Author Archives: A.G. Pate

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

from @ ICT & Education

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.⤴

from @ ICT & Education

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 BibTex as text only.
  2. Rename the file extension from .txt to .bib
  3. Import using ABT

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⤴

from @ ICT & Education

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⤴

from @ ICT & Education

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⤴

from @ ICT & Education

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⤴

from @ ICT & Education

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.


Online polling with university students⤴

from @ ICT & Education

My aim this past year was to introduce online polling as a way to increase student engagement and motivation in their learning. I wanted to go beyond merely creating multiple choice questions but to really—really—think about how to embed an online voting system into my lectures and tutorials. I didn’t want my use of online polling to be merely a ‘bolt-on’ to assess their learning but to use it as a means to improve their contributions in class and to engage them in their learning.

These are a number of main points I’ll discuss:

  • Software/hardware used and limitations;
  • Changes made to teaching methodology;
  • Review and reflection on changes;
  • Next steps

Software/hardware used and limitations

The first challenge was deciding which hardware to use. There were ‘clickers’ available, TV-remote-type devices which needed to be charged as well as synced to the computer and matched to software. It also meant distributing them at the beginning of each class and collecting them at the end. It seemed laborious, time-consuming and a little old-fashioned.

I turned to online polling software as students would be able to use their own devices—smartphones, tablets and laptops which would connect via WiFi. I also needed to find low-cost solutions (for reasons which any educator will whole-heartedly understand).

The three polling programmes which I decided to use were PollEverywhere, Socrative and TopHat. I introduced them simultaneously to gauge what would work and what wouldn’t. The justification for running all three at once stems from what I call The DS9 Introduction Principle. The writers of DS9 (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to give it its full title) wanted to introduce some new adversaries and had three species lined up (the Jem’hadar, the Vorta and the Founders, if you are interested). It was decided to introduce all three at once on the assumption that at least one of the species would ‘click’ with the viewers ( In a similar fashion, I decided to introduce the three voting systems at the same time. By the end of the 6th week, one programme had been favoured over the others. On a side note, it may be of interest to know that all 3 species introduced in DS9 were accepted and embraced by the fans.

From my point of view, I liked TopHat’s potential. However, it did far more than I needed it to and I didn’t find it particularly user friendly. Creating questions on TopHat, particularly for those created on-the-fly, wasn’t particularly quick or easy. For those who wish to use it to take attendance, grade students or to tap the summative potential of online polling, it’s an excellent programme. For me, however, it was as if I was competing in the Tour de France having just had the training wheels taken off my bicycle. The other issue with TopHat is that students are required to sign in with an identifying email and username before using it. While polls could then be made anonymous, some students were not comfortable with this.

Socrative’s Space Race is a good idea and the students enjoyed it; I can see much use could be made of it. However, PollEverywhere’s easier organisation and the ability to respond via Twitter and texts made it the main programme for the rest of the academic year.

As the focus shifted to PollEverywhere, the students were able to concentrate on learning via the polling software rather than learning about the polling software.

I made arrangements to have some of the University’s laptops available for students who did not have their own devices. However, by the end of week two (once connectivity issues had been sorted out) it became clear that the students were happy to bring in their devices and that the laptops were unnecessary.

PollEverywhere’s 40-student limit was an issue; this was overcome by changing my teaching methodology.

Changes made to teaching methodology

PollEverywhere’s 40-response limit meant I needed to provide my 50+ students with opportunities to work with a partner. I created polling tasks which would encourage collaboration before voting. As the year progressed, multiple-choice questions to be answered by individuals were replaced by more collaborative tasks.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I didn’t want to use polling as a ‘bolt-on’. In other words, I didn’t want to conclude with a 5-minute plenary where I would say, “Right, folks. Let’s do a poll about …”. This, to me, wasn’t going to engage students for more than 5 minutes. What I wanted was for the polling to become more integral to the students’ learning, taking place throughout the lecture/tutorial—not just at the end.

Usually in a lecture I would have various places in which students would be expected to review what had just been learned or to discuss a particular point of view/issue. There was no easy way for me to gauge their understanding (or their engagement). Using the polling software, the students’ responses provided me with a way to gauge the understanding of the whole class. Moreover, students enjoyed seeing their responses presented to the whole class (particularly as they were anonymised). In this way, even incorrect responses became a teaching tool and there were fewer inhibitions about ‘getting it wrong’.

As well as lectures, the tutorials also benefitted from online polling. Previously, students would discuss their personal research with other three students in their groups of four. I realised that while the students were explaining their personal research to the others, the other three students were not particularly engaged. There were few (if any) challenging questions being asked of the researcher—”What year was your paper written?” and “Did you find it easy to read? are not, in my mind, probing questions—and I wanted my students to improve their ability to provide effective feedback.

PollEverywhere allows a Q&A/Brainstorm in which students can type long phrases and sentences. The three listeners in the groups were instructed to work as a team to write a feedback response to the presenter via Q&A/Brainstorm. These responses (one from each group) were visible for all other students to read. Each student was then asked to vote for the best-written feedback. I then discussed the top two or three responses with the class in order to help students develop effective feedback writing skills. This activity was repeated four times within each group and it was striking how the students’ feedback improved even in the one tutorial session!

Feedback was not only being used to improve the students’ learning but to help me improve my teaching. For some lectures which I knew could be challenging, I created a poll to allow the students to vote when they wanted clarification. (At one point in a lecture, the bar graph for “I’m confused” shot up in a matter of seconds and it was clear I needed to explain that particular point in a different way). The instant feedback was helpful not only for my teaching but also gave students the power to be more actively involved in the lecture, using polling to effectively speed up or slow down the lecture. (No, there wasn’t a mute button despite requests!)

Review and reflection on changes

On reflection, online polling helped students to:

  • participate more confidently in discussions;
  • consolidate and reflect on learning;
  • provide effective feedback to others.

It was clear, almost from the first week, students were more engaged, both in lectures and in tutorials. To begin with, I was concerned this may have been due to the novelty factor. However, this higher engagement was noticeable throughout the academic year. To be fair, there was a ‘lull’ in the middle of the second semester but this was not due to polling but due to the structure of the weekly tutorials which had become repetitive. The integration of polling into my lectures and tutorials was, overall, resoundingly successful and satisfactory for both me as the teacher and for the students.

Next Steps

There is, of course, still room for improvement. My goals for the upcoming academic year are to integrate PollEverywhere’s Keynote and Powerpoint plug-in into lectures, create polls to allow students to review their learning in their own time and to write shorter blog entries.

How to copy data from one field automatically into another field⤴

from @ ICT & Education

So you have an Adobe form with, say, a date on it and you want that information to be used elsewhere on the form without the user having to retype it.

Here’s what to do

  1. In the Text Field Properties, selection Action
  2. On Mouse Blur, Run Javascript
= getField("FieldNameofWhereYouAreCopyingFROM").valueAsString;

(All on one line)

A Celebration⤴

from @ ICT & Education

On the 20th of March, I was invited to the main campus of the University for an awards ceremony as I had been nominated and shortlisted by the students for a teaching award in the category of Most Innovative Teacher. It was certainly a surprise to have been nominated and more of a surprise to be shortlisted!

It was a good celebration of all the hard work many people do at the university, even more so as the nominations came from the students.

For once, I was speechless as my name was read out as the winner for my category.

Thank you to those who nominated me. It is much appreciated.

List of winners, photos and video of the event