Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Month: March 2015

Concrete lounges and why basketball players aren't better hockey players

Assignment 1 for my course is due later today. 100+ students have submitted. Time to explore the Moodle assignment submission system and how to allocate assignments to markers.

So what?

Why would that be interesting to anyone not using Moodle? Well because…

Is elearning like teenage sex?

One explanation for the quality of “e-learning” is

We have taken our teachers who have been really effective at face-to-face teaching and asked them to also be experts in online teaching. Get real! That’s like asking a good basket baller to become a good hockey player. Yes it’s sport and yes you have a ball and competitors, but the rules are very different. And yes, if you’re a good sportsperson, chances are you can pick-up on being good at another code, but it will take time and quite a bit of training.

”Die Schuhe sind zu groß.” - ”The shoes by Jorbasa, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Jorbasa 

That’s certainly part of the problem. But – to extend the analogy – the other part of the problem that I experience day to day is that universities are asking the good basketball players to play hockey with equipment that’s quite a few sizes too small and simply doesn’t help them play hockey, let alone learn how to play hockey.

This is not to say that the provision of the appropriate equipment is easy. It’s not. It’s incredibly difficult. A wicked problem.

The point is that the perspective (from the same post) is – in my experience – not the case at all

We already have all the tools we need to get our students engaged. Sure there will be new ones that come along from time to time that will do things a wee bit better, but for the time being we have plenty to make this happen.

As a teacher engaged with e-learning at a University, most of the technology provided is a concrete lounge.

Assignment submission

My current institution has this year moved away from a locally produced online assignment submission and management (OASM) system toward one embedded within the Moodle LMS. There’s apparently been some customisation of the standard Moodle OASM system, but it’s not clear just how much. I’ve already heard reports from other staff (with courses that have assignments due before mine) that allocation of assignments to makers is less than easy.

The following documents my attempts to do this and seeks to explore if the Moodle assignment submission system will be an example of the wrong size shoes for playing hockey.

I’m a hockey player

Background: I designed and implemented my first OASM system back in 1994/1995. From then through to about 2004/2005 I led the design and implementation of various generations of an OASM system and wrote the odd paper about it. I know a bit about these systems. I’m not a basketball player, I’m a hockey player.

Assigning some assignments – do it myself

Documentation by mray, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  mray 

First test, can I figure out how to do this via the interface. i.e. don’t read the “manual”.

Assuming the “Assignment administration” menu would offer some insight/affordances.

“Marker assignment quota” seems the most obvious option. A couple of observations

  • Apparently one of the students has some how been allocated the role of marker, she is appearing in the list of markers.

    My first question is obviously, “How the hell did that happen?”. The user is currently assigned to both the student and “general admin” roles. I don’t remember (even accidentally) making this change. Wonder how it happened?

  • This offers a choice of unlimited or a specific quota, but isn’t pre-populated with data already entered.

    i.e. to employ the markers to do this work, I had to negotiate with them how many they could mark and then specify that in the contract process. Having to re-enter this data in another system is a bit of a pain. I understand why it hasn’t been done. These are two very separate systems managed by very different parts of the institution. But if the shoe were too fit…..

Concrete lounge #1: Having to re-enter data already present in other systems.

View/grade all submissions

Next bet is to try the “View/grade all submissions” which shows a filterable list of all the submitted assignments and allows a number of operations to be done upon them. I’m assuming that “allocate marker” could be one of them.

Yep, “set allocated marker” is an option. Select the student(s) to allocate, select the menu option and hit “Go”. Brings up a page with those students listed and another drop down menu of markers. You chose the marker and hit “Save Changes”

Two potential problems with this

  1. Pre-allocation; and

    This does imply that you can only allocate markers to assignments that have already been submitted. I’ve got at least one marker who has a fixed group of assignments to mark. All located at a specific campus. In a perfect world I’d be able to pre-allocate the assignments from those students to the marker. Rather than have to wait until they are submitted and manually allocate them.

  2. Manually selecting individual students.

    Individual allocation is ok, but I would like to see at least two additional options. First, the allocation by group option available above. Second, a random (or perhaps specific) allocation of specified numbers. e.g. I have markers who will make 50 assignments, I’d like to automatically allocate them 50 assignments and have the system randomly allocate them. I’d rather not have to count to 50.

