Thursday 31 December 2009

Multi boot changes in Ubuntu 9.10 using Grub

Those using Grub to multi-boot between operating systems (as per my previous post) should be aware that procedures for changing the boot order is a different process for Ubuntu 9.10 (which now uses Grub2). Users will have to install StartUpManager as per instructions and then selecting the first boot. Other than that, it still works the same as before.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

External Access to tulip sites now active

Its been on the table for a while, but its finally here. It is now possible for staff to create a sub-site in their programme or module site in Tulip and invite external users. This opens up the doors for collaborative teaching and learning opportunities.

In a nutshell, owners create a subsite, activate the sharing feature in the subsite and invite external collaborators using their preferred email address.

With your new subsite created, go back to the top level (main module or programme page) select Administration > Manage > Advanced (tab) > Manage external access > right click on the subsite you wish to make available and select the options.

The usual permissions are available: Owners, Members and Visitors, all of which you can decided who has what. So if you want your invitees to have full control set to Owner, if you want them to read only, then the Visitor option is best.

The more powerful feature is allowing 'anonymous access', this allows the whole world to see the site, so choose your powers wisely...

This feature is not available for My Sites.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 Beta testing

MS Office 2010 Beta is now available! After being invited to Beta test I decided to sign up. It comes in both 32bit and 64bit flavours suitable from Windows XP (SP3) right up to Windows 7 (32/64bit). Microsoft say that the 32bit works well for all platforms ... lets see.

This version comes with most of the familiar items: Word, OneNote, InfoPath, PowerPoint, Access, SharePoint Workspace, Outlook, Publisher, Communicator and Excel. The layout has changed and notably the big button on the left top corner has gone. For example, in Word, selecting the File tag gives you this (select image to enlarge):

This is back on the 'Home' tag:

Most Office 2007 users may be pleased to find a fairly familiar layout.

Another feature that has been added that I would describe as a 'Google Doc -ness' , whereby co-authoring is available allowing users to share and edit documents at the same time online, could be a very interesting feature.

Fanciful text effects anyone? :)

A note for those wanting to install the 64bit version. I use Office 2007 and even though Im using 64bit Windows 7 I had this error:

Although Microsoft ask for a clean install for testing, I can report that the 32bit version allows you to install 2010 alongside your existing Office :) Which is what I have done here.

I had one error opening Word for the first time:

But after this, Word open without a hitch, so far so good...

A rather fun element to the Beta testing is the ability to send a screenshot to Microsoft, either choosing to 'Send a Frown' or 'Send a Smile' depending on your experience:

Its still in beta, so lets see how it goes... ;)

Wednesday 18 November 2009

BBC iPlayer hits the Wii and its free!

Downloaded the new iPlayer channel on the Wii today... And its free! I was very impressed how smoothly video ran and the interface is wonderfully sympathetic to the Wii's video capabilities. Better frame rates and image sharpness were apparent using the Nintendo Component (progressive scan) cables giving a ED or HDTV (480p) output. Certainly worth the time to download.
Bandwidth is important, so its probably best to ensure the Wii is within acceptable distances of a WiFi router or even better a wired network connection. Time will tell if the BBC servers can keep up with demand.

Those that don't have it yet, the Internet Channel is now also free to download. Notably good sites that are currently Wii friendly include: YouTube XL, FineTune (excellent music library - a cut down version of the parent site, a good use of Flash), Wikipedia and WiiTabs (allows you to flick through numerous web pages at a time using tabs). Others are utilising this flash feature for games notably WiiPlayable, written with the right intentions flash games on the Wii could have some educational value. For the Internet Channel I would recommend changing the settings so the navigation bar can be hidden (by selecting '1' on the controller), this will allow for the whole screen to be utilised and minimise scrolling and zooming around.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Are Learning Technologists also project managers?

I attended a really quite excellent project management workshop today on the Plymouth campus courtesy of JISC RSC South West. Hosted by John Burke (JISC InfoNET Senior Adviser) and Clive Alderson (Management Consultant for JISC InfoNET). For those that are interested, further details of the InfoKits that JISC provide are available here, the website lists all the core elements of project management, and includes some handy software - free to download.

