Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ePortfolios - your chance to tell me I'm doing it wrong

In the week our undergraduates launch their PLEs, my thoughts are turning to the following term, when we follow up with eportfolios. While to me it is critical that the students "own" their eportfolios rather than having too much structure imposed on them, when we discussed this originally, we decided that we would like their eportfolios to reflect the following structure:

ePortfolio diagram

My concern now is twofold. First, how well does the exemplar for our preferred solution (WetPaint) reflect what we would like to see? Note that WetPaint will only be a suggestion to the students, and they will be free to use whatever solution they wish as long as it meet the criteria we set.

And secondly, exactly what criteria should we give students for their eportfolios to achieve the desired outcomes?

Personally, I find the literature on eportfolios rather unhelpful, in part because much of it is technology-driven based on the capabilities of proprietary or closed software solutions. I'd welcome your suggestions as to how to advise students to achieve the best outcomes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ting Tings, University of Leicester, 30 September 2008

Ting Tings

Caption Competition

It's too tempting...

Guest Post: The Concordat - why should researchers care?

This is a guest post by someone who wishes to remain known as "Concordat Boy":

Concordat When the new Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers was launched back in June it didn't make the front pages. Indeed many of those who it is supposed to serve have never even heard of it. Yet this obscure piece of policy pulled together by funders and employers has the possibility of making a big impact on the lives of researchers. Unfortunately, if ignored, it could also make almost no difference - so why should you care and what should you do?

Post-doctoral researchers are the unsung heroes of the academic world. Underpaid, under-appreciated and given little security they are responsible for the delivery of the research outputs that (at least potentially) transform science and ultimately the world. Excessive use of fixed-term contracts, the lack of a career structure and the fact that institutions often all but ignore research staff has made the profession unattractive to many. Yet, while the plight of the contract researcher has frequently been commented on, nobody has convincingly managed to change the situation.

However, we are currently in a moment where it is at least possible that the life of the postdoc is about to change for the better. Changes in the legal situation are likely to mean that universities are unable to employ so many people on fixed-term contracts. The academic union the UCU has realised this and gone on a drive to recruit and represent research staff. Alongside this the government has put a significant amount of money into developing the skills and careers of post-docs through the "Roberts" payments. Meanwhile on the other side of town, Brussels is talking about the European Research Area and putting in place a Charter and Code to improve the conditions of the staff who work within it.

Into this changing landscape comes the Concordat. Signed and endorsed by almost everyone who matters in HE it is a wish list of how research staff should be treated, offering: stability of employment; access to training; involvement in decision making and increased transparency and flexibility in employment. The Concordat was delivered on the back of a lot of good will and promises a lot. However, unless postdocs themselves start to care about it, it is likely to amount to a lot of warm words and not much else. It is all too easy for senior managers to report that everything is rosy in the garden when nothing much has changed.

So make sure you've read the Concordat and try and ask some difficult questions on the back of it. What is your institution doing about your contract, about providing you with training, perhaps even more importantly with providing your PI with some training, and about involving you in the decisions that affect you? Ask your PI, your HR department, the UCU and anyone else who you can bend the ear of. If all of the postdocs in the country made a little bit of trouble it is likely that universities would have to finally put their money where their mouth is and make sure the Concordat happen.

Well you've got to put your faith in something...

Cybersquatting on Twitter

First one of these I've seen, a speculative cybersquatter:


There's no AdSense revenue from this parked account, which is why it isn't more common. Twitter should squash this practice. Does Google let you trade in accounts?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oh dear, this is worrying

Deschooling Society I'm not a political animal, but I seem to be getting a reputation as a radical. After yesterday's post, someone just sent me a link to Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich:
  1. Why We Must Disestablish School
  2. Phenomenology of School
  3. Ritualization of Progress
  4. Institutional Spectrum
  5. Irrational Consistencies
  6. Learning Webs
  7. Rebirth of Epimethean Man
Interesting stuff, but a little extreme for my taste. Schooling plays a vital role in society:
  • Primary: Learning to use cutlery
  • Secondary: Just the facts Ma'am
  • Tertiary: Still working on that one - any suggestions?
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Oscar Wilde

But while we're on the subject, remember that learning styles don't exist, says Professor Daniel Willingham, University of Virginia:

And even if they did, they have no practical value in teaching.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The institution participates where the people are

Unintentionally, I seem to have become a paid up member of the D'Arcy Norman Fan Club.
The thing is, he has a point:

That's what I'm talkin' about

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Project Announcement

Nothing happened

This post is to announce my latest research project.

