Feedback is so important to improve and to your learning. I have been the kind of learner that is very happy with my results and some times a little hestiant to seek out feeback. I realise that it is important to celebrate achievements and to reflect on past ones sometimes, but we can be very quick to tick the box and move on to the next achievement. However this time I thought no, take the bold step and ask for feedback and properly reflect- I am really enjoying this course, I have a desire to do better and it is has also been really useful in my job so with this in mind I thought I would ask for feedback.

1- The feedback wasn’t bad, in fact it was really positive

2- Suggestion to keep blogging and building on my experience

3- Look at other blogs and learn from these

4- Try to be more explicit, I can be a little implicit and not explore things too their full potential

We talk about feedback so often in Education, it also is a feature of NSS scores up and down the country. We are obsessed with interpreting feedback from these and one of the areas students often bring scores down in is the area of Assessment and Feedback. It is not often that  I have sat down and thought about how it feels to ask for feedback, to seek it out and how daunting that can feel to certain students. We have a perception of the world and very often an assumption that everyone else sees it in this way too. Sometimes we can be our own worst critics without thinking and sometimes it is good to seek feedback to realise that actually our work is good while not forgetting that there is still a lot to learn.

Actually there are a couple of training sessions that I have been to over the last year, on Operational Excellence have been useful in thinking about feedback and improvements. So often with the word excellence you automatically think- every thing is perfect and excellent but actually how to go about achieving Operational Excellence is more about- Little improvements and often, will lead you towards excellence ūüôā




What will you change?

errant teacher

[image credit:]

As this module draws to a close, I thought I would reflect back on some of the key things I have learnt along the way and hopefully some changes that I will adopt and use in my own practice. Lesson number one: Coffee really is a very important factor in my learning style! Which is why I have picked the cartoon I have for this post.

A couple of notes on the art of blogging and reflective writing to begin with. ¬†At the start of the module, I was slightly dreading the idea of having to write a blog post each week, but over the course of this module I have really seen the value in it. It has been quite cathartic to reflect sometimes, it has helped to make sense of things sometimes outside of the Moodle walls. I had never written a blog on my own, I had only contributed to community blogs, which in a way felt a slightly safe venue for blogging, this felt a little more exposed. Although I do know that my statistics have been low for my blog ūüôā

It can be a bit daunting when it is all on you, and knowing where to start can be tricky. Thankfully our module leader towards the beginning of this module posted some useful resources about reflective writing. One of the main approaches I took away and adopted to some extent from reading the resources was that it can help to frame the writing as an interview. I have tried this approach by posing a question in some of my blog titles and then using the posting to bring together my thoughts into a kind of answer.  Which brings me onto my first change that I would make, if I find myself writing a blog again, this is a very useful technique. Not for every post, but certainly it has been a very useful tool for organising and approaching a blog post. Often your mind wonders and you can find yourself diverting on tangents. Importantly this technique gives you a focus and a bit of a starting point and more importantly an end point. It is important to sometimes remember and think about the point/purpose of reflection. In this sense I am grateful to our module leader steering us towards Jenny Moons model for reflection: 

Images, while they do not necessarily gain you marks, they are an important part of online communication these days. They draw the eye and I have noticed that often when having a quick flick through some of my fellow BOE’rs blogs, often it is the ones that have a pretty image that I will be drawn to. For instance Jordan Gambles blog:¬†I noticed has quite a good look and feel to his blog.¬†Design as well as content is important, and I think if I had more time, this is something that I would change, I would pay more attention to the lay out and design of my blog. So I hope that this image meets with approval- it has certainly made me chuckle. Errant science is definitely a blog that I would recommend.

There are a lot of blog posts about blog writing, but I think this one from the Kate Cowan from The Guardian  has a lot of tips. Which again if I had more time I would recommend. Interestingly she speaks about encouraging interaction. When I started this module, this was something that terrified me! But I can actually really see the enormous value in this, the comments that I have received from  tutors and fellow students have really helped me to trust my ideas. The questions help you to frame your ideas as well, and these are really nothing to be scared of, they can be brilliant learning tools. So the another thing that I would change would be to make more time to read and reflect on other peoples blog postings and draw that into my blogging experience. This is really a key theme in terms of this module and in particular the ideas we looked at in terms of engaging in a community of inquiry not just in our virtual learning environment but through the blogging process as well.

