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The New Learning Space: Experiences of Three Different Classes

January 24, 2013 1 comment

My final blog post reflecting on newly implemented practices last year is a long-overdue write-up of my experiences teaching different classes in one of City’s innovative Learning Spaces, which have been much talked about recently on Educational Vignettes. I have followed the Learning Spaces project with interest since its inception, so I was delighted that in Summer Term, I was able to book one of the rooms, which have been heavily in demand all year.

In May and June 2012, I ran three classes conceived with the new space in mind, which, between them, covered a variety of different fields of study (study skills, popular music, and classical music) and types of teaching (tutorial, seminar, and lecture-based). My view is that it simply would not have been possible to have taught these classes in the same way in a traditional classroom, and that the new Learning Space enabled a more interactive, engaging, and stimulating manner of teaching.

(1) First-year tutor group on SWOT and Time Management, 14 May 2012

First-year tutor group on SWOT and Time ManagementFor this tutorial session, intended to deliver academic skills to first-year undergraduates to smooth the transition to tertiary education, I had prepared two tasks they were to complete in pairs. The one that especially benefitted from the Learning Space was the SWOT task, for which, having explained the basics, I asked the students to write down strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats on separate sticky labels which were then affixed on the wall-based glass panels under headings I had previously stuck to the wall. (We could have used the special pens on the glass instead of sticky notes, but when I tested this beforehand, the writing turned out to be not particularly visible.)

Given that students tend to love sitting behind tables and having the space to put everything on the surface in front of them, I was particularly interested to see that when they entered the classroom, they immediately arranged the chairs in a line, moving them away from the tables and towards the centre of the room (see picture, right). Despite having a relatively large space for such a small group, with several tables to choose from, when I asked them to split up and move to different tables, they all clustered around the same table to begin with and I had to encourage them to break out into pairs. Nonetheless, I suspect that more groupwork than pairwork surreptitiously took place…

The students did acknowledge that the chairs were not at quite the right heights for the tables, and that the two parts of the petal tables made for an awkward height difference for the person sat at the join. I also observed with interest that the student who sat on the highest chair was the one who took the lead in discussion!

(2) Second-year seminar on Television Talent Discovery Shows, 22 May 2012

In my next class in the Learning Space, I adopted a similar teaching method in commencing the seminar by inviting students, working in groups of 2-4, to write down on sticky notes as many acts associated with UK television talent discovery shows since 2000 as they could recall, and then to place them under the headings I had previously put up on the glass wall panels. I asked students to place sticky notes featuring the same name together in order easily to garner a sense of the number of students who had recollected a particular act. The photograph (below left) shows a few of the students in action, some affixing their sticky notes to the wall, others discussing in their small groups or verifying information online via their mobile devices.

Second-year seminar on Television Talent Discovery ShowsThe results of the task were rather revealing, and my feeling is that they could not have been achieved, nor could the ensuing discussion have been as effective, via any other teaching method. For instance, many students remembered recent winners such as Little Mix (The X Factor, 2011), but had more difficulty recollecting some of the winners in previous years’ competitions. Conversely, other notable acts from previous years who did not win their associated show (such as Susan Boyle [Britain’s Got Talent, 2009] or Jedward [The X Factor, 2009]) had evidently remained in their memory. There were other telling outcomes as well, which would have been difficult to predict: as an example, several students recalled The Cheeky Girls, but they could not match them to the correct show (Popstars: The Rivals, 2002).

During the class, I invited the students to walk around the room and look at the finished display on the wall panels for themselves. I had also prepared PowerPoint slides with more exhaustive information about the acts associated with particular television shows and seasons, with which we were able to fill in the gaps. Afterwards, I went round the room video-taping the display before it was taken down, and uploaded the video to Moodle as a permanent record of the session. The classroom’s swivel chairs also helpfully facilitated an impromptu re-enactment by four of us of the judges on The Voice UK!

(3) Second-year lecture on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, 29 May 2012

The final class was perhaps the most conventional, and one that I have presented several times in a classroom set out in lecture-format. Nonetheless, I wanted to use the new Learning Space to be able move the tables and chairs easily to create sufficient space for a live task undertaken by several unwitting student volunteers during the lecture. I do recall feeling much more exposed, standing in the centre of a comparatively wide space and speaking to students sitting at tables on the periphery, than I would have done in a room arranged as for a traditional lecture.

