Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Early Bird Catches the Worm - Plymouth e-Learning Conference 2010

There is still time to register for the cheaper early bird rate for the Plymouth elearning conference 2010 (PeLC10) hosted here at Plymouth University for the 8th and 9th April 2010.

The early bird rate is only available until the 5th March 2010. So book now as places are going fast, don't miss your chance by leaving it to the last minute.

There will also be opportunity to experience the delights of the Experiential Learning CETLs Immersive Vision Theatre. Immerse yourself in light and sound.

Also see Steve Wheeler's blog for further insights into this event.

See you there!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Arena360 Experimental Week 'The igloo'

Many of you may have noticed the 'igloo' outside of the Rolle Building this week. I had a sneak peek with the EL CETL Immersive Vision team. The Igloo has appeared as part of the Immersive Digital Arena Experimental Week. There is some very interesting content to view, so worth a visit. Perhaps you do a lot of fieldwork work with your students? ...It may conjure up some fieldwork ideas that could be used in the Immersive Vision Theatre.

Information on the
'Innovation for the Creative and Cultural Industries' (ICCI) and who's who is available on their site.

Friday, 12 February 2010

From Post 92 to Post Digital

I and a mix of other staff and students attended Lawrie Phipps' (from JISC) excellent seminar today, here at the University of Plymouth.

To quote Lawrie's abstract:

'...explore the journey that universities have made from the early days of technology in learning, through to what appear to be ubiquitous VLEs and on to post digital universities, where technology is both invisible and essential... [to]...argue that, as part of this journey, institutions must re-evaluate the meanings of knowing and understanding and adapt their work to accommodate the new demands placed on individuals and organisations by the digital era.'

Included in the presentation was the following video (Slide 5 'In the Beginning'), which rather humorously depicts a sort of medieval approach to modern day tech support for 'a book'. The parallels of this to new and emerging technologies make this video rather poignant and Lawrie's reasons were to emphasise that technology should be intuitive. If you need a manual the technology is not really that good. Amusingly 'a manual' is mentioned in this video (English subtitles provided):

Lawrie also asked the attendees to role play in groups of 6 (Vice Chancellor, Head/Dean of School, 2 x Academics, a Learning Technologist and a student). Each group was given a scenario, ours was related to improving academic support for students, and to report back to the Senior Management Team (SMT). Although we were suppose to pretend to be someone else, I still ended up as a Learning Technologist (LT)...

If you're reading this Lawrie, sorry, I know you wanted roles changed... However, from my own perspective it was very interesting to see 'how' pivotal the LT is when it comes to linking in the needs of the user with the technology. I will add that some expectations were even above and beyond job role! We did however come to some sort of solution (we only had ~15mins) and that was to use web cams (video meetings etc), perhaps a forum (for questions and answers) for students not having access to this technology. Students could also be placed in charge of monitoring the forum content to ensure smooth running. This would further reduce the amount of support required of academics, hopefully improve support, but equally enrich the student experience. The main outcome from all the groups was that of empowering the students or the over riding student voice, at the end of the day, this is what it is all about.
Further details on Lawrie's presentation are available on Plymouth University's Technology Enhanced Learning website.

Download Lawrie's Video by Dave Hurrell (University of Plymouth TV and Broadcasting Services)
~29mins - Lawrie talks covers timeline slide Post 92 to Post Digital
~33mins - Give students admin rights?

Monday, 1 February 2010

EduApps (AccessApps) carry all your software on a USB

Its been out for a while now, but I can't help but think being able to carry around a complete set of software (open source / freeware) on a 2 Gb USB stick is an excellent addition to any student or academics learning and teaching arsenal.

What is it? As explained on the AccessApps site:

'AccessApps is an initiative supported by the JISC Regional Support Centres (RSC) and JISC TechDis. It consists of over 60 open source and freeware Windows applications, running from a USB stick...[which] provides a range of solutions to support writing, reading and planning as well as sensory, cognitive and physical difficulties.'

All such initiatives are based around the concept of 'accessibility', which is essentially all about making products, services or devices available and usable to as many people as possible. If its useful to you, then why not use it. Probably one of the trickiest things for most academics to balance is ensuring that students have the required software and files are transferable! The majority of universities provide the necessary software on campus, but what about working on your own laptop or from home? This is where I think AccessApps comes in handy.

So what software does it have? A detailed guide is provided, however I think describing 60 apps is beyond the scope of this blog, so I'll limit this to a few. Firsty and notably OpenOffice features in the software list, and yes as the name suggest its free and also compatible with Microsoft Office files.

OpenOffice has come along leaps and bounds in its many years of development, so don't think that because its free its not going to work. What about a mind mapping software? Well also contained in AccessApps is Freemind again a rather good piece of software to get your students brainstorimg, keeping track of projects or essay writing to name a few. Or maybe they need to split up their podcasts or audiobooks into manageable chunks, Audiobook Cutter maybe just the answer. Perhaps you need to create your own web pages, but dont have the time to learn all the HTML? Then KompoZer is also available.

Where do I get the software?
It does mention the word 'registration', but this is simply an email address, nothing more and you can then happily download the full suite for free.

Hewlett Packard ends MScape software development...

A little bit of a shock, but sadly it looks like further development of the MScape software is coming to an end, as it has been announced that Hewlett Packard Development will be closing down the site on the 31st March 2010. Fortunately the existing software is sufficiently robust to still be useful, but we will have to see what they do with the final source code. It is claimed that downloads of the software will continue to be available from the (HP Labs) for a short while after this date.

...However, I did a bit of investigation and some of the original MScape developers have started up a new forum ( providing existing MScape users with some level of support. There is also a possibility (again the old MScape developers) will be creating an application that runs on other mobile technologies (such as Android or the iPhone) their website has a news letter users can subscribe to if required. Existing MScape users may want to keep an eye out for new developments. Ben Clayton touched on this software at the MScapeFest09 with his presentation on mscape 2.6 release & the Calvium platform. Create-a-scape by FutureLabs will also continue to provide details on using MScape, and will link up to the software suite download provided by HP when MScapers closes in March.