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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-03-07

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-28

  • @hotdogcop Tweeted this earlier, pretty funny, but also pretty accurate #
  • The Changing Landscape of Higher Education (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE #
  • Richard Feynman on the pleasure of finding things out #
  • Massive Health Uses Big Data, Mobile Phones to Fight Chronic Disease #
  • The Daily Is Interesting, But Is It the Future of Newspapers? #
  • Gladwell Still Missing the Point About Social Media and Activism #
  • “This Game Sucks”: How to Improve the Gamification of Education (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE #
  • eLearn: Feature Article – The Effects of Twitter in an Online Learning Environment Students resist adoption of Twitter #
  • eLearn: Feature Article – Administering a Gross Anatomy Exam Using Mobile Technology #
  • Onion Report: Increasing Number Of Educators Found To Be Suffering From Teaching Disabilities Humour #
  • Skateboarding Physics Professor At Large — Blog Archive » Building A New Culture Of Teaching And Learning #
  • Presentation Zen: Nurturing curiosity & inspiring the pursuit of discovery Why don’t we value curiosity in schools? #
  • @hotdogcop Seems to be this idea that “if you build it, they will come”, but the reality is that no-one knows what to do when they get there #
  • The Need for Student Social Media Policies (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE #
  • Evidence of Learning Online: Assessment Beyond The Paper — Campus Technology #
  • E10 Podcast: Gardner Campbell and Jim Groom Discuss Faculty Attitudes and the Joy of Learning | EDUCAUSE #
  • The Daily Papert. Words and wisdom of Dr. Seymour Papert #
  • Mendeley Update: OpenURL support, improved article pages, & easier citation entry for OpenOffice #
  • Thought Leader » John Vlismas » Hofmeyr, Bloody Hofmeyr Intelligent response to Steve’s rant #
  • Managing your research the modern way: Research together with colleagues using an activity feed | Mendeley Blog #
  • The Enormous Technological Challenges Facing Education Nice summary of the emerging tech in the latest Horizon report #
  • A WikiLeaks Clone Takes On Higher Education – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education #
  • @subcide Great, thanks for the update. #Mendeley is one of the tools I use most often and it’s brilliant to see it continually improving #
  • Thought leader: nothing to correct The problem of “corrective rape” in SA, aimed at the LGBTI community. I wasn’t aware #
  • The ‘myth’ of e-learning #
  • @dgachago17 #Hootsuite (web app) is also pretty good at updating multiple services simultaneously #justsaying #
  • Not sure which version of #Mendeley added this, but I just found the “Send by email” feature, and it is SOOO welcome 🙂 #
  • Acceptable Use Policies in a Web 2.0 & Mobile Era: A Guide for School District ~ Stephen’s Web #
  • Critical Thinking: More than Words? We talk about critical thinking with our students, but don’t discuss what it means #
conference research

Innovative practices in education (colloquium)

Last week I attended a teaching and learning colloquium at Granger Bay, near the Waterfront. It was organised to showcase some of the teaching practices being used at the 4 teaching institutions in the Western Cape. I was fortunate to be invited to present one of the keynotes on Friday morning and since I’ve been thinking about PLE’s lately, that was the focus of my talk. Below you can see the graphical notes taken by Ian Barbour of the 2 keynotes of the conference.

[nggallery id=25]

Here are my notes from the 2 days.

Innovation through foundational provision and extended programmes: future trends, threats and opportunities (Professor Ian Scott)

It can’t go on with us doing “more of the same”.

Higher education is elitist, with a tiny proportion of the population being recycled through the system.

