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    Archive for the 'Teaching and Learning Network' Category

    An academic perspective on blogging

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 8 December 2016

    Words by David Bowler:

    I write a semi-regular blog (updated between weekly and monthly) which covers both interesting papers in my research area, and the teaching that I do to fourth year undergraduates and starting graduates (www.atomisticsimulations.org).  My research is in atomistic simulations, where we model the properties of materials at the nanoscale by taking into account their atomic structure; I apply and develop electronic structure methods, using quantum mechanics to understand the interactions between atoms.  I started blogging to support a book I wrote (Atomistic Computer Simulations, with Dr Veronika Brazdova, also at UCL) but it has developed.  The book is aimed at those starting to use atomistic simulations, and is, so far as we know, unique: it is the only book that contains practical advice on how to perform the calculations and analyse the output

    Last term (first term 2015-2016) I started to post blogs that summarised the discussions of background theory I had with my fourth year students.  I’m supervising four students, and wanted to explore whether posting the content of the sessions would help them, and the wider community.  The experiment has worked well, attracting interest both from my students and from further afield, with 50-100 views per month.

    I recently moved the blog from a local server in the department running WordPress, which I maintained, to GitHub, which provides simple, markdown formatted blogging with LaTex/MathJax for equations and symbols.  This was largely pragmatic (free, low maintenance hosting) but is also tied to the electronic structure code that I develop, CONQUEST (www.order-n.org).  We moved the source code for CONQUEST to GitHub, and having a single site and interface for all my teaching and research activity has been very helpful.

    Blogging and my associated Twitter account (@MillionAtomMan) has introduced me to new people in my research field, and educators across a wide area.  It helps me to keep track of the research literature, and to focus my thoughts within the very broad area that is relevant.  It should also help me with future teaching, focussing the sessions that we cover, and helping my students to know what is coming up.  I would like to explore having my students blog about their research, and the difficulties and interests of doing research, as a form of outreach, as well as giving them a forum for reflection.

    Innovating Pedagogy 2016 report

    By Clive Young, on 2 December 2016

    ip2016Innovating Pedagogy 2016 is the fifth annual report from the Open University (this year in collaboration with the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education, Singapore) highlighting new forms of teaching, learning and assessment with an aim to “guide educators and policy makers”.

    The report proposes ten innovations that are “already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education”. In other words they are at an early phase of the Gartner Hype Cycle. Whether any will become, in the current idiom, ‘normalised’ remains to be seen and some scepticism would be advised. However, as I noted when the 2015 version was published, such reports often frame the discussion around technology in education, even if initially only at the level of “buzz-word bingo” for enthusiasts.

    The current list “in an approximate order of immediacy and timescale to widespread implementation” is;

    • Learning through social media – Using social media to offer long-term learning opportunities
    • Productive failure – Drawing on experience to gain deeper understanding
    • Teachback – Learning by explaining what we have been taught
    • Design thinking – Applying design methods in order to solve problems
    • Learning from the crowd – Using the public as a source of knowledge and opinion
    • Learning through video games – Making learning fun, interactive and stimulating
    • Formative analytics – Developing analytics that help learners to reflect and improve
    • Learning for the future – Preparing students for work and life in an unpredictable future
    • Translanguaging – Enriching learning through the use of multiple languages
    • Blockchain for learning – Storing, validating and trading educational reputation

    The usual fascinating mix of familiar ideas with novel concepts, the report gives a quick overview of why these may be important and includes handy links to further reading if you are interested

    A next generation digital learning environment for UCL

    By Stephen Rowett, on 7 November 2016

    At UCL we’ve been pondering what a future learning environment might look like now for about two years. And we are starting to reach some conclusions.

    Our analysis of our VLE – and pretty much all of them out there – is that it suffers from two fundamental limitations.

    Silos – staff and students see the courses they are enrolled for, and generally can’t look over the fence to see something else. In real life, if a student asked to attend lectures for a course they weren’t registered for, we’d welcome their interest, their breadth, their love of learning. In the VLE we tell them that this is impossible. The VLE limits a student’s education to just what they have paid for, just what they deserve, and just what they need to know. All curiosity is lost.

    Control – the teacher sets things up and students do them. No questions asked or even allowed. Forums lay devoid of posts for fear of asking ‘dumb’ questions, or fear of making mistakes. Assignments are submitted with perfunctory duty with the best that a student can hope for getting a green pass on Turnitin and some feedback some weeks later which is ignored anyway as the triumph or the disappointment of the grade awarded is processed. All love of learning is lost.

    So we’re looking for something different.

    And our inspiration came from an interest place – Brockenhurst College in Hampshire. Now they have a very rural catchment area – some students travel over from the Isle of Wight to attend classes. So of course, they don’t travel if they don’t have classes and therefore feel disconnected from the university.

    We realised that part of the challenge at UCL is the same. The distances may be much smaller, but when you are travelling from home or commuting on the Central Line means that the disconnection is just as real.

