Case studies

As part of my role as Information Learning Technologist Specialist Practitioner I have been developing some case studies on how staff currently use technology in their teaching practice. The case studies serve to highlight the good practice that exists within the college as well as to inspire and introduce different technology tools. They examine the affordances certain tools have in terms of supporting teaching and learning: the benefits, difficulties and issues that exist when trying different tools and methods. the first one is based on a colleagues experience of using Voicethread with her learners:

A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that can show images, documents, and videos.  It allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in different ways; using voice (with a mic or telephone), writing text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). It allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place from anywhere in the world.

Context in Classroom

Dr Val Jessop has been using VoiceThread with her students in a variety of ways. Val asked students from her B.A (Hons) English Language and Literature Studies course to debate utopian and dystopian views on e-literacies as part of their Language, Identity and Representation module. Val started the debate with a typed explanation of what the terms mean and additional questions as prompts for students to add their own views. Students engaged with the tool and process and were able to add their views simultaneously; the synchronous approach enabled students to explore the tool with guidance and demonstrated a different way to exchange ideas. There were students absent who were able to sign in and see what discussion had taken place and also contribute their own views so a good tool for inclusivity.

Some students found the usability of the tool challenging and became frustrated that they were not able to get the tool to work for them, however they were able to see the views of others being exchanged. The students felt this was a fundamental flaw of technology, particularly VoiceThread, in fact the use of the tool became part of their active debate! Their feedback raises the issue of how we integrate the use of different technology tools in teaching and learning and that our lesson design and course design to some extent needs to have the infrastructure in place to teach students how to use the technology itself. The students were exposed to an interesting method of debate and in a sense the ‘medium is the message’ in that some students’ dystopian views of technology were confirmed by their experience of using it. However, with reflection students saw the benefit of having collaboratively constructed a resource and could see the potential for revision later on.

The students used the typing function rather than recording their voices mainly because they were in one room, however confidence in recording ones own voice can also be a barrier. However when this element was discussed with students they did feel that ‘tone of voice’ and being able to emphasise points could be communicated more successfully in this way. Val intends to develop her use of Voice Thread by using it to create resources; uploading a poem that gets deconstructed over a series of explanations.


Voicethread is a tool that gives students choice and ownership over how they interact and contribute to a resource. The integration of audio and or video with online instruction ‘promotes higher levels of student engagement and may lead to increased student satisfaction and enhanced learning experiences.’(Revere and Kovach 201, p.120). Many technology tools align well with good pedagogy, Voicethread can be used as reflective tool for the individual or used collaboratively and ‘provides an easy way for students to listen to and add to the work of their peers [which] may encourage more authentic peer assessment.’ (Educause 2009).


  • It can be embedded onto your Moodle pages
  • Can be used synchronously/asynchronously
  • Learners have a choice over how they record their comments
  • No software to install.
  • Threads can be exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies.
  • Quick to create a resource that can be used and developed

Try it out:


Educause (2009), 7 Things You Should Know About VoiceThread, Education Learning Initiative, last accessed 23 October 2012

Revere, L, Kovach. J V. (2011) ‘ Online Technologies for Engaged Learning A Meaningful Synthesis for Educators Online’ Technologies for Engaged Learning The Quarterly Review of Distance Education Vol. 12, No. 2, 2011

Reflecting on Reflection

This post includes a resource I put together for a teaching session with my Year 2 BA and FdA students this week. For their research projects they are using blogs rather than paper based files to document their research. There are two main purposes of the module, firstly they are researching so that they can put together a proposal and design their own brief for their next project, secondly, they need to show evidence and analyse the research methods they have used.

Last week we focused on the mechanics of setting up a blog, the different research methods they might use and using a template to analyse them. Last week I encouraged them to reflect on this session as a first post on their blogs and found myself explaining their posts as falling into two main categories. Their posts might ‘propel’ forward and evidence what they have found or done and/or they might be reflective posts that consider and ‘discuss’ where they are at.

