Monday, 28 June 2010

ExPedr2010 Comes to an End ... more or less

28/6/10 Pearson Airport, Toronto

Sitting at airport waiting to board. It’s been a good trip. Certainly we got noticed, spread the name of Newport around the place, and we have all made various kinds of useful contacts which have potential follow-up.

Kerie was inspired by a session she attended about the use of a certain technology with implications for formative/summative assessment. She aims to develop a L&T proposal when we return. The session was run, incidentally, by a PhD student whose supervisor is Cynthia Weston! That’s a nice connection for Simon.

Annette had a very productive time and has made a fruitful contact with a PhD student who is investigating the effectiveness of evaluations on retention. Usefully that student is studying at Manchester so there’s a real potential there if some sort of research support can be found (another job for Simon!).

Ron, as noted elsewhere in this blog, has made a good link with a colleague somewhere out in the heartland of Canada. Could lead to something. Similarly, the contacts we made at OISE have some potential which again Ron will follow up for the ESDGC side and David and Kerie will follow up for the teacher training side.

David too went to some useful workshops about online learning which will feedback directly  into the PGCertHE course. Standby Bela!

On reviewing the “expedition brief” that consisted of 10 outputs we have achieved 1, 3 (plenty of business cards collected, so Vaida get your database ready!), 4, 5 (this blog), 7 (we had to join STLHE to attend the conference and will maintain that engagement at least for the coming year), and 10 partially (School of Ed newsletter item already written and sent to editor; other publications to be identified).

Output 2 will be addressed over the coming month or two because we shall need to prepare our conference presentations for publication in the peer reviewed conference proceedings (we have a copy of last year’s if you want to see them); output 6 will be addressed with the guidance of CELT journal editor; output 8 again will be addressed perhaps during the Autumn term at Caerleon, and output 9 of course will be part of our follow-up. STLHE is at Saskatchewan next year and Montreal the year after. With luck we may return!

So while this post aims, in principle, to draw a line under the blog, to say “we’re done” that is of course not really possible. Tatiana, (whose own session was a great success and led to many useful exchanges of email addresses and contact details which she will follow-up as a part of her PhD supervision) shot plenty of video which has yet to be processed and added to the blog. Her session has yet to be written into the blog.

There’s also the Michael Wesch lecture which has perhaps been barely mentioned throughout our reporting but which, for me, was the single most inspiring session of the whole conference. I aim to do a fuller write up of that over the next week or two along with a write up of our roundtable session - this was, happily, thematically strongly linked to Michael’s lecture (though lacking his panache or insight of course!).

While I was aware of his work before the conference hearing him talk and illustrate his ideas brought them to life. With luck I can tackle this material at the Writing Retreat  which I am attending at the end of this week.

What a great life!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The importance of science in ESDGC

Ron's session went well on Saturday: "The Role of Science Education for Sustainabilty and (Global) Citizenship in HE - Current challenges and Conflicts". There is always a risk at conference that by the last day many delegates have left and audiences drop away (conferences might be organised better to take account of this, perhaps by putting on fewer sessions on the last day) but there was a decent audience and good discussion was had.The data he's got about differences of attitudes and beliefs about sustainable development between French and Welsh young adults is really quite interesting. Whenever there are differences, particularly over such important issues, it is important to ask why. I believe Ron hopes to take this forward. The wider discussion about how to embed basic scientific literacy (BSL) in curricula is in some ways a familiar issue - e.g it comes up again and again in relation to the problem of enhancing teaching and learning with technology (TEL). I am interested to note that Ron's solution is to address BSL in a context specific way - what's needed by mechanics differs from hairdressers, and differs again from physicists. I have often argued the same point in relation to TEL.So an interesting session followed by some useful discussion and some good potential contacts for Ron.See the PPT for the detailed observational data. Science Pedagogy in ESDGC

And here's the movie in four parts:


Today brought “Detecting Professors’ Conceptions of Teaching: What are the Appropriate or Alternative Approaches and Strategies to Assess Change or Professors’ Teaching?” Jae-Hoon Han, PhD student McGill University. The project aimed to enhance student engagement in science courses through use of questioning supported by use of clickers ( You’ll recognise the definition – clicker technology is a wireless system that enables tutors to ask questions and for students to respond to answers by hand held devices and receive real time feedback!!

They were certainly fun to use and stimulated discussion but, being academics, we wanted to challenge the clarity of the question rather than admit our answers were wrong! Just like on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” there were responses in all possible categories but we didn’t have Chris Tarrant to tell us the correct solution! We looked at the merits of Information Transmission and Teacher Focused (ITTF) versus Conceptual Change and Student Focused (CCSF) teaching approaches and practices. Lots of current literature on student learning but little research on teachers’ experiences with developing and implementing strategies with clicker feedback in teaching. Tutors did not use clicker technology for assessment but to count up to 5% towards the class participation grade.

Certainly a fun resource to enhance student engagement but the premise that use of clickers resulted in a conceptual change in tutors’ perceptions of teaching? I’m not convinced.

Closing Plenary

A very interesting talk about creativity by Dr Susan Keller-Mathers, Asst Professor at the International Center for Studies in Creativity, Buffalo State College. Buffalo claims to be the first and oldest University department concerned with the study of creativity.

A talk full of references and interesting ideas recorded here in MP3 (54 min duration):

Here's the Center's YouTube channel.

Ellis Paul Torrance is an important influence on their work.

Michael Wesch says "Hi" to University of Wales Newport

Video by Tatiana Diniz

Inspirational times in Canada

What an amazing time I'm having in Canada meeting so many delegates who really seem to be interested in what we do. A huge theme this year appears to be the use of art, music and photography in creative teaching and learning and I took part in a workshop that illustrated a joint art project with medical and art students involving mask making to explore issues around abuse.Unfortunately my mask looks more like a hat and I have the pictures to prove it! 

I've also made many links with delegates involved in working in the community with indigenous learners and have had some really interesting discussions comparing the way we both work in the community.

Love your poster!
At OISE, one of the staff there described a project that she had put together called the CURA programme, based on action/participatory research in the community - amazingly like our science shops project with Glamorgan. Unfortunately her project got through the first round of funding but not the second, owing to the fact that it wasn't fleshed out enough. She is however, really interested to know more about our project - good links there. She was also very interested to hear about the 14 - 19 stuff that we do.

