Posts Tagged ‘Teaching Pods’

Twitter in the University Classroom: Live-Tweeting During Lectures

January 3, 2013 3 comments

My second blog post reflecting on teaching innovations of 2012 is dedicated to my use of Twitter during one undergraduate module in the year just passed. My original intention, in embedding a Twitter widget within one of my Moodle pages, was merely to issue the occasional message to students to aid communication of, for instance, my progress with marking of their assessments. However, when I announced our ‘official’ Twitter hashtag to the students, to my surprise and delight, they started to use it not just for my module but to tweet about other areas of the programme as well. Even students not on the module started using the hashtag!

A few weeks into my module, I discovered that students who brought to class mobile devices that were connected to the wireless network (see my previous post on BYOD) had been tweeting on the lecture during the lecture, prompting me to tweet back during the break. At this point, with the help of several colleagues from the Learning Development Centre (thanks are due to Neal Sumner, Siân Lindsay, and particularly Ajmal Sultany), I investigated a means of live-tweeting during lectures without interrupting the rest of the teaching such as my use of PowerPoint and audiovisual examples.

Chris Wiley - Live-Tweeting During LecturesHaving looked into a number of different desktop-based Twitter clients to see whether they would meet my rather specific requirements, I found that Twhirl worked perfectly, with a search set up for the hashtag. I needed to increase the number of seconds for which the desktop alert is displayed, to give the students sufficient time to read it before it disappeared (I have to confess that since the alerts are only visible for c.15 seconds, a student and I had to mock up the photograph, right). I also found it necessary to lower the resolution on my laptop, because otherwise the alerts would have appeared off the far right-hand side of the screen when projected through the teaching pod.

It took a little while to get it just right, but having found workarounds for the various technological and logistical challenges, in several classes (with the aid of my trusty iPad) I provided a running Twitter feed before, during, and after the lecture, which helped keep students’ attention focussed on the key points and issues particularly when audiovisual examples were playing. A few students (though perhaps not as many as I’d hoped) followed my lead and tweeted their own thoughts too, all of which were displayed in real-time on the projector screen at the front of the classroom. We also received tweets from former students who have taken the module in the past, from staff elsewhere in the University who picked up news of the lectures via Twitter, and even, occasionally, retweets from users unknown to us – an ideal reminder that we were discussing real-life issues that have a bearing on the real world, beyond the confines of the University.

Disadvantages to live-tweeting include that the author of a given message is publicly identified rather than anonymous (perhaps this was why some students were using the hashtag only outside the classroom, rather than having their tweets appear on the projector screen during class), and that the tutor cannot anticipate the appearance or content of a tweet so there is a danger that it might interrupt the flow of the lecture. Nonetheless, although an ambitious undertaking it did seem to be an effective way of using Twitter to enhance teaching, without placing it at the centre of teaching. It also provided a novel means of engaging the students – including some who might not have been quick to contribute to face-to-face class discussion.

Were I to take Twitter back into the University classroom in the future, there are a couple of additional possibilities I might seek to implement. One is to pass a mobile device or two round the class and appoint specific students to be responsible for providing a running Twitter commentary for a given lecture. Another is to embed tweets within my PowerPoint presentation via add-in Twitter Tools, such that they are automatically posted (and the alert received) upon reaching the associated slide. Using these Twitter Tools, it is even possible to include a tweet cloud in a PowerPoint presentation, and to embed a real-time Twitter ticker feed at the bottom of each slide, which might ultimately obviate the need to use a desktop-based client. Much to think about for 2013!

Use of the Personal Response System for Formative Assessment in Optometry: Dr Byki Huntjens and Dr Steve Gruppetta

With the recent founding of the University Personal Response System (PRS) Steering Group, co-chaired by Dr Siân Lindsay and Farzana Latif, this would seem to be an opportune time to profile one of the innovative approaches implemented within the University in using PRS technology for formative assessment.

Dr Byki Huntjens and Dr Steve Gruppetta are lecturers in the Division of Optometry and Visual Science who have introduced the PRS to undergraduate students in order that they may receive immediate classroom feedback during Clinical Skills and Optics lectures. A PRS handset is given to the students (against a small deposit) throughout their degree programme, and is registered to their name to enable responses to be matched to individuals. Each lecture features a succession of multiple choice questions (MCQ). Byki’s practice is to start later lectures with a set of MCQs covering the previous topic plus the background reading for the class, and test the students’ understanding of the new topic later on during the lecture. Steve includes material that potentially encompasses the previous lecture, the current lecture, or even paves the way for a new topic to be discussed. The end result is a series of technology-enabled formative assessments.

Although only the group scores are shown during lectures and the progress of individual students is not revealed, the results of the quizzes are uploaded to Moodle each week by topic and the students are thereby able to check their individual score. This enables them to track their progress over time, and doubles as a reminder of the topics to which they need to direct particular attention prior to the examinations. The Moodle grade book also shows the students’ ranking among the whole group, leading some of them to become slightly competitive. Indeed, the element of competition is actively nurtured – the top five students with the highest marks in the year are awarded a prize at the divisional Prize Giving event.

