First day in the new job, very exciting. Lots of new challenges and technologies. As well as the things I was prepared for like Pearson Learning Studio and Mahara, there are so many things I didn’t know I wouldn’t know, JIRA and Confluence for example, and multiple instances for different purposes just to make things more confusing! To be honest, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at times, but summer is the best time to join a university when things are relatively quiet; I have time to learn and prepare for the September madness.
TEL Sonya Posts
As part of my handover arrangements I have had to write a set of instructions on how to compile the learning analytics report I have been responsible for. This document alone was such an extensive piece of work that it warranted a separate project in my handover to do list and took me pretty much an entire day. The resulting seven page, 3,000 word document covers how to update and complete the master spreadsheet, where to find all of the various measures in Google Analytics and Blackboard, and how to create the report on PebblePad usage, the most complex one as it involves database queries and I was handing over to someone with little experience of databases, so the instructions needed to be detailed and precise.
One of my first projects after being seconded to TEL Support was writing procedure notes for my colleagues on the Senior Helpline covering all of the customer support I provide for Blackboard, PebblePad and associated systems. When I was offered the position at the University of Sunderland only a little later this became a much bigger job. Thus to date I have now written or updated some 61 procedures, mostly for the Helpline, a 5,000 word handover document which covers everything else and for which TEL Support will be responsible going forward, compiled a small knowledgebase gathering together every piece of documentation I have on supporting PebblePad, delivered four training sessions to the Helpline, spent an entire afternoon training a willing and brave volunteer on everything to do with PebblePad, and finally delivered a whole day of training to members of the TEL Support team covering absolutely everything I could think of and the aforementioned handover document. And this is just the ‘official’ work, the amount of informal training I have given in the form of additional assistance to individual queries would total days.
In The Phaedrus, Plato recounts a dialogue between his tutor, Socrates, and Phaedrus which contains possibly the earliest known denunciation of ‘newfangled’ technology, writing. I love it. It makes me smile whenever I encounter resistance to a new learning tool and it reminds me that all technology, no matter how humble, can be used to enhance learning.
“And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”
I’ve been experimenting with badges over the past couple of days, inspired by the fact that the ocTEL course is awarding badges for completing certain activities. This is very appealing to me as I am, by nature, a collector, but it is important that they enhance the learning experience and don’t just exist for their own sake. Badges can be used to provide structure and focal points in a course, with a large number of small objectives relatively easy to obtain on their own, incrementally building to a greater goal. I think one benefit of badges over traditional forms of on-going formative assessment is that they feel more tangible, more like little mini-qualifications of their own which can be collected and displayed as evidence of achievement even if you don’t or can’t complete the whole course.
The ocTEL badges are, thus far, and I expect it will continue to be the case, keeping me interested in the course and checking in to the site on a regular basis, when it can be so easy to abandon a MOOC after the initial excitement fades and pressures from other areas take precedence.
Another appeal is the openness of the standard and the fact that you can keep all of your badges from different sources in one place, such as the Mozilla Backpack. Behold, for example, my first set: https://backpack.openbadges.org/share/49e081c9e30cbc0c237ca5430c8e0642/
For the past three years now I’ve been running Google Analytics on Blackboard and compiling a monthly report for senior management and steering groups. A standard was agreed for what this should contain by consensus fairly early on and it has changed little since, until a couple of months ago when, due to the changes in management, I was asked to revamp the report to remove some things which weren’t required any more and to report on anything new which I thought pertinent. The biggest change was the request for a ‘commentary’ on each page explaining some meanings and trends. I have also integrated the PebblePad usage by Faculty report I wrote last month into this, as PebblePad has a tendency to be overlooked and almost forgotten about.
From a student:
“Excellent, it’s there! thank you so so much for this! I’m so grateful honestly! Thank you so much for helping me :)”
She had lost some work from PebblePad which I was able to recover from the server, with some difficulty. Feedback like this reminds why I love my work; it’s wonderful to be able to help people.
After receiving confirmation that what I had done worked I did a little more experimentation and worked out exactly how and where the backups were being created and then wrote a short procedure on how to recover documents for future reference.
Today I created a Twitter account for the team and styled the pages in line with the University’s new corporate blue and orange style. I got the ball rolling by posting some tweets, following some interesting TEL people and companies we have relationships with, and created a couple of widgets to post our tweets and a list into a Blackboard course site, just as a proof of concept really, to demonstrate that it can be done and looks pretty. In due course the idea is to have a public organisation for the team where we will have a blog and news, and a page for our Twitter feeds.
Well, it is now officially official. Everyone who needs to know now knows so I am free to tell the world. After six and a half years, next month I will be leaving Northumbria University to join Web and Learning Technology Services at the University of Sunderland as a Senior Learning Technologist. Happy days.