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 That iPad has now been replaced by a mini wifi only, but I have a mifi device which gives me connectivity pretty much anywhere I can’t get wifi.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

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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.

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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

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

Mobile learning conference in the Asian Pacific: things I learnt in Singapore

View from the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore

View from the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore

A group of us from the Institute of Learning Innovation (Gráinne, visiting fellow Mark Childs, and I) have just attended MobiLearnAsia 2013 conference in Singapore. The conference was organised by Crimson Knowledge, a Singapore-based education company. This was the second year the conference has run; it was bigger this year, and covered new ground such as supplying iPads for every attendant at the pre- and post-conference workshops. Gráinne was a keynote speaker; Mark and I presented sessions, and together we delivered two days of pre-conference workshops.

The conference was attended by a mixture of corporations and educators from every level and sector, including military trainers and independent consultants, mostly from Singapore, Malaysia, India, Australia, and Thailand, but also including China, the US, and the UK. At the academic conferences I have been been attending in recent years, corporations have been present but their sessions aren’t necessarily very well attended, possibly being seen as less learning, more commercial. While at this conference, I realised that it is really necessary for academics and corporations to communicate more, to be aware of the way the other views trends in learning and technology, and to help shape priorities of each sector. One really valuable corporate connection I made was with Kevin Chan, founder of Coursepad. Kevin let us use his app called Micepad to support our pre-conference workshops on the 7Cs of Learning Design, M-Pedagogy, and Augmented Reality/Virtual Worlds.  The app was well designed to form a support around the workshop, giving a central place for photos and notes to be gathered, a simple way for discussions to happen on the iPad (Mark acted as eModerator to keep an eye on questions/comments coming in on the app), and even just to have a quick profile of each attendant. The app also had a feature whereby you can email to yourself all the gathered discussions, for your own further review.

There were many ways in which I felt we in the UK are far behind countries such as Singapore and South Korea, who are really putting money into education and who are not afraid to bank on the side of technological innovation. Yet I felt we from the UK and USA brought good things to the table, especially in the form of research into learning innovation and a consideration of digital literacy, among other good things.

There were some impressive and successful case studies of mobile learning being implemented large-scale. One Australian university in attendance (University of Western Sydney) has distributed 11,000 iPads to its incoming students. They spoke of deploying learning designers to help instructors adapt their material and pedagogical approaches to the iPad. Designing learning for mobile is often thought of after the iPads are bought and paid for. I guess that’s ok, as long as the learning design happens at some point!

One  case study was presented in the graveyard shift of the first day and hence attended by only a handful of us, but it made a big impression on me.  A UNESCO programme to teach literacy to women in Pakistan did not seem to have much impact with traditional teaching methods, i.e. gathering the women every day at the literacy centre for 2 hours of lectures and teaching. At least half of the women dropped out after 3 months, and of the remainder, not many passed the final exams. But when they decided to hand out simple inexpensive mobile phones to each student, things changed. The women had never had mobile phones before. They received SMS messages which they dutifully copied into notebooks and studied for spelling and grammar. The message content was about hygiene and food preparation, so there was that to learn as well. Then once a week, the women gathered at the literacy centre to discuss what they learnt over the week and take the lessons further. Now there is much lower dropout rate and much higher exam pass rate. It is a simple use of simple mobile technology, which hit the right nerve to engage and empower these women.

One thing I considered during the conference was: for how many more years can we have a mobile learning conference? Five years? Fewer? I have no doubt that mobile learning is not only here to stay but will become the predominant technology mode in learning. The reason for this is the ubiquitous quality of mobile devices. They are always in our hands, pockets, or pocketbooks. And this is the reason why I’m not sure for how much longer we will refer to ‘mobile learning.’  It will just be learning. But for now, it is still necessary to think about the affordances of mobile devices and how they can fill gaps in tech needs for learning. It is still necessary to consider how to help students strategically use mobile devices for the flexible learning best suited to our 24/7 society. It is still necessary to consider what pedagogical approaches are well served by mobile devices. Until it all just becomes ‘learning.’

And what we cover in our Technology-Enhanced Learning module in our MSc in Learning Innovation will now need to be altered & widened to include the view from Singapore.

Many heartfelt thanks to Crimson Knowledge — Patrick and Vivian particularly — for inviting us and looking after us, and for allowing us to join in the picture of mobile learning in the Asian Pacific.

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

Designing learning for mobile: Theatre for a Change

7Cs of Learning Design Workshop with Theatre for a Change

7Cs of Learning Design Workshop with Theatre for a Change

Theatre for a Change (TFAC) is a London-based charity engaged in training teachers to give instruction to middle- and high-school age students about reproductive health issues. TFAC is active in African countries including Malawi and Ghana. Their courses have taken various forms including theatre workshops, art, and radio programmes. After reading about our work to help deploy our Criminology’s MSc in Security, Conflict and International Development with its iPad and app model, TFAC contacted us to help them extend their reach to students in more remote areas by transforming to a mobile learning model.

We held a 7Cs of Learning Design workshop with TFAC in May 2013, and helped them to storyboard a new ‘mobile’ version of the course. I recall at the time the above photo was taken, the group was discussing how to ‘chunk’ each learning unit in a way suitable for mobile phones, how to refer students to audio-recorded material, and how to include feedback and discussion through mobile methods. Since that workshop, I have helped with transforming the material into mobile-ready formats, and working on using social media as a simple virtual learning environment / learning management system.

This project is a great opportunity to create a different kind of mobile learning model, and we are very much figuring it out as we go along. It was great also to think about designing for mobile learning, from the beginning. Designing the learning for mobile, from the beginning, has got to be the key to mobile learning success. I plan to update this blog as the project rolls out, so stay tuned!

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

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