Asynchronous questioning with extrinsic feedback or the moon on a stick?

Another bit of learning tech I’ve been trying to implement since I arrived is Socrative. The idea being that we can use a quiz to check learning against the session objectives as learners leave the webinar. They have the facility to get some quick extrinsic feedback during the quiz and the teacher gets a quick overview of the takeaway points for the learners before they attempt their assignments. As a tutor I get the opportunity to check and correct so I can give some detailed formative feedback, based on the individual’s responses and better prepare them for assignment writing. Downloading the individual student responses means I have a purpose made PDF that I can return to them along with my feedback points. Despite me spending significantly less time marking, and re-marking assignments my colleagues remain less than convinced. I know converts to learning technology see the distinct advantage in a little extra time in the early creation days leading to increased benefits and time savings along the learning journey. My line manager is at least convinced even if it’s not been rolled out as a standard yet.

Of course, Socrative like the similar products of Quizizz and Mentimeter are great during live sessions they don’t solve another problem. When a learner cannot attend a webinar they receive a recording. My current work around is a Word document and somewhat effective but it’s not really learning technology at its finest. Let’s face it, it is a quick and dirty solution to a problem.

Going back to my previous issue of no VLE (and no access to MoodleCloud) I’m still presented with a problem: the asynchronous questioning of learners that will give them some extrinsic and immediate feedback that also produces a report so I can check and correct with more detailed feedback.  As if by magic an email from Kahoot appears, not only do they do this, they’ve been doing it since September!

Except, it only works via learners using the app. The app that is only available on Android and iOS.  No good for all my learners who are issued with Windows phones and it doesn’t yet work on a PC. So, I’m left with the same problem.  Suggestions anyone?

Future proofing? What about giving them the skills for today?

Apparently managers aren’t doing enough to train employees for the future. There’s also a UK Government Industrial Strategy which is “a long term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK”.

When I arrived in my new job delivering initial teacher training to FE staff it became swiftly apparent that managers aren’t encouraging employees to be fully equipped for the here and now, let alone build resilience to cope with the future. I’ve gone right back to basics with my learning tech. Just to give you some idea just how far back to basics here’s where I’m at:

  • I don’t have a virtual learning environment. There’s no scope to have one in the future either.
  • The extent of “using technology” when I arrived was the tutors uploading and mapping into the e-portfolio and using WebEx to deliver. Teleconferencing rather than VoIP too.
  • Limited digital capability of colleagues. Seriously. You would think I am a Master of the Dark Arts because I filter spreadsheets.

Clearly we’re not in Kansas anymore and someone has nicked my glittery red shoes. It does mean that I get to really practise my learning technology skills going back to basics, rolling back the clock many years and looking at this all with the wide eyes of someone on the edge of an abyss.

My first barrier was browsers; the first addition of learning tech was Padlet. After I’d reviewed all the recommended reading given to staff working towards their Award or Certificate in Education and Training (AET or CET), and more significantly ditched all the broken and redundant links I was able to see what we were actually left with. Here we are in 2017 still talking about PTLLS, LSIS and IfL. So out with the old, and in with the new resource packs for AET and CET.

Made with Padlet

As a fan of visual bookmarking it really helps collate the things I need, without the need for my learners to be logging into anything else and that they can access on whatever device they have available. Notes are easily copied, amended and updated. And most importantly the learners are using it. They’re reading around the subjects, they’re engaging with the technology and one of them has even asked me how he could use it in his sessions. So, without sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet, I am also demonstrating some of the key Professional Standards for Teachers in what I’m doing as I:

  • Inspire, motivate and raise aspirations of learners through your enthusiasm and knowledge
  • Am creative and innovative in selecting and adapting strategies to help learners to learn
  • Promote the benefits of technology and support learners in its use

There are other things that I’m slowly implementing and updating: dragging people kicking and screaming as I go. They’re for another post. And another post after that. And other posts. So, whether you’re starting out new and don’t have the tools at your disposal and all the learning techs around you are talking about whizzy stuff that’s beyond your comprehension right now, OR if you’ve forgot how basic it can get (and maybe needs to be) back at the chalkboard I’ll be here sharing my insights.