Have made plans to meet with a delegate that teaches bereavement counselling in the hope that she can have some input to a new module on loss that we are developing in CCLL for use on the Cert HE.

Loads more stuff going on and when I get the time to get to a computer I will send more!

Oh, I forgot, I gave my poster presentation last night. Exhausting! It went well with a fair amount of interest and there were some amazing posters there. People seemed keen to engage with the ideas in the poster and all in all it was successful. I did however, think that my topic would have been better in a workshop session and a few people commented that they would have enjoyed such a session but hey ho I was quite pleased.

Have had the offer to participate on joint research with Ryerson University! We would be looking at the value of mid-term assessment on retention. Fab!

So Tell Me What You Want: Online learning

Reina Green, Mount Saint Vincent University, and Dept of Distance Learning and Continuing Education

Why teach online? #1 reason to try different pedagogical approaches. But can be overwhelmed by the number of tools that are available.

Why learn online? #1 flexibility.

Distance teaching can expand enrolments, so it is often pushed from above, esp where local enrolments are low.
Mature students do best; also visual learners and risk takers. You need to take an online course in order to be confident. Need to be clear about what and how to interact online.

Social network knowledge does not transfer - the netiquette of academic discourse is different

Focus more on design of interpersonal learning than design of analytic learning (build the interaction into the course design); also use resources and tools to appeal to diverse learning styles

Orientation activities: Set up profile email post to forum or blog; respond to a post; quiz (ungraded). Set up a scenario for them to respond to.

They use Elluminate Live! and Moodle

A very full and useful workshop. Much to consider. Reina will enrol us on a special course she has created to enable further exploration of activity. Much to learn from them and highly relevant to PGCertHE.

A very useful session which ended on an equally valuable discussion outside the room with Prof John Grant McLoughlin about the ethics of online study especially the ethics associated with personal exposure and disclosure. Hadn't thought much about this but in some contexts this can be a very significant issue - e.g. an online course for where the students are based in a school in an overseas country and their teachers or the principal is an online mentor. This calls down the need for some training, guidelines, contacts and structured roles. There's a lot to his discussion and I will get in touch with John to follow up.

MP3 file here.

A feature of Canadian HE

Kerie observed that our Canadian colleagues work under a very different occupational regime. Attainment of tenure is a critical milestone in a career for with that comes job security. Among other things, to attain tenure you need to demonstrate that you are an effective teacher in relation to such things as student tension, engagement and achievement. Hence there is a considerable focus in many presentations here on these aspects of teaching and learning.These factors can make or break an academic career.

The troubling face of G20 security

Television news item this AM: "Public Works Protection Act - extended to cover the G20, except the public wasn't told!"

A good example of the arbitrary power that is so gleefully taken to itself by the State whenever it can, ll in the unarguable pursuit of 'security'. This is one of the worst things about this sort of total and authoritarian control that you simply do not know where you are, what the rules are, what you can do and what you can't do.

On the news this morning it has finally been revealed, juts the day before the G20 begins in Toronto that the Public Works Protection Act  (presumably designed to protect public works from vandalism or sabotage) has been arbitrarily extended to include the security fences. If you are within 5 metres of them and cannot give a account of yourself (no ID, no acceptable reason) you can be arrested and charged.

The G20 has already created a vast no-go zone in the middle of Toronto city enclosed by hugely expensive and very robust security fence. But now not only can you not cross this boundary you can't even walk up to it!

The troubling issue about these sorts of events - and wherever the G8/G20 takes place we see similar processes at work - is that our so-called democratic states become more acclimatised to the justification and exercise of arbitrary, totalitarian power. True it's localised but ...

No Lunch!

Couldn’t resist the urge to see the barricades for the G20 so I could say “I was there”. It's like I'll have to go to the Olympics ! As I’ve eaten far too much this week; took the opportunity to stroll down to the CN Tower at lunch time. Lots of security and pigeons but little else!

Finished the day by videoing Jane’s presentation. This was really excellent. Isn’t it ironic that I’ve come all the way to Canada to learn about Jane’s project on student engagement during induction? Lots of great ideas that I would like to explore with the secondary programme.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Online Courses

They do come up with good titles here! My next session was “Tailored to Fit and Good to Go: Online Teaching Tip”, Caterina Valentino, Ryerson University. Universities are yielding to the demand of learners for the delivery of online education, thus lecturers need to develop the knowledge and skills to understand online student engagement. Successful online teaching is perceived as a mix of the science of online pedagogy and the art of online student engagement. Students think of online learning as the “soft option” and think that they don’t have to “work as hard” that it’s “easier to pass an online course” than sitting in the traditional classroom. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. However, Institutions still debate whether online learning is as rigorous as face to face.

The presentation introduced a model of online pedagogy to ensure learning was successful. For example, by considering the importance of the lecturer creating a” habit” to encourage students to reciprocate. This could be by always answering emails at a certain time and keeping office hours when the students know that course participants will be online. Lots of Web 2.00 resources freely available to help create a course identity by audio inputs and photographs e.g. JING. Interestingly, as the module progresses, academic support declines, as would be expected, but relationship support follows a normal distribution. The message to tutors who wish to deliver courses online seems to be “online teaching is a discipline that you need to learn”.

Do I Do This in My Own Time?

Writing this in Jane's session "'Do I Do This is My Own Time?'. Student Engagement During Induction Week."

I feel like a Theatre Critic, making notes as she performs! (though efore I start I know it'll be a good review). The video camera is running, and the PowerPoint is available - so all you need here is some brief comments as she speaks.

Very clear speaking, very clear start, making the audience aware of the Welsh context and thus the rationale for the Education Studies programme. Explains the 'identity crisis' of Education Studies, and the need to work on engagement - "as a nursery teacher one thing I knew was that children have no trouble being children, so I assumed that students would be the same". (Nice quote).

I'm impressed. Very clear, very articulate, easy to follow. I like the emphasis on an induction task that creates a sense of purpose at the outset. Too often students can feel alienated and disengaged. Making a video in groups as an induction task with a clear goal, although only relatively minimal 'givens', seems to work so well. The topic was 'information literacy'. Studnets given names of various people who can provide support - people in IDL, AMD, the Library.

Great orchestration of resources - slides off, up goes the screen, prompt words on the board. Nice simple group work. Jane handles questions and interjections so well.

