Sunday, 25 September 2011

Online collaboration v research

For the past few months, I've wholly believed in the power of networking and the benefits that collaborative working can bring.  For example, being able to connect to other educators via the internet - and in particular Twitter - has meant that I'm frequently exposed to, or directed to, tools which may enhance the learning experience for my students.  On an almost daily basic, I'm clicking on links to educators' websites or blog posts which help me think about how I teach and what I could do differently.  This is highly valuable to me, and I don't doubt will continue to influence my teaching and own learning for some time.

However, starting back on my MA course this month, and being involved in a course delivered under the UHOVI project has reminded me how essential it is for me to read reports and publications from key bodies within the industry - such as BECTA (abolished earlier this year), JISC and so on.  Whilst my online colleagues can provide me with instant examples and ideas, as well as workable solutions to problems and an insight into what has worked for them, there is no substitute for the critical, in depth reading that is available from bigger organisations with a wider remit.

Today I have read (and thoroughly enjoyed) "Emerging Technologies for Learning" published by Becta in 2006.  It hasn't given me immediate ideas for the classroom, but it has given me a broad overview of some of the key areas of growth.  As it is some years old now, I can see how Becta had a thorough view of what was to come and how many of their suggestions (such as the BBC's then non-existent iPlayer) are already mainstream now.  It's provided me with much food for thought, and taken me away from the immediate question of 'how can I make this interesting' to thinking more broadly about teaching strategies and how education is changing in today's world.

So, note to self:  "continue to read beyond what might seem necessary, and search out those interesting articles to broaden my own understanding of changing pedagogy in a digital world".

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs

An odd title for this post, perhaps to sum up the mixed bag I think I'll be getting next week.  So far, my new timetable has me down for one level 2 class in college, two level 2 adult groups, one level 3 class in college and ... wait for it ... possible foundation degree groups :O

Whilst feeling somewhat under-prepared (oh how understated this comment is), I'm almost (dare I say it) looking forward to the challenge.  I love IT, I think I'm ok at teaching, and I've lately been thinking that I'd like to move into HE at some point in the future.  It seems to be coming earlier than planned, so whilst I think there may be stormy seas ahead, I hope that there will be clear skies not too far away.  Immediate forecast:  changeable.

Saturday, 10 September 2011


I thought it would be useful to review my experiences of using e-Portfolios for the first time, as last week they successfully went through moderation.

After a Level 1 web design course, where there was a considerable volume of work produced, I decided that it would be more suitable to produce the work as an e-Portfolio.  This would more effectively demonstrate the skills the students had learned, as well as vastly reducing the amount of paperwork to submit.


The course was already set up on Moodle, so for each session I added an area to upload the work that had been done.  I also set up all the course criteria so that I could add outcomes to each of the assignments as appropriate.  This took a while as I incorrectly set up one criteria initially and it took me a while to work out how to remove it and replace it with the correct one.

Building content

Early on, I discussed with the class how I wanted the portfolios to work.  I wanted them to create an over-arching website, which would include, in some format, a list of all the criteria which should be covered during the course.  This site would then contain subsites of all the websites they had created during the course, and the criteria list would have links to corresponding evidence throughout the subsites. I suggested that the students add to their over-arching site whenever possible, to avoid having a huge amount of compiling to do at the end of the course.

Completing the Portfolios

In the final few sessions of the course, I got the learners to upload working versions of their final portfolios, and I made suggestions for improvements where necessary.  Some of the portfolios were excellent, and the students had done exactly as asked.  A variety of cross-referencing methods were used.  Several students downloaded the criteria checklist as a Word document (as provided by me), and then made clickable links into the relevant area of their portfolio.  Another student practiced creating drop down menus using CSS, and used the menus as links to all the criteria.  Several others created a new web page at the front of the portfolio, and linked to all the criteria from this.

Moderation site

I then created a moderation website which included a few details about the course, along with a page for each student.  Within each student's page, there was then a link to their portfolio, which was packaged into my moderation site. 


There were just a couple of students who ran out of time to create their e-portfolio.  One student collated their work into a website, but didn't have any cross-referencing, another two failed to compile their work at all.  However, as all the work was on Moodle anyway, I was able to draw this together into a single folder, and incorporate it into my moderation site. Where evidence referencing was absent, I created the links from a standardised criteria page - and clearly marked this up in red so that any internal verifiers / moderators would be able to see what work was the students, and what I had added.  Even in some of the best portfolios, there may have been the odd cross-reference that was not linked correctly, so I used the same technique here, adding the link but marking it clearly in red.


The final moderation website passed internal verification and moderation without any problems, and the internal verifier commented that the evidence had been very easy to find.  There was a fair bit of work to do on my part in collating the portfolios into one site, but in many ways it was easier than ordering what would have been close to 100 sheets of paper for each student and adding page numbers and cross referencing manually.  Now the site is set up, it should be easier still to repeat the method. I will definitely use e-portfolios again.

Friday, 9 September 2011

New term, new era

After busying myself over the summer preparing new workbooks for our workshop classes,  I had a shock this week to learn that I'm being redeployed to the campus to teach 16-19 years old.  I don't yet know what I'll be teaching them - other than 'IT', whether I'll have set classes, or be doing cover, or anything else.

This has put the cat amongst the pigeons so's to speak.  I have nothing prepared for these groups - nor could I since I don't know what I'll be teaching.

In the interim, I have been looking for some teenage friendly ICT icebreakers.  No joy from my tweet asking for resources, but my friends in ILT came up trumps with comicmaster and I'm thinking of being brave and trying Wallwisher (though I fear there may be consequences!).  I'll also try the old working with pairs to find out something unusual about your partner.

Now I've just got to see what happens next....!