Showing posts with label learning technologies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label learning technologies. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

App Swap Breakfast - Changing Landscapes Webinar

I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute to a UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association) webinar last week focusing on the growing interest in App Swap Breakfasts which we have started at The University of Sheffield. I'd come across the idea after presenting at the UCISA conference Changing Landscapes back in January at The Edge in Sheffield. I'd seen an inspiring presentation by Fiona MacNeill, Beth Hewitt and Joyce Webber from the University of Brighton talking about initiative. The event was run by UCISA and was a continuation of their Changing Landscapes, hosted by Jane Hetherington and featured reflections from myself, Fiona, Joe Telles from the University of Salford about our own App Swap Breakfasts.
The recording of the webinar can be viewed/listened to here:

Webinar recording -
Fiona MacNeill et al's presentation from the Changing Landscapes can be viewed here:


UCISA Case Study Slides: App Swap Breakfasts: Pedagogy, Mobile Devices and Learning Discourse over Breakfast from Fiona MacNeill

In addition I was invited to give a presentation to University of Sheffield staff as part of CiCS LeTS Snap, App & Tap lunchtime series to help colleagues get more from their mobile devices. I ran a session on tools to help staff and students carry out research on the go and looked at Mendeley, Evernote, Harvard Reference, CLA search amongst other useful tools. The slides are below, and I will be looking to turn this into a future ScHARR Bite Size event.

Future dates for the remaining Snap, App & Tap can be viewed below and signed up for via the University's Learning Managament System.

Weds 3rd September: The Collaborative Classroom: This session will give you a taste of how mobile devices can be used collaboratively and/or interactively in a classroom setting. You will get the chance to experience a lesson learning something which may be new to you and seeing how it feels to be a student using these technologies. The session will cover some / all of the following - synchronous use of Google docs, Nearpod, Feedback tools such as Poll anywhere, Socrative, Google moderator and Blackboard mobile.

Weds 10th Sep: Reading on your mobile device - a good idea? There are differences in the way that we read electronic texts and paper-based texts. There are also differences between reading on a computer screen and on a mobile device. How do these differences affect our experience, our work and our students? What are the advantages and disadvantages? The session will look at which options are available for reading on a mobile device, what advantages there are, what the options are for annotating and sharing reading, how the screen size affects our ability to read, accessibility / disability and reading on screen. 

Weds 17th September: Keeping a diary, journal or reflective log on a mobile device. A mobile device can be the perfect tool for a journal, diary or reflective log as it is often with you wherever you go. This session looks at the tools available for keeping your notes and how they can be exploited for academic purposes. It covers the apps available for diaries, journals and reflective logs, how notes can be moved from one place to another and tools available to transform your notes into valuable data.

Weds 24th September: See Hear! You or your students can create audio-visual resources on your mobile devices. This session will cover the reasons why we may use audio-visual resources and look a various tools that are available such as iMovie, Explain Everything, voice recorder.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Turnitin User Group Feb 2014

Turnitin held their annual user group forum this month in Birmingham at Aston University. In attendance from the Learning Technologies Team was Zafer Ali along with Peter Bragg from the Department of Geography.

The morning kicked off with the CEO of Turnitin Chris Caren doing an introduction. He was mainly at the event to apologies to the UK customers for an outage that the service had during the December busy period and what steps the company had taken to make sure it was not repeated. Chris also talked about the company's communication strategy for when the service was unavailable, he acknowledged that this was handled poorly. A new procedure has now been put in place where they will do comms every 30mins if the service is down via Email (subscription), Twitter and the Turnitin website.

The issue Turnitin had in December was down to their database going offline, and the main problem all customers had was that their students could not submit anything as the database was unavailable, which lead to a lot of issues for institutions as extensions had to be given and the marking period also had to be revised. Turnitin have now amended their submission process so that in the future if the database does go offline students will still be able to submit work, the system will add students work to a backlog queue even if the service is down and process the documents later when it is back up.  

Chris did take up all of the morning explaining why the system went down and what they had done about it. Although we were affected by the outage and had to extend some deadlines it was refreshing going to a talk where the company was honest and acknowledged that mistakes were made which they do not expect from their service.

After lunch Will Murray (Senior VP for Turnitin UK) went through the product roadmap for the next 7 to 15 months, the stand out features that will be really useful for our institution have been listed below. What really stood out during Will’s talk was the vision for the product in the future and what Turnitin would like the system to be able to do, they had six options which summed it all up Anything, Anywhere, Efficiently Automatically, with Engagement, with Evidence.  Although no time frame was given for when they would like this implemented it is definitely on the company's plan to get the product delivering on more levels than currently to compete with other tools available to tutors within their institutions (such as Blackboard)  

Features coming soon…

  • Second markers, moderation, Double blind marking
  • Email of non submissions
  • Granting individual extensions
  • New DV (Document View) layout
  • Multiple audio feedback on DV and the ability to download audio feedback by tutors and staff.