Possibly the highlight of the class was the attempt on the part of myself and several students to copy the original choreography of a particular passage of The Rite of Spring, in order to understand the challenges presented by the highly controversial dancing, the way in which it fits with the music, and the disjuncture between the composer’s intentions and the choreographer’s. Needless to say, the idea that ‘learning can be fun’ took on a whole new level. There is some video footage of this, taken by a student on her mobile device – not for the first time – but I very much hope it never surfaces!

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): How Staff are Responding to the Mobile Technologies Their Students Bring With Them to Class

December 23, 2012 2 comments

The end of the year yields an opportune time to reflect upon various teaching innovations that have been discussed, written about, and presented earlier in the year, but which have not yet been included on the Educational Vignettes website. In this, the first of a series of end-of-year posts, I offer some thumbnail sketches of initiatives implemented in my teaching during 2012 to embrace mobile technologies with which students have been engaging to support their in-class learning – but with which, crucially, I was myself comparatively unfamiliar.

It can certainly be offputting to a tutor for the students’ attentions to be apparently divided between the lecture and their mobile devices; but this year I have seen evidence that, far from being a distraction, even the unsolicited use of mobile technologies by students can actually lead to their being more engaged in class. For example, in one lecture, when discussing crossover between classical musicians and popular music, I alluded to a Los Angeles-based string collective, the Vitamin String Quartet, who have released a fascinating series of albums of arrangements of popular music. Moments later, the whole class heard the unmistakeable sounds of a string quartet emanating from one corner of the room – one of the students had looked up the group’s website on her laptop, but had forgotten to ensure that she had turned off the sound…

Another such instance seems rather appropriate to this time of year : I was chatting to a student after a lecture who rather impressed me by dropping into conversation that Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was the only track ever to have reached the UK singles Christmas No. 1 spot twice, in 1975 and 1991. When I asked him how he knew this, he reminded me that during the lecture, I had mentioned that the Spice Girls were the only act to have attained three consecutive Christmas No.1s (1996-98). His interest had been sufficiently piqued by this piece of information that he had used his mobile device to call up a list of UK Christmas No.1s, and noticed the double appearance of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ there.

Versions of the two case studies below were previously presented at the School of Arts and Social Sciences Teaching and Learning Fête on 20 March 2012, and I am indebted to several colleagues at the Learning Development Centre without whose input and advice many of my endeavours this year simply would not have been possible.

Impromptu lecture-capture

Punk rock lectureIn a lecture on punk rock earlier in the year, a few students and I re-enacted the infamous interview between the Sex Pistols and Bill Grundy broadcast live on primetime Thames Television back in 1976. Reconstructions based on archived footage are available, but we decided that it would be more fun and interactive for the students to come to the front and recreate the experience for themselves. Given the relatively large number of people involved in the task, one student remarked that at this rate there would be nobody left in the class – to which I responded that this was very much in keeping with the belief-system at the centre of punk rock: the idea that anybody can get up on stage and be a performer.

Perhaps most interesting was one student who declared that she would be playing a role I had not even considered – that of the cameraman. She filmed our entire reconstruction using her mobile device (from which the screenshot, above right, is taken), thereby taking the notion of student ownership of their teaching and learning to a whole new level. (More recently, another student has written to me that his participation in the role-play was one of the most enjoyable parts of his educational experience – which is particularly revealing in that although he was indeed a part of the scene, and appears in the screenshot above, he actually had no lines to say!) The footage is now being uploaded to Moodle as a helpful reminder of the endeavour, and of the wider points it raised about punk’s do-it-yourself aesthetic.