Interesting that the list of words describing film-making roles is surprisingly familiar to us even though we have rarely made a film or video, presumably because we are so exposed to them in everyday life - think how many times we read the credits of films and TV programmes and see terms such as 'director', 'editor', 'camera operator', 'script writer', 'set designer', and although perhaps the details may not be so certain in our minds we already have a sense of what they are.

Jane sends us back to our group to talk about them for a few minutes. This is what the students do and it is a good way for them to begin to differentiate their group work by the different roles that they might take

Nice example of student video shown. Turns out that all the videos (about 10 altogether) covered Harvard Referencing as an interpretation of information literacy. Interesting feedback data from students - see the 7 principles on the slide. Not all positive, but to my ears the some of the negatives are oddly positive - e.g. the second principle of good teaching that it creates reciprocity and co-operation between students: feedback is mixed with quite a few find that other group members can be lazy, awkward and uncooperative. But this is an important insight for people who are aiming to become TAs.

Well done, great show. How typical that I've come all this way from Wales to Canada to hear Jane talk about her work but I am so glad I did. I learned a lot from this and hope to incorporate some of it into my BSc ICT module next year.

Useful question/comment from audience: suggests to look at Pecha-Kucha"Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of "chit chat", it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds." (from website).

Jane Williams Presentation STLHE 2010

View more presentations from Kerie Green.

Video Part 1

Video Part 2

Video Part 3

Video Part 4

An accidental lecture

Wanted to go to The Easy Way to Teaching Through Multi-media Storytelling but it was packed out so I simply went next door into Restructuring Pleas for the Humanities in an Age of Ascendant Technology (Howard Doughty).

I am writing as I listen - argument is familiar. Education is political because of course it serves social, civic ends; but it follows a Kuhnian process - paradigm shifts occur not because of "great men" alone but also because of circumstances. So, what made Plato  great was not merely the influence of Socrates but the invention of the written word, which Plato tells us he hated. For Socrates Philosophy is necessarily spoken ... then comes Gutenberg and the Renaissance ... then the industrial revolution ... underlying circumstances affect our understanding.

Now we are working out Capitalism which implies an approach to the Humanities which is different from earlier 'paradigms'.

For earlier generations Education was the Humanities. Then Franklin in the mid-1700s suggested that education should pay attention to practical things, applied knowledge.Mid-1800s, as the IR progressed, led to a situation where ER - "the object of education is first to make good men, second to fit them for usefulness" (Egerton Ryerson, 1841).

19th Century view then was to fit men to be capable of operating machinery, and also to be good citizens. John Strong founder of U of Toronto railed against this view because to teach everyone to read would mean you could not control what they read!

What is the Humanities? ... goes on to critique the notion that research and scholarship should only be funded if it has a pay-off.
Lists a load of oppositions: e.g.
Humanities - Technological domain
Moral - Practical
Personal development - Economic need
Normative - Empirical
etc. etc.

Ways of knowing rather than things to be known. Jonathan Winthrop (?) 1968 arguments against Humanities typically are - No pay-off, not employable, not economically worthwhile. But the humanities matter. And education today (1968) is too practical. Humanities are civilizing, socialising....

Refers to proposed study to investigate if in the long run arts graduates do better.

30 minutes in ... not quite following the argument at this stage. Howard has a very quiet voice and I can't quite hear everything.

Overall, I guess this is the usual argument that instrumental, economic ends cannot be/should not be the only criterion of value in determining what should be taught or what is worth investing in.

PS later that evening I fell into conversation with two colleagues from Alberta who had gone to the same lecture. I think we all felt that the early part of the lecture was clear, if a familiar argument, but we were equally unclear where the argument went in the later stages. In some ways, the content here was linked to the kind of thing that Wesch talked about, but the theme of Ascendant Technology, suggested by the title, nedver really materialised. It promised a useful counter-critique of the overwhelmingly positive outlook on socila media that Wesch gave us


Hey, folks (I'm getting the Canadian accent), where are our videos???

Dancing in the Aisles!

Today brought “Pop Quizzes that Students Love?” Art Seto, Ryerson University – quizzes used as a way to improve attendance not as assessment tools. Context was delivery of lectures to approx 90 students in a lecture theatre designed for 135. Even if students had been persuaded to attend class, it was yet another struggle to engage them in the material presented.


The lecture theatre had wireless access and these new digital natives were unable to resist the pull of social networking!

Quizzes were given to students without advance notice; 5 quizzes, contributing 5% of the assessment mark with a further 5% gained from some of the same questions set in the final examination. Students achieved the 5% marks simply by completing the quizzes, serving the duel purpose of a diagnostic tool/formative assessment and attendance strategy. They also increased student participation, took away the anxiety of what to expect in an examination and added some fun in the class. If done immediately following teaching, literature shows that quizzes promote deeper learning and the data shown here unsurprisingly supported a correlation between attending classes and grades achieved. Quizzes ranged from multiple choice, to crosswords and word searches to dancing in the aisles! See YouTube - GCM Work & Twist, Twist & Shout

BSc students watch out next year!

Service Learning and Risky Labels

Brazil 0 x 0 Portugal. That would be the best end for today's match, said the Portuguese waiter at the wine and cheese reception. Fair enough then. To pretend that I'm not frustrated I will write about two lovely sessions I've been to yesterday.

Just after lunch, Angela Thompson, from St Francis Xavier University, told us about Service Learning, a methodology based on engaging students in the community and assessing them for doing so. The examples were brilliant. Together, Angela and her students run an after school sports club for local children as part of her discipline in Health Studies. Some of the benefits perceived by the students: gain of confidence, better communication skills and better understanding of the course content.

It made me think of Brazil, where engaging students in community work practice is now becoming compulsory at some universities as a means to fight inequality. Community work has been added as a component in the curriculum specially for courses which traditionally attracts students from wealthy families, such as law. The idea is that if you have always been rich and are studying to join your father's office at your grandfather's law company, you might never be able to learn about social contexts other than yours. Therefore, law students now must spend some time working for poor communities to get a better understanding of how to apply their knowledge within different settings, maybe without labeling people for what they have or what do not have.

Risky labels. That was the topic discussed at Meredith Lordan, from the University of Toronto. Through a project funded by HSBC bank she prepares High School students from a local deprived area, Regent Park, to consider going to university. Very much related to the AimHigher project I took part at London South Bank University, and to what I am about to start doing through CCLL First Campus approach. Yes, indeed I quite fancy this type of social contribution.

Before these two sessions, David and Kerie's round table was one of the most popular in POD 250, and extra chairs were needed. And Annette did a great job by her poster at the wine and cheese reception, making people listen to her with great real interest, as she is always able to do. Well done, team!

Well, now it is my turn. Off to lunch (guess the Portuguese waiter should be happy over there) and then to the lecture theatre where I am doing my own session at 2.30. I am quite happy about it, probably because we have just done it at Nexus and also because I brought my dear friend Alison Glover in my memory stick. As I have been filming and making photos of everyone's work I asked David for filming mine today adding some sort of special effect, maybe a Matrix rounding camera style or something like that? Well, he promised he would try his best...

Catch up later then.

And, please, no comments about this 0 x 0 thing, ok?

Thursday Sessions


A great session  by local academics. Useful to me because it showed how you can put together a vodcast to support a teaching or learning point in less than two hours. The emphasis is on the use of accessible materials and quick, easy to use desktop tools. This is important. There was a discussion during the session when a member of the audience raised the issue that his learning technology team would insist on high level production values and would not like to see videos knocked out in an hour using bits of paper and marker pens for props. But that's the whole point of these sorts of resources! This workshop promoted the idea that putting together a short video to make a point is as easy as using a wordprocessor to cut, paste and format a couple of paragraphs. High level production values have their place, but accessibility is everything - anyone, teacher or student, needs to be able to do this.

Will use this next year.

Concrete Models: A method of making abstract concepts tangible

See Kerie's post on this. I didn't really follow it I must admit. The crocheted hyperbolic curves were a revelation though! Several were passed around the group. I wanted to keep mine, hug it close and give it a name ... maybe 'blanky'. We went to this because only the day before we had been talking about how concrete materials and manipulation of materials is an important component in learning (in mathematics) and whether or not you can substitute such experiences with computer based representations - we decided the answer is no although it's relative to the level and prior experience of the learner. We talked about the difference between tearing the corners off paper triangles and realigning them to discover that the internal angles add up to 180deg and using a geometric manipulation program to do the same thing. Presumably this may have something to do with the appropriateness of the software design as well - you wouldn't give a 7 year old Geometer's Sketch Pad - but then if the software has to be very simple to match the perceptual capability of a seven year old, why would you bother? Isn't the paper better?

But there was none of this type of discussion in the workshop, or at least a discussion that I could follow. It got onto the problem of concrete representations of Euclidean geometry on non-place surfaces (hence the crochet) but I must say that is not a problem I have ever thought about. Really must dig out my Euclid (second only to the Bible in publishing history)

It just occurs to me though that this demonstration might make a nice 45 second VodCast.

Exploring and Shaping Opinions Through Online Forums (

I went to hear this session because I am involved in the PGCertHE, our online course that makes use of forums. I have used forums before, but never very successfully and I don't really have a clear notion of what strategies will work to motivate their use. This workshop provided some interesting ideas which may be useful. I'll work them out with Bela and see what she thinks. The scheme is: Build Relationships, Focus on Hot Topics, Make it Worth Something, Give Students some Choice. They have provided a Moodle course with the ideas in it, available until end of July. It's called Bumping Up The Energy! and is at must create an account for youself then to enter the course use the enrolment key blueberry.

Torontonian generosity

I noted somewhere else that we have felt the good vibe in Toronto - people are helpful, kind and generous. It feels like an affluent city and someone told me today that Canada is feeling rather confident overall because their banking system is much more closely regulated than others so they have not suffered anything like the same consequences of the barrow-boy mentality unleashed by Margaret Snatcher or Ronald Raygun.

There are poor folks wandering the streets holding out cups for change and you see a few desperate people but on the whole it feels like a thriving place. The G20 is causing the usual annoyances and downright anger in some quarters for its effects on the ordinary daily freedom individuals to move about and speak out. The bully-boy features of the State are in evidence even here, insulating our democrats from the people. I know it's wise ot be cautious, but it is extreme and stupid when even in the local park that has been set aside as the 'Free Speech Park' where protest groups, interest groups, marginal stakeholders and all the other activist currents can gather, they are banned from using tables to display their publicity. (Presumably they could be thrown 2 kilometres over the security perimeter and maybe hit a fat cat!).

Incidentally the Canadians speak proper English - they say kilOMetre not KILLOmeeter.

They are generous too. The other evening when we were boarding a tram (streetcar to them) Kerie and I were short of a dollar - from behind us in a split second came a hand bearing a dollar, the woman pleasantly insisting that we take it. (As it turned out that tram ride was only one stop so it was both an expensive ride and totally unnecessary, but really you should talk to Ron about that).

Then, just now, I was at a coffee bar but had left my wallet behind. I asked the price of a cup of coffee in case I had enough change on me and a guy next to me simply dropped two dollars on the counter and said "there you go" and just walked away.

Presumably it is the charm of an English accent.

Thursday 24/6/10

Busy day today. For me the entire conference has been worth it just to hear Michael Wesh's talk.

Everyone is blogging now.

Annette's poster session went well and she was pleased to get a lot attention for the for the ideas she had put up there. See her post.

David and Kerie's Round Table discussion was pretty good too - see David's post about this v(and Tatiana gave us a nice reference too!). Michael Wesch rather stole the thunder on this topic really, but we did get a large group of interested colleagues so that was positive and indicates that the issue of "digital pedagogy" is a live one.

Tatiana has been very busy with the video camera, gathering snippet interviews with various people. Her journalism background has come to the fore - she's been great and has the gift, though now we are of course drowning in footage.

The next time ExPedR leaves the country Simon please send a bigger entourage of writers, photographers, journalists, makeup, PR, .. the works!

Concurrent sessions 1 & 2

Creating positive attitudes towards physics : figuring out what works - Ryerson, Toronto.

This was one for Carol Wood really but the discussion extended far beyond physics and included other disciplines. In fact just as well because most of the audience were chemistry tutors ! The common problem of a decline in science students was noted and decline in interest and achievement in those students taking physics after the first year was also noted and explored. Many theories for this were put forward but the most meaningful statements came from the presenters and the participants outside of the formal presentation which I personally felt was looking for exotic reasons for a problem which perhaps has a more mundane answer ... e.g. what did you do at university in your first year away from home !! ???? in the days when students could afford to move away to go to university ! So maybe new found freedom and exciting new social experiments still (gently) influence student early years performance !!?? Virtual learning environments were proposed with an increased interactive approach was recommended ....but then I always thought that science labs were interactive tools of teaching and learning ........

