We’re all in beta

I was talking to Ben Ellis (@bendotellis) from Oxford Brookes University at the ER-WCPT conference in Liverpool last year and bemoaning the fact that the most interesting conversations – for me anyway – were happening outside of the sessions. This is probably not news for anyone who’s gone to more than a few conferences. We started chatting about how we could take the things “that work” from conferences e.g. sharing ideas, and removing the things that “don’t work” e.g. a few people talking at other people for 10 minutes at a time.

We’ve been toying with a few different options – influenced by unconferences and teachmeets – but always trying to keep the following broad principles around the format in focus:

  • Broad perspectives. Encourage input from a wide variety of expertise, rather than have the “expert” talk to everyone else.
  • Collaborative. Obviously.
  • Multiple activities. The session should include presenting, writing, and discussion, all around an artifact of some sort.
  • Preparation. We wanted the presenter to bring something to the discussion in the form of an idea that the conversation would centre on.

We’ve decided that a Google+ community seems to have the basic features we need to implement the principles described above. We also wanted to reinforce the idea that we’re all constantly learning how to do things better, and that it makes sense to learn from each other. It seems likely that the things we want to do in our classrooms have been done, in some form, somewhere else. And there’s no need to wait until the next conference and hope that your abstract gets accepted. As Ben said in his post on the project:

The idea of In Beta is for physiotherapy educators to bring a teaching and learning idea that they have been working on themselves or with colleagues within their institution to a group of peers in order to spark discussion, feedback and collaboration to improve and develop the original idea prior to releasing it into the classroom or clinic.

In essence, we want to use this space to encourage physio educators to experiment on their own approaches to teaching and learning practices. We have a basic structure for each session, which may change as we experiment with the format:

  1. Members of the In Beta community share an idea for a change in their teaching and learning practice.
  2. Community members choose a topic on a monthly basis, and help the person who submitted the topic develop the idea for presentation.
  3. The presenter shares their idea with the community, probably in a formal presentation (e.g. slideshow), but could equally be something different (e.g. collection of Pinterest images).
  4. There is a discussion around the idea where everyone gets to share their ideas and suggestions for improvement.
  5. During this process, the original submission is open for editing, so the community members present in the session are able to comment, make suggestions, share resources, generate a reading list, etc.
  6. We encourage those who presented to share their experiences back into the community following implementation of the idea.
  7. Finally, we hope that the process generates a collection of shared resources and ideas for other community members who may be interested in similar contexts.

Anyone with an interest in any aspect of physiotherapy education (clinical or practice-based educators as well as academics) can join the Google+ community for In Beta (Google account required).

The first In Beta session will be at 2pm (UK) on Wednesday 19th July 2017. The topic is teaching long term condition management and the background and outline of the teaching idea is available via the In Beta Google+ community. Thanks to Ben for taking the plunge and offering to be the guinea pig in this experiment.

Remember, it’s not defective. It’s in beta.

education physiotherapy

Physiotherapy education for the 21st century

Note: This article was first posted on the Critical Physiotherapy Network. Thanks to CPN for permission to cross-post here.

The beginning of the 21st century has seen more technological advances than any other time in our history, at an accelerating rate of change. At the time of writing, we are seeing the introduction of robotics, gene therapy and nanotechnology into larger and larger aspects of health care which, when combined with advances in computing power that will soon exceed the processing power of the human brain, we seem poised on the brink of a shift in our understanding of what it means to be human. In addition to the obvious influence of information and communication technology on social structures, we are also experiencing a shift from vertical communication structures that privilege hierarchies of control, to horizontal structures – like networks – that embody coordination, cooperation and collaboration (Bleakley, Bligh, Browne & Brice Browne. 2011). Regardless of what we call this cultural shift in perspective (postmodernity, late modernity, and posthumanism are all used somewhat interchangably), what matters is how we orient ourselves to the future (ibid.).

Given the scope of these changes and their inevitable impact on health professions education – embedded as it is within a broader socio-cultural context – we should expect to see a significant shift in how physiotherapists are prepared for practice. Yet, physiotherapy education continues to follow traditional lines of thinking and implementation, based in a historical model that not only ignores our understanding of how people learn but also fails to consider the changing needs of the communities we serve (Frenk et al., 2010). In addition, the focus on increasing the intake of health professional programmes that aims to graduate more therapists is insufficient to create a health workforce who are equipped with the appropriate competencies to respond to its evolving needs (WHO, 2013). The education of health professionals is often isolated from service delivery needs and does not adapt to the rapidly changing profile of the population. For example, an excessive focus on hospital-based education, together with education that segregates students into professional silos does not prepare them to work effectively in teams, nor to develop the leadership skills required in 21st century health services (ibid.).

Instead, physiotherapy educators must seek to adapt their curricula in order to produce professionals who have the capacity to identify and adjust to new environments in a continuous process of learning and adapting their competencies (WHO, 2013). As society and the health systems within it become increasingly complex and the needs of populations change accordingly, it seems appropriate to ask if our current education system is capable of preparing physiotherapy graduates to not only work in such environments, but to thrive.

In order to graduate young professionals who are capable of adapting to dynamic and complex systems, we cannot afford to continue learning in spaces that have not changed in 500 years. There is little evidence that physiotherapy educators have acknowledged society’s changing conceptions of therapy and health, nor that they have adapted their teaching practices accordingly. In order to bring about transformative learning experiences for health professions students, Frenk et al., (2010) suggest three fundamental shifts:

  1. from fact memorisation to searching, analysis, and synthesis of information for decision making
  2. from seeking professional credentials to achieving core competencies for effective teamwork in health systems
  3. from non-critical adoption of educational models to creative adaptation of global resources to address local priorities

We need to ask ourselves what attributes health care professionals require in order for them to effectively negotiate the challenges of future working environments and whether or not our current teaching and learning spaces help students become capable, effective leaders in complex health systems? As we develop a more nuanced vision of what it means to be human in an increasingly complex world, we must ask critical questions that challenge the profession to think differently about what it means to be a physiotherapist and consequently, how physiotherapy education needs to change.


  • Bleakley, A., Bligh, J., Browne, J., & Brice Browne, J. (2011). Medical Education for the Future: Identity, Power and Location. Springer.
  • Frenk, J., Chen, L., Bhutta, Z. A., Cohen, J., Crisp, N., Evans, T., … Zurayk, H. (2010). Health professionals for a new century: transforming education to strengthen health systems in an interdependent world. Lancet, 376(9756), 1923–58.
  • Gordijn, B., & Chadwick, R. (2008). Medical enhancement and posthumanity. Springer.
  • World Health Organization (2013). Transforming and scaling up health professionals’ education and training.

Are we gatekeepers, or locksmiths?

David Nicholls at Critical Physiotherapy recently blogged about how we might think about access to physiotherapy education, and offers the metaphor of a gated community as one possibility.

The staff act as the guards at the gateway to the profession and the gate is a threshold across which students pass only when they have demonstrated the right to enter the community.

This got me thinking about the metaphors we use as academics, particularly those that guide how we think about our role as examiners. David’s post reminded of a conversation I had with a colleague soon after entering academia. I was working as an external clinical examiner for a local university and we were evaluating a 3rd year student who had not done very well in the clinical exam. We were talking about whether the student had demonstrated enough of an understanding of the management of the patient in order to pass. My colleague said that we shouldn’t feel bad about failing the student because “we are the gatekeepers for the profession”. The metaphor of gatekeeper didn’t feel right to me at the time and over the next few years I struggled with the idea that part of my job was to prevent students from progressing through the year levels. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we allow incompetent students to pass. My issue was with how we think about our roles as teachers and where the power to determine progression lies.

I imagine that this is how many students think of their lecturers and clinical examiners: mysterious possessors of arcane, hidden knowledge.

A gatekeeper is someone who has power to make decisions that affect someone who does not. In this metaphor, the examiner is the gatekeeper who decides whether or not to allow a student to cross the threshold. Gate keeping is about control, and more specifically, controlling those who have less power. From the students’ perspective, the idea of examiner-as-gatekeeper moves the locus of control externally, rather than acknowledging that success is largely determined by one’s motivation. It is the difference between taking personal responsibility for not doing well, or blaming some outside factor for poor performance (“The test was too difficult; The examiner was too strict”; The patient was non-compliant”).

As long as we are the gatekeepers who control students’ progress through the degree, the locus of control exists outside of the student. They do the work and we either block them or allow them through. We have the power, not students. If they fail, it is because we failed them. It is far more powerful – and useful for learning – for students to take on the responsibility for their success or failure. To paraphrase from my PhD thesis:

If knowledge can exist in the spaces between people, objects and devices, then it exists in the relationships between them. [As lecturers, we should] encourage collaborative, rather than isolated activity, where the responsibility for learning is be shared with others in order to build trust. Facilitators must be active participants in completing the activities, while emphasising that students are partners in the process of teaching and learning, because by completing the learning activity together students are exposed to the tacit, hidden knowledge of the profession. In this way, lecturers are not authority figures who are external to the process of learning. Rather than being perceived as gatekeepers who determine progression through the degree by controlling students’ access to knowledge, lecturers can be seen as locksmiths, teaching students how to make their own keys, as and when it is necessary.