    So we need an environment that promotes connections. It just so happens we also have the Connected Curriculum initiative which will encourage interdisciplinary research-based education, where students do real, authentic work, not just essays for a teacher to mark. Where group work is the norm, not the exception. Where students are not passive recipients, but actively engaged in enquiry.

    So it’s all coming together. What we want for UCL is an Academic Social Network.

    What do I mean by that? Let’s take each word at a time.

    First, it’s Academic. That means it is designed for education. There are plenty of social networks around – Facebook, LinkedIn and Yammer spring to mind – but they are designed for different things, typically business. Whether it means allowing people to ask questions anonymously, embedding LaTex in messages so mathematicians can speak in their own language, or structuring data to be able to find final-year projects, the platform needs to speak to teachers and students as being something for them. It’s about work, but also all of the other things that happen at university; social clubs, sports, societies, volunteering. It’s a safe and trusted place to be because the user trusts the university and knows they are not the product to be sold and re-sold to the highest bidder.

    It’s Social. Because learning is social. I don’t just mean group work, but the full gamut of human social interaction. If you talk to students in our learning spaces, they are often working ‘alone, together’; that is they are doing individual tasks but just looking after each other. A student who is tired will be offered a coffee; someone will look after your laptop while you go to the toilet. Students are friends with each other on Facebook, but having staff friends is just ‘weird’. We want a space without complex meanings or difficult relationships but where everyone can connect with each other as part of the university community.

    Finally it’s a Network. Universities are big places, and UCL is bigger than most. Networks are a place where you can meet like-minded folk, but also get exposure and understanding of those who study different things, think in different ways, have different approaches to the same challenge. That network extends beyond current staff and students to pre-entry students, alumni, industry and charity partners – all of those that have a stake in the vibrancy and excitement of what a university can be.

    So what are we going to do?

    We’re going to get one.

    That’s quite a lot of work, as we have to do a lot of procurement activities to get what we want.

    But for now, we have students and teachers on the ground talking to peers, understanding needs, working our what it means to be part of the UCL community.

    We’ve done a lot of thinking, some talking and even more listening. It’s an experiment. We don’t know if it will work. Even if it does, it will probably take many years.

    We characterise what we want as follows:

    Characteristics of our platform

     

    It’s our shot at what a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment will look like.

    Many thanks to Eileen Kennedy for her work in developing and evaluating these ideas within UCL Digital Education.

    ABC has reached 21

    By Natasa Perovic, on 24 March 2016

    (For latest news about ABC LD, visit ABC LD blog)

    Digital Education has now run 21 of our popular rapid learning design workshops. ABC uses an effective and engaging paper card-based method in a 90 minute hands-on workshop. It is based on research from the JISC and UCL IoE and over the last year has helped 70 module and course teams design and sequence engaging learning activities. It has proved particularly useful for new programmes or those changing to an online or more blended format.

    To find out if ABC is for you this short video captured one of our workshops earlier this year.

    Participants feedback remains encouragingly  positive 

    “I thought the ABC session was really helpful.  I had been a little unsure ahead of the session what it would achieve – but I genuinely got a lot from it.  Going back to the basics of methods etc really helped focus on the structure and balance of the module.  I thought the output was very useful.”

    “Thank you for convening the abc workshop today, i  found it thought provoking and challenged the way we think about our teaching. It is too easy to stick to what we have done previously and I found today gave me different ways to think about how to evaluate our current teaching and to bring in different approaches. It will definitely improve my thinking and I will continue with the approach to incorporate some of the ideas into the modules.”

    “Thank you for the workshop today- it was an eye opener. I found it really useful to think about categorising how the learning objectives will be delivered and assessed, and examining the variety of ways that these can be achieved. It made me think more deeply about what skills the students can develop by making them responsible for their learning journey and not simply the content that needs to be delivered to them. We will let you know how it goes!”

    “It was great and many initiatives have emerged from it.”

    abc workshop group work

    For questions and workshops contact Clive and Nataša

    cy_np

     

     

     

    For more information see :

    ABC Curriculum Design 2015 Summary
    http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/12/02/abc-curriculum-design-2015-summary/

    ABC workshop resources and participants’ feedback http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/09/30/9169/

    ABC beginnings http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/04/09/abc-arena-blended-connected-curriculum-design/

     

    ABC News:

    We are currently developing an online toolkit to support the workshop, have been working closely with CALT to embed the Connected Curriculum in designs and we are developing collaboration projects with The University of Glasgow, Aarhus University (Denmark), University of Leiden (Netherland) and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile) in order to look at the learning impact of this method. Our colleagues in Chile are even translating the workshop into Spanish.

