Category Archives: Teaching

10 ways your e-portfolio sucks

Hmm these ’10 things…’, ’20 top…’ type blogs are very popular these days. This one is directly inspired by a former student (anonymous for their own protection) whose e-portfolio site was sent my way by a games industry recruiter.

Universities love e-portfolios and all sorts of personal development planning (PDP) stuff. E-portfolio systems such as Mahara are often integrated into LMS/VLE software allowing students to populate their portfolios with all their university work and reflective thoughts. However, this might not result in a portfolio that an employer actually wants to read – or that will help someone get a job. Having had my eyes almost burnt out from reading one portfolio, here are some thoughts on a top ten things not to do in your e-portfolio…

… and feel free to comment below if you know of other portfolio sins and must-dos or must-don’ts.
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Urban Legends in Education

A recent article in Educational Psychologist sets out to debunk three urban legends in education: Digital Natives, Learning Styles and Self-Educators. This takes me back to the early days of this blog – which was started in no small part because I had a bad feeling about the idea of ‘Digital Natives’ as presented by Marc Prensky and similar ideas from others.

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Gove vs The World

Update: Within about an hour of posting this I saw the news that Michael Gove has backed down on a major part of his proposed teaching reforms, the rapid introduction of the EBacc. Opposition from the deputy prime minister and Ofqual, and realisation that some of his reforms might break EU rules appear to have caused this. I guess I should add these to the Gove vs the World list below. ~ Daniel, 7/2/2013

Update: Gove’s U-turn is perhaps not all it seems. He is still pushing for quite aggressive and sweeping reforms. See “Gove vs The Exams Regulator” below. ~ Daniel, 8/2/2013

One of my Twitter contacts said this of Michael Gove: “He is spot on with his reforms. More teaching, less examining, listening to employers.”

To be honest, Gove really doesn’t appear to be much of a listener to me – to give him credit, the recent announcement of the inclusion of Computer Science in the EBacc shows that he is capable of listening. I suspect that lobbying by the high-tech industry – including personal pleas from Google’s chairman – made this possible. There is perhaps a small part of Gove that recognises that however much he worships the past, that the future is digital and perhaps Britain ought to be ready for it.

But this ‘listening’ to what people are saying to him doesn’t appear to come naturally to Gove. At least not when the people doing the saying aren’t leaders of the world’s biggest multinationals. And when people have the temerity to disagree with Gove, he frequently turns to insults and outrageous attacks to dismiss them. (And it seems that his advisors might be helping him out here, in ways that they perhaps shouldn’t)

There is a lot I would like to say in this post, but rather than try and ‘finish’ this post before I publish it, I’ll publish now and update over time…

Gove vs. The World – round one starts below…

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Scratch 2 and Snap/BYOB 4

Scratch 2 is now in beta, here.

Great timing, as just after a whole load of teacher resources for Scratch get published (CAS RPi manual, and RSE packs), Scratch 2.0 gets announced with a range of very useful additions to the language. More on this – and another version of Scratch with procedures – below.

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Computing Science for Schools

My own modest OER contribution (see previous post) pales into insignificance next to a fantasic set of materials from Jeremy Scott, developed with the support of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the BCS, and a very useful resource (which would make an excellent partner) from Computing At Schools – both aimed at teaching (and supporting teachers) computing for middle/high-school students.

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Learning about Learning Design and MOOCs

Two upcoming MOOCs (Massively Online Open Courses, in case there are folk still not sure what the acronym is for!) that I have signed up for – though whether I’ll be able to complete them I honestly don’t know yet. It is no secret that my blogging, virtual worlds, and research activity have all slowed down over the last year or so – as I’ve had to put increasing amounts of time into my day job of lecturing. But with some luck I’ll be able to get stuck into these two…

Starting soon, will be the Open University’s Open Learning Design Studio MOOC. The course aims are fourfold:

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Forward to the Past – Medieval University Strikes Back

I first started writing this post over a year ago, but it has sat as an unfinished draft for a long time.

I found myself wondering whether universities are going to experience a (likely painful) rebirth, one that leaves many in a very different shape going forward but with surprising echoes of the very earliest of medieval universities (unlikely as that may seem). It is a while since I read Charles Homer Haskins’ The Rise of Universities,but recall some of the details. Before universities came into being, anyone wishing to study would have to seek out a tutor or master and pay to join his classes. Over time certain towns (such as Bologna) became known for having many tutors, and hence attracted increasing numbers of students. In Bologna, the students who traveled to the town to study formed societies in order to be able to obtain citizen-like rights for living in the city and used these societies for collective bargaining with tutors over how much tutors should be paid and what they should teach. Thus the first European university was formed by the students themselves. (As per usual, Wikipedia has more on this)

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Alternate Reality Games, Massive Online Open Courses and Collective Intelligence

George Siemens has a nice set of slides up on MOOC as a new educative practice which do a very good job of capturing the differences between MOOC and the free online courses now offered by the likes of Coursera (the new home of the Stanford free online courses, plus some from other partner universities), Udacity and MITx. Where that latter are offering free online access to a very traditional form of education (based on lectures and learning a set content syllabus), MOOC are quite different. As George states in the introduction to each of his MOOC courses:

“the learning in the course results from the activities you undertake, and will be different for each person”

MOOC use a far more distributed model of learning and interaction, where most of the content is itself generated by the students as they share their learning.

Outside of education, I would say that the closest thing we have to MOOCs are probably Alternate Reality Games – which have been posited as a form of Collective Intelligence. Some (not all) MMO games also require very large scale collaboration (Eve Online is the one that springs to mind).

I was talking about Massively Collaborative systems in my Collaborative Virtual Environments class this week, and seeing this link between MOOC and ARG, I appended some of George’s slides (properly acknowledged of course) to the existing slides on ARG as collective intelligence (Why I love bees: ARG and Collective Intelligence, and below).

I would also say that while I totally agree with George on the key differences between MOOC and the other offerings, and that MOOC are more interesting to think about because they are a genuine attempt to do something different in a different way, I should say that I don’t feel that MOOC threaten the role of teaching universities nearly as much as the likes of Udacity.

Are Virtual Worlds (still) Relevant in Education?

Sarah Smith-Robbins asks whether virtual worlds are (still) relevant in education in the current issue of eLearn.

Sarah identifies many of the reasons why VW have slid in popularity and hype. I think learning technologies (and the people interested in them) are still prone to hype and despondence -  augmented reality and gamification to name two of the more recent hype cycles. As the dust settles, there will still be people using VW in education – though unlikely as widely as the hype was leading us to believe.

Sarah’s article does a very good job of explaining some of the key reasons why the recent Second Life centric wave of hype burst – as virtual worlds re-emerge it will presumably be with less wild enthusiasm and a more pragmatic and realistic basis.