Impatient Futurist: Science Finds a Better Way to Teach Science

By Mind & Brain Learning, Discover Magazine

This article looks at whether traditional science lecture methods actually help students learn and reviews work beyond using handheld clickers to answer questions, towards more practical problem solving and application.

Full article

Eric Mazur – Confessions of a Converted Lecturer


Open Government Data *wince* it’ll take a while… Open Education – next September? No probs

by Emma Mulqueeny

Emma reviews the recent Michael Gove announcement at BETT regarding the move towards open education as opposed to traditional curricular models and mentions that

“out of all the 28,000 teachers who qualified in 2010, 3 – THREE – were computer science majors. Three chose to go into teaching, the rest chose to reward their hard-earned degree in the City, or on their own start-ups”

Leon mentions in the discussion

“What people still don’t get is that there is a massive cultural shift in progress involving how people meet and learn and that it often has nothing to do with the institutional side of education but can be co-opted by it. I know it’s unfashionable but we are talking pedagogy and epistemology here. How and why people learn what they learn and the reasons for learning. The fact that any government leaves it up for grabs means it could either be sidelined or it could be harnessed.”

Full post & discussion


Dissing the Dissertation

By Scott Jaschik

The Modern Language Association looks at the format, descriptions, guidelines of dissertations and questions whether traditional views of scholarship are appropriate – moving beyond ‘the pdf’

Castells debate os dilemas da internet

By OutrasPalavras

Discussing mass self-communication, government and corporate influence on the Internet

“Os meios de comunicação tornaram-se ao mesmo tempo globais e locais. Com a transmissão digital, podem-se recombinar meios diferentes. O que antes era uma comunicação muito local e em que havia poucos canais e poucas formas de difusão de mensagens, transformou-se numa enorme constelação que está em todo mundo.

Mas a grande transformação foi produzida nos últimos dez ou doze anos, quando começou a se difundir a comunicação horizontal. Ou seja, não mais aquela que vai de um a muitos — e sim a que vai de muitos a muitos. Com cada um emitindo e selecionando suas próprias mensagens a partir da internet. Isso abriu as fronteiras. Qualquer pessoa pode organizar seu próprio canal e suas próprias redes de comunicação.

Portanto, estamos em um sistema de comunicação duplo, em que os meios de comunicação de massa já não reinam sozinhos. Surgiu o que chamamos de a “auto-comunicação de massa” — a comunicação que nós mesmos selecionamos, mas que tem o potencial de chegar às massas, ou àquele grupo de pessoas que definimos em nossas redes.”

Full article, translate

Pedagogy and Space: Empirical Research on New Learning Environments

By J. D. Walker, D. Christopher Brooks, and Paul Baepler, in Educause Quarterly

In a previous EDUCAUSE Quarterly article,1 we reported the results of quasi-experimental research on the University of Minnesota’s new, technology-enhanced learning spaces called Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs). That investigation found — after controlling for potentially confounding factors such as instructor, instructional methods, assessments, and student demographics — that teaching in an ALC contributed significantly to student learning outcomes. In addition, our findings indicated that the type of space in which a class is taught influences instructor and student behavior in ways that likely moderate the effects of space on learning. Finally, we found significant cross-sectional differences between different subsets of our student sample in terms of how they perceived the ALC’s contribution to their learning experience.

Here, we report on the next phase of learning-spaces research at the University of Minnesota (UMN), which had two components. First, to ensure that our earlier results were not simply fortuitous, we replicated the original investigation with a different instructor, student sample, and subject matter. Second, having shown that the type of learning space matters, we turned our attention to the pedagogy employed within the room. Using another quasi-experimental design, we investigated whether or not having our instructor adapt her instructional approach to fit the space would influence student learning outcomes and student perceptions of their learning experience.

Two specific research questions guided this phase of our research:

  • Holding the pedagogical approach constant, what is the relationship between the type of learning space and (1) student learning outcomes, (2) instructor and student behavior, and (3) student perceptions of the learning experience?
  • Holding the learning space constant, what is the relationship between the type of pedagogical approach and (1) student learning outcomes and (2) student perceptions of the learning experience?

Full article

J. D. Walker, D. Christopher Brooks, and Paul Baepler. The text of this EQ article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 license.

Open Badges, MOOCs and Recognising Lifelong Learning

By Grainne Hamilton

Grainne discusses participation in a Mooc, recognition and accreditation of learning including open badges:

“I think badges awarded for different levels of participation or perhaps for contribution to the wider knowledge of the learning community through blog posts, contributions to discussions etc could have worked really well here. I participated in the MOOC for my own personal development, to gain knowledge useful for my job and out of interest to experience a MOOC so I wasn’t really looking for a qualification from it. Looking back though, it would be useful to have some kind of recognition of my increased understanding of mobile learning but it could also have been a good motivator if there had been some tangible way of acknowledging if my peers had valued my contributions or spotted a particular attribute in me. It would also have been good to be able to separate the assessment for a badge from the timeline of the actual course, so that I could still for example, present evidence for assessment after the course had finished”

Full post

Attention in the 21st century

By dryadart


24 tiny net boxes under construction

So I am primarily an artist, and not only am I an artist, I am an artist who is drawn to involved laborious repetitive tasks as a marker. I joke about this all of the time, I was thinking about it this week as I was spending about 10 hours a day sewing tiny little two inch cubes out of net curtain by hand for a new project I am working on the studio. Obviously while my hands are engaged in this activity my mind isn’t always fully present, but it is mostly on the task at hand, so I don’t screw it up and have to repeat it. My life is really mostly lived in my hands, where I work.

So what does this have to do with teaching? I am sure you are asking yourself – if you have not already become so bored by the slow beginning that you are getting ready to leave. Well part of my teaching is in Studio classes, with this “new” generation of students who supposedly came with keyboards in hand. (A subject I am not even going to touch in this post except to say I am equally or more tech savvy than many of my 21st century students). What I am about to say is by nature a generalization of my experience with many students – not all students are any if these things – BUT most of my students have very little experience with stuff, materials and stuff. And they don’t have much patience with it either – as it doesn’t have an undo button but requires you instead to start all over again! What am I thinking asking them to do these things, these manual things?

The answers in a studio class come from experimentation – you cannot read the answer somewhere, you have to try it. I can make recommendations for possible places to begin, but only the act of making will tell you if this is the right answer for you and your work. Google can recommend a type of glue, you can read a bunch of blogs, but until you actually DO something you’ll never know if it will work. Boy do my students hate that. They think all the answers are out there. And really, waiting for paint to dry – are you crazy? Heaven forbid it will be the wrong kind of paint after all that waiting and they will have to START OVER!

In my lecture classes students are amazed that I have information IN MY HEAD! Why should they memorize stuff they can just Google? What is the benefit (or reward) for storing all that stuff in my head? Thank heavens that image search browsers suck – or I’d never be able to convince them to learn to identify images for exams by memorization!

So to go back to the beginning of my thought ( I should maybe have warned you that artists are not generally very linear thinkers). I am wondering is it a generational thing, or a personality thing, that I am slow in this way? Is there something about learning in a connected online way that reduces attention? It seems to me that my students, with their smart phone lifestyle are not patient. They don’t know how to wait for a slightly out of focus idea to unfold. They struggle with critical thinking because a search engine can’t bring them an answer. They don’t seem to have very good crap radars, they believe the first Google search will be accurate and correct. I wonder if they are losing the ability to debate.

Lest you suspect me of disliking this generation – I don’t. I find them funny and smart in their own ways, (and I have three kids) but I wonder about scholarship. Who will want to take the time to be with one tiny idea long enough to be an expert when all of us Luddites who read books (the paper kind) and store knowledge in our heads are gone. And art? who will make it, will we even need objects in the real world as time goes on?

Another brick in the wall? Reflections on higher education in the 21st century (#change11)

By Paul Prinsloo


[Image retrieved from 11 January 2012)

In this week’s focus in , Valerie Irvine and Jillian Code invited us to reflect on the future of “brick and mortar” universities in the light of some of the challenges these institutions face such as

  • diminishing funding
  • increasing competition
  • growing prevalence of online programs

The most important challenge, according to Irvine and Code, is the changes in the demographics where the “number of people aged 18-22 are smaller than in previous boom eras”. As a way to address these challenges, (especially the decline in the number of prospective students in catchment areas), they share an approach they adopted at the University of Victoria termed “multi-access learning” through which learners choose the delivery method they want for their studies.

In the South African context, our registration periods have just started and the daily press is filled with pictures of long queues of prospective students hoping for successful admission. I write this reflection in the midst of evidence of an unprecedented growth in students who want to enrol in higher education. Just yesterday a person was killed in a stampede in an attempt to register at the University of Johannesburg (link).

While higher education in South Africa also faces diminishing funding, increasing competition and the growing prevalence of online offerings (often by overseas institutions), changes in student demographics and profiles; we are facing the dilemma of too many enrolments, the majority of which are ill-prepared for higher education.

My immediate context is the University of South Africa (Unisa), a dedicated mega comprehensive open distance learning institution with more than 400,000 students. We are differently subsidised than residential “brick and mortar” universities and our students are spread throughout South Africa and the African continent with some students scattered across the globe.

For many students, Unisa is the last resort due to capping at residential universities, higher admission requirements, access and cost.

In general, many of our students would have opted for “classroom teaching” if they had a choice, if they could afford it, had access to and if their life circumstances allowed for the “luxury” of face-to-face tuition. So many of our students (younger, unemployed) want face-to-face tuition.

Despite ample evidence to the contrary, there is also still the widespread belief that face-to-face education is of a higher quality than distance or e-learning programmes. There is also the belief (despite contradictory evidence) that distance and e-learning are cheaper options (which explain the different funding formulas).

Back to our context: Though the majority of our students have increasing access to our learning management system the main delivery mode is still printed materials.

In 2012 our Senate approved a number of proposals that may be of interest for the current discussion. These are:

  • Up to recently we designed learning experiences with the emphasis on printed delivery while providing for and increasingly optimising the affordances of e-learning. From 2013 onwards all course development will be designed for e-learning while providing for a range of delivery options, including print.
  • We are in the process of moving towards device-independent delivery but the process is more complex and time-consuming than expected. The main purpose is to make learning available and possible no matter the choice of device from which learners access their learning and learning resources. We would therefore like to provide students with a variety of delivery and support options (with different pricing).
  • There are various initiatives to increase students’ access to the Internet and many of these initiatives will start to bear fruit in 2012.

In our context as a distance education provider, we will never be able to offer full-time face-to-face education to our students. That is one choice students will not have despite the fact that many of our students want face-to-face teaching. On some of our regional campuses there are more than 8,000 students per day using the library and a variety of venues for their studies. While we do offer a relatively extensive tutorial support programme throughout South Africa, most of our students cannot attend these and there is no clear-cut evidence to suggest that students who attend these tutorial support programmes perform better than those who don’t.

So, while there are some differences in the challenges we face in comparison to the situation posed by Irvine and Code – multi-access learning is a reality which higher education faces – no matter what the context.

We should however not underestimate the complexities of “multi-access learning” or giving students some choice on delivery options. Some of the challenges are

  • How we cost the learning – and ensure that the cost is just not transferred to students?
  • How do we ensure quality in a range of learning experiences aimed at achieving the same outcomes?
  • How do we prepare academics and teaching staff for the different challenges and opportunities of these different experiences? What skills-set and more importantly value-set should faculty (and our students) have?
  • How do we manage the fact that students may not know (when they enrol) which delivery option would be optimal for them? How do we manage the fact and cost if students want to change their initial choices half-way through the period?

In this reflection I specifically attempted to address the issue of multi-access learning as proposed by Irvine and Code. There is however the nagging question whether we still need “brick and mortar” higher education in the 21st century….

Is it not time to break down the wall?

Sweden debuts first classroom-less school

via Smart Planet

Vittra, an education company in Sweden have removed the classroom completely – being interested in

“breakdown of physical and metaphorical class divisions as a fundamental step to promoting intellectual curiosity, self-confidence, and communally responsible behavior”

The students are able to wander around using laptops and other technologies in their own learning spaces. With some wonderful photos too:

Google’s offices around the world are also legendary in experimenting with physical spaces, this is their Stockholm office from 2009