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TEL Sonya Posts

ocTEL 2014

The Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) from the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), was a massive, online, open course (MOOC) for lecturers and the learning technologists who support them covering all aspects of using technology to support and improve the learning experience for students.

Alas my participation was not as deep as I had desired due to the very happy event of getting a new job just after the course started, but I was still able to take part in all of the live webinars (bar one for which I had to watch the recording), completed some of the activities, established relationships with lots of new people, learned a great deal, and discovered many new tools such as http://readlists.com/ which is my new favourite. In keeping with the open nature of the course, I actually discovered this through a post someone had made and not directly via the course material itself.

This was the second year that ocTEL has run and I hope that it was successful enough for ALT to run again next year. For anyone who has missed out and doesn’t want to wait, the 2014 site will remain available indefinitely with all of the material published under a Creative Commons attribution license.

http://octel.alt.ac.uk/2014/

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Vector Images

bug

I haven’t had much call to use vector images in the past, though some years ago I did have an initial play around with Inkscape when I was looking for a good drawing application for the Mac. A couple of weeks ago I ordered a batch of these little fluffy logo bugs as giveaways for the SLS Innovation Event and I supplied the artwork as a PNG, but the company needed a vectored EPS instead, so I ended up basically re-creating the image in Illustrator and learning more about vector images in the process.

Today I’ve been delving into Inkscape properly on my home computer and have created all new versions of the banner images I used on AttackHamster as SVG files so that they look pretty on HiDPI displays. Upgrading these images has been on my to-do list for some time, but until this week I always thought I would use two versions and media queries to serve the appropriate one. The SVGs have proven a better solution I think, minimal changes to the code and the images are now completely crisp and hopefully future proof. I haven’t bothered with any workarounds for older versions of Internet Explorer. There comes a time when old timers need to be put out of their misery, and that time is long since past for IE6, 7 and 8.

http://www.inkscape.org/en/
http://caniuse.com/svg

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SLS Innovation Event 2014

The Student and Learning Support Innovation Event is an annual showcase of the work done by each team within SLS. It is an opportunity to both meet and network with other teams and find out what they do, and to demonstrate work which we have been doing. At two and a half weeks in the event was perfectly timed for me and was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the other teams and how we collectively contribute to the enhancement of the student experience. As to our own stand, we ran two live demonstrations, the first was an interactive quiz – with prizes! – using a student response system running on a portable SMART Board and the second was ClassLive (Blackboard Collaborate).

While I feel that my contribution on this occasion was rather minimal for obvious reasons, I was at least able to obtain a small budget for giveaways and small prizes for our quiz in order to attract people to our stall, and I hope that I was a positive influence on the team and encouraged us to showcase some really nice tools we can help people with.

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e-Fest 14: An e-Ventful TALE

rubrics_cube

Organised by Jisc RSC Northern and held at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, eFest 2014 was a conference bringing together staff from FE and HE institutions across the North East, with an emphasis on learning technologists and people from related fields, with service providers such as Turnitin, OneFile and MoodleRooms.

The whole day was fantastic, I got to meet lots of interesting new people, discovered some new services, many of which I went away and read up on, adding the best to my personal toolkit, but the highlight of the day was the presentation of Paula Kilburn from Stockton Riverside College who presented three case studies on the use of video marking. The first was the simplest, an academic using an iPad to record him as he annotated a student’s written work. In the second the academic used the screen and audio recording functions of QuickTime to record him as he worked through an audio file the student had created, demonstrating in real time the changes required which would have got the piece up a grade. In the final example an academic was watching a video while recording audio feedback, pausing or going back as required. In all three cases the resulting videos were uploaded to the College’s Planet eStream account with no, or minimal editing, the idea being to deliver better, faster feedback, not a polished video. In all three cases the academics reported that it was faster and easier for them to give better and more comprehensive feedback than would have been possible to write. The whole pilot was a huge success with students who received video feedback showing substantial improvement compared to the respective cohorts from previous years.

As always at these kinds of event, there was a open marketplace for tea, coffee, mingling and for various providers to demonstrate their wares, trying to attract people to them with the usual games and freebies. Turnitin, however, set the standard to beat with their Rubrics Cubes, very droll.

Finally, I would just like to say that with regards to the ‘Stadium of Light’ Metro station, I would humbly suggest to Nexus that to improve accuracy this station be renamed to the ‘Random Tesco car park over a kilometre away from the Stadium of Light, with no clear sign posting’ Metro station. My unexpected journey humbly reminded me to be grateful for smartphones, satellite navigation and the company of fellow wayward souls. In all seriousness, to anyone who needs to go to the Stadium of Light on the Metro, get off at St Peter’s station instead as it is actually closer.

http://www.jiscrsc.ac.uk/northern/e-fest-awards.aspx
http://www.planetestream.co.uk/
http://submit.ac.uk/en_gb/
http://www.onefile.co.uk/
http://uki.moodlerooms.com/
http://edina.ac.uk/

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Corporate Induction and Campus Tour

Attended the University’s corporate staff induction where I was given a broad overview of the University’s structure, mission, plans and culture, followed by a video tour of the London campus and a guided tour of the two city campuses.

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Hello Sunderland

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.

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Analytics Report Procedure

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.

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Handover Documentation

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.

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Socrates on Writing

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.”

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/plato-the-dialogues-of-plato-vol-1

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Badges

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/

http://openbadges.org
https://credly.com/
http://www.hastac.org/digital-badges-bibliography

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