What¬†will you change? the title of my last blog post actually came from one of the first student units we participated in. It was a review question that #Teamdigliterati used. Which I think is a very useful evaluation and reflection tool. This is something that I think I will try to employ more in my own practice. To me it is a rather important idea for thinking about the impact of sessions for students.¬†I thought this question was good, as firstly it is a ingenious way that one group has decided to get people to reflect on their teaching and ask what they would do differently in light of some of the discussions and activities that they have had you do. Very good practice in itself: a) promotes reflection, b) constructivist learning style and helps to cements learning.Secondly I find it is never a bad question to ask yourself after a teaching session…. what went well, what went badly and what would I do differently….. Even if you do not always write down these reflections. it is still good to think about.

Many of the themes of this module; particularly around the ideas of digital literacy, the visitor and residents models, and designing inclusive curriculum. Many of these themes have for me ¬†reinforced the way we view learners, they are not a homogeneous group of people. Education, learning and teaching is always going to be a developing field as it is not possible for it to be an exact science. And that actually, that is OK! You will probably never know everything, knowledge is definitely one thing but having an aptitude to learn is possibly a more important skill, with the knowledge that it is OK if sometimes not everything is perfect and sometimes ideas/theories don’t always work in practice 100% and need adapting.

This module has really made me think about the possibilities of podcasting and its use in my teaching more. I really enjoyed hearing voices deliver some of the content. When we used it in our unit, it was really nice to hear some of my fellow students voices. It makes the experience feel more personal, which is very difficult to build through discussion forums and the like. It is not really a tool I had considered using before this module. This whole unit around the idea of online social presence has made me question a few aspects of my work, in terms of some of the online courses we produce and are they online courses without regular interactions from tutors? I think podcasts and vodcasts might help a little to bring some of our materials more to life.

Gamification, while I do feel some scepticism about it. I do now see some merits there are elements of games that I can see helping motivation. Now I think about gamification…. I see elements of it everywhere. For instance a couple of weeks ago wordpress congratulated me on my 10th post and showed me a little winners cup! I think sometimes for me the concept is a little tied up in the online world in my head, but actually if you broaden out, you realise that gamification is and has been used in a variety of situations. Something I will have to look into a little more, in my practice there are already a few elements of gamification that I employ- for instance in our induction treasure hunts, there are winners who receive a prize.

So as this module draws to a close, I would like to say I will continue blogging, but I am making no firm promises on that front…. lets just see what next few months hold in store. I would like to think that I will try though, as I say, I do see its value as a reflection tool!



What makes a good game?

The old adage ‘a quick game, is a good game’ I think has a lot of mileage here!¬†Yukaichou identifies 8 core drivers of gamification which I think are good guiding principles:

1-Epic Meaning & Calling

2-Development & Accomplishment

3-Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

4- Ownership & Possession

5-Social Influence & Relatedness

6-Scarcity & Impatience

7-Unpredictability & Curiosity

8- Loss & Avoidance

Gamification needs to be something that learners buy in to, something that they can immerse themselves in if they wish to- something that has meaning and that will draw them into the game. A very important factor I think, as you will see in my concluding remarks.

Much of the research and writing on gamification recognises the importance of rewards and prizes as well as that element of competition that gamification can bring to the learners experience. Leadership boards, prizes and achievements can be very useful as reward mechanisms (Glover, I. 2013). In unit 4 of the BOE we can see elements of this theory being employed. There is a leadership board with students who have earned the most stars and prizes for students who spotted the most David Bowie song titles in the welcome text. As a learner it is interesting, because I am not sure how this has motivated me to engage more. I enjoy the ideas, but perhaps the leader board is too focused on those at the top, I have no concept of where I am in relation to these other students, so I feel my motivation to catch up is slipping.

