Sunday 8 July 2012

Critical Thinking

I came across this video on Robin Goods Scoopit post which is titled Curators Key Requirement: Critical Thinking. This is a very helpful overview of what critical thinking means.  The process of evaluating information and our thoughts helps to assess what is valuable and relevant and what is not and why this is so. He lists the following key takeaways from this video:
  • Critical thinking refers to a diverse range of intellectual skills and activities concerned with "evaluating information" as well as our own thought in a disciplined way.
  • Critical thinking is not just thinking a lot. To be an effective critical thinker you need to seek out and be guided by "knowledge" and "evidence" that fits with reality even if it refutes what the general consensus may want to believe.
  • Critical thinkers cultivate an attitude of curiosity and they are willing to do the work required to keep themselves informed about a subject.
  • Critical thinkers do not take claims at face value but utilize scepticism and doubt to suspend judgement and objectively evaluate with facts the claims being made.
  • Critical thinkers should evaluate information on the basis of reasoning and not by relying on emotions as claims the factuality of a claim cannot be solely based on the level of emotion that accompanies them or the fact that they may be believed by certain groups.

A useful infographic on Critical Thinking

Thursday 31 May 2012

Adding a MOOC to my PLN

First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

This is a new MOOC which is being delivered by Oxford Brookes University and is a pilot funded by HEA and JISC. It is a short course that will run between 21 May and 22 June 2012.   

Being involved in this new MOOC was in my mind an opportunity not to be missed. Although I have recently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and as a result gained Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, that course was taught face to face. The students were all colleagues from across the university I work for. Don't get me wrong it was a great experience and I learnt much from it and from my peers. The reason I want to be involved in this online course is to experience first hand what it feels like to learn with others new to teaching from all over the world. Another reason is that I will find it useful seeing how others use the online environment in learning and teaching which in this case will be Blackboard Collaborate and how participants will engage with Twitter using the course hashtag #fslt12.

My inner voice is asking me "how will you fit this in on top of everything else???". Already engaged with part-time study on the MSc in Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change (which is how this blog came about - to record my reflections and things I have learnt along the way) as well an online short course on the Introduction to Cooperation Theory led by Howard Rheingold, I am busy! What is so refreshing about this and other MOOCs is that it so open and free of the rigid rules and regulations we come to associate with formal learning. The sessions are recorded and if I miss a webinar I can go back to it and watch at another time. Yes I will miss the interaction of being there in real time, but at least I don't miss it all. I and anyone else who wants to be involved is warmly and openly welcomed to join in any part of the course and the multiple modes to engage. Topics to be covered are below.

Given other commitments I have I know that it is highly likely I will be engaging outside of the live sessions, but having already listened to George Roberts and Rhona Sharpe's first session I know it is still a valuable experience for me. I should also add that I won't be committing to the assessment, mainly because I have to prioritise my other commitments but I would have liked to experience this online approach to compare with my face to face experience in the PgC in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. 

You might be now wondering what a MOOC is. Well it stands for Massive Online Open Courses. 

A MOOC is by itself a “non-defined pedagogical format to organize learning/teaching/training on a specific topic in a more informal collaborative way” 
The principles of a MOOC are: 
autonomy, diversity, openness and interaction/connectedness. 
The principle activities of a MOOC are: 
Aggregation, Remixing, Re-purposing, Feeding forward. 

For more information on MOOCs there is a useful guide that Educause have put together called 7 Things you should know about MOOCs. (one of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative's (ELI's) 7 Things You Should Know About... series provides concise information on emerging learning technologies and related practices). 

This an opportunity to engage in open learning of academic practice - to participate, to share, to connect, to reflect and along the journey I will undoubtedly learn and extend my personal learning network.