Finding out how others do things differently

This time of year is always a great time for CPD. As much as I detest the hype and commercialism that comes along with it I do look forward to the 12 Apps of Christmas. Not only do you get to see and use new and interesting things, you get to see how others may use the familiar differently

Day 3 of the University of Limerick’s 12 Apps of Christmas #UL12apps looks at Twitter. Being a confident user I didn’t think I’d get much out of the session, but I played along. Within minutes, maybe even seconds it was that quick, I learnt something new and had a reminder that we never know it all. Amongst the many uses of Twitter it had never occurred to me to use it to make notes.

Ok, so it doesn’t give you the bigger picture that Storify might and it’s not a traditional note taking tool. However, if you’re making quick notes that you know you’ll want to share easily with others without the need to access other apps then it’s definitely going to work. So, if you haven’t already go and read David Hopkins blog.

Back to Basics: positivity pants and internet browsers

Last week I bumped into some former Jisc colleagues who reminded me that whilst I’m no longer specifically employed because I’m a learning technologist I still have a lot of learning technology information to share. They also told me it was about time I put on my Positivity Pants and got blogging and sharing more. So, for most of 2017 I’ve been working in a bit of a learning tech wilderness and it abundantly apparent that a lot of delivery staff in further education and training still need a very back to basics approach. This naturally gives me a little bit of focus now as there’s already a plethora of very knowledgeable people out there sharing great and interesting things. However, if you don’t know where to start then these wonderful and whizzy things maybe just too much. I’m trying to ignore the potential feedback loop where my new potential audience doesn’t yet have the skills to stumble across Twitter or my blog but at least I know I’m sharing so when they do eventually find me there’s plenty of info.

Of all the things I’ve considered writing about in my return to blogging the single most frustrating thing in my teaching job right now are web browsers. The company security protocols are rendering Google Chrome almost redundant and Internet Explorer doesn’t support the functionality of a lot of websites now. An increasingly large number of colleagues I’m training don’t realise that they can install Mozilla Firefox themselves and seem convinced that there’s some technical wizardy at play.

So today, I am mostly pointing people in the direction of the Mozilla support website that explains how they can download the browser without having to put a request into IT.


Are social media still social?

…here’s a quote from lead educator Jean Burgess. Jean considers how Twitter has changed since 2006 and reflects on her own use of the platform in the context of changing patterns of use. In response to the suggestion that Twitter is a dying social media platform, Jean states that…

“…the narratives of decline around the place at the moment that have to do with a certain loss of sociability. And to those of us for whom Twitter’s pleasures were as much to do with ambient intimacy, personal connections and play as they were to do with professional success theatre, celebrity and breaking news, this is a real, felt loss: sociability matters.”

Some social media platforms have never felt as social as others.  I was really excited to get an invite to Google+ many years ago and, if I’m honest, I don’t use it fully.  I use it to find the locations of my immediate family, privately share photos with the family, and until the photos app became separately I used it to back up all the photos I took in my phone. Occasionally I’ll drop into some groups,but not very often. So, no, for me Google+ was never about being social.

Facebook, love it or loathe it, is about my personal social life.  I manage and participate in groups for my hobbies, organise events and keep in touch with my network of friends and acquaintances. Messenger allows me to keep in touch with people and communicate with them in a broad way from the close network of friends to people who need to contact me because I’m an assistant district commissioner for beaver scouts.  It is by far the most personally social of the social media for me, although it is being infiltrated by marketing more and more and the occasional flaming or trolling incidents that probably wouldn’t happen in a face-to-face situation but the semi-anonymity of being a keyboard warrior seems to enable some personalities to show very different sides to them.  Thank goodness for the ability to remove, block and report people!

