practice here at Swansea University. Here’s a typical (rather depressing) tweet:

I suppose a breakthrough for me came as a ed blogger came when I joined the Connectivist MOOC Plenk 2010 in September of that year.

I remember being dragged in and becoming somewhat obsessive about curating the discussion boards in that MOOC — the evidence of which seems to have sadly disappeared — but I was honoured by being called a Meerkat by one of the participants:

I started tweet chats quite early, #lrnchat (still going strong) was one of the first as the tweet above testifies.

Since then I’ve attended virtual ALT conferences, JISC and HEA events, been a participant and mentor on #BYOD4L, and an organizer on #LTHChat. and one or two further MOOCs.

I find it difficult to reflect on what benefits there have been for me, but there must have been lots. It’s even more difficult to judge what impact I’ve had. But I must have gotten something out of it along with sufficient positive feedback from my virtual friends and real colleagues otherwise I wouldn’t continue to be engaged.

Drafts that will never get written

Inspired by friend and colleague Debbie Baff’s “Homeless blog posts“, I’ve just had a look at my own WordPress draft posts folder. I clearly had things that I wanted to say 3 months ago and I had a critique of HEA fellowship (still not resolved) a month ago. I also haven’t posted anything that wasn’t a tweet since March 2.


Perhaps we should all share our drafts (suitably redacted) from time to time, if only to spark us to get back on the blogging-bike.

My #BYOD4L Story (Part 1)

In advance of the fifth run of bring your own device for learning (#BYOD4L) and inspired by Sheila McNeil’s post “#BYOD4L A story of personal and professional needs and wants“, I thought that I too would reflect on my experience of my last three #BYOD4Ls.

Looking back at my Twitter Archive, I find that my first #BYOD4L contribution was a retweet on 14th July 2014:

I’m struggling to find any blog posts from what was then the 2nd run of #BYOD4L (the first looks to have been in January 2014) so I probably only engaged via Twitter and Google+.

I note that I was sticking my nose in quite early!

For curation, it looks like I was favouring these tools:

Reviewing these today, Diigo, is being updated automatically, I’m an inactive curator on Anne Hole’s BYOD4L Flipboard, I’m still using “favourites” on twitter but have stopped using Pocket, Pearltrees and Evernote!

I’ve had a dig around the Google+ site and Twitter but can’t find anything that I actually created that first outing, but here are a couple of shares that are worth revisiting:

And some opinions that I expressed:

As this post is already getting quite long and #LTHEChat 72 is about to start, I’ll stop there, and continue this story in Part 2 tomorrow.

#LTHEChat 65 on Feedback with Phil Race

In last night’s #LTHEChat Phil Race (@RacePhil) led us on a reflection of the feedback we’ve received and given. Here are the questions and my answers:


All in all

The storify has already been published: #LTHEChat 65: Feedback and feed-forward: language and timing.