Video podcasting of lecture summaries

Earlier in the year I was loaned an iPad by the School, and set the intriguing challenge of finding innovative ways to incorporate it within my teaching. Personal research soon led me to the Wired Educator blog in which a compelling case is made, albeit in a different context, for using the iPad for podcasting (see here). I have been audio podcasting since 2009 but switched to video (not a medium with which I am particularly comfortable) this year. My rationale for the change was that, while the pedagogical function of podcasting may be largely fulfilled by audio-only resources, images are more engaging for the students, encouraging a greater level of concentration and enabling them to see and interpret the speaker’s gestures and body language. I was also mindful of recent experiences within the institution with lecture-capture, which I have been increasingly using as the year has progressed, and of wider innovations in education such as the implementation of flipped classes.

My mode of operation was to record a podcast of 8-10 minutes in advance of each lecture, providing a summary of the key material and concepts of the associated class as well as discussing the set reading, and to release the recording via Moodle. Each podcast was intended to give the students some grounding in the content of the lecture (as well as to act as a ‘trailer’) and to provide some context on the preparatory reading, but they had an unexpected secondary function as a resource for the end-of-module examination. In the module evaluation, completed one week before the examination took place, one student wrote that “The weekly podcasts which were made were very helpful for revision” while another commented on the “Helpful podcasts on Moodle for revision purposes”.

As noted, many students already owned mobile devices upon which the podcasts could be played, downloaded, and re-watched at their convenience. For the others, I came to class every week with the podcasts pre-loaded onto my iPad (see screenshot, below) and students who did not have the opportunity to watch them in advance, or appreciated a second viewing to refresh their memories, were able to borrow my iPad for this purpose before the lecture or during the break.

Podcasts - screen capture

Talking Multimedia in Education

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

As posted in Educational Vignettes  one of the investments in our Strategic Learning Environment(SLE) is about using multimedia to support and better our teaching and learning practices at City University London. This post looks at how multimedia has evolved in Education. This is combined with a quick look at some of the external and internal case studies on using multimedia in teaching. This post will also include a look at the recommendations that the Multimedia Requirements Working group are considering which is based on an analysis of all the schools needs on this topic.

header_services_multimediaCity University has a good track record of enabling academic staff to use multimedia for learning since it is a key aspect of the Strategic Learning Environment (SLE).

Why use Multimedia in Education?

There has been an increase and change in the use of multimedia (video & audio) in learning, teaching and assessment in Higher Education the last few years. This is influenced by the experience of using web 2.0 services such as You Tube and iTunes, and increasing use of mobile devices in education. Educators and students have been inspired to make, share and learn from video and audio in new ways.  Other areas such as marketing, libraries and research are also increasing their use of multimedia.

For an interesting talk in how video is currently being used in education view Salman Khan at TEDTALKS. Common examples of uses of multimedia (as researched by JISC Digital) include:

  • demonstrations of contextual images;
  • images with clickable parts (an image map) that link to further information e.g. Google maps;
  • video recordings of teaching sessions; to produce media-enhanced feedback;
  • recordings of special events such as guest lecturers.

External research on Multimedia

A useful framework to support educators in terms of how to use digital resources (artefacts) has been inspired by a JISC project. The DiAL-e Framework supports the pedagogically effective use of a range of digital content, focusing on what the learner does with an artefact rather than giving priority to its subject or discipline content.

So what’s the latest at City?

Demand for video is increasing, in particular for assessment in the form of coursework submission and reflective portfolios and as well as enabling staff and students to make their own video content.

For a look at some of the case studies around using multimedia you may be interested in the online webinars (run by the Video Special Interest Group). A recent webinar contained a diverse use of multimedia to suit the programmes in three schools. These were:

  • Sophie Paluch (The City Law School) has created mock courtroom scenarios for retraining judges across the UK. These videos enable the practice of representing someone in court as an advocate on the programme.
  • Natasa Perovic (School of Health) has created resources on blood pressure stethoscope sounds as the programme wanted a resource that made it easier for students to recognise the different sounds. The videos were for students who weren’t experienced in measuring blood pressure.
  • Luis Balseca (CASS) is running a pilot on video assessment for students which are being submitted through Moodle for one of the MBA programmes.

The session has been recorded and will be submitted in a vignette in due course.

Schools and their Requirements

All schools recently took part in a requirements gathering exercise in summer 2012. Four themes emerged that describe the direction that City University London expects in the tools or features used most frequently.

Features in relation to the four themes:

1. Help staff and students easily make and share multimedia recordings.

  • An easy to use online workflow with compression and creation of assets that will be compatible on all devices and platforms.
  •  A web cam and a screen capture feature, which is automatically saved to the library.

2. Enable sharing of audio & video material created at the University.

  • A ‘you tube’ like browse-able public and private and administration interface
  •  A library that can be searched from within Moodle

3. Provide a safe and controlled place to store and publish audio & video, so access can be restricted to suit different needs, e.g. confidential subject matter, assessment pieces, student presentations, copyrighted materials and television recordings.

  •     Secure Moodle assignment integration
  •     Very large files can be submitted and handle in batches
  •     Private reflective portfolios for students

4. Take learning, teaching and assessment using audio & video further i.e. to a global, mobile generation and enhance the power of social media tools.

  •     Users can record and upload via mobile devices
  •     Basic editing can be online
  •     Allows users to build playlists and make favourites

With Moodle 2 due to be released to students in September 2013, the Multimedia requirements group are looking at ways in which multimedia can be integrated effectively with Moodle at course and assessment level. Do stay tuned for the next update, and in the meantime if you’d like to be find out about how to use multimedia to suit your programmes, please do contact your educational technology team.

 

 

Video in Education – An invitation to our first webinar – 1pm on Thursday November 22nd, 2012

October 23, 2012 1 comment

Video in Education – a special interest group – invites you to grab a coffee and share best practice at our first webinar.

Formed in summer 2012, this group’s focus is on sharing practice within the schools, and gathering examples from other institutions, in: production and publishing of video for education; techniques for engaging staff in use of video for teaching and learning; and pedagogical principles behind video for education.

Sharing Best Practice in Educational Video at City University

Webinar – Thursday 22nd November 2012 –1pm  to 1.30pm

Webinar Room Link  (opens at 12.45pm on the day)

Event Details

  • Introduction –  Mo Pamplin
  • School of Law – Scenario-based learning video portfolios – Sophie Paluch
  • Cass Business School – Dubai MBA student research presentations – Luis Balseca
  • School of Health Science – Blood pressure self-assessment videos – Natasa Perovic

Moderators on the day, Stef Smith and Steve McCombe at the MILL

Instructions for participants:

There is no need to book a place, all City staff are welcome as are external guests.

Join the webinar room, via the link below and settle in from 12.45 pm, participants will be able to listen to the speakers, view a web cam of the speakers, watch clips from video projects and pose questions via the chat room.  We will use the Adobe Connect webinar service to host this session for up to 100 guests.

Webinar Room Link  (opens at 12.45pm on the day)

Its good to check your computer audio settings in advance, to find out more see the quick start guide.

Quick Start Guide – Participants

any enquiries, please contact the organisers via email:  video@city.ac.uk

The webinar will be recorded and made available on  this page after the event.

We look forward to meeting you on the 22nd,

Mo Pamplin

School of Arts and Social Science

space

The rise of the still camera for film making

October 2, 2012 2 comments

Despite both using light to record images, until recently the worlds of video-making and photography were distinct entities, requiring separate equipment and facilities. If you wanted to take professional-looking photographs, you’d buy a SLR camera with a couple of good lenses. If you wanted to make quality videos, you’d buy a video camera: one with a decent flip out screen and professional microphone inputs. With the transition to digital over the past 15 years, the two worlds have become entwined and still cameras have become so proficient at recording video, the term ‘still’ is now a little misleading. We’re heading to the age of the hybrid – a camera that can shoot both photos and videos in superb quality.

Until recently, the only digital still cameras that would shoot video were small compacts. The video mode was a bit of a novelty; if you were out and about and wanted to grab a bit of video, then you’ll turn the dial, point and shoot. The quality wasn’t particularly inspiring but it was good enough. The big change came when Nikon decided to place high definition video onto one of its digital SLR cameras – the D90. With its large sensor and the ability to take a range of lenses, a whole assortment of creative possibilities were unleashed. HD video meant crisp, detailed visuals. A large sensor meant video could now be shot at night or in low light with great results. Zoom and wide angle lenses would lead to interesting shots and angles. And most importantly, the large sensor and flexible aperture could give a very narrow depth of field, enabling blurred backgrounds for truly cinematic shots. The man on the street now had a camera that was capable of true cinema.