    Even better, it might be nice to say allocate them 50 assignments, but aim to achieve a balance of ability levels (perhaps based on GPA or some other indicator). Few things are more depressing than having to mark 50 low quality assignments. I assume there would be other allocation schemes people would like to apply.

Are there other options beyond this?

Grading options

Under the “grading option” drop down menu there is a “auto-allocate markers” option. But I wonder if it’s smart enough to handle variety. i.e. I need to ensure that one marker gets all the students at one campus, but can randomly allocate the remainder.

I don’t want to experiment with this option, just in case it goes ahead and auto-allocates straight away. So I’ll do a Google search for documentation. The search results are not that clear.

It appears that Moodle 2.6 added two related features – marking workload; and, marking allocation. These have to configured into the assignment activity. Did I do this? I did indeed. And this provides the functionality I’ve already identified.

So let’s just suck it and see. Good, it doesn’t do this straight away. It allows the options to

  1. allocate all unallocated, submitted submissions;
  2. allocate all unallocated submissions (including unsubmitted ones);

    Both these options are dong be specifying an “allocation batch size” and either doing an “Allocate” or “Simulate”. The simulate is a useful feature.

  3. copy allocations from another assignment.

Nothing here about allocating based on groups.

Filters and options

There are a collection of filters that can be applied, based on

  • # assignments per page;
  • assignment status;
  • marker allocation;
  • workflow status;

    A slight duplication to assignment status, but based on a different approach.

There’s nothing here about filtering based on groups. Is this because I haven’t configured there to be?

Group options in the settings

There is a “Group submission settings” section in the assignment settings. But most of this is based on the idea of students submitting assignments in groups. Not using groups to allocate assignments to markers.

No obvious options

I’m giving up. I can’t see from the system any obvious ways to allocate assignments easily via groups.

At this stage it appears that I will have to

  1. Manually allocate all students at one campus to their marker.
  2. Use the auto-allocate feature for the remaining students.
Edu Doggy by David T Jones, on Flickr

In theory, I could negotiate with the first marker to do an auto-allocate. But I think it important that he mark the assignments of his own students. Changing that preference would be the case of the tail wagging the dog.

Use the documentation

Before I do that, let’s see whether the documentation provided by the institution can offer any insight. It appears that this might be the solution

However, if the assignment activity has first been configured into groups, these can be manually assigned to a specified Marker.

I’m not entirely sure what this means. Let’s experiment with a dummy assignment and use the “common module settings” and the groups there.

First, the groupings don’t seem to be appropiate. No option to do it at campus level.

Okay, this appears to have added an additional option to filter which students/assignments are shown based on groups.

This would provide the option I need (a bit of a kludge), but the question is whether or not the setting can be changed on the fly – i.e. after students have started submitting?

The other question is what do (or will) the students actually see. I don’t believe there is actually an easy way for me to test this.

Let’s try making the change. Appears to be no problem with other assignments. I assume Moodle will warn of any horrible consequence? Famous last words? Logically there shouldn’t be a problem, but….

Change made, but there is no difference in the display. The option to select just the students in a particular group does not appear. Perhaps it can’t be changed once submissions have been made.

Concrete Lounge #2: No apparent way to filter assignments/students by groups

Group membership is stored independently of assignment submission in the Moodle database. It should be possible to offer a “Group filter” – perhaps even one dependent on the “grouping” – as a way to modify the viewing of all submissions.

Looks like I’ll have to do this manually.

Documentation at the wrong abstraction layer

Concrete Lounge #3: The local help documentation (like most help documentation) is written at the level of functionality. It describes the interface and what each interface element does. It isn’t organised at the level of “activity type” i.e. the level of the users.

i.e. I have a certain model of how I want to manage the submission, allocation, and marking of assignments. That’s what I know. That’s where I am. Documentation that started at this level by describing a list of different models of using assignment submission and then describing how to configure the Moodle assignment submission system to implement this model would be more useful (and much more difficult to write).

Better yet. Would be an assignment submission system that would present a list of different models, briefly explain each one, allow me to choose which I want, and then set up the system to fulfill that model.

i.e. the system actually fit what I wanted to do, rather than required me to engage in explorations how to figure out if and how I could translate the functionality of the system into what I wanted to do.

Sorry, but the tools we have available at the moment aren’t quite ready to help basketball players become better hockey players.


