Dr Mike J Smith
Kingston University

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Mike Smith

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As easy as 1-2-3
My PhD student James O'Connor (and by the way, check out his cool 3D model generated from video) reminded me of my (unknown until this point!) mantra/advice for a PhD: 1. Complete ONE PhD thesis 2. Write TWO publishable papers 3. Any talk/presentation will (nearly) always have THREE main points Can't go wrong!

posted on: Mon, 19 Jan 2015 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

A-Level Students Forget Knowledge
"New students have forgotten bulk of A-level knowledge" reports The Times Higher Ed... well no real surprise there given what we already know about the forgetting curve. In fact its a bland study that has been repeated over and over - Eric Mazur's work has shown that memorisation of facts is dangerous when you need to understand concepts

posted on: Wed, 25 Jun 2014 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

How to present your data
Two brilliantly simple animated slide decks at Dark Horse Analytics - the first on presenting tabular data and the second on presenting graphical data. I regularly simplify my graphics and tables - many templates overstyle their design so simplifying is good. It also makes your design stand out from the rest because its different. These are REALLY well worth a look.

posted on: Sat, 07 Jun 2014 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

HEPI Student Academic Experience Survey
HEPI published their 2014 Student Academic Experience Survey today with a brief summary over at the THES....

posted on: Wed, 21 May 2014 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

In lectures... *write* notes
Came across this nice piece over at The Atlantic on taking lecture notes.... the short takeaway is that writing lecture notes helps you remember them more easily....

posted on: Thu, 15 May 2014 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Student debt.... pay more to get....less
Interesting article at The Guardian and salutary tale on bad government and how this impacts of student careers, lives and the success of HE more widely

posted on: Fri, 21 Mar 2014 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Let there be stoning!
I can't really add to much more to Garr's blog entry, other than to point you to the short essay/editorial that appeared in Ground Water back in 1985 (Lehr, J.H. 1985 Let there be stoning! Ground Water 23, 2, 162-165)..... in the first instance it makes you laugh, then you can feel the anger and then the wisdom. In short, whilst nearly 30 years ago, the detail of this paper holds the presentation essentials for any academic - it's a treasure trove of wisdom. Read it and compare yourself against his yardstick - there is no excuse for boring your audience to death.

posted on: Fri, 24 May 2013 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Tablets in learning - not fit for purpose?
I'm actively involved in learning technologies both as my role as a lecturer (e.g. Livesribe pen and also as a school governor....

posted on: Wed, 27 Mar 2013 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

What are the "sticky" times tables?
Really, think what's your favourite times table? Say it out aloud.... eight times eight equals sixty four....

posted on: Fri, 25 Jan 2013 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Livescribe in action
Following on from my last post introducing the LiveScribe pen I wanted to highlight some useful resources and functions, as well as demo my first two "pencasts"....

posted on: Sat, 20 Oct 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Livescribe Echo Pen
Over the summer I bought a Livescribe Echo Smartpen to try out some digital note taking (a review and on Amazon)....

posted on: Sat, 13 Oct 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

BBC In Our Time
OK, think I'm a little slow to the party on this one (and not a great radio listener) but the BBC's "In Our Time" presented by Melvyn Bragg is a great "ideas" discussion programme (Wikipedia entry)....

posted on: Mon, 08 Oct 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

What's a large class size?
How about 100,000?? A really great TED talk from Peter Norvig on how they turned their on-site classroom in to a 100,000 strong virtual class and flipped many of the ideas about distance learning to motivate and engage students. <embed src="" pluginspace="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" bgColor="#ffffff" width="526" height="374" allowFullScreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" flashvars="vu=http:

posted on: Thu, 05 Jul 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Why we lie.....
Dan Ariely has a really good Saturday Essay in the Wall Street Journal on Why We lie. This pulls together (in layman's terms) a lot of his research on the topic (and it's well worth watching him speak on the topic at TED) and, in summary, most people lie/cheat a little bit....

posted on: Sun, 27 May 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Repeat to remember.....'s a well worn mantra. Repeat something over-and-over to remember it (or, shout longer and louder and people will believe you!)...

posted on: Thu, 03 May 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

What is education for?
A seemingly innocuous question that is thornier to answer than you might think..... indeed, what *is* education for?...

posted on: Tue, 24 Apr 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Pedagogic History
Donald Clark has started a blog marathon looking at a history of pedagogic practise. Its a self-selected list and will inevitably not include those you think it could or should..... but if you want to get a flavour and feel for the scope and extent then it makes fascinating reading. And in good academic style, there are plenty of references to follow up on. A must read.

posted on: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Reforming teaching and learning
Garr Reynolds has combined together a nice selection of contemporary videos on how teaching and learning could happen, the malaise in some areas of education and some of the suggestions for solutions. Ken Robinson's cartoon talk is perhaps the most academic and well founded, but the others all add very interesting aspects, even if you dont agree with them! Well worth checking out and, it goes without saying, that it is universities that come in for the most severe treatment in terms of large lecture theatres and sterile content. However judge for yourself.

posted on: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Happiness and Productivity
A great talk from Shawn Achor on detailing how happiness leads to productivity, rather than the western view of productivity leading to happiness (aka work hard, earn more, be happy)....

posted on: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

WebDAV for Blackboard
Quite a few years back I blogged about using the CMS on Blackboard to store learning materials for students. A much more flexible system that uses WebDAV for drag and drop file management. Well, yes, there are a few Android WebDAV clients around, my favourite of which is WebDAV File Manager. Log in to BlackBoard merrily and modify your files....

posted on: Sun, 22 Jan 2012 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

CK-12 Foundation
The CK-12 Foundation: " a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U....

posted on: Mon, 12 Sep 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Kindle Clippings
As I noted in this earlier post, it is dead useful to be able to mark up paragraphs of interest which are filed under "Notes"....

posted on: Fri, 09 Sep 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

BBP University College Fees Set
Mike baker reports on BPP University College setting its undergraduate fees at.... 5,000 per year. That's a very aggressive price squarely targeted at the public sector....

posted on: Tue, 06 Sep 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Make reading the number one skill?
An impassioned plea from Roy Blatchford (on Mike Baker's blog) to make reading a top priority for all schools. From the article: "Provisional figures for 2011 indicate that, in England, one child in five reaches age 11 unable to read confidently. Confident, that is, to access the secondary school curriculum they are embarking on this month." This goes alongside numeracy and writing..... and if children can't access the secondary school curriculum at age 11, what are their chances of studying at degree level?

posted on: Mon, 05 Sep 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Memory Techniques and Learning
I've just finished reading slew of books on memory techniques; Donald Clark put me on to Moonwalking with Einstein by Josh Foer....

posted on: Sun, 04 Sep 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Kindle talk
As a follow-on...... I gave a talk at Middlesex University on the use of Kindles in HE.

posted on: Thu, 18 Aug 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Using the Kindle.... to read a book!
I was actually using the Kindle to read a book today.... funny that up to this point I haven't actually done this....

posted on: Thu, 18 Aug 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

27,000 degree revisited
Another interesting article by Mike Baker over on BBC News about the recent toings-and-froings on university tuition fees. Well worth a read, but in summary, almost all fees are likely to be 9,000 per year in part because the government has pulled so much money out of HE. As a result there is little chance of an educational market. And the net result for students will also marginal. It will be fascinating to see the landscape once universities start publishing their fee schedules for 2012 entrants.

posted on: Sat, 12 Feb 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Experiences in using the Kindle
So some initial experiences in working with the Kindle..... I don't read many novels and, if you borrow heavily from a library, then this isn't for you....

posted on: Thu, 20 Jan 2011 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

27,000 for a degree....
So there we have it, the cost of a degree looks set to march onwards to 27,000, plus living expenses. Not an insignificant amount of money. The BBC provides an alternative discussion, but in essence prices are rising to 6,000 pa, with an upper cap of 9,000, although this will come with requirements for fair access. The concern of many universities is that, with the removal of state funding, 9,000 will only allow them to tread water and probably slip back in real terms. There are some other articles around the issue: $200,000 degree, 2yr degrees... I guess we'll see if a market will develop and, indeed, if we see a rise in state-funded science courses.

posted on: Wed, 03 Nov 2010 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Blackboard Woes: uploading marks
Spent ages going around in circles today trying to upload marks in Blackboard. I've just finished marking 80 odd essays, with comments, and wanted to upload this back in to the Grade Book....

posted on: Wed, 03 Nov 2010 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

University places... a slow news week?
OK, perhaps that's a little uncharitable, but there have been a few heckles raised at poor A-level students who don't get university places....

posted on: Sun, 22 Aug 2010 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Knowledge retention
Donald Clark has a nice synopsis, in his usual brusque style (!), on knowledge retention as part of learning. He kicks off with the classic graph showing how rapidly retention drops off after first exposure, and then goes through a (mixed) variety of strategies to offset this loss. If students haven't come across this then they need to be aware of it. And it goes without saying that teachers/lecturers should be building this style of knowledge "training" and re-exposure in to their schedules.

posted on: Sat, 29 May 2010 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Prezi for presentations
I was recently introduced to Prezi, a rapid presentation package for those sick of the usual Powerpoint interface....

posted on: Wed, 28 Apr 2010 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Students have 10 minute attention span
Students only have '10-minute attention span' - it's a great headline from the BBC and the first part of the copy reads: "University students have average attention spans of just 10 minutes and many miss lectures because of the need for part-time jobs, research suggests." Actually, the 10-minute attention span is a pretty well known phenomena; John Medina outlines this in Brain Rules (amongst other things) and discusses how he structures 1 hour lectures in to 15 minutes blocks to leverage attention spans. So not so much a real headline as a storm in a teacup.

posted on: Thu, 14 Jan 2010 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Education under Labour
Mike Baker again has a nice reflective piece on the ONS report of education under Labour over the last 12 years (I can't find the right ONS report though)....

posted on: Tue, 08 Dec 2009 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Applications to HE
Mike Baker, the BBCs Education Correspondent, again has an interesting this week about changes to university admissions. In essence the government wants to move towards universities offering places based upon a student's actual grades, rather than predicted grades (which aren't that accurate). In a half-hearted move we now have a 5-day "adjustment period" in which students who performed better than expected have the option of "upgrading" and applying elsewhere. This sounds all very good in theory, but as Mike outlines the likely net effect (because "good" universities are already full) is that there will be no change other than getting the hopes up of many students.

posted on: Wed, 11 Mar 2009 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

How to do well in a PhD viva
After a brief chat this week with a student about an upcoming viva I thought I would list some of the useful pieces of advice from my own viva (thanks to Ian Evans for a pleasant experience!) and some recent students: be honest its a 2-way conversation. Talk about your work its better without your supervisor. It also means that if theyve made a bad project decision you can happily blame them! its quite nice at the beginning of discussing each chapter to actually point out any mistakes you've spotted make sure you references are totally spot on Im sure there are others so feel free to add to them.

posted on: Fri, 05 Sep 2008 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Engaging students
OK, so there are potentially cognitive thresholds which inhibit the progression of (willing!) students in their learning....

posted on: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry

Cognitive Thresholds
I was at the Middlesex University Teaching and Learning Conference today where one of the keynote presentations was given by Sandy Gilkes from the University of Nottingham....

posted on: Tue, 01 Jul 2008 | path: /teaching | permanent link to this entry