Thursday, April 16, 2015

Teaching and communicating science in a digital age

Drosera capensis Teaching and communicating science in a digital age
This F1000Research channel brings together papers developed from presentations made at Teaching and Communicating Science in a Digital Age, a Society for Experimental Biology symposium involving Higher Education Professionals from across the globe to reflect upon the impact that digital technologies have and will have upon aspects of the communication of science:

  • Tweets from the forest: using Twitter to increase student engagement in an undergraduate field biology course: "Although students did not think they would use Twitter after the course was over, 77% of the students still felt it was a good learning tool, and 67% of students felt Twitter had a positive impact on how they engaged with course content."
  • Challenges and opportunities for early-career Teaching-Focussed academics in the biosciences: "We identify that there is a need for the learned societies to come together and pool their expertise in this area. The fragmented nature of the Teaching-Focussed academic community means that clear sources of national support are needed in order to best enable the next generation of bioscience educators to reach their full potential."
  • Digital collaborative learning: identifying what students value: "Here we present findings generated on PlantingScience, an online community where scientists from more than 14 scientific societies have mentored over 14,000 secondary school students as they design and think through their own team investigations on plant biology."
  • Interactive lectures: Clickers or personal devices? "We find that students prefer interactive lectures generally, but those that used their own device preferred those lectures over lectures using clickers. However, device users were more likely to report using their devices for other purposes (checking email, social media etc.) when they were available to answer polling questions."
  • Digital teaching tools and global learning communities: "We report on our ongoing efforts to develop a global learning community that encourages discussion and resource sharing."
  • Why do we bother? Exploring biologists' motivations to share the details of their teaching practice: "In this paper I explore the motivations of these individuals to disseminate the detail of their teaching practice. I reflect upon my own experience and my observations of the experiences of others and in doing so I explore common enablers/disablers to engagement with SoTL."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sustainable assessment revisited

Arse "Sustainability in education may be interpreted as a feature of educational systems. It is not just about sustainability of the physical environment, but also about the sustainability of educational practices, some of which may be too resource-intensive to survive in a constrained financial environment. That is, promoting teaching, learning and assessment practices that involve less face-to-face but perhaps more effective contact between teachers and students. However, such a view of education is too narrow and provision-centred. What is more important for the longer term is to look at the notion of sustainability from the perspective of learning. What educational practices are needed now in order to form and sustain learners who will be able to operate effectively in a complex society?
From such a viewpoint, sustainability becomes transformed into a question of whether educational provision equips learners effectively, not just for immediate educational requirements, such as what they need to be able to do in a course, but also for whether it prepares them for what might be required in the future whether that be in educational institutions or beyond. That is, in higher education do educational activities equip learners for the multiplicity of challenges they will face after graduation? From this perspective, the consumption of educational resources is judged in terms of their effect in producing students who go on to become self-managing persons who, in association with others, can draw on whatever they need to continue learning effectively beyond the end of the course and be able to make judgements about their own learning outcomes. Sustainable learning is thus a function of what students gain from education, not what inputs are put into the process.
This paper focuses on the particular role of assessment in sustainability debates within education. It considers what sustainable assessment means and what is involved in building such ideas into courses to support learning in the longer term. Teachers may well be teaching with the longer term in mind, but unless this work is actively supported through assessment practices, their good intentions can be inhibited. This paper positions sustainable assessment as a way of rethinking outcomes, curriculum and pedagogy away from a focus on disciplinary knowledge to what students can do in the world. It reviews literature that has taken up the idea of sustainable assessment and its implementation. While it is judged to be a successful intervention in thinking about assessment, it suggests that the implications of sustainable assessment have yet to be fully embraced. This paper considers where the emphasis for further development should be and what related ideas might also be considered. It concludes by identifying directions for embedding sustainable assessment in courses and it discusses some of the key issues to be considered, with a particular stress on the role of assessment design."

Sustainable assessment revisited. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 09 Mar 2015 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2015.1018133
Sustainable assessment has been proposed as an idea that focused on the contribution of assessment to learning beyond the timescale of a given course. It was identified as an assessment that meets the needs of the present in terms of the demands of formative and summative assessment, but which also prepares students to meet their own future learning needs. This paper reviews the value of such a notion for assessment; how it has been taken up over the past 15 years in higher education and why it might still be needed. It identifies how it has been a successful intervention in assessment discourse. It explores what more is needed to locate assessment as an intervention to focus on learning for the longer term. It shows how sustainable assessment can help bridge the gap between assessment and learning, and link to ideas such as self-regulation, students’ making judgements about their own work and course-wide assessment.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gameplay Engagement and Learning in Game-Based Learning

Purple Earlier this week I listened to student presentations about the use of educational games, and very good they were too. But I'm a sceptic when it comes to games in education, believing that there's usually a better in answer. In spite of that, games won't go away, so this systematic review is about the best there is at telling you everything you need to know.

Gameplay Engagement and Learning in Game-Based Learning: A Systematic Review. Review of Educational Research March 25, 2015, doi: 10.3102/0034654315577210
In this review, we investigated game design features that promote engagement and learning in game-based learning (GBL) settings. The aim was to address the lack of empirical evidence on the impact of game design on learning outcomes, identify how the design of game-based activities may affect learning and engagement, and develop a set of general recommendations for GBL instructional design. The findings illustrate the impact of key gaming features in GBL at both cognitive and emotional levels. We also identified gaming trends and several key drivers of engagement created by the gaming features embedded within GBL, as well as external factors that may have influences on engagement and learning.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why do we bother?

Eclipsed I sense a change in the air surrounding SoTL, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. It would be nice to think that this is a post-REF shift, when we finally have time to focus on something more productive, but I don't think it is. I sensed the change during the later phases of the REF frenzy and it's been around for a while. Of course, the future is not evenly distributed, and it's never going to be - culture is local not global and Departments differ widely in their teaching quality.

Over the next couple of months I'm booked for a couple of runs of my PedR workshop. (I'm on trend as ever - bookings being taken, just contact my agent.) So this recent musing by Graham Scott is of interest as background to the current situation where SoTL is a box that must be ticked. It turns out the answer is quite simple - we do SoTL for the same reason as anyone does any research.

...I am not primarily interested in the mechanisms by which we disseminate our teaching practice – we illustrate symposium presentations using digital media, we disseminate through social media, we blog and we submit papers to online journals for example. Instead my primary focus is a desire to better understand our motivations to share our practice. In so doing I hope to gain some insight into our experiences as professionals who are often be viewed as being at the intersection of two areas of academic practice, teaching and research, and at the boundary that exists between disciplinary areas...

Scott G. Why do we bother? Exploring biologists' motivations to share the details of their teaching practice. F1000Research 2015, 4: 46. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.6129.1

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Want your science communication videos to be wildly popular on YouTube? Here's how.

YouTube I've had an on/off relationship with YouTube over the years. Effectively YouTube won and is the only game in town for videos (assuming you actually want people to watch what you produce). I'm currently on just over 1.6 million views with just under 700 subscribers, but I've never had the resources (mostly time) to devote to a dedicated push towards building a committed YouTube audience, preferring instead to focus my limited time on this (and other) blogs. Over the years I've thought about trying to figure out what would be required to achieve this, but apart from gut instinct, it's not easy to figure out. This is about the best analysis I've read of science communication on YouTube. It's not particularly good reading for science communication professionals, and certainly not for scientific publishers. Like me, they are clearly struggling with YouTube. Interestingly, the findings are a vindication of the Just Do It philosophy of the EduPunk days. Remember then?

Will Grant. (2015) Science communication on YouTube: Factors that affect channel and video popularity. Public Understanding of Science, 19 February 2015. doi: 10.1177/0963662515572068
YouTube has become one of the largest websites on the Internet. Among its many genres, both professional and amateur science communicators compete for audience attention. This article provides the first overview of science communication on YouTube and examines content factors that affect the popularity of science communication videos on the site. A content analysis of 390 videos from 39 YouTube channels was conducted. Although professionally generated content is superior in number, user-generated content was significantly more popular. Furthermore, videos that had consistent science communicators were more popular than those without a regular communicator. This study represents an important first step to understand content factors, which increases the channel and video popularity of science communication on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's not flipping magic, just hard work

"This study shows that the flipped classroom does not result in higher learning gains or better attitudes over the nonflipped classroom when both utilize an active-learning, constructivist approach.'

Of course, if you just bore them to death with PowerPoint, YMMV.

Jensen JL, Kummer TA, Godoy PD. (2015) Improvements from a flipped classroom may simply be the fruits of active learning. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2015 Mar 2;14(1). pii: ar5. doi: 10.1187/cbe.14-08-0129
The "flipped classroom" is a learning model in which content attainment is shifted forward to outside of class, then followed by instructor-facilitated concept application activities in class. Current studies on the flipped model are limited. Our goal was to provide quantitative and controlled data about the effectiveness of this model. Using a quasi-experimental design, we compared an active nonflipped classroom with an active flipped classroom, both using the 5-E learning cycle, in an effort to vary only the role of the instructor and control for as many of the other potentially influential variables as possible. Results showed that both low-level and deep conceptual learning were equivalent between the conditions. Attitudinal data revealed equal student satisfaction with the course. Interestingly, both treatments ranked their contact time with the instructor as more influential to their learning than what they did at home. We conclude that the flipped classroom does not result in higher learning gains or better attitudes compared with the nonflipped classroom when both utilize an active-learning, constructivist approach and propose that learning gains in either condition are most likely a result of the active-learning style of instruction rather than the order in which the instructor participated in the learning process.

Friday, February 20, 2015



Increasing Student Engagement with Practical Classes Through Online Pre-Lab Quizzes
Altmetric: This article scored 5.56

So far Altmetric has tracked 55 articles from this journal. They typically receive a little less attention than average, with a mean score of 2.7 vs the global average of 5.1. This article has done well, scoring higher than 83% of its peers. It's actually the 9th highest scoring article in this journal that we've seen so far.

Older articles will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this score to the 62,824 tracked articles that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any journal. This article has done well, scoring higher than 83% of its contemporaries.

More generally, Altmetric has tracked 2,826,483 articles across all journals so far. Compared to these this article has done well and is in the 83rd percentile: it's in the top 25% of all articles ever tracked by Altmetric.