Stuart commented I can't keep up with all your projects, so it's clearly time to announce the one after next (I hope to announce the next one publicly in a few weeks).

For some time, it's been clear that the details of a research project proposal matter far less than the project acronym, at least in terms of the chance of it being funded. A recent grant writing meeting on assessing and recording the student experience was scuppered when we all became fixated on the acronym ARSE. So to avoid this difficulty with future projects, I have decided to choose the acronym first, then write the project to fit.

I'm pleased to announce that my forthcoming project will be:


I have no idea what this project will be about as I have not written it yet, but in order to help me with this process, you are welcome to ask me:

What's SHORES?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What do we want? When do we want it?

WordPress D'Arcy Norman ...wasn’t convinced that we needed a “campus blogging platform” here at UCalgary. I’d tried to set up one before, at , and watched it basically wither on the vine for 3 years. Little activity, except in small bursts when used in a class. Almost no individual involvement or ownership. Not interesting or relevant to anyone. I’d decided that a “campus blogging platform” was the wrong tack. Why not just send people to other services that provide the software, for free. Services like or or or etc. They all provide the functionality, hosting, and support, without any intervention by a “campus”. And then, in conversations with people whom I deeply respect, it was pointed out that there are, in fact, good reasons for having the publishing platform managed by the University.

What changed things? WordPress Multiuser, with DNS wildcarding so people can have their own blog subdomains such as

The result? Takeup, from a stealth project with no budget.

And what have we got? Plone. Not even Plone, but Plonk, the UoL crippled implementation of Plone.

It ain't gonna happen here people.

Pirates wants a trainin' day, Arrr!

Improve the way you use the web to do your work...

RSS Feeds: Keep up to date and empty your inbox
- Latest research tailored to YOUR interests
- Find out when your favourite websites are updated
17 October 10.00am - 12.00pm, Library IT Training Room 1,
David Wilson Library. Email to guarantee a place.

Social Bookmarking: Organise, Discover and Share Online Resources
- Access all your bookmarks from any computer anywhere.
- Find what people with the same interests are reading.
- Share reading & resources.
31 October 10.00am - 12.00pm, Library IT Training Room 1,
David Wilson Library. Email to guarantee a place.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hate's a strong word

I'm not a political animal

Politician Yesterday I took part in an online Elluminate seminar about Personal Learning Environments. The "speaker" was Scott Wilson from CETIS UK, who shared some thoughts about Personal Learning Environments (session recording here). It was a lively session, with lots of commentary from the 20-or so participants.

Although I enjoyed the experience and would like to take part again, I'm not sure what I wanted to get from this session, and in truth, most of the discussion confirmed my prejudices (which was nice). Except for one thread which arose from the discussion, which I suppose I was aware of, but had not though much about before.

We kicked off with "What is a PLE?" (not sure we completely answered that one), then moved onto the more interesting aspects of "Why is a PLE?". At that point it emerged that there was a loose consensus among most of the participants that PLEs are more about education and institutional politics than about learning. As a rather non-political animal, I'm still digesting that and pondering what I've got myself into...

Update: Yikes, Graham wants to start a revolution!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Scientists, stamp collecting and stickiness

Digital Intimacy For the past year, quite a bit of my thinking about how scientists interact (or more often, don't interact) with social media has been informed by the thoughtful and incisive writing of David Crotty. David's latest post, "Digital Intimacy" has triggered a few more thoughts relevant to our Small Worlds project here in Leicester.

...much of the activity spent online is not really about social interactions, it’s instead focused on creating a digital identity, a representation of how you want the world to see you, literally a way to “write ourselves into being.”

David's not the biggest fan of Twitter, but as he points out, there is a growing group of biologists on Friendfeed (even if many of them are "the usual suspects"). We've been thinking about Twitter as the social glue for Small Worlds, but thinking back to how Friendfeed trounced Twitter at the Nature science blogging conference and David's comments, it seems that there's something about Friendfeed which is attractive to the scientific mind.

Not that I believe there is a "scientific mind" as a distinct entity, but going through the research training sausage machine tends to reproduce recognizable attitudes and patterns of activity. This isn't necessarily particularly desirable, and I suspect the attraction of Friendfeed to scientists has more to do with stamp collecting and unwillingness to participate in the freer lifestreaming patterns of interaction on Twitter than any inherent superiority of the Friendfeed architecture.

Nevertheless, it seems we would be unwise to ignore Friendfeed, so I've added a page to the Small Worlds wiki. The only problem now is that I still feel that I've never really grokked Friendfeed, so who's going to help me write it in a way that makes it relevant to Small Worlds?

Friday, September 19, 2008


It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Transcript of the Million Pound Radio Show Pirates sketch, written by Nick Revell and Andy Hamilton:

The year is 1631, and the Spanish Main is being terrorised by that most barbaric of pirates, Captain Black-skull – a man who rules his ship through tyranny and terror.

Capt: Now listen here, you scurvy sons of dogs! Round the next bay be a galleon full of Spanish doubloons, bound for Espanola, only it ain’t gonna get there, see, cause we’re gonna board it, and slit the gizzards of the crew ‘til the bilges are awash with their blood, and then we helps ourselves to the gold! Whaddaya say, me hearties, shall we go cut some throats? Har harrr!

Pirate: No, cap’n!

Capt: Whaddaya mean ‘no’?!

Pirate: I means no, captain. We don’t like the way you’re running this here ship, and we reckons we ain’t gonna stand for it no more. Reckons we’ve had enough, ain’t we boys?

Crew: That’s right, we’ve ad enough!

Capt: Oh, I gets it, you stinkin swabs! You wants a better share of the loot, does ya?

Pirate: No, captain!

Capt: Then I suppose you wants my treasure map which shows where I buried the treasure from that thar Portuguese man o’ war?

Pirate: No, captain!

Capt: Then what **do** you want?

Pirate: We wants – a training day!

Capt: A training day?!

Pirate: We wants a training day, preferably in a nice hotel near Hastings. Where all us sea dogs can sit us down, and pool our experience, compare work methods, and prioritise objectives, damn your eyes!

Capt: Prioritise objectives?!

Pirate 2: Aye, and improve our communication skills!

Pirate: That’s right! There’s not a man on this ship what knows how to use any tense apart from the present.

Capt: That’s cos you’re pirates! And ever since pirates – begins – pirates only speaks in the present tense, does pirates! First man on this ship as uses the past or pluperfect tense dies where he stands!

Pirate 2: He wouldn’t dare!


Capt: Or a conditional… And the next one what mentions training days will be keel hauled, dragged beneath the ship til the barnacles rip open his belly and death comes as a merciful blessing, hahahaha!

First Mate: Well, that’s no way to motivate people, is it?

Capt: Don’t you start, first mate.

First Mate: Threatening to rip open the bellies of your staff – call that man management?

Pirate: Well, he’s no real managerial grounding, see, he was a plain midshipman originally! Ee should go on a course or something, you know…

Capt: Quiet, you insolent lubbers!

Pirate: Well, give us our training day! ‘Ow else are we supposed to meet the challenges of the 1640s?

Pirate 3: We wants an occupational health officer!

Pirate: Aye, and a crèche!

Capt: Silence! Any more of your mutinous whinin’, and I’ll rip out your eyes and feed them to the sharks. I’m the captain, do ya hear, and this ship be mine! Mine!

Pirate: On captain Kid’s ship, they get to do role play!

Capt: Shut up!

