Having been immensely resistant to Twitter, believing it to be populated with angsty teenagers and people informing the world of their every banal move, I have been forced to do a complete u-turn (I would be hopeless as a Tory Minister). I started using Twitter seriously a couple of months ago and I am not ashamed to say I was completely wrong and it is a brilliant tool. Because you can control your settings and be as choosy as you like with who you follow, it is really easy to find people who have the same interests or background as you. So, if you are an angsty teenager and just want to tweet about how unfair your life is, you can do so with other angsty teenagers and everyone is happy, or angsty in the case of teenagers.
As a Learning Technologist, I have linked to others who also have a background in education and technology, but much more than that, through following people, I have picked up some fantastic followers with very diverse backgrounds, such as business, healthcare and politics. This is fantastic and although I don’t follow hundreds of people and I don’t have a huge following myself, both are growing and I can honestly say I have learned so much in a very short time from these people. If used well, Twitter is a wonderful tool for developing a really effective Community of Practice. The beauty of it is, you can connect with people all over the world, which is an opportunity to widen your knowledge base even more.
Examples of recent tweets which contain links to some great information and resources:
Tom Kuhlmann @tomkuhlmann - specialises in all things e-learning and has an excellent blog which gives hints and tips on creating good quality e-learning resources. http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/how-to-be-successful-at-rapid-e-learning/
My colleague, flea palmer
@fleapalmer has discovered this excellent resource which I shall certainly be reading.
There are many, many more out there, all with some great stuff which they generously share regularly.
I am a true convert to Twitter and find it an essential part of my everday working life.
If you haven’t done so already, have a look for yourself. http://twitter.com
5th Plymouth e-learning Conference 2010
Learning without Limits: Facing the Challenges.
The conference kicked off with a keynote from Josie Fraser who talked about identity, community and learning online. She discussed digital identities and digital communities and the importance of each. She also discussed the relevance of play and how it was beneficial in designing for learning.
Introduction to Atlantis University.
The Atlantis University project was founded in 2002 by Professor Udo Bleimann, and the aim of the project was to provide better learning and teaching for the HE sector across all disciplines. This is done by matching teaching to learners’ learning preferences. These preferences are: analyst, constructor, organiser, perceiver, communicator and creator. The Atlantis Project aims to build a network of universities across Europe to contribute to Virtual Atlantis University. This is done using systems such as Moodle and MediaWiki and a collaborative slide editor called CoCoMa (collaborative content manipulation) which both students and teachers have access to. Staff across the different institutions work together to create content for the courses. Currently the Atlantis Virtual University has a network of ten universities and one research institute from Germany, UK, Ireland, Poland, Hungary and the USA. Interest in joining is being shown from institutions in Finland, Greece and Wales. The motto of the Atlantis University is “Learn your own way”.
Wisdom of the crowds supporting media students in their creativity process using an iphone application
This session was also part of the Atlantis University strand where Ingo Stengel from the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt introduced one of his undergraduates who had developed a program to assist other students get ideas for their final year project. The student, Nora Hildebrandt, talked about an app she had developed for the iphone which created random words. Nora got the idea from a literature review, in particular the work of Edward De Bono and his random word technique. A randomly picked word is used to generate new associations which in turn allow users to associate and combine the attributes of the word with the problem which needs solving. The final app will be ready for use with students in July 2010.
Learning Objects demonstration
Peter Shipley from Learning Objects demonstrated the system and gave an interesting overview of what features and functionality the software offered.
The keynote speaker was Dave White from TALL (Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning) at the University of Oxford This was a very entertaining talk in which Dave talked about the fact that humans were good at grasping abstract concepts and good at working with tools and technology. The main message from this keynote was that users of technology fell into categories, mainly “Players” and “Pragmatists”. Dave came up with some interesting thoughts, such as: Should we be making the technology disappear i.e. making it seamless and that we need to have both established pedagogies and new innovations as both are essential in education and that the key stakeholders in both groups needed to communicate with each other.
Parallel session 4E The Atlantis Project
International project based learning – Bologna 2.0
Professor Udo Bleimann gave this presentation in which he talked about the Bologna process and how he felt that HE institutions had moved on from this and due to the Pan-European differences in both Bachelors and Masters qualifications e.g. different credit points for each module, semesters instead of academic years etc. how could this be improved for the students?
Professor Bleimann went on to talk about what he has called “Bologna 2.0” in which the student is offered a more flexible way to achieve their degree by introducing more social context and problem solving in interdisciplinary, multinational teams.
In October 2008, he was granted funding through the ERASMUS intensive programme which enabled him to progress with the project. One of the qualifications that can now be gained from the Atlantis University is an International Bachelors in Information Technology (iBit).
