Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.


After my MA in Education Studies on language teaching and blended learning, I taught French in the UK for five years, progressing from assistant to Head of Department in my first place of work, and being involved in the selection and implementation of a basic VLE in my second job in a reputable French language centre. These five years provided me with a solid experience in pedagogy, with the added benefit of experiencing teaching, learning and assessment from the design, delivery and support perspective.

In 2015 I joined the Learning Technology and Innovation (LTI) team at the LSE as an Assistant Learning Technologist, where I have been working since.

On a day to day basis I support academic and professional services staff in the use of learning technologies such as the VLE (Moodle) as well as collaboration, content creation and social media tools.

I coordinate the team’s Learning and Development programme which I redesigned, and my tasks range from scheduling and delivering sessions, organising masterclasses and talks with subject matter experts from the learning technology and academic development community and assessing quality.

I also coordinate the team’s grant scheme. As part of this responsibility, I promote the call each year, liaise with potential applicants, meet them to discuss their project ideas, allocate Senior Learning Technologists to support them, organise the Committee’s review meeting and administer the successful projects (including evaluation and dissemination). I also lead some on some of the small scale projects in collaboration with successful academics and support my colleagues in others.

In addition to these tasks, I am also heavily involved in the implementation of the School’s teaching and learning spaces strategy. I work with colleagues from LTI as well as many other stakeholders in the design and (re)development of spaces (classrooms and informal learning spaces) and lead on the evaluation of their impact on teaching and learning, managing two research assistants who collect and analyse data, and co-writing up evaluation reports with my senior colleague.
Why am I completing the CMALT accreditation?

This seems like the obvious next step to me. So far I have built my career as a learning technologist mostly on my experience and the skills and knowledge that I developed as a result. Building a CMALT portfolio will allow me to reflect on as well as formalise this experience. Although my MA in Education was focused on blended learning, at the time this mainly meant working on Virtual Learning Environments, and we did not get to explore in much details other educational technologies and underpinning pedagogical approaches. I believe that CMALT will bridge that gap in my knowledge and experience.

How does it relate to my future career aspirations?

I see ALT as a reference when it comes to everything learning technology. Attending the annual conference and other events as well as networking with ALT members throughout the UK and in my local group have definitely helped me develop professionally. Building my portfolio will prove a very beneficial CPD exercise.

On a more practical level, it seems to me that CMALT has become, along with fellowship from the HEA, the most desirable qualification when applying for a job in learning technology!

Posted by & filed under ABL, ABL Practitioner Stories, active learning, assessment design, assessment tools, Case Studies (All), Case Studies: Health & Society, peer asssessment.

In this video Mark Allenby, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, discusses how peer assessments have provided an opportunity for active learning with his first year BA in Social Work students and reflects on why he will be increasingly using peer assessments in his teaching at Waterside.

Mark introduced peer assessments as formative activities within his 17/18 module SWK1049 – Skills for Practice – using the NILE tool Self and Peer Assessments, in order to help scaffold his students’ learning for their forthcoming assessments.

VIDEO – Mark Allenby reflects on NILE Self and Peer Assessments

Working with Learning Technologist Richard Byles, he has been documenting his students’ feedback using the digital post-it tool, Padlet, and by recording video feedback with student Angell O’Callaghan.

The majority of feedback for the activity was very positive, with many wishing to practice further. Students also identified areas where the activity could be improved. Comments included:

“I would like to use this more often throughout my degree.”

“It was very useful and I liked the autonomy. It was helpful to read others’ work.”

“It was good to take other’s interview skills on board and use them myself, helping me better and develop my own interview skills.”

“Scoring as a Yes/No or a 1/2 doesn’t give a lot of scope.”

“The process (of submitting) was somewhat convoluted but this may be due to it being a new activity.”

Mark says that “peer-feedback is a tool that fits perfectly with the move to ABL, as students are collaboratively engaged in evaluating their own progress towards goals that they have chosen for themselves”. In conclusion, he advocates that staff try the tool for themselves in ‘low risk’ formative activities with students and explain to them the benefits of peer assessments.

For more information on using Self and Peer Assessments please read the FAQ – How do I set up a Self and Peer Assessment in NILE? or contact the Learn Technology team:

Posted by & filed under #CMALTcMOOC, CMALT, SOTEL, The Wider Context.

