Last week I started the MA in Distance and On-Line Education at the Open University.
During the gap from studying my last course to this, as well as having dyslexia, I have also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since the diagnosis I have been taking anti-psychotic drugs which are having an adverse effect on my short term memory. Luckily my friends are really supportive and aren’t showing any signs of annoyance when they are telling me about the same thing for a fourth time, yet for me it feels like the first.
My memory problems are having a negative impact upon my ability to study. I used to have slight concentration problems but nothing that caused me much trouble. Now it feels like I struggle to focus for more than ten minutes at a time. After putting a call out the JISC Mail lists for study skills related apps I’ve discovered the 30/30 task manager. I tried it today for the first time and can see it becoming my new best friend.
How it works
Simply write in the task/tasks you want to complete. Add the amount of time you’d like to take and the app works as a timer. Today I used it as a concentration aid to support me with completing a one hour block of writing up my first assignment.
As well as using it for study purposes, by adding more tasks you could use the app to help organise your working day. For example emails (30 mins), work on blog post (1 hour), break (15 minutes), develop training session resources (90 minutes), team meeting (1 hour). By using the loop function the app will automatically progress through the tasks, as time moves on an alarm will sound to signal that the allocated time for that task has ended. Therefore as well as supporting time management I’m hoping it can be used to increase my productivity.
What I liked about it
I managed to concentrate for twenty minutes to start with . Then I had a short break. After returning I wanted to give up after 15 minutes but had I’d committed myself for an hour so I was able to push myself on to complete the whole 60 minutes. With out the app I would have convinced myself I had been working long enough and given up. Hopefully by pushing myself to concentrate for set periods of time my overall concentration span will improve?
The app also acted as a mood booster as although I thought I could only manage ten minutes at a time I actually managed double that to start with.
In addition to the points above I’m very much swayed by pretty, colourful and easy to use interfaces so in that respect the app ticked all of the boxes for me.
Wipes dust off blog. Eek has it really been almost a year :-o During that time I’ve returned to my blog a few times but I’d well and truly lost my writing mojo.
Yesterday I put a call out on two of the JISC Mail lists (ILT-RSCEM and DIS-Forum) asking which apps people recommended to support students with their studies. The response I received was great and I’ve definatley discovered some interesting tools. I’ve collated the responses into a mind map as I thought it might be a useful resource for other tutors/learning technologists.
Last week I attended the 2013 Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C) which was hosted at the University of Nottingham. Alongside hearing about some fantastic projects it was a great opportunity to catch up with the people I’ve met since I started my first role as a learning technologist four months ago. The event made me feel like I was part of ‘it’, with it being the learning tec community, as I was able to comfortably sit down and chat to people I’d previously met – being on the shy side this was a real achievement for me.
Despite being a really positive experience I had one minor niggle about the event. Although I predominantly attended talks about student centred projects I personally didn’t see any students presenting alone or alongside their tutors. This was a real shame as being new to working in HE and having studied my undergrad degree before computers became part of everyday life I’d love to hear the perspectives of today’s students. This point did get me thinking though as for the past four months I have focused soley on the needs of staff without really pushing them to find out about how they have thought through the needs and preferences of their students and how this relates to their planning with regards to TEL This will definitely be on my radar in future.
The presentation by Abington and Witney College on their JISC Advance Funded project Students 4 Webes has also provided me with lots of ideas to use. The college used video conferencing and webinars to develop the employability skills of their L3 students. The college did this by encouraging groups of students to set up and run a series of short webinars around the theme of ‘What does an employer want from an employee?”. The webinars were then recorded and put on the college system so that other students could access the information.
A full description on their project with resources can accessed via their Google site and their blog can be viewed by clicking here.
On Friday I made my way back up north to attend the MELSIG event at the University of Huddersfield. As expected the conference was full of inspiring stories. Although all of the presentations and workshops were excellent the one that really stood out for me was Hayley Atkinson’s (@LadyColottes) presentation on ‘Designing and Evaluating E-Book Resources‘.
