Category Archives: Blogging

Going home?

Going home?

As a parent of two lovely and very bright boys aged 4 and 5 (or, as they like to say, nearly 5 and very nearly 6) I feel the pain of all parents who don’t think the schooling is capable of adapting to all possible levels of children’s capabilities within the defined age/year structure that children are subjected to.

My 5 year old (year 1) has a reading age of a year 3 child, and is doing sums (numeracy) of year 2 and sometimes year 3. Yet his teacher has him doing number-bonds to 10 … something he could do 2 years ago. He’s been stuck here for a year already, not because he’s not developing, but because the school doesn’t think he can do it. He brings a new book home to read every other day from school and has read it within 20 minutes of getting home, he can answer quite difficult questions on the subject, characters, locations, emotions, etc. of the story. He writes lots too. Loves it.  Continue reading

Attendance vs Activity

Attendance vs Activity

The issue of teacher pay, pension, and working conditions is in the public arena again today as UK teachers go out on strike: “Thousands of pupils in England and Wales will miss lessons on Thursday as members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) walk out on strike.” – BBC News

And again the thorny issue of parents being fined when they take their children on holiday during term time is linked to the lost day(s) of teaching from the strike action -beautifully summed up in this News Thump (spoof news site) article: “As it is, when my child misses school I’m endangering their education and liable to a significant fine, but when they miss school due to a teacher’s strike it’s ‘in their best interests and helping their long-term future’.”

As someone who works in education, and a parent with children in early years schooling, I sympathise with both sides. But what I want to comment on is the issue of parents being able to take their children out of school for a family holiday during term time. I am sure that there are instances when it is not a good idea, e.g. before exams. But surely there’s something both the parents and the school can agree on for the benefit of the kids?   Continue reading

Year in Review / 2013

Year in Review / 2013

Welcome to a final few thoughts on and about 2013: what did I do, what did I read, what did I achieve, what did I miss, what did I not do … you get the picture. Well …

  • After thinking, planning, and talking about it for nearly two years I finally got round to planning, writing, and publishing my eBook on QR Codes in Education. (May 2013).
  • Several years in the making I finally completed my CMALT portfolio and submitted it and gained my CMALT accreditation (November 2013).
  • In October I re-read my QR Codes in Education eBook and realised it would read better with a different structure to the contents and I took the opportunity to make it available as a printed book too (November 2013). Working with the CreateSpace website I restructured the materials, redesigned the cover and worked on the 2nd edition of the book (also updating the eBook too to match).
  • Worked closely with colleagues in Leicester on aspects of mobile learning, online marking and feedback, support, course reconfiguration, and roles & responsibilities.
  • Presented a brown bag lunch seminar on “Improving the Student Experience Through Blackboard in the College of Social Science”
  • I am proud to have helped launch the East Midlands Learning Technology SIG including Twitter, blog, LinkedIn group, Google+ group, etc.

Most popular posts (by month):  Continue reading

Digital Identity: Who am I? (@simfin)

Last night I read the excellent post by Simon Finch – “Privacy is gone, live with it” – (@simfin) in which he considers the “complex and changing nature of identity, perception and consequences of naive digital citizenship” and outlines three possible groupings:

  1. “I’ve not got time for Twitter and Facebook, I’m too busy doing real work and besides the internet is full of liars, thieves and weirdos.”
  2. Harder to define but it’s more about the “spectrum on which we travel, rather than somewhere we are firmly placed.”
  3. “Not the Top Group. Not the Best group. This isn’t a competition”

What strikes me about Simon’s post is the well articulated way in which he highlights and describes his online presence and that it’s not only what we post and share is what defines us, but what we’re associated to (whether we know it or not).

“… if you post nothing anywhere then your identity will simply be references by others about the places you’ve been and the things you’ve said and done – ‘This is the worst conference ever (with Simon Finch)’. If I make no contribution, then it appears we are like minded and negative individuals.”

As with Simon I am known as much for my (prolific?) tweeting and blogging as for sharing photos of family, friends, days-out, home/work life, etc. Continue reading

RSA Animate: Does Brainstorming Work?

What a great RSA Animate short video on the power and success (or not) of brainstorming). So, next time you’re expected to brainstorm an issue or project … you know just what you’re up against.

“Journalist and author, Jonah Lehrer, argues that brainstorming produces less original ideas than those people who work by themselves.”

RSA Animate: Does Brainstorming Work?


David Hopkins

What is a Learning Technologist (part 8)?

David Hopkins2012 has been a challenging and adventurous year for me and I planned to round it off with another post in my series of “What is a Learning Technologist” articles (this is number 8 – read the others from the list here).

For me 2012 was a year of change, not only a change in outlook and attitude (personal stuff) but also in circumstances: I applied for a new job, got it, left Bournemouth University and joined the University of Leicester, sold one house and bought another, and moved myself and family to a part of the country I do not know. To some this is familiar and you’re nodding in appreciation of what I’ve done and put my famly through. To others you may be thinking ‘fool’ or “been there, done that, waasn’t that bad”. To me this was a huge decision after being at BU for over 5 years and living in Bournemouth for nearly 30 (minus years at University) – a big upheaval in more than just my professional life, and such a difficult choice to make (again, more personal stuff).

As with all these things, by the time I sorted through my thoughts and started to note them down … someone else publishes along the same lines and did a really good job of it too! So this post is in honour of Sarah Horrigan’s article, in the way of “what she says …”

Continue reading


WordPress Plugin #7: Twitter Card

Note: In this series I’ll delve into some of the better plugins available for WordPress that I am already using, or about to start using. I’m aiming to highlight 30 of the better plugins.

If, like me, you use Twitter a lot, and have something like WordTwit installed (tweet your new blog post when you publish it) then you’ll also want to explore the new world of Twitter Cards. Thanks for Paul Simbeck-Hampson for showing and explaining this to me.

What is it … well, Twitter Cards:

“make it possible for you to attach media experiences to Tweets that link to your content. Simply add a few lines of HTML to your webpages, and users who Tweet links to your content will have a “card” added to the Tweet that’s visible to all of their followers.”

Here is it in action, it’s the snippet of the linked webpage (and image) that appears beneath the tweet on both the website and in Twitter Apps – it comes into it’s element if someone tweets a link to or about one of your blog posts and doesn’t include your twitter name, as the Card will do this for you, so your work is correctly attributed:

WordPressPlugin #7: Twitter Card (Working)

Here’s an example of a non-cited tweet, where my Twitter username ‘@hopkinsdavid’ is not mentioned:

WordPressPlugin #7: Twitter Card (Working)

How does this work, and what do you need? First you need to install the Twitter Cards plugin (available as download or by searching the Plugin database through your WordPress admin panel). It’s simple and done in a matter of seconds, and that’s all you need to do in WordPress.

The next stage is to test it using the Twitter developer page- Twitter Development / Cards Preview –  and request its activation. Take a URL for one of your blog posts or pages and enter it in the box and press ‘preview’, to get something like this, including the snippet of the post and the image:

WordPressPlugin #7: Twitter Card (Preview)

 NB: You must be sure that the post in WordPress has an image set as the ‘featured image’ if you want it to show the image in the Twitter Card. If it doesn’t have one set it’ll display the text with no image – it’s not a bad thing but, if you’re working hard to promote yourself and images are important then it’s worth making sure you have one set.

The final step is to apply to have the Card approved and activated on this page: The form does state:

“As we roll out this new feature to users and publishers, we are looking for sites with great content and those that drive active discussion and activity on Twitter. Expect a few weeks for turn-around time. You will receive an email message with the confirmation or rejection notice.” [emphasis is mine]

Fill in all the fields as best you can and sit back and wait. Simple! It took just over 12 hours for mine to be approved, you may be luckier than me.

Managing your Digital Footprint

Managing your Digital Footprint

“Everything you say and do online can have an impact on your reputation. The Internet is a vast collection of details, and you might be surprised at just how much information on you can impact how you look and how you are perceived as a person and a professional.”

The infographic is split into 4 sections:

  1. What is an e-reputation?
  2. Why online reputations matter
  3. What potential employers are watching for
  4. What can you do about it?

I’ve included the final section below, but please please look at the previous ones too (click the image for the full infographic) as the information is well presented and well worth a couple of minutes of your time – if for nothing else so you can be sure you’re doing it right. Continue reading

Freshers 2012

Freshers: 1992 vs 2012

Freshers 2012

OK, so I’ll own up … in 1992 I became a fresher at Kingston University, which is why, after walking around campus this week, ‘freshers week’ at the University of Leicester, I feel compelled to write this.

I know this will sound like I’m an old fart (which I probably am now), but in ‘my day’ my parents left me at the hall of residence, and that was me for the next 2 or 3 months, on my own with hardly any contact with friends or family, left with 10 other complete strangers  in my hall ‘house’ who would grow become a second family. We were all in the same boat. We were all away from home for the first time, all 18/19 years old, and all feeling slightly nervous about these strangers we had to get on and live with. There was a public phone I could use to call friends and family but it was expensive and I couldn’t be bothered to queue for it. And anyway, who would I call – we didn’t find out about the number until we turned up? My old school friends were in the same boat, at their own university, with an equally busy and expensive public phone … and I wasn’t about to call home. I had no choice but to find out who I was living with, I had no choice but to engage and socialise and to make friends. I had no choice but to suck it up and get on with it – no moaning to old school friends about this or that: my new support network was there and I had to find out the hard way who I could trust, or not as it turned out.

I don’t think students are having, or about to have, the ‘university experience’ they think, and it’s certainly not the experience I had. Here’s why.

  • 1992 – my hall of residence housed about 500+students in some 50 ‘houses’, and had less than 50 parking spaces – which were for the most part empty, as students didn’t have or need cars, or afford them either. And those that did have a car had a beat-up old Renault 5 or Ford Fiesta or Mini that their mum let them have.
  • 2012 – so many students have cars, and nearly all I saw today (and in previous years) are no older than 3 or 4 years old, and look like a branch of Halfords loaded in the boot. There is clearly more money in the students pocket (or their parents pockets). The number driving fairly upmarket executive cars is also very high, as it was when I looked around the car park at Bournemouth University over previous years.


  • 1992 – I took a shoe box with 25 or so cassettes and a cassette stereo with me to Uni in my first year, that’s all I had room for in the car along with everything else I had to take. I had to leave my record player and 400+ vinyl albums behind, I just didn’t know what it was going to be like enough to take them. The next year I’d saved and got a portable CD stereo (still quite new even then) so had the same shoebox but stuffed full of CDs, which was still only about 30. I had to be very selective about what music to take for the term, and it was a careful choice that changed often in the weeks and days leading up to leaving home.
  • 2012 – with iPod and iPhone, and probably iPad too (or Blackberry’s, or Android, or cloud storage), in their pockets they’re taking hundreds of albums and thousands of MP3s. It’s too easy. Where are the ‘mix tapes’ and the careful soul searching about which tunes will be good for the next few months? It’s not all about playlists you know!


  • 1992 – even when we tried to be smart, we were still quite scruffy. It wasn’t just about fashion, it was more about money to live vs money to dress well with, and we preferred to eat. In fact one house mate in my first year survived off spaghetti rings and sausages he got on offer from Iceland for the whole of his first term while he waited for cheques to clear (cheques .. .remember them?)
  • 2012 – when the new students are smart, they are very smart with heavily branded (and expensive) clothes and, when they’re scruffy they are very scruffy. But this year the students are, at the moment, extremely well dressed – all no doubt showing off in the first week. Let’s see what it’s like by next May?


  • 1992 – Our assignments were based around what was in the the course materials that we had to buy (yes, buy!) from the office, or in the library; books, journals, and some old newspapers. It was relatively easier for my tutors to know the sources we’d use in their assignments, or at least recognise an un-quoted piece. We had no access to other students at other Universities and what they’d been writing.
  • 2012 – With the Internet in their back pockets its harder for the University to know what is or isn’t copied, or indeed what is in the library and what isn’t. Is this why we are becoming so reliant on tools like Turnitin, or is  that the tutors don’t know their subject as well as they used to?


  • 1992 – there was nothing mobile – phones, computing, etc. I knew only one person with a personal computer (PC) and that was the size of his suitcase and had basic word processor and spreadsheet capabilities, and that was it. In my final year I rented a PC for £25 a month, and it was old and slow even by the standards at that time (remember Radio Rentals). There was barely something you’d recognise as the Internet – I had an email but it was internal to the university only. It wasn’t until my final year in 1996 that I could find work related to my course (Geology) and even then it was extremely limited to the larger US universities who had websites not only for brand but also for research activities.
  • 2012 – everything is mobile, everything is in their pockets, everything is available. While this is good, it’s very good, but it makes it easy to escape from the experience of engaging with new people and places. With Facebook and Twitter and IM and other online tools it’s easy for new students to forget it’s all new and just continue their old lives at a distance, while not putting as much effort in to their new environment and people.

While some aspects (mobile phones, cars, Intenet, opportunities, etc) I wish I’d had 20 years ago, I think I had a better experience at becoming self-sufficient and learning about life.

This is why students are getting, for me, a diluted university experience: they never really shake off their bounds to home and friends enough to explore their new environment, new people, new scenes, new everything. It’s too easy when it gets tough or lonely to snap back to their old life and ‘not try’. I’m not saying this isn’t needed, clearly some need this safety net for a good many reasons, but there are some who just need to try harder where they are now and get on with it. How are they going to graduate as mature capable adults if it’s been easy to avoid conflict or hard decisions?

Come on, one and all … what are your observations about freshers when you were one and the current cream of the crop? Have you noticed the changes and how do you think they impact on the ‘university experience’ – good or bad? You notice I haven’t mentioned the tuition fess .. oh damn, I just did!

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