Friday, August 15, 2014

Educational technology: You will be assimilated

Educational technology usage

What pisses me off about this is the inverse relationship between utility and frequency of use.

“Virtually mandatory”: A survey of how discipline and institutional commitment shape university lecturers’ perceptions of technology. (2014) 45(4)748–759, doi: 10.1111/bjet.12051
Although there have been many claims that technology might enhance university teaching, there are wide variations in how technology is actually used by lecturers. This paper presents a survey of 795 university lecturers’ perceptions of the use of technology in their teaching, showing how their responses were patterned by institutional and subject differences. There were positive attitudes towards technology across institutions and subjects but also large variations between different technologies. Two groups of technology were identified - “core” technologies, such as Powerpoint, that were used frequently, even when lecturers felt that they were not having a positive impact on learning, and “marginal” technologies, such as blogs, that were used much less frequently and only where they fitted the pedagogic approach or context. Rather than there being “leading” universities that were the highest users of all technologies, institutions tended to be heavier users of some technologies than others. Similarly, subjects could be associated with particular technologies rather than being consistent users of technology in general. The study suggests that university technology policy should reflect different disciplines and contexts rather than “one size fits all” directives.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Summer reading Verdict: Hugely disappointing.

There's a great-novel-of-our-time to be written about privacy and online identity. This isn't it. I had great hopes for this book considering the number of rave reviews it has received but I was hugely disappointed by it. The writing, characters and plot are so clunky that I considered not finishing it - something I almost never do. Instead, I read angrily to the end, cursing a missed opportunity, and am now recovering by reading the Jim Crace.

Friday, August 08, 2014

The impact of placements on the academic performance

Year-long placements are good for student academic performance, but more effective for UK students than overseas students.
"The results in this study provide strong evidence to support a significant association between placements, final-year marks and degree classifications among not only UK but also international students...

Unlike international students, UK students are consistently and significantly influenced by prior academic achievement..."

Caveat: This research refers to finance rather then STEM students.

The impact of placements on the academic performance of UK and international students in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 31 Jul 2014. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2014.943658
Motivated by an increasing number of international students in UK higher education, this study investigates the effect of year-long placements on the academic performance of 268 accounting and finance students enrolled between 2006 and 2009. The results show differences between UK and international students although both statistically and significantly increase their final-year marks and their chance to obtain a good degree (first or 2.1) following placements. UK sandwich students outshine international sandwich students in the final year, while UK full-time students significantly underperform international full-time students in the first year only. The academic performance of UK students can be partly explained by prior academic achievement and gender but that of international students is not related to any of these individual factors. There is evidence of self-selection among UK sandwich students since they outperform UK full-time students at all levels, while no such a pattern is found among international students.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Teaching Quantitative Methods

Balls The best discussion of statistics teaching I've read for some time:
What can social science teachers do? Perhaps the fist priority is to disabuse students of the idea that statistics is all about numbers. It certainly uses them, but QM is more about the logic of evidence handling than fancy maths.

For several years now, there has been a desire to rescue QM from the ‘methods’ course silo and embed or integrate QM into substantive courses. This is easier said than successfully done. Teachers of non-methods courses have to be persuaded of the benefits of ceding some of their class time to methods issues. Assessment has to be changed to accommodate the new material. ... Perhaps the major challenge here is to persuade colleagues of the virtue of paying more attention to the way in which empirical evidence is treated...

There is one final resource that is perhaps the most important of all: the enthusiasm of teachers. There is nothing like excitement to stimulate students’ efforts to learn. When they grasp the formidable analytic power that even an elementary grasp of statistics can give them, and when they discover they can master skills they may have assumed were beyond them, students can come to share this excitement.

John MacInnes: (2014) Teaching Quantitative Methods. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences 6(2), 1-5. doi: 10.11120/elss.2014.00038

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles I've been trying to catch up on my reading this week and I started with The Song of Achilles, a book I bought for my vacation last year and never got to crack open.

The Song of Achilles is a straight retelling of The Iliad, with a Hollywood-friendly prequel tacked on (Brokeback Olympus). But I'm a numpty when it comes to classics - I know more about aboriginal creation myths than classical mythology and I don't feel on firm ground until we get to Beowolf and Gawain, so this was all new to me. Madeline Miller's text zips along and this is an easy read, Achilles as flawed hero and all.

But what I like about The Iliad was the sense of the Greeks being free from the crushing weight of history. I know that classics is all about tradition and the gods, but there's a lightness to being alive 2,500 year ago that we have lost - in particular, in the invention of language. Don't have a word for that? Make one up. And if you feel that being a plaything of the gods and the institutional barbarity of Greek society wasn't a picnic, then you'd better delete your Facebook account.

So now I need Madeline Miller to turn her attention to The Odyssey. Which I'd guess, given the attention that The Song of Achilles has received, she is doing right now.

Friday, July 25, 2014

What the evangelists get wrong

Wordpress This week, as the culmination of long running frustration at my ISP - who I've been paying good money to host my own domain - I finally pulled the plug and moved back to

And it feels like freedom. Freedom to concentrate on content rather than technology. Freedom to concentrate on what I want to say rather than how I'm saying it. Maintaining my own domain felt like an albatross around my neck. If Wordpress ever does anything I don't like, I'll simply move again. It's that sort of world now.

What the evangelists get wrong is technodeterminism.

Friday, July 18, 2014