    ABC also featured on UCL Teaching and Learning portal as a case study: Designing programmes and modules with ABC curriculum design http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/case-studies-news/e-learning/designing-abc-curriculum-design

    Spotlight on Engineering’s Learning Technologists in 2015: STEAPP

    By Jessica Gramp, on 9 January 2016

    Learning Technologies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP)

    In Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) learning technology support is provided by the department’s Learning Techologist (Alan Seatwo).  Part of this work involves assisting colleagues to explore the use of emerging teaching themes prior to the start of the MPA Programme. These sessions focus on implementing the UCL E-learning baseline, exploring classroom learning technology and using video for students’ presentation assessment and as a self reflection tool. Prevalent learning technologies in the department include the UCL Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), rapid eLearning development tools, video editing & production, cloud storage, webinars, screencasts, online surveys and classroom learning technologies, such as electronic voting handsets. In this post Alan explains how his department used learning technologies in 2015.

     

    The department was already equipped with a collection of good quality video recorders and in August the department further invested in new hardware and software for video recording & editing, such as a range of camera/ mobile phone mounts, a tripod, wireless microphone and a copy of Adobe Creative Suite. In addition, streaming video and webinar platforms were explored during the organisation and delivery of a seminar by Professor Daniel Kammen and a written report was presented to the department for possible use in the future.

    Doctoral student virtual presentation

    Doctoral student virtual presentation

    There have been no reports of teaching staff and students experiencing major issues using Moodle. Although there have been some maintenance down time from UCL networks, overall access to Moodle is excellent. Colleagues are supportive of the idea of using classroom-learning technology. Specifically, Word-Cloud was used in How to Change the World 2015; Kahoot! and Socrative were used in Policy Making and Policy Analysis; Communication and Project Management Skills; and the Vodafone – UCL Public Policy Intensive Programme. Feedback about the use of such software from colleagues and students was very positive.

    UCLeXtend is a separate Moodle platform for external use. The Vodafone – UCL Public Policy Intensive Programme was granted the use of the platform to deliver the online learning elements. This enabled the department to experiment with organising and delivering online learning programmes to non-UCL users that might be useful for future use.

    Vodafone UCL Public Policy Intensive Programme UCL eXtend course

    Vodafone UCL Public Policy Intensive Programme UCL eXtend course

    Students’ presentations were recorded, stored and made available for course assessment and self-reflection. The experience of exploring video streaming in Professor Kammen’s event enabled the process of screencasting, video recording and webinars to be refined. The average turn around time to deliver edited student presentation videos is around 24 hours after recording takes place.

    Two Virtual Open Day sessions were conducted in Blackboard Collaborate (webinar software). A series of online interviews using BB Collaborate, Skype and Google Hangouts were also held with potential students.

    Other learning technologies being used in the department include:

    • Opinio to support research activities in STEaPP Grant Research Funding Proposal Form, City Health Diplomacy and Science Diplomacy;
    • Articulate Storyline 2 to create two online self assessments in the undergraduate programme: ENGS102P: Design and Professional Skills 2015/16.

    There have been no major issues reported by staff using Moodle to organise and disseminate learning content and facilitating discussion via the forums. The level of usage from students is also good. Data from Moodle shows that students responded to staff instructions to access learning content and submit their assignments electronically. One of the areas that can be further enhanced is the use of learning analytics, which can assist staff to identify usage trends of their designed activities and content.

    Looking ahead: We are in the planning stage for How to Change the World 2016 and have two areas of focus at the moment: Online Attendance Recording and Reporting; and a Peer Reviewed Video Assignment. We are also making good progress on designing and developing an open-source learning object as part of a project funded by a grant from the UCL Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT).

    Innovating pedagogy – 2015 trends report

    By Clive Young, on 9 December 2015

    Innovating-Pedagogy-2015-cover-large-211x300

    Innovating Pedagogy 2015 is the latest annual report from the Open University highlighting new forms of teaching, learning and assessment with an aim to “guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation”.

    The scope is similar to the US Horizon reports, but presents a useful UK perspective.  It is of course sometimes difficult to differentiate the meaningful from the merely modish in such futurology (see for example Matt Jenner’s analysis of Horizon’s trend-spotting). However such reports definitely have an impact on the discussion around technology in education, even if initially only at the level of “buzz-word bingo” for those in the know. A fellow learning technologist last week accused me of “incidental learning” when, during a pause in our teaching session, he caught me reading a random handout left over from some previous class.

    The current crop is;

    1. Crossover learning – connecting formal and informal learning
    2. Learning through argumentation – developing skills of scientific argumentation
    3. Incidental learning – harnessing unplanned or unintentional learning
    4. Context-based learning – how context shapes and is shaped by the process of learning
    5. Computational thinking – solving problems using techniques from computing
    6. Learning by doing science with remote labs – guided experiments on authentic scientific equipment
    7. Embodied learning – making mind and body work together to support learning
    8. Adaptive teaching – adapting computer-based teaching to the learner’s knowledge and action
    9. Analytics of emotions – responding to the emotional states of students
    10. Stealth assessment – unobtrusive assessment of learning processes

    A fascinating list with several novel concepts (to me anyway), the report gives a quick overview of why the OU thinks these are or may be important and includes handy links to further reading.

    The authors also identify six overarching pedagogy themes that have emerged from the last four reports: Scale, Connectivity, Reflection, Extension, Embodiment and Personalisation.