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    ocTEL: Activity 2.2: Learner Diversity

    May 19th, 2014

    Books #366photos

    Here are some thoughts on another ocTEL activity, this one is focusing on how technology can be used to support learner diversity.

    Try to find one example from your own practice, or an example or resource from elsewhere, that you think exemplifies good practice in taking a technology-enhanced approach to addressing a key aspect of learner diversity.

    It could be an example of a freely available assistive technology, or a set of online guidelines for designing a culturally inclusive curricula. It might be an example of an initiative, such as the college2uni podcasts produced by Edinburgh Napier University, which provide ‘just in time’ guidance at key points in the academic year for Further Education students coming in to University in the second or third year.

    Approaching this task I was reminded of how we integrated ebooks at Gloucestershire College.

    When we undertook a library survey, it was apparent that there were some groups of learners for whom the library wasn’t their first choice as a place to learn. This was backed up by the data from the Library Management System. More challenging was linking that data with retention and achievement data.

    Research from the University of Huddersfield and others indicates that those students who use more books and/or e-resources are the same students who complete and get higher achievement rates. This is a correlation, not necessarily a causal relationship. However it is useful to understand that the data backs up a personal hunch that using a breadth and depth of resources does improve achievement. Also, motivated students who visit the library are also those who complete their studies.

    One such group were IT students, who when asked for further feedback talked about how the space wasn’t meeting their needs, they preferred to remain in their area, or studied at night (when the library wasn’t open).

    So the question was, how could we encourage these learners to make effective use of the resources available, also, how could we increase their usage of resources? We knew that encouraging their use of the library space was a potential strategy, the fact that they weren’t using it, didn’t necessarily mean they would start using it in the future.

    So rather than bring the learners to the library, the plan was to take the library to the learners, using technology to make this happen, through the use of ebooks and other digital collections.

    The ebooks for FE collection was a useful resource, containing a range of books. There were many suitable titles for the IT students. The IT students were also making good use of the VLE, so the relevant titles were made available as links on the VLE. The academic staff encouraged the use of ebooks in the class, using appropriate pages in lessons and making reference to them when needed.

    The physical books were still available in the library, so from a learner diversity perspective they had choice about which resources they could use. It wasn’t just about choice, it was also about context and location. A book can be read easily when travelling, whether physical or ebook. An ebook can be accessed when the library is closed. A physical book is useful to have open, when you are using your main device as a creation tool, or when making notes, rather than task switching on a single screen. The text size of ebooks can be increased on some readers, for those with visual impairment issues.

    The ebooks were just one part of a wider range of resources made available to the students, alongside strategies to improve teaching and learning.

    Using technology as a solution to the “problem” for me, exemplifies good practice in taking a technology-enhanced approach to addressing a key aspect of learner diversity. Not using technology for the sake of using technology, but using it to make a difference by solving an issue.


    ocTEL: Activity 1.2: Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology

    May 8th, 2014

    Keyboard

    This week on ocTEL one of the activities is to reflect on strategies for Learning Technology

    Activity 1.2: Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology

    This activity is about strategy and how you or someone in your role might contribute to a strategy for using Learning Technology in face to face, blended or online learning context.

    A: If you have your own example, reflect on the following questions…

    I am currently in the process of writing a new strategy for Activate Learning, this is still a work in progress, with further consultation. So for the purpose of this activity I am going to reflect on the ILT (Information and Learning Technology) Strategy I developed and wrote for Gloucestershire College.

    Did you contribute to the strategy, if so, in what capacity?

    I was responsible for the strategy, both in terms of development and delivery.

    Is the main focus of the strategy on Learning Technology, or if not, what is its main focus?

    The main focus was not on learning technology, but on learners, and specifically, outcomes for learners.

    How often is it reviewed and is it flexible enough to adapt as things change?

    It was a three year strategy. For me it was important that the focus was not on specific technologies, as this wouldn’t provide the flexibility required. By not naming technologies, it would enable the college to take advantage of new technologies and innovations as they arrived on the scene.

    The strategy also had a specific section on innovation to ensure that the college could adapt as things change.

    A strategy also needs to be a living document, not a static constraint on innovation.

    Does the strategy impact on your practice and if so, how? If not, why?

    A strategy in itself, will do very little. It needs to be followed up with an operational plan.

    Finally, if you were to provide input to a new version, what, if any, changes would you make to it?

    The key change I would make, would be to build on the teaching, learning and assessment strategy. If possible the strategies would be worked on together.


    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?