Sunday 20 May 2012

The Purpose of Education is learning how to unlock your true potential

Purpos/ed #500 Words - Take 2

Last year I contributed to the first Purpos/ed Summit where over 50 people got together for the day to discuss, debate and to share their thoughts and views on the purpose of education. I met some wonderful people, that I continue to learn with through Twitter. Although I didn't present on the day, my contribution was added to the Purpos/ed Slideshare collection.  
The purpose of education is to provide the skills to open many different doors to new opportunities for learning; it is individual and personal; that we need to continually provide signposts to share ways of both formal and informal learning; and finally that learning is lifelong - there is always something new to learn. 

Education is a magical key that can empower individuals to unlock their true potential and to share their learning with others. Having read the #500 words blog posts to date and many other blog posts written by educators, there are many examples that show us that where we provide children, teenagers and adults with opportunities to learn in ways that suit them as individuals, they not only develop confidence in their own learning, they develop a passion for learning. 

Social media and mobile technology have opened a whole new world to individuals across the globe who are now able to communicate and collaborate in ways that have never before been possible. Creating, curating and sharing using a variety of digital media within the mini computer we call our phone has opened up many creative ways to learn. They have also opened up new ways to socialise, to work and to play. For many it has made learning fun and who ever said learning can't be fun? And yet... so many educated people have yet to see the benefits or even tried to use social technology as a means of learning themselves or to facilitate learning
Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.

John Cotton Dana
This is a video created by a student for a university assignment that looks at the progression of student communication and classroom settings. It serves to remind us that despite the leaps technology has made, the way we use it in the classroom is being restricted by the spaces we ask our students to learn in.

But this only a part of it. We need to support, encourage and develop new ways to enable critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication to provide us with the digital skills and literacies we need to participate in today's society. 

The purpose of education is to help us to learn how to progress

The purpose of education is to make the world a better place for everybody to live in. 

If technology can help us do this then we need to learn how to use if effectively. 

The purpose of education is unlocking the potential for everyone to be a part of this. We all have something to contribute.   

Sue Beckingham
#purposedu #500words

Sunday 15 April 2012

Gone Fishing

Give a man a fish and he won't starve for a day. 

Teach a man how to fish and he won't starve for his entire life. (Unknown)

I expect many of us as children at some point went fishing with a net, unsure of what we would catch but eagerly anticipating something. What we would do with that something was another matter (further than add it to our jam jar or whatever vessel we had taken with us that day), what use would our catch be? It was highly unlikely we would eat it, but then even if we caught something that was useful and edible, would we know it if we saw it? Did we ever think about a strategy for catching - the right section of the pond or stream, the right type of morsels to throw in to entice our anticipated catch to swim straight in to our nets? I certainly didn't until I was much older and went 'grown up fishing' with my Dad and not only learnt how to catch a fish, I realised I was able to teach my Dad something and that was how to clean, skin and gut a fish as well as how to cook it.

Sometimes I think that our students attempts at searching for information online is very much like early attempts at fishing. On the one hand information has become ever more readily available, but on the other there are is so much of it. Just as you can dip your net in the water and hope to catch something, using a search engine will bring up plentiful results, but is the best there is to find? Learning how to make good decisions, sound judgments and thinking critically doesn't necessarily come naturally to our Digital Natives. By partnering for real learning with our students it is important we don't just include more sophisticated search techniques but teach students 'the difference between search (where anything goes) and research (which has traditions and rules)' (Prensky 2010:103).    

Howard Rheingold goes as far as to say that the first thing we all need to know about information online is how to detect crap.

The answer to almost any question is available within seconds, courtesy of the invention that has altered how we discover knowledge — the search engine. Materializing answers from the air turns out to be the easy part — the part a machine can do. The real difficulty kicks in when you click down into your search results. At that point, it's up to you to sort the accurate bits from the misinfo, disinfo, spam, scams, urban legends, and hoaxes. "Crap detection," as Hemingway called it half a century ago, is more important than ever before, now that the automation of crapcasting has generated its own word: "spamming." (Rheingold 2011)

"Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him." 

