Monday, June 29, 2015

Update on blogging platforms

Have been blogging on Blogger for about a decade, so comfortable with what it offers. Compared to newer blogging platforms like WordPress and Tumblr, the layout and format of Blogger, looks staid and conservative.

A couple of our programmes are now exploring eportfolios, with blogging platforms at the top of the 'try out' list. So a quick update on blogging platforms, their pros and cons required.

thenextweb provides an overview of blogging platforms with this list of 'what has been available' and then a list of what is now available. Beebom also lists the 5 best blogging platforms showing the rise of tumblr.

With some of our programmes, where the visual is important, tumblr may be one way to go. Emergingedtech provides some of tumblr in education as does avemaria press. So no shortage of ideas and 'how to dos' on the web.

Will explore possibilities this week with one our our tutors and see what fits along with a re-evaluatin of Mahara, the institutional portfolio platform.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Readings for reflective teaching in further, adult and vocational education - book overview

Readings for reflective teaching in further, adult and vocational education
Edited by M. Gregson, L. Nixon, A. Pollard and T. Spedding (2015) published by Bloomsberry

Website supporting textbook (in its fourth edition) and this book (first edition) along with a similar series through the educational sector – early childhood teaching through to higher education. The theoretical framework draws from the work undertaken in the UK in the early 2000s through their teaching and learning research programme (TLRP)

A collection of pertinent and some seminal readings relevant to vocational education. Five parts further divided into 17 sections covering a range of issues, topics and information in one book.
Part one – becoming a reflective practitioner has parts on 'identity' (defining who we are and what we stand for); overview of ‘learning’; summary of the concepts of reflection; and provides ‘principles’ of effective teaching and learning.

Part two – creating conditions of learning covers a definition, relationships, engagement and ‘spaces’ which includes the physical and the virtual.

Part three is on ‘teaching for learning’ with readings on curriculum, planning, pedagogy, communication and assessment.

Part four covers reflecting on consequences with sections on outcomes (monitoring student learning) and inclusion.

Part five – deepening understanding has sections on vocational educators own development of expertise and professionalism.

Generally a UK slant with most readings from UK researchers / educators although there is a sprinkling of authors from other countries. The book is recommended as an accompaniment to a textbook for vocational educator programmes in the UK, so contexts etc. pitched to that audience. Readings are generally short (2 – 3 pages) and are summaries or collations (a couple are of books) rather than the whole article. Reference is provided to the main source for follow up if required. Most still retain their academic style of writing. To provide focus there is a list of suggested questions at the beginning of each reading. 

Overall, the book is pitched at vocational educator / further education tutor course work within the UK context. The book is a one-stop shop for those interested in a general background on vocational education, including the latest thinking on curriculum design and pedagogy. A good reference book.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Proust and the Squid: the story and the science of the reading brain - overview

Came across this book by Maryanne Wolf (2007) published by Icon Books, at the local public library

Positive reviews from the guardian and a recent one from hastac encouraged me to work my way through the book over several evenings.

The book reads well, Wolf intersperses her own challenges with a dyslexic son, with the latest interpretations through neuroscientific research, of how the brain learns how to read. The book uses metaphors from the recent media and the western literature corpus, to bring light to concepts on learning, neuroscience and philosophy. An audience, unexposed to the delights of classical books like Charlotte’s Web, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Dr. Seuss etc. may have a bit of work to do to unravel some of the explanations.

However, of importance is the explanation of how reading evolved in different cultures. How writing is organised, whether logographic (Egyptian hieroglyphics, Chinese, Japanese Kanji) or alphabetical / phonetic (Germanic languages), affects how people learn how to read. Different parts of the brain are activated when language is presented in different ways.

Three parts:
Part 1 presents book overview and two chapters of how the first writing systems evolved and the development of the alphabet. Socrates argument of writing replacing the rigours of the oral tradition is also presented and discussed.

Part 2 reviews neuroscience studies on how the brain learns including how children learn to read (or not). Much of relevance here in understanding how parts of the brain are used for different aspects of reading.

Part 3 presents latest perspectives on why some people find it difficult to learn how to read, including discussions on the causes of dyslexia and how the present move to ‘screen reading’ and the ‘google’ generation may lead to changes in which reading develops. This section is on the weak side but the points discussed are important.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Writing journal articles

Early in April, I was presented with a ‘journal article of the year award’ by the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA). I was considerably honoured to attain the award, especially as the award had previously been presented to many other illustrious VET researchers.

Returning to work a few days later, I set to working on the revisions to a recently submitted article. The feedback list to work through was long and the process, as always, challenging. So why all the effort put into writing an article, in particular when scholarly articles are deemed to have a small readership. For instance, this timely article surely brings any academic author down from any form of inflated sense of importance.

Therefore, some ruminations on: Why write journal articles?
Here is a list, in no particular order:
  • I enjoy the intellectual challenge – I once described the process to a colleague as like ‘solving a puzzle’. You set out an argument and write the rationale, present your case and the evidence to back it and sometimes, provide some recommendations.
  • It’s continual learning. Every time I write and submit an article, I learn new things through engaging with a wide collection of ‘readings’; new processes to approach the structuring of the article; and new techniques to write more cogently.
  • My readings become more directed as I have always enjoyed reading. I now read with a purpose rather than meander.
  • I have started to enjoy the peer review process! It is a source of much learning, sort of a form of 'assessment for learning'.
  • I can now appreciate more fully, the labour that goes into producing good articles. Some articles just 'speak' to your scholarly self J

My learnings? 
  • Since the academic audience is small, there is a need to work at modifying the concepts expressed through journal articles to the target audience. I have made a start with the 'learning a trade' project in the form of a video for the 'appprentice' and a poster for trainers/ coaches. However, still much work to be done in this arena.
  • Therefore, a need to ake time to disseminate research in a form accessible to the audience who are able to contribute to making a difference. In the case of my work, to tutors, workplace trainers, ITO managers, ITP managers etc. to help improve learning approaches for VET learners
  • Work at fine tuning the ways in which academic work can be disseminated.
  • Work with the people who can help make a difference – in my case, with Ako Aotearoa, NZs National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.
  • Persist with finding other ways to fund your research – for instance – employers.
  • Find ways to meet PBRF (NZ performance based research funding) requirements but also still disseminate to target audience in a meaningful way.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Alternatives to Coaches Eye - video analysis app

We have been using Coaches’ Eye for a range of ‘skills improvement using videos’ projects. However, coaches’ eye apps struggles to run on the surface RT. Video annotation and playback is 'jerky' due to the surface RT's low spec processor.

Appcrawler offers a range of alternatives to coaches' eye. A comparative analysis of 3 apps - ubersense (ios and android), coaches' eye and dartfish - reveals coaches' eye as the only app available on Windows devices. There are more alternatives with regards to PC apps.Some of the examples looked at in previous post could be used, but apps rather than full blown PC software would be less memory hungry. MotionPro is a newer example, but at $100 plus, a bit expensive and we will also need Surface Pros to run the app.

So will still need to keep an eye for a suitable alternative.