5/6 Mentor Observation

Mentor Observation – with Nick Hall from the School of Art and Design.

I have known Nick Hall for a number of years and we have often spoke with excitement  about the potential of technology within teaching and learning. This is why I chose him as my mentor. I took a slightly different approach to this observation because I have now completed three peer observations with Rebecca, Jialiang, and Eleftheria, and I wanted to focus on discussing with Nick technology specific issues and how he uses these to enhance his teaching and learning offer. Prior to the meeting I asked Nick to review one of my online videos of me delivering a session (http://vimeo.com/39835351) to my students. Some comments repeated on previous observations and so will not dwell on these. But the issue of how and why would students use these videos quickly came to the fore. This is discussed later in the page. Also Nick questioned how I know that the students are learning what is intended in the learning outcomes, and is this operating at its highest possible level and at its most efficient. This was a difficult question to answer, I presume the students are learning because they demonstrate the use of digital technology with studio projects but to what level of attainment, could it be higher?. Is this to a satisfactory level to other tutors on the course, I think I need to ask them for their opinions. We also discussed the issue that my sessions are very one directional and also very intense, from me to the student and I often do not pause in both sessions and through out the semester to help both myself and the students to digest what is happening. This could be acheived through re-thinking the patterns to the sessions, have break-away group gatherings, get the students to swap computers to help them deal with differing situation and problems, This is a great idea and has only come through reflective writing. Could I even get students to lead the explanation of certain problems to all other students. Also how do I manage the differing abilities of the learners, I have begun to address this issue as mentioned in page 2/6 Tutor Observation, but this needs to be developed so that I have an overall semester strategy that helps to manage the whole learning process.

I also wanted to discuss my approach and reflection on the semester. It is safe to say that my journey has been an educational one, which has revealed to me the power of reflection, experimentation, and creativity. So with my increased confidence in these issues I wish to establish a firm plan and direction for the next semester and the Application of Learning Technologies module.

Lots of Nick’s activities reflect my own but he has helped me to realise that I can use my learning material in a smarter way.  We discussed Blended Learning as a model for my intentions and he showed me how this approach has helped himself give all his content flexibility, position and meaning. ‘Blended learning is envisaged to maximise the benefits of traditional teaching methods and online delivery’ Benson&Anderson et al. (2011, 1).

The Garrison & Kanuka (2004) model above is an early attempt at visualising how blended learning sits within traditional, current and future educational developments. I feel the model is a little difficult to fully understand and feel that blended learning should sit at the centre. As online forms of learning are maturing with advancements in technology, the phrase blended learning is being replaced with blended e-learning (Heinze 2008). This acknowledges the growing importance of learning beyond the traditional classroom. In the model below the established modes of learning (classroom and online) are added to with mobile learning. I like the way this model has different sizes for each of the modes of learning with mobile being the newest is naturally the smallest but will no doubt grow in future years. The mobile learning addition is a critical element when reflecting on how I may develop my practice to use such a model and envisage how the students may use the mobile mode of learning. There is increasing recognition for the usefulness of mobile learning within the educational setting and its power to enhance the learning experience and motivate the learner (Minocha and Booth, 2008).


(Wikipedia, online)

Our discussion touched on how my long video recording (2 hours) are too long for any truly useable, and valued educational benefit. The long recordings have mearly become a record of the act of delivery of no real benefit to myself or the learners due to their length. For the recordings to be user friendly they need to be shorter in length so that students can integrate them easily into their day to day activites such as sitting on the train, or even the loo. This is the next essential step in the development of my learning offer. At this point it is worth noting that the above is only a small step in the task of integrating e-learning within my practice. I must acknowledge that not all  learners have the latest mobile technologies and if they have do not fully understand how to use them (Wishart and Green, 2010). I therefore must be concious of this when designing my material. At this stage I must aim for the material to be played on a basic home computer but if the material is used on a mobile device then this is a bonus. I should also annually become aware of my students mobile learning devices and how many of them have advanced devices and provide support on how we can effectively use the technologies to all our advantages.

The above is a ‘one way’ communication from tutor to student. Another development in my practice needs to be the encouragement of a network of peer to peer and tutor to student interaction both in the classroom and beyond using online technology. This will encourge deeper learning through interaction, commenting  and critiquing each others work. This is a way of working that has been revealed to me whilst on the PGCAP and the active use of several online mediums has ensured a enriching learning experience. The critical elements are the use of a Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard) as a foundation to course material, the use of e-portfolios as a stage for your developing body of work and a platform for commenting and discussion and the use of social media such as twitter to engage with a like minded community of learners. My experience of peer to peer interaction on the PGCAP at multiple levels including peer observations has again enriched my personal learning but also acted as a catalyst for my own practice. Peer learning is now being widely acknowledged by many educator’s for its learning potential, where a one directional passage of information can no longer compete with the combined learning of a network, (Clark, 2011). I have unknowingly in the past practised peer learning and so understand that there are problems within its management. One particular problem I have recently experienced is within group work scenarios where the group dynamics often falter and it is  difficult to assess the individual in a fair and credible manner (Boud and Cohen, 1999). Organisiation of the module is as critical as ever which mitigates the fear that teaching staff are doing themselves out of a job when using peer learning.

Taking this new way of thinking, I have begun to equip the students with some of the technical skills necessary to navigate the online space. This is acting as a test-run for the new cohort of students in September. I already deliver a session on VLE navigation and usage and a session on the value of social media as a networking tool. The missing piece of the jigsaw has been the depth of these sessions and the introduction of eportfoilos using wordpress as an addition to networking, peer to peer and tutor to student online interaction. I recently introduced the students to e-portfolios and selected a small number to test e-portfolios value as a learning tool. I now have a regular blogging interaction with two students. I also intend to use similar relationships to connect with students who are interested in doing a summer project and this will be heavily based online.

