Friday, 16 November 2012

IADT 2012 Graduation!

Congrats to all our IADT Faculty of Film, Art & Creative Technologies graduates, but especially to our DL041 Animation cohort! It was great to see the entire group together once again. Special congrats to Kate, Cliona, Jack and Paul who won additional accolades and awards. Here's a picture of some of the lecturing team in our gowns...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Irish Times Article

Thanks to John Byrne for a great Irish Times article on the early history of Quin Films Limited! The article concentrates especially on Bailebeag and on our inserts for Bosco. We've had a lot of retro reaction since publication. Thanks to all for emails, phonecalls, tweets and facebook posts!

Click here to read the entire online version of the article...

I like Elpenor Dignam's comment on the online version...

Love these guys, this is how public broadcasting ought to be how RTE was in it's heyday, providing creative people with some kind of job security and then just allowing them to get on with it. Why are we all being forced to become business men and women?

It's a different world now, eh?

Monday, 24 September 2012

What Will You See Exhibition

Thanks to Rosemary Sexton and Melanie Scott for organising a great group exhibition for 2012 Culture Night. The exhibition, in Civic Offices Nenagh, opened on the evening of Friday 21st September and runs until 19th October. DQ has two abstract pieces on show, including 'Chernobyl High Towers' below...

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…

Thursday, 24 May 2012


I was a little disappointed with the structure of the WIT Mentoring Module, with its primary focus on Peer-Observation. Many of us have engaged with Peer Observation over the past few years. Personally, I've been peer Observed twice and I've been asked to observe four or five times over the past 18 months. Peer Observation can be a valuable component of mentoring, a valuable reflective technique. But Peer Observation is not mentoring.

What is mentoring for me? I’ve been lecturing for over twelve years and I was heavily mentored at the early stages especially (thanks mostly to Thelma Chambers) in lecturing, course structure and design, writing curriculum, assessment and feedback.

Modularisation and increased expectations have changed what our students need to learn and
how our students learn. Our role as lecturers is changing all of the time – it’s now much
less about knowledge transfer and ‘teaching’ and much more about facilitating student
learning, reflection and critical thinking. We’re faced with more and more new ways of
doing our job, new tools, new learning environments, new potentials and challenges of our
media world.

And we’re faced with increasing numbers of part-time lecturing staff. As more experienced

‘staffers’, we’re expected to (informally) answer questions, give some guidance, facilitate
the part-timers assimilation onto our courses – this is a Mentoring role. At a more formal level, we understand that we’ve grown some expertise in the Teaching and Learning practice, through experience and through more formal T&L study. Many of our part-timer lecturers are coming to us as accomplished and experienced practitioners in our specific disciplines… But they’re also coming to us as hugely inexperienced lecturers. We understand that much of what we’ve learned (on lecturing, course design, assessment and feedback) can and should be passed onto more inexperienced colleagues. This too is a Mentoring role.

What I’m now discovering is that we have opportunities (or responsibilities) at an

Institute level too. Whether through short courses, Brown Bag presentations, workshops,
discussion groups or training courses, we act as leaders in our individual Institutes
– helping to introduce new software or hardware tools and environments (Prezi, UDK, Nuke or Maya for example), sharing best practice when it comes to T&L (doing workshops or
discussions in Group Work and Peer Assessment), or attempting to explain the potentials of
newer teaching environments to our lecturer peers (for example, explaining the Teaching and Learning benefits, potentials and challenges of using our Institute’s VLE). For me, these are Mentoring roles.

I understand that I’m fortunate to lecture in a small, progressive Institute, where we're granted a fair degree of autonomy. Perhaps we can expand these leadership roles to a national and a sectoral level too?  This is a Mentoring role too...

Andragogy Versus Pedagogy, Again...

As progressive constructivist or social constructivist lecturers, working with high degrees of autonomy on ‘cool’ courses in progressive Institutes of education, we’d all love to believe in andragogy.
But, as far as we can make out, andragogy is a disputed concept, with a pretty thin theoretical basis (feel free to correct me on this – point me to some decent ‘supportive’ literature on the subject). Also refer to my previous blog entry…

But wait… What differentiates young lads (on the early stages of a trades course for example) from mature students? Surely pedagogical methods are appropriate for one group, whereas andragogical methods are possible with the other group? Surely young fellas on practical courses learn in a different way to mature students? Surely pedagogy is appropriate with young fellas, whereas andragogy is necessary with more ‘adult’ learners?

