New overview staff guides for GCU Learn, Turnitin and Rubrics

We now have a couple of new pages on the blog primarily for GCU staff. The GCU Learn Page provides information on GCU updates, and also provides a quick overview guide to GCULearn, and blended learning here at GCU.  The Rubrics and Turnitin page provide links to our assessment and feedback principles, and overviews of Rubrics and Turnitin.

We have been exploring some new (to us) tools (BlendSpace and Adobe Slate) to create these guides, which are all based on text based resources/files.  Both these tools are free to use (at the moment) and have fairly intuitive user interfaces.

Blendspace is quite nice for simple progression, informational type content like our guides. It has a variety of grid based layout options and you can insert “live” webpages and youtube videos into your design which is quite handy. There is also the ability to comment on pages so you can have a discussion within the content, again quite a handy wee feature to get quick feedback, provoke further discussion etc. Another good thing about Blendspace is that it embeds easily into our VLE  GCULearn (Blackboard).  Just copy and paste the embed code it generates. It provides a really nice, simple way to add more interactive (and attractive) content.  You can also share links via the usual social media channels, so your activities aren’t locked away inside the VLE.

Adobe Slate is an app (so you need to have a tablet to create content with it – the finished content can be viewed on any device, even a desktop machine!).  It is more a presentation tool, but I can see how it could be useful for creating more attractive/engaging content for learning activities than a standard Bb content page of text.  It has some nice features including make links more like buttons, searching directly to your drop box for pictures etc. It doesn’t have video embedding (yet) but has some quite neat, photo layouts (grids) and some slightly swooshy, picture carousel type things (glideshows) where you can annotate photos/pictures.  Again it has easy sharing links to social media. It’s embedding in GCU Learn isn’t as good as Blendspace, you are taken out of GCULearn to view the “slate” as they call it.

As with any type of tool/technology, use all depends on what you are trying to do and in many ways your own preferences on the end product.  Adobe Slate is great if you have an ipad/tablet, but that does bring up the issue of devices for staff.  We are often asked “can you give us a list of tools?”, which we tend to answer “can you tell us what you want to do”. I think from now on I might use this but add “teachers” to the heading .


For more ideas on presentation tools you should look at the DigiThings course developed by FOIB, University of Plymouth, a great resource full of different types of tools to explore. Thanks to the FOIB team for sharing.

#blimage challenge

In the catch up from being on annual leave, the hashtag #blimage was helpfully highlighted to me by twitter this morning.  #blimage is simple idea from Steve Wheeler and friends is a fun, but quite thought provoking way to encourage teachers (or anyone really) to blog.  With the summer holidays in full swing this blog has had a bit of a hiatus, so this seemed a good way to get back into the swing of things. @GCUBlend was thrown this challenge:

First thoughts were eek! As an initial response my colleague Jim and I created a wordle of things that immediately sprang to mind.

wordle word cloud mage

To me this image immediately makes me think of issues of control, gender, theatre, performance. All of which are analogous with traditional education and the notion of teachers as performers. The notion of the star lecturer, particularly in online learning,  is still prevalent and as the discussion generated by post shows, personalities can have a huge impact on educational experiences.

However as I thought more about the image it over lunch, I was reminded of the anarchic element of traditional puppet theater such as Punch and Judy. Although they can conjure rosy tinted images of happy days past at the sea side, the “plays” themselves were more often than not violent and provided satirical commentary on key issues of the day.

The facade of the theatre and the puppet allowed for a lot of subversion and creativity – both of which are key parts of learning.  So whilst we may feel constrained by what’s behind the curtain, we can make many different types of performances, ones which are audience (student) centred, and adaptive. We don’t have to stick to the same tired, old script, with the same characters.

To carry on the challenge, I offer this picture. What does this bring to your mind?