Friday, 25 May 2012

Who Do They Think They Are?

The one constant thread running through my work over the last 10 years is 'at your service'!
Because a large part of my job involves the education and training of academic staff (mostly technology but I sneak in pedagogy where I can), a lot of my time is spent supporting and troubleshooting as and when required. Other aspects of my work get squeezed somewhat by this; I get to mostly do the urgent and not the important.

One aspect that I don't give enough time to is reading around and finding people who I think it important (or enjoyable) to revisit regularly. Earlier this week I came across a brilliant article by someone that I already had on my 'People' list - I just haven't re-visited for months!

I thought I would share the list as it is now.
There is not a conscious selection process going on with this list, I just liked what they were saying.
Please do post a comment and let me know who you follow.

John Seely Brown -
Part scientist, part artist and part strategist, JSB's views are unique and distinguished by a broad view of the human contexts in which technologies operate and a healthy skepticism about whether or not change always represents genuine progress.

Stephen Downes -
Stephen Downes works for the National Research Council of Canada where he has served as a Senior Researcher, based in Moncton, New Brunswick, since 2001. Affiliated with the Learning and Collaborative Technologies Group, Institute for Information Technology, Downes specializes in the fields of online learning, new media, pedagogy and philosophy.

Jane Hart -

Jane Hart is an independent consultant, speaker and writer. She is an internationally known specialist in the use of social media for learning and working.

Stephen Heppell -

...sometimes people need a short "who is he?" for bid documents, flyers, etc. or some media quotes for conference intros. I struggle with this kind of thing, to be honest, but here's my version - feel free to chop it about any which way you like: Professor Stephen Heppell ......

Will Richardson -
This site is dedicated to discussions and reflections on the use of Weblogs, wikis, RSS, audiocasts and other Read/Write Web related technologies in the K-12 realm, technologies that are transforming classrooms around the world.

Ken Robinson -
Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation.

George Siemens -
George Siemens, Founder and President of Complexive Systems Inc., a research lab assisting organizations to develop integrated learning structures for global strategy execution.

Joyce Seitzinger -
My name is Joyce Seitzinger. I’m an education technologist working in higher education, passionate about improving learning experiences through emerging technologies and innovative teaching strategies. My special interests are digital curation, learning design and networked learning.

Martin Weller -
I'm a Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University in the UK. I'm into exploring the impact of new technologies for learners and academics. Recently this has coalesced under the broad, inadequate heading of 'digital scholarship.

NB: The sites above are just one point of access for each person. Mostly, there are other sites, user names etc where they display their work. The text below the image comes from the person's 'about' page.


Friday, 18 May 2012

Moodle Tool (& Pedagogy) Guide for Teachers

Last week I realised that so far in my Friday posts I haven't included probably the best Moodle handout I've ever seen. The Moodle Tool Guide created by Joyce Seitzinger a few years ago (May 2010) presents ease of use for the main Moodle tools BUT most interestingly, relates these to pedagogy (ie teaching techniques/approaches).

Most staff development for Learning Technologies focuses on 'which button to press' to get the technology to work. There is however a serious lack of resources that guide teachers to appropriate and effective teaching and learning techniques centred around specific digital tools.

There is a lot of research literature and erudite papers about 'ePedagogy' (if such a thing exists) but most busy teachers I think want advice that is more easy to engage with.The teaching approaches listed are fairly basic:
  • Information Transfer
  •  Assess Learning
  • Communication & Interaction
  • Co-create Content
  • Bloom's Cognitive Hierarchy
 However, the list is perfect for the busy teacher.

The handout is here:

The PowerPoint slide used to create the pdf is here:
(ie you can edit the PPT to create your own customised guide)

There is even a Flickr group to share photos of the guide in use (Joyce is very keen on social endeavour):

A Moodle 2 version is in development by Gavin Henrick. I'm sure for those of you who have 'gone M2' there will be lots of discussion to come. Me? I am going TGIF.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Top Digital Tips for Teachers

I was asked to provide an input to a group of secondary school teachers who are promoting the use of Learning Technology within their schools. I was given the title 'Top Tips'.  After considering a variety of tip type lists, I decided to list the principles that underpin the work I do to promote the use of digital approaches.

I started teaching secondary school science in 1978 and have been using computers in my teaching since then. I have also taught on FE, undergraduate and Masters level courses and over the last 11 years I have been a Learning Technologist providing staff development, support and advice for FE teachers and managers.

The following list has guided my work with teachers over many years:
  1. Priorities the digital
  2. Make your VLE your foundation
  3. Expect learners to engage
  4. Make digital demands
  5. Look before you make
  6. Try one new thing
  7. Join a group
  8. Review your pedagogy
  9. Give CPD time
  10. Face the fear
This list assumes that the organisation that you work for is providing adequate digital kit and web connectivity. If not, the top tip is to encourage managers to adopt a digital focus and allocate appropriate resourcing. Sometimes however, you may only persuade managers to change once a large enough number of teachers have already engaged!
  1. Prioritise the digital
    Many teachers feel that they don’t have the time to learn and use digital techniques and resources. In these cases, Time = Priority! We are all busy people but we find the time to do all sorts of things because we prioritise them. Lack of time = lack of priority.
  2. Make your VLE your foundation
    Provide all the essential, and extension, resources for your teaching and assessment over the web for anytime and anyplace access. Use your VLE (Learning Platform) on a daily basis during your teaching so learners see it in action. This assumes that there is a minimum of 1 staff PC and projector in every classroom.
  3. Expect learners to engage
    If you don’t adopt a positive attitude toward the beneficial role that digital tools and resources can bring to learning, don’t be surprised if your learners don’t engage.  If you use digital and you train your learners to use digital, your expectations will be met (assuming you have a good relationship with your students).
  4. Make digital demands
    Sometimes called ‘Blended Learning’, mix traditional teaching & learning techniques with newer digital approaches (see also 8 and 9 below). Add digital tasks, in class or outside the classroom to develop student’s digital knowledge, skills, confidence and competence. This is one crucial aspect for their future.
  5. Look before you make
    Most teachers like to make teaching and learning resources but there is a World Wide Web of ready to go resources. With effective search techniques and a list of trusted websites you can save masses of time (your librarian might also help you find eResources). Only make something new if it doesn’t already exist.
  6. Try one new thing
    There are a wide variety of digital materials, methods and technologies available. Plan to try something new each term/year and give yourself time to play, implement and most importantly review new things. Done regularly, your digital repertoire quickly increases.
  7. Join a group
    Find a local or national interest group that shares ideas, good practice, new resources etc that can be a source of inspiration and support. Once you’ve lurked for a while, become active in your communication and collaboration.
  8. Review your pedagogy
    Think about your teaching approach and how it works for preparing learners for a digital and connected world. Social constructivism seems to work well in a digital context.
  9. Give CPD time
    The points above won’t happen without some thought, training and practice. Use some CPD time to increase your own knowledge, skills, confidence and competence.
  10. Face the fear
    For some teachers, using new technologies and resources with students is daunting. There was a time when just standing in front of a class was daunting (but most of us overcame that one). Remember:
    • experience is that quality that lets us keep a sense of humour when things go wrong!
    • the idea that young people are innately better than we are with technology is a myth!
    • DON’T PANIC (and have a backup plan).
I haven’t provided links to further information above because new resources appear all the time.

However, the following links are fairly current:
Teacher resources -
Tools and Reviews -
CPD Focus -
Teachers Online - #addcym on Twitter

I hope you find something useful in there.
It is for you, the reader, to decide if this list constitutes 'Top Tips' or not (it does work for me however) and thanks to LearnTech Wales (an FE interest group) and RSC Wales (a support group) for your thoughts on the list.

Tip 11 - have good weekends - TGIF

Friday, 4 May 2012

Gaia: Stereoscopic 3D for Education

Gaia Technologies ( was  formed in 1992 has become one of the leading providers of ICT solutions to UK schools. From their headquarters in Bangor North Wales, and with operational bases in Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and London, they currently look after a large number of education customers.

Over the last three years or so the Gaia 3D Team ( have been developing an affordable stereoscopic 3D projection system together with a bank of curriculum focused learning resources. Using a 3D-ready projector, 3D glasses and the Viewer software, virtual 3D objects can be projected and manipulated with an impressive sense of proximity in the foreground and depth in the background. Using the viewer software, the presenter (teacher or learner) can rotate or slide an object and zoom in/out. Extra controls (setup by the developers for each object) provide further functionality such as show/hide labels, make areas transparent, animate, assemble etc.

In the software version to be released in the next few months, users will be able to customise objects for their own use by editing the labels and information panels, adding PowerPoint Files and web links and embedding external videos and images into the object's control panel. Assets can also be added to the content library directly from sites such as Google Warehouse by downloading the Collada Zip format. DIY resources can also be incorporated from many 3D authoring packages by exporting as a .ive object.

The learning content also includes a number of 'immersive 3D environments' where the user can explore an area and gather information about that time and place (eg World War 1 Trenches, London Plague, ancient Rome, Giza etc).

The team are constantly creating more objects and environments and developing the pedagogic content by working closely with teachers around the UK. Existing objects are also being improved as teachers see further opportunities from having used the resources in class.

At present, the resources are focused on the secondary school curriculum but as more FE colleges take up licences and work with the development team a wider range of curriculum topics will be available. The Gaia team are also working on new functionality and interactivity options so what you can do with the content will also develop with time.

Personal experience shows that short bursts of 3D presentation integrated with classroom activity provides the most effective mix of engagement and further study. My college has opted to trial a PC classroom based system that doesn't have the full wow factor of a large screen viewing room but does have easy transition from presentation to study I guess the ideal would be to have a room large enough to have a viewing area at one end and a set of PCs at the other - I can dream!).

Case Studies & a White Paper can be seen at

The Gaia system is based on the 'active shutter' approach where left and right images are flashed on screen at 120Hz and the glasses have lenses that are alternately clear then black at the same flicker rate and are synchronised to the projected image. The brain is then fooled into seeing a solid object that protrudes out of or sinks in to the screen. It is only the PC connected to the projector, usually the staff machine, that needs a Gaia 3D licence. Student machines use similar software with the same functionality but the object is not seen stereoscopically (ie it is in 2D).

You can download a viewer and sample content from

There are many factors to consider when making judgements about whether this is the 'next big thing' in teaching and learning. Many staff who have seen demonstrations and played with the software are highly impressed by the experience and see great potential. The whole notion of '3D Learning' could make teachers re-evaluate their materials and methods, always a good thing, and could lead to new approaches.

It is possible that 3D might become the 'stereoscopic elephant in the room' but it is the development of resources, teaching experiences and learner feedback that will ultimately decide.

I'm sure there will be many more posts on this topic in the months to come - stay tuned.

 However, I'm flickering off now because TGIF.