Tips to Flip

skateboarder flipping his board

The Flipped Classroom Model has been around Higher Education for a number of years. It has many loyal followers but has not yet been widely adopted at the University of Sussex. In this post we’ll look at what Flipped Learning is and why it has garnered such interest from the education community. We’ll also look at strategies to make it work in practice.

What is Flipped Learning?  

Flipped learning is usually defined in contrast to the ‘traditional’ model of teaching, where you introduce your students to new material in class through didactic lectures and the students then complete practice exercises independently. In the Flipped model you present your students with new concepts prior to class, often through videos, then use class time for more active approaches, setting practical tasks and supporting students to consolidate and build-upon the prior learning (Bishop & Verleger 2013).

Why flip?

The Flipped Model brings with it a number of benefits:

Active, practical sessions. The traditional lecture format tends towards a passive experience for students. Studies such as that by Prince (2004) suggest that using ‘active learning’ techniques in-class improves outcomes.

Student paced. Providing pre-class activities allows students to work at their own pace and reduce cognitive load (Hamdan, et al 2013). This can be of particular benefit to students with specific learning difficulties.

Independence. O’Flaherty and Phillips (2015) point to the ‘potential to enable teachers to cultivate critical and independent thought in their students’. Activities which provide students with feedback help them to identify their own strengths and weaknesses.

Tailoring teaching. Using online activities prior to class has the additional advantage of giving you feedback about your students. You can find out about misconceptions prior to class and adjust your in-class teaching accordingly.

How to Flip your classroom.

Planning how to Flip your class is important. Bloom’s Taxonomy, provides a handy framework for helping to choose what to do prior to class and what to do in-class, ensuring a logical progression (Gilboy, et al 2015). Pre-class objectives may correspond to the lower tiers of the taxonomy with a focus on memorising and understanding, recalling the relevant vocabulary and how it relates to the basic concepts, while the higher levels may be better tackled in class with the support of the teacher.

Bloom’s taxonomy Verbs from
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bloom%E2%80%99s_Taxonomy_Verbs.png

Set clear expectations from the start. Make sure your students know what you expect them to do ahead of class and how this will benefit them.

Once you’ve decided what to present pre-class, you can save time by reusing existing online resources. There are a number of places to look, from YouTube to more local or specifically HE content on Canvas Commons.

Be strategic and don’t spend lots of time on subjects which are likely to change frequently. There are a whole host of tools you can use to create activities from Canvas Quizzes to Quizlet Flashcards, or screen captured, video presentations. Contact tel@sussex.ac.uk for guidance.

The challenge that teaching staff often bring up first with the Flipped model is: ‘How can I be sure my students will do the pre-class activities?’ Motivating the students is key.

There is some evidence that students perform better with video as opposed to reading activities (Lee & Choi, 2019). Keep activities short and focused and be up front about how long each activity will take, for example ‘Watch this 10 minute video on X’. Pairing or grouping students in-class can also help to reduce the impact of any who have not prepared.

If you’re finding your students just don’t respond to the pre-class activities you could try a variation on the model such as the in-class flip.

As mentioned before, making the classroom section as active as possible is at the core of this approach. The Active Learning Network (ALN) is a group of interested educators who explore using active approaches in their teaching. Sussex colleagues run regular ALN events so do look out for them. You can find a number of active learning strategies on The Berkley Center for Teaching & Learning website.

5 tips to flip

We collected some tips from University of Sussex Flipped Learning practitioners, Dr Wendy Garnham, Susan Smith, Professor Andy Field and Dr Jennifer Mankin.

  1. Keep activities short.
    Susan Smith, from the University of Sussex Business School has refined her pre-class videos down to around 3-4 minutes.
  2. Plan how your pre-class activities lead into the in-class activities.
    Susan also stresses the need for the class time to build upon what has been learnt pre-class.
  3. Vary the types of activity.
    Wendy Garnham from the School of Psychology raises the importance of variety (not just videos) to keep students interest.
  4. Keep resources in an easily editable format.
    Creating resources can take time. Wendy recommends using online services such as Google docs because they are easy to update.  
  5. Use quizzes to motivate students.
    Andy Field and Jennifer Mankin from the School of Psychology use quizzes at the beginning of their class sessions to ensure that students complete the pre-class activities. Since the move to Flipped Learning they’ve also seen an improvement in attendance.

Even if you choose not to apply the Flipped Model to all of your teaching, there are some useful elements that you can employ to engage your students prior to class and make the best use of precious class time.

Do get in touch with your School Learning Technologist via tel@sussex.ac.uk for further ideas and support.

References

Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013). ‘The flipped classroom: a survey of the research’. ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Available at: https://peer.asee.org/22585 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Accessed: 11 March 2019)

Gilboy, M.B., Heinerichs S., Pazzaglia, G. (2015), ‘Enhancing Student Engagement Using the Flipped Classroom’, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 47, Issue 1, January–February 2015, Pages 109-114, Available at:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2014.08.008 (Accessed:09 April 2019)

Hamdan, N., McKnight, P., McKnight, K. and Arfstrom, K. (2013) A Review of Flipped Learning [Internet]. Available at: https://flippedlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/LitReview_FlippedLearning.pdf (Accessed:09 April 2019)

Lee, J. and Choi, H. (2019), ‘Rethinking the flipped learning pre‐class: Its influence on the success of flipped learning and related factors’. Br J Educ Technol, 50: 934-945. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12618 (Accessed: 11 March 2019)

O’Flaherty, Jacqueline, Phillips, Craig (2015), ‘The use of flipped classrooms in higher education: A scoping review’, The Internet and Higher Education, 04/2015, Vol.25, C, pp.85-95 Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2015.02.002 (Accessed:09 April 2019)

Prince, M. (2004) ‘Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research’, Journal of Engineering Education 93:223-231 · July 2004, Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2004.tb00809.x (Accessed:09 April 2019)

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Posted in Active learning

Communicating with students in Canvas

Two overlapping speech bubbles.

Canvas includes several tools for communication between teachers and students within a module. In this post I will give an overview of Announcements, Discussions, Chat and Conversations, looking at when each would be a good choice.

Announcements

The icon for Announcements gives a very good idea of the sort of communication it provides – it is designed as a one-to-many form of communication just like the megaphone.

Canvas Announcements megaphone icon

Announcements in Canvas are a great way of making students aware of important news. For example, if there is a change to the venue for a seminar or you want to remind students to bring something to a session, an announcement can bring this to students’ attention.

Tips for using Announcements

This form of communication lends itself to short messages that share information. Your message does not have to just be text-based; you can add images, video, files and weblinks to announcements if required.

There are 3 possible places that your announcements can be seen:

  1. In the Announcements section of the Canvas Module.
  2. As a number on the module ‘card’ in Dashboard view.
  3. At the top of the Module Home screen (see How do I show recent announcements in the Home Page?)

Students and other staff on the module may also get notifications about announcements (see below).

More information

Discussions

Discussions in Canvas are designed for more than a single message, allowing members of a module to discuss a topic in more depth.

Discussions are great for extending the sharing of ideas and understanding beyond lectures and seminars. The Rich Content Editor that is used throughout Canvas allows Discussion posts and replies to include a range of content such as images, videos, weblinks and files, so there are many options for students to express and share their ideas.

Students can create Discussions, either in the module (if enabled in Settings) or in their own groups. If required, discussion posts can be graded or students can ‘like’ replies so they could be used as a formative  and/or peer assessment.

Tips for using Discussions

A recent TEL blog post on 5 ways to make online discussions work in your teaching offers some great tips on using Discussions.

It is important to remember that unlike a forum, a Canvas Discussion is focused on just one topic, so you would usually expect to see a number of discussions on different topics within a module.

If you want students to be able to create discussions and/or upload files to them, then the relevant setting(s) need to be chosen in Settings / Module details / more options.

screenshot of the settings that need to be changed

More information

Module Chat

The Module Chat feature facilitates real-time, informal conversations between members of a module (staff and students). Chat does not have the functionality of Discussions, but allows quick messages like you might see on social media platforms, including emojis.

When Chat is enabled, a Module chat box is visible at the bottom right of all module screens. When you click on the arrow the window pops up and you can see comments that have been posted, or add your own. You can also see the whole chat by clicking on Chat in the module navigation menu.

screenshot of Chat window

Tips for using Module Chat

As a ‘live’ form of communication, chat messages do not produce notifications through other channels such as email or SMS (see Notifications below).. You can choose to have ‘new message alerts’ within Canvas which will sound a ‘ping’ when a new message is posted, so it is best used at a time that you are logged into Canvas and ready to respond to messages.

Chat can be enabled or disabled by editing the Navigation menu.

More information

Conversations

This is the mode of communication closest to email, with messages sent, received and managed through the Inbox on the global navigation menu.

Tutors can send messages to people attached to any of their modules, either individually or as a group, including a media message (audio or video) and attaching files if required.

These messages are handled at the user account level, so you can see all your incoming  messages in one place or filter them by module.

Tips for using Conversations

The default notification for Conversations is the counter which appears on the Inbox icon in the global navigation menu. Users may also have set their Notifications to create an email or SMS text when a message is received, but this is optional. If you are not receiving notifications for Conversations, be sure to check your Canvas Inbox regularly.

More information

Notifications

If you are using Discussions or Conversations in your modules you can adjust your Notification settings so that you are alerted about new discussions, replies and messages. You can also get notifications about announcements.

You can add alternative email addresses or a mobile phone number if you prefer SMS notifications. For each ‘event’ on Canvas you can receive email notifications immediately, as a daily summary, a weekly summary, or not at all. For example, I might want a daily summary of replies to discussions, but immediate notifications of new announcements and messages in my Canvas Inbox.

Notifications preferences apply across a user’s account, not per module, but if you find you are receiving too many or too few notifications you can adjust your options. All Canvas users can set their own notification preferences, so students can also control what notifications they receive.

More information

If you would like help using any of these communication tools in Canvas, or to discuss what might work best for you and your students please contact tel@sussex.ac.uk


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Posted in Canvas

New TEL:US Podcast: Dawn Green from The Karten Network

Visit the podcast page to listen to the latest show.

On this show I had the opportunity to chat to Dawn Green, Development Co-ordinator at the Karten Network. Dawn also chairs the technology steering group, which meets to support the work of Natspec and the TechAbility service. More details of which can be found below. 

I didn’t have long with Dawn, so this provides a brief overview of the work of the Karten Network. I strongly encourage you to find out more about the network and the great work that results in their investments. 

Note: This was during a lunch break, so there is some background noise, apologies for that.

Until next time, thanks for listening.


Show links:

Twitter:

Dawn Green

Karten Network

Dan Axson

Sussex TEL


Websites:

The Karten Network

TechAbility

Natspec

Technology Enhanced Learning, University of Sussex


Banner. Click to subscribe to TEL:US Podcast on iTunes.
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Posted in Accessibility, Podcast

Five tips to make Specialism-Based Learning work in your teaching

image with the 5 tips:
Tip 1. Develop criticality within students.
Tip 2. Develop resourcefulness within students.
Tip 3. Develop students’ confidence in their own expertise.
Tip 4. Facilitate sharing of specialist knowledge between peers.
Tip 5. Enable appropriate assessment methods.

Specialism-based learning (SBL) is an approach to curriculum design. SBL works by giving each student a specialism or focus, which is distinct from the specialisms of their student peers. They are then expected to apply the theories being explored on the module to their specialism. In a SBL module:

  • Students choose or are given a specialism
  • There is a check in place to ensure they can apply the topics you cover to the specialism
  • There are learning activities that promote:
    • Sharing of specialist knowledge between peers
    • Confidence in students’ own disciplinary expertise
    • Cross-fertilisation of ideas
  • There is an assessment method that allows them to apply topics to their chosen specialism

At Sussex, it is an approach that we have seen adopted within Linguistics, Geography and Psychology, but it is relevant to teaching across the arts and humanities, sciences and social sciences, despite variations in teaching and assessment practices.

Examples SBL in English Literature SBL in Organic Chemistry
Students choose or are given a specialism Students adopted a book Students adopt a molecule
Check topics can be applied to the specialism Gender, race, colonialism, power Molecular structures, chemical properties, physical properties, experimental methods, separation techniques
Learning activities Teaching method Lectures, seminars, group quizzes, video presentations and tutor and peer reviews of essays Lectures, seminars, experimental practicals, group quizzes, video presentations, peer reviews of draft reports
Assessment method Portfolio including essay, presentation & peer reviews Portfolio including reports, video presentation, peer reviews and experimental practical reflections

So what technological tips can we offer you that can facilitate a specialism-based learning module?

