Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Here is a brief list of what I have been working on related to LTC stuff (Note I also have teaching related responsibilities)
my main reflection is that is a lot of stuff, no links in this post, but various bits have been mentioned previously

•QAA Institutional audit and preparation for visit wrt collaborative provision
•Presentation to LTSN for Information and Computer Science one day conference on the teaching of programming. Topic: Introducing a portfolio approach to teaching programming. One outcome from this activity has been to reduce the mark load for the course by two weeks!! The lecturer also considers that it is better addressing its original educational objectives. Ongoing development and evaluation. This will be written up as an academic paper.
•Clarification of role in ECS by discussion with Deputy Head of School Education
•Various ad hoc support for colleagues – eg: studying for PCAP, making new course proposals, collaborative provision, module specifications
•Planning for Faculty CETL bid, meeting, info gathering and dissemination
•Organising focus groups for exam feedback
•Working with other LTCs identifying job tasks to assist in Job Matching Process
•IBIS project scoping meeting – producing resources for JISC project on shared question banks – discussion/briefing documents.
•Conducted evaluation for MDP/Materials project tutoring large groups a web based approach. Use of quizzes, plus live online tutorials.
•SES – support for assessment innovations
•Specifying student projects which may be used to generate educational resources
•Started keeping a weblog to track the various components of my day to day work. See http://cslearnblog.blogspot.com/
I intend to use this as a basis for indexed web resources (one of my student projects
•Planning/Preparing for PG teaching
•Participating in the Educational Development Network Group
•Contributing to the start up of a new Learning Technologies Research Group in ECS

UK Centre for Materials Education regional day workshop

Excellent, we bring together about 20 academics to talk about the role of group work in engineering education.

On the way there is a free puff for a set of thematic booklets on teaching approaches in Materials Education.

Its very much a dissemination for awareness event – one of the outcomes of the FDTL project Tutoring Materials
Caroline Baillie has come over from Queens in Canada.

Using Post-its to take the workshop forward, and good practice, explaining why we are using this method, and how we could apply it to our own teaching in group work

The rationale –
• some people are more reluctant to contribute,
• post-its are safer than open discussion,
• post-it contributions provides an opportunity for everyone to make a contribution
• making individual contributions enables each individual a chance to engage, focus and feel part of the group activity)
• we put the post-its onto flip charts, cluster the info, and then feedback to the wider group

all good stuff, with really top rate discussion, I wish more of my colleagues were here. However.... if you are doing large group teaching it takes quite a bit of self confidence – and the right sort of room resources

A part of the discussion is sending me back to teachers understanding of student learning, thinks…

Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does. Buckingham, Open University Press;
Prosser and Trigwell (Prosser, M. and K. Trigwell (1999). Understanding Learning and Teaching: The Experience in Higher Education. Buckingham, SRHE and Open University Press.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Possibly the most debilitating process of my entire life......

I have just spent two hours depositing the records of just two publications on our departmental e-prints server.

In theory I should be pleased that we are using GNU software and that I am adding to the collective intellectual wealth of the school/university/known universe. And if that was not politically good enough I am contributing to a movement designed to make academic output available for the world to see - excellent!

Of course it is good to spend time trawling through journals like The European Journal of Engineering Education and Teaching Mathematics and its Applications to retrieve things written long ago, and make sure that they are all linked it. But it makes me dream of an interface like this one (oooh chance for a recursive link...) rather than the rather clunky stuff I have been dealing with

In fact my back aches, my hands ache, and I missed the chance to go for a long walk after supper - so much for the work life balance :-(

Meanwhile I still have emails to send out, meetings to prepare for, and good intentions to see to - like adding yesterday's blog.

Tomorrow is an LTSN materials regional day conference, and the start of a two day colloquium on research and teaching (RESEARCH AND TEACHING: CLOSING THE DIVIDE? AN INTERNATIONAL COLLOQUIUM)
-all excellent, but I have to brief our postgrads on their activity for next week's training event, finish off a forgotten part of my audit report (mostly filed now) plan to get my bike to the menders (another wonderful politically right on organisation, but they don't make me cross).

I have to catch up on the email, and find time to get back to the collaborative provision ready for a meeting on Monday. Oh yes, and I had better put in a few esteem factors....

This posting stuff has its advantages.

Now I am specing a student project which will trawl and index the blogs. My plan is that what keeps me from publishing detailed web pages is the overhead in organising the information. If this can be done programmatically, then it should be quite useful. The questions is whether to derive the index from the contents of the blog, from a previous index (eg my favorites) or from an existing ontology.

Whatever the final decision it would seem worthwhile to keep on publishing.

Today began with a quick skim through the Education Guardian - and a guilty memory of meaning to send something from the tech edition to some friends.

Pretty heavy QAA stuff today things which have arisen include:
Collaborative Provision
Programme Specifications
(ah the codes of practice and the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications)

Then there is student support stuff.

A student who says he wants to do well but he's having trouble with motivation and being lazy. I send him off to look at Tony Buzan Use your Head, and suggest he thinks about striking a deal with a mate to get work done together.

In conversation it seems he comes to a block when he can't complete practical work, and maintains he prefers a theoretical approach. I suggest he goes and tries to analyse the problem from a theoretical perspective.

I also bang on about how to volunteer, how exam regulations work, the difference between prior study and university - particularly in respect of assessment.

RSI is bad, and now my arm aches because of the jabs in preparation for my QAA visit to Sri Lanka. More stuff to catch up on in the blog, but not until I have finished the draft report.

Monday, March 15, 2004

One day conference on teaching programming

Stuff which came up

Using Jython for early programming

A portfolio approach to teaching programming

AnnAnn An animated tool to support the learning of programming

Dialogue as a tool for learning – this was interesting, but would have been enhanced by some reference to the stuff started by Terry Mayes on Vicarious Learning

Saturday, March 13, 2004

It's been a week where various views have been expressed about the importance, relevance or role of learning and educational enhancement in our university.

Our VC and our corporate plan say that we want to be in the top ten for teaching as well as the top ten for research. Our VC says he prefers to think of attaining the balance between research and teaching rather than the tension between research and teaching.

As I see it, my whole purpose at work is to make change happen, and to make education better for our students.

But for many of our academics the whole purpose of their work is to do their own research. At heart I see the issue a cultural one. The secret of success to an academic career is to be ultimately selfish and self serving, Even if the academic is working in a discipline which is focussed around team work, the most successful individuals are those who remain strategic and focussed on their personal success - the golden rule - given a choice between two activities, always choose the one which has the better personal outcome for your own career.

Couple with that the fact that "the academy" the profesoriate who are rewarded by their research prowess, run schools/departments, and that all academics primary allegiance is to their discipline->research area (see beecher academic tribes and territories) and you begin to get a flavour of the strength of opposition to any change in approach to teaching and the support of learning.

Additionally you have the fact that academics are very clever people, and any suggestion to a small change in approach can be met with instant rebuttal, usually on account of the amount of work that the change will generate, but often taking more effort than the small change would have actually generated.

back to my old friend Machiavelli

“There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old system, and merely lukewarm defenders in those who should gain by the new one”
Niccolo Machiavelli 1513

paraphrase of a telephone conversation with an LTSN colleague organising a regional learning and teaching event at home on Wednesday....

"Well I know you people at Southampton have gone up the league tables, but I've been right round the houses trying to get people to come along. everyone I have spoken to has been going to research meetings, working on papers, or something similar."

meanwhile its my job to try to russle up attendance.....

Friday, March 12, 2004

Why God never received tenure at any university...
1. He had only one major publication.
2. It was in Hebrew.
3. It had no references.
4. It wasn't published in a referred journal.
5. Some even doubt he wrote it himself.
6. It may be true that he created the world, but what has he done since then?
7. His cooperative efforts have been quite limited.
8. The scientific community has had a hard time replicating his results.
9. He never applied to the Ethics Board for permission to use human subjects.
10. When one experiment went awry he tried to cover it up by drowning the subjects.
11. When subjects didn't behave as predicted, he deleted them from the sample.
12. He rarely came to class, just told students to read the Book.
13. Some say he had his son teach the class.
14. He expelled his first two students for learning.
15. Although there were only ten requirements, most students failed his tests.
16. His office hours were infrequent and usually held on a mountaintop.

One email conversation today worth reflection on - people who know me will be aware of my oft expressed view that VLEs are the "tool of the devil"...

Q: Do you mean you find our site confusing or the operation of Blackboard

A: I think that the sameness of it all makes it difficult to navigate, nothing about our site specifically more about the names they attribute to things, and the need to put stuff into a particular layout.

I have a rant generally against designers of educational software who are box shifters rather than educationalists. One of the big selling points of systems like blackboard is consistent look and feel - ie sameness. Yet our real life experience tells us that when we go somewhere with few distinguishing features (new buildings, some car parks, hospital corridors) we can find it difficult to navigate and disempowering - hardly conducive to good learning.

Its a bigger issue than that really, because of course, different people have different ways of signing information (I mean the users/students here). We have elaborated mechanisms for dealing with the real world which is in itself very varied, it is more difficult to develop good mechanisms in an artificial limited world which is highly homogeneous.

I guess its different if the only thing you ever do is use one particular blackboard website, but that's certainly not what I do, and neither is it what the students do.

rant off

Thursday, March 11, 2004

It was a chance to revisit the ways in which we can use trojan horses to sneak in educational development activities to Universities.
I had great fun preparing the slides - using the cartoon archive at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

Saw an interesting presentation by Ray d'Inverno from the University of Southampton on the University Ambasadors Scheme. Great way of getting student mathematicians into schools and hopefully getting more well qualified maths teachers.
see http://www.uas.ac.uk/

And then there is all that stuff about the HE Academy, absorbing the LTSNs - which I heard are due to be reduced from 24 to 20. absorbing the ILT and maybe being able to recognise people with existing PGCEs as members without going through the reflective portfolio hell
see http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/

It will be interesting to see if Paul Ramsden's University of Sydney method of rewarding academics and their departments for their scholarlyness in teaching starts to be adopted in the UK. There is some interesting stuff being done there by Angela Brew who is based in their Insitute of Teaching and Learning.

Next thing to do is get ready for an LTSN-ICS event on Monday in
Birmingham. One day conference on the teaching of programming.

The event is being organised by Janet Carter
from Kent and Tony Jenkins from Leeds.

I am doing something on Les Carr's latest innovation. A Portfolio approach to the teaching of programming.

In fact its my role as Les's next door office colleague and drip feed educational developer which sort of led to this blog. Les drops in and asks me about what to do to make things better for the students, we chat discuss and then he goes and does things.

This is a sort of reciprocal thing, he dropped in to my office and said why not do a weblog about all things educational which pass my mind/desk in the course of a day/week. Not sure how good I will be at keeping it up, but its worth a try.

Then there is an LTSN Materials , properly known as the UK centre for Materials Education, regional event to attend and drum up support for. Now there is an example of something which grew up with much nurturing from an academic who was also research intensive. Caroline Baillie used to be at Imperial College, but now has a chair in Engineering Education Research and Development. There is someone who has been able to find the balance between research and teaching.

also chasing bits of info for the CETL bid

writing up the DAT from a recent Institutional Audit
hey ho off to the QAA website...
lots of stuff on guidelines, codes of practice and other relevant stuff

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