Pirate: All get to do each others’ job for a day… Got a new captain now. Bosun ‘Arris liked being Captain so much, ‘e ‘ad the old captain thrown overboard!

Capt: Well here’s some role playin’ : I’ll play the captain, and you play a man ‘oo’s about to be stabbed!

Boy: Ship ahoy! A Spanish Galleon!

Capt: Now listen ‘ere you filthy dogs, that there galleon is full of gold, and we be pirates, and pirates don’t need training days! All pirates needs is a black heart, and a sharp cutlass! Whaddaya say, lubbers? Will you follow your captain as we storm that thar galleon?! Cos pirates is bold and brave and lives for the moment, see, so in a moment we sails alongside that there galleon, swings across on our boarding ropes, cuts the throats of any Spanish soldier what stands in our way, and then loads ourselves up with silver and gold!

Crew: Silver and gold!

Capt: And then we piles up all the treasure on the main deck, and we counts it doubloons by doubloons, jewel by jewel, and then – once we know how much booty we’ve gained through our deeds of black-hearted, blood-soaked evil, we’ll gather it all up, and invest in a nice little pension scheme! Whaddaya say, me hearties?

Crew: Arrrr! A nice little pension scheme!


Thursday, September 18, 2008


Gender Differences in the Use and Effectiveness of Personal Response Devices

Millionaire The use of personal response devices (or "clickers") in the classroom has increased in recent years. While few quantitative studies on the effectiveness of clickers have been published, it is generally reported that clickers have been well-received by the students who use them. Two separate populations (Winter 2006 and Spring 2006) of engineering students were given clickers to use during a general chemistry class. Clicker use was compared to student grades for each course. During both terms, a higher percentage of female students than male students "actively participated" in the lectures, where active participation was defined as answering more than 75% of the clicker questions over the course of the term. Active male students earned final grades about 10 points higher than non-active male students. Active female students, however, scored only about 5 points higher than non-active female students. Student learning was assessed by comparing performance on exam questions and clicker questions with similar content. Students who answered clicker questions correctly were 11–13% more likely to answer the corresponding exam questions correctly than were students who did not answer the clicker question. In this paper, we demonstrate the effectiveness of clicker use in the classroom and examine gender differences associated with this use.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Paul Orsmond at LTRG

Paul Orsmond Yesterday we had a presentation from Paul Orsmond (feedback guru :-) at our monthly LTRG meeting. Paul riffed on his presentation from the 2008 HEA Annual Conference "Student self-assessment within communities of assessment practice", sparking an interesting discussion:
  • Assessment = a community of practice?
  • Self-assessment of product - what about process?
  • Is academic practice aligned to assessment practice?
Earl, L (2003) Assessment as learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Self- and Peer-Assessment: Guidance on Practice in the Biosciences by Paul Orsmond.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

That's what I'm talking about

Electronic Portfolios: Engaged Students Create Multimedia-Rich Artifacts

This paper briefly summarizes the implementation of a university-wide electronic portfolio requirement. We begin with a systemic view of the ePortfolio Program and narrow our focus to a view of ePortfolio integration into two different classes. The rationale behind the Clemson University ePortfolio Program is to build a mechanism through which core competencies are demonstrated and evaluated. The target classes are a general education English class focusing on 20th and 21st century literature and a professional development seminar in computer science. Both classes allow students to select their topics and present their work to the class using a variety of media types, and both include a form of peer evaluation. These classes confirm that when students’ choice is built into the assignments we are pleasantly surprised by the outcomes. In addition, an extensive variety of artifacts are generated from each course that can be used to demonstrate the general education competencies, provide authentic evidence of learning, and generate a career portfolio. In our examples, we will describe the planning, implementation, and dissemination processes necessary to integrate the ePortfolio Program into university courses.

PebblePad, anyone?