Nevertheless, a good and stimulating session which identified many issues not considered before.

Training scientists : preliminary evaluation of science 100 at Alberta - this was an excellent presentation / discussion which I hope to follow up later today. The Science 100 programme does much of what I aspire to in my own teaching in an informal manner. This programme adopts a holistic approach across the sciences teaching each in a common context. Making bridges between them ...even on the bus trip to Jasper, mass and velocity experiments were carries out with the driver providing different gradients and rapid breaking .... (have offered to VL on this programme next year for fee of tea and cakes !). Student perceptions of science were examined perceptions and misconceptions considered.

There are many components of this programme which could map across directly to the ITT science course and the Access / Foundation pathway. The programme is elective and carries no prior qualifications in science. As with our UWN Access Science performance and achievement by students on their continuing degree courses students progressing from the Science 100 programme had significantly improved records of achievement. Good to see common issues being recognised and addressed in such an exciting manner.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Next One!

The second session was enticingly called “ Those who CAN do, Teach: How students can enhance the learning of your current students while enriching their own" – Kamini Persaud, Lana Mikhaylichenko and Janelle Leboutillier, University of Toronto. A newly designed Classroom In-reach programme which allowed science students, who had successfully completed their course, to enrol on a science engagement module designed as an experiential learning opportunity for undergraduates. Science engagement students work with a tutor and use their own learning experiences gained when studying the course to enhance the learning experiences of current students. The rationale is based on the premise that students do not remember the learning from traditional methods of teaching. Teaching others is the key to understanding; you only realise how much you understand when you actually have to teach it to others. A pedagogical model linking academic context with direct practice through critical reflection.

What do you think Ron? How successful would our Y2 students be in teaching Y1 lab skills? Of benefit to both cohorts?

Our First Workshop

Our first concurrent session sounded good – Concrete Models: a method of making abstract concepts tangible; Alison Skene and Zohreh Shahbazi, University of Toronto. A theme close to my own heart! Examples were given from Philosophy and Mathematics to illustrate the power of visual models (especially those you can feel and hold) in engaging students in the learning process. One key criterion – to make abstractions tangible. Students always find it challenging to “break down the rules of Euclidean geometry” as we all know “every two points lie on exactly one line” but when it comes to hyperbolic planes why is it a different story? Modelling difficult concepts has powerful learning potential in spite of the difficulty that the model may limit further higher level learning.

Knowledge and Lego

No physical earth movement today, but some really thought provoking and stimulating input to get my mind moving. The opening plenary by Professor Michael Wesch was excellent, he was such an engaging presenter - the type of person who makes you want to sign up for one of his modules. The content covered a seemingly diverse and disparate range of topics, from the introduction of books into a remote village in Papua New Guinea to the adverts shown during the Superbowl, but the key message about the the need to rethink 'knowledge' was clear. He used a lot of high quality video footage made by him and his students to illustrate his points which has worried me a little as my presentation tomorrow is on a video project undertaken by my students and the quality isn't quite up to his standard. I suppose I should be thankful that I wasn't showing it straight after the key note, perhaps people will have forgotten a bit by then.

The sessions I attended during the rest of the day were similarly interesting, one demonstrated a method of structuring student reflections to maximise the effectiveness of the process, an approach which I'll be trying with my students as they are required to write a reflective portfolio. Another session used Lego to facilitate group work and progressed onto using the bricks to represent sociological concepts - sound odd but it made perfect sense!!

All in all a really great day, looking forward to seeing Annette's poster later this evening.

HEA conference: the egocentric post

And now to the highpoint of the HEA conference: my presentation ;-)

I presented some of Nicola Woods and my work on academic writing:
  • a critique of a simplistic, deficit model of writing, which doesn't take account of big differences between written styles and genre across the HE curriculum, sees problems largely in terms of student deficiencies (e.g. in grammar and spelling)
  • some analysis of the large amount of focus group data we collected: students talking about their experiences of academic language (they find it funny, pompous, alienating) and academic writing (the majority don't buy in to the process, just do it because they have to)
  • a conclusion which suggests some ways forward, including analysing and articulating our own expectations more carefully, and helping students to see that the process of writing is central to them developing their understanding of/expertise in our subjects.

This was the first paper I'd ever given at a conference (not counting Nexus, which feels a safer "home" environment!) I'd been a bit worried that people would find the project area a bit old hat, but the room was pretty full (at 8.45 am - I was really pleased!) and I got the impression that many colleagues and institutions are still concerned about/struggling with this issue. The questions and comments were very valuable - either informative (e.g. useful literature) or challenging or just nice and encouraging :-) I'm now enthused for the next steps which I think will be:

  • further analysis of our focus group data - it feels really important to do this properly and to try to represent student opinions and feelings accurately and fairly - to give them a platform they don't always have (given HE power structures)
  • start to gather and analyse what is perceived as "excellent" writing from lots of subjects (I'll be pestering you all for examples) to show how "non-generic" some aspects of academic writing are, and to help us to articulate better to our students what we are expecting of them.

Many thanks to Nicola and Simon for making me realise that I was being a bit of a wimp, not getting involved in research at Newport :-) And the L and T grants are crucial, both practically and psychologically (i.e. you have permission to do research, in fact you have to, once you get the grant) - do hope these will continue to support research.

What's widening participation for...?

The first workshop I attended at the HEA conference was by Norman Brady of University of Greenwich (advertising lecturer) called "the scourge of instrumentalism" - about attitudes of staff and students in the Business School there. He noted (and apologies for bit of a crass summary):
  • students believe that getting a 2:1 or a first will get them a good job/passport into professional classes
  • they adopt extremely surface/strategic approaches to learning - familiar to them from a school experience of SATs and other measurements, where only external, extrinsic aspects of learning are valued
  • the pedagogy and design of the business courses doesn't encourage critical thinking/deep learning either (this is something that some of our NBS colleagues try to grapple with e.g. George on the PG Cert)
  • employers (e.g. in the City) aren't interested in (a) business graduates, preferring to employ history or philosophy graduates who can think laterally and be trained in the specifics of the job, on the job and (b) any graduates from new universities!!
  • awful paradox: the undergraduates Norman described are missing out on the opportunity of a broader, deeper learning experience, in the hope of employment that won't materialise anyway.

