Friday, 28 November 2008

27 must-have collaboration tools

A list of 27 must-have collaboration tools noticed byTim L at KingstonUniversity. And they are all free...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Online 'time' for teens...'good'

A BBC report see here.

Communication now increasingly digital it is now vital that these skills are developed - (and they are being developed younger with the toy/game industries already constantly exploding us with new 'toy's & 'accessories') We more a less have come to the point that to complete a HE course successfully access to these 'technologies' are required. The market is not just for the 'social and leisure' scene - its in the learning zone too... I can see though how young learners don't want us (teachers) to step into their social online spaces and we should respect that. We need to ensure that if we are to take advantage what these 'online spaces' allow us to do that we clearly define how 'we' are to use the tool and for what purpose. This has been discussed before - but the basics fundamentals of how and why, bundled with expectations of any 'method' and 'tool' needs to be understood by all those participating for the desired outcome.

Monday, 24 November 2008

YouTube: an anthropological introduction

If you are interested in participation, community, place, engaging users in creating content, developing strong networks of independent users, YouTube, the read/write web or anthropology, then you have to watch Mike Wesch's wonderful anthropological introduction to YouTube.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Flip video cameras

I posted a while back about YouTube for Duffers, in which I highlighted how to make some easy videos using a Nikon Coolpix, some shareware and Windows Movie Maker.

However, the arrival of the FLIP video camera makes life a little easier for us all. The help and support site is pretty good, but to be honest this is video production for complete duffers. There is a great review on YouTube from ComputerWorld. The Flip comes with in-house editing software, but TBH my approach is to ignore this, as it doesn't let you do much, and go straight for this approach.
  1. have a single focus for each video, within a larger theme;
  2. capture video handheld or using tripod;
  3. plug the Flip camera into my PC using its USB arm;
  4. open-up the folder structure using My Computer;
  5. import .avi files to Windows Movie Maker, by dragging and dropping;
  6. edit videos, spliced with simple transitions;
  7. embed user-feedback along the way;
  8. embed photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 7600 as appropriate;
  9. add extra audio recorded with Plantronics DSP500 headset and audacity [producing mp3 files] as appropriate, by dragging and dropping;
  10. login to YouTube [you need an account but you can create one with your google account]; and
  11. upload from your homepage and wait for the video to load.
This book launch video took 30 minutes to record 10 minutes of footage, 30 minutes to edit and seconds to upload. Give it a go - it's great fun!

Video resources:

Monday, 17 November 2008

DIUS reports: On-line Innovation in Higher Education

So, I had an e-mither about the DIUS reports that John Denham commissioned on the future of HE. There is also an accompanying HE Debates blog on which you can comment. Once you have read the On-line Innovation in Higher Education report, you should also read Tony Hirst's OUseful blog posting. However, my thoughts follow.
  1. Now don't get me wrong, content is important, and I'm a fan of open-learning, open standards and re-use, but the whole report confuses me about content and e-pedagogy - are they, in fact conflated here, or is e-pedagogy the servant of open content? The stall for the whole thrust of this is set out in the Executive Summary that states: "We lag behind in generating and making available high quality modern learning and teaching resources." The report argues (p. 9) that "To exploit ICT it follows that UK HEIs must be flexible, innovative and imaginative" (whatever that means - e-pedagogy or epistemology are barely fleshed out in 3.27/3.29 (p.15) and Annex a, iii. How ICT can Support Improved Pedagogies), and it goes on to argue that "effective, imaginative, widespread and critical use of this infrastructure, which crucially includes a critical mass of very high quality open learning content." A link is appearing here between information management structures and e-research strategies that will enhance the provision of open-content. Moreover, it appears to be argued that if we hitch innovative e-pedagogies to this wagon, then UK HEIs will corner more of the market. I wonder whether this captures the power of good curriculum design, highlighted in-part through the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery programmes, to be more tha simply tutor-driven and content-based.
  2. This brings me to my confusion about the report's link between e-pedagogy and content. The report focuses upon (p.14) the institutional control for content: "real costs related to establishing an appropriate legal framework to address IP/rights management issues, sustainability and ensuring high quality and compliance with agreed technical standards." It predicates pedagogic innovation on content, but doesn't think about the impact, writ-large in all areas of the curriculum (and not just within creative industries), on the role of students, or non-professionals, in the co-creation of knowledge. The work of the TESEP project stands out in focusing attention upon pedagogies that extend, enhance and empower learners to create. The report does mention (p. 24) "[students] in the role of active, skilled and collaborative creators of knowledge", but the focus is on technology and not pedagogy or epistemology. I can see that the flexible availability of content that can be repurposed might enable this to happen, but will students as creators of knowledge want to present their work beyond the open-access institutional repository? Our Music Tech student do so on MySpace, our Game Art students do so on Facebook. If we move towards controlled places for open learning materials what do we risk losing? The beauty of the read/write web is its ability to enable people to be fleet-of-foot. Quality control risks squashing this agile presentation.
  3. This, in turn, brings me to the possible disconnect between pedagogies that see formal and informal work as separate, and those that fuse those spaces. This report appears to work towards a separation of concerns. How will the processes we put in place enable us to deal with the dichotomy or links between formal and informal learning? Mash-ups don't just exist in content, they exist in the use of specific content in time, place and space.
  4. There is another, large elephant in the room, which is the power of research-led universities. The document mentions these HEIs 3 times, and doesn't mention resources to enable WP or transitions into HE once. The alternatives offered are HE-in-FE or distance learning. It's almost as if they don't know what to do with the rest of us, other than place us in extended networks of excellence.
  5. One of the report's key thrusts is on "the UK must have a core of open access learning resources organised in a coherent way to support on-line and blended learning by all higher education institutions and to make it more widely available in non-HE environments. This needs to be supported by national centres of excellence to provide quality control." So no place for trusting academics to do the right thing? This final, big, bald statement focuses the discussion and roots it in a discourse of QA rather than enhancement. How will this impact onteh HEFCE's Opening-up resources for learning theme?
  6. Centres of Excellence seem fine in principle, but what about the networks that exist of Pathfinder and JISC teams? Is this yet another chance for the lucky few to get more funding? Will these be pedagogically- or content driven? How are they to define excellence? Who will chose them? Who will lead them? How do we know they will actually be used by staff?
  7. Allied to this, for whom will the "Review to identify key players in HE elearning" take place? Will this identify those key players who make a difference to local students? Or just those who make the biggest noise nationally and internationally?
The report rightly mentions (p. 23) reward and recognition as a key issue to address. Along with a discussion of what is meant by excellence in e-learning, for specific stakeholders, perhaps the impact on students and staff of this report's recommendations is the place to start.

