Teachers are like gardeners …

Another wonderful sound-bite from Sir Ken Robinson:

” A great gardener, a great farmer, depends upon plants growing under their care, otherwise they’re out of business. But the irony is that every farmer and gardener knows you cannot make a plant grow. You cannot do that – you don’t stick the roots on, paint the petals, attach the leaves, you know. The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth. Great farmers know what the conditions are and bad ones don’t. Great teachers know what the conditions of growth are, and bad ones don’t. With bad teaching all this potential of students shrivels in the face of it. With great teaching all this stuff starts to flourish and flower. And that, to me, is the great gift of teaching: to recognise that growth is possible, at any time.”

Sir Ken Robinson – Teachers are like gardeners

Image source: Sebastiaan ter Burg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Harness the power of video and increase student engagement

Earlier this year I was invited to contribute to a guide for teachers on the flipped classroom, concentrating on the inclusion, or rather availability, of video to increase student engagement (flipped classroom or not).

This is what I wrote:

“Believe it or not YouTube has only just turned 10 years old. Yes, that’s right. So much has changed in that time that it’s often easy to forget just what the rate of change has been. Video has always been something that could be used in classrooms or for teaching and learning, but it was often a bulky CRT television on a trolley, with a VHS player and a multitude of knotted cables that the teacher could never unravel to get it near the wall socket. Therefore, in my experience, my teachers often gave up and tried something else instead. Not only was the actual technology / hardware itself difficult to use, the materials we were shown would be old programmes, not always relevant or interesting, and more often than not of poor quality that only a few in the class would be able to see and hear it properly.

Now fast forward to today and look at what you have. We have access to hours of genuine, original television programmes to choose from. The quality of both the video and content is as good as it’s ever going to get (even the self-produced materials), and the opportunities to create and share our own material has never been easier. With personal computing and audio/video equipment as cheap as it is, and with the growth of mobile computing still climbing, there really isn’t any excuse for a teacher to not find something to use in their classroom.

If you needed convincing, how about these examples? What if you wanted to show, instead of explain, how truncated spurs are created over millions of years by water or glacial erosion? What if your students can’t contemplate the distances involved when dealing with the planets in our solar system, or beyond? What about trying to help a student who’s struggling to understand a complex mathematical theory, such as the Brouwer’s Fixed-Point Theorem?

This is the power of video as part of a teaching and learning programme. For me there really is no reason to not include video in your teaching materials. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s to introduce complicated or difficult concepts, other times it could be to relieve stress or boredom.

Whatever, there is a reason, you just need to find it!”

Download the PDF guide and read from myself and other leading educators on flipped classrooms and other techniques for enhancing student engagement in the Teacher’s Practical Guide to the Flipped Classroom.

Mapping Digital Skills in HE

A few weeks ago this image/infographic was doing the rounds and being tweeted in my network (thank you Catherine Cronin!) – mapping digital skills in Irish Higher Education.

Bringing together themes of ‘tools and technology, ‘create and innovate’, ‘communicate and collaborate, this is a wonderful resource that can help map and highlight how skills cross sectors and areas of knowledge and capabilities. Examples include the humble (?) VLE … crossing ‘tools and technology’, ‘teach and learn’, and ‘communicate and collaborate’. 

Technology is now part of everyday life for all of us, whether as a student, teacher, administrator, technical specialist, or even just as an ordinary citizen.  The pace in which new technologies emerge from initial concept to widespread adoption is also much faster than ever before, new words being added to the dictionary each year and new websites and apps to get our heads around for anything from paying tax to ordering pizza; from watching the latest movies to speaking with distant relatives; or for learning a new skill and collaborating with others.

As part of the National Digital Skills Framework AllAboard are building, this is intended to be a flexible ‘organic’ (I don’t like phrase) document able to adapt as the learning technology environment changes.

What do you think – do they have everything here? Are the right kind of links and relationships represented?

Mapping Digital Skills in HE[click to enlarge]

Banner image: clement127 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The internet is after your job

The internet is after your job! According to this video at any rate.

“New technology can destroy jobs. In the past, this has mainly affected unskilled jobs, but now it’s hitting the middle classes – cutting a swathe across the creative industries and ‘professions’. Within a generation we may find that there are no such things as a ‘career’ or ‘job security’. What’s driving this disruption to our working lives – and what can you do about it?”

