Friday, 24 February 2012

Using Flickr to share images

Last week a student asked me if there was any central repository of images of the University (buildings, lecture theatres, labs, etc) that can be reused and embedded into coursework. I'm not sure if there is, so thought we could start one ourselves, which would help them, but also help many other students. It might also educate them a little around issues to do with copyright, and in particular, the Creative Commons licenses (I've done a separate post about CC here).

So Flickr has many facets: Sets, Groups, Gallaries, etc. I have opted to create a Public Group (although you can have different permissions, such as 'invite-only groups' if you want something a little more private), and I am the lead Moderator and Administrator for the group - if needed, it's easy enough to give other people Moderator access as well.

Students can easily join the group - Multimedia @ MMU - from the group page: (the URL is customisable). Once part of the group, members can then upload their own photographs to the 'Group Pool'.


I have then used FlickrSlidr, a simple 3rd party tool to embed a slideshow of the images into my Moodle area. All in all, it took me about 45 minutes, and that included researching the different aspects of Flickr as I'm not really a power user! Take a look at the slideshow below - bare in mind it's only just been created, so will hopefully start to develop over the next few weeks.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

I mentioned the Creative Commons licenses above - they are gaining increasing attention with the significant investment into Open Education Resources across the sector (but that's a separate post). I took a short time in class to introduce the concept of Creative Commons to students, and encouraged students to make the Creative Commons Attribution license the default for photographs they upload to Flickr (can be applied from their account preferences). This means they can be searched for from Flickr's dedicated Commons pages, and can be reused by anyone, as long as they attribute the original author.

I'm happy for other staff/students to join the group and participate in building or reusing the images we generate, and of course if you're interested in implementing this yourself, I'm happy to lend a hand.

Are you doing anything interesting related to sharing images or any other works amongst students? If so, leave a comment.

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

An intro to the Creative Commons licenses

As Steve Wheeler suggests, people think that because the Web is open, everything within it is available to reuse for free, but it's not. Copyright is a really difficult concept to fully understand, however the Creative Commons licenses make things a little easier for us lay-people.

The Creative Commons licenses (also part of a Copyleft movement) were introduced to support the sharing and 'remixing' of creative works (images, video, educational content, music, etc). Sites like YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia and Vimeo encourage Creative Commons licensing - meaning there are now millions of assets licensed using the 4 key principles of Creative Commons;
  • Attribution - you must acknowledge the original author
  • Share-Alike - if you want to share a remixed version, it must equal the original license
  • No-Derivatives - content can be reused 'as is', but cannot be broken down or remixed
  • Non Commercial - cannot be used for commercial gain (Education use doesn't count as commercial here)
The Principles can be put together to maintain more control over works, i.e content that cannot be used for commercial gain and cannot be edited or remixed; or authors can be more relaxed by simply using the Attribution principle alone.

It's probably fair to say the Creative Commons has both supported the development, whilst being generative of, the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement. This has resulted in a wealth of educational resources that can be freely reused or remixed. The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the HEA have funded a range of projects to stimulate the development of OER, which in turn has enhanced Jorum - a UK repository for teaching and learning content (licensed with Creative Commons). It is through such funded projects (JISC ReProduce Programme) that I first became involved with OER and learned more about the Creative Commons.

So how might it help you? 

Even with the strictest of licenses, you can reuse the content for free in your teaching, as long as you attribute the original author. More often than not, you can download the content and upload (or link) from your Moodle units.

It's possible to search for CC licensed objects from;
  • The Creative Commons Search page (obviously), and...
  • Google's Advanced Search option includes filtering to allow searching for objects licensed by Creative Commons (including  images). The short video below runs through the steps of using Google Advanced Search (the video itself is of course licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC-BY)). 

Other well known (content-based) sites support Creative Commons by making whole courses available for reuse, such as;
More recent start-ups such as Khan Academy also include a wealth of videos (and other materials) under categories of Math, Science (inc. Comp Science) and Humanities. Furthermore, Flickr have a dedicated area for searching for Creative Commons images - something I have been introducing to my students recently.

Watch out for the Creative Commons and Open Education, they are both growing!!!

More locally to MMU, we have Equella - a digital repository to house teaching and learning content. To engage in sharing across the University, this could provide an interesting platform, as it is searchable. If you are interested, please do get in touch.

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Critiquing Mayer's Multimedia Learning...

'Instructional development is too often based on what computers can do rather than on a research-based theory of how students learn with technology’

The quote above comes from Richard Mayer discussing Multimedia Learning: someone widely cited in eLearning publications, and whose work I have wanted to read in more depth for a long time. Having done so in recent weeks, I have had various thoughts about his Multimedia Learning and Generative Theory....

