Monday, 31 October 2011

Finalised user interface for Mohive for Hydrographic Academy

I have been working on finalising the Mohive interface for the Hydrographic Academy. Taking over from my colleague Becki Vickerstaff to incorporate the HA logo and tweak some colours. Based on a template designed by Alan Payne from Fugro (UK), we wanted to recreate the theme and colours of the Academy's existing resources, such as the blog that I have developed. Deciding on HA blue for the top and bottom finishers, the top being slightly thicker to compensate for the strong impact of the logo. I think this makes the interface aesthetically pleasing, providing user with a comfortable balance. It is quite important that interfaces are kept relatively neutral so as not to detract from the learning content. The menu system also incorporates the HA blue in the partial and completed icons, as shown.

This Mohive interface will house the main teaching and learning elements, the remaining will be housed in a bespoke web browser based interface 'Learning Zone' that Im currently developing. Details of the Learning Zone will be discussed in later posts.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Amazing under ocean features with the Hydrographic Academy

I was pleased to be able to attend a very absorbing presentation by the Hydrographic Academy's own retired Lieutenant Commander Tony Jenks. Tony has an amazing background and decades of experience in Hydrographic Surveying. I was really taken aback by the features at the bottom of our oceans. We are literally talking 'Mount Everest' scale features, over 1 mile down from peak to sea surface (never seen until now). Even Grand Canyon style rivers actually flowing! The article I wrote on the HA blog gives a little more insight, I can certainly recommend attending a presentation by Tony, if you see one advertised.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Free converter suite for video and stills

Looking for a decent video, sound or still image file converter?

I have been experimenting with a completely free piece of software for the last few months, that actually does a reasonable job of converting (also batch conversions) most video file formats to popular mobile and PC versions. Its called FreeStudio, but why is it free? According to the website they make their money out of advertising from an installation of a navigation bar that appears in your web browsers... However I will point out that it is possible to deselect the install of this web bar in the early stages, and would recommend doing so. When you see the option to install this web bar, ensure you have unchecked from the bottom up, none of them should be selected. If you do forget, it is possible to un-check it from showing in the 'settings' area of your browser.

Ok, that bit out of the way... The software is pretty comprehensive and there is even a screen capture software (currently without sound) that does a very good job. Most of the video converting areas are geared up to converting from DVD to video file formats, (you can only do this with DVD's you have permission to copy, of course)

The 'Mobiles' area allows conversion from just about any file format to a format specific to that device. Batches of files can also be converted to a reasonable MP4 video format using for example, the 'video to Android' and selecting a resolution that suited my needs. The options for quality of rendering: economy, standard or high are available. Standard is pretty good for most needs, if you are using a small screen economy is probably good enough for most. So far I can say outputs work great on my HTC android phone using standard quality setting.

There is nothing strictly for any video to PC use, although I actually found the MP4s from the mobile conversions worked well on PCs. I think the trick is to use the mobile converters and select an output resolution that is closest to your needs on the PC.

It's certainly worth looking through all the various options available, as the programmers have made a big effort to keep the interfaces simple and easy to use.

Yes you can capture some video streams from the web...What I will remind users is that capturing media from the web without the correct permissions from the original authors is most likely in breach of copyright (on many levels - hosting company, creators and owners). Ensure that there is some creative commons licence (or similar) associated with its use. The commonly used version is attribution-non commercial (which is fine for educational use). Avoid Share-alike, unless you wish to distribute your work with the same licence (it's a requirement for using this creative commons agreement I'm afraid). For all other materials, assume that you cannot use it to be on the safe side. The other option is to contact the owner and ask...

Oh and there is even some interesting 3D converters they are developing, but needs the traditional glasses for it to work... ;)

A big thank you to Freestudio for an excellent set of resources. I hope to see many more developments in the future!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Graphic for Marine Institute Newsletter

Thought I would share a collage I created in Adobe Photoshop CS5 to be used in a Marine Institute newsletter for the Hydrographic Academy. The article was written by Tony Jenks our resident retired Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander to share the accomplishments of the Hydrographic Academy team.

I used a series of photos at the bottom which I took during some student surveying on Plymouth Hoe with Dr Victor Abbott. For those interested, the green sea like wake is actually from Plymouth Sound, this is exactly as it came from the camera - I have not enhanced the colour...

Friday, 14 October 2011

CampusM for Plymouth University arrives on Android

CampusM has now been released at Plymouth University. It's a mobile application for both Android and iPhone. This was very much a collaborative development project with input from numerous staff across the University. Searching 'Plymouth Uni' within the Android Market is all that is needed! The application is ~1.7Mb installed, so not likely to cause too much of a dent in on board memory.

More details on this application can be found on the Technology Enhanced Learning blog post (by Dr Neil Witt).

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

How to get a Twitter widget (feed) into Sharepoint 2010

I had a recent request from an academic wishing to get a Twitter feed into SharePoint 2010. Easy? Well not as easy as you would think. Discovering that the script functionality is turned of in Telerik RadEditor for MOSS SharePoint web part. Why? Telerik actually strips Javascript but there is a work around. Sadly, this did not work for me, I suspect even with AllowScripts="true" function, it would still need additional adjustments at administrator level, but I did not have the necessary access.

However I did try this and it worked! - Use the 'Content Editor' web part:
  1. Right click and copy the URL of this uploaded text file (probably best to ensure this file is ‘read only’ for students! Or hidden).
  2. Select ‘edit page’ for SharePoint (top left - activated for editing in this example)
  3. Select any ‘Add a Web part’ area (probably right is best? its personal preference)
  4. Find and add the web part ‘Content Editor’.
  5. Select 'edit web part' then paste the URL link for the txt file from the documents area to the ‘Content Link’ area of the web part (shown top right).
  6. Apply and ok.
  7. It now appears in SharePoint as an active Twitter widget/feed.
Know issues are: running script in IE (in general), the user will be asked if it’s safe to run active content – this does not usually happen in other browsers. Annoying but I think most users are used to this now.

Worth a look: There are several flavours to the Twitter widget feeds, including the ability to use a keyword search, opening up other opportunities.

Thank you to Mark Pannell and Elena Menendez-Alonso for some excellent suggestions to help make this happen.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Hydrographic Surveying on Plymouth Sound - 7th October 2011

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I took a few more pictures on another Hydrographic Surveying trip. This time on Plymouth University's own survey vessel the Falcon Spirit, courtesy of Dr Victor Abbott and students (thank you again all). The Learning Technologist team also came along to observe the learning experience. It was a short 2 hour round trip of Plymouth Sound, where students were taught how to use a Van Veen grab, a Shipek and a corer. I think the pictures speak for themselves...

Where did we go?

View Hydrographic Surveying - 7th Oct 2011 Plymouth Sound in a larger map

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Students learn Hydrographic Surveying - 4th October 2011

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I went down to Plymouth Hoe today with Dr Victor Abbott to take some photographs of his students (Plymouth University) learning land survey techniques. These photos will be used in both the Hydrographic Academy and Dr Abbott's teaching. It was quite clear that all involved were enjoying the experience. Thank you to Dr Abbott and students for allowing me to capture the day.

Where did we go?

This is a rough route, the Garmin GPS was inside a backpack throughout the day!

View Students on Plymouth Hoe in a larger map