Friday, 29 June 2012

eGuide Timeline

I gave an overview of our eGuide project here in a post on 1 June 2012.

Needing a bit more detail for a presentation I gave to the RSCWales' Summer conference I created a timeline which you can see here:

Many of the events have links to project related documents.

Comments welcome ....


Friday, 22 June 2012

Developing Digital Literacies

The JISC 'Developing Digital Literacies Programme' promotes the development of coherent, inclusive and holistic institutional strategies for developing digital literacies for all staff and students in UK further and higher education. One year after the start of the programme, this briefing paper explores some of the themes that have emerged so far.

The paper is available here:

More to follow ...

Friday, 15 June 2012

Digital Natives? - Probably Not!

There has been much debate over the years concerning the Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants perspectives (Prensky, 2001; Part 1 and Part 2). Originally the ideas were embraced by many teachers who felt that they expressed the differences that they were seeing between younger and older students and between younger students and teachers. As time went on, the reality of young people's lack of digital skills in many areas became clearer and a feeling grew that apart from a difference in confidence, the existence of a 'Native' was probably more myth than reality.

Research carried out in 2010 and published in Feb 2012 ( finds no evidence for Digital Natives.

The Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology put together an age-stratified, gender-balanced cohort of 7,000 students aged between 21 and 100 . There were 2,000 between ages 60 and 69, 1,000 aged 70 and over, and, for comparison, four groups, 1,000 in each, from students respectively in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. All were surveyed by detailed and carefully constructed questionnaires.

The research concluded that firstly, there’s no evidence of a clear-cut digital divide. Use of technology varies with age, but it does so predictably, over the whole age span. And secondly, although younger people are more likely to be positive about technology, there is evidence that a good attitude to technology, at any age, correlates with good study habits.

More to follow next TGIF.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Webinar Software - Reviews and Reality

Next week a small group of us will be trying out 4 different webinar software packages. The aim of the test is to experience the software as both presenters and attendees in an attempt to choose one package that we can all use across our different institutions. Regional staff development is the end goal.

A traditional seminar is a small group of students that meet regularly under, the guidance of a tutor, to exchange information, discuss theories, etc. The important word here is 'exchange'. The idea is that ALL of the group contribute so a web based seminar (or webinar) must allow both tutor AND students to communicate freely and to present their own work. The focus then is on software that provides a type of virtual classroom approach rather than on webcasting (squirting video onto the web for a largely anonymous and passive audience) or webchat/conferencing (a discussion using one or more of text, audio and video).

Today I will show the review sites and later I'll update the post with our experiences.

One really useful site provides reviews and comparisons of 35 different software packages. The top 10 (on 8 June 2012) are shown below;

Other packages listed include some names that will be familiar with most teachers; InstantPresenter (15 - 8.6), Skype (18 - 8.2), Blackboard Collaborate (29 - 7.4). The reviews are based on the following evaluation guide:
    1. Web conference
    2. Webinar
    3. Webcast
    1. Desktop sharing 
    2. Virtual room
    1. Web conference
    2. Audio conference
    3. Video conference
    1. Shared hosted service (SaaS)
    2. Local installation
    3. Hybrid installation
    1. Specialized solution (focus on web conferencing)
    2. Integrated solution (unified communications)
    1. Virtual classroom
Another review site ( lists their top 10 which has some similarities with the above but probably not enough overlap to provide a clear winner.
  1. MegaMeeting
  2. GoToWebinar
  3. Microsoft Office Live Meeting
  4. Fuze Meeting
  5. WebEx
  6. ClickMeeting
  7. Adobe Connect
  8. InstantPresenter
  9. GatherPlace
  10. Dimdim
A really helpful practical guide has been created by Matt Ewens from JISC's RSC South West ( which covers 11 applications and for each gives a feature list, screen shot, strengths, challenges and a price comparison chart.

From our reading of these review sites the group decided to try a practical comparison using GoToMeeting, WebEx, Fuze and Adobe Connect.

I'll post soon on the practical reality.

Until then - TGIF

Friday, 1 June 2012

Students as Peer eGuides

It is a well known fact that one constant feature of classrooms is that students will pay just enough attention to teachers so that they keep out of trouble. It was no surprise then when at a student focus group, one student said 'if you want a message to get through to students, get other students to tell them'!

The focus group was set up a couple of years ago to hear from students about the digital skills they have and how they learn to use new technologies and resources. A recurring theme was that students often don't look to teachers for advice on or practical help with all things digital. The Library and Learning Technology Service started working on a plan to enable students to help other students develop their digital skills and knowledge. Don't assume from this that we necessarily agree with Prensky's Digital Native proposition, we just recognised that students have a great influence on each other.

It was around this time that JISC were inviting bids from the 'Celtic Nations' (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - SWaNI) for their Learning and Teaching Innovation strand (Grant 10/10: SWaNI FE). Our bid was successful (along with 6 other colleges) and our PEDL Project (Peer eGuides promoting Digital Literacy) received funding for a year.
Funding Details:

Since January 2011, we have been developing the eGuide approach and although the JISC funding finished in December 2011 we have continued to make refinements and will open the eGuide Programme to all courses across the college in the next academic year.

You can get an overview of the PEDL project here:

The final report is here:

In essence, we asked course tutors to identify a student who had good digital skills and who was already seen by the others in the group as someone they could approach for help. We viewed the interpersonal skills as important, if not more so, than the digital skills. We explained the programme and the eGuide role and then provided core and further training in the essential digital tools and resources used in the college based on the results of an eGuide Skill Audit.

A similar briefing was given to the student groups studying on the same course as the eGuides where we stressed that the eGuides could help them with some digital problems but mostly their role was to direct students to the online skills portal (TARDiS - Tools And Resources for a Digital Society) or to specialist Library and ICT staff. A reflective journal, a staff mentor and regular debriefing meetings all help maintain the eGuide engagement with their role.

During the funded period, two cohorts of eGuides were trained and supported and many lessons were learnt. Some of the main lessons for others wishing to adopt a similar approach to student skill development are:

  • Ensure staff identify potential eGuides according to the criteria mentioned above rather than cut corners and ask for volunteers (a student vote would be more preferable than a free for all).
  • Two eGuides from larger course groups works well due to mutual support and reminders.
  • Regular contact of small groups of eGuides and their staff mentor helps maintain enthusiasm for the role.
  • Start the programme early in the academic year, probably earlier than you might think advisable. Students have greatly valued the early support from their peers.
  • Some recognition of the extra effort that eGuides are making is appreciated. Providing refreshments at some meetings, high street vouchers before Christmas and possibly a 'star prize' for active Guides etc.
  • Regular feedback sessions where eGuide experiences are genuinely listed to and acted upon to improve the programme further.
For the next academic year we will be providing eGuide sweatshirts.
The students themselves have requested this and feel that they could have helped in a wider capacity if they had been more easily recognised.

I remember an early meeting of the project staff where we considered doing something like that but rejected it as rather patronising.
I am often surprised what students value and want - all the more reason to keep asking them!!!