I could tell that the students were comfortable with seeking and acquiring information (and we revisited Harvard referencing so they could credit and reference their findings correctly) but less comfortable with the idea of reflective. pause for thought posts. This week I addressed this by looking at the affordances of blogging, with them, as well as some practical help on reflection and writing reflective posts. This was followed by a ‘Skills Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats’ activity which got them to consider reflection in more depth. The resource I put together was developed form notes I had taken from Jenny Moon’s (2005) paper as well as an article/podcast by Jill Walker Rettberg (2009);

Blogging as a Tool for Reflection and Learning

*      Frequent writing can help you become more confident about your research

*      I can give you more documented formative feedback

*      It is more obvious when you are on the right or wrong track

*      Others in your ‘network’ can contribute to your research and forming of ideas

*      You can research as part of a much larger community

*      You will develop a clearer ‘voice’ of your own, which will give you confidence that can be carried through into dissertation writing.

*      Feedback is fast

*      Blogging combines aspects of ‘thinking-writing’ with aspects of ‘presentation-writing’

What is reflection?

We reflect on the things that we have no immediate answer to.

We construct knowledge through making connections and relating things we know to the new things we encounter.

Rethinking what we know – thinking about what we know in a new or revisited context enables deeper learning to take place which is not the same as taking on new information without forming links.

Reflection can demonstrate learning.

Embed reflection in assessed tasks leads to better reflection and deeper learning.

Reflection gives the right conditions for learning

  • Slows down the activity
  • Ownership and ‘student voice’ in learning process
  • Metacognition – an awareness of ones own learning
  • Reflect on challenging material

Notes from Jenny moon (2005)

‘“thinking-writing” and “presentation writing”

Thinking writing is the kind of writing we do when we’re thinking through problems or topics, when we’re writing for ourselves and not for an audience…writing can actually help us think. Presentation writing is the kind of writing you do in order to communicate a message. When you use presentation writing you always have a reader in mind.

In a personal blog, each post is usually written quite quickly, and you publish each post immediately. Rather than drafting and revising until each piece of writing is perfect, bloggers tend to publish more frequently and with less perfectionism. You blog your immediate impressions and your first responses to ideas you have read about, or you blog about your experiences or about discussions that are going on in other blogs.’ (Walker Rettberg 2009)


There was more to the resource in terms of pointers for the tone and style of writing but I think the explanation of what they were being asked to do and why was helpful. I have been able to examine my own learning through teaching and the learning of others, the different context or perspective shift has given me a more refined idea of what reflection is and hopefully my students.


Moon, J. (2005) ‘Guide for busy academics no. 4: learning through reflection’ (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from:

Walker Rettberg, J. 2009, Virtual book e-pedagogy for teachers in higher education, weblog, accessed 05 October 2012, <;

Introducing research methods

Today I introduced students to different research methodologies for their creative research project module on their BA (hons) Design course.  We did this using templates I had constructed for them, templates that will enable them to select and use appropriate methodologies for their research as well as analyse the methods themselves. The templates will hopefully give them the structure they need to gain confidence in exploring new territories.

The students have been asked to set up a specific blog for their Research project and the blog will be their evidence for the research journey they go on. They added their blog addresses to a group Wiki on the course VLE Moodle while I was talking about the benefits of co-constructing information. This particular wiki became a convenient link directory but hopefully planted a seed in terms of how they might use this as a method to collaboratively research. The next task – their answers to ‘Why research?’ on post-it notes that they stuck on the whiteboard became an interesting visualisation of a real life wiki. Pointing this out to them hopefully reinforced what a wiki could be.

