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Reflections on studying EE812: Educational leadership

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Saturday, 1 Jun 2019, 17:43

Some years back I went to Birkbeck College to study for a postgraduate certificate in higher education (PGCE in HE) for the simple reason that the OU didn’t have one of its own. Rather than having a PGCE in HE, the OU has a programme (called Aspire) which enables tutors to make submissions to become fellows of the Higher Education Academy (which was something that I had already achieved through an earlier pilot version of the programme). 

I enjoyed the Birkbeck PGCE in HE. I especially enjoyed the classroom teaching where the lecturers presented some really useful background information about the HE sector that I was missing (despite having been working in HE for quite some time). I also liked the fact that it introduced really useful bits of education theory that allowed me to make sense of the design of some of the modules and courses that I had been working on. To put it simply: I found it useful.

After finishing, I asked myself a simple question: what next? Or, what else could I study? 

I did a few internet searches and found some part time master’s programmes at nearby universities. The programmes I were looking at were about higher education and education management. 

There were a few reasons why I started to look into this area: I’ve found myself in a position where I’ve been doing more and more management ‘stuff’, and I felt as if I ought to get more of a thorough grasp of what I supposed to be doing. Plus, I was inspired by one of the tutors I have been working with who appeared to have formally studied both further education and higher education as a subject. Another argument was: more education is good, right? The stuff that I learn might be useful in my job.

One institution where I didn’t immediately look was the institution in which I work. After some investigation I realised it was possible to take the credits I had gained from Birkbeck and transfer them into an MA programme (I didn’t realise I could do this!) I then realised that I could study a 60 point postgrad module that had the code and title: EE812 Educational Leadership: exploring strategy, and then finish with a postgrad dissertation module.

What follows is a quick blog summary of how things are going. I’m currently mid-way through EE812 module.  There have been some ups and downs, and I don’t (yet) know how everything will end (since I’ve yet to complete the final tutor marked assessment and the end of module assessment). 

I’m sharing all this since it might be useful for someone (and also it will enable me to straighten out some of my thoughts about what I’ve learnt). 

Preparing to study

After realising that all the study materials were only available online (and we were not going to be sent any books) I decided to order a print on demand copy of all the module materials. I also realised that there was a ‘reader’ textbook that was connected to the module. Although all the papers and readings from that book were available through the module website, I decided to order a copy of the textbook, Education Leadership: context, strategy and collaboration, from a second hand bookshop so I could have my own copy (and underline stuff easily).

After getting these two things sorted, I realised that there was something else that I could do that might be useful. 

Preparing my Kindle

About ten years ago I was given a first generation Amazon Kindle by a family member who wasn’t using it. Over the years that I’ve had it, I’ve only used it a handful of times. I remember that I once used it to download some OU module materials, but after doing this as an experiment, my Kindle sat, unused and unloved on a shelf whilst I got on with other things.

After a bit of internet searching, I realised I could download all the unit materials from the module website to my PC and then transfer them to my Kindle by sending them to an email address that was linked to the Kindle. I found out what this was by logging into my Amazon account, and clicking around until I found a section called ‘manage your content and devices’, clicked on the devices link, and then clicked on ‘Kindle’ to find the email address (which ends with ‘kindle.com’).

You can download the module materials by clicking on the resources tab on the module website, and choosing ‘downloads’. This presents different types of documents that can be downloaded, such as PDF versions, ePUBs, Kindle versions and Word documents. To download all the Kindle versions, I clicked on the Kindle ebook link, clicked on ‘select all’ to choose everything, and then clicked on ‘download selected files as zip’. 

After I had downloaded everything, the next stage was to send everything to my Kindle email address. This isn’t, however, as easy it sounds, since there is a maximum limit of the number of Kindle files that could be sent in one go. To work around this, I emailed the Kindle files in batches of 10. If you Kindle is connected to WiFi, you don’t have to do anything further; in under a minute (with my internet connection), the Kindle received and installs all the Kindle files.

The final step was to sort all the module materials that have been transferred to the Kindle into some sort of order. I like to sort everything out into ‘collections’ (which is a bit like a folder). I create a new collection called EE812. I then move each bit of module materials into this new collection. After I’ve finished doing this, I turn the Kindle WiFi off (to save power), and I’m ready to get reading.

Sorting out my study files (and stationary)

When I started, I had one lever arch file for everything: the print-on-demand module materials, and all my accompanying notes. 

After about a month of studying, I realised that this wasn’t working; I needed a second lever-arch file that could be used to hold the printouts of readings that were referenced from the module materials and downloaded from the university library. I figured out that it was useful to write the activity number for every reading on top of every paper, so I roughly know what it was. 

Figuring out a study approach

When I first became an OU student, one of my tutors set an exercise that really got me thinking: take a blank piece of A4 paper, divide it up into days of the week on one axis, and hours of the day on the other. Cross out the hours on the day that you were busy, such as doing work, travelling to work, having dinner, and socialising. The hours that you have left could (potentially) be hours where you could fit your university study in. I remember realising that there was not enough time to fit everything in, and I had to stop doing something.

I managed to be pretty organised during my first time around, but this time I’m finding it difficult to find the time to read everything that I need to, and to think about how the readings relate to the things that I do in my day job (which is a bit part of the module). I tend to ‘snatch’ periods of study, but manage to find chunks of time on the run up to the TMAs. I’ve also developed a habit of carrying the reader textbook to most places, along with the Kindle so I can read on the train as I travel to and from meetings (if I’m not too tired, of course). 

Study reflections

There used to be (and, arguably, there still is) a part of me that can easily became somewhat grumpy if the term ‘strategy’ is mentioned in a meeting. 

I think my grumpiness stems from a perception that this is one of many ‘business terms’ (or terms that sound ‘business like’) that can be used to bamboozle or obfuscate. It can also be considered to be meaningless if used in the wrong context. I may also be grumpy since it presents hints of future change, and no one likes change. 

In some respects, I feel this grumpiness is in itself changing. I think it’s changing into a curiosity that is more rigorous than is used to be before. Whenever that word is dropped into a meeting, I now ask myself (and others) the question of: ‘what do you mean?’, and also ‘why is it important?’ 

In some ways, I’m not really the perfect student for EE812, but I don’t think that matters. The perfect student might be someone who is a deputy head or a subject leader at a primary or secondary school, or a senior manager at a further education college, or some other institution. This said, the discussions and readings that are presented, do still feel broadly appropriate for higher education.

One of the things that has been really interesting is that the module has sharpened my awareness of the different management and leadership actions that are happening around me. A part of this comes from the assessment approach that the module adopts. The assessments requires you use and apply your context to demonstrate your understanding of the module materials.

The module presents different perspectives about what management and leadership is all about, and I’ve recognised some of the approaches that some of the different leaders (both current and previous) have applied.

One really interesting consequence of the study is the reason for different institutional units or initiatives are now becoming clearer to me. The module talks about professional learning communities, and I can see that these do exist (in different forms) within the institution.

Like so much of learning, study can give you a vocabulary and a framework to both explain and understanding things. If it has sharpened my thinking, it has also sharpened my ability to see the good and the not so good.

There’s also another consequence: there is a lot of change happening in the university at the moment, and some of it can seem a little overwhelming on occasions. Unexpectedly (to some degree), I’m also a part of that change too. I’m using the study as an opportunity to figure out what some of that change might mean. In doing so, I guess I may become more prepared, and more able to speak about it too.

Unpicking the challenges

Other than studying for my PGCE at Birkbeck College I haven’t done any formal study of Education before. Education isn’t my ‘home’ discipline (Computing and IT is), which means that I’ve been a bit outside of my comfort zone.

One of the hardest things has been understanding the requirements of the assessments (and I don’t think I’m quite there yet in doing the kind of writing that is expected of me), and doing all the reading.

There is a lot of reading: there’s the module materials, the set text, and all these papers, and we’re encourage to go find even more. Some of it can be pretty hard going, especially since I feel that (on occasion) I’m not especially well versed in the conventions of the discipline. There are two examples of this: the first is about what ‘theory’ is, and the second is about terminology and the use of language.

The term ‘theory’ seems to be used quite a lot. I came to the module with a scientific understanding of what is meant by theory, but I soon came to realise that ‘theory’ in this module roughly means: ‘an idea about something, or a way of looking at something’ which has been suggested by an academic or researcher. What we have to do as students is connect our own educational setting to the different theories that are presented through the module. There lies two significant challenges: doing the thinking (to make the connection), and doing the writing (to present the connection to your tutor).

One of the terms that appears very frequently is ‘normative’; anything and everything could be normative; it’s a word that seems to find its way into every unit of the module. Initially, I had no idea no real idea about what the various writers were trying to say!

A further challenge, and a fun challenge, is that we had to design and run a short pilot research project to study educational leadership and management. This bit of the module appears to begin to lead us towards the dissertation, and closer into the world of the different ‘theorists’ that are written about. In some respects, this bit of the module is all about providing us students with a bit of academic training about how to do research into this very specific field of study.

Closing thoughts

A few months ago I bumped into one of the module academics at an internal conference. I was asked whether I was enjoying the module. At the time, I had ‘module anxiety’, which meant that I was fretting about the second TMA, and this makes me fear that I might have come across as a little grumpy on that occasion.

As I move towards the third TMA, I read a paper in the reader text book which made me think: ‘actually, I quite liked that one… and there’s a lot in there that I recognise.’ Although I’ve got a long way to go before getting to the end of the module (and I’ve yet to settle into a regular study rhythm, despite having passed the half way point) I finally feel as if I’m settling into the module.

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Using the Kindle for research and studying

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 3 Nov 2014, 15:03

I have to confess, that when it comes to some technologies, I am a bit of a laggard.  It was only very recently that decided to get to grips with understanding the mysterious world of eReaders.  I have two excuses: the first is that there’s just so much ‘tech’ to keep on top of, which means that it’s difficult to know what to do next (which is actually a pretty lame excuse), and secondly, I’ve always been a bit sceptical about the screen quality of eReaders.

About a month ago, I requested a new book from the University library to do some preparatory reading for a new course I’m involved with.  The library turned around my request pretty quickly, but they also sent me an email that suggested that I’ve got some figuring out to do.  It was: ‘we only supply that text book in eBook format’.  No dead tree variety?  No, apparently they don’t do that anymore.

Back at home, I searched around for a box that contained a discarded Christmas present that one of my relatives had received and had then given to me after a couple of months; it was an Amazon Kindle.  After figuring out how to give it some power, the first thing I did was connect it up to my Amazon account.  I was gradually finding my way into being a ‘contemporary reader’.

This blog might be useful for anyone who has to use these eReader devices for their studies.  It might also be useful for any of my colleagues who have to battle with the mixture of convenience and frustration that accompanies the use of eReaders. 

I say ‘eReaders’, what I actually mean is ‘Kindle’, for now.  And when I say ‘Kindle’, is actually the really old ones with keyboards and black and white screen, and not any those new-fangled colour models.

The first section is all about figuring out how to read a text book.  The second section is all about how to download Open University on-line materials to your device (so you can read it on the go).  Some of the OU courses are presented entirely on line.  Two examples of this are: TT284 Web technologies, and H810 Accessible on-line learning: supporting disabled students. I describe how you might (potentially) go about downloading an on-line course to your device, so you can get ahead with your studies.

The third part is a bit of useful fun.  I asked myself the question, ‘I wonder what books I can get hold of for free?’  The answer is, ‘actually, quite a few’.  In the final section I share a few tips about how to download books that are out of copyright.  I, for one, haven’t been a great reader of the classics (I’ve been too busy messing around with computers; another lame excuse), but there are loads that are clearly available.

Working with text books

Apparently, the OU has a website called Mobile Connections, which offers some guidance about the use of mobile devices (OU website) and pointers to mobile strategy documents.  This is all very well, but how do I get a text book onto my device.

After clicking around the university library and attempting to access the text book that I wanted to ‘take out’, I was presented with the following message: "Patrons using iPads, iPhones or Android devices can download and read EBL content via the free Bluefire reader app. "  Now, I don’t have an iPad or an iPhone, and I’ve explicitly made a decision not to read any textbooks on my Android phone simply because my eyes are not up to it.  I haven’t heard about the Bluefire app, but the Bluefire website may or not be useful.

Another part of the library message was that "Downloaded EBL ebooks can also be transferred to any portable ebook reader that supports Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). There's a list of these compatible devices on the ADE website"

I had never heard of Adobe Digital Editions before but I’ve managed to find an Adobe website that offers a bit of information.  I had a good look on the ‘compatible devices’ list and my Kindle device wasn’t listed, which was pretty frustrating (to put it mildly).

All this frustration highlighted a division between two different formats: one called ePub and another called mobi.  Apparently ePub is an open standard, whereas mobi is owned by Amazon.  I soon saw that you couldn’t put ePubs on my Kindle, which was a bit rubbish.

 I asked myself two inevitable questions: ‘is it possible to convert an ePub to a mobi, and if you can, how do you do it?’  Thankfully, the internet is a wonderful thing, and I soon found a product called Calibre (website).  Calibre is described as a ‘free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books’.  It’s a tool that you can download onto your PC, put an ePub in one side, and get a Kindle mobi book out of the other (with a bit of clicking and messing around in between).

 One thing that Calibre can’t do is take account of DRM.  DRM, or digital rights management, is used to protect media from being copied between different devices (which is why you need software like the Amazon Digital Editions).  If your ePub is protected by DRM (or, someone has said that you can’t copy it), then you can’t convert from one format to another.

For sake of argument, let’s say you’ve got a freely available text book that is useful with your module.  How do you go about transferring it to your Kindle?  In my naivety, I thought I could use the ‘old school’ technique of plugging it into the USB port of my computer and dragging files around.  Unfortunately, due to local OU system policies, staff cannot to write data to external USB devices due to an information security management policy.   As soon as I connected up my Kindle, I was presented with a message that read, ‘do you want to encrypt your device?’  If you’re ever asked that question in response to any e-reader you have, say ‘no’ straight away.  Thankfully, I did have the foresight to say no, as otherwise my Kindle would have probably been rendered useless.

Since I was unable to transfer my mobi files directly from my PC to my Kindle, how should I do it?  The answer came from a colleague: you email the books or any files that you want to read through your device to your Kindle account.  When you’ve done this, and you turn on your Kindle, magic happens, your document is downloaded.  If you’re interested, Amazon have some helpful pages (Amazon website).

Working with OU resources

More and more OU resources are being made available in Kindle and ePub formats.  This, I believe, can only be described as a ‘very good thing’ since some of the OU books can be pretty bulky.  When you’re working with an eReader, you can sometimes put all your module materials on your device.  When I go to tutorials, I tend to bring all the OU books with me – but rather than carrying them, I have them all preloaded on a Kindle.  This said, I am a great fan of paper; you can do things on paper that you can’t do with electronic devices and visa-versa, i.e. you can search for a term in an eBook, and you can scribble in your books with different coloured pens (and stick things between pages).

Not long after starting to mess around with my Kindle I realised I could do exactly the same with the other module materials I need to work with from time to time. I quickly realised that there would be a problem: things would start to get pretty confusing if I had all the different eBooks in one place on my Kindle.  Thankfully, there is a concept of a category.

