Looking back on 2012

Tray of brussels sproutsOnce again, it’s time to round up the year’s events: to clear away the past to prepare for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

It’s been a strange year work-wise with little in the way of continuity. Without work from LSIS, JISC TechDis and the JISC RSC-SE, the year would have been very bleak indeed.

I started the blogging year with a rant about Michael Gove’s well-publicised wish to turn all school children into computer programmers.  However, in the speech he used to announce his programming initiative he also said: “As online materials grow and flourish, we all need to think about how we can guide students through the wealth of information and techniques freely available and accessible online.” … a statement that I heartily agree with and something that is still sadly lacking in everyday teaching and learning environments.

Learners need to check the validity and veracity of the information they find on the Internet and to evaluate its worth for their purpose.

Quite a number of teachers spent their own ‘learning’ years, studying worthy tomes without any thought of the way that contradictory, conflicting and simply inaccurate information might ‘one day’ be easily found ‘online’. They were not brought up to undertake research in the manner that today’s information sources demand; the ways that their charges need to employ.

Moodle training has been a great feature of my work this year and will hopefully continue to be something that draws interest from customers. My first Moodle training event was in January at Pontefract Sixth Form College, arranged by the Yorkshire and Humberside RSC. The most recent was for Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) in December. I spent a week at the college, close to Maidenhead, towards the end of November, delivering training to Moodle Champions in VLE use and then again just last week, I delivered a short online course to the same team – about features of Moodle Admin.

Ambassador logo

During the summer months, I was employed by TechDis to be their RSC-Conference Trolly Dolly.  In this role, I promoted the newly launched ‘TechDis Voices’ and ‘TechDis Toolbox’; two of the most significant and exciting initiatives of the year.

I continue to work with TechDis over the winter 2012/13 as part of the Ambassador programme. I’ve already travelled widely in the south east of England as part of this face-to-face TechDis Accredited Trainer role, visiting Lingfield, Weybridge, Margate and Aylesbury.

During December, I decided to deliver a series of #Advent #SugSnips#SugSnips. This revived a very successful delivery of #SugSnips during 2011.

I’m not convinced that this current short series of posts, delivered in a completely different way to before and copied to Facebook, has been quite as successful. Time will tell (I haven’t checked the individual logs yet). However, re-tweets and shares have been non-existent. Maybe it’s time to re-think the #SugSnips idea?

Finally, back in August 2011 I asked why does Flickr not have a belting App? Well, it does now – having released a new (and absolutely ‘belting’ App) during the latter months of 2012.  Well done Flickr. Here it is.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this, may I wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year?

Happy New Year.

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Evaluation of e-Learning

I was recently asked how I might evaluate the use of e-Learning. To be fair the question took me by surprise, as it wasn’t something I’d given any thought to for a number of years. To me, the answer is self-evident.

I suggested that we couldn’t evaluate e-Learning in any quantitative way and that differentiating it from good teaching and learning was a folly.

I did suggest that if we took ‘it’ all away and then measured the gap that was left in modern teaching practice it might quantitatively answer the question of how much ‘e’ was used, but not how well or how badly it was used, which I think was the questioner’s point.

The problem we have today is that e-Learning tools, techniques and technologies are used all of the time and in every school, college, workplace and university. All teachers now embrace the use of email; many of them use it with learners. All teachers expect access to some form of computer in their staff room, whether that is a personal laptop or shared PC. They might also expect to see a LCD projector in their room. Fairly often, they will use a PowerPoint Slideshow as the backbone of their lesson; this might even be made available to learners via a VLE or less so but increasingly via some sort of Web 2.0 provision. But how do you evaluate all that use and more importantly, how would you separate its use from every other teaching and learning tool or technique used? And would we assess the learners’ use or the teacher’s?

Without going into the use of emerging or mobile technologies how many current classroom activities are 100% e-Learning? And, how many of those e-Learning tools, techniques and technologies employed are well thought out, user friendly, accessible and pedagogically sound? Some may say that this is the reason for undertaking an evaluation, but my reply still stands – how do you separate ‘e’ from the rest?

Let us work towards a universal understanding of how learners learn (and this changes much slower than the technology changes) and then how to choose advantageous tools and techniques which address those learner needs: in and out of the classroom. Then, let us evaluate the whole caboodle – not just ‘e’.

After all, who ever evaluated the use of pens and pencils when slates became outdated?

See this .pdf file.