Archival Audio Recordings

August 23, 2007

A new source of music and audio recordings which can be used for educational purposes is the British Library Archival Sound Recordings.

The Archival Sound Recordings service is the result of a two-year development project to increase access to the Sound Archive’s extensive collections. When complete, it will make 3,900 hours of digitised audio freely available to the Higher and Further Education communities of the UK.

Part of the JISC Digitisation programme there is a lot of audio and music..

music

Note you need to be licensed to hear and download the clips, but it is free to FE colleges (and HE Institutions) to get licensed.


cn we uz mobz 4 LernN?

August 23, 2007

At ALT-C this year I am running a workshop entitled cn we uz mobz 4 LernN? or in English, Can we use mobile devices for learning?

The abstract is as follows:

Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs. The reality is that learners don’t always have access to what we as practitioners would like them to have to enable them to access their learning.

However they do have access to some mobile digital devices which could be used, these include mobile phones, iPods, mp3 players, portable video players, PSPs… These devices are used extensively for entertainment, but rarely used for learning.

Should we be exploiting the technology learners bring with them to the classroom? We live in a time where technology changes at an extraordinary pace. Despite increasing expenditure on computer equipment and associated peripherals, such as interactive whiteboards and projectors, many institutions still feel under-resourced and unable to meet the technological requirements demanded by the next generation of learners.

The investment in computer based technology requires a major annual expenditure for most institutions because computer equipment has a relatively short life-span and the requirements for running today’s cutting edge software changes rapidly. This can be a drain on over-stretched budgets and results in a need to look for cost effective alternatives.

In a world where mobile technologies are becoming increasingly mainstream, shouldn’t Universities and Colleges be exploiting these technologies and encouraging their use as part of the teaching and learning process?

Studies are beginning to show that mobile telephones, ipods, mp3 players and other portable devices can be used effectively to deliver learning materials. It should be possible for institutions to capitalise on the successful integration of these technologies into every day life and to exploit the teaching and learning potential inherent in the already familiar devices.

However can we really use mobile devices for learning, can they effectively provide a learning experience via a small screen? What about personalisation, interactivity, communication?

James Clay (at the WCC) researched and developed the use of mobile devices for learning. Now at Gloucestershire College of Arts & Technology (Gloscat) he is planning the embedding the use of mobile devices across the whole college.

This workshop will demonstrate some of the latest devices which can be used for mobile learning and allow participants to try them out and consider how they can start to utilise mobile devices to enhance and support learning in their institutions.

After introducing the concept of mobile learning participants will then be organised into small groups to look through a series of pedagogical case studies on mobile learning and see if they could apply these to their own institution.

Participants will then be challenged in small groups to create a series of exemplar scenarios which they could take back to their institutions to initiate or extend the use of mobile devices to enhance and support learning. These scenarios will then be shared with the community via the web.

I am looking forward to running the workshop as I feel over the years the concept of mobile learning has taken root in the FE and HE communities and has also moved beyond the idea that mobile learning is just about giving PDAs to students.

I will be demonstrating various mobile learning scenarios including the use of mobile video and Bluetooth as well as showing off my new Sony VAIO umpc, the UX1XN.


Embedding audio into PowerPoint presentations

August 22, 2007

If you have created a PowerPoint presentation and added some audio files, say an audio track or a recording from the British Library Archival Sound Recordings collection you may find when you upload the presentation to a website or your VLE that the audio files are now “missing”.

This is because PowerPoint has an option that for files bigger than a certain size it will link to them rather than embed them. This is fine if you play the presentation from your laptop or computer, but rather annoying for a learner who has downloaded the presentation from the VLE and is attempting to play the presentation at home.

In PowerPoint 2003

Tools > Options > General Tab

Embed files screenshot

Link sounds with file size greater than <insert a number which is larger than the size of the audio files being used>

I tested this on our Moodle VLE and it worked a treat. I would guess that later and earlier versions of PowerPoint have a similar option.


YouTube introduces advertising…

August 22, 2007

So there I was blogging about how we use video on our VLE where I did mention that some of the staff were using YouTube.

Now one of the nice things about YouTube was the “lack” of “in your face” advertising, however it is now looking like that could be a thing of the past!

Video advertising has started on the YouTube website, its owner – internet giant Google – has confirmed.

Google said it had designed the way the adverts work on the video-sharing website to be as unobtrusive and undisruptive as possible.

The adverts will begin 15 seconds after a user has started to watch a video, but only on 20% of the screen window.

Google said the advert would then disappear within 10 seconds if the user had not clicked to watch it.

Read more, source BBC.


Video on the VLE

August 22, 2007

I have over the years looked at how we can store and use digital video to support and enhance learning. Generally small video clips seem to work better online (just look at the success of YouTube) rather than whole programmes.

Though having said that I am currently enjoying the BBC Archive trial and the BBC iPlayer beta and on both of those I am watching full length programmes. However I am watching it for entertainment rather than educational – raises another question, is there a such a stark difference between entertainment and learning these days?

We are storing video clips we use on the VLE (we use Moodle) using the Flash Video format. Though some staff are using YouTube or TeacherTube.

Our Flash video generally streams “okay” both inside and outside the college.

I have found that using Quicktime H.264 encoded files results in a similar file size, but much better quality. This was particularly evident with the Italian Language programme I used as my example, where the audio was out of sync with the video when using Flash video which would have proved difficult for language students to follow the foreign language.

h.264 video

However it does require that the client have Quicktime installed and though this is a free download for users outside the college, the Quicktime player we have installed on college machines is not capable of playing H.264 content.