Some background info

Mayer advocates cognitive approaches to learning, and identifies Dual Channels for information processing in humans - a visual channel (to process images, animations, etc) and a verbal channel (to process written and spoken words, etc). The cognitive phases Select information for processing by the dual channels; Organise verbal and visual representations; and finally Integrates, or builds connections between verbal and pictorial models with prior knowledge.

His research supports this notion, suggesting targeting both channels can increase learning (defined as applying creative solutions to problem solving) by 50%. In developing multimedia resources for learners, Mayer suggests three critical principles for reducing cognitive load, assisting human's limited capacity for information processing, and to encourage effective learning and knowledge construction:

Spatial contiguity: learning is more effective when words and images are presented closer together
Temporal contiguity: learning is more effective when words and pictures are presented simultaneously
Modality contiguity: learning is more effective when verbal information is presented auditory with pictures, over text with pictures. However, if there are no images/animations, text with audio narration can still target the dual channels.

This is certainly interesting for anyone developing online/multimedia learning materials, and something I will personally consider more thoughtfully. However.....

Concern 1: Classroom teaching 

In 'The Promise of Multimedia Learning', Mayer alludes that multimedia learning is more effective than learning within a classroom, suggesting it is a 'single-medium' presentation; that is, relying solely on words - the verbal channel.

However, I can't help but feel this is a misguided representation on classroom learning - it doesn't account for the variety of innovative approaches that can be utilised within the classroom. Social, experiential, problem based, and technology-enhanced approaches can all make for effective learning experiences within the classroom. For example, in learning the workings of a bicycle pump, Mayer suggests descriptive images/animations supported with audio is most effective, but doesn't consider the potential learning experiences if students could actually use the pump in real life, and dismantle it to see the inner workings.

Whilst I advocate the multimedia approaches, I think it is important educators don't get carried away with suggestions like this, and do actually challenge pre-existing presumptions of student learning. For as great as it is, multimedia (and eLearning in general) is not a panacea or answer to solve every learner's problems!

Concern 2: Learning in isolation

Such Multimedia 'packages' suggest we learn in isolation i.e alone. Does Mayer recognise the importance and potential of social learning? Or does he refute it? Embedding such content within a VLE can offer a range of social possibilities through the use of discussion forums, chat and web conferencing, to share experience and help construct knowledge and meaning.

Concern 3: Subject matter

Mayer suggests;
‘Contiguous presentation of visual and verbal material may be most important when the material is a cause-and-effect explanation of a simple system, when the learners are inexperienced, and when the goal is meaningful learning’
So this therefore raises questions of transferability. Will following his principles for other situations, such as learning about 19th century literature, produce the same outputs? What if there are no cause-and-effect explanations to draw upon?

Concern 4: Freedom

In Clarke and Mayer (2011), the authors suggest;
"Because the metaphor of the Internet is high learner control, allowing learners to search, locate, and peruse thousands of Internet sites, a tempting pitfall is to create highly exploratory learning environments that give learners an unrestricted license to navigate and piece together their own unique learning experiences. One lesson we have learned from over fifty years of research on discovery learning is that it rarely works."

But this flies in the face of much of the current thinking around encouraging learners to search, find, review and select appropriate information. Michael Wesch is a popular figure advocating such skills, and a diverse bank of research into tools such as Second Life and digital literacies would equally encourage such discovery approaches.

Should we spoon-feed our students or provide a structure to enable them to solve problems and find certain things out for themselves? They won't be spoon fed in the world of work, so failing to prepare them here, is preparing them to fail in the real world!


I think the essence of Mayer's work stands true, and does have a place in education today. For example, I see the development of reusable learning objects as a clear area that could benefit from insight into Mayer's research, taking note of contiguity effects to reduce cognitive load. However ultimately, these objects might be repurposed and placed alongside other materials and activities to encourage a more holistic learning experience.

In relation to RLOs (and that will take it's own post completely at some point), Windle et. al (2011) suggests learners value self-assessment; self paced learning; and use for revision of 'difficult' areas - together then, we can obtain a clear picture or framework for developing reusable content.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the above, so please get in touch either in the comments, by email or on twitter.

Peter (@reedyreedles)


Mayer, R. E., & Gallini, J. K. (1990) When is an illustration worth ten thousand words? Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 715-726. doi:10.1037//0022-0663.82.4.715

Mayer, R. E. (1997) Multimedia Learning : Are We Asking the Right Questions ? Educational Psychology, 32(1), 1-19.

Mayer, R. E. (2003) The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media. Learning and Instruction, 13(2), 125-139. doi:10.1016/S0959-4752(02)00016-6

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003) Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning. Psychology, 38(1), 43-52.

Windle, R. J., McCormick, D., Dandrea, J., & Wharrad, H. (2011). The characteristics of reusable learning objects that enhance learning: A case-study in health-science education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5), 811-823. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01108.x

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Getting the most out of Moodle

Moodle has a myriad of tools available that can help you do things more efficiently and effectively. In this post I hope to give you a taste as to how I have used Moodle to aid in some day-to-day activities for the units I teach on....

On a basic level, I have used the Week 0 area to include contact details for staff and a brief introduction to the unit. Within each week, I write a short paragraph to introduce the topic, and make materials (ppt slides, lab sheets, book chapters and web links) available under Labels for 'Resources to accompany the Lecture', Resources to accompany the Lab Session', and 'Further Reading'.

Further to that though, Moodle can help in lots of ways:


Announcements are a great way to post a message to all staff and students on a unit, with the added benefit of sending the message as an email for those users who don't log into Moodle every day. I have used this to remind students of deadlines, inform them of tutorial availability, and give notice of room changes.


Delivering larger files to students, such as Screencasts, can often be difficult due to file-sizes, etc. Equella - the Institutional Repository ( - enables us to store the files outside of Moodle, which saves space in Moodle and allows the video (screencast) to play automatically when students click on the link.


Also, as we can easily edit the HTML content within a Label, I have taken the embed code from the likes of YouTube and Adobe TV to make short videos available to students without leaving Moodle.


The coursework for one unit is a group-based assignment, requiring students to apply for a particular role within a group. We made sample Job Descriptions available for students and required them to submit their 'application' through the Assignment Tool (Advanced Uploading of Files).
I have also used this tool to receive coursework (part 1) submissions, return a feedback sheet and apply a Grade.

Group Forums

Having processed the applications, we placed students into Groups, and created Group Forums to allow them to communicate, plan group meetings and share progress, etc. There are also class forums encouraging students to reflect on content and share thoughts and opinions with the wider group.

Sign-up Sheets (Choice Activity)

We have followed the groupwork up by holding group tutorials to review progress and discuss any issues, etc. Groups were required to review available slots, and Team Leaders sign up to their preferred slot using the Choice Activity tool. This enabled me to provide a number of options (day/time slots) and limit the response to 1, to ensure we don't have any double bookings.


In another unit, I have implemented a short formative Quiz to test knowledge of some of the basic features of Adobe Flash. I found that the various question types, as well as providing further information through images, helped liven up the quiz.

What about you?

I have only mentioned a few of the Moodle tools. What tools are you using (or would like to use) in order to make things easier or enhance learning and teaching?

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Linking (digital) Literacies

Recently I've been thinking about a couple of issues that are somewhat interrelated, so thought the best way to clarify my thinking was to blog and try to link the thoughts together...

With the talk of introducing computer science in schools, there has been the argument that we should be developing learners' digital literacy skills either as well as, or instead of, hard programming skills, etc - after all, and as Josie Fraser articulately suggests, Computer Science is not Digital Literacy. Doug Belshaw continues in a similar vein suggesting we 'Resurrect Computer Science, but don't kill off ICT'.

With the talk of Digital Literacy fresh in mind, I revisited Guy Claxton's (2007) article in the British Journal of Educational Studies - 'Expanding young people's capacity to learn'. Claxton suggests 'learning to learn' is a primary aim of education, and quotes the likes of Sir Richard Livingstone (1941) in that;
"The test of successful education is not the amount of knowledge that pupils take away from school, but their appetite to know and their capacity to learn".
Livingstone's premise is inexorably intertwined with Sarah Knight's take on digital literacy - "those capabilities that equip an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society". Similarly, Steve Wheeler suggests we redesign learning in a digital world, encouraging transferrable skills such as 'adaptability, change management, creative problem solving, collaboration and a range of digital literacies that will enable them (learners) to meet any challenges head on'.

So far, we're all singing from the same hymn sheet, right?

Now, of the various blogs and articles, Helen Beetham's post 'Design or be Designed For' is one of the few to link learners' (digital) literacies with those of the teachers, suggesting it is (or at least should be) an integral aspect of their professionalism. After all, with the talk of developing digital literacies in pupils/students, it must surely require a certain prerequisite of such skills within/of/by the teacher.

What's important here, is that I don't believe these digital literacies should be packaged into Computer Science or ICT classes alone, but rather embedded as 'epistemic culture change', i.e. discussed, understood, and systemically strengthened (or infused) throughout the education system, and as an integral part of all subjects.

So exactly what skills/competencies (or whatever other word one might apply) would be required on the part of all teaching staff then?

My thoughts on this took me back to the controversial debate that won Edublog'a Most Influential post of 2007 by Karl Fisch - Is it ok to be a technologically illiterate teacher? Fisch hits the nail on the head by suggesting;
In order to teach it, we have to do it. How can we teach this to kids, how can we model it, if we aren’t literate ourselves? You need to experience this, you need to explore right along with your students. You need to experience the tools they’ll be using in the 21st century, developing your own networks in parallel with your students. You need to demonstrate continual learning, lifelong learning – for your students, or you will continue to teach your students how to be successful in an age that no longer exists.
Indeed there is something very 'Ken Robinson' about this statement, but nevertheless on point. Given that roughly 90% of UK jobs require some IT competency, teachers should not only be 'digitally literate' (whatever that may mean), but also practice effective use of technology in their teaching.

So what should all teachers 'know'? What should all teachers be able to 'do'? And do you agree with Fisch's most controversial statement;
'If a teacher today is not technologically literate - and is unwilling to make the effort to learn more - it's equivalent to a teacher 30 years ago who didn't know how to read and write'.
Answers on a postcard (or in the comments to the post)...

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Technology Enhanced Learning Workshops

To date, most of the training sessions have been focussed around the technical aspects of how to do certain things in Moodle. Whilst there is an ongoing requirement for such training, many staff are ready to move beyond the basics and consider specific pedagogical approaches. For example, my recent blog post on 'The Flipped Classroom' (link) discusses an interesting approach to delivering the 'chalk and talk' elements online, freeing up time for more collaborative work in class.

To this end then, whilst some sessions will retain their 'procedural' elements, some will also be more thought provoking and attempt to apply theory and research to practice.
You can book your place on any of the sessions using the Eventbrite booking system below. If the dates are not convenient please let me know the sessions you would be interested in attending, and I would be happy to run them again. Also, if course teams are interesting in specific topics, I would love to help!

The next block of sessions include;

Basic Moodle Training - ideal for new staff or for those that just want to recap on the basic workings of Moodle. This session will reinforce some of the good practice elements we have looked at in other sessions.
When: 15th February, 12-1pm

Online Submission and Marking using Turnitin - many staff are keen to use Turnitin to create 'originality reports' for student assignments, but did you know you can use the Grademark features to actually leave feedback and grades online? This session will cover all of these aspects and will be of interest to any staff looking to implement online submission in their units.
When: 16th February, 12-1pm

Using Multimedia Resources in Teaching and Learning - Introducing multimedia resources can serve a number of objectives. Not only can it more suitably cater to different learning styles in the VARK spectrum, it can be used strategically to deliver instructive materials online, freeing up time in class (as discussed in the post about the Flipped Classroom). Furthermore, the use of video clips, screencasts and podcasts can provide a much-needed source for students to revisit in order to refresh and clarify understanding.
This session will discuss the various options available, including the services available openly on the web as well as those 'in-house', and provide the basis for specific one-to-one support to develop multimedia materials.
When: 21st February, 1-2pm

Introducing Online Social Constructivism using Discussion Forums -  the general accepted model of learning in contemporary education is based on social theories (Vygotsky), whereby the development of knowledge and understanding is most effective by reflecting on course content and personal experiences, and by sharing this and reflecting on the experience and understanding of others.
This session will consider how we can utilise discussion forums in Moodle to encourage student collaboration and cooperation in the online space.
When: 22nd February, 12-1pm

Using Quizzes for Formative and Summative Assessment - For some time, staff have been implementing online quizzes as both formative and summative assessment. This session is of interest to anybody looking to introduce these quizzes in their units, and will cover the basics of building a database of questions and randomly adding a number of questions to a quiz. We will also cover pre-requisites for setting up summative online quizzes.
When: 1st March, 12-1pm

Encouraging Reflection through the use of Blogs - reflecting upon topics is a great way for learners to personalise and 'internalise' concepts. Dedicated reflective activities using blogs can be a great development opportunity for learners and can even provide the basis for an ePortfolio.
This session will introduce models for reflective practice and introduce the technical aspects of creating a blog.
When: 7th March, 12-1pm

Introducing the concept of Open Education Resources - In recent years the HEA and JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) have funded a number of projects to stimulate participation in the Open Education 'movement'. Academic staff often share resources informally amongst colleagues, whether that be full powerpoint slides or a video of a procedure. The OER movement encourages staff to make these resources available openly for academics and learners across the world through specific repositories.
This session will introduce the concept of OER, and identify some of the leaders in the movement, such as the Open University and MIT, as well as websites/repositories for staff to find reusable content in their teaching.
When: 13th March, 1-2pm

Please note: all sessions will be held in room C1:01.

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.