The question about widening participation was mine. Maybe we need to return to the question of what new universities are there for. (And I don't mean spouting stuff about being cutting edge and innovative). Competing with/aping the Russell Group unis isn't working in terms of "employability".... and it's letting students down. Can we help develop expectations of HE beyond "grades" - can we communicate to students - or at least help negotiate "what is learning in HE?"

OK this is just a flavour, lots to consider...

wish I could tweet

I want to find out who that impressively chested avatar was who was following Dave around, but seemingly just forwarding his tweets on... You didn't seem very flattered by your glamourous stalker Dave?!

A nice place

I think we have all found the general atmosphere in Toronto to be one of tolerance and open friendliness. A wonderfully cosmopolitan city - people from any and every ethnic group - relaxed and easy going, in spite of the undercurrent of grumpiness about the overbearing restrictions and expense caused by the G20.

Look at this video sweep of the crossroads at Dundas Square, look at the people:

Registration Day

Here we are on our way to register when we stopped to say hello to Egerton Ryerson, founder of the Ontario State education system:

We registered and were ready for lunch but had not enrolled for the workshops ( these were an extra cost!). So off we went to find some lunch but instead found the Ryerson Moose:

Later that day we went to the conference reception and as you see we were networking like crazy:

David talking with Hilary from New York

Kerie talking with Nina from Alberta.

Annette talking with XX from YY.

And now watch the opening moments from the STLHE President's welcome address:

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Earthquakes, helicopters and flags

It's certainly all happening in Toronto! I was in my room when the earthquake struck, a really bizarre sensation that really makes you wonder what is going on and if that really happened. Just prior to the quake 3 helicopters, apparently part of Barack Obama's entourage had been circling around so when the room moved a part of me did think that there could have been an explosion - a sign of the times. On a happier note it is really heartening to see how Torontonians are involving themselves in the World Cup, the cars have flags of all nations on them, lots of people are sporting different team shirts and there is a real sporting interest with people stopping on the street to watch matches and chat with whoever is around - and apparently England won or something!!

On a more academic note, I have been organising some links with Humber University's Early Childhood Studies team, and it's interesting to note that one of the big discussions going on in that field is about bilingual education- mirroring what is happening at home. I'm hoping to find out more about how they train their future practitioners to deal with the issues around bilingualism and I'll let you know what I find out.

Creativity in HE work

Ros Weston, a nurse educator at Birmingham City University, led a workshop entitled: "Letting go the reins of power and control" where she shared her experience of letting her 3rd year undergraduates choose the content of a module entitled "Issues in Midwifery". Students could choose any topics they wished to cover or revisit, and were responsible for researching and leading a seminar type session on the topic.

A key element in the learning and assessment was the use of storytelling. I've come across this before, but never used it as a teaching tool. I think we have the title referenced by Ros in Caerleon library: Learning through storytelling in HE, and I want to dig it out and use it. Ros got us story telling in the workshop, and it was clear that it could be a powerful tool in helping teacher ed students focus on critical incidents, practice-based learning etc.

The other highly creative workshop I went to was led by Jan Sellers of the University of Kent: The Labyrinth - a reflective journey. I blathered on about this rather vaguely on Simon's video, where we walked around the small labyrinth constructed for the conference. What I loved about this was Jan's courage at looking at areas of human learning and experience which are not rooted in the intellect/cognition, but engage the body and emotion. It's something I've been thinking about as I have started to learn about Mindfulness as a discipline. This kind of thinking can seem rather wacky and new age, and difficult to take seriously in the current HE world. So I think it's great that Jan has managed to convince Kent, and the HEA, to support her in developing this.

One way I can think of using this in my practice might be to use the labyrinth shape to get students drawing/annotating their learning history, or language/literacy history (for ESOL or literacy teachers) or whatever. I've done this kind of exercise before as a simple time line... I think you can see the Kent labyrinth at

STLHE Day 2 -- and the earth moved..for some of us !!

Well there I was sitting on the 10th floor of the hotel about to write this when the earth moved ..... dashed into the corridor to find others thinking they had imagined it -- it was an earthquake 5.5 they say..... .

and apparently UWN colleagues oblivious to it !!! but then so was the BBC.... you would think with G20 etc. it might have made the news !! But no !! they carried news about 2 camels and a tiger that were stolen from just outside Montreal whilst waiting for the action to start at the G20. Now that just highlights the predicament of teaching science to students who use the entertainment and news media as their primary sources of information (seamless transition huh ?).

So re, having access to non- sensationalised ESDGC issues this seems a problem here too. At OISE they agree the problem and further discussion with Dr Erminia Pedretti & Dr john Lawrence Bencze helped stop a feeling of "crying in the wilderness" about the necessity of embedding a basic scientific literacy element across all stages and levels of education. I should say "as well as" not "instead of" ESDGC. Our WAG / ESDGC model has been well received in this context and I hope to continue this discussion with them well after our return. Great and amazing to encounter people with the same concerns and potential solutions in such a different context. However, teaching 3 science subjects to appropriate depth from "a standing start" was a bit mystifying to them it is to me as well sometimes !

So what next..... well the conference is of such a scale that we are able to get away to our own subject specialisms for wider interaction on our own. A good thing since, there is tendency sometimes to go over old ground with old colleagues and new colleagues' insights are what we are here for.

I have two sessions lined up for tomorrow and MUST choose as they are concurrent !!

"The Impact of Enquiry Based Learning on Academic Performance and Student Engagement".


"Creating positive attitudes towards physics : figuring out what works". Ryerson.

Then also a.m. and pm : training future scientists : evaluation of science teaching at Univ Alberta. Science 100 ... embedded and interdisciplinary science education ... I think .... will let you know.

So all very useful and engaging. I have my 50 minute concurrent session on Saturday morning and hope it isn't the graveyard shift ! Can't be worse than teaching Chemistry on a Friday afternoon for 10 weeks ...! OK folks.. bye for now, glad the HEA went well.