The overall findings from the project have been very positive. Students are much more motivated, as are the lecturers. Students have developed intercultural competencies and improved their social skills. The thinking process is more creative, but a high input is required from all participants.
Semantic search scenarios to enhance university needs – based on a multinigual next generation topic map (NGTM)
This presentation was given by Roland Boeving from the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt. Roland rationalised the reason for creating a repository which would utilise semantic searching technologies for the Atlantis University. A topic map (NGTM) had been developed which allowed topics to be linked to other resources such as books, lectures, teachers, students etc. Therefore, using existing ontologies such as MediaWikis, library hierarchies and scientific ontologies and using the NGTM to link and amalgamate the resources saved a lot of time and effort in not “reinventing the wheel”.
Promoting inclusion in the Primary Classroom through the use of assistive learning
This talk was delivered by Catherine O’Connor who is currently undertaking a Bachelors in Education. She described her experiences in working with children with special needs such as dyslexia , autistic spectrum disorder and Asbergers Syndrome in Primary schools and how their learning had been successfully supported in their learning using assistive technologies. Her findings had been undertaken via a semi-structured interview method where she spoke to schoolchildren, parents and teachers. The children felt their learning had improved using the assistive technology and the teachers felt they had also observed improvements. Interestingly, parents and teachers felt there was no educational worth in technology based toys such as Nintendo DS or Nintendo Wii. Maybe they should read “Don’t bother me Mom, I’m learning” by Marc Prensky.
Overall, I found the conference interesting and useful and I felt I had gained something from the sessions I attended.
OK, seriously, where is the time going? Is it disappearing into some greedy black hole somewhere?
Well, since my last posting I have mostly been doing Perception. I have been supporting academics with their various issues as they are preparing their end of term tests. An interesting problem cropped up during a law exam where the students were asked to type an essay type answer to a legal matter. The answer fields had no authoring functionality so several students bombed out of their tests due to pressing a keyboard command such as tab as they were trying to format their essay. This seems a bit lacking on the part of Questionmark so I have mailed them to see what they come up with. Other problems include the Perception server dying just before a large test commenced. the result of this was about 90 students couldn’t access their test which made for stressed students and a stressed academic. This has led me to think maybe I should add “Psychic ability” to my CPD as I never saw that one coming!!
Other work stuff has included some supporting documentation for our e-portfolio software, PebblePad, working on the online tutoring course and fighting with Xerte, so far it is refusing to bend to my will. I WILL win.
I am looking forward to a break over Christmas as I need some time off work in which I can concentrate on designing a workable quantum computer. I need to sort out a couple of small blips such as solving the problem of coherence. I may have to take a couple of days to brush up on entanglement theory and then I feel sure I will have it cracked! Yep, seriously, I think I need a holiday!!
Well, here am I saying I would be good and post regularly and have seemed to have completely missed October! However, having said that I have been kept very busy with Perception, both training and providing support.
Things I have been doing since my last post:
I have been very excited about getting my hands on Moodle. I have been following the tutorials from Lynda.com and with Mark L’s help set up WAMP on my machine which has enabled me to run a mini-moodle server. I have been transferring information from the Sharepoint online tutoring site and at the same time experimenting with the different functionality.
I have also had a look at Xerte (re-usable learning object editor). I would like to be able to publish RLO’s created in Xerte into the online tutoring course. Hopefully will be able to update you on how I have been getting on in my next post.
Another thing which has made me think is how do you get people to engage with online activities in a blended learning course? This can often be a bit of a sticking point. Other than make participants do it by assigning a grade to their online input, does anyone out there have any other ideas which have worked for them??
I will make a conscious effort to make regular contributions to this blog as I haven’t been very good in the past and I do think they are an excellent tool for disseminating information and sharing resources.
I attended the ALT-C conference in Manchester last week with the rest of the Learning Technologies Team and have posted up my thoughts.
I am currently really excited about the power of web 2.0 and its associated media such as YouTube. There are a couple of videos that really capture that there is in fact hope for the human race.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4 Free Hugs Campaign
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-BzXpOch-E&feature=channel Full video of The message – one world
If you take the words Human and Unity, then take the U and N out of unity (because U are Needed to make this work) what are you left with??? HUMANITY. Let’s all work on that.
Marshall Mcluhan was an educator and social reformer whose quotes are erudite, and always relevant. One of his quotes as follows “Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either”. Therefore, maybe we should be open minded about using social networking and sites such as YouTube as tools for education, sharing and utilising collective knowlege and building open communities of Practice (Wenger, 1998).