Better Ed Tech Solutions

It’s course prep season here. It’s fun. Sort of. I’m looking forward to term starting. Kind of. I’m doing everything the same as last year. Not really. I’m frustrated that there’s no ed tech tools that do what I need them to. Totally.

Screencast Presentations: After last academic year’s wee ‘oh shit I broke the VLE and this time it can’t be fixed’ moment, I’m looking for a legitimate alternative for the 1st year screencast presentation assignment.

Here’s the workflow:

Student: – create and submit screencast; complete electronic self-assessment form

Me: – allocate or initiate peer assessment, each student views and marks 4 screencasts and completes electronic peer-assessment form on each.

Student: – watches 4 screencasts, completes electronic peer-assessment form after each, completes 2nd self-assessment form.

Me: – screams in dismay as I have to compile (for a class of 100): 2 x self-assessment (200 items), 4 x peer-assessment (400) items, moderate the grades, arrive at the final grade and release marks and peer-assessment feedback to submitting students.

Now to be fair to me, I’ve got the grade compilation bit down to around 2 hours work for a class of 100. I’m fairly whizzy with excel (mmmmmm….data). But I think it should be possible to do this automatically which is what the thing that I broke on the VLE did (well not exactly but the shortcomings were far outweighed by the benefits).  The hard labour version of this is google forms for the self- and peer-assessment bits which generate multiple spreadsheets, then the excel-whizzing to bang it all together. [if you’re ever doing this, the “IF” function is your friend to ensure that you’re putting the right grades together].

Voting for Peer Instruction: Another problem this year is that I’m not hiring a supply chain of lorries just to get me and my teaching stuff to class.  That means no carting of personal response devices around. I have peer instruction questions, I’d like to do PI with students. I tried Socrative last year but the BYOD element of this was…frustrating.

Firstly, I couldn’t work out if Socrative could do those fancy graphs that the Turning Technologies stuff does – the ones that you can display in-presentation to the class to show the range of marks for an MCQ without the correct answer being shown. I couldn’t find it.

Secondly, (and this is a common complaint from me), most of my pre-existing MCQs weren’t in a format that could be easily imported or exported, and indeed multiplatform compatability was pretty much non-existent. Now if you think I object to 2 hours bashing grades in excel, it’s nothing compared to the 2 hours copy-pasting questions between different programmes that might do what I need.

Thirdly, there aren’t enough power points in lecture theatres for students BYODing laptops in a 2-hour class. Wifi held up well, batteries did not.

[In the interests of fairness, the personal response devices can be a pain when no one’s checked and replaced the batteries for a while…but at least I know which door to knock on about that. And there’s the weight.]


Reflective Diaries: last year I ran a reflective diary exercise for the first time. It worked fairly well and I used VLE blogs for the purpose. The interface for grading is basic, and doesn’t allow grading each post rather than the overall blog (unless I missed something). There’s also something quite irritating about the month by month view and it’s impact on the total number of posts submitted. This year I’m setting up a Google Form (set as a test) for each reflection topic and am wondering whether to run this through the VLE with links to each form (generating one spreadsheet of outcomes per reflection) or to brave Google Classroom which I believe will dump all the grades into one spreadsheet and save me some excel-whizzing. The plus side of Google Classroom definitely fits the ‘mmm shiny new play time’ category.  I can see some features that really appeal to me for the type of module I’m running. The negative side is that I will be making it all up as I go along and really have little idea beyond that which I can figure out or google. Actually I can see some really nice features in Google Classroom that would work well with the module generally so it might be worth the investment of time.


So, how about you lot? Trying anything new this coming academic year?



Comments please!