Around Campus: Engaging Students with Technology

physics.fwOn Wednesday, Prof. Andy Gavrin of Purdue University, Indianapolis, delivered a seminar in the School of Physics with the title “Engaging Students with Technology”. He outlined two initiatives that he and colleagues have been using in Physics teaching – Just in Time Teaching, and Course Networking.

Just in Time Teaching is a version of the flipped classroom approach, although it began far earlier (in the mid to late 1990s) and goes much further than the “self study” type of flipped classroom. The basic premise is that students are assigned pre-class reading, and an associated online quiz, which closes two hours before the class begins. The quizzes, crucially, are not simply multiple choice. They require students to write reasoned responses to tutor-provided examples, or to describe what is happening in a figure or diagram. The tutor then uses the two hour timeslot to prepare what will happen in the face-to-face class and adapt material accordingly. The class then becomes a dialogue based around tutor-selected excerpts from the anonymized quiz responses (both strong, and weak). The tutor, especially with large classes, does not have to read every response, but as a rough guide, if 10% of the students have a misconception about something then that would be flagged as something to address in class. The process is a constructive one: although both strong and weak responses are used, the emphasis is on improvement and development. Questions can be reused in future classes as Clicker questions, or form the basis of exam questions. Interestingly, data from a class micro-survey showed that the “warmups” (as the pre-class activities are known) have the effect of giving  students of all abilities confidence that they are keeping up with the material – and even decrease the number of able students who “cram” for exams. An archive of warmups can be accessed at

andy_gavrin2The second, more recent, initiative described was Course Networking – an in-house social network which runs on an internal reward system based on Anar (pomegranate) seeds. It offers the usual facebook-like features such as posting, liking, polling and commenting, but in a secure institutional environment. Students can amass Anar seeds throughout the year based on their interactions with peers, and can use these for extra credit. This has proved popular with students. One example given was one of a student who started a series of “Gym Physics” videos – testing out his calculations by carrying out and videoing experiments using gym equipment. More information on Course Networking can be found here and more information about Andy himself can be found here.



Top Ten Tweets for Tuesday

Here is a selection of our favourite tweets and retweets from the TEL_St_A Twitter feed this week – just in case you missed them!

 Tweet  Tweeted by
“Confessions of an academic on Twitter” – great summary and resources too:  #socialmedia #edtech @Researcher_Kate
Facebook, email and TV are dying out as #hashtag becomes children’s word of the year @Jisc
Academic writing and wikipedia – @sharonflynn
How flipped learning works in (and out of) the classroom | @scoopit via @NikPeachey @OzMark17
What’s an open badge really worth?
#openbadges #edtech
Why technology will never fix education: #edtech @hannahwhaley
Average academic article read by about 10 people – start publishing on social media? @notanna1
Summer of V’s: Visualising movement by Urska Demsar – @StAndrewsIDIR
 “Student Engagment” – buzzword or fuzzword?
Report on the possible futures for digital credentials & #openbadges #edtech @Benjaroome


Around Campus: Engaging Students with Technology

physics.fwThis Wednesday 5th June sees a Seminar take place presented by Professor Andrew Gavrin of Purdue University Indianapolis, entitled ‘Engaging Students with Technology’.

The abstract reads: “Technology has been portrayed as the savior of education, and as a demon that destroys student learning and faculty time. I consider the former to be unlikely, and the later easily avoided. This talk will explore two applications of technology to teaching physics. Just-in-Time Teaching is a pedagogical technique that allows faculty to leverage the time students spend working at home to improve interactivity in the classroom. Course Networking is a new, academically-focused social media platform that enhances interactivity outside the classroom. In both cases, the underlying message is to increase communication among faculty and students.”

Come along and listen on Wednesday at 11 am in Room 338, Physics Building.

Around Campus: Translating French Opera

music.fwAt the last Learning & Teaching Committee, we heard about an innovative Honours module that has been running in the School of Modern Languages this year – with Dr Julia Prest as module leader and collaborating with staff in the Music Department. Translating French Opera involves students in translating an eighteenth century libretto by Guillard (not translated in the last 50 years) from French into modern English – their efforts culminating in a performance of the translated opera (Iphigénie en Tauride by Gluck) by St Andrews Opera on 15, 17 & 18 June 2015. The project (in the context of the module) had a collective core but allowed plenty of scope for individual choice. The student versions of the libretto formed the basis for Julia’s own final version, which is what will be sung in June – with some of the students on the module performing, and Julia herself in the chorus.IMG_1705
The opera in rehearsal



Around Campus: Video Enhanced Reflective Feedback (VERP)

video.fwThe departments of Music, Social Anthropology and the School of Management (as a result of a successful Teaching Development Fund application) are working jointly on a project to build student confidence through video-enhanced reflective feedback. The methodology involves videoing a group performance (Music); role-play exercise (Social Anthropology) or group presentation (Management). The resulting video is then edited by the tutor into small fragments which highlight strong points. These smaller clips are then used as part of tutor-mediated feedback between the tutor and the student(s) concerned. A workshop in August with an external consultant will give staff the appropriate grounding in the VERP methodology; and a relatively small amount of technical training will be required.

For further information on the project, please contact Dr Jane Pettegree, and look out for her blog post reflecting on the first run of VERP in November!


