Wednesday, 28 October 2009

creative tinkering

Steampunk Aural Enhancer, from

 A few ideas to get those creative juices flowing;

stumbled across the latest flip animation festival (5th Nov 09) offering all sorts of events around the subject of animation.

  • Flip is an eclectic mix of all things animation. Based in the heart of the Midlands the festival provides a wide range of experiences from educational workshops for young people to experimental animation for grown ups; from industry led panels to feature film screenings and from international showcases and retrospectives of short films to spotlights on animation studios.  The event is located mainly in the Lighthouse media centre who also provide low cost training courses covering animation and video production, including HD.

  • One session that stuck out was a Game Design Workshop for only 5 quids!! This one day workshop, run in conjunction with Wolverhampton University’s Institute of Gaming and Animation, is a great opportunity to get introduced to the X-Box XNA game platform which allows users to begin developing their own games with the free downloadable tools from Microsoft.  You can download and tinker with the X-Box XNA developers kit to create your own games.

  • Whilst following links around the Lighthouse media centre I discovered "Mediabox", the fund that offers 13-19 year olds the chance to create their own media projects and get their voices heard, has opened its Mix Mediabox strand. Mix Mediabox enables organisations working within the community to apply for grants of between £5,000 - £20,000 for youth-led media projects that explore the theme of community cohesion. 

So essentially you bid for funds to create fun and interesting productions using film, animation, etc.  The videos already produced are inspriing stuff. Mix Mediabox is open to registered charities, trusts, local authorities and unincorporated associations.

  • On the subject of tinkering I also came across a website called , which is a design studio that builds interactive products, spaces and events that bridge the physical and the digital. They've got some excellent ideas and event running. Including the Arduino workshops.  I was intrigued to discover that Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.
So it could be used to teach product design engineering, electronics, etc, in schools, colleges & Universities?  So you've got free games developers kits and free eletcronics prototyping gubbins :O)... In fact this Wired artcle lists some of the more popular (and) free programming and games platforms.

  • To further inspire you take a look at one of my favourite sites : instructables.  It's what the web is for !O).  See top image

Friday, 23 October 2009

self e-generating

    Are you a learning provider who wants to implement a ICT across your organisation? If so, a number of toolkits and services exist that can be used to help benchmark you, and move your (ILT) strategy forward.  We also run an engaging free change management workshop to help bring all staff along the e-learning journey with you.

    The JSIC RSCs have been running these services for a number of years now for various areas including ACL, WBL, and FE in general.  A typical list of services that "we" use can be located on our strategy and management pages, and more specifically the eprogrees review link lists our range of services (pdf).

    All JISC Regional Support Centres are running Generator workshops currently, as part of the big BECTa push to get learning proividers engaged in the self evaluation process.

    ACL and WBL have had the eLPS and  WeLPS tools out for a while now, which are specifically aimed at those sectors - see also the pdf link above.

    A couple of similar tools I recently located my also help embed your e-learning endeavours and change cultures are;

    On a related note, if you have implemented an e-learning tool/platform/pilot project, etc, into your organisation, you should always evaluate its effectiveness. This could also be true for any training undertaken.  There are some frameworks that exist to help you convince SMT that the ROI is /was worthy?

    Thursday, 22 October 2009

    we have an issuu

    Today I was experimenting with a free online publishing tool - issuu. It's was a (free) snip to sign up. I uploaded a Word 2003 doc ( no *.docx allowed!) and chose a few options , added keyword searches and voila- an online "e-zine" in literally minutes. The only others I've bookmarked are YUDUblurb, do you know of any similar?  I've been aware of these tools for a while, but not really tried any, until today.

    Friday, 16 October 2009

    knol is king

    Whilst wandering around the research information network website (RIN)+ associated blogs today I noticed Google knol! More about that later, first the RIN portal.

    The is an invaulable resource for those whishing to build up their research skills by by ensuring their CPD is research informed. We call it "scholary activity" for HE or HE in FE tutors. The RIN (supported by JISC) website and publications cover the entire specturm of communicating knowledge for UK researchers.  Articles cover publishing platfroms, and collaborative papers to name but a few. A linked web portal VITAE also promotes CPD and research across the HE landscape. VITAE, has plenty of resource to download.

    Now, back to Google Knol ... As Branwen states " the site enables one to post defined units of information on any topic you wish. One of the interesting things the site enables you to do is state if you trust the individual to be an expert on the topic or agree that the document cite adequate and reliable references to support its claims. These ratings get converted to a rating system, which helps you figure out if the information is accurate and worth reading. As with all things Web 2.0 one can leave comments and discussions ensue."

    So this is a neat attempt to utilise web 2.0 ethos and collaborative platforms to enable a trusted system of peer reviewing knowledge.  Nice idea.  I'm sure there are others around?