I am not sure if I would feel differently if I knew I was at the bottom of the leader board for instance and that factor of loss and avoidance would kick in for me as a learner. It is difficult to say. I do know that as ever studying around work, time has been a real factor for me this last couple of weeks, so even if I knew I was at the bottom of the leader board I am not sure I could have spared more time.

This time factor is something that does strike me about gamification, not just in the designing and delivering of the game, but in the monitoring of it. I listened to the unit 4 podcast during the week on learning analytics which made me think about the performance tracking aspect of gamification (SBOSE 2016). Rules and performance tracking of students is going to be a really important aspect of games. However this might place more pressure on tutors, lecturers and teachers. The idea of some sort of consequence for learners if they are not on track or participating fully. This is where the idea of learning analytics and gamification crossed over for me, having the data and being able to analyse data is difficult in a meaningful way sometimes.

So what makes a good game; is clear goals, something that is easy to engage with, clear rules, rewards and progress tracking mechanisms. However there may be all of the mechanisms in place to make a game good, but this does assume that there is a willingness among students to participate and ultimately what makes a good game- it is, I would say the people that play it. The engagement with other learners is a really important factor and maybe the most important factor when it comes to a good game and determining the success of a game.

Glover, I (2013). Play as you learn: Gamification as a technique for motivating learners. Available from: [Accessed 17.04.16]

SBOSE (2016) Unit 4 Episode 2: What are Learning Analytics? [Podcast] Available from: [Accessed 12th April 2016].

Yukaichou (no date) Octalysis: Complete Gamification Framework. Available from: [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Learning how to play…. Nice

Playing the game

(Photo credit: Hancock 2009)

As part of unit 4 we are considering gamification. I came at this topic a slightly sceptical, but has got me thinking there may be more to this than I initially thought.

I am also not convinced that this is a ‘new’ phenomenon in education. There has always been an element of competition and achieving results within the education system and this to me has firm roots in gamification!

What this unit really has done is made me think about the use of games and gamfication in education. It has caused me to reflect on a few aspect of my own learning experiences. And actually as I started to think about it, gamification has actually formed the basis for a number of educational experiences through out my life. Two experiences cropped up in my reflections:

Firstly playing to learn is actually quite a key concept in sports coaching. Making drills and sessions game-based is a key aspect of coaching, relating skills that you are asking players to practice in an abstract way is not as effective as situating the skill within the context of where in the match or the game it might apply. This for me is an important aspect to the idea of gamification, it can be an excellent tool for motivation, but it needs to be designed in context and well defined in terms of applying to specific learning outcomes (Hanus and Fox, 2015 p.160).

The second experience that cropped into my head was actually learning from my dad, who is a clockmaker. Often the problems he encounters often require a bit of out-of-the box problem solving. His approach to learning I would call a little bit playful and experimental- for instance he had to fix a Bulle clock which is one which has an electro-magnetic mechanism. He needed to re-magnetise the magnetic bar in the clock. This to me brought alive all the GCSE physics lessons on magnets, and vague memories of conversations about coiling wire around a bar in certain directions to magnetise the ¬†bar and to work out which end would be North and which would be South. We had fun playing around with the concepts to re-magnetise this bar, eventually coming to ¬†the conclusion that we needed more tightly coiled wire to make it a stronger magnet ( The practical act of playing around and the trail and error with this, has made it stick in my mind and has illustrated the practical application of it to me. Which I guess is something that my GCSE textbooks failed to do to some extent. My dad’s playful learning style¬†chimes in with some of the key themes in a lot of¬†Chrissi Nerantzi talks about in her recent blog post for Jisc:¬†Learning to play, playing to learn: the rise of playful learning in higher education. She talks about it being an experimental learning style one where it is ok to sometimes make mistakes and learn from these.¬†

Which got me thinking about whether there a difference to playing and gamification and do I confuse the two and is this where some of my scepticism is rooted? Do I confuse ideas of experiential learning with gamification?

Well to some extent, but having taken part in the reading game as part of this unit, I think I now have a firmer idea. Gamification seems a more structured approach, where as I guess play is a more organic process. There are rules attached to games and this makes them structured and there is a win, lose or draw mentality.

