Tag Archives: students

Good research – poor conclusions

Recently there have been a number of research papers and articles looking at the affects of using laptops in a lecture setting

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/laptops-bad-learning-80160/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/ink-on-paper-some-notes-o_b_4681440.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512002254?np=y

And there has been a lot of online discussion about them (this G+ post encouraged me to complete my blog entry  )

Now the research itself is good and can be summarised as
If you are sitting taking notes while someone talks at you with slides
Then

  • on average students using laptops to take notes will retain less than students who take notes on paper
  • Students who use their laptop for something else during the lecture will retain less and on average the students around them will also retain less (distracted by what they see on your screen)

The problem is not the research but what people decide to do because of it, they take a deep breath and (often reluctantly) decide they have to ban laptops in their classroom.  Often these people are not luddites (the most famous example was Clay Shirkey who I deeply respect but in this case I feel made the wrong decision)

Some suggestions are more helpful and start to look at considering how you might make the device more useful and less of a distraction

http://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2013/11/give-students-things-to-do-in-lectures.html

I made a suggestion on social media that a simple solution is to record the lectures so that they are not a one time event and so students that do become distracted can revisit and notes can be written at a time and place that suits them.  Its not a bad solution but it is treating the symptoms not the cause.

So lets look in more detail at the lecture, this is a tried and trusted method for getting information from the mind of someone who knows it (the lecturer) into the minds of someone(s) who dont (the students), they tend to be multiples of an hour (or 1/2 hour) long because that makes it easier to timetable, the students sit in rows with a teacher at the front because that is the physical layout of the room.

An alternative to the lecture was the book but it is unlikely to contain exactly what you wish to teach the students and it was not cost effective for each individual member of staff to write and publish a book for each of their classes.

But now we are in the internet age and things change.  There are now multiple easily accessible sources for information, lecturers can curate it (or get their students to curate it) or create it (text, video, infographics etc).  The valuable face to face time can be used for something that doesn’t require students to pay attention for an hour (interestingly I thought our attention span was 15 minutes – I was wrong and found some nice ideas about what you can do to help)

Lets flip the class, do the problems, discussions, thinking when all the smart people are in the same room.  The content transmission can be before the class when everyone gets as long (or as short) as they need to absorb it.  Sure you might still talk at the students in the lecture theatre but it will be in shorter bursts as part of a varied experience. That hour long long lecture performance? it wont vanish but should become a rare occurrence and when it does happen it should be so good that all of your students hang on every word.

Do I think the lecture is dead?  No, a lot of institutions have Lecturers that teach in lecture theatres, and on the timetable it says “lecture” – there is a lot of inertia to overcome.  Also there will always be a place for the occasional lecture (have a look at these http://www.rigb.org/christmas-lectures )  but I do think there will be a move away from them although it may take 5-10 years for them to become rare.

And to round up – its not just laptops see this post for an idea on the effects of smartphones and some sensible advice on what to do about it http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/cellphones-are-a-distraction/

And of course its only a matter of time before we start to get the first “Wearables are a distraction from lectures” articles – unless we do something about…… the Lectures.


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Tadeeej

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Why Digital Assessment will kill the percentage grade

A number of academics are not particularly happy with grading – I don’t mean that they don’t like marking essays (although there are some who don’t) but that they are unhappy about the effects of assigning grades to students.


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by mikefisher821

This is not a new thing, for a detailed look at the problem try Alfie Khon or for a shorter discussion this from the Huffington post

Now for grades to have become so central to our education they must have some value to people both to schools and to students.  Internally it allows Teachers to know roughly what someone was capable of (oh they are an A grade student I will set them some harder problems etc).  Externally I would assume this has to do with employment, the employer wants some evidence that the person has the skills for the job and the students want evidence to enable them to get the job.

This is because in the past it wasn’t possible to see what students were good or bad at, you couldnt look over their essays and projects, in the digital age we can do better!

Portfolio of evidence

Now when I was at school they made us keep a “Record of Achievement” in a black folder, a paragraph a term on how we had done in various subjects, signed and commented by our teachers.  I took mine to my first job interview, but they didn’t look at it because they didn’t have time and I was sat right in front of them.  I needed some way to get the portfolio to them at the application stage – but I only had a single paper copy.

Recently I had a job interview and when I was writing the application and evidencing how I met all their criteria, I found that for a number of them I had already written blog posts that related to it – so I started including links to those posts in the document.  I certainly hadn’t intended my blog to be used in job applications, it was just a place for me to think in public, but after a couple of years of writing it contains some useful (to me at least) stuff.

So if I can start to create a portfolio of evidence almost by accident when posting in my spare time to my blog, how much easier would it be for students to assemble this if it was part of their studies?  A good example of this would be if you were doing a writing class with Laura Gibbs, at the end of the class you will have a collection of your writing publicly available on the web, which is used as evidence of your learning.

This is also good for involving others with your work for example Joe Blower “told parents that if they wanted to know..how they are doing, then they should visit their child’s blog.

And to give you an idea of what this can look like try this from one of Laura Gibbs students on her writing class https://sites.google.com/site/planetofthecatssh/home  what percentage did she get? I dont know or really care – what I do know is I thought the writing was good.

There is international work in this area this brief review of a conference/workshop will provide you with some idea of what is happening http://halfanhour.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/eportfolios-and-badges-workshop-oeb14.html

When someone wants to know what you can do they look at your work, when you want to prove you can do something you would provide examples of that work – tagging will probably become quite important.

Badges

Badges work really well with portfolios, they are a simple way of proving that you can do something. Doug Belshaw provides some useful analogies and an overview of how they work.  In essence they are a quick way of indicating what you can do, linked to examples of work that you did in this areas and showing who awarded you the badge.

Just like with the portfolios these will be used to match what you can do with what people want you to be able to do and you can also use it to fill in gaps in your skills. Example – the job says time management is important, what courses are available online that give a time management badge.

Social/Reputational metrics (Whuffie)

When applying for a job you give a couple of people who can provide a reference, recently people have started posting references on each others linked in profiles and endorse their skills.  On social networks we +1 follow and share things people have posted.

What if all the work we did had comment boxes, and people who commented it linked back to who they were (example – most of my commenting comes from my google+ account so people can if they wish see how much weight they would like to give to my opinion)

Evidence from your teacher (and this is a brilliant example of how teachers can gather that evidence using tech) – without grades, just saying what you did well and what they like about your work.

Evidence from other students, your co-workers your boss, your neighbourhood gardening scheme.

Each time you do something it ends up in your portfolio and the people that you (worked with/did it for/trained with) can comment and endorse it raising your reputation.

Closing thoughts

Now a lot of people get hung up on what you should use to host this portfolio and what happens to it in the future.  Now the thing you are using to evidence your experience may stop being hosted, and you may lose some work/evidence but if you don’t evidence your learning somewhere then you are effectively losing everything as soon as you have done it.  So I would suggest just choose something and start! (I like wordpress).

The only thing that is important is that students should own their portfolios/badges/reputation!  Dont lock their work inside an institutional system that they cant access once they have finished studying at your organisation.

In conclusion which would you say is best

“Here is a link to all the work I have done that is relevant for this post, grouped by qualification and badges around the areas you specified as important complete with comments from my teachers, colleagues and other experts I have worked with in these areas”

“I got 87% in a subject with a title that sounds like it fits your job”

Oh and finally this video – because it fits