Category Archives: Technology in Education

Texting Times

The Market Square in Antwerp, Belgium

First, Glasgow Caledonian University….
I seem to have been talking about SMS texting a bit over the last while. Last week I was invited by Kevan Gartland to Glasgow Caledonian University to participate in an event on Feedback Enhancement in the Biological Sciences. This was one in a series of seminars on this subject organised by Glasgow Caledonian University in association with the Higher Education Academy. I outlined our use of text messaging (as described previously) especially in assisting with peer marking and rapid communication of results following a written class test for around 100+ students.

Also presenting at the event was Jamie McDermott from GCU who was demonstrating his use of especially in an inter-professional context in a session with some 500 students. This has proved most successful in engaging students in this large lecture context with many asking questions by text message were they would normally have been reluctant to pose a question verbally during the session.

….next, Antwerp in Belgium…
Then this week I was off to Antwerp in Belgium for the 2012 BlackBoard Teaching and Learning Conference. This time I was invited by Travis Sowders of BlackBoard Connect to be involved in a panel discussion on the use of SMS text messaging in the classroom. Travis chaired the session and there were contributions by Jo Spiller from University of Edinburgh and myself on our three uses of texting at Ulster; communication, feedback and voting.

**Update on Friday 1st June 2012. Slides from our session at Antwerp are now embedded below:**

**Update on Tuesday 19th March 2013. Interview regarding the use of text messaging in the School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster as recorded in Antwerp for BlackBoardTV is now embedded below:**

…. in other parts of the conference…
For me one of the highlights of the conference was the keynote address by Kayvon Beykpour, general manager of Blackboard Mobile. He described the work that had been done to introduce push notifications in BlackBoard meaning that students can receive up-to-date information straight to their handheld device. This was well received by conference delegates. However, it was the second part of his presentation that appealed to me most where he described the new developments in mobile-enabled class tests / examinations. Tests set up in the mobile environment can be made available to users of an array of mobile devices, but they can still be accessed in the traditional way via a computer connected to the VLE. This new feature opens the possibility of running multiple choice and short answer tests for large groups of students, each accessing the test from the familiar platform of their preferred mobile device.

I was also most impressed with a demo of Kaltura video sharing software for Blackboard. This facilitates a You Tube type environment where video may be shared in a number of different ways to different user groups. For me this represents an opportunity to consider upgrading the platform for our YouTestTube video sharing project adding mobile functionality and making the site much more accessible.

There were a number of Tweeters at the event and the tweets from the #BbTLC2012 hashtag have been archived at the following address:

Not surprisingly, WiFi access throughout the conference venues was excellent and worked flawlessly. Antwerp is also a charming city to visit.

Image Credit.


Today I’m Off to Talk about Text Messaging

Today I am off to the University of Edinburgh to present at a TxtTools event on our use of text messaging for student communication, rapid feedback and voting. The event draws users from the public and private sectors so it looks to be a very interesting day! Agenda is here.

Update on 10th November 2011
The event was excellent and a lot of good practice presented. A number of tweets came from the event at these are archived here.

HUCBMS Conference

Last Friday I took part in the Heads of University Centres of Biomedical Science (HUCBMS) Conference 2011 held at the Coleraine campus of the University of Ulster. I was presenting on Using Mobile Technologies and Video Sharing to Engage Students in the final session on Innovation in Teaching and Learning. This turned out to be a very interactive session and I am grateful to the delegates for the many questions and comments received during and after the presentation.

My slides from the event are provided here as a PDF.

Image credit.

Playing with Prezi – Thoughts & Tips

I had a go at using Prezi for my presentation at the Effective Learning in the Biosciences in Conference in Edinburgh last week.  This was the first time I had used Prezi outside my own Institution and I provide below some of my reflections and thoughts on its use as a presentation tool, especially in the educational context.

1. To use Prezi you need to visit the Prezi website and register for an account which is free for educational use.  You may author your presentations online and then download the entire presentation when you are ready to show it to your audience.  A paid option allows you to download a desktop version of the authoring software, but my experience to date has been with the free version.

2.  With Prezi you can use text, upload images, video and incorporate You Tube video in your presentation.  Note of caution, when showing your Prezi you must be connected to the internet if you have used You Tube video otherwise it will not work.  A workaround is to to upload video in avi or wmv format as this is then  embedded in the final presentation.

3.  Elements in your presentation can be made larger or smaller depending on the importance you want to give to each one.  You then link the elements together using the “path” function so that the presentation flows in the order you want.  The best way to see this is action is to use the tutorials or example presentations on the Prezi site.

4.  The “sea sick” factor.  I was concerned when I was constructing my presentation that I might need to distribute Stugeron (or similar medication) to my audience in advance.  The zoom-in-and-out functions of Prezi provide some attraction and can be attention grabbing, but used too much can become a distraction and may make your audience feel queasy.

5.  For me the jury is still out on just how I will use Prezi, especially in the teaching context.  I think that it would be valuable if used sparingly to explain concepts where you wanted to firstly show the “big picture” and then to zoom in on the detail of constituent parts.  One example on the Prezi site uses this in the context of anatomy of the human body etc.

6.  Reusing PowerPoint.  For my presentation I exported some PowerPoint slides as jpeg’s and used these linking them with relatively short paths and with not a lot of zoomng in and out.  This is therefore a halfway house between PowerPoint and Prezi (PreziPoint??).

A link to my Prezi is given below; just click on the image.  Any feedback would be gratefully received.

When You Need to Call Tech Support

It seems that with the majority of new technical innovations a helping hand is needed for new adopters.  The video below summaries this nicely!

Social Networking with Students

Last week I was involved in a University of Ulster Centre for Higher Education discussion forum on social networking with students.  The event was held by video-conference across three campuses and attracted a good deal of interest from staff.  It was useful to hear short accounts from colleagues using social networking with students and to consider some of the issues in getting started in this area.

For some staff there was the feeling that the technology can sometimes be daunting especially if bespoke tools are used that need server set-up and some level of configuring.  However some scenarios were described where Facebook groups had been used to successfully to engage students especially as a number were already au fait with this social networking tool and using it regularly.

Some tips that came out of the discussion and from my own experience are given below.

  1. Why do you want to use social networking with students; is it just a nice tool that we shoe-horn into a pedagogic purpose?
  2. Are tasks on social networking clearly defined?  Students will not just network for the sake of it!
  3. Can students “see the point” in what we are trying to achieve, how do we get them to buy-in to the exercise?
  4. Choice of networking tool.  Are we intruding on their social space by using tools that students consider their private areas?  We need to clearly define the boundaries and use social networking in a context that does not compromise accepted professional standards.
  5. Manage expectations.  How will academics interact with students online; will we be available 9 to 5 or 24/7?  Students need to know!
  6. Don’t ask students to do something you are not prepared to do yourself.  Do you want your students to blog?  Do you blog?  If the answer is “no” it will very soon become apparent to the student group that you are only a by-stander.
  7. Social networking should augment existing communication channels with students therefore important course information should not be communicated by this method alone.
  8. Social networking should help to increase inclusivity within a group.  However, ensure that the chosen exercises do not alienate some within the class who may be uncomfortable using the technology.

Image credit.

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