Presentation, not Presently

Following my post about Presently, the official Google Blog has announced that they are releasing presentation software and are going to call it Presentation.

In April we announced that we were working to bring presentations to Google Docs. (Astute readers may recall learning about this even earlier, which caused a bit of excitement around here.) And today we’re unveiling the new Google Docs presentations feature and invite you to try it at documents.google.com. Maybe more than any other type of document, presentations are created to be shared. But assembling slide decks by emailing them around is as frustrating as it is time-consuming. The new presentations feature of Google Docs helps you to easily organize, share, present, and collaborate on presentations, using only a web browser.

This will provide a real solution to delivering online presentations and also enable learners to access PowerPoint presentations via the web (say delivered from a VLE). Not every learner will have Microsoft Office installed and though PowerPoint Viewer is an option for some, it is not an option for all.

Regardless of whether you think PowerPoint is not an useful e-learning tool (death by PowerPoint anyone) or is, it is used on a regular basis by a lot of practitioners across the world.

I think despite the dominance of Microsoft Office there is room for a web based presentation application and I am hoping that Presentation will fit the bill.

Thanks Seb

Faculty 2.0

Okay so we had Web 2.0, e-Learning 2.0 and now we have Faculty 2.0!!!

Actually this is a title of an interesting article on  how institutions should not try and bolt on technology to existing practices, but should be using technology to systematically change the institutional practices to improve and enhance learning.

Should the goal be to persuade and assist faculty members to adopt technology, or should it be to enable systemic transformation? When technology is “bolted on” to an existing process, the usual result is a modest improvement in the process and also higher costs. To obtain both greater improvement and reduced costs, higher education institutions must redesign the process so as to take maximum advantage of the enabling capabilities of technologies.  

Too often I have seen this “bolt-on” approach in colleges and almost avoidance of using technology for systematic change.

Which type of institution are you working for?

Free Virtual World

You’ve heard of Second Life (which I don’t get) now there is MetaPlace!

The BBC is reporting on this new development in virtual worlds (which isn’t quite ready yet).

A free tool that allows anyone to create a virtual world has been launched. Users of Metaplace, as it is known, can build 3D online worlds for PCs or even a mobile phone without any knowledge of complex computer languages.

Read rest of article on BBC News.

QR and Datamatrix Codes

It would appear that the last mobile phone barcode I posted was not a QR code at all but a datamatrix code (thanks Roger).

This is a QR Code.

qrcode

I generated this code at the Kaywa website.

I am using the Kaywa reader software on my Nokia N73 to test the concept and it reads both the QR codes and the datamatrix codes really easily. I have done tests both on screen and printed.

Very clever concept and having showed a few people in college we think there are a lot of potential uses.

QR Codes

The current craze in Japan is for QR Codes that allow information to be sent to a mobile phone via the camera.

Simply put the information or link is encoded into a barcode type graphic.

QR Code

You then take a photograph of the barcode, and with special reader software you are able to convert the barcode into information, which could be a link to a website or just plain information.

You can make simple barcodes on the Nokia website, there are also links to various applications which can read these codes.

“Please switch on your mobiles”

The Guardian has an interesting article on how educational institutions are using mobile phones to enhance, support and deliver learning.

They were banned as a distraction in lectures and seminars, but now colleges and universities are exploiting them as learning platforms. Mobiles that double up as internet platforms and iPods and MP3 players that can download hefty video or audio files mean students own what is in effect a portable learning tool. Digital mobility is drawing in students through distance learning, outreach or aids for special needs. What’s more, the use of technology can be highly motivating, adding value and content in opening up entirely new teaching scenarios.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a passion for the use of mobile devices to support learning. I lean towards the use of portable entertainment devices as opposed to the use of PDAs. By this I mean using mobile phones, iPods, PSPs rather than the business orientated PDA (such as an iPAQ).

The PDA has many greater advantages over entertainment devices in terms of what it can deliver especially in terms of text entry and interactivity. For me though one of the key issues of any mobile device is how personal it is to the user. If you don’t own a device or even know you are going to have it for a long time, why would you use it on a regular basis or even keep it charged.

Handing out mobile devices in a classroom also seems illogical to me, why give all students a PDA when a laptop trolley (or even moving to a computer suite) would give a similar (or better) experience.

Though being on a field trip a PDA (or an UMPC) would certainly be a better choice over a traditional (heavy) laptop, more so with features such as GPS.

I also see that the mobile device as only one part of the learning design, the learning activity would not be solely delivered via a mobile device. It would be used in conjunction with non-mobile delivery and assessment.It’s also about choice.

Allowing learners to choose how, where and when they access learning has an impact on their learning compared to been dictated where and when they can learn.

As the article demonstrates I am  not alone in seeing the benefits of mobile learning.

Moodle taking the lead in the secondary sector

Moodle (the open source VLE) one of the most popular VLEs in the FE sector is proving to be a real hit in the secondary sector.

The Guardian reports that:

Schools are becoming increasingly attracted to open source virtual learning environments (VLEs), according to a report by the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa), which also reported a solid increase in spending on the software packages that assist the development of personalised learning.

The report, Personalised Learning in Schools, questioned more than 600 schools in England and found Moodle, a free e-learning platform, was now the second most popular in schools, but with the preference split between primary and secondary. Moodle was the virtual learning platform of choice among secondary schools and the third most popular among primaries, after Digital Brain and My Grid for Learning.

However are they going for Moodle because of the benefits of the open source system, the flexibility and the fact that it “works”, or are they attracted because they believe that it is free and are under the impression that this means free as in no cost.

Anyone who has every run a VLE realises that when you take in all the costs of running a VLE, the licences are a very small part of the overall cost of the implementation, development and operational costs of running a VLE.

Hopefully those schools which are using a VLE (and that means any VLE not just Moodle) are not relying just on the efforts of a sole enthusiast and have a scalable and costed implementation plan. Anyone can install and run Moodle (personally I have three versions running on a single Mac mini) however it is a different story when that implementation needs to be accessed by hundreds of learners from across (and outside) the institution.

Fujitsu LifeBook U810 Tablet PC

A few reviews of the Fujitsu LifeBook U810 Tablet PC have emerged.

Fujitsu LifeBook U810 Tablet PC

This is another one of those UMPC (ultra mobile personal computer) devices which started arriving last year but are now making waves, especially in the mobile learning world. Unlike traditional PDA devices, these usually run a full version of Windows and with appropriate connections can be used with a “normal” monitor, keyboard and mouse, and used as an UMPC when out and about.

Compared to the Samsung Q1 and the Sony UX1XN (which I have used) the battery life on the U810 is much more impressive, over five hours.

I am slightly sceptical Fujitsu devices, I used a p1510 LifeBook Tablet PC in a previous job and was not overly impressed in the main as it got very very hot (and had a poor battery life).

Certainly we are now seeing a lot more UMPC formats now.

iPhone launched in the UK – November 9th

Apple have announced that they are launching the iPhone in the UK. It will go on sale on November 9th on the O2 network.

“We picked the best one, the most popular carrier, it’s O2. We’ve since lowered the price of the US phone of the 8GB phone, in the UK the price of the iPhone is £269 including VAT.”

That’s a lot of money for a phone, be interesting to see what the data costs will be?

news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…