This weeks suggested activity includes a Blog post or VODCast discussing legislation, policies and standards, and exploring the wider impact of Altmetrics and SOTEL.

We will discuss these issues later in the week in a Webinar.


Create and share via the Project Bank a Blog post as an embedded audio PODCast or VODCast (Video PODCast) discussing legislation, policies and standards that impact upon the use of educational technologies.

Comment and provide feedback to other participants Blog posts on the wider context.

You could use an audio or video streaming mobile App to create and share either an audio PODCast, or video via YouTube, Vimeo, or Periscope for example to create and share a VODCast. There are several simple video capture and sharing Apps that you could use on your Phone, such as Clips on iPhone, or Adobe Premier Clip for iOS and Android.

In exploring the wider context CMALT candidates should demonstrate their awareness of and engagement with wider issues that inform their practice.

Candidates must cover at least one legislative area and either a second legislative area or a policy area. That is you need to cover a minimum of two areas, at least one of which must be legislative.

a) Understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards

Statements here should show how relevant legislation, has influenced your work. You are not expected to have expert knowledge of all of these areas, but are expected to be aware of how they relate to your current practice. These issues will vary depending upon the country and Government policy.

In the UK you would be expected to demonstrate how you work within the context of relevant legislation such as:

  • Accessibility including special educational needs
  • Intellectual property (IPR)
  • Freedom of Information (if you work for a public body)
  • Data protection.
  • Child protection
  • Anti-discrimination law
  • Points Based Immigration System (PBIS)
  • Other related examplesIn your country there may be different requirements, and you should indicate this in your portfolio. It is suggested that you pick at least two areas to discuss. In New Zealand see the Government HE strategies and policies website:



b) Policy

You are not obliged to address this area so long as you have addressed at least two legislative areas. Examples of policy issues you may address include:

  • Policies and strategies (national or institutional)
  • Technical standards
  • Professional codes of practiceYou might also be expected to engage with institutional policies and, where appropriate, national policies and evidence of some of this should be provided. The kinds of evidence that would support this would include minutes of meetings with legal advisers, documentation showing how legal issues have influenced work (such as reports or data protection forms), justifications for modifications to a course to reflect new policies or a record of how technical standards have been taken into account during system development.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.



“Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision”

I’ve always looked up to David Bowie for his originality and individuality and now I can safely say that we have something in common- we both have been wondering about sound and vision.


I don’t need to look too far back in my WordPress posts to find my reflections on using the Voice Thread recording tool within the Blackboard suite of tools. Last year I had used Voice Thread for an online assessment asking students to record an audio reflection on the implications of their learning on their future decision-making. I gave my feedback in audio form too.

It was a real mixed experience. It was challenging for some students to navigate what I had thought was relatively straightforward technology but at the back end there were some glaring limitations. The tool loads super slow for larger classes (I had 150 students) plus there is no timed release of grader feedback. This latter point is a particular irk of mine as ethically I want to release all grades to all students simultaneously. However, I’m also mindful of the need for students to develop speaking /audio skills given this is the way most will communicate in practice. Who ever met a nurse that only communicated by writing everything down? Of course, they talk and listen a lot!

I don’t want to repeat all my previous blog post – but I guess I am writing here, while trying to work out why I am persevering with this tool, especially this semester with around 200 students. It is all rather like childbirth – “Never again” at the time but the bad memories soon forgotten. Having spent a lot of today setting up Voice Thread for this semester’s students some of the frustration has returned.

With thanks to the learning technologist I have been able to address the loading issue by allocating students to smaller groups, but then in class today they asked what are the groups for, how do I know what group I am in, etc. In reality it is all behind the scenes work that they don’t need to worry about but when you are encouraging critical thinking, it is perhaps to be expected and for many, the smallest technological issue can suddenly seem a huge barrier.

I think incorporating sound/audio/voice is really important. Many students see that too:

“I liked the use of mixed media in the assignments. Recording audio samples and putting them into our portfolios was challenging but a useful and practical skill… very in touch and relevant” (Student, Sem 2 2017)

It is good to feel challenged – both as a teacher and as a learner. Having vision means that sometimes the harder road needs to be taken. Having the students respond in written form would have taken almost no time at all to set up. Students would have been very familiar with what to do and grading would have been straightforward. By adding sound to the assessment I am adding what some may argue are unnecessary extra burdens for myself and students alike. Yes, some will moan, and at times I will too, but to learn and to grow means we must challenge ourselves and sometimes take the harder route. 