I now look forward to my next educational challenge with great anticipation. There are so many ideas and avenues I wish to explore within a new and more structured plan for my future direction.

UK PSF: A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, V1, V2, V3 V4, K1, K2, K3, K4


Benson, V., Anderson, D. & Ooms, A. (2011) Educators’ perceptions, attitudes and practices: blended learning in business and management education, Research in Learning Technology, 19:2, 143-154.

Boud, D. Cohen, R. & Sampson, J. (1999) Peer Learning and Assessment, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher education, 24:4, 413-426.

Garrison, R. and Kanuka, H. (2004) Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in Higher Education, Internet and Higher Education 7, (2004) 95-105.

Heinze, A. (2008) Blended learning: an interpretive action research study, PhD thesis, University of Salford.

Minocha, S. Booth, M. (2008). In Wishart, J. Green, D. (2010) Identifying Emerging Issues in Mobile Learning in Higher and Further Education: A report to JISC. University of Bristol. pp.4.

Wishart, J. Green, D. (2010) Identifying Emerging Issues in Mobile Learning in Higher and Further Education: A report to JISC. University of Bristol.

Clark, D. (online) 7 Compelling Aguments for peer learning, available at http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/7-compelling-arguments-for-peer.html [accessed 20 May 12]

Wikipedia (online) Blended learning, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blended_learning [accessed 19 May 12]


5 Responses to 5/6 Mentor Observation

  1. pgcapsalford says:

    Hi Craig,

    It was really good to read about your mentor-mentee relationship and how the conversations you have helps you think about your own practice.

    You mention at the beginning that you also discussed one of your recently recorded sessions and I am wondering if this is something you are going to add. The reader expects that something will follow about this but it is not there at the moment.

    You refer to mobile learning. This is indeed an area of rapid growth and potential. But what are the challenges? Does everybody, for example, have pocket technologies yet? Do we, tutors and students all know how to use these technologies effectively for teaching and learning? How can we overcome some of the barriers and challenges? What would you suggest? What does the literature say?

    I understand that you discussed peer learning with your mentor and both recognise the value of such approaches. It would be useful to also include some real benefits and concrete examples from your own practice and strengthen your viewpoint further by bringing in some of the literature linked to this. You might find this blog post useful http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/7-compelling-arguments-for-peer.html by Donald Clark but also David Boud’s book on peer learning.

    Remember to be specific and critical and check your referencing too.

    Please take the above into consideration when finalising this contribution. Well done so far.


  2. Nick Hall says:

    This is good to see Craig, I do think the Blended Learning is the key to developing a learning strategy that engages the students with both online/leaning technologies and the all important face-to-face teaching. I am anxious in all of this change that we do not loose the student & lecturer relationship that forms a really serious part of high quality learning. I have been practicing the see-saw balance of technology and face-to-face for a little while now and this is the feedback comments from students in 3D Design from the module I started it on for this year:

    Interesting topics; multiple presentation techniques; recording & uploading the lectures online; the lecture topics; group work – working with interiors; so many lectures with so many ideas; exploring new innovations & technology ideas; better understanding of other cultures & differences; support; tutors; I enjoyed the research; the brief was clear & easy to understand; lectures helped a lot; tutorials were up to us – whatever time was best for us; dynamic topics; the advice received from tutors was very clear & useful; variety of lectures; the lecturers have a lot to do with me liking this module, their enthusiasm shows through in lectures; keeping the information current & up to date; freedom of topic choice; free to do what I want; variety of different teaching media, documentaries etc; podcasts; great teaching methods, kept students engaged; group work on building a city; like and adore enthusiastic approach.

    The last comment is most important to me… technology supports, but it is not enthusiastic! That is something I always try to remember. What technology does is enrich. I have used to to free up my time to support the students with more tutorials at flexible times – (using Doodle.com to setup)!

    All the best mate!!

    • despard says:

      Thanks for the comments Nick and Thanks for all your time being my Mentor. Have you seen Chrissi’s post?
      I think we must ask what is the food on the plate? and in what location are we eating? And is there a nice drink to swill the food down.
      If learning is the food then if i was sat on a sunny Mediterranean beach eating fine french food, with fine cutlery, fine wine then that would be an ENRICHING experience. As educators we would hope we are supplying something close to this experience in educational terms.
      the alternative is cold fish and chips, in damp clothing, in a Blackpool cafe, and you have mistakingly put sugar on your chips instead of the salt.:(((((

  3. Hi Nick and Craig,

    I hope you don’t mind me jumping in the conversation. Really pleased Nick, that you have stopped by. I think, I would like to explore more how mentors could participate and support their mentees more actively during the core module but also the rest of the PGCAP programme. So, thank you for making me think about this. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them with me.

    Also, I just wanted to share with you both, something that Prof. Glynis Cousin http://www.wlv.ac.uk/default.aspx?page=17722 said during a conference I attended last year at the University of Wolverhampton which links to what you said Nick and I am including your quote here Nick:

    “What technology does is enrich.”

    Glynis said that she disagrees with the phrase people keep using that technology enhances learning and made the analogy between technology for learning and using cutlery for eating. She asked us: “Does cutlery make the food taste better? No, it doesn’t.” – and if this is true, what does cutlery really do, and what does technology do, if used based on a sound pedagogical rationale? Some things to think about 😉


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