Archive for June, 2011

If your textbook looks like an encylopedia you’ve got the wrong book

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

David Warlick (a very bright  fellow who knows his way around learning, teaching and technology) recently did an ad-hoc survey asking what new generation of textbooks should be like.

A lot of it relates to leveraging the technical opportunities that eTexts provide and some of it is a bit utopian given the current limitations in Higher Ed (money, time, imagination).  For me, the best point was that the next generation of textbooks will be “aligned to the learning needs and experiences of their users”.

A present most of our texts aligned with the dogmas and dicates of the knowledge domain.  They are encylopedias with a few questions slapped on the end.  If we accept the fairly common definition that learning occurs when we make meaning from content, then surely teaching material should be focused on making meaning for the target audience, not on the academic construct of the content.

If we are looking for models, we should have a gander at the activity orientated textbooks being used in secondary schools (rather that out of date Funk and Wagnels as appears to be currently the case).  When the Publishing reps do the rounds, slap on of these on the desk and ask, “have you got anything like this?”

One of our own, Prof Robyn Moroney has recently collaborated on a hybrid PBL text.  It uses a fictional company ‘Cloud 9’ to provide practical cases and activities through out the text.  It’s not revolutionary but it is evolutionary, and in her field that’s the smart way to go.

If you’re knocking out your own text have a look at the best of what’s out there.  Maybe bring an instructional designer into the process.  At the end of the day textbooks should be less about us and more about our students.

Standardisation of clickers – a good idea whose time has passed

Monday, June 27th, 2011

“Given a choice, would college students prefer to pay for more than one type of remote-controlled in-class voting device, a.k.a. “clicker”; carry more than one clicker with them from class to class; or neither of the above?

At California State University, the systemwide student government has picked the third option. Last fall, it passed aresolution calling for each California State campus to choose a single brand of classroom clicker, thus becoming one of a growing number of institutions to pursue clicker standardization as a way of curbing redundant costs for students. The system has responded by instructing those campuses that have not standardized clickers to do so. This spring, the Pennsylvania State University System went one step further, announcing that it would deploy a single brand of clicker across its 20 campuses.”

Clicker standardisation is a sensible idea.  At least it would have been 2 years ago and maybe even last year, but with the proliferation of personal wireless enabled devices, I wouldn’t recommend spending any money on new clickers.
We have wireless access on our campuses (yes, the capacity needs improving).  The majority of our students have some form of wireless enabled device (and rest will probably get one this Christmas).
The software is everywhere – twitter and Poll Anywhere are 2 common examples. Chuck in a campus voip system that hooks into mobile phones (apparently we have this – I need to check it out) and you have pretty much covered all the bases.
On top of all that if you’re a Monash person we have MeTL (which is also a reason to throw away your iPad and buy a Win 7 slate – whenever a good one comes onto the market) .  MeTL is an rebuilt version of the University of Washington’s Classroom Presenter.   The people in our eEducation centre are beyond clever.
Check it out here.
I like clickers, I think they can be used to improve student learning but the asteroid has struck and the dinosaurs are on borrowed time.

eTexts catching on in HE?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

It seems that digital texts are starting to take off.  In the fiction market, ebooks have taken off in a way that has surprised many industry watchers and scared the covers off  most traditional publishers.  And while there is still a fair bit of smoke and mirrors around the stats, it’s clear that change is coming to eTexts too.

Last year, as winter approached, the University of Kentucky Press found itself in a position similar to that of most of its peers at the time: Its e-books accounted for a negligible sliver of the press’s sales: 1.6 percent, according to John Hussey, the director of sales. But in February, e-book sales skyrocketed to 11.3 percent. (Hussey calls this “the Christmas boom,” speculating that a lot of people got Kindles and iPads as gifts.)

Facebook decides for you Again!! Try Yammer, or Diaspora (coming soon)

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Facebook’s Greatest Hits – five years of saying sorry

Read more:

Yet another resaon to jump to (the eagerly awaited and slightly overdue) Diaspora when it becomes available

There are few Monash people playing with Yammer.  I’m still playing with it so I can’t recommend it yet, but if you are looking for a Facebook style site that only allows access to people from your work  (based on email e.g. then have a look at Yammer.

“Yammer is revolutionizing internal corporate communications by bringing together all of a company’s employees inside a private and secure enterprise social network. Although Yammer is as easy to use as consumer products like Facebook or Twitter, it is enterprise-class software built from the ground up to drive business objectives.

Yammer is free for your whole company, enabling users to communicate, collaborate, and share more easily and efficiently than ever before. It reduces the need for meetings, increases communication across silos, surfaces pockets of expertise and connects remote workers.”

Pursuing excellence by nodding off in the back row

Monday, June 6th, 2011

“We’re familiar with the benefits of sleep,” said Amelia Goodfellow, a student assistant in sleep and stress at the UC Davis health center. “We’re not as familiar with the impacts or positive effects of napping, which are very similar.” For students, the benefits of increased productivity and concentration will translate to better academic performance, the presenters argued — even though they acknowledge having no data to back that up.

However, research has repeatedly shown that when supplementing 7-9 hours of sleep, 20-30 minute naps do offer these benefits, particularly when taken between the hours of 10 to 11 a.m. or 2 to 4 p.m., when human sleep rhythms trigger a natural slump with grogginess and lack of focus.

Accounting and Finance iPad Users Group

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

We are trialling iPads in the Accounting and Finance department.   To support the trial I have put together a support site.

If you would like access please let me know