Social media and e-learning in history teaching in UK HE – filling a gap?


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Presentation from Changing the Learning Landscape – Social Media in the Humanities workshop, 15th May 2013, Institute of Education University of London.

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Social media and e-learning in history teaching in UK HE – filling a gap?

  1. 1. Changing the learning landscapeSocial media and e-learning in history teaching in UK HE – filling a gap?Dr Jamie Wood, University of Lincoln
  2. 2. Changing the learning landscapeTWO PARTS• E-learning and history teaching in higher education: asurvey (2012-13, HEA)• My experiences of using social media• Questioning the Medieval using social bookmarking• Other experiments•
  3. 3. Changing the learning landscapePART I: E-learning andhistory teaching surveyRESEARCH QUESTIONS• What are benefits of e-learning forstudent learning and staff teaching inHistory HE?• What are the challenges anddrawbacks of e-learning?
  4. 4. Changing the learning landscapeMETHODOLOGY• Survey ( administered to 1st and2nd year students at 5 UK History departments– 38 students responded (11 x 1st years/ 27 x 2nd years)– Mainly History, but also joint degrees• Interview with 1 member of teaching staff at 5 UK Historydepartments
  5. 5. Changing the learning landscapeRESULTS (from students)TYPES OF TECHNOLOGY USEDVirtual learning environments 37Discussion boards 24Video (YouTube etc.) 19Audio (podcasts etc.) 12Social networking (Facebook etc.) 8Blogs 5Collaborative document creation (Google docs etc.) 5Document sharing (Dropbox etc.) 3Wikis 2Twitter 1Photos (Flickr etc.) 1Other 2
  6. 6. Changing the learning landscapeHOW IMPORTANT ARE TECHNOLOGIES TO YOUR LEARNING? (between1 and 10, where 1=not at all; 10=essential)0246810121 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10importance =>frequency=>
  7. 7. Changing the learning landscapeWHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TECHNOLOGY FOR LEARNING?• Virtual learning environments (31 responses); used as:– repository (21 responses)– site for assessment and feedback (5)– means of communication (5)– site for enhancing learning (3):• ‘refreshing my memory’• ‘enabled me to easily organise my learning’• taking ‘own personal notes’ to learn by ‘observing things’• YouTube/ online library resources/ databases/ universityportal (2 responses each)
  8. 8. Changing the learning landscapeEXTENT TO WHICH TECHNOLOGIES ENHANCEDLEARNING IN FOLLOWING AREAS...(students provided rating from 1-5, 1=not at all; 5=a great deal)• Preparing for class: 4.26 (staff: 8.3/10)• Preparing for assessment: 4.26 (6.6/10)• Working independently: 4.05 (6.9/10)• Reflecting on learning: 4.03 (5.9/10)• Subject knowledge: 3.79 (6.9/10)• Skills development: 3.03 (5.2/10)• Collaborative working: 2.45 (3.1/10)
  9. 9. Changing the learning landscapeSKILLS DEVELOPEDIndependent learning (29)Research skills (20)Communication (8)Knowledge and understanding (8)No skills improvement (8)No response (7)
  10. 10. Changing the learning landscapeNEGATIVE IMPACTS• Technical issues• Repositories are useful, but too much reliance on them:• ‘sort of dumbing down or levelling out [...] these things mightencourage a bit more spoon-feeding’ (staff)• Some skills are not developed:• ‘hasn’t really developed skills that I believe are essential partof uni process. i.e. teamwork, discussion and developingyour own interest of study’ (student)
  11. 11. Changing the learning landscapeSTUDENT SKILLS, EXPERIENCESAND EXPECTATIONSSUMMARY OF STAFF PERSPECTIVES• Students are not ‘digital natives’, esp. within discipline• Researching using the Internet is challenging• Over-reliance on e-learning can reduce independence• A ‘narrowing’ effect, esp. among 1st year and weakerstudents (the VLE repository contains ‘everything’)• Some resistance to learning activities outside classroomand to interacting with one another
  12. 12. Changing the learning landscape• Virtual learning environments predominate and, in general, are viewedpositively by students and staff• Issues, e.g.: ‘Getting all lecturers to embrace technology would be a stepforward‘• Limiting features• Staff AND students think that it doesn’t help that much in certainareas (team-working; developing some skills)• Narrowing/ a closed body of knowledge? Esp. for weaker studentsperhaps• Can promote teacher-centred/ transmission approachesSUMMARY OF PART I
  13. 13. Changing the learning landscapePART II:Questioning theMedieval usingsocialbookmarking...and otheradventures insocial (and notso social) media
  14. 14. Changing the learning landscape• Internet users managebookmarks of web pagesonline (not on a browser)using tags/ descriptions, notfolders• Active engagement –students have to dosomething• Online/ social element –enablescollaboration, sharing andvisibilitysocial bookmarkingSee Taha and Wood (2011)for more on this
