The challenges of digital poverty are making the news, with demands to ensure students have access to devices and connections. What isn’t making the news so much is demands to rethink the curriculum design and delivery so that it is less reliant on high end devices and good broadband!
Could we deliver content and learning via an USB stick or even on DVD?
This tweet by Donald Clark of a suggestion by Leon Cych to use USB flashdrives, reminded me of a presentation I delivered fifteen years ago.
As suggested by @eyebeams why not load a ton of stuff up on flash drives and send them to people with low or no bandwidth… this has been done for years in some countries
Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.
I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning.
I also did a fair amount of work reflecting on how to convert learning content (from the VLE) to work on a range of devices from the PlayStation Portable (PSP), iPods, mp3 players, as well as devices that usually sat under the television, such as DVD players and media streaming devices.
So for an online conference I prepared a presentation on this subject.
I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In previous posts I looked at the lecture and the seminar, in this one I want to focus on the conversation.
One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version, some have called this practice mirroring.
As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.
In my post on translating the lecture I discussed the challenges of translating your 60minute lecture into a 60 minute online video presentation. There are some problems with this as you are not providing an online video version of the lecture. You are using a platform like Teams or Zoom to deliver the lecture via a webcam. You will not be able to “read” the room as you can in a face to face environment. Video presentations also lose much of the energy that a physical presentation has. It can flatten the experience and people will disengage quite rapidly.
So at a simple level, you could create a 60 minute video or audio recording to replace the physical lecture or live zoom session. However simply recording yourself misses a real opportunity to create an effective learning experience for your students. If you have watched a 60 minute TV programme, you will realise few if any have a talking head for 60 minutes. Few of us have the time or the skills to create a 60 minute documentary style programme to replace the lecture, and where would you go to film it?
So if you change the monologue to a conversation then you can create something which is more engaging for the viewer (the student) and hopefully a better learning experience.
It could be an interview between two people, but why not make it a real conversation and have three or four people involved. When involving people do think about diversity, are all the people involved old white men? If they are, time to think differently about who is involved.It could be a debate, a heated discussion on a topic between two opposing views.
When thinking of what to is going to happen, it makes sense to plan the conversation, this isn’t about scripting, but about decided what topics you are going to cover and how long you will spend on each of them. What are the objectives of the video (or session) what are the learning outcomes the students should achieve by watching the video? You may want to consider writing some ideas or prompts for the students to think about and make notes as they watch the video.
You will probably need to use some kind of video tool such as Zoom or Teams to do this.
From a recording perspective, you want to try and keep all the people on screen at the same time (gallery mode), or if not, at least use selective muting to avoid the focus jumping from person to person. Also try and use decent microphones to get decent audio. People are much more forgiving of poor quality pictures than they are audio when it comes to internet based video.
Another method is to use Zoom or Teams to have the discussion, but use an actual camera and decent microphone to record the video and then combine them in post (as in post production) using a tool like Final Cut or even iMovie, to create a better quality video.
Reflecting from an audience perspective, it might be better to create two or three shorter video recordings rather than one big one. It might result in a fresher better recording than one which tires itself out. Also think about the student, will they want to watch a 60 minute video? You may think you are an amazing and engaging presenter and raconteur, the reality is maybe do something shorter and to the point. It may also be more accessible as well for those who have other pressures on their time, or unable to find a space to watch a video for a whole hour.
Though you could present all three recorded conversations in one hour, another option would be to spread them out over the week and support with with an asynchronous online discussion chat.
Simply translating what we do in our physical buildings into a online remote version, is relatively simple, however it may not be effective. Thinking about what you want that learning experience to achieve and what you want the students to learn, means you can do different things.
On the 2nd October 2009 I was at the ULCC Event, The Future of Technology in Education.
Little did I know the impact that this presentation would have on me, my future career and education in general.
I felt a little intimidated to be invited to talk at the event, we wouldn’t have called it imposter syndrome back then, but I did wonder if I was the right person to talk at such an interesting conference. It certainly had a TED talk feel to it. I must thank Frank Steiner and Tim Bush from ULCC for their support and help and inviting me to talk at this FOTE and future FOTE events.