One in five US employers uses social networks in hiring

Small world networks Computerworld reports a survey by which suggests that more than one in five US employers search social networking sites to screen job candidates (31,000 employers screened). Top areas of concern include:
  • Information about alcohol or drug use (41%)
  • Inappropriate photos or information posted on a candidate's page (40%)
  • Poor communication skills (29%)
  • Bad mouthing of former employers or fellow employees (28%)
  • Inaccurate qualifications (27%)
  • Unprofessional screen names (22%)
  • Notes showing links to criminal behavior (21%)
  • Confidential information about past employers (19%)

CareerBuilder's advice:
  • Remove pictures, content and links that can send the wrong message to potential employers
  • Update social networking profiles regularly to highlight latest accomplishments
  • Consider blocking comments to avoid questionable posts
  • Avoid joining groups whose names could turn off potential employers
  • Consider setting profile to private so only designated friends can view it

Slideshare Roundup

There's been some good stuff on recently, and I'd hate you to miss it, so:

Brian Kelly: Web 2.0: Time For Serious Thinking!

Martin Weller: Twitter, microblogging and living in the stream

Monday, September 15, 2008


For me, the 80s never happened. In my Universe, the 70s blended into the 90s. The music, the politics, the fashions were so awful that I just blotted them out. Time travel was easy. I was busy, first trying to eradicate polio, and later, finding a cure for HIV. In my Universe, the 80s didn't happen until 2003, when I stood in a Yorkshire pit village and found out how Thatcherism had destroyed the lives of nearly everyone who lived there, not because of the economics of coal, but just because they could. So I wasn't sorry about missing it all until a few months ago, because along with John Selwyn Gummer, Kajagoogoo and silly clothes, I skipped cyberpunk. So I've spent the summer trying to catch up with my lost decade.

If William Gibson was the High Priest of Cyberpunk (and he was), Bruce Sterling was the Archdeacon, so Sterling's Mirrorshades anthology (how those sci-fis love an anthology) was high on my list. And it didn't disappoint.

Apart from my rambling personal reflection, you might think this post has no place on a blog about education. I'm not going to tell you that this is my personal blog and I can put what the heck I like here (hint). I'm going to tell you that cyberpunk has got everything to do with education and e-learning. Apart from the intricacies of Gibson's Metaverse, Sterling has a few things to say too.

And now that technology has reached fever pitch, its influence has slipped control and reached street level. As Alvin Toffler pointed out in The Third wave - a bible to many cyberpunks - the technical revolution reshaping our society is based not in hierarchy but in decentralization, not in rigidity but in fluidity. Science fiction - at least according to its official dogma - has always been about the impact of technology. But times have changed since the comfortable era of Hugo Gernsback, when Science was safely enshrined - and confined - in an ivory tower. The careless technophilia of those days belongs to a vanished, sluggish era, when authority still had a comfortable margin of control.

Without cyberpunk, I wouldn't be writing this - not because the fiction became the technology (Gibson's story The Gernsback Continuum, first in this anthology, tells us that), but because of people who were there in the 80s and made sure that I caught up. And now I'll off to tell our students that they, not we, own the technology, and they are the only ones who can own knowledge.

Friday, September 12, 2008

HEA Centre for Bioscience Representatives Forum

logo For the past couple of days I've been at the HEA Centre for Bioscience Representatives Forum. I described our undergraduate PLE project, which is part-funded by a Departmental Teaching Enhancement Grant from the Centre, talked a bit about Small Worlds, and whiffled about Twitter.
Other than that, it was good to catch up with old acquaintances and see quite a lot of new faces after "the night of the long knives". My favourite talk from the meeting was Katherine Linehan's presentation about using on-line resources to tailor teaching to an individual cohort. Other talks included:
  • Mentoring scientific minds through group research projects, Momna Hejmadi, University of Bath
  • Using a Problem-Based Learning Environment to Engage Students, Catherine Hack, (Aine McKillop and Jacqueline O'Connor,) University of Ulster
  • Life as a 1st year Bioscientist: Introducing the student experience project, Jon Scott, Paul Green, Geetha Narayanan & Annette Cashmore. School of Biological Sciences & GENIE CETL, University of Leicester
  • Developing essay writing skills in undergraduates, Nick Freestone, Kingston University
  • The Use of Motivational Interviewing in the Support of Underperforming Students, Chris Baldwin, Newcastle University
  • Involving students with science community projects, Kay Yeoman, University of East Anglia
  • 'Engaging' with Articulate products, John Heritage, University of Leeds
  • Research Days: connecting research with teaching, Alan Fielding, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • How undergraduate interns tackle staff development roles, Anne Tierney, University of Glasgow
Looking forward to the next one now. I hear the south of France is nice this time of year :-)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Busy week