Tip 1. Develop criticality within students

In an SBL module it is important that you set up opportunities for students to become critical learners, assessing the concepts that you are delivering to them and the extent to which they find them useful to understand their specialism. For example, in an SBL chemistry module where a student’s specialism is an organic module and the weekly topic is the separation techniques, the student will be expected to identify the techniques that are used to separate their molecule from the mixtures in which  it is found. Some of the concepts may be more relevant to some specialisms than others, but students will be expected to give an account to how it was useful to their particular specialism or why it was not.

In order to do this it is recommended that the students keep a weekly journal where they record how they have applied the topic to their specialism. There are many tools available for the students to use (see some options in ‘Digital tools for reflective practice’). Alternatively, if you wish to comment on the students’ reflections you can use the Assignment feature in your virtual learning environment (VLE)  to set up a weekly submission point.

Tip 2. Develop resourcefulness within students

Apart from understanding the concepts you deliver through your teaching, an SBL module expects  students to do additional research on their specialism. A record of additional research can be kept in an online journal like one suggested above. Additionally, in order to organise one’s thought while accumulating knowledge on your specialism, SBL teaching recommends using mind mapping software. Mind mapping can be done on paper, but the advantage of using an online tools is that you can add links to websites, documents, images, podcasts and videos. OneNote has mind mapping features as does Padlet and Mindview is powerful mind mapping software that all students and staff have access to at the University of Sussex.

Tip 3. Develop students’ confidence in their own expertise

One of the key strengths of SBL teaching is that it builds confidence in students, ownership of their knowledge and lets them gain an affiliation with the discipline because of the unique knowledge they each acquire about their specialism. However, in order for their confidence and sense of ownership  to grow they need opportunities to share their specialised knowledge and to get feedback. Peer feedback often provides as much or more confidence than feedback from the tutor, who students feel will always have superior knowledge to them. It is therefore important to set up opportunities to share knowledge with each other. This can be through student presentations, seminar conversations, online discussions in your VLE or using a collaborative online tool that allows students to share links and ideas such as Padlet.

Tip 4. Facilitate sharing of specialist knowledge between peers

SBL is a perfect solution for tutors who recognise the learning potential of collaborative activities between peers and for peers to teach each other. Peer collaborations can be unpopular with students and staff alike because they can lead to collusion or plagiarism of another’s work. However, using SBL where each student being focuses on a different specialism the likelihood of collaborations being viewed as collusion is reduced and the risk of plagiarism is largely eliminated. Students can engage together on disciplinary topics and concepts, but ultimately it will be on their application of the concept to their specialism that will be assessed. This leads to a natural interest in each others’ work, which is related but different from their own, and peer work leads to the cross fertilisation of knowledge.

Often within an SBL module there will be a proportion of the contributory assessment dedicated to a student presentation. Presentations are motivational for students who want to deepen their understanding so that they look knowledgeable in front of their peers and can answer questions. However, presentations can be time-consuming in big cohorts but  technologies are available that will allow students to record their presentations and post their videos to the tutor and their peers. FlipGrid is one such technology and can embedded into most VLEs. Alternatively, online presentations can be shared using your VLE discussions area.

SBL modules also often use peers to review each other’s draft essays. Again students cannot plagiarise as the application of concepts needs to be on their own specialism, but during the peer review exercise students will learn from each other and from their experience of reviewing. SBL usually expects the tutor to provide training and guidance to the students on how to leave reviews sensitively and usually the peer reviewers will meet face-to-face in order to maintain collegiality and good communication. The use of online tools is also helpful to allow students to share work and leave each other feedback. Options include Office 365, where Sussex University students and have staff have 1TB of space each, and Google Docs. Most VLEs also allow peer reviews and in Canvas, the Sussex University VLE, you can allow peer reviews within the set up of an Assignment tool.

Tip 5. Enable appropriate assessment methods

SBL lends itself to many assessment methods, but particularly those that allow students to include personal reflections on their learning and evidence of engagement in peer activities. At our University, the assessment type would most likely be a Portfolio, Project-based, or Essay.

