Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin


Teaching interests


Modules taught [selection]; Social Policy and Welfare, Irish Social Policy, Social Policy Processes, EU and Globalisation, Comparing Social Policy, Social Policy and Ideology, Practice Placement. I teach across a number of different courses;- BA(H) in Social Science, Criminal Justice Studies, Social Care, and Higher Certificare in Custodial Care (HCCC). Teaching across a number of programmes provides for a diverse range of experiences. Teaching modules on professional education programmes, such as Social Care, lends itself to a greater level emphasis on personal and professional development of students. I have had the unique experience of developing and delivering a blended learning module to recruit prison officers. This module provided an excellent platform for co-creation and sharing of knowledge, which improved the learning process and student performance. The process has improved my teaching practices and overall module design.

Describe your teaching philosophy


My teaching philosophy is a process of ongoing professional development and in the classroom dependent on the student profile. It is critical for me to be open, to challenge, and focused in my approach to teaching. A combination of social contructivism and critical theory would anchor my teaching philosophy. Technology assists in developing a more transparent and collaborative approach to my teaching and to the student learning experience. Technology also helps to provide students with a greater level of dialogue on feedback and their ongoing development. I believe the most important element is having an affection for ones teaching and learning practice.

What technology do you use?


PowerPoint, Prezi, Moodle, YouTube - Ted Talks, social media, mobile phones, Padlet, H5P, blogs, email, and discussion boards.

How do you use this technology?


Moodle is my institutions VLE and it essential to my teaching and learning practice. I have adopted the 'Two (or three) cards for learning' interface developed Dr. Áine Furlong (Waterford IT). This interface is built on two/three dialogically related/connected cards. I have a particular preference for the three-card model - 'Before', 'During' and 'After' a class. When the student enters a content section of their module via Moodle they are presented with an introductory text, links and prompts for each card. Students engage more with material, come to the lecture with comments/questions, which led to further participation in class and encouraged use of more digital technology. Padlet is a user-friendly online pinboard. I use it as a teaching and formative assessment tool. I have integrated Padlet into all modules; it allows one to compile a variety of resources together. Students can also add, comment on and star rate resources. It has proved to be a most useful collaborative and co-creating tool. Can be easily added to your Moodle page. However, it must be carefully moderated. Some students did feel that it was visually messy. H5P is available as a plugin on my institutions VLE. Like Padlet it is helpful for collaboration and co-creation. It allows you to create interactive videos, interactive images, full course presentations, question sets, multiple-choice questions (MCQ), drag and drops, flash cards and more. In class, I use it as a formative assessment tool using flash cards, question sets and MCQ's. Students were positive about the use of H5P. No major challenges presented. Blogs are an excellent assessment tool. It provides students with the opportunity to enhance their writing and communication skills. All student feedback has been positive. However, there are some technical issues, which can take up a lot of class time. Currently, I am developing a Loom screen-recording guide to the process and hoping to reduce anxiety about creating a blog. PowerPoint is probably the most used technology in the classroom. To provide a more interactive and engaging presentation I have switched a lot of material to Prezi. YouTube/Ted Talks are an excellent tool to use in class to give students a fresh perspective and generate discussion. Email and moderated discussion boards are used to motivate both self-directed and collaborative learning.

What are the advantages to using this technology?


Using technology has enriched the classroom experience for me personally and my students. It has improved student engagement. This increased engagement is helpful with more complex subject matter. In particular, it has highlighted that different types of learning environments can benefit more students. Students can learn at their own speed, review difficult concepts and openly discuss content with their peers and lecturer. My students and I also enhanced our skill set: improving communication skills, leadership skills, and a variety of practical digital literacy skills. Technology has positively influenced my relationship with students, creating a more collaborative classroom/online environment. I developed and delivered a blended learning module for a Higher Certificate in Custodial Care and worked with students via Moodle (using three-card method discussed above), Padlet, YouTube, Ted Talks and face to face. This allowed for students who may be weaker or uncomfortable in a classroom setting to have the space to develop. For example, using Padlet as an assessment tool provided a greater level of feedback for students and a more engaging learning platform. I have used online multiple-choice quizzes via Moodle and found that students level of anxiety at assessment time decreased. Relationships with colleagues have developed as a result of Waterford IT's Community of Practice initiative which has brought those using TEL together and encouraged further enhancement of digital and teaching skills. Regular seminars are held to display work carried out by a colleagues. It is an excellent forum to converse with staff across multiple disciplines, about their experiences of using TEL.

What are the disadvantages to using this technology?


Using technology is not without its difficulties. My biggest initial obstacles were a lack of adequate training and an awareness of how to implement the digital tools available to me. My colleagues in our Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning (CTEL) provided individualised and group training sessions to improve my digital literacy. These sessions were invaluable in the process of using technology in my teaching and modes of assessment. After receiving training, the greatest difficulty was not to attempt to implement using the technology in every class. I focused on one module for one semester, gradually expanding to now using technology in a more effective manner in all modules. From the students' perspective, there were challenges to overcome using new platforms, and/or using familiar platforms differently. As stated above, when using a blog as an assessment tool students require further technical training. It does consume a lot of class time and can be tedious. This has led to me using Loom to create a screen recording of the process required to develop a blog. Students found that sometimes the level of content within their module specific Padlet could lead to excessive amounts of content filling the screen. The students rightly believed that this made the interface messy. Content was edited, reviewed and reduced to a more appropriate level. It is now functioning as an effective teaching and learning tool.

Which training resources helped you in this work?


All three open access resources developed by the National Forum; Transformation through Collaboration, TELU, and All Aboard, are excellent for developing ones digital skills. The work carried out by digital champions was a source of real inspiration. As a result, I have developed a more engaging and vibrant Moodle interface for my students. In particular, the 'Two (or three) cards for learning' interface, as discussed above. The "Micro-Lessons" provided through TELU are excellent. When developing and delivering blended learning modules, the lessons provided for teaching and learning in a 'flipped classroom' are clear and concise. All Aboard also provides useful resources for teaching and learning in a 'flipped-classroom'. Digital badges are available for successful completion of online lessons. Personally, I found the 'Blogging' All Aboard resource has transformed my assessment methods in some modules. Students have provided feedback on the use of blogs as an assessment tool, most found it to be an "enjoyable" assessment, which allowed them to be "more expressive" in the writing process.

Funded by


Speeds HEA
Speeds HEA
Speeds HEA