As many learning technologists will agree, a great deal of our time is taken up in managing multiple projects, sometimes across different faculties, schools and many clients (internal and external), so I was eager to glean any hints and tips to refine this process. This was just a one day workshop, however it did take us through Risk Management, Change Management and Time Management to some degree, with all the pitfall that come with those.
I also found the presenters very willing to share their own experiences of project management, making if far easier for us to relate to our own. As the day progressed, it was particularly encouraging to see just how important project management skills are for learning technologists (LTs) and how often we utilise these skills in our day to day work, probably without realising it! "Ah yes! I know what you mean" popped into my head on many an occasion plus the odd "I think Ill use that method from now on...".

What stood out for me the most was that a good project manager needs to be flexible/adaptable in both communication style and dealing with people. In fact, it was suggested that a person starting the project needed to take on a more dynamic role in the planning, managing and controlling stage as these stages need a different approach - keep the momentum going, so to speak. I think something that most LTs need to achieve on a day to day basis. Poor communication with all parties and not dealing with the potential 'Saboteurs' the chances are the project will fail... ...try to keep as many people informed and on board as possible an you may find the ride less choppy.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

QTVR and Windows 7 64bit don't mix

It appears I have stumbled across a compatibility issue with Apples QTVRs. I use the 64bit version of Windows 7 and even after installing the latest quicktime drivers Im still unable to load QTVRs within my browsers (So far IE8 and Firefox 3.5.5 dont display them). The QTVRs show the 'Q' symbol when loading, but remains white, it is possible to right click and select options, but no images show. I did a bit of searching and found this fairly recent post, it would seem the evidence is building for this bug. However, this issue does not seem to cause trouble on 32bit systems, so for the majority of users this will not be a problem. Hopefully Apple will catch up and fix this, or Ill have to move/convert to Flash VRs in the future...


Sunday 25 October 2009

Windows 7 Released

Installed the final release of Windows 7 on my laptop this weekend, replacing Vista Home. Windows 7 is pretty slick, so now enjoying speedy start ups and shutdowns. It is a lot faster than Vista and also cured some wifi connection issues I had been experiencing. So far so good :)

Friday 23 October 2009

SCOLAR guides available

Two guides have been released for using SCOLAR:

A guide for Students (Word 2007 format)

A guide for Staff (Word 2007 format)

University of Plymouth login required for each.

Sunday 20 September 2009

New Trimble Juno SC available for fieldwork

After much deliberation, the Experiential Learning CETL (University of Plymouth) now has a set of Trimble Juno SC PDAs for use in fieldwork. These devices come with built in GPS (2-5 metre accuracy), SIM modem, camera, Wifi and bluetooth ideal for numerous teaching and learning contexts.

The picture shows the PDA housed within its own bespoke OtterBox. The box is designed to take the usual knocks an bumps and incorporates a screen protector. It has been quoted on some sites as acceptable for 'light rain' use, although we recommend using AquaPacs to ensure complete protection from the elements.

The software we currently deployed on these devices for our own educational contexts include: ArcPad, Memory-map, MScape and TrackMe.

Monday 7 September 2009

What is PDP?

Acronyms and Abbreviations, dont you just love them? I occassionally get asked... What does PDP really mean? (Personal Development Planning)

The Higher Education Academy has a rather good summary: they also provide some case study examples (see links at the bottom of the page) showing how other persons have implemented PDP. E.g.

These range from purely factual information gathering (e.g. for CVs) to the more subjective student centred reflective journals. Reflective journal information can be used as evidence in, for example, the ‘further information’ sections of job application forms – what the students did, achieved and skills they used in their projects; or perhaps even their labwork/fieldwork experiences.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Plymouth e-Learning Conference 2010

The 5th Annual e-learning conference hosted at Plymouth University is upon us.
Proposals are being taken and details are available on the Plymouth e-Learning Conference 2010 website.
Only a 200-300 word online abstract required, easy! The online submission form.
Steve Wheeler the conference chair has given his thoughts on his blog.
Graphic courtesy of Mark Lyndon.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Strange Dreamweaver CS3 crashing bug

Found a very strange bug in Dreamweaver today after making some adjustments in the CSS for a website I was creating. It happened after saving the code where upon Dreamweaver just crashed!? When trying to restart I was not able to get much further past the splash screen without it crashing again! With a little hunting around on the forums, I discovered that it was in fact the CSS that was probably crashing it. I removed this from my dreamweaver 'site' (temporarily) and then tried again restarting dreamweaver. Amazing, it worked!

