Mahara: No longer good enough

Portfolio based assessments are a staple in my classes: I design courses so that students build material over the whole course for collection and submission at the end.  I should probably use a ePortfolio tool to support that, but not even Mahara, easily the best of them, is good enough. Why?  it lacks three key features – group export, export to pdf and  capturing bibliographic metadata. Continue reading

Persistent Personal Learning Archives

Digitally archiving most of your learning activity is now possible, which means you can share it later, out of context. As an example of how this might be problematic, suppose you present in an interview a short video clip of a classroom discussion on a controversial topic in which you demonstrate excellence and I appear to be incompetent or immoral – and I happen to be the next candidate facing that interview board.

This is now a plausible scenario, whereas a decade ago it was impossible. The transformation in digital media over the past decade has radically changed things which we formerly took for granted. I’m discussing this in my paper at PLEConf14 next week, but I wanted to bring out the central assumption here – that learners can create Persistent Personal  Learning Archives. Continue reading

Stiviano, Sterling, and personal archivists in the digital age

The enormous financial repercussions of the leaking of a recording of  Donald Sterling, made by mutual agreement by his archivist, Vanessa Stiviano brings the issue of archiving and privacy to the headlines again.  The idea that someone might have a personal archivist might seem odd to most of us, but Sterling would not be the first billionaire with a long and controversial past who felt   it was time to start gather a record of his life. Continue reading

Why I never set essays anymore

Burning plagiarising students at the stake seems to be a major focus of the academic world these days, and I written about that elsewhere previously on this blog. In passing, I said I would discuss how I create assessments which are mostly proof against plagiarism.

Creating assessments based on learning outcomes is a mugs game – all you are assessing is the outcome, but not the process, and students will find a way to shortcut to the outcome. Academics assume that  an essay or paper of a specific length, with proper references based on assigned readings is a good measure of student learning. Continue reading

Culture, identity, ethics and knowledge creation in Social Media

Identity is a major research issue in the humanities – one might say that the nature of who we are, what it means to be human, is a fundamental question for the humanities. Increasing, social media has come to play an important part how we shape our identity and how we interact with other people’s identities in our daily lives. With the growing awareness of the importance of social learning, knowledge construction in social media is also an interesting research area. There are several problems for the humanities scholar venturing into research using social media – speed and ethics – which interact. Continue reading

More plagiarism BS

Academic Plagiarism, and specifically the success of Turnitin, is once more in the news – and ‘Frankly, my dear, I couldn’t give a damn.’  I don’t care much about plagiarism, most of my assessments are designed in a way that makes them very difficult to plagiarise, and I mainly use Turnitin to manage digital submissions and grading (although I’ve moved to using pdfs on my iPad for grading and feedback). I design assignments  and grade for ‘evidence of a mind at work’ Continue reading

Mobile writing

Moving to working on mobile devices, and for serious work this means a full sized tablet, is not something you can do overnight, and if you try you will be disappointed. Since I got an iPad, I considered and resisted the idea of buying a Bluetooth keyboard. I convinced myself that the logic of the mobile working was to learn to use the iOS keyboard, even if it was not as good as the alternatives which I installed on my various Android devices.
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What is Digital Humanities, Part II (of many?)

The experience of teaching Digital Humanities beyond the ‘core cadres’ of the tech loving geeks has brought home to me how our definitions of the field are inadequate. I suggested previously that the lack of definition is not confined to the ‘digital’ – many academics in the humanities and social sciences define their field by subject matter and methods, but take the deeper location of the humanities in the current western intellectual paradigm so much for granted that it is never explicitly engaged with. I feel that as a definition of Digital Humanities, “Um … anything in the humanities that has a digital aspect”  may be an accurate representation of the state of our discourse, but it isn’t adequate. Continue reading

Tinder is the night?

Tinder, the social media app du jour, which recently featured in both the Guardian and the Telegraph, seems to me to be a very old new new thing. I have envied academics who were able to grab headlines for research on cutting edge social media trends, and this month , Tinder represents a class of app which is cutting edge. It seemed worth a look, so I looked, and what I found was slightly worrying, and slightly ‘so what’ Continue reading

What is Digital Humanities?

Eight weeks into teaching Intro DH courses at masters and undergrad level, I should probably have an answer to that question, especially since we’ve teaching a Phd programme here at UCC for three years now.The problem of defining a discipline is one which many colleagues, and many many students, simply don’t consider explicitly. Apart from the odd compulsory, and universally hated, course in historiography, most undergraduates in history can get through a degree in the subject without having to think about ‘What is history’. Students doing English are not usually confronted by parents who want to know “what good is it?” because everyone has a handy preconception that it is about Shakespeare and Jane Austen so you can get a nice job as a teacher.
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