Jul 21 2014

The Centre for Learning Technology are now Learning Technology and Innovation

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The Centre for Learning Technology (CLT), the hub for technology-focused innovation in teaching and learning at LSE, are now Learning Technology and Innovation (LTI). The new name better reflects our aim to bring new and innovative ideas to LSE and the wider academic community.

As always, the team will continue to work with staff on digital literacy, flipping lectures, Moodle and other technologies supporting teaching and learning at LSE.

Along with a new name, we also have new office in the lower ground floor of Aldwych House. Contact details, email addresses and the website will gradually changing over the next few months with no interruption of service. You can email us via lti.support@lse.ac.uk, as well as by calling us on 020 7849 4697.

Posted by: Posted on by Arun Karnad Tagged with: , ,

Jul 16 2014

Reflecting on students as partners

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Several conferences I’ve attended in the last few weeks have had the theme of students as partners and as the SADL (Student Ambassadors for Digital Literacy) project ends it’s first year I think it’s timely to reflect on what we’ve learnt, what worked and what we could do differently. The project team included staff from LTI, IT Training, TLC, the Students’ Union and we worked with two academic departments: Social Policy and Statistics. We specifically recruited undergraduate students.

First what worked?
Recruitment went well and our project managed to grab the interest of students and in many cases keep them interested for the year. However we do really need to understand why a few students didn’t engage with us and why they just attended one or two sessions. Did it not meet their expectations? Were they too busy? Was it not relevant? Our end of project survey has some useful data here. Last week at our first NetworkEDGE seminar, Stephen Downes urged us to not just talk to the successful students but those who drop out.

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker

Jul 10 2014

Beyond institutions: Stephen Downes at NetworkEDGE


Yesterday I attended our new series NetworkEDGE: The Future of Education online, because we live stream (and record) these things and therefore I could. We were lucky enough to have Stephen Downes inaugurate, and I watched, listened and tweeted along.

(I’m ambivalent about tweeting during talks. Tweeting is great for note-taking, sharing, interjecting, pondering publicly, chatting with others in the audience while keeping an eye on the main speaker. But it’s hard work, difficult to do well, and distracting from careful listening. It helped to have seen the slides beforehand, as Stephen posts them on his site.)

Downes shared his utopian anti-institutional view of education with us and that’s the kind of thing I lap up. He pleaded for “learning beyond institutions”, towards personal learning in a networked world. This is the impression I got: here’s a dedicated anti-establishment guy, who despairs at the capitalist ideology at the core of education; who dislikes that learning is now an industry; who thinks that most educators waste time and effort in their attempts to improve their teaching, their learning. Wasted, because it goes towards improving essentially capitalist systems, structures, models, even though these fail us (us = the learners, the educators) time and again. How much better to smash our educational idols, and to break away, move away:

  • Move towards learner autonomy.
  • Move towards anarchic learning, based on no models, no systems, no traditional ideals.
  • Move beyond institutions and towards self-organised networks of learners.

(“Smash”, “idols”, “beyond” – of course Downes is no Nietzsche, but there is a certain Nietzschean sentiment in his ideas).

“The right model is to do away with models” he told us. – this is an idea I can get behind, a nicely phrased aporia, along the lines of “O my friends, there is no friend”. Now, one might argue that Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall, which Downes referred to, is itself a model, Mitra often suggests so: that’s why he was able to translate the idea from rural India to schools in England. His model is anti-institutional, it seeks to depose the teacher, but it is still a model. Like Downes, Mitra is interested in self-organising systems – and where you have systems, you have a model! The point is that there are no standards or rules which apply consistently or work universally and at all times. This is a good thing to bear in mind. Standards (rules, regulations) are always exclusive, limited and limiting. They hinder innovation, stifle creativity and reduce everything to sameness. We need people like Downes to remind us of this. We need to be asked that we do away with ALL such rules, so that at the very least we might discard some of them, and re-introduce autonomy into our sector. As he told us later “Autonomy, rather than control, is essential in education”. This is as uncomfortable an idea for institutions as it is for the individual. Control is something we desire (if not need), whereas autonomy can often be disquieting. However, some claim, control is an illusion anyway, so we might as well move away from trying to control our learners and allow them their autonomy.

I agree with many of Stephen’s principles, even if I do so at my peril (i.e. by sort of wishing the hand that feeds me would whither and die). Wouldn’t an anarchic utopia be fun? Yes it would. Will it happen? Not any time soon. Still I applaud Stephen for demanding it.

But I don’t agree with everything he claimed. Take his starting assertion that “pretty much anything works better than the traditional lecture method” – it’s neither true nor very scandalous. (But it is a standard opening in ed talks these days.) I learnt a lot from Stephen Downes’ lecture yesterday, and I know that discussing an article or blog post of his instead would not have worked better; it would have worked worse. Naturally, he addressed the irony of him lecturing (a full 90 mins!), but suggested that the lecture itself was secondary to its becoming  a resource to be shared. Yet my engagement was greatest at the actual time of listening, and throughout I wished I had been in the room with others. Yes, I agree that his lecture was “about creating the opportunity for dialogue and interaction” and that it served this purpose well. But surely this is what all lectures (can) do. No one working in education seriously believes that learning is about remembering, about recall. Yes, assessment practice tends to reward recall, and thus it places value on it, but this is what is fundamentally wrong about assessment practice, it is not evidence that we think learning is recall. Call the paradox a logical error, do not extrapolate that it shows a greater truth about our values.

Secondly, at some point I started to wonder if Downes equated learning too much with reliance on resources. Resources (and tools to create and share these) are central to his connectivist MOOC, as are the connections between learners and the conversations they have. But I missed a closer inspection of that elusive thing, ‘learning’. Sure, he reminded us: “content is only the MacGuffin” (think Maltese Falcon), there to move the conversations and relationships along, and he insisted that “learning is the conversations that happen’ – but this is not quite clear or useful enough for me. Learning cannot all be conversation, and often it benefits from leadership too. Autonomy and self-organisation are all well and good, but I’ve overheard serious conversations so dumb they’d blow your socks off, and they could have benefited from an expert gently pointing out that what had just been discussed was a) factually wrong and b) badly argued. But where does such expertise come from in self-organising networks? Also, in Downes’ self-organising networks, won’t the “filter bubble” prevent networks from being properly diverse? Won’t these self-selected online communities, be obstructed from benefiting from ethnically, socio-economically, politically different perspectives?

Finally, I am skeptical about his over reliance on technology. I tweeted a question to that effect, and he did his best to answer, but he thought I was worried only about “what happens when the lights go out” and reassured me that there are bigger threats (authoritarianism, big corporations – I know that, they too are technological systems!) than running out of fossil fuels. Rather, I meant to ask what effect our over-reliance on technology might have on our way of being: our relationships, attitudes and social behaviours. I don’t share Downes’ optimism about technology. I think it is important to evaluate our use of it critically at all times, and question its proliferation, especially in education. I imagine Downes doesn’t disagree with proper critical questioning, but I nevertheless suspect that he thinks technology overall is a boon.

And that’s fair enough.


Posted by: Posted on by Sonja Grussendorf Tagged with: , , , ,

Jul 1 2014

Launching our new seminar series: NetworkEDGE

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NetworkEDGE: The Future of Education is a new seminar series organised by CLT. Building on the impact and success of NetworkED, are are launching a landmark series of talks and debates about the future of Higher Education called NetworkEDGE.

Our first speaker is Stephen Downes works for the National Research Council of Canada. He has been a Senior Researcher since 2001. Stephen will present his thoughts and insights on the future of Higher Education. Being widely recognized to have taught (with George Siemens) the first Connectivist MOOC, Stephen has long been a distinct voice in the field of technology and pedagogy. His blog OLDaily, is the sector’s go-to site for considered and critical musings about the use of computers and the web in education.

To book a place to attend the seminar at LSE visit LSE online booking system. External guests are very welcome and should email Niamh Ryan to book a place. We will also be live streaming and recording the event which will start at 3pm BST.

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker

Jun 23 2014

How do the new copyright exceptions affect you?

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You may have heard in the news that new copyright exceptions came into force in the UK on the 1st June 2014. At LSE I have been trying to keep staff up to date with the changes and what they mean for teaching, learning and research and with this in mind I have drafted a set of guidelines. However, I thought I would take the opportunity to highlight a few of the new amendments – which are mainly changes to copyright exceptions, and what they mean in practice.

The changes around educational copying are probably of most interest to those of us in higher education. Section 32 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act had an outdated (some might say ludicrous) clause that permitted educational copying provided a ‘reprographic process’ was not used. This ruled out any form of photocopying or scanning for teaching and meant essentially you had to rely on your Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Licence or write things out in long hand! The new exception means you can display material on interactive whiteboards (or on the VLE) provided you must include a sufficient acknowledgment – essentially it sanctions what a lot of teachers were probably doing already. However, this exception is subject to ‘fair dealing’ so you should stick to a small amount of the work and the material you use must be illustrative of a subject you are teaching. It certainly broadens the scope for including third party material in teaching (for example in PowerPoint or on Moodle) for illustrative purposes, but a teacher will need to judge what constitutes ‘fair’. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker

Jun 12 2014

Linking to Library Catalogue records from Moodle – important news

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LSE Library will be launching its new resource discovery system on the 1 August, which will upgrade the Summon and Catalogue search tools. The new search system will provide all Library users with a simple, single point of access for searching, discovering and accessing all of the Library’s content. However as part of this move the URLs of all Library catalogue records will be changing.

If you maintain your reading list via the Reading Lists @ LSE system then links to Library resources will be updated automatically and you won’t need to do anything.

If you aren’t using Reading Lists @ LSE, and instead have embedded links to the Library catalogue directly into a Moodle page, or hyperlinked from a Word document or PDF, those links will break when the new discovery system is launched. This means that after the 1st August you will need to update any existing links manually.

Links to journal articles using stable URLs (or DOIs) will not be affected.

If you’re not already using Reading Lists @ LSE and would like to take advantage of this useful and intuitive editing tool before the switchover, please contact your Academic Support Librarian – the Library has been carrying out a conversion project over the last couple of years, so a version of your list may already have been set up for you in the system. The Library can arrange a short desktop training session to show you how to edit and maintain lists, and you can discover the basics through this short screencast.

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker

Jun 10 2014

Collaborate and connect: event for LSE research students

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On Tuesday 17th June LSE Library and Centre for Learning Technology are hosting an informal networking event for research students. It will start from 6pm and be held  in the Sixth floor Bar / Terrace of the Saw Swee Hock Building. We will be offering free drinks and canapés and have information available about the support on offer.

It will be a chance to meet colleagues, make new connections with PhD researchers at LSE. This informal event is also a chance to find out about some of the research support services offered by the Library and Centre for Learning Technology and to network with PhD students across the School. A limited number of tickets are available for this exciting event organised in collaboration with the Students’ Union. Book here to secure your place: http://www.lsesu.com/ents/event/2804/

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker

Jun 9 2014

Cursive or keyboard? Is note-taking the issue here, or pedagogy?


Recently, Mueller and Oppenheimer (1) published an interesting paper in the journal Contemporary Educational Psychology titled The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. In the abstract of the paper, Mueller and Oppenheimer, claim:

We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

What was concerning, however, was the final sentence of the paper which said:

For that reason, laptop use in classrooms should be viewed with a healthy dose of caution; despite their growing popularity, laptops may be doing more harm in classrooms than good.

While the study showed that there was improved memory retention and test scores through longhand note-taking, it seemed a little strong to conclude that “laptops may be doing more harm than good” in classrooms. There are practical reasons why student device ownership and use in classrooms has increased in recent years, and what is lost in this statement, are the benefits laptops and other devices offer to students, and why they’re used in lectures and seminars in the first place.

Not all note-takers are created equal

Note-taking is a fundamental part of students’ learning experience at university. In their paper, Mueller and Oppenheimer have a point that making more notes doesn’t mean making better notes and mindless verbatim note-taking does little to reinforce concepts. Indeed, they allude to an interesting argument that handwritten notes may involve more cognitive processes, allowing concepts to better embed themselves into memory, leading to an improvement in conceptual learning from lectures.

However, note-taking as a skill is rarely ever taught, and students are expected to know how to take notes in a lecture format, which, to many undergraduate students in particular, is an alien concept coming from classroom environments. Longhand note-taking is particularly problematic for students with neurodiverse conditions and learning disabilities. Williams (2) found that 56.4% of students with learning disabilities out of a cohort of 642 students were unable to take notes during live lectures, and technical solutions such as laptops can be a lifeline to these students to be able to better interact with lecture and class materials.

Indeed, Bring-your-own-device (or BYOD), particularly laptops, amongst students are almost ubiquitous, with 99% of LSE students reporting to own at least a laptop, and 62% of students willing to use laptops during class (3). Some of the reasons why students use laptops in lectures to take notes is that longhand notes don’t have the durability of typed notes, which can be standardised through font, magnified, highlighted and edited for greater legibility, printed, stored and accessed in multiple places using free and easily accessible services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

"I can't even read my own notes!" - Image by  Susan Ssebatindira (2014)

Legibility of longhand notes can be an issue – Image by Susan Ssebatindira (2014)

Typed notes are also more easily shared and remixed amongst peers using email, social media, Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) etc. Digital notes can be directly linked to lecture slides, lecture recordings, related journal articles, blogs, media images and videos, all of which can not only help contextualise the notes, but also expand their scope by bringing in resources outside of the lecture theatre.

Even in today’s hyper-connected world with students having almost ubiquitous access to laptops, smartphones and the internet, students will still make notes by hand out of for a number of reasons, including preference. But, there doesn’t need to be a dichotomy between typing and writing, as solutions exist which bridge the gap between digital and longhand note-taking. Tablets and smartphones now offer several apps which allow handwritten notations to be made on digital documents for free or a nominal cost. Apps, such as Paper for the iPad, also allow students to create drawings and charts, which could be stored in cloud services and shared with peers through some of the media mentioned above.

Is note-taking really the issue here?

Perhaps, the point here is not that note-taking is better done by hand, but perhaps that student practices are changing as devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones offer significant functionalities in lectures and classrooms which may not fully utilised by the pedagogical models used in lectures. Students not paying attention and not making effective notes is by no means a new concept, as any teacher throughout the ages would testify.

medieval lecture

The lecture is an ancient method of teaching, and students not paying attention is not a new phenomenon. Perhaps it’s the passive nature of the lecture which drives students to distraction rather than the device itself?
Sourced under Creative Commons license from The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

Students that are interested and engaged in the lecture material are less likely to drift off, whether it’s by doodling on their notepads or checking their Facebook feed. What these powerful tools in students’ backpacks and pockets offer is the potential to go beyond passive note-taking, and in to active, connective learning.  Therefore, instead of banishing laptops and devices from lecture theatres, lecturers could think about using their students’ connectedness to their advantage, by getting students to use laptops and other devices to better interact with course materials and play around with concepts, rather than passively absorb what the lecturer says over a period of several hours.


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(1) Mueller, P.A., Oppenheimer, D.M. 2014. The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard. Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science 23;25(6): Pp. 1159-1168

(2) Williams, J., 2006. The Lectopia service and students with disabilities. In Proceedings of the 23rd annual ascilite conference: Who’s learning? Whose technology? Ascilite 2006. The University of Sydney. Sydney, pp. 881–884.

(3) Grussendorf, Sonja (2013) Device ownership, ‘BYOD’ & social media for learning. Centre for Learning Technology (CLT), The London School of Economics and Political Science, London.

Posted by: Posted on by Arun Karnad Tagged with: ,

May 21 2014

Conference round-up: learning development and information literacy

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I’ve been to two conferences in the last month that I thought I would share with readers of our blog some of the highlights. At both conferences I was presenting as well as attending, sharing some of the work we’re doing at LSE. Before Easter I presented at the Association of Learning Developers in Higher Education (ALDinHE) conference in Huddersfield. Learner Developers are what you once might have called ‘study skills tutors’ who help students with reading, writing and academic practice and in the digital age technology plays an increasing role. You can read my longer blog post about this event, but a highlight was a chance to hear Etienne Wenger-Trayner’s keynote. He created the term ‘Community of Practice’ which is a theory of social learning developed by studying apprentices and how they learn as much from their peers as from their mentor. There were a lot of papers around the theme of digital literacies and it was great to share our experiences of the SADL project at LSE. I also really enjoyed a workshop where we got to design our ideal learning space for students, which was a little like the activity we did earlier this week at the IMT Staff day.

The other conference that I attended was the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC) straight after Easter, which was held at Sheffield Hallam University. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker

May 15 2014

Learning Technology Innovation Grants: Summer Term

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We are extending the deadline for the Learning Technology Innovation Grants this term until Monday 19th May at 5pm.

This fund can be used for a variety of learning technology developments. We are looking to attract academics who are interested in teaching innovations. We are particularly interested in the following areas:

  • The use of video and multimedia in teaching
  • Using technologies to innovate assessment and feedback practices
  • Changing your classroom teaching
  • Developing digital literacies

Find out more from the LTIG webpage or get in touch with clt-support@lse.ac.uk if you have any queries.

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker