E-Learning Environments team blog
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    We support Staff and Students using technology to enhance teaching & learning.

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    Archive for the 'Digital literacies' Category

    Assessment born digital – Sian Bayne at UCL

    By Mira Vogel, on 12 May 2015

    Sian Bayne portraitSian Bayne is Professor of Digital Education in the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. She convenes the Digital Cultures and Education research group and teaches on the MSc in Digital Education, a fully-online course. At an earlier ELE Assessment & Feedback Special Interest Group (link for UCL people), Tony McNeill from SELCS – a graduate of that MSc – recommended we invite Sian to talk about assessment in a digital age, she kindly accepted, and Anthony Smith (UCL’s Vice Provost Education & Student Affairs) chaired the event. The abstract:

    “The study and production of text is a defining academic activity, yet the way in which texts are shaped and shared in internet spaces presents an intriguing set of challenges to teachers and learners. Pedagogic work with the new generation of web artefacts requires us to work within a textual domain which is unstable, multilinear, driven by a visual logic and informed by authorship practices which are multimodal, public and sometimes collective. How can we critically approach these new writing spaces, as learners, teachers and scholars? Drawing on experience of conducting such assessment within a large, online Masters programme, the talk will demonstrate how assignments born digital can be rich, critical and creative. It will also consider how as teachers we can manage, mark and organise for these assessment forms.”

    Sian’s MSc students have a range of digital skills. As a fully-online course contact is crucial, so students are required to blog frequently for a term, privately by default but shared if preferred, receiving individual feedback in the form of comments on posts. This is necessarily labour intensive for the teaching team since it is intended to replicate the one-to-one tutorial within the blog space, as far as possible. To build students’ confidence and skills with multimodal presentation they’re set a number of formative tasks in advance of higher stakes assessment – for example to rework a passage from Plato’s Phaedrus.

    For high stakes assessment students have a choice – they can submit work in established essay form but have the option to instead work on digital artefacts out on the Web. Where these are public they can bring new and exhilarating kinds of attention, sometimes from the thinkers whose work they are referencing. Increasing numbers of students are choosing this multimodal alternative (a side effect is that the public nature of the work also raises the profile of the MSc).

    Proposals to assess beyond the essay often prompt questions about the appropriateness of other modes for academic communication – as one person asked during the discussion, don’t images and music fall within a cultural domain apart from academia, an emotional realm of implicit meaning and taste – isn’t it more art than scholarly communication? Sian emphasised that multimodal assessment shouldn’t be treated as a special case, and that the MSc assessment criteria are conventional and shared with other postgraduate courses in Edinburgh. Moreover the student work we saw was sophisticated. A student used a screen capture of his explorations in Google Earth and Google Streetview, rhetorical forms attuned to the content of his work on flaneurship. To pose questions about the meaning of originality in a copy-paste age, another fabricated a plagiarised essay with each section linked to its source, juxtaposed with an essay on the same subject which adhered to established norms of academic integrity.

    There was a question about whether assessment criteria conceived with text in mind could adequately comprehend the sensuality and interpretive ambiguity of multimodal work. Sian observed that the MSc assessors were alive to their burden of responsibility to interpret the work. There is a single holistic mark rather than breaking down by criteria, and there is moderation and sometimes third marking. Trust between marker and student is important; students and tutors need to know each other because assessing this kind of work depends on building a relationship between tutor and students. Sian explained that students are asked to propose their own assessment criteria in addition to the regulated ones. There may be much to learn from assessment practices in visual arts when assessing multimodal work in humanities and social sciences. There was a discussion about the role of images – it was clear that they needed to be doing rhetorical work, and students who simply used them illustratively or ornamentally tended to be marked down.

    On more than one occasion Sian observed that “text is not being toppled”. Digital modes aren’t taking over; it’s more a case of what exceeds, rather than what comes after, ‘the essay’. Programmes and institutions who are doing this now are the ones which are willing to experiment.

    If you’re at UCL and want to experiment with multimodal assessment, E-Learning Environments looks forward to working with you. Contact your school’s E-Learning Facilitator to discuss – Jessica Gramp (BEAMS), Natasa Perovic (SLMS), and Mira Vogel (SLASH). At UCL there are plenty of precedents, including Making History (History Department), Internet Cultures (Institute of Education), Digital anthropology, the BEng, and an object-based learning module called Object Lessons (more on the latter to come). See also Laura Gibbs from the University of Oklahoma in a short conversation with Howard Rheingold about how her students retell old stories in new ways.

    Creating groups in Lynda.com

    By Jessica Gramp, on 28 April 2015

    As you may be aware, UCL has a site licence for lynda.com which offers a huge range of video tutorials supporting learning in software, creative and business skills –all free to UCL staff, and currently enrolled students.  Individuals are welcome to explore the opportunities that lynda offers on their own and we have also created playlists that may be of interest such as coding, personal productivity or management fundamentals which bring together courses under a shared theme.  You can also create your own playlists and share them with colleagues or students.  Visit www.ucl.ac.uk/lynda for more details and to log on.

    If you would like to take things a step further and integrate Lynda more fully into your courses then there is also the possibility of creating a group in Lynda which you can administer.  You can add students to the group, assign playlists and keep track of their progress.  This gives you more control and enables you to manage the learning of students more effectively.  If this is something you are interested in or you would like to work with us to map your curriculum to Lynda content then please do get in touch with us by emailing lynda@ucl.ac.uk

    Please note that UCL is currently running a trial of Lynda.com which is funded until at least the end of October 2015. However, due to its uptake by many students and staff we hope to continue access to this service in the coming years. Funding for the continuation of this service will be confirmed by the end of May 2015.

    When UCL students edit Wikipedia

    By Mira Vogel, on 15 April 2015

    A presentation by Rocío Baños Pinero (Deputy Director, Centre for Translation Studies), Raya Sharbain (Year 2 undergraduate, Management Science and Innovation) and  Mira Vogel (E-Learning Environments) for the UCL Teaching and Learning Conference, 2015. Here’s the abstract, presentation graphics embedded below and in case you can’t see that, a PDF version of those.

    See also the UCL Women’s Health Translatathon write-up.

    Meet Jess, Jack, Stuart & Heather – realistic voices for free* download

    By Jessica Gramp, on 3 March 2015

    I have recently started listening to my books and papers, rather than reading them. This frees me up to do other things while I listen, such as cook, take a bath or do some tidying up. It also gives my eyes a well needed break from staring at a computer screen or paper.

    As part of an online e-learning course I am helping to develop, I am using the TechDis Jess voice to provide audio files of the commentary, as an alternative to reading. I have had to tweak some of the text – for example, UCL needs to be written with spaces between each letter in order for Jess to pronounce each letter individually and I needed to add a hyphen to CMALT (C-MALT) for it to be pronounced correctly. But for the most part I can leave the text much as it is typed. I then run it through a free, open source software called Balabolka to produce an audio file that participants on the course can download and listen to.

    TechDis Jess and other UK voices (including Scottish and Welsh options) are available from www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/technologymatters/voices.

    Balabolka is available from: www.cross-plus-a.com/balabolka.htm.

     
    Listen to a sample:

    Listen on SoundCloud…

    *Staff and learners studying at England’s UK and FE institutions can download the voices free of charge and those at Scottish and Welsh institutions can download local voices.

    Augmenting our realities and working together

    By Rod Digges, on 24 February 2015

    Last year I had the opportunity to contribute to BASC2001 an interdisciplinary course looking at the world of objects, the stories they hold and how they are researched and represented.
    Updating the materials for my contribution this year, part of which involves the different ways objects can be represented digitally, I came across a number of online tools that I thought it would be worth writting about, they demonstrate how much easier it’s becoming for those with no great technical expertise to create 3D models, Augmented Reality scenarios and also to collaborate in website design.

     The model above, a small maquette, made by a student at the Slade in the 1950’s was captured by simply taking a series of 25 photos and uploading these to http://apps.123dapp.com/catch/ a free cloud service that converts pictures into 3D models. The service provides an embed code that allows models to be placed in a web page but doesn’t allow annotation, https://sketchfab.com/ does, so the model files were re-uploaded there to provide the model shown above.

    The creation of models like this is now a fairly simple task and once created newer online tools provide even more opportunities for the ways in which they can be represented; http://www.metaio.com/ has a downloadable Augmented Reality (AR) application (free for basic use) that allows models to be animated and viewed using ‘real world’ triggers like QR codes, images, or even locations.
    By downloading an AR browser (from http://www.junaio.com/) to an Android or Apple mobile device these augmented realities can be viewed. If you’re interested in seeing for yourself, load the junaio browser onto your smartphone or tablet, scan the QR code below and then point it at the picture of the model below.

    junaio_channel_378275_qrCode     Boy's head

     

    As well as looking at ways of representing objects, students of BASC2001 have, in groups, to create a virtual exhibition of their allocated objects. While researching services that might help students with this task I came across https://cacoo.com – an online tool that allows users to simultaneously edit things like wireframe outlines for web sites – wireframing is a way laying out the essential structure of a website prior to ‘meat being put on the bones’, it’s an important step allowing teams to layout and discuss design decisions prior to committing to the work involved in realising a particular site.
    One of the great features of the cacoo service is multiple editors can work simultaneously on the same page and view in realtime all the change that are being suggested. Another feature is that collaborators don’t need high level web design skills in order to contribute – an important consideration for students coming from a range of disciplines and having very different levels of digital literacy.
    The ability to edit can be controlled by invitation only but, for the brave, layouts can set to be world editable like this one – https://cacoo.com/diagrams/Ubzjolw5T8HBAtTw

     

    2015 Horizon Report – what are the six key trends in E-Learning?

    By Clive Young, on 17 February 2015

    nmc_itunesu.HR2015-170x170Every year the NMC Horizon Report examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and ‘creative inquiry’ within the environment of higher education. The report, downloadable in PDF, is compiled by an international body of experts and provides a useful checklist trends, challenges and technologies in the field and provides a useful benchmark of what is most talked about at the moment.

    The key trends identified in the in the short term are

    • Increasing use of blended learning
    • Redesigning learning spaces

    Longer term trends are: growing focus on measuring learning, proliferation of open learning resources, advancing cultures of change and innovation and increasing cross-institution collaboration.

    Key ‘solvable’ challenges are

    • Blending formal and informal learning
    • Improving digital literacy

    More difficult challenges are; personalising learning, teaching complex thinking and the ‘wicked’ ones are competing models of education and the old chestnut, rewarding teaching.

    The important developments in educational technology they identify are in the short term are

    • Bring your own device (BYOD)
    • Flipped classroom – same as last year

    Longer-term innovations are; makerspaces, wearable technology, adaptive learning technologies and the ‘Internet of Things’.

    As usual there are useful commentaries and links throughout. Encouraging that many of these ideas are already being implemented, trialed and discussed here at UCL.