Archive for February, 2008

Learning Technologies Exhibition – Jan 2008

I attended the Learning Technologies Exhibition in London which took place on Wednesday 30th and Thursday 31st January. See more about the event here, although they are now in the process of updating the content for 2009.

It was quite an informative experience as it gave me first hand insight into the current business side of learning and technology. Most exhibitors were promoting their tools and methods for creating and distributing effective solutions for in-house training. There was a lot of information about LMSs and LCMSs (Learning Management Systems and Learning Content Management Systems) along with SCORM applications. A couple of exhibitors had recently introduced serious games as training tools, and one company in particular, Gatlin Education, are launching their series of serious games tailored for school students of business related subjects. Gillian Duncan, their representative, said that their serious games series should be on their portal by mid February.

I also attended a couple of the free seminars there which mainly communicated the importance of extending elearning to web 2.0 technologies and showcased the speaking company’s work.

SMART Technologies were also there and they were showing off their new SMART boards. I watched one of their demonstrations and was quite impressed with the intuitive interaction.

Sponge UK were there who are a Plymouth-based elearning company. They were one of the only companies who really thought about how to stand out from the crowd, not with their stand but with their business cards. They knew how to differentiate themselves and I thought they did this really well and in a fun way. Some of the larger companies tried to dazzle with their expensive freebies, but I found that the companies who were more innovative and smart about it were the companies whose names stuck in my head.

One stand that really interested me with their current work was e-doceo and edu4 who actually work together to create what they call multimedia classrooms. e-doceo develop the software tools and edu4 create the furniture and classrooms within which to run the software. I talked to one of the representatives there and he took me through all of the different software tools they have developed for creating and delivering engaging elearning. It’s all Flash based but it is executed to a very high standard. The tools are quite intuitive and easy to use to create bespoke virtual learning situations for delivery in the classroom.

All in all it was a very informative trip.

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February 29, 2008 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

Primary schools ‘have got worse’

Classroom

The reports say there is too much emphasis on maths and English

A narrowing of the curriculum has led to a decrease in the quality of English primary schooling, says a report. “High stakes” testing of pupils has led to a system “focused on literacy and numeracy at the expense of the broader curriculum”, it suggests.

The Cambridge-based Primary Review’s report claims this has contributed to a “state theory of learning”.

The government has defended its policies and denies that children are over-tested at school.

Teachers’ representatives say the government must address these issues and the way it evaluates schools.

The findings, from four primary review research reports, form part of an in-depth assessment of the current state of primary school education in England.

One, compiled by Dominic Wyse from the University of Cambridge and Elaine McCreery and Harry Torrance at Manchester Metropolitan University, looks at the effects of an increasing government control of the curriculum between 1988 and 2007.

While test scores have risen since the mid 1990s, this has been achieved at the expense of children’s entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum
Dominic Wyse, Elaine McCreery and Harry Torrance, report authors

It said: “The evidence on the impact of the various initiatives on standards of pupil attainment is at best equivocal and at worst negative.

“While test scores have risen since the mid 1990s, this has been achieved at the expense of children’s entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum and by the diversion of considerable teaching time to test preparation.”

Their report found “some” improvements in standards achieved by many pupils in primary schools.

However, it found “a decrease in the overall quality of primary education experienced by pupils because of the narrowing of the curriculum and the intensity of test preparation”.

This amounted to a curriculum dominated by literacy and numeracy.

Funding issues

It also suggests the range of teaching methods employed is “probably even narrower now than hitherto”.

Another report, by Maria Balarin and Hugh Lauder from the University of Bath, identifies the existence of a “state theory of learning” where government control has been strengthened by “high stakes testing of pupils, a national curriculum, and in primary schools’ mandated pedagogy in numeracy and literacy”.

On the issue of testing and the quality of primary education, a Department for Children, Schools and Families spokeswoman said: “Once again we see a collection of recycled, partial or out of date research.

“We do not accept these claims. We are currently engaged in a review of the primary curriculum, as set out in the Children’s Plan, which will build on a decade of success in raising standards – success which has been validated on numerous occasions by independent experts.

“The government does not accept that our children are over-tested.”

Disparities in funding – that see secondary schools attracting more money than primaries – also feature in the reports.

The latest primary review reports demonstrate the damaging effects of high stakes testing, inspection and historic underfunding on primary schools
Steve Sinnott, general secretary, NUT

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) takes issue with the government’s interference in the education system and its “ferocious accountability systems” of pupil testing and school inspections.

NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said: “The latest primary review reports demonstrate the damaging effects of high stakes testing, inspection and historic underfunding on primary schools.

“I urge the government now to review its whole method of evaluating schools.

“The government has a chance to tackle historic underfunding of primary schools. Falling rolls should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. The funding gains created by smaller pupil numbers should be fed back into primary schools and not be seen as an opportunity to cut school budgets”.

The DCSF denies that primary schools are under-funded.

A spokeswoman said: “The government has hugely increased funding for pupils of all ages – from early years into sixth form – and expanded the school workforce at all levels. This means that primary standards are now at their highest ever levels.

“We don’t specify centrally a ratio of primary to secondary pupil funding in each local area. This is decided locally by local authorities in consultation with local schools and heads. Seeing that all children leave primary school able to read, write and calculate confidently is our highest priority.”

‘Meddling’

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of too much interference.

Education spokesman David Laws said: “The government’s attempts to micromanage schools are clearly deeply damaging.

“Ministers must stop their constant meddling in the curriculum and cease dictating to schools how they should educate our children.

“Young children should follow a broad and balanced curriculum. Too much time in primary schools is now spent on test preparation. Creativity is at risk of being squeezed out of our classrooms.

“Ministers should review the current imbalance of funding between primary and secondary schools. We need a transparent funding system which ensures that the most disadvantaged pupils come with extra funding so that they get the additional support they need.”

The Primary Review is an independent inquiry which is looking at 10 major themes before publishing final recommendations in October 2008.

Author: BBC News UK, 29th February 2008

February 29, 2008 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

Girls ‘more skilled on computers’

Girls are more confident than boys about using a computer, a survey of more than 1,000 children suggests.

Girls using the internet

Only 6% of girls lacked confidence when using a computer

The research by the Tesco Computers for Schools programme found girls were more likely than boys to be able to perform key tasks, such as creating documents.

It also showed three-quarters of the seven to 16-year-olds polled used a computer every day, with half spending at least two hours a day online.

Meanwhile, the survey suggested parents relied on children for help.

Child advisers

By the age of seven, nearly three quarters (73%) could use search engines and well over half (62%) were able to edit documents, the research found.

It also showed the level of skills among teenagers meant 70% could confidently create a social networking profile, 59% could download music and more than a third (35%) were able to edit and manipulate photography.

Among the girls in both groups only 6% said they lacked confidence using a computer, compared with 10% of boys.

Many parents also lacked confidence, the survey suggested.

More than half (57%) of parents said they relied on their children for advice on how to use their computer and the internet, and only 40% of parents thought they were the most proficient computer user in their household.

Author: BBC News UK, 29th February 2008

February 29, 2008 at 12:20 pm 2 comments

Laptops in class: Life-saver or distraction maker?

Laptop computers have found their way into the daily lives of many people.
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Computer science sophomore Jordan Wesolowski is an employee of the Computing Commons technical support staff. He says he thinks students should be able to use laptops “as long as it isn’t interrupting other people.” /issues/style/703591
Sam Nalven / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Computer science sophomore Jordan Wesolowski is an employee of the Computing Commons technical support staff. He says he thinks students should be able to use laptops “as long as it isn’t interrupting other people.”
 
/issues/style/703591
Sam Nalven / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE

As more people invest in these machines, they can be found at the office, on almost all forms of transportation, at restaurants, coffee shops and especially on campus.

ASU’s student body is riddled with these sleek expenditures. Students get to class, take a seat, power up and tune out.Laptops can be both a distraction and an aid, but it is up to the student to decide which road to take.

ASU’s Involvement

At ASU, laptops are everywhere.

The buses connecting campuses are now equipped with Verizon Wireless’ “Broadband to Go” program.

ASU also started the 1:1 Computing program in 2006.

Vice president, university technology officer and professor in computing studies Adrian Sannier says the program started because of surveys of students revealing that more than 90 percent of students were bringing some kind of computer to school. He also noticed the trend of laptops outselling desktop computers.

“It was pretty clear that students had started to look at a portable computer as an important educational device,” Sannier says. “What we wanted to do was begin to understand how the University could help students get the most out of the investment that so many of them were already making.”

The program is split between Apple and Dell. The laptops provided are university-recommended and come as a bundle of computer technology through the ASU 1:1 program.

These bundles include the choice of a new Apple or Dell laptop, discounted software, a three-year service warranty and on-campus service.

The on-campus service includes access to the Technology Studio, located in the Computing Commons on the Tempe campus. Students can receive tech support for their laptops, help setting up and answers to general questions.

Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic and the West campus also have their own Technology Studios.

The program has sold $4 million worth of machines, according to Sannier.