HEA conference in a nutshell

Good bits:
  • meeting new Newport colleagues (Joe the PhD student and Carl from HSS) and hanging out with old (!) Newport colleagues Simon and Mike
  • the campus in the sunshine, the lovely food and refreshments, the simple little student rooms we stayed in
  • walking round the labyrinthe in the moonlight on the longest day of the year; walking it again in the sunshine just before I left today
  • the workshops - meeting HE practitioners from other universities doing creative and thought-provoking work
  • getting feedback from HE colleagues and a sense of sharing values/purpose with others re my own paper - this was fab :-)

The less good bits:

  • the cardboard mattresses - impossible to sleep on!
  • the shiny, business-model, let's do like Nike, key note and (to an extent) the not very inspiring panel discussion - I want to be inspired by key notes, not vaguely depressed!
  • having a cold, losing my voice and feeling rough, boo hoo!

Preview of the disappearing teacher idea.

Here's a video of me talking at the UWN Partnership Conference 2010. View at own risk!

With thanks to Dr Charles Crook for a couple of slides and the list of 'new pedagogy' features.

If asked ot log in:

username: partnership2010
password: conference

Preconference Day (22/6/10): Afternoon visit to OISE

In the afternoon at OISE we gave a presentation to a group of faculty and PhD students. We were hosted by Professor Doug McDougall, the incoming director of the Centre for Science and Technology Education and Professor of Mathematics Education. The presentation covered aspects of our work at UWN: teacher education, TEL and ESDGC. A lively discussion followed and some useful contacts were made. See Ron's posts for examples of some these.

Here's our talk in video. [All video by Tatiana Diniz]

First the audience introduce themselves:

Then David begins,

Kerie continues,

David carries on,

and Ron finishes off.

Finally, here's an MP3 of part of the question and answer session:

Preconference Day (22/6/10): Morning visit to OISE

We had a very useful and friendly day at OISE. Although we are in Canada it is as usual a very small world. Mark Evans (Associate Dean, Teacher Education), who we met this morning with his colleague Kathy Broad (Exec Director ITE), hails from Dolgellau through his grandparents who emigrated to Canada in 1929. So there we are, friends and neighbours already!

We explored similarities and differences between our two teacher training environments. Of course there are terminological differences but most striking were some of the similarities - e.g. the political debate regarding recruitment quotas which are currently set. by the University (ours are set by the government using supply-demand models) but which could end up being set by the State government. As in the UK, Ontario looks forward (or not) to a change in political governance in forthcoming elections next year.

The state level - i.e. the Province - is important to keep in mind. Canada is a large federal community (it's as far from here to Vancouver as to London) and thus the experience of learning to teach can vary widely from Province to Province. This echoes with the UK situation as the four nations gradually diverge from each other.

They work with large numbers of students - about 1300 pa - and have about 120 full-time staff and up to 5-600 part-time staff of various types. It's a big operation. But strong similarities. However, they seem to have sufficient scale to construct quite elaborated curriculum organisation - e.g. they divide their intakes (about 750 'secondary' and 550 'primary') into 'home room' cohorts that work together through the lifetime of the programme (that can last up to five years). For the 'secondary route' teachers achieve certification in two subjects in which they are then certified to teach.(whereas of course in the UK while we train secondary teachers through subject specific courses, QTS does not restrict you to teaching that subject).

We particularly liked the "Partnerships for Professional Learning" also known as "Enquiry into Practice Projects". These are clearly an example of PedR and so of great interest not only to the School of Education but also to the CELT.  Of interest is that these have been made possible by the Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat which provides funding for professional development in schools and secondment. (Of historical interest here is that Fullan was the mover and shaker behind the Secretariat).

This has enabled OISE and others to engage in what is effectively Pedagogical Research (eat your heart out Simon) which "...must be grounded in enquiry and reflection, be participant-driven, and focus on improving planning and instruction" and be "... connected to and derived from teachers' work with students." (Rolheiser, 2009).

A noticeable similarity is that their student teachers and ours are required to undertake a placement in an alternative educational environment. They all do 5 week internships and sometimes these can be undertaken overseas (e.g. 2 or 3 students returned from China). It would be exciting to develop an exchange programme for this aspect of our teacher training and education.

There are many more details and points of interest that we cannot record  in this blog note. Please talk to us if you are interested in knowing more about the Canadian approach to ITE. For example:
  • 7 Principles
  • Coherence - vertical (programmes) and horizontal (themes)
  • Focussed use of staff strengths
  • Equity, diversity, social justice - Toronto is a diverse city both culturally and economically
  • School experience requirement is 40 days
  • Masters in Teaching - a route to QTS

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

HEA Conference Day 1 Digest

I left Newport at 7.38am and managed to get lost on the London Underground between Paddington and Kings Cross and missed my connection, whereas Rachel Stubley caught a later train from Newport and arrived at Hatfield before me!

The Higher Education Academy (HEA) Annual Conference is being held at the University of Hertfordshire's De Havilland Campus, which is apparently one of the most, if not the most, expensive campus developments in the UK in recent years. A very modern campus with some interesting architecture - a good venue for the conference.

I arrived halfway through the opening keynote by Prof Calie Pistorus, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull. He advocated innovation university's (rather than innovative university's), which was controversial to some. This was followed by the first session, which I attended a talk by Tracey Maddern of the HEA's UK Physical Sciences Subject Centre on the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs). I've also been involved in the same JISC-funded project with the Geography (GEES) Subject Centre, so it was interesting to see it from another projects' viewpoint. My pencast is here.

At lunch a book I edited, published by the HEA, was launched, entitled 'Linking research and teaching in Wales'. It looks good and seems pretty clean of errors. I also found out that Paul Andrews and Lyndsey Muir from the School of Health and Social Sciences at Newport had been replaced by their colleagues Mike Simmons and Carl Sykes.