As per the comment below I missed an option to flick. That’s done and I can see the groups and make use of those. So here’s what I did

  1. Allocate unsubmitted from campus X to the marker;

    Set filter to the tutorial group I need and filter for “unsubmitted”. This is so that if they submit, they will automatically appear on the marker’s list.

  2. Allocate submitted from campus X to the marker;
  3. Auto-allocate the remaining submitted to markers;

    Priority is given to those submitted.

  4. Drop the allocation for campus X marker

    Problem: the campus X marker was originally allocated 22 students to make. But one has dropped out. Meaning when I do an auto-allocate (simulation) he gets allocated another marker.

    I also have to make sure that the “student marker” has an allocation of 0.

  5. Do the auto-allocation again.

Now all I need do is to figure out how much advice the markers will need to download, mark and resubmit the their allocated assignments.

What advice is there?

Hard to explore this myself as I don’t know how much my view of the system is the same as what a marker would see.

The “Download all submissions” option gets them all, not just the ones I’ve allocated.

Appears that the “view all”, play with filters, and then download is the way to go. I assume that the markers won’t need have the “Marker filter” to play with.

I wonder if the organisation has given any advice specific to markers. Of course, the “portal” I can access links to various staff support sites won’t let me login on my current browser. Nor on chrome.

Oh dear, the “portal” still has a large explicit link to the old assignment submission system.

Now begins the traipsing through various sites to figure out where it is.

A couple of red herrings and finally found the document I had been using (not only was it hidden away in the object repository, I had to login again to access it) and it confirms my suspicion. Downloading will be fairly simple for markers – once they find the right place and buttons to push.

But there doesn’t appear to be any specific file/resource that can be sent to markers. It appears that I’ll have to create my own (just like every other person in charge of a course with multiple markers). Of course, the other option is that I’ve missed the presence of this other document entirely.

It appears a cut down version of the larger document was circulated. Found this out via personal networks and Twitter, rather than via other means. The smaller document had been circulated earlier via email, but finding it in my Inbox……

The documentation is very generic. I’ll update it and include a direct link to the specific assignment.

What is downloaded?

A zip file with all student submissions in a single directory. Wonder how it works if the students are submitting multiple files? Does it put each student’s submission into separate directories then?

Specifying moderation samples

In terms of moderation, my practice is to specify to the marker at least 3 assignments that they should mark first. These are sent back to me ASAP for moderation and any advice on marking. The aim is that the 3 assignment represent a spectrum of abilities based on GPA typically: a 6+ GPA, a high 4/5 GPA, and a sub 4 GPA.

As in the past, this information isn’t part of the OASM system. So I have to do it manually via a spreadsheet. However, in the past the OASM system did provide a spreadsheet of students allocated to a marker. This enable the use of Excel formulas to find some samples. Doesn’t appear possible to do this via Moodle.

Luckily the “more student details” popup described here lets me click on a link in the list of students and find out the students GPA (amongst other things).

Concrete lounge: Can’t easily allocate sample marking based on student GPA (or other means) in part because can’t see how to expert students allocated to a marker to a spreadsheet.

Contacting the non-submits

Another task at this time is to approach the students who have yet to submit the assignment and see what’s going on. Some of these will have extensions, some won’t. Is there an option to show those students who have not submitted, but haven’t received extensions?

Doesn’t appear to be.

Concrete lounge: Can’t see how to list those students who have not yet submitted the assignment, but who haven’t been granted an extension.

The options appear to be scrolling through the list of almost 50 students and manually identifying those without extensions. But even when I do that, what can I do? Can I send those students an email message?

Doesn’t appear to be possible.

Concrete lounge: Unable to send group (or personalised) emails to students who have not yet submitted the assignment.

Wouldn’t be too hard to write a Greasemonkey script that extracts the email addresses of the students without extensions.

  • name in c2 (cell 2)
  • email address is in C4
  • an extension is indicated by a div with class extensiondate in c5

But that would require a bit of extra work. I do have some Perl scripts that I use for web scraping that could be more easily converted, but not as shareable. Script written and email sent.

Concrete lounge: Unable to use filters to identify students who have not submitted the assignment AND do not have an extension

Uploading results and marked files

Uploading the marked files seems fairly straight forward, as long as the same filenames are retained.

Question remains about how to upload the marks. The OASM system won’t be smart enough to extract the results from the uploaded files.

Oh dear, it appears that results need to be added manually for each student. That’s a bugger if you’re a casual marker employed to make 50 assignments. Beyond the time and workload implications, there’s the problem of human error, especially with a hugely repetitive manual process.

Correction, I need to enable the “offline grading worksheet” option. Yep, that adds “download grading worksheet” (and upload) to the options.

Framing some project ideas around support and services for learning and teaching

When time permits I’m working with a group (one of many) that is tasked with coming up with project ideas that could support my current institution’s strategic plan around learning and teaching. In particular we’ve been tasked to consider projects that will help build the institution’s capacity to

Continuously improve capacity to effectively and efficiently develop, manage, and deliver support and services.

The following is a re-working of a presentation of some of the groups initial ideas. The re-working is very much my own thinking, so while it’s based on the ideas of the group it isn’t necessarily representative.


Some of the assumptions that underpinned the group’s thinking include:

  1. The ultimate aim is to enhance student learning.
  2. Over recent years the institution has spent a lot of time and resources directly on enhancing the student learning experience.

    A trend that is not stopping, as a number of the other groups in this process appear to have a strong student focus.

  3. The perception of many teaching staff, however, is that the experience of teaching staff has been somewhat starved of attention and this is creating difficulties in teaching.
  4. While not the only factor in student learning, the impact of the teacher does retain some significance in a formal education setting.

Hence the focus of the group on how to enhance the support and services available to teaching staff.

Identified Projects

The initial set of projects discussed at the initial presentation were

  1. Situative teacher learning: support and services;
  2. University of the API;
  3. Authoritative data sources;
  4. Maker spaces; and,
  5. Governance.

What follows is a description of the first four of these.

Situative/Distributive teacher learning: support and services

There continues to be concern at this (and most other) institution about the quality of the online learning (e-learning, insert your own favourite phrase) in many courses. The “distributive teacher learning” project sees this problem as a problem of teacher learning and cognition. Teaching staff are facing difficulties in developing and accessing the knowledge and capabilities required to produce better online learning. To address this problem, it needs to start from a conception of learning and cognition.

The conception on which this project is based could be called either situative learning (Putnam & Borko, 2000) or (a recent slight extension) distributive learning (Jones, Heffernan, Albion, 2015). A view that sees learning and cognition as: situated, social, distributed, and protean. These four perspectives inform how a “Distributive teacher learning” system would operate.


Support and services to learn how to solve a problem or develop new insight is situated where the requirement arises. For example, if I have a problem in a Moodle discussion forum, then the support and services that will help me learn how to solve that problem are located right there. I don’t need to remember which non-searchable institution specific website contains support resources that might help me. I wouldn’t need to remember which of the three support units of the institution is best placed to help. I don’t need to wait until the next scheduled face-to-face session to ask for help. The help that is provided is also as specific to me as possible. If I’m in charge of a course, I would see a different set of support and services than if I were a casual marker.

Also, the support and services could/should appear where ever I am when I’m teaching. It shouldn’t be restricted to the LMS. It should include the institutional e-portfolio, the student records system and other institutional services used to support teaching and learning. In a perfect world there should be no apparent difference around where/how support and services are available. It’s there where I need it.

In a perfect world it would not be restricted to institutional systems. There are a broad array of external systems being used to support teaching and learning. Some of them (e.g. hosting of student email accounts with Google) are institutionally approved. Others aren’t so formally approved at the institutional level (e.g. the use of blogs on When I’m teaching using these external tools, the support and services required for my teacher learning should be visible.


The support and services that are situated in the place are not limited to those provided by the central support institutions. The support and services encourage and enable communication, collaboration, and sharing of experience amongst all of the people using that particular tool or space.


A distributed view of learning and cognition sees knowledge as not limited to individuals, but is instead spread across people and technologies. Too many of our systems assume that the cognition must reside solely in the head of the teacher/user. For example, a gradebook that requires human beings to manually search for students with results that are within 0.5% of a grade boundary and upgrade the result of those students. The system doesn’t help by providing some level of knowledge of capability. A system based on a more distributed view of knowledge would be able to highlight those students with a result within 0.5% of a grade boundary. The system does some of the work.

Beyond this, the system would aim to help make connections between people and practices.


Digital technologies have always been amongst the most protean – flexible and adaptable – of mediums. Back in 1984, Alan Kay writes that the computer offers “degrees of freedom and expression never before encountered” (Kay, 1984, p. 59). Since then enterprise computing has shown all the flexibility, adaptability, and fitness for purpose as a concrete lounge. Support and services for teacher learning that are protean move away from the established practice of a focus on the design of a “perfect” system, and move toward a system that allows users to create and share work-arounds (Koopman & Hoffman, 2003). A flexible and adaptable system that grows and changes in encourage the development of knowledge and in response to that changing knowledge.

University of the API

An Application Programming Interface (API) is a method by which the data and services provided by a system can be used via other applications. This allows new and interesting services to be developed in an agile way. Increasingly the capability to use APIs is not limited to programmers. Services such as If This, Then That (ifttt) are putting the capability to leverage APIs within the hands of most people. For example, this announcement of a thermostat control company providing an API that integrates with ifttt.

Already there are a growing number of American universities providing APIs around a number of institutional services that can be used by appropriate people. This white paper on University APIs provides additional information.

The availability of appropriate APIs around institutional services would enhance the distributive teaching learning idea in two ways:

  1. make it significantly easier to implement the idea; and,
  2. significantly enhance the protean nature of the tool by supporting the development and sharing of new services by people other than central IT.

Authoritative data sources

APIs are designed (in part) to provide access to data. For example, there might be an API to generate a list of all students in a course who are late to submit their first assignment. Such an API can only be implemented and useful if there is an authoritative source of data for: the due date for an assignment, the list of students enrolled in a course, and which students have or haven’t submitted their first assignment.

Makerspaces and hackfests

The 2015 Horizon Report for Higher Education lists Makerspaces as a “technology to watch”. Makerspaces are defined in the Horizon Report as “are community-oriented workshops where tech enthusiasts meet regularly to share and explore electronic hardware, manufacturing tools, and programming techniques and tricks” (p. 40). The connection to teaching and learning is that institutions “are taking advantage of makerspaces to provide students and faculty a place that is integrated into the community to do their tinkering” (p. 40). Makerspaces are a “collaborative workspace where learners from every discipline can feel comfortable learning skills”.

The focus here is on how Makerspaces can be applied to the question of teacher learning. There are at least three different possibilities:

  1. Setting up physical makerspaces where teaching staff can feel comfortable learning through making is one option.
  2. Exploring the use of the distributive teacher learning space as a form of virtual maker space.
  3. The use of physical makerspaces or hackfests as methods for quickly developing new services for teaching and learning.


Kay, A. (1984). Computer Software. Scientific American, 251(3), 53–59.

Koopman, P., & Hoffman, R. (2003). Work-arounds, make-work and kludges. Intelligent Systems, IEEE, 18(6), 70–75. Retrieved from

Putnam, R. T., & Borko, H. (2000). What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say about research on teacher learning? Educational Researcher, 4-15.

My example assignment 1 web-based artefact

This post is an example assignment 1 blog post for EDC3100.

This is my web-based artefact.

Embedding prezi – some tests

A student of mine is reporting problems embedding a Prezi into a blog post. Here’s a quick test.

Straight from Prezi

Let’s go with the straight prezi embed code

It looks something like this
[code lang=”html”]

And the embeded prezi should appear below

After a preview it’s obvious this doesn’t work.

The assumption being the that Prezi “embed code” isn’t liked/supported by WordPress.

The question being whether you can transform the Prezi “embed code” into something that is liked by WordPress.

Transform the Prezi “embed code”

A quick Google search embed prezi blog reveals this service that appears to transform the embed code.

Oh, but it looks like Prezi’s done something that might break this transformation on

[gigya src=”” allowfullscreen=”true” allowscriptaccess=”always” width=”550″ height=”400″ bgcolor=”#ffffff” flashvars=”prezi_id=8enn0a8y7qx3&lock_to_path=0&color=ffffff&autoplay=no&autohide_ctrls=0″ ]

Yep, that doesn’t appear to work.

And the same Google search above reveals this discussion which describes why.

Ways to raise visiblity of unit planning

The second assignment for the course I’m currently teaching has a second assignment where learners are required to design a unit plan that uses ICT to amplify and transform student learning. Given the nature of the learners, their backgrounds,and the curriclum most use there is some significant scope and benefit in collaboration. Not as in group work, but as in seeing what each other are doing, making comments, and drawing inspiration. The following is an attempt to figure out how to encourage this a bit more. (There are 300+ of them spread throughout Australia and a few sprinkled further afield).

Comment and suggestions are welcome. Though with short time frames, I’ll probably go ahead with whatever I decide below. Some background, the institution/course uses Moodle as the LMS. The course uses the LMS heavily. Students are also required for the course to create their own individual blog (Google “edc3100 blog” for a taste) and use Diigo initially as a group resource, but also individually.

The immediate thoughts

  1. Moodle Q&A forums
  2. Moodle database activity
  3. Blogs and Diigo

    At the moment, this appears the approach I’ll go with.

  4. A “distributive” unit plan template.

The idea is to start some initial sharing now and encourage on-going engagement over the coming weeks.

Moodle Q&A forums

Such a forum allows people to see what others have posted, but only after first posting their own thoughts. This is already used early in the unit planning process to get students demonstrating their ability to identify different types of learning objectives. This is primarily used as a type of formative assessment.

Simple to set up and works ok for the task it’s currently used for, but it’s not conducive to people keeping an eye on people’s unit planning progress. For example, if I were an early childhood educator I might want to focus only on those. It’s also not a great place for discussion. A discussion forum also isn’t their own space and isn’t integrated into the unit planning process.

Moodle database activity

Have used this in the past. Allows students to contribute certain information and also to query and search for specific information. Hence a way to focus on units that are relevant.

But not a great space for discussion. It’s not a tool the students use regularly, hence a learning curve before good use can be made. This is a problem for the course as the students have already had to climb a few learning curves. It’s also not integrated into the unit planning process.

Blogs and Diigo

Haven’t used these in combination yet. The idea would be that students:

  1. write an blog post describing their initial plans for their unit;

    e.g. talk about the year level, the learning objectives.

    Given that students (in theory) already have an OPML file imported into Feedly for their specialisations, this would generate a collection of posts that would appear in those feeds. Raising awareness.

    In theory, BIM (the Moodle module used to manage student blogs) can be set up to track whether or not students have completed written this post. Adding a bit of class management capability.

  2. bookmark that post with Diigo and tag it with the year level and codes for the content descriptors; and,

    The Australian Curriculum (which most use) has a unique code for each content descriptor in the curriculum. Using that code as a tag should make it easier to see who else is doing what you’re doing.

  3. actively search and follow those folk doing planning similar units.

A “distributive” unit plan template

This is the holy grail solution I’d love to implement, but just will not have the time.

The “distributive” view is based on this paper and the idea that learning/cognition is: situated, social, distributed, and protean.

To complete their unit plan, the students have to use a provided Word template. Using prior knowledge and the contents of the course learning paths the students are meant to fill in the template with the appropriate information. It’s a fairly standard approach and suffers from the standard problems. Mostly, the unit plan template appears to be based on a view of learning/cognition that is not all that

  1. situated;

    If the learner has a question or a problem, they have to leave the unit template and head over to the LMS or some other location to find an answer.

  2. social;

    The unit template provides no affordances for learners to share insights and experiences and for those to be visible within the unit plan the individual is working upon.

  3. distributed;

    The unit template is dumb. It doesn’t provide any guidance or do any work to help the learner complete the learning path. e.g. if the learner selects a certain collection of learning objectives, the unit plan doesn’t automatically provide a list of the commonly associated assessment criteria for those objectives. It doesn’t provide points to other units that have been written around those learning objectives or the feedback given to those units.

  4. protean.

    Learners can’t change the unit template in anyway.

What do you do with Twitter?

I was sitting in the first tutorial for EDC3100, ICT and Pedagogy yesterday when I overheard a student ask another, “What do you do with Twitter?”. There are many answers to this, this is what I did with Twitter this morning.

Learn – seek and sense

Primarily I use Twitter to seek out new information.

According to my Twitter profile I follow 544 people. That doesn’t mean I ready everything that they post. I have created a number of Twitter lists. Most of which I don’t really use any more. e.g. I’ve stopped using course twitter lists.

The one list I pay more attention to is the inner-circle. It currently has 100+ people I follow. This is a fairly random collection of people who currently tweet about stuff I find interesting. Stuff that I try to keep abreast of (but typically fail).

This morning when I first started up the laptop, there were around 180 tweets from this inner-circle. Given I had some time this morning, I skimmed through those tweets looking for some interesting stuff. Some of what I’ve found so far includes the following.

First I spotted the following re-tweet from @clairebooks

Mentions digital literacy and some changes to the Welsh curriculum. Digital literacy is something we touch on a few times over the semester in EDC3100. In fact, next week we mention the somewhat related ICT General Capability in the Australian Curriculum. What’s happening in the Welsh context provides an interesting comparison with our own context.

@shaned07 tweeted about an article in CIO about a presentation given by the CIO of the Queensland department of education.

The presentation talks in glowing terms about the success of their “ERP” system and its associated dashboards. I’m somewhat skeptical of the claims of such systems. ERPs almost inevitably leave huge gaping chasms between what people would like to do with them, and what they actually do. Dashboards are something I’ve learned to dislike a lot. However, the CIO is also saying some good things in terms of the importance of the teacher’s judgement with what is shown in the data.

This is interest because it is both a research interest of mine (I’ll be spending a fair bit of the next couple of days kludging together various institutional systems to get access to this type of data about EDC3100) and also of relevance to the topics we cover in EDC3100. Evidence-based decision making and data analysis are an increasing interest of those who decide what’s important for pre-service teachers to learn.

I’ve also been following along with @palbion’s tweets from the SITE conference in Las Vegas. Lots of interesting things to ponder from there.

Digital renovation is a growing interest of Peter and I, so I’ll need to follow up on this.

I also found out that at least one student seems to be progress okay with the course

And just as I was finishing up this post, I came across this from @courosa

This has me thinking about how many of the #edc3100 folk would make the connection between the mathematical concepts and the dance moves. It makes me wonder whether this is a way to bring in a tool like GeoGebra into EDC3100.

And lastly I liked (and smiled at) this re-tweet by @markdrechsler

It speaks to me of similar statements I’ve heard where management “blame the teachers”, the teachers “blame the students”, and IT people “blame the user” for not responding to some plan in the expected way.

Twitter helps seeking

All of the above are examples of something that I would not have come across without the network of people that I follow on Twitter. Cultivating a diverse network of people who are interested in different things and take a different perspective from me, helps me in seeking out new and interesting ideas. It sparks thoughts and possibilities that would not have been possible otherwise.


And in keeping with the PKM process I’ve also shared these tweets. This post is one example of sharing the tweets and what I do with them. I’ve also shared the links provided in some of these tweets to the EDC3100 Diigo group.

The article from CIO has also been tagged with a tag that links it to some research I’m doing.

The link about digital literacy is something I need to revisit in a little while and consider how (and if) it can be integrated into the EDC3100 learning paths. There’s some potential for a discussion around the shift from ICT to digital literacy, what it means, and whether it’s a good thing.

What did I do with Twitter?

I’ve generated a couple of ideas for activities for EDC3100. In fact, this blog post will also find its way into the next learning path as an example of what you might do with Twitter, but also as an example of a blog post.

And identified some additional avenues of exploration around research issues.

I learned about some work that’s going on around education from across the world. Generated some ideas for my teaching, but also for my research. Perhaps most importantly, I smiled.

And the day is still young.

The edc3100 "inspirational posters"

The following is a work in progress intended to record the “inspirational posters” that I use on my course website. Mainly so I an remember what I used and why.

Inspirational posters??

Rather than take up the space “above the fold” on my course site with reams of text or less than useful navigation icons, I have moved toward a model with minimal text and an “inspirational” post for each week of semester. The idea is to provide something that is interesting, not text-based, and related to what the students may be doing/thinking in any given week.

The following image shows the current state of the course site.

edc3100 - 2015

I know have to think about whether there’s any good way of moving the “general” forums from the top of the site without losing functionality.

Start whinge

I’m learning to detest the intrusion from folk outside of my course into the learning space for my course. This week the “fish” block appeared in the left hand column. These are two links to various support sites created at a program or institutional level. The intent is that they will aid students and improve their learning. My hypotheses is that their impact is low (few students use the links) and this is partly because they are just plonked on the edge of the learning space and are not integral to the learning process for the course (a process which, in this course, points explicitly to these and related resources at a time appropriate to the learners.

And don’t get me started on “Fac of Bus, Educ, Law & Arts”. It’s bad enough when organisational restructures create conglomerations of disparate organisational units, let alone when they are inflicted upon learners who really don’t need to know that my course (and their education program) belongs to the “Fac of Bus, Educ, Law & Arts” and not USQ (the institution they enrolled to study at). Especially when it takes up huge amounts of limited space in the bread crumbs navigation space.

Which of course is all related to the broken idea of “consistent course websites”. It is especially ironic given that as I write this post, one of my students in EDC3100 (a course for pre-service teachers title “ICT and Pedagogy”) has just shared the following comment via Diigo on this reading for the course

There is no such thing as a one size fit all approach to learning or teaching and no individual student or teacher should stop talking and working out better ways of learning and teaching together.

(Note: semester starts tomorrow, so this opinion is the outcome of the students learning prior to joining this course and being infected by my views).

End whinge

Previously I’ve used Diigo to keep track of what I’ve used, but it’s time to be a bit more explicit.

Week 0 – orientation

Here’s the first image I’m using this semester. It’s used during “week 0” the two weeks between when the institution opens course sites to students and the start of semester. In this course, it’s the “orientation and getting ready” period.

To be a teacher by ecmp355, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  ecmp355 

The photo is from one of the students taking a course taught by @courosa. The quote is

To be a teacher is not to have all of the answers, but instead to be the first person willing to learn — Tyler Mantyak

Tyler appears to be using his own quote in the image. Love it.

The connection with my course is that many students find it a challenge. Especially in the first couple of weeks. This quote might help them remember that they need to be willing to learn and that learning is typically pretty hard. If they are finding the course a challenge, then maybe it is because they are learning (and not that the course is badly designed and implemented).

Week 1 – ICTs, PLNs, and you

For the first week I think a bit of Proust is called for.

Discovery of Wisdom by ecmp355, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  ecmp355 

This photo (as with many) is also taken from a @courosa course. Continues the theme of taking responsibility for the journey. Also links nicely with the use of “learning path” as the metaphor for the weekly journey students have to go on.

Week 2 – ICT and Pedagogy: Why and What?

One of the aims of this week is to get folk thinking about the broader changes in society that are impacting learning and teaching, and also to start questioning how ICT might change pedagogy. Which means this Dewey quote fits nicely.

Teaching for Tomorrow by ecmp355, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  ecmp355 

Week 3 – RAT, SLIC, Curriculum, Copyright and Digital literacy

A bit of what is apparently Proust this week. A nice constructivist type of a quote that does capture the intent behind design of the course. Not sure how effectively the course achieve that, but at least the intent is there.

Discovery of Wisdom by ecmp355, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  ecmp355 

Week 4 – Effective planning

This week marks a turn of focus toward unit planning as a mechanism by which to demonstrate the design of ICT-rich learning experiences. The focus on planning means that the Lewis Carroll quote in the following is a nice fit

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there…”

As yet we don’t really engage with questions like, is it ok for any road to get there? Is it possible to really know where you should be going in a class of 20+ learners?

Road to Your Own Success by ecmp355, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  ecmp355 

Week 5 – Learning experiences

The aim this week is to get the students thinking about the design of ICT-rich learning experiences. Trying to encourage them to turn off the old style of teaching.

Week 6 – Finishing up the unit plan

The last week spent on developing a ICT-rich unit plan and a small dig at formal education. By this stage the learners are all probably a bit jack of the formalism that comes with unit plans.

Week 7 – Professional Experience

Keep Calm - it's on the lesson plan

This week has focus turn toward preparing for Professional Experience. Where the learners head out to schools and try to put some of this into practice. Mostly in the form of designing and implementing ICT-rich lessons. Teaching in schools is always just a little scary.

Week 8 – Digital Citizenship

One of the aims of week 10 is to move students beyond the “it’s too dangerous lets avoid it” focus of digital citizenship into one where it has it’s risks, but also it’s benefits, and we should all be able to leverage the benefits.

Week 9 – IWBs and CLEM

This week the focus is on how to develop the knowledge required to effectively design ICT-rich lessons that amplify and transform student learning using what ever random ICT is available within a specific classroom context. We focus on this because next week the pre-service teachers head out on Professional Experience. i.e. they are in a classroom having to teach ICT-rich lessons with whatever ICT is available in that classroom. CLEM is a framework designed to help them identify the Communities, Literature, Examples and Models that are available for the ICTs that are available. CLEM is designed to help them develop the knowledge they need. Hence the link back to the image first used in Week 0.

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