Thursday, 17 December 2009

Party Political Games with Bar Charts

This is just so funny to anyone who knows anything about charting. The Liberal Democrats have taken the data and manipulated it to look as though it is a close thing between them and the Conservatives and that Labour are a weak third, when actually the Conservatives are clearly ahead and Labour are almost in the same position.

I was formerly a Liberal Democrat councillor and I know what you are told to do by the campaigning offices (ALDC used to drive me mad as they just do not know my constituents, who were very well educated and middle class) but sometimes perhaps a little less spin would do us more good.

The four Es

Education should:
  • Engage
  • Enable
  • Encourage
  • Empower

Stories to Tell for Teaching

  • Water tank the ball-cock sticking. This would not be a problem if the over-flow was not blocked as well because it was dirty with not being used for so long. This is an example of a double failure in a control system (Chernobyl).
  • Inherent Bias in Fox News (Simpsons episode with the Gummi Bear on the babysitter).
  • Losing the car keys of a hire car on Haytor on Dartmoor. We found them by asking around!
  • Willow's finger. In the film Willow, Willow is asked by the old magician in which of his fingers can the magic be found. Willow picks one of the old man's fingers but this was wrong her should have picked his own!
  • Giving my first public lecture it as going to be judged by an eminent scientist. I was very nervous and did not speak very loud so the scientist who was at the back asked me to speak up. I shouted back "I have finished!"

Nice Examples of Common Misconceptions in Science

  • Where does all the material for a tree come from?
  • How do parallel circuits work.
  • If I have a heavy weight in a boat and I throw it over the side what happens to the level of the water.
  • What happens when I stop applying force to an object does it stop moving?
Then there are a few examples of how you coincidence can be confused with causation.
  • The birthday of the bad guy, the head of the NSA in Enemy of the State is 9.11

Developing E-learning

  • At MSc level and even degree level we should not be spooning facts into our students. They should be learning how to learn and the flexibility of finding things out.
  • 100 hours of student learning does not mean 100 contact hours. It means 100 hours that they are doing something directed to a learning objective but it might only mean 10 hours of contact.
  • Do not expect to get it right the first time. Educational development depends on multiple iterations.
  • Use the experiences of Resource Based Learning.
  • Be careful of excluding parts of your audience - audio is not very useful for some international students.
  • There is nothing wrong with basing a course around a core text so long as it is carefully integrated.

Tools for Online Learning

With materials based learning the empahsis is on interactivity.
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Links to other sites
  • Dynamic content
Studies actually show if you do this all you get is students thinking about what to push next and not the material itself  (Laurillard). There is a great book called Learning By Doing that shows the first step in creating a "doing" environment is a flowchart of activity and the easiest way to do this for a start is in Excel! (I wrote this in my teaching diary 8/1/01 and the book came out a long time afterward).

Time for Developing E-learning

According to the Learning Technology support at my old university.

For a pedagogically sound course the development time is between 10 and 100 hours for each hour of student contact time.

An MSc course is 180 credits which corresponds to 1800 hours of student learning time. Assuming that only half of that time is contact time this is 900 hours of online materials that have to be developed.

This will take between 9000 and 90,000 hours of development time. That is between 1200 and 12000 days of full-time work on the project. So between 3 and 30 years for one person! A potential life-times work.

I rather suggest that they are idiots and have no idea about how to develop university level learning.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Dangers of Modularisation

Modularity can lead to a disjointed curriculum that can fail to add up to a coherent programme of study. Lecturers also have different perspectives and styles and this can add to the confusion.

So how can we;
  • make the most of available staff?
  • give students the widest possible choices?
  • make sure that any dependencies are put in place?