Monthly Archives: January 2011

Quick Reflections on the Ulster eLearning Conference 2011

The University of Ulster’s 9th annual eLearning conference was held today on the Jordanstown campus and again provided a good opportunity to explore all things in teaching and learning with a USB cable attached.

One of the highlights for me was the opening keynote address by Peter Bullen from Hertfordshire who reminded us that there is no real pedagogy around the technology that assists learning; but rather around the teaching and learning activities themselves.  He encouraged the audience to try to better understand the value of every learning activity and then concentrate on value; not cost.

The other main highlight of the conference for me was  a session led by Sal Cooke on the activities and resources of  JISC TechDis.  This highlighted such tools as Xerte and many of the accessibility resources available through the JISC TechDis website.  There are too many to individually describe high, so please take a look if you are interested in making Microsoft documents more readable.

My Tweets from the event are below.

  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)In a session looking at Blackboard learn; our new VLE! #EULS112011-01-20 14:16:39 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Playing with Xerte at #EUls112011-01-20 13:06:18 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Just found out about Accessible Twitter in the session about @JISC_TechDis with Sal Cooke at #EUls11 http://www.accessibletwitter.com2011-01-20 12:36:23 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)In a session about @JISC_TechDis with Sal Cooke at #EUls112011-01-20 12:06:23 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Being shown An Open Letter to Educators at #EUls11. Quite annoying but some good points #edtech2011-01-20 11:07:23 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Some of the qualities of social networking may clash with current pedagogocal paradigms (Karen Fraser) #EUls11 #edtech #edchat2011-01-20 10:53:35 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Students feel comfortable learning in an environment that is familiar to them; eg Facebook. Lurkers can also benefit. #edtech #EUls112011-01-20 10:51:54 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)In a workshop on social networking at #EUls11.2011-01-20 10:46:11 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Try to better understand the value of every learning activity and then concentrate on value not cost. Peter Bullen #EUls11 #edchat #edtech2011-01-20 10:28:47 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)How much impact on the learning environment does our attendance and discussions at conferences really have? Ques from Peter Bullen #EUls112011-01-20 10:24:50 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Sometimes the best teachers are taken out of teaching to be involved in innovation. #EUls11 #edchat2011-01-20 10:15:20 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Picture of rubbish bags at #EUls11 containing marked but uncollected coursework destined for the bin. Waste of feedback!2011-01-20 10:09:17 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Innovating, sustaining and embedding technology enhanced learning #EUls11 @UlsterUni2011-01-20 09:58:08 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Keynote address by Prof Peter Bullen Univ of Hertfordshire at #EUls112011-01-20 09:54:55 UTC
  • Stephen McClean (PlanetChemistry)Prof Kate Greenan opening the 9th annual University of Ulster eLearning conference #EUls11 (making my own hashtag; is there another one?)2011-01-20 09:49:10 UTC

Text Messaging in Higher Education / Ulster’s E-Learning Conference

Today I’m off to the University of Ulster’s 9th elearning conference and will be contributing a poster about our work on Text Messaging for Student Communication and Voting.  The poster has had a few outings before and is embedded at the bottom of this post.

If you have already seen the poster you might be more interested in our recent paper in Bioscience Education on the topic of Text Messaging for Student Communication and Voting.  This provides a full descriptive account of our practice and some of the uses we have found for this ubiquitous technology.

The abstract of the paper follows and you can download the entire paper by clicking here or on the image below.

Image credit.


Following on from my last post “Don’t Forget About Your Subject Centre” I decided that another quick post highlighting some of the supportive practice of the UK Centre for Bioscience was in order.

Last year I was delighted to be short-listed for the Ed Wood teaching Award organised by the Centre.  I found the entire process very supportive, unobtrusive and prompting further refection of my own teaching practice.  Each of the finalists was asked to record their reflections of the process and these may be read in full in the Centre’s latest bulletin.  I have quoted my reflections below.

Put simply, the Ed Wood Teaching Award process is straightforward, supportive and highly beneficial.  When I applied for the award it was with a certain degree of trepidation as to what might be entailed, however I discovered that the most challenging part was completing the application form in a manner that succinctly conveyed the teaching practice I was offering up for consideration.

Once that was done and I had been shortlisted the rest of the process allowed for reflection on my own practice during the observed teaching sessions and the ensuing interviews and evaluation, culminating in the production of the case study.  This part of the process I found very helpful and unobtrusive given that the teaching observations and interviews were carried out during one of the busiest times of the academic year.  The case study was written by Sheryl and passed back to me for comment; the whole process being very supportive with minimal stress for the academic.

While I have benefited from a working environment where innovation in teaching and learning is encouraged, supported and rewarded,   the Ed Wood Award process allowed me to gauge how my teaching practice was perceived on a national level by peers and closer to home by my own students.  Applying for such awards is as one of my own colleagues described “like putting your head above the parapet”.  However, in terms of reflecting on your teaching practice and having it supportively evaluated and showcased on a national level I highly recommend being involved in the Bioscience Teacher of the Year Awards!

Image credit.

Don’t Forget About Your Subject Centre!

Towards the end of last year a number of comments appeared in the blogosphere about the proposed demise of the Higher Education Academy Subject Centres.  At that time my teaching was in full swing so formulating a response was limited to a few retweets on Twitter.

I now have time to write a few more words.  As a departmental rep for the UK Centre for Bioscience and participant in some of its events I found the announcement incredulous given the impact and usefulness of the activities of the Centre.  The Centre has been hugely supportive of teaching in the Biosciences and has produced a number of very useful guides and resources to support  lecturers.  Its Bioscience Education journal is an excellent platform for the dissemination of good practice in teaching and learning, and in recognition of excellence in teaching there is the highly supportive process that defines the Ed Wood teaching award (now Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award).  All these along with the myriad of useful workshops, conferences and events organised by the Centre make the decision to cease funding all the more unbelievable.

Other bloggers weighed in early with their responses such as Chris Wilmott who wrote his “Obituary The Death of a Dear Friend?”  For me that could be extended to “two dear friends” as I have also in the past participated in the Variety in Chemistry Education events run jointly by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Physical Sciences Subject Centre.  Both Centres have been hugely successful in supporting teaching and innovation in teaching.

In the wake of the announcement a petition was launched to help save the Subject Centres and over 790 signatures have been received to date.  This is further testament to the depth of feeling that exists around the issue.

In my assessment the Higher Education Academy will have it’s work cut out in trying to inculcate centrally the supportive environment that already exists through the Subject Centres.

Despite the bad news it is great to see the Bioscience Centre forging ahead with many great events in support of teaching. In many regards, on the surface at least, keeping calm and carrying on.

Photo credit.