Obama dodges Sarah Palin on a snowmobile

The internet generation who helped propel Barack Obama to the presidency have been wondering what to do with themselves since the excitement of election day. Now Obamamaniacs and political junkies can replay the battles of the past few months in a new video game called Super Obama World. The retro styled game sees an ever-smiling President-elect take on Sarah Palin in the frozen wastes of Alaska.

TLRP: Education 2.0

I quite liked the “Commentary by the Technology Enhanced Learning phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme” called “Education 2.0? Designing the web for teaching and learning"
Some useful stuff on social networking, socialising themes within Web 2.0, issues around cultures of trust, virtual worlds and the semantic web. Not enough on radical pedagogies though.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Woman divorces husband for having a 'virtual' affair on Second Life

Woman divorces husband for having a 'virtual' affair on Second Life - Telegraph
A woman is divorcing her husband after catching him having an affair with an imaginary, animated woman on a computer game.

JISC Curriculum Delivery Start-Up: MoRSE

We have a Curriculum Delivery Project, in partnership with Kingston University, called Mobilising Remote Student Engagement [MoRSE]. In short, KU are using mobile and read/write web tools to support Geography and GIS students on fieldwork, and we are using these tools to support Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Sciences placement students.

The start-up event at Warwick has a 70s TV theme. This has been different and like the curate's egg. What I have learned is that:

  1. having a customisable, colonisable, informal space is a neat idea, but bean-bags are an uncomfortable gimmick after you have been sitting on them for 6 hours;
  2. the TV pitch that each project had to make about its future work was a good ice-breaker, but I didn't learn enough about the projects. Note to self: must do homework and read all project briefs before I arrive;
  3. at the start of a project it doesn't really matter which other projects you are buddied with - links are going to emerge with relevant projects over time. Perhaps the key is who you connect with, in order to share stuff/tools/strategies/outcomes later on, and a lot of this has to do with who you can have a laugh with in the bar. Our cluster [West Anglia, Kingston College and Lewisham] are going to challenge us on implementation and WP agendas I think, and that is good for us. Hopefully we will enable them to engage with transitions into HE. However, the ESCAPE party at Hertfordshire, looking at new drivers and strategies for assessment, and the guys at Newcastle on the dynamic learning maps project investigating semantic webs, diagnostic tools, tagging taxonomies and ontologies, and approaches to personalised learning, will be of interest. They also happened to be the people I smiled a lot with and that, at this stage, is crucial. The more I think about it that was one of the reasons why I connected with certain HEA Pathfinder projects. Personal engagement is critical;
  4. which brings me to the huge elephant in the room: the [lack of] appearance of the critical friends [CF]. The CF role in each of the projects I have managed has been crucial. The personality and drive, the value-set and ability of that person, in meeting our project teams half-way, rather than imposing a particular framework for viewing the world, has been so important. We have been told to define what type of CF we want, but if the friend has already been allocated that might be a redundant exercise, although I would like to see them as reflexive practitioners. I'm not saying that I want to enter a bidding war for specific CFs and I recognise the psychological and group-based literature that notes the value of challenging others who are not friends but work colleagues. However, my experience of Pathfinder is that there are certain CFs with whom I can connect because they have a similar world view, and others whose work-plan, view of technology and politics is too off-beam for me. This is important because we are talking about a 2 year plan of work. But maybe it doesn't matter, and as Oddball says in Kelly's Heroes "Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?"