Twitter is where I work.  It’s short and snappy and a great place to share and receive information in easily digestible formats.  Instagram works for me in a visually similar way but nowhere near to the extent of Twitter.  The social aspect of Twitter is entirely down to how you use it.  On a day-to-day basis when I’m sharing information it feels more like a news stream that something social.  Live tweeting from conferences and events adds a completely different dimension: not only are you sharing the pertinent information for those who can’t be there you suddenly have a discursive back channel with the added sociability of “fancy carrying this conversation on over the coffee break?”.  Being an introvert (not that anyone believes me when I try and explain that I’m a social introvert) it’s much easier for me to strike up a conversation via a blog, tweet chat or event tweeting than it is in person.  Once I’ve broken the online ice I’m more comfortable to talk to someone in person.  It really is no wonder I met both of my husbands online first!


So are social media less social?  I would say only if you’re not socialising.

Six, six, six; the number of the tech.

Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in educational technology are placed directly in the context of their likely impact on the core missions of universities and colleges, and detailed in succinct, non-technical, and unbiased presentations.

That’s quite a bold claim the NMC Horizon Report is making and it makes for interesting reading.

Yes, it is focusing on higher education.

Yes, it is of interest to a forward thinking FE&Skills provider.

FE&Skills is a highly competitive arena that is potentially going to be a much tougher playing field with the changes to apprenticeships, and post area review.  Independent training providers will be competing with merged and federated colleges for business from employers rather than learners.  So how do you stand out from the crowd in a competitive market?

Policy, leadership and practice are all at the heart of the change.  Whilst the trends, challenges and developments in educational technology reviewed in the paper don’t reveal much that isn’t already widely talked about in academia, you do need to ask yourself if your organisation is ready for the change.  Are the senior management team  thinking as digital leaders? Is your policy as future proof as you can make it bringing together teaching learning and assessment with accessibility and inclusion, or is the ILT strategy still an addendum to the ICT policy that lists all the technical infrastructure and has no pedagogical grounding whatsoever? Practice: are the practitioners digitally capable? Are they supported with professional development activities to further their practice using technology and given the time to develop and embed this into their practice?

Once you’ve considered this then you can look at the challenges and developments and what will be effective in making your provision competitive and appealing to learners and employers alike.  Can you tool their employees to work in the digital age?  Will you give them all the skills they need to do their job now, and have the adaptability and transferable skills that makes them an attractive employee in five years time?

It’s a tough ask in tough times.  I know that providers don’t need to worry about these things alone.  Much of my time recently has been talking about exactly the trends, challenges and developments mentioned in the report.  Although my job title says account manager I see myself more as a critical friend, guide and advisor.  If I don’t know the answer I know someone who does, or I can find out.

The digital experience: what do learners want?

Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice MOOC asks an important question this week.  What do learners want?  The simple answer is ask them.

Starting today Sarah Knight and her team doing just that with the digital student experience skills study consultation events. As the event blurb says,

These consultation events are highly participative and will be of interest to those involved in supporting their learners’ digital experience:

  • Learners

  • Directors and CEOs

  • Heads of Service

  • Staff with responsibility for IT and e-learning

  • Tutors

If you want to see just how much learners are asked what they want you only need to follow #digitalstudent.  Want to ask your learners that question, then it’s not too late to join us (yes I’m at the Leicester event and probably going to Manchester too) either in Leicester on 14th April, or Manchester on 27th April.


We know it’s not easy, that the worlds of; adult and community learning, work based learning, apprenticeships and the work of ITPs can be a very different place to that of HE or the FE college which is why the dedicated account managers know the sector and they know their stuff because we understand how to overcome those challenges.  To continue meeting the needs of learners we have to ask them what they want and be responsive to those wants and needs or we become dinosaurs consigned to education history.  For the managers right through to the practitioners on the pointy end surely it’s got to be reassuring that we’ve got your back and we’re only a click away?

MOOCs and the dangers of signing up for too many

I’m a little late to the MOOC.  By late, I don’t mean I didn’t sign up for them in the early days I just didn’t complete them. Although this isn’t going to surprise anyone who saw the statistic that the current average completion for a MOOC is 15%. I participated, finally, in my first one last year. Unless you count the 12 Apps of Christmas which I did back in 2014, but that was just playing really.

