I have seen many hot fads over the years, people focus on something and assume it will radically change education.
Usually they don’t!
Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).
Set in the 23rd Century, Rene Auberjonois playing a Starfleet Colonel trying to convince his superiors of their technological advantage over the Klingons – by using a flip chart! Nice to know that they will still be extensively used in the future.
I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery.
What we have been seeing was many people 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.
I did kind of wonder if people actually still used flip charts and then remembered I do when delivering training, they’re up there with post-it notes as a great tool in the learning and teaching toolkit, as well as for those working in the field of training and development.
Many packages have a whiteboard function that can be used. However having used these many times, they are not a digital equivalent of a flip chart. It can be hard, if not impossible to draw and write with a mouse or a trackpad.
Also with multiple people using the board at the same time, means it can become very confusing very quickly, this is something that doesn’t happen with a physical flip chart.
An asynchronous option could be to use pen and paper and then using a camera or mobile phone take a photograph of what was written or drawn and upload to a discussion forum or other similar tool.
Then there are specific online tools such as Miro that can be used to replicate flip chart and post-it note activities.
These are of course technical solutions to the problem of translating the use of a flip chart into an online environment, however this is only part of the challenge.
Take a step back and think about what you are trying to achieve from a learning perspective and what outcomes you want from your students, you can then start to think differently about how to approach the challenge. A virtual flip chart may not actually be the technical solution you require.
Students could collaborate using a shared Google Doc (or shared Office 365 Word Doc). This allows for that live collaboration, but also can be shared with others or uploaded to another site. An advantage of this kind of collaborative document is that it allows you to see who made what contributions if needed.
It might also be useful to design activities that work asynchronously, so aren’t dependent on a continuous live internet connection to work.
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. Of course knowing how to do those different things, is another challenge.
Here are the slides from my presentation at ALT-C 2012 this morning.
The tablet computer is not a new idea, but recently has had an impact on learning and teaching across a range of institutions in the UK and elsewhere. In this session I will try to tackle the following questions.
What do we currently understand to be a tablet? What is the primary functionality? How are tablets being used right now for supporting, and enhancing learning and teaching? What sort of learning activities and scenarios are making best use of the tablet format? Are these devices for content consumption, content creation, interaction, or all three? So where next? Where will tablets take us? Do institutions purchase tablets for all their students? Or do we let or require students to buy and bring their own? And if the latter what does this mean for how we organise provision?
I will conclude with a personal reflection on the overall direction of travel, and where I believe we may finish up.
So are you thinking about running a pilot or a trial?
How many pilots do we need? Or is it more a question that we need to run a pilot at our institution before we think about “rolling” it out across all curriculum areas. I am also aware of successful pilots in one curriculum area which have been followed by virtually identical pilots in a second curriculum area… Why? Well the learners are different! Really! How different, they have two heads or something? That actually raises a question on any pilot, well successful pilots have resulted in a roll out across the whole institution?
We do see institutions that use tools such as Powerpoint across the institution, similarly we see some institutions have embedded the use of the VLE. However was this via projects and pilots? Or was it something different?
Do pilots actually help institutions move forward in using learning technologies or are they causing problems rather than solutions?
Do you read about pilots and projects from other organisations? Do you follow their advice when implementing new technologies or do you decide to run your own pilot? If we don’t learn from pilots that others do, is there any point in doing or talking about pilots?
I also had a recent conversation where the institution was going to do a pilot as it couldn’t afford a mainstream rollout of the technology. Now this I really didn’t understand, you already know from the research undertaken that the technology works and has a positive impact, however rather than buy enough for the institution you’re only going to buy enough to repeat the pilot already done. Why couldn’t they buy enough? Well they weren’t given the funding.
Maybe the question is, why aren’t the people who are making the financial decisions reading the research and project outcomes?
Personally my view is that if there is only enough money for a pilot, it’s probably not worth doing and you would be better off spending the money on reinforcing and enhancing the use of a technology you already have. However many might see that as boring.
I thought I would mention some of things I have done at my institution in relation to the introduction of new technologies and the impact they have had.
When the JISC Collections e-Books for FE announcement was made, I immediately signed the college up. I recall talking to a colleague who said “so which group of students should we pilot this with”. I thought for a minute and wondered why we needed to do a pilot or a trial. Hadn’t JISC Collections already done that, seen the need to provide the collection and given us an opportunity. So I replied, “no we’re not going to do a pilot, we’re going to launch it for all learners and tell everyone about it, the pilot projects have already been done by JISC, e-books do work, they support, enhance and enrich learning, why on earth would we want to repeat that work, to get the same results, oh and get no funding to do it?” As a result of the mainstream launch of the e-books into the college, we now have learners and practitioners using e-books to support their learning. No need to do a pilot, we knew it worked elsewhere, so why wouldn’t it work at our college?
