Tag Archives: #ocTEL

#octel Week3 – What is Learning?

This week’s “if you only do one thing” task is to reflect upon a recent experience of learning something.  My choice is a recent crash course in statistics when I needed to analyse some data to see whether there was any statistical significance and I realised I couldn’t put it off any longer.  I won’t say too much about the specific data I’ve been working with as I hope to have something publishable in due course.

I was aware that a colleague taught basic stats to his Year 0 students, so I had a (slightly cheeky) look at some of the screencasts he had produced for them, which gave a good overview of which test to use in which circumstances and I had a go at some of the examples he demonstrated.  Then I plugged my own data into the spreadsheet and got some results which seemed reasonable.  Realising that his material was designed to teach stats partly as a means to teach advanced Excel, I was able to cut a few corners when I looked at other sets of data as I’m quite experienced with Excel.

I ran into a problem where the published lookup tables for the Mann-Whitney method weren’t sufficient for the number of items of data I was working with, so I asked my colleague for advice.  He suggested looking into using SPSS although he wasn’t familiar with it himself.  Searching for suitable tutorials online I was able to understand enough of the basic operation to get results out of SPSS for a small data set which matched those I got manually, so I was then able to use it with confidence to analyse the larger data sets which I was interested in.

In many respects this strategy is similar to the inverted classroom that he is using with his students – engage with the online resources and then have the opportunity to discuss with the tutor.

This fits quite neatly with the Learning Types typology given in the ocTEL material for this week

  • The screencasts dealt with the “know that” aspect, giving the background to why we use statistical analysis and in which situations you would choose a T Test and where a Mann-Whitney is appropriate. 
  • The screencasts also demonstrated the procedures through screen recordings, covering the “know-how”. 
  • “Knowing in action” would be my having to decide which test to apply to the particular data set and learning through mistakes when it went wrong. 
  • In terms of “other” factors I think that motivation played a part in that I was learning in order to solve a specific, real, problem rather than because somebody had told me that I needed to learn this material, so I had the motivation to seek out information and assistance where appropriate.

Other models could also be applied; Bloom’s Taxonomy seems to fit quite well too, with the screencasts being used to gain knowledge.  Trying my colleagues examples allowed me to gain a comprehension of the concepts and applying his examples to my own data was an example of application.

There were elements of analysis in testing whether the results I got from SPSS matched those I got manually to confirm whether what I had learned how to do was correct.

There was some synthesis in combining my colleague’s prescribed method of carrying out the statistical analysis with my own knowledge of how to use Excel to find short cuts for the procedure.

It could be argued (albeit tenuously) that there were elements of Evaluation in selecting appropriate tutorials for SPSS that covered the information I required in a context that I was able to translate to my own particular data sets.


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#octel Week 1 – TEL Concepts and Approaches

The two examples I looked at were that of Eric Mazur on Peer Instruction – a technique which I have some familiarity with – and the HapTEL dental simulator. I’m not sure that there is a fair comparison of which is “more powerful” – both offer significant advances as learning experiences compared to that which they replace but in very different contexts.

Peer Instruction – and the inverted classroom/Just in Time Teaching model which usually goes alongside it – deals with turning a lecture into an active learning experience and as such it can be implemented in many subject disciplines. It’s about recognising that lectures were introduced as a compromise to counter a lack of resources (copies printed reading material), a limitation which the internet means no longer needs to exist. This means that we can get students to learn the material in more engaging ways where they are less passive and thus more likely to learn the concepts and be able to apply them. Peer Instruction works well because students have to actively participate in the session, and have to defend their answer to a peer and hear their explanation. We’ve often seen that as students begin to explain their answer, the penny drops and they realise why their original answer was wrong.

The HapTEL system relates more to practical classes and so is a solution to a niche problem. I can see the benefit of something similar in other healthcare disciplines where practicing on a real patient is not appropriate. Perhaps something similar could be used to allow students to practice administering injections for example.

I think they both offer something very powerful to the learning experience, but to comment on one being more powerful than the other would be comparing apples and oranges. On some courses it could be very appropriate to use both of these approaches, Peer Instruction in the lectures to facilitate learning of the theory and HapTEL to facilitiate the practicals.

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#ocTEL Introduction

I’m taking part in #ocTEL, the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning that ALT are running, partly to experience taking part in a MOOC, and because it seems like a great opportunity to find out what other people are up to.

So by way of an introduction, I’ve been supporting learning technology for over 10 years, initially mainly dealing with supporting the VLE but more recently I’ve really repositioned my role to be a lot more about looking at ways that TEL can enhance the learning experience rather than being just about dumping a few Powerpoint files on the VLE.

I’m currently leading a project piloting the flipped classroom model of blended learning.The project has really opened my eyes to how much of the “traditional” classroom based approach is a compromise, with lectures used as the primary means of teaching due to resource constraints rather than because lectures are a particularly effective way of learning.  It’s becoming clear that the main challenge in increasing the take up of TEL is now a people problem rather than a technology problem.


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