We discussed how the blog would have posts that showed evidence of the research process  propelling them forward (and in other directions too) as well as having posts that were reflective, pauses, taking stock. This made some uneasy; that the documentation might pull in different directions, so to speak, but I reassured them that this was all part of the research process. Their blogs will be repositories for their research, evidence that they have experienced a process, one that I can give formative feedback on through re-blogging, adding comments and ‘hearting’. My blog for this project is here-

My description of today is here because my experiences made me think about my own blogging as well as the ‘push’ , ‘pull’ and ‘pause’ of the research process and the role reflection has in that process.

Pinterest as an academic research tool

The following has been set up as a Cloud on the Cloudworks Site ‘a place to share, find and discuss learning and teaching ideas and experiences’. Clouds become forums for debate, idea exchange and resources. My cloud ‘Pinterest as an academic research tool’ can be found here:
My interest in Pinterest is outlined here:
  • How can ‘content curation’ platform Pinterest be used for both synchronous and asynchronous activities?
  • How can Pinterest be used to introduce good practice for academic research and referencing?
  • How can Pinterest  be used as a selective research method that encourage curation not aggregation of information.
  • How can Pinterest be used to encourage collaborative working practices as well as interactive discussion?

Context for discussion

Pinterest does not currently promote itself as a potential academic tool but I have started using it with my students studying on a Foundation Degree in Textiles/Fashion. The first stages of theme research involve looking for examples by other designers. Pinterest allows them to ‘curate’ their imagery, adding a link to the source where they found the imagery and add their own annotation about the work. Because I am able to follow and add my comments I can prompt responses and start a discussion. I have used it asynchronously but I am interested in organsing as session where students respond to each other comments in a timed session. I am interested in whether this stimulates more discussion/annotation than traditional image print outs and written notes.

One of my early observations of how using Pinterest might improve a student’s attainment and the quality of their research is from the interaction or intervention I am able to make throughout their research process. Because I am able to access a students ongoing research I can prompt them with my comments that remain visible in the process. The student can then refine their commentary/annotation and also become more selective in what they look at.

Before I used Pinterest with students they would hand in their research findings at the end (with some input through tutorials) my feedback would then be used to help them on the next stage of the research process or project but did not have the immediate impact that a live and recorded exchange has.

Copyright Issues

Pinterest is not without its issues, there has been a lot written about copyright infringement because ”Pinning” often involves using copyrighted imagery that is easily available on the web. With my own pinning I use an image from its original source and reference ( credit ) the artist in every description and if it states that an image is not to be used I would not ‘copy’ or pin it – this is how students can learn about academic referencing and not just appropriate imagery without considering who it belongs to. This might be fine in principle but the reality is a can of worms. At the moment I am examining the way something like Pinterest works and it may be better to find a less contentious way of students visualising and sharing their research.

Is Pinterest the Next Napster?

UCBC Learning and Teaching Conference 2012

@sk – Academics Sharing Knowledge

The theme of the conference is sharing and engaging others in good practice to enhance learning, teaching and assessment. This is particularly relevant in a rapidly changing external context where maintaining and continuing to enhance high quality will be crucial.

Technology enhanced practice: Tweet, Pin and Scoop – Creative approaches to engaging in and documenting research

This presentation and paper will examine how online social networking micro blogging tools (Twitter) as well as ‘content curation’ platforms (Pinterest and Scoop-it) can be used for both synchronous and asynchronous activities with a focus on how these tools help to facilitate blended approaches to teaching and learning. These tools can be used to introduce good practice for academic research and referencing and can be used as selective research methods that encourage curation not aggregation of information. Curation online, requires skill ‘mastery, passion, knowledge and expertise. Without such additional layers, a curated collection of links is just a collection of links’ (Foremski 2011). How these tools can be used to encourage collaborative working practices as well as interactive discussion will also be illustrated. By their nature these tools can also be used to widen participation and be used for asynchronous activity. In addition to being used as academic research tools their uses for Social media profile development and networking opportunities will also be referred to.

Foremski, T 2011, Curation Is Not Cheap Content… weblog, accessed 14th March 2012< >