Friday, 8 March 2013

The ScHARR MOOC Diaries: Part III - What's it like to be a MOOC Student

Image used under a Creative Commons By Attribution Licence  © Claire Beecroft

Time for a bit of reflective practice, four members of ScHARR have just completed the E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. The course was hosted on the MOOC behemoth Coursera and was facilitated by Jeremy Knox, Siân Bayne, Hamish Macleod, Jen Ross and Christine Sinclair, all from the University of Edinburgh.
The MOOC looked at the contrasting ideas of utopian and dystopian futures and how technology impacts on learning and culture and the concept of what it means to be human in the modern world.
The course was run over five weeks and was a mixture of synchronise content in the form of Google Hangouts by the course tutors reflecting on the previous week’s materials. While most of the content was delivered as asynchronous learning with the idea of students self-directing their learning. This was mostly formed around a core collection of videos and text, with supplementary reading for students wanting to delve deeper into a topic.

The course had over 41,000 students enroll, although evidence seemed to show that about 20% were active participants; active being that they had communicated using one of the various social platforms associated with the course. The majority had some form of higher education background and were based in the U.S or Western Europe. Communication by the course hosts and students was predominantly via Social Media, in particular Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. More formal communication by course leaders and students occurred within the Coursera discussion forums for the EDC MOOC.
After five weeks, students were expected to submit a digital artefact that captured an idea or concept from the course materials. The artefact could be anything from text to video, from images to audio, including such as YouTube and Prezi as dominant mediums of delivery. Each submission was peer-reviewed by three students, although each student had the option to review more than three artefacts. Each ScHARR participant marked four submissions; the marking system was as such:
0 = does not achieve this, or achieves it only minimally
1 = achieves this in part
2 = achieves this fully or almost fully

Students who got a mark higher than 1.5 received a distinction.

Claire Beecroft @beakybeecroft

I really enjoyed the MOOC and it appealed to the way I like to learn - it was largely video-based and the workload was as heavy or light as you wanted it to be. I aimed to do all the ‘core’ activities, but didn’t manage much of the optional stuff, such as participating in forums and blogging, though I did use the Twitter hashtag and found this very useful - one evening while scanning the tweets I noticed a just-tweeted  tweet about a programme starting on BBC4 about ‘Google and the World Brain’- I tuned into iPlayer just as the programme started and watch all 1.5 hours of it - it was so interesting and eye-opening and frankly, worrying. I’d have never heard about it without that tweet.

I was a little surprised at the initial reaction of many students who complained about feeling ‘overwhelmed’ by the volume and diversity of content being generated by the MOOC - we knew that 40,000 had registered, so I wasn’t really surprised at all - I was happy to take a random/scatty approach and to stick to key platforms (mainly Google+ and Twitter) that I use regularly and like.

I would have like to have hung-out at the Hangouts, but these were timed just as I usually start the Friday-night scramble to get to nursery and after-school club before they fine me and call social services.
Although I did watch a little of them on the recording, I think watching live and being able to participate (or at least try to) would have been much more fun.

What I liked the most was that the course really emphasised theoretical perspectives around e-Learning - anyone hoping to learn ‘skills’ would have been disappointed, but that’s not what I need - I wanted to be forced to use my tired, lazy brain- and I was! I also felt they did a good job of hinting and guiding us towards the links between the videos/readings and online learning, but never spelt them out - that was our job and the ‘digital artefact’ task was our chance to provide some proof that we’d gotten our heads around the theme of the MOOC. I also liked the very loose format of the assessed work, and for me the peer-marking system worked well and seemed reasonably fair- having 3 markers gave most of us a fair hearing from our peers I think (but then I got a 2, so I would say that...).

There is lots that we can learn from how they ran their MOOC, from their canny approach in ‘curating’ rather than ‘creating’ content (they didn’t give away any of their own materials as such, just signposted us to existing web-based resources authored or produced by others), to their assessment methods. I also think they were actually pretty brave to stick their head above the parapet and take on a properly Massive, Open and Online Course - the incident at Georgia Tech, just days after the MOOC started, shows just how wrong a MOOC can go, and how immediate and public the consequences can be.

I worked mostly in the evenings, and almost entirely on my new iPad (I had a problem with my iPad-produced Prezi so I fell at the final hurdle of doing the MOOC entirely on it, dang!) and although it was hard to fit it all in, I’ve signed up for 2 more Coursera MOOCs and I’ve got my eye on an edX one too - I just wish the OU would hurry up and launch Futurelearn- something to look forward to...


Chris Blackmore @chrisblackmore
The size of the cohort was an interesting factor - as a learner, I felt rather anonymous, and unconnected to fellow learners. I made very few postings to the discussion forum, and there was little or no sense of community from the forums, in my experience (there was more of a community from the twitter hashtag #edcmooc). This may have been exacerbated by the fact that I wasn’t able to attend the scheduled Google Hangouts. Notably, a group of us set up and attended our own Hangouts to reflect on the course.
The assessment task was to create a digital artefact, which was a wide brief and gave sufficient leeway to create a submission at the last minute! My submission wasn’t as closely related to course materials as it might be, and that was probably a reflection of insufficient time devoted to watching videos and reading texts - I did find it difficult to put in the requisite amount of time to my studies. This is a reflection of the fact that I was primarily doing the MOOC out of curiosity, to see what doing a MOOC felt like, and that I was fitting it in around work and family life.
The peer assessment seemed to work quite well - my own feedback was interesting and informative, and hopefully the feedback I gave was useful. I did find myself being quite generous in my assessments of peers’ submissions.
It was nice to receive confirmation that I had “passed” the MOOC and would receive some kind of official confirmation of this; on reflection, I am not convinced my low level of participation merited a pass, and I presumably wouldn’t have passed a credit-bearing University module with this level of participation. So there are question marks for me on how to monitor the engagement level of students in a valid way and give appropriate feedback and credit.

Angie Rees @angiefelangie
When I signed up for this MOOC it sounded interesting and really relevant to me but I wasn’t at all sure that I had the time for it. However I decided to sign up and see how things went and now I’m very glad I did.

From the first week I liked the format of the course - and the Coursera software it was run in. The format of four weekly videos plus some core and optional reading wasn’t too demanding and the content on the whole was relevant, interesting and often entertaining.

One area of the course which I didn’t make the most of was the social networking side of things. I posted just a few times to twitter, didn’t blog and wasn’t able to make any of the hangouts. I signed up for the facebook page but didn’t really use it. I think this was mainly due to time constraints but also the fact that the huge array of tools people where using to communicate was a bit bewildering and I often didn’t know where to start or what was the ‘right’ place to be participating online. That said within the University we got our own mini network of MOOC-ers going and our online Friday google hangouts where a very useful way of staying connected with at least some of the other participants on the course and getting some sort of feedback and peer comment etc.

I had a huge disaster with the final assignment - I had chosen to do an animation using the online tool Xtranormal. Unfortunately some changes I made to it in the last hour before the deadline failed to render in time and the whole thing was lost. With 12 minutes to go before hand in I frantically created a Prezi using the dialogue from my animation and uploaded it.
The peer comments I received were broadly positive which I was pleased about - especially considering how last-minute the whole thing was. I was delighted to get a distinction but feel it was not quite merited in my case. But hey, I’m not complaining.

My participation in the MOOC was as much about trying out a MOOC as it was about actually learning something - and I think I got a lot out of it on both counts. I’m certainly interested in doing more MOOCs and would love to be involved in designing and teaching one.
The bottom line: a really good learning experience and I would love to do more. 


Andy Tattersall @andy_tattersall
If someone had asked me what to expect from this MOOC in terms of delivery and communication I would have been wide of the mark. I expected there would be an awful lot of communication using Twitter, especially taking into consideration the course material. I certainly didn’t expect that it would be so self driven, and that there would be so many students enrolled. 41,000 is a tremendous number of students, but then again MOOCs are badged as being massive. Even though only a percentage of students were active it still made for a lot of white noise. In amongst all of the Twitter, Google+ and Facebook chatter, there were the discussion forums, which was at times could feel overwhelming if you allowed it to. Add the hundreds of EDC MOOC specific blogs and posts on other blogs it soon became apparent that even the most efficient and time-rich of students would struggle to stay on top of it all.

Nevertheless, conversations did take place and people did respond and retweet some of my communications and thoughts, whilst I found myself Tweeting at fellow students in the live Google Hangouts - these were moments that broke down the non-stop stream of edc consciousness into useful chunks. These moments brought the whole course back to the human/student perspective as we shared ideas and resources. The blog posts were very useful in that some captured the week’s material and ideas in one succinct piece of writing, the only downside is that you were open to ‘Chinese Whispers’ and could misunderstand what was being delivered on the real EDC platform.

The Google Hangouts were very useful as the five course tutors reflected on the previous week in a very informal and friendly manner. It gave a useful dimension to the course in that you got to see and communicate with the course tutors. It lead the four of us in ScHARR - alongside another colleague in Law, Ian Loasby -  to host our own Google Hangouts to chat about the course, and MOOCs in general.

The assessment was interesting, and I really enjoyed creating my digital artefact as it gave me the opportunity to try a new piece of animation software out. I was able to put in experiences and knowledge of my own alongside what I had learned from the MOOC. The artefact took longer than I would have liked, and it was soon evident some students had put greatly varying amounts of time to make their artefact, which again reflects the nature of the course. Unlike a paid for traditional course, there was no obligation to create a large piece of work or any kind of work for that matter, with some creating outstanding artefacts and others not so. The peer review process was interesting and the guidelines to the review process fairly easy to follow, so those who had never assessed academic work were aided somewhat. I was impressed not by what my reviewers had said of my work (although it was mostly very positive) but the standard of the reviewing, I felt like I was being assessed by university teachers.

I found the whole experience a bit of an eye-opener, not just for how the course was run, but how many people participated and how they communicated. From the work I assessed to how I was assessed and how many fellow students I communicated with, I got a real feeling I was studying alongside mostly fellow university staff and students. It left me thinking of the potential of MOOCs as I feel they have yet to breakout beyond the academic firewall, and go far beyond the West geographically. It also had me contemplating the downside of MOOCs, in that the bigger they are, the more potential for noise and a feeling of being overwhelmed. It left me with more questions than answers, but also a feeling of excitement as something great is going to happen. Each MOOC will be different from the next one, to how it is run to how students engage with each other. The range of tools and abilities do not make for a level playing field, but it does allow students to contribute what they like, and that the more you put in the more you should get out, even so you don’t have to feel obliged to put a lot in to get something out - this is no bad thing right now. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 25

Image from Patty, under a
CC BY-ND 2.0 license
Though I'm sitting here typing this, I have to admit that half of my brain is drifting away like the clouds in this week's picture because for the next two weeks I'll be on leave!  Still, I will focus for this last push of stuff before then...

On with the Weekly Learning Technology Digest!

  • The first highlight this week was an interesting article called Censorship in the Internet Age which appeared in The Guardian.  Really thought-provoking stuff from Patrick Ness and I wonder how others would respond to his question, "And so I ask you today, what do you not say? What do you censor when you write? Because I'm afraid I can't believe that you don't".  I wonder too what impact this has when we get learners to learn online, in the public domain?  Read and reflect!
  • You'll often hear the term 'digital literacy' bandied about at the moment, but what does it really mean? Digital literacies and web literacies has the answer!  Or at least it'll get you thinking about what you might be thinking of when you say digital literacy.
  • Another thing you might have heard of is iTunesU Course Manager - or you may not.  But either way there's a nice article on the Inside Higher Ed blog about it which is worth a look. I don't think this will be a technology to put on the 'ignore' list.
  • The Times Higher had the tantalisingly titled There's Gold in Them There Hills of Online Learning - and while this is no quick fix to financial benefits for more traditional online learning, it is an interesting glimpse into the world of edX.
  • I liked the list of 12 UK blogs worth bookmarking which were recommended in The Guardian's Higher Education Network and while some I've known about for years were featured, there were some which I didn't know about and it's always good to hear about interesting new stuff.
  • One techie bit - have you got Google Drive yet instead of just Google Docs?  If you have, then you may be curious about it and Google Drive: The Differences Between the Web App and the Desktop App is going to help untangle the difference for you!
  • Final interesting snippet out there was a short blog post called From connectedness to openness which is a reflective piece on how openness has changed one educator's practice - how has it changed yours?
Image from under
a CC BY-NC 2.0 license
Oh, and I normally try to find a video which is of interest, but haven't got one today.  How about an xkcd cartoon instead?  

That'll do?  


Right... have a good couple of weeks.  I'll see you in September when the fun really begins!


Friday, 17 August 2012

Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 24

Image by JD Hancock under a
CC BY 2.0 license
Hooray!  I'm on time with the weekly learning technology digest for the first time in weeks.

The summer is a funny old time, isn't it?  People are either away on leave or snowed under with work in preparation for the next academic year. For me, it's been a combination of both of those elements and with the reality of yesterday's A-level results and the new year looming large, things are going to get hectic until well into October!  Got to love the academic year.

Anyway, enough waffle... on with the learning technology!
Gartner's Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2012
  • One of the first things to catch my eye during the past week was Six Big Ideas for Educational Technology Leaders from Innovations in Education - and if you can repeat to yourself 'be open to new ideas, be a practitioner, model the behaviour you want to see, have vision and be prepared to fail'... then those will stand you in very good stead!
  • There was also a good piece in The Guardian's Higher Education Network from the HEA Chief Executive Professor Craig Mahony on learning and teaching for higher education today - and if you can make time to read it, I think it's worth seeing what he has to say.
  • If you're not aware of this development at London Metropolitan University then there are changes afoot reported in The Guardian as their bid to outsource most sources to private firm.  This is a huge change in the way universities are run with IT, library services, student counselling etc all being out-sourced - keep an eye on how this one works out...
  • Talking of things to keep an eye on, Gartner have published their latest Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies and bring your own 'everything', smart things, big data and human interaction with tech are key messages. Lots to digest!
  • For something a little smaller scale, there have been some nice developments with Prezi including 3-D backgrounds, fade-in images and screen blackouts (which can be very handy when presenting) - these changes will be handy in the classroom if Prezi's your thing - but as ever, don't overdo those animations!  Travel sickness in a presentation is never a good thing!
  • In fact, if you're thinking about whether or not something's working... why not evaluate it? In fact, why not have a look at this handy basic guide to evaluation which Mozilla's Doug Belshaw has put together? A good, plain English guide.  We like!
  • Oh, and if you wondered why I hadn't mentioned MOOCs this week... well, it's because I was waiting until now to do it.  I've just seen this one called Dozens of plagiarism cases are reported in Coursera's free online courses which is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Fascinating that people feel the need to cheat even when no course credit is involved and this should just be about learning. 
  • To finish though - I liked the fact that these MOOC students from MITx ended up creating their own MOOC - what a contrast from the last story, huh?  Plagiarism vs. taking learning that step further.  What makes learners make those choices? A good contrast of how learners respond to MOOCs.
... and I'm going to leave you with a TED Talk on the 'Barefoot College' which I've just seen (though it's been around for a year)... and for Friday inspiration, it's just the ticket.

Have a great weekend.  Dodge the showers.  Enjoy the sunshine!


Monday, 13 August 2012

Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 23

Image by Karen Booth, under a
CC BY-ND 2.0 license
The weekly learning technology digest is a tad late this week due to my being on leave last Friday - so I come bearing cake by way of apology for not getting this online sooner!

