Thursday, 28 June 2012

Prezi Workshop at elss 2012

Thanks to all at the DRHEA's 2012 eLearning Summer School for their invite to do this year's elss introduction to Prezi (June 22nd). With a lab packed full of very experienced lecturers from across the DRHEA, I was bound to get a few novel questions - including one on image tagging and Universal Design within Prezi (which I will certainly pursue). Thanks to all workshop participants for their attention and for their kind reactions. Thanks also to Mags, Dolores, Frances, Muiris, Kevin and all the elss crew for their help with the workshop, for the bottle of fine white wine and for sending workshop jpegs to me! I look forward to participating in elss 2013!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

IADT Teaching and Learning Showcase

Thanks to Marion Palmer and all the IADT Teaching and Learning Committee for all their hard work on the 2012 Showcase (June 14th). Some excellent posters, screencasts and Prezi presentations on show (I even produced some screencasts and a poster on Journals in Blackboard). Well done all!

Letterkenny Workshops

Thanks to Cormac O' Kane for the invite to Letterkenny Institute of Technology to do a day-long workshop (June 12th) on Blackboard Journals for assessment and feedback and on Prezi... Cormac even introduced me as an 'e-learning person'! I enjoyed my day in LYIT and hope the workshops were of some use to the staff of the Digital Media department!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

How to Assemble Basic Prezi Components

A screencast on how to assemble basic components (text, images, web URL's, video, PDF's) to form a prezi presentation... (just over 10 minutes long)

Prezi Introduction

A screencast, introducing Prezi... Just under 5 minutes long...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Why Use Blackboard Journals for Student Reflection, Assessment and Feedback?

Our Blackboard VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) is a sandboxed, safe learning environment. Using Journals allows students to blog their ideas, reflections and difficulties secure in the knowledge that only The Lecturer can see their Journal posts. For lecturers, it gives us ‘an insight into student philosophy’. It’s simple technology – for lecturer and student! It works!

Minute Papers…

This strategy was originally developed by a Physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley (cited in Davis, Wood, & Wilson, 1983), then popularized by Cross and Angelo (1988) as one of a wide variety of quick “classroom assessment techniques” (CATs) - designed to provide instructors with anonymous feedback on what students are learning in class. For example, students write a one-minute paper in response to such questions as, “What was the most important concept you learned in class today? Or, “What was the ‘muddiest’ or most confusing concept covered in today’s class?”

I use Minute Papers at the END of classes, especially to identify ‘the muddiest point’.  Though we insist that ‘there are no stupid questions’, students can remain reluctant to ask for help. Blackboard Journals allows students to tell us what they really don’t understand (often something really simple). It takes 5 minutes to scan through Minute Papers for a class of 30 students – really guiding the start of the next session…

Self-Reflection/Critical Evaluation

Students are often reluctant to tackle a critical evaluation for a project, tending to leave it till the end, when the project is done! Using Blackboard Journals, students can be ‘prompted’ to make entries on particular aspects of a Critical Analysis (‘Audience’ or ‘Issues of Representation’ etc.). The lecturer can feedback in Journal Comments, further prompting (or guiding) the student reflection. We might ask for a post, or two posts per week…

Students like the asynchronous nature of this (it allows them to post entries at all hours AND it allows lecturers to respond and comment ‘out of hours’. Students can post images, link to video!

Student Self Assessment

At the end of a module, ask the students to post a Blackboard Journal entry on their personal reflections. You might ask the students ‘what’s missing from your project’? Get students to ‘suggest an Alpha Grade’ for themselves…

‘guided self assessment’

Assess the student projects and assign an Alpha grade. Then post your assessment feedback (Strengths, Areas For Development and Recommendations) to the student. Ask them to read through your feedback and suggest an Alpha grade for themselves.

Self-Assessment (guided or unguided) checks student understanding of our learning Outcomes and Criteria For Assessment. Assessment is a learnt behaviour – students and lecturers need to practice it! All students self-assess, but Journals provide hard documentary evidence. You’ll be surprised to find how many of the students will give themselves the exact grade you gave them!

 Peer and Group Assessment

At the end of a Group Project, ask the students to post a Blackboard Journal entry on their personal reflections. I use questions developed by Palloff and Pratt (2007, p.184)… ‘How well did I participate in my group? Was I a team player? Did I make a significant contribution? Did I share my portion of the work load? How comfortable do I feel with the group process? Did I feel comfortable expressing any problems or concerns openly? Did I provide substantive feedback to other group members? How do I feel about the collaborative work produced by my group? How well did the collaborative process contribute to my learning goals and objectives for this course? I’ve added a question about communication… ‘How well did my group communicate, with each other and with others?’

Ask each student to post an Alpha Grade for themselves and for each of their peers (the other group members). You can suggest that they can ‘add a few lines of individual comment, observation or clarification’ about their fellow group members.

Lecturers can use this student reflection and assessment (self and peer) to guide their own comments, feedback and grading.

Palloff and Pratt (2007) ‘Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom’ (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Higher and Adult Education)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

PDP - June 2012

David Quin – PDP May 2012

The Influence and Impact of My Professional Experience

I’ve worked in Animation for almost 30 years. My professional experience stretches back to producing tv series on 16mm film for RTE. Joining my father’s animation company in my twenties, we were first to introduce many animation techniques into Ireland (stopmotion and Claymation amongst them). In the 1990’s, I switched from film production to digital video and then to full Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), once again leading the way in animation at a national level. I introduced CGI to Brown Bag Films and became that company’s first CGI Technical Director. Since finishing with Brown Bag in 2006 I’ve returned primarily to stopmotion, directing and animating three award-winning short films, and producing a satirical internet series (‘cutbacks’). Over the next few years, I will work my way back towards tv production.

Since 1999 I’ve lectured on the Animation Course, in IADT’s National Film School. I completed a BA (Hons) in Digital Media in Wolverhampton University in 2002 and AIT’s Teaching and Learning Certificate in 2010. I have since completed a DCU E-teaching Special Purpose Award, as well as embarking upon a DCU E-assessment SPA, a LIN DIT PDP Module and a WIT Mentoring Module. I am currently a Pt. 7 Assistant Lecturer, teaching fulltime hours on a CID. I am a member of IADT’s Academic Council and our Teaching and Learning Committee.

All of my professional experience, from film production to my internet series of today, feeds directly into my role as a Film and Media lecturer, demanding that I (like my students) remain very much an active, learning reflective practitioner.

My Conceptualisation of Teaching and Learning

Like most lecturers, I started lecturing without having been ‘taught to teach’. At first, I found that there was great need to engage in basic discipline-based ‘knowledge transfer’. Since starting on the AIT Cert, my Teaching and Learning perspectives have broadened, giving me some theoretical base and convincing me that my challenge now is to guide learners towards their full potentials using Constructivist, Social Constructivist and Situative Teaching and Learning. I’m currently making great efforts to get my students to self-assess, peer-assess and group work as a key part of their Learning.

As David Nicol (2010), Professor of Higher Education, University of Strathclyde says… ‘If you really want to improve learning, get students to give one another feedback. Giving feedback is cognitively more demanding than receiving feedback. That way, you can accelerate learning.’

I see great opportunities and challenges in the use of eLearning tools, environments, assessment and feedback. Through our VLE, I use Classroom Assessment Techniques such as Minute Papers and Process Self Analysis and Peer Analysis to monitor what students are learning and what they’re struggling with. As Diane Kelly (2005-1 p.79) points out, the CAT information gathered provides valuable input to all lecturers about what is working and what needs to be changed in their teaching in order to enhance student learning.

Eric Mazur's notion of 'the better you know something, the more difficult it becomes to teach' may often be true. However, in many of my modules, I've come to assume that the subject (especially the students' entry into the subject) remains challenging, fluid and will always present Teaching and Learning difficulties.

Though I continue to learn, I am now a relatively experienced lecturer. I do what I can to Mentor younger, less experienced colleagues, to develop my course and my Institute and to share Teaching lessons with colleagues from other Institutes and Universities, through the NDLR, through presentations, workshops and Brown Bag talks. This activity further broadens my perspectives and feeds back into the development of my lecturing, as well as giving me a strong sense of our lecturing and industry ‘community of practice’.

Because our media environment is mutating rapidly, I make few assumptions about our subject area and I recognise that it’s a complex, multidisciplinary challenge for anyone to learn, or for anyone to remain up to speed. As Martin Dyke, GrĂ¡inne Conole et al point out ‘Our technological age, which Giddens (1999) refers to as a ‘run away world’ is characterised by rapid change that forces people to respond and reflect on new information that guides their actions. Such transformation of information is the juncture at which learning flourishes.’ In our Animation course, we have a high degree of curricular autonomy. We change what we do in an ongoing effort to make things better. What are our Key Performance Indicators? We measure the success of our graduates and alumni – are they working in our industry? Are they making their own films, starting their own projects? Are they successfully going on to postgrad study in Film and Media? In short, have we given them the core skills and the agility to enjoy a lifetime’s work in our discipline?

My PDP targets?

  1. As well as continuing to build my weekly internet series, I will continue to produce at least one short film each year. I am working to get back into tv production, producing series for children. This will take time to achieve. In the long-term, I am determined to direct my own animated feature films. This too will take some time to accomplish.
  2. I look forward to my successful completion of my current DCU EAssessment Module, my DIT LIN PDP Module and my WIT Mentoring Module.
  3. I want to continue to develop my Teaching and Learning practice within IADT, further developing our Animation course and moving towards the creation of Special Purpose Awards, Lifelong Learning Flexible Access opportunities, and Post Graduate opportunities serving New Cohorts of learners.
  4. Beyond that… I am strongly minded to attempt an APEL Masters based on my Industrial (Animation) experience. This would necessitate writing a Critical Analysis of my work, clearly spelling out the learning that took place through my career. I will need to find a sponsoring Institute. A panel of peers will need to examine and approve my application. I would set Summer 2013 as my target for this Masters?
  5. I will soon have earned 40 Level 9 ECTS credits in Teaching and Learning subjects. I would like to negotiate a pathway (again with a sponsoring Institute) to complete a Teaching and Learning Masters, probably conducting a piece of T+L research and writing in Animation Teaching and Learning. I would set Summer 2014 as my target for this Masters. I want my research to feed directly back into my lecturing practice and the development of our courses.  It is not enough for me to ‘know facts and to understand relations for the sake of knowledge. We want to know and understand in order to be able to act and act “better” than we did before.’ (Langeveld 1965: 4). As Boyer (1990:15–16) asserts… ‘Scholars are academics who conduct research, publish, and then perhaps convey their knowledge to students or apply what they have learned. The latter functions grow out of scholarship, they are not to be considered part of it. But knowledge is not necessarily developed in such a linear manner. The arrow of causality, can, and frequently does, point in both directions. Theory surely leads to practice. But practice also leads to theory. And teaching, at its best, shapes both research and practice.’

  1. In the long-term, I aim to complete a PhD (possibly in Teaching and Learning).


Boyer, E. (1990). ‘Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate’. San Francisco: Jossey–Bass. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Conole, GrĂ¡inne,  Dyke, Martin (Eds) (2007) ‘Contemporary Perspectives in E-Learning Research’. London: Routledge.

Crisp, Geoffrey (2007) ‘the e-Assessment Handbook’. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Giddens, A. (1999) ‘Runaway World: How Globalization is Reshaping Our Lives’. London: Profile.

Kelly, Diane (2005) ‘Do you know what your students are learning? Or do you really care?’ Dublin: Aishe (2005-1 p.79).

Langeveld, M.J. (1965) ‘In Search of Research’, Paedagogica Europoea: The European Year Book of Educational Research, vol 1. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Mazur, Eric ‘Confessions of A Converted Lecturer’ (video 2009)

Nicol, D. (2010a) ‘The foundation for graduate attributes: Developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment’ University of Strathclyde, Glasgow:

Nicol, D. (2010b) ‘From monologue to dialogue: Improving written feedback in mass higher education, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education’, 35(5), 501–517 (Abstract text) University of Strathclyde, Glasgow:

Other Sources…

My Teaching Philosophy

‘to get students past technical crap, to a creative space (where I believe most of them want to be)’

It seems a bizarre and very rudimentary philosophy? Is this really what’s underpinned not only my teaching, but my ideas on course development and curriculum development for the past ten years? My discipline of Animation is a bizarre mix of the technical and the artistic – the technical covering basic craft aspects (art skills, drawing, concept development, writing and performance), as well as a tsunami of digital and media skills (2D software, CGI software, sound, post-production, emerging technologies (new software, hardware and media). The artistic covers some of the aspects already covered by craft, but in a different, deeper and more immersive (some would say insidious) manner – concept development, creative thinking and ideas generation (including world creation and the more swamping immersive aspects of writing, painting and drawing).

As a practitioner in my discipline, I came to lecturing determined to ‘transfer knowledge’ – to tell students how to get the job done, based on almost thirty years of production experience. Like most lecturers, I was never taught to teach. Something of an extrovert, I became a natural ‘sage on the stage’.

Implicit in my relationship with students from the start was the notion of adulthood. I never wanted to ‘teach children’. I wanted to relate directly to adult learners, growing those learners towards their potentials as accomplished, creative and reflective practitioners.

Ten years later, having studied Teaching and Learning a little, I realise that I’ve become a constructivist lecturer, asking the learners to ‘actively construct their own understanding.’ (JISC effective assessment in the digital age (2010)). Recognising the role of others in constructing understanding, I also tend towards social constructivism…. ‘Dialogue and collaboration are seen as key to learning success. Assessment would involve group tasks and assignments, guided by my inputs.’ (JISC, 2010). However, my discipline base also leans me towards a situative perspective ’seeing learning as arising from participation in communities of practice. Learners participate in many learning communities during their studies which prepare them to become members of professional communities (learning to think and act like a lawyer or an engineer, for example). This perspective is consistent with social constructivism but also emphasises identity formation. Assessment tasks would be authentic and modelled on what happens in professional practice; feedback would involve peers, disciplinary experts and those in relevant roles and professions.’ (JISC, 2010)
In dealing with Constructivist, Social Constructivist and Situative reflective learners, the notion of andragogy appeals greatly, as a possible educational ‘umbrella’ theory. As lecturers, we seem to be teaching less and facilitating learning more, in a very progressive and mature way. However, I remain unconvinced that andragogy possesses a strong enough theoretical base to represent more than an attractive, but rather simplified notion of education itself.

In our 4 year ab-initio BA (Hons) Animation course, we simplify our course concept to claim that Stage 1 and Stage 2 concentrate on the development of ‘skills’ (be they artistic or technical), whilst Stage 3 and Stage 4 concentrate more on the development of ‘authorship’. The pedagogy of our discipline emerged from the 1940’s iteration of our animation industry and still retains something of a Behaviourist teaching style and course delivery. The more advanced stages of animation education now present far more Constructivist, Social Constructivist and Situative potentials and challenges.

Our discipline falls very much within Biglan’s (1973) notion of a ‘soft’ discipline, as described by Neumann (2001, p. 138) ‘hard disciplines… emphasise cognitive goals such as learning facts, principles and concepts. Soft areas place greater importance on… effective thinking skills such as critical thinking’. Braxton (1995, p. 60) goes on to assert ‘Consistent with their stress on effective thinking as the goal of the academic major, faculty in soft fields also tend to favour a more ‘discursive’ approach to their classroom teaching than do their counterparts in hard fields.’

In our course, few of us have ever lectured ‘in a conventional or traditional manner’. Palloff and Pratt (2009) quote Speck (2002) ‘…the traditional approach promotes rote exercises that offer limited insight into student ability. The alternative paradigm is social in nature, views learning as a process, and gives students the opportunity to explore concepts together and to make mistakes.’

Our teaching style has always been more open, creative, discursive and autonomous than most. However, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been ‘transferring knowledge’ in a quite traditional sense. Having reflected on the Constructivist, Social Constructivist and Situative needs of our learners, we now challenge ourselves to create a learning environment in which our students can truly self-reflect, guided by our inputs.

And there’s more… Through our digital video medium, we’re faced with a challenging state of ‘constant change’. As professionals in our primary discipline and in education, we embrace Phil Race’s idea (‘If I were in charge…’ 2009) All teaching staff in higher education would be required to be students.’ My personal development, my studentship, as a filmmaker and as a lecturer, is ongoing. Because of this, I can still view teaching and learning from a student perspective, and I firmly embrace Lifelong Learning, Part-Time Learning, Distance Learning and the need to include New Cohorts.

Geoffrey Crisp (2007, p.231) outlines a new potential for future learning, where enhanced and improved assessment and feedback become key drivers for student development… ‘Institutions may be distinguished in the future by the quality of their assessment rather than the quality of their teaching… This will cause significant changes in the education marketplace, with some teachers choosing to be specialist assessors, rather than teaching generalists who design, deliver and assess a discipline-based course or programme.’

My teaching philosophy has now refined from my original ‘to get students past technical crap, to a creative space (where I believe most of them want to be)’ to ‘growing our learners towards their potentials as accomplished and agile, creative and reflective practitioners.’


Biglan, A. (1973) ‘The characteristics of subject matter in different academic areas’, Journal of Applied Psychology, 57(3), pp. 195–203.

Braxton, J. (1995) ‘Disciplines with an Affinity for the improvement of undergraduate education’, in: N. HATIVA&M. MARINCOVICH (Eds) Disciplinary Differences in Teaching and Learning: implications for practice (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers).

Crisp, Geoffrey (2007) ‘the e-Assessment Handbook’. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

JISC (2010) ‘effective assessment in the digital age’ University of Bristol: JISC Innovation Group.

Palloff R. M and Pratt K. (2009) ‘Assessing the Online learner’ (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Race, Phil ‘If I Were In Charge’ (2009)

Speck, B. W. (2002) ‘Learning-Teaching Assessment Paradigms and the On-Line Classroom. In R.S. Anderson, J. Bauer, & B. W. Speck (Eds.), Assessment Strategies for the On-Line Class: From Theory To Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Other Sources…