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    Down at the Festival

    March 12th, 2014

    JISC Digital Festival

    After a brief absence, the JISC, sorry Jisc Conference, sorry Jisc Digital Festival is back. The last JISC Conference was a couple of years ago and it has evolved in the Jisc Digital Festival.

    It was a two day event in Birmingham looking at many different aspects of technology enhanced learning. There was stuff for learning technologists, library people and IT managers. For someone in my role there was a lot of choice.

    In some ways it was reminiscent of past JISC Conferences and in others it was very different and new. There was a lot happening and it can be challenging to find the stuff you want to see and listen to.

    I did like the festival theme, which really gave the event a very different feel. Two days also made a difference to the rushed single day there use to be.

    With such a packed programme it was inevitable that there would be some clashes. I was torn for example about going to the digital storytelling session or the one on visitors and residents.

    I was pleased with the vast majority of the sessions I attended, they were stimulating, interesting, informative and made me think. There was a lot of stuff to take away. With recordings and resources online, there’s a substantial amount of stuff to refect on and take away.

    One of the key benefits for me of attending a conference such as this is making contacts, talking and networking. There wasn’t a huge number of people from FE, but I certainly spoke to many of them. Finding out what they were doing, the issues they faced and what they were planning. Finding out what others are doing is a critical factor when implementing change, for benchmarking and aiding discovery.

    It was also useful to speak to contacts at Jisc, Janet, TechDis, as well as some of the exhibitors. I have a bundle of business cards, flyers, web links and even the odd QR Code.

    JISC Digital Festival

    I got a lot out of the conference, I took a lot away and it has made me think. I am glad to see the return of the conference and in many ways I think it was much better than previous Jisc conferences. Now that’s back, I hope that Jisc will also bring back the online conference, as I really missed it this year.


    e-Learning Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2013

    January 24th, 2014

    Oxford

    A little later than planned. Well 2013 was an eventful year for me, moving jobs after seven years at Gloucestershire College. I have continued with writing blog posts. There was a lot less writing on the blog this year with just 64 posts, which averages about one a week. Here are the top ten blog posts of 2013. Interestingly this year eight of the posts are from 2013. Half of the posts are app reviews from my series “App of the Week”.

    10. Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week

    I wrote about Frame Magic in June and it is one of the many photographic and image apps I have used and reviewed.

    9. Is the Scroll of Death Inevitable?

    This article from May looked at how the default setup of a Moodle installation, the way in which we do training will inevitably result in the Moodle “scroll of death”.

    8. Comic Life – iPad App of the Week

    Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.

    7. 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip

    This is an older post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE.

    It is from my ongoing series of ways in which to use a VLE. This particular posting was about embedding a comic strip into the VLE using free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet.

    It is quite a lengthy post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

    The series itself is quite popular and I am glad to see one of my favourite in the series and one of the more in-depth pieces has maintained itself in the top ten, dropping two places from last year.

    6. Show what you know [Infographic] – Updated

    I liked Tony Vincent’s excellent Infographic on apps that can be used for different activities. This post was showing off his updated version.

    5. Keynote – iPad App of the Week

    Probably one of my longest blog posts that explores the iPad presentation app from Apple. I used the post to help me to understand the app better and what it is capable of.

    4. VideoScribe HD – iPad App of the Week

    I talked about VideoScribe HD in July and was impressed with the power and versatility of the app for creating animated presentations.

    3. Educreations – iPad App of the Week

    I was introduced to this app by a colleague at Gloucestershire College in 2012 and used it and demonstrated it a lot to staff. It was great to see how they and their students used it to support their learning over the year. 2

    2. Thinking about iTunes U

    Maintaing its position at number two, is this blog post on iTunes U, which followed posts on iBooks 2 and iBooks Author. I discussed the merits and challenges that using iTunes U would bring to an institution. Back then I wrote, if every learner in your institution has an iPad, then iTunes U is a great way of delivering content to your learners, if every learner doesn’t… well I wouldn’t bother with iTunes U. I still stand by that, I like the concept and execution of iTunes U, but in the diverse device ecosystem most colleges and universities find themselves in, iTunes U wouldn’t be a solution, it would create more challenges than problems it would solve.

    1. The iPad Pedagogy Wheel

    This was my most popular blog post of the year (and if the stats are to be believed of all time on my blog). I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”.

    It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

    Allan Carrington who drew up the diagram has published a revised version, what I like about the original is the simplicity. The revised version is more complex, but as an introduction to what the iPad can do, I much prefer the simpler diagram.


    Top Ten Technologies of 2013

    January 10th, 2014

    oldtools1

    These are technologies that I actually use, they exclude web tools and services which I do a separate top ten for. They are generally tools that make my life easier, more efficient and more productive.

    Having changed jobs in 2013, this has made the list a little more interesting as the technologies I used over the year did change quite a bit.

    Missing from this list is BT Infinity FTTC which made the list for the last three years, not that it doesn’t exist anymore, I moved in 2012 and am now connected to the only cabinet on my exchange that won’t be upgraded to FTTC. As a result I am stuck on a very slow 1-2Mb ADSL connection.

    Here are my previous top tens from 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

    10. The iPhone 5S is a new entry and I’ve only had it a couple of months. It certainly is one of the best smartphones I have ever used. It is a big improvement over the older iPhones, not as much an upgrade over the 4 as I was hoping though. It isn’t perfect and it has crashed on me a fair few times since I’ve had it. I do like the new camera, but the one thing that has taken a lot of getting use to, was the new interface that came with the launch of iOS 7. I found this to be a big change and quite a steep learning curve in changing the way I use to things on my older iPhone.

    9. Another new entry at number nine. I used a Samsung 50” Plasma Screen a lot this year for training and presentations. On a mobile trolley with a Mac mini underneath it was an ideal presentation machine. Air Server on the Mac mini allowed me to use AirPlay to mirror my iPad or the MacBook. It was much easier to use than a projector with small groups, and much brighter and clearer. Moving jobs this was one piece of kit I really did miss when I started my new job.

    8. Sticking at number eight is the iMac. It is my workhorse computer, the one I do big things on such as movie editing, managing my photography collection, writing, large spreadsheets, desk top publishing and so much more. It is very much my truck when it comes to computing, but it isn’t that portable… When I changed jobs in the Autumn I lost my work iMac and started off using an Acer Windows 7 PC with a 17” screen… I can tell you I certainly noticed the difference.

    7. In my old job I had the iPhone 4 and to be honest though I would have liked an upgrade, I didn’t need one, it did a fantastic job and I was sorry handing it back (which is the main reason it drops a place to number seven). The camera was excellent, and great for taking stills and video. The retina display still astounds me in terms of the visual quality. It was fast enough and apps opened smoothly, for a phone that is now over three years old

    6. The Google Nexus 7 is my sixth choice. If I didn’t have an iPad and was ensconced into the iTunes ecosystem of apps, music and films, then it would be higher. I really like the form factor, it just works, in the main as it fits in my jacket pocket. As a result when going out I have access to a tablet device and don’t need to carry a bag, which I would need to do if I took the iPad.

    One issue I have with the Nexus 7, well the version I have, is the lack of 3G, so I need to use wifi; it’s not too bad as I then use the Google Nexus One for tethering or free wifi in coffee shops. I would also have appreciated a rear facing camera. The screen is great and movies, books and apps look really good. The main downside for me is writing on the tablet, as the on screen control buttons are at the bottom of the screen, when I type I find that too often I hit the “home” button and drop out from what I was typing. It is well ensconced into the Google ecosystem, so great for Mail, Google+ and Google Docs.

    5. The 15” MacBook Retina from my old job was an excellent piece of kit, mainly for the beautiful screen, using other devices really showed me how much I appreciated the retina screen on this laptop.

    4. Though I liked using the Apple TV for playing and streaming my iTunes content and showing photographs on my Mac, what I liked more was been able to stream content from my iPad and the MacBook Retina to my television. Having lost FTTC one aspect of the Apple TV I do miss was the ability to stream content I had purchased direct (again) without having to download it again, or move it back into iTunes. I think the Apple TV could do with apps, where is BBC iPlayer for example? Also no 4OD or ITVPlayer. If the Apple TV had these apps then it would be even better than before. The lack of apps does curtail the use of the Apple TV if you don’t have an iOS device, but is almost a critical extra fore presentations if you do have an iOS device. There was a new Apple TV released in 2012 which plays 1080p content, mine is the previous model to this which does 720p content. Not sure if I would notice the difference, so didn’t upgrade. It looks like there might be a new model in 2014, wonder then if I would ugprade?

    3. Climbing four places to number three is my good old Google Nexus One, which is four years old this year! The main reason I like it is the portable wireless hotspot (wifi tethering) that came with the Froyo 2.2 update. It’s not perfect, I do find that the OS is not as stable as I think it should be, it also doesn’t keep time well. However as a phone for making phone calls, it works very well. One of the reasons it has climbed so many places, was that I retired my iPhone 3GS at the beginning of 2013 and started to use the Google Nexus One as my personal mobile phone (I had an iPhone 4 for work and when I changed jobs I got an iPhone 5S, hence the reason for three phones in the top ten).

    I have made extensive use of the phone as not only a phone, but also as a smartphone (using apps) and for tethering.

    I am expecting it to fall apart at some point, but I still get great battery life, decent coverage with EE (better than the iPhone 5S on Vodafone as it happens) and it just works. I keep meaning to upgrade it, but never get round to it. There are some issues, the main one is phone memory, too many apps rely on being installed on the phone’s memory, which is quite limited, and as a result I am unable to install many new apps. It is also now limited to Android 2.3.6 so not KitKat for me!

    2. Dropping a place is the iPad. This device I use every day, from checking that the trains are still running first thing in the morning, to reading books before I go to sleep. It is such a useful and versatile device. I use it extensively for e-mail, calendars and general browsing. There are various apps I use on are regular basis and many more than I use now and again. Airplay is a great technology which I used a lot in 2013 for mirroring and streaming video.

    I do think the iPad is a great piece of technology for conferences and events and wrote quite a lengthy piece on how it could be used to support the amplification of a conference.

    Certainly compared to using a large laptop, an iPad is a much better device for using on the train, more so on those trains that don’t have tables. It is also a great way of doing stuff in a café or on the sofa.

    Blogging on the iPad is still a bit hit and miss for me. There are still a fair few things that I do on a regular basis that the iPad makes it more challenging compared to a device with a regular keyboard. I have used my Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad, but not always an ideal situation, for example when travelling on a train (the iPad keeps falling over).

    When it came out in 2010 it made my top ten for that year, I did ask though “So my number one technology for 2010 is Apple’s iPad, I wonder if it will still be in my top ten next year?” This was a honest assessment, as experience of other mobile technologies I had used previously rarely got extensive use after a while, usually because of too many limitations. I do think that it is indicative of the success of the iPad that it is still in my top ten for four years, but it has dropped a place. Does that say something?

    1. Jumping to the top spot is the 11” MacBook Air, this is an amazing piece of kit and an ideal technology for working whilst travelling. I used an older one for a while in my old job, but in my new job I have the latest version. It’s a really superb piece of kit. It’s fast, well it has an SSD inside, it’s light, the battery still lasts a decent amount of time (the 13” had a much better battery life, but the 11” is a lot more portable). It is the laptop I take with me to events and conferences. I think I probably could survive with the iPad for most events, however on the train and at the events I find I am typing a lot more. One reason for using a “proper” laptop with a “proper browser” is that some websites, including my WordPress blogs, don’t work particularly well on mobile Safari, and I’ve still yet to find an iOS app that works the way I need it to for WordPress. So though I really like the iPad, it doesn’t always do what I need and how I want to do it, for those reasons I use the MacBook Air.

    So what were your top technologies for last year?


    Top Ten Web Tools of 2013

    January 6th, 2014

    oldtools

    This is the sixth time I have compiled a list of the top ten web tools I have used during the year. I am finding it interesting looking back over 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and 2012 which tools I still use and which have fallen by the wayside. My 11th tool would be Delicious, which I have started using more, but certainly not as much as the other tools listed below.

    10. Dropping one place to number ten is Speakerdeck. I replaced my usage of Slideshare with Speakerdeck in 2012, and in 2013 I continued to use Speakerdeck as a platform for sharing my presentations. It drops a place, mainly as I did fewer presentations in 2013, so as a result used the service less than I did in 2012

    9. Dropping one place from 2012 is WordPress which is number nine. I still use the blogging software for my blogs. I like the flexibility it offers and it certainly works for me. However as I did less blogging in 2013 than in did in 2012, though still a useful tool, I was using it less. I still think the only thing that is missing for me is a decent mobile client or iPad app.

    8. Flipboard falls a couple of places to number eight. The main reason it falls is more down to Google than Flipboard. Google retired Google Reader and I was using that service to feed Flipboard. Though I did manage to import my Google Reader subscription into Flipboard, I am finding it slow to refresh and of course much more difficult to add new sites to the feed. I do need to spend some time working out how to maximise my use of Flipboard as a news reading tool, as when it works well, it works really well.

    7. Climbing three places to number seven is Evernote, the online note taking tool. Since changing jobs in the Autumn, I am using Evernote more than ever. A really useful tool for making notes and syncing them across devices.

    6. Instagram drops three places back to number six and I know that part of the reason was that in 2012 I used Instagram everyday as the main way of posting a photograph a day. I didn’t do that in 2013, so used Instagram less. I did try though and improve the quality of my images in 2013. I have decided to return to the photo a day thing in 2014, so will now be using Instagram much more than I did last year.

    5. Dropping three places to number five is Flickr. Whereas in 2012 I added 1300 photographs to Flickr, in 2013 it was a measly 635. I also used Flickr extensively for finding photographs for the blog and for many of the presentations I gave this year.

    4. Climbing three places is Chrome, which is now my default browser on my main computers. Even though I use it a lot, I do use it alongside other browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. What I do like is that I can now sync my browsers across different computers and different devices. Using the Google Nexus 7 I can now see and open the tabs I was using on the iMac or the laptop. I also like how I can do the same with Chrome on the iPad. Great when you want to refer to a site, but either can’t remember the URL or how you got there.

    3. Climbing one place to number three is the Twitter. I use Twitter almost every day for checking out news, links, travel reports and interesting stuff. I certainly don’t have the conversations on there that I have on Google+, but when they do happen they are useful and interesting.

    2. Dropping one place to number two is Dropbox. It isn’t social, but I use it every day and in some cases all day. Dropbox is a fantastic tool, in the main because it works! It was interesting switching to a Windows PC for a few months in the new job how my usage of Dropbox stopped and I was using an USB stick of all things! In the previous nine months though I did use Dropbox extensively and it was a really useful tool. It just works, to the point it is transparent and it never gets in the way of me doing my stuff, which is as it should be.

    1. In the top spot for 2013 is Google+ climbing four places from number five. There are two core reasons for the rise of Google+, mainly more people used in in 2013 than they did in 2012, but in my new job it’s an integral communication tool for sharing links, news and views across the group.

    So that’s my top ten web tools for 2013, what were yours?


    You will probably feel disappointed…

    December 17th, 2013

    The mainstream news sites have over the last couple of months been talking about tablets. Despite cheap tablets been available for a while, there was a lot of press coverage when Tesco released the sub £100 Hudl tablet and the £80 tablet from Aldi that sold out in twenty four hours.

    Now there is a £30 tablet available, the UbiSlate 7Ci.

    UbiSlate 7Ci

    The key question, is it any good?

    Well the reviews of the Hudl and the Aldi Tablet were quite scathing, I would expect similar things to be said about this tablet.

    The UbiSlate 7Ci has wi-fi connectivity, but no mobile internet, however that is quite normal for lots of tables (including the iPad). It has 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. That lack of storage space means that you won’t be able to put too many apps on there and certainly not many video and audio files. Also with only three hours of battery life, you’ll be able to use it in the morning, but after that, you’ll have no luck.

    Yes it is very cheap, but personally I don’t see it as value for money as an educational device. It will be frustrating for learners who would want to use it all day. In addition the lack of onboard storage would cramp the sorts of content and resources you could keep and view on it.

    This isn’t to say that everyone should go out and buy an iPad, there are some decent Android tablets out there, I do like my Nexus 7, which is a really useful device and significantly cheaper than the iPad mini. However when looking at any device the key is that total cost of ownership, which includes how long will it last.