Why I don’t use a smartphone

It’s 2014, I’m a learning technologist, and I don’t have a smartphone. Why? It’s all about real estate.

Randi Boice image on Flickr

Randi Boice image on Flickr

You see, when the iPad first came out, I knew it made sense for me. It hit the sweet spot of portability, compact size, battery life, and functionality, so I could do *most* of what I wanted to do on a computer but anywhere and anytime. I bought (well my dear husband bought it for me for Christmas) the 3G iPad generation one. That iPad has now been replaced by a mini wifi only, but I have a mifi device which gives me connectivity pretty much anywhere I can’t get wifi.

Meanwhile, everyone else was buying smartphones. But why did I need to be poking around on a tiny keyboard and looking at a tiny screen when I had my iPad? What about actual phone calls, you may ask? Well I do have a little Nokia which cost me 15 quid at a local shop, which I use for a grand total of 5 quid per month. So that 5 quid, plus the 10 quid monthly I pay for my mifi — total of 15 quid a month and all devices purchased outright so I’m not paying for those monthly.

There are occasions when it seems like I might need a smartphone. For example, Instagram. Have never done Instagram. I do enjoy taking photos with my iPad and my camera, and I have accounts on Flickr and Pinterest for some of these. Also Snapchat — have not done that one, as it seems to demand a smartphone. Another time I felt out of it without a smartphone was when I used Google Glass. Google Glass wanted to pair with a smartphone, or at least an official 3G-enabled tablet. My iPad with a mifi did not qualify. I had to borrow my boss’s iPhone to test Google Glass (slightly awkward).

One last thing: I’m a woman. I carry a bag with me pretty much all the time. Some of my clothes don’t have good pockets. So carrying an iPad mini is no problem — it’s with me all the time. Even when I go to a fancy party, I can fit my iPad mini and mifi into a small bag. So I guess it’s a big goofy that I carry 3 devices (iPad, mifi, dumb phone) instead of one… but I think I’m ahead in terms of money, and I have the real estate which I like. What do you think? Will I have to bite the bullet and get a smartphone?

Terese Bird
Learning Technologist, University of Leicester

How are 1st year Medical undergraduates using iPads?

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 08.19.51Since autumn 2013, the University of Leicester Medical School has been issuing each first-year undergraduate with an iPad. This is the first UK medical school to implement this kind of initiative.

Why did we do this? One of the main drivers was to solve the problem of having to print paper workbooks, which cost too much and then constantly need to be updated. Our solution was to simply format the workbooks into a nice shape for the full-size iPad, save as pdf, and distribute to the students via Blackboard. We then instructed the students to buy Notability (an app which reads pdfs and allows note-taking) and download the Dropbox cloud storage app, which works together with Notability and many other apps. We also instructed the students to bring their iPads to every class session. And then we watched what happened!

By their own report in several surveys, the students mainly used the iPads to read and annotate their workbooks, and to follow along in lectures, annotating onto pdf lecture slides. But it was beyond that use where things got interesting. Students worked together in small group sessions, discussing and drawing on paper, then at the end of the session photographing their notes and developing them individually later in personal study. Students created study groups on Facebook and shared documents and discussed. Students created flashcards of the names of muscles, for example, and tested their knowledge personally and in groups. Below is a list of apps which students mentioned in a survey, which they found useful, along with a brief description of what the app does or how students reported using it. After that is a further brief list of reported learning activities with their iPads.  I hope to report further developments on this initiative as it matures.

List of Apps mentioned by Year 1 Medical students and how they use

Notability – read, take notes on workbooks and lecture notes

Dropbox – storage space, keep their notes, serves as a go-between between some apps

Brainscape — create your own flashcards

Essential Skeleton – anatomy app

Teach Me Anatomy – anatomy app

YouTube – search for educational video

Essential Anatomy – anatomy app

Calendar – calendar syncs with university calendar

iMessage – direct message each other

Facebook – study groups

Adobe Reader – read workbooks and ebooks offline

Pages – opens Word docs, edit, save back as Word; create Word docs

Numbers – spreadsheets (to graph numbers and share in discussion with others)

MB Anatomy – anatomy app

Visible Bodies – anatomy app

Resuscitation – virtual patient simulator

OSCE skills – exam prep app

Anatomy Quiz – anatomy quiz

Simple Mind – mind map

Penultimate – handwriting app, saves into Evernote

Other interesting ways they are using their iPads:

Use iPad as a second screen – look at lecture slides on iPad, type notes on laptop

Use stylus and Penultimate to draw what they saw in dissection room

Use iMessage to share pictures and diagrams with other group members

Use Numbers to graph questions in group work

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester

What learning materials are downloaded in China Part 2

The University of Leicester launched its iTunes U channel in April 2013. Since then, it has been interested to see what countries are viewing and downloading our material. Last week, Apple decided to feature our Study Skills collection on the front page of iTunes U. Not only has this attracted many more people to view and download our material (thanks, Apple!) but also it produced a shift in which countries are downloading our material. Usually, either the UK or the USA is the number 1 country viewing and downloading University of Leicester material. But today, 7 March 2014, the picture is the following:

Visitors by Country, to University of Leicester iTunes U Channel, 7 March 2014

Visitors by Country, to University of Leicester iTunes U Channel, 7 March 2014

So basically, China has taken over as the number 1 country downloading our material. This happened once before, when Apple featured a different collection of ours, Model Organisms in Biomedical Research. It seems that people using iTunes U in China really respond to what is displayed on the front page of iTunes U.

Visitors by Device, 7 March 2014

Visitors by Device, 7 March 2014

The above breakdown of what devices people are using to download our iTunes U materials is very interesting. The last time we had a featured collection, the majority of downloads was to Windows computers running iTunes. Today, it’s dominated by iPads and iPhones. Last year, Apple included China as one of the countries receiving early shipments of iPad Air and both models of iPhone 5, and has been working hard to prioritise China in its plans for the future. I am idealistic enough to believe that higher education is not quite the same sort of consumer product as iPads. But it is good to be able to see what people in other countries such as China are enjoying of our learning material, and hopefully this can inform future developments.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist & SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester

Cool webinars for Open Education Week 2014

This year Open Education Week falls 10 March through 14 March 2014.  What is Open Education Week, I hear someone ask? Open Education Week raises awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Open education encompasses notions of open educational resources or OER, open courses such as MOOCs, and other open practices.

Because the Institute of Learning Innovation is working on the EU-facilitated eMundus project, we are doing a special themed webinar on Friday, 14 March, at 11am until 12noon GMT. Our webinar is one of a series showcasing aspects of the eMundus project, which is (among other things) mapping out institutional partnerships in open education, such as universities which accept MOOC credits for transferring in, and the OER University. Our Friday webinar will look at the pedagogies of MOOCs. Check out  the poster below for more cool webinars you can join in during Open Education Week. With special thanks to Athabasca University for facilitating our whole series of webinars!

OER benefits for enrolled students

The open education movement has often focused on explaining the benefits of open educational resources (OER) and other open education initiatives to people beyond the reach of formal education — those who cannot afford it, who live too far away from schools, who cannot access formal education for any number of reasons. But in addition, current students benefit from the use of OER. This article by CK-12 Foundation gives good examples of how American schools are making OER work for students, largely through saving money on textbooks.

The Manufacturing  Pasts project (video above) was funded by JISC to digitise and mash up into learning materials artefacts from Leicester’s industrial past.  I had the privilege of working on the project. Now, a year on since the project ended, I can see that the work we did is benefiting current students in ways we did not expect. For example, I was just helping to teach a digital media session in University of Leicester Museum Studies department. The students are putting together museum displays with sound and video installations augmenting the photos and physical items. When we directed them to MyLeicestershire.org.uk and the Manufacturing Pasts collection, and told them these were all CC-licensed, there was an audible sigh of relief that they did not have to hunt for copyright permissions as they must for other items.

Another way OER and open practice benefits currently-enrolled students is in the way some universities are launching MOOCs designed to help their own students. University of Northampton, for example,  has launched and is continuing develop a MOOC teaching academic skills (referencing, how to handle feedback, writing) — with a version for undergrads and a version for postgrads. These MOOCs require only about 2 hours weekly and are offered to students who have been accepted to the university, as well as any student already having begun to study. Academics who were already teaching these things to smaller groups of students have put together the online materials. It’s a bit early to conclude yet how well these MOOCs will help the student. I will check back with Northampton in a few weeks as I continue to gather stories of how open educational practices can and are helping students currently enrolled at the participating institutions. Please comment if you have such a story.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist & SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

A Pedagogical Look at MOOCs

As a part of Open Education Week 2014, Professor Gráinne Conole and I plan to hold a webinar (details to be announced shortly; watch this space) on the topic of A Pedagogical Look at MOOCs. This webinar is not simply a University of Leicester production; it will be part of the EU-funded eMundus project, one task of which is to map out patterns of open educational partnerships between institutions around the world. An example of such a partnership would be the OER University, or a university accepting some form of credit for successful completion of a MOOC.

Our webinar will take a pedagogical look at MOOCs in the following way: first we choose 5 MOOCs, each corresponding to a primary learning approach taken in the MOOC. Then we map each MOOC against 12 dimensions identified originally by Grainne in her blog post “A New Classification for MOOCs” (and with thanks to Stephen Downes for identifying the last two dimensions (Downes, 2010)). Below is my initial attempt, having chosen only 2 MOOCs so far: the Open University Learning Design MOOC (OLDS), which I identify as constructivitst, and the original George Siemens Connectivist MOOC. Many thanks to Paul Rudman for his input on this mapping exercise as well.

One obvious question is: how does one pedagogically categorise a MOOC? Another big question: how are we defining these dimensions and what would constitute Low, Medium, or High for each one. I am interested in your views on these and other questions — please comment! I include the webinar abstract at the end of this post.

9.57.52

Webinar Abstract: As the number and variety of free online courses and MOOCs increases, it becomes more important to be aware of their differing pedagogical approaches. After initial attempts to categorise MOOCs as cMOOCs and xMOOCs (roughly, C for connectivist and X for EdX –style), it began to be clear that more nuanced categorisation was needed, and especially when considering the course’s primary learning approaches. Taking Conole’s 12-dimensional MOOC classification (Conole, 2013) and choosing 5 learning approaches often used in elearning (Mayes & De Freitas, 2004) (Bird & Conole, 2013), we categorise 5 MOOCs as an exploratory exercise for this webinar. Does this exercise display clues to the direction of MOOCs and free online courses in general? Are there any warning signals which we as educators should note? In the context of the eMundus project, does this classification help quality officers make decisions in open educational practice, for example about accepting credit for a completed MOOC?

Bird, T., & Conole, G. (2013). From E-Learning to M-Learning. In From E-Learning to M-Learning. Singapore. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/tbirdcymru/from-elearning-to-mlearning

Conole, G. (2013). A new classification for MOOCs. e4innovation Blog. Retrieved January 25, 2014, from http://www.e4innovation.com/?p=727

Downes, S. (2010). Fairness and equity in education. Huff Post Education.

Mayes, T., & DeFreitas, S. (2004). JISC e-Learning Models Desk Study Stage 2 : Review of e-learning theories , frameworks and models.

 Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

Reflections on Student Views of Lecture Capture

The University of Leicester has been piloting two lecture capture systems (Echo360 and Panopto) since autumn 2013. I have been working on evaluating the systems and the use of lecture capture at our university generally. I thought the wider community might be interested in our preliminary findings on student views particularly, and some reflections.

Running for President on a platform of lecture capture

Running for President on a platform of lecture capture

I share some questions and responses to the online survey given to students:
1. Did you listen to/view at least one of the recorded lectures?

Yes: 81%        No: 19%

Asked why they didn’t view any, students gave answers such as “Didn’t feel it was required because I made notes during all my lectures.” One student said they make their own audio recording so don’t need a recording made by the university, thereby underlining their perceived need for some kind of recording.

2. How many times did you listen to/view the lecture?

Once: 70%         2-5 times: 23%       More than 5 times: 7%

3. Did you attend the lecture?

Yes: 90%            No: 10%

4. If you did not attend, did the fact that you could watch the recording later influence your decision not to attend?

3 students admitted yes it did influence their decision not to attend. It is still very early days in our university’s foray into lecture capture. Will students not attend lectures because they know they are being recorded? The 3 students answering yes on this question represent 4% of students who did the survey. Another interesting note is that one of the participating lecturers commented in an interview (I paraphrase), “I have so many students in my lecture that I actually don’t mind if they don’t attend and just watch the recording.” I would say this lecturer’s view is far from typical, and yet this is not the only time I have heard this point of view.

5. For what reason(s) did you listen to/view the recorded lecture? More than one answer could be chosen.

Exam revision:  27 

To make sure I understood everything: 40

To go over something I did not understand: 46

I did not attend the lecture and wanted to catch up: 9

To catch up details I missed the first time: 1

6. How important is it for the recording to be made available to you quickly after the lecture:

90% answered somewhat or very important. When asked how long after the lecture should the recording be made available, the vast majority answered: within 24 hours.

What strikes me is that these students really value lectures, and they want to go over the materials covered in them again and again. I saw this in my work with lecture capture at Bangor University as well; students like lecture capture because they like lectures. I close with a couple of student comments about lecture capture, which again reinforce how much value students place on the lecture:

“Listening to the same lecture more than once helps to refresh the memory and aid in my better understanding. I could listen again at my own pace.”

“It’s a great review tool. When in lecture taking notes it’s difficult to take everything in; reading the provided text helps, but being able to go back to a lecture for clarification is priceless.”

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

on Twitter: @tbirdcymru

Confessions of a PhD student (15): “I feel a bit empty inside as my PhD is ending”

I have recently submitted my PhD thesis. After almost 4 years, it is ready. I finished. The literature review, the methodology, the data collection and analysis, the discussion, the conclusions, everything, it is done. Long hours of hard work have culminated in a 266-page long document.

It felt strange handing it in. It is not the final step of this journey, as I still have to wait for my viva voce presentation. But it is so close to the end that I cannot help but feeling a bit empty inside. An important period of my life is ending. My stay in the United Kingdom is almost over.

BCPR Thesis

This is my most liked picture on Facebook. I was impressed by the amount of support and good wishes I received.

It is time to look back and reflect on what I have learned. Throughout my studies, I have met many interesting people, who have shared with me their experience and knowledge. I have learned about technologies, pedagogical practices, research methodologies and more.

Unquestionably, the person that has contributed the most to my academic development has been my supervisor. We have worked together in a weekly basis. He is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. I am grateful to have him as my mentor, my academic father. From him I have learned many lessons, including:

  1. Write properly. I knew this one before starting my PhD. But now I am better at it. A great idea/finding is nothing if expressed blandly.
  2. Use diagrams. Figures give readers a break from the text. They help those who just want to skim through your writing learn your main points.
  3. Choose your fights. I hate it when someone wants to use their “authority” to make me do something I do not want to do (e.g., unnecessary changes in my work). When I am in a situation like that, my first impulse is to argue and stand my ground. My supervisor taught me to keep calm and find the easiest way to solve the problem. Is it worthwhile to spend time discussing trifles? Usually, it is not. I have learned that now.

Is this really over? I want to think that this is not the end, but a new beginning. I will continue doing research, writing, learning… I will keep in contact with the people I have met and maybe even collaborate with them. New projects await. A new path lies ahead.  A new journey will start.

MOOCing for learning or MOOCeting for earning?

At the ALT MOOC SIG gathering in Southampton on 6 November, we were assured by Helena Gillespie, of University of East Anglia, that MOOCing is definitely a verb. I’d like to add a new one to the ever-increasing glossary of the MOOCosphere: MOOCeting. It is perhaps best explained by the image below:

Language of the MOOCosphere

Language of the MOOCosphere, G. Witthaus

It is clear that there have been two strands of MOOCs developing for some time now, and this distinction is often couched in the language of xMOOCs vs cMOOCs. Having previously carried out research into the Open Educational Resources university (OERu), which is dedicated to widening participation in higher education, I have become familiar with the language used to describe and bring into being a means of enabling everyone, everywhere, to get a fully accredited degree from a recognised institution by learning from openly licensed content on the Web. The key concepts that are at the root of the discourse here are: enabling massive numbers of learners with limited financial resources to get an accredited higher education qualification; reusing existing course materials; providing a basic level of support for learners to access the resources and navigate their way through them; disaggregating the provision of content, teaching and assessment for the benefit of the learners; providing assessment and accreditation at cost, and ensuring sustainability of the process.

The emerging discourse about the MOOCeting version of MOOCs, is, as the name implies, informed and dominated by institutional Marketing Departments. The primary question seems to be, “How will this benefit the institution?” Answers are speculative at this stage, but tend to centre on notions around “expanding our global footprint”, and ultimately recruiting fee-paying students by “converting” MOOC students into “real” students. To do this, the strategy is to develop MOOCs with substantial amounts of new, glossy materials, particularly video content. The quality of the content, both in terms of academic quality and high-tech multimedia quality, is seen as critical to the success of the project.

One thing both MOOC strands seem to agree on is that the MOOC explosion is innovative. Ultimately, it may happen that both strands move closer to one another in terms of the other dimensions too, as the apparent side-effect of institutional marketing might bring unexpected but valuable benefits to those institutions that are not explicitly seeking it, and the apparent side-effect of widening participation might actually turn out to be an important factor in the ultimate success of the MOOCs that are aimed at recruiting students with deeper pockets.

I have created a slide presentation containing more of my thoughts on MOOCs and some random factoids from these recent conferences:

Blog post by Gabi Witthaus

What open learning materials are being downloaded in China?

Earlier in 2013, I completed a project for the Higher Education Academy, called iTunes U Reach. In this project,  I facilitated the launch of the University of Leicester’s iTunes U channel, of which the vast majority of items are licensed CC-BY-NC. Then I could observe how and what materials were consequently consumed by people around the world. Our university is particularly interested in what China is looking at, because iTunes U is visible in China, while YouTube and Vimeo are not. (I’m not sure about SoundCloud — anybody know? Leave a comment if you do!) Well, we launched our channel around Easter 2013, and the top ten collections and their consumption methods and numbers are below. It’s helpful to remember that not all of these collections were launched at the beginning; launching all of these collections has been a gradual process. For example, Model Organisms in Biomedical Research, number 9 on this list, was only launched on 15 October. So the numbers shown for that collection were achieved in less than one month.

Top Ten UoL iTunes U Collections with consumption rates and methods 16 March - 12 Nov 2013

Top Ten UoL iTunes U Collections with consumption rates and methods 16 March – 12 Nov 2013

Who has been looking at these materials? Below are the statistics of activity by country. China is the third most active consumer of UoL material. It is interesting to note that in recent weeks, I have noticed Turkey appearing in these numbers too. Turkey is another country which does not have access to YouTube, but does have access to iTunes U.

UoL iTunes U Site Visitors: Activity by Country

UoL iTunes U Site Visitors: Activity by Country

What items are being consumed by visitors from China? I chose to answer this question by looking at data from 1st through 10th August 2013, and pinpointing every bit of activity by someone in China on the UoL iTunes U channel. I grouped our iTunes U collections together by subject area, and also looked at whether the file was a downloaded or streamed video, audio, or text. I then showed subscriptions and browses separately, as these occur per collection, rather than per item. Here is what I found:

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 23.59.27

So the top 3 subjects of interest were, in order: English, Medicine, Psychology. Items of all three formats were chosen for download.  I had an expectation that perhaps the Engineering topic would be most popular, and that there might be a clear preference for video, and so these results were surprising to me. I should make it clear that the English materials are not for the teaching of English language. They are lectures on creative writing and on linguistic examination of social media communications. Of all of our UoL materials, these are the most downloaded by Chinese people.

One or two more interesting observations: On 22nd October and lasting for 2 weeks, Apple featured our collection “Model Organisms in Biomedical Research” in its New & Noteworthy section on its iTunes U home site. During that time, China became the number 2 country, immediately after USA, in countries looking at our materials. This suggests that China is particularly responsive to materials promoted by Apple. I also noticed during that time, that  the percentage of users consuming our materials using iTunes on a Windows computer increased dramatically, to number two just after iPad users. This suggests that Windows iTunes users are also particularly responsive to Apple promotion. It’s possible also that China’s iTunes U visitors are more likely to be using Windows computers — I would have to look more carefully at the data to say this definitely, but it seems reasonable.

A final comment I would make is that I found, from interviews of Chinese students and educators, that Chinese universities began in earnest to produce their own openly licensed learning materials, or at least learning materials being treated as though they are openly licensed. I found, for example, that the Chinese internet company NetEase has been releasing openly-licensed English language learning materials in its own app, after having added Chinese subtitles. NetEase has now begun to partner with MOOC-provider Coursera. I have not yet heard of any Chinese MOOCs, but perhaps they are right around the corner.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester tmb10@le.ac.uk

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