I have managed to sign up for three already this year and they have all clashed.  The trouble is that I was already struggling with one ( I don’t want to name and shame, that seems unfair) as it was just so dry and boring I’m not sure I can be bothered to look at week 2.  Another just seems to be dancing around the same few principles and I don’t feel like I’m progressing, although I should throw myself into as it is the final week.

And then, there is the HELM MOOC  design e-learning that starts this week.  As fellow East Midlands Learning Technologists I already knew that the HELM team really know their stuff.  I hadn’t expected their MOOC to blow me away just as much as it has.  Part way through the week 1 activities and I think it achieves everything other e-learning/blended learning courses have somehow just failed to deliver.  Whilst this course is targeted at healthcare, which certainly at levels 2 and 3 could really do with some exciting learning resources to demonstrate just how useful technology can be to the learning journey, I do think that this works in other curriculum areas.  All it needs are a few TARDIS thinkers who can apply the principles to their own subjects and there will be some amazing interdisciplinary working.  I’m certainly going to be encouraging people to take a look at this MOOC as there’s a lot people could learn about designing and creating learning resources.

Identifying evidence of learning with technology

Any assessment in learning should be considered to avoid being assessment for assessment’s sake. Is it formative assessment that will help progress the learning journey or is it summative assessment demonstrating that the required learning is complete.  In vocational education the formative is often lost amongst the need for gathering the summative for portfolios to satisfy the awarding bodies.  Summative assessment, however it is captured, needs to be valid and authentic and whilst aromatherapy isn’t my subject area (as demonstrated in the case study)as an internal verifier I would want to see some reflection on the work and not just a colour wheel.  Ideally the reflection would involve why certain oils were selected, the properties of those oils and their interactions with each other.  I’d also want the link between how it looks like oils should interact according to the tool, and how they actually smell together, and contra-indications for use on particular clients.  This is really a reflection on their deeper knowledge and understanding.  This reflection also captures the learning process for the quieter, more reflective and lurking learners who maybe don’t seem so actively involved in the lesson but are learning in their own way.  This kind of reflection could easily be used in a portfolio of evidence even as a formative assessment as a summative assessment can ask them to expand on the learning with deeper knowledge and applying it to different clients with varied needs.  It only adds to the authenticity of the work when a verifier can see the holistic learning journey through the work of the learner with the clearly documented guidance of the assessor.

Again technology is the enabler here, these assessments could be captured differently, and the learning could be done differently.  The technology enables safe and inexpensive experimentation as the cost of materials is reduced by combining virtual oils.  I’m sure the software soon paid for itself in this instance.

What do learners think about blended learning?

Blended Learning Essentials is back with the follow up; Embedding Practice.  Week 1 and it’s time to reflect again.

The learners interviewed were really positive and excited about blended learning.  Without getting into the whole digital natives conversation (just yet) more and more learners have an expectation to use technology in their learning.  More and more learners, regardless of age, are prepared to Google it, Youtube it, TedEd it.  You name it, the list could go on and on.  Learners are increasingly comfortable with how technology has integrated into modern life and when it comes to learning it is a huge enabler.  Learning can take place any time and any where without the limitations of access to a desktop computer or enough textbooks in the library.  As long as the technology is used as an enabler, and not the focus of of the learning, and is presented so it isn’t a distraction or increases the exclusion of those potentially disadvantaged and digital excluded learners.

In my reflections I still stand by my reflections during the previous course about culture change being required to take blended learning forward.  Tonight I am taking the tablets to a different scout group and will be running a session for the Beavers, and handing the tablets over to the Cub Leaders to run their own astronomy session based on original camp activity.  Whilst the Beaver Leaders are nervous about using the technology the Cub Leaders are happy for me to sit back and let them take the lead with their cub pack.  I’m not going to make any assumptions at this point about digital capability and confidence, I’ll wait and see how the sessions go, and differ and reflect on that.