100 ways to use a VLE – #5 Having an online debate

June 11, 2010

Debating  is a really useful way of enhancing learning, whether it be a formalised classroom debate, or an informal discussion arising from a presentation or a video.

How many though consider the needs of different learners and learning styles when organising debates? Some learners are reflective and they need to time to think and reflect on the debate. Some learners may be working or on online courses won’t be able to join a face to face debate.

A live debate using a chat facility on the VLE is one option that facilitates a debate in a way which allows quieter learners to contribute. A live online chat facility is a useful tool, and as the VLE itself handles the authentication process, learners needn’t worry about creating new user accounts or remembering passwords for when chat is used.

A moderator (or chair) may want to be appointed to allow learners an opportunity to make their point, to avoid the chat becoming a free for all. This is similar to the role of chair during a face to face debate.

Another way of undertaking a debate on the VLE is through a discussion forum. As with the chat, the VLE itself handles the authentication process, again learners needn’t worry about creating new user accounts or remembering passwords. In many ways this can be a different debating experience with the opportunity for all learners to make their point.

You may want to indicate how long the learners have to make their points (over a week for example) and close the debate with learners making a summary of the debate’s key points.

It is not an either or situation, it’s not about having just online debates in the same way as it is not just about having all face to face debates, it’s much more about allowing a range of debates using different mediums to reflect the different needs and learning styles of different learners.

Online debates are not difficult, but do require (in the same way that a face to face debates do) some planning and facilitation. It also helps if you try out a debate as a user first.

First you need to decide on a motion and nominating specific learners to put forward a view that supports the motion and learners to argue against the motion.

You may also need to put down some guidelines on how the learners should participate to ensure that the debate doesn’t degenerate into personal attacks. Also you may want to provide guidance on how learners should participate and what expectations  you have for those learners.

Debates are a great way of discussing topics in many subjects, an online debate on the VLE is just one way in which this can be facilitated.

Image source.

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BIG QR Codes

June 11, 2010

I have been interested and using QR Codes for a while now. I mentioned them on this blog nearly three years ago.

You then take a photograph of the barcode, and with special reader software you are able to convert the barcode into information, which could be a link to a website or just plain information.

Since then I have used them myself a fair few times. I used them at ALT-C 2009 to allow people to more easily vote for my poster (didn’t win by the way).

In presentations I have used them for titles or to share my contact details (though to be honest in the main to show people the potential of them).

We are using them in the Library at our Gloucester Campus to allow learners to access more information, links and further resources.

With the advent of Augemented Reality (AR) with Apps like Layar on the iPhone and Android, I have been wondering if there is a real future for mobile phone 3D barcodes.

There seemed to be very little use of them made in the mainstream public environment. Though interestingly Mashable reports today on how the City of New York has “outfitted Times Square with giant QR codes”.

[img credits: NYC Media]

To celebrate Internet Week 2010, the City of New York outfitted Times Square with giant QR codes earlier today. It’s called “The City at Your Fingerprints” and eleven New York agencies participated in the interactive billboard initiative.

Times Square denizens could use their smartphone barcode scanning app to scan the QR codes — which were featured in an animated sequence on the Thomson Reuters building in Times Square from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET — and pull up information relating to specific agencies being featured.

Some mobile phones come with a reader built in, I think my Nexus One did, and the Nokia N95 certainly did. Other phones don’t and need to have an app downloaded, I use Optiscan on my iPhone for example.

So where are we with QR Codes?

The University of Bath have been doing some extensive work on using QR Codes in education and their blog is well worth a read.

They are not mainstream and I know if I show them outside the mobile learning community and geekdom that most people have no idea what they are.

Are we at a point where they will take off?

Probably not.

I am sure AR will mature more and will be more useful.