Blurred backgrounds resulting from a large sensor and open iris on the lens

Canon soon released their version and pretty soon every camera manufacturer followed suit. We now have a range of dSLR cameras that can shoot stunning video and the quality is improving all the time. Canon recently released the EOS-1D, a camera capable of shooting 4K (ultra high def) video – the quality we see projected at the cinema. And something not to forgot – these are predominately still cameras, designed for taking beautiful photos.

It sounds like a winning combination – a still camera that can take great video. But it isn’t all positive: there are several limitations.

Firstly, despite being small and easy to carry, the shape of a dSLR isn’t always practical for shooting videos, especially over several hours. In response, some manufactures have produced rigs for carrying dSLRs on your shoulder or in more comfort. They also produce monitors, focusing systems and a range of other ingenious accessories.

A dSLR camera rig

Secondly, although they can record sound, many have poor setups for external microphones meaning the sound has to be recorded on a separate unit and later matched to the recorded footage. This is how it’s done in the movies, but it makes editing a little more time consuming. And, it’s very easy to forget to press record on the audio recorder!

Thirdly, the exclusions of important assist functions – like zebra lines indicating overly bright areas – make setting up a little trickier.

Most dSLRs also have slow & noisy autofocusing, can only record short clips at a time and suffer from moiré (distracting patterns on areas of small detail). One would think these limitations would be a huge burden and get in the way. They do, but if you work around them, the quality of the footage is so good it more than makes up for the pain.

As cameras develop, these limitations (especially the length of clip and quality of autofocus) are successfully being addressed. Some cameras have even been ‘hacked’ – users have written their own computer software that give them extra features and functions. One of the most popular is the Magic Lantern software for Canon cameras. Video quality can be vastly improved together with enhanced features for audio recording onto the camera itself. A hack for the Panasonic GH2 – the dSLR owned by The MILL – can raise its video quality so high, it can match the footage from a movie camera costing ten times as much.

So, if still cameras are becoming so good at taking video, what about the dedicated video camera? These still exist of course and many are great at what they do. They do have fast, silent autofocus and better setups for sound. And some even take stills photos! But most have built-in lenses and small sensors, which in my opinion will ultimately lead to their downfall. We are heading towards the hybrid super camera capable of all things visual: photos; video – maybe even ultra slow motion. The Panasonic AF-100 is probably the closest thing to it – a reasonably small video camera which takes dSLR camera lenses, and is capable of stunning results. It’s expensive at £5,000 but the size, weight and price of these cameras will come down over time.

Panasonic AF-100

This is a very exciting time for digital movie making and cameras in general. We now have cameras that can send their images and footage wirelessly to a laptop, cameras with such good shake reduction that they can iron out any wobble or jolts by the user. The new Apple iPhone has a fantastic camera for shooting hi-def video. Not only that, you can edit the video on the phone and upload it to a hosting site without the need for a separate PC. I’m looking forward to a camera that can do that to. Maybe the future of the camera is a pair of spectacles you wear on your head that records exactly what you see!

We’ve shot a couple of videos with a dSLR in the MILL with great results and have some exciting projects in the pipeline where good visuals are a must. Many amateur and independent film makers use dSLRs to make their films and many are showcased on Vimeo, which is always worth a visit. As an example, below is a short video I shot in July 2012 for a competition. It was filmed in a darkened room with my dSLR, the Canon 550D. A normal video camera would have had great difficulty bringing out the level of detail in such low light or providing the depth of field I ultimately achieved. Enjoy.

 

Recommended dSLR cameras: Canon EOS 5D Mk II or Mk III (expensive but industry standard), Panasonic GH2 (cheaper camera but capable of equal or better results)

Top Tips for Filming from the MILL.

