Changing the Learning Landscape – The Use of Social Media in Science & Technology Teaching and Learning

cll-web-bannerChanging the Learning Landscape – The Use of Social Media in Science & Technology Teaching and Learning.
Date: 13 Mar 2013
Start Time: 09:30 am
Location/venue: The Royal Society of Chemistry Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, , W1J 0BA

Changing the Learning Landscape (CLL) involves a series of activities to enable those involved in higher education to embed learning technologies in their learning and teaching practice.

One strand of activity involves discipline-focused workshops aimed at lecturers, module leaders and programme leads who are either new to, or have some knowledge of, learning technologies and would like to find out more.

‘The Use of Social Media in Science & Technology’ workshop offers an opportunity for those involved in teaching, or directly managing degree programmes, to find out more about the role social media can play in enhancing the student and tutor experience. Through a series of presentations, activities and discussions, led by academics from the science and technology disciplines, participants will be introduced to new social media approaches and see discipline-focused exemplars of social media applied in practice.

Topics will cover:

  • an introduction to teaching with social media;
  • encouraging student social networking in laboratory practical sessions;
  • enhancing fieldwork learning through social media technologies;
  • social media and lecture capture;
  • accessibility aspects of social media;
  • student perspectives on the use of social media in science and technology teaching and learning.
  • These topics will be delivered by practitioners from the science and technology disciplines.

    There is no charge for the workshop but places are limited and you are advised to apply early using the booking form.

    Please note that a similar workshop ‘The Use of Social Media in Engineering & Mathematics’ will be held on 22 May 2013 at a venue in Manchester. Details of, and registration for, this workshop will follow in due course.
    For general enquiries about this workshop please email Alex Fenlon;

    More details are available from this website.

    HEA STEM Biosciences Forum

    On 11th and 12th Spetember 2012 I was at the HEA STEM Biosciences Forum at the University of Leicester. This event was modelled on the highly successful HEA UK Centre for Bioscience Representatives Forum which took place on a yearly basis before the demise of the Centre. As expected the event attracted colleagues from a number of bioscience departments throughout the UK. Alan Cann from Leicester has provided an excellent overview of the meeting on the @leBioscience site. Once again the event provided opportunities for discussion on topics relevant to teaching in HE and it was great to hear examples of practice from colleagues working at the chalk face.

    HEA Annual Conference 2012 – Archive of Tweets & Top Tweeters!


    I attended the HEA Annual Conference from 3rd – 4th July 2012, presenting a poster on MP3 audio feedback to students.  I enjoyed a number of sessions and also participated via Twitter using the conference hashtag #HEAConf12.

    Using Martin Hawksey’s excellent twitter archive tool I include here a link to all of the tweets posted using the conference hashtag.  Click the image above to go there, or this link!

    The tool also provides some nice summary data such as the top tweeters.  List below. Hope you find this useful.

    JaneChandler 109 Number of links 367
    HEA_SocSci 84 Number of RTs 476
    DebbieHolley1 50 Number of Tweets 1520
    HEAPsychology 49 Unique tweets 1520
    sgwarnog 44 First Tweet in Archive 03/07/2012 09:47:03
    WarwickLanguage 41 Last Tweet in Archive 05/07/2012 08:02:44
    HEASTEM 39
    UoEChangeAgents 37
    HEA_Sociology 35
    ESTSASS 35
    Tim10101 34
    lisparcell 33
    HEA_Events 32
    larshyland 27
    goze01 22
    saltechdis 21
    policyreviewtv 21
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    Offering Sound Advice: Audio Feedback to Students

    Over the past year myself and three colleagues in the School of Biomedical Sciences at Ulster (Alison Gallagher, Kay Hack and Paul Hagan) have been exploring the use of audio feedback to students. We used a number of methods to record and deliver audio feedback to students and the findings of the project will be disseminated at:

    1. University of Ulster Centre for Higher Education Practice (project funders) 3rd Annual Festival of Innovative Practice, Universtiy of Ulster, Coleraine; Friday 15th June 2012.

