Tag Archives: news

The Early Edition – iPad App of the Week

The Early Edition – iPad App of the Week

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. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will work on the iPod touch or the iPad, some will be iPad only apps.

This week’s App is The Early Edition.

Finally – your own personal, daily newspaper! The Early Edition takes all of the news sources that you enjoy and presents their content in a format which is familiar, stylish and intuitive.


One of the useful things that both the iPhone and iPad allow you to do is with certain Apps, aggregate RSS feeds and bring the news right to your device. Saves you having to visit the different websites and or news services.

In this series I have mentioned NewsRack that I use as my main RSS reader, in the main as it syncs with Google Reader allowing me to read the news either on the iPad, on the iPhone or on the web, without having to re-read stories I have already read.

So why did I buy The Early Edition?

Well apart from my making my blog look nice…

Actually there is a simpler reason, The Early Edition is a really nice way to find and read news stories. The way I use it is to access sites that I browse now and again on diverse subjects.

Another way to look at this is I use NewsRack as my daily newspaper, whilst The Early Edition is my Sunday paper.

The Early Edition allows you to import RSS feeds from various sources, including if you want from Google Reader. However unlike NewsRack it doesn’t sync back to Google Reader. Another reason is that RSS readers if they have lots of feeds can be slow. Sometimes I just want the important news not the fluff!

There are quite a few RSS readers on the App store for the iPad, like Reeder and Pulse. Not sure how many RSS news readers I need, but at the moment two are sufficient for me.

Get The Early Edition in the iTunes App Store.

“we’re were selling one every three seconds”

So Apple have sold two million iPads in less than two months!

So what I hear you cry?


For comparison purposes, it took over two years for Apple to sell its first two million iPods, while the original iPhone took on the order of four months to reach the two million milestone.

This does demonstrate the popularity of the device, though it doesn’t demonstrate the longevity.

People are certainly buying them though and if my experience is anything to go by they will use them too.

BIG QR Codes

I have been interested and using QR Codes for a while now. I mentioned them on this blog nearly three years ago.

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.

Since then I have used them myself a fair few times. I used them at ALT-C 2009 to allow people to more easily vote for my poster (didn’t win by the way).

In presentations I have used them for titles or to share my contact details (though to be honest in the main to show people the potential of them).

We are using them in the Library at our Gloucester Campus to allow learners to access more information, links and further resources.

With the advent of Augemented Reality (AR) with Apps like Layar on the iPhone and Android, I have been wondering if there is a real future for mobile phone 3D barcodes.

There seemed to be very little use of them made in the mainstream public environment. Though interestingly Mashable reports today on how the City of New York has “outfitted Times Square with giant QR codes”.

[img credits: NYC Media]

To celebrate Internet Week 2010, the City of New York outfitted Times Square with giant QR codes earlier today. It’s called “The City at Your Fingerprints” and eleven New York agencies participated in the interactive billboard initiative.

Times Square denizens could use their smartphone barcode scanning app to scan the QR codes — which were featured in an animated sequence on the Thomson Reuters building in Times Square from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET — and pull up information relating to specific agencies being featured.

Some mobile phones come with a reader built in, I think my Nexus One did, and the Nokia N95 certainly did. Other phones don’t and need to have an app downloaded, I use Optiscan on my iPhone for example.

So where are we with QR Codes?

The University of Bath have been doing some extensive work on using QR Codes in education and their blog is well worth a read.

They are not mainstream and I know if I show them outside the mobile learning community and geekdom that most people have no idea what they are.

Are we at a point where they will take off?

Probably not.

I am sure AR will mature more and will be more useful.

Moodle Training in Zambia

Posted by Peter Kilcoyne

ILT Director

Worcester College of Technology

Thanks again to James for asking me to post something about the work I’ve been  doing in Africa in partnership with Computer Aid.

I’ve recently returned from a weeks visit to Lusaka where I worked with staff from Universities from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Liberia and Nigeria as well as organisations supporting the use of ICT in schools in Zambia.

