Archive for October, 2013

Missed iMOOT 2013 – watch the videos

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

iMOOT is the annual online Moodle event.  All the presentations are up on YouTube.


Learning Styles – what we should be doing instead

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The idea of learning styles has been fairly comprehensively debunked.   It’s origins come from the idea of multiple intelligences.

Here is a bit from Howard Gardner (who started the whole MI ball rolling) about Multiple Intelligences an why they are not  ‘learning styles’

“The basic idea is simplicity itself. A belief in a single intelligence assumes that we have one central, all-purpose computer—and it determines how well we perform in every sector of life. In contrast, a belief in multiple intelligences assumes that we have a number of relatively autonomous computers—one that computes linguistic information, another spatial information, another musical information, another information about other people, and so on.”

He has 2 problems with learning styles.

“the notion of  ”learning styles”’ is itself not coherent. Those who use this term do not define the criteria for a style, nor where styles come from, how they are recognized/assessed/exploited.”

“there is not persuasive evidence that the learning style analysis produces more effective outcomes than a “one size fits all approach.”

“As an educator, I draw three primary lessons for educators:

1.       Individualize your teaching as much as possible. Instead of “one size fits all,” learn as much as you can about each student, and teach each person in ways that they find comfortable and learn effectively. Of course this is easier to accomplish with smaller classes. But ‘apps’ make it possible to individualize for everyone.

2.        Pluralize your teaching. Teach important materials in several ways, not just one (e.g. through stories, works of art, diagrams, role play). In this way you can reach students who learn in different ways. Also, by presenting materials in various ways, you convey what it means to understand something well. If you can only teach in one way, your own understanding is likely to be thin.

3.       Drop the term “styles.” It will confuse others and it won’t help either you or your students.


Annie Murphy Paul has looked at a range of papers and in her article, ‘Forget about learning Styles, here is something better’,  has this to say.

The lesson here: The “learning style” that teachers and parents should focus on is the universal learning style of the human mind, and two characteristics of it in particular.

First, students benefit from encountering information in multiple forms. They learn more, for example, from flashcards that incorporate both text and images—charts, graphs, etc.—than from cards that display text alone.

Second, students’ interest is kept alive by novelty and variety, so regularly turning away from textbooks and blackboards is key. As long as the new activity genuinely informs the students about the academic subject at hand, clapping a math lesson—or sketching in science class, or acting during story time—can help every student to learn better.

My problem with learning styles relates to Gardner’s point 3.  It comes from an experience with a student who claimed that she didn’t like like the way I was teaching and assessing because it didn’t suit her learning style.  I had overhauled an old flash card based prac and assessment (which she was familiar with) and replaced it with a simulation that fairly closely mimicked the the actual activity the student would be required to undertake in the workplace.  I didn’t get rid of flash cards in the program they just no longer reflected the assessment.

The assessment and pracs were higher pressure, there was less time for reflection and mistakes had consequences that had to be dealt with.   Student’s had to prove they could achieve the task, regardless of their personal comfort level or notions of a preferred learning style.

Of course not all programs are as vocationally focused as this example, but for me the desired outcome still drives the design, resources and assessment.  What do we want the student to walk out the door knowing and what skills are they going to need.  Then we sit down and look at all our options decide how are we’re going to help students get to that outcome.

Digital devices distract students in class? Colour me suprised.

Friday, October 25th, 2013

This report came via 3 of my feeds.  I’m not sure why.   It would be sad if this were news to academics.

“Awareness of the various digital distractions pervasive throughout higher education hasn’t stopped college students from turning to their myriad devices, as the average student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UN-L) campus and five other schools admitted to using a tablet, laptop, or phone 11 times every day during class, according to a study released Oct. 23.”

“Students, while acknowledging that digital devices were a persistent distraction during class, were hardly advocates for policies that would hinder their use of tables and phones during lectures. Nine in 10 students said they would oppose mobile device bans in classrooms.”

Here is one lecturer’s solution.

“Throughout a 70-minute lecture, his 60 students are presented with a constant stream of relevant course material on the iPads that have been provided to them.

There’s nothing on their iPads that blocks students from jumping to another app to find distraction. They’re simply too busy to, Yaros said.”

I suppose you could paraphrase the whole article by saying if lectures, don’t engage/bore students they find something else to do.


Having said that, I believe that a new skill that needs to be taught through primary and secondary school in the management of wireless and digital devices.   It’s the wild west at the moment and kids need some guidance, and some hard and fast rules.

Youtube – audio and Fair Use

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

YouTube has a checkered history in relation to the Fair Use of audio,  in particular any music from Universal

If you are looking to avoid any hassle you can now use the YouTube Audio library.

Another source of free music is


If  you want to know more about Fair Use/Fair Dealing you can look at these resources (Australian information) (this site deals specifically with issues related to sites like YouTube and Vimeo).

Here is YouTube’s fairly skimpy coverage of the issue

Bitcoins update

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

I wrote about the unofficial digital currency  Bitcoins a while ago, well they haven’t gone away in fact they’re booming.

They had a couple of recent set backs when an online drug bazaar called Silk Road got closed down (an anonymous digital currency used to trade drugs, fancy that) and a the MtGox bitcoin exchange got raided by the US Feds.

But apparently they made a come back during the U.S. Government shut down.

“Similar to the events in Cyprus earlier this year, when the threat of direct withdrawals from citizen savings account led to a surge in the virtual currency’s interest, some believe the current uncertainty in the conventional system is fueling bitcoin’s recent rise even though the ecosystem has yet to find its “killer app.”

“The more stupid things governments do, the more attractive bitcoin becomes,” said Roger Ver, the director of Business Development at BitInstant, and long time bitcoin evangelist. “Bitcoin’s strengths come from its nature. Governments can’t inflate it or seize it at will.”

What happens in the future remains to be seen, some think it’s a bubble waiting to burst, others see it as the new currency for techno hill billy libertarians, and it certainly seems to be gaining ground in the trade of illegal goods.

Something to watch.

Taking photos at Uni – what are the rules?

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Cameras have become fairly ubiquitous in Australian society, and it’s common to see people taking photo’s in sorts of odd places, but there are some rules we need to be aware of.

Here’s few pointers from the White Hat Guide to Taking Photos in Australia about taking photos and posting them online.

In Australia it is permitted to take a photo in any public place and use that photo or video for any non-commercial purpose – ALMOST….

The site goes on to explain the vagaries of private and public space and and commercial use (you need consent for commercial use).

In general, no one is going to get too fussed about private photography on Australian campuses, this does not mean that a university does not have rules, and they may, in some circumstances, decide to enforce them, and there’s not much you can do about.

In terms of commercial use (and consent) a few things are worth noting.

What about publishing on the net? In many cases this will be deemed as commercial use. Although no money may have changed hands it is still often a commercial arrangement – eg Facebook has exchanged services of monetary value (ie hosting) in return for  the user handing over the considerable value of the reproduction rights of anything you place on Facebook and the permission to track and record your use of the site.

But the photo I put on the net is only available to friends. A court is unlikely to deem people you have never met and possibly only know by a pseudonym as a ‘friend’ in a legal sense and you would have a hard job convincing them that, say, Facebook is not a commercial organisation. Again anything done in an ethical way with common sense is unlikely to lead to trouble.

Basically, if you decide to put something online you most likely need consent.   I recognize that this is not going to happen in most cases,  but, you can reasonably assume that someone is not going to give you consent to have their picture used to humiliate him.  Therefore you should assume they won’t give consent, therefore, don’t be a moron and post their picture online.   And very simply, if they don’t give consent and want the photo taken down you have to do it.

In terms of public space, universities are government owned, and while you may want to argue that it fits into the notion of public space (and there are certainly no gangs of camera police roaming the grounds), the inside of  a lecture theatre, particularly during a class lecture does not fit any definition of public space.

At Monash we have this statement in our privacy documentation


No. You must first obtain consent from staff to use their photos for a webpage or staff notice board. Consent can be obtained at the time of taking the photo. It is important to be aware that staff may revoke consent in the future and if they do, the photo must be removed from the webpage or staff notice board.

Here’s a bit of general info on using images in your course materials

So happy snapping but be a bit mindful.

Guide to Moodle Tools

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Want to try to support your students learning and want to know how Moodle can help?

Have a look at this.


(If you’re a Monash person and you want to know how to do it have a look at the Moodle Learning Topics or contact the Help desk.  AccFin people can contact me)

A bit more about privacy in our digital age

Sunday, October 20th, 2013


Weekend Funny – Facebook Security Simulator Game

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

This a bit of fun.  It’s certainly a bit over the top, but given the rate and type of changes Facebook makes  to it’s privacy settings I can see where it’s coming from.


Here is a fairly detailed site showing you how to control what Facebook shares

Unit planning and design guide

Friday, October 18th, 2013

I’d recommend all academics planing units for 2014 have a look at this site and the guide book (go on, it can’t hurt).


“Edukata is a tool kit for educators. It helps them to implement collaborative design process to create innovative classroom practices. It is based on empirically tested methodology piloted in over 17 European countries in over 2000 classrooms. In the pilots Edukata was found to positively impact teaching, learning and attainment and to foster 21st century skills.”