    2. Higher Education Academy 8th Annual Conference at the University of Manchester; 3rd – 4th July 2012.

    At both events we plan to disseminate our project using the poster embedded below.

    A Pecha Kucha presentation was delivered at the Ulster event. A screencast video of this is posted below:

    The project investigated various modes of recording audio files such as desk-based microphones, headsets, and hand-held voice recorders and interfacing with software such as Audacity.

    Modes of delivery of MP3 files were also investigated such as feedback podcasts, emailing audio files or delivery via the institutional VLE. A feedback podcast was developed for a large (n=140) year one module to provide comments on student performance in a laboratory context. This utilised Feedburner to manage the podcast and to track usage. The feedback provided was generic in nature and summarised comments provided to students verbally in class.

    In their evaluation a number of students stated that they preferred to receive verbal feedback in class or to receive written feedback. Some students commented that they did not use iTunes (or similar software) and were not familiar with subscribing to podcasts despite being given a brief instruction on how to do this. This therefore represents a technological hurdle that needs to be addressed if this technology is to be used in the future. Finally both staff and student perceptions of using this mode of feedback alongside more traditional modes of feedback such as written comments on student work or verbal feedback provided in class were explored.

    Getting Started

    We have found one of the most straightforward ways to get started with audio feedback is to use the Wimba Voice Tools available within our own VLE, Blackboard Learn. This requires that the user have a headset and microphone, but all other aspects from recording the audio to delivery via email is taken care of. One downside is that emails are sent off immediately and cannot be queued up for delivery in a batch. If individual students are receiving feedback it will reach them at different times. There is also limited opportunity to edit the files before they are sent out. However, these are only a minor drawbacks considering how straightforward the tools are to use. In addition, the files are archived within Blackboard learn for accessing at a later time.

    Other Recording Tools

    In a previous post I mentioned that for a while now I have been sending feedback on some student work as MP3 audio files. I have used the free program Audacity which gives a greater level of flexibility in recording, editing and outputting the finalised audio file. A short article in the Bioscience Education E-Journal describes how we have configured Audacity to work for us.

    Some colleagues had been asking about the process of providing feedback in this manner and so I have prepared a short screenr video on how to use Audacity.

    Recorded Delivery

    Once captured the files need to be sent to students. If you are not using the Wimba Voice Tools on the VLE then you will probably send these by email. This is no major problem if you are sending files to a handful of students or generic feedback to a large group; but what if you have recoded individual files for a large group of students? For that you will need to use mail-merged email that allows you to attach the individual file for the relevant student. This can be done using Pegasus Mail and a full tutorial is provided here: An alternative approach is to use Microsoft Office running macros and a tutorials is available here: Both scenarios do require some time spent in configuring the system.

    Sounding Off

    Colleagues offered various perspectives as evidenced in the poster above. Some brief conclusions are: Individualised and formative feedback by this mode can be very effective. It may be extended to offer ‘whole group’ feedback for large classes, though this does not seem to be very effective in all cases. Colleagues agree that audio feedback does not necessarily mean that it will take a shorter time than written feedback, but that in most cases it has a greater impact with students.

    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.

    Assessment and Feedback for Learning Conference

    Today I am presenting on MP3 audio feedback to students at the University of Ulster’s Assessment and Feedback for Learning Conference. There are a range of presentations and keynotes throughout the day. Further details about the conference are provided here.

    I will be reporting on some work underway within the School of Biomedical Sciences on the recording and delivery of MP3 audio feedback to students. The project is funded by the Centre for Higher Education Practice at Ulster and I am presenting some of the results to date. My slides for the event are embedded below.

    Tweets etc from the event are under the hashtag #UlsAFL12 and are archived here.

    Distinguished Teaching Fellowship

    Celebrating with sons Matthew and Joel

    In 2007 I was delighted to receive a Distinguished Teaching Fellowship (Team Award) from the University of Ulster. The award was mainly for our support of year one students taking introductory chemistry. This year I was the recipient of a Distinguished Teaching Fellowship (Individual Award) from Ulster. Further details are here.

    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.