UoL Library Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘computer science’

Teaching with online documents

Posted by selinalock on 27 November, 2009

A few weeks ago I asked if anyone could recommend an alternative to using wikis in a teaching session.  A few ideas were suggested including using twitter to get comments from, and interaction among students. An appeal to twitterers also yielded the idea of using

I decided that I would try out etherpad as it allows simultaneous (real-time) online document editing, which would allow me to achieve the same kind of aim as I had with using a wiki. That is to set students tasks using the online document and then get them to make comments on the results of those tasks during the session. The free, public etherpads expire after a week, but I wasn’t expecting the students to go back to the documents after session. I was just after something that could be used as a primer for thinking and talking online about issues surrounding the use of Wikipedia, tips for using search engines, sites they would recommend for their course etc.

Etherpad itself turned out to be a very useful tool with interesting features: I created 10 version of the same document and split the class of approx 68 (I think only about 40 actually showed up) into groups. The software coped very well with the simultaneous editing and there were other useful features such as a chat function at the side of the document, and a time slider feature so you could review all the changes that had been made.

Some of the students thought it was an interesting way to run a session, but I had not banked on the anonymous nature of the software causing issues. Basically, once the students realised it was anonymous because they didn’t have to register to use the documents there was a lot of inappropriate behaviour – posting of inappropriate links, deleting of the whole document while other students were trying to use it, using the chat facility to comment on one another etc.

So, overall I think Etherpad could be used in interesting ways in the classroom, you just have to be careful what ground rules you lay and what groups you use  it with!

Posted in Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Alternatives to using a wiki to teach?

Posted by selinalock on 29 October, 2009

I’m looking for some advice or suggestions on alternatives to using a wiki during a session.

Last year I blogged about my experience using a wetpaint wiki with 1st year computer scientists which overall went well as the students liked the option to interact online, rather than interact verbally in the classroom. We found last year and so far with the group this year that they are far happier doing things in front of a computer!

Anyway, there are up to 70 students and I would like them to comment on issues such as the pros and concs of wikipedia during the session. The wetpaint wiki would not allow several people to edit at once so most of the students entries were lost or overwritten last year.

If anyone can recommend an alternative solution?

– wiki software that will let multiple people edit?

– chat room software that can deal with a big group?

– discussion forum software?

– would a blog allow lots of people to comment at once? Or would it fall over?

I only really need the software during the session, as I’m not expecting them to add to it afterwards, so it needs to be free and easy to use/register for. I would have used a Blackboard discussion board but this module isn’t using Blackboard!

Posted in Subject Support, Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Wherefore out thou projector?

Posted by selinalock on 19 November, 2008

I taught a new session on RefWorks to 30 third year Computer Scientists yesterday, which didn’t quite go to plan, as there was no projector to be found in the lab. I quickly realised that trying to teach software without the ability to demo certain actions is quite hard!

I ended up getting small groups around my computer to demo certain bits and the students picked it up quite quickly. Though there were initial groans when I told them to login to Windows instead of linux.

I also realised a few minutes into the session that several of the students would be writing up their projects in LaTeX and so the whole Word plugin side to RefWorks was irrelevant to them.

If I do the session next year then I think I will:

  1. Make sure there’s a projector!
  2. Give an overview of how to reference to start the session.
  3. Ensure they login to Windows at the start of the session.
  4. Give them the option to learn about RefWorks.

Posted in Referencing, Subject Support, Training | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Reflections on using a wiki to teach

Posted by selinalock on 11 November, 2008

As previously mentioned I decided that I would use a wiki to teach a 1st year computer science session on evaluating resources, which is part of their CO1007 module on Study and Professional skills.

I decided that, as the students identify strongly with the modules they are studying, I would call the wiki CO1007: Evaluating Resources.

You can have a look at the wiki, including the student contributions. There were 42 students present for the session.

What went well:

  • The students seemed much more at ease in a computer lab than they had in a previous session held in a lecture theatre.
  • Most of the students dived straight into the wiki exercises after only a few minutes introduction from me. A handful needed some help to get started.
  • When walking around the lab i could see that the majority of the students were on relevant pages for most of the session. (With only a few excursions to Facebook etc!).
  • Verbal feedback in class suggested that delicious was popular.
  • More feedback and interactivity online than we had seen verbally in lecture theatre session.