Grab a cuppa... help yourself to one of those lovely looking cakes... and sit down for this week's digest...
  • One of my bug bears is 'when elearning goes bad' - which so often it does... so 5 Tips for Beating Boring eLearning is a handy nudge in the non-dull direction.  None of this is rocket science, but they're points which can slip by some times!
  • Oh, and while we're thinking about making elearning a bit more interesting, what about Five Factors that Affect Online Student Motivation from the Faculty Focus newsletter?  Point number 5 is especially important, even if it might seem a little too touchy feely!
  • And a final one about online learning... How [not] to Design an Online Course is going to be useful if you're starting to think 'I need to get this course online' and don't want to fall into the usual traps!  It's not all 'don't do this' stuff, there's some constructive advice kicking around in this one too.  
  • The quality of teaching also appeared in the news in the Times Higher in their article Post-1992s give sector an object lesson in instruction  and for an overview of HE teaching, this is a useful article to read.
  • As a diversion from learning and teaching for a mo, how about a tool which converts text to speech for you... free of charge?  I spotted SoundGecko in LifeHacker and if you'd rather listen to long articles rather than read them - this could be just the app for you.
  • MOOCs (massive open online courses) are still in the news and The Guardian covers it with an article provocatively titled MOOCs: a massive opportunity for higher education, or digital hype? The conclusion seems to be that it's too early to tell... but this is a nicely balanced overview of all things MOOC.
  • My final bit of learning technology loveliness is 8 Great Reasons to Flip Your Classroom (and 4 of the Wrong Reasons), from Bergmann and Sams - a bit of a mouthful of an article, but again since 'flipping the classroom' is one of the current educational technology trends to note, then we like anything which gives a good quick overview.  And this does!
  • And finally... a video!  This one is from the RSA Animate series called The Divided Brain and it's just... well... interesting!

And that... is that.  No more Olympics on the TV either... what will we do with our time?!


Friday, 27 July 2012

Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 21

Image from Jon Oakley under a
CC BY 2.0 license
We're in the week after graduation (I was on leave last week so no learning technology digest last week!)... and all is quiet-ish on campus.

Behind the scenes things have been *very* busy with all the preparation for the next academic year, but we've unleashed some more of our brilliant graduates into the world... and it's time to pop on the kettle, put your feet up... and enjoy the weekly learning technology digest!

  • First piece of news in the past couple of weeks was about the expansion of Coursera - Top universities join free online teaching platform - and significantly Edinburgh University has joined forces to deliver free online courses with them as well.  As the first UK institution, they've definitely earned themselves 'one to watch' status with this one.
  • Next handy thing was Handy YouTube tools for teachers which has a five things you may not have realised YouTube did and which, given that everyone has a YouTube account they can access via their university account, you might want to explore!
  • One to read is the excellent 'Innovating Pedagogy' series of reports which are coming out from the Open University.  The questions raised are important for practitioners and policy-makers.  Keep an eye on these are more appear!
  • Really like the Creative Commons license choosing tool - it really is very handy if you're considering options for making your work available through CC licensing and I would add this to my 'openness toolkit' if I were you!
  • Talking of Creative Commons licenses, did you know that YouTube breaks records with 4M Creative Commons videos?  Me neither!  What an incredible resource that's out there, huh?  For more information about the YouTube CC resource, there's a good blog post about just that thing!
  • Social media is more than simply a marketing tool for academic research appeared in The Guardian's Higher Education Network and... well... it's an article which tells you exactly what the title implies it's going to do!  A nice concise list of the things that social media might bring to your practice and why it's beneficial to be part of a wider social community.
  • Talking of getting stuff out there, did you know that Apple have now said that Any teacher can publish content to iTunesU?  Well, they have... and you can.  Which if you've got their free iPad app opens up a world of possibilities...
  • The very last thing came from the 'PowerSearching with Google' MOOC which I completed during the last week.  It's about how Google Search works, and it's an interesting little tour of the mystery that is the way Google indexes the web!

Lots of loveliness out there this week!  From insight into how search works to MOOCs expanding and ideas for learning and teaching.  All good stuff!

Have a great weekend and I'll see you next week!


Friday, 20 July 2012

Event Report: Turnitin International User Group

Image from David Coxon available under CC license
This event was held on the 16th July 2012 at the Sage in Gateshead. The Sage (see pic) if you're not familiar with it, is a large, wonderfully futuristic and modern looking building that regularly hosts a wide variety of musical events. 

This user group event was also particularly notable for having a number of the Turnitin/Iparadigms executive team members present from the Turnitin HQ in Oakland California: Chris Caren (CEO), Will Murray (VP International), Christian Storm (Chief Technology Officer and co-founder) and Steve Golik (VP Product Management). An initial introduction was given by Chris Caren and Will Murray that outlined their vision for Turnitin as a complete solution to developing and improving students writing skills (e.g. ethical writing, essay structure, referencing and citation) over the next 3 - 5 years. They saw this vision happening primarily through  development of functionality in Originality Check, GradeMark and PeerMark that would encourage more formative use of Turnitin.

 Update on Research

 Christian Storm gave us a short presentation on the research Turnitin is undertaking at present. This included: 
  • Developing the Originality Check text matching abilities across different languages (including those languages that are written right to left) 
  • The ability to exclude phrases and standard forms from the Originality Report, which would allow instructors to separate the “signal” from the “noise” when interrogating the OR
  •  Looking at addressing the international problem of “ghostwriters” or “hired hands” that allow students to pay a 3rd party for their essays to be written. Turnitin are looking at addressing this through “Stylometrics”, to see if they can get Turnitin to identify differences in a person’s writing style
  • Developing Turnitin's capacity to handle non-written work. This might include images, mathematical formulae or architectural drawings

 Q & A  

Next up we had a question and answer session involving the Executive team. This was a lively discussion which involved discussion of topics as wide ranging as: support for the welsh language, Turnitin use in legal cases (where plagiarism has been found), mobile working and any improvements to the API(Application Programming Interface). 