Sannier says the students who have participated in the program are happy, not only with the machines and the prices at which they got them, but with the convenience of the service and support.

ASU is also looking to place personal laptops at each desk space, as they have in some of the classrooms in the Coor building, Italian professor Chiara Dal Martello says.

Laptops on the Rise

The “Los Angeles Times” reported in January of 2008 that overall prices of notebook computers are at an all-time low.

Within the worldwide market, the average price of a laptop has fallen 20 percent, and laptops are expected to comprise the majority of computer sales in 2008 and 2009.

Laptop sales have risen about 21 percent in the United States to $31.6 million in 2007 from 2006, but desktop sales took a 4 percent dive, dragging up only $35 million in sales.

In 2008, even U.S. corporations are expected to make laptops the majority of their computer purchases.

According to “The Daily Telegraph,” laptops are now the No. 1 choice for consumers in the market for a new computer.

It might have something to do with the latest laptops meeting most of a desktop’s specifications in terms of processor speeds, random access memory (RAM) and hard-drive storage.

Sannier says the revolution of readily available technology is at hand.

“That kind of information in your hand all the time is a major change in the way information is available,” Sannier says. “In the past, you used to have to go to information. You had to go the library, you had to walk to class, you had to go to the bookstore and buy the book.”

Sannier says the ability to obtain information with the click of a mouse is an amazing change.

“It’s hard for me to see how that’s not going to shape education billing forward.”

Instructor Standpoint

On the opposite side of the issue are the instructors, who must look at the outside of a laptop instead of their students’ faces.

“At first, I thought they were just used by the tech savvy, responsible students,” philosophy professor Aaron Holland says in an e-mail. “But more recently, I think they are becoming distractions and I’m considering not allowing them in class.”

Holland says while some students do use laptops for quietly taking notes, others have loud keypads and use them for Internet access instead of listening to a lecture or participating in discussion.

“The loud keypads are no small issue,” Holland says. “I say a few words, followed by a rap-tap-tap-rap-a-tap noise. Then I stop talking, and the noise stops. Then I say another sentence, rap-tap-tap-rap-a-tap. It is just as annoying as having a squeaky shoe on your foot.”

Professor of English Keith Miller agrees.

“I don’t permit any students to bring laptops to my classes,” Miller says in an e-mail. “I tell them they have to leave their laptops, beepers, cell phones, radios, TVs, DVDs, CDs, iPods, IMs, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, electric banana peels and all other electronic devices at home.”

Miller says some students would take notes with laptops, “but I have seen students in class use laptops to cruise the Internet or send e-mail during class,” he says. “That’s why I tell them not to bring in their laptops.”

Mary–Lou Galician, a journalism and mass communication professor, does not allow laptops in her classrooms, which are usually large lecture halls, unless the students are willing to sit in the front row. However, she says no one takes her up on it.

She says laptops can be a great aid, but that “in my classes, at any rate, I find them to be a distraction.”

Galician says in a smaller classroom where students are obviously doing class-related exercises, laptops can be a wonderful educational enhancement.

But Galacian says the number of students who would likely use their laptops for noneducational uses is her biggest concern.

“If they don’t want to get the most out of their educational dollar, that’s their business,” Galician says. “But not when the other people behind them have to be looking at this, and then sometimes groups of people are looking at the same screen. That just doesn’t work when the only (real) purpose is for note taking.”

Galician recommends that students take notes the old -fashioned way and later transfer them to other applications, which results in a double dose of the lecture.

On the other hand, Dal Martello feels as though laptops act as an aid to students.

“In Italian, or at least in a foreign language classroom, it’s useful because you can open a dictionary and have it there,” Dal Martello says. “To me, students using laptops in the classroom has been very useful.”

Dal Martello finds no correlation between students’ grades and whether or not they bring a laptop to class.

She says laptops do not seem to be much of a diversion in her classes, but that occasional mishaps to occur.

“I mean of course it happens every once in a while, you know, ‘you’ve got mail,'” Dal Martello says.

She notes a time in which she asked her students to get out a pencil and paper, but one student was only equipped with her laptop. Dal Martello says this will happen more and more as time goes on.

“I think we need to keep an open mind because that is what it is going to be,” Dal Martello says. “It’s just a new tool that we need to accept and give it its own value.”

Sannier says laptops in his classrooms have been beneficial.

If he forgets a concept during a lecture, he can request that a student find it on the Internet and then share it with the class, Sannier says.

“In the courses that I’ve taught, I’ve been able to use that … to enrich a lecture experience,” Sannier says.

Student Standpoint

Biology freshman Amanda Ventura doesn’t bring her laptop to class. She says she would rather take notes the old-fashioned way.

“A lot of the professors don’t like [students bringing laptops to class] anyway because kids go on Facebook and stuff during class time.”

Ventura recalls a time when a crowd had formed around a laptop in her religion class within a lecture hall.

“There was this one time where this guy was actually playing these Michael Jackson songs on YouTube in the middle of a movie,” Ventura says.

Overall, Ventura says she feels her laptop would definitely create a distraction for her if brought into the classroom. “I would check my email eight times per hour,” she says.

Biochemistry and Spanish freshman Adam Leighton does bring his laptop to class, but only to take notes. He says he never strays from the lecture because his laptop is at hand.

“I only use it in classes where it’s convenient to take notes on a laptop,” Leighton says.

He says other students’ laptops aren’t a distraction to him, but they are a distraction to some students.

“Some kids are playing Halo or some other 3-D shooter on their computers and not paying attention at all to the instructor,” Leighton says. “I don’t know if they’re learning subliminally but I couldn’t learn while playing a shooting game during class.”

Overall, Leighton says he enjoys having a laptop because it keeps his course work better organized.

“I like written notes for most courses, but I guess it’s easier to keep track of things on the computer,” Leighton says. “On my floor at home now, all my papers are thrown on the ground because I was looking for something.”

Leighton says, more often than not, laptops are a tool that can help students with their grades, both inside and outside of the classroom. “All in all, it’s probably a good thing,” he says.

Computer tech at the University Computer Commons and BIS senior Shannon Scotten says his laptop is definitely not a distraction.

“I’m a terrible student in general and since I got the laptop, I’ve gotten better grades,” Scotten says. “I am more motivated to show up for class when I have my trusty laptop with me as opposed to just sitting there, you know, sleeping.”

Scotten only found other laptops distracting before he got his own.

Benefits like seeing a PowerPoint slide on his own computer are another reason Scotten says his laptop is beneficial to his grades.

Psychology and business senior Justin Dudek says he does not think an instructor should tell students to put away their laptops.

“I think it’s kind of foolish to eliminate such a powerful tool, especially in a classroom,” Dudek says. “Ever since I started bringing my laptop to class, which was about two years ago, my GPA has just gone up dramatically.”

Dudek says his GPA increased because he was able to take more organized notes right on the spot rather than having to sift through notebooks and papers later on.

“Personally, I don’t have the best handwriting, so it’s a lot easier for me just to type it out,” Dudek says. “If the instructor just took that away, I don’t think they realize what kind of impact that would have on students.”

Author: Lauren Cusimano, 13th February 2008

February 29, 2008 at 12:17 pm Leave a comment

Inquiry into impact of Google on HE

A UK-wide independent inquiry that will look at how the use of new technologies by the “Google generation” will shape higher education was launched today.Prof Sir David Melville, former vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, is to chair the inquiry, which will consider the impact of the newest technologies – such as social networking and mobile devices – on the behaviour and attitudes of learners who are approaching or have just arrived at university, and the issues this poses for universities and colleges.

Huge advances in the quality and availability of technology have been charted and changes in learner behaviour noted, but the bodies backing the inquiry – Universities UK (UUK), all four funding councils, the Higher Education Academy, the Learning and Skills Council, university computing service JISC, and Lifelong Learning UK – want to find out more on the significant policy and strategic challenges these present.

The committee, with university, college, school, student and employer members, hopes to produce a final report by the end of the year.

Melville told EducationGuardian.co.uk: “We know students have different attributes and expectations – particularly in the first and second year – in the way their interact with each other and universities when they come in.

“It’s a lot to do with social networking sites. We will focus on those newest technologies and the way the web enables students to take part in whatever they are involved in.”

Melville said the arrival of students with different experiences and expectations has far reaching implications for institutions of higher education.

He said: “The interesting question is whether this attitude to social networking changes their expectations in the way they might learn.

“Students used to sit around late at night and set the world to rights. Now they can do that on a global scale as part of a discussion group in chat rooms.”

The inquiry will look at whether universities can use the new technologies to help in the process of self-directed learning.

Diana Warwick, chief executive of UUK, said: “UK universities are already leading the way in the use of new technologies to enhance the learning experience.

“Over the last 10 years or so, the internet in particular has transformed the way students access information. These technological developments present a major opportunity for higher education.

“This inquiry will certainly help inform universities about the likely trends and challenges ahead.”

The inquiry comes in the wake of criticism from academics that students rely too heavily on sites of dubious accuracy such as Wikipedia.

