Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The 5 Rs of YouTube Learning

I love a good mnemonic or contraction, initialisation or acronym - it makes the most common sense things sound thought-provoking.  Price (2009) considered the needs of the generation of "millennial" or YouTube students.
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

What emerged was a fantastic and alliterative contraction - 5 Rs.

Let me attempt to explain...

The 5 R's stand for:
  • Relevance. It's got to mean something to the student - linking it to the assessment may not be enough, but linking it to their future is a step in the right direction.
  • Rationale. Rules need to be explained - why is the essay only 2,500 words?  What is the tolerance for exceeding the limit?  Why can't I use the good stuff I found on Wikipedia?
  • Relaxed. Flexibility is the key - learning when I'm ready, not when the timetable says I should.
  • Rapport. Approachability of tutors, professors and administrators is very important to today's students.  Do they know that you are human too?
  • Research-based methods. Learning by doing and practical styles of delivery are favoured.
Review a course that you have just delivered against the 5Rs.

Ask yourself how the student experience could be improved by tweaking things like:
  • Timetable hours - who on earth learns at a time convenient to administrators?
  • Assessment - is it relevant and practical or is it an exam?
  • The different ways in which you communicate with students - just how available are you?
Now consider why you probably do not take action on any of these things...

REFERENCE: Price, C. (2009). Why Don't My Students Think I'm Groovy? The Teaching Professor,
23 (1), 7.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The farmer's breakfast

There's an old story that goes like this....

The Chickens wanted the Pigs to contribute to the farmer's breakfast.

"The problem is", said the pigs, "that whilst you are involved in the breakfast we pigs would be fully engaged".

Now, we don't ask today's students to give their lives for their studies as that would miss the point and mess up the graduate employment statistics but we do ask them to give rather more than the Chickens.

Student engagement is somewhat of a Holy Grail for Higher Education.  Of course, engaged learners are higher performers but just what motivates them to become engaged?  It's certainly not simply the desire to "get their moneys worth" - so is there a secret?

Skinner et.al. (2008) - considered 805 schoolchildren, attempting to define the reasons for disaffection.  They broadly concluded (and the summary is mine) that active, repeated, rewarded learning leads to behaviours that drive engagement.

Lectures are rarely active, never repeated (except for Lecture Capture) and rewarded fleetingly by the attention of the academic scheduled to drone in front of rapidly changing Powerpoint slides.  So why are we still designing our HE experience on things that do not lead to learning?

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

20/20 vision

PechaKucha is beginning to appear at conferences, in classrooms and on-line.  It is the simplest of concepts - 20 Powerpoint slides delivered for 20 seconds each (automatically timed).  There are associated concepts - such as using mostly pictures and few words and trying not to make more than three key points.


Watch this: PechaKucha demonstration.

Not tried it?  Well, it takes a lot of rehearsal but is very powerful.  Audiences actually listen to what you are saying, you have to focus on the key points and ditch anything that is peripheral.

Perhaps the biggest task is to source/photoshop or create pictures that convey the points you are making.  And if you are organising a conference it gives the chance to have up to five speakers in a 30 minute slot.

...and its great fun...

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Artificial Stupidity or Artificial Intelligence?

Will my job be taken over by a robot?  Will I be replaced?  What will become of me?

At least University lecturers can rest easy as experts believe that theirs is one of the few jobs that will not fall victim to the inexorable march of AI.  But if machines can actually learn for themselves and the processing further mimics the human brain we are all doomed.
Or are we?

Surely Asimov's 3 laws will protect us?  Oh no wait, there was a Zeroeth (?) law preceding and supervailing the first law ("robots must not harm humanity") and then a fourth/fifth law, added by another Science Fiction writer.

Did you say Science Fiction?

Well then, surely robust and well-designed regulation agreed by the world governments will protect us?

We are all doomed.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Power failure on campus: Official

From 1st April 2019 there will be a power failure on campus.
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
  • Academic colleagues will no longer have the power to decide what, when or how to undertake research;
  • Academic colleagues will no longer have any influence on promotion cases, job interviews, contract terms or, frankly anything that stops the University from owning their very souls;
  • Academic colleagues will no longer have the power to decide what, where, when or how to teach as their practice must conform to the University teaching protocol that was imagined in the last TEF submission.
  • Academic colleagues will no longer have the power to...(complete as applicable to your own institution).

April fool?

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Video for dummies

Creating your own video for teaching is much easier than you might think.  Whilst a mere 10 years ago you would need a good camcorder and microphone or even the extensive professional kit, as shown in this week's picture, today's video can be achieved with a smartphone, a tripod and an external mic.
Although smartphone video technology has advanced in recent years the key rules for making acceptable video have not changed.
  • Background - choose a background that supports your message, does not distract and does not have obvious flaws such as people walking by and staring at the camera.  Greenscreen offers many possibilities but needs a lot of post-production effort.
  • Lighting - typical smartphones take care of this automatically but do avoid stark lighting.  If you do have additional lights, bounce them off the ceiling to give a diffused effect.
  • Sound quality - an external mic is best but do make sure that it has the power to amplify the voice and cut out the background noise.  Even the quietest scene will pick up traffic, the hum of computers and lights and loud voices in the vicinity.
  • Focus - this is the one thing that cannot be fixed in the editing suite.  Learn how your smartphone can focus on a subject (normally by holding a finger on the screen at the position you want to focus on) and then keep the camera still.
Now all you need is some killer material to capture....  

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Playing games

Higher Education has been slow to embrace a technique and concept used extensively by corporate educators, many employers, social media and sport - gamification. (click on the link to provide a full explanation in the context of the undergraduate degree).


Key concepts in gamification are:
  • The sense of competition - we love to win;
  • Risk and Uncertainty - the unknown - not everything can be controlled by an algorithm;
  • Opportunity to put lessons to use (feedback plus repetition)
  • Complexity - just like real life, and
  • Reward - Normally the warm glow of a job well done...but virtual badges and icons seem to work reasonably well too.
Oh, and another vital couple of ingredients:
  • Imagination from the tutor and the students, and
  • Risk (again) - but this time on the part of the tutor, it's so much easier to conform to traditional lecture and seminar formats.
So, what's stopping you?