This is an updated version of this blog post from 2016. It now includes details of the 2016 and 2017 conferences.
Reading Maren Deepwell’s recent post about her #altc journey, it reminded me of the many conferences I have attended and like her the impact that they had on my life and professional practice. Going back to my experiences of my first ALT-C I was surprised I even went again!
This is the ninth 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, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, which tools I still use and which have fallen by the wayside.
Just outside the top ten were Slack, Evernote and Waze.
10. Instagram – a social tool for sharing pictures and over 2016 I posted an image a day to Instagram. I still think I am not using it to it’s full potential.
9. Dropbox – I like how I can easily work on files on multiple devices. It just works. I prefer it over Google Drive and though iCloud comes close that only really works with Apple’s apps such as Pages and Keynote.
8 . Flickr – I’ve been on Flickr for over ten years now, I still find it an ideal place to store and curate images.
7. Google Docs – Though I prefer using Dropbox for working on individual files, when it comes to collaboration and sharing then Google Docs wins out every time.
6. Tweetdeck – Though I usually use the web client on my Mac, or the Twitter App on the phone, when it comes to tweet chats and live events, I switch to Tweetdeck. I also find it useful when following various hashtags.
5. Yammer – a kind of Facebook for work, but in my current workplace it works really well and a good replacement for many of the conversations that would have been done using e-mail and probably lost in e-mail.
4. Skype (includes Skype for Business) – I used Skype for many years for conversations and then just stopped. I now use it on a daily basis for “phone” calls and instant messaging. I have never really been a fan of instant messaging, so still getting use to that.
3. WordPress – I like to blog (can you tell) and this is still a clever piece of software. Despite the trials and tribulations of maintaining security the functionality and the features of WordPress make it a really useful web tool.
2. Jira and Confluence – though designed for software development I have found these great tools for task management and projects.
1. Twitter is once again my top web tool for 2016. It works for informing, conversations and collaboration.
So that’s my top ten web tools for 2016, what were yours?
Reading Maren Deepwell’s recent post about her #altc journey, it reminded me of the many conferences I have attended and like her the impact that they had on my life and professional practice. Going back to my experiences of my first ALT-C I was surprised I even went again!
As some will now as well as talking about e-learning stuff, I also like to talk about the tech side of things too. Over the last few months I have been talking about things I have written about on this blog before.
In my blog post Mobile WordPress Theme I have covered the update to WP-Touch, which adds a dedicated mobile theme to WordPress blogs really easily and looks great. If you have your own WordPress installation, then this plug-in is really easy to install.
In another article I talk about how we melted the wifi at the recent UCISA event on digital capabilities. The conference centre struggled to cope with 120 delegates as the wifi, that in theory could cope with 250 wireless clients, failed to deliver a stable consistent wifi connection.
On this blog I wrote about the fickle nature of the web based on the original article which appeared on the Tech Stuff blog. This was in response to the original decision by the BBC to remove the recipes from their BBC Food site.
In addition to the individual post mentioned above, I have also written about my continued issues with getting FTTC at home. As well as my new Three 4G connection, where I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.
So if you fancy a more technical read, then head over to the blog.
Over on my tech blog I have been writing about the fickle nature of the web, it is one of those things that I find annoying. You post a link, embed a video and then a bit later you find that it has gone! This was very apparent today with the news that the BBC are, in order to save money, will close down their recipe website. For me this is a mistake, however I also understand how this can happen, not just with textual content, but also media too.
The impact of archived, expired and missing content may be annoying for me, but it is probably more annoying and frustrating for teachers who have created or curated content using third party links and embedded media and find that the learners are unable to access the third party content. These links need to be fixed or replaced, embedded media needs to be found again, or an alternative discovered. I know when I was working with staff, this was an issue they found very frustrating when creating courses and content for the VLE.
Personally I when writing content for my blog, I try not to use third party sites (in case they disappear) and try not to embed content if I can help it. There are times though when people have removed a video years later and looking through an old blog post you find the embedded video has disappeared as the obscure service you used has shut down, or was taken over.
As I said over on the tech blog, sometimes I think, why do people and organisations like the BBC do this? Then I remember I have done this myself and sometimes you have little choice.
Back in 2001 I was appointed Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and we had a nice little website and the domain of westerncc.ac.uk and the consortium was wound up in 2006. As a result the website was shut down and the domain lost.
Back in 1998 when I created my first web site, using Hot Metal Pro I used the free hosting that came with my ISP account. A few years later I moved hosting providers (as I was using too much bandwidth) and had a domain of my own. I did leave the old site up, but due to bandwidth usage it was eventually shut down!
I remember creating a course site for my learners using one of those services where you got a free domain name and free hosting, should I have been surprised when they shut down and asked for large fees for transferring the site and the domain. It was often easier to create a new domain and get new hosting. The original site was lost in the midst of time.
We have seen services such as Ning, which were free and well used, but once the money ran out and they started charging, lots of useful sites shut themselves down. People then moved to different services.
For these small sites, it probably is less of an issue, annoying, slightly frustrating, but you can live with it, it’s part of what the web is about. However with big sites, like BBC Food, then it becomes more than annoying, especially if you have a reliance on that content for your course or your teaching.
Since I wrote my blog post yesterday , the reaction on the web has intensified (and it looks like has had an impact). One blog post from Lloyd Shepherd, one of the original team who worked on the archive makes for interesting reading.
It was my team that ran product management and editorial on the new Food site, and the site that exists today is largely the site we conceptualised and built at that time.
He explains the basis behind the site
The idea was very simple: take the recipes from BBC programmes, repurpose them into a database, and then make that database run a website, a mobile site, and who-knows-what-else. Create relationships between recipes based on ingredients, shows, cuisines, and who-knows-what-else. And then run it with as small an editorial team as possible whose job was simply to turn telly recipes into database recipes.
He continues to point out that as far as the remit of the BBC as a public service broadcaster, the food archive hit two key points.
Did we discuss ‘public service remit’? You bet we did. Every day. And it really came down to two things:
These recipes have already been paid for by the BBC licence fee payer, and they’re being under-utilised. A new service can be developed out of them for very little up-front cost.
Nutrition is now a public health issue. Obesity is draining NHS coffers, government guidelines are badly understood and terribly publicised. There is a role for the BBC to play in this, and this is the way to do it.
Though at this time we don’t know for sure where the content will be archived, rumour has it, it will be archived on the Commercial BBC Good Food site, one impact which I know it will have will be on catering courses that use the BBC content to support the learning of the students. A lot of the recipes are from professional chefs and provide guidance and inspiration to learners who are starting out on their careers. Additionally the way in which the archive works, they can find ideas and recipes for different ingredients. Even if the archive is moved, one aspect of the BBC Food site that will be missed, is the lack of distracting advertising.
It would appear that the BBC are moving away from an archive to library of content, which can be “borrowed” for 30 days before it expires. That got me thinking…
In the olden days when I was running libraries, we use to “weed” the collection of book stock which needed replacing, was out of date or no longer been used. We would buy new content to either replace or update existing books, or buy books that were completely new. One thing we were clear about was that we were not an archive, old stock was to be removed and got rid of, usually recycled or sold. The copy of the Haynes manual for the Hillman Imp from 1972 was interesting in its own right, but from a teaching and learning perspective wasn’t actually of any use any more.
We didn’t have the space to store and keep books and journals just for the sake of keeping books and journals. Of course with online materials that space argument becomes less critical, but there is still the resources required to manage curate large quantities of digital content to ensure that the content is accessible, searchable and relevant.
I personally don’t think the BBC Food archive is a library that needs to be reduced, refreshed and restricted, I think it is a great archive that should be kept. For me there are two services here, one is the archive and the other is a service delivering current and new content. It’s a pity that the requirement of cost savings means one was planned to go. Hopefully the recipes will be saved and restored when they move over to the new site.
In my post on Ning starting to charge back in 2010 I mentioned above, I did say one of the issues with using any free Web 2.0 service is that they may not be here forever.
Gabcast is no longer free, but Audioboo is. Jaiku is pretty much dead, but Twitter is alive and well. Etherpad has gone, but iEtherpad is up and running.
I still think what I said in 2010 is still relevant today when talking about services and web tools.
At the end of the day this is not about a service disappearing or now charging, it’s much more about how when using these services you don’t think about long term, but have the capability and the technical knowledge to move between different services as and when they become available.
Use what is now and in the future use what is then.
Though that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain and moan when something like the BBC Food “closure” happens, as sometimes there aren’t real alternatives, especially when it comes to content rather than a service.
What this whole story tells us is that the web can be fickle and relying on the stickiness and permanence of web content can be a challenge for teachers and lecturers. How do you cope with the transient nature of web content?
Image Credit: Broken by David Bakker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
I have to admit my first reaction was to ignore it and dismiss the challenge. It’s not as though I’ve not done these before, back in 2008 I was challenged by someone called Steve Wheeler on a meme called Passion Quilt.
Right. It’s an interesting challenge and looks a little like a chain letter, but here goes. Mike Hasley, of TechWarrior Blog, has laid down a challenge for me and 4 others to add to a collection of photos that represent our passion in teaching/learning. I have to tag it ‘Meme: Passion Quilt’ and post it on a blog, Flickr, FaceBook or some other social networking tool with a brief commentary of why it is a passion for me.
That Doug Belshaw challenged me in 2011 to write 500 words on the purpose of education. There was also an image challenge with that too
So for this challenge I need to look at the video clip, and what it makes me think of, professionally or personally. As I said I was going to dismiss it, but hang on a minute…
It’s a classic British 1960s crime caper. It’s got Michael Caine in it, as well as Noel Coward. Yes it’s full of cliché, yes it’s rather sexist and does have a fair few unfair stereotypes in there too, the Italian Mafia and Camp Freddy are examples of this. Having said that, if you can forgive a film of it’s time, this is an enjoyable romp through 1960s London and Italy, with a great script, photography and cast.
The story tells how Charlie Croker gets out of jail and plans a heist of Chinese gold that is been delivered to the Fiat factory in Milan. The film has a classic chase sequence as the three Mini cars are filled with gold and driven across Milan, with the Italian police in pursuit.
The film ends with the cliffhanger clip shown above, showing that despite a successful heist, crime doesn’t pay…
From a professional perspective, what does this clip mean for me?
Well what the film shows is a robbery, but an expertly planned and executed h, one that takes into account a range of issues and the plan mitigates these. The success is dependent on the planning and planning down to the smallest detail.
“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”
From checking how the Mini cars would perform with all the gold in the boot, the amount of explosive to evading the traffic jams.
“If they planned this traffic jam, then they must have planned a way out of it.”
In addition there is a lot of preparation to ensure the success of the plan, from people to resources, to computer programming.
However as the clip shows, despite all the planning resulting in success, one slight mistake and success is on the cliff edge (literally) with the prospect of it going either way. Despite all the careful planning, innovative thinking is required if disaster is to be avoided.
I am a great fan of careful planning and good preparation, when it comes to teaching and learning. When I was a teacher I would plan out the entire year in advance, including lesson plans for each lesson. Alongside these I would prepare the majority of the resources required and these would be printed in advance and stored ready for use. When I “discovered” the internet, for some courses I created my own “VLE” and the scheme of work and resources were available for learners to access and download. On the site were additional resources, links, news items and a discussion forum – this was in a time when not many people had internet at home.
However what was also important was having the space to be innovative and responsive to accommodate unexpected events and issues. In addition there was space to allow for topicality and for ideas from the learners. When opportunities arose, they were grasped (as there was the flexibility in the planning to allow for this) and not ignored because we had to stick to the plan.
I know speaking to teachers over the years, that many don’t like this approach, they see planning as inflexible and doesn’t take account of what happens in the classroom on a weekly basis. So as a result they don’t plan. They take a more ad hoc approach, though this can work for some people, often it can result in core elements been missed or rushed.
Good planning does not mean rigidity or lack of flexibility. Having a plan doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for innovation. No effective planning, will build in room for innovation, will be flexible and will allow for topicality and spontaneity. In reality an ad hoc approach usually results in a bland approach falling back on using the same methodology,
We often do things because we have always done it that way. We take the same route to work, we go the sandwich place for lunch, we choose the same thing from the menu when we go out to lunch.
I recall an apocryphal story about the Royal Horse Artillery who have not used horses for a hundred years, but still have five people for each artillery piece, four to fire the gun and one to hold the horses. The essence was that we do things because we have always done them that way and sometimes the reasons for doing it this way have actually changed or disappeared, but we still keep doing it.
Doing everything last minute, usually means doing everything the same way every time. Planning allows for innovation, creativity and the last minute cliffhangers.
Just going back to the Italian Job, if you didn’t know, a few years ago the solution to the problem was “discovered” in a 2009 competition.
In addition to that competition, according to a making of documentary, the producer Deeley was unsatisfied with the four written endings and conceived the current ending as a literal cliffhanger appropriate to an action film which left an opportunity for a sequel. The documentary describes how helicopters would save the bus seen on the cliff at the end of the first film. The grateful gang would soon discover that it is the Mafia that has saved them, and the sequel would have been about stealing the gold bullion back from them.
So as this is #blideo in theory I have to challenge someone with a clip, well here’s the clip, as for the challenge, well that’s open to everyone.
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?
Regular readers of the blog will have noticed that things have been a little quieter than usual with me posting a lot less.
The main reason for this is that I have for the last week been attending the JISC Innovating e-Learning Online Conference 2010 which has been taking place in… well online as you might expect. I am going to write a more evaluative piece on the conference later.
I was the conference blogger at the conference so as a result I was posting a lot of blog entries there instead of here… Most of the blog entries on the conference blog (which is not available to non-delegates) were about the conference itself, however some were on more general web and e-learning issues. These will be expanded upon and published later on this blog – so you won’t miss out.
Running a conference blog has been fun, if exhausting, but I’ve had a lot of nice positive comments back from people, so well worthwhile.
A conference blog is something that you sometimes you see at other conferences, but I certainly would recommend that other conference organisers think about having a conference blog for their conferences.
In a recent blog post I mentioned the impact of Twitter for me at ALT-C.
Overall from my experience, Twitter has really added value to conferences I have attended and made them more joined up and much more a social affair. It has helped to build a real community, especially at ALT-C.
I first went to ALT-C 2003 in Sheffield and to be honest found it quite a souless affair. I didn’t know many people and it was “quite hard” to get to know people without dropping into conversations over coffee, which can be challenging Though there were elements of the conference that were useful and interesting, I decided not to attend ALT-C 2004 even though it was in my own backyard in Exeter.
I did go to Manchester for ALT-C 2005 as we had just done a project for JISC called Fair Enough.
As a result we had a poster and I ran a workshop entitled Copyright Solutions. The workshop was a catalyst for social interaction and as a result I made a fair few new friends. Also having been part of a JISC project and attended programme meetings, events and conferences the circle of people I knew was growing. ALT-C was becoming not just a positive learning experience, but was also becoming a positive social experience too.
Having had a really positive experience of ALT-C I decided I would go to Edinburgh for ALT-C 2006, where I ran a variation of the copyright workshop again and had another poster.
This time, there was an ALT-C Wiki, which sadly due to the demise of jot.com no longer exists. What I do recall of the wiki was that it would allow presenters and delegates to post presentations and discuss them. What was sad was how little it was used by anyone… no one wanted it. With over six hundred delegates only six people contributed. I did put this down to the 1% rule initially. I was also one of the few people blogging the event as well (on my old WCC blog). I was surprised with the fact (and maybe I shouldn’t have been) that six hundred learning technologists were not using the very technology they were presenting on.
However in 2007, things were very different, again not huge numbers, but certainly very different to the year before. ALT-C 2007 in Nottingham was a real sea change for the online interaction and was for me and others the year that blogging changed the way in which we engaged with the conference.
It’s a strange world. The entire ALT-C conference it seems is filled with bloggers. Not only are they blogging about the conference, they are blogging about blogging. The bloggers are even blogging about being blogged about, and blogging about bloggers blogging. Here am I, like an absolute idiot, blogging about the bloggers blogging about bloggers blogging about each other.
I know I’m not finished yet, but so far I can reflect that blogging live from conference makes me pay much more attention to speakers than is my common practice.
This is something we might want to think about in regard to Twittering at a conference.
But it was David Bryson who really caught the blogging atmosphere in his blog post and his slideshow.
…wandering around it was interesting to see how glued or involved folks are when working with a computer the common phrase “Do you mind if I use my computer when you are at a table” which we can interpret as something along the lines of “I don’t want to be rude but I am not going to talk to you but commune with my computer” or words to that effect.
The main reason for this I believe was not that people weren’t blogging before, but it was the first time that we had an RSS feed of all the blogs in one feed. This made it much easier to find blog articles on the conference and as a result the bloggers. It did not mean people were hiding behind their laptops, on the contray it resulted in a more social conference.
Importantly and this is why I think ALT-C 2007 was a sea change (and especially a sea change for me) was that these social relationships continued beyond the conference. We continued to blog, talk and meet well after everyone had flown from Edinburgh and were back home.
There were though two big key differences between 2007 and 2008, one was the Fringe, F-ALT and the other was Twitter. I had used Twitter at ALT-C 2007 and I think I was probably the only person to do so…
F-ALT added a wonderful new dimension to ALT-C by enhancing and enriching the social side of ALT-C and adding a somewhat serious side to conversations in the bar. It allowed people to engage with others in a way that wasn’t really possible at previous ALT-Cs.
It should be noted that it was at a F-ALT event at ALT-C 2008 that I proclaimed Twitter was dead… well what do I know!
Now just to compare at ALT-C 2010 there were 6697 tweets, in 2008 we had just over 300 tweets! There were only about 40-50 people using Twitter. But it was an influential 40-50 people. As it happens most people at ALT-C 2008 were using either Facebook or the then newly provided Crowdvine service.
Like F-ALT, Twitter allowed people to engage in conversations that otherwise may have happened, but more likely wouldn’t have. Both F-ALT and Twitter allowed ALT-C to become more social, more engaging and more interactive.
ALT-C 2009 in Manchester really gave an opportunity for Twitter to shine and this was apparent in that nearly five thousand Tweets were sent during the conference. Twitter was for ALT-C 2009 what blogs were for ALT-C 2007. At the time 633 people on Twitter used the #altc2009 tag, more than ten times the number of people at ALT-C 2008 and more than the number of delegates. Twitter was starting to allow ALT-C to go beyond the university conference venue and engage the wider community. This use of social networking was not just about enhancing the social and community side of ALT-C but also about social learning. The success of the VLE is Dead debate can be placed fairly at the door of social media in engaging delegates through Twitter, blog posts and YouTube videos.
ALT-C 2010 in Nottingham for me was as much about the formal learning as it was about the social learning. An opportunity to learn both in formal and informal social settings. I was concerned slightly that the use of Twitter by certain people and FALT would be slightly cliquey. However no matter how cliquey people think it is, it is a relatively open clique. This year it was very easy to join in conversations using Twitter and then meet up socially, quite a few people I know has never been part of the ALT-C family (first time at the conference) and are now probably part of the clique.
As Dave White said in his invited talk (let’s just call it a keynote) talked about the eventedness of the physical congregation of people at a lecture or a conference. It is more than just what is been presented it is the fact that we are all together physically in the same place. I suspect a fair few of us could recreate that kind of social aspect online and I have seen this at the JISC Online Conferences (another one this autumn) but for many delegates it is way too challenging.
There is something very social about meeting up for something like ALT-C and even in these difficult times I hope we can continue to do so. Here’s to ALT-C 2011.
news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…