Hayley’s presentation highlighted a project that she is working on at the University of Leeds which explores the design and evaluation of eBook resources. A copy of Hayley’s slides are below whilst the Sound Cloud file is an interview that Hayley gave about the project earlier in the year.
Although the project is also examining the way that e-books can be used to create interactive course books I was particularly interested in how the project is encouraging creative assessments as students are able to author their own e-books as an alternative to writing essays.
I am currently working a dissertation study into the use of audio feedback and can’t wait to try out a few of the authoring tools suggested by Hayley so that I can present my findings in an interactive way. I’m planning on embedding video interviews, sound clips and links to the institutions resource website where the supporting materials for this project are hosted.
Yesterday was a ‘first time day’ as I attend my first accessibility conference. The International Conference on Using New Technologies for Inclusive Learning Conference was held at Glasgow Caladonian University and had been organised as part of ENABLE project.
After the keynote the conference was split into 2 halves with themed sessions running in parallel with each other. This is a little bug bear of mine as it meant that I had to miss out on quite a few of the interesting sounding presentations as I was confined to one room for two hours at a time. I much prefer it when there’s the opportunity to move rooms in between presentations. Despite this it turned out to be a really good day and no that wasn’t because of the beautiful Cath Kidston bag and dress that I purchased on the way home.
During the day the two presentations that stood out to me where delivered by @AbiJames and @FilMcIntyre.
How do we increase accessibility?
Fil presented on the accessibility of tablet devices and it was interesting to here that some providers, such as Acer, often decide to stop supporting a certain type of device which blocks software updates and therefore the user can be stuck with archaic accessibility options. Overall it was agreed that although providers are making an effort to develop accessibility features such as speech to text and contrast settings there still is a long way to go. As someone who suffers from colour sensitivity and prefers to read text against a dark green background I would love to see a colour filter introduced to tablets as it would make reading from the device so much easier.
Fil works for BRITE (Beattie Resources for Inclusiveness in Technology and Education) and there is a small selection of resources over on their company’s website.
Could Azzapt be a magic wand for accessible resources?
After Fil, Abbie demonstrated the document personalisation tool Azzapt. Azzapt is a cloud based solution that reformat documents into yours/your students preferred accessibility format. Simply upload the document to the site and after a few seconds you will be able to access the document in your preferred format – for myself this is on a dark green background, with the text presented in Ariel point 12. As well as changing the print appearance this tool can also be used to turn documents into mp3s.
Azzapt syncs with Dropbox so tutors can create a shared folder for their class, then the students can download the information in their preferred format from Azzapt. This could significantly reduce prep time for tutors compared to reformatting the documents themselves.
Tweetwally’s that is. Tweet Wally is a free Twitter wall that filters tweets via #hastags, usernames or key words.The tool could be used for a variety of in-class activities including as a starter by posing a question at the start of class and asking students to tweet their replies. A photograph or video could be tweeted out then students might be asked to express their thoughts on a certain subject such as the emotions the picture provokes, what period in history the photo represents or what would the student do if they were in the situation represented on the photo? Tweet Wally could also be used at the end of he class to consolidate learning by using it to create a a quiz.
Driven by NIACE, Maths 4 Us promotes maths education to adults. The app index does exactly what the title suggests and provides tutors with a categorised list of mobile applications that can be used both in and outside of the classroom. As an ex basic skills tutor I think this is a fantastic initiative and ALT have done a really good job with the website – they layout is suburb!
Returning to education and learning basic skills can not only transform the individuals life but also their whole families. I saw many a young mother who had enrolled to class so that they could support their child with their homework in order to encourage an interest in education. As a direct result of the confidence she gained from taking an adult GCSE English class my own mother went from working on a supermarket checkout to pitching then successfully running an holistic therapist pilot before becoming the only Holistic Therapist for Derbyshire NHS. Therefor I know first hand how important it is to spread the word about this initiative and it’s also a good opportunity to make maths tutors lives a little bit easier by introducing them to hundreds of resources. Go on, do a good dead by going forth and spread the word about Maths apps index!