Thursday, 13 November 2008


While I was waiting around for a training DVD to burn, on my virtual travel for inspirational material, I came across a short 8 minute video about sushi.  Apparently this video’s won awards and it is sort of a light-hearted humour on Japanese tradition.  But for me it was the way they’ve directed the video that is the appealing part.  The instructional design is remarkable, and I honestly came away feeling knowledgeable about the subject.  Something that all e-learning developers (or those involved in teaching) should endeavour to do.

If you’ve got a few minutes then take a look, and let me know what you think please.  Do give it a little while to get rolling – as it starts off quite slow and literal.

If you can't send the video below then click on this link:


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Does the manner of an Obama victory mean anything to HE?

The read/write web is being used increasingly to promote active citizenship and shared political involvement and decision-making. is a classic example and I think highlights how 20th Century McCain looked by comparison to Obama. In fact the BBC's coverage, both on-line and on-screen looked positively 20th Century compared to Sky, who made a point of highlighting when Obama's text to his supporters thanking them came through. Organisations such as Amnesty International and Oxfam regularly use social networking software like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo to lever individual agency for their current campaigns.

Now this isn't a political blog, but don't you get the feeling, in that well-worn phrase of the moment, "change" is upon us? I have the feeling that the possibilities for extending community-based organisation, and extending the democratic connections between those communities were made concrete in the election of Obama last week. In part they were made so because of the interplay between these organisations, or sub-networks within them, and their favoured web applications. This, in turn, enables disparate groups of individuals to associate voluntarily with each other around themes or interests. In coming together to discuss, make decisions and act, individuals are beginning to acknowledge their own power as part of an organised "crowd", and the hope is that they will be able to respect personal differences.

The wonderfully named Jemima Kiss, writing about "Why everyone's a winner" in the Guardian, noted that "The web has helped to inspire and empower a generation that has rejected political apathy. Obama's team used technology to make issues personal and relevant by giving people ownership of the campaign. It wasn't a complicated strategy." Now I don't know, as yet, the demographics of Obama's vote, so I can't say that all the guff written about his team's ability to get the "kids" to the polls is wholly true, but the focus upon emancipating the young and the politically disconnected through social media frames the types of democratic pedagogies that higher education should be focusing upon (c.f. Friere; Illich). It offers the hope of a pedagogy that empowers individuals to ask meaningful questions using new networked tools. Moreover, it might also offers the chance to emancipate the learner’s role in her/his educational experience (Haggis).

The key may be the design of meaningful, whole programme curricula, rather than atomised modular courses, which start from the learner within her/his social networks. This will then scale personal involvement in decisions about: materials to be analysed and produced; tools to be utilised; educational networks to be developed (possibly from social networks that already exist); and tasks and activities that enable actions to be taken. Within curricula that are managed by the learner with a facilitating tutor the possibilities for empowered autonomy and a strengthened civil society are opened up. Clearly there will be an impact on professional development both for the use of social media and for new, epistemologies and pedagogies, but as US Politics enters the 21st Century maybe now is the time.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

In pursuit of a better way: sounds like we need an Angel

With the heightened awareness of politics, due to the recent american presidential election, I'd like to borrow and re-engineer in typical web 2.0 generation style a phrase from the political world - "it's all about the learning, stupid....."

And my point is... Technology can be a massive hinderance to learning. Usability (Interface and functional design), technological robustness and reliability for both learners and learning designers (teachers) is vitally important. Perhaps the use of Angel is a better option in combining the administrative needs of a higher education institution, the learning needs of the students and the learning design needs of teachers - Well Tony Seuss seem to think so. Not have used angel myself i am nevertheless impressed with Tony's observations in his blog post.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Crew sacked over Facebook posts

Crew sacked over Facebook posts

Thirteen cabin crew staff have been sacked by Virgin Atlantic over their use of a social networking website, it has emerged.

It launched disciplinary action last week following claims staff had used Facebook to criticise its safety standards and call passengers "chavs".