Jun 062008

University College London, the Open University and Trinity College Dublin are putting lectures onto iTunes.

Educational content is already available in the United States through the non-charging “iTunes U” section of the music downloading service.

But European universities are now joining, providing video and audio material for students to use on iPods or computers

Read More…

Jun 052008

So I really enjoyed the SOLSTICE conference today and my preso on institutional collaboration went really well. I really liked thinking about institutional spaces and whether we are trying to force new, web-based tools into old spaces and pedagogic approaches, without changing our curriculum design and delivery. e.g. Wondering why a blog or social network does not work when it is disconnected from the learning and assessment processes, so that we maintain a traditional studio or lecture plus essay/project approach, rather than a social networking/problem-based and patchwork assessment approach.

We are moving towards a position where e-learning professionals are confident enough to push progressive pedagogies – we need to accept that students are learning and developing literacies and self-efficacy and agency in new environments and networks. Moreover, there is a risk that the spaces and tasks that we use to develop academic literacies are disconnected from our students social spaces and networks and literacies. In delivering these types of connections we need to rethink pedagogic paradigms to focus meaningfully upon participation and user-centred pedagogies, in order to connect problems to actions and tools, and to connect networks or collaborative efficacies and concepts to individual outcomes and attainment.

The other points that struck me were the role of structured play in learning and teaching – how to make the use of technologies and the interactions they promote as “fun” [as noted in our e-learning strategy]. There is something to be said here for the themes and principles promoted by the EYFS and how they impact on our understanding of technology-enhanced learning. More will follow on that.

Finally, my good friend LP argued that my preso, which argued for the spreading of a social networking approach and culture across an HEI involving broad academic and academic-related teams working, sharing and collaborating through Web 2.0 tools, demonstrated that we were preparing an exit strategy from the institutional VLE. I argued that we were working on upskilling staff and especially programme teams to collaborate to make better decisions about the tools that they use in the curriculum. These may be Blackboard-based or Web 2.0 tools. This means that we have an institutional maturity, based upon acceptance, experience of and engagement with e-learning tools, that allows us to migrate technologies if we have to. Moreover, those staff are better able to make informed, devolved, empowered decisions now because of the spread of tools and people to advise on their use.

A move towards participation and local engagement means that I might become redundant!!

Jun 052008
The television is dying, some say it is already dead. In yesterday’s post there was mention of the the prospect of DVDs being displaced by download and streaming services, today the Beeb announced that they would start streaming BBC1 live on to the internet. This is not the first recently where the BBC has managed to stray into hot waters; the BBC iPlayer – the “watch later” service – has got it’s fair share of attention with Internet Service Providers (ISP) whining how much bandwidth drain the iPlayer has caused lately. I think the iPlayer is a great service which allows you to watch progammes that you have missed on television.

ISPs should now brace themselves, and get a move on with upgading their networks; yesterday Apple announced full-length movie downloads via iTunes to iPods in the UK at competitive rates to DVD’s. What next? Live stage performances on the Internet too?!

Jun 042008
by David Evans – British Computer Society

What will happen if (paid for) tv/film downloads go mainstream?

I don’t usually like to dabble in technology/market prediction, but I was intrigued by an article in the Guardian today about the prospect of movie downloads displacing DVD as format-of-choice. As the article points out, people still like having something physical to buy/give, and while it may be easy (but perhaps not convenient) for me to get it to the TV screen, it’s not easy for the less technically literate. The BBC iPlayer has undoubtedly created a wave of people watching TV in new ways, so it takes little imagination to see it would be possible to make it easy for the masses.

Read More…

Jun 022008

A great blog on the Guardian [again] Bad Science site about determined bloggers breaking news stories ahead of the mainstream press:, demonstrating “timeliness, accuracy, relevance, effort, ethics, and stupid names”. The power of user participation in supporting the vulnerable and in taking meaningful action in the world. For me this keys into the progressive pedagogies demonstrated by Paolo Friere, John Dewey, Ronald Barnett et al., where our ability to seize technologies for purposive action in a connected, social world underpin productive change.

May 292008

Childs play, remember those days well and were still playing it! In a sense this describes how some new piece of technology can be the flavour of the month (actually we should say week, looking at the rate I get email updates on new tools!) or seen to be the ‘tool’ that we can make the best use of in the educational context – and why not? Open up your tool box (your PC!) and see what is available for you to use, a tool may be viewed as of great use to one and be used more in their ‘trade’ in comparison to another. To choose the appropriate tool you will need to have knowledge about how the tool works so you know as to how and where it can be applied (learning task).
My thoughts trailed this way as we are looking into SMS technologies and possible Facebook integration. Maybe this can be raised as part of discussion of informal/formal learning spaces, we can be seen as tagging on ‘spaces’ ‘devices’ as students happen to be using them – mobile phones– tag, social network space – tag, ipod – tag! I’d be interested to hear from students how and which ‘space/device they prefer to be tagged on the most by us! I guess it’s a matter of which learning activity or notifications works best in using these tools. I hope we can elicit this type of data when we make use of such technologies available. We really need to hear the student voice on this e.g. would they want to be texted about every assignment deadlines? I guess with our scale of audience and practitioners the onus has to be left to the tutor to decide. I would hate to think that we would impose (and I don’t think we will) a rule at any level. Issues – Evaluating the effectiveness of these technological tools that surface in our context, which tools are applicable and can be used for which learning tasks? And dare I say processes (contacting students) – through participation and collaborating together this has lead to a number of pathways and opportunities and great developments. For some staff the current technology that they are using for their teaching if not used for some time gets forgotten and thus need refreshing (its human nature, we all forget). We need to be wary and understanding that the array of what’s available does not become a blur. ‘Students happen to be using them’ – this says something about our cultural change in this technological age. We need to be clear on what our role is in this so that we are not ‘gate crashing’! So the process of having pilots, student focus groups are essential to see the viability and usability of applying any ‘e tool’ for learning and its great that we are listening to what students are saying about these tools (i.e. Malcolm Andrew’s Podcast student evaluations – they provide the key as to where the tool can be best applied i.e. revision, lecture synopsis for which we can make recommendations. Alas, let’s not forget the ‘academic’ they too will have to know about the applicability and suitability of the tool and have their say after all it’s their ‘trade’…

May 282008

According to the Guardian Networking blog [you spotting the theme to today’s postings? Well, ok it was in the Observer] amateurs who move towards making a living from their on-line presence risk attacks from readers who make it their business to critique self-publishers [self-publicists?], who then are left burned out and blogged out. The article goes on “The backlash started in earnest last year when Andrew Keen, a former dotcom entrepreneur, published Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, an attack on what he sees as a noisy crowd with little interesting to say.”

I’ve little sympathy for Keen – publicly and professionally we have the ability to avoid, ignore, forget about the babble, in the same way that we can avoid Heat magazine and the dross of the Premiership if we want. However, the telling point for me is enabling our staff and students to understand how to present themselves in a context of risk that they recognise and accept, be that using Ning.com or facebook, blogger or Twitter, or Scribble. Publish and be damned.

May 282008

Well it might not go that far, but the Guardian Technology blog has highlighted how the spat between Viacom and YouTube is resonant of the “increasing conflict between those seeking to protect copyright and advocates of the internet as an open communications medium. Mike Masnick, a copyright expert on TechDirt, said media companies still thought of the internet as a content platform, whereas internet companies saw it as a communications medium.”

Aren’t we all mashing our approaches as well as our applications these days? Apparently not. Will all this case law, or out of court settlements maintain a happy equilibrium? Maybe – I guess it depends on how much we collectively value ownership.

May 202008

Yesterday, I ventured to the Centre for Active Learning, situated in a tranquil little garden area at the University of Gloucestershire for the ‘And they all learned happily ever after…, event on digital storytelling in Higher Education

The day began with an overview of the pathfinder project, although the team had prior experience of using digital storytelling. Academics showed and discussed examples from a range of areas including Landscape, Accounting, Sports studies and Tourism. These included a variety of individual and group projects developed over different time-frames, from induction week to a full term. By all accounts, feedback from students has been positive. Examples focused mainly on personal stories, but they also involved critical storytelling within the discipline. The digital elements refer to the use of image, audio and video in merging written and oral approaches, although the focus is more on the story telling than learning high-tech skills. The potential pedagogical benefits are numerous and include: enabling analysis of self in relation to subject/material; encouraging cooperative activity; making sense of experience and giving voice and building confidence etc

One interesting discussion point revolved around criteria for assessing such work and the equivalencies in different presentations. Some participants suggested devising a process/product combination (in other words requiring a reflective piece to make the design and learning process more explicit), although others thought this unnecessary, believing this might detract from the story as a valuable resource for sharing and reflection beyond the actual assessment needs (and assessment audience). I suppose it depends on the subject and rationale for creating the stories. Jenny Moon suggested including students in deciding the criteria for assessment.

This led well into the interactive workshop led by Jenny Moon (Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, Bournemouth University) in which we examined the elements of reflective writing through ‘graduated scenarios’. Building on her extensive research into reflective writing and critical thinking, Jenny also considered the growing use of the term story in higher education suggesting that stories will become even more prominent. I picked up lots of interesting ideas, in particular, using literature to illustrate stories relevant to the subject area, as well as using digital storytelling to help link theory to practice.

I particularly got a sense of the way in which digital storytelling can provide motivating and creative activities for learning and reflection and, crucially, can enable the incorporation and development of a range of digital literacies.

In short then, I really enjoyed the day and I’m just sorry I couldn’t stay for today’s practical session.