By thinking of lecturers (who are often also the examiners) as master locksmiths who teach students how to make their own keys, we are moving the locus of control back to the student. The gates that mark thresholds to higher levels of the profession still exist, as they should. It is right that students who are not ready for independent practice should be prevented from doing so. However, rather than thinking of the examiner as a gatekeeper who prevents the student from crossing the threshold, we could rather think of the student as being unable to make the right key. The examiner is then simply an observer who recognises the student’s inability to open the gate. It is the student who is responsible for poor performance and not the examiner who is responsible for failing the student.

I therefore suggest that the gatekeeper metaphor for examiners be replaced with that of a locksmith, where students are regarded as apprentices and novice practitioners who are learning a craft. From this perspective we can more carefully appreciate the interaction that is necessary in the teaching and learning relationship, as we guide students towards learning how to make their own keys as they control their own fate.


Caveat: if we are part of a master-apprentice relationship with students, then their failure must be seen as our failure too. If my student cannot successfully create the right key to get through the gate, I must faithfully interrogate my role in that failure, and I wonder how many of us would be comfortable with that.

Thanks to David, who posted Physiotherapy Education as a Gated Community, and for stimulating me to think more carefully about how the metaphors we use inform our thinking and our practice.

conference technology

Council on Higher Education ICT colloquium

The Council on Higher Education in South Africa is an independent statutory body that advises the government on all aspects of higher education policy, and today they held a colloquium on the use of ICTs in higher education. Here are the notes I took during the session.

Consonance and Dissonance in ICT and Higher Education (Laura Czerniewicz)
Informal vs formal directions of MOOCs. Maybe the universities and the academics need to look at the semi-formal path in-between the two other formats?

Adaptive learning – area of massive potential growth, seeing ++ investment but what happens when we have business models that determine the direction of student learning and higher education?

Also, face to face is complicated and expensive.

What are the risks in the higher education landscape?
What are the policies that map this terrain? What about privacy, ethics?
Who stands to benefit?

Blended learning is going to be the norm: arrays of delivery formats across (and within) institutions, programmes and courses.

HEIs must collaborate and work together

Comment from the audience that online learning doesn’t allow for institutional culture. But, you could argue that the online space sees students interacting with more culture and more difference and therefore more opportunity to have their prejudices and their biases confronted. What about, instead of institutional culture / academic culture, we look at community culture? How do we develop a sense of community and togetherness in online spaces?

What happens when the face to face student experience becomes the elite objective that only those with access get to experience? Maybe everyone gets access to higher education, but few get access to the campus experience.

The dominant discourse in the “emerging technology in higher education” conversation is a business model / financial discourse. This is hugely problematic for us.

Concerns about cost of bandwidth, but no acknowledgement that cost is always coming down, speed is always increasing. We’re going to start paying more for services and less for access. The cost of the pipe may even go away, but you’ll pay for the services.

See “Developing world MOOCs: A curriculum view of the MOOC landscape”, in Journal of global literacies, technologies and emerging technologies, and a curation of MOOC resources:

Concern that the MOOC conversation “doesn’t relate to our reality”, comment from UNISA representative, asking how much we can really engage with the idea of MOOCs? Why are we planning for today, rather than tomorrow? We don’t plan for now, we plan for what’s coming. In 5 years times everyone will have a supercomputer in their pocket and “the internet” will be everywhere.

One of the dangers is that the divides get bigger. Pushing students to work in online spaces is the ONLY way to narrow the gap. The “haves” will continue pushing and developing and growing…they’re not going to wait for the “have nots”. Unless we push intentionally and actively to bring the “have nots” up to the same level, we will see the gap continue to grow.

ICTs and Intellectual Property Rights (Caroline Ncube)
Concerns about copyright implications of a changing HE landscape that is moving towards flexible and open, online learning.

Moving from the place to the platform. Are we really moving towards the mobile device for real work? Or is this still a consumption device?

MOOCs traditionally are created in the North and are increasingly being used / consumed in the South. Are we going to get into the MOOC-business? Why should we? Let’s just run our courses for our students, and make them available?


  • Who owns the learning materials produced by HEI staff?
  • What rights to it does the HEI have?
  • Do different types of materials raise different questions e.g. what about video and audio capture of lectures…that is now a product / course material? Do we need to get permission from students for their image / voice capture? First of all, audio and video recordings are not new, they’ve been around for as long as we’ve been able to record video and audio.
  • What about the nature and extent of sharing materials? How far? How wide? For how long?

There’s a concern about lecturing in public. Maybe this will drive lecturers to get better?

The intellectual property related to materials produced by an academic in service of an institution is owned by the institution. So does this mean that academics can create resources and share them openly as part of open online courses? What about institutions who encourage their staff to license their materials with, for example, creative commons licenses?

Copyright protects original work in material form created by a person who is a citizen of the country granting the license. It does not protect ideas, only the material representation of that idea. It exists automatically i.e. the creator of the work doesn’t need to explicitly claim those rights.

Brief look at integrity and paternity aspects of moral rights, as well as economic rights.

Video on Creative Commons licensing (

UCT has contractual policies regarding IP, so UCT owns the material but allows them to be licensed with CC licenses for broader distribution (UCT has signed the Berlin Declaration).


  • What are the implications of the stated DHET preference for OERs?
  • What is the present role of legislation in terms of all these issues?
  • Should there be changes in the conversation in light of the move towards open and online?


National Infrastructure development supporting ICTs at universities (Duncan Greaves)
NREN (National Research and Education Network) is a Good Thing, as they are critically important in higher education.

Different to ISPs because mature NRENs offer richer and more elaborate services on top of the infrastructure.

One NREN / One country which enables more efficient relationships between stakeholders. About 100 NRENs in the world, that all interconnect with each other. Africa connects to the global network via Europe.

They are controlled by their beneficiary institutions, but can range in terms of governmental control.

Number of staff can be used as a proxy indicator for complexity and scope of the NREN.

South African NREN (SANREN), outcome of collaboration between TENET (non profit company owned by 23 public universities in SA and 6 research councils) and the CSIR. Originally required significant investment from Department of Science and Technology.

Founded to meet the internetworking requirements of SA HEIs.

2014 international bandwidth = 7.5GB/s (compared to 2008 = 241MB/s)

Good design is invisible. Poor design is very visible.

South Africa gets 4GB/s per day, just from Google. SANREN doesn’t look at the content moving through the pipe.

The current challenge is to decide if this infrastructure is a NRN, a NReN, or an NREN? In other words, what services is the network going to privilege? Universities can be seen to have a primary interest in either research or education, depending on who is defining the role of the university.

Unresolved questions

  • Who will be served? Universities, academic hospitals, schools? Not a simple question.
  • What governance arrangements are in place?
  • How will the network be funded?
  • Who will decide what services will operate?

Why do we have this idea that all we need to do to “fix” higher education is to add technology?


The DHET’s projects relating to ICTs (EL van Staden)
Focus of presentation is on policy and funding decisions made by DHET

What are the challenges in the higher education system, and how is DHET responding in terms of strategies related to ICT?

DHET looking at expansion, access and equality. In addition, looking at PhD staff to increase to more than 75%, and move the “distance” component of higher education to 40%.

Our current physical infrastructure prevents us from scaling up higher education in SA. We currently cannot reach our targets for access by 2030. DE must include a qualitative alternative in order to make a significant contribution to growth.

Evolving some institutions into blended institutions. There needs to be a convergence of ways in which traditionally “F2F” and “distance” institutions offer their courses.

There needs to be an enabling environment for appropriate integration of ICT to enhance distance education provision. There must also be reasonable access to affordable connectivity.

We need to be very careful about conflating “effective use of technology” with “improvements in student learning”. There is a strong sense of the wonder and magic of the internet to solve our problems.

“If we can dream it, we can achieve it”. We can’t afford to dream. What is the practical reality in terms of the problems we have in higher education, and how do we address those?

ICTs must complement the teacher, not replace them. Need to look at capacity development of academic to use technology to enhance learning.

We must be careful about thinking that “open” is necessarily “good” because open is not always used to mean transparent. It is usually used to mean “free to access”.

Social media in higher education (Vivienne Bozalek)
Students using social media for social purposes, rather than professional purposes

We are in a position of gross inequality in SA higher education, how do we ensure that we are inclusive in our strategies?

Important to share ideas and experiences across institutions. Challenge that all institutions use different platforms. Move to social, cloud-based tools.

Pedagogy more important (obviously) than technology or platforms.

Are there any disadvantages to using social tools that connect academics? Difficult to separate personal from learning. Do you want to separate them?

Options to encourage use of social media

  • Support teachers
  • Encourage and support use
  • Build in time for teacher development
  • Sustainable infrastructure
  • Recognise and reward innovation

Need policies to support innovative use of social media. Innovation without institutional support won’t scale to institutional levels. If you only ever work as an individual, your ideas won’t scale.

Resolve binary between research and teaching, where they are different. Need an expanded view of scholarship (see Boyer, 1994 – Scholarship reconsidered, and Brew, 2003 – Teaching and Research: New relationships and their implications for inquiry-based teaching and learning in higher education, for a discussion).

How does social media, which is perceived as open and informal, get integrated into university spaces, which are traditionally quite closed and formal? How do we bring those tools into the classroom?

Lots of assumptions about student and staff use, and efficacy of use, of social media. Students and staff represent a diverse group.

Do students mistrust institutional use of social media?

How do we regulate professional boundaries when we do mix professional relationships in social platforms?

Does the role of the teacher / lecturer change when you start using social media in the classroom? How does it change? An example of using the tool that changes behaviour.

We must accept that we can’t control learning. But the suggestion here is that we can manage it. What is the difference between control and manage? Social media is about moving through and beyond boundaries, not trying to manage them.

We’ve just had a long discussion about social media but we haven’t defined what we mean by social media. We all have different ideas about what that term means.

We must be careful of using technology to reinforce our biases and prejudices.

Discussion session
Markus Mostert makes the point that there are a lot of IT people here and very few academics / pedagogical experts. The discussion around infrastructure is important but then we must be sure that we don’t talk about T&L. The “building technological infrastructure for learning” is a different conversation to learning.

Priorities are expressed through policy, but academics don’t want to feel regulated. Policy must serve to support the scholarship endeavour without directing it in too narrow a focus.

There is a strong case to be made for the idea that academics must be technologically literate. If you’re an academic, you can no longer say that you don’t understand technology.

curriculum learning physiotherapy teaching

Interview: The use of technology-mediated teaching and learning in physiotherapy education

Selection_001I was recently asked to do a short interview by Physiospot, on the use of technology-mediated teaching and learning in physiotherapy education. As it turns out, the bulk of the interview relates more specifically to a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, rather than the use of technology. However, I think that this makes it potentially more relevant for physiotherapy educators, especially those who may not be interested in the “technology” aspect. Thanks to Rachael Lowe at Physiospot for the invitation to chat.

Here is the link to the interview.


Writing a research proposal for T&L

Writing a research proposal for teaching and learning
Prof. Denise Wood (18 July, 2013)

Here are my notes from a presentation by Prof. Denise Wood on developing a research proposal for projects looking at T&L.

Image from Tony Duckle's Flickr photostream
Image from Tony Duckle’s Flickr photostream

Understanding the funding body is important when it comes to applying for funding. Disciplinary specific proposals may not be successful when it comes to T&L projects.

Local evidence of successful projects is important before applying for larger grants. Collaborative teamwork is a great way to build ideas and test concepts. Local resources help you get started and build a track record. Generating pilot data helps to begin publishing. When panels review research proposals, your previous experience in obtaining funding and successful proposals is highly emphasised.

Why are you undertaking the study? Knowing your goals will justify your design decisions. What are your goals:

  • Personal
  • Practical
  • Intellectual / theoretical

Writing proposals is closely tied to career trajectory

How are you using research and research projects to improve your teaching practice?

What conceptual framework are you using:

  • Research paradigm
  • Experiential knowledge
  • Existing theory and research
  • Pilot and exploratory studies

Interested in addressing a gap, bringing in personal reflections that guide and influence the research. If you only think of your conceptual framework as a literature review, then you limit the scope of your research to what others have done.

Research questions:

  • What is the relationship between the goals and the conceptual framework?
  • Help to guide the actual research design / methods
  • Used to connect the problem and practical concerns
  • Should be specific and focused on the study
  • Need to allow flexibility to reveal unanticipated phenomena (if the questions are too focused you may miss emergent ideas)
  • Need to avoid inherent assumptions as they bias the study

Find a balance in the number of questions (3-4 is usually adequate)

Begin with divergent thinking to allow yourself space to explore many possibilities. Mind mapping is useful to identify high-level ideas. Begin reading broadly and then begin narrowing the focus. You can’t answer all possible questions in one study.