The Seven Pillars of Information Literacy (Sconul 2011) guide us to consider the following: identify, scope, plan, gather, evaluate, manage and present

  • Be able to identify a personal need for information
  • Assess current knowledge and identify gaps
  • Construct strategies for locating information and data
  • Locate and access the information and data needed
  • Review the research process and compare and evaluate information and data
  • Organise information professionally and ethically
  • Apply the knowledge gained, presenting the results of the research, synthesising new and old information and data to create new knowledge and disseminating it in different ways

We live in an era of exponential change in relation to technology. These changes are in part responsible for the growing amount of new information and data that are made available to us. I personally feel that the more I learn, the more I find I have to learn. Being able to draw upon technology to organise information is a valuable skill to develop  As Prensky argues: 
'Technology alone will not replace intuition, good judgement, problem solving abilities and a clear moral compass. But in an unimaginably complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced person.' (Prensky 2009)

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous and the increase in use of those we refer to as smart phones have provided users with a computer they can carry around in their pocket. With access to a growing range of cloud based applications along with apps that can be downloaded on to the phones themselves, there is the potential to learn anything, anywhere, anytime. Now to create a rich learning experience for our students does require some innovation on the part of the tutor, that is if they want to be the ones who facilitate this process. 

Ways in which students or anyone for that matter can take knowledge, be this factual, conceptual, procedural or metacognitive (Anderson and Krathwohl 2001) and go on to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create new knowledge can be enhanced by the use of technology.  Andrew Churches created the Blooms Digital Taxonomy which helps the user to consider how the tools could facilitate learning.  

For example Tutors could introduce the use of Diigo a social bookmarking tool. However this would be of no value to the student(s) if the resources saved were not from a reliable source and actually incorrect, out of date or inappropriate. 


Anderson, L. W. and Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds) (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing

Churches, A. (2012) Blooms Digital Taxonomy. Educational Origami wiki 

Prensky, M. 2009. H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate 5 (3). 

Prensky, M. (2010) Teaching Digital Natives. California: Corwin

Rheingold, H. (2011) Crap Detection 101: How to tell accurate information from inaccurate information, misinformation, and disinformation. [VIDEO] 

SCONUL (2011) The SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy Core Model for Higher Education

Image credit:

Sunday 25 March 2012

Using technology for social good

This is a topic I will come back to as it is a fine example of how technology can be used innovatively at very little cost and yet make a major impact.

Jennifer Pahlka (@pahlkadot) is the founder of Code for America, which matches software geniuses with US cities to reboot local services. This is an amazing initiative that takes this talent to build apps, to communicate with the community to solve issues in their own area. What has ordinarily taken government projects many months if not years to achieve is being completed at a fraction of the cost. Social media channels are used to spread the word. Members of the community then get involved with community projects as volunteers.

For example Adopt-a-Hydrant lets citizens claim responsibility for shoveling out hydrants during snowstorms. 

"In the midst of winter snowstorms, buried hydrants cause dangerous delays in the ability of fire fighters to respond to fire emergencies. To check and clear thousands of hydrants across the city of Boston, would be a timely, costly, and burdensome process. Adopt-a-Hydrant lets governments turn to the community. This map-based web app allows individuals, small businesses, and community organizations to volunteer to be responsible for shoveling out specific hydrants. These apps may only take a couple of days to create and then through social media spread virally"

That was just its beginning. Now it's being used in multiple cities for multiple purposes such as keeping storm drains clear and checking that tsunami siren alarms in Hawaii each have a working battery. 

Call for action


Sunday 5 February 2012

Every 60 seconds in social media

The growth of social media and use of technology has been exponential. Below are two infographics (via Socialnomics) that capture a snapshot of what this use might look like. 

To help get on board with the wide variety of social media tools, I have created a blog that is aimed at those new to social media but also as a means of sharing updates and changes to these social media tools.