After emailing a load of different mobi books to my Kindle, I noticed that my ‘TT284 category’ (I thought it was a good idea to group resources based on module code) became quickly overloaded, and I noticed that the default display order was the order in which the books were downloaded in.  Although this was useful, I got myself into a bit of a muddle with the download sequence.  I soon realised that it’s possible to change the ordering according to the title which made for a really nice sequence of module materials.

I’ve now got categories for all of the different modules I have downloaded resources for: H810, TT284 and M364 Fundamentals of Interaction Design.  For M364, I have a mobi version of the assignment booklet, and PDF copies of the four blocks.  I don’t, however, have a copy of the set text. 

The M364 set text is huge, and it’s a real pain to carry around, and students have regularly asked whether there are electronic versions that they could download.  Unfortunately, publishers are only just beginning to catch up with the new ways in which institutions and students consume their materials.  For now, we’ve got to battle on with a mixture of paper text books and OU materials which can be provided in a digital format.

Free books!

After months of it being in a box on my shelf, I’ve finally figured out how to use my Kindle.  Now that it’s jam packed with learning resources and I’m getting used to its screen (which isn’t too bad), I started to think about how I might use it to read stuff ‘for fun’, i.e. using it to read novels and non-fiction.

I quickly remembered Project Gutenberg which was a project dedicated to digitising books that were out of copyright.  I took another quick look at this and discovered that they now had books in eBook format, which was great news.  A quick look around took me to an interesting page called the Best Books Ever Listings (Project Gutenberg) I also discovered all these different ‘bookshelves’ organised by topic.  I really recommend that you have a good look around.

Another really good source of free (or really cheap) books is Amazon.  Within minutes of looking around I found a number of classics that I had never read before.  I clicked on a ‘buy’ button, and these new books were delivered to my device.  (Plus, since an eBook doesn’t have a cover, you can download some particularly racy books and read them when you’re on the train and no one would be any the wiser…!)

And finally…

As I said earlier, it sometimes takes me a while to get on top of a technology; I used to be someone who always wanted to mess around with the latest technologies and gadgets.

I don’t really know why it’s taken me so long to get to grips with eReaders.  I’m someone who likes the feel and smell, and flexibility of physical books.  This said, I’ve come to see that eReaders can give learners a flexibility that they never had before; an ability to carry everything around easily, and the ability to search for terms and phrases.  When a lot of material has moved ‘on-line’, eReaders can help us to access content in a convenient way without being always tied to a computer.  I think this is a really good thing.

I’m someone who loves to make notes.  One thing that you can’t do (very easily) is make scribbly notes on eBook pages, but that is okay: I’ll just have to figure out some new study strategies.

The more that you look at something, the more you think about different possibilities.  Looking at the Kindle has caused me to ask myself a further question, which is: how might you create an eBook from scratch?

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e-Learning community event: mobile devices

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Thursday, 20 Feb 2014, 12:01

Mobile devices are everywhere.  On a typical tube ride to the regional office in London, I see loads of different devices.  You can easily recognise the Amazon Kindle; you see the old type with buttons, and the more modern version with its touch screen.  Other passengers read electronic books with Android and Apple tablets.  Other commuters study their smart phones with intensity, and I’m fascinated with what is becoming possible with the bigger screen phones, such as the Samsung Note (or phablets, as I understand they’re called).  Technology is giving us both convenience and an opportunity to snatch moments of reading in the dead time of travel.

I have a connection with a module which is all about accessible online learning (H810 module description).  In the context of the module, accessibility is all about making materials, products and tools usable for people who have disabilities.  Accessibility can also be considered in a wider sense, in terms of making materials available to learners irrespective of their situation or environment.  In the most recent presentation of H810, the module team has made available much of the learning materials in eBook or Kindle format.  The fact that materials can be made available in this format can be potentially transformative and open up opportunities to ‘snatch’ more moments of learning.

An event I attended on 11 February 2014, held in the university library, was all about sharing research and practice about the use of mobile devices.  I missed the first presentation, which was all about the use of OU Live (an on-line real time conferencing system) using tablet devices.  The other two presentations (which I’ve made notes about) explored two different perspectives: the perspective of the student, and the perspective of the associate lecturer (or tutor).

(It was also interesting to note that the event was packed to capacity; it was standing room only.  Mobile technology and its impact on learning seems to be a hot topic).

Do students study and learn differently using e-readers?

The first presentation I managed to pay attention to was by Anne Campbell who had conducted a study about how students use e-readers.  Her research question (according to my notes) was whether users of these devices could perform deep reading (when you become absorbed and immersed in a text) and active learning, or alternatively, do learners get easily distracted by the technology?  Active learning can be thought of carrying out activities such as highlighting, note taking and summarising – all the things that you used to be able to do with a paper based text book and materials.

Anne gave us a bit of context.  Apparently half of OU postgraduate students use a tablet or e-reader, and most use it for studying.  Also, half of UK households have some kind of e-reader.  Anne also told us that there was very little research on how students study and learn using e-readers.  To try to learn more, Anne has conducted a small research project to try to learn more about how students consume and work with electronic resources and readers.

The study comprised of seventeen students.  Six students were from the social sciences and eleven students were studying science.  All were from a broad range of ages.  The study was a longitudinal diary study.  Whenever students used their devices, they were required to make an entry.  This was complemented with a series of semi-structured interviews.  Subsequently, a huge amount of rich qualitative data was collected and then analysed using a technique known as grounded theory.   (The key themes and subjects that are contained within the data are gradually exposed by looking at the detail of what the participants have said and have written).

One of the differences between using e-readers and traditional text books is the lack of spatial cues.  We’re used to the physical size of a book, so it’s possible to (roughly) know where certain chapters are once we’re familiar with its contents.  It’s also harder to skim read with e-readers, but on the other hand this may force readers to read in more depth.  One comment I’ve noted is, ‘I think with the Kindle… it is sinking in more’.  This, however, isn’t true for all students.

I’ve also noted that there clear benefits in terms of size.  Some text books are clearly very heavy and bulky; you need a reasonably sized bag to move them around from place to place, but with an e-reader, you can (of course) transfer all the books that you need for a module to the device.  Other advantages are that you can search for key phrases using an e-reader.  I’ve learnt that some e-readers contain a built in dictionary (which means that readers can look up words without having to reach for a paper dictionary).  Other advantages include a ‘clickable index’ (which can help with the navigation).  Other more implicit advantages can include the ability to change the size of the text of the display, and the ability to use the ‘voice readout’ function of a mobile device (but I don’t think any participants used this feature).

I also noted that e-readers might not be as well suited for active learning for the reasons that I touched on above, but apparently it’s possible to perform highlights and to record notes within an ebook.

My final note of this session was, ‘new types of study advice needed?’   More of this thought later.

Perspectives from a remote and rural AL

Tamsin Smith, from the Faculty of Science, talked about how mobile technology helps her in her role as an associate lecturer.  I found the subject of this talk immediately interesting and was very keen to hear learn about Tamsin’s experiences.  One of the modules that Tamsin tutors on consists of seven health science books.  The size and convenience of e-readers can also obviously benefit tutors as well as students.

On some modules, key documents such as assignment guides or tutor notes are available as PDFs.  If they’re not directly available, they can be converted into PDFs using freely available software tools.  When you have got the documents in this format, you can access them using your device of choice.  In Tamsin’s case, this was an iPad mini. 

On the subject of different devices, Tamsin also mentioned a new app called OU Anywhere, which is available for both iOS and Android devices.  After this talk, I gave OU Anywhere a try, downloading it to my smartphone.  I soon saw that I could access all the core blocks for the module that I tutor on, along with a whole bunch of other modules.  I could also access videos that were available through the DVD that was supplied with the module.  Clearly, this appeared to be (at a first glance) pretty useful, and was something that I needed to spend a bit more time looking at.

Other than the clear advantages of size and mobility, Tamsin also said that there were other advantages.  These included an ability to highlight sections, to add notes, to save bookmarks and to perform searches.  Searching was highlighted as particularly valuable.  Tutors could, for example, perform searches for relevant module materials during the middle of tutorials. 

Through an internet connection, our devices can allow access to the OU library, on line tutorials through OU Live (as covered during the first presentation that I missed), and tutor group discussion forums allowing tutors to keep track of discussions and support students whilst they’re on the move.  This said, internet access is not available everywhere, so the facility to download and store resources is a valuable necessity.  This, it was said, was the biggest change to practice; the ability to carry all materials easily and access them quickly. 

One point that I did learn from this presentation is that there is an ETMA file handler that available for the iPad (but not one that is official sanctioned or supported by the university).

Final thoughts

What I really liked about Anne’s study was its research approach.  I really liked the fact that it used something called a diary study (which is a technique that is touched on as a part of the M364 Interaction Design module).  This study aimed to learn how learning is done.  It struck me that some learners (including myself) might have to experiment with different combinations of study approaches and techniques to find out what works and what doesn’t.  Study technique (I thought) might be a judgement for the individual.

When I enrolled on my first postgraduate module with the Open University, I was sent a book entitled, The Good Study Guide by Andrew Northedge (companion website).  It was one of those books where I thought to myself, ‘how come it’s taken me such a long time to get around to reading this?’, and, ‘if only I had read this as an undergraduate, I might have perhaps managed to get a higher score in some of my exams’.  It was packed filled with practical advice about topics as time management, using a computer to study, reading, making notes, writing and preparing for exams.

It was interesting to hear from Anne’s presentation that studying using our new-fangled devices is that little bit different.  Whilst on one hand we lose some of our ability to put post it notes between pages and see where our thumbs have been, we gain mobility, convenience and extra facilities such as searching. 

It is very clear that more and more of university materials can now be accessed using electronic readers.  Whilst this is likely to be a good thing (in terms of convenience), there are two main issues (that are connected to each other) that I think that we need to bear in mind. 

The first is a very practical issue.  It is: how do you get the materials onto our device?  Two related questions are: how can we move our materials between different devices? and, how do we effectively manage the materials once we have saved them to our devices?  We might end up downloading a whole set of different files, ranging from different module blocks, assignments and other guidance documents.  It’s important to figure out a way to best manage these files:  we need to be literate in how we use our devices.   (As an aside, these questions loosely connect with the nebulous concept of the Personal Learning Environment).

The second issue relates to learning.  In the first presentation, Anne mentioned the term ‘active learning’.  The Good Study Guide contains a chapter about ‘making notes’.  Everyone is different, but I can’t help but think that there’s an opportunity for ‘practice sharing’.  What I mean is that there’s an opportunity to share stories of how learners can effectively make use of these mobile devices, perhaps in combination with more traditional approaches for study (such as note taking and paraphrasing).  Sharing tips and tricks about how mobile devices can fit into a personalised study plan has the potential to show how these new tools can be successfully applied.

A final thought relates to the broad subject of learning design.  Given that half of all households now have access to e-readers of one form or another (as stated in the first presentation I’ve covered) module teams need to be mindful of the opportunities and challenges that these devices can offer.  Although this is slightly away from my home discipline and core subject, I certainly feel that there needs to be work to be done to further understand what these challenges and opportunities might be.  I’m sure that there has been a lot more work carried out than I am aware of.  If you know of any studies that are relevant, please feel free to comment below.

Video recordings of these presentations are available through the university Stadium website.

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