Top Ten Tweets for Tuesday

Here is a selection of our favourite tweets and retweets from the TEL_St_A Twitter feed this week – just in case you missed them!

 Tweet  Tweeted by
“My teaching is in the comments” – good points on systems, content v dialogue #edtech @tel_st_a
Yes! Here’s nearly 50 examples collated by@Jisc of effective practice in support of the
It’s every digital citizen’s job to THINK. @edutopia
Digital students are different – really? Is what “I want” and “I expect” the same as “what I really need”? #edtech @tel_st_a
@rbancroft: Berkeley to Stop Adding Lecture Videos to YouTube, Citing Budget Cuts via@chronicle @sheilmcn
More “problems” with #YikYak? First death threats, now cheating on exams: #edtech #socialmedia @tel_st_a
Can Google search data predict an election victory? The story behind the story: (spoiler: no) @undertheraedar
The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment goes beyond the #LMS to support new models of learning: @educause
 Is the ‘closed’ mindset of the Open Educational Resources community its own worst enemy? @DonaldClark
Can police learn from #bigdata “if it’s at the low end, 50 percent to 70 percent, then let’s not divert people to it” @dazybelle


Top Ten Tweets for Thursday

Here is a selection of our favourite tweets and retweets from the TEL_St_A Twitter feed this week – just in case you missed them!

 Tweet  Tweeted by
My post on sentiment analysis and the UK General Election #GE15 @mia_out
“The role of students in pedagogical research projects: Subjects, participants, partners, consultants?” @YSJADD @philvincent
Free course content anyone can download and import into their own #Moodle courses via @moodlenet #edtech #OER
When professors tweet. US context – conflict between academic freedom, “civility” and provocation. via @AcademeBlog
Challenges and pressures of reading online, and some strategies (using @Pocket) to manage these: #edtech
Inspirational (?) quotes for our students writing their #thesis @PhDForum @GradElitism
Great post in response to RIN’s assertion that technology is killing map-reading skills.
Let’s ban PowerPoint in lectures – it makes students more stupid and professors more boring’ (via @bent_meier)
@StADoRep PP is just a tool, but not originally designed for teaching and can be used well or badly.
A goodworkman doesn’t blame his tools!
Good response to this by @samkinsley @tel_st_a
Five Fables app, based on research by our own Ian Johnson and Chris Jones has won best app at @CelticMediaFest! More: @staenglish


Workshop > Data Visualization in the Humanities

events.fwThe Library, as part of its Digital Humanities remit, hosted a workshop on Data Visualization in the Humanities led by external presenter Mia Ridge.

Mia began by outlining the historical development of visualization – starting with examples such as John Snow’s Cholera Map (1854), Florence Nightingale’s Petal Charts (1858) and Minard’s map of Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812 (1869); and highlighting the power of the visualization in enabling the viewer to understand data easily on multiple axes at the same time. She then moved on to show more recent types of visualization – mashups, infographics, text analysis, visualizing images and video and network visualizations.

Visualization needs to be approached carefully, with proper consideration given to audience and purpose. For example, will your visualization be a product, or a process – will it be used to explain, or explore your dataset?

Some risks of visualizations were highlighted to help contextualize their use:

  • Over-emphasis of one aspect of the data may de-emphasise another, for example, Beck’s tube map of 1951 emphasises connections but de-emphasises geographical proximity.
  • Some visualization tools and softwares may have inherent bias built into them depending on what audience they were designed for. The algorithms used may not be transparent, for example with Google’s N-gram tool.
  • Visualizing “sentiment” analysis is not an exact science. Current algorithms can work with words, but take no account of tone or register (or even emojis!).  For an example of “sentiment” analysis, see the Twitter visualization of the Olympics in 2012.

As well as the time to get hands-on with and evaluate various visualization tools, it was great to see and hear about the work already being done in this area by colleagues around the University, for example Kathryn Rudy from the School of Art History – and of course the exciting digital humanities projects taking place in the Library.

For more information on digital humanities at St Andrews, contact Dr Alice Crawford in the Library – or catch up with her blog.

Top Ten Tweets for Thursday


Here is a selection of our favourite tweets and retweets from the TEL_St_A Twitter feed this week – just in case you missed them!

 Tweet  Tweeted by
What do students want from a learning analytics app? Insight from @unilincoln #edtech @Jisc
“The more you share, the more it belongs to you”
Interesting perspective – MOOC student on”stealing” ideas for own online course. #edtech #MOOC #instructionaldesign
Content creation using storify as a formative assessment
Does it really take longer to create an online course? Finally some data from Univ. of
Michigan-Dearborn #edtech
Shall we take bets on when the first post about “why the Apple Watch is perfect for classrooms” appears? @rmbyrne
France to give free MOOC access to jobseekers –
on the OpenClassrooms platform #edtech #MOOC
Facebook’s weird state of denial about news #digitalliteracy RT@georgeprof @cbthomson
Flipping beautiful: news and digital curation on your mobile devices @burrblog
#Students: we want your big ideas to boost learning! Enter Summer of Student Innovation 2015 by 18 May #studentideas @Jisc
Learning styles – “the walking dead of pedagogy” – good post and debate in the comments: #edtech #highered @tel_st_a