Archive for March, 2008

Reflective Blog part 4 ( more analysis, 1. Affordances)

March 26, 2008


here we go again, had a great week away skiing, thrown myself down at least 2 mountains, every muscle in my body aching, had a great time !!

I had some excellent comments from Christina on how I can analyse my reflections to take my thinking further. Here are some areas that Christina suggests that I can analyse :

  1. The Camtasia tours you have created that students don’t seem to be engaging with is a good example of the affordances of narrated screencasts that aren’t being realised-why?
  2. Why and where do you expect audio to improve your module?
  3. How has the WP debate affected you in your thinking around the quality assurance activities currently carried out at your uni or about the poor submission rate?
  4. The assignment you report that hasn’t been submitted-might it be worth describing and reviewing it’s relevance? 

Is it only technologists that have to number every thing ? Still can deal with these one at a time.

1.  I found this article on

There are today a number of educational video sites modeled on commercial or public Web 2.0 technologies such as YouTube. These sites often archive (with easy search capabilities) video clips of educators talking – essentially employing technology as a conduit for the transmission of information. There is undeniable value in capturing and sharing the world’s most creative teachers’ discussions of their favorite subjects. However, we argue that limiting the use of digital video to the mere transmission of classroom lectures does not take full advantage of the capabilities of the medium. 

In contrast, we believe that digital video technologies offer unique opportunities (through interactivity and user-generated content) to rethink the instructional paradigm particularly to match the needs of the subject to be taught. The technology now makes it possible to capture computer displays to create screencasts, combine images with student narration for digital storytelling, and construct digital animations such as Flash movies, among other possibilities. As a result of emergent technological advances and concomitant expansion of the affordances of the medium, the definition of digital video and digital movies is broader than in the past. As we shall see, the best uses of digital video can vary dramatically from one content area to another.

The article suggest the following relationships :TPCK model

 Another article which supports the benefits of screencasting compared to other technologies such as narrated PowerPoints and Video Conferencing :

Screencasting— Camtasia, Captivate, Snapz,       Computer software         Self-paced for learners, higher
                         Viewlet Cam and Builder             tutorials,Simulations       resolution and more annotation

so where am I going wrong , Christina suggested affordance?

 “An affordance is a quality of an object, or an environment, that allows an individual to perform an action.”

“Well-designed objects make it clear how they work just by looking at them. Some doors have big metal plates at arm-level. The only thing you can do to a metal plate is push it. In the words of Donald Norman, the plate affords pushing. Other doors have big, rounded handles that just make you want to pull them. They even imply how they want you to place your hand on the handle. The handle affords pulling. It makes you want to pull .”
 more clues come from the following quote :
“This expanded view of pedagogical reasoning can be described as the ways knowledge about tools and their affordances, pedagogy, content, learners, and context are synthesized into an understanding of how particular topics can be taught with technology in ways that signify the added value of technology”.
 Grainne Conole, the Professor of e-learning OU
states :
“Some students like the reflective nature of blogs, others don’t and prefer the more targeted discussions which are possible in the forums. We wanted the students to get a feel for the technologies so that they could then make up their own minds on the different affordances of the technologies and their own personal preferences.”

The figure lists ten common pedagogical affordances that a teacher might want to promote – the opportunity to provide students with an authentic experience, getting students to critically reflect, enabling them to communicate or collaborate with others, etc. Then the idea is that as part of the design process you decide to what extent particular tools or tasks promote these pedagogical affordances and use this as a basis for tool and task selection in the creation of a learning activity.


From the above articles we can see that applications such as sceencasting are very useful tools but not the ultimate solution to delivering content. There is much more to teaching a student how to use a particular piece of software than just by talking them through it and showing them how to do it as a captured screencast. Does it take into account all leaner preferences ?
Although a student can rewind a screencast tutorial, there may be a problem that he still does not understand, who does he then call ? his peers, his tutor ? He may think he can watch the tutorial upon returning from work or the SU ie does he need to attend the formal tuorials at all with this type of facility avalable ? Affordance suggests that it is not perfoming the function the tutor or student expects, for example :-
  • Authenticity- is this real world ie simulated experience as being apprenticed to an expert  ?
  • Interaction- can the student interact and query the screen cast ?
  • Collaboration- can the student collaborate with others either on-line or within a class to aid their learning.
On reflection I would say no to all the above. I would change my strategy from :-
  • Lecture- Inspiration, good examples, talk them through the principles and techniques.
  • Screencast led tutorials
to :
  • Fewer lectures, howver keep the inspiration and principles
  • Work collaboratively on given apprentice pieces.
  • Fewer screen casts, there are too many for every eventuality and it must have become confusing.
  • Redesign Vista to include more staged progression ie degrees of difficulty as we go through the module.
  • Take more account of different learning styles ie some students prefere more audio or text based content rather than visual media, some like to work on thier own, others in groups.
More to think about !!

Reflective Blog Part 3 ( widening participation)

March 10, 2008


interesting how coincidences happen !! I have recently had a bit of a hard time from management on why my module ( along with many other modules) have high non submission rates, currently 25% for a cohort of 270 students. Even the external examiner made the comment that the majority of non submissions were due to repeating students. I had these terrible statistics hurled at me as if I was a rogue lecturer, one member of staff commented that I should have redesigned the assignment so that they did not run away. However technology is truly wonderful and I have religiously kept on-line registers and can monitor engagement via Vista. I can clearly see that they have not even seen the assignment never mind read it !! So whats going on ?

I know that I have been asked by students to give them more conventional seminars during laboratory time in the PC labs instead of point them to the multitude of learning objects I have created using Camtasia ( I sweated blood over those !!). I spent a great deal of time putting together the WebCT Vista VLE with all the information required in a structured format with Learning objects to support my lectures, yet all they want is someone to talk to !! ie Synchronous communication.

I know that some students don’t attend because they have work commitments and because they have so much information on Vista, do these able students need to come in ? Why can’t they stop at home and use their own personal machine and come in if they need help ?

 I know that managemnt now review modules as well as courses, they have already axed a number of poorly performing awards, it looks like the poorly performing modules are next. I just wish they would look at the story behind the statistics. I know our University is very aware of any poor performance and makes sure we maintain standards. We have had a number of QAA reviews that have been very favourable so we must be doing something right. I just hope that the changing face of HE takes note of widening access and the pressure on staff to perform.

 The comments in last weeks Telegraph made thoughtful reading.

 Uk HE retention no better than 2002 even though £1billion had been pumped into supporting students from poorer backgrounds.

So can technology reach out and help these students who don’t want to come in and submit ? I am not sure, its all about committment, maybe the assessment design could be on-line for the first week ie a skills audit and use this as a basis for generating an initial mark to determine which students are engaging and which ones are not. Immediate action could then be taken to chase up and help these students.

I have enjoyed our on-line seminars on WP and there is much useful discussion that can point to the right direction.