Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A day at home with the Net-generation

I was supposed to attend a meeting of the CWIS group today, but life can take a different unexpected turn. My son caught a tummy bug so I spent the day at home, playing Triominos and other games and giving Second Life a go... So I ended up working with the netgeneration after al, but not quite in the manner I expected . I hope all the attendees had a great time and I really missed the meeting :-( I must look around on some blogs to see how they got on...

Monday, March 12, 2007

8 days a week, ironing is a chore

Last Thursday was the annual symposium organised by IVLOS at Utrecht University. The theme was 8 days a week, how students and staff can manage to do learning and teaching in the amount of time that seems available for this task. I am pleased to see that the IVLOS has picked up on this (see article by Robert Jan Simons on Edusite). As far as students are concerned the picture is pretty obvious: Students in the Netherlands are trying to combine studying (approximately a meagre 20 hours a week) with all sorts of jobs to add to their grant and support their lifestyle.

Inez Groen gave a presentation (again) on the Einstein Generation. The story did not contain much new information, but it was interesting to hear it again and to add it unto experiences I had gained lately. One interesting aspect was the attitude the new generation of students has regarding university. University is now commonly called school. Spoilt as they are with all the wealth they have been surrounded with they are used to having many choices available. They will choose the easy choice, they expect to be involved and engrossed in the study they have chosen for. (Please note: this does not necessarily mean they are lazy!) They expect good teaching. The teacher should certainly be a subject matter expert, otherwise they might as well spend their time on the internet where you can find almost anything.

And IT is extremely boring, it is a tool not unlike an iron. You plug it in and it works. This does not mean you should not use IT, it means you should only use it if it makes sense, IT for IT's sake is only fascinating for digital immigrants, duh!

Staff on the other hand are suffering from the demand for a more involved style of teaching. In many cases this has been translated into giving the students many more assignments. Sadly this means teachers have an awful lot more checking of papers to get through. There was a session specially directed at this problem which I certainly enjoyed. What about letting students doing the teaching in turn. They are the ones that are setting up the presentation, organising excersises and getting the students involved. It seemed to work really well. It brought back happy memories from a class I attended using the same formula. It was definitely the most interesting and involving module I followed during my masters'.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Repository on offer...

Surfnet and Kennisnet are two organisations supporting respectively lower and higher ed in The Netherlands. They organised a meeting in which they offered a new repository facility for schools or colleges that might be interested. Moqub has also written about this meeting.
First of all I think it is a very good initiative. It offers schools a chance to try out a new technology they do not yet support. This also has been offered by Surfnet in the past (Breeze for videoconferencing) or JISC (Turnitin for plaguerism detection).
For Utrecht University the offer is less relevant as we are already running DSpace as a repository. Our challenge is to get learning materials into DSpace...

A wiki elsewhere...

When thinking about a new generation VLE, it became clear that are different roads that can be travelled to attain this goal. Typical for early adopters is to go out on the web and find a tool that does it for you, and there are a lot of them around.
I was shown the wiki http://bbamusic.wikispaces.com which was set up by the Burr and Barton academy in the free wikispaces environment. Quite amusing to have a look around and to read their ear training assignments.
In fact I once, long ago, gave two honors students a space in wikispace to write a public essay. It can be found at http://fswhonours.wikispaces.com I must give it a read.

The great advantage of using external facilitues is you can choose just the one you want at no cost. The great disadvantage is that they are not imbedded in your technical and administrative infrastructure. Think about backups and account administration for example...