Try to avoid getting too caught up in the details of the research methods. Only use methods that you understand.

Note that you will be informed by your own epistemological understanding of what knowledge is and how we come to know. Your methods (quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods)  will most likely mirror your understanding of how we come to know. This will in turn guide how you sample, gather and analyse data.

For local studies, it’s OK to use a pilot within a classroom. Use this to identify a single context. Larger proposals would be better to expand the scope of the study and test the outcome of the pilot. On the basis of the smaller studies, you can make an argument for the larger study. Think laterally about how you can collect data.

  • Validity: How might you be wrong?
  • Bias (what assumptions do you bring with you? Results and interpretation distorted by your own values and preconceptions)
  • Reactivity (quantitative researcher may try to control for the effect of the researcher influence; qualitative researcher looks at how they actually influence the outcomes)

How do you reduce bias and reactivity?

  • Studies should be intensive and long-term (not the same as longitudinal study)
  • Gather rich, thick data (less likely to get from surveys / questionnaires; rather use interviews or focus groups)
  • Respondent validation of outcomes (is what you heard the same as what they meant?)
  • Identifying discrepant cases or evidence (you should take outliers into account, but identify and reflect on them, not necessarily include in the main data and suggest reasons for the discrepancy)
  • Triangulation
  • Comparative data (look at different contexts and populations)

Proposal checklist:

  • Identify a funding body
  • Objectives of the funding body
  • Use the guidelines that the funding body provides
  • Previous funded research and see what has been accepted and / or rejected
  • Links with existing research that the body is involved with
  • Evidence of value, need and benefits (institutional, local, national, international)
  • Background / conceptual framework
  • Methodology
  • Evaluation strategies are valued in educational research
  • Engaged dissemination whereby you share your results as you go, using a variety of methods, including publications, conference presentations, social media and workshops
  • Budget: must meet funding body requirements, realistic, value for money, justify costs
  • Milestones: linked to objectives and outcomes
  • Researcher capabilities: ensure you can deliver what you say you can, track record, previous collaboration, strategic, roles and responsibilities, realistic within workload

Try to model your proposal on successful projects. Learn from the mistakes of others. Sit down with a colleague and ask for constructive feedback.

Explicitly make reference to important and contextually relevant policy documents.

Identify how your research is going to create systemic change.

How are you going to evaluate your process and outcomes?

  • Formative: should be ongoing and used to modify project
  • Summative: can be broad and can go beyond the stated outcomes

Design-based research: can use milestones that are linked to formative evaluation. Identify problems early on and adapt quickly.

How are you going to convince the funding body that the people you’re collaborating with are adding value to the project? You must justify the presence of every team member and highlight how they will contribute.

How are you plugging the holes that funding assessors are going to be looking for?

Differentiate between deliverables (the tangible products that will come from the project) and outcomes (the achievement of stated aims and objectives).

learning technology

Developing digital literacy and citizenship

This post was inspired by Teaching Respect and Responsibility – Even to Digital Natives, by Holly Korbey. It has been cross-posted at Unteaching.

When I talk to colleagues about the possibility of bringing computers and the internet into their classrooms, I often feel a sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt enter the conversation. They worry that their students, when allowed the opportunity to use computers, will be unable to avoid the distractions that come with them. I try to argue that, instead of distracting the students, we can use these as opportunities to teach them how to create their own boundaries and enhance their learning. Using computers as an integrated part of the lesson can help them learn how to trust and respect technology, and to use it responsibly.

While the basic tenets of digital citizenship attempt to protect kids from cyberbullying, misconduct, and harassment, Allen is also interested in teaching the positive behaviors that will make successful students and workers for the future: teaching students how to find and analyze reliable sources for research, how to verify whether information is biased and/or credible, and how to be a responsible user.

Let your students bring their devices into the classroom, and then show them how to use those devices to add value to their learning. Ask an ambiguous question and see who can find the most interesting answer. Create a shared Google Document and develop a policy or set of guidelines collaboratively. Ask them to use Twitter to create bite-sized summaries of the lesson. Have them record your lecture on their phones and upload it to a private channel on YouTube. There are many ways to have them enhance the time in the classroom in ways that add value to their learning, rather than being a distraction.

understand that a computer is a neutral object — it all depends on how students use it. A personal computer and smartphone are not to be taken lightly, and he said, “Mistakes have to happen, but patterns of mistakes are no longer mistakes, but habits.”