All there is to do now is wait for my students to submit, hope all my set up has been successful and the majority of them see benefit in trying something different.

“I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision”

Songwriters: David Bowie- Sound and Vision lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amcos





Posted by & filed under LearnTech News, NILE, NILE standards, Quality.

NILE is integrated into the Active Blended Learning (ABL) process at The University of Northampton and we need to ensure that it is being used effectively by staff in order to provide a quality student experience.

Building on the guidance which was initially produced in January 2012, the  framework has now been updated to cover the minimum standards which are expected on a NILE site. This was approved at University SEC on 28th February, 2018 and is subsequently being used as the basis for the new NILE templates which have been developed for the 2018/19 academic year.

Posted by & filed under CMALT, SOTEL.

This week’s suggested activities include:

  • An invitation to participate in a survey exploring the Scholarship Of Technology Enhanced Learning (SOTEL).
  • Collaborate with your peers on an assessment design via (for example) Google Docs and get some peer feedback via sharing an assessment design outline as a week 3 Project Bank example.
  • An invitation to participate in the weekly #CMALTcMOOC Webinar  – see the G+ Community for the Webinar link later in the week.

Create and share a new assessment design around student generated content for integration into your teaching practice. Share this assessment project via the Project Bank for peer feedback, and rate another participants assessment project.

This should include evidence of:

a) An understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes

b) An understanding of your target learners

Reflect on this process on your WordPress Blog. For more info on what is recommended for this section of a CMALT portfolio see the notes at:

Posted by & filed under CMALT cMOOC.

In this section of my CMALT portfolio I discuss my understanding and use of learning technology, including the use of technology to enhance learning and teaching, the development or deployment of technology to support teaching, training or learning.  These are discussed under three main headings – constraints and benefits, technical knowledge, and deployment of learning technologies.

Constraints and Benefits

The benefits of learning technologies seem clear to me as I have used digital technologies and online education resources for my own learning and self-development, namely the use of Twitter, podcasts, Facebook and online education sites or blogs.  Mobile devices and digital technologies mean that educational resources are able to be portable and easily accessible, and learning can be asynchronous, allowing students to learn at a time and pace that is right for them (Nickson & Cadogan, 2014).

I am new to university teaching, so I am still looking at incorporating these better into the delivery of my course.  Currently I have inherited existing content that is PowerPoint based and very static in delivery.  Moving forward I would like to transition to having weekly lecture notes as blog posts online, which would remain an easily accessible, live and dynamic resource that can be read ahead of classroom times.  It would mean that students could revise content as often as they like via a mobile friendly platform.  The benefit of this could be facilitating a ‘flipped classroom’ leaving face-to-face sessions to provide clarification and facilitated peer-group discussion, or other interactive group-based learning (Nickson & Cadogan, 2014).  Redeveloping the content in this way takes time though, and I’m finding it a challenging thing to do with all the other demands of a busy semester.

I am aware that although students are very familiar with mobile devices and social media, but these are often only used in a very limited social context.  I see the challenge as either adapting content to a format that can be share through the platforms that students already use socially or try to get students on board with using digital technology better suited to deliver the content that is to be shared, but which they may not be familiar with.  The benefit of delivering content through popular platforms that students use socially may be that it is easier to transition to an alternative delivery of content, and it may also help them to build professional literacy around technology use.  There is however likely to be a lot of variation in levels of understanding and use of technology amongst my classes of 70-80 students.  There is not a great deal of time available in a single semester to help students develop their use and understanding, in addition to the core course content and assessments.


Technical Knowledge

While still working for St John New Zealand, I moved into an education tutor role within the clinical development team in 2014.  I was responsible for delivery of the internal ‘Paramedic’ course to a class of twelve students from all around the Northland, Auckland, and Hauraki/Coromandel regions.  Students would come together for three separate classroom blocks of four days, with around 6 weeks in-between time doing online discussion, assignments, and self-directed learning.  I created a private Facebook group for the class as a way of not only keeping a form of social contact with the group when they were all separated, but also as a way to share relevant content and material to assist their learning and to try to encourage dialogue.

ILS 007
St John ILS 007 Paramedic Course Facebook group – Auckland 2014


During this same period I was approached by the Clinical Audit and Research Manager and Research Fellow who were aware of my use of online educational material and wanted me to put together a regular update of educational content to help clinicians whose main role was office based, but wanted to keep up to date with their clinical practice.  Originally the idea was just to send out an email to the national office team with a few links to free open access content.  I chose to do this as a word document with a short description and hyperlinks that was sent as an email attachment.  This was popular amongst the national office group, and the decision was made to produce it in a format that was accessible by the whole organisation nationally.  I kept it as a PDF document, but as well as hyperlinks I added in QR codes to help people to access the material, and this monthly update has been uploaded onto the St John staff website ‘The Hub’ for the past three years.  Because of ease in printing and sharing PDF documents, it has been picked up by a nurse educator in another part of the country who contacted me after a doctor shared one of the documents with her.  I now email copies to her directly which are shared on education boards in her ED and ICU/Acute care units, and have been included in the quarterly “Critical Comment” from the New Zealand Critical Care Nurses College.


In an attempt to expand my familiarity around digital learning technology I attend The Teaching Course in Melbourne in 2015.  This was a five day course looking at the use of technology and social media in medical education.  It was facilitated by medical educators active in the use of digital learning technologies and explored the use of Twitter, blogs, podcasts, personal learning networks, and presentation skills.  In my previous role I didn’t have the freedom to incorporate these tools, but now in my new teaching role I have the scope to actively explore the use of these further.

I have spoken a number of times and facilitated workshops on the use of social media and online resources for medical education.  When giving talks, I’ve used Twitter with the conference hashtag to tweet slides from my presentation to emphasis key points.


Currently I am helping to develop the social media use of the Paramedicine department to engage students within the programme, but also to engage with colleagues globally.  Currently we are doing this through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  I have also started a WordPress blog as part of the #CMALTcMOOC portfolio, and I want to develop this into a blog I can use for teaching in my courses.


Deployment of Learning Technologies

I have also been part of a group called the ‘EMS Wolfpack’ that is active through Twitter and Facebook through the hashtag #EMSwolfpack in forming virtual networks for professional contacts and also as a virtual support network.  We have facilitated panel discussions at Student Paramedic Australasia New Zealand (SPANZ) conference over the past two years, encouraging paramedic students to use social media for professional networking and support.


I have spoken to paramedic students about the use of social media for educational and professional use, and encouraged them to use Twitter to connect with other health professionals and for their own development.  This has been embraced by more and more paramedic students both at AUT University and Whitireia Polytechnic.  AUT paramedic student Victoria Mulrennan was one of these students who embraced the Twitter and the opportunities it provided, which she talks about in a blog post.

Tales from dasSMACC conference in Berlin – AUT paramedic student Victoria Mulrennan


Using social media for the Paramedicine department is also a way to engage students in a positive way to model the use of social media in an appropriate way for professional use, rather than just a purely social context.

I’ve also been actively encouraging use of the Symplur Healthcare Project to register conference hashtags and track the engagement and reach of conferences and events I’ve been involved with.







Nickson, C. P., & Cadogan, M. (2014). Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) for the emergency physician. Emergency Medicine Australasia, 26(1), 76-83. doi:doi:10.1111/1742-6723.12191

Posted by & filed under Backstory, learning, Teaching.

My work is changing in several ways:

Firstly, delivery of our services is increasingly digital: our team is creating suites of online learning resources and digital objects for various purposes, consultations take place online and we are just moving into delivery of workshops online.

Secondly, students are studying in an increasingly digital environment: many learning activities take place through LMS, submitting assignments online, searching for and storing information online, reading (and writing) on a screen, creating digital objects for assessments.

For all the above reasons, it’s been important to develop skills understanding pedagogy in a digital and hybrid spaces, and to develop digital skills both to model process and to develop resources.

Posted by & filed under active learning, active listening, debate, learning design, Socratic dialogue, transparent pedagogy.

Active learning approaches are great for getting new perspectives, sharing ideas, co-creating knowledge and trying out new skills. Many of the recommended techniques for active learning in the classroom focus on encouraging participation and discussion; after all, the seminar model is a familiar one, and verbal contribution is a good way to gauge understanding and to generate a ‘buzz’ in the classroom. Right?