I then spent the afternoon attending sessions on teaching lecturers in HE on Postgraduate Certificate courses. This relates to the CELT PGCert in Developing Professional Practice in Higher Education at Newport:
  1. The first was by Peter Hartley and Ruth Whitfield of Bradford University who have developed an online Skills Mapping and Reflection Tool (SMaRT). Seems to be have a use in identifying areas of strengths and weaknesses against the UK Professional Standards Framework, but not sure how far it could be taken? My partial pencast is here (batteries then ran out).
  2. I then went to a talk by John Butcher and Di Stouncel of the University of Northampton who reported on a research project they had undertaken on the impact of staff taking their PGCert. The findings indicated that the "PGCert is effective in supporting the transition to confident, competent, reflective HE professionals".
  3. The last session for the day I attended was by Heather Worthington (Cardiff University) and Elizabeth Staddon (University of the Creative Arts). They discussed the development of a module for postgraduate tutors (i.e. PhD students that teach), and support as they applied for HEA Associate Fellowship. It was entirely based online through Blackboard, so similar in some ways to the distance learning PGCert at Newport.
The Conference Dinner in the evening was nice and the team sat with Prof Stuart Hampton-Reeves and Mandy Dillon of the University of Central Lancashire. Stuart gave a keynote at the CELT Winter Conference in Newport last December, so it was good to catch up with him again. After dinner Rachel Stubley took us to see a labyrinth connected to a presentation given by Jan Sellers of the University of Kent earlier this afternoon. Jan was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship and came up with a "wholly unexpected outcome"! Rachel recounted that Jan discussed the "staff and student use of the labyrinth to deepen reflection and creativity". Our YouTube report for Day 1 includes the labyrinth towards the end.

OISE visit and other wanderings.

Well.. Day 1 in Canada after being reunited with my luggage which took a bit off " time out" in London Heathrow ! Spent the morning tracking and tracing old contact active in Education Alliance for a Sustainable Toronto. (URL to follow !) This is based in Centre for Environment at University of Toronto (URL to follow in case you can't find it yourselves lol !)

Very wet exciting tram car ride through parts of the city made "ghost-town-like" due to G20 preparations and restrictions. Neverthless, with trusty brolly, damp map and an unerring sense of direction it only took two hours to travel the distance from hotel to Wilcox Street Centre for Evironment - a matter of about 4 miles !!!! Nevertheless, all worthwhile and appointment made to meet with some of the guiding lights of this fanstastic initiative later in the week.

Onward then to the OISE presentation to meet up with DL and KG AD and T for a very interesting and stimulating session. Made contact with some very interesting colleagues active in the field of science education and its role in ESDGC or STSE (science technology society and environment) as it is known by here and invited to submit written material to journals with common interest. All in all a very positive and encouraging experience with more to follow. Might even push the boat out and buy a bigger umbrella !! Will strike out further into the unknown tomorrow .........

HEA Conference Day 1 Photos

Operations begin!

The STLHE Expedr2010 team now all assembled at Ryerson University in Toronto: Kerie, David, Ron, Jane, Annette, Tatiana

Today is our first day of 'business' as we set about networking in the name of CELT and UWN and all things HE in Wales. Business cards primed and ready to launch!

Jane is having an orientation day as she only arrived last night. David is suffering severe jet lag and would like more orientation but has now to get in the front line (brave little soldier). The accommodation is satisfactory - that sounds like an Estyn grade, shortcomings balanced by good features! Good features - free and fast Internet connection; helpful staff, central location. Shortcomings - no coffee in rooms (apparently a very British thing but when you wake up at 5.30am and there's absolutely no catering you can start to howl at the moon); postage stamps for towels, and cathode ray tube TVs (My god! and they don't even have remotes).

Jane will be off to Humber College sometime this week. Ron, Tatiana and Annette are joining David and Kerie this PM at OISE, the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, where we will give a talk about UWN, teacher training, TEL and ESDGC.

AM Kerie and David go to OISE to meet two colleagues for an informal conversation about teacher training and then all of us meet a large group this PM, though how large we have no idea After much emailing from Kerie and David before the trip, we were warmly welcomed by Professor Indigo Esmonde who said she had invited "all the faculty and students" to listen to us. Daunting, but this use of the word "all" needs to be balanced against the fact that it's now way past the end of term so most students are presumably gone. On top of this is the conference season, so many faculty are away (e.g.

We'll see - should be a useful exchange however many turn up.

Ron meanwhile this AM is off to the Centre for Environment. If you Google 'sustainability Environmental Education toronto' (without the quotes) you will see many hits on ESD activity here. Sustainability is a prominent thing here. Ron's interest is in the fact that ESD is written into the Ontario constitution and it is certainly very present. Everywhere there are street-side litter bins but not just simple bins - instead racks of plastic bags each labelled 'plastic', 'paper, 'cans'. So even on the street we passers-by are now recycling-by-sorting.

But there is a contradiction that should worry all ESD movers and shakers.  As you sort your rubbish while throwing it away (makes me feel green and good), in an area like Dundas Square (a major shopping centre) these bins sit beneath vast video screens and illuminated billboards that colourfully persuade us to aspire, buy and consume. Yes, some parts of Toronto feel like a set for Blade Runner, and that's before you encounter the gigantic buildings that are going up all over the place, 50 storey apartment blocks rising up on the lakeside, vast temples of affluent living. Recession, what recession?

So, here we go ...

On my way to HEA

On the train to Hatfield for the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Annual Conference 'Shaping the Future' at the University of Hertfordshire at Hatfield.

Looking through the programme and there is the prospect of some excellent papers. The University of Wales, Newport, team are presenting three papers:

Paul Andrews and Lyndsey Muir (School of Health and Social Sciences) - Student 2.0: educating students to get the best out of the web (today at 2.15pm).

Nicola Woods and Rachel Stubley (School of Education) - New horizons on the literacy landscape: developing student writing in Higher Education (tomorrow at 8.45am).

Simon Haslett (Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) - Using digital earth technology in sustainable development education (tomorrow at 11.15am).

Looking forward to getting there in a few hours.

Monday, 21 June 2010

HEA Annual Conference

The Higher Education Academy (HEA) Conference is taking place at the University of Hertforshire, 22-23 June. The following team from Newport will be presenting at/attending the Conference:

Paul Andrews
Simon Haslett
Lyndsey Muir
Rachel Stubley
Joe Wan

Visit the Conference website - CLICK HERE

Friday, 18 June 2010

STLHE Conference Website

Click on post title above to go to the STLHE Website, where you can read the abstracts of the Newport presenters in the 'Conference Programme'. Our presenters are:

David Longman and Kerie Green
Tatiana Diniz
Jane Williams
Annette Roche
Ron Johnston

STLHE Conference Promo Video

Click on the post title above! Some nice views of Toronto and the venues.


Here we go. Follow our academic adventures in Toronto on this blog.

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