Is all that summative feedback worthwhile? Discuss.

Prof Graham Gibbs made the keynote address this year’s  University’s LTA conference on  July 5th.  His talk was videoed by our TEL’s video team and can be viewed further down in this post.

The  Learning Technology team and I would imagine most others at UoD found his talk challenging and stimulating. Although there was little per se about the focus of this blog, learning technologies,  the implications of his arguments are considerable and impact on what has been a major priority for us and many academics over the last year, the provision of electronic feedback to students, or as it is now frequently referred to, feedforward strategies. Continue reading

Feel good but feel challenged

The UDOL conference, held at the University of Derby on Feb 13th was led off by Philip Plowden, our PVC, with a few observations about how online technologies are changing education. During his presentation Philip showed a few minutes of a TED presentation done by Sugata Mitra,  Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, from

Sugata Mitra’s is a heart-warming presentation that has universal appeal. It has the theme of how do we get education to some of the most deprived communities in the world: to the people who in Sugata’s words ‘need the best teachers’ but are in areas where no-one is willing, or able, to pay for the relevant staff to teach. Anything that can make people feel less despairing and guilty about the scandal of such international inequality is bound to go down well.

We might also ask questions about why the people in the UK who need the best teachers and resources don’t get them, whilst the already most advantaged increasingly get all the best. But even if we don’t look at that, there are other important questions that I believe Mitra is asking us to consider. For there are many challenging ideas in his work.

For example, in his published conclusions he writes “(i)t may even be possible to develop a model for future schooling where children working in groups with access to the Internet and a friendly mediator, can complete large parts of the school curriculum through autonomous or semi-autonomous study.” (Mitra, 2010, p685). This is clearly tentative and a great many more questions would be raised over whether this model would carry over in any way to other levels of education. I would argue that it can carry over with some caveats.

But the importance of this, as an area of research and innovation for education in HE, does need to be recognised and the premises upon which Mitra’s research is based need to be explicit if we are to do more than just view his work and feel-good. Hopefully these comments will spark some debate. Continue reading

UoD Blackboard upgrade enables some exciting new technologies

Today ITS with assistance from LEI researchers and learning technologists at UoD completed the upgrade of Blackboard in a record time. So our thanks to all of those.

The upgrade changes comparatively little of the basic Blackboard functionality and,  to the extent that it does, we will be updating the website at

But there have been a number of changes to CampusPack that impact on the blog, wiki and podcasting technology provided by Learning Objects through their CampusPack software. We have now moved from CampusPack 3 to CampusPack version 4 (4.4 actually)

This upgrade has a number of exciting features both for academics and students. Continue reading

Spaces in Learning a challenge for our University (and others)

LTA conference activities
Professor Colin Beard of Sheffield Hallam University gave an interesting talk on Space, transformation and troublesome knowledge in physical and virtual learning environments at the University’s LTA conference in Buxton today.

Colin, with his background in zoology and interest in Darwinian ideas, appealed to the audience to reflect on the learning process: to recognise that our language of learning, e.g. grasping concepts, higher levels of skills etc., is full of physical metaphors that show that the cognitive elements of learning come from wider experiential/ sensory images and actions. And that if we are to make the best of physical learning spaces, learning needs to be repositioned in that feeling, seeing, touching world.

He stressed that creativity is spatially dependent. People don’t think creatively in their offices but often in places more conducive to creative thought. And the same holds for our students. The physical environment of most classrooms militates against the physical actions that are part of building their knowledge.

In many ways, Colin was asserting ideas of a  physical constructivism that is often overlooked. I know in my earlier experience as a Maths teacher the physical nature of quantities was often left too soon. Symbolic arithmetic and algebraic manipulations were often made impossible because the physicality of the world out of which mathematic laws are abstracted , was insufficiently felt.

So I wouldn’t disagree with much he said. But what are the issues for those of us at the University of Derby. Continue reading