What other steps did I take?
I made some slight adjustments with the CSS outside of Dreamweaver, using notepad, I then saved and added the CSS again to the site (this time using Dreamweaver) I then opened the CSS in Dreamweaver and saved again. No crash...

Monday 3 August 2009

Faculty of Science and Technology formed

The official merger of the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Technology happened today. Welcome to all parties concerned.

Friday 31 July 2009

Timetable system gets a revamp

News has just broken about an update to the timetable system. 'Timetables' menu under 'My Edesk' will now have (to quote):

  • provides new search capabilities

  • brings personal, module, programme and room timetables together

  • has a more accessible view, both on screen and printed

  • allows timetables to be downloaded to permit users to load the data into their calendaring application, e.g. Outlook Client (this uses the iCal standard)

Monday 27 July 2009

Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre website goes live!

Very please to have upload and made live, the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre's new website that I have been working on recently.

This site includes Quick Time 360 Virtual Reality, integrated MobileMe gallery and a customised Blogger Blog.

Visit this site.

Monday 13 July 2009

Migrating Teaching and Learning content in TuLIP

As many of you are already aware the 2009 learning and teaching sites have now gone live. Here are some guides and further information to help ease the process. The following will be particularly useful when you migrate content from your existing 2008 teaching and learning sites to next academic year:

Where can I find my Learning and Teaching sites?
The site directory for all the teaching and learning sites can be found here (select options using the radio buttons):

How do I migrate content from existing 2008 Learning and Teaching sites?
An ILS (Information Learning Service) guide to migrating your content:

I want to see how this migration is done (Video) Created in Adobe Captivate, this shows you an example of how to migrate content from last years sites (courtesy of Rebecca Vickerstaff):

How to become a member of a module site (Video):
Module owners are taken from UNIT-e and are not carried over each year, so this has to be done manually. Created in Adobe Captivate, this shows you the process of becoming a member (courtesy of Rebecca Vickerstaff):
Further online help is available from ILS (such as TuLIP training guides):

Sunday 28 June 2009

Triple boot Windows 7 RC (64bit), Ubuntu and Windows XP

After a relatively successful beta test of Windows 7 and the warning from Microsoft to change to the latest iteration, it was time to try the release candidate...

Ok, how did I do the triple boot?
I already have Windows XP on an old PATA 200Gb Maxtor drive and was reluctant to over write this. The main drive is a SATA 1 Tb Samsung, which I intended to use as a dual boot with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.04 (64bit). To start with Microsoft requested a complete clean install of Windows 7 Release Candidate, and considering that I had Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) on a dual boot previously, I thought it was time to upgrade both.

The first step was to back up all the important files you need for later. I then used GParted Live 0.3.4, a really excellent (free) Linux based partition tool. I wanted to split the 1Tb drive into 3 partitions, the 'main' partition for windows 7 at ~500Gb and the the other two approximately 250Gb each for Ubuntu and for 'an other' (I'm always looking to test other operating systems).

Just a note on the GParted save headaches...I found it was in fact easier to format just 2 partitions to NTFS, Ubuntu will work out the partitions later and you are left with the ability to set your final partition to 250Gb with a simple slider ;) (hey presto - 3 partitions). Why? I know you can format any which way using GParted but I found that Ubuntu airs on the side of caution and tries to add another partition if you have already catered for Linux operating systems, its just nice to keep things tidy. After all, I'm going to try to break the software in testing later.

From previous experiences I prefer using the Grub boot loader, advantageously this installs as standard on Ubuntu. This made for an easy decision on installation order, install Windows 7 first then Ubuntu last. The reality? It worked, Ubuntu 9.04 had no problem recognising the old PATA 200Gb (with XP), plus Windows 7, it then installed itself and quite happily set up grub. All that was needed was a simple tweak in Grub to set which operating system boots first, ...enter the terminal and sudo grub.

Grub tips
There are a lot of useful tips on the ubuntu forums and Grub site when I did the install, but recently I found this handy post that simplifies the process. Remember that if you put one 'section' of code above another, that will shift the order closer to the top of the boot loader window. The first section of code (one at the top) always boots first by default (e.g. just below: ## ## End Default Options ##). If you you want to tweak a little further, rename the 'title' to something more meaningful for your purposes.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Did you know you could PebblePad Mobile?!