What didn’t go so well:

  • The wetpaint wiki did not work how I expected when several people were editing at once – instead of entries being merged, some entries were lost and others were overwritten.
  • This led to student frustration and a drop off in participation as the session progressed, as the students saw no point in trying to add comments if they were just going to disappear!
  • The session was originally scheduled for two hours (4-6pm on a thursday), but the students got bored and started to leave after one hour.
  • The search engine task went a bit pear-shaped, as I realised partway through the session that my link for google scholar was incorrect (edited link during session) and that scirus was down for maintenance.


  • Session seemed to go well. I think it appealed to these students more than a traditional information literacy session would have.
  • Need to investigate alternative wiki software and test with a group beforehand.
  • Need to include a task on how to improve your search skills (see feedback below).

I have also included the student feedback below, collected using paper feedback forms.

a.  Overall, I rate this session











Strongly Agree



Strongly Disagree

b. The skills covered were relevant to my studies  





c.  I now feel more confident using the resources covered





d. This session occurred at the right time in

my course







Too long

Just right

Too short

e.  The session was





STOP (What could be left out of the session?)

Wiki doesn’t work for large groups.

Editing the wiki.

Nothing much.

The wiki wasn’t very reliable.

Make the 4-6 class earlier.

Nothing much needs to be changed.

Not sure, not everything actually worked properly.

Feedback forms.

Feedback forms.

The editing of the wetpaint wiki.


CONTINUE (What should be left in the session?)

IT Rooms are good.

Info on resources.


More info on delicious, need to actually try stuff before telling other people to do it.

I thought everything in the session was relevant to my studies.

I like the session as it is.

Pretty much everything, might be useful.

Lab sessions.


Website provided (google scholar, delicious etc)

The search engine task & the demo video’s.

Demo videos, search engine task, Wikipedia task.


START (What should have been covered in the session that wasn’t?  Ideas for new sessions also appreciated.)


Clear in more depth about this and how.

Be more specific about the resources page.

Alternative links.

Free relevant resources.

Plagiarism for dummies. Auto Essay generator (source: Wikipedia).

Free food. Auto essay generation tips (ner joke). Foxmarks is nice alternative to delicious.

How to search for information using scholar, google etc (i.e. using various search terms.)

Exploring the university search engine and finding material relevant to your course.

Posted in Subject Support, Training | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Session for 1st Year Computer Scientists

Posted by selinalock on 21 August, 2008

As previously mentioned I’ll be doing a new session for 1st year computer scientists.

This is my draft session so far, feedback encouraged!

CO1007 Session: Finding, Collecting & Sharing Resources
• Session for approx 50 1st yr Com Sci students in wk 5 of term, based in a computer lab.
• To be taught via a wiki – a strategy used effectively by a colleague at Loughborough with 1st yr Comp Sci students.
• Wiki will allow online interaction between students during the session and hopefully promote reflective thinking.
• Library catalogue will be covered in normal 1st yr induction (10am Fri 3rd Oct), so this session will concentrate on online resources.

Activities/Prompts within the Wiki:

1. Wikipedia – what is it good for?
• Go to and search for Computer Ethics
• What do you find useful about Wikipedia? What are the problems with Wikipedia?
• You may find it useful to read – strengths, weaknesses & article quality in Wikipedia: • Post a Pro & Con to the wiki
o E.g. Pro: covers a huge amount of topics
o E.g. Con: only covers some topics superficially

2. What’s the best search engine for you?
• Use your favourite search engine to find information on plagiarism in computer science
• Why do you like this search engine? Did you find some useful results?
• Post your findings to the wiki
• Now try a different search engine, such as or, which are scholarly and scientific search engines.
• How did these search engines compare to your favourite? Did you find different results?
• Post your findings to the wiki

3. How do you collect and share resources with friends?
• Create an account on using your CFS username, in order to save links that are useful for this course.
• Go to my delicious account (need to create) and add me to your network.
• You will see I have tagged a number of resources CO1007, which I think you will find useful for this course.
• Add a resource you think will be useful to your account and tag it CO1007
• Post your delicious account name to the wiki so that others can add you to their network and vice versa
• Do you think it will be useful to build up a list of shared resources like this? Do you think you might use it for other courses?
• Post your thoughts/comments to the wiki
• Delicious is the most popular, but not the only, social bookmarking tool available. There are others that are aimed at researchers and scientists, such as and

4. An exercise on Google Reader?
5. An exercise on recommended journals?

Posted in Subject Support, Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »