Friday, January 31, 2014

A Poem To Explain My Absence

This is the way the blog ends
This is the way the blog ends
This is the way the blog ends
Not with a bang but with admin.

Friday, January 17, 2014

When social media stopped being social


Mike Elgan is spot on here, but the same problem exists with Google, which has just killed off the desktop notifier to enforce lock in to Chrome and Google+. Twitter is slightly less evil at present but headed the same way.

I'm about ready to walk away from them all. But they still have value for me, in a range of different ways. Until I have viable alternatives to build on, I am locked in. But at least now I know I'm looking for a solution. One thing I know from previous network migrations - you can't simply port an existing network to a new location, you start again each time, not quite from scratch, but close enough.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Employability Marmite Module

Marmite University of Leeds: Embedding employability and academic skill development

"The module review after the first year demonstrated the ‘Marmite’ nature of this module. For some students the module was clearly an important part of their academic development and it prepared them for level 3 study and for thinking beyond graduation, these students were enthusiastic ambassadors for the module. Other students (especially joint honours students) found the module less satisfactory."

Friday, January 10, 2014

Students’ feedback preferences: When is more important than what

Feedback This one's a bit depressing. Students prefer automatically generated feedback to your carefully crafted efforts. OK, this study is seriously lacking in statistical power, but I suspect that it reveals a deeper truth needed to satisfy the feedback monster: when is more important than what.

What do we want? Feedback. When do we want it? Now!

Students’ feedback preferences: how do students react to timely and automatically generated assessment feedback? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 09 Jan 2014, doi:10.1080/02602938.2013.870531
This study assesses whether or not undergraduate and postgraduate accounting students at an Australian university differentiate between timely feedback and extremely timely feedback, and whether or not the replacement of manually written formal assessment feedback with automatically generated feedback influences students’ perception of feedback constructiveness. The study demonstrates that students do not differentiate between timely feedback and extremely timely feedback. This result holds for both on-campus as well as off-campus students, although undergraduate on-campus students have significantly higher timeliness expectations than undergraduate off-campus students. In addition, the study demonstrates that a replacement of manually generated feedback with automatically generated feedback improves students’ perception of the constructiveness of the provided feedback substantially (undergraduate) or significantly (postgraduate). Instructors may consequently be able to exploit the advantages of automatic feedback tools without having to be concerned about the impact of such feedback on student perceptions. In addition, instructors should only aim to provide extremely timely feedback rather than timely feedback, if sound pedagogical reasons are available to justify the required effort.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Are "good" students born or made?

Here's an interesting one - are "good" students born or made? This study suggests that although students increase in autonomy (surely a major objective of higher education) as they progress through their course, this change is minor compared with individual variation at the start of the course. What does that say about how we are teaching them, and what are the implications for student recruitment?

Teacher and student perceptions of the development of learner autonomy; a case study in the biological sciences. (2014) Studies in Higher Education, doi: 10.1080/03075079.2013.842216
Abstract: Biology teachers in a UK university expressed a majority view that student learning autonomy increases with progression through university. A minority suggested that pre-existing diversity in learning autonomy was more important and that individuals not cohorts differ in their learning autonomy. They suggested that personal experience prior to university and age were important and that mature students are more autonomous than 18–20 year olds. Our application of an autonomous learning scale (ALS) to four year-groups of biology students confirmed that the learning autonomy of students increases through their time at university but not that mature students are necessarily more autonomous than their younger peers. It was evident however that year of study explained relatively little (< 10%) of total variation in ALS scores in this student population, which suggests that personal and environmental/societal factors profoundly influence the degree of learning autonomy and should be a focus of future research.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Spirit Level

The Spirit Level Reading Bowling Alone was one of those rare life-changing events for me. Putnam described the world I was seeing around me, although frustratingly he stopped short of suggesting any real solutions to the problem of eroding social capital. When I was bleating about this recently, Tris suggested that I should read The Spirit Level. I can't truly say that this book had as much impact om me as Bowling Alone did, but it does address the question of how we could get out of this mess.

