Saturday 26 November 2011

JISC RSC Northern e-Learning Group Meeting - 1st November

The JISC RSC Northern e-Learning Group meet each term.  This year I am chairing the group.  It is a very easy group to chair because all the hard work is done by the great people at RSC Northern and I just come along on the day and chair the actual meeting.  The membership is made up from representatives of the colleges and universities in the area.  It is usually eLearning technologists from the colleges i.e. Middlesbrough, Redcar, Stockton, Darlington, Darlington QE Sixth Form, Bishop Auckland, Hartlepool, Sunderland, Newcastle, South Tyneside etc.
We usually have a couple of demonstrations at the beginning.  This time it was an Interactive Whiteboard demo by Polyvision which was interesting as it is quite different to Promethean.  Then a presentation of an eLearning course by Newcastle College.  The best part of the meeting is when we go round the table and everyone contributes with what is happening at their institution and any new developments.  It is really good to share good practice and to find out what works and doesn't work and get suggestions for new ideas.  There is some overlap obviously but it is not the case that everyone is doing everything differently nor that everyone is doing the same.
The meeting was held at Hartlepool College - we go round the region and hold it at a different place each time.  Hartlepool have a new build which has just opened in September.  It is really great, not as big as Middlesbrough College but similar in some ways although it didn't seem as busy with students as us.  The LRC/library is now called the Learning Core which was good but split on three levels and you have to go out of each floor to get to the next.  We had a tour of the college including the vehicle workshops and the aircraft workshop!

HEBP Technology Enhanced Learning Group - October 27th

As a FE College in the Tees Valley we are part of the Higher Education Business Partnership (HEBP) with Teesside University.  There are various HEBP groups which connect the Colleges and the University.  The two which I am part of are the Technology Enhanced Learning Group (TEL) and the Librarians group.  The Librarians group doesn't meet very often although there is a Information Literacy sub group which has met more frequently.
The Technology Enhanced  Learning Group (TEL) meets quite regularly, approx every half term and has been really interesting.  A couple of years ago it seemed to be quite random and the discussions seemed to go round without coming to any conclusion.  This is quite frustrating for someone like me that is impatient and likes to have actions and see results but that is a failing on my part in some situations.  It highlights the differences between FE and HE and encourages me to be more thoughtful and consider the options.  In the last two years the group has become much more focused and the meetings have been themed and included some presentations.  It has given me the opportunity to collaborate with Learning Technology people in HE and compare good practice.  It has shown how some topics such as e-marking and e-assessment are looked at differently and institutional policies.  It has been interesting to look at student feedback from the different organisations and to see how this impacts on developments.  I think that some of the good practice that we have at our College especially using the Interactive Whiteboards has been useful to share.
The group is being reviewed as part of a teaching & learning review at the University - I hope that it continues to meet and that we have the opportunity to continue to liaise.

ALT FEC 25th October

The ALT Further Education Committee was held in Birmingham at the Priory Rooms.  In fact it was a meeting of all four operational committees - the Membership Services committee, the Publications committee, the Research committee and the Further Education committee.  There was an introductory session for everyone to discuss general issues and then the topics raised from these groups were taken up by the appropriate committee during their meeting throughout the day. There was a plenary session at the end where each committee fed back to the whole group.  
I thought this worked really well for a number of reasons.  The introductory session at the beginning meant that you worked with people from the other committees which is not possible if the committees meet at separate times and places.  It helps put it into the context  of ALT as a whole organisation.  It is nice to meet everyone and fascinating to watch the interactions.  It provides a feedback loop in a short space of time i.e. matters that are brought up at the beginning of the day can be discussed by the appropriate group during the day and possible solutions or courses of action brought back by the end of the day.

The Further Education Committee is really interesting and all of the members are friendly, approachable, very knowledgeable and good at discussions.  I find it very beneficial to be involved and to be able to have discussions with people who are really interested in learning technologies and committed to using them and developing them for students and staff in the FE sector.
I think it is important that Further Education has a strong presence in ALT and hope to promote it as such.  But I think the most important thing is that ALT is a brilliant organisation and anyone and everyone who is a Learning Technologist should be part of it.

Monday 31 October 2011

eResponsibility Forum

The eResponsibility Forum is a group that has been set up in the region to discuss eSafety and eResponsibility. It started with Gateshead College but includes other colleges, schools, the police, fraud squad, ngfl, local councils and the JISC RSC Northern.
It is really interesting and important, I think, because it aims to share information and experiences and also is positive. This meeting we had a really interesting talk about your digital footprint and protecting your professional identity online. It was very useful and definitely something that I will share with members of staff at College.

