Friday, 21 November 2008

Serious fun?

This post is a sideways look at the increasing importance of the gaming genre that's being exploited for educational use. The Bized website has some excellent simulations. And there is a new Serious Virtual Worlds report [which] focuses on virtual worlds for educational uses, and explores the ‘serious’ – as opposed to leisure-based – uses of virtual worlds.

The embedded video above is from the Coventry based serious games institute, who research this topic. They have a base in second life, which brings me neatly to my next point. Last weekend the newspapers were awash with the usual poorly researched sensationist stories about the first second life divorce. I happened to catch a Daily mail article - the so called voice of middle England! Their strap line was "Fantasy world awash with sex & porn"...Well if you hadn't noticed, so is most of the interweb! Educators are only beginning to use Second Life effectively for teaching & learning purposes, and its still early days for most. Experiential (running a conference/pop concert/shop, learning a second language) and modelling abstract concepts (modelling very large & small experiments, etc) are being investigated. As are simulations and small group teaching ideas. There is even a SL for under 18s called teengrid, supported by SCHOME. Mind you Google are shutting down their virtual world at the end of this year! But they have developed a 3D ancient Rome layer in google earth?

Mind you they said that VLEs would revolutionise teaching!!

Back to the plot. Last weeks SL divorce stories followed hot on the heals of the release of a new World of Warcraft update, which is played by millions of people online. This is a real escapist world for many. PLayers were lambasted on TV for racking up stupid amounts of hours on line. But some are seeing the potential of such games ; West Nottinghamshire College, which developed the ‘Neverwinter Nights’ Key Skills assessment tool. This is an initiative designed to encourage learners to complete work by stimulating their desire to achieve. In 2004/5 the Neverwinter project won the Association of Colleges Becta Beacon Award for The Effective Use of Information Learning Technology to Enhance Teaching and Support Learning. Last weeks lively (forgive the pun) article from the ReLIVE08 conference, draws all of these strands together much more succinctly than I can.

Bringing it a little more up to date, I have noticed a coupe of recent posts concerned with the positive aspects of online gaming and social networks, and hackers enabling guitar hero to be used by disabled gamers. This is fab stuff, and reminds me of a video I saw last week of the the iphone being used as a digital ocarina, amazin stuff. You can even turn your iphone in to a theramin of sorts.

All this points to developers making use of new interfaces to make the technology more accessible to all. If you wander around youtube you'll see that there have been some very clever Nintendo Wii hacks. Some have even managed to turn a wii remote into a digtial/interactive smartboard ! There are loads of other youtube videos and google sites dedicated to some really useful and stupid "wii hacks". I know that some local Colleges and councils are investigating Nintendo Wii's for use with disabled learners and engaging students generally. A colleague of mine has developed learning objects/manuals for the army to be used with the Nintendo DS lite. In fact you can get an adapter to add memory cards to the DS lite, which means you could turn it into an e-book reader or watch videos or listen to podcasts?

If you are interested in establishing some positive ideas about the educational benefits of serious gaming, I suggest that you read the book Everything Bad is Good for You. It's a light and informal read, but a real eye opener. Talking of eyeopeners and assistive types of interface design - I bet you never though the amazin' drag and drop interface featured in the minority report film was just science fiction? well, it's not.

innovative webinars?

Copyright image supplied by FLICKR CC

Today I gave a "training session" to some local trainers using a live "webcasting tool". Well, it was more like an informal walk through of the capabilities of a synchronous webcasting tool called DimDim (which is free for basic use). I think everyone enjoyed it, and we had some excellent ideas for using such a tool in teaching and learning. Everyone who took part could see genuine benefits in using such software with their particular roles. This type of tool would help out employers and training in general, and perhaps help lift the train to gain initiative into the 21st Century? Read more about the current state of play in the edecxel policy watch.

When I read the speech that John Denham (DIUS) gave the other day at the AoC conference, he never mentioned the option of maximising the opportunity for training by exploiting technology at all? When he eventually did mention innovation, all he spoke of was the work going on in new builds to improve local training provision. Somehow I feel that the point is being seriously missed here. Move the information (zeros & ones) around, not the people, Mr Denham! Using live webinar tools such as DimDim is far more efficient, innovative, and greener that focusing on the physical infrastructure of organisations. We are in the 21st Century after all! Well some of us are. If we are ever going to match up to the 2020 Leitch goals, someone is going to have to think laterally, and that means exploiting e-learning tools to up-skill the UK. The new High skills - high value DIUS policy also discusses this burgeoning requirement.

I've blogged on this subject before (especially dimdim) so here's some links to explore this subject further.

What is webcasting or webinars:


And here's some free alternatives to DimDim

Find references to more of these types of tools here :

Thursday, 20 November 2008

(e)ffective practice

copyright cleared image obtained from FlickrCC

some effective practice inspirations: -

The world:

13 essential conditions to help embed e-learing into any organisation. Sounds simple?

Europe :

The cases collected in this Compendium are examples of good practice in e-learning in Europe. They were all selected by countries participating in the ICT Cluster and Peer Learning Activities managed...


West Midlands:

Thursday, 13 November 2008

(e)learning 2.0?

copyright cleared image obtained from FlickrCC

A few recent reports and nuggets have come my way regarding elearning tools and education/training.

The first is an excellent academic report delivered from the recently (2007) formed TLRP-TEL Programme. They also have a collaboration project with JISC.

Their new commentary entitled "Education 2.0? Designing the web for teaching and learning."
is an excellent summary of the sate of play regarding the use of web2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, social networks, etc). The bits I found really useful for acadmic staff keen to cut thorugh the rhetoric and hype of web2.0 are the 4 simple modes of learning that could be exploited by the web and the recognition of the social and collaboration (constructivist) side of the learning experience.

The four potential learning concepts to be exploited by web 2.0 are :

  • Collaboration (obvious really, but more difficult to acheive in reality)
  • Publication ("we" create web content see wikipedia)
  • Literacies (learners engaging with new digital content and cultures)
  • Inquiry ( creating personal learning journeys in a connected/hyperlinked web)
A related article in the e.learning age magazine also spurts out some interesting stats and observations on the upsurge in web 2.0 tools compared to that of VLEs in HE. Clive Sheppard from the same magazine reports upon the ascent of web.0 technologies, with specific reference to the elearning guild statistics.

Then whilst reading an article on using Acrobat 9.0 to archive web pages, I stumbled across a whitepaper that Adobe has published entitled "Delivering on the promise of eLearning". It's quite a short document talking about the requrement to ensure that elearning is rich & engaging to ensure our digital natives will keep on learning in this google age !! Tell us something we don't know Mr Adobe - purrrrrrrrrlease..... Anyhoo on page 5 they produce a table of top elearning products again referenced form the elearning guild, see below.

left click table to see it large

Three interesting things on this list, namely only one open source app :o( , no web 2.0 tools!, and even more surprisingly blackbored VLE is on the list! All I can think is that this list must be based soley on very big USA corporations and huge learning Still, I'm also guessing if you dive under the hype over web2.0, you would probably find a similar picture in the UK? Apart from the fact we seem to have understood, and are exploiting the potential of Open Source tools! to gain an idea of what the top 100 elearning applications are in the UK.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

JISC online

We are at the beginning of the 2008 JISC online conference & I would like to share some nuggets that have come my way:

  • The first is a shameless promotion of how we at RSC WM use the Virtual Learning environment Moodle to run online events: and download the PPT from my slideshare account

  • A related collaboration with Staffordshire University models of best practice resulted in a set of online models;

Workshops, Conferences, Courses,

  • Have a look at the IntelligentBuilders (NB all one word) channel on Youtube - many videos can be found on the eLearning experience at Oaklands College including on New build, eLearning generally and the award winning eMentors scheme. Or try :

  • The Web 2.0 Projects book contains nearly 60 projects using Web 2.0 tools, organised in age groups.

  • Professor Gilly Salmon gave a live presentation using Elluminate on the subject of forecasting trends in education. Her team @ Leicester will research this and post results in the CALF website. Seven meta trends are:

  1. Users as content producers (web 2.0 principle)
  2. Games as pedagogical tools (hurrah, I loved Halo 3)
  3. Communications between humans and machines
  4. Ubiquitous platforms
  5. 3 dimensions of computing
  6. Collective knowledge generation (another web 2.0 principle)
  7. People connecting via the network

When asked about engaging senior managers at FE colleges, Gilly responded by promoting the use of research based evidence to persuade SMT to change practice. So all of those posts about new research centres should be worthwhile?