It would be easy to criticize The Spirit Level. While it is thorough and well argued, some of the statistical analysis verges on dodgy. This is very much an Economics text rather than a work of Political Science - it is somewhat politically naive, but that's coming from someone who's just finished reading The Prince. These are minor faults which should not put anyone off reading this book.

Read this and this. Then act accordingly.

Update: An anonymous commenter (below) suggests reading The Spirit Level Delusion "Fact-Checking The Left's New Theory of Everything". Comes highly recommended by James Delingpole. Which tells you everything you want to know.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Public Service Broadcasting

In Business - The Music Industry I don't have a great deal of faith in most commentators. I tend to believe that if they had true insight they'd be commented on rather than commenting on. But the Christmas/New Year break forces the meeja into its annual seasonal bout of airspace-padding prognostication, and this year, whether or not the music industry has come to terms with the digital world featured in several discussions.

I've never found Spotify particularly welcoming, and I'd deleted the apps and not used it for the past 18 months or so, but the discussions prompted me to give it another look. As I was dipping my toe in the water again, Martin tweeted a link to his Best of 2013 Playlist, so I gave that a spin. My gut feeling is that Martin's list reflects the dire god-awful mumfordandsonsness of the 2013 music scene rather well, but buried in there was a gem - Public Service Broadcasting.

After my recent disappointment with the vacuousness of The 1975 this was a pleasant surprise. Which is where Spotify kicks in. Following the link to the artist page allowed me to listen to several more tracks (after which I was sufficiently interested to go over to YouTube to check them out). For me, YouTube still beats Spotify for music discovery (because it's more open - I'm sure Martin will have something to say about that), but the artist page took me to their gig listing without a Google search (which should worry Google), and presumably gave Spotify a slice of the action when I found out they are playing the O2 on 16th April and bought tickets. This is real engagement - gigs not facebook likes. I'm not under the illusion that Spotify is any less evil than Google, and renting music rather than buying stuff I like is too expensive for a tightwad like me. I am slightly surprised that Spotify has survived, and that makes me think the music industry maybe is coming to terms with digital. And that maybe the commentators got this one right.
In Business - The Music Industry

And what does all this have to do with the disintermediation of higher education? Not much, apart from the obvious parallel between artists and teaching adjuncts. But unlike bands, our new generation of pedagogic troubadours cannot easily sell their art to the highest bidder via iTunes, Google Play and Spotify. Indentured servitude is still the way of the ivory tower.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Blogs Are Now Brands

Brands I've been perusing the year on year stats for my blogs (six currently active).

I've had several conversations recently with bloggers about blog visits stats being on a steady downward decline, but that's only half the story. At the same time that visits to lovingly crafted blog sites are plummeting, the attention being paid to social media spin-offs is more than compensating for the decline in direct traffic.

This leads me to the conclusion that blogs are now brands rather than an end in their own right. You may say It was ever thus, and you'd be right, but it's a new year and most of us could benefit from some new thinking. Rather than being depressed about falling visitor numbers on blog sites, it's time to think about blogs for what they really are, online notebooks or diaries rather than an objective in themselves. It is the process of blogging which is important rather than the output. Now more than ever it is time to concentrate on curating online presence rather than defending a citadel. Like retailers, one strategy is not going to work any longer, it's got be bricks and mortar AND online, not just your flagship store.

So how does this apply to students? They don't have an existing brand to polish up and present, they are quite literally making themselves as they go. For them we need to concentrate on the primary reasons to blog, the flexibility of blogging tools, from online notebook to out and out PR machine, via the interesting bits - reflection and knowledge sharing.

If process matters more than product, we need good authoring environments and a convenient workflow which encourages engagement with content and reflection. In this, as in so much else, my iPad remains a disappointment. As blogging has become fossilized, the generation of authoring tools we need is missing. Just compare the mobile Facebook and Instagram clients to those available for WordPress and Blogger. Twitter is trying, but an older generation of bloggers is missing the boat. You may say It was ever thus, and you'd be right, but we cannot afford to miss out on engaging the next generation with online reflection rather than mere instant messaging.