 Steve Golik then talked about some of the changes that have happened over the last 12 months including the introduction of: source release, audio feedback and the instructor dashboard (to also be made available to integrations over the next year). You can find out more about these features in the "what's new" area of the Turnitin site.


Chris Murray and Steve Golik then gave us an insight into planned or under discussion improvements that we may see in the near future....

  •  Integrations: API: A new version of the Turnitin API for Blackboard and Moodle.This will be a REST standard API. (Likely introduction next summer - 2013)
  •  Analytics: The ability to pull out more meaningful statistics for Turnitin usage at local level for instructors and administrators
  •  Improvements in workflows: In particular addressing the much discussed double(second) marking and moderation needs
  • Common core rubrics: Development of a shared set of core rubrics. It was outlined that this functionality applies more to the US audience than the UK however it will be interesting to see how this works in practice
  • Retrievable digital receipts: Allowing students to retrieve their digital receipt where necessary after they have submitted an assignment
  •  Flexible grading: Allowing GradeMark to handle decimal points in numeric grading and allowing letter grading 
  •  Turnitin for researchers: Developing a designated place for researchers to submit their articles/journals 
  •  Mobile working: Development and release of an IPad native app that allows both on-line and off-line grading. The potential functionality would also include a paper search function in addition to the usual audio and text commentary feedback areas. We were told that this is still very much a work in progress. (Likely early 2013)

Mobile Working

 Regarding the latter point, there was some further discussion over mobile working development. Not least I also raised the question of how lack of current mobile support presents us with a potential barrier to e-assessment. It seems currently that the Ipad is the device in favour, but there is an argument for Institutions that android is not only cheaper, but also (and if the show of hands given in the user group for those using android devices was anything to go by), used almost as much as Ipad.

Final thoughts...

 As the conference was sandwiched into an afternoon the user group meeting flew past very quickly and there were a gazillion more questions I think we would have all liked to ask. At least I think we did manage to look at some of the more salient points regarding Turnitin developments. I am also glad to hear that Turnitin have improved upon their communications strategies with Institutional administrators and will also look forward to seeing some of these function developments arrive (second marking and improved admin interface ahem!).

 Finally I would also like to thank Turnitin for the many freebies in the delegate packs: A hand fan (with lights thanks to some sort of crazy sensor!) bag,  programme, poster and pen...I am impressed.


Friday, 13 July 2012

Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 20

Image from Mohamed Muha, under a
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license
Today's image was a toss up between some kind of cake - to celebrate 20 weekly learning technology digests (it made sense in my head at the time!) - or something to transport you away from the grey and rain of our extremely dismal summer.  I've gone for the latter!

So... kick back, relax... and enjoy the loveliness of the learning technology treats I've found this week...

  • The first article worth a mention is 4 Questions to ask before implementing education technology - there's nothing ground-breaking here, but the simplicity of the questions to ask are extremely useful but often overlooked.
  • I also spotted a handy '7 Things' from Educause, this one is 7 Things you should know about projecting from mobile devices and it's a) handy to know about and b) could be useful for turning the floor over to your learners if they're working with mobile devices and you want them to share what they've created.  As ever, the simple Educause approach makes these guides a great way into a subject!
  • And by way of a little bit of interestingness, 20 Illuminating facts about Twitter from the PR Daily including 'If Twitter were a country, it would be the 12th largest in the world' and '11 Twitter accounts are created every second' - phewie those are some big numbers! Twitter is on the 'too large to dismiss list', I think.
  • Now, this one isn't strictly learning technology, but it is about learning - How goals and good intentions hold us back which appeared on the 99% website.  I like the handy reminder that revelling in the process can keep us motivated far longer than focussing on the long term goal.  Thought provoking!
  • The Guardian's Higher Education Network article Academic blogging: minority scholars can not afford to be silent is also well worth a look.  Blogging offers academics a ready way to engage with others and build strong learning networks as well as making your work visible.
  • Sage on the stage your time is up appeared in the Times Higher and it is a call for the support of innovative teaching rather than treating it as being an outlier in education.  Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor of the Open University is quoted as saying 'You may not like this world, but it is coming at you at a million miles an hour' - true.  Very very true. 
  • ... and for just a little more educational provokation... University lectures are a legacy of our pre-digital past from the Sydney Morning Herald should be on your reading list.  If for no other reason than the 'quiet season' during the summer is a great period to think about your teaching practices and challenge yourself to think a little different!
  • And the last thing to read is Digital resources: Researchers need better access and more training - a response to the JISC Researchers of Tomorrow paper from the head of higher education at the British Library.  A useful additional perspective.
  • Oh, and I have a video for you too... it's related to the article about blogging and Twitter above... it's about the Power of Networks brought to life by RSA Animate based on a talk given by Microsoft's Manuel Lima (interesting and excellent to watch too!)...

    And that really is that for the week.

    Plenty of stuff to read - from learner motivation to presenting with mobiles, challenges to think about the role of the lecture and the digital skills needed for our future researchers. Never a quiet moment!

    See you next week


    Friday, 6 July 2012

    Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 19

    Image from Craig Allen, under a
    CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license
    What a rainy week it's been!  I seem to comment on the weather most weeks at the moment, but it really is a pretty grim excuse for a summer.  The one up-side of it is that you're less likely to want to go outside and having something interesting to read is more appealing (cue link to the weekly learning technology digest!)...