-- Post From My iPhone

FOTE conference

I wanted to go to the FOTE -Future of Technology in Education- conference last year but the tickets were all gone by the time I realised so I was determined to try and get one this year. The tickets are free but obviously it is still quite a way to travel for me - but worth it. Luckily I managed to arrange a meeting on the same day so it meant only one journey for two events.
One of the brilliant things about the conference was that there was a mobile app that could be downloaded beforehand. I think this is ideal - it had the list of delegates, the agenda, feeds & tweets, locations and various other information. This suits me perfectly because I really don't want paper based info to carry round but want to know what's happening and who's there.
The conference was held at the University of London Senate House which is a fantastic building and really impressive. It is quite nostalgic for me as I studied at the Uni in the 80s and used to use the library at Senate House. There is a beautiful entrance hall and a beautiful main hall where all the sessions took place. It is a good experience to attend an event when all the sessions are held in one hall for all the delegates. It makes a change, it's not appropriate for all events by any means but worked well in this instance.
There were a variety of presentations from people from universities, colleges, companies and others. The main points I found were - that you need to have an interactive experience using technology in education, that you can have fun and include games and activities when using learning technologies That you may be able to predict whether students are going to succeed or fail even before they arrive at your institution - this is quite scary I think as I'm not sure whether it will influence you in providing the learning experience and support that they need. It is important to have face2face support as well as online support ( yes, this is one of my favourite topics). Students do want more PCs especially in libraries - it's all about choice (yay - indeed). You have to listen to learners to find out what they want and need - but they will need help to be informed of the choices available. Don't be led by the loudest voice. A student from NUS gave a talk about what students want and yes, they are not 'digital natives' whatever that means - they still need skills to be able to learn.
It was a really interesting day, I like technology conferences where you can listen, watch, participate if you want or just be. You can use your phone or tablet or laptop or just watch people.
The food was good. Saw and chatted to quite a few people I know and also talked f2f with a few different people who I have only known before online through twitter or facebook or JISC lists. It was cool.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday 10 September 2011

ALT-C 2011 Wednesday

On Wednesday again I went into College again for student inductions - they have been going really well and by our third day we are getting into our stride.  A few other matters cropped up that I wanted to sort out so it was a bit later by the time I set off to Leeds.
I got to the conference for lunchtime (again) so in good time for the keynote which was Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology presented by Karen Cator.  There will be plenty of reviews and recordings of the presentation and the slides of the presentation are on the ALT Crowdvine site etc. so I'll just concentrate on what I thought of it and what appealed to me.  First of all the fact that it was online and it worked very well was a major achievement and has restored some of my faith in online conferences.  The set up using Adobe Connect was good, I like the interface and it works if you have expertise to control it in all the different areas - technical and moderating.  The speaker, Karen Cator, was very appealing and engaging and talked quickly and enthusiastically (there is nothing worse than someone droning on when you are watching them deliver online).  It is a really difficult thing to do because if you're not getting feedback from the audience as you do in real life then you have no prompts.  I also liked the fact that you could see and hear her which makes it easier for me as if it's just audio I have to concentrate really hard and build a visual picture in my mind to match the audio (but that's another story).  
Karen talked about the Superbowl - Transmedia Bowl and how the 30sec adverts are so important - not just for the 30secs when broadcast but the before and after and how the consumers attention has to be grabbed.  There are competitions and contests including popular video clips and games such as Angry Birds (yay).  An interesting point was illustrated by the popularity of a webcam of baby eagles and how they had been filmed from the eggs being laid to hatching and how it has fascinated so many people.  I think it's a great example because it goes against the perception of people having short attention spans and not wanting to be involved with something that is not high noise and action.  If an event is interesting then people will become absorbed and want to follow it.
She went on to talk about how there is s
o much happening outside education using technology.  
Digital content allows us to access experts.  In education we are data poor but the transition to digital will lead to powered up learning environments.  The idea of a Harry Potter style newspapers are quite feasible with moving and changing images embedded in other media.

National Education Technology Plan.
How can we create a totally connected teaching profession? 
Is technology a 'force multiplier'?

School can become a node on network of learning. Learning should be keep learning between frustration and boredom to include productivity.

Digital Promise.  Research focusing on the market place & demand. Intelligent demand cycle.
Connected online collaborative communities using motivational things like badges - levelling up like in games. Learning data could travel with the student. Bring the data & information closer to the student.
We still need to be aware of equity issues. Opportunity to learn - places  to access technology - access to government information and health information. The inverted classroom - do work & problems at home then collaborate & share at school. 
Tests are inadequate to answer question of whether technology is worth it.