We are moving towards mass participation, with all the associated problems that this brings

Innovation = taking new approaches, doing things differently from the mainstream (creative solutions to problems)

The main difference between HEI that do well and those that don’t, is the attention of the institution (Carey, 2008). There is effort and professional accountability, systemic enquiry and research

Success = developing strong foundations and completing the qualification well. Not just about access. It’s dependant on complex issues e.g. teaching and learning approach, affective support, material resources

Future challenges in academic development:

  • Meeting the needs of the majority
  • Low participation and racially skewed
  • Poor and skewed graduation rate after 5 years = 30%
  • Under 5% of black youth succeeding in HE (unsustainable)
  • Makes little sense to continue on our current path, given the above stats

Who should extended programmes serve:

  • Mainstream students who are now failing or are dropping out for learning-related reasons
  • The majority of students who are not graduating in regulation time
  • But EP’s are reaching less than 15% of the intake, even though it’s a majority need (how can we justify the status quo?)

What can be done?

  • Extend the reach of EP’s in their present form, with a focus on improvement?
  • Move to a flexible curriculum framework with a 4 year degree as the core?
  • Can foundational provision be successful with limited student number, and if so, what are the limits?
  • How does this sit with the need for expanding the programmes?

If success is dependent on small numbers, we have a big problem

Institutional differentiation: Looked at stratifying HEI’s, but who would end up in the “bottom” levels. Moved towards “reconfiguring the institutional landscape” through mergers. But there is a danger of institutions losing their way, and not sticking to their mission. Is this a distraction from the central goal of producing more, good graduates?


Will differentiation lead to further polarisation of the student intake in terms of educational achievement? Because educational achievement is not potential, and is still polarised along racial, socio-economic lines.

Will there be pressure to remove EP’s from “research” universities? → which will result in less funding and educationally disadvantaged institutions becoming the “new mainstream”

Are these bad things?

To what extent can structural change, in itself, make a difference? Are there any alternatives?

Building student confidence through a class conference in an extended curriculum programme (Maryke Meerkotter)

Some students are resistant to the concept of evolution (in biology)!

Initially, 45 students split into groups and given topics for poster presentation. But it was too open.

Next year had more specific guidelines, with more focused topic (53 students), and individual talks about their own poster

This year, conference was very specific. 87 students, so much more structure was needed i.e. specific mammals were assigned to individual students. Questions had to be answered to prevent cut and paste.

Initial intent:

  • Relieve lecture stress
  • Students to engage with “irrelevant” content
  • Raise awareness of importance of course content
  • Allowed students to take ownership of the content, especially when assigned individual animals
  • Practice oral presentation
  • Exposed to poster making skills
  • To have fun trying something new

Initial scepticism and advice:

  • Doubt that it would succeed
  • Too much unnecessary work
  • Needs a good relationship with class, as lecturer should be confident that students can perform
  • Some envisioned chaos, so needed clear guidelines
  • Some advised no rewards, but students appreciated being acknowledged

Setting guidelines:

  • Holiday assignment
  • Written and verbal communication of assignment tasks
  • Guidelines about poster and oral presentations
  • “Computer literacy” = Powerpoint
  • Specific questions needed to answer in poster and presentation
  • Lecturer created a poster as an example, in subsequent years take the best examples of previous years
  • Provided rubrics for evaluation
  • Minimum requirements for posters, and not part of evaluation, so students who could afford more weren’t advantaged


  • Oral presentations marked by lecturer and teaching assistant (reliability)
  • Audience tested at the end of each session (to ensure attendance of non-presenting students)
  • Posters were peer marked, using similar content as the marking group (each student marked 3 other posters anonymously)


  • Assignment of topics
  • Find space for posters to be displayed
  • Due dates for posters to be mounted
  • Loading of oral presentations prior to talks (use email, caution with flash drives, time constraints)
  • Lecturer needs to listen and mark at the same time
  • Students were assigned posters to mark to avoid students marking their friends work

Empowers students to take ownership of course content, especially the “boring” courses. Recommended for small classes

Introducing concept mapping as a learning tool in Life Sciences (Suzanne Short and Judith Jurgens)

A lot of diversity in the course, in terms of student population

Some of the problems:

  • The gap between school and university
  • Testing of concepts reveals confusion
  • Basic concept knowledge is inadequate, lecturers want to make assumptions about what students come into the course with
  • Poor literacy levels for required university levels
  • Low levels of student success
  • Low pass rates
  • Unable to manage the large volume of content
  • Textbook content is “unfriendly”, not contextually relevant, language is inaccessible
  • Poor integration of knowledge
  • Don’t see how biology fits into scientific study
  • Don’t apply knowledge and strategies from other subjects, concepts are compartmentalised

Hay, Kinchin and Lygo-Baker (2008). Making learning happen: the role of concept mapping in higher education.

