#ALTC Winter Conference – Day One

2017-12-12_09-39-20Today, was day one of the 2017 ALT Winter Conference (#altc) and I was supposed to chair the 10:00 am session “The Great Sussex Podblast” to have been delivered by Pete Sparx, George Robinson and Tab Betts from Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) at the University of Sussex. Unfortunately, problems with the Conference Webcasting platform (Blackboard Collaborate Ultra) and it’s back up (Blackboard Collaborate Classic) meant that the session had to be cancelled. Hence, my first opportunity to moderate a webcast of any kind passed me by! The guys did, however, create a video, slides (bit.ly/podblast-altc) and you can hear the Podblast podcasts here: soundcloud.com/teachingwithtech/sets/great-sussex-podblast-digital.

In other events, there were five tweet chats. I was able to participate in VLE Minimum Standards—Lessons from the Sector (hashtag: #UCISAVLE) and watch the
#altc blog showcase (hashtag: #altcshowcase).

I then had a meeting to attend so I will need to catch up with the other sessions via the webinar recordings and wait for the storify versions of the tweetchats:

I will have more time tomorrow to attend the live sessions.

#OpenEdMOOC Week 1

2017-10-10_1838Though signed up to the EdX Course in good time, I’ve only just today, already half-way through week 2, gotten around to exploring the resources and activities for Week 1 of George Siemens’ and David Wiley’s (or is the attribution the other way round) open course on an Introduction to Open Education (hashtag #OpenEdMOOC).

On first viewing, the structure is interesting. The course is available as an xMOOC (with the possibility of an optional certification) on the EdX platform. In this version, there are weekly exercises, that are assessed  — I’ve missed the deadline for the first one — and the usual mixture of text, video, readings and discussion. This version will cease to be available, shortly after the course ends, unless the $59 certification fee is paid by the end of October. But there is also an xMOOC version, made available under a CC BY licence at URL linkresearchlab.org/openedmooc, with largely identical content.

So my initial question is why did George and David chose to present their course on Open Education in a format that is “Open” only in the sense of free to register and also in the form of an Open Education Resource that satisfies Wiley’s 5Rs that come up in week 3. Another question that will be interesting to reflect on later, is where will the most useful course discussions take place? In the walled garden of the discussion boards on EdX (analogous to an institutional VLE) or in the wider network?

Personally, I expect to remain at least one week behind, so I already know that I’m likely to find the xMOOC version of the course more accessible. I also expect most of my contributions to be made via this blog and any discussion to take place on Twitter.

Work-life Balance in Academia

Important thread on work patterns in academia.


I recommend that you read the whole thread!

Perhaps it reflects the US experience more than the UK, but I think the pendulum might be swinging this way in the UK too.

One of the replies

prompted this response from the Times Higher’s Phil Baty

What do you think?

#HEblogswap – Transferring Enthusiasm

Spherical Reflection

I’ve been a teacher in engineering and technology for over 30 years. I love computing, coding, and ed tech. I spend hours on-line watching videos to increase my understanding of the technologies that I love. I love engaging with my personal learning networks, particularly #LTHEChat and #CreativeHE. I take part in MOOCs and am curious about teaching and learning and how to do it. I’m a course leader and want my students to have the best experience possible. I think I’m a good mentor to my colleagues and respected for my experience,knowledge and skills and in my institution. What I haven’t cracked is translating my enthusiasm for my subjects into engagement in the classroom.

Part of this stems from my natural reserve. I am definitely not an extrovert. I don’t find it natural to be the life-and-soul-of-the-party. Social occasions are difficult for me in real life. (Interestingly I’m more extroverted in social media.) So perhaps I don’t come across as enthusiastic in the classroom setting. I’m better one-on-one and in small group contexts, but most of my students don’t get to experience that.

So how do I improve? I’m hoping the Enthusiastic HE community can help!

This post was written for Enthusiastic HE as part of Santanu Vasant’s September 13 #HEblogswap.

#LTHEChat 89 – A Personal Curation

LTHEChat returned last night with a chat on Staff and Student “Digital” Development led by Simon Thompson (@digisim) supported by the new backroom team.

There will be a Storify but I thought I would provide a personal curation of the key conversations that I engaged with or noticed during and after the chat.

This is made easier by a WordPress feature that converts the URL of a tweet into an embedded tweet.

Hint: click on the embedded tweets to access the conversations.

Question 1

Question 2

Question 3

Question 4

Question 5

Question 6

Other Conversations

#HEBlogSwap – The importance of showing your enthusiasm in large-group maths sessions – by Rebecca Jackson

Screenshot 2017-06-17 at 17.51.57

I’m going to say it: I hate maths. Well, not the sexy stuff that’s super interesting like zero, infinity, chaos, or probability but the easy stuff that ties your brain in knots when working in a shop – long division! (Still can’t do it…)

Why do I hate maths? Many fears and dislikes are rooted in bad childhood experiences. My fear of maths is down to Mrs Nameless, who physically dragged me out of class on more than one occasion, calling me out in front of all my classmates and using my full name to boot – the horror! How might my attitude to maths have been different if only I’d have had a kind and enthusiastic teacher who wanted me to see it was a fun game, which, I now understand is exactly what maths is!

Much of the time I don’t believe that there’s much difference in the needs and wants and hopes and fears of older and younger learners. Just as a primary school student needs a switched on and positive teacher, university students of maths might find their subject abstract and slippery, and would equally need someone enthusiastic and passionate about the mysteries of numbers to teach them.

How can you be enthusiastic as a university maths teacher? What if you genuinely love maths but wish you could connect more and show that enthusiasm? What if your classes are large and you feel you struggle to connect to your mega groups to help them see the gameplay and mystery of mathematics?

Screenshot 2017-07-06 at 10.03.10

Enthusiasm has huge power for creating emotional engagement in students. Feeling your enthusiasm is not enough. The biggest effects on positive learning outcomes for students are observed when cues of enthusiasm are clear and perceivable. This can then create an emotional contagion which helps your students to experience a similar emotional state to you about your object of enthusiasm – the maths, and the activities needed to explore it in all its beauty. Displaying behaviours of enthusiasm can help you to connect with a large room.

The literature is quite clear about what enthusiastic teaching ‘looks like’ – even if a lot of those observations come from non-HE research. (Most current research on enthusiasm in teaching is from primary and secondary education studies.) Enthusiastic teachers smile, use gestures, make use of space and body movements, make eye contact, draw on humour, and vary the tone of their voice, among other things.

There is absolutely no point putting on these behaviours. It’s emotional labour – faking it and causing pain to yourself – and students can sense it’s fake, which is worse than no enthusiasm! But, you could practice reflecting on what is enthusing you about your maths content/tasks, and ruminate on this to generate a state where you feel even more enthusiastic and buzzed, and you might then feel positive enough to work deeply and reflectively with trusted colleagues and/or students to ‘show’ more what you really are feeling. If you can work incrementally and in a safe space, you can build up your confidence and feel more comfortable about ‘showing’ your natural enthusiasm with regards to the behaviours just mentioned.

A step that we could take, especially in the times of lecture capture, is to watch back a session of a lecture. Essentially, you could do some microteaching. You could sit with a critical friend and examine where you are and are not exhibiting (genuine) enthusiasm behaviours. Be kind to yourself. Look at where those enthusiastic behaviours like smiling and varying tone occurred. Pat yourself on the back and really reflect on why you were able to show what you felt – what did you enjoy? What got you excited? Were there any puzzles or creative moments that you could draw on as a positive memory that you could use for inspiration on another occasion? Where you didn’t feel so enthusiastic, be curious as to why. Note down the task or the point that turned you off. Promise to ruminate on it and find three cool things or advantages about it that you can use to get excited next time. But, importantly, with the microteaching, you can bounce around ideas and get advice from a critical friend who can help you find opportunities to display your enthusiasm more ostensively, and you can watch where you are and are not growing over time – in a safe, scheduled, reflective way.

We don’t believe you should push too hard or go massively out of your comfort zone. Not at first. Work little and often, in increments, being reflective and being kind to yourself. In time, you’ll have a list of points and tasks that you love so much, and you will have practiced adding in more open demonstration of your genuinely felt passion at opportune moments.

The gains, we hope, will be large and rewarding. Asks your maths students whether and why they thought you were enthusiastic, and ask them to reflect on how it helped you. Simply add a question to your module feedback or create an informal survey at the end of the semester. When I have done this with linguistics students, they said it really made a difference, and that helped me to have some validation and further confidence in the approach. Please don’t be like Mrs Nameless – show as much enthusiasm as you are able so that as many of your maths students as possible experience positive affect, or emotional engagement, towards the wonderful world of maths. Please get in touch with Enthusiastic HE to discuss further – and to let us know how you got on!

Rebecca Jackson / @chasing_ling of @EnthusiasticHE wrote this blog post for Santanu Vasant’s 13/09 #HEblogswap initiative. Thanks Rebecca for your advice!