Monday, January 22, 2007

Ruppert building, the aftermath

The Ruppert Building at Utrecht University was severly damaged during the storm last Thursday. A building crane was blown over and wrecked a classroom and a number of offices. This means at least some classrooms will be unavailable for the time being. As a lot of teaching takes place in this building this means new locations have to be found at very short notice. I have a lot of respect for the people redoing the schedules at short notice.

There is an interesting repercussion: all of a sudden recording lectures could be a great asset in tackling the shortage of classrooms. A number of teachers have already approached with requests. We will have to see what is feasible at this short notice though, as we don't even have the recording sets up and running...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Two starting periods at universities

An interesting item was in the Dutch papers. They are running the first experiments allowing students to also take their final exams in January rather than only in May as is the case at present. It seems like a great idea for the students in their final year at secondary school as they can pace their learning better.
On the other hand it does set a challenge for Dutch higher ed in the long run. This means perhaps offering some or all Bachelor modules twice annually. This is going to tax the teaching staff and the organisation further. It may on the other hand also imply a greater demand for reusing learning materials and teaching activities. Of course you can also be snobby and decide you are such a popular course that you will only offer your course once annually. Students will simply wait and gain some real life experience before starting your course.

Training teachers

In the Blackboard meeting we also discussed the training of teachers using Blackboard (although the findings were not strictly related to Blacboard. Willibrord Huisman gave a good presentation

on their experiences in training teachers. A number of things were quite recognizable and also worth repeating here.
  • Just putting stuff on the web doesn' t work (naturally ;-)
  • When a teacher comes with a question it is normally in the middle of a course and not in the design stage. This means that is not really worth pointing out the fact they should have thought of it earlier. You can better find some sort of solution to help them out.
  • What is the primary background a teacher will use when starting to teach? Their own experiences as a student! This is rather like raising children. How you raise your children will always be based on your own upbringing, in one way or the other. This does pose the question how long it will take for the new teachers to adopt a new pedagogy for a new generation of students...
  • Is there such a thing as Digital Pedagogy? In practice this is usually a phrase that is coined from later going backwards. From use in practice looking back on the design process. This was his opinion at least. I think he may be right in practice. I personally do not believe in a digital pedagogy even if you work in the correct order. It is very important to take digital opportunities into account when designing your course, but in the end it is humans taking your course with their specific learning styles. I argue that this even holds true if you are designing a course for the net-generation. Of course they will learn differently and be able to use digital tools much more effectively in their learning.
  • Willibrord had made some very entertaining fact sheets and as a visual learning I was very charmed by the drawings. The drawing pictured here is describing the use of a discussion board as depating tool. I can advise you to have a look at the fact sheet (it is in Dutch).

Using Blackboard - let's manual together..

Yesterday there was a meeting of the Dutch Blackboard usergroup. Are large number of institutions are preparing on the switch to Bb 7.x. Everybody is wondering how much work it will be to rewrite all their manuals. An initiative has been started to share manuals. Although everybody does have their own procedures (especially login) and their own mix of building blocks, there is a lot of material which should be easy to exchange. I wonder how this will work in practice.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

It's learning seminar

Last Thursday I attended a seminar on the norwegian VLE It's learning. All in all it was not extremely exciting. The most inspiring part was the talk by Wim Veen on the net-generation students. I hadn't heard one of his talks for a while and it was interesting to see that his homo zappiens had been incorporated into a lot more developments (for example the net-generation students). The ideas set out by a number of trend watchers are coming together. He also incorporated ideas on networked learning and the gift economy. Although some of the concepts sound idealistic, it does give the feeling that society and therefore learners are changing. Strangely enough learners are becoming more social and Dutch higher ed is becoming more competitive.

It's learning seems interesting as a VLE, but I do not know a lot about it. I must give it a try so at least if a say something about it, it will be grounded in truth ;-) My colleague Jos Jaspers is planning to give it a try, so I will definitely hear him out.
I was intrigued by the fact they are offering it's learning through the mobile phone. They are also incorporating a blog facility. Social Software is entering the VLE domain :-)

The presentations on It's learning were not all that exciting, it does appear to be a VLE like many others, although the incorporation of a portfolio in the system is certainly a bonus for the Dutch market. I missed the final demonstration of a link with Sharepoint which is an interesting facility a large number of Dutch institutions will be looking for with their respective VLE's.
One thing I did find very noticeable was the hosting model they offer. In principle they advise you to use their hosting. I can imagine this to be a good idea. At least this saves you a lot of hassle and you are always up to date and patched. Of course there are also disadvantages (stuck to their code, dependant on connections, data is elsewhere). I must note that you can also run a local installation if that is what you prefer.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I've been tagged

Wilfred Rubens has been kind enough to tag me... This means I will now write five things that would otherwise not appear on my blog and continue the by tagging five other bloggers. OK, so here we go...

  1. When I was young I used to play Judo, but it wasn't quite my sport. I was more of a defensive player than the aggressive kind, it took me rugby to discover the charm of offensive action.

  2. At secondary school I also took an exam in music. One part of the exam was performing various pieces of music on stage. Not long ago I ran into a really old photo on the web... You can find it here.

  3. I spent a number of summers picking tomatoes as a job, it was fun but dirty work. Up tot this day, I still prefer buying tomatoes without a stalk, because then I won't be confronted with the pugnant smell.

  4. I do not really have a social science background, it is just that I did not want to limit myself to hard science alone. However I did seriously enjoy the minor Physical Geography I took during my studies, and it came to great use on a field trip to Scotland with a bunch a students.

  5. The latest album I got for Christmas is an old classic: Goo by Sonic Youth, I have played it a lot (when the kids weren't around) and it brings back happy memories.

So, that actually was not that easy. I noticed that I share a lot on my blog so most information can be found there after all.

This tagging is an interesting project and seems a celebration of the TIME award given to all bloggers and other web users that contribute rather than just consume on the web.

Just a note on the side: The starters of this project are claiming they want to follow the progress of a meme, a unit of cultural entity. I just looked up Meme in Wikipedia and I am not quite sure if the project itself really is a Meme. It is certainly not an entity in itself, and blogging is merely a tool available to replicate a Meme. So what is a Meme? One example that springs to my mind are the lonely girl videos on YouTube. They really have gone round and are now receiving responses and satirical reactions...

So now it is time to select a number of bloggers to continue this project. I will now invite:

Gerard Dummer, Moqub, Patrick Klaassen, and Willem van Valkenburg

Good luck...

Recording Lectures at Utrecht University

The last weeks before Christmas were an exciting time. I was busy writing an application for funding for a pilot for the recording of lectures at Utrecht University. And I can now announce the good news: The application has been accepted and we can now start up the project. We have chosen the following approach:

  • Utrecht University has lectures at two locations: the town centre and the out of town campus. Two recording sets will be available: one for each location.

  • Only one playback set will be set up. This may seem obvious to some, but others that know Utrecht University will understand the significance of this fact.

  • This is a pilot for one year. This will give us the chance to gain some more experience not only with the software, but more importantly on the effects this has on learning and teaching.

  • We have chosen to try out the Apreso Classroom solution for a year. We are very intrigued how it will work out. It appears to be a fairly straightforward solution with good connections to both Blackboard and WebCT.

For all those interested in our findings: it will be a while before we have a set up and running, so please bear with us...

Starting the new year in cold style

After a very busy year at work, I decided it was time for personal matters and what better time to start, than on New Year's day. So we drove down to 's-Gravenzande and joined the 'Nieuwjaarsduik' (New Year's dive) which was organised there. It was great fun and a great way to kick start your body into the new year. Actually the waiting was colder than the dive itself.
I must give thanks to the organising committee. It was organised well and it was not too busy, so it was also safe and enjoyable for the kids :-)
For more photographs visit: