Archive for May, 2011

Something to consider if you’re Green and live in Melbourne

Friday, May 27th, 2011

If you’re not a bit green and don’t live in Melbourne please ignore this post.

Getup are holding a Climate Action rally this weekend outside the State Library at 11am this Sunday June 5

“This isn’t about angry protest.  Our family rallies have face-painting, balloons and ice-cream for the kids – and great live music before and after the rally. Think of it as a great impetus to get out of the house and start a sunny Sunday in a beautiful park with other families!

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Friday, May 27th, 2011

Greetings all,

Oddly, this blog has become increasingly popular this year.  So much so that I have added a new subscription option (via Feedburner for those in the know about rss).  If you use a reader (e.g. Google Reader ) or would like to start using one (to keep up to date with multiple blogs) it would be nice if could subscribe via the  Subscribe link (lower down in the right hand menu).

If you could drop a line in the comments to let me know where you are visiting from (or things you would like to see posted)  that would be appreciated too.



Apple fanbois = religious zealots? Brain scans say yes.

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

“A team of neuroscientists scanned the brain of an Apple fan and it showed that the brand was stimulating the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith.”

Ok, this is only one guy, but it is consistent with what most industry people know.  I can’t think of any other tech company that has users described as cool aid drinkers, fanbois (with their own spelling), Apple crack users, followers of the cult of Steve.

For me this is a problem.  In general I am a big believer in actual user reviews over (often cursory)  magazine/industry reviews.   One of the biggest problems in looking at the the real worth of Apple products like the iPhone and iPad is the volume of biased information from many users.  This has been a particular problem with regards to the iPad.  On quite a few forums I have seen the informed comments by industry professionals lambasted by Apple fan boys.  To be fair some industry journalists do engage in Apple baiting to drive numbers to their articles.

It makes getting the reliable information that I need to make decisions more difficult.

I use an iPad and to be honest it is a Jekyl and Hyde machine.  As a personal device it’s great – definitely a Dr Jekyll, as a workplace, enterprise device (in our setting) it has more than sniff of Mr Hypde.   I have certainly had more surprises trialling these devices than I have had with any other, primarily due to the lack of objective information (misinformation?).

I am looking forward to the responses to this research and the inevitable conspiracy theories.   Anyway, I expect it’s all a hoax funded by the Gates Foundation.

The Latest K-12 Horizon Report is out

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

The Horizon Report is published annually and “identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education around the globe.”

The Higher Ed version will be out later in the year.  The 2 are basically similar except the HE version tends to assume that universities are going to be more ambitious (no comment).

Here are their thoughts on what is upcoming.

Near term (12 months)

  • Cloud
  • Mobile

Second Adoption Horizon (2-3 years)

  • Game based learning (perpetually talked about but to date only implemented in niches)
  • Open Content

Far Horizon (4 -5 years)

Best Bang for the Buck – Interaction with out the overhead (no “blue sky”)

Monday, May 16th, 2011

“College Lecture Classes Need Overhauling – Study finds interaction the key to learning.”

As always I have 2 thoughts.

The first is “Durr.”  I would hope that even the most casual (in attitude, not EFT)  lecturer would recognise the value of interaction in learning (unfortunately recognition doesn’t always equal action).
Surely just doing the initial lit review would convince you that the project was a bit redundant.

I am reminded of the South Park episode where Butters decides to become an evil genius, only to find that every one of his ideas has already been tried on the Simpsons.


Having said that, there is something to like about the way they went about it.  Too many learning related research projects involve small student numbers and complex/time consuming /expensive solutions.  But not this one.

  • Big classes (250)
  • Tradition lecture venues
  • Basic activities

“For one week, the control group was taught in the traditional lecture style by a well-rated, experienced instructor. However, in the experimental group, the more inexperienced instructor did not lecture. Instead, students were divided into groups of two or three to discuss and answer a series of questions, projected on a large screen.”

“In a test of the material immediately following the experiment, students in the interactive class scored twice as high as those in the control section. Other data showed that they were more engaged in learning. A survey given to the experimental group afterward found 90 percent of students liked the interactive style.”

I can’t see a reason not to give this a go.

Internet access in exams?

Friday, May 13th, 2011

“A Danish university has adopted an unusual strategy to tackle cheating: allowing unfettered Internet access, even during examinations.”

Don’t be so horrified, it’s a PBL story, and on that basis it has merit.

One of the basic tenants of good/valid assessment is that the assessment task (and that includes exams – they’re assessment too)  replicates as closely as possible to circumstances and context in which the assessable activity will take place.

In the wider world of business that we are preparing our students for, a boss doesn’t wander in and say, “study up, in 6 weeks I’ll have a problem for you”.   No, he slaps an email on your desk and says, ” this is broken, fix it”.  What is one of the primary sources of information people are likely to use?  Well that would be the internet.  If the question is about reflection, synthesis and analysis (not recall of facts) why not give them access.

Personally I think most third year exams should be PBL based, and if the question is thoughtfully written, internet access may well be appropriate.  Of course the major limiting factor for us is the capacity of our IT infrastructure to handle our huge undergrad numbers.

As always the comments related to this article are interesting.  I quite liked an idea from Frank Schimdt, Professor of Biochemistry at University of Missouri.  The basic concept is worth considering.

“For many years I have given a standard, closed book, problem-solving exam in class on Friday. At the end of the hour, students take a clean copy of the exam which they turn in at the start of class on Monday, for half the points they missed. All sources are allowed. A bit more work (I have a class of 113 this semester) but it reinforces critical points, allows those who forget a key fact to find it, requires them to look things up in the literature, and promotes interaction among the students.

I am also told that the parties on Friday night after they get together to do the re-take are a lot of fun.”

Another win for Wikipedia – No.1 Individual Site for Student Plagiarism

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Turnitin Debunks Myths Surrounding Plagiarism on the Web

“Wikipedia remains the most popular single source for student-matched content on the Web, comprising seven percent of matches in the months examined. The other most popular sites, in order, are,,,,,,”

See where else students go (according to Turnitin) to setup their careers as ethical members of society.  As a side note it is interesting, but perhaps not surprising that in the U.S.  the worst offenders are MBA students.

If our teaching is rubbish, should we let some other organisation do it for us?

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Should Teaching be outsourced?

Have a read of this article, it’s like someone watched an end of year hypothetical debate and thought, ‘yeah, let’s do that”.

My first thought is heaven help us if our teaching gets bad enough for this to be an option.

My second thought is, are we already on this slippery slope?

For many subjects publishers provide the text, the tutorial questions and answers, a bank of quiz questions, the online site with addtional tutorial material, and even provide the lecture slides/notes (expect to see more of this as publishers try to adapt their business model to the new ePub world).  Obviously, it is up to the individual academic to decide how much of this material is used and how it is used.  But let’s say for the sake of argument an academic manages to fly (way) under the radar and goes the whole hog.

What would be left for this ‘hands off’ academic to do?

  • Mouthing the publishers notes (could this be given to a tutor?)
  • Setting the exam (adapting the publishers questions?)
  • Marking the exam (handed off to tutors?)
  • Consultations
  • Supervising tutors
  • Unit admin

The only actual teaching related activity would be the consults and mentoring tutors.  In the hands of a conscientious person this could be enough.  It would certainly be more important to recruit tutors with actual teaching experience as well as (or in in preference to?) research experience.

Is it a big jump from this scenario to a fully outsourced unit?  There are external groups who will mark your exams and  most modern online courses provide tutors and offer consultations.

In the future could the total teaching responsibility of some academics be  consultation with 3rd party providers?

Would having that option be a good thing, or bad thing?

I think as publishers look for new ways to protect their business there will be more options offered up to universities.  I think this is a discussion that many faculties and departmental will have to have in the not so distant future.