Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page

Moodle participation

I have a problem which is worrying me to the extent that I’m posting this on Saturday.

For the four modules which are running at the moment, I have set up a moodle module to support them.  The participation needed varies, but for all of them I’m expecting students to post something in the first week.

How many students have actually signed onto the moodle – less than half.

How many have posted something to the forums, or in any other way participated – none!

This really is worrying,  I’m teaching across all years (from first year students who may be excused somewhat, through to final year and postgraduate students).

Only two theories present themselves.  Firstly, maybe they think that the virtual learning part is optional, that it’s an ‘add on’ to the face to face teaching which we provide.  This is simply  wrong, to varying degrees moodle is an important part of all of the modules.

The alternative is that the students think that if they don’t participate, that I’ll give up ‘forcing’ them to use moodle, and will spoon feed them all the information that they need – photocopying articles, giving them precisely the information that they need to pass the assessments in concise, bullet pointed forms.

This isn’t going to happen.

So I’m amending my lesson plans for the lectures next week.  The first thing I’ll do is call up moodle for each module, and ‘name and shame’ the students in turn who have not participated.  I’ll then close the lecture for 20 minutes, and insist that they head of to the computer room and at least enrol.  I don’t like doing this, it won’t make for independant learners, but at least then I’ll know that they’re all enrolled, so I can communicate with them through moodle.

This weekend should be spent on my world archeology course, but instead I’m spending too much time thinking about work, and also  ‘playing’ with Google Sketch Up – to visualise what an extension to my house may look like.  Definitely a displacement activity!


Online Mind Mapping Software

I can’t remember where I found the link for this, but mind42 is my new mind mapping tool of choice. It’s a web-based mind mapping tool. I’m only just finding out what it can do, but the collaborative options do appeal.

It does provide a good way of publishing mindmaps, here’s one way, for some reasearch I’m still thinking about (and as I develop the mind map, the link will change too I guess) but I think there may be other ways of publishing maps too, there are three options, this just looks the safest at the moment!

Will this replace FreeMind in my mind mapping aresnal, I don’t know. My various attempts to use online applications such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets, and their latest Presentation tools hasn’t gone too well. But mind mapping is different, the ability to put all my thoughts into a single, web based place does appeal.

Let’s see how it goes.

Manic Wednesday

I knew today was going to be manic, but I don’t think I appreciated how tired I’d be at the end.  Still, I think (most) students turned up to the right place at the right time, and I did too!

It didn’t help that it came after an eleven hour day yesterday, with the guru lecture event, followed by teaching.  I’m sure I’ll get used to the intensity of my Tuesdays/Wednesdays this semester, but I’m drained at the moment.

It does mean I’m behind on emails and spending ‘quality’ time with my fellow academics, it feels that I’ve been running around for nearly ten days without stopping.

I am working from home tomorrow – need to write assignments and start thinking about exams (only three exams for the five modules that I’m delivering this semester).  The most pressing item is the two assessments for the brand new module I’m writing (I’m up to week four at the moment, not too bad for a weeks work I think, especially due to the other things I’ve been handling).

All part of the fun of being a lecturer at a UK university I guess.  I’m sure normal service will be resumed soon.

The host with the most

I’ve got my best china out, and paper napkins adorn my office.

UCE is acting as a host today for a training event.

All of the ITMB universities have to host a lecture each year, which is transmitted to the other twelve universities.  We were one of the first to use this technology, and develop it, so today we’re showing every one else how to use it.

It’s interesting stuff, the technology is beyond me, but I’m looking forward to meeting some fellow ITMBers (I’m sure that’s not a proper word), and hopefully showing off our technology.

I’ll have to duck out a couple of times though, once as I’ve got a tutorial, the other as I’m teaching!  Still, this event had to be confirmed before the new timetable was published.

I’ll post tomorrow how things go, and whether I juggle my hosting duties with my teaching and pastoral support.  Must go and put my nibbles out, I think that’s the doorbell!

Week 1 of teaching

No paper, photocopier jams, no toner, car park full to bursting and then some.

It wouldn’t take a social anthropologist to spot that it’s the start of teaching.

I’m as well prepared as I can be, all my week 1 material is (almost) ready, and whilst there are sure to be the odd moment when I look at some slides and think ‘what did I mean by that?’, confidence is, as they said in War Games, high.

I’ve had to let a colleague down, and say that I can’t teach with them, which I don’t like doing, but it would have meant an impossible burden this semester, especially as it’s still my first few months as course director.  Student numbers on the ITMB may not be as high as we would have liked, but the administration burden is similar (though I fully admit not identical), be it one student or one hundred (or ten, as in my case).

Also arriving in ‘snail mail’ today was confirmation that I have been accepted as an external examiner, which I’m delighted about.

And finally, the ITMB scheme got the best sort of coverage possible in The Times today, click the thumbnail below to embiggen.

ITMB Article

The joy of free wi-fi

I can’t be the only person who is genuinely delighted when they can find a free wi-fi connection when outside their normal workplace.

The first time I used a wireless laptop ‘out and about’ was in 2004, when I went out to Hong Kong and Singapore for UCE. I found that in my hotel room in HK, by sitting near the window I could use a ‘borrowed’ wi-fi connection from a local apartment. I only used it for emai, but I still felt a little bit of illicit joy in being able to ‘steal bandwidth’.

Of course now most, if not all home wireless networks are secure. I’ve occasionally paid for wireless access when out and about (the last time being at Dublin airport heading back from New York), and there was free wi-fi when I was at the lighthouse centre in Wolverhampton earlier this year, but that’s been about it.

But today I got myself set up at the Open Event at the courtyard centre, fired up my MacBook and voila, a really fast, strong, and free wireless connection.

This has practical uses too – so much of the OU material is online, being able to show students the information on the web site will be useful.. and with over four hours of battery life on my MacBook, no problems with running out!

Better go, it’s starting to look busy here!

A good excuse for misssing the posting yesterday

A rare event I know, but I missed a blog post yesterday. I think I have a good claim for extenuating circumstances though.

Some ITMB students did not want to take the placement workshop.  This is fine, and having checked the course documentation there is an alternative for those who don’t want to go on a placement year.

The problem is, the alternative module has never run – my predecessor as course director was very keen on all students doing placements, and placement workshops.  This works fine, unless students don’t want to do this.

A hastily convened meeting with the Head of Department, and we had a solution.

I’m running the module.

This makes sense – I wrote the module description (though this was four years ago), and as I teach the Year 1 and Year 3 professional practice modules, it makes perfect sense for me to also teach the year two module.    I could have just done with a little more notice.

Still, I’ve created a moodle module, and have the first two weeks sorted, and with a good idea for the rest of the module.  I think it should work well, and I’m looking forward to teaching it.

So yesterday was the final bit of ITMB induction, exam board, and then panicking about this module.  Another long day.

Today has been working from home checking that I’ve not missed anything too crucial through my emails over the last week, and writing assignments.  I would be telling a bit fat lie if I said everything was under control, but I am getting there.

Tomorrow I’m off here for an Open University event.  Sunday will be spent writing – In less than a fortnight I’ve got to write two finely crafter pieces of creative writing for my course.   Ho hum.


It’s took a while, but I’ve got my timetable for next semester sorted.

On Tuesday morning I’m teaching ‘Principles of IT Project Management’ – a good time, and not too early so the postgrad students get a bit of a lie in.

Wednesday starts with ‘IT Professional Practice’, an hour for lunch, then it’s ‘Advanced Project Management’ and ‘IT Professional Practice 3’.  These time slots overlap by an hour, finishing at 5pm.

I’ve decided that how I’m going to do this is develop a cloning machine (as Homer did in Treehouse of Horror XIII).  This may take more than the week that I’ve got, but it’s a good workaround…

Homer Cloning


Note, any similarity to myself and Homer Simpson, in particular to hairstyle and waistline is purely coincidental – honest!

In reality, this isn’t too bad.  Whilst Wednesdays will be rough, I can schedule this – no more golf in the evenings (only two more lessons to go anyhow).  I’ll make my availability times Tuesday afternoon/Wednesday morning, as that will be the time that the students will be in, freeing me up for project students, course director duties and placement visits the rest of the week.

Another long day today though with postgraduate induction, more tomorrow probably on this.

ITMB Induction wrap-up

OK, time for some classical reflection exercises about the last couple of days, and the induction process.

What Went Well

Firstly, I’ve been pleased with the student participation, and professionalism even at this early stage. Yes, a few students were late in this morning, but the traffic was chaotic, and cancelled trains didn’t help. Apparently there was a Hawaiian Party last night in the Students Union, which was well attended… one student said that he woke up wearing a pair of green sunglasses which weren’t his!

And today’s talk by Sue of e-Skills, and Gary of LogicaCMG was also well received. At the lunch afterwards people were chatting, and all of the the final year, and most of the second year attended.

What Went Less Well

I need to find a cloning machine for next year, so that I can be in three, or in some cases four places at the same time. Today I was sorting out timetables, had a final year student who needed some personal tuition, a student who had missed all of induction so far who suddenly turned up – all whilst I was trying to be a host for Sue and Gary. Not easy, but helped by some staff who made my job easier.

What I’ll do different next time

No amount of organisation can mitigate the level of stress felt at some times over the last couple of days – missing students, flat batteries in wireless mice, timetable woes. But, a little more organisation could have ensured that when students did turn up late, I had a complete pack of handouts for them. OK, a little more hassle for me, but it would also avoid that feeling I have at the moment of “I’m sure I was supposed to mention x to them at some point.

Oh, and a bottle of water wherever I go. I’ve not taught for nearly four months, and the voice a couple of times was simply giving up – even with a small group. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not used to talking much, and I’m not yet in full ‘teaching’ mode.

We’re not finished yet with the ITMB induction – Thursday is when we let them loose on the PC’s for the first time and show them moodle and SCAN, or own modules and assessment database, and give them the timetable (hopefully!).

I now need to rest up, and get ready for the MSc induction tomorrow (yep, this post is being made at 11:30pm).  Now to sleep, perchance to dream…. now where did I put those term dates?

Simple multimedia..

No Flash…

No video…

No sound…

But this photo essay tells a powerful story using simple words and pictures.  How did I find this site?  I’ve subscribed to Wil Wheaton’s blog (not always safe at work) longer than I’ve even known what a blog is.  I feel I know the guy better than many people I work with, and this morning as I sat at my desk this post pointed me to the End of the Line story.

If an undergraduate student came to me with this as a final year project, they probably wouldn’t get high marks as it’s not technically complex, but there’s a good argument that ‘less is more’.  Maybe they could back this up with a good discussion about simple sites, ensuring it’s coded for the maximum number of devices, and with their own primary research.

More later – I’m spending the morning in induction sessions, ‘lurking’ at the back of the room.