Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hang In There!

"Student-centered teaching methods like active and cooperative and problem-based learning make students take more responsibility for their learning than traditional teacher-centered methods do, and the students are not necessarily thrilled about it. All college instructors who have tried the former methods have experienced student resistance-and if they were getting high evaluations when they taught traditionally, their ratings may have dropped when they made the switch. As you've discovered, it doesn't feel good when that happens, so it will be understandable if you decide to go back to teaching classes where you just lecture and the students just listen (or text or surf or daydream or sleep)."

Tomorrow's Professor Mailing List (yes, mailing list ;-)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The saga continues I hadn't planned to write any more about for a while because I feel I've said enough for now, but I was involved in some interesting discussions yesterday that are worth recording.

First on the question of "do I need this"? Maybe not. If you don't feel you have a burning desire to share items with others, or if Tumblr or Posterous are working well for you, you probably don't need

@psychemedia complained about having to click through layers to get to original content, which is true, but also the point of (interesting scoop from Robin Good). Curation inevitably involves the creation of a curation layer, which is also social on if you want it to be. Again, if you don't want to curate, don't use

Finally, I was thinking about the parallels between and delicious. I also curate on delicious, but primarily I store information there for myself, whereas is outward facing (although it would benefit if the tagging window popped up from the bookmarklet so that tagging is not an afterthought). But I don't overtly share with others on delicious, although I am aware of the social aspect and follow what my network stores avidly (thanks to them all). (My network is becoming increasingly useful as I slowly build it.) Why the difference? Although the last ill-fated Yahoo revision of delicious attempted to add social sharing features, they're just not slick enough to make them automatic. In contrast, the social network integration in has hit the sweetspot, making the rebroadcasting aspect of curation work. That's the difference between curation and simply bookmarking.

What I still haven't figured out is how to use for education, beyond the informal contexts that I'm already using it for. Maybe I should go all Illich and not try.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Netskills seminars

Netskills Netskills have helpfully made available a recording of Monday's seminar:

The Rhetoric of Openness by Dave White

Well worth a listen.  I wonder if the same will also be true for the next one:

Supporting Researcher Engagement With Social Tools

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Circles of Geeks

Circles of Geek As Internet Consulting editor for the Annals of Botany, I'm off to the Editorial Board meeting at the Royal Society (rather looking forward to that) today, where I will be expected to say something interesting, or at least not too embarrassing, about the Internet. As an icebreaker, each Editor has been asked to talk for two minutes about "an interesting paper". Not being a plant scientist, I've picked:

Yan K-K, Gerstein M, 2011 The Spread of Scientific Information: Insights from the Web Usage Statistics in PLoS Article-Level Metrics. PLoS ONE 6(5): e19917. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019917

There is some interesting analysis in this paper. Popular papers are downloaded more than less popular papers (this is the definition of popularity), but irrespective of popularity, downloads all decay with a consistent pattern:
  • Rapid decline within the first month of publication
  • Slower decline thereafter (a long tail)
Why does this dual pattern occur? In the memorable words of the authors:
nontrivial herding behavior analogous to what we referred to as fame
coupled with the Matthew effect - a stochastic model of information diffusion (Circles of Geeks). Clearly, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011 masterclass I've written about several times recently, but I'm still getting blank looks from lots of folks, so here's the how, and more importantly the why, of

Curation, it's all about curation. What is curation? Adding value to information.

Activity - publish, don't just read. Use the bookmarklet (works great on the iPad) to publish interesting items you find, as well as the suggestions on the site itself.

Share - don't just publish. Use the widgets in your sidebar if you want to, but you can add value to your Twitter and Facebook networks by publishing there too.

RSS - use's "RSS everywhere" to keep up to date with what your community is doing on the site, especially topics/followed.

If you like playing games, remember to check out the leaderboard. If you like that sort of thing.