In SBL a Portfolio or Project-based assessment might include an essay and presentation which focus on the student’s  specialism and their application of the concepts introduced in the teaching. The submission may also include the reviews the students left for their peers, their reflective journals and any other contributions they made on the module.  In our institution the submission point can be set to Canvas Online submission which allows multiple file uploads or the upload of a zip file containing a number of files.

An Essay assessment using the SBL method would also expect the student to focus their writing around their specialism. The tutor may require students to include reflections about their journal and/or presentation and/or peer review. In our institution the submission point can be set to Canvas Turnitin which will check for similarities with other pieces of work held in the Turnitin database.

Summary

SBL is a teaching method that encourages criticality, resourcefulness and communication amongst students as well as developing a sense of of expertise and strong affiliation with the discipline area. It is an approach which is aided by setting up learning environments and using technologies for peer-to-peer activities and using an assessment method which requires learners to incorporate their reflections throughout the module and focuses on the application of the concepts introduced in the teaching to their specialism.

Specialism-based learning events

‘Active Essay Writing: Risk taking and specialism based learning’ is on 8th March, 2pm-3pm, Essex House 133, University of Sussex
More information and booking.

‘Implementing specialism-based learning: engaging and inspiring students’ is on 11th March 14:00-15:30, Pevensey 1 Room 2A2, University of Sussex. More information and booking.

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Posted in Active learning

New Resources for Canvas: Embedded Library Subject Guides

One of the features that stands out about Canvas is the ability to connect other systems into the modules, extending them with additional activities and activities. Recently, our library colleagues have been working to provide just such an integration for the Library Subject Guides. We’re delighted to host a guest post from Chris Brown, explaining how to add Subject Guide content in any Sussex Canvas module:


Do you want your students to make the most of Library resources?

You can now embed Library Subject Guide resources in your Canvas modules, making it easier for students to find, access and use these materials from within your teaching sites.

Library Subject Guides list key resources such as specialist subject databases and digital archives. You can access video resources, such as Kanopy and online newspapers, while our A to Z resources range from ARTstor to Zotero.

In addition to Subject Guides, the Library also provides guides to other resources, including reference management software and theses and dissertations.

You can find these guides on the Library website at “Subject guides and support”:

The Subject Guides homepage on the University of Sussex ibrary website, listing the curriculum subject guides and other guides available.

Here’s an example of the resources available on the American Studies Guide:

The Newspaper Archives resource, part of the American Studies subject guide.

How to embed Library Subject Guides in Canvas

You can embed Library materials as a new “Page”, or as a new “Item” in Canvas.

To do this, simply add an “external tool” and select “Lib Apps Library Content”. You then choose which Library Subject Guide materials you want to embed. You can choose to embed a full guide, a single page from a guide, or an individual content box.

Watch this 3-minute screencast to see the process in action:

Alternatively, download our instructional PDF for a step-by-step guide.

Once you have made your choices, the item will appear in your Canvas unit.

As with any Canvas resource, you can choose when to publish the item to students, and you can edit or remove the item at any time.

Please contact the Library if you would like one-to-one support for using this tool. We would also be delighted to discuss how Library Subject Guides can better meet your needs and those of your students. You can email us at library@sussex.ac.uk or use the contact page on the Library website.


Our thanks to Chris for this post. If you are interested in learning more about the external tools you can add into Canvas, to extend the learning and teaching options available to you and your students, please get in touch via tel@sussex.ac.uk. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

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Posted in Apps and tools, Canvas

Innovative, immersive and accessible teaching practice. New staff development opportunities

Would you like to provide immersive, accessible and innovative learning and assessment experiences for your students? During the months of February and March, Technology Enhanced Learning will be offering a range of professional development opportunities for staff on these themes.

The themes align with the University’s continued efforts to improve assessment and feedback practices; strategic ambitions to establish the university as leaders in digital innovation and the recent EU directive to ensure university compliance with web accessibility standards.

Our programme includes interactive workshops and bite-sized webinars facilitated by learning technologists, as well as seminars delivered by guest speakers. All events are free to attend for University of Sussex staff, details of events and booking information are available on the Technology Enhanced Learning website.

