Keeping them engaged – tech solutions for in-class quizzes

clickerWhen I joined my current institution in 2012, I was offered the role of “Blended Learning Champion” – basically I had to promote a combination of the best pedagogical tools, including in-person techniques and digital technology. As soon as I started, I learned about what became known as “the clicker fiasco”. There was a time, you see, in the halcyon days of 2010/11, when all students in my faculty were given little devices that could be used to respond to questions during the class. It looked a little bit like the one on the right here, and worked extremely well. Lecturers would embed questions in their lectures, the students would answer using the clickers, and everybody was happy. At some stage some inconsistencies in the software versions, or possibly some old hardware (the exact cause is unknown), caused the whole system to come crashing down. What was frustrating about this situation is that there was substantial buy-in from academics to use these technological tools to enhance their pedagogical practice, but the failure of the clickers deprived them of both their favourite tools and their enthusiasm for blended learning. Now, I think I have found the solution: Socrative.Read More »


Pedagogy and a Pint

bar-406884_1280Academics have many draws on their time: research (grant applications, writing papers, speaking at conferences), teaching (planning lectures and workshops, delivering teaching, marking), and administration (committees on all of the above and more – admissions, marketing, student education, research, outreach). Most of that is just keeping things afloat, and so we sometimes lack the time to develop new ideas and discuss interesting and novel ways of working. Over the past couple of years I have been the “Academic Champion for Blended Learning” in the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, and that has meant that I have spent a fair amount of time horizon scanning for teaching technology and working with early adopters. However, trying to roll-out big initiatives (like our brilliant new lecture capture system) can be hard because staff have limited time to engage. Recently, I tried something new to give colleagues an opportunity to talk about teaching: “Pedagogy and a Pint”.

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Six tips for biologists starting out on Twitter

Last week, I had an interesting conversation over coffee with some colleagues who don’t use Twitter.  There were a lot of concerns over whether Twitter was useful at all, and whether it was right for them in particular.  I imagine a lot of people (including scientists) are hesitant about taking the plunge and don’t have time to fiddle around trying to figure out how to use the tool.  First, for those who have not come across Twitter before, there is some terminology to cover:Read More »

Open Education III: How to post lectures/talks online

Next post, I will deal with one of the main barriers to the implementation of blended learning: the fear that providing online content will lead to a drop in student lecture attendance or performance.  However, the other side of the coin is that the academics who populate our universities simply do not want to have to learn new technologies to use in their teaching.  In a bizarre state of affairs, those researchers who are at the forefront of the most technological fields consider themselves incapable of learning a basic piece of software.  I’m going to try to make it clear how easy these tools can be to use, so that there are no such excuses!  All of these examples will be based around the provision of online lecture recordings.Read More »