Concept map: an organising tool using labels to explain the relationship between concepts, the links making propositional statements of understanding. Can be interesting to see how different “experts” in the course see it differently. We need to first negotiate our shared understanding of the course before we can expect students to understand it.


  • To “deconstruct” faulty knowledge acquired at school and reconfigure it
  • Better grasp the relationship between all areas of study
  • Empower students with a learning and knowledge construction tool
  • Facilitate better use of the textbook

Don’t rely on one source

Facilitates textbook use:

  • overview of concepts and relationships
  • awareness of learning strategies
  • active use of resources
  • Assists with knowledge construction:
  • identified major concepts and links
  • identified gaps in school learning
  • useful as studying tool
  • knowledge construction can be individualised
  • Enables evaluation of student learning:
  • view of student understanding “at a glance”
  • encourage discussion of concepts and categorisation


  • time consuming
  • high levels of collaboration between staff
  • not all student work visually / spatially
  • takes practice to do well

A genre based approach to teaching literacy in a university bridging course (Taryn Bernard)

How do structure a writing course to develop academic literacy, including other cognitive skills in the first year, among diverse student groups?

Students compartmentalise knowledge and find it hard to integrate into other courses. How can this be addressed?

Students want to feel as if they’re dealing with university-level content, and not high school content


  • Text-type e.g. journal articles, books, essays
  • Abstract, goal orientated and socially recognised way of using language, limited by communicative purpose and formal properties
  • Social code of behaviour established between author and reader
  • “A term used for grouping texts together and representing how writers typically use language to respond to and construct texts for recurring situations”

Students need to be introduced to the “culture” of academic discourse

Genre-based pedagogy:

Student learning is affected not only by prior subject knowledge and by approaches to learning but also by the ability to deal with text genre (Francis & Hallam, 2000). An understanding of generic conventions increases success at university (Hewings & Hewings, 2001).

It’s important to validate prior knowledge, and many don’t see the purpose in academic discourse. Students sometimes feel it’s “too complex”

Quantitative literacy courses for humanities and law (Vera Frith)

UCT recognise information literacy as being an important graduate attribute

Quantitative information must be addressed in the disciplinary context

The more that content is embedded within a real-world context, the better

Students can be confused between focusing on the context, as opposed to the content e.g. placing emphasis on what they should be learning, with the contextual framework being used

The impact of horizontal integration of 2 foundation modules on first years knowledge, attitudes and skills (Martjie van Heusden and Dr. Alwyn Louw)

Earlier introduction to clinical placements have a significant influence on students professional development, especially in communication

Research assignments for first year med. students at SU:

  • Identify conditions
  • describe disorder
  • use correct referencing
  • submit to Turnitin with only 10% similarity allowed

Did knowledge improve? What about attitudes and motivation? Did it transfer to the 2nd year?

Research assignments contributed to improved student attitudes

Saw an improvement in writing and research skills

Assignments promoted self-esteem, increased background knowledge and allowed students to ask informed questions

Foundation matters: issues in a mathematics extended course

Important to be aware that students come into the course with mixed abilities, which affects how they perceive the course

Language support for communication skills of foundation Engineering students at CPUT (Marie-Anne Ogle)

Students ability to study is crippled by their lack of confidence in their ability to speak well


  • Students don’t speak or hear English often
  • School teachers don’t give presentation training
  • Student lack self-esteem / confidence
  • Students don’t have an understanding of their own problems
  • Only 1 language lesson/week in a very crowded timetable


  • Transparent goals
  • Everybody must talk
  • Students choose the subjects they want
  • Intensive reading programmes to support this
  • Students manage their own library
  • Students take over the class towards the end
  • Fun for self-motivation

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

Use of clickers in Engineering teaching (Daniela Gachago and Dr. Mbiya Baudouin)

Useful because:

  • Results are anonymous, instant, recorded for later
  • helps to increase attention span, keeps students focused
  • Every opinion counts, not just the correct one
  • Works well with interactive learning and teaching style
  • Direct feedback about students conceptual understanding

Good feedback tool for students, identifies misconceptions instantly that can be addressed immediately, students also become aware that others have similar problems i.e. they’re not alone

Important to use equipment to stimulate discussion

Mazur sequence (see also this transcript of Mazur presenting on using technology to engage students, as well as this video presentation).

You can forget facts but you cannot forget understanding

Use of clickers must be must be accompanied by discussion

“The more a lecturer talks, the less a student understands”

Students enjoy the experience of using new tools in class, very positive response, but they do need a short introduction


  • System takes time to set up, and technical troubleshooting not always easy
  • Can waste time
  • Questions need to be changed often
  • Type of question asked needs to change
  • Can have “clicker fatigue”

Using clickers as a tool in classroom instruction to facilitate student learning (Mark Herbert)

Focus not on what student don’t know, but what they require to develop into successful practitioners of the discourse

Students exposed to how knowledge is constructed, structured and communicated

Lecturers facilitate student learning

Students must prepare for lectures (but do they?)

Constructive feedback given regularly and as soon as possible

Class attendance improved

Student interaction can stimulate learning. Students will often find the correct answer when discussing among themselves, without lecturer involvement

Student confidence increased as a result of using clickers

Innovative pedagogical practices using technology: my personal journey (Ingrid Mostert)

Blended learning model for ACE in mathematics

Bulk SMS (e.g. Frontline)

Off-campus access can be hampered with slow loading times, different to intranet

Someone else has already solved the problems that I have. The more people who know about my problem, the quicker it’ll get solved.

Moodle has a module for mobile access, which allows students to participate in forum discussions through a mobile interface

Can use mobile tech to conduct surveys. Is there a cost for students? Yes, but it’s minimal relative to SMS

Sharing experiences make the load lighter

Exploring the extent to which clickers enable effective student engagement (Somikazi Deyi, Edwine Simon and Amanda Morris)

Use real world events / contexts to make coursework relevant. What is important to students? Use that as a scaffolding for the course content

Planning is important

Students engage more deeply with complex questions. We should challenge them and raise our expectations of what they’re capable of

Difficult to draw conclusions after one session. Need to follow trends over time

Realise that other people have different perspectives and world views

Try group voting as opposed to individual voting

conference education health research

SAAHE workshop – Curricular alignment. What does it mean?

Presented by Professor Debbie Murdoch-Eaton.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably not going to get there. A clear vision of the intended outcomes should drive every aspect of teaching, learning and assessment

Outcomes must be clear because they will determine your teaching methods, and will also direct assessment

Preparing students for their final assessments should be very similar to what they will be doing when they graduate i.e. what the students are focussing on in their final weeks of being a student, should be very much like what they will do in their first jobs

Recent teaching activity (groupwork exercise). Do you:

  • Teach what students needed to know
  • Teach for assessment
  • Give facts
  • Consider how you will teach the class?

What sort of learning does your assessment generate?

Miller’s pyramid. What is the level you’re trying to teach at?

3P model of learning:

  • Presage – the “raw materials” you start with. Students e.g. background, culture, literacy, motivations, language, experience, expectations, gender i.e. know your learners’ variables. Learning environment / teachers – resources, experience, background, structure i.e. what is the educational climate? What sort of tasks are appropriate for these variables?
  • Process of learning – How can this be structured so that it will generate…
  • Product – learning outcomes (facts, skills, structure, transferability) relate back to Miller’s pyramid

Another groupwork exercise – Choose 1 competency from a teaching session you are responsible for. Plan how you would ensure that outcome would be met, considering these aspects:

  • Student/environment
  • Methods of teaching
  • Appropriate assessment
conference education health research

SAAHE keynote – How to construct a medical curriculum that matters

Presentation by Professor Herman von Rossum.

In preclinical years, you insert learning stimuli from the context of application (i.e. a clinical environment) into the educational learning environment. In clinical years, you insert education moments into the healthcare environment

In constructing a curriculum, you must first determine the health needs of a society, then determine the tasks of the doctors. From the tasks, what are the required competencies (knowledge, skills, behaviour) → final requirements of the programme

students → metamorphosis → doctor → fills health needs of society

Curriculum philosophy:

  • Competency orientated
  • Task driven
  • Learning in context
  • Teaching facilitates the learning
  • Assessment guides the learner and evaluates the outcome

Medical curricula have evolved over time:

  • Discipline or system based, (knowledge of teachers define content)
  • Thematic or integrated (teachers co-ordinated and optimised content for students)
  • Problem solving / skills lab (learning process of student became the issue)
  • Patient used as stimulus for learning moments, hybrid programmes (what is the right mix?)
  • Outcome orientated, learning in context, healthcare learning environment (competencies and learning stimuli in relevant context)

How do you translate the philosophy and structure / framework into a programme? Define the programme (e.g. CanMEDS, Tomorrows Doctors) using a blueprint determined by authority (final outcome is a legal guideline)

How do you design the learning path? Should view the pathway at a macro level (the course or the degree), a meso level (semesters), and micro level (weekly, educational structures) → real patients are introduced into the learning process at the basic structural level, and used as context for exploring concepts during that week. This would be a major challenge for us, without a link to a teaching hospital.

What “tasks in practice” (theory and practical) can be formulated from the clinical conditions, competencies and concepts involved?

One of the major differences in medical education compared to our curriculum is that the doctors can implement curricular activity directly on the wards. We can’t pull students off block to attend to these issues.

Hard concepts are “developed in dialogue” between students and clinicians

Learning rhythm: stimuli (patient introduction) → learning (engagement with patient and colleagues) → reflection on the process (in tutorials with roles rotating between students)

How do you develop a narrative between teachers and clinicians to construct learning tasks with patients? Involves meeting with patients and family to construct the problem, and content cleared with stakeholders (informed consent).

In addition to working through the actual problem-based case, the staff also provide students with a list of questions specific to the condition, that require them to follow up and in some cases, make personal reflections on the narrative.

How can you insert an educational moment in a healthcare setting? Apparently the healthcare setting must be “transformed” into an educational setting. How do you do this?

How do you select suitable healthcare events (intake, intervention, follow-up, discharge) to transform into an educational moment? What can be learned at each of these events? How do you lead one educational moment into the next?

We need to think long and hard about a better integration of clinical practice / events into our curriculum. We do suffer from the lack of partnership with a teaching hospital and having ready access to patients. How can this be addressed?

conference education health research

SAAHE keynote – What generic skills do students bring with them?

This is the presentation from Professor Debbie Murdoch-Eaton.

What impacts do we have on students life ambitions?

Workers with general / transferable skills are better placed to succeed in a global knowledge economy. The skills need not be specific to the discipline

The attributes are not only about economic drivers i.e. getting a job…they are also about enabling people to be more successful in communities / life

We do need to develop specific skills that are course specific, but also more generic skills like communication and interpersonal skills, higher order reasoning, critical thinking, ability to use tech, etc.

Why do you go to university, if not to train the mind?

There needs to be a social agenda within the institution in terms of implementing generic skills (or graduate attributes, depending on who you’re reading)

Are clinical skills generic? If so, which ones? Maybe; enterprise, management, leadership, probity, altruism

Transferability is a key skill, helps to contextualise practice

Students are coming into UK HE with lower technical and numeracy skills, written presentation, and selecting and utilising information, but increased practice in IT skills, stress management

No change in student’s ability to manage their own learning (working with others, seeking and giving feedback, teamwork, taking responsibility for own learning), presentation skills (verbal communication skills, essay writing), time management and self-organisation

Does any of this matter? Might be course dependent. It has implications for course / curriculum design and student support

Huge gap between UK and SA student generic skills (e.g. email use, managing own learning). Demonstrated how longitudinal studies of student generic skills on entering HE can be used to make decisions about curriculum design for those students.

Is the curriculum additive (additional to the discipline) or transformative?

Generic skills can be developed by being remedial (by identifying students with deficits in skills) or associated (for all students, running alongside normal curriculum but additional and separate), or part of discipline content and process, engagement / participatory

Integrating lifelong learning into the curriculum should develop explicit generic skills that incorporate structured opportunities to practice those skills

Skills can be inferred from behaviour, which is subjective and we need to be aware that the observer (teacher) has a vested interest into what skills are being inferred

“Those who are least able are also least able to self-assess accurately”

Generic skills must be embedded into the discipline’s teaching methods rather than being bolted on

“We cannot teach science that is as yet undiscovered, nor can we forecast it’s future implications”

We have to educate doctors who are capable of adaptation and change

conference education health research

SAAHE keynote – Improving health professions education to improve health (Bill Burdick)

I’m going to split my blog posts up according to the different sessions, just for ease of reference i.e. a few posts, rather than one very long one. Here are my notes from the first keynote of the day, from Professor Bill Burdick.

If you don’t continue the momentum for change, you’re going to be left behind

We need to start system capacity building at the undergraduate level

Presentation made good use of Gapminder (started by Hans Rosling to track human development trends)

It turns out that GDP isn’t the most important factor in determining life expectancy, nor is the number of doctors / 1000 population, nor is sanitation and literacy, although there is an increasing trend for each of these variables. Health spending as a % of GDP also isn’t the major factor. Changing each of these independent variables isn’t going to necessarily enhance life expectancy, but changing all of them will.

Fewer children per woman = greater life expectancy, also the younger a woman is at marriage, the earlier she dies

Taking these factors into account, what must we as health educators do to have an impact on improving health?

Academics have the skills to pull in, analyse and interpret data, and to disseminate the resultant new knowledge, which clinicians need to make evidence based decisions to enhance clinical care.

It is important for academics / health educators to integrate with the public sector by engaging with the community, training other health workers, incorporate health professionals in the management sector, and to engage with public policy makers

Ruth Levine – Case studies in global health: millions saved (freely available report):

  • Health interventions have worked even in poor countries
  • Donor funding saves lives
  • Saving lives saves money
  • Partnership is powerful
  • National governments can get the job done
  • Health behaviours can be changed\
  • Successful programmes can take many forms

Health education by itself cannot improve health

Is our curriculum aligned with any of the following factors?

  • Water
  • Sanitation
  • Fertility
  • Literacy
  • Social integration
  • Access to healthcare
  • Nutrition

Discussion of the above can easily be integrated into any case study but faculty may need support during the change

Start system capacity building with undergraduates

  • Teach leadership and management skills → students can be better at facilitating community change with these skills
  • Add interdisciplinary education to improve subsequent team work
  • Integrate rural practitioners into the faculty role
  • Create systems for knowledge sharing (academia ↔ community)

Positive deviance inquiry – technique to introduce behavioural change in communities

Lessons to learn from the Brazilian health education system

  • Curriculum guidelines should emphasise local needs
  • Government and medical school leaders attend educational meetings together (integration of ministry of health and ministry of education)

If any of this is to make an impact in health outcomes, institutions must have institutional goals that reflect a desire to improve health → then faculty promotion can be linked to institutional goals

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