Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Back to basics with marking rubrics

I had the opportunity to work with the Sparsholt College ILT team on Nov 29 on behalf of the JISC RSC SE. They are also involved in the #jtdambassadors project, a joint project between the JISC RSC SE and JISC TechDis.

For the #jtdambassadors project, they have started taking videos of the students in the kitchens as evidence, and Mary's going to look at the easi-speak microphones for the learners to use. They will play back the videos for the learners so they can record their own description as a voiceover. We felt the 'offline' method was better as the learners could take their time recording their voices on to the easi-speak mic rather than feeling pressurised recording a soundtrack over the video. These can then be edited together using Movie Maker.

Sparsholt have a committed ILT team but elearning practice is still not as wide-spread as they would like. Our mission over the two days of training (the other day takes place 6 Dec) was to explore ways of breaking down the barriers to enable good practice to be embedded across the college.

The first barrier is the very significant IPD. (For those who don't know, IPD stands for Innovation Prevention Department.) Without a can-do person helping you with technicalities, organisations are really handicapped in their elearning developments. What ideas do you have for getting on with or around this department?

Despite this barrier, the team have managed to implement quite a few technologies. I saw some really good practice in the use of Mahara, and their vShare work is great. vShare is a video sharing site that they have installed on a College server and allows them to have their own version of YouTube. This means they can upload all the student work for assessments without it being in the Cloud. An example of some really good practice that they are developing is this: they are going to use last year's students' videos for this year's resources. So where the students used the videos last year to demonstrate their understanding of horse conformation, this year, they will use the videos to look at the retail value of the horses. It's a good way to recycle the student-created resources.

This led me to discuss assessment rubrics with them. It's amazing how a simple pedagogical tool like this can really augment what you are doing in elearning. We looked at some examples and discussed the students creating a rubric for peer-assessing each other's work. We also talked about providing the students with the marking rubric for a project as this will show them how they will be assessed by the tutor and allow them to understand how to achieve better quality work.

There are lots of resources on the web for rubric templates and how to create rubrics for assessment. Here's one resource that I'm going to explore further that gives lots of rubric-development resources for technology-enhanced lessons from On this page, there are resources on how to assess student contributions on Voicethread! (Voicethread has been a thread in my previous blogs.)

Sparsholt are also using SkyDrive significantly and finding it extremely helpful in sharing resources and for assignments. The IPD has been very helpful in getting this set up for the students. The only down side is that the teachers don't have accounts set up and have to create their own hotmail accounts to use it. It's not the first time I've heard of this practice and it really puzzles me - why would you set things up in such a way that didn't help the teachers to work with the students? It would be like creating classrooms where there is no space for the teacher to teach in.

Much of the day was spent looking at how you could work at the higher end of Bloom's taxonomy with simple tools like textwall and also the concept of moving people from the bottom to the top in a scaffolded way to help them. This may help the team to redesign their training so that those who are not so engaged with them can find a way to get on the first rung.

I shared with them the use of Voicethread to augment what they were already doing in video. We used ipadio to record some reflections and again, this was something they were very keen to adopt.

With both textwall and ipadio, they could easily embed these in their vle, allowing updates on the fly. They were keen on the ipadio app as it would allow the land-based curriculum tutors to easily make recordings outside of wifi range, then upload these when they were back in College buildings. They could also ring up with a basic phone and make a podcast recording that way.

In terms of gadgets, we looked at the Easi-speak microphone that I discovered at Treloars, and the ipevo camera that I had brought along. It's basically a usb 'webcam' with a stand and therefore lends itself to working like a direct projector. You can put all kinds of gadgets or even paper under it to project on the screen via the computer.

So what can i share with them next week that will help them to bring more staff on board with elearning? Clearly just having the tools available isn't enough to change the practice of a lot of the tutors. From my own experience, these are some ideas that may help:
1. They have just purchased a range of mobile technologies and where other technologies have not piqued the professional interest of their colleagues, these may interest some people. Same with textwall and the use of sms for learning. You just never know what technologies may trigger an idea in someone's head so having a range of tools and allowing people to adopt the one that interests them will start them on the first step of the journey.
2. Get the tutors who are doing good work to share their practice during staff development sessions - better yet if you have people who were hesitant adopters. Not all ILT practice has to be all-singing and all-dancing. The good use of a simple tool can make a great impact. The advantage is that the simple tool won't be difficult to learn either.
3. Implement a student mentor scheme where identified students have the role of helping the teacher with technologies in the classroom.
4. Use oblique methods like introducing rubrics for assessment. When it's clear to see how you might 'mark' a student's participation in a discussion forum, it doesn't seem as daunting to implement it as an activity.
5. Work on the mindsets of people. The fear of no longer being the sage on the stage can prevent people from changing their teaching practice. They stick to the transmission mode because that's where they think they have the advantage. We have to work on their mindset first and for that, I would refer you to Carol Dweck's book on Mindset.
6. Reduce the fear factor by letting people bring some technologies home with them to play with. Once they get over the fear of pressing the wrong button, it can really help to move them on.
7. Work on one person at a time. An individualised learning plan can do wonders for staff development. Starting some people off with learning to use Word or PowerPoint more efficiently (I recommend the JISC TechDis Toolbox!) or for greater accessibility can build up confidence in technology and provide a route into learning more.
8. A pincer approach from all angles so that the managers and students are involved in the picture. Build in a change of mindset as part of the person's goals for the year. Note it's not about the technology, it's about the pedagogy and the professional practice of the teacher. If the teacher has not developed his or her practice in any way at all through the year, shouldn't we be looking at this? Develop the reflective practitioner through the organisational culture. Educate the students on what makes a good lesson so that their feedback on their lessons isn't based on their low expectations from the past. Get them to design a lesson feedback rubric!