If your students are bored with the class and using their computers for purposes other than the learning activity, then you should ask why they’re distracted. If you want your students to pay attention to you, then you should be worth paying attention to. Banning computers in class isn’t the answer but using them creatively will not only make your classes more interesting, but will help students to develop a digital identity. Over time, you can use classroom activities to help them develop appropriate online practices and behaviours as they move towards being responsible digital citizens.

assessment conference curriculum education learning research teaching technology

UWC “Scholarship of teaching and learning” colloquium

I presented at the UWC scholarship of teaching and learning colloquium last week. Here is the presentation I gave, which is essentially a progress report of my PhD research project. I posted my own presentation a few days ago and here are the notes I took during the colloquium.

Can universities be caring? A meditation on equality (Prof. Joan Tronto)

How can a hierarchical organization (a university) create a democratic society?

“The ignorant schoolmaster” by Jacques Ranciere (Stanford University Press)

All humans share the same capacity for intelligence (even as they all have different wills to learn): sometimes students will learn nothing

What does it mean for teaching to begin from the assumption that all students are capable of learning at the highest level?

“The master always keeps a piece of learning – that is to say, a piece of the students ignorance- up his sleeve”. Must learning always be “one step behind” the stultifying master?

Nel Noddings – The challenge to care in schools: an alternative approach to education

Caring should be viewed as a species activity that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our “world” so that we may live in it as well as possible. That “world” includes our bodies, our selves and our environment.

5 phases of care:

  • Caring about (attentiveness)
  • Caring for (responsibility)
  • Care giving (competence)
  • Care receiving (responsiveness)
  • Caring with (trust and solidarity)

“Virtuous” circles in society, as opposed to “vicious” circles

Implications for analysis:

  • Defining needs
  • Allocating responsibilities
  • Exploring relationships of power

Care posits that what makes people equal is their vulnerability in needing care, and their ability to care for themselves and others

How would universities be different if we took this account of equality seriously? Get the presentation from Vivienne)

Neoliberalism: let the market solve the problem. This (falsely) assumes that people can make “correct” choices and are all equally able to make those choices

“Accountability” – Who is asking? To meet what needs?

Measures the value of education only in individual terms

To whom should the “educated” be responsible? Who is the “community”? What are the hidden meanings of community?

The degree is seen as a necessary “credential”, but is it enough? Is it encouraging shallow learning? Students want a degree, but we have to work hard to convince them that what they need is an education.

The Roman Republic was “enabled by its greatness to sustain the shortcomings of its generals and magistrates”…the same is true of institutions

“Institutionalism does not imagine a better future but one that will exactly replicate the present”

Are teachers and students on the same page, they have different ideas about what the university should be doing? Are they all pursuing the purposes?

Everyone agrees that the purpose of college education is to advance critical thinking, but studies have demonstrated that students graduating from American colleges have limited abilities to think critically.

“The disengagement compact”: “You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone”

“Student-centered learning vs. faculty expectations about what students should know

Students think of universities as a set of games and rules that are set up to benefit the institution, and that they just need to play the game in order to get the degree

Is it enough to judge that a student has worked

If we hope for more democratic institutions, we must also hope for more democratic caring within universities

Institutional teaching and learning interventions at UWC: a capabilities perspective (Prof.Vivienne Bozalek and Dr. Arona Dyson)

The dangers of academic development being seen as “colonization”, with specialists coming in to “bring enlightenment” to academics

Trying to mainstream expertise in T&L

In order to lead a good life and flourish, persons need resources that best suit their particular context-specific circumstances

What are the valued functionings for higher educators see viviennes presentation for other details

“The course I was teaching was not just about learning physics. It’s about learning to think like a physicist and seeing the world as a physicist”. It’s not about decontextualised knowledge (see if this idea can fit into “Theory” article)

“Make things more visible and more conscious”

Analysing the professional development of teaching and learning at UWC from a political ethics of care perspective (Wendy McMillan, Delia Marshall, Melvyn November, Toni Sylvester, Andre Daniels & Vivienne Bozalek)

“When we slip into transmission mode, we are clearly not being attentive to, nor do we care about, the needs of students”

Responsibility goes beyond duty and formal obligation. We have a responsibility to students, yet too often we see it as a duty or an obligation.

Need to ask who is responsible and who should be responsible for meeting needs.