I don’t doubt that gamfication techniques can improve learners motivation and can have a positive impact on some learners. However I guess that some of ¬†my scepticism also stems from the same idea, while gamification can lead to increased motivation for some, for others it might be a de-motivating factor. Some of the readings do actually confirm some of my scepticisms. Elements of gamification seem to have very positive effects on some (but not all) students motivation to engage (Hanus and Fox 2015, Dominguez et al.2013 and Glover 2013). Hanus and Fox specifically find that further research needs to be conducted about the effectiveness of specific elements of gamification have motivational, psychological and behavioural impacts (2015 p.160).

There are a few key messages to draw from most of the research. There is a fine line with gamification to be drawn, game mechanics need to be carefully considered and sometimes introduced sensitively I think. As long as gamification is well designed and for a purpose I think it can have a really positive impact. Its almost down to us as teachers to play around with these aspects of gamification and learn what works and doesn’t work so well for our style of teaching but also our students learning styles.

So we will see how this next week of the unit develops the idea of gamification for me and where I see it’s use in my practice. Let the games begin!!

Domínguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernández-Sanz, L., Pagés, C., & Martínez-Herráiz, J. J. (2013) Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380-392.

Glover, I. (2013) Play as you learn: gamification as a technique for motivating learners. In World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications (Vol. 2013, No. 1, pp. 1999-2008)

Hancock, J. (2009). Humble beginning. [Photo] Available from: [Accessed: 10th April 2016]

Hanus, M. D., & Fox, J. (2015) Assessing the effects of gamification in the classroom: A longitudinal study on intrinsic motivation, social comparison, satisfaction, effort, and academic performance. Computers & Education, 80, 152-161.

Nerantzi, C. (2016) Learning to play, playing t learn: the rise of playful learning in higher education. Available from: [Accessed 9th March 2016]

Threshold concepts….. what is yours?

A year ago I went to an annual conference which is kind of big in the library world. Its called LILAC (Librarians Information Literacy Annual Conference) This year I have been unable to head a long, but I was reflected on last year’s experience.

I found some of the the Keynotes particularly interesting:

These Keynotes spoke of the idea of Threshold Concepts as a point most students will encounter in their learning journey. Its an analytical framework which illustrates how a student progresses through their learning cycles.

‘A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress.’ (Meyer and Land 2004 p.1).

Threshold concepts will have a set of defining features:

  1. Transformative
  2. Troublesome
  3. Irreversible
  4. Bounded
  5. Integrative
  6. Discursive
  7. Reconstitutive
  8. Liminality (Flanagan 2016)

Threshold Concepts were something that I hadn’t come across before and it seemed an interesting idea. I particularly got interested in the idea of troublesome(ness) which featured as part of this idea of threshold concepts. It got me thinking about my own experiences on the BOE and where I thought I had encountered these threshold concepts, bearing in mind we are just one module in and part way through the second module….. so we this may change or progress as we get further in the programme. For me I think one of the main threshold concepts is the whole idea of online/e-learning as a meaningful alternative to face to face teaching.

In many ways I have found it a transformative experience so far, I am not sure quite what I expected of an experience of on line/blended learning when I started this course. What I have encountered so far has helped to form my expectations and also helped me to empathise as we create on line courses for our students. In that sense it has opened my eyes to the experience and helped to change my approach. I have come to realise that instruction is incredibly important and thinking about how you present a personal experience to the learners- is really not easy. Some approaches will work brilliantly with one set of learners and flop with another.

Troublesome knowledge, well where do I start…. each week I find some of my assumptions being challenged, but I also see that experience happening with many of my student colleagues on a weekly basis. In terms of e-learning, on line learning, call it what you will, it sometimes seems to me to be one massive troublesome area….. working with technology, students expectations and institutional expectations and pressures….. can it seems sometimes to an almost constant feeling of flux. However underneath that if you strip back to how students learn actually some fundamental ideas don’t change that much, for example learning styles often frame peoples approaches to learning whether on line or off line.