I could go on about Flip’ping Pilots, but when an opportunity came to purchase some SD card based video cameras, rather than buy a set of 15 and see how they worked out with groups, we purchased over 300 cameras. The result was just what I expected. More practitioners creating and using video in their teaching. Learners using video for assessment and reflection. Availability of the cameras was the real issue, having lots of them meant that whenever someone wanted to use one, either they had one in their pocket or could get hold a class set really easily. Was I concerned about spending that amount of money on cameras that wouldn’t be used? Well probably slightly, however pilots and projects done elsewhere had demonstrated again and again that video had had a really positive impact on teaching and learning, so why wouldn’t it work at our college?
I remember seeing a demonstration of Activexpression by Promethean at my college and been very impressed, the main reason I liked the system over other “clicker” systems including the Promethean Activote was that you could use the system without needing to spend ages preparing the questions in advance.
However another thing I knew, from reading about projects that had implemented clickers in other institutions was that staff didn’t use their sets of clickers very much because they weren’t sure if they would be available, but when they did use them they really thought they worked effectively. The lesson was simple, ensure you have enough clickers available. We also had a need to make assessment more engaging and “fun”, clickers or voting units seemed like an ideal solution based on the work done elsewhere. So once more when some funding was available, we purchased 1500 Activexpression handsets, nearly enough for a hundred classes! They were made available in a range of departments. The result? Well most of the sets were used and used on a regular basis to the point where they are embedded into practice. However I should say not all departments engaged with the technology and some were left in cupboards. However after a period of implementation and relection we relocated the sets not been used. The result was across many curriculum areas the clickers were been actively used to enhance and enrich learning. I had seen the results of many pilots and projects that had used clickers and voting units, so why wouldn’t it work at our college?
When the iPad first came out, I didn’t think it was going to be the radical device for me that it has eventually come to be. In the end I was really impressed with the device and how it improved my efficiency and workflows for my job. As a result I bought every member of the management team in my centre an iPad. As well as the Libraries and e-Learning, my centre includes Construction, Engineering and Schools Liaison. I certainly didn’t see this as a pilot or a project, much more about them benefiting from the lessons I had learnt. I have had quite a few people in the college come and ask me to provide them with iPads (like I have the budget for that) or have asked to “pilot” them with a group of their learners. As far as I am concerned there have been lots of iPad pilots and projects elsewhere in the world and my college doesn’t need to repeat those experiences, the lessons have been published, the problems identified and many of the issues resolved. For me the question is now, now are iPads useful or will they enhance and enrich learning, no the question for me is, will iPads solve a specific problem we have in the college, will they increase retention and achievement for a particular cohort? If I can answer those questions I can then ask the question will the cost of the iPads be outweighed by the benefit they will bring? We don’t have that many iPads at my college, those that do have them, find they are really useful and have had quite an impact on their work. Elsewhere other iPad projects have demonstrated the value they can bring to learning, so why wouldn’t it work at our college?
So with all the wonderful stuff that has been discussed at various conferences and events, I wonder how many of you are thinking about your next project, your next pilot, your next research grant bid… Do I only want to do a pilot because a) everyone else is doing a pilot and b) it means I get an exciting new gadget to play with c) I need to be seen to be doing new and innovative stuff. Pilots are fun, aren’t they?
Or are you thinking differently, thinking about why wouldn’t this work at my place? Why can’t I do a mainstream roll out of this new technology.
This posting was very much an opinion piece on how learning technologists could engage teachers in using the VLE more to support learners. The key behind this quite short post was about moving the responsibility of using the VLE to the practitioner, and their continuing personal development in the use of the VLE.
The eighth most popular post this year was 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 made it into the top ten.
This review of Paper Camera as part of my App of the Week series certainly struck a chord with many who thought the app was excellent.
This really nice image manipulation app creates cartoon or sketch like images from either your photographs, or applies the filter in real time so you can see what your image will look like through the live image from the camera.
The review which included images I had created using the app, demonstrated to readers what the app was capable of, but also some of the limitations. For me I only review apps that I use and think can be of value to my readers (well apart from one or two exceptions where I want to tell people not to buy the app).