July 13, 2012 1 comment

The MILL (Media and Innovation Learning Lab) have been running Final Cut Pro training for staff for a number of years now and has recently introduced a new iMovie course. As part of these courses we integrate some top tips for attendees to consider whilst filming or taking shots and here they are…

The MILL: Guest Starring iTunes U

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Words Associated with the MILL Launch

The MILL: Guest Starring iTunes U event was held on 1st November 2011 and was designed to launch both iTunes U and the MILL at City University London, making staff aware of how both can help to develop their teaching practice.  Coordinated by Sandra Partington, Steve McCombe, Siân Lindsay and Sara Reimers, who came up with the idea of a one-off launch with a film theme, the event attracted more than sixty delegates from across the whole range of Schools, including Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Curran and Deputy Vice Chancellor for Education Professor David Bolton.

The event took the format of a film-themed open day at which attendees were encouraged to explore the MILL and its facilities, getting involved with interactive presentations by LDC staff in each room.  Visitors were welcomed to the event in the foyer, and issued with a ‘ticket’ and popcorn to begin their cinematic experience.

Cinema and iTunes U

For one night only the MILL’s small training room was transformed into a cinema, where a showreel of some of the best examples of iTunes U episodes were screened to an audience treated to ice-cream and Haribo sweets.

To find out more about our iTunes collection please follow the link to our site or watch a selection of videos without downloading iTunes .

 Behind the Scenes  

In the MILL’s Office, Sandra Partington and Mo Pamplin offered a rolling programme of 15 minute demos, which focussed on both equipment and programs such as the iTunes U Live site, iPads, video cameras and editing software.

Studio

The MILL’s podcasting rooms were transformed into studios in which Olivia Fox and colleagues demonstrated some of the uses of Adobe Presenter and Adobe Connect. Julie Attenborough (SHS), Ian Glover (SOI), and Charles Watson (SOI) showcased some of the best examples of assessment feedback including the use of audio and video.

TV Studio

In the MILL’s state of the art TV studio (recently seen on the BBC’s One Show) Steve McCombe gave staff a tour of the facilities and they had the opportunity to test out its blue screen function.  Through the magic of technology staff were transported from the Eiffel Tower to the moon and back, and encouraged to think how these technologies could help their students engage with their subject in a new and creative way.

 iTunesU & Mac driving test

In the large training room staff were invited to take a web quest, acquainting themselves with the mac computers and answering questions as they went along.  Everyone who completed the quest was entered into a prize draw for the opportunity to win a £20 Odeon Cinema voucher, Pascale Colanna-Cesari (SHS) was the lucky winner. 

Coffee Shop

The MILL’s meeting room was transformed into a coffee shop for the night where guests were treated to coffee and cake, as well as more movie-themed confectionary such as ice-cream, popcorn and sweets.

Impact

In the five months since the event staff from across all Schools have signed up to attend workshops and training offered by the MILL, twenty six of whom used the new online booking system put into place as a result of the launch.  We also now have an online evaluation form, which will make the feedback process quicker and easier.  In addition to training, the MILL has also seen a significant rise in the number of equipment loan requests made by staff, and a considerable number of bookings of MILL spaces such as the podcasting rooms and TV studio.

The MILL has supported various filming projects including an award winning film project made by Optometry students, available to watch on YouTube.

Other departments such as Careers and the Students’ Union have also used the MILL as part of an exciting project called City on Screen. Farzana Latif (SHS) and Steve McCombe (LDC) recently collaborated on a video pitch for JISC funding, watch the video here.

It has also attracted the attention of staff external to City University London, with the Society for Research in HE booking to use the space and the BBC’s The One Show using the studio for filming in late 2011.  The MILL is also at the forefront of pioneering new technology, taking part in the Lecture Capture pilot project being run by SASS.

The MILL has also been out on the road, launching its popup cinema at theLDC’s Showcase in January, something that it will be repeating at other venues in the near future.

The Future

The MILL continues to go from strength to strength, reaching an ever-growing number of staff from across the University.  Over the next year we aim to:

  • Expand the number and range of courses
  • Increase the use of the MILL spaces
  • Raise awareness of the MILL with academic staff
  • Become a growing presence in the University as a hub for collaboration

We will continue to gauge our impact and research the needs of our colleagues, to ensure that we provide the training and facilities to best support the changing needs of staff at City University London.

Sandra Partington, Educational Developer

Sara Reimers, Learning Development Support Officer

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