    This idea is not too disimilar to the web 2.0 ethic of user participation of a new music site I stumbled across yesterday. .  This allows budding DJ's or artists to upoad tunes or full mixes, that can be commented upon (see image above).  Now if we uploaded a lecture podcast, our students could then make comments :OD... or visa versa. Students could submit an assessment in audio firmat & it could be commented upon by peers or tutors.  Neat eh?

    Thursday, 15 October 2009

    eportfolio evaluation survey

    A two year exercise evaluating eportfolios have produced a report (see below).  It makes for interesting results in terms of  Mahara & PebblePad as equals.

    "Mahara and PebblePad represent the most balanced
    products, which can be used for portfolio work without
    huge time expenditure for installation. Both systems
    require some acclimatization effort but – once their logic
    is clear – they are easy to handle."

    Also, I think the other interesting fact is that the traditional blogging platforms; Wordpress, elgg,and moveable type, each come out quite favourably compared to the platforms specifically built for eportfolio type activities (e.g. Exabis). See original website (German)

    "In the opinion of the authors, there turn out to be three
    groups in regard to the criteria of supporting portfolio
    processes. PebblePad, Mahara and Taskstream represent a
    top-quality trio with a high assessment; they show
    weaknesses in only very few categories. These three
    products have especially been developed as E-Portfolio
    software and, according to our evaluation, they really
    meet the requirements."

    Monday, 12 October 2009

    webinar protocols

    Nancy Pearl: Inside the Author's Studio

    Creative commons cleated image (click to follow originator)

    Just stumbled across a neat set of webinar (live wecasting) protocols from our local Institute for Learning Enhancement

    These echo the protocols we've developed and shared on our synchronous webcasting tools wiki page, for all to use.

    1. Any presentation needs to be short – 10 minutes – focused with clear points for consideration set up at the beginning so that you are listening with a purpose.
    2. If you want to present for longer then there needs to be gaps between major talking points.
    3. Twitter type text needs to be set up so that it is about the presentation and not whether it is sunny.
    4. If there are breaks between key points then when the new point begins the text messaging is relevant to the new point.
    5. There should be a facilitator who can summarise points and act as a conduit between the presenter and listeners.
    6. Animation does not translate to the conference therefore powerpoint slides need to take this into consideration.
    7. Slides should not be too text based and should enhance the presentation not provide subtitles to it.
    8. The conference should have a ‘master of ceremonies’ who calls the conference to order, introduces the speaker and makes sure that communication is as effective as possible.
    9. Each presenter could have a blog set up for further discussion – the posts being the key points in their presentation.
    10. With large audiences keep the conference for transmission with online follow up rather than expecting large numbers to contribute.
    11. When taking part in a conference, either as organiser or participant, enlist a colleague to maintain a check on twitter-type chat and conversations to note key points of use and/or interest.
    See protocols in original JISC blog 

    See also this useful paper evaluating web conferencing systems (using the new Apture widget builder gizmo - simples)

    Thursday, 8 October 2009

    access the grid services are offering Access Grid Nodes allow people to communicate through visual images and sound exchanged between different computers. There is no theoretical limit to how many nodes can be linked, and the number of people at each site is limited only by room size and hardware present.

    Access Grid (AG) in simple terms is an advanced videoconferencing application that uses audio and video tools allowing people in different locations worldwide to meet in a virtual venue (virtual meeting room). In these virtual venues participants can see and speak to each other in realtime, use online chat and share applications simultaneously.

    The image above typifies this application in action. It looks impressive.

    Excellent case studies

    Here are the latest case studies from the rest of the RSCs that have gone live during the past month:

    • Gateshead College's Hair and Beauty department uses IT for both effective course management and teaching and learning. Technologies such as interactive whiteboards, video, electronic individual learning plans (e-ILPs) and online course files have improved teaching and learning, as well as simplified course administration.

    • Blackpool and The Fylde College: Feeling secure with an award-winning campus-wide wireless network. Blackpool and The Fylde College has implemented a campus-wide wireless network that allows secure connectivity to College systems and services for learners and staff using their own laptops. The development has won a Cisco 'Secure Campus' award. Via a future development, the College hopes to provide learners with access to the College systems and services when out and about in Blackpool town centre.

    • Northampton College has introduced a commercial system (ClickView) for recording and then digitally distributing TV programmes within the classroom. This has allowed greater integration of video into traditional teaching methods than was previously happening via DVD-based resources.
    • The Adult Education Services from six local authorities in the North East joined forces to set-up a shared virtual learning environment (VLE) called TeesLearn. It provides their learners with new and inspiring learning opportunities, and supports them across a rural and wide geographical area.

