Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) in Penang, Malaysia

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Penang to provide a three-day workshop to teachers (mostly secondary science teachers). The workshop focussed on demonstrating active learning methodologies using technology (the TEAL methodology) which would then be used by the teachers to enhance their pupils’ engagement, retention and grades. Having a small group of people made it much easier to ensure everyone had individual attention and didn’t feel left behind and by the end of the three days, we had built up quite a camaraderie.

This hands-on workshop demonstrated how active learning, coupled with technology, could be used effectively to enhance teaching and learning. We spent some time discussing what I refer to as the shampoo and meal methodologies and then identified how specific technologies could be used put these methodologies into practice. We also discussed how the use of technology was only truly effective when it was used to engage students’ learning at a higher level, moving from the lower-order thinking skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy to the higher-order thinking skills (HOTS).

Throughout the three days of the workshop, the teachers saw me using the technologies and the methodologies ‘in action’, practicing what I was preaching and giving them practical and working model which demonstrated the effectiveness and ease of which the skills they were learning could be put into everyday practice.


By the end of the three days, the teachers involved in the workshop had opportunities to reflect on how various programmes and websites could be used to enhance their teaching and their students’ learning. Although other websites and programmes were touched on, the bulk of the three-day workshop focussed on  PollEverywhere, Biteable, and Plickers.

During my stay in Penang, I had the opportunity to observe one of the participants of the workshop a couple of days after the workshop had ended. She had already put some of the concepts into practice. She used PollEverywhere and Plickers not only to ensure her students understood the concepts, but also to challenge their thinking and provide responses which went beyond the traditional “What is the correct answer?”-type question. Her science lesson used TEAL methodologies very well to engage the children and it was delightful not only to see the teacher so enthusiastic about using technology to enhance her teaching but to also see the students to actively engaged and enthusiastic about their learning!


Students are using QR codes created using Plickers to vote in an online poll.

The teachers who attended the workshop have been keeping weekly diaries about their use of the methodologies and technologies discussed during the workshop. These diaries, along with specific research taking place in the fall which will focus on the students’ learning, will give us a better understanding of whether these specific methodologies and technologies have made a positive impact not only on teaching but also on the students engagement, retention of what they have learned and their summative grades.If you would like more information about this research, please contact:

Dr. T. Shirazi
Kingston University, London (UK)


Page break issues in OJS 3 (Online Journal System v3) – Submissions Page

Page break issues in OJS 3 (Online Journal System v3) – Submissions Page

For some weird reason, the closing tags on the /about/submissions page of OJS3 add a line break (br /) after them.

According to iclaudius (GitHub), “certain fields go through the Smarty nl2br filter, which converts newlines into br / elements. It makes sense to remove these, since that content is entered through the TinyMCE editor…”.

To fix this issue, here’s what to do:

  1. Open the file submissions.tpl located in lib/pkp/templates/fronteend/pages.
  2. Search for  |nl2br. You’ll find it is used in 3 instances.
  3. Keep the first instance and remove the 2nd and 3rd instances.

Credit for the solution posted here is attributed to iclaudius and asmecher (GitHub) at

Issue importing references from WordPress to Endnote using Academic Blogger’s Toolkit.

Issue importing references from WordPress to Endnote using Academic Blogger’s Toolkit.

I love Academic Blogger’s Toolkit (ABT). It allows me to add references to my WordPress research and reflection blog (which isn’t this one and I don’t have a link to it as it’s for my eyes only—sorry). One particular feature I quite like is the ability to export references I’ve created in Endnote and have them imported into ABT.

That is, until recently. For some reason, the last update to Endnote has caused it to stop working. To resolve the situation, I sent a Twitter message to the creator of the plug-in, Derek Sifford, via Twitter (@flightmed1). Within a day—a day!—the issue had been reviewed and solved. Now that, ladies and gentleman, is what I call impressive.

So, if anyone else has the same issue, here’s what to do.

  1. Export as RefMan (RIS) file. Text only.
  2. Rename the file extension from .txt to .bib. On a Mac, you MUST …
    1. Select the file and choosing File -> Get Info
    2. Click the arrow to the left of “Name and Extension”
    3. Click return key
  3. Import using ABT

* Annoyingly, you can’t merely rename the extension on a Mac by clicking it. All that does it add .ris to the end of the file (so you end up with FILENAME.txt.ris). Go figure.

And, again, a huge thanks to Derek. You’ve got a fan for life now, sir. 🙂

WordPress asking for FTP Credentials? Here’s how to fix it

WordPress asking for FTP Credentials? Here’s how to fix it

Credit for this post goes entirely to Bhagwad Park. What you read below is his solution; I’ve only re-written it slightly. His post can be read here.

I like WordPress. Well, okay, I love it. But sometimes it does weird things—like asking to connect via FTP if I want to install a new theme. WordPress doesn’t normally need to do this. The problem is that the PHP process in the background runs as Apache instead of the owner of the WordPress files. Here’s how to get it to work.

Open Terminal on your Mac (or use whatever SSH software you like) and type the following:

sudo chown -R www:www /Library/WebServer/Documents/Moodle

The first part of the path I’ve written here (/Library/WebServer/Documents) is the default folder and I’ve added the /Moodle because that’s what my folder is called which has all the files for Moodle. Yeah, original, isn’t it? If you’ve named your folder something else (or if you’ve changed the default location) you will need to type in the proper path.

‘chown’ allows you to change the owner of files or folders; -R means recursive (meaning that it is to be repeated for every sub directory and their files; www:www means we are changing the permission to www user and the www group (it’s a special system used for executing PHP processes).

Again, thanks to Bhagwad Park without whom I would have been pulling my hair out.

New Year—New Aims

New Year—New Aims

They say that a rolling stone gathers no moss. They also say that a moving target is harder to hit! So, taking these two pearls of wisdom, I’m looking forward to giving myself new challenges for 2016, not stagnating or resting on my laurels.

This academic term, I will be finishing  the flip teaching Child Development course, with all of the materials online. It’s been a 3-year challenge and I’m pleased to see it all coming together now.

The next challenge is to build on the interesting ideas which came out of the trip to Malaysia. There are some exciting opportunities to share teaching pedagogies and research and I am keen to see what impact my workshop in Penang will have.

Our new teaching room has now been completed and I’m looking forward to trying to innovative pedagogies in this large lab, identifying new and effective methods to engage my students (and me!) in learning and teaching. There are new apps coming out all the time and it’s exciting to try some of the out and see which stick and which fall by the wayside. My poor students are always being inundated with something new but that, really, is what teaching should be all about—not resting on laurels and not falling into a rut.

One particular goal this year is to be much better at keeping my blogs up-to-date. It’s easy to become so busy with other things that you forget to keep a record of what you are doing, not only for you, my dear reader, but also for myself!

So, 2016 should be an exciting year! I hope you’ll join me on my journey.

CoSMED – Penang, Malaysia

CoSMED – Penang, Malaysia

I’m in the beautiful city of Penang, speaking at the 6th annual CoSMED conference. 

My input will be discussing in pedagogies and methodologies to enhance student learning. Quite a bit about what I will be talking about mirrors or builds on what I have been (intermittently) writing about on this blog and my blog. 

These conferences are interesting not only because of the subject matter but also because there are opportunities to meet some extraordinary people who get me thinking and excited about learning new things. 

Yesterday, for example, I had an opportunity to meet with Amelia who is looking into how voting systems can be used here in Malaysia where children aren’t permitted to bring smartphones and some schools, particularly in rural areas, are unlikely to have a decent internet connection (if at all). So we had a great conversation and in sure we shall have many more. 

So I’m off to the next session. Check out my tweets at @agpate_conf. 

Taking Attendance

Taking Attendance

Taking attendance is a requirement for the undergraduate programme on which I teach. In the past, I have toyed with various ways of completing this task quickly and as painlessly as possible. Nothing has worked particularly well.

There was the good old standby – a piece of paper with the students’ names on in and a space for them to sign their name. While this was effective to a point, it was distracting as the sheet was passed from person to person—or sometimes got ‘stuck’ when someone forgot to pass it on. There was also the (fortunately rare) issue of some students signing their friends’ names who weren’t there and then, when I did a head count, the numbers wouldn’t add up and I’d waste more time sorting it out. I abandoned this method of attendance ages ago.

For the last few years, I’ve created a list of names using ClassDojo and have randomly selected someone to come to the computer, drag the mouse over each name one by one and have each student shout ‘here’ when the mouse is over their name. My volunteer student clicks on a student’s name if they are absent and it turns red. The students quite like this but, again, it’s time consuming. I also think it is a bit demeaning to have university students shouting out ‘here’. Yes, they are training to be primary teachers but still…

Then I can across Attendance2. It allows the teacher to take attendance by scanning a bar code or QR code using an iPhone, iPad or iPod (it’s only for iOS at the moment). The attendance data can then be saved as a CVS file and sent to someone by email or sent to Dropbox. QR codes can be created easily and these, too, can be sent to Dropbox with just a press of a button. You can create various classes and each is contained in a separate data file, making it easy to share information to administrative staff.

I really am quite impressed with this highly-undervalued app. It makes taking attendance quite fast provided, of course, the students bring their QR code with them. As I had emailed each student their personal QR code, most of them simply brought up the QR code on their phone as I walked by. Scanning everyone didn’t take long (I only had 40 students) and within a minute or so it was done and dusted. A small bonus was that it gave me an opportunity to say good morning (or good afternoon) to every individual before the class started which I felt started the class well.

In a lecture hall this would be a bit more problematic unless you had someone standing at each entrance to scan the QR codes as students entered. However, for primary/secondary classes and for university tutorials, it certainly is worth the money, in my opinion.