Ode to the academic staff developer

I can’t imagine a more difficult job than being an academic staff developer. Lion tamers, steeplejacks and even, can you believe it, primary school teachers, must step back in awe of this profession. At academic developer (or academic development officer if you prefer) school, there must be psychological tests to weed out all but the most committed, the shrewdest and the most patient, so that those who graduate and go on to assist the likes of Prof Higginbotham* and his colleagues, including me, in the academy can learn to deal with the most powerful weapon in Higginbotham’s armoury: the three simple…

Facilitating online group work: Reflection

Having been part of a group required to complete a task online over a week, it was interesting to view the process of a group task from a students’ perspective. Some reflective points are considered along with thoughts for how to facilitate group work with my own students in the future. This week on the MSc Supporting Virtual Communities module, we were required in our group of six to conceive a group activity and write a tutor support guide for facilitating this activity online. The activity, conveniently enough, consisted of six tasks, which led to pretty equal division. This divide…

Book Review: How to write a lot

How to Write a Lot, Paul J Silvia, APA Washington, 2007. This is a great little book. Apart from its content and central message (which is obvious), I love the style. There are no boxed asides, no “Top Ten Hits from the Best Writers“, no planning charts,  or any other visual false idols, which make you feel like you are going to be a better writer having looked at them. Instead, it’s like a book of old, containing just paragraphs of text (imagine that!), with a simple but elegant imprint. The occasional New Yorker cartoon matches the author’s dry sense…

Online Induction and Socialisation: Reflection

This post summarises some points of reflection having completed the first week of the module “Supporting Virtual Communities”, on the DIT Msc Applied E-Learning. The first week of the module had the theme induction and socialisation, and I have incorporated some thoughts on the week, prompted by the reflective prompts given by the module tutor, Roisin. Before these thoughts, we were given an article to read from the Crafting Gentleness Blog, which prompted some thoughts on my view of e-learning. The use of e-learning as a teaching method could be seen as a panacea for all education problems – design…

Social Network Sites as an Academic Induction Tool

This post provides an annotated bibliography of some work on using social media (in particular Facebook) as a pre-registration/pre-university/induction tool. The references given can also be found at my Delicious site. Some examples of the use of Facebook for induction purposes are given at the end. Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: ‘It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work’ [Link] This is a really interesting paper on the use of Facebook as a pre-university networking tool. The study was carried out in the University of Leicester and respondents to…

Constructivism in Chemistry

This post summarises what it means to me as a chemistry teacher/lecturer to subscribe to the theory of constructivism in chemistry education, highlighting the teaching and learning stances that are adopted to align with this viewpoint. Some counter arguments to the principle of constructivism in chemistry are given which fall into two general categories: epistemological arguments and pedagogic arguments. Overview Constructivism is a theory of learning which describes how learners build on existing or prior knowledge to incorporate new knowledge, based on their learning experiences. The theory is based on the principle that knowledge is not “discovered”, but constructed in…

Interacting Online – problems arising out of discussion boards

I wanted to post some thoughts on the use of discussion boards in VLEs – both from the perspective as a learner and as a tutor. My impetus is that if online learning is to be truly beneficial in place of in-class learning, interactivity is the core driver. Discussion boards are fantastic in this regard, but I have come across some problems in recent usage. Discussion boards architecture Discussion boards are a useful locus for interaction between peers and between tutor and learners. In my role as tutor, I feel I have used them well in terms of providing students…

Some Literature on Podcasting in Education

This post summarises a mini-review on recent literature on podcasting and learning in the higher education context. Along with the journal article title, a brief annotation is provided. I have previously written about Gilly Salmon’s wonderful book Podcasting for Learning in Universities” which has lots of examples on implementation of podcasting in practice. The purpose of this article is to probe a little deeper and look at the primary research on podcasting. It seems to be an area of research about to explode, and it will be interesting to watch how 2010 develops. The main findings across the series of…

Book Review: Podcasting for Learning in Universities

Gilly Salmon and Palitha Edirisingha (eds), SRHE/OU Press 2008, reprinted 2009. I really liked this book, or at least the parts that I read. As with anything by Gilly Salmon (or Gill e-Salmon as I like to write her), it is pragmatic for the practitioner but based in research, without the research being shoved down your throat. She writes the kind of stuff you could give to a colleague who doesn’t care about how their epistemology affects their approach to teaching, so to speak. The book is slightly strangely organised. I read it in the order Chapter 1, 15, 2,…