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For some time I have been looking for an on-line tool to create diagrams for a variety of tasks, and I have recently rediscovered which I am finding very useful for doing simple mindmaps  and venn diagrams (which I use in teaching as a basic logic tool).  For both of these functions there are specialist tools, but I am finding easier to use than most - and sufficient for what I want to do.

The programme will connect to a  range of cloud storage facilities so you can save to Google Drive, Idrive etc, and it automatically saves changes there.  You can then either publish links to your diagrams or embed them in web pages.  The embedded files do take a little while to load so my plan is to embed them while I am still developing them (they, then get automatically updated) but will replace them with static versions when I am finished.  There are a couple of examples on my website in the approaches section where I wanted to start with a mindmap rather than text.

An article in the Wonkhe news email this morning reminded me of a sign I saw yesterday outside of a school in South West London - Headline 'Top of the Class', with the strapline - 'Every child is important' - which highlights for me the ambiguity in education about fairness etc.

I have just published an old working paper on Researchgate (DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.15599.43686).

This paper describes part of a series of reflective research on the teaching of a Business School module 'Organisational Analysis and Design* (OAD). This element of the research looked at the experiences and difficulties faced by a group of students who take the module as a compulsory module in a science faculty degree. The study uses David Kolb's model of the experiential learning cycle to understand differences in teaching strategy and learning processes. In the context of modular degrees, it raises issues about the difficulties of moving from one academic discipline to another, and questions what information we should be providing to students about the teaching strategy of modules.

I would be interested in any comments.

Paper also available here.

A day workshop in February 2017, organised by Game Changers at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University.

The day was an interesting fun day with a broad range of speakers and activities, ranging from commercial computer games, to traditional games and games designed for learning, reflecting the development and interest in gamification and ‘serious games’.

One thing that struck me, in this mixture of things, was an interesting confusion about what we were talking about, certainly when I started playing with ideas about ontology.  At a superficial level, there was a lack of clarity about the nature of the activities, for example a reference to a flight simulator as a game, there are flight simulation games, but a flight simulation is very much not a game and one of the design features, in common with other simulations is how you reduce the game element (learning that accidents are fun and you can reset the machine and have another go is not a good thing for a pilot to learn).  More fundamentally, was the issue about the nature of play.  We switched from play as an aspect of games, as in children’s and theatre games, Bernie DeKoven, to discussion about whether Universities could be playful, to mention of playfulness as a personal characteristic or attribute.  I spent a lot of the day returning to the later, although it wasn’t a major element of the day, with thoughts about play and reflection, and experimentation (Kolb), immersion and the flow state and the psychological conditions for playfulness with thoughts about the psychoanalyst Winnicott.  It also perhaps relates to attachment theory – is it a sign of security that someone can engage fully in playful activity, temporarily losing themselves in the play?

The idea of play at University was a theme of the day, with lots of criticism of developments in education being a reduction of play and creativity.  I am not sure whether playfulness is a characteristic of University, or of education and although I know that one of my tutors who was involved in the setting up of Sussex University was very informed by Winnicott, but it was me rather than the University that was playful.  Thinking of my more recent of Higher Education I have come across pockets of organised playfulness, interestingly more in the sciences than humanities, but not many – learning is a serious business.

The relationship between games and play is an interesting one to consider, many computer games are serious business too, which is why I think I have never got into them in a significant way.  This goes back to the sense of independence and freedom in play.  Gamification in education, using competition and the structure of games to engage students is not about developing their independence and creativity.

So the question I am left with, as a psychologist and an educator is whether playfulness is an important aspect of development that needs to be more recognised, encouraged and included in our learning outcomes.

There was a lively twitter discussion during the day.


The eleventh annual Drapers’ Lecture was held on Wednesday 25th January at 6pm at Queen Mary University of London, recording of that and the conference during the day are available at


Assessment for learning – the Angry Birds model: exploring disciplinary boundaries.

Assessment for Learning is used to describe any approach to assessment which aims to take the learning forward rather than just assessing the learning that has already happened (Assessment of Learning).

The term can be used interchangeably with formative assessment, but in my experience it is often used to describe assessment in which the student is given a task which gives them a wider degree of freedom and opportunity to be creative, demonstrating their understanding of the subject through an autonomous piece of work, the undergraduate dissertation being perhaps the clearest example.

Designing these assessment tasks is similar perhaps to the popular computer/phone game Angry Birds Space in which the aim is to launch the bird across space into the atmosphere of a planet, in which it will circulate and destroy buildings etc to earn points. In this analogy the atmosphere of the planet is a metaphor for the academic disciplinary space. The assessment task is the vehicle to launch the student into autonomous work within that space, demonstrating their ability to operate within it.

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As well as being a nice metaphor for assessment for learning this highlights two problems that the process may raise for the educator and the student.

The first problem is when the student either fails to understand the nature of the task, thinking that they can treat the assessment as a more traditional assessment, or failing to appreciate the level of the academic performance required by the task, therefore failing to make it to the planet, falling feebly into space. They never enter the disciplinary space in the first place, so can’t earn points by demonstrating their engagement with the subject. It can be argued that this is merely the assessment task identifying the student who has failed to engage with the educational experience, which may be the case, but whereas in a traditional assessment they would get a low mark, here they may get a very much lower mark because in effect they never effectively start the assessment, they never reach the planet’s atmosphere at all.

The other problem is when the student takes off into outer space, not failing to reach the atmosphere but shooting right past it. They fail to appreciate the nature of the disciplinary boundary and produce a piece of work so innovative it is possible to evaluate, or they use theories and approaches from other disciplines. This raises an issue for the assessor – how far do I go out of my discipline to understand a student who may be brilliantly exploring new uncharted territory, or who may not understand what they are doing but are following a whim. Applying quantum mechanics/chaos theory/phenomenology or whatever to this problem may be an absolute stroke of genius but it is difficult for me to tell so how am I expected to assess that?

These issues can be avoided by clear assessment design, clarity of instruction and scaffolding for the students, but I think should be considered when designing innovative assessment.

David Andrew
April 17th 2016

Key Centre for International Higher Education established in London

ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) - UCL Institute of Education, University College London, Director: Professor Simon Marginson The Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) centre that is funded for the period 2015-2019. Its three research programmes began work in October 2015. CGHE is an ESRC foundation that is 50% funded by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE).  It is a partnership led by the UCL Institute of Education that includes Lancaster University, the University of S

Source: Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) - UCL Institute of Education, University College London

International Higher Education offers commentary and current information on key issues that shape higher education worldwide, from the perspective of distinguished international scholars, policymakers and informed practitioners.

Source: International Higher Education