Irreversible, well I am here writing about some of my experiences so far, I think that already some of the concepts/ideas/practice I have encountered so far on this programme will stay with me. Some ideas I am already adopting into my practice and so this idea of once you start getting to grips with threshold concepts the experience stays with you.

Bounded, I guess here we are bounded within the field/subject area of education, that sounds quite a manageable boundary until you start to consider the many facets this can have; its international, social, cultural, sectoral, institutional, practitioner etc. So I guess this is another area of troublesome knowledge, to try to consider the concept of e-learning from many standpoints and recognise that you will have global learners all with their own experiences of education to date. This also I guess plays into the idea of inter-relatedness characteristic, it has unlocked how inter-related nearly every subject area is with teaching. Particularly things like psychology.

Discursive, well, I have definitely learnt some new language and had conversations which have taken me into new subject areas. At the beginning of this course I don’t for one second think I thought I would have been writing blog posts on Inclusive curriculum¬†!

I think as for reconsitutive and liminality these are still characteristics that are a work in progress. Something to maybe reflect back on in a years time maybe…. But if we take Meyer and Lands description of Liminality:

‘Difficulty in understanding threshold concepts may leave the learner in a state of liminality (Latin limen ‚Äď ‚Äėthreshold‚Äô), a suspended state in which understanding approximates to a kind of mimicry or lack of authenticity.’ (Meyer and Land 2003 p.10).

Maybe we are all constantly in a state of liminality? Thinking that we are grasping subjects, ideas, theories or concepts and then something happens that throws us back. Almost getting used to this state of mind is a must, but I guess its a state that is not always comfortable….


Flanagan, M. (2016) Threshold Concepts: Undergraduate Teaching, Postgraduate Training, Professional Development and Secondary School Education: A Short Introduction and a Bibliography. Available from: [Accessed 20.03.16]

Meyer, J. and Land, R. (2003) Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines. Occasional Report 4. Available from: [Accessed 20.03.16]

Social presence- Who are you on line?

Really I think you are different depending on the context or the role you find yourself in.

This week has been the second week of our student led seminar. Its been an interesting experience.It’s funny as someone who has been used to participating in units to be engaging as someone who is in the tutor role. As a group we have found ourselves getting concerned if no one starts talking on the forums- how long do you leave it before you start posting to try and encourage other students to post? Well actually we have learnt some times you just have to be patient and they will come……

I have found it interesting reading about ways to increase participation in on line communities. There are several reasons as to what motivates people participate more in on line environments; Self efficiency, Need-to-achieve, Trust, intrinsic motivation, usability, Group identity, personal responsibility, Goals and commitment to goals  (Tedjamnlia, Olsen, Dean and Albriect 2005). The other factor they note is crowding effects. It has been interesting to see the swell of forum posts in the later half of the week. So I think there are merits to the idea of crowding effects and how this can also motivate other peoples participation.

This week I has also got me thinking about how you come across on line and all the different platforms we use to build our social presence on line. For me this theme fitted in with some of the work that Team Digiliterati started us on thinking about our visitor and resident activities on line. It got me thinking about how we use social spaces we inhabit on the web as learning spaces and how our social presence is different depending on where we are and perhaps what we are trying to find out. I guess this week, I have definitely felt like a bit of a lurker (wikipedia 2016) in Moodle. I have felt someone who is going in and checking on things, but I guess not so much contributing in an active way. Maybe there is a comfort in seeing what others say first and then contributing yourself, or does this help to build a sense of trust- seeing that others are willing to share helps to encourage you to also share. This has also been one of the gratifying points of running this unit- the trust people have shown.

I think we present different social presences on line depending on the platform. I know on Facebook for instance, this is where most of my friends are, so my presence is much more relaxed. So for me I am not sure how happy I would be if this started to be an educational place. But I do use it as an informal community of inquiry, if I need to know facts about rugby stats for example, I know exactly which friends to ask. The same thing is starting to happen in the BOE, we are building a knowledge of each others expertise. This unit has been useful in building a much better understanding of each course members on line social presence.

I think a key point I will take away from this unit is that communication forms such an important factor in reaching the on line learner. Reading through some of the tips to increase your online social presence (Wang, H. 2010). I am in a way reminded of some books you used to see about ‘nettiquette ‘and e-mail etiquette. The rules of how to interact on line are probably much the same as off line rules ūüôā

Try not to SHOUT at any one….

Be professional

Engage in conversation

Listen as well as talk

Tedjamnlia, Olsen, Dean and Albriect (2005) Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More Comprehensive Theory. Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences Available from: [Accessed 13.03.16]

Wikipedia (2016) Lurker. Available from: [Accessed 13.03.16]

Wang, H (2010) Eight Ways to Increase Social Presence in Your Online Classes Available from: [Accessed: 11.03.2016]

Virtually team working

No I would say we are really team working!

Sorry I should have warned you that I do have quite a bad sense of humour (although I would call it good!). Maybe this blog post title is more an example of poor grammar than humour…..

This week I have taken a bit of time to reflect on my first experience of team working in an on line environment. Firstly, I would say I really lucked out with the group I was assigned to, I think right from our first meeting I could tell it was going to be good, it was really funny how we just slotted into certain roles and took on certain aspects of the unit design. There was a very quick sense of team established.

An important element for any groups productivity is the ability to organise itself (Haines 2014). So when you are face to face it is perhaps easier to do this, you have a meeting you can assess everyone’s skills and what they can bring to the table and start to assign work based on this. Some of this happens quite easily, in a face to face context you can quickly tell if someone feels confident about the task you have asked them to do, or they are a little uncomfortable and adjust the approach. Often in a work context there is a manager/leader who has been assigned to the project/group work. But in our situation we were left to our own devices (ipads, laptop, mobile phones-sorry bad jokes again!). I would say that there were a couple of people who emerged in this leading role and it has worked very nicely for us. I am not sure if it was by design or luck was on our side.

One thing that is noted in successful team working is the idea of trust in your peers (Haines 2014). Trust is such an elusive thing and it can be very hard to quantify! There are a few factors that I think helped our group to build trust in one another. One of the key things that helped in part to build a sense of trust was our regular meetings. Which were difficult to squeeze in with work and social commitments etc., but I think these were so valuable. It was an opportunity for us to look at what we needed to do, talk about it, and decide how we were going to do it and then set off and do it. For me it was the voice communication that was such a re-assuring part of this group work. It was good to know that others in the group were feeling just as confused and a little befuddled as I was. This came across so much more clearly using a web ex rather than a forum or a discussion board.

Another factor of successful team working has been communication in general. Definitely an issue early on was deciding how best to communicate. This same issue now exists with face to face groups though. But for me communications are so important in setting a group up for success. For me this group work has really been an example of how amazingly technology can be used to facilitate group work. We have had meetings right from the start via Webex with follow up emails and this has helped so much. It has made me realise there are so many communication channels that you can use, but what is really important is having a sense of consensus, picking a tool and making it work for your purposes is what is key.

So for me a few things I have learnt about group work in a virtual environment (but actually I think these transcend both physical and on-line group work):

  • A sense of trust in your fellow group members, which has helped to build a good sense of team
  • Communication- regular and in person (even if this is in an on-line environment. A phone call is always worth a million e-mails).
  • Agreeing tasks and assigning them to people. A common goal is so important and helps to build a sense of commonality, team and purpose for your group.
  • Deadlines‚Ķ. We all work to them and unfortunately even if they add stress they are still useful.
  • The sense of support that our team has been able to develop has been really good. Not just in terms of this unit, but more widely about the module and the experience of starting the degree has been really valuable for all our team.
  • It has been a really productive forum for sharing ideas and I think the resulting unit has taken shape really well because of it. There has been an enthusiasm to try a few ideas which has been good- such as creating a little video to introduce ourselves as unit leaders.

All in all, I think I have had quite a positive and enjoyable group working experience. Mind you we are only half way through our unit, don’t want to speak too early! but so far so good!! Go #Team_STEAM!!


Haines, R., (2014). Group development in virtual teams: An experimental re examination. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, pp.213‚Äď222. Available at: [Accessed March 1, 2016].