Using mobile devices to enhance fieldwork

Prof. Derek France from the University of Chester will be visiting the Geography Department on Wednesday 21st January to share his considerable experience of using technology to enhance student learning.

Derek will be leading a hands-on seminar: ‘Enhancing fieldwork learning with Mobile devices’. This will take place from 14:00-16:00 on Wednesday 21st Jan, location TBC. Although the event is focused on geography teaching, it is open to all staff with an interest in fieldwork or the use of mobile devices.

Derek is a National Teaching Fellow and Professor of Pedagogy in Geographical Sciences. He is the director of the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning project The seminar will be of value for anyone who is or is considering undertaking student fieldwork. Even if you don’t yet use mobile technology in your teaching the case for doing so is growing rapidly. This seminar should help to give you a route into starting to understand how you might integrate such an approach into your teaching. It will cover both human and physical geography uses. The seminar will also be of use to those who might consider using such approaches in classroom teaching.

Please contact Dr Jon Millett to book your place. Numbers will be limited.

iPads in teaching

Over the last year we’ve been looking at different ways in which tablets can be used in learning and teaching. Last autumn we held a tablets workshop at which Ola Aiyegbayo from the University of Huddersfield gave a presentation based on his research project in this area.

He’s just released an infographic animation setting out his findings. You can view this on Vimeo below.


iPad Research Study Animation from Olaojo Aiyegbayo on Vimeo.

Changes to TurnItIn for next year

The Learn interface to TurnItIn is changing next year.  When the new edition of Learn is released on July 22nd, all TurnItIn assignments will need to be re-created for the new session.  This is no different from previous years, although the software will look slightly different (see: Changes to Turnitin ).

A six-slide PowerPoint presentation is available to show students how to submit coursework using the new TurnItIn assignment.  It may be added to a module as a standalone resource or incorporated into a lecture presentation.

  • If your module uses a TurnItIn assignment activity, a new instance of the activity will need to be created in the 2014-15 module, just as you should have created a new activity last year.
  • The new TurnItIn assignments will be created with a new version of the software, and work through a new TurnItIn account.
  • As usual, students involved in the SAP will use last year’s edition of Learn (which will be called Learn13) and the old 2013 TurnItIn assignments will still work.

TurnItIn for any assignment

TurnItIn have recently announced their Grade Anything initiative, which allows the system to accept files of any type for evaluation.  Obviously the text-matching will only work with files containing text.  However the GradeMark online marking tool is now applicable for a much wider variety of student coursework, as is demonstrated on their video clips .

Don’t get too excited, though – there is no hint that the TurnItIn file size limit of 20 MBytes per file will be increased, so image portfolios or video clips are still likely to be too big to be submitted to TurnItIn.

However one workaround is the ability to use the marking and feedback tools without any submission being present, using a ‘submission template’ (i.e. a blank document).  You might use this to comment on a multimedia submission handed in by some other means, or to assess a live performance e.g. in Drama or Sports Science.

TurnItIn is shifting its emphasis from Originality Checking towards a focus on online marking and feedback provision.  The original functionality is still there and works as it always has done: the ability to handle any file type is an additional feature.

Potential problem using TurnItIn's iPad App

Rob Howe from Northampton University reports a problem with the TurnItIn iPad app which results in loss of data.  The full description is in this blog posting

Essentially, if the iPad user changes their iPad profile during a marking session, they will lose the data already marked, because the iPad thinks it belongs to somebody else.  The data cannot be recovered.

Rob’s advice – to make sure you sync the data often, particularly at the start of a session – seems sound.


Free Apps for New iDevices

Did you know that if you activated your iDevice on or after 1 September 2013 then you can download six key Apple applications (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand) for free? These apps would normally set you back just over £25.
All you need to do is register the serial number of your device within your Apple profile and then search for the apps via the App Store on your device and it should become available to you to download for free. I (well my husband) was lucky enough to benefit from this offer on his recent iPad Air purchase. These apps are equivalent to the Microsoft Office suite of products such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Note that GarageBand is free on the App Store for all iOS 7–compatible devices, not just those registered on or after 1 September 2013.



Bringing Poetry to Life

Clare Hutton demonstrating The Waste Land app

Before the holidays, I attended part of a lecture by Clare Hutton from the English and Drama department who showcased The Waste Land app to her students. Clare is one of the recipients of a loan iPad and has been trialling it in a Teaching and Learning environment.

For students studying TS Elliott’s notable poem, the app is well worth the cost of £9.99. With the inclusion of recorded readings, performance of the text and line-by-line notes this app truly brings the poem to life and adds an extra dimension which will help students and anyone who wants to understand the work in more depth.

XLR Audio into iPad



For those of you who are more adventurous and have wondered if it were possible to have an XLR audio input to an iPad then the answer is yes. As you probably know there appears to be only a headphone out on an iPad but no mic input.

However the headphone out can be used as a mic input with the right connection.  A company called IK Multimedia produce a device called iRig.

This little device sells for £23.99 on Amazon and is easy to set up. Its powered by a Duracell 9V or similar. You can hook up any professional device i.e. the Sennheiser radio mic receivers for classroom/lecture room recording. It even has 48V Phantom power which allows a huge number of condenser mics to be used. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone socket.

First impression: very good for the price. No distortion, clean sound, excellent for lecture recordings. No software needed unless you want it but you do get access to a couple of Apps which I haven’t used.

I used it with the App ‘Explain Everything’ and all worked well.

TurnItIn shifts focus

The September TurnItIn UK User Group meeting was hosted by Leeds Uni this year.
It followed the usual format of a position statement by the host, an overview of the development roadmap and case studies from users.

There are big changes under way at TurnItIn, in response to a massive increase in the demand for their services which have exposed weaknesses in their 10-year old systems. Such is the pace of change that a rolling upgrade programme will see all aspects of the service improved by Spring 2014. Amongst other things, the performance issues that affected some of our users in the summer should be fixed.

The expectation is that by 2016 GradeMark will have taken over from Originality Checking as the main part of the TurnItIn package, so the focus of the software is shifting from Originality Checking towards online marking, without losing any text-matching functionality.


It was good to note that Leeds’ policies on Plagiarism are closely aligned with our new Code of Practice (and what happens elsewhere e.g. Bristol and Cranfield).

For example their objectives are
1) To ensure equal vigour in the detection and treatment of plagiarism across all subjects and
2) To provide equal support for students in referencing study skills across all subjects. They have a standard Plagiarism Study Unit which all freshers take in their first semester as part of their tutorial activities.

Development Roadmap

As part of their upgrading effort, TurnItIn are recruiting development programmers in the UK, and we were asked to pass this on to anyone who may be interested in database development work in Newcastle.

  • The TurnItIn iPad app has been well-received and has been updated several times since the initial release so if you are using it, please check for updates.

By Christmas 2013:

  • Colour printing will added to the Document Viewer
  • PowerPoint files will be accepted for Originality Checking
  • Submission to TurnItIn from Goodle Docs or DropBox will be possible

Early 2014:

  • GradeMark gets criterion-based marking without the complexity of a full rubric

Spring 2014:

  • GradeMark will use overlays, which could be used for marking themes e.g. ‘marks for methodology’, ‘marks for analysis’ etc OR for individual tutors.  Visibility of each layer can be controlled, so double-blind marking will be possible for the first time in any online marking tool.


The dates above carry the usual health warnings, of course!

8 Ways Screens Are Ruining Your Family's Life


Reused courtesy of Mark H. Anbinder Flickr photostream under a CC licence

I read an article titled “8 Ways Screens Are Ruining Your Family’s Life” based on an interview of more than a thousand children in America, in the Huffington Post. Conducted by a clinical instructor at Harvard, the study was to find out how technology was impacting the lives and relationships of children aged between 4 and 18. The results are interesting, but not very surprising.

It is quite frightening how much we are attached to our smartphones and tablets for both personal and work purposes. I was at an event about tablets in learning and teaching last week, and similar conversations about reliance on technology took place over there. There were people describing their devices as a life partner, something they couldn’t do without. You might laugh at that, like I did, but have a serious think about how much is actually on your device and what would happen if it was taken from you right now. There are many people who use their devices to coordinate every aspect of their lives, from work meetings to social interactions to their personal life and it would be a serious inconvenience for them to be without it.

Although the article raises many valid points about the negative impacts of screen time, I think it is also fair to say that no matter how we like it, this is the future. Children’s (and adults) lives revolve around this technology and as with all things finding a balance is key. As one commenter on the article put it “There’s a difference between seeing a tree on a screen versus climbing one or plucking a fruit off and eating it”.