2009 was quite a year for me, I had won the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year award that year. It was also the year of “The VLE is Dead” debate at the ALT Conference.
The event took place at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, which I remember wasn’t the easiest place to get to via the underground. Knowing London better now I think I would probably have just walked across Hyde Park from Paddington to get there. From about 2001 I started going to London a lot for work, well a few times a year, which was considerably more than when I was a lecturer in Bristol. I use to go to London, arrive at Paddington, take the underground, pop up somewhere, go to a meeting or an event, before popping back down into the underground on my way home. These days I visit London a lot more and have spent a lot more time walking around London, so have a much better grasp of the geography of the place. I remember being quite impressed with the place, and that you could see the nearby Albert Hall.
I spent a fair bit of time putting my presentation together, in the end it comprised 82 slides… and I only had twenty minutes to deliver my talk. A challenge that took some doing.
My presentation was entitled The future of learning… The aim of my presentation was to discuss how learning would and could change with the affordances of technological change.
So what of my predictions?
Well we know predicting the future is hard and generally most people get it wrong.
You will no doubt not be surprised that I got a lot of things wrong…
One thing I feel I did get right was that mobile was going to be big and important. I said how I felt mobile was the future. The audience did have a range of mobile devices themselves, but most phones were nothing more than phones that could do SMS and the Snake game. There were a few smartphones out there, but if my experience was to go by, they were clunky and difficult to use. We had the iPhone, but it hadn’t quite had the impact that it has had by today.
We didn’t have the iPad, that would arrive the following year. So no surprise that in my talk at FOTE I didn’t mention tablets
My talk actually started off talking about the past, how we are still impacted and embedded by the past, which makes change challenging and difficult.
I then talked about the present and some of the issues and problems that technology was causing in classrooms and lecture theatres. PAT testing was a real concern for many back then, don’t hear much about it these days in relation to BYOD or learner devices.
One of the challenges I saw back then was how academics and educationalists wanted to categorise learning, so we had e-learning, m-learning, mobile learning, online learning, digital learning, etc….
I said that I thought categorising learning and putting it into different boxes was restricting and that really we should focus on learning and blur the boxes, blur the boundaries.
It was fine to talk about the “boxes” at conferences and in papers, but experience has shown that categorising learning into boxes caused confusion for teachers and academics, who rightly focussed on the word before the learning as a problem to be solved and then found it challenging.
However back then I said, and I still stand by this today, is that learners and academics need to understand the potential of technology and digital to better understand the affordances and opportunities that it can provide for learning. You don’t need to be ab le to do the technology, but you do need to know what it can do.
I also brought in scepticism about technological advances, something I would draw upon in future talks and presentations.
Video (and film) had been used for learning for years, but people were sceptical and convinced that video (ie lecture capture) would stop traditional learning activities. However we know that television didn’t destroy radio, we know that radio didn’t kill newspaper, books didn’t replace folk stories. When we have a new technological development, often the result is a negative impact on existing technologies, but often the result is affordances about the potential of the new technology, enabling access that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
I also talked about the potential of video on mobile devices. Video cameras were getting smaller and cheaper, the quality was getting better as well. You could buy video cameras which could record HD video, even if it was a challenge to capture and edit it on standard computers of the time. This was before the concept of streaming became mainstream. I showed a Sanyo Xacti camera which was waterproof and dropped it in a jug of water. These cameras could be used in dirty and dusty environments and the washed under the tap!
Mobile phone video has become so much better now. I am still impressed that my iPhone can record 4K video… If only we could get people to record video in landscape!
GPS was usually an option on devices back then, today it is more prevalent in the devices we buy. I saw this as an opportunity, the concept of geo-location based learning was something that felt quite magical at the time. Your device knows where you are, so personalises the learning based on your location. What I missed was how location tracking and would become a very big issue for people.