Among other industries previously affected, including manual jobs, it is now the working class world of teachers, lawyers, and doctors that are under fire from technology-inspired application – MOOCs anyone?

The trick, which most of us already know, is to carve your own niche and stand out from the crowd. Be unique, be yourself, and stay relevant.

The internet is after your job
The internet is after your job

Blackboard T&L Conference, Dublin #BbTLC2014

Next week is the 2014 Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference in Dublin. The programme looks very comprehensive and has 6 streams in motion, which means it’s going to be very difficult to attend and cover all the sessions I want to attend – which means I’m going to have to be very selective about what, and who, I see.

Here’s my first impressions of what I will try and see -

Wednesday, April 30.

  • Keynote / Prof Stephen Heppell. I have met and talked with Prof Heppell on numerous occasions (at Learning Without Frontiers in 2011 and during my time working at Bournemouth University) and know that his unique perspective and style will make this keynote both interesting and hugely profound on the issues affecting education today. This is one session you do not want to miss. 
  • Track 3 / Brian Hipkin – ‘The Culture of ‘Always On – How not to disengage in the age of engagement’. If we’re to engage and keep the attention of the ‘always on’ student, then understanding them and their needs is important. This session will look at society’s use of social media and the challenges of using it.
  • Track 4 / Gillian Fielding – ‘Collaborate: “A room with a view” for virtually anyone’. Case studies are always more interesting and relevant to how I think, so this one from Salford should be good, looking at the strategic embedding of Collaborate across the institution.
  • Track 5 / Kate Wright – ‘Making More Mobile – Aberystwyth University’s Experience of Implementing Mobile Learn’. I’ve been trying to find examples of Bb Mobile Learn in use for a while (December 2013) and this might be the first time I see it in action and get to find out how & why they did it, as well as what the students think about it.

Thursday, May 1.

  • Track 2 / Jan Snijders – ‘The Matrix, connecting worlds’. Bb Implementation and use across a whole institution is never easy, so it’ll be interesting to hear how Avans University have achieved this, and how they’re taking it forward and integrating it into more than just the basic ‘file store/dump’ mentality.
  • Track 2 / Sara Preston – ‘Embedding Blackboard Collaborate in Academic Practice’. Using Bb Collaborate for more than just the basic ‘online presentation’ is key to utilising it’s vast capabilities, so hopefully the University of Aberdeen can share some practices (good and bad) at how to meet these challenges.
  • Track 3 / Lloyd Dean – ‘Using BlackBoard to Flip the classroom’. I have had conversations at Leicester about the flipped classroom, as well as delivering a workshop, so this will be interesting to hear how others are using and implementing the flipped approach, and whether the techniques can be replicated at Leicester.
  • Track 4 / Malcolm Murray – ‘Student voice: is honesty the best policy? Giving students control of TEL evaluations’. I met Malcolm for the first time at the 2013 Durham Bb Users Conference, so know this session will be informative and relevant, as well as being very pertinent to the conversations I’ve had around the issue of module and learning evaluations.

Friday, May 2.

  • Track 1 / Louise Thorpe – ‘Flipped, flexible and feedback: Blackboard client community group piloting Blackboard Collaborate to provide more engaging and innovative learning activities for on-campus students’. Collaboration for both campus and distance learning students is one everyone’s mind at the moment, with Bb Collaborate a solution being considered and investigated. This session will hopefully provide some insight into successful implementation both technically and pedagogically.
  • Track 3 / Sharon Flynn – ‘Student as Producer: Developing a campus mobile app for students by students using Mosaic’. I’ve followed Sharon’s work at Galway for a number of years, and enjoyed conversations in Twitter and in real life too, so I know this session will be informative, well presented, and very useful for any organisation looking to, or has already, implemented a campus App.
  • Track 1 / Jan-Willem van der Zalm – ‘Moving Your Mission-Critical Services to the Cloud’. Cloud services are becoming a big thing. Will this session address some of the issues and concerns universities have with this (including data protection?) or just be another sales pitch … ?

There are many more sessions I am interested in, but most are scheduled for the same time. I can only hope that bloggers like me will write up their notes and/or Bb will archive the presentations .. and maybe even record them too?

Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference 2014 BbTLC2014