The students have shown excitement during the PRS quizzes and appreciate the immediacy of the feedback, the anonymity of the process, and the way that it articulates the lecture by providing an interlude. Steve has developed the practice of making the PRS quizzes, which he calls the ‘Optics Challenge’, distinct from the rest of the lecture by changing the background of the slide from white to black (see screenshot below). The students’ responses are also used by the tutors to adapt subsequent lectures to the level of understanding of the specific cohort; this has prompted a change of direction on several occasions. In addition, this information has enhanced the support that the tutors are able to offer when students have sought extra help.

The Optics Challenge Leaderboard

Byki delivered a presentation on the use of PRS technology for formative assessment at the Fourth Annual ‘Learning at City’ Conference on 13 June, 1.20-2.00pm (the video is available here).

Christopher Wiley, Byki Huntjens, and Steve Gruppetta
with thanks to Siân Lindsay and Farzana Latif

A day in the life of a Teaching Pod

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Its been an interesting journey for the Pod.

It all started way back in 2006 when a Classroom Experience initiative brought in over £1.4M to purchase over 80 Pods for the Northampton Square campus!

Over the years, these pods became problematic and a number of issues were being reported through the Classroom Experience Steering Group.  The group at that time, consisted of a range of mainly IT staff and so a re-haul of the group was put into action. In addition, a Pod Evaluation was undertaken in 2011. The aim of the evaluation was to demonstrate what our staff use and their experiences. The evaluation was also connected to the Strategic Learning Environment(SLE)  & has been used to help inform the design of learning environment at City in the future.

Meanwhile the Classroom Experience Steering group had been renamed to Learning Spaces group which now consists of academic staff from all schools, students, Student Union, IT senior members for eg IS and AV Support. The Pod Evaluation ran between Feb. – Mar. 2011. and included a mixed method approach. This consisted of a survey followed by semi-structured Interviews with a number of staff.

The areas identified as problematic within the Pod Evaluation were speed of the Pods, poorly maintained equipment or insufficient knowledge.  The recommendations that followed were:

  1. to establish the reasons behind the slow speed of Pods and to assess whether it’s down to old equipment or configuration problems.
  2. to put in place a strategy to ensure all Pods remain up to date with software versions and working hardware.
  3. to develop a strategy for raising awareness on what the Pod can do through the school liaison model.  The support available needs to be joined up between schools, the Learning Development Centre and the AV Support.

The evaluation was raised at all the formal committees including Strategy & Governance and wheels were set into motion for ensuring we develop the recommendations via the Learning Spaces group. The Learning Spaces Group (LSG) have since then developed & tested the Pod to make it faster, more intuitive and help staff get to grips with the changes.  The Teaching Pod has two guides:

  1. Pod1Pager
  2. PodGuide

Oh my Pod sessions have been run across the Northampton Square site in Sep. & Oct 2011 to ensure staff are being trained on the pods.  This evaluation has led to a business case to review the current offering for not only teaching equipment but also to think more widely about our learning spaces within the campus to ensure a consistent teaching and learning experience for all staff and students.

If you’d like to know more about this project, please contact the ldc.

10 Top Tips on using Your Teaching Pod

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Based on staff feedback from the Pod Evaluation here are a few ideas on using the Pods in your teaching:

  1. Use the pods’ connection to the internet, projected display and audio to bring the outside world into teaching . For example you and your class can view relevant online content such as journal and news articles or streamed videos.
  2. Use the visualiser to enable your whole class to see demonstrations that are too small for those sitting at the back of the class to see. For example, magnify the structure of tiny microchips or demonstrate wave formation in a sealed vessel holding water.
  3. Use the Sympodium Notebook software as your ‘digital flipchart/whiteboard’ that never runs out of paper or whiteboard space!
  4. Use the visualiser to show your entire class processes or objects that are difficult to ‘digitise’. For example use the visualiser to show old maps or historic texts.
  5. Use the pen tool of the Sympodium to annotate or highlight content on a web page, Word document or PowerPoint presentation to help you reiterate or stress a particular teaching point.
  6. For mathematics lecturers – did you know that you can use the Sympodium pen tool and Notebook software to write pages of equations that can be saved as a single PDF to give out to your students?
  7. For groupwork – use the visualiser to allow groups within your class to share their work with the rest of the class.
  8. Use the InkAware features of the Sympodium and the pen tool to create blank ‘on-the-fly’ slides during a PowerPoint presentation that can show, for example, class feedback as the result of an unexpected discussion.
  9. Use the high-resolution display and audio of the pods to play excerpts from DVDs which are relevant to the subject matter you are discussing in class.
  10. Turn the Sympodium around to face the class and invite your students to interact with the content on the screen. For example, ask individuals to use the Sympodium pen to solve equations displayed in a PowerPoint presentation.

If you have more ideas, please do add to this list by comments underneath. Don’t forget to sign up for an Oh My Pod! session so you are aware of all the changes to your teaching Pod.

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