  15. 15. Changing the learning landscape‘Challenges’ and‘opportunities’ (or ‘problems’)• Y1 lecture-based module in History• My perception:– Lack of student preparation or maybe lack of engagement withreading• Result:– Difficult to plan seminars and to carry them out– Over preparation; formulaic/ rigid structure; double preparation• Solution = use visible & active learning – i.e. require the students todo something outside class that we could all see
  16. 16. Changing the learning landscape• Diigo educationedition• Private, separate logins• Sharing• Highlighting• Sticky-noting
  17. 17. Changing the learning landscapeBasic weekly activity• Students find online resourcesrelating to the weekly topic• Students ‘tag’, describe andshare resources• Then post questions based onreading to discussion forum indiigo• Resources + questions = myseminar plan• For some of resources see:
  18. 18. But variety is key...Locating and bookmarking source(s)• Find and bookmark primary/secondary source• Add description and tagsEssay writing• Respond to feedback onessays by bookmarking arelevant site• Revise thesis statementfrom first essay and post todiscussion forumNon-written sources• Find and bookmark a non-written source (YouTube;Flickr)• In description, explain whythis source is relevant to theseminarHighlighting• Highlight and comment on relevantsections of a pre-selected documentQuestioning• Post a (specific kind of) question based onreading to the discussion forum...otherwise it gets boringSee appendix to Wood, 2011, for more on this
  19. 19. Changing the learning landscapeSTUDENT FEEDBACK1. Practical: for preparingessays2. Independence: enjoyed theopportunity to find ownsources3. Freedom: ‘There is morefreedom of choice aboutwhat to read’4. Variety: ‘it is much moreinteresting, and becauseyou are not only reading, itis easier to absorbinformation’.
  20. 20. Changing the learning landscapeLEARNING FROM OTHERS• ‘it has been good to see what other people have putand there was probably more variation in thequestions than if the tutor was to set them.’• ‘it allows you to see a wider range of issues thatcome up from sources - some that you may not evenhave thought about.’+ 12 out of 15 students felt that theirresearch skills had improved
  21. 21. Changing the learning landscapePOSING QUESTIONSAND SOURCES• ‘it forces you to think about thesource material and be analyticalin response to it’• ‘it makes you think about whatyoure reading a lot more, andopens up the area of reading todifferent paths of thought.’Taking charge of learning:‘I used to prefer having the questions set for me but I think ithas been more useful setting them myself as it has made methink about the reading more.’
  22. 22. Changing the learning landscapeWHAT’S GOING ON?• Models disciplinary processes– [+ it’s realistic and honest]• Develops– Disciplinary skills:summarising; using sources– Knowledge: students have toread AND think– ‘Generic’ skills: technology;information literacy; researchFor more on this see Wood,2011 and Wood and Ryan, 2010
  23. 23. Another (brief) example: generativelearning objects (GLOs)• GLOs: learning objects that can be customised, adapted, edited orrecombined (based on free templates at• DIY: developed 2 GLOs (click on images below for links) based on theEvaluating Multiple Interpretations (EMI) template– Students presented with images/ information about a physical object– Students complete questions/ activities– EMI revolves around audio footage of experts offering theirinterpretations of various aspects of the physical object.• For more info click here
  24. 24. Changing the learning landscape‘OUTWARD LOOKING’LEARNING• Theology and Religious Studies looking outwards:knowledge transfer as a strategy for learning andassessment in the curriculum (UoM/ HEA, 2012)– Website includes links to blog and case studies• Mini examples:– Students create maps of historical events/ processes by adding ‘tags’to Google Maps and annotating them: The Spread of Lutheranism(collaboratively; 1 seminar)– Students create a website using Google Sites: Women in the MiddleEast (collaboratively/ independently; seminar series)
  25. 25. Changing the learning landscape‘MAKING DIGITALHISTORY’ (UoL/HEA)• Making ‘outward looking’ resources in collaborationwith students in the curriculum using Xerte toolkit– i.e. like the GLO project above, but the student learnby making learning materials for use by others• Developing online repositories for primary sources,– partially as a venue for dissemination of outwardlooking work– but also to enable more ‘open’ student inquiry online
  26. 26. Changing the learning landscapeCONCLUDING THOUGHTS• Practice is piecemeal and not universally popular with staff/students (‘new-fangled’; not what ‘proper’ History is about)• But Social Media develops skills that VLEs don’t seem to (ifwell-designed and supported):• Constructive and ‘open’ research on the web• Collaborative learning, developing team working skills• Visible ‘outward looking’ products of learning encouragestudents to think about audience, genre, register
  27. 27. Changing the learning landscapeMORE ABOUT ME• and other presentations/ papers)• (homepage atLincoln)• (email)
  28. 28. Changing the learning landscape