Or… Maybe it just comes down to appropriate pedagogical approaches? In these cool and progressive times, behaviourism may be a dirty word but perhaps a more behaviourist approach is appropriate for some students? On courses where (as one observer put it) ‘crowd control is a major pedagogical component’, perhaps some constructivist pedagogical approaches might not be so appropriate?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Consumers or Publishers?

I was shocked by Melissa Cole’s (2009, p.4) discovery that most students were not ‘publishers’, were passively grazing online content and had never “…written a blog, tagged an item or uploaded a video.”

I’d have assumed that my digital-native media students would already universally be publishers (especially by 3rd Year). But let’s not make assumptions about anything… In DIT's Vincent Farrell's words... 'let's get some data...'

I’ve started an informal straw poll amongst our IADT DL041 Animation students… Could and should be expanded in time to cover entire School of Creative Arts student body… And lecturers…

Do you have…
A Youtube Channel     A Vimeo Channel ⃝     A Dailymotion Channel ⃝      None ⃝

Do you regularly upload videos to…  Youtube      Vimeo      Dailymotion ⃝      No ⃝

Do you have a Facebook page?    Yes       No ⃝

Do you have a G+ page    Yes       No ⃝

Do you have a blog?   Yes      Multiple blogs ⃝   None ⃝

Do you use Flickr ⃝     Tumblr ⃝       Deviant Art ⃝       Other Media Sharing Site ⃝       None ⃝

Do you have a Twitter account?    Yes       No ⃝

Do you have your own website ?    Yes       No ⃝

How many active email accounts have you?

 Would you object to receiving college module feedback through email?     Yes       No ⃝

Do you think college work and social media should be kept separate?      Yes       No ⃝

Original Article: 'Using Wiki technology to support student engagement: Lessons from the trenches' Melissa Cole - Computers & Education 52 (2009) 141–146 - Department of Information Systems, Brunel University, Uxbridge, West London UB8 3PH, UK

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Challenges For Online Assessment and Feedback

This is a more negative version of a submission.

(elss2011 refers to DRHEA eLearning Summer School 2011)

‘Think of the learners and don’t think about the technology.’ Dr. Richard Thorn (elss2011)

Online assessment and feedback present both challenges and opportunities, for students, lecturers and for programme design. The biggest challenge is to keep our pedagogical focus. Our pedagogical intent must be clear to students, lecturers, managers, stakeholders and ourselves. As Sally Brown ((et al) 1996) puts it in her Assessment Manifesto… ‘Staff, students and the outside world need to be able to see why assessment is being used and the rationale for choosing each individual form of assessment in its particular context.’

We can broaden Sally Brown’s assessment principle to include T+L and the use of technology in education. As DIT’s Fionnghuala Kelly argued (elss 2011) ‘We must always ask ourselves – why are we using this technology?’

In our privileged undergrad media courses, with small classes and big creative potentials in course content and in pedagogy, we’re lucky to have a very strong Real Learning Environment, with ample opportunities for face-to-face tutorial contact, peer support, team and individual learning. Towards the latter stages of our courses, we cut many pedagogical umbilicals, pushing students towards group work, self-reflection and increasing self-direction, in a version of Kolitch and Dean’s (1999) ‘engaged critical model, in which teaching and learning are seen as a creative dialogue.’

Central to this learning model is the student’s ability to assess and feedback. As Nicol (2010) asserted… ‘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.’

As p.22 of The JISC book encourages such a variety of assessment strategies, alternative assignment formats and lists multiple appropriate technologies… podcasts, online assessment tools and e-portfolios. But many of these assessment innovations (alternative assessment strategies, alternative assessment formats, increasing the learner’s opportunity to self-assess and peer-assessment) can be introduced without any technology. Palloff and Pratt (2009) asserted that ‘the use of multiple measures of assessment is simply good pedagogy.’ I agree.

Technology presents dangers too… As Dr. Richard Thorn (elss2011) observed… ‘Technology is extremely seductive. Hardware is seductive. Software is addictive. It can take over your life. Technology is not an end in itself.’ In our media courses, we’ve long seen how the power of world-creation in CGI and in games technology can swallow students, effectively terminating studentship. Lecturers must be careful that they’re not just using technology for the sake of it, in some pedagogical form of ‘a solution looking for a problem’. Over the next few years, we’ll be faced with all sorts of non-pedagogical rationales for ‘alternative delivery’ and ‘new ways of doing things’.

In her webinar (230312), TCD's Michelle Garvey demonstrated Universal Design’s preoccupation with visual and structural design. I’m not convinced that UD adequately considers the psychological or theoretical aspects of software and online design. Michelle Garvey asserted that… ‘Universal Design must aim for low physical effort and accessible appropriate spaces – but this doesn't really apply to digital.’ I absolutely disagree. When creating a software learning resource, we are creating a communications space for human beings, an immersive space in which our users will have to function and learn. From a student perspective, even our current Moodle or Blackboard environments have hugely problematic aspects.

Students and lecturers are also faced with relentless, incessant digitisation. As DCUs' Jean Hughes said ‘we want this to be very much a real classroom, a real student experience.’ But a classroom with no time limits, no clock, no weekend, with little potential for escape, for reflection?

When I first introduced Blackboard Journals to my students, the notion was novel and exciting, for students and lecturer alike. By the end of the module, student and lecturer fatigue meant that alternative methods needed to be introduced.

I’m not arguing against technology, I’m merely pointing out that our focus should always be on learning, not on technology.

Friday, 30 March 2012


I was struck by this suggestion at the end of Phil Race’s ‘If I Were In Charge’ blogpost…

From Sarah Wall: GMIT, Ireland…
if I was in charge for a day I would encourage (mandatory seems almost intuitively counterproductive…but maybe not)….. a module in creativity, regardless of disciplines, i.e. across the board.
I would go one step further and request that both “educators” and “students” participate in these modules together….the them and us scenario can be a barrier. Being creative together may help in trust and “comfort” levels for students.
Creativity would involve problem solving, imagination work, the impact of choice, artistic and craft elements, music and song….play and improvisation.
My logic/reasoning is that creativity is absolutely fundamental to life and both inspires and sustains. We are repeatedly told in society (particularly when times are hard) to be innovative in our solutions. If we brainwash our students and ourselves to only absorb other peoples thoughts and deeds and suppress their/our own originality and imagination, then what are we doing to their/our innovation and indeed their/our passion.

In IADT School of Creative Arts, I think we assume that creativity is a core component of our Teaching and Learning, because a lot of us are creative, coming from creative disciplines and teaching creative disciplines (or rather helping our Learners to Learn creative disciplines in the most progressive and constructivist ways). As creative lecturers, we assume there are no ‘wrong answers’. We try to push the imaginative aspects of everything we do, all the time (some of us more than others, I admit (stretching this point can lead to all sorts of psychotic and problematic areas)

So, it’s easy for us to be rather dismissive of Sarah Wall’s suggestion… However, I’m only realising that this ‘problem’ of creativity is probably a daunting prospect for many of our IADT lecturing staff, admin staff and students.

With this in mind, I've already suggested a series of short, fun, evening workshops in lateral thinking, brainstorming and creativity, starting in September 2012, for all IADT staff, with students invited too... I'm sure they'll find some idiot to run such workshops...

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Teaching Philosphy - A Start

‘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 basic 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? 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 way – concept development, creative thinking and ideas generation (including world creation and the more swamping immersive aspects of writing, painting and drawing).

In our 4 year ab initio course, we notionally 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 early stages tend towards a more Behaviourist teaching style and course delivery, whilst the latter stages present  far more Constructivist potentials and challenges. Perhaps the differences between the early and latter stages could be framed as the difference between ‘Makers’ and ‘Creators’? Some students struggle with the ‘maker’ role, whilst others never gather the multidisciplinary aspects of their practice together enough to become accomplished ‘creators’. In the world and industry of animation (and in the broader world of media), there are fulfilling lifelong career opportunities for both ‘makers’ and ‘creators’.

‘to get students past technical crap, to a creative space…’ let’s examine my philosophy again… Whilst technical problem solving and corner-cutting always forms part of any animation or media project (in college or in the big wide world), the technical tends to become just one problem in a pantheon of problems. I call this ‘inflicting yourself on the software, inflicting yourself on the tools’.  But beyond the technical, what is this ‘creative space’, this place where our students begin to become authors, world-creators, film-makers?

The ‘creative space’ is where authors have the confidence to move beyond concepts such as ‘ideas are cheap’ into a realm where they are the creative, they live and breathe concepts and ideas. The authors have the skills to work independently or to supervise teams of creative people, using diverse craft and technical techniques to create something from scratch, something wholly original, something wholly their own. Authors have the ability to discover and create even within this process of creation, changing concepts and ideas up to the very moment of completion. And, in the end, the best projects are never quite finished, they are merely abandoned.

A word of caution – the creative space is not an entirely comfortable place. Because creative work and the self become synonymous, problems, doubt and failure become hotwired into the author’s self, in a very raw and difficult way. Authors tend not to view any past accomplishments, but only the challenges of today and of the future. As I frequently tell my students ‘creativity is a life sentence, inescapable’. Indeed, when creative cease to do their own work, it strikes into their beings, like the removal of their limbs.

‘to get students past technical crap, to a creative space (where I believe most of them want to be)’
I had hoped to move beyond this philosophy, even in this first preliminary examination, but I haven’t. This is very much a first iteration, which can now be examined and questioned from now on, even if it is ultimately reaffirmed.

Monday, 12 March 2012

BBC article on internet education revolution

This is a BBC video article on the internet sparking an educational revolution… ‘Blackboards and textbooks are so old school.’ In contrast to Eric Mazur (an experienced educator behaving as an amateur media communicator), these people strike me as experienced media communicators and new-business people behaving as amateur educators…

‘we really designed what we call a campus…’ - Adam Pritzker – General Assembly Co-Founder

‘students can design their own curricula. Students can figure out what they want to learn, based on their experience, their aspirations, the job they want, what they want to do and then they can go off and create that…’ - Christina Cacioppo – School of Visual Arts, Design co-teacher

‘…students don’t have to do things that they don’t want to do, and not just paper things that they don’t need, things a traditional university would have them do…’ - Christina Cacioppo – School of Visual Arts, Design co-teacher

 ‘diy education offers a wider array of potential experiences. You’re not committing to paying a huge amount of money and to give a huge amount of time to a program which, if you look at the statistics, may not have a definite outcome.’ - Adam Pritzker – General Assembly Co-Founder

 most check out mentioned in the article…


This week, we in the Animation Course in IADT prepare for a public tussle with our Irish animation industry stakeholders over ‘animation education and training’. Whilst we hugely value employment in the animation industry as one desirable outcome of our educational endeavours, we do not exist solely to ‘deliver high-calibre graduates to the animation sector’. Industry tends to have a necessarily blinkered and myopic approach to our educational ambitions and endeavours. Most animation studio heads and MD’s in Ireland experienced education through more vocational, training models, many years ago. Their understanding of current education is pretty limited. Their pressing needs and requirements are immediate and wholly commercial.

I’ve also been reading infed’s article on andragogy – clearly a contested term.

The article is scathingly negative, framing andragogy as something notional, not theoretical - ‘a set of assumptions’ the author argues at one point. Late on in the article, the author quotes Jarvis (1985) in identifying that andragogy is rather a new conceptualization of education itself…

‘We need to be extremely cautious about claiming that there is anything distinctive about andragogy. In his reference to romantic and classic notions of curriculum Jarvis (1985) brings out that what lies behind these formulations are competing conceptualizations of education itself. Crucially, these are not directly related to the age or social status of learners. There are various ways of categorizing strands of educational thinking and practice - and they are somewhat more complex than Knowles' setting of pedagogy against andragogy. In North American education debates, for example, four main forces can be identified in the twentieth century: the liberal educators; the scientific curriculum makers; the developmental/person-centred; and the social meliorists (those that sought more radical social change) (after Kliebart 1987). Another way of looking at these categories (although not totally accurate) is as those who see curriculum as:

 •the transmission of knowledge,


 •process, and


 Viewed in this way - Knowles' version of pedagogy looks more like transmission; and andragogy, as represented in the chart, like process. But as we have seen, he mixes in other elements - especially some rather mechanistic assumptions and ideas which can be identified with scientific curriculum making.’

If andragogy can be framed as a re-conceptualization of education, I think it could form a useful theoretical basis for some of the challenges we currently face – helping students to learn, rather than ‘teaching’, allowing students to participate in the formation of curriculum, and incorporating flexible learning and blended learning into our educational structures.

I still have a fondness for the ‘notion’ of teaching adults, rather than teaching children.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Response to Eric Mazur

I was saddened by much of Eric Mazur's Youtube video, especially by the way he continually described an extremely stereotypical, 19th Century convention of 'lecturing' - the lecturer standing in front of a group, with 5 Powerpoint slides 'transferring knowledge'. Indeed, it shocked me to see Mazur berating such a lecturing style in yet another deeply conventional and boring lecture - neither entertaining nor inspirational, nor impressive. Many of us are fortunate enough never to have taught in this way - some of us are fortunate enough never to have BEEN taught in this way.

As a filmmaker and as a media professional, I find Mazur's use of Youtube (and of video) amateurish and repulsive. A rambling, unstructured 1 hour Youtube video - most of it a complete waste of the audience's time? 51 minutes before he actually gets to the point? I'm deeply unimpressed. Clever people like Mazur need some basic lessons in media, communication and treatment of the audience. Media is not rocket science. Much of it is common sense and a lot of it is a common courtesy respect for the audience - very little of that is evidenced here.

I agree with much of what Mazur said about whether we measure the success of our teaching and of our students learning - we use continuous assessment and criterion-based module assessment to measure how successful (or not) our students are at engaging with our Module Learning Outcomes. We're fortunate enough not to have to use exams.
Our KPI's tend to be student attrition or progression, graduation, post-grad study or post-grad employment or work in our sector.

I agree with Mazur that we don't collect data on our teaching - I agree that this needs consideration.
We encourage 'plausible wrong answers' all the time. In creative disciplines, a lack of moralistic discrimination is seen as a key component of ideas creation/brainstorming/concept development.

Much of what we do is the encouragement of assimilation, conceptualisation and innovative implementation.

Even with our more 'technical' disciplines, we're encouraging our students to assimilate procedures and then to
make their own of the tools and techniques (we characterise this as 'inflicting yourself on the technical')

All of our instruction could be framed as 'small group instruction' (under 30 students, frequently smaller groups)

22 minutes of Mazur's Youtube video - Mazur's argument is an argument against the stereotypical convention of lecturing.

For me, the notion of a lecturer lecturing directly from his teaching notes is rather like lecturers reading their Powerpoint text bullet points aloud... It's idiotic.

Mazur's revelation at 27:43 - 'a lot of my learning happened outside of the classroom, when I tried to figure things out for myself...'
I believe some of this 'figuring out' can be pre-empted, can be guided... The students need to do the heavy lifting themselves, but... The lecturer can guide, can warn (especially warning against really time-wasting) pitfalls...

27:50 I agree that the HARD part, the assimilation, is left to the student...

Mazur's point about 'students haven't even understood what I did in week one!' points to a very inflexible, sequential delivery. None of his lecturing is recapped or repeated? Each previous lecture becomes a mandatory prerequisite for all subsequent lectures? No wonder his students are confused.

32:00 a 'traditionally' taught class...
34:30 the way we 'traditionally' test our students is extremely misleading
If so, we've never 'taught conventionally'...

39:15 grading the 'conventional problem' versus the 'conceptual problem' (right answers versus wrong answers)
I believe we've moved beyond this 'conventional problem' idea...

44:00 blindly applying recipes you don't understand...
why don't the students understand such recipes? Recipes? Formulaic solutions?

finally, as an unforgiveable 50 minutes of Mazur's video passes, he starts to realise that students discussing the problem is a way to proceed! Fabulous.

51:00 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 lectures, I've come to assume that the subject (especially the students' entry into the subject) will be a challenge and will always present difficulties.

52:34 I like Mazur's idea about pre-class reading.

I agree with Mazur's idea of using the class to do DEPTH, not coverage.

'Peer Instruction and teaching by questioning, not by telling' - we get them (even in the technical disciplines) to learn by doing, less by 'watching us showing'...

59:00 'I decided NOT to do any problem solving in class 'students don't dervive any benefit from seeing the lecturer solve problems on the board' 'you don't learn by watching someone else do it...'
I disagree with this sweeping statement. In some of our more practical technical classes, the students work through their own projects in class, based on the brief. When I identify a technical problem, especially a recurring probelm, I'll demo a solution on the projector - but then I'll return to the student to watch him or her working through the problem in his/her project. If they haven't understood, I'll talk them through it (getting them to 'do' it (they do the driving), then I'll get them to go through the solution from scratch again. If they still haven't got it, I may demo the solution again on the projector.

1:01:00 Better understanding leads to better problem solving (good problem solving does not indicate good understanding)...
I agree with this...