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Category Archives: UK Physical Sciences Centre

Another packed programme of presentations this year, here are the highlights of some of them:

Ifan Hughes (Durham) spoke about the use of interactive screen experiments and the role of pre-lab tasks to increase the efficacy of the time students spend in laboratories.

Steve Hanson from the Centre revealed some preliminary findings from the soon to be published data on graduate skills in physics, based on detailed interviews with new graduates from around the UK (there will also be corresponding data published on chemistry and forensic science.)

Simon Bates (Edinburgh) reported on the shift there from years of recruiting undergraduates to now being able to select students and the challenges this has brought.

Vijay Tymms (Imperial) looked at whether repeated testing (at school) was leading to a shift from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation in students.

Fredrick Floether (Cambridge), our Student Award winner, spoke about his experiences as an undergraduate. He noted the movement towards documents existing only in electronic form (and the possible advantages of this), more use of animations and use of mobile devices. He noted the increase in online learning, the encouragement of students to take learning into their own hands and increasing interdisciplinary nature of science courses. Also highlighted was the increasing internationalisation of higher education, with students flowing in more directions around the globe in pursuit of their education but also the possible bifucation of students into those who attend a campus and those who teach themselves from online resources.

Dick Bacon from the Centre introduced the new adaptive questions that are now available in Question Bank with a call to try them and perhaps submit more to the collection.

Ross Galloway (Edinburgh) spoke about work with students whose coursework scores were significantly higher than their exam scores. These tended to be students whose qualifications were non-UK and who had taken a gap year, and interviews had shown that they had unrealistic ideas about exam preparation and the time it would take. Interesting, merely interviewing students about this appeared to have the effect of improving their subsequent exam performance, though no other intervention had been made.

Sally Jordan (OU) presented details of work on computer assessment of short-answer questions. She emphasised the importance of modeling answers on the real answers of students, rather than those of staff who answer questions differently. The unintended consequence of this has been the greater understanding of the ways students interpret questions which has been used to improve question.

Ross Galloway (Edinburgh) held a workshop on data handling skills. Discussion amongst the participants revealed the following:  teaching such skills tends to be concentrated in the early years and it is hard to convince  students are they should do some data analysis during the experiment as they would rather do it afterwards once the experiment is complete. At Edinburgh it was found that once teaching data handling skills stopped, improvement stopped also; students appeared not to pick up skills without support.

Robert Francis (NTU) detailed an archeo-astronomy project that was being used with school and university groups. A virtual field trip was built to enable pupils/students to be able to make the most of their field work.

Marialuisa Aliotta (Edinburgh) reported on the use of scoring rubrics, use of which students felt led to reduced variation and fairing marking.

Lynn Moran (Liverpool) spoke about outreach work which had grown from an informal grouping of students and had worked on tackling negative views of science.

This is an annual event organised by the Centre for new and aspiring lecturers from all the physical sciences. Attendees this year had various levels of previous experience and came from a range of HEIs across the UK.

As well as being there to tell attendees more about the Centre and what we could do for them, I gave a very short presentation on web 2.0 tools and some simple examples of how they might be used in higher education, for themselves and for their students.

Having covered the same material last year I was interested to find that this year’s attendees had a significantly greater awareness of social software and could name specific examples of tools that were available; some were using them at least for their own development or collaboration between colleagues.

For those still finding their way around, the Centre offers examples of RSS feeds from the Centre’s website to which visitors can subscribe, the Centre’s Twitter feed and an account on Delicious.

The talk itself (including an image located through the CC search on Flickr) was posted on SlideShare and a list of all the references from the talk were posted to a list on Diigo.

Darren Mundy (Hull) gave us an introduction and his ideas of what differentiates web 2.0 from what has gone before, reminding us that Tim Berners-Lee always saw the web as a place to share but that perhaps this aspect is just greatly enhanced in a web 2.0 world. Observing that students may now possess the greater ability when it comes to technology in the classroom, what does that do to the position of the lecturer, how should they react? If students use the social web how can this be harnessed for teaching and learning?

Mark van Harmelen (Manchester) suggested that what defines web 2.0 is its emphasis on creating and sharing content. Nevertheless, the vast majority of web users would be passive with only a small percentage creating content or actively contributing towards it. He went on to talk about the fusing of the social and technical spheres within web 2.0 where the two could no longer be divided. Web 2.0 gives opportunities to work collaboratively and become more involved in their learning: ‘felt involved in a course for the first time’ was a telling student quote. A response to an audience question was that many web 2.0 tools were increasingly accessible to all practitioners, needing little or no technical expertise.

Science specific examples of web 2.0 use in higher education were provided by presentations from Nick Greeves of Liverpool and Clare Sansom of Birbeck.

Robert Consoli spoke about his HullUniLecturer project on YouTube. Of particular note was the institutional reaction to liability which acts as a cautionary tale for anyone contemplating similar work.

Steve Wheeler (Plymouth) challenged us with the idea that education needed to be transformed, examining the structure of post industrial revolution education and its need to fit children to their future in the world of work. Students today would not be entering the same world, yet the structure of education largely has not changed. The contrast was made between taxonomies and folksonomies, the blog and the wiki. Though students would use wikis within the classroom there was reluctance to use them outside; take-up required scaffolding and a critical mass of, but not too many, participants (lest cliques form).

Mark van Harmelen returned to give an overview of tips for using a range of web 2.0 tools including Delicious, GoogleDocs, GoogleReader, MediaWiki, Flickr, Skype and DimDim.

Darren Mundy returned to talk about the Wild Project, a initiative to network large groups through mobile technology.

Tweets associated with the event: http://search.twitter.com./search?q=heapsc

Event webpage (with the presentations that speakers have permitted the Centre to host): http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/physsci/events/detail/2009/making_web2_work_for_you

This event was organised partly based on the success of a previous event on the use of technology in education. Yes, you see those comments you leave on feedback forms really do count!