S295 and cultivated plants

Every now and again we get batches of observations by people taking the Neighbourhood Nature course. They often include observations of cultivated plants in parks and gardens, whilst iSpot is intended for observations of wild organisms. Why don’t the instructions given out in the course direct course members in the right direction?

hmmm - I don’t mind trying to ID garden plants for people as I usually learn something new in the process - but taking loads of photos of garden things surely defeats the object of finding out about nature in the first place?

Cultivated plants can attract a lot of wildlife to gardens. If it’s doing that then surely it’s good to know what’s doing the attracting? Anyway, isn’t it worth encouraging interest in what people find around them whether wild or cultivated?

It don’t particularly mind the presence of the odd cultivated plant; I was commenting on the phenomenon as an indication of something not working in the course. I supposed I should have tagged @miked.

The neighbourhood nature course ran from 2009 to 2012. Various other courses use ispot these days including s295 ‘The biology of survival’, in that course students make a set of observations in a habitat (which can be a garden) and then discuss the species that they found further within the course.

reawakening the Subject
There is growing concern, voiced by users, that the s295 ‘course’ is not shown, or taught how, to use iSpot to advantage.
We all know that students have minds of their own (take the tag example) but it is no excuse.

I have just written again, maybe for the fourth time to iSpot Admins.
I suppose, apart from ‘our’ annoyance, there is nothing wrong with the concept. But it appears so badly organised. I want to blame the ‘senior tutor’ not the Students.
Personally speaking they should be taught how to use iRecord as there is no need for two-way conversations just acceptable or not. (no Education)
The s295 iSpot component appears to be unsupervised and there is rarely any two-way interchange between the students and the active users. We really want to help.

It has been an annoyance for a few years judging from responses in the various Observations and each year raises the same concerns, over and over again.
I suspect that the people who run the OU side have little or no idea of how we feel, nor of how iSpot is supposed to work but the Curator and the Senior Administrator (of iSpot) are fully aware of the issues.

We HAVE to assume that the students are briefed about the iSpot way and we have to be a little open minded BUT I think the relationship between us and them is poor,
We have a lot to offer to this course, there needs to be dialogue between users and Admin.

This is something that leaves me in two minds (‘two more than usual’ someone mutters). I try to treat every post the same - whether a well-crafted observation with helpful notes and good photos, or a blurred snapshot with little or no explanation. After all, each of us had to start somewhere (I hate to think what I’d find if I went back to revisit my earliest attempts). But this does seem to be a ‘box-ticking’ exercise on behalf of both students and tutors. You’re absolutely right about iNat being a more suitable platform, in this case

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Hmmm. Which came first, iSpot (perhaps in an earlier guise) or S295 (again, perhaps in an earlier guise)?

I wonder……are we missing something here?
As I have not done the S295 course, nor seen the assessment criteria I feel it would be unwise of me to comment on what the tutors say to or do with their students.

On iSpot, when I think I have something to contribute I am willing to offer comments on any post, not just those of OU students. It’s a pleasure and I know I am not alone in this.

Here’s the thing… on this Forum we often ask questions about the inner workings of iSpot, and generally we get an answer. But today I went to Wikipedia where I found this paper. I now know more about iSpot and I recommend it. I thought Table 1 was particularly informative.

The paper says that iSpot connects beginners and experts, overcoming the social as well as geographic barriers that normally separate the two. That has certainly been the case for me – the South African flora would be otherwise outside my experience and I would know nothing of Missing-sector spiders or Ivy Bees.

And finally… we know that OU students pay for their courses; we get iSpot for free; what’s not to like?

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Interesting link: thanks!

I would be disappointed with many of the S295 observations if I had set it as a Level 3 assignment let alone one at level 5, and I would be assessing where I had got it wrong. This is irrespective of what the assessment criteria are, because I would not feel I had given the students a chance.

Irrespective of any overall aims of the course, identification is a key skill in any biological fieldwork. I am not a biologist, but have been involved in fieldwork, and met a number of biological fieldworkers, and they usually have very impressive identification skills. Generally not only in their own fields. it is a learnt skill. Rather than moan about what has been done, I am going to say what I would do. This is not complete, only the starting point.

Firstly sort out what the aims of the assignment are, and initially I would be looking at two things.

  1. Improve student identification skills
  2. Make a worthwhile contribution to the iSpot.
    There could be a number of other aims, and I have not defined worthwhile, in the iSpot context.

I would break the assignment up, because in general only so much guidance can be dealt with in one go.

Part 1. Go create an iSpot user ID and make a single observation.

This is to get the student used to the whole process, used to the interface. It it quite intimidating on first acquaintance. As tutor I would add a comment to every submission, making suggestions on improving it.

Part 2. Analysis of the single observations and comparisons with exemplar observations

I would have done this as a group discussions, and with groups presenting their findings to whole class. I know a classroom situation is different, but I am sure the OU have ways of doing this give the existence of internet. I would also suggest that the first observation be deleted, unless it could be added to get standard for the main set of observations.

Part 3. Make a series of iSpot observation

I don’t know where the tutors want to lead the students into what they are observing, or what not to observe. However, a steer is always useful, and whether that is away from gardens plants and pets, and towards things which are more obviously wild is really a matter of what fits in best with S295.

However, the observations should fit in with certain criteria, and a few suggests are:

  1. A meaningful title which in some way reflects the subject of the observation.

  2. At least three photos for every observation, which should include, a picture of the whole subject, and closeups of key features from different angles. The key features of course are hard to define before hand, but I sure a handy guide could be produced.

  3. A description of the key features, as a pointer to others what you think is important. The description must include a link to help those agreeing or otherwise to support what you believe is the identity of your observation.

  4. The student must identify the subject, to at least the it is likely to be level. That does not have to be the species level, it could be genus or above. The point is not being right all the time, but the process of getting to the best level identification. Species level is not always possible, but identity has to start somewhere.

  5. All comments must have a reply, which could be a simple acknowledgment, but also include acting of the comment.

  6. Edit observation titles, details etc in light of comments and updated identifications etc.

There are probably a host of criteria, but these are just off the top of my head.

Part 4. Analysis of results of observations

I know I would be devising some kind of form to fill in, but I would want to know such things as:

  • percentage of observations with a likely banner
  • total number of agreements
  • total number of comments made and received

There are a host of other things, but will leave that to you own imagination.

This whole post probably seems extremely patronising, but I strongly feel that the S295 student contribution seems so unguided. It may be a trivial part of the course, but identification skills are important. I don’t think that the course is making good use of iSpot, and the help that many iSpot contributors can give. I know that when I was designing course material, the subject team would spend hours, both creating the material, and analysing the performance of the students in the relation to the materials we had produced. It is not an easy task.

I know my own posts often fail to meet the criteria I have listed, and that is something that I regret. It does give me something to aim for.

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In some fields the progression is said to be first you learn what the rules are, and then you learn when the rules can and should be broken. (WikiPedia has “Ignore all rules” as a policy - " If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it.", or as I put it don’t let the rules stop you doing the right thing.)

@Gulvain your post isn’t patronising; it’s a well thought out plan for any tutor, who has to lay out the Aims and Objectives of a course/module, followed by the Learning Outcomes the students are expected to achieve for a successful completion.

I have posted little bit of the instructions that students are given elsewhere.

The iSpot activity is more or less the first thing the s295 students do and indeed some of them do the activity before the course proper starts as they are so keen to get going.

They are given instructions on how to use iSpot and they produce material on one or more organisms which can be based on their use of iSpot. Basically most of the students may know nothing about biological recording at the stage when they use iSpot so they are very much learning from scratch. The course is wide ranging and part of several courses to get degree so it is also possible that some or many of the students have little interest in this aspect of the course and are simply doing it to tick a box. This is the case with all courses some students are very engaged and others are not. This is the chance to get them more engaged with a subject that we feel strongly about.

A nine-dimensional reputation system? Crikey. Who came up with that, given that three-dimensions is the most we can experience (four if you include time)?

We are so very special that we deserve what others cannot experience - a 9-dimensional reputation system to motivate and reward us. You know it makes sense. (and you read the paper which deserves a 10th dimension)

Where’s the campaign for real English when you need them!

I looked at the paper… it’s a long read! I was struck by how global the iSpot observations are. But none shown for Greenland (we need someone to go on holiday there).

9-dimensional just means that the reputation is represented as 9 numbers. The usage probably derives from mathematics and mathematical physics.

You are wrong on one count - this one specially

There are possibly 15 iObservations in Greenland

And I have just been, virtually.
There is plenty of scope for a set of Virtual Observations. This is Polar Rhubarb!
(StreetCam) Photo near Oagortog

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