skewered the tabloid press in her fourth 'Harry Potter' book,
J. K. Rowling turns in the fifth to contemporary (secondary)
education. That a Quality Audit Regime at Hogwarts should temporarily
overshadow the threat of Voldemort should have come as no surprise
to most teachers in British HE; and, as usual, Rowling's command
of detail is impressive.
Within the wider narrative of managerial zealotry, even Harry's Christmas
presents pick up on the theme of educational improvement: Hermione's
talking homework planner (all admonitions against slacking and
procrastinating) and Sirius and Lupin's more exciting set of
volumes on practical defences against the Dark Arts (with
'superb, moving colour illustrations of all the counter-jinxes
and hexes it described,' J.
K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of
London: Bloomsbury, 2003, p. 442).
Reading this scene on publication, towards the end of our main project
year and in the thick of 'dissemination' events, we were also
struck by its neat mirroring of our own (Muggle-world) VLE In
our visions, the place where we would create dynamic resources,
transforming our teaching, and dazzling all onlookers; in practice,
more often, a reminder-board and homework diary.
In offering examples of some of the ways we used Blackboard, we
know that most are nearer the 'planner' end of the spectrum.
Sometimes shortage of time necessitated compromise; sometimes
lack of expertise; elsewhere, debates and questions about the
nature of 'best practice' itself. But we hope that even these
more mundane items might suggest ways that a VLE might supplement
or even enrich individual teachers' current practices, give alternative
ways of working, enliven students' experiences, or simply just
make some things easier.
For staff, after all, some items seemed truly 'magic' - whether being
able to point students directly to an online exhibition at the
Smithsonian, remembering a vital notice and using remote access
to post it from home, avoiding a trek back to the department,
emailing 300 students at one click, or, when stranded without
the promised live-link for a duo dissemination event, being able
to visit the module site, to create an instant Powerpoint demonstration,
from an internet café near Senate House ...
In what follows you will find:
screenshots - dip
into these images for a (somewhat random) selection of examples
of the ways various staff used duo across different modules;
the commentary here focuses on general topics;
early 'no frills' contents
list - an example of getting basic
information online; if you feel daunted by the thought of
using images, you can simply start with something like this;
user's approaches - a
brief overview of an individual teacher's ways of using duo
on three different kinds of module, from the small MA group
to the mass lecture course; this section returns to some of
the screenshots above, to sketch their specific teaching and
subject contexts - in modules on American Fiction, Children's
Fiction and Edith Wharton;
uses - suggestions, comments and