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.

Evaluating the quality of web resources

TurnItIn have released two new tools to support the evaluation of web-based resources; a review of the sources actually used and an interactive tool for the evaluation of resources.  These should be useful as tutorial-level discussion pieces and lend some objectivity to assessing the worth of the Web.

“Open access to this new interactive rubric helps educators teach students proper research and source evaluation.

Turnitin worked with educators to develop The Source Educational Evaluation Rubric (SEER), an interactive rubric to analyze and grade the academic quality of Internet sources used by students in their writing. Instructors and students who use SEER can quickly evaluate a website and arrive at a single score based on five criteria scaled to credibility: Authority, Educational Value, Intent, Originality, and Quality.

“Recent research shows that students rely heavily on websites of questionable academic value,” said Jason Chu, senior education manager for Turnitin. “We believe that widespread usage of SEER will help educators teach students the importance of using quality resources in their research.”

This interactive rubric, when opened in Adobe Reader, allows you to adjust criteria weight and simply click to score each criterion with a rubric score and percentage automatically calculated.”

1) What’s wrong with Wikipedia?

2) The Source Educational Evaluation Rubric (SEER tool)

Raspberry Pi – the new BBC Micro?

Raspberry PiIf, like me, you were a teenager in the 1980s, chances are you’ll remember the BBC Micro and the Sinclair Spectrum. These were ‘home computers’ that encouraged a generation of pallid adolescents to try their hand at programming, leading pretty much directly to the British games industry becoming one of the country’s biggest export earners over the next twenty years.

The problem is, over the last decade the culture of hobbyist programmers has become a thing of the past, as computers have taken on the status of all-pervasive ‘white goods’. Teenagers have their iPhones, iPods, iPads, Facebook etc – but by and large they don’t spend hours learning how to write platform games.

Lamenting this fact, a group of computer scientists at Cambridge set up the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the mission of creating an ultra-cheap computer targetted specifically at children. Launched earlier this year, the Raspberry Pi costs around £30 and consists of nothing more than a tiny uncased circuit board which can be connected to a standard USB keyboard and mouse, using a bedroom TV as a monitor. The Raspberry Pi runs the Debian version of the Linux operating system which is open source and therefore free, booting up from an SD card.

I ordered one as soon as they were announced and, after 6 months’ wait, it finally arrived on Friday. Theoretically it was intended for my 8-year-old son Alex but, if I’m honest, I might concede that there was some geeky nostalgia involved here. It took less than 10 minutes to set everything up – in fact, I spent a lot longer trying to make a homebrew case for it out of Lego! The next morning I sat Alex down in front of it and left him to it, avoiding the temptation to over-explain. Half an hour later I returned to find that he’d managed to create a complex animation using Scratch, the visual programming language for children included with the OS.

Will he choose to keep at it, rather than going outside and kicking a football around? We’ll see. But I wholeheartedly approve of the aims of the Foundation and believe it could make a real difference in encouraging at least some children to design/program/engineer things themselves rather than being passive consumers.

JISC News Release: Developing digital literacy – trial and error?

A JISC study has found that learners develop a variety of digital literacies often through a social trial-and-error process, without the direct support or advice of their educational institutions.

Ben Showers, JISC programme manager, said, “By understanding and recognising students’ hidden behaviours and motivations, JISC is in a position to help universities and colleges develop better digital services and resources, with the student experience significantly improved.”

To understand learners’ engagement with digital technologies, JISC is now funding the next phase of the project, which uses the concept of visitors and residents to describe their online journey.

The visitor sees the internet as a toolbox that they use for a specific task and then leave the web without leaving a footprint.  The resident partially lives out their life online; they see the web as somewhere they can express themselves.

It’s the next phase in a longitudinal study into US and UK learners at different stages of their education in a partnership between the University of Oxford and OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

The study says that there is now a learning ‘black market’ where learners use non-traditional sources of information online, which may lack academic credibility. While these practices can be effective for their studies, students are often wary of citing such resources.

Gaining an understanding of these emerging practices will help ensure that projects and institutions provide effective advice and guidance in the ongoing development of digital skills.

Showers said, “It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Visitors and Residents work.  It is not only challenging assumptions about how students use technology, but it is shedding light on those practices, attitudes and techniques students employ online.”

There are more intriguing findings from the study, including that LinkedIn becomes more important to people in the later stages of their education; that there is more skepticism in the US than the UK education system over students’ use of Wikipedia; and that students prefer email over instant messenger and other tools for ‘administrative’ tasks such as contacting a researcher.

“We are very excited to continue this work,” said co-principal investigator Lynn Silipigni Connaway. “We believe our preliminary findings will have a great impact on the development of services and systems for teaching and learning.”

“The project is discovering the extent to which the embedding of the web in both personal and institutional contexts is changing the way we learn, teach and research,” said co-principal investigator David White. “We are delighted to be able to explore this further and to have the opportunity to create resources that can be used to reflect on, and experiment with, new forms of professional practice.”

Find out more about the project


Read the latest report in PDF


Watch a video interview with the two leading project leads David White (University of Oxford) and Lynn Silipigni Connaway (OCLC Research) <>

Plagiarism goes Social

A recent study by TurnItIn looked at the sources of 110 million content matches over 40 million submissions, and found:

33% of matching text came from Social Networking sites, content sharing sites or question-and-answer sites

25% of matching text came from educational sites

15% of matching text came from cheat sites, and

7% of matching text came from Wikipedia, the largest single source.

Web 2.0 and your students

Web 2.0 image
The Library, E-learning Team and Students’ Union have just completed a study to find out more about how students are using Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook and YouTube for both their social lives and their studies. An on-line survey was completed by 178 students.

The results show that most students use Web 2.0 sites for both academic and social purposes and that most use their favourite sites ‘constantly’, which won’t come as a surprise to anyone wandering around Level Three of the Library. The top 5 Web 2.0 sites are Facebook, Wikipedia, iTunes, YouTube and Google apps. The work has been a great success and provides lots of ideas and directions for the University in general and the Library in particular about how Web 2.0 services can be used to help students learn. The URL for the report is: