Saturday, 7 January 2012

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions by elycefeliz
New Year's Resolutions, a photo by elycefeliz on Flickr.

The first term has ended and the first assignment has been marked. How have the first year students coped with their investigation into social networking and higher education?

My Prezi gives an update on the success of the Diigo experiment. From the assignments it can be seen that the vast majority got to grips with Diigo pretty well though whether they will continue to use it for the remainder of their studies is another issue. I feel that on balance what it did create was a greater awareness of the need to record what they are reading on the web. One or two did however get confused between a "proper" web address for their sources and the Diigo bookmark link, but then again they also had web addresses that included links via ebscohost, the vle or their own documents store. I guess this is something that just needs practice.

One of the things I really enjoyed about reading their assignments was the reference to lots of interesting sources they had discovered via web or library searches. A popular choice was José Picardo - one of whose blog posts we had worked on in a seminar. Other authors selected, who coincidentally also appear in my own PLN, include this by  Grainne Conole and this by Tristram Hooley. I admit to having picked up a lot of interesting tips for my own future reading in this area!

It was fascinating that quite a number of the students came down on the side of "social networking and education just don't mix!" whilst one or two got into the web 2.0 versus VLE debate. I wondered whether some were saying what they thought I wanted to hear ("put that mobile phone away!") but on reflection I think it is true to say that not every student is a fan of Facebook.

Some were not afraid to let me know that they find traditional lectures boring and think tutors could do more to facilitate learning through technology. Again, they may be saying what they think I want to hear, but there was a sense that students are getting to be more savvy about the dangers of social networking - distraction, cyber bullying, identity theft and reputation management - whilst at the same time recognising what a valuable role it can play in "socialisation" (no surprise there) and support for study.
As for me, I am becoming more and more disillusioned with the VLE after a week spent  uploading these assignments into the "drop box" only to find it has fallen over and refuses to give the students their feedback. Anyone got any alternatives - other than, you know, paper?

And so to my New Year's resolutions.

Well, I feel more resolved than ever to persevere with the use of  web based technology for learning, despite problems, mistakes and frustrations. I am about to start teaching a final year module based on a wiki and as the module involves group work, I am using Wikispaces which, with free HE upgrade, includes "projects" or private pages for separate groups within the one wiki. This was one of the things I used to love about Ning (before we had to pay for it), so it is a welcome addition to an already brilliant resource.

And I promise to keep blogging about it. Having completed what felt like an endless stream of marking, I am suddenly liberated - hence being able to write today's blog.
Finally, I am resolved to find simpler ways of assessing and giving feedback. I'd also like to explore self and peer assessment. If any one has any good ideas, do pass them on!

Happy New Year!