Next event was the ALT AGM which was quite well attended.  Reports from various people including the treasurer and president.  One highlight for me was confirmation of being elected as vice chair.

Then on to chairing a session by Terri Kinnison and others from LSIS which was to Launch the new LSIS Technology toolkits.  I was particularly interested in this because of Generator which was originally a tool introduced by Becta.  The purpose of Generator is to help FE organisations assess and improve their use of technology.  I have a slightly sceptical view of using Generator which I have discussed before when we were part of the Becta Technology Exemplar Network.  It does have some value as it can be used as a framework and outlines the areas that use of technology in colleges can be considered to be part of.  It has value as a measure of e-maturity and produces results in a visually appealing way.  However, in the previous version, it was laborious to use and very time consuming.  We spent a lot of time completing a full review and I presented it at our e-Learning strategy group meeting and demonstrated how the tool could be used but there was no way any teaching or management staff were going to actually sit down and do a review.  We did use it to inform our e-Learning strategy but not as the only contributing factor.  I am hopeful that the new improved version that LSIS have launched will be more focused and useful.  The presentation and presenters were very interesting and informative.

Next I chaired another session which was 3 short papers.
The first one was Camels in Wales! – finding riches in a barren climate by Steve Woodward, Trevor Price, Haydn Blackey. Trevor delivered an interesting presentation about the CAMEL project and how collaborative groups had been set up and met to discuss how to use and develop various e-learning technologies.  
The second paper was The Bloomsbury Media Cloud – a shared digital media service by Sarah Sherman.  
Sarah gave a great presentation about the collaboration between the Bloomsbury group of colleges and their development of media cloud digital repository and sharing service.

Finally Sue Sentance presented Supporting education students on school placements with mobile devices.  This project used mobile phone texting to help students with reading and assignments while training as teachers.  It was interesting to me for a few reasons.  Firstly I think texting is one of the most valuable communication tools that there is and even if you are limited to 140 or 160 characters it is still possible to have meaningful discussions and exchanges of information and learning.  Secondly when on teacher training and when teaching it becomes all encompassing and overwhelming.  It is really difficult to fit in the studying and academic work too so prompts and support at regular intervals are invaluable.  Thirdly, we use txttools at our College for tutors and lecturers to communicate with students so it is interesting to compare ways of usage and get ideas for improving our practice.

Another great day

Thursday 8 September 2011

PechaKucha Tuesday ALT-C 2011

The PechaKucha sessions were really excellent and because of the fast pace had to be interesting and capture the attention of the audience.  The sessions I went to were on the Tuesday afternoon.  The presentation is a demonstration of the ePoster that was submitted.
The ones I really enjoyed were Tim Neumann's Matchmaking Learning Technologists and Flourishing Collaborations and also Steve Bunce's Arduino culture – Creative collaboration inside and outside of school.  I liked Tim's because the slides were really impressive and cool and he was great at delivering it - funny and informative which is a difficult combination.
I liked Steve's because it was related to practical activities and schools and it was cool and he was knowledgeable and made you want to know more about it.  You could see how kids would want to be involved in the learning.  

In the next session, the graveyard slot, I did a PechaKucha about Showing off a Learning Resources Centre - it went ok I think and the infographics on the slides looked good.
The advantages of PechaKucha are that the slides have to be engaging - in fact a lot of other sessions could do with making the presentation slides a bit more upbeat rather than a series of bullet pointed text or graphs that you can't see properly.
The only disappointing thing was that the display shows two screens - one should have been the presentation and one the ePoster but they both showed the presentation.  I would have liked to see the ePosters at the same time as the presenter was delivering.  

ALT-C 2011 Tuesday

Today was the first 'proper' day of the ALT conference although there were pre conference events yesterday including workshops.  The conference is held this year at Leeds University which location wise is good for me as it is relatively near home / work however the campus and buildings themselves are quite spread out and it takes a while to become orientated (& why do they have that gravel outside the EC Stoner building?).  Apart from that it's fine.  I had to go to College first as it is our inductions this week and I so didn't want to miss them as we have an exciting new format to the sessions and wanted to check that everything was set up and working ok.  I arrived luckily just in time for lunch which was really nice (goats cheese and onion tart and salad) much better than the usual conference food.  I sat and chatted to a few people and then headed off to a session.
The session was Emerging Practice in a Digital Age - institutional approaches to changing practice Sarah Knight, Clare Killen &Andy Ramsden.  It was a very popular session and the room was packed.  It focused on how universities and colleges can improve the learning experience.
The question asked to the audience was what challenges are there for institutions to get staff and students using technologies which was a 2 mins group activity.  The usual responses including IT depts, Lecturers - lack of skills, lack of time, time to develop digital literacies, different devices - awareness of and stability of technologies, senior management, budget - investment doing more with less, change.  
The presenters suggested that the drivers for change include inspections e.g. Ofsted, expectations, the need for personalisation, economic pressures.  
Behaviours changing lead to collaborative.  
The JISC guide has case studies about working with students, partnership with students, preparing for the future.  Focused on exploring and developing together collaborative.  
Then they moved onto to linking learning to location which was based on QR code activities at University Campus Suffolk. 
QR codes are a mainstream activity now - everyone in the room had used them, 50% had created.
I was really interested in this part of the session as we have done a lot of work lately using QR codes.

The purpose of the activity is low threshold and is a location aware activity.
Basically the first activity is to scan a code - download an App to do so if necessary.  
The second activity was to read a question, scan a code, pick an answer, submit.The results are fed back into a database which creates a leaderboard.  This is a great idea - they used Google docs I think and a Google site.  The only thing that could be slightly changed would be that you answer the question and submit the answer and then it sends you to a link to a video with information about the topic - would it be possible to look at the information before answering? 
The session was interesting and has some useful ideas that I'll try to incorporate into the things that we do. I think lots of people are using them but maybe just as links to websites with information not as a teaching and learning tool.  The fact that it was a simple but very effective activity means that we could definitely use some of it with our College learners.

The next session was short papers about managing change.  
First Fleur Corfield and Peter Bird.  Can technology save us? The experience of the Cascade project.  
A recognition that change needs managing.  Looked at Enterprise Architecture.
Curriculum design & development.  The issues were staff changes, a need to see information separate from IT systems, no Chief Information Officer and how to engage stakeholders.  Considered too difficult but not clear why too difficult.  Introduced pilots for curriculum change.  Change the VLE - admin- timetable - personalised timetables.  Create new system as well as curriculum content.
There is a need to engage with stakeholders at ground level - admin staff and academic staff.  Have to be nice to them 'touchy feely'  in order to build up trust with the project.  One way is to make the process anonymous
so no fear of being blamed.

Then Marion Manton Can technology save us? The experience of the Cascade project 
Cascade project.  Problem of ELQ students withdrawn funding.  Therefore need more efficient more lines of work.  The things that worked / appealed were those that are cheap to sustain and were obviously in need of change.  There needs to be some early winners in order to convince people that it is going to work and be of benefit.  One way is to pick the obvious people on the ground with influence which carries the project along.
Online payment and enrolment was a major success.
Staff savings are inevitable natural wastage or otherwise.
Discussion about Online marking - On screen marking - Grademark

The third part of the session was Not future-proofed but future-focused: graduate attributes and the digital university by Neil Witt, Helen Beetham.  
They discussed how practices are changing which has an effect on the learning literacies and digital literacies students & staff.  90% of all new jobs require ICT competency.  The results of the focus groups showed that students value eLearning experience when it is relevant to their learning.  It is important to ask students what they want.
Device neutrality is an important issue and also confidence in using technology.
Although students may own laptops they don't necessarily want to use it as it may be a family one or they may be worried about security if they carry it to University or College.  Students want access to the institutions computers and to be able to use them easily while studying.  A VLE is preferred for a central point for accessing resources and course materials.  It is the data / information that needs to be portable and mobile therefore use memory sticks to move from home to Uni etc. not necessarily the device.

This was a point that was brought up at some of the other sessions and was interesting to me although maybe obvious to others - when we are talking about mobile learning it doesn't necessarily mean that the device + content has to be carried around, what it means is that the information is mobile and therefore can be accessed from a variety of different devices and places and in a variety of formats.

Sunday 4 September 2011

ALT-C 2011

This week I'll be attending the Association for Learning Technology Conference at the University of Leeds.
I'm looking forward to it as there are a wide variety of interesting and informative events taking place.  I'll be blogging from the conference whenever I can with the label altc2011

(It's also the first week of term at College this week and the first week of our new exciting student inductions so I'll be living a double life some days - going to College first then to Leeds.....)

Saturday 6 August 2011

The temporary plan.......

It's ALL too much - social media and technology

It seems fair to say that by now we all agree that there is more 'information' out there than we know what to do with.  Millions of websites, more than a billion internet users, 150+ million blogs, billions of videos and images and billions of emails every day,
On the plus side, it is possible to find some information about anything although whether it is true or of any use is another story.  But it is impossible to even imagine how it all fits together into a coherent mass and the truth is that it doesn't.  The information is not in any order but swirls around constantly being shifted by the next person sharing or recycling or adding to it and passing it on.
Last week I read three or four posts around this topic, about the phenomenon of social media and social networking some of which were prompted by the recent introduction of Google+.  One was 'Losing interest in social media: there is no there there'
and another by simfin  'Google+ ? I don’t think so ' both of which make the point that people only want and need a certain number of social networks to engage with if they are to have any meaning.  
Aleks Krotoski Friendship: why social networks are too crowded to get close explains how she thinks that social networks are changing and becoming less appealing perhaps by having too many connections.
The final post was regarding email and how, in order to keep email valid and to ensure the recipient interacts with the email, we should keep them brief or seek out other forms of communication.
Realistically If there is too much information being generated, it is not going to be possible to change that situation - and indeed why should we, the whole ethos of publishing on the web is that it is free and open and people should be able to do so (as long as they abide by ethical considerations).  It is nice to share photos and communicate easily and pass on good practice.
So the only solution is to build up your own defences and protection in order to limit yet exploit social media and networking to your own needs.  This should be a positive experience that benefits others as well as yourself but copes with 'information overload'. 
The difficult part is that I'm not quite sure how to do it.  I have to admit that I'm the sort of person who sleeps with their iPhone on the bedside table, that leans out of bed on a morning to check emails, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the news before facing the day.  Luckily I do lots of other things too but I don't want to become disenchanted with all this technology which will surely happen without a plan.......

3D Induction Experience

3D Amazing Interactives Induction Experience

Friday 29 July 2011

New Mp4 Camcorders - Sony Bloggies

We have just bought some new camcorders to add to our collection of 'Learning Technologies for Loan'.
We have been using Flip cameras very successfully for the last 2 years and they are very popular with staff and students.  We decided to go for something different this time for a change and because the Flips are not being produced anymore.  I decided to get a selection of the different models - our e-Learning Technologist and Apprentice LRC Assistant are testing them this week and producing a mini helpsheet.  They will be ready to loan out from mid August and we will do some short training sessions to show staff how to use them.

(Interestingly, I don't know why this image is upsidedown - it is not upsidedown on the computer in the folder where it is saved.  To try and correct it I turned it the other way up in the folder and uploaded it again and lo and behold it was still upsidedown)

Thursday 28 July 2011

iPhone battery problems?

Over the last 3 or 4 weeks I've been having problems with my iphone 3gs.  It is related to the battery but I'm not sure exactly what.  When it gets to about 65% battery, it just switches off - it will back on but then switches off again as soon as you try to do anything e.g. take a photo.  If you plug it into the mains power it's fine.
I have tried resetting certain settings and functions but it doesn't make any difference.
Yesterday in desperation, I restored factory settings but then backed it up from iTunes.  It's made no difference.  I think I should have configured it as a new phone.  So I'm going to try that tonight.
In the meantime I'm using my original iphone which I still like the best although it has limited functionality but I love the handset. 

Thursday 23 June 2011

App - The Heist

Trying out an App called The Heist. You have to do a variety of puzzles in order to open a safe. It's really good and quite difficult.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday 3 June 2011


Going to try out Blipfoto - as usual can't resist a new photo sharing blog facility. The advantages are that you have to sign up to it so maybe not as easily accessible to all and sundry unless you share. I thought it might be useful for gardening photos and family photos - photos that I want to share but not as widely as twitter. Might use it as the electronic version of my photo a day. Luckily it is an iPhone app - anything that is not an app does not do it for me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday 12 March 2011


Prezi is a great resource for making dynamic presentations
I found it quite difficult at first to create the presentations so you need to dedicate some time to practicing but they look good and have impact as it is something different.
We created one for our Curriculum Liaison presentations. 

Digital Nativity (Christmas 2.0)

This YouTube clip of the digital nativity is one of the best resources I've seen. I've watched it quite a few times and it is just so clever. It's fascinating because it's taking a traditional story with so much meaning (whether you believe it or not) & looking at it from a modern perspective. It doesn't criticise it or belittle it but just makes you wonder what would have happened if it had been now.
The other brilliant thing about it is that it has given me some ideas for how a similar format could be used to either advertise events or tell a story or evaluate an activity.