The training was set up and organised by Computer Aid as part of their support to organisations to which they supply refurbished  computers that have been donated by schools, colleges, universities and businesses in the UK.

The training covered planning an organisational implementation strategy for introducing elearning and Moodle and a full train the trainers package to enable delegates to return to their own organisations and deliver Moodle training. All delegates were given zipped up Moodle training courses and a number of sample courses from different curriculum areas at Worcester College of Technology.

Some Pictures from the Training Session

Most of the delegates were new to using a VLE and there was a great deal of excitement about the potential that Moodle would have to enhance learning in their institutions and for providing new learning opportunities for students across their countries through online earning.

I hope this enthusiasm is reflected in these two short videos of Precious from the University of Zimbabwe and Fatoye from the National Teachers Institute in Nigeria

I’d also like to share a clip from the end of the training where Gladys the Kenyan representative from Computer Aid led a traditional African thank you.

e-learning has huge potential benefits in Africa where access to University is much more limited than in the UK. However  institutions wishing to implement it have serious barriers to overcome. These include compared with the UK lower levels of staff and students ICT skills and confidence, less access to PCs and slower connectivity.

I’d like to finish this posting by asking readers to look at what happens to your organisations ICT equipment when it’s no longer needed and to consider donating it to Computer Aid. www.computeraid.org

If you have any questions about this post please contact me at


NewsRack – iPhone App of the Week

NewsRack – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone Apps available. With the release of the iPad in the UK, this series will also now cover Apps for the iPad. 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. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will work on the iPod touch or the iPad, some will be iPad only apps.

This week’s App is NewsRack.

NewsRack is a full-featured RSS reader for iPhone and iPad with a unique interface. Skim over the latest headlines on a beautiful rack of newspapers or use the powerful classic interface to read and organize feeds.


There is lots of stuff out there on the web, lots of news, blogs and other stuff. Stuff that I may find useful and stuff that I may want to pass onto others. I often get asked how I know about stuff, well I read a lot of stuff is basically the answer.

A key information skill is the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff in the sheer amount of information which is thrown at you on a daily basis. I often see my role within the use of ILT as a gatekeeper to ensure that important and relevant stuff gets to key people in the college without overloading them with either lots of stuff or what can happen loads of irrelevant and unuseful stuff.

Now I only have limited time, so I need to use tools to allow me to quickly and effortlessly sift through the information, picking out the gems and useful bits. I need to store some for later, others I will post out straight away.

A key way in which I do this is through the use of RSS feeds from the various blogs and news sites. These automatically update throughout the day so that I don’t need to go back to sites and check if there is anything new, the use of RSS feeds allows the news and articles to be pushed to me.

Even though I use RSS I don’t read everything, I just don’t have the time… when I do find a spare minute I will flick through the feeds to see what is interesting and new. I star things I think may be useful, interesting or to blog about later. I also will post URLs to Twitter or the VLE.

On the desktop I use Google Reader, but it’s also nice to be able to view the feeds on a mobile device. In the main as I am more likely to have time with my iPhone to read feeds than with the desktop. I have used a few apps in the past and some of these have relied on services that have come and gone. I use to use NewsGator and NetNewsWire

My current setup consists on Google Reader on the desktop and I now use NewsRack on the iPhone which was recommended to me by someone.

There is also an iPad version available too.

Now NewsRack is not a free App and there are ways of reading RSS feeds for free on the iPhone (through Safari bookmarks for example). What I like about NewsRack is that it syncs with Google Reader, so that any items I have read on the iPhone will be marked as read on the desktop and likewise articles I have starred on my iPhone will be available for reading again, linking, blogging, etc…

As a result of using a service like NewsRack I can quickly browse news and blog feeds and am able to pick out the relevant and useful news and articles I need to enhance and improve the way in which I work.

Yes the newspaper thing is a bit of a gimmick, but that wasn’t the reason I purchased the App. I like how it works and I like how it improves the way I work.

ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2010

Last year I was honoured to win the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2009.

James Clay from Gloucestershire College was ALT Learning Technologist of the Year 2009 for his contribution to changing the College, which has become a leader and an exemplar in its use of learning technologies.

James Clay of Gloucestershire College commented, “I am honoured and privileged to win the Learning Technologist of the Year award from ALT. This award not only recognises the work I have undertaken at Gloucestershire College in enabling, embedding and promoting the use of learning technologies; it is also an award for all the staff and management at the college who use learning technologies effectively to enhance and enrich the learning experience.”

The ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2010 is now open for entries with two streams.

http://www.alt.ac.uk/awards.html has links to the rubric and entry form for the 2010 ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award, which is now open for entries.

The 2010 award will be run in two distinct streams:

  • Stream One is open to all ordinary and certified members of ALT, and to individuals and teams based in ALT member organisations anywhere;
  • Stream Two is open to individuals and teams employed in Department for Education funded learning providers in England.

The closing date for entries is 10 June 2010.

Sensors turn skin into gadget control pad

BBC News reports on how in the future you could control devices by touching your skin.

Tapping your forearm or hand with a finger could soon be the way you interact with gadgets.

US researchers have found a way to work out where the tap touches and use that to control phones and music players.

Coupled with a tiny projector the system can use the skin as a surface on which to display menu choices, a number pad or a screen.

Can I just get your attention…

The BBC News reports on research which states

University students have average attention spans of just 10 minutes


They will only pay attention to something for just ten minutes?


Sorry, what a load of cobblers.

The average length of time a student could concentrate for in lectures was 10 minutes, according to the survey carried last month. And a third blamed lack of sleep and being overworked for this.

No students don’t have ten minute attention spans, it’s just that lectures only hold their attention for ten minutes. That is a very different thing.

If students can spend four hours playing World of Warcraft, what does that say about attention spans?

If students can watch an entire episode of Heroes or sit through the 162 minutes of Avatar, what does that say about attention spans?

Yes there are bound to be students out there that only have ten minute attention spans, however the problem that the research has identified is that the traditional university lecture can only hold the attention span of students for just ten minutes.

The problem with this research and the “findings” is that rather than face the actual problem of boring or unengaging lectures, we try and solve the problem of inattentive students or just start doing ten minute lectures and complain about “dumbing down”.

To be honest I don’t think this is anything new and not exclusive to university students.

At the recent Handheld Learning Conference last year in October I remember Tweeting how with one of the keynote speakers I had stopped listening within ten minutes. Now I think I do have quite a long attention span, but in this instance I didn’t. It’s more often not the person who has the short attention span, but how the content grabs the attention of the person listening. With other keynotes at the conference I was there listening all the way through.

Maybe universities need to stop thinking about student attention spans and start thinking about how they can engage their students to ensure that they engage with the lecture or sessions for how long it takes. Making it engaging (though this doesn’t always mean interactive) and interesting so that it holds the attention of learners for more than ten minutes.

Still with me… or did I lose your attention!


From BBC News

The coldest snap for 20 years shows no sign of letting up, with the freezing weather expected to last all weekend and into next week.

Then we read this

Thousands of children are affected by school closures in England, Wales and Scotland after more heavy snowfalls.

Oh these stories are not from last week, but from last February!

Last February we had some of the worst winter weather for twenty years, unprecedented and somewhat unexpected. As a result many schools, colleges and universities closed their doors to learners and students and staff got a “free” holiday.

Sound familiar, well last week we had even worse weather, something not seen since 1963 in some places. Lots of snow, freezing temperatures and once more many more schools, colleges and universities closing due to the snow.

John Popham in his blog does ask the question

Why, in 2010, we are not making more use of the Internet to cope with these conditions. As in many areas of British life, you will probably tell me that the UK has such extreme weather conditions so infrequently that it is not worth the cost of preparing for them, but, as this is now the second consecutive winter where we have had significant snow fall, and it appears likely that climate change may well make this a regular event, surely we should seriously think about how we prepare for such occasions. And, in this context, as we are supposed to be moving increasingly towards both delivering more education online, and adopting more flexible working practices, surely these should come into their own at these times, shouldn’t they?