I'm off to various conferences this week (sadly not including ALT-C 2008) with questionable internet access, so blogging will be patchy. To keep you entertained, here's a snapshot of the merriment in Leeds:


Friday, September 05, 2008

Make them want it

Mmm, cookies Douglas Walker, a Canadian internet marketeer, has an interesting post on his blog, A Draft Social Media Metrics Model. Before you get now-I-have-to-go-and-change-my-underwear excited, let me say that Doug has not cracked social media metrics, but he does give an interesting list of communications objectives for social media which make the post well worth reading:
  1. Generate Awareness
  2. Drive Trial
  3. Product Launch
  4. Establish Need/Want
  5. Product/Service Comparison
  6. Positive Association
  7. Form/Change Opinion
  8. Influence the Influencers
  9. Drive Action/Traffic
  10. Establish/Regain Trust
Although this list is written from a marketing perspective, it seems to me that our own Small Worlds project, and beyond that the use of social media in education, has quite a lot to learn from these objectives.

Education. Let's make 'em want it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008



Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated

Twitter load time

Twitter downtime for the last three months
  • June: 11h 36m
  • July: 4h 12m
  • August: 1h 3m

Goodbye FailWhale?

In The Zone

This is the last of my series of posts arising from Alan Mortiboys book, Teaching with Emotional Intelligence. In a short section from chapter 3, Mortiboys discusses "flow", and suggests that "flow" is the ideal learning state - so what the heck is "flow"?

Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. The idea is said to have been proposed (formalized?) by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

If you were an athlete, you might call this concept "being in the zone". If you were an educational technologist, you might call it "the sweet spot". So I think I know what "flow" feels like. The snag is, for all it's plus points, I didn't find anything in Mortiboys book to take me there.

What does it for you?

Grainne Conole: Going with the flow

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Feedback with Emotional Intelligence

Positive, I must be positive about Alan Mortiboys book, Teaching with Emotional Intelligence, so here's his advice on giving feedback:
  • Start with the positive.
  • Sandwich the negative between the positive.
  • Confine your feedback to the amount the recipient can handle rather than the amount your would like to give.
  • Make sure the feedback is something the recipient is in a position to act on.
  • Make observations, not inferences.
  • Be specific rather than generalizing.
  • Leave the recipient feeling motivated.
Rather good advice.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Teaching with Emotional Intelligence

Based on a rave review at the HEA conference, I felt I ought to read Alan Mortiboys book: Teaching with Emotional Intelligence: A Step-by-Step Guide. I'll be upfront and say that I don't honestly feel that I gained a lot from the experience, but there is some good stuff in there (in amongst the touch-feely psychobabble), certainly enough for me to want to blog about it.

Mortiboys approach is based on the theory of transactional analysis (TA), an integrative approach to the theory of psychology and psychotherapy containing elements of psychoanalytic, humanist and cognitive approaches (yes, there's a lot of that sort of stuff in this book). TA was developed by psychiatrist Eric Berne during the late 1950s. So what the heck is TA? Essentially, that we all have internal models of parents, children and adults, and we play these roles with one another in our relationships. We even do it with ourselves, in internal conversations. According to the theory, there are:
  • two forms of parent we can play: the nurturing parent and the controlling (or critical) parent,
  • three types of child: the natural child, the little professor and the adaptive child,
  • and the adult.
TA sets guidelines which attempt to guide how interactions between these different roles (inherent in all of us), can be managed. Mortiboys uses educational examples to suggest how this might work in practical situations (and the inter-relationships are not always the obvious ones - wouldn't be much of a theory if that were the case - except that usually, we should all strive for adult behaviour). Although you may have figured out that I have reservations, I'm not being facetious about the whole thing, so here are the good points.

