Testing, Testing

Here we are at the end of Week 3. For a while I was getting frustrated because I guess I was expecting this course to be a bit more didactic, more directly how-to. This is partly because of my difficulty with the alien language of social science; but also of course because we are all in a kind of practical panic – what am I actually going to DO in September??? But as I have relaxed into the course style, what I have found very useful is picking up a list  ideas and tools to play with and test-drive. Experiences so far:

  • Padlets. At first I didn’t like these much – too vague and unstructured. But gradually I have warmed to them, precisely because they are quite a low-key way for students to participate – feels less formal and structured. I think this could be a useful way to find out what’s troubling students, that we need to pick up in the next lecture / workshop
  • Learn Discussion Boards. I have tried this in the past. My experience in the past is that MOOC students (on Coursera) love the Forums; but regular Edinburgh u/g students aren’t interest at all. But I am thinking that they might find padlets looser and more fun.
  • Pebblepad. I don’t see our students getting into this at all. Too heavy duty, vaguely moralising, too much of a straitjacket.
  • Blogs. Well I have been doing my own blogs for years, mostly as an outreach tool. But the question is, can they be a useful part of teaching a course? For example as a nice chatty way to build a friendly teacher presence? Or to encourage students to start them? I think the learning curve is a bit steep to expect the students to do this – but its good to be able to point out to the students that they have this opportunity. It doesn’t make sense to make student blogs for a specific course I think; they should maybe be career-long things.
  • Thinglink. Looks fun but I don’t think it will work for my Phys/Astro courses.
  • Yotribe. Not on the list for this course so far, but I am really interested in this. Discovered as part of a research project (LSST). Basically you set up a room which a large number of people can join, but then you move your avatar round a 2D space and join smaller conversations a few people at a time. Really fun and very easy.

2 thoughts on “Testing, Testing

  1. Hi Andy,
    Thanks for approving my comments!
    Sorry that the course was a bit intimidating with it’s social science language – but good to hear that you are getting a bit more into as you’re going along. Even though we don’t provide any straightforward answers on how to do it, I hope you are gradually starting to see a way forward. Your reflection on the different tools and the opportunities for engaging the students seem to suggest that you are! Some will work for you and others won’t, which is also why we can’t give you a specific how-to.
    I am not familiar with Yotribe but had another person on the previous round of this course using similar 2D spaces. It sounds like a great option as it can make the students feel more present by being represented by an avatar.
    Best wishes

  2. Hi Andy,

    You can add more structure to Padlet if you wish; there are several templates you can use to force this. I use it for an async interactive session following a presentation/Q&A on Collaborate. I’ve also used it for student feedback on a project, forcing the responses to focus on certain elements. (I used to use Lino but this is working better for me at the moment).

    In the end it’s not the tech (as you know) it’s what you want to do with it and if students feel the motivation to take part.

    PebblePad comes into it’s own if you want students to collect many items of work say over a long time period and then piece them together. It is, after all, modelled on the traditional (paper) portfolio of work. It can also be effective where you have a competency based framework for assessment (e.g. in pharmacy, medicine etc.).

    All the best,

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