I agree with him.

Part of the issue in my view is the culture of snow closures.

Look at this tweet from the University of Bath.

Part of a co-ordnated effort as described on Brian Kelly’s blog how the University of Bath used a range of communication channels and technologies to inform their staff and students that they were closed.

Just to note it’s interesting to see that the University is closed, isn’t it just that the physical site is closed? Can’t at least some of the University continue virtually? However by using the language “closed” it implies that no activity will take place, well no formal activity will take place.

Culturally is it because those not involved online can’t see that closing a physical location need not have a significant impact on the business of the University, if that business can be carried out at home or online?

Using the word “closed” also sends the message to staff that the University is closed and that they do not need to go to work, or even do any work – even if they could.

The University of Bath is not alone, many other educational institutions followed a similar line and message to their learners and staff.

The statement from my college initially to all staff was that the college was closed. Obviously the site was closed, but the VLE was still operational. It wasn’t until a few days later that a message about the VLE was put on the website. However I wonder how many staff are “using” the VLE and how many are taking advantage of the closure to have a bit of a break from work.

David Sugden also brings in another institution in his blog post on the snow, he wrote

With no contingency in place, my wife sent texts to her learners and told them that ideas for work would be posted on the Moodle and that she would be there – on chat – during the class time. But no one came. There is no culture amongst the learners (in Sharon’s case full time nursery workers/managers who were probably too busy with extra children anyway) to visit online learning activities at times like these.

He also asks the question

So, how do we change that culture? How do we prepare our colleagues AND our learners for ‘snow time’?

A good question. At the moment staff and learners see snow as an excuse for a break and won’t even think about let alone consider the possibilities that technology allows them to continue despite the snow and site closures.

David also says

I believe that we have to get them all thinking about the use of audio and video for instruction and assessment as a matter of course and to use online collaboration tools as part of their day-to-day college, school (whatever) life.

Last February we recorded a podcast on this topic and it is still relevant this winter.

David continues

We need to wear the technologies and associated techniques like comfortable coats!

This view is also echoed in an Audioboo by Graham Attwell who brings in David White’s excellent Digital Residents and Digital Visitors model. Those of us who are digital residents didn’t see the snow as an issue, those of us who are digital visitors probably didn’t even think about the possibility!

If all staff and learners were familiar with the technologies then snow closures wouldn’t be such an issue. However if the snow in February 2009 and again in January 2010 has shown anything, it has shown that there is there still a long way to go before educational institutions really are making best use of the internet and digital technologies to enhance and enrich learning.

What about those staff who did work from home? Will they get any benefit or overtime for the day that they worked, but others made snowmen and went sledging? Why should I work from home (because I know how and can) when everyone else is not?

Yes snow makes it dangerous to travel, but with the internet and mobile technologies, does it mean that learners need to stop learning just because the decision is taken to close the physical location?

So what if this snow is unprecedented? What if we are now not going to have bad snow for another twenty years? Well even if you ignore the possible impact that climate change can have on our winters, making them colder and with more snow, institutions can still close for other reasons. My own college was closed in 2007 because of the floods in Gloucestershire. Schools in 2009 were closed because of swine flu. Closures happen a lot, time to start thinking about how an educational institution can make best use of the fantastic tools that are available to it for learning. Though the first thing to do will be to change the culture. It’s not just about contingency planning, it’s about changing the way people work when there isn’t snow and changing the way people think when there is.

Last year we had the “worst snow” for twenty years, here we are less than twelve months later and the snow is not only back it’s even worse! Culturally we have some way to go I think before snow only closes the physical location and doesn’t close the institution.

Keeping ahead of the game…

Doing the rounds on Twitter today has been quite a few people talking about the Next Generation Learning video from Becta.

Some people have posted the video to their blogs, Steve Wheeler for example, Andy Oliver is another.

So am I going to post the video?


I already have!

Nearly a month ago, on the 12th May!

So if you want to keep ahead of the game and find out what is happening check back more often.