Using new media to engage students in reflective practice

A session run at Colchester Institute at their Learning and Teaching Development Day, 21st October 2011

I had the pleasure of running this workshop 3 times at Colchester Institute for a wide variety of FE and HE teachers, tutors and trainers. Here are the slides:

Some more detailed notes follow: I began the session by asking people to introduce themselves and then share what their favourite website was and why. I made up this ice breaker on the spot but realised as the day went on that it’s actually an ideal icebreaker for a workshop on new media. A person’s favourite website tells you quite a lot about whether they are a ‘digital resident’ or a ‘digital visitor’ and their relative internet skills. The session was essentially a tour through a number of different tools – all free, many of which work on a smartphone – and some ideas on how they can be used with students for reflective practice.

Social Bookmarking

Using a social bookmarking tool is a great way to facilitate the sharing of resources for a course and engage the students in the sharing of those resources as well. Diigois particularly good for this as you can create a private group and users can ‘subscribe’ so that they receive an email every time a new resource is added to the list. Ideas:

  • get last year’s students to recommend a resource they found particularly useful to the new intake
  • ask each student to read/watch some particular resources for homework and add a relevant resource of their own to the list
  • encourage students to create an account with a tool like Delicious, Evernote or Diigo for saving their own research resources


I have written elsewhere about the power of blogging. I would say it’s one of my own most useful tools for reflective practice as I am effectively recording my learning here and allowing other people to comment on it. If you would like to use blogging with students for peer assessment, consider trying quadblogging. The two main blogging platforms I would recommend are WordPress and Posterous. Both platforms allow you to create a private or public space for blogging.


Reflection on learning doesn’t always have to be text based! Lots of creative things can be done relatively easy with free tools and apps and if a learner has a smartphone even more can be done. To create an interactive poster of a project, students could try Glogster – a more dynamic way of presenting a topic than getting a student to create a powerpoint presentation. Audio recordings can be made and shared through social media using tools like Audioboo and Soundcloud. Here is a recording of part of Steve Wheeler’s keynote address (which shows how easy it is to embed into a wordpress blog like this one!): A childcare teacher at a secondary school I visited earlier this year shared how she created some podcasts for revision for her students. Her students wouldn’t read their revision notes but they were happy to download her revision podcasts to their ipods to listen to in the gym or on the bus! As a result the students got a grade higher than predicted in their GCSE! A free tool to get started with podcasting is Voisse. Do check with your technicians to see if your institution has an iTunes U account – you may be able to put lectures and revision notes on iTunes for free. Finally, the free ‘screencasting’ tool Screenris a brilliant tool for recording instructions on using something on the computer. You could, using this, record how to upload a file to Moodle, for example – so rather than laboriously writing out the instructions you can simply make a video that the students can watch again and again (and it’s there for the next year’s intake too once you’ve made it!) Screenr enables you to directly upload to YouTube or you can download the video file to put on your VLE.

Surveys and polls

Feedback is essential to learning and also to reflective practice. Polldaddy is a free tool for creating quick polls (which also integrate nicely into a wordpress blog). You might also like to create a questionnaire for encouraging students to reflect on their learning. Here is a short video I made using Screenr showing you how to create a form using Google Docs:

Simple reflection questions to ask are:

  • What went well?
  • What could I improve on?
  • What would I do differently next time?

It’s worth asking these questions after a big assignment or essay submission to help your students to reflect on their learning.

Social Media

Social media can be a very powerful tool for learning. There wasn’t really time to go into detail how to use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks for reflective practice in the session. Please browse this blog to find out more about social media and how you can use it in teaching and learning.


Further ideas gathered from the sessions:

Viddler was recommended for an easy way to comment on videos made by students.

One group came up with this idea:

  • use Google docs to create online questionnaires for HE research modules
  • Feed the results to a blog post
  • Link the blog post to Twitter with a hashtag #HEresearch. Encourage students and tutors to retweet, relay feedback to students in class/or and(!) the VLE
We had a really great day together. Please add any reflections or comments below and let’s keep learning!
Relevant blog posts you might find interesting:

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