Saturday, 10 November 2012

Online collaboration

As you may have read here before, I'm currently in the process of data gathering for my dissertation in online collaboration and critical thinking.

I've managed to engage some of the students online, including a wikispaces page with a 'flipped classroom' activity on web scripting languages which was reasonably successful, and I've had all the group at least get onto the VLE and post a message.

A few weeks ago I set up a forum page on our VLE to discuss 'cookies' on websites.  One student engaged with the activity well, and made a couple of posts which demonstrated criticial thinking, but no-one else posted at all, which was disappointing.  I reminded the group of the activity on their next Monday morning lesson and commented on the lack of posts, at which point two other students told me (rather indignantly!) that they had made a post on Sunday evening.  Excellent news.

On visiting the forum later that day, I must admit that I got rather exciting at the fact that three more of the students had made some really good posts which were great examples of how they had extended their classroom discussions and developed their thoughts on the topic.  I think I may have even exhaled a quiet 'whoop' to myself - not because I have now got some 'meat' for my dissertation, but more because I had actually managed to get the learners thinking beyond the classroom and trying to find out things for themselves.

Funny how activities which we persue in order to develop ourselves further have such a great impact on our learners.  Would I have put this activity in if I wasn't doing a dissertation?  Possibly, but probably unlikely.  Now I know how I felt when I read their posts, I feel encouraged to continue to put such discussion forums on for my learners.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Over the past few weeks I've been playing with Evernote.  I've been hearing good things about it for a while, but I was prompted by a colleague in another college to have a look at it.  As I was currently in the process of applying for an increase in my teaching grade, and needed to compile a portfolio of evidence, I wondered if Evernote might be the format I was looking for.

I wasn't disappointed.  I started by creating a few short notes, just to test the water.  I added an attachment or two, and asked our campus Director (who would be reviewing the portfolio) to check that he could see the files.  Once he confirmed that he could, it was full speed ahead.

One of the most useful things I've found about Evernote is the ability to use my smartphone to take photos of all my training certificates.  Having installed Evernote on my phone, I can then upload the certificates with one click.  Now, instead of having certificates all over the place - some one one campus, some on another, some at home - I will take a snap of them as soon as I receive them, upload it to Evernote, and then I'll have a copy of it ready to access whenever I need it.

The other thing I really like is the ease with which I can create links between notes.  This means that my index can point to relevant evidence by simply right-clicking the destination note and then pasting in the hyperlink.

Criticisms are few - currently my notebook seems to take a long time to load up for a visitor - I think this is because there are so many certificates (bragging not intended!) and snaps of my classroom obs and so on - perhaps there's a need for me to optimise the images prior to uploading them (I only did a quick resize).  I also ended up paying for a premium account (£4) - but this was because I had a lot to upload within a short space of time and there are monthly limits.  This is something I plan to avoid in the future as I will upload things as I receive them.

All in all, Evernote is an excellent tool, and one I will definitely be sharing with my students and colleagues.