You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2008.

This is the first of what I hope will be many progress report logs.

We had the first practical block from Friday 22 – Monday 25 Feb. The students mostly seem to be pretty happy. There are several people within the class who are finding the idea of using computers fairly daunting. But they’re willing to give it a go, so I’ve been spending a bit of time reassuring them and pointing out the support options which are available to them (i.e. me, CLCs, Helpdesk, Open Access Suite).  It’s not helping that almost all students have had problems with their initial passwords not working, but we’re working through that.

We have 23 students enrolled.  Of these 5 are part-time and 4 live outside of Dunedin.  One of our students was planning to be full-time, but has had to move to Auckland at the last minute, and so is planning to study Bioscience 1 & 2 this year (which he can do by distance), then to come back next year or the year after & pick up the rest.

The online programme started on Tuesday. We’ve decided to only have Study Skills online in between Block 1 & Block 2 to give the students some time to get comfortable with communicating in the online environment.  I’ve been communicating purely via email so far, and today have started nudging the students into the use of Windows Live Spaces & messenger.

The students have a wikipage which contains all of the learning modules which make up the course. It’s a work in progress, but it’s not far away from being completed.  I’ve been working late most nights trying to pull it together – I’m just trying to keep a few steps ahead of the students. 🙂

The other resource which they have to guide their learning is their assessment. For the study skills course, the students have ten assessment tasks to complete. Click here to see the assessment overview.  Each assessment task has learning modules that support it. The students have been told that most of the learning modules are optional.  If they can complete the assessment without running through the learning modules, then I’m happy for them to do this.

We’re now three days into the programme.  Yesterday I did an audit of our email group, and found that four students were not receiving the emails that they should be, so I’ve added them in. Through marking the first assessment task I’ve picked up that 6 of the students are not participating as yet.  Some of those will be composed of the 4 that were not in the email group, but there are some others as well. So first thing tomorrow I’m going to ring them all, and find out what’s going on.

I’ve also realised that I need a regular feedback process to determine how the students are progressing through the programme, how they are feeling about the programme, and what problems they’re experiencing (if any).  It’s hard to get a sense of these things from where I’m sitting right now, but they’re so important in these early stages.  So I’ve drafted a survey up & am running it by our local expert before sending it out to the students.

So I’m mostly happy with how things are going.  I am a little concerned that so many students have not managed to participate at all, but I’m fairly sure that we should be able to work through whatever issues are there.  I’m also a little worried that some of the more competent computer users may be getting a bit bored, however the self-paced nature of most of the activities should suit them.  It’s definitely a learning curve.  🙂

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of work building up resources on the WikiEducator platform for our Study Skills course.

The lack of formatting control on the WikiEducator platform is really starting to bug me. Formatting adds quite a bit of readability to documents. Using colouring and alignment you can empasize or de-emphasize aspects of the text.  I’m pretty disappointed with my recent effort.   Yes I know Leigh, I do need to add some images to flash it up.

While I was originally pretty keen on the open-office export to media-wiki text, I’m finding that it only seems to handle very simple documents.   It makes a complete hash of URLs for example.  Most of the documents that I’ve been working with recently require so much editing once I’ve copied and pasted them into the wiki, that it would be almost definitely easier to write the material straight into the wiki.

I’m now committed to working in the wiki environment, but I wonder if something like box net might be a better option for the future???

It’s 1 week to the launch of the new programme, and I’m feeling pretty good about it, but working damn hard, and there’s still an insane amount to do. All of our students are going to have Windows Live installed as part of their student account. I’ve been looking into it, and I think it’s actually an excellent platform for transitioning people into the web. As part of their login, students get similar services to what they got previously with Groupwise, but with a few extra services bundled in. There’s a spaces function, which I haven’t really checked out yet, but seems at first glance a bit facebook-ish. You can post comments about what’s going on with you, there’s a blogging function, you can post photos. MSN Messenger is also bundled into the package (although unfortunately not fully integrated with the other functions). This provides the potential for students to use IM & Voice-over IP communication (similar to skype).

My current plan is to get them started using messenger in a platform that’s already provided to them from polytech. In the first 1/2 week get students to communicate via messenger & google group. Set topics that require engagement through these platforms. Get students building profiles. Consider using the blogging function? Then start pushing them into Elluminate & Blackboard (we’re planning to use Bb for our Communication 1 & our Bioscience this year).

I’m looking forward to putting all of my planning into action.  It’s going to be quite fun I think.

Our teaching issues have been sorted out thankfully. I’m very happy with the staff that we’ve found to fill the spaces. Due to the timeframe, we’ve decided to hold back the start of teaching for Bioscience & Communication 1 to the second practical block (about 7-9 March).  This wasn’t the original plan, but on reflection I think that it makes a lot of sense to give the students space so that they can get used to communicating online before we start doing a lot of teaching online.

I’m going to be working for most of the weekend.  The 2nd years are back on Tuesday  for the beginning of their F2F programme (I’ve hardly even considered my teaching of them this year, but I’m pretty happy with the subject material that I used last year).  The 1st years are back on Friday for their first practical block (Friday – Monday).  My online teaching experience starts on Tuesday the 26th of February.

I’ll keep you posted.

I was just trying to get to sleep early tonight after a big week, and the thought of using video blogging in my teaching popped into my head.  I hadn’t really considered doing this previously, and the potential of it has got me pretty excited.

I had a look around to see if anyone was using vlogging in teaching, and came across a few interesting sites/articles.

Freevlog are doing something like what I was thinking about for teaching, but they appear to be a couple of vloggers who are creating self-help and educational resources for the love of it.

Peter Meng, a technical business analyst for the University of Missouri prepared an interesting article titled

Podcasting & Vodcasting – Definitions, Discussions & Implications 

In it he discusses the likely rapid emergence of these technologies into teaching, their potential uses, and the implications of this on infrastructure.

Might try getting back to sleep now that that’s out of my system….

I’ve just come across Mark Prensky’s incredibly thought provoking article – Digital natives, Digital Immigrants. Thanks to Keith Grant for the link. In the article, Prensky discusses the differences between those people who have developed with digital technology (digital natives) and digital immigrants by which he means those (typically older) recent immigrants to the digital world.

“(Digital natives) have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives.”(Prensky,2001)

He goes on to state.

“…These differences go far further and deeper than most educators suspect or realize. “Different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures, “ says Dr. Bruce D. Berry of Baylor College of Medicine. As we shall see in the next installment, it is very likely that our students’ brains have physically changed – and are different from ours – as a result of how they grew up…we can say with certainty that their thinking patterns have changed. ” (Prensky,2001)

Prensky then turns his eye to how this varying level of digital connectivity relates to education as shown in these selected quotes

“let me highlight some of the issues. Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work. (Does any of this sound familiar?)”(Prensky,2001)

“Digital Immigrant teachers assume that learners are the same as they have always been, and that the same methods that worked for the teachers when they were students will work for their students now. But that assumption is no longer valid. Today’s learners are different. “Www.hungry.com” said a kindergarten student recently at lunchtime. “Every time I go to school I have to power down,” complains a high-school student.” “(Prensky,2001)

“Today’s teachers have to learn to communicate in the language and style of their students. This doesn’t mean changing the meaning of what is important,
or of good thinking skills. But it does mean going faster, less step-by step, more in parallel, with more random access, among other things. “
(Prensky,2001)

“So we have to invent, but not necessarily from scratch. Adapting materials to the language of Digital Natives has already been done successfully. My own preference for teaching Digital Natives is to invent computer games to do the job, even for the most serious content. After all, it’s an idiom with which most of them are totally familiar.”(Prensky,2001)

Interesting stuff. I can see I’m going to have to read some more Prensky.

The start of the year’s been pretty rocky for the massage therapy programme. Over the last couple of months there have been 3 major shocks to deal with.

  1. Last December, I found out that the additional funding that we were expecting for developing online was not going to be available. This has put us in the position of needing to develop an online programme with the same level of teaching resource that we would have for delivering the programme as it stands.

    I think this is do-able. Our development model is to transfer our lesson plans to Activity Sheets (e.g.) on the WikiEducator platform. From these Activity Sheets, students will be directed to readings from their textbooks, individual or group activities, web-based resources, work on assessments, etc. This is much less intensive than the approach of developing textbooks and/or reading material online. However due to necessity, we will have to take the no-frills approach to development. 😦

  2. Just before Christmas, I was informed that our Bioscience lecturer was downsizing her workload and would not be coming back. This is a big deal for the programme. Bioscience is a pretty major part of our programme, and the plan is for it to be all online in 2008 (starting in semester 1).
  3. We’ve been talking with another department who has a communication module that exactly matches our requirements for communication in the first semester of the programme. They were also planning to deliver their module largely online with some block practical tutorials. It seemed a perfect fit until a week ago when I found out that they had decided not to deliver it online in 2008.

You can imagine how I felt at this point. Still no Bioscience lecturer, no Communication 1 lecturer, and 3 weeks to the start of the course!!!!!!

Sourced from Flickr.  Image courtesy of Lastexit

Luckily yesterday I managed to find a Bioscience lecturer who I’m very happy with, and is happy to take on the job of teaching for us. We also now have a communication teacher for our semester one course. What a relief. 🙂

To provide both teachers with some development time, we’re going to have to delay the start of both Bioscience 1 & Communication 1 for several weeks, but the flexibility of online teaching means that this is not too much of a drama.

Staff training is underway. I’ve had two training sessions with Ash & Irene, introducing them to the delivery model, and the technology platforms. Both have gone well. I’m now going to need to repeat this training with the newbies to get them up to speed. Luckily our new Bioscience lecturer (Ruth Lawson) has already authored an entire textbook on Wikiversity, and so is well ahead of me in the use of wiki-text.

It’s exciting to be almost into the term after 6 months of learning & planning, but there is still an insane amount of work to do….I guess that’s the case at the start of every year really.