    So... here are a few interesting ed tech things to read that I spotted on the web this last week...

    • JISC Inform 34 came out at the tail end of last week - too late to be included in last week's digest - but it's rammed full of excellent articles including one from Aaron Porter about the student experience, an interesting article about TED talks and more about future researchers and their use of technology.
    • From The Guardian came a provocatively titled piece called 'Academics need to spend more time  teaching and less time marking' and as someone who's spent hours and hours and hours and hours of her life marking... often at the expense of other far more worthwhile things... can I just say... yes! There has to be a better way out there...
    • For a few learning and teaching ideas, although this has been out for a while, I saw something which reminded me how handy the 3E Framework from Edinburgh Napier University is for thinking about elearning within the curriculum.  The Es stand for 'Enhance', 'Extend' and 'Empower' - from fairly basic enhancement with technology to empowering learners for a world beyond their degree.  Useful examples in there too.
    • I also liked the 'Introduction to Instructional Design: videos' shared by George Veletsianos at the University of Texas.  These are some great resources 
    • Something a little more techie - Google did some spring cleaning in summer - which is their way of telling you what they're stopping supporting.  This time out iGoogle is due for the chop in November 2013, and Google Talk Chat Back as well as Google Mini are going.  Google do this from time to time which is why a good approach to their tools is to stick with the core tools, and treat the others in a more thematic way.  In other words, 'I'm using this as a way to support cloud-based note taking' rather than 'Google Notebook is *the* tool for note-taking'.
    • That said, LifeHacker offered 'The Best Google features you're probably not using' and there are lots of things there that will make you go 'oh, that could be handy'... which is always handy!
    • Mobile technologies continue to grow and an article in ReadWriteWeb called Top Trends of 2012: The Continuing Rapid Growth of Mobile points out very neatly how this is happening. Mobile is increasingly going to matter in learning and teaching - why not take learning out of the classroom?
    • Oh, and don't think that openness wasn't on the agenda - another article in The Guardian's Higher Education Network asked Are open educational resources the key to global economic growth? - and some of the figures shared in this article are pretty darned impressive to say the least!
    • Talking of mobile, one of the biggest mobile apps is Instagram - which is a photo-sharing app, but which allows people to give their images a vintage feel through the use of filters - and if you fancy some ideas on how you could use it in education... Education Rethink gave Ten Ideas for Using Instagram in the Classroom - which was good of them!
    • The final thing to share this week is a video resource... this one is pretty long at 40+ minutes, but since our students love to use Google Scholar, then why not point them towards a video that helps to teach them about it?

    And that... is just about that for another week!  Here's hoping for a bit of summery sunshine in the next few days... at least the flow of information and news will continue to brighten things up regardless of the weather!!

    Stay dry.  Stay inside.  Stay happy!


    Friday, 29 June 2012

    Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 18

    Image from Benson Kua available under
    a CC BY-SA 2.0 license
    Another week has whizzed by and another selection of learning technology goodies has appeared before my very eyes.  In fact, it's been pretty jam packed - there was a new report out from JISC, a new feature in Google+ launched, I've seen interesting articles on course design, how to use Pinterest in education... and... well... lots of good stuff!

    Right, let's get cracking with this week's Learning Technology Digest!
    • First thing spotted was that JISC published a report yesterday on the Researchers of Tomorrow and it's clear that a lack of digital literacy (or perhaps digital confidence), understanding of copyright and open resources are some of the messages which come through very strongly here.  The divide between personal and academic use of technologies such as blogs, wikis, Twitter etc is also apparent and if you're after something a bit more meaty to read this week... read this.  And if you'd like to listen to a podcast from one of the report authors, then you can do that too! 
    • Google also launched Google+ Events and having had a quick first look at them, this looks to be a really worthwhile development for Google+, not least the way it integrates Events with Google Calendar... giving it lots of potential, especially for institutions with Google Apps.
    • Educational Technology and Mobile Learning brought out their Educators Guide to the use of Pinterest in Education which not only explains what Pinterest is (you've either had a go or heard of it somewhere along the line) but gives you some tutorials to look at, ideas for professional development as well as some things to bear in mind.  Very useful.
    • From Gráinne Conole's excellent e4innovation blog was this nice article on the 7 Principles of Learning Design and is definitely worth adding to your 'technology enhanced learning bookmarks' (in my head I imagine that people have this!)
    • At this time of year a lot of people are knee deep in marking... so obviously a break from marking would be welcome, right?  How about the Grading Game to take your mind of all that assessment stuff?  Fun, huh?  :o)
    • Okay, back to slightly more serious stuff... there's a relatively new '7 Things' article from Educause to take a peek at.  This one is called 7 Things you should know about badges and if, like me, you struggle a bit to see the worth of digital tokens of achievement... then this briefing will at least fill you in on the background to them!
    • The final thing spotted in this past week was the launch of the Live Restart functionality in the BBC's hugely popular iPlayer.  It changes watching live TV into an experience much more like that offered by Sky.  Could also make having students watch a live version of a programme just that bit more flexible than a strictly synchronous experience!
    If I were you, I'd get reading that JISC report... and after that... pop your feet up... take a breather... and enjoy the weekend!

    See you next Friday!