Tools such as Moodle have a range of functions that I know many of our staff are using, but of course not everyone knows everything. I like this presentation from the Columbian MoodleMoot 2011 by Michelle Moore, in which she explains some of the other functions of Moodle that can be used to enhance and enrich course delivery.
I do like that I can embed presentations such as this into my blog using a service such as Slideshare. It means I can easily share things I have found, but also curate them with other finds for sharing with others.
This was probably my favourite post of the year and is also the longest blog post I have ever written at nearly 4000 words! The post outlined how I recorded the e-Learning Stuff podcast and went over the planning, the technical techniques for recording, editing and distribution. It was a post that I had been writing for a year or so, but back in July decided to finish it off and get it published.
So my third most popular post on my e-learning blog is of a review of a game for the iPad… It’s not even a very good review, as at the time of writing that blog post I hadn’t even played the game as I wanted to see the film first! The reason why it is popular is that the blog post had quite a high search engine ranking and people clicked to see what it was about… I expect they were slightly disappointed.
This post was a very reactionary post to all the posts I was seeing at the time about how to use QR Codes.
Sorry, this is not a blog post on ten ways to use QR Codes, but it is a blog post about what you actually can do with QR Codes. There are in fact only five ways to use QR Codes! Once you know what you can do with QR Codes then you can build learning activities round those functions.
So the most viewed post this year was from 2009 and is the video of the VLE is Dead symposium that I was part of at ALT-C 2009. Considering this post was originally published in September 2009, the fact it is my most popular posts demonstrates the enduring substance of that debate. Is the VLE dead? Well the debate isn’t, it’s alive and well.
This is the fourth time I have posted my top ten technologies of the year. Looking back over 2008, 2009 and 2010 it’s interesting to see what new technologies I am now using, which old ones have been left on the shelf and the technologies I still use.
What was interesting this year was how little change there was from last year, as though my personal technologies have settled down. There is no iPhone 4S for example in this year’s list. I keep thinking about upgrading my 3GS to the 4S, but keep putting it off.
There were a few technologies that nearly made it to the list. I really like my Apple TV and it’s a great tool for streaming content to my TV. However I really don’t use it as much as I thought it would. Without content providers such as BBC iPlayer or 4OD it’s not as useful as it could be. No cameras in my list this year, I do use my Canon DSLR a fair bit, though my Sony stills camera has spent very little time out and about. I still miss my Koday Zi8 which went missing in 2010, but the fact that I haven’t replaced it says a lot.
Will be interesting to see what is in my 2012 list.
The Tricaster makes a re-entry into my top ten, it was number six in 2009.
So you need to shoot video? You need to stream video? You need to record video? You need more then one camera? You want graphics, you want presentation slides, you want to screenshare? Though there are a plethora of tools out there for shooting and recording video, screen captures, presentations; most then require you to edit the footage before sharing. One of the things I wanted to do was to do all that, but do it live!
The Tricaster makes a comeback this year as it was the tool I used for ALT Live Beta, an experiment at ALT-C 2011 in which we broadcast live backstage video from the conference. It was a lot of fun and was well received by those who couldn’t attend the conference (and by a fair few delegates who were).
9. Blue Snowball Microphone
I have been recording this year again, not just e-Learning Stuff podcasts, but also symposia and other discussions. The Blue Snowball Microphone is certainly a key tool for this. I also use it at home for Skype and making recordings.
The main downside is that the size of the microphone makes it less than ideal for taking to events and carrying in a bag. However the quality of recordings means that I am more keen to use this then any other microphone.
It is lower down the list this year, in the main as I used it less. It is however still an essential tool for me.
8. Edirol R-09HR
The Edirol has appeared in my top ten for the last four years. it’s enduring quality has to be down to the fact it is that it still a brilliant job. It records fantastic audio in WAV or MP3 format to an SD card and uses AA batteries. Still a great technology and does what it says on the tin really well.
7. i7 iMac
People often ask me why I buy Macs, well the i7 iMac is a testament to why I do. I bought my i7 iMac in 2009 and was really impressed, it was my number two in my top ten in 2009 and was also in the top ten in 2010. It’s in the top ten again. Why, well for a computer that is over two years old it is still a really powerful computer that does everything I throw at it. It’s great for video editing, audio editing, video recording, encoding, all that web stuff, office tools and so much more. I use it virtually every day for a whole range of tasks. It’s one powerful machine and I don’t expect to replace it for at least a year, probably two, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I was still using it in 2015!