    • The staff responsible for the employability programme at Hillcroft have developed the College's use of blended learning in response to the needs and requirements of learners and their specialist tutors, some of whom live some distance away.

    • Bromley College offers a diverse range of learning opportunities from A-levels, BTECs and NVQs through to work-based learning and Train to Gain programmes. This diversity presents a major challenge in how to monitor the performance of its learners to ensure they achieve their potential. eTracker is an electronic individual learning plan (eILP) solution that enables lecturers to take a highly personalised approach to the individual needs of their learners. It enables them to identify issues early and intervene quickly – not just academic issues but also pastoral and behavioural. eTracker has been a motivating force for the learners at Bromley College and it facilitates good communication across the College.

    • Southport College has been improving audibility in classrooms by installing a ceiling-mounted microphone at the front of the room above the interactive whiteboard. Linked to an amplifier and ceiling-mounted speakers, this distributes sound clearly and evenly across the classroom.

    • Southport College has installed 24 centrally-controlled digital information display screens across the College to display a wide range of information. A user-friendly touch-screen facility has been developed and implemented on two of these screens, enabling students, visitors and staff to select college information they would like to view such as course details, news, events and videos. This information is presented to users in a virtual panel that automatically appears at a height suited to their needs.

    • Calderdale College is creating a radically different learning culture and environment, based on using the most appropriate space for each "learning event".

    • This case study examines how one EFL (English as a foriegn language) lecturer at Southampton City College decided to ‘raise his ILT game' by making full use of the Moodle virtual learning environment (VLE) to create blog-style resources and interactive forums to increase the levels of engagement, motivation and collaboration for four of his student classes. As a result, his courses have received a Gold Award under the College's Gold, Silver and Bronze Moodle benchmarking initiative.

    • Southampton City College: Southampton City College strives for Gold with Moodle benchmarking scheme. How do you answer the question: “How well is your VLE being used?” Southampton City College rose to the challenge with the creation, development and implementation of a highly motivational ‘Gold, Silver and Bronze' benchmarking system to evaluate and recognise quality of content and activity on its College Moodle system. The results are impressive.

    • South East Derbyshire College: Media server – one college's approach to providing video resources. Getting video resources to staff and learners at South East Derbyshire College was a relatively costly and time-consuming process until the College adopted a new piece of cheap software and created their own media server. This has allowed far greater use of video resources and improved the quality of the picture.

    • RNIB College Loughborough: Visually-impaired learners benefit from audio and synchronised text on their mobile phones. Using DAISY Player software on a mobile has allowed visually-impaired learners at RNIB College Loughborough to copy e-books to their mobile phones and to listen at their convenience.

    Wednesday, 7 October 2009

    new universities

    • A total of 23 statements of intent were submitted (to HEFCE) by the end-of-June deadline. These have been assessed against the criteria in the consultation.
      The HEFCE Board, at its meeting on 25 September, considered the 23 statements of intent it had received. It concluded that six could be developed further. These are:

    1. Somerset (various locations) (lead HEI – Bournemouth University)
    2. Crawley (lead HEI – University of Brighton)
    3. Milton Keynes (lead HEI – University of Bedfordshire)
    4. Swindon (lead HEI – University of the West of England, Bristol)
    5. Thurrock (lead HEI – University of Essex)
    6. The Wirral (lead HEI – University of Chester)

    Read full HEFCE announcement

    I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time?  But what about all the existing Universities dilemma who face caps on numbers, resulting in potential students being turned away?  Time to give flexible/distance/blended learning a go, me thinks :O)

    Mind you, if this article about UK Unversities investment into the U21Global distancel learning portal is anything to go by, we should exercise some caution. Smells similar to the £50 million loss UKeU in the making? But we live in hope that a longer term perspective can be deployed. Again, the great potential of e-learning/distance learning has been oversold.

    Monday, 5 October 2009

    videos for educators

    • The EduTubePlus project aims to develop a European hybrid, multilingual video-based service for schools, integrating thousands of curriculum-related video clips. The EduTubePlus service will enable users to develop, translate and share video-based learning scenarios and lessons, to search resources using terms related to their national curriculum and to use video pedagogically in the classrooms.

    See the

    EduTubePlus Show-Reel with Samples of Videos Suitable for European Schools

    The sister site also contains extensive resources.

    • Also YouTube EDU, the Web site for video channels from universities, has recently added content from institutions in Europe and Israel. Forty-five colleges and universities from those areas, including the University of Cambridge and distance-learning institutions like the Open University of Catalonia, now have channels on the site.

    • Teachers TV hosts a wide rnage of informative streaming videos to watch via the web.

    • BlipTV also hosts some interesting vids, see below>>