    Friday, 22 June 2012

    Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 17

    Image from carboNYC available under a
    CC BY 2.0 license
    It feels like a really short week this week some how - despite us passing the longest day as we headed towards this Friday!  Despite that feeling, it's still been a week which had oodles of interesting bits and bobs to look at and think about.

    Let's start off with a bit of tech news...
    • Guess what?  Microsoft launched a competitor to the iPad* - it's called the 'Surface' (which sounds like a weird combination of Apple's 'Siri' and Facebook) and there was an interesting article in The Guardian about the Apple-ification of Microsoft which is worth a look.
    • Academic publishing: The essential checklist for ebook authors isn't tech news particularly, but if you are thinking about new and different models for producing content these 5 ways to improve your content might be right up your street.
    • ... and if you're wondering why ebooks are worth thinking about, then IDC Increases Media Tablet Forecast should flag that the growth of mobile computing with more tablets shipping is a trend to watch in terms of the delivery of learning on such platforms.
    • 8 Resources for Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism is also related to ebooks - if you're creating ebooks or encouraging your students to do so as part of their learning, then you really do have to get your head around the issue of plagiarism and think about how to prevent it (as far as possible)
    • Plagiarism from CommonCraft is a nice little video (in the style of the other 'plain English' type videos they've put out in the past) and might be a good way to introduce your students to the topic
    •  Meanwhile, Stanford are upping the pressure on higher education institutions worldwide with the news that they're adding a social learning component to their free online courses. When you're talking about enhancing courses with an enrolment of 400,000 students, this is learning on a really massive scale.
    • Extending the learning environment from JISC came out as well and is a really fascinating publication - instead of thinking about virtual learning environments thinking about distributed learning environments as well as looking at open institutional data (a very hot topic).  The message is that students want a seamless experience and if you'd like to find out more, then head off to that publication.
    • Playing at war, pestilence and death (but it's only a model - shh) was a fantastically titled article in the Times Higher Education and if you've heard of serious gaming but aren't sure how it might apply in your teaching practice, then this review of how serious games have been used at a range of instutions is a great place to start.
    Oh, and I forgot to mention 'Using social media to boost student employability' and 'Teaching with Twitter' which The Guardian's Higher Education Network put out recently and which I stashed away in my bookmarks for later!

    Quite a random selection of stuff I think - everything from serious games to plagiarism, ebooks and a little sprinkling of social media.  And Surface.  Already that seems to have slipped from my mind.  Whoops!

    Until next week!


    * other tablet computers are available!  :o)

    Saturday, 16 June 2012

    Weekly Learning Technology Digest... 16

    A bit of blue sky for you after a very grey week!
    So... the weekly Learning Technology Digest is creeping out of the stalls a day late.  Whoops!  Was just too busy to write it yesterday... was at the Google European User Group at the University of Portsmouth (will blog about that later) and my day was rammed with driving / hearing about interesting things / giving a presentation / hearing about more interesting stuff / more driving!  Hence... we're a little late with the digest, but that doesn't mean that there hasn't been lots to look at.

    Let's get started...

    • Social Media in Higher Education - a case study - though this is a US-based study, it's still an interesting read and you know what tickled me most?  The things that get liked on Facebook by students!  Apparently if you mention Friday in any post, even if it's a Monday, they're more likely to 'like' it!  :o)
    • Ever wondered what happens to YouTube videos when you die?  No?  Oh, come on... anyway, Mashable had the answer this week!
    • I spotted a publication from JISC which might be interesting to read - especially because we've just got an institutional license for PebblePad at the university - 'Crossing the threshold - moving ePortfolios into the mainstream'.  Packed with case studies and ideas, this is well worth a look.  Like the range of formats they're offering the publication in too - great stuff.
    • Though this is a little bit 'marketing-speak', the 6 types of social media user (infographic) from Smart Insights is pretty handy.  Particularly if you are using any kind of social media to supplement your learning and teaching, getting to understand how people are interacting with your content is really useful.
    • Another infographic - this one's the revolution of email - and comes from  Now, it may or may not be of interest, but if ever you're trying to explain to someone where things have come from and where they're headed with learning technology, knowing about some of these sorts of facts and stats can be handed!
    • Oh, and a sneak peak came in Edudemic of a new search engine for scholarly articles called, unsurprisingly,  Think this will be one to watch out for - the way it ranks free articles higher than ones behind a paywall is particularly interesting given the recent debates about academic publishing.
    • I'm going to lump together a few interesting articles I saw in The Guardian because there were three that I think are particularly worth heading over to - Teaching with Twitter: how the social network can contribute to learning, What is an internet troll? and if you have no time to read either of those two, make a little bit of time for Using the web for learning and teaching - a new understanding.  The last article is a really thoughtful bit of writing on the way people engage online using the visitors and residents model (as opposed to the rather awkward idea of 'Digital Natives' from Marc Prensky).  Bookmark and read later if necessary!
    • 10 technology skills every educator should have - from the Educational Technology Guy - mostly I'd agree, though I think I'd swap the hardware skills for knowledge of copyright etc!
    • And finally... a little bit of YouTube joy to send you off with... it's a parody video of Gotye's 'Somebody that I used to know' and... apologies for the language in places (I didn't write the lyrics, y'know!)... but it did make me laugh!

      And that was the week in learning technology. Oodles of interesting stuff. Oodles to think about. Oodles of 'hadn't thought about that' moments.  As ever!

      Until next week...

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