Don't try to reproduce a community you are already a member of on another network, create a unique community composed of the best contributors. make this rather difficult, constantly suggesting your Twitter subscribers to you. However, a useful member of your Twitter community may not add much value to your network, so make then distinctive.

The Big One: Why do I want to do this? Because you want to participate in a community and not just be a leech?
Isn't this just strengthening the echo chamber? Not if you curate - amplify and add value to content, not just save links for your own use.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Scoopit Game Layer

Scoopit Game Layer

Starting to think about the educational applications of student curation. Delicious was a bust, would engage them?


Friday, June 17, 2011

Writing Boot Camp: Week 0/1 Last week I wrote about Sarah Stewart's Publication Boot Camp Wiki. This divides the process of writing an academic paper into a six week process with designated tasks for each week of the programme. What I'm trying to do does not fit neatly into the process as outlined on the wiki because:
  • I already knew what I wanted to write about, resurrecting a manuscript written a year ago which never got submitted for various reasons.
  • I'm working through the process in isolation rather than socially.
Nevertheless, I'm finding the discipline of the programme highly motivational, and I will be documenting it here. The way I am setting about this won't fit into neat chronological boxes, but I will use the stages on the wiki as milestones for my posts.

Getting Ready/Week 0

1. Decide what you want to write about.
OK, I already know this.

2. Make sure you have completed your literature review.
I do already have a literature review, of sorts, but it's a year out of date and may need to be enhanced for the rewrite. The other problem is that there just isn't much literature in the area I'm writing about.

3. Have a look at journal rankings and citation indexes to see which is an appropriate journal.
Oddly enough, this was most helpful. Choice of journal was a major reason why I lost confidence in this manuscript a year ago. Thinking about it over the weekend, I thought I had an improved choice, but when I went through the steps on the wiki, I now feel I have a better one. This has helped my confidence considerably!

4. Decide which journal you want to submit your article.
In some ways, thus was the most significant part of the process so far. I changed my mind twice, but having found what felt like the right fit, progress was smoother.

5. Consider submitting an article to a journal that is open access.
I have downplayed this criterion in favour of what I think is the best journal. My first choice was not open access. No problem, I would just submit the manuscript to the institutional repository. My second choice is going to be open access shortly...

Week 1

1. Critical friend.
Tricky. Possibly the most important part of the process. I don't have one - unless one of you wants to volunteer to be my critical friend for this manuscript? In return, I can offer a reciprocal arrangement if you are interested in trying this for yourself.

2. 2-5 key points.
Obvious, but surprisingly difficult. What is the take-home message?

3. Starting with the conclusion.
Actually the abstract. Sort-of. This was very helpful as it made me rethink the data I have, and more importantly, what I want to say about it.

4. Mapping information and argument.
Tricky (for me). I did sit staring at a piece of paper while trying to draw a mind map, but as ever, it didn't work. What it did do was start me typing, based on 2-3 above.

5. Email study group.
I'm not participating as I'm flying solo on this one.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Man versus machine: in which I curate The medium is the message and curation is the new aggregation.

I've been using for a while now, but I think that experiment may have run it's course. The machine curation is patchy, sometimes throwing up serendipitous finds but mostly making noise which pushes people away. Lack of RSS feeds, not enough social features, was a good attempt but too flawed.

Contrast (and Tweeted Times) with the new kid on the block, (h/t Terese Bird). Reasons I like
  • Attractiveness √
  • Ease of use (bookmarklet - needs an iPad app?) √
  • *Great* social integration (Twitter, Facebook - with page granularity) √
  • RSS feeds √
  • Tagging √
  • There are widgets (if you like that sort of thing): has that Flipboard-like game changing feel to it (maybe not quite on the same level as Flipboard but a definite step forward). is almost a federated network, Tumblr without the blog.

But I don't (shouldn't) have time to curate in multiple locations (although accepting different communities at different locations).  Is this the end for me curating on Friendfeed? is in beta right now, so request yourself an account (tell them I sent you).