There was a bit of a backlash against e-Books back in 2009, as people felt that they weren’t as good as “real” books. For me they weren’t a replacement for books, they enabled different ways of reading. For many e-Books and e-book readers enabled a new way to access books and content, that otherwise would mean they wouldn’t have access. I presented on the future of reading at #FOTE10 the following year. I became a bit of an expert on e-books as as result. I presented on e-books at many different events and conferences, as well as writing a chapter in a book, and finally a book on Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of Ebooks in Education in 2012.
Today e-books are part and parcel off education with easier access to books by students from academic libraries. As I did predict, we didn’t see the end of physical books, we still have bookstores and people still buy physical books.
Back then in 2009 connectivity was either slightly haphazard, or expensive, or both. We had 3G, but it wasn’t widespread, it would be another three years before we saw 4G.
WiFi was there, but it didn’t always work and network congestion would often cause the WiFi to fail. This happened with frequent regularity at events and conferences I attended back then, as delegates killed the WiFi with too many connections.
In the future I felt connectivity wouldn’t just be important, it would be critical for the future of learning.
Today we have really good (and cheap) mobile data, 4G is more available and 5G is starting to appear. Ubiquitous WiFi is certainly there compared to ten years ago, Eduroam has made it easier for people in education to connect when travelling, but WiFi is easily found in most places. This has allowed users to do so much more when travelling and moving about, or just when drinking coffee. I certainly notice how many people are streaming video, having video chat, doing so much more, because they had the connection and the bandwidth to do so.
Mobile often means battery power, and access to charging. Everyone remembers how their Nokia phone would last days on a single charge, today, most people seem to complain how their smartphone battery doesn’t last the day. Batteries may not seem to have got better, they have, just that we demand more power for our complex devices. We have seen significant improvements in battery technology, but we have seen a huge increase in our demand for power on our devices. Streaming video requires more power than reading an e-mail. One thing that has taken time to filter through was the importance of the ability to charge devices. Since 2009 we have seen trains and buses adding power sockets, and USB ports for charging as well. Hotels have added similar sockets. Some lecture theatres now have plug sockets as well.
In my 2009 presentation I talked about the technological penknife.
This is one thing I got very wrong, I thought that the idea that a device that did everything meant it did everything badly. A penknife has multiple tools, but most of them aren’t very good doing the stuff they are designed to do. People would prefer to have specialist devices for specific activities. Why would you have rubbish video from a phone, when you could have a decent HD video camera? Why would you use the rubbish microphone on a device, when a specialist recording device would do it so much better? Well that didn’t happen, in reality we have seen devices become so much better that we don’t need to have multiple devices. We have the penknife, but it’s a really good penknife, really good at everything.
I then went on to talk about change and the importance of managing change. I talked about how change can be a series of small steps, but noted the importance of missing steps, endless steps and steps that trip you up.
These slides were really where I started to understand strategy and writing strategies much more. This certainly helped me in future roles and influenced heavily the design of certain aspects of the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme in which I was part of the research and development team led by Lawrie Phipps.
I talked about activity, technology should never be about the technology, it needed to be about how it could enhance or improve activities. Or where the affordances created new opportunities for different activities. We still have a perception that we shouldn’t talk about technology first, though sometimes I think we should.
Technology allow for flexibility, flexible curriculum, flexible approaches to delivery, flexible learning. I think we have made a little progress here, but so much more is possible these days. The technology enables flexibility, but that doesn’t mean it will just happen, there is so much more that needs to happen to enable flexibility.
Back then I felt sharing was important, not just sharing content (as in open) but also sharing ideas, concepts and approaches. Not that this didn’t happen, but it was difficult to do so. Today it is much easier to share than it was back then, so much so, I think we have forgotten about the time when this didn’t happen.
I talked about the importance of working collaboratively. Since the talk online tools have made it so much easier to collaborate. Collaboration across institutions (and countries) is so much easier these days. Tools such as Slack enable groups to talk and work together.
I talked about innovation, celebrating ideas. Innovation doesn’t always mean better, it means different or new. Following on from that I talked about experimentation and encouraging it within our institutions.
If you want innovation, then it needs to be embedded into the strategy, rewarded and not penalised when things go wrong. It needs to be done in collaboration with learners not done to them. I think we are seeing much more innovation and collaboration these days, and the student voice is helping to inform developments and ideas.
I said we need to re-think assessment, technology was going to have an impact. I think it has, but not in the way we thought it would. We try and use technology to “fix’ assessment today, rather than re-imagine how we assess.
I talked about culture and how culture can enable change, but also frustrate it. Culture is about what and who we are, it’s the sum of the people within an organisation. This was something we covered years later in the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme.
I have always seen technology as a solution to a problem. Technology in itself is not the problem needing to be solved. This was something that I wrote about in 2018.
I finished the presentation about talking about the future and how the future was about the learner, the student. It was about how they wanted to learn, where they wanted to learn, what they wanted to learn and with whom they wanted to learn. Why did we need to think about the future, it was because we needed to think about the learners, then, now and in the future.
So did I predict the future?
It certainly though had a huge impact on my future, some of which I have outlined above. As a result of this talk I was invited to speak at a range of events and conferences on the future of learning and a range of mobile learning events. I spoke the following year at FOTE 10 about the future of reading, which resulted in me doing much more in the e-book space.
So there is also a video of me (looking much younger) presenting, if you want to watch what happened…
People like standardisation it makes life easier, it is easier to provide advice and guidance and removes barriers. The implication is that if everyone used the same device, the same formats and the same delivery mechanisms then it would be easier to deliver video and audio to learners and for those learners to create audio and video themselves.
Audio is a little easier to standardise, most people have heard of mp3 and most devices can play mp3 files. That should make it much easier to roll out, however due to the fact there is a patent behind mp3 and licensing fees that need to be paid, means that some devices though can play mp3s can not record direct to mp3. These devices will use other audio codecs that play fine on the device in question, but not necessarily on other devices or through a browser. The solution in Gloucestershire College was to standardise on the Edirol R09H which records natively to mp3 onto an SD memory card. Yes it is expensive, but it does record to mp3 and the quality is excellent. Use of SD cards meant that it was very easy to transfer recordings to a laptop or computer and then share them on the VLE. The quality of the audio recordings were excellent.
Of course though the mp3 standard is ubiquitous, recording to mp3 is not necessarily the best format to use, especially if you are going to do any kind of editing on the recording. If for example you are going to be using Garageband to edit the recording and create a podcast, then you are not going to want to use the mp3 format. The reason is that an mp3 file is compressed and uses what is called a lossy compression, in other words information is lost when the file is compressed. If you edit and then compress again, more information is lost. As a result you are compressing a compressed format and you will lose even more quality. This means you can get a less than satisfactory recording. For those who prefer a higher quality the Edirol R09H can also record direct to uncompressed WAV. This is CD quality and doesn’t use any lossy compression, so no loss of quality when editing the file. Of course the problem with WAV is that the file sizes are large so distribution is a problem, so the final edited audio file can then be compressed to mp3.
It’s one thing to record audio, delivery is something else. Placing the audio file on the VLE makes it very easy for learners to access and download the recording in their browser. However for regular recordings it makes more sense to use RSS or podcast the recordings. This will allow learners to subscribe to the series of recordings through software such as iTunes and then transfer the recordings to a portable device such as an iPhone or iPod. The challenge here is not just technical, but also the recognition from practitioners of the importance of a regular series of recordings or podcasts.
If audio is difficult video is much more challenging. Different cameras and devices record video using different formats and even when they use the same format, they may use a different codec. Modern operating systems generally have few problems using MP4 video files, both Windows 7 Media Player and OS X QuickTime X can play modern MP4 video files. Many mobile devices and smartphones can play MP4 files too. However one of the challenges facing FE Colleges is that many are still using Windows XP which doesn’t natively support MP4 and isn’t from a networking perspective the easiest to add that functionality.
One solution is to upload the video to sites such as Vimeo or YouTube and use Flash. Flash is often the solution to the delivery of video on networks where native MP4 playback isn’t possible. The issue with Flash video is how do you deliver such video on mobile devices, many of which don’t have support for Flash? Also how do you deliver the video to mobile devices that are not network connected? Another issue is privacy, the problem with using sites such as YouTube is that they are public and it may not be possible or wanted that the videos are public.
A key technological challenge for institutions is to answer all those problems without it becoming a barrier to learners and practitioners.
This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.
Watch Channel 4 on your iPad for free with our new 4oD iPad app
– free to download for a limited time only – the only way to watch 4oD on your iPad – wide selection of shows from Channel 4, E4 and More4 – huge 30-day catch up window – free and unlimited access to content
The 4oD iPad app is free for a limited time and is the only way you can watch 4oD on your iPad. It enables you to catch up on a wide selection of programmes recently broadcast on Channel 4, E4 and More4, for up to 30 days after transmission. Once you have downloaded the app, the content is available to watch free of charge with no limits to the amount of content you can play.
Our archive 4oD content (which includes both classic shows and more recent programmes that have dropped out of the 30-day catch up ‘window’) is not currently available on the iPad, but we are looking to bring these programmes to you soon.
This application does not work outside the UK. Please note that US shows are not currently available on this app. The 4oD application is only available using wi-fi, and only supported on iOS 4.
Free (for a limited time)
One of the features I liked about the iPad was the ability to play BBC iPlayer content, however without Flash support services such as Channel 4’s 4oD weren’t available to iPad users. The 4oD CatchUp App now allows some 4oD programmes to be watched on the iPad.
Alas this is not the full 4oD service, but then neither does the BBC iPlayer iPad App offer the full iPlayer experience. What the 4oD CatchUp App does allow you to do is to see some of the Channel 4 programmes from the last 30 days from your iPad.
The App only works over wifi and this does restrict you using it on the move, but this is the same as the BBC iPlayer App.
For the me the importance of this App is the move by content providers who previously only relied on Flash for delivering video to now providing that same content via the iPad. I do expect to see more content providers move in this direction. What this means is the lack of Flash on the iPad becomes less and less an issue for consumers.
4oD CatchUp is a simple App and it works reasonably well, it did crash on me a few times. This should be fixed in a future version I suspect. Hopefully in the future we will also see more 4oD content.
This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone and iPad Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.
8mm Vintage Camera brings your iPhone and iPod Touch back in time to capture the beauty and magic of old school vintage movies. By mixing and matching films and lenses, you can recreate the atmosphere of those bygone eras with 25 timeless retro looks. Dust & scratches, retro colors, flickering, light leaks, frame jitters – all can be instantly added with a single tap or swipe.
This is a lovely little application that allows you to use the usually excellent iPhone camera and rather than shoot clear 720p HD video, you can shoot film as though the iPhone was using 8mm film stock.
This short montage, shot from a mount in my car, of the M5 shows the different styles that you can get by using the app.
Now video purists would argue that what you should do is shoot in 720p and then use a video application on your computer to add the effect so if required you can always go back to the original footage. Now there is some merit in that argument, but personally if I was doing that I probably wouldn’t shoot the video with an iPhone and would use a “proper” HD camcorder. This app is about creating an aged film look to a video quickly, immediately and without worrying about finding a computer.
After starting the app you can change the lense, change the film type to various different types, add frame jitter and then press the red button to record.
It’s nice that the above help screen is included in the app. The video is saved to the app, you can then either save the video to your camera roll (to import into your computer later), e-mail the video (for example to Posterous) or upload to YouTube.
I was quite pleased with the effect and it is a quick and easy app to use.
This app has a lot of potential for practitioners who may want to “pretend” that they are in the 1970s or the 1920s to enhance a lesson, video or presentation.
It is getting easier and easier these days to stream live video over the web.
Using services such as Qik, Ustream and other free services (and paid services) you can capture an event live and stream it over the internet.
These services allow you to stream video to lots of people even if all you have is a simple internet connection, 3G, wifi or similar. The way they work is, you stream your video to their server, and then they serve the video to the multiple clients who want to watch.
So where does the VLE come into this?
Well, you can provide the URL of the page that has the streaming video on, but that does rely on learners either remembering the URL or having access to it or having written it down. The problem with live streaming is that it is very time sensitive and really don’t want learners struggling to find the URL and then find the live event is over.
A lot of these streaming services do allow you to embed the stream output into a webpage and so you could embed the coding into the VLE.
Most of the free services are supported by advertising, you can use other services such as Bitgravity that offer a paid for streaming service.
You can also obviously embed the video stream from any institutional streaming servers.
You can then use the scheduling or calendaring functions of the VLE to let the learners know when the live video event is happening.
If you are learning about hairdressing, reading about it is okay, but doesn’t really show how to do things even with nice colour pictures. Video is a much better way to reflect on a process, to prepare for a process or learn about a new process.
Worcester College of Tech and Hairdressing Training have placed a series of short, useful videos on different hair cutting techniques on YouTube.
Hairdressing Training is run by Mimas (http://www.mimas.ac.uk). It provides you with a range of resources to help with your teaching. These include a suite of web resources with photographic step by step guides combined with lessons and handy tips and techniques, suiting a variety of learning styles. Hairdressing Training is also available via mobile devices.
Though there are video sites out there on the web that will host video. Sometimes you may not want the video to be public out on the web. In that case hosting video on the VLE may be an ideal solution.
If the video is of a presentation on a tricky subject, or contains licensed content that you can place on the VLE, but are not allowed to freely distribute, or has the students in and some don’t want to be publicly online; then place the video on the VLE may be a better option than uploading to Vimeo or YouTube.
Video can be useful to enhance and enrich learning, one lecturer I know films his quiz questions, as the learners find this more engaging than reading them on paper, it also allows him to ask questions about practical stuff more easily than trying to explain a process on paper. Recording debates and discussions, allows learners to reflect and review them at a time and place to suit the learner, rather than just relying on notes and memory. Video analysis of sporting techniques ensures that learners can improve their technique through the video as well as verbal feedback.
By placing the video on the VLE, you can place it in the context of learning, enabling learners to clarify how the video works in respect of the rest of the course or topic.
For ease of access, by placing the video on the VLE, the learners will be able to click and download the video.
Generally though it isn’t perfect, the server may not be configured to deliver or stream video, likewise there may also be storage issues, as video files are generally much larger than text or Word documents.
This is fine if the learners click to download the video inside the college on the fast network connection, but less fine if the students are at home on a slow broadband connection, or more likely on a mobile device.
The key here is to encode the raw video file so that the resulting file is small in size, but not so compressed to be unviewable (very important if there is text in the video).
There is also the question of what type of file format you should upload. Should it be WMV, as everyone runs Windows? What about learners on a Mac, well they should be able to cope with extra software. However WMV is less useful for those on mobile devices or using non-traditional computers like the iPad or a gaming console like the PS3.
Similarly, if you using a Mac to edit the video, h.264 MP4 files are excellent quality for small file formats. However you do need to be careful about file formats so that it will play on most phones, the iPhone, the iPad, PSP, etc… If you are running Windows, after many years of “ignoring” h.264 it looks like that Windows PCs (well newest ones) are able to play h.264 video files.
One option you may want to consider is placing a few formats on the VLE, so giving learners choice on which to download.
From experience, videos should not be too long or too big. In terms of file size try to keep under 50MB, with 100MB being a real maximum, and less than 10MB is better for mobile devices (even on WiFi). In terms of time, I wouldn’t put any video longer than 10 minutes on the VLE. Anything longer, I would put on DVD so that it can be watched on the TV over a computer or mobile device. As with any guidance or advice, there will always be exceptions.
Hosting video on the VLE is sometimes the only option, but with the right amount of compression, it will result in an engaging and enhanced learning experience and not a frustrating annoyance.