Get ‘appy with the 12 apps of Christmas!

It’s nearly that time of year again! As the festive season approaches, it’s time to get ‘appy with the 12 apps of Christmas – a fun and quick way to learn about some educational apps that could help enrich teaching and learning and help further engage students.

12 apps of Christmas logo





There are a couple of these free online programmes you can sign up for this year:

The 12 Apps of Christmas by Chris Rowell at Regent’s University, London  

  • Starts 1 December, runs for 12 days
  • An app a day requiring 10 mins a day
  • Tailored for academic staff (lecturers, librarians, student support staff and others) and covering the basics and some more advanced tips on using 12 educational apps. Chris will unveil the app and the day’s task on the site at 10am, so that people can work through it whenever they have 10 minutes spare in the day. He says, ‘Don’t worry if you fall behind, you can always catch up!’, and he’ll leave the materials up so participants can refer back to the resources later.


The 12 Apps of Christmas by ETUG (a group of Canadian educators interested in teaching, learning & ed tech in post-secondary education)

  • Starts 4 December and runs until 19 December

Enhancing Fieldwork logo


Read how staff in the School of Agriculture contributed a fieldwork app to a 12 apps activity at the Dublin Institute of Technology last year.

Make a note of this in your diary. Go on – get ‘appy this Christmas!

An ‘Appy Christmas in Agriculture with the 12 Apps of Christmas

Dr Alice Maucheline & Professor Julian Park (School of Agriculture Policy & Development) 

During December 2016, we had the chance to share our teaching and learning experiences here at the University of Reading with thousands of other educators around the world by providing a case study for a seasonal online course called ‘The 12 apps of Christmas’.

12 Apps of Xmas

The free, open, short, online Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course was run for the third time by the Dublin Institute of Technology. The programme released ‘an app a day’ for the first 12 weekdays in December and over 3,000 participants logged in to get quick outlines of different ways in which they could integrate mobile learning into their teaching and learning practices. The aim was to raise awareness of the benefits of mobile apps and technologies, to provide upskilling for educators and to help expand their personal learning networks. The course was a collaborative effort with case studies from Ireland, UK and the USA and now that it has finished, the site has been left online as an open resource for all to use. It’s available here.

The case study was produced in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Sheffield and Chester as a dissemination activity for the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning (EFL) project.  The EFL team have been working together to research and share innovations in field teaching and learning with a particular focus on the use of mobile technologies.

Enhancing Fieldwork logo

The app we focused on for the case study was ‘Geospike’; this app allows instant location recording using the internal GPS of a mobile device, to which photos, videos and field notes can be attached. This functionality means the app can be used as a geo-referenced field notebook. The pedagogic case study we wrote described how we used the app to log field sampling sites in Iceland with Final year undergraduates from the University of Reading and the University of Akureyri, Iceland on a joint Microbiology field-based module led by Prof Rob Jackson (School of Biological Sciences).


Photos of students using iPads in Iceland

Photos from the Iceland field trip showing students using the iPads to log their sampling locations in GeoSpike. (We gratefully acknowledge the Annual Fund for their support in purchasing a set of iPads to support field learning at Reading.)


The experience of sharing our pedagogic innovations through the 12 apps of Christmas provided us with the opportunity to interact with educators, students, librarians and learning technologists across the globe. The cohort included people with a multitude of different subject backgrounds and experiences which led to very interesting conversations through Twitter and exchanges of comments on the website.

Map of DIT 12 apps of Xmas followers

Frances Boylan @boylanfm A map of #12appsDIT followers (

Several other apps with similar functionality to Geospike were discussed along with many suggestions of alternative, innovative uses of this kind of app in teaching and learning activities.

Our favourite feedback was on Twitter from @LeithaD “#12appsDIT Really love the case study for GeoSpike. A nifty app is one thing, but a well-constructed learning activity is even better!”

Learn more:

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning

12 Apps of Christmas

Take part:

DIT aren’t running the 12 Apps of Christmas in 2017 but there are a couple of others to try this year:


#LTHEchat this week – “Warning! May or may not include technology” (Wed 11 Oct, online, 8-9pm)

LTHEchat logo

This weekly online hour long #LTHEchat event, scheduled for this Wednesday 8-9pm, might be of interest:

The next #LTHEchat takes place on Wednesday 11th October at 8pm BST and is led by Sue Watling @suewatling and Patrick Lynch @thebigparticle (University of Hull). The title is: “Warning! May or may not include technology”. 

