Morgan O’Brien

Morgan O’Brien


"I am wary and conscious of adopting the stance of ‘lecturer’ excessively and am always keen to mix the formal aspects of my teaching from traditional lecture to group discussion."

Teaching interests


My main teaching interests include the following: sociology, particularly the relevance of social theory to understanding contemporary issues; sociology of youth and youth studies; and research methodologies, methods and practice I currently teach the following modules: BA Applied Social Studies (Social Care) Yr 2 – Sociology BA Applied Social Studies (Social Care) Yr 3 – Social Research BA Applied Social Studies (Social Care) Yr 4 – Research & Dissertation BA Youth & Community Work Yr 2 – Young People & Society BA Youth & Community Work Yr 2 – Contemporary Issues for Young People MA by Research – Research Methods & Pratice I also supervise dissertation students in the following areas: BA Applied Social Studies (Social Care) Yr 4; MA Child, Youth & Family; MA Research While not directly involved in the provision of professional education modules, many of the students I teach and work with are training for a professional qualification (e.g. Social Care). In this context, my teaching role is often to align ideas about sociological thinking and theories, as well as research, with professional practice, policy and service provision.

Describe your teaching philosophy


How I approach teaching will depend on the nature of the module, or even more narrowly the topic being covered and the size of the group. In general, I work to teach to key points in each class rather than filling an hour with as much information as possible. How this is done may be in a variety of ways – lecturing from slides; generating group discussion; using key readings; etc. I am wary and conscious of adopting the stance of ‘lecturer’ excessively and am always keen to mix the formal aspects of my teaching from traditional lecture to group discussion. Technology is often useful in this regard. For example, the use of video clips can be a jumping off point for discussion amongst, between and with students. Equally, the use of Socrative to chart students’ progress and understanding is beneficial for both myself and students to see where there are potential gaps in knowledge; and, in my experience, to alter the nature of the interaction and teaching at particular moments.

What technology do you use?


I use the following technology in my teaching: VLE; email; PowerPoint; YouTube; mobile phones (for Socrative); and screencasting.

How do you use this technology?


I make use of the VLE for posting announcements, tracking attendance, and submission of assignments. I also post class slides/notes and reading to relevant module pages for students. While I find the VLE useful as a repository for material related to modules, I will often use email to liaise with students as a group but particularly at an individual level – the latter being especially useful for supervision purposes. With regard to slides, I mainly make use of PowerPoint for presentation purposes. I have also used screencasting (via Screen-O-Matic) for presenting certain ideas (e.g. how to complete ethics documentation). Recently, I have begun making use of Socrative in class to run quizzes with students, who can log on with their phones and complete quiz in class setting. I also make use of video clips where relevant and useful – usually embedding them in a PowerPoint presentation. For example, when introducing the context of the development of subcultural theories of youth I show the opening section of Julien Temple’s documentary The Filth & The Fury; this mechanism is a useful way of integrating different resources into the teaching process.

What are the advantages to using this technology?


The technologies serve different purposes. The VLE is a useful resource for collecting together relevant material for students to have access to. For example, I will often build a class around a particular reading and post same in advance for students to read. In terms of assessment, no single technology has altered my assessment practice or strategy – but I will use the VLE to post assignment briefs and for submission purposes. In particular, the VLE incorporates Turnitin, which is a useful mechanism for checking sourcing and referencing, or lack thereof, of material submitted by students. I often deal with larger groups and, in this context, emailing is often the mechanism for communication on individual issues. I have also recently used an online survey, using Qualtrics, and Socrative quizzes to assess student progress on particular topic areas (e.g. with regards to research methods), which allows me to tailor possible revision or extension of classes on particular issues. Screencasting, in my opinion, is particularly useful for providing information in a straightforward format to multiple students. For example, for research projects students have to complete ethics documentation and I used screencasting to go through the documentation and talk through how to complete it. I also hope to use a screencast to introduce students to SPSS. In particular the interface, data coding, entry and setting up their database. The use of video clips (primarily via YouTube) is, for me, a meaningful way to ‘communicate’ with students in a format they understand, to demonstrate how their thinking about issues in class can be sourced from a range of sources (e.g. I use a clip from the film Moneyball to start a discussion around differences between quantitative and qualitative thinking in research), and to disrupt or break up the traditional ‘lecture’ process.

What are the disadvantages to using this technology?


I have always received useful assistance from colleagues in my department, and in the college generally, on using technology. Much of what I have used I have learned through trial and error; and making sure I prepare in terms of understanding how to use the technology. I have not encountered any significant disadvantages, as I will also consider not merely the use of technology for itself, but how it fits within the format of teaching and whether it can supplement and/or advance the presentation of ideas and students’ understanding and learning.

Which training resources helped you in this work?


From speaking with the learning technologist supporting the SPEEDS project here, I was introduced to the range of possible applications available to me and thought about how to make use of this in my own classes. I have not engaged in any formal training on the use of technology – but have gotten instruction and guidance from a designated colleague in relation to the application of technology to teaching and learning.

Funded by


Speeds HEA
Speeds HEA
Speeds HEA