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Not posted for a while - been taking on additional duties.

Attended a really good development event in May where the standout sessions for me were the ones on the library and neurodiversity.

The library's Being Digital website is a treasure trove of activities to support learners: I used their plagiarism activities in a tutorial I organised in May. And the others look like they will be extremely useful to refer students to when their reflective exercises have shown up weaknesses that I cannot simply direct them to module resources to support - things like writing effectively and finding information.

The neurodiversity session was more useful to me as a "finding people like me" exercise - many of the suggestions were things like using suitable fonts and pastel/grey backgrounds for slides and were important and good to know - but I'd already picked them up from teaching in secondary schools during Covid.

One thing that I watched a session leader do at the start of a seminar (I think it was a recorded session now I come to think of it) was to load the learning objectives slide with the drawing tool. Then she dropped loads of stars onto the slide and made the drawing tool accessible to all the attendees. This allowed the attendees to highlight which learning objective they were most interested in finding out about during the session and allowed her to take the audience into account when deciding how much detail to go into.

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Organising group work

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Edited by Kate Blackham, Monday, 4 Apr 2022, 13:12

I don't know if this is an aspect of my autism and I'm not thinking through all the potential outcomes properly, but despite assurances from my mentor that I could let the students sort themselves into groups and peer-review buddy systems, it doesn't seem to have worked well.  I have peer-review buddies where the work is lopsided - one doing a peer review and their partner not bothering, I have students who don't seem to have managed to get themselves into groups.

I'm posting the exact threads word-for-word in the forums to do it. Backing up with emails explaining what I need them to do. And still people are being "missed" and overlooked in the "please pair up here thread". 

I think next year (assuming I pass probation) I will organise them into groups right from the beginning of the year. It will give them time to build relationships, time for me to spot if a person's classmates have all disengaged (using the OU Analyse tool, which I found out about for the first time only very recently), time to realise they should feel guilty if they let down their peers.

The "organise yourselves" approach is supposed to allow for the fact that students work at different paces and someone might want to race ahead but be stuck with students who are working through earlier material. 

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Programming 101

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Edited by Kate Blackham, Wednesday, 23 Mar 2022, 15:41

Just attended a Teams meeting presenting some STEM pedagogy research on improving the students' experience of learning Python on my module (SM123). 

SM123 is first-year undergraduate equivalent and is often the first "proper" physics module they'll take, after the generic everyone-in-science module. So about half the students have never programmed before and many of them find it really tough - they find it time consuming and it knocks their confidence. 

Things to consider going forward:

  • Refer students to the new Programming for Physical Sciences website (I already do this anyway).
  • Personally, I was honest with my students right from the start. I told them that Fortran 77 in UNIX used to reduce me to tears ALL.THE.TIME. I told them it is hard. Even my friends and relatives who work in programming find it hard, my children who are studying GCSE and A level Computer Science find it hard. Sometimes computers make you want to scream. I told them about my first job out of university as a technical editor of programming books, checking that the code ran - and if it didn't, which to be honest was 75% of the time for some books, making the blasted thing work. The key to programming is to stick at it and do your best. They seemed to respond well to that. I've seen this with A level students too, that because I just know more and have more experience, it's easy for them to assume that I've always been brilliant or learned everything by osmosis, when actually I often struggled to learn just as they are.
  • One of things that came up was that the students often got help from each other (and tutors) on the tutor group forum. I've not seen them use it for that, so for Python 3 in a couple of weeks time, I think I might start a new thread and suggest they discuss what they're struggling with there (they can also use the dedicated module-wide Python forum, but that can be intimidating if your confidence is dropping).
  • There was lots of discussion about how the Python segment of SM123 may not be taught in the best way. But that's something for the module team to consider at revision stage.

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Hello World!

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Let's start at the very beginning. It's a very good place to start.

I'm planning to use this as a reflective diary for CPD purposes. As a PGCE student last academic year I did lots of reflecting on my praxis. Although the OU doesn't seem to expect me to formally do this (unless I've missed a bit - they do provide huge swathes of supporting information to new ALs), I think it's probably a good idea to carry on reflecting on my tutoring/marking/the training events I'm attending. In fact I think it's probably remiss of me that's it's taken me so long to get around to filling in this blog.

But, better late than never. 

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