Thursday 22 May 2008

Personal Teaching Environment: Exam revision, Google Talk and Social Software

I blogged earlier about the Examopedia site I maintain. Currently this is open to acces by all. Next year I might have to move it behind the intranet. Will it be good or bad I wonder?

I am very happy with the site's use and performance so far. My students used it in the last few days before the exam as can be seen from webstats and Site behaviour. If only they used it throughout the semester ...

Intended us of the site was to tap into collaborative revision amongst the following other things:
  1. provide quick feedback on how to improve exam answers
  2. indicate how many marks an answer would get
  3. encourage sharing and collaboration amongst the students on informal learning activities
  4. reach out to the students who do not normally like taking part
  5. communicate using google talk directly with the students
  6. create a personalised teaching environment that is in my control - (is the VLE/LMS dead really? as Martin Weller said some time ago).
I think we are seeing a change yet again. The VLE era may well be over (for at least it is over). I like the fact that I can use powerful scripts that give me VLE like features to something simple as a wiki. For each course or innovation I can use a set of these scripts to do things I want to.
Forums that we use in my department are much better than those supported in our VLE. To be fair the new WebCTVista seems to have some new features that I would like to use. I wonder in this day and age where you can easily add functionalities to web pages WebCT's model of one size fits all product will stay for long? Besides the boundaries between academic generated content and student generated content are becoming less and less significant.
We are seeing a change where our roles are changing inevitably from teachers to facilitators be it in online distance learning or blended learning environments. In blended learning there will still be the need to be a teacher, however new skills will be needed to facilitate students and their work as more and more students and staff start using the read write web. It looks like I am talking about Web 3.0 (video link).
Comments welcome.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Google Talk tales

Thanks to Brian Kelly for introducing me to Google talk. Although it was for a completely different purpose which I never got to realise fully.

I have put the google talk code on my wiki/blog/forums and my students seem to find it useful and in just one day I have chated with two students. These students are not on my twitter network but after this session of chat they are wanting to joing me there too.

One slight drawback of this is you will never know who you are chatting to. Also you may find that you are spending a lot of time with them. You may need to define some ground rules with them for this type of support, such as days on which you will address questions from students in this way or some other personall preffered way. I find this satisfying that I can help students in a totally different way. Especially with my flexible working needs I think this is a bonus. I just need my boss to appericiate this. Given that he is a reasonable person I dont think I have to wait for long:).

All in all I think Iam selling my soul to Google.

Monday 12 May 2008

tweet cloud

it seems mine is about PROJECT STUDENTS, goes to show where my focus is at the moment.

Social Software for enhancing/supporting students exam revision

I am using a wiki with my students for exam revision. I should really be saying my students are using it for their exam revision. I only come in to provide feedback and an indicative mark so that they get an idea of what to write in the real exam a question similar to the one posted on the wiki.

Exams are fast approaching and many of these students will be using past exam papers for revision for their coming exams. Many a times in the past when I used to do the same for my exam, I would get stuck with a question or two and struggle to find the answer in time before the exam. I found group study was useful in such situation where we physically met and attempted to tap into the collective intelligence of our group. This was then and in the physical world.

Now I am experimenting the same in a virtual environment using a wiki. I am sure it will work The students seem hesitant to begin with but will see the benefit sooner or later. I have already one poster starting to use it and many reads have taken place. Let the snow ball roll.

Here is a link to this project of mine. Guess what i call it....Examopedia.

Sunday 11 May 2008

Twitter in HE Final year Project Supervision

A bit of background
I got introduced to Twitter through a course run by the OU (H806). Through this course I got to know about many interesting people whom I now follow on twitter (Matrin Weller, Grannie Conole amongst others).

Last year I had piloted e-logs for supervision of project students. The results were promising and students responded positively saying the amount of contact they got from me using the e-log and feedback mechanism was better than what other students were getting. For me, it meant a lot to be better informed about the progress of my students.

One thing was missing then. Twitter - an informal back channel for all students doing project with me. As soon as i heard about it, it automatically filled in that gap and I used twitter with my students for project stupervision.

How to use twitter for Project supervision

There are a lot of things that all my project students do each year this includes the process of planning, organising and doing the project. Up untill now these students would work in isolation, reinventing the wheel all by themselves again. Some students form groups on their own and meet and discuss their studies but not every one gets this opportunity. Being my students they have an added layer of commonality in their projects - GSM/Communication/web/etc - the things that I am interested in.

However, projects tends to be a one person battle. Students may feel lonely and isolated during their project phase.

Here is where I bring in Twitter. I have always belived that friends/communities are formed easily when people are going through similar events that bring with them similar challenges on all involved. Here the target group is project students supervised by myself and I use twitter with them to share with each other their current challenge(s).

We all follow each other. We regualrly post "what we are doing?". We read these short messages and try to help each other. Simple.

For example, A student posted "am stuck with this modem not working" another finds that he has used the same modem and suggests few things to try. I also step in to help. With so many suggestions the problem got solved quickly. Others see this happening and the community feelings grows and they join in too.

For the purpose of supervison I am also using a wiki with these students and they update their project plan progress status on that wiki, apart from this they also put docuements for me to provide feedback.

I have reduced the frequency of the face to face meeting (once in two weeks as opposed to every week) as a result. Blending modes of contact seems to work and my role of being s supervisor cum facilitator is made easier. I am not the only one guding the students they help each other.

I presented this work at the EdMedia Conference in Vienna in 2008.