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How's your memory?

Memory I had an interesting conversation with a colleague last week who told me that they tell students in advance what questions will be on the exam paper, based on the idea that they are more interested in what students can do with knowledge rather than a simple memory test.
I subsequently came across this paper:

Communication and practice with examination criteria. Does this influence performance in examinations? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(6): 619-626
Previous research has demonstrated that the development and communication of explicit marking criteria have resulted in improved grades for students. This improvement in performance has only been reported for coursework assignments. Therefore, it was the purpose of this study to investigate the impact of providing explicit marking criteria, alongside practice with the criteria, on student examination grades. Two cohorts attending their second year on a sport science degree were used. The first cohort served as a control group and the second cohort as an experimental group. The control group sat the examination without any prior knowledge of the marking criteria, and the experimental group was given a marksheet before the examination that contained the marking criteria. There was a significant difference (p<0.001) between the examination grades of the experimental and control group. The mean examination grades achieved were 55.4% and 36.9% for the experimental and control group, respectively. Subsequent focus groups revealed that the experimental group considered that they were much better prepared and equipped to revise for the examination, and the marksheet encouraged self-reflection on their progress. The experimental group reported that they felt they had more control over preparation for the examination and higher levels of confidence in taking the examination.

This is an interesting idea, and quite tempting. Do you do anything similar to this, and if so, what is your rationale and what are the outcomes?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Supporting Researcher Engagement With Social Tools - free online seminar

Netskills Netskills is offering two free online seminars this month:

Tue 21 Jun: The Rhetoric of Openness - Dave White
Exploring the influence of technology on 'openness' and our educational institutions' relationship to the concept. 'Openness' as a concept or approach has crept-up on our educational institutions. They have been forced to position themselves against the emerging ideology of the web and an abundance of new information sources. In this talk Dave will explore what openness online means from a teaching and learning perspective and looking at some of the tensions that arise when traditional organisations attempt to appropriate the notion of 'open'.

Mon 27 Jun: Supporting Researcher Engagement With Social Tools - Alan Cann
Social media is a buzz-word that many researchers feel has nothing to do with them. Studies have shown that few researchers engage with social tools as part of their research practice. However I will argue that social tools offer researchers an opportunity to improve the quality of their work, through enhanced ability to find, use and disseminate information. I will discuss my own experiences in this area over the last few years and describe how I arrived at my present solution which is to de-emphasise technology and tools and instead recruit around a narrative involving communities of practice - a Personal Learning Network rather than a Personal Learning Environment.

Places are limited, so I suggest you sign up now.


Friday, June 10, 2011


Senna I'm off to see Senna at Phoenix Square tonight. I only saw Senna race once, at Monaco in 1984. The race was black flagged just after half distance due to torrential rain. Senna was second, Prost won, the tifosi rioted and we got teargassed at the railway station on the way back to Antibes.  Happy days.

Then I'm going to spend some quality time at #lm24


SciReadr on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks From: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on

This book won the 2010 Wellcome Trust Book Prize, selected by a jury of the "Great and the Good" (Clive Anderson, writer Maggie Gee, the notorious A.C. Grayling, medical historian Michael Neve, and TV presenter Alice Roberts). More than that, it has been a great commercial success, selling millions of copies, and is currently being made into a film. So it must be good, right?  Well, that depends what you're looking for. Rebecca Skloot recounts the story of Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line, HeLa, that came originally from her cervical cancer cells in 1951. Specifically, the book deals with the dealing with ethical issues of race and class in medical research. The story is driven along by Skloot's easy writing style, and larded with verbatim encounters with members of the Lacks family. It's interesting, and it's worth reading.