From Sue Watling and Patrick Lynch (and for further info:

A Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) approach to supporting learning and teaching can have limited impact and reach. Like attracts like and as TEL Advisors we tended to see the same faces at TEL themed workshops and events. Wanting to shift from Technology First to Pedagogy First, we looked for a topic which would be common to all staff involved in teaching and supporting learning, and felt the answer was the design of learning experiences.

Calling this Design for Active Learning (D4AL) put the stress on students being active participators. This aligned with the concept of students as self-regulated learners as well as moving away from traditional lecture style transmission of content models. The next question was how to sell it to staff who are already change fatigued and time poor. In these data driven times, full of red flags drawing attention to survey and evaluation responses, we wanted to move from a potentially deficit model to a more positive approach.

For us [at Hull], Design for Active Learning is about building a sustainable and scholarly approach to curriculum development and innovation by empowering staff to enhance their own teaching practice.  It lies at the heart of the university’s commitment to an ‘excellence agenda’ in learning and teaching through development of curricula and co-curricular learning.

This #lthechat will be opportunity to share thoughts on adopting a Design for Active Learning approach to enhancing the student experience, which may or may not include technology (although in 2017 is this a binary which is breaking down?)

More Welcomes

…to our two new TEL Support Officers, Sev Raychev and Peter Moll.

These are new roles in the CQSD-TEL team. Along with TEL Applications Manager Andy Turner, Sev & Peter will be working closely with the TEL Advisors, and with IT, to help and support staff and students using all of the university’s digital learning tools – principally Blackboard and Turnitin.

Sev: Hi, I’m Sevastiyan (Sev) and I’ve been working at the University for a few months as an IT Support Analyst where I became familiar with the university’s systems. I have a BSc in Computer Science and am currently doing an MSc in Business Informatics part time.

I’ve previously worked at Aberystwyth University’s IT Department supporting their IT systems including Blackboard and Turnitin. I am very passionate about technology and education, so I am very excited to be here.

I look forward to working with all of you to make the most out of the technologies we have!


Peter: I have used virtual learning environments from different viewpoints.  My background of an Ancient History degree ironically prepared me for the role, using Blackboard as a student.  I have recently supported the Directors of Teaching and Learning within the School of Politics, Economics, and International Relations.  This has given me an overview and exposure to the university, as well as specific knowledge of Teaching and Learning processes.  I feel Sev and I will complement each other in our background and knowledge base.


Linking to your Reading Lists from Blackboard – action required

You will be aware that the Blackboard upgrade at the beginning of August introduced a bug which broke links on Blackboard course menus to Talis reading lists. Initially Blackboard seemed optimistic that they would have a resolution for this problem before the start of term. However, to date, no solution has been forthcoming.

With Welcome Week fast approaching, we wanted to ensure that Module Convenors were aware of the situation, and of the workaround which you can put in place to allow students to access their module reading list from Blackboard.

Please see this guide for instructions on creating a working link to Talis from your Blackboard course.


Please note that the problem affects Blackboard courses where there is a single module reading list, with a link from the Blackboard course menu.

If your Blackboard course has multiple reading lists, or you have created links from Blackboard to specific sections of a Talis list, these links will be inside a Blackboard content area, and should not be affected by the Blackboard bug.


Please continue to update your reading lists for the 2017/18 session, and remember to publish all lists that are still in draft. Until published, a list can’t be seen by your students. For further information please contact your Liaison Librarian.

New TEL staff – Jackie Fairbairn


…to our newest staff member Jackie Fairbairn,
our new TEL Advisor.

TEL staff Jackie Fairbairn

“Hello, I’m the newest member of the TEL team and I’m really looking forward to working with staff at Reading University.

Before joining the University I worked in FE colleges, as a lecturer in Creative Technologies and in a support role providing staff development sessions and mentoring PGCE students. Within these roles I covered a variety of eLearning tools; I have a particular interest in blended learning and deploying new technologies in the classroom.

I am keen to share the benefits of technology in learning. My degree is in Graphic Design and I started my career in education by working for an educational app provider, which sparked my interest in teaching and learning. Alongside working in the TEL department, I am completing a part-time MA in Education.”