Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Potential scenarios for MUGSE

Monday will see the first rough meeting of MUGSE,  a new Mahara User Group. During this meeting there are many things to be discussed, one of which is the scope of the group both in terms of topics and geographical locations covered.

In my eyes the first decision is what does the ‘SE’ of MUGSE stand for? Is it Southern England or South East? If it is the latter then I think the name should be abbreviated to MUGSEE, meaning Mahara User Group for South East England – to avoid any confusion with potential future groups.

Once we have decided the areas to be included in the group (although whatever geographical lines are drawn I’m sure those outside would be welcome any time), we would need to discuss the format and location of meetings. To that end I have come up with some possible scenarios and presented them as Prezis. Please bare in mind these are just a rough idea. The boundary lines could be re-drawn and the schedule is open for discussion. I just thought this might be a way to start the conversation.

Potential scenario for MUGSE – Mahara User Group Southern England

Potential scenario for MUGSEE – Mahara User Group South East England

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S is for System, not Sorcery

Complaints. We’ve all had to deal with them, ‘the system is too slow’, ‘why doesn’t it do [this] or [that]?’ Most of the time we are forced to simply apologise about the technology, and possibly even nod and agree that it isn’t good enough for a university, and that we should expect more. This morning I found myself once again wondering, should we really be asking more?

Of course we should always expect more from technology, that is how it evolves and improves rather than becoming stagnant (and we all love new toys to play with)! When it comes to what we currently have though, is it possible we sometimes expect too much from it? Perhaps we need to get better at setting expectation for our users so that they are not disappointed when a piece of software can’t magically reduce their workload and let them spend more time researching. I can confess, I have enjoyed from time to time when academic I’ve helped in using the VLE treat me like I’m a wizard! After all, we all like to feel special, important and being magic would be cool! But perhaps in allowing this vision of us we have created the illusion that we use sorcery, rather than systems? It might well be time to take off our cloaks and explain that while, the technology we are showing them can do a number of things, it is prone to failure. Just like the tech used by big companies such as, everyone’s favourite the BBC, or less favourable Microsoft.

When stuff goes wrong it is not always a sign of bad infrastructure, inadequate systems or untrained staff – sometimes its just a case of technology being technology…it fails, get over it. After all, technology was created by ‘mankind’ and to err is human…

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As an quick aside when I was thinking of ‘S is for System, not Sorcery’ I came up with a few others so I’ll just share them here, otherwise my brain might explode!

A is for application, not for abracadabra

B is for beta, not for bewitchment

I is for internet, not for incantation

M is for machine, not for magic

S is for software, not for spell

V is for virtual, not for voodoo

W is for Windows, not for wizardry

 

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Feedback is a process, not an activity

As education professionals we are constantly faced with the questions of how to give effective, meaningful feedback to students. It is a particular hot topic at the moment, as it is one of the key areas for improvement highlighted by the NSS results in recent years. It has meant many of us have started to look at feedback differently. We recognise that feedback is a process and not a single activity that can be carried out. Feedback works best when it is cumulative, over a number of formative and summative assessment, as it can track and reflect on progress made from one piece of work to the next. This in turn aides the students ability to reflect and develop based on past mistakes and achievements.

But more than that in my opinion, feedback should have a mini-cycle for each individual piece of work, as it is best delivered over a staged process. Technology can assist in this process beautifully, by allowing feedback to be given remotely and consumed in the student’s own time. The student should then be given an opportunity to digest that feedback, reflect on what it means and any questions they may have about it. Next the student should have an opportunity, either via a face-to-face tutorial, or if this is not possible a video-chat (Skype or Google Hangout for example), to discuss the feedback and how improvements can be made in the future.

Feedback works best when it is not delivered as though it is a single task, but as part of an on going discussion that requires active engagement from both the student and tutor. Personally I also think it is important feedback not only highlight mistakes made, but also successes. We can learn by understanding what we did right, as we can by what we did wrong. I often felt as a student that although it was clear what I did wrong, it was not always clear if the aspects of my work not mentioned were successful, adequate or just not as bad and the rest. It might also be the case that success is not always achieved deliberately, and so reflecting on it can insure it is not a one of occurrence.

As education professionals we are learning a lot about what makes for good feedback, and that quantity is not always the best option. Technology enables us the play with different feedback options, from context specific text (such as Turnitin’s QuickMarks) or longer whole assignment reflections to voice and audio feedback. It is a developing and changing area of education, which may mean we never get it entirely right, but if we work with students perhaps we can get close.

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