Yes, we're gong rubric-mad at Sparsholt and I think it's a good thing. I hope to find out from them in months to come how this idea has taken hold and hopefully helped them to progress their ILT strategy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rediscovering old friends and learning some new things

I visited some of my Jisc Techdis Ambassadors project colleges last week.

I worked with Epping Forest College as their Molenet mentor and was pleased to work with Vikki Liogier (@vikkiliogier) and Katheryn Lowe again. Since we last worked together, the college has continued to make great progress on developing their staff, with 16 e-pilot projects running in the college this year. The staff submit bids to have some technology to use and then contribute their case studies to share their experience. Their YouTube channel that I set up for them all those years ago is still being added to as a result of this method of CPD. Vikki is doing a great job of keeping the momentum going and continuing to use CPD ideas that work.

I had a productive update session with Vikki where we talked about how useful the Samsung Galaxy Note might be for some tutors who still want the ability to quickly make handwritten notes. The split screen function and the handwriting recognition is great on these devices. There's a 5.3" and a 10.1" version.

We also talked about for creating fun revision materials that can also be output as mobile resources. (I think @adamrsc has been promoting this)

I recommended for a simple quick hit for interactivity that most tutors would be able to use in class without having to spend a lot of time learning.

For tutors who already make videos, I recommended that she try This allows people to leave comments at any point in the video, creating a dynamic discussion list around the video resource.

Vikki is also keen to have more Textwalls for the teachers to use.

I spent the afternoon in Katheryn's class with her students, who are putting a video together to promote the College to other potential students. She's a lovely, engaging tutor who is keen to use technology with the learners and her idea for the project was to allow them to use some tool to storyboard the video before creating it. The learners took pictures and discussed these in class. They arranged the pictures in the order which they wanted for the video. At first, we thought about using for the learners to create the script, while advancing the powerpoint slides. However, with the varied needs of the learners, it occurred to me that using Voicethread would make more sense.

Voicethread is something I haven't used for a long time, but it's as good as ever. We easily uploaded a folder of pictures of the Canteen, for instance, and could record audio comments on each picture. You can also draw on the pictures. add text comments, or use the webcam to leave a video comment. Voicethread allows you to create a group of contacts who are allowed to comment on your thread.

In today's meeting at Treloar's, I showed them Voicethread as well for creating audio and video evidence for the learners. They wanted a good multimedia tool that would allow students using sign language to participate in the same way. Voicethread certainly allows this with the video commenting tool.

The tutors are raring to go with Voicethread and I look forward to seeing them again in January when they will have some progress to report!

At Treloar's, I was shown a great voice recorder, actually shaped like a microphone! It's called Easi-speak and it comes with Audacity software already loaded on to it.

After recording your voice, you can play it back straight away as the Easi-speak includes a speaker. You can charge it up via its usb connector and also edit and transfer the mp3 recordings. The familiarity of the microphone design makes it more user-friendly than your typical voice recorder. The fact that it saves recordings as wav or mp3 and has the editing software built in gives it another advantage. Add to that a usb connection and it's the bee knees! I've ordered one! I figure it will make a great Christmas present for my 8 year old who can record herself singing and play it back straight away. (I'm thinking I might be able to get her to practice her times tables and play them back…I can hope!)

The visits have been so productive in helping to work out what might be useful to these tutors. When you see tutors working in their own environments,  you are made aware of their needs in a way that cannot be described on paper or just over a conversation. When you are situated in the teacher's classroom, ideas are triggered on what tools might help them with a particular group of learners, in a particular learning situation and so on.

It's like trying to diagnose an illness over the phone or getting some help for your website problem by going to a company helpdesk. The staff who look after these work through a checklist and give you a generic solution. Sometimes this is enough and it is just what you need. More often than not, if your situation is unique, you have to go and see someone to get the right solution for you. Working face to face can prevent a misdiagnosis of the problem and save time in providing the right ideas to try.

So it's been a very productive week already, and then I go visit Sparsholt College, but let's save that for another blog post!