And it’s back to a lecture

For a variety of reasons I returned to giving a lecture today. Here’s a quick reflection and thoughts where I might go next.


As originally explained here I wanted to move away from the idea of a lecture. And I have implemented the ramble idea and used it as a basis for lectures/tutorials last week.

However, the pull of the lecture is great. So, I gave into temptation and gave a lecture. Sitting here now, I am wondering why I did this to myself and the students. The first part of the lecture was your typical diatribe and done badly. Little or no engagement from the students and achieved little more than consuming some time.

I did get to use the lecture capture facility on-campus, which seemed to work okay. Of course, given the latter part of the lecture was focused on students doing individual or group work, I’m not sure the recording approach works well. I probably should cut bits out of the video. Though it does appear that the quality of the recording is quite low.

As to deciding what I’ll do next week, am going to wait for feedback from students, but current preference would be not to record a lecture like this again, focus on students doing activities based on the ramble.

Especially when some of the activities done in the subsequent tutorial generated much more engagement and took things in really interesting ways.

The lecture

There are some slides and some video

Implementing a course barometer in Moodle: A kludge

It’s the start of the second week of the course I’m teaching. I’m directly responsible for 60 odd on-campus students and 130 or so online/distance students. That split reminds me a lot of my teaching at CQU in the mid-1990s. The deja vu continues in terms of getting a feel for how the students are going, how are they responding to the course, its model and content? Back at CQU the solution was inspired by course barometer idea from some University folk in Sweeden.

The original course barometer was a purpose-built application in Webfuse, an “LMS” used at CQU from 1996 through 2009. This post records an initial attempt to recreate something simliar using standard Moodle 1.9 modules.


The barometer is meant to be a simple form that allows the students to

  • Indicate whether how they are feeling about the course at the moment: good, bad, or indifferent.
  • Provide some free-text comments to supplement the feeling.

Preferably this is done anonymously – previous research has shown that anonymity isn’t as important as doing something with the feedback – and would allow us to break up the students by campus/mode of study.

Some form of report should be generated to allow teaching staff to analyse student responses. One the nice list is a method for staff to respond.


Thanks to @markdrechsler and @mguhlin the Moodle tool possibilities (with links to Moodle 2.2 docs) are :

  • Choice,
    Appears that the choice module is limited to MCQs, but I do want the free text response.
  • Feedback,
    Looks like this could be the one.
  • Questionnaire (though apparently deprecated), and
    Doesn’t appear to be included in the USQ Moodle instance.
  • my original idea Quiz.
    As Mark suggested, having the concept of a “right” answer built into the quiz means it’s not great for the purpose of a barometer.

Place with feedback

Time to get familiar with what the Feedback module can do. Add a new Feedback activity and the form provides (which seem the same as those documented here)

  • Name and description.
  • Timed release of the activity.
  • An anonymous option – FTW.
  • Allow the students to see the analysis.
    There are two sides to this. Yes is good, allows students to get a sense for how others are going. No it is bad, because of the possibility of “bad” responses. I’ll go with yes.
  • Email notification of submissions.
    Will turn this one, will help mitigate the risk of “bad” responses.
  • Multiple submit – no.
  • It does allow separate groups.
    Wondering if this will provide the separation of students into the different modes.

Creating it’s a fairly simple process. Add the questions. Create a template (allow use of these same questions in other feedback activities). Away we go.

I do wonder if USQ automatically create student groups based on mode of study? And yes they do. And the Feedback module allows separation of students into groups.


Fairly simple to set up and even before I’d formally announced it, one student has submitted their first bit of feedback.

Gilstrap, Martin and the definition of a lecture

A couple of weeks ago, I was reflecting on something written about lectures when I paraphrased a definition/description of the lecture. I paraphrased it as

A method for transferring the content of the lecturer’s paper to the paper of the students without it passing through the minds of either.

I’d forgotten the exact quote and certainly never had a reference.

In comments on that post, Ian Reid shared the following version and reference

“A lecture is a process in which information passes from the notes of the lecturer into the notes of the student without passing through the minds of either.” (Gilstrap & Martin, 1975)

Peter Albion shared his experience of first hearing this definition in the late 1960s.

So, the question was where did this definition/quote originate?

Gilstrap and Martin

As it happens, Amazon had used copies of Gilstrap and Martin (1975) going cheap, so I ordered one. The intent being to trace the quote back a bit further. Here’s what I found (Gilstrap and Martin, 1975, p. 7)

As has been said, the words of the teacher quite often do go into the notes of the student without passing through the minds of either.

Not exactly definitive.

An earlier source

Searching a bit further brings up this blog post which mentions Eric Mazur mentioning a similar quote (Mazur, 2009, p.??)

I once heard somebody describe the lecture method as a process whereby the lecture notes of the instructor get transferred to the notebooks of the students without passing through the brains of either (3).

Where the reference to 3 is actually Huff (1954). That’s going back a bit further. As it happens there is a scanned version of Huff (1954) available online. With this version and the OCR abilities of Adobe Acrobat I can do a search of that book to reveal (Huff, 1954, p. 47)

It is all too reminiscent of an old definition of the lecture method of classroom instruction: a process by which the contents of the textbook of the instructor are transferred to the notebook of the student without passing through the heads of either party.

The context of this quote is in the examination of a number of flaws about how various findings are reported. In particular, how some phrases are taken uncritically. They aren’t picked apart further to determine what is said, or not said. The example to which the lecture quote is compared is a sentence from a magazine report

a new cold temper bath which triples the hardness of steel, from Westinghouse

Huff asks what exactly does this statement mean? Does any kind of steel become three times as hard once put through this bath? Or does the bath produce a particular type of steel that is three times as hard as any previous steel?

The quote has passed from the publicity release of Westinghouse and into the paper without it troubling the reporter’s mind.

The original source?

So, is this the original source of this quote. It looks like a good candidate. 1954 is fairly early and I’ve sighted the book.

But then there are other attributions such as this (and others) which ascribe the comment to R.K. Rathbun. Interestingly, I’m having trouble identifying Rathbun via Google. Am I showing my ignorance? Anyone help address my ignorance?


Gilstrap, R. L., & Martin, Wi. R. (1975). Current strategies for teachers: A resource for personalizing instruction. Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear Publishing Company.

Huff, D. (1954). How to lie with statistics. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Mazur, E. (2009). Farewell, Lecture? Science, 323(5910), 50-51.

Moodle, blogs, feeds and the Google feed API

Time to tweak the course site again. I attempting to encourage the students to engage with technology, to become digital residents. The assumption is that they will really only be able to design great teaching with ICTs, if the use of ICTs is part of their everyday life. One aspect I’m attempting to encourage is blogging.

To make the blogging process a bit more obvious, I wanted to include some aggregated view of the students’ blogs on the course site to increase the visibility and hopefully the prevalence of blogging. Here’s how I did it with the Google feed API.

What does it look like?

The following image (click on it to see a bigger version) shows what the site looks like now. The new bit is labelled EDC3100 blogs. Every five seconds the link (e.g. “My Animoto video”) scrolls onto the next one. The links are chosen from the 8 most recent blog posts aggregated by this Yahoo pipe.

If you move the mouse over the scrolling blog links, the scrolling pauses. Click on the blog title and you will be taken to the original blog.

3100 page with feed added

How does it work?

The process goes something like this

  1. I created this Yahoo pipe to aggregate the feeds.
    Currently the pipe is hard-coded with the feeds of the student blogs. In the future I need to connect this with diigo bookmarks the student blogs so I (or anyone in the group) can add their blog.
  2. Eventually found this explanation of Google’s feed API.
    It transforms the RSS feed into some nice HTML that can be placed on a web page.
  3. Stuck an iframe in a Moodle label.
    It appears that Google feed API wants to change the head of the HTML, something you can’t easily do in Moodle. So I had to upload a separate web page onto the Moodle service and then use an iframe to include it on the site page.

Reflections and work to do

Time to stop playing with the tech and design some prompts to encourage the students to participate.

Should probably look at putting a “help” or “about” link near the object so students can scratch their itch about what it is.

Need to get the Yahoo pipe interacting with the Diigo group bookmarks.

This was a useful respite from some other work, but in the end the technical aspect won’t be enough with additional work. The work around with the iframe was a bit kludgy. Including the object at the top of the page, does increase scrolling. So I wonder about the value.

I’m also wondering how much of this should be talked about with the students? If feel that an understanding that this form of manipulation of existing systems is important to teachers if they are looking to integrate ICTs into teaching. A bit of the whole Rushkoff, Program or be Programmed ethos.