Right, but… (there’s always a ‘but’). As we at UoN continue to explore active pedagogies, and with an eye on inclusion and our upcoming Learning and Teaching Conference, I want to share some conversations I’ve had in the past few weeks that turn a critical eye on classroom discussion models and unpack them from an inclusion perspective.

What is ‘participation’ for, and what does it look like?

The first of these was a conversation with Lee-Ann Sequeira, Academic Developer in the Teaching and Learning Centre at LSE. It was inspired by her session at the recent Radical Pedagogies conference, and also by her thought-provoking blog post examining common perceptions of silent students in the classroom. I won’t repeat the content of that post here (though I definitely recommend reading it), but I wanted to pull out some points from the discussion that followed, which might be of interest if you’re experimenting with active learning approaches.

In some subjects, oral debate is a disciplinary norm, if not an employability requirement: those studying Law, Politics, Philosophy and so on can expect to spend considerable time developing these skills. In these and many other subjects though, debate or discussion is also used to support the learning process, and sometimes as a way to check whether students have prepared for the class. So when asking your students to contribute, it can be helpful to think about what you want to achieve, and how your learning goals should inform the format of that contribution. For example, when one of your goals is to help students develop the skills to effectively present their ideas to an audience, you might need to ensure that every student has an opportunity to do this, but when your goal is to explore and develop an idea from a range of perspectives, is it still necessary that every single student speaks? Aligning the structure of the activity to your goals or learning outcomes can help students understand what’s expected and focus their effort accordingly.

Quality not quantity
As Sequeira’s blog post observes, the literature on active learning focuses a lot on “how to draw [students] out of their shells” (Sequeira 2017). In addition to this, a quick Google search on “active learning” will reveal a myriad of magazine-style opinion pieces on the subject, many of which seem to be in danger of advocating verbal contribution almost for its own sake, and effectively conflating speaking with learning. How then to ensure that when using these approaches, our active classroom doesn’t become hostage to those who talk most, or echo chambers of students that feel they need to be seen to be ‘participating’?
One way to prevent this is by clearly establishing, and then building towards, high standards for individual contributions. When planning your session, think about what you’d like the end result to look like, and what contributions might be needed to get there – always bearing in mind of course that you are just one perspective, so you may not be able to define the ‘finished product’ of co-creation in advance! What you can do though, is think about what a good contribution might look like. Can you provide examples, or talk through this with your students? Then as the discussion unfolds, you can encourage students to think about their own and each others’ comments – do they build on previous comments, do they bring in new evidence, do they advance the understanding in the room?

Thinking fast and slow
Of course, participation is not just verbal – and not just immediate! Active learning should not mean ‘no time to think’. When considering your learning goals, think about fast and slow modes of interaction – is promptness important or does the topic need deliberation and reflection? Silence can be a powerful tool in the classroom if we can resist the urge to fill the space, and giving students time to think before answering can often lead to more developed responses, as well as being more inclusive for those who are less confident, more reflective and/or working in their second or third languages.
Also, as Sequeira points out, participation can be multi-modal – could your students contribute in other formats? And not just to classroom discussions, but also to decision-making processes (choice of topic etc), and to feedback and evaluation opportunities? Thinking about ‘contribution’ more broadly might help to make these processes more inclusive too.

Supporting contribution: ‘productive discomfort’ and ‘brave spaces’
One of the goals of dialogic pedagogies is ‘productive discomfort’ – taking students out of their comfort zone and asking them to examine or defend their views – and being transparent about your pedagogy can also help students to understand this and recognize it in practice. This can be particularly important when working with students who are used to a more transmissive model of education, and are expecting you as the expert to tell them the answers. If your early discussions focus on sharing expectations and you know where your students are coming from, you’ll be able to plan, scaffold and facilitate more effectively.

It can also help to acknowledge that collective exploration of ideas requires both intellectual and emotional labour, particularly as it can be intimidating to voice aloud ideas that are not fully formed. Much of the literature talks about creating ‘safe spaces’, but again this is an idea that merits a more critical inspection, particularly in the context of recent debates about free speech (‘safe’ for whom?). Another approach to this is the idea of ‘brave spaces’, replacing the comfort and lack of risk implicit in ‘safe’ spaces with an explicit acknowledgment of discomfort and challenge (Arao and Clemens 2013). Whichever approach you choose, creating trust will help to ensure students feel able to contribute, and there are a range of ways to do this, including discussion, modelling and constructive feedback. How you answer a ‘stupid’ question, whether or not you ‘cold call’ students, and how you respond to their input will all inform the norms of the learning space.