Last month Tara Brabazon, professor of media studies at Brighton University, banned her students from using Google and Wikipedia, arguing that students were not using their brains and churning out “banal and mediocre” work.

“The education world has pursued new technology with an almost evangelical zeal and it is time to take a step back and give proper consideration of how we use it,” she said.

Manchester University also launched an internet search engine to rival Google in January.

The free service has added thousands of documents to the university’s “Intute” service, which allows academics, teachers, researchers and students to search for information relating specifically to their subject area.

Researchers can automatically access research papers from research databases within universities and other institutions.

The £1.5m per year collaboration between seven UK universities and partners enlists a team of full-time specialists to scour the internet, which executive director, Caroline Williams, claimed made it more discriminating than Google, which uses robots to automatically index web pages.

She said the service would provide more “accurate and sensitive subject retrieval so it is a safety net for those students who haven’t acquired the skills of evaluation”.

Author: Anthea Lipsett, Education Guardian, 29th February 2008 

February 29, 2008 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

Small Basket of Virtual World Items

Still playing a bit of catch up from GDC and I have some interesting virtual world notes……

Have you seen the NASA Request for Information for a massivley multiplayer online educational game. I think there are a couple of points of interest here. First, its a request from NASA for an MMOG. Prima facie interesting. Second, look at some of the quotes from the RFI and/or associated Web site:

  • “There is increasing recognition that           these synthetic environments can serve as powerful “hands-on” tools           for teaching a range of complex subjects.”
  • “MMOs help players develop and exercise a skill set closely matching           the thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills increasingly           in demand by employers.”
  • “These skills include strategic thinking, interpretative           analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, team-building         and cooperation, and adaptation to rapid change.”

I think the idea here is more like an America’s Army, recruiting type experience designed to increase the number of kids involved in science, technology, engineering and   mathematics (STEM).

**I should note here too that the following items come from the Virtual World News – probably the best single news coverage of developments in this area.

Corey Bridges from Multiverse Says Don’t Count Out Second Life: How you know your on the bleeding edge….when you start talking about how the first company to mainstream virtual worlds is slipping…judas, most people haven’t even been in a virtual world yet. We are just starting to see for-real corporate forays into the space…and yet here we are talking about Linden Lab slipping. IMHO the only thing that is slipping is this incorrect perception I think fostered by people outside of Second Life that Second Life would somehow remain as the only dog in this hunt. The Virtual World market is growing, the pie is getting bigger so relative slices will appear smaller.

Evidence of the above…..”$425 Million Invested in 15 Virtual Worlds Companies in Q4 2007“….”venture capital and media firms have invested more than $425 million dollars in 15 virtual worlds companies during the fourth quarter of 2007”. Hmmm…..$425 million IN THE FOURTH QUARTER. Yeah, this whole InterWeb thing is just a fad…..

Linden Lab to Beta Lightweight Second Life Client in February….hmmm….allowing access to a system (a virtual world say) from outside that system…where have I read a great blog post about how learning companies should be exploring that concept more?

Author: Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings, 28th February 2008

February 28, 2008 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

The Invention of Good Games:Understanding Learning Design in Commercial Video Games

(Katrin Becker thesis)

Katrin’s important thesis is now available both as a Wiki and a PDF download.

“In order to design educational games that remain effective as both games and as learning objects, it is necessary to understand how successful games teach. However, the best games are designed for entertainment and not education, and while they teach effectively, their designs are not expressed in educational terms that could be used by designers of instructional games. Although current literature often cites examples from COTS games to support claims about how games teach and there is a growing body of research on the use of games in formal learning situations, the main focus has been on the learners and there have been no comprehensive detailed examinations of how specific games teach. By treating the COTS game as though it had been deliberately created as an educational game, it becomes possible to identify the learning requirements for the game as well as the strategies used to support that learning in a form suitable for examination as instructional design. Using methodology adapted from reverse engineering called ‘instructional decomposition’, both macro and micro design elements can be identified. This work will contribute to the body of knowledge on elements important in the design of educational games by identifying specific strategies employed in top-rated games to facilitate specific learning requirements.”

Author: Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings, 27th February 2008

February 28, 2008 at 6:23 pm Leave a comment

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The purpose of this blog is to provide insight into the impact of computer games and pop culture, and effective ways of incorporating the positive surplus into learning experiences.

Please feel free to add comments and email me with any queries. I am also interested in relevant project collaboration.

Name: Alexandra Matthews
Location: UK

Email: info@gamingandlearning.co.uk / alex@gamingandlearning.co.uk

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