Archive for the ‘Jo Blog’ Category

Looking further at Vygotsky’s ideas

November 11th, 2009 by Jo Turner-Attwell

I wrote about Vygotsky and the Zone of Proximal Development quite a long time ago now, but recently I’ve re-read some of the feedback I received, particularly that from Stephen Downs.

In particular I think its important to look at the role of the ‘teacher’ within Vygotsky’s theory as it was one of the major flaws that a ‘teacher’ was necessary for the process to take place and it seemed to disregard ‘individual’ learning which is also an important process.

Now where my argument with this arises is what is meant by a teacher? Does a teacher necessarily need to be a physical person or can a book or internet sources be also counted as a form of ‘teacher’, particularly with the rise of things like internet courses. I mean when you look at things technically, when one is learning ‘individually’ from books or internet, yes the person is carrying out the learning themselves but they still have assistance from another person in the person who has recorded or discovered these things. In essence they are still learning from others and then further it into their own ideas and opinions from there, as in Vygotsky’s theory of Zone of Proximal Development. In that sense the Zone of Proximal Development changes in that it does not need to be led by one teacher but in fact students have the ability to channel their own ZPD in the direction they so choose by drawing upon resources. This is particularly important now that social networking and internet are so easy to use, students are able to reach the top of their ZPD using such resources.

An example of this is maybe the way computers or new technology progresses, the first computer looked incredibly different to laptops today and change is made through studying current systems and building on ideas and then introducing new ones. The further thoughts and ideas progress the further the room for us to learn and reflect to build upon that learning.

Making ‘Do Institutions have a Future?’

November 6th, 2009 by Jo Turner-Attwell

We created ‘Do Institions have a Future?’ for the Jisc Online Conference 2009 ‘Thriving Not Surviving’. Filming, acting and editing was done by Graham Attwell and myself, with help from Helge Staedler our on-the-spot cameraman. Making this video and getting it to work efficiently took around 3 days with pretty much constant work as we stretched iMovie to its very limits using green screen, video within a video and keynote graphics. You can access the video through the link below and then I have written a bit about how we made it for those who are interested.

http://www.pontydysgu.org/2009/11/the-future-of-institutions/

We filmed our green screen using a chromakey green screen on a curtain rail and two garage lights and masking tape to pull it vaguely taut, trying to keep costs as low as possible. As it is possible to see, our green screen isn’t perfect due to shadow and some creases in the screen. We struggled with the shadow problem as we only had 2 lights which we placed either side and really we needed an extra one in the centre. The creases problem could have been solved with an iron as we found that in general our problems were not related with the screen not being pulled fully taut but rather creases in the screen itself. Another point I would recommend when using green screen is having a shot without the people in at the end of your movie. We were unable to do this successfully; however, at the end iMovie does allow you to improve your green screen as long as this shot is contained within the video.

To edit the video we used the advanced iMovie tools which can be turned on in iMovie preferences. When editing, green screen and video within a video are very easy to use as all that needs to be done is for the main video to be dragged over the desired background and iMovie will present you with a menu including green screen and video within a video. To create Graham’s intro which involves both actions which iMovie doesn’t allow, we first played with the green screen and gave Grahams head a proper background and then exported the project and reimported it as part of an event making it one video in itself. This meant we could then use this to drag over the slides to use video within a video to have both effects running simultaneously.

The news intro and many of the backgrounds within the news clips were made using Keynote slideshows, which can be exported as a photos or a video. This meant I could change the size or position of  photos within plain slides so they would be more easily seen, or create video clips, such as the economic downturn clip, animated using the inspector. I also found it was effective for making logos as this was where I made the Research Rights Management logo in a matter of minutes. When exporting Keynote files as a video its important to remember is to ensure that they are set to fixed timing as Keynote always resets to manual timing which then can’t be imported into iMovie, a mistake I made at the beginning.

iMovie was not happy through much of the editing and we had huge issues with one of projects which we still don’t know the reasons for. It refused to open properly and eventually we had to export in its intermediate stage reimport it and edit it from that point. Also because of these problems much of the video was made in separate projects and over two computers as both seemed to have problems with our data. It was only put into one video at the end by exporting and importing, though as long as green screen is not split which ours was, it is also possible to copy the whole projects and paste them into one another. However, we managed to find work arounds to the majority of our problems and the import export process was a method which we found to our surprise worked well despite thoughts that it may effect quality.

The video still has much room for improvement and I could have easily spent much longer editing and playing with the timing, probably some of the problems being only apparent to me, but any comments at all on how we could have improved the video and our use of green screen would be most appreciated.

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    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


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    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


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    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


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