Sunday, 31 May 2009

Using blogs in teaching

Super helpful 'video poster' from Lindsay Jordon on using blogs in teaching.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Viva tips via Twitter

Another Friday afternoon post... I've just run an interesting session with intercalated medical students preparing them for their vivas. I tweeted at the beginning to say:
Preparing intercalated medics for their vivas...
and then I had an idea: why not ask my very helpful twitter followers for tips? So I tweeted again:
If you're feeling helpful pls could u tweet your viva top tips so I can put on twitterfall in class with #vivatips (go on, it's Friday!)
And within seconds I was getting useful tips aggregated via a hashtag and ready to show to my students via Twitterfall. Real time tips from really helpful people (thank you really helpful people!).
The students thought the tips were very useful, Twitterfall was a handy format (once I'd supersized the text and minimised the clutter around the fringes of the screen), and the students added their own tips in class (shame they weren't on Twitter too). My only nagging question was the one Alan posed.

Friday, 22 May 2009


I'm just hurrying off for the bank holiday, but thought I'd do another quick high-traffic-Friday-afternoon-post (!) first about the unconference I organised and ran today. Whilst I was a bit worried before hand, it really wasn't difficult to sort out (though it would probably would have benefited a bit more thought). What I've been struck by in particular is the usefulness of the conference to people who were participating via twitter. Here are the people who I know have blogged about it so far

Monday, 18 May 2009

A nearly 'unconference'

On Friday I'm running our Learning and Teaching in the Sciences conference. I say I'm running it, but I very much hope that I'll just be facilitating it as this year we're going to attempt one of those participant led unconference things.

Initially I'd decided to cancel this year's event as we couldn't get the speakers we wanted, then (to my surprise and delight) several people complained. So it's back by popular demand! Alan Cann commented that a traditional conference was the last thing we needed and suggested an unconference? So that's what we're experimenting with on Friday. Here's an outline so that I can a) get my thoughts down and b) invite comments and suggestions.


There are some of the factors we need to bear in mind if this is going to work well.


We have 20 booking so far and I don't imagine that will go up or down a great deal between now and Friday.


We will be in GPS18 - a reading room in the George Porter building - which will accommodate more than 30 but will probably be best set up as 4 groups of tables with 8-ish around each table.


We have 3 hours available (10.30-13.30) but with lunch included in that, so will probably closer to 2 hours.


We will have a mix of people coming along - some of whom will be very comfortable with the idea of an unstructured unconference, others of whom (I expect) will find it all a bit odd. So I need to give the event some direction and shape, but without turning it back into a conference. I don't want to stick slavishly to the unconference model (of which there's not a great danger because I don't know enough about it!) but I do want to use it as far as it's useful in getting everyone involved and contributing and coming up with practical ideas.


The theme is assessment, more specifically we have a question to focus our thoughts: Do we over assess our students and should we assess less?


So a suggested outline is as follows (NB. timings very approximate).

Introduction (10 minutes)

Explain the proposed outline and relevant unconference elements:
  • each group will have a convenor to facilitate (not lead) the discussion - they are not necessarily an expert on the chosen topic, they've just identified a challenge and want some ideas;
  • each group will have a flip chart pad and pens and will need to note down (and then present back) the challenge they have identified and some suggested solutions;
  • participants can choose to go to whichever group they like;
  • participants can (and are encouraged to) move to a different group whenever you think they've got as much from they're current group as they can.

Pitches for session 1 (10 minutes)

This is the bit that's not very unconference-y. Get 4 pre-primed people to pitch their idea as one of the group topics. The suggestions I've had so far are as follows (not all of these people have been asked yet - some have been volunteered - but take it as a complement!).
  • Using Turnitin for assessment (Jo Badge)
  • 10 quick wins on assessment (Jon Scott)
  • PC-based exams (Richard England)
  • [and another one please - Alan? Chris? Dai?]
Each pitch is a a maximum of 2 minutes - no slides.

Just noticed none of these are problems - just things - any suggestions?

Session 1 (up to 30 minutes)

This is when people get into groups around the tables and off they go. Participants can switch group whenever they like (but not the convenor).

Feedback from session 1 (10 minutes)

Feedback from each group.

Tea and coffee (10 minutes)

Brainstorm for session 2 topics (10 minutes)

What do we want to talk about next?

Session (up to 30 minutes)

As for session 1.

Feedback from session 2 (10 minutes)

As for session 1.


What are we going to do next?


Courtesy of central catering.

Friday, 15 May 2009

IT peer support project update

Just about managing to keep up my once a week blogging habit. I posted a couple of weeks back about our IT peer support project and this is a bit of an update. The paper went to our snappily titled Student Experience and Enhancement Committee a week ago. The reception was very positive but they did ask for a few clarifications on how the project will:
  1. relate to the current IT help desk;
  2. support distance learners;
  3. be evaluated.
So this week I met with the Service Desk Manager (in IT Services) and the Enquiry Services Manager (in the Library) to talk about 1 and 2 respectively. Both were good meetings and there seemed to be genuine interest in the project and a keenness to collaborate. In fact the common theme in both conversations was the need for the project to complement and reciprocate  their services rather than simply ensure we're not treading on their toes. In terms of evaluation I've bluffed something about uptake, impact and viability.  So I'll be emailing the chair of the snappily named committee with the clarifications very shortly.

On a tenuously related note, I came accross this natty thing via Twitter this week - - which could be handy for system testing of distance learning students' systems. Good ol' Twitter.

Publishing this on a Friday afternoon is sure to generate lots of traffic, I'm sure.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Student Devlopment on Twitter

I recently created a Twitter account for Student Development here at the University of Leicester ( I now need to decide what I'm going to do with it. As you'll see I've already tweeted from it a couple of times, but I need to know what students will find most useful and what the etiquette should be for a more institutional type account. So here are some questions.
  1. What kind of things should I tweet about? Forthcoming events, relevant resources, different services we offer - anything else?
  2. How often should I tweet from it (I don't want to annoy people)? I was thinking maybe once a day?
  3. If students follow me (it) should I (it) follow them? Is that the polite thing to do or might some consider that snooping?
  4. What about a picture - currently it's just :)
  5. How do I explain it to students who don't currently use Twitter? I was thinking a direct link from our website for those who do and a link to an information page about how it might be useful for those who don't (plus an RSS feed in of tweets).
Is there anything else I need to bear in mind?