Thursday, 20 June 2013


This is a repost of some excellent work of a friend, Allan Carrington, who is also an Apple Distinguished Scholar and has considerable experience with integrating technologies into classrooms and lecture theatres.  His work blends Bloom's taxonomy with the verbs needed to articulate the specific learning outcomes desired for a course of study, the activities you might engage in with students to support the learning outcomes, and ultimately, some of the tools available on the iPad to help support those activities.

It is a very nice piece of work and well worth discussion. Go HERE to download a copy of the current iteration of the Padagogy Wheel or HERE to read more about Allan's work if you haven't already come across his work. Enjoy.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Technology-assisted Language Learning

Technology-assisted Language Learning (TALL), Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL) have been part of the tool set for language learning for over 50 years, with one of the very early innovations created at the University of Illinois in the form of the PLATO project in 1960.

Fast forward 50 years and The new generation of learning tools includes smart phones and tablets, and phablets (devices that are somewhere between a phone and a tablet in size), with more computing power, memory and connectivity than could be imagined even just a decade ago. Then you can add to the mix cloud computing and cloud-based applications that are all accessible through wireless and 3G and 4G networks, and the opportunities for language learning are almost endless.

However, putting the pieces together remains a non-trivial task particularly when you move from content delivery to students, to content creation and reflection by students. In some of the work undertaken with colleagues, we have combined cloud-based applications, mobile technologies and ePortfolios to create learning environments where the place of the teacher is important in order to develop and support (modelling and feedback) the learning framework and learning goals, While simultaneously providing an environment that is implicitly student centred and controlled, allowing students to present artefacts (in a coherent and creative manner) they have created to provide evidence of their development of language skills and proficiencies (in this example, English).   The figure below shows the structure of the learning environment, indicating which parts of the environment are entirely student controlled and centred, which parts are shared between students and students (and students and teachers), and which parts are teacher designed and organised.  Feedback welcomed. Please note, the graphic is released under a Creative Commons license and may be reused in not-for-profit contexts and it would be appreciated if the author (Professor David M. Kennedy) was acknowledged, should someone wish to reuse or repurpose the image. We are also looking for collaborators interested in language learning research.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Working in teams: A graduate attribute. Collaboration versus Cooperation

Collaboration or Cooperation

In research undertaken by the author in recent times it was found that the particular institution was not meeting its stated goals in terms of producing graduates who were able to work in teams and had developed the abilities and skills to collaborate effectively. This was in spite of the enormous effort by individual teachers and (what was thought to be) careful design of curricula to ensure that students (over a period of years) had many opportunities to engage in team work in a variety of subjects/courses.

How could this be? In subsequent discussions with both student focus groups and academic staff a common picture emerged. This involved:
  • assigning students (either self-selected or chosen by the lecturer) into groups in order for a team to undertake a particular assignment or assessment task;
  • providing templates or guides that outlined the various components required of team members to complete the team-based assignment; and
  • developing assessment protocols or rubrics to assess student learning (but not necessarily individual student learning).
So what happened? It was found that the students did the sensible thing to maximise their opportunities and their time: they chose to divide and conquer. From a student's perspective, this is a very sensible strategy. Each student takes on a particular responsibility (e.g., one student does the lit review, another designs the survey, while the third writes methodology). That is: they Cooperate. The result is a team that cooperates very well with each other but the amount of Collaboration is limited to ensuring the various parts fit together in a reasonable manner for a final submission.

So what to do?  This is where technology can help innovation. At my current institution we are working on ways of using various hardware and collaborative applications, where students in teams work on documents or research projects simultaneously. One such solution to this issue and one of the better tools for this process is Google Docs. Multiple students can work on the same document simultaneously, seeing each other's contributions and editing each other's text. Therefore classroom design (if this is a face-to-face process) is a crucial part of the process, With a shared central monitor that is large enough so that all members of the team can see it and engage with the single shared document in real time an absolute necessity (and multiple stations across the room). In a fully online environment the same effect is achieved by using a cloud-based document that all students work on simultaneously. With a product like Google Docs (and there are other examples) the history of changes can be seen in the contributions by individuals in the team accessed. We are undertaking work in this area in my current institution in a number of academic disciplines. The room (one of) is shown below. Stay tuned for updates.

The Collaborative spaceThe Collaborative space

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Blended learning: Where to from here?

I have been in transition of late and therefore have not been publishing my ramblings recently. However, 2013 is a new year with a new job starting in March, in Singapore. More about this later.

In thinking about ongoing developments in technologies to support learning and teaching, it is clear that there are a wealth of opportunities, platforms, applications (apps) and resources.  So much so, that deciding what to use, which platform/device and what applications becomes almost overwhelming to any teacher who is tasked with so many other responsibilities to manage, including having a life. However, I'd like to share a quote from Tony Bates: 

Many of the platforms/ devices and applications now available are not panaceas for poor teaching, or saving money, but like all tools, they need to be used appropriately in order to be effective. With so many choices, here is my short list of criteria for choosing one application/ platform or device over another. The non-exhaustive list is:
  • what is the specific educational need(s) the application/platform/device will help address?
    • e.g., communication, content, process, practice, etc etc;
  • what are the limiting/supporting factors in your institutional context (context is vital!)?
    • e.g., will the infrastructure support what you intend to use (mobile bandwidth is a growing problem for many institutions);
    • e.g., where will you and your students receive help from (IT Help Desk?);
    • e.g., how will the application/device provide access and engagement and what training will be needed?;
    • e.g., do you already have access to something similar that is currently installed (the modern LMS has a huge variety of communication options, and some ePortfolios have social networking opportunities built-in (e.g., Mahara);
    • e.g., can the resource be installed onto University/student computers/tablets etc without significant costs/time?;
  • how easy is the resource/application to use and how much support will be needed?
  • will there be a significant change in teacher/student behaviour needed?
  • what is the 'management overhead' for managing the use of the application from a variety of viewpoints, institutional, pedagogical and at the individual teacher level (e.g., are passwords necessary, or is privacy an issue?)?
  • what will the impact on student and/or teacher workload be?
  • is what you propose compatible with institutional policies, equipment, infrastructure, policy (IP and privacy for example) and will management support what you propose?
  • and, not at least, will students be willing to engage and work in ways that make the process worth the effort?
The last is something I have found to be the easiest to solve by involving the students in the process and giving them opportunities to provide feedback and guide the process directly. The rest I leave up to the reader.