Archive for June, 2015

Looking for the best time to tweet?

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Buffer is a platform that allows you to manage communications on multiple social media platforms, so they see a fair bit of Twitter traffic.

Best Times to Tweet for Engagement USA

They have put together a report on the most popular times to Tweet in your region.  It also looks at reTweets and favorites.

I use it with IFTTT to distribute my blog.

LastPass hacked

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

This has always been my worry about Password management  services such as LastPass.  They are an obvious target for hackers.  I expect the sharpest and most malicious to be constantly banging on their firewalls.

Old Corbin Padlock Lock Open No Key All Brass Free Movement

Password-management service LastPass announced today that it “discovered and blocked suspicious activity” on its network on Friday. While the company says that there is no evidence that user vault data (a user’s stored passwords) was taken or that accounts were accessed, it did acknowledge that user email addresses, authentication hashes, password reminders and server per user salts were compromised.

App for free local texting – kind of a bluetooth network.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Jott may be the next thing in mobile tech for school kids.  It is rapidly gaining publicity and there is a fair bit of noise about it in the tech media.

Jott, a messaging app that works without a data plan or WiFi connection, has caught on among junior high and high school students, according to co-founder Jared Allgood. He says the app more than doubled to half a million active users in March, up from 150,000 active users previous.

Jott can send messages from one device to another without any cell service as long as those texting are within close enough proximity to each other.It does this by using something called a mesh network that operates on Bluetooth low energy or using a router that can reach within 100 feet of each user. It’s the same way FireChat, a group messaging app, does this, but Jott can also message individuals within your network.

It is taking off in schools where kids have limited data plans.  In our situation where all students have wifi access on campus it might not be as applicable, but maybe it could be useful as a polling tool in lectures?  I’ll have to have a play.

Weekend Funny – 9 science-backed tricks for appearing smarter than you are

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

You don’t have to actually be intelligent to appear intelligent.

And it’s not just wearing thick glasses, although that is on the list (Hollywood was right!).

By Jim Simonson
CC BY Some rights reserved

Here are the other tips:

  • Don’t hold a beer.
  • Walk at the same speed as everybody else.
  • Use a middle initial.
  • Write simply.
  • Use graphs.
  • Speak expressively.
  • Look people in the eye.
  • Dress smartly.

Unfortunately it wont actually help you pass exams.

Four traps that hinder student learning by Steve Mintz

Friday, June 12th, 2015

I like this.  It shines a spotlight on the cracks in our common, run of the mill, teaching practice.

This one you need to read.

File:Cracks in Mývatn region (2).jpg
By Chmee2 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0]

Steven Mintz the Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning posted this on the Inside Higher Ed site.

The four traps are

  • The Lecture trap
  • the Memorization trap
  • The High Stakes Testing trap
  • The Coverage trap (more…)

Online student “happy sheets” not that valid – big surprise

Thursday, June 11th, 2015


Here’s an Inside Higher Ed article on a report from the American Association of University Professors based on a survey of 9,000 professors.  It confirms what we already know about Student Evaluations (which are really student satisfaction surveys).

Research demonstrates that student evaluations can be valuable among several sources of input on faculty teaching but need to be combined with other sources including peer observations, syllabus review, portfolio analysis and teaching philosophy and reflection, among other approaches,” she said. “Single metrics of teaching have not been found to provide a complete enough picture for improvement.”

In the training industry we called them happy sheets.   We produced them for the people paying the bills, knowing that the responses didn’t really mean that much in terms of changing behaviour, which is what you are really trying to achieve.

Respondents who said their institutions had adopted online evaluations reported much lower student return rates than those who stuck with paper evaluations: 20-40 percent versus 80 percent or higher.

“With such a rate of return, all pretensions to ‘validity’ are rendered dubious,” the paper says. “Faculty report that the comments coming in are from the students on either of the extremes: those very happy with their experience and/or their grade, and those very unhappy.”

We saw the same drop in response rates when we shifted from handed out paper surveys to online surveys.   There is a clash between cost efficiencies and functional efficiencies.

In reality we need to be doing something else.  We actually want to evaluate teaching effectiveness.   And for that it’s worth looking at Bill Goffe’s contribution in the comments.

A better way to evaluate undergraduate teaching effectiveness.

“method based on the notion that the teaching methods used by an instructor are a more accurate proxy for teaching effectiveness than anything else that is practical to measure”

Teaching practice inventory

This inventory can aid instructors and departments in reflecting on their teaching. It has been tested with several hundred university instructors and courses from mathematics and four science disciplines. Most instructors complete the inventory in 10 min or less, and the results allow meaningful comparisons of the teaching used for the different courses and instructors within a department and across different departments.

You could also have a look at Bill Thalheimer’s course review template.  It’s based on Workplace training but most of it applies to (or should apply to) Higher Ed teaching practice.

EdCast. Another new thing that’s not so new and perhaps a bit Meh.

Friday, June 5th, 2015

I maybe missing something, but I don’t quite get

It appears to be a platform that allows you to create a page that has a “twitter style” comments section and a link to an online resource (typically a video).  I’m assuming that the person setting up the page will be involved in the comments section but that doesn’t seem to be a requirement.

I suppose what it does provide (like EdX, Coursera etc) is a central public place to find resources posted by self identified experts who want to cross promote (hopefully useful) resources they have previously created.  I’m not sure what it offers that you can’t get from a YouTube channel.

There are courses on a separate site,, which you can register for which appear to be classic xMOOCs .

You can set up a free public page on, but if you want to create a formal course on with a registration page, it looks like you have to pay.  It’s not clear what else that gets you and I don’t really want to sign up for the 30 day free trail just to find out.

Anyway, I’ve registered for a free course ($29 if I want the completion cert) so I can have a look.  I may change my mind.

How to give a single student access to a closed Moodle quiz

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

There are a few ways to give a student access to a closed quiz.

Re open it and trust that other students who may have missed the test don’t jump in and complete it too.  You can check the logs to catch them, but this is a pain, particularly in our case with units of 600+ students.

Re open it and set a password.  Of course the student may choose to share it, in which case you’re checking the logs again just to be sure.  You also have to remove the password when the unit rolls over in the following semester.


Set a User Override

This will just give access to the selected student.  There is no need to check logs and no need to reset any quiz settings.

  • Click on the quiz and select User Overrides from the Quiz admin block

Quiz override

  • Click on Add User Override

Quiz override1

  • Search for a student and click on their name
  • Set a new closing date and time for that student
  • Click Save

Quiz override2edit