I got my Kindle in 2010 and I was impressed with how easy it was to use, to get books and importantly read. Supported by the excellent Kindle app on the iPad, I am using Kindle much more for reading these days.
5. iPhone 4
The iPhone 4 is an amazing smartphone and was what the iPhone should have been from day one. The camera is excellent, and great for taking stills and video. The retina display still astounds me in terms of the visual quality, especially when I drop back to the 3GS (which drops out of the top ten this year). The key advantage of the iPhone for me is the sheer number of apps and the quality and quantity have changed how I use a phone. iOS 5 has improved the user experience, for example notifications (very Android like) are so much better.
I do think the iPhone 4 is one of the best phones I have ever used and I am really pleased with it. However the reason why it has dropped a few places is that it fails now and again as a phone for making phone calls. I have also had some signal issues failing to get a decent 3G signal.
4. Google Nexus One
The Google Nexus One is getting a bit long in the tooth for an Android phone these days, it’s stuck at Gingerbread, there is no Ice Cream Sandwich for the Nexus One (which is a pity). However Gingerbread means that I can use my phone as a portable wireless hotspot so the MiFi stays in the bag and I returned my 3G USB dongle over a year ago now. Another reason why the Nexus One is higher in the top ten was the integration with Google+ and I do like Google+. The main reasons that the Nexus One is higher in the top ten that the iPhone 4 is the fact that it is a better phone for making phone calls. Also I seem to get a better 3G signal on the Nexus One than I do on the iPhone, though that may be down to T-Mobile on the Nexus One over O2 on the iPhone. On quite a few occasions I have used the portable wireless hotspot on the Nexus One to provide internet connectivity to the iPhone (and that can’t be right). I will say I prefer the app experience on the iPhone, but that’s not to say the apps on the Nexus One are awful, no they are really good, but my preference is for iOS.
3. BT Infinity FTTC
My fibre connection was in my top ten last year and over the last twelve months I have been very pleased with the stability and speed of the connection. Rarely, well once or twice, I have had an issue with bandwidth (dropping to a still reasonable 7Mb/s) but generally I have had a stable 37MB/s down and 8MB/s up.
2. MacBook Air
I upgraded my 13” MacBook Pro this year to the 11” Air. Alas not the new model. However I have been very impressed with the MacBook Air. It took me a while to get use to Lion, especially the gestures and though I still prefer Snow Leopard, I am now use to Lion on the Air and it isn’t stopping me from doing stuff (which is key really). I really like the weight (or lack thereof) of the Air and despite the lack of raw power the SSD ensures that the speed of the MacBook is fast enough. It has made an impact on how much I use my iPad and if I had to choose one I think I would choose the Air, but would really miss the iPad.
So for the second year running, the iPad is my top ten technology for the year. Now I know I just said I would choose the Air over the iPad, the difference is that I only got the Air in July and I have been using the iPad all year, and this is a top ten for the year; so it will be interesting to see what will be number one in 2012. Also they are complementary technologies rather than competing technologies, they both have their uses, advantages and disadvantages.
I was surprised in 2010 the impact of the iPad on the way that I did stuff. It continued in 2011 to have a real impact. I use it on a daily basis for communication, collaboration, content creation and content consumption. I did managed to get an iPad 2 in the summer, but in terms of how I use the iPad it had a minimal impact, I rarely use the camera, but do like the mirroring. As a result the iPad 2 is not in my top ten, whereas the original iPad is.
Back in 2010 I said
At work I use the iPad for dealing with e-mail and my calendar and quickly checking things on the VLE. For some meetings I do need to take a laptop as some tools we use rely on Flash or Java and that is one of the main weaknesses of the iPad is that these kinds of tools can not be used on it.
I still use the iPad for e-mail and calendar, however I now use a Citrix app to access our Windows XP corporate desktop to access those Java or IE based tools that we have. Therefore the main limitation is less of a limitation for me now. The fact I can easily access these iPad unfriendly tools using the iPad still makes me smile.
… its media capability easily surpasses any other mobile devices I have used. It’s not all perfect, I would like to stream (easily) video and audio from my iMac to my iPad…
AirPlay has made a big difference for me for media streaming across my home network. I like that I can stream iTunes Rentals from my iMac to my iPad without having to go through the laborious process of transferring the movie file from the iMac to the iPad, I can just stream the DRM’d content across the wireless network.
So last year the iPad was my top technology, Apple have made things better and on the basis of how much I used it, the iPad is once again my top technology of the year.
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