“The Socratic professor aims for “productive discomfort,” not panic and intimidation. The aim is not to strike fear in the hearts of students so that they come prepared to class; but to strike fear in the hearts of students that they either cannot articulate clearly the values that guide their lives, or that their values and beliefs do not withstand scrutiny.” (Speaking of Teaching, 2003)

Communication is a two way street

These ideas, and Sequeira’s observation about valuing active listening skills, led me on to the second conversation I want to share. Last week I attended a dissemination event for the ‘Learning Through Listening‘ project, led by Zoe Robinson and Christa Appleton at Keele. The project is looking at using global sustainability issues as an accessible context for developing conversations between individuals from different disciplines. This by itself is a laudable goal, as many of the ‘wicked problems’ of sustainable development will certainly need a interdisciplinary approach if we are ever to solve them. More broadly than that though, the project is also looking at developing active listening skills to support these conversations, and at listening as an area that is undervalued in education and in modern life. The event raised a few key questions for me, which I’ve noted below.

Active listening: the missing piece?
When we talk about communication skills with students, what do we prioritise? I work with many staff writing learning outcomes for our taught modules at Northampton, and much of the language we use for communication skills is proactive and performative: describe, explain, present, propose, justify, argue. Perhaps this is inevitable, as we need to make the learning visible in order to assess it, but there’s no doubt that these terms only give half of the picture of what communication actually is. By focusing so much on the telling, on the transmission of information and convincing of other people, are we giving students the impression that listening is less important? Are we encouraging the development of what Robinson described as the “combative mindset” so prevalent in 2018, and thereby inadvertently discouraging the development of curiosity, openness and willingness to learn from others – peers as well as tutors?

To rebalance the discourse around communication, the project at Keele used a number of activities to support the development of listening skills. One idea that really appealed to me was topping and tailing a series of guest speaker sessions – referred to as ‘Grand Challenges‘ – with a workshop before the lecture and a discussion session immediately afterwards. This allowed the students to think about what they already knew about the topic, and prepare to get the most of out of the session, and crucially also to follow up afterwards by sharing and developing some of the ideas it generated. Other interventions were slightly smaller scale, although perhaps easier to implement at a session or module level. Participants at the event last week got to try out some of these, and although I won’t cover them in detail here, the tasters below might give you some ideas for your classroom.

Learning to listen
One activity asked us to think about major influences that had shaped the way we as individuals see the world. We reflected individually on this, then shared what we felt comfortable with. I’ve never been asked to list these explicitly before, and it was interesting to actually see how everyone’s perspective is unique and created from a distinct combination of personal influences. We also talked about the factors that make it difficult for us to listen, covering everything from environment to agency to cognitive load. It was refreshing to realise that sometimes, everyone is bad at listening – and this was demonstrated when one of the session leads read aloud, probably only about a paragraph, and then pointed out that most of us would miss around half of any message we hear! I won’t spoil the final activity, in case you’re planning to go to one of the events, but also because the team at Keele will be releasing guidance on these as outputs from the project this summer. But needless to say it was fascinating – keep an eye on the website and the project blog for more.

Two more things struck me about the day overall. One was the emphasis on setup of the physical space. We spent part of the day seated in a circle, and part in rows facing a screen. This was a deliberate strategy by the project team and the contrast in terms of conversational dynamic was marked. This reinforced my view that we have the right approach with the classrooms at Waterside – it’s really remarkable what a difference movable furniture can make. The other thing I found interesting is that talking about listening made me (and the other participants too) suddenly very conscious of it. Even after the first activity, I found myself monitoring my communication with the other participants. Maybe it only needs one activity or discussion to highlight the issue, to begin to change how participants communicate?

Scaffolding discussion

The final point I want to make is something that was touched on in both of these conversations, and it’s about effective scaffolding. Both classroom and online discussion is usually more productive once the students have ‘warmed up’, got to know each other or developed a bit of confidence. There are lots of ways to approach this. In the event at Keele, for example, we started with a relatively uncontroversial topic – not many people in a university context will disagree that the UN sustainable development goals are a good thing, although they might disagree about how to address them. This can be a good way to introduce dialogic pedagogies, before working towards more heated or controversial topics (see this guidance from the University of Queensland on using controversy in the classroom). At Keele we also started with group discussion before we moved on to the one-to-one. This might be counter to the usual think-pair-share approach to scaffolding, but it did mean we had all spoken, and had some idea of where others in the room were coming from, before moving into more in-depth discussion. There’s also something to be said for reflecting on your question technique – are the questions you ask opening up or shutting down discussion?

These two conversations have given me lots to think about in terms of how we ‘do’ active learning. If you have any thoughts on this from your own experience, as always I’d love to hear them, so please add them as a comment. One last question to end with, thinking back to your last teaching session. Who in the room didn’t contribute, and why might that be?


Arao, B and Clemens, K. (2013) “From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces: A New Way to Frame Dialogue Around Diversity and Social Justice”. In Landreman, L.M. (ed.) The Art of Effective Facilitation: Reflections from Social Justice Educators. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing LLC, pp135-150.

Robinson, Z. and Appleton, C. (2018) Unmaking Single Perspectives (USP): A Listening Project [online]. Available from: [Accessed 27 March 2018]

Sequeira, L. (2018) Heresy of the week 2: silence in the classroom is not necessarily a problem. The Education Blog [online]. Available from: [Accessed 27 March 2018]

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Have you ever started using a new app or piece of software and thought “there must be a better way to do this?”, or when posting to social media thought, “if only there was a way to automate this?” Chances are, someone else has thought the same and created a code, applet or “recipe” that helps with this process. This has been the case for me, especially as I explore and learn more about new ways to deliver content. This may be for work-related productivity, or to automate (and filter) feeds information through social media. Some examples of this include:
-IF I add a new event to my iOS Calendar, THEN it is also added to my Google Calendar
-IF I enter within a defined perimeter of work, THEN log this as “Entered Work” on my Calendar. Do the same for when I exit the perimeter as “Exited Work”
-IF I make a new blog post in WordPress, THEN also enter the post into an assigned Google Plus account
-IF I make a new blog post in WordPress, THEN Tweet this post
Introducing IFTTT- a free platform that helps you connect apps and devices you use. It is based on the “If This, Then That” principle, in that if an event happens in one device or app then an applet (or Recipe) will automate a process in another app or device. Basically, it cuts your “updating” in half.
Along with work-related apps, there is a multitude of social IFFT applets available.
-IF there is a new Spotify track on a playlist, THEN notify me on my iOS
-IF I connect to my car’s Bluetooth, THEN set my phone’s ringer volume to 100%
-IF I take a photo in a particular location, THEN add it to a specific album
Bottom line, if you ask the question “I wonder if I could automate having to do one thing in one app, that I am already doing in another?”, probability is that someone else has asked the same question and already created an applet (or Recipe) for you.
The main constraints to using IFTTT are the number of apps that it “connects” to. That being said, there is such a multitude that you would be hard pressed NOT to find something that meets your needs as these are created by IFTTT, users and app developers themselves. You too can take an applet and customise it to your need as this is a community that aims to share and support the needs. Applets have been created for Google, iOS, Android, Evernote, WordPress, Activity Trackers, voice assistants and even wifi controlled lights and smoke detectors… There’s something for everyone.
Deployment and Support
How to use:
  1. The first thing you need to do is register with IFTTT ( Do this on any mobile device first (as most likely will be linking apps with each other and/ or devices), then later log on with your other internet based devices.
  2. Next search for a “recipe” based on the app that you are wanting to connect. Here we will consider iOS Reminders and Evernote, where I want to be able to save any reminders on my phone to an Evernote to-do list. When I type in “Reminders”, IFTTT narrows down to show me a link to that app, and then Applets that have already been created.
  3. Click on the Applet that best suits- in this case, “Save my iOS reminders to and Evernote checklist.
  4. Some Applets have options to be able to customise the Recipe (i.e be more specific as to what you want it to do- email addresses, folders to attribute to, etc). Click the “Settings” icon on the top right of the Applet to customise
  5. Next, flick the switch to “Turn on”
  6. While you are logged in to IFFT, you will be able to see all the Applets you have in use, view their activity log, customise or delete them.
I have created a tutorial video of the above for those that might find this useful:
Those completing their CMALT accreditation might want to consider: