Monday, 12 August 2013

Holiday over

So, that's me back at work today after a very relaxing 6 weeks off. I've been extremely quiet, in fact non-existent, on the blog front during this time.

I was however pretty active during my time off. I spent a week on Ibiza, which was very nice. It was the first time I had visited Ibiza and also the first time abroad with my two year old little girl. We all had a fab time, did a spot of sight-seeing, some sunbathing and ate lots of nice food. The weather was just perfect - not too hot.

After coming home we visited lots of nice places around Scotland: Oban, St Andrews, Stirling and spent time at my sister in-law's new house in Killearn. Whilst doing all this I managed to complete TMA4 and put a whole new roof on my shed. I got my mark back for TMA3, which I was extremely happy with, finally putting the ghosts of TMA2 to bed.

In the last couple of weeks I carried out a full upgrade of the college Moodle system to version 2.5. This is always a pest of a job, however this time around I also managed to optimise the MySQL database, install and config a PHP cache accelerator and do some work on the theme CSS. It's all looking pretty good so far.

After 10 years, the domain name davidmcdade dot com became available, so I snapped it up. I'm probably going to install Wordpress and use it for blogging. I need to figure out how to migrate the posts from this blog to the new one. Among my first posts I am going to create a comprehensive guide to the Moodle upgrade process I have just been through.

It's EMA time also, I can't believe how quickly this course has gone. I've been in a bit of a quandary the past week or so about my subject matter for the EMA, I was originally going to go with MOOCs, however I have chose Badges as it's an area that I am very interested in, I am going to blog my processes in the completion, just hope I can find some good research material!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Block 3

I've had almost a week now to reflect on what was block 3 - the AoD project. It has probably been the most crazy 6 weeks of my life.

At the beginning I was a bit confused as to why I was placed under the topic of assessing multimedia artefacts, as it was not a priority choice. As the project started to get rolling, I could see the sense in why I was chosen for this, especially when I though about it in my own work context. Also, what's the point in doing the same old - it doesn't do any harm to be taken out of your comfort zone.

Working in groups isn't easy at the best of times, never mind when you are working over large distance. The communication methods chosen by our team were very effective. We would tweet all the time and almost every day - this was good for short sharp conversation. As team leader, I had my eye on twitter constantly and found myself tweeting at the oddest of times - during classes and in meetings whilst during the day at work. Even though we were supposed to impose a hierarchy within our team, it wasn't really like that - there was equal decision making within the team. This suited everyone and was effective. For example there were occasions when not all team members could be present and decisions had to be taken. If they had not been, then we would have risked our schedule - which we managed to stick to throughout the duration. We had some good face-to-face sessions as well through Elluminate - a session on Friday night after a couple of beers is always fun.

As we moved into our design and things started to unfold, it was sometimes difficult to keep track of activities, who was to do what, what was to be part of the site and what was to be blogged. This seemed to bring out frustrations in other teams. We were very lucky in that the project manager, Trish, was good at saying, 'OK, here's what we've done, and here's a list of what we need to do and who's to do it.' I found that massively helpful. As the design components started coming together it was easy to piece things together in the prototype and see how the approaches that each team member was taking, could be utilised within the assessment framework kit.

I found by the time we got to the heuristic evaluation stage, I was beginning to run out of steam a little. I had to really motivate myself to examine another prototype and feed back on it. However once I got myself going, I enjoyed looking at the coxless4 site - I was amazed by the amount of time they had dedicated to actually building a very useful resource.

Now that it's over and I've given myself a week to reflect, I am happy with the work we produced. The most valuable part of the process for me personally, was the team working aspect and how we utilised technology very effectively for communication. It was good to dip in to a Google doc, see Trish or Priya working on it and have a quick chat. During the process itself I enjoyed the case study research - I spent a few solid days on this and found lots of great stuff.

Probably the biggest factor however is that I have a load of headspace back - I didn't realise just how much the AoD project was dominating my life, the OU does have a habit of doing this.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Open Badges Working Group Scotland

 I attended a really good meeting yesterday afternoon at JISC Glasgow - the first meeting of the Open Badges Working Group.

My attendance at the meeting came about coincidentally after I tweeted one morning that I needed to get more work done instead of reading about badges - I instantly got a reply 'do you want to come to our meeting?'

Just before I left to go to the meeting, I had chaired a college Moodle group meeting, where we were talking about the upgrade to Moodle 2.5 and the inbuilt badge system, this instantly generated a lot of discussion as people wanted to know more and I'm like 'guess what, I am just going to a meeting about badges!' - quite bizarre.

The whole badge thing got a hold of me whilst I was completing the Open Ed MOOC, I found it extremely motivational. Even when I submitted TMA2 I was instantly back on to OU MOOC earning my last badge. Ever since then I have been thinking on ways I can implement a system within the college, concentrating on three main areas: accreditation for learners on non-advanced courses, to motivate staff on introductory teacher training programmes and also to try and engage more staff in the use of Moodle.

There were approx 35 people signed up for the meeting, but only 25-30 in attendance. There was a mix of people from industry, secondary schools, FE colleges and HE. It was fantastic to hear all the different stories and ideas and of course, meet some new and old faces.

A lot of themes emerged from the meeting, mostly to do with learner motivation and engagement and staff CPD - most of us, if not all, were thinking along the same lines. What lies ahead is that were are going to form sub-groups for developing badges - I am torn between getting involved with SQA developing badges for learners on non-advanced college courses, or developing badges for Moodle training - I cant make up my mind!

I also managed to earn a badge just for attending the meeting :-)

Thursday, 13 June 2013


ADaPT are now just about complete with the Artefacts of Design project. The final stages consist of creating a prototype and heuristic evaluation for the site.

The prototyping phase was where things really started coming together. Each of the team members had different ideas for how they wanted to represent things - this was captured in the storyboarding process. I am forever the pragmatist, so I wanted to see things in action. The other two team members were looking at the bigger picture, so I suppose we had a Macro, Meso and Micro approach.

When it came time to prototype and bring the storyboards together, it was good to see how our ideas fitted together, you really could see the logical flow of our ideas - it was very exciting.

To start things off, all the team had an elluminate session. This was to decide on who was doing what for prototyping. I had taken the prototype feature table and created a shortlist that condensed some of the tasks as there were a few overlaps, that was handy for allocating tasks among the team members. I had a couple of jobs for prototyping: The first one was to take my original story board and create a concrete example of how formative assessments, resources, multimedia artefacts and summative assessment would tie together in a design based course. From this I created a Prezi that featured Don, my persona and how he could apply the example. The second job I had was to redesign the prototype section on the site and bring all our resources together. I noticed another team had created a nice menu system on their site, so I decided to do the same. I took me a while to get things organised, about 4 hours, as the AoD site was running quite slow and odd things were happening.

Once everything was on it was a mighty relief to the team, you could see things coming together and how our site would be useful in the assessment design context and at different levels. Unfortunately we lost a team member around this time. It didn't really come as any surprise as the team member was struggling to get to grips with what we were trying to do. The member created a blog post and described he wasn't enjoying the process, but enjoyed being part of the team.

The prototyping process was very useful as it provided a space for bringing our ideas into a useable package where you could see the direction in which we were heading. The only limitations was that time was against us.

Reflecting back to the very beginning of block 3, I remember thinking (I may have even posted somewhere) that working online as a team was probably going to be the biggest constraint, it in fact turned out to be the opposite, it was an absolute pleasure, thanks to my team mates of course. I probably worked better and more efficiently in this team than I have in many face-to face teams.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Gardening marathon

The weather has been absolutely beautiful in Paisley this weekend. The temperature has been around 25 celsius (is that how you spell celsius?), I can't remember the last time it's been as warm. It's been 3 years since I moved into this house, I feel now that I am finally beginning to appreciate my garden. I think it's because Isabella is now two and from the moment she opens her eyes in the morning, she cries 'OUTSIDE!!' We are fortunate that we have a big garden, she loves it. Because of that I have been keeping the garden really tidy this year, more than I have in the past, I am quite getting into gardening now, it's good time to reflect - it's easy to end up in a world of your own for a few hours.

It's the final week for block 3 in the OU - I am quite relieved at this. I don't think the learning design process that we are all going through needed to be as complex - there seemed to be a lot of frustration going on - I am luck that I am in an extremely efficient team that works well together. We are at the point now we are about to prototype the site. There was a whole group hangout this morning, to discuss block 3 and the impending TMA. I was sad to miss it, but I had family commitments to take care of.

Gladly, things are beginning to wind down in work, the summer holidays are only a couple of weeks away. My classes are finishing and I'm mopping up now, results this year haven't been too bad, I've not had the best quality of learners - they are in for a rude awakening when the go into university year 3 in September.

I've got quite a lot of Moodle business to attend to between now and the start of July. I am running a train the trainers session on backing up and resetting courses, I am also planning for a big upgrade to version 2.5 and with it, a redesign of the interface. Staff in the college found out the name for our newly  merged institution on Friday, the upgrade I imagine will have to reflect this - photoshop here we come.

Monday, 3 June 2013


After a month of waiting, I finally got my mark back for my TMA.  I got to the point where I was actually dreaming about it in my sleep.

Even though my mark isn't bad I feel as if it should have been better. Unless you get 100%, I know that most people feel this way. However, this time around my mark has been getting to me more than usual.

I am pi**ed off about the lack of clarity in the assessment description. My tutor fed back to me that I should have had more of an implementation plan - I could easily have done that, I do it everyday as part of my job and also if the assessment had have been a bit clearer.

When it comes to TMA time I tend to rummage around the other tutor group forums, I always do this and I have found it in the past to be advantageous. On this occasion I read a post from another tutor that said 'it should be an outline proposal, not an implementation manual' and for some reason that stuck in my head. I was discussing this with my wife and she said 'why are you listening to another tutor and not your own?' Maybe it serves me right.

On a more positive note, I actually submitted my TMA to my vice principal for consideration. The TMA was an implementation of a MOOC in a newly merged Glasgow college to promote digital literacies and serve as an introduction into the advanced diploma teaching in FE award. The project is called the Glasgow Regional Open Access Network. My vice principal immediately picked up on the GROAN acronym - I thought it was a nice touch myself.

My college is about to merge with three others. I think this project would be good not just for the new college, but the new Glasgow FE region as a whole - placing a network of educators at its heart.