But is this a science book? Not to me. To me, this is journalism - reportage - or possibly a campaign. Actually, several campaigns, one on behalf of the Lacks family and one relentless marketing campaign for the book that Skloot has been quite open about during the ten years it took her to write it. Is this science? My (unfashionable) view is no, it's not, because Skloot has crossed the line over the role of author in science - too close, not sufficiently dispassionate. Is it a bad book? That depends what you're looking for. I'm not prepared to say this is a bad book any more than I'm prepared to say Glee is bad television. Read it - you may love it. Read it and make your own mind up.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Definition of Writer: Person who writes I've had a few half-hearted attempts at getting a writing club going here, but with no success. My dailycrushingsenseoffailure a couple of days ago was provided by Sarah Stewart's post How to write a paper for publication in 6 weeks.

The advantage of a writing club is the discipline imposed by the f2f element. That's not available to me, but Sarah has helpfully put together a writing boot camp wiki which I intend to use, together with programmed slots in Google Calendar, to see if I can get that woulda coulda shoulda manuscript from a year ago out over the summer.

Thanks Sarah!


My Salutation Has Been BoingBoinged #ALTC2011

I recently booked for ALT-C 2011. When I'd previously registered on the shiny new ALT website, it had asked me how I wanted to be addressed, and I carelessly entered Dude. From my registration, Seb Schmoller picked up on this and sent me an email to which I replied:

I never know what to put in that box.   King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God and Light of this World, His Own Divine Majesty, First Ancient King of Creation, King Alpha and Queen Omega, Beginning with Out End and First with Out Last, Protectorate of All Human Faith and Ruler of the Universe always sounds so formal.
This caused Seb to rethink the possibilities for registration, and now we've been BoingBoinged.

What's going to happen when I book my accommodation?


Wednesday, June 08, 2011


iCloud Exams prevented me from blogging about the WWDC11 keynote yesterday, which is fine, because I don't intend to blog about the WWDC11 keynote. Yet. But I won't be able to avoid doing so in the future as it was a game-changer which shapes the next decade of computing.

Most of the attention will go on the small things, such as the sweeping up of developer goodies into iOS/Lion. Hello Reader, iCloud, bye bye ghetto destinations such as Instapaper, Dropbox. Listening to Steve, I didn't immediately get the anti-Android nature of the new stuff, but it became obvious when I thought about it, teaming up with Twitter to fight Google. Interestingly, not a mention of Facebook after the Ping disaster... However, before anyone gets too excited, it's far from clear at present how much of any of this applies outside the USA.

But none of that is important. What is important is iCloud, Apple's implementation of a cloud-enabled OS (with clever freemium pricing). It's like Android/Chrome that "just works". Except that it's not a cloudOS or a webOS, it's very firmly cloud data - desktop apps with data synced via the cloud. In practical terms with the connectivity problems I get when I go anywhere, I'll settle for that over a full webOS. And the reason iCloud is important is because it ushers us toward the emerging quantum computing era, where data will stop having a physical existence (just as media stopped having physical form when iTunes came along), and simply exist/not exist based on atomic spin.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Going mobile

Going mobile AoB now has a shiny new mobile-friendly website, - feedback welcome.

Coming soon to a journal cover near you:

Going mobile


Monday, June 06, 2011

Too many questionnaires

This exploratory study investigated the students' use of formative, weekly, online evaluations of teaching through a virtual learning environment. Results were based on in-depth interviews of seven students at a rural university college in the UK. Students from different genders, education levels and backgrounds volunteered for the study. The students thought it was a good tool and useful for providing anonymous feedback. However, their motivation to fill in the evaluations every week varied throughout the period of study, and the weekly feedback soon became routine and too onerous a task, and thus had a tendency towards being superficially conducted. Students were more inclined to comment on negative issues, rather than critically analyse positive ones. They also tended to be more positive towards conducting the evaluation if the lecturer discussed them and/or made changes to their future lectures.

Winchester, Maxwell K. and Winchester, Tiffany M. (2011) 'If you build it will they come? Exploring the student perspective of weekly student evaluations of teaching', Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education


Wednesday, June 01, 2011