“I am just a PE teacher!”

When I run training sessions, I will always start by introducing myself and giving brief information on my background – which is basically a sport science lecturer that started using technology in his teaching. I do this because quite often when working with teaching staff if people are nervous or anti technology then an easy excuse for them is that technology cannot be integrated into their subject area or that only certain types of lecturer could have the skills to use technology.

So it is quite common to hear me say “I am just a PE teacher” as I try to emphasise the fact that this can work in any subject area, and playing on the fact that within the educational hierarchy PE Teachers are often portrayed as at the lower end of the academic scale (obviously untrue – we should be at the top). It also gives me a good excuse to duck a techy conversation (which I will take at any opportunity).

However a colleague of mine pointed out to me that I should stop saying that as I am no longer a teacher and haven’t been for the last 5 years.

This made me think – should I stop referring to myself as a teacher? And after a bit of deep thinking I have concluded that I can for 2 reasons:

Firstly this is what I am qualified as, and is the basis of my consultancy and training activities, without my teaching background I couldn’t do my job.

Secondly (and possibly more importantly) I am prepared (and would quite like) to return to teaching. I hear many people like me that have left teaching say they would never go back, but that is not the case with me, if I ever got to the stage where I felt I couldn’t go back to teaching, then I don’t think I could do my job, as I wouldn’t have the passion, energy and credibility that I am so reliant on.

So to conclude:- i am just a PE teacher!

Using DropBox as a portfolio of evidence

I am currently working on my ITQ in accessible practice (so that I will be able to teach it). Although the qualification is not an NVQ, it does require the collection of evidence in a portfolio. Originally I was planning to use this blog, but I was concerned that some of my regular followers may not be interested in my evidence. My next thought was to set up another wordpress.com blog, which would be very easy to do, but one problem with this, is that I cannot attach an Excel spreadsheet directly to a wordpress.com blog, which would be a limiting factor as I am doing the Spreadsheets unit in the qualification.

So instead I have used DropBox, which is working very well indeed. The way that DropBox works, is you create an account on it, and you can download a little application onto your computer. This then allows me to save files to this area (which works as a folder structure, just like any other folder system on a computer). What DropBox does, is it keeps a version of the file on my computer, but also synchronises to a version on the web (in the cloud), so that I can retrieve these files from any other computer that has web access, and if someone else is another dropbox user, then I can give them access to specific items or folders, which is great, as I have given the assessor access to my evidence folder on my dropbox account. We have a single spreadsheet which as I produce evidence, I add an item to it, telling the assessor where the evidence is stored, and which criteria I think it covers. My assessor can then edit this document herself providing feedback.

So although a crude mechanism, that isn’t sophisticated, that doesn’t lend itself to natural reflective practice, in this situation it has worked very well.

Screenshot of web view of Dropbox

Screenshot of web view of Dropbox

And another nice feature is there is a free iPhone app for dropbox allowing me to view my files from my iPhone.

Which technologies do learners use?

Today I have been at the JISC RSC-EM summer conference where the focus was ‘the learners voice’. In the opening presentation by Chris Hill, he played various video clips of different learners voices, and one set of such clips asked the learners what technologies they used.

The responses were along the lines of facebook, MSN (although a few said this was declining), mobile phones and games consols.

Although not a suprising set of responses it does raise a few thoughts;

All of the listed technologies are victims of institutional banning!

Interesting that none mentioned a VLE or eportfolio, tools that many claim are at the heart of learning!

All of these technologies are not complicated, or expensive for a college to use.

So have we in education tried to be too clever with our use of technology developing overly complex solutions to problems that didn’t exist? should we take a few steps back and focus on basics (like using the existing technologies well)?

In another video clip where the learner was asked what they wanted from their teachers the answer was ‘to learn how to use PowerPoint and Word properly’ -which has been my arguement for years.

Updating a blog from Flickr or email

Following on from yesterdays blog post where I talked about using a wordpress.com blog for reflective practice I have 2 more screencasts for some of the things that we can do.

The first is looking at setting up a connecting between Flickr and the blog. This is a technique that I use loads – as Flickr is a wonderful source of high quality images, which can enhance my blog posts, and once the connection is set up, is easy to use.

The second technique that I think is really useful, is the ability to post to a blog by simply sending an email. This makes blog posting really easy, can be achieved from any email connected device (including many mobile phones), and can be used by a tutor to create a class blog, that multiple people (e.g. students) can post to.

Using a WordPress.com blog for reflective practice

On Wednesday I will be working with staff at Bedford College, as they will be supporting learners to use iphones to help them keep reflective logs whilst they are on their summer work placements.

We have chosen to use wordpress.com blogs for this, as will do most that we need to do, is free, easy to set up and will work without the iphone, so is more futureproof.

I will be showing staff as many different ways that a learner can capture and send information to their blog through text, audio, images and videos, and how they can then use the wordpress app on the iphone to manage their posts, reflect on their work etc.

My job on Wednesday is to train the staff, who in turn will have to train the learners, so I am deliberately not creating any ‘how to sheets’ as these can make people too reliant on them, and as the various services that we will use change (and they do change regularly) they can become more of a hinderance than a help, so instead I have created a few screencasts using screenr to get them going, I will then as part of the days training, get them to create their own support material (using different mediums), and email this into a blog that I have set up specifically for this purpose, that will hopefully help them practice the skills, as well as giving them a reference tool for the coming months.

The first step is to set up a wordpress.com account which this video hopefully explains

Having created an account, and set up a blog step 2, is to start writing posts. There are various ways to do this, but this is one of them.

In tomorrows post, I will show how to connect a Flickr account to a blog and how to set up the ability to email to a blog.

Using the iPadio WordPress Plugin

I have been using and demonstrating ipadio over the last year or so, as a potentially really useful tool, as it allows someone to dial a standard UK phone number from a phone, and record an audio file (or ‘phlog’ – short for phone log). This can then be later downloaded from the iPadio website, for further editing, or from the website you are given the embed code, which allows this to be embedded into a Virtual Learning Environment or similar, however wordpress (which I use to power this blog) wouldn’t allow this embed code to work, so I am quite pleased that ipadio have created a plugin to do this. An example of the output is below

Visit http://ipad.io/Kv3 to hear my latest ipadio phonecast

Or listen here:

The way that it works, is you go onto your ipadio area,where you view your phlogs there is a tab called ‘social media’ – you can then enter the details of your blog. Once you have recorded your message, it will automatically create a new entry with the audio embedded.

Now the only problem with this, is you could end up with a blog with lots of short posts just containing aduio casts, which would quickly become hard to locate information on, and wouldn’t look very attractive, and if you delete your recording on ipadio, you will then have a broken link on your blog.

So what I have done is I have set up a separate blog (that only I can view) which I send my phlogs to. Then if I want to use one on my main blog (this blog) all I need to do is go to the relevant post on the other blog, go to edit, copy the contents of the post, and then paste it into a new post on my main blog.

Although this might sound a little clumsy, if you use wordpress then you can manage multiple blogs from the same account, so once set up is quite easy to manage.

As a learning tool, I think this is brilliant for reflective practice, NVQ assessment,  etc.

Why do some people only think of plagiarism in June?

Something that I have noticed over the last few weeks, is how plagiarism seems to become a hot topic at this time of year, with lots of activity about it on Twitter, mailing lists, and other people’s blogs, and then it will drop off the radar until a similar time next year.

Obviously this is a time of the year where for many courses, they are coming to an end, and work is being submitted and assessed and there will be a connection here, but it does highlight to me, how many people seem to deal with plagiarism retrospectively (e.g. deal with it once they have detected it) rather than my preferred method which is to tackle it throughout the year in a preventative manner, and hopefully find your self in a situation where you don’t detect any plagiarised work, when you come to this mad few weeks at the end of the academic year.

Surely, the issue of plagiarism deterrence should be started as early as enrolment on courses and as part of the induction process, so the social media activity around plagiarism should peak in the late summer and early autumn, rather than now.

People often ask me when the best time is to educate learners about plagiarism, to which I respond as early as possible. I would bring it up at the start of the course when students are enrolling, to make sure they know that they are signing up for a course where plagiarism won’t be tolerated. I would then provide them with a brief element of introduction to this area of work during induction, but I wouldn’t cover it fully, as during induction they have so much information thrown at them, it isn’t the best time to deal with this, instead I would wait until the first piece of assessed work is issued, and educate the learners then, this way I can use real examples based on that piece of work, and there is less chance of them forgetting. Another question is about whose responsibility is it to educate the learners, and many organisations will have a dedicated person or team that will go round providing the training, but to me it should be everyones responsibility and the subject tutor is the most obvious person to deliver that element of the support.

The University of Bergen, have as part of their plagiarism deterrence practice, produced this video, which captures some of the ideas quite nicely.

I wish I could bring in a swat team, to deal with a suspected cheat – they wouldn’t do that again.

Thanks to David Hopkins blog post, that alerted me to this video