marloft's blog

Assessment: More 'go make it' and Less 'go find it'

 Sharon Flynn presented a lively, interactive workshop on plagiarism at last week'sCELT Conference on teaching and learning.  She started by giving a tour of essay mills and bespoke writing service websites.  There is a preying, vampirish feel to these sites and the 'writers' who live there.  I can't imagine this being an occupation of choice - though we were reminded of the Chronicle of Higher Education profile of just such a ghostwriter who claimed to 'live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created'.  

I was struck by the 'reality distortion field' they create in their communication with prospective student clientele. On the one hand they blatantly offer to do the work of researching and writing the assignment to the exact requirements of the student - right down to the preferred grade and writing style.  On the other hand they advise that their output should not be submitted as finished work and is only intended to support the student's own effort.  


CESImeet in Tipperary

 Last weekend, I attended #cesimeet and the #ICTedu conference of Irish educators In Tipperary.  I arrived late to the Friday night #cesimeet event - after a long drive from Sligo.  The very first impression I got was of a welcoming wave of warmth and calm.  Mags Amond (@magsamond) has a way of setting a tone of conversational collegiality which immediately puts a relative stranger at ease and conveys a feeling that you are among friends. Our shared Twitter history also helped :)

This was my 3rd #cesimeet experience and each time I have been struck by the supportive and encouraging atmosphere.  Here, educators from all levels, primary, secondary and third level share tips and tricks of pedagogy and technology.  You can pass only a sheet of paper between those taking the podium and their audience.  Everyone is learning from each other in an air of conviviality and fun. These are conversations - not presentations.


This impromptu video by Bernie Goldbach @topgold (demonstrating the Google+ new recording feature for hangouts) gives some flavour of the informal, 'lets try this out' atmosphere of the event.  It's all about learning together.


Great educators, great community, great future - CESI12

 That CESI Feeling

Last weekend I attended briefly at #CESI12 - the Computer Education Society of Ireland Annual Conference and the curtain-raiser teachmeet event, #CESIMeet.  The teachmeet involved educators taking the floor for very short, focussed presentations to share their direct experience with some aspect of technology and learning.  Running alongside that was a raffle, much merriment and a general air of camaraderie - lead by an amiable and very able Bean an Tí, Mags Amond.  That sense of fun is the immediate impression you get of CESI.  Another striking note is that CESI has been going for many, many years.  A quick look at the about page tells you that CESI was initially constituted in 1973.  So, teachers have been gathering like this for decades, in their own time, to share, show and encourage each other and you can feel that depth of commitment and connection throughout the event.  

3^4 years young - Peggy Cunney

Today, we celebrate my Aunt-in-law's 81st birthday.  She's an inspirational woman.  Born on the last day of 1930, she earned a scholarship to go to boarding school in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo.  Without this, she would not have gone beyond primary level education.  There she met a maths mentor in one of the 'Louis Nuns' who saw her potential.  She earned a  Maths degree at NUI Galway in 1952 (need to verify this date) - one of the first women to do so.  Her vocation is teaching and she shared her gift for maths with young people in London, Pakistan, Benada, Co. Sligo and then spent 35 years teaching higher level maths in Foxford, Co. Mayo. 
At 81, she is still teaching maths.  Local students pay their stipend in confectionery and in return they get a lifetime's worth of insight and practice of Leaving Cert maths.  Some of them go on to third level and when they encounter more tricky numbers, they come back to her again for a bit of perspective.

Quora - my first Use Case


Today was the first time I used Quora in anger.  Well maybe not anger... but I needed an answer to a straightforward, almost technical question: I wanted a simple PDF converter quickly for a client's PC.  We've all been there, right? The seemingly simple task that ends up taking an hour of trial and error and leaves you with an end result that you are still not happy with. This is just the kind of question that Google advertisers swarm around, thereby obfuscating the simple answers.
Then I remembered Quora - the new social Q&A site described here as Twitter + Wikipedia.  So, far all I've done with Quora is follow people I already follow on Twitter.  I have just started to read some meaty questions and answers - but essentially I haven't engaged in any meaningful way.  Undeterred, I typed into the Quora search box: 'pdf conver' and at that point noticed the following question appear:
Q. How does one convert .doc files to .pdf files?

Should the narrator read the slide notes verbatim? Opinions please...

I’m developing some materials to support student elearning activities and I'm using Articulate.  For the uninitiated, the basic layout is the same as Powerpoint – a slide, a notes section and the ability to easily add audio narration.  As a learner, I really appreciate the benefits of audio.  It brings a human quality to written materials and I can listen in the car or at other opportune times.  But how does audio cooperate – or compete – with visuals?
Multiple Representation Principle
I asked the nice people on Twitter for their opinions and Jane Bozarth (@janebozarth) replied with a great research based article on how narrating slide content has been shown to ‘hurt the learning’.  From Mayer’s (2007) research, if you present audio and text on screen simultaneously, you overload the visual processing centres in the brain and reduce the learning effectiveness.  He calls it the ‘multiple representation principle’.

That @topgold - he's an educator!

I'm trying to get to grips with some new elearning development techniques at the moment - one of which is the narration of learning materials.  It's been a long time since I've grappled with mics and audio levels - so I tweeted @topgold to see if he could offer any recommendations on microphones.  He was one of the first tweeters I followed - and ever since he has regularly offered nuggets of wisdom on podcasting, creative use of social media and innovation in education.  
@topgold Bernie, do you have any recommendations for a microphone? I'm narrating some learning materials and need good quality sound.
His response to my inquiry was not what I expected!  Fortunately for me, it seems I asked the question at the right time.  Bernie is currently preparing for @dotconf in Dublin next week - where he will be answering similar questions.  First, he replied via Twitter with a video showing three different mic setups: 

International Womens' Day

An old friend posted this today in celebration of International Womens' Day. In it Maya Angelou speaks of the capacity of the human spirit to rise in the face of oppression, hurt, fear, loss...  

The last two lines go:

'I am the hope and the dream of the slave
And so naturally, there I go risin'

I wonder about our mothers, grandmothers, great, great great grandmothers.  What did they dream for us?


Google Wave

 I played with Google Wave again today - and I'm beginning to find my feet.  Articles from LifeHacker (thanks @pixievondust) and give a good overview of the Wave platform and are packed with easy to follow 'how tos'.  That said Wave comes with a learning curve - it's not as intuitive as I expected.

Some of the things that took me a long time to figure out include:

1. To search public waves: in the search box type with:public searchterm.

Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences

Education & training systems need to allow for the fact that we all learn best in different ways.  In this video Howard Gardner explains his theory of multiple intelligences and explores what it might mean for education in the future.  Is it utopia?

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