What’s next?

We are in the process of organising additional sessions on these themes to run during April and May. This programme is set to be announced close to the start of April. Please subscribe to our blog (menu on the right-hand side) to receive email updates.

If you (or your department) would like more bespoke training on any aspects of technology enhanced learning which are not covered by our programme then please get in touch with tel@sussex.ac.uk

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5 top tips for beating the weather with Canvas

"Light Snow Apocalypse \u2013 Falmer Station" by justinpickard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

https://www.flickr.com/photos/31290193@N06/8392514122
https://www.flickr.com/photos/31290193@N06
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0
Light Snow Apocalypse \u2013 Falmer Station” by justinpickard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The recent cold weather and news of rail disruption has got the Sussex TEL Team thinking how technology and our online study platform  Canvas in particular can help to minimise the impact of weather on teaching and learning.

Using Canvas and taking tips from distance and flipped-learning practices it is possible to introduce online elements to reduce the time lost as a result of these events when they do occur.

Canvas brings with it a range of new communication tools that can help you to facilitate learning online when you can’t be face-to-face.

Here are five tools and practices which can help to prepare you and your students for the unforeseen.

Canvas Announcements

Unfortunately our rail service doesn’t always help us to get to work on time. While you are trapped on a rail platform, watching the clock tick down before a lecture it’s important to let people know. Canvas provides a new route to get the message out through Canvas Announcements. The Canvas Teacher App makes this process simple. Find the module in question, select ‘Announcements’, then the ‘+’ icon to add an announcement. Give it a title, type your message, send and the process is complete. See TEL’s Canvas Announcements guidance for more details.

Screencasting presentations

While trapped at home in bad weather, why not record a screencast of your lecture and share it with your students? Canvas enables you to record a talk to camera via the Record/Upload Media link in the Canvas Page editor.

Often it is better to support your presentation with slides or other visuals and there are many different tools available to record your screen and voice together. You can record narrations for your slides directly in PowerPoint. Other simple options include Chrome browser extensions such as Loom or Screencastify. For Mac users with the latest Mojave OS, CMD+SHIFT+5 brings up a menu from which you can video capture your screen. You can then embed the resulting .mov file in Canvas.

One step further would be to take a flipped approach. Creating online presentations and making them available in advance can help to free-up time in class to consolidate the learning through more hands-on activities. It also means you have a ready resource for students to access when you can’t be there.

Canvas Conferences / Big Blue Button

If a screencast takes too much away from the immediacy of the classroom, you could take the discussion online. Canvas Conferences (Big Blue Button) is an excellent option for conducting a virtual classroom activity or webinar with your students. We have been using this tool ourselves for our series of TEL webinars with very positive feedback.

This tool provides a scalable option for you to present and talk through slides while taking questions through the Conferences text chat box. This Moderator Guide provides an overview of how Conferences works. You can find further information in the TEL Guide to Canvas Conferences.

Canvas Discussions

Disruption caused by weather can mean it is hard to get everyone together at the same time. In such a case, using a discussion forum can be a good alternative to Conferences. Running a discussion over a period of a day or a week, rather than an hour.

If you haven’t run a discussion forum before, TEL’s Paolo Oprandi has some excellent tips on how to make online discussions work in your teaching. You can find out more  in this TEL Guide to Discussions in Canvas.

Online file management

If all else fails Canvas still provides a place to share slides, handouts and reading with your students.

Also worth a mention, the University of Sussex’s box.com service provides another option for sharing files with your students. You can sync your files to multiple computers both at home and work as well as selecting files and folders to share with others. One neat feature is the option to host your videos on box.com. Upload a video to box.net and you can share it via a link from Canvas or via email. Please see the ITS guidance on box.com for more information.

screenshot of Box app

While it may not be possible to guard against all that the heavens (and local rail services) may throw at us, these tools give us at least the opportunity to be a bit more prepared.

If you would like to discuss any of these options or want more help and information please contact tel@sussex.ac.uk

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Posted in Canvas

Content Curation for Learning


‘Students have access to unprecedented amounts of information online and need to move beyond consumption to more critical, organised and productive use of digital materials, tools and platforms.’

That was the opening sentence of our blog post on Learning through finding, choosing, sorting and sharing published in 2015. Since then, the need to develop critical skills has become even more important, so this post will look again at this topic and suggest some current digital tools and strategies to help.

Creating or Curating?

Increasingly students are being encouraged to create digital artefacts as part of their learning, whether that is by blogging, podcasting, creating video etc. which is great for developing digital capability. However, curating content which involves ‘sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme’ (http://www.bethkanter.org/content-curation-101/) can be very useful for developing critical thinking alongside digital capabilities.

Part of the curation process is identifying which tools work for your context and which sources are useful. For example, Twitter is useful for finding relevant material and discussions, LinkedIn offers opportunities to get involved in subject-specific communities and RSS readers such as Feedly or Inoreader allow you to keep up with many blogs easily and share content.

When using any of these tools the first step is choosing who to ‘follow’. It is important to critically ‘curate’ people/institutions so that relevant, reliable information is surfaced in a timely and usable format. For example, Twitter lists allow you to organise content from accounts you don’t necessarily ‘follow’ which can help with managing the flow of content.

Student activities could include:


Make sense through choosing, sorting and sharing

When you choose particular items to be collected and shared you are making a judgment about their relevance or usefulness in a particular context. Often tutors will want students to explain their reasons for choosing items and most of the tools for capturing online content to save and/or share also allow for adding comments.

Digital note-making tools such as OneNote or social bookmarking tools like Diigo could be used for collecting, sorting and sharing, but other platforms are more focused on content curation, combining collecting, sorting, annotating and sharing functions.

When the original post was published in 2015 the popular tools in this area were Scoop.It, Pearltrees, Pinterest and Flipboard.

There are now more options, and two in particular are worth exploring in more detail.

Padlet

Padlet can be thought of as a virtual wall where users can post content and comments. Most types of digital content can be added to a Padlet (directly or as a web link) and there are many options for layout, commenting and collaboration. The University of Sussex has a Padlet Backpack licence and you can read more about Padlet on the TEL website.

Here is an example of a Padlet where I have collected some interesting news reports and blog posts around various aspects of immersive technology. In this case I have added the options to add a response in the form of a ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘thumbs-down’ but other options are available. I could also have chosen to allow comments.

Screenshot of a Padlet - linked to https://uofsussex.padlet.org/tel34/i74x37vrnlsj

Students could each have their own Padlet or collaborate in groups. Padlets can also be embedded in a Page or a Discussion in Canvas for students to share their collections.

Wakelet

Wakelet is a fairly new tool that many people began using to collate tweets when Storify was closed. You can now use it to collect a wide range of digital content such as:

  • a website
  • tweets (selected by searching for a hashtag or user)
  • a YouTube video
  • an image
  • links to content you have already used in Wakelet
  • a PDF
  • some text of your own, including some simple formatting and weblinks.

Here is an example of a Wakelet collection showing these different types of content and below is a Wakelet collection showing similar material to the Padlet above.

Screenshot of one possible display of resources in Wakelet linking to http://wke.lt/w/s/aF8JL
Screenshot of one possible display of resources in Wakelet

With a range display options, all of which can be embedded in Canvas or shared by a link Wakelet is very versatile and visually appealing. Wakelet is developing quickly and there is a new feature which allows multiple contributors to a collection (though this feature is still in Beta so may not be robust yet). There are no built-in commenting features at the moment, so if allowing other students to respond to curated material is important then Padlet might be a better choice.

You can find out more about Wakelet on their website or in their blog post ‘Content Curation: a beginner’s guide’.

How can I get started with content curation activities?

The first thing to consider is what will best fit with the learning outcomes of your particular module. If a curating task would be useful, then which tool(s) you want to use will depend on the activity. For example:

  • If the aim is to identify a list of possible web resources around a topic then students could collect and share bookmarks using Diigo. Here is a Diigo Outliner (list) I made.
  • If more multimedia materials are to be collected then students could use Padlet or Wakelet, either individually or as a group.
  • If responding to, or commenting on, each other’s collections is important then Padlet might be best option.

If you would like to explore further how you and your students could use curation for learning, help using any of the tools mentioned here or how to embed them in a Canvas module, please contact tel@sussex.ac.uk

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