Why I like so much working in UL

From all the places in the world I have worked in, the University of Limerick is by far the best. There are many reasons for this: the people, the campus, the cross-department collaboration atmosphere, the personal development programs and workshops, the lunchtime concerts. And last but not least, the events where we meet to exchange information and ideas about how to improve our teaching and the students’ learning. Every time I feel unhappy about how my teaching progresses, all I have to do is to attend one of these events and find out I am not the only one who encountered that problem, and learn how other people have solved it.

On Friday, after the last lecture of the semester and two other meetings, I attended a “Teaching on the Go” session organised by the Technology Enhanced Learning group in UL.

Stephen Kinsella from KBS gave a talk titled: “Many to one: Using the mobile phone to interact with large classes“.  Since this is one of my major problems – how to interact with a large class during the 50 min I get with them, I thought I might pick up something from Stephen’s experience.

The talk was excellent – short and to the point – and Stephen invited the participants to join his efforts. He developed the app himself – using a cheap mobile phone and Java. He is teaching a really large class – 500 people attend his lectures in the Concert Hall. At specific points during his lecture, he asks his students for questions or comments. The messages are projected on the large screen and everybody can read them. Sometimes he gets highly relevant questions, that allow him to explain specific terms or clarify issues. Some other times he gets irrelevant stuff, or even bad language. The phone numbers are always on the screen, so he can call back the number and expose the person. But most of the students understand the rules of the game and use this opportunity for real dialogue.

Stephen is now working with a couple of Indian developers on developing a web version of his application.

A video recording of the talk is available on his blog.

The excellent thing about this solution is that it is simple, affordable and the messages stay in a closed circle. My worry about the Jaiku experiment I ran last year was that I was polluting all my other contacts with the messages I was sending to the students. In one way, this was good, because it allowed synergies to occur (like my collaboration with Bernie), but at the same time some of the students might have been put off by this transparency.

My guilt feeling for not blogging was fueled even more by Stephen’s statement that he has reached 1000 blog posts!  After checking his blog, I realised it’s an excellent illustration of what good teaching enhanced by technology can do! All his lectures are available online – exactly what was suggested by my students last year (and I thought they were asking too much!)

Someone else in the room mentioned Clicker and a trial they are involved in. It’s amazing how much can you learn from your peers in an environment like UL! People from different departments come together and share their experiences and you always leave the event with new ideas and having made new acquaintances!

November 30 2008 12:30 pm | Events and teaching

3 Responses to “Why I like so much working in UL”

  1. Alana on 30 Nov 2008 at 1:41 pm #

    Hi and thanks for the good words on Limerick as a university – I have heard other things as well and will be making a trip your way, perhaps in December, to meet with the education dept.

    Will you be around? If so tweet and maybe I can drop in,


  2. Gabriela Avram on 30 Nov 2008 at 4:08 pm #

    I’ll be in UL during the two first week in December, and I would be delighted to show you around, Alana!

  3. Stephen Kinsella on 30 Nov 2008 at 6:30 pm #

    Thanks for the link Gabriela, and don’t feel guilty about blogging too little. I blog too much, and it seems to be costing me a fair bit in terms of publishing time. But let’s keep in touch about the web app! Best, Stephen

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