Archive for April, 2009

Today I came across two very interesting pieces which provide options for assessment when requiring students to participate using blogs and wikis. Assessment when using some of these technologies in education seems to be a continuing bugbear.

The first is a very interesting slidecast by Konrad Glogowski from the University of Toronto. Konrad explains one route to introducing the process of blogging into the classroom and how to develop that process with students. Here he uses a plant growing metaphor, which requires the students to consider what they want from their blog right from the onset. Formative feedback is given to the students partially based on the students’ initial considerations. The overall process applied is one of student enquiry, with them engaged on a topic of research of interest to them (hence ‘engaged’ is the operative word). Konrad nicely weaves in concepts from the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi throughout his presentation.

If you are even considering introducing blogging into your curriculum I would suggest spending 36 minutes to view this slidecast:

with a corresponding blog post.

Paralleling this but for introducing the use of wikis into teaching is this blog post. This article gives some of the academic theory for using this collaborative process. Significantly how to apply assessment to a collaborative wiki based process is considered. And interestingly there is an explanation of how a tool developed by the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) called WikiDashboard was used to ‘measure’ contributions to wikis by individuals.


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Is it possible to recreate the immediacy and interaction of a small seminar group within a large lecture theatre setting?

Well there are tools that can provide a lecturer with feedback during a lecture, the student response system being one example. However, that has to be pre-planned prior to the lecture to be used effectively, so that system doesn’t necessarily give the immediacy you might be looking for and doesn’t allow for audience questions and discussions to take place like in the small seminar group.

But I think there is a phenomenon that can be used to give a lecture more interactivity and dynamism. The concept has arisen out of microblogging during conference presentations. I first saw it at Eduserv Symposium 2008 with the audience (in the lecture theatre and elsewhere online) microblogging comments and them being displayed on the big screen. I’ve subsequently participated as a microblogger from my office, whilst watching livecasts of conference presentations, or without seeing any official output from a conference. This is backchannelling; the discussions that takes place outside the organised channel, so to speak. (I suppose you could say the backchannel is anything that isn’t directed from the front.) If this backchannel is brought into the proceedings it does add an extra dynamic angle to the event. The primary medium for this is now ‘Twitter‘, though before that there were various exponents of ‘CoverItLive‘.

Now image taking that process and implementing it in a lecture theatre with full connectivity and students with laptops or smart phones. Suddenly you’ve got a means of involving your audience right there in the moment. They can be asking questions, giving immediate feedback, allowing content restructuring in realtime, highlighting areas where they don’t quite grasp the concept and need further explanation, they can be interacting, discussing and answering each other’s questions. By the end of the session you and the students can have a transcript of the process, which may be beneficial depending on your needs. Also the channel can be used outside class-time to continue discussions or for the tutor to ask questions to reinforce understanding.

So what are the services that could be used for backchannelling? Well a few suggestions of one’s that allow you to set up a private space for your purposes without having to register are Chatzy, Today’sMeet and TinyChat. Alternatively you could use Google Docs.

My Diigo links about ‘backchannel’ and ‘backchannelling’

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