All you need to know about using PebblePad on mobile devices is available here.

First impressions:

There are three ways of mobile devicing, the first I tried was SendR, which is essentially a small Java application that you have to download. Remember there is a cost for downloading items onto your mobile phone! This application allows you to log into PebblePad (Plymouth) and then upload assets to your main PebblePad. Its a little quirky to use and be aware that Java applications functions better on some mobiles than others. Not to dissuade you from a handy little application, but you may encounter errors on this one...

PebblePDA on the other hand a little more slick to use. You simply downloaded the file to your PC, activesync'ed your PDA and then double clicked on the file to install. Its about 2Mb in size. The PDA version allows you to bring down files from your main PebblePad area and also upload. What I liked about this version was you could do all of this via activesync. Saves on Internet costs. However, if you want to use it remotely (no activesync), you will still have to pay to upload or download.

Finally, the simplest version was Pebble Mobile, point your internet mobile browser at and bobs your uncle you can log in as usual. Very neat.

...Remember you will have to pay whatever your mobile ISP charges to surf the web.

Are British universities loosing the edge on technology enhanced learning?

An important document was published by JISC today...we should indeed be focusing more on new technologies...

The JISC Press Release summarised this document quite alarmingly:

"British universities will lose their leading international standing unless they become much more radical in their use of new technology, a JISC commissioned report says today."

The full 81 page report is available to download here: The Edgeless University: why higher education must embrace technology.

Friday 19 June 2009

tulip showcase day - what happened?

The full listing of the event is available from tulip. We were welcomed in by Anita Jelling (Dean of Students) and then received a number of excellent presentations from academics using: SCOLAR (e-submission), Blogs and Wikis.

There was also an announcement from Mandy Goss (Services Man anger, ILS) regarding the new changes and additions to tulip, coming this September.

We were also presented with a range of posters showing off tulip teaching and learning content created by academics and learning technologsts. An excellent networking opportunity for those that attended:

Wednesday 17 June 2009

JISC RSC South West Summer Conference 2009

Another excellent conference from JISC RSC South West. The conference was held at Rookery Manor, near Weston-Super-Mare.

As always I was happy to be one of a number from Plymouth University, which certainly emphasises out commitment to technology enhanced learning.

Regionally speaking, it's always rewarding to see just how good we are getting in this part of the UK. I was pleased to see some very enthusiastic people working on improving their teaching and learning experiences by experimenting with open source software.

Full details and powerpoint for all the presentations are avaialble on the JISC RSC South West website

Thank you again JISC RSC!

Thursday 7 May 2009

Pebble Pad is here!

I thought it appropriate to mention a new software system (Pebble Pad) which the University is implementing.

What is Pebble Pad?
Pebble Pad is a learner centred ePortfolio system, to allow both staff and students to gather information for Personal Development Planning, Continuing Professional Development, and Learning, Teaching and Assessment. (The official site)

How did it come about?
Following an initial needs audit (April-June 2008), Pebble Pad was the chosen software to provide the university’s e-portfolio, from September 2009. The University has purchased 32,000 licenses, covering all university students, including University of Plymouth Colleges (UPC) and Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD). This was approved by Chief Executive Group (CEG) in October 2008. (E-Portfolio: PebblePad, March 2009)

How can I find out more details on its implementation and meetings? (Teaching and Learning Web – UoP Community page)

What does it look like?
A getting started guide demonstrating the main sections:

You can also try it out using your usual University login details:

Are there any awareness or training sessions?
There will be a series of short 1 hour staff development awareness session to show how to record activities and present them in different formats:

From mid May 09 until June 09

Please contact for more details or bookings.

Learning Technologists and Educators may also be interested in the Pebble Padders Community area

tulip show case day - when and where?

Enhancing the student experience using tulip Showcase Day: Friday 19th June 2009, Babbage. Come and see how your colleagues have been using tulip:

  • Programme and module tools

  • How students have been using podcasts

  • How blogs have been used for reflection

  • Hear the experiences of electronic coursework submission

  • Updates on the latest developments in tulip sites

  • Talk to staff over lunch and browse the exhibition

If you would like to attend please book a place.


Saturday 25 April 2009

E-Learning Conference at Plymouth

I attended the Plymouth e-Learning Conference this week, and was spoilt with a broad range of speakers from around the world (proceeding available as a PDF). There was very much an emphasis on integrating software packages, making them much more student centred and institution specific.

The keynote talks Day 1: from Mike Blamires (video) that included a welcome from Michael Totterdell, Pro-vice Chancellor of the University of Plymouth. Day 2: Graham Attwell (Video).

Steve Wheeler summaries the event on his blog.

Monday 20 April 2009

Windows 7 Beta, any good?

I finally got around to installing Window 7 Beta (64bit) on my home PC and joined the Microsoft beta testers. In a nutshell I am finding it surprisingly good, and importantly very stable. The only issues I found was that the operating system got a little confused between my two on board LANs, nothing that the on board troubleshooter couldn't work out... But this glitch kept re-occurring... One for the Microsoft people to work out on the driver front.

What about using and installing software?
Well all the Microsoft Office 2007 components work beautifully. There was a slight glitch after putting on Adobe Web Standard CS3 suite, as I later discovered that the control panel was not functioning properly. It was all down to Adobe Cue, however disabling this by renaming a file did the trick!

To be fair on Win7 (it is in Beta) and Adobe (only meant for Vista at most) so I was very surprised that so many applications actually worked. All this aside Win7 is in fact a very stable and fast booting/shutting down operating system. Everything Vista was meant to be. So far so good :)

Tuesday 7 April 2009

tulip - What is it?

What is it? - ‘tulip’ stands for ‘Teaching and Learning In Plymouth’ and it’s simply an alternative name for the Student Portal, including all Programme and Module sites.

Why bother renaming? - When the new Student Portal launched two years ago, it was the only University web system powered by the SharePoint framework. Staff got used to calling it “SharePoint” to distinguish it from the “old” Student Portal.

As other internet based systems move to SharePoint (eg, intranet, official documents system) and we get new spaces like “MySite”, it’s going to get very confusing if we keep calling everything SharePoint. Hence, it was suggested that each area should have its own name and brand to help us identify it. The name ‘tulip’ was chosen in a student competition.

I don’t use tulip, what does it look like? - Typically, the tulip logo appears on programme and module sites (displayed in the top left of the screen). See example below:

Tuesday 24 March 2009

SCOLAR (Submitting Coursework Online And Remotely)

The following are notes on a recent meeting regarding SCOLAR.

Here are some useful links: SCOLAR on T&L Web, there is also a powerpoint slide that highlights the features.

(Edit - since writing this post, further details on how to setup and use SCOLAR are now available)

Key points:
  • Linked to tulip
  • Will be under ‘Lists’ on module sites (left navigation bar) shown as ‘Assignments’
  • Stage 2 Pilot underway Jan – Jun 09
  • When with this be officially rolled out? – Sept 2009

  • Electronic submission.
  • Email notifications.
  • Accept late submissions.
  • Shows student numbers not names at the moment.
  • Feedback and marks can be added by the tutor.
  • Students see marks after the moderator agrees.
  • Student view – will have ‘upload assignment’ – with declaration of own work.
  • Resubmitted files will replace the existing file even if it has a different file name.
  • Students can only submit one file (so zip maybe necessary for multiples).
Wish lists/concerns:

  • Schools to decide if this option/facility is used.
  • Automation of assignment for multiple markers.
  • Printing of documents – who pays? - the intention is to keep it all online (Faculty/School/individual can decide if they wish to implement).

Thursday 5 February 2009

Dramatic Writing in Second Life

A very interesting project that utilised Second Life as a stage set for dramatic writing students. This came about from a successful Teaching Fellowship Award project developed by Becky Freeman (Faculty of Arts Learning Technologist), Anthony Caleshu, (Programme Manager for English and Creative Writing, School of Humanities) and Mark Pannell (Learning Technologist, EdaLT).

I was pleased to provide some support on the two days the sessions ran, also filming the students over the two days. ...Before you ask "but this is not a science subject?", I had my Experiential Learning CETL 'hat' on for this piece of work and it was an opportunity to work across schools with some very talented learning technologists..

The video was filmed using a Sony HDR FX1 camera, editing was carried out using Adobe Premiere CS3. CS3 is now superseded by CS4.  If you have the bandwidth, the video is best viewed in HD.

Further details on Becky Freeman's project can be found here.

I would like to thank Plymouth University Television and Broadcast Services for help and assistance, and also the Plymouth University Library Media counter for use of their editing suite.