Shaun Searle

“The most vital app an educator could use is good purposeful teaching”


On the way back from setting up the Mobile Ubicast unit for a lecturer, I had an interesting discussion about the use of technology in teaching. My first thoughts took me back to my previous life as an ICT co-ordinator of a primary school where a member of the leadership team teaching was eager to be observed “using ICT” within their teaching. What unfolded was 45 uncomfortable minutes of the educator using a digital camera within an English lesson. Of course it led to my first question of “why did you use the technology?” It did not help the students achieve their learning goals in English, whilst also not allowing them to develop or demonstrate skills using the technology.

Digital technology and equipment help provide multiple access points, like a door with multiple handles at different heights but ultimately pedagogy and learning intentions must stay at the forefront of the educators mind. It brought me back to a great JISC document I read based on the Digital experiences students should have. I thought I would signpost a few of the parts that I found most interesting and hopefully it may spark a few ideas of how technology could be used in your lectures.

Social referencing

Jane Challinor gives a good account of the trials and tribulations of using Diigo social bookmarking site with level one undergraduates She outlines the discovery that students at Level 2 and 3 were found to have poor research skills. Even at level 3 students made little use of academic journals and the cause of academic irregularity were caused by poor record keeping, especially of web based sources so a key feature of the module was to introduce the students to e-search, a tool which allows students to search journal database similar to Athens. By using groups within Diigo not only could students benefit from the features of a social referencing site such group/shared discussions, bookmarking and direct online source linking, it gave lecturers the opportunity to monitor student activity, thus make it an assessment for learning tool encouraging precision teaching. Without giving away any spoilers (!) it not only improved the students record keeping and bookmarking, it changed their whole attitude and behaviour towards using online sources and journals within assignments.

Digital critique

As there is broad range of digital sources of communication to reference from online, it gives students the ability to develop skills of critique that takes them beyond just reading text on screen. It allows students to examine a specific source in terms of its credibility, argument, tone, implied audience and provenance – who is hosting and propagating this message? This could then influence the creation of their own digital content, with a greater appreciation of its purpose and the audience it is targeted at. New Media Literacy: a blog post by Lynsay Grant offers an interesting blog based on critique against re-design that is well worth a read.


Use a simulation to support real-world practice

Simulations allow students to venture where perhaps the real-life situation represent unacceptable risk to the student or others. But simulations also allow students to review, revisit and revise their preparation and practice to a real-life event. Simulations can also be used to collaborate and to provide a shared platform to problem solve. The skills2Learn site shows a wide range of practical and field-based skills that can be carried out through elearning and virtual reality simulations. The advances of modern technology and the range of mediums through which to experience sound, image, video and touch based representations has become more accessible and affordable with the rise of Google Cardboard and other VR displays. The four walls of a lecture theatre no longer need to confine “where” learning takes place.

Digital deconstruction

Within my teaching role, one area in which I felt I excelled was finding new and innovative ways to teach topics. One such way was trying to introduce coding to 6-year-olds by taking them out of the computer suite and into the kitchen, testing their given programmes (recipes) and debugging and re-coding where necessary. Chrissi Narantzi’s blog explores her use of LEGO bricks with first-year undergraduates. I love the concept of taking what essentially is a digital concept, bringing it into a real life situation or a practical analogy as it were to broaden and deepen their understanding and application of digital skills. Possible applications of this could be statistical analysis, qualitative data analysis, design, giving a presentation with slides, mindmapping, ‘cut and paste’ editing, sharing ideas via twitter, commenting on/reviewing other students’ work.

Use gamification

This is a powerful concept that I have seen bear the fruits of success with younger students. I have been fortunate on a few occasions to have met critically acclaimed Tim Rylands who really was at the forefront of gamification within education and his TED talk about teachers being creative and using games to enhance learning in other topic areas is well worth watching and extremely powerful. Other gaming concepts such as ‘levelling up’,  earning XP points and shading a progress bar could be ways in which to make aspects of your teaching engaging while also giving competition a positive element. A different Chrissi Narantzi blog  shows how a mixed reality game is used in academic development and while it does require a level of ingenuity to incorporate gaming features, it can really help give insight and make learning fun.

Final thoughts

There are a number of other digital experiences that Jisc recommend students have and I’m sure the concepts of lecture capture, online questionnaires and presenting using digital media will be covered in subsequent blogs but perhaps it is a good point to reflect on our own practise and consider how using technology within our existing delivery could enhance the learning experiences of our students further.


Grant, L. (2010). New media literacy: Critique vs re-design. Available at: (Accessed: 23 November, 2016).

Jisc (2015). Digital experiences students should have. Available at: (Accessed: 23 November, 2016).

Terms, P.I. (2016). Can you Diigo it? Available at: (Accessed: 23 November, 2016).