16 August, 2012

The Last Post?

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I’m writing what might well be the last post on Cakes. I’ve been posting on here since 2004, but feel a change might be in order - here’s why.

There’s been a push at our institution to stop using blogs for informal communication, and to instead use them for marketing purposes and formal communication. While Cakes is not owned by our institution and much of the work on it has occurred outside of work time, it is known as our team's blog and this change in institutional focus has left me uncomfortable posting on here recently.

Another good reason to move on is that I think that a new blog without links to Edge Hill University would allow me to throw ideas around a bit more, and give me a feeling of moving forward. I’ve been working in the area of Technology Enhanced Learning for a while now, and need a place where I can relight my enthusiasm a little.

Anyway if anyone would like to subscribe, my new blog is called Learning, Technology and Higher Education.

Perhaps others in LTD would like to post links to their new blogs on here too?

09 July, 2012

Designing Multimedia for Teaching Concepts in Science

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In the ‘Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos’ video on the Veritasium YouTube channel Derek Muller talks about his interesting PHD research on ‘Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education’.

In Derek's research surveys had revealed that students had various alternative conceptions on quantum tunneling which could be represented within a small number of answers. Two multimedia lessons were created in an attempt to teach the students about the concept. One lesson which was a lecture style explanation of the correct answer, and the other was a dialogue which included looking at why the misconceptions were wrong. The dialogue lesson was most successful at helping students move to a correct understanding and these findings might guide us when creating resources to teach similar science based topics online.

The video indirectly suggests a minor potential issue to me. Students found the videos that helped them learn best “confusing”, and the ones which resulted in them being more confident about their own misconceptions as “clear”,”concise” and “easy to understand”. Does this mean that using this method of improving learning might lead to lower marks in the National Student Survey for the “Staff are good at explaining things” question? Perhaps existing efforts to encourage students to reflect on and understand their own learning might mean this is not an issue.




Really though, the video is designed to make us think about how appropriate the Khan academy videos are for teaching science concepts. I think that The Khan Academy is going in the right direction with its 'Practice' section of the web site where you need to answer questions correctly to demonstrate understanding before you move on to the next lesson. When I worked through the Maths questions and resources I appreciated having both aspects. However Derek research leads him to an interesting perspective in Chapter 11 'Discussion' when he argues that that learning activities do not have to be 'active' in such an obvious way. Learning can be encouraged through the methods that he talks about in his research. He writes "Depending on the methods employed in multimedia, instruction can be viewed in different ways by students, encouraging different levels of learning."



[via Open Culture - Image by dmpop]

04 July, 2012

What Are the Barriers Preventing Academic Staff From Using New Technologies in Teaching and Learning?

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I asked this question on Quora, as I mentioned last year to see if people had any interesting experiences and insights in this area, and then went on to explore the question further including undertaking some small scale research.


The reason that I wanted to explore this question is that often teaching staff attend staff development sessions and say that they see a value using a certain tool or technology - but the use doesn’t always occur. I’ve had a look for research in this area to see what themes might emerge from that which might help us think about how to remove barriers that exist.


The research I looked at has focused on the perspectives of academic staff and managers in Higher Education, and teachers in schools. The main perceived barriers to general educational technology use seemed to be:



  • teacher’s lack of time (Chen, 2009)
  • teacher’s lack of interest (Chen, 2009)
  • lack of rewards given to teachers (Chen, 2009)
  • lack of money (UCISA, 2010)
  • lack of academic staff knowledge (UCISA, 2010)
  • poor available equipment (Brill and Galloway, 2007)

Some other studies look at individual technologies and the specific barriers connected with them. For example the barrier for those trying to use Computer Assisted Language Learning was that existing off the shelf software they tried to use was not appropriate for their needs (Lee 2000), and they couldn't afford to get their own bespoke software made. Users of Second Life found barriers to be the unusual way that identity is constructed in the environment (Warburton, 2009), and the need for cross departmental work to make the development work worthwhile (Davidson and Goldberg, 2010).


There has also been research that looks more deeply at the reported perceptions, rather than just reporting them.


Lane and Lyle in 2010 looked at how teacher age, gender and experience affected perceptions of the strengths of the barriers. They found that the main influences were teacher experience, and expertise with the technology.


Ertmer (1999) looked at what she called first-order barriers, that is those extrinsic to the teacher like time constraints, and second-order barriers which are rooted in teachers beliefs and therefore usually unnoticed by them.


However you look at all this, the barriers that are reported in the research are wide ranging. Some need to be addressed at a high level in educational institutions, but as Learning Technologists we can work on removing barriers such as
 lack of academic staff knowledge right away.

Note that in this study
 I started my search using the term 'barriers' and not using the term ‘obstacles’. Research such as Rockwell et al (1999), and Freeman and Capper (2000) are examples of research papers using that term.


If you want to look at any of the research mentioned above, I’ve listed them below.



  • Brill, J. and Galloway, C. (2007) ‘Perils and Promises: University Instructors’ Integration of Technology in Classroom-Based Practices’ British Journal of Educational Technology 38(1) pp.95-105.
  • Chen, B. (2009) ‘Barriers to Adoption of Technology: Mediated distance education in Higher Education Institutions’ Quarterly Review of Distance Education 10(4) pp.333-338.
  • Davidson, C. and Goldberg, D. (2010) Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Ertmer, P. (1999) ‘Addressing first- and second-order barriers to change: Strategies for technology integration’ Educational Technology Research and Development 47(4). pp.47-61.
  • Freeman, M. and Capper, J. (2000) ‘Obstacles and opportunities for technological innovation in business teaching and learning’ International Journal of Management Education. 1(1). pp37-47.
  • Lane, C. and Lyle, H. (2010) ‘Obstacles and Supports Related to the use of Educational Technologies: The Role of Technological Expertise, Gender, and Age’ Journal of Computing in Higher Education. 23(1). pp.38-59.
  • Lee, K. (2000) ‘English Teachers' Barriers to the Use of Computer-assisted Language Learning’ The Internet TESL Journal. 6(12).
  • Rockwell, S. et al (1999) ‘Incentives and obstacles influencing higher education faculty and administrators to teach via distance’ Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. 2(4)
  • UCISA (2010) Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for Higher Education in the UK. Oxford: www.ucisa.ac.uk.
  • Warburton, S. (2009) ‘Second Life in Higher Education: Assessing the Potential for and the Barriers to Deploying Virtual Worlds in Learning and Teaching’ British Journal of Educational Technology 40(3) pp.414-426.


27 April, 2012

Campus Pack: Introduction to Wikis

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Wikis were originally created as a very simple way to put information online, that all users could edit. They weren't designed to look pretty, just to be quick and easy to use.


Wikis have developed over time and now it can be hard to see the difference between a content management system and a wiki. Generally though Wikis contain things like widely editable pages, a page history, records of discussions about the page's development, and the ability to subscribe to notifications of changes to the page. Duffy and Bruns (2008) provide a good quick overview of wikis and their uses in 'The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities'.


As some interesting examples of non-education specific uses have a look at:
  • Wikipatterns - A collaboratively updated book about different ways in which wikis can be used
  • Pulp Bard - Colaborative project to translate the Pulp Fiction film script into a Shakespearean equivalent
  • Wikipedia (English Version) - The largest wiki
  • Wikia - A site hosting 1000s of wikis where the communities have collected information about things like travelgames and films.


Many educators have used in Wikis in Higher Education. Some uses we are aware of at Edge Hill include:


Other uses elsewhere in Higher Education include:

Potential benefits reported have included
  • Wikis "supporting social-constructivist models of pedagogy" (Feng Su and Chris Beaumont, 2010)
  • Wikis "invite collaboration and tolerate dissension, moving toward consensus and defined disagreement" (Cummings and Barton, 2008)
  • Students can benefit from quick peer feedback when there is a vibrant community. (Feng Su and Chris Beaumont, 2010)
  • Wikis can be used to promote integration of learning - i.e. "the ability to connect, apply, and/or synthesize information, knowledge and skills across varied contexts" (Barber, 2012)
Potential issues to be aware of, include those related to orientation and usability of the technology.
  • "inadequate socialisation at the start of the collaborative activity was a key obstacle in conducting group projects or activities at a distance" (Dr Shailey Minocha)
  • "When participants fail to form functional groups in their wikis, their ability to engage with the task and to form a community of enquiry... is impaired." (Benson, et al, 2012)
  • Finding the right wiki tool for your particular use. "usability is the key attribute for a positive user experience" (Shailey Minocha and Peter G. Thomas, 2007)
I've started making notes around a few articles and my list might help you get started exploring the literature.

Finally, the following videos have been created to show how certain simple things can be done using Campus Pack wikis.

26 April, 2012

Campus Pack: An Expanded Range of Tools for Blackboard

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Currently Blackboard Learn contains a range of tools for creating and sharing resources, along with different types of communication tools. Campus Pack is a set of tools which will increase the ability of students to create their own content within Blackboard, and will make it easier for them to share their work outside of that environment.


The tools in Campus Pack include Wikis, Blogs/Journals, Podcasts and other content creation tools that can be used for ePortfolio creation. These tools can be added to a Blackboard section by a tutor, or used outside of a classes official module area by a student.


In the next few posts we'll take a quick look at the tools available through Campus Pack, why they might be used in Higher Education, and how you can use them.