Trust is essential in faculty development, and is linked to hope

In order to be attentive to the needs of others, we must be attentive to our own needs

Be sensitive to the context

It’s important to recognize the fact that time is needed to really engage with the concept of caring in teaching and learning

Universities can be seen as cold and uncaring places, so there is a space for an Ethic of care approach

The integration of student development and academic learning: A case study (Birgit Schreiber)

The student is seen as a homogenous, passive recipient, rather than a heterogeneous, active participant

Traditional programmes are rigid and unyielding

Remediation and medical-deficit model has prevailed

Critique of “working in the gap”:

  • Underpreparedness is remedied by short-term interventions
  • Students can be “upskilled”
  • Neglect of epistemological challenges
  • Preserve the status quo

“cognitive and affective dimensions are related parts of one process”

Meaning making is related to self-authorship; the self as a cohesive construct (Astin, 1977)

Learning is a broad process across cognitive, affective and social domains I.e. it is synergistic and complex

Stress and Motivation are significant predictors of academic performance

Think differently about failing…look at it as a way of identifying what you need to do differently in order to pass

Individuals in small groups saw other members as resources, groups were perceived as supportive and normalizing

The introduction of a compulsory module as an intervention to facilitate success for science students at UWC (Judith Jürgens)

First year students display (CHED, Ian Scott):

  • Weak literacy skills
  • Poor work ethic
  • Lack of cultural and epistemological capital of “first-degree-in-the-family” students
  • No understanding of holistic learning
  • Limited study skills, other than memorization
  • Emotional immaturity
  • Lack of inspiration to become an intellectual

Development of personal responsibility for learning, civic responsibility and environmental awareness as scientists

Facilitators of learning, rather than tutors of content

Formative assessment of competencies based on student-chosen evidence and justification in portfolios

Conscious development of familiarity with the language of potential attributes and skills

Careful alignment between streams and cross referencing to avoid fragmented learning

Facilitators encourage self-determination while modeling scientific writing, thinking and behavior

Think of students as less experienced colleagues

Are students responsibilities overt and explicit? Do they understand that they will be accountable to those responsibilities?

Assignments alternate between individual performance and collaborative projects

Assessments are “open book”

Module is resource intensive (people, logistics / venues, infrastructure)

Using appreciative inquiry to develop a faculty development programme around integrating research into teaching: defining the process (Jose Frantz, Anthea Rhoda & Jo-Celene De Jongh)

To what extent are we encouraging academics to become scholars?

Challenge of integrating research, teaching and learning, and community engagement

Appreciative inquiry:

  • Define
  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Design
  • Drive

Faculty development in this context was about changing the mindset of academics

Attrition was a problem, as people dropped out at each stage of the process

Finding time to mentor the process is a challenge

How do you make sure that the change is sustained?

Authentic learning at UWC: Using emerging technologies to promote innovation in teaching and learning (Kathy Watters & Vivienne Bozalek)

“Learners need to be engaged in an inventive and realistic task that provides opportunities for complex, collaborative activities” – Herrington

Elements of authentic learning:

  • Authentic context (avoid oversimplifying the context; preserve the complexity of the environment; immersive 3D environment) -> “flow”
  • Access to expert performances and modeling of processes
  • Make use of multiple perspectives
  • Collaborative construction of knowledge (rewards based on performance of the group; success cannot be achieved other than through working collaboratively)
  • Opportunity for students to articulate their understanding
  • Coaching and scaffolding (moving through the ZPD with guidance from MKO)
  • Assessment must also be authentic

“Pedagogy of discomfort”

Authentic activities should be ill-defined

“Inert learning” remains inert, which is why learning needs to be active

Enhancing student learning in a first year accounting module at UWC via the use of ‘clicking’ (Ronald Arendse & Judith Jürgens)

Risk for lecturers – fear of the unknown and lack of expertise, also not being in control of the technology (if the lecturer is uncomfortable, students may respond to that)

When there is non-participation in class, lecturers assume lack of ability. Clickers increase participation in class by removing the usual barriers (provide anonymity, therefore safety). Student: “Putting up your hand in class is kind of dangerous, both socially and academically”


  • Technical issues
  • Familiarity takes time
  • Writing effective multiple choice questions is time consuming
  • Bases for student errors are not always obvious
  • Class wide discussion is difficult to manage

Moving away from clickers (expensive to initially set up), MXit currently working with university to develop platform for online testing

education PhD physiotherapy research

Blended learning in clinical education

Later today I’m presenting a progress report on my PhD, at the UWC “Innovations in Teaching and Learning” colloquium. Here is the presentation:

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