There are some good practical suggestions to emerge, for instance, some ways to structure icebreaker activities (which I agree are so important in successful e-learning) around getting students to identify and write or talk about what they are good at. There are also good reasons provided to attempt to increase the flow of information about yourself to and from students, which fits will with my planned use of Twitter and Seesmic next academic year. There are other valuable ideas to which I want to tease out in subsequent blog posts so they don't all merge into one streamofconciousness.

Unfortunately, this useful advice is couched in TA jargon, which always seems to come back to "stroking" students (stop sniggering at the back). Right from the introduction, Mortiboys presumes that emotional intelligence (and E.Q.) exists as a concrete entity, rather than merely being a theory or a philosophy. While the practical advice is welcome, the endless checklists become wearisome, and even I didn't want to see another bulleted list by the time I was half way through. Mortiboys can't seem to escape his "controlling parent" - does he really believe that the colour of the paper handouts are produced on has a major impact on learning? (Paper? Handouts? How quaint!) Eventually, he describes seven "intelligences":
  • Linguistic
  • Logical-mathematical
  • Spatial
  • Bodily-kinaesthetic
  • Musical
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
so that "you can prevent your learners from feeling excluded". Even if this nonsense were true, it wouldn't help me with a group of 180 students, as Dylan William as pointed out regarding learning styles:
...research on learning styles is completely fruitless - loads of stuff on learning styles and students doing VAK inventories - it’s all a waste of time. Partly because it’s impossible to actually cater for the individual needs, and secondly it’s not even a good idea.
I set out on this review trying to be positive, and I'm not sure I have achieved that. For that reason, I want to come back to some of the good points in this book in subsequent posts. In the meantime, I guess it's up to you to read the book and make up your own mind.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A cautionary tale


WebCite One of the recurrent obsessions at the Science Blogging Conference on Saturday was how to turn blog posts into citeable objects (sigh). As someone said in one of the discussions, publishing scientific results is done for two reasons: to inform the world, and to keep score. In the shark-eat-piranha world of science funding, keeping score predominates over informing the world of scientific advances (or why the fu*k have we spent millions of pounds of taxpayer's money on RAE 2008?), so naturally, the greasy-poleclimbers at the conference (and Nature, which does very well out of the RAE due to it's high impact score) were not happy about the idea that blog posts could count as scientific publications on the beancounting abacus.

At one level, this concern is justified, since blog posts are transient, can be deleted, altered (including the dates) or enhanced subsequently to publication, which means that they are an unreliable witness. Of course, that's also the reason blog posts are valuable - because they're not bogged-down-in-the-morass-of-formal-publiations, but the subtlety of that point was a little beyond most (not all) of the people at Saturday's conference.

One suggestiong for a possible "solution" to this non-existent problem was WebCite:

WebCite, a member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium, is an on-demand archiving system for webreferences (cited webpages and websites, or other kinds of Internet-accessible digital objects), which can be used by authors, editors, and publishers of scholarly papers and books, to ensure that cited webmaterial will remain available to readers in the future. A WebCite®-enhanced reference is a reference which contains - in addition to the original live URL - a link to an archived copy of the material, exactly as the citing author saw it when he accessed the cited material.
Individual writers, scholars and students wishing to use WebCite for archiving and citing web references can use WebCite free of charge without having to apply for membership.

Personally, I'm not interested in trying to fossilize the Internet - I'd rather it was more dynamic. But I can see ways in which WebCite could be very useful. Although Creative Commons licences are irrevocable, that doesn't stop people trying, and I personally have had a few instances where publishers have complained to me after I used a Creative Commons-licenced image published on Flickr and the licence had subsequently been changed. For me, increasing the take up of Creative Commons-licenced resources could be the biggest payoff of WebCite.

Maybe you can think of other uses?