The main advantage of encoding H.264 was the time it took to encode the files. Though quality and final file size were also advantageous.

To encode a 15 minute MPEG2 Freeview recording took around 15 minutes on my iMac.

To encode the same 15 minute MPEG2 recording as a FLV file took about five to six hours… and then I needed to create a Flash object which contained the FLV video file.

We now have a 15 minute limit on files just because anything longer will take too long to download. For those video recordings/files we put them on DVD and allow the students to view them via a DVD player.

Longer term for larger videos we are aiming to have a media/video server, but this will be mainly aimed at streaming internally.


Sony VAIO UX1XN getting cheaper

August 21, 2007

When the Sony VAIO UX1XN was released in the UK it commanded a £2,000 price tag. This is a lot of money for a device the size of a PDA (even if it can run Windows Vista).

Last month I noticed my local Sony Centre had reduced the price to £1,600. Still expensive, but 20% off is quite a reduction. Such reductions usually imply that a new model is just around the corner.

On Amazon now you can get the UX1XN for just £1,199 which considering the features of the UX1XN (the cameras, flash hdd) makes the UX1XN seem like a reasonable proposition.

It will be interesting to see what and how Sony update this model with, with the next revision.

Sony VAIO UX1XN


Policy for filtering

August 21, 2007

I have heard that quite a few institutions are blocking or thinking of blocking mp3 files. The reasoning that “all mp3 files must be pirated songs and thus violating copyright and therefore should be blocked”.

I am assuming they also block other audio formats such as

AAC
WAV
OGG
MOV
WMA
AIFF
TTA
FLAC

In my opinion, filtering should be based on the content not the file type.

A blanket filter makes life easier for administration and creates problems for other users.


Laptops in exams?

August 21, 2007

With the A Level results last week and the GCSE results this week, it reminded me of how we use learning technologies to support and enhance teaching and learning, but when it comes to assessment, we almost always rely on pen paper and those dreaded exam conditions.

BBC news had an interesting opinion piece on whether learners should be able to bring laptops into (some) exams in order to be able to use the internet.

Open your laptops and begin…

Traditional exams also don’t allow for collaboration, working together, teamwork; all things which are essential in the workplace and for life in general.

What do you think?


Facebooking

August 20, 2007

We are in the process of looking at Facebook because our learners are wanting to use it to engage and interact with the college. It is in the main for the social and sports side of college (which is why a lot of learners come to (and stay at a college)).

Gloucestershire College Facebook Group
(note you need to be a member of facebook to access this page)

Facebook

It is in the main going to be used for marketing.

Whether we use it for teaching and learning…  well this is a different question.

There is already a college Facebook network (set up by the students)

The learners are already engaging with Facebook, we as institution need to consider how we are going to engage with both Facebook and the students who are using Facebook.

As for blocking facebook, we don’t.

We do however (for some reason) block bebo, however students (and one or two staff) are using bebo on a daily basis in college…

Interesting Facebook links

Facebook: Engage with it or leave it alone?

12 Ways to Use Facebook Professionally

Bluetooth helps Facebook friends

I personally think there is real potential to utilise social networking to support teaching and learning.

Our students network socially (in the offline world) already to support their learning, they meet for coffee, they create study groups, they share information and resources.

An online social network allows them to do this at a time and place to suit them, it also allows some students who would be discrimnated in a physical social network to engage.

An online social network will not replace an offline social network, it is not an “either or” situation, for me it is about supporting learners to learn.


New research report on 1:1 access to mobile learning devices

August 20, 2007

The University of Bristol is conducting research into the impact of 1:1 access to mobile learning devices at KS2 and KS4. Five schools, which are part of the Learning2Go or Hand-e-Learning projects, are being investigated.

This Development and Research project is using mixed methods to evaluate impact in terms of learners’ learning skills, attendance, behaviour and attainment. It will also review the success of the implementation and sustainability of the schools’ PDA initiatives and provide examples of emerging good pedagogic practice.

The final reports from the project will be available in Winter 2008.

The Summer 2007 Interim Report is available here.

Emerging recommendations include:

Implementation – policy

  • The initial implementation of mobile projects is logistically challenging.
  • The open negotiation of contracts of acceptable and responsible use with learners and parents can be very useful in clarifying issues and building mutual trust.
  • When learners expect devices to be used, they are more likely to bring them to school every day and keep them charged. When all pupils in a class have their devices with them, the learning benefits are optimised.
  • Teachers need to play an integral role in choosing software and content to ensure that it is relevant to learners’ needs. They are then more likely use the devices.
  • Where possible, all relevant staff – especially teaching assistants, ICT co-ordinators and teachers – should be provided with mobile devices.

Implementation – technical

  • It is beneficial to ensure reliable wireless connectivity.
  • It is useful to consider systems for dealing with breakages and temporary loss of use of devices. This may involve planning for temporary loan stock.
  • Systems for storage of and access to work need to be developed. Teachers and learners need to access digital work to provide and receive feedback.
  • Consideration can usefully be given to possible software solutions to teachers’ issues around observing process, tracking progress and formative assessment.

Professional development of teachers

  • Teachers benefit from having time to explore what the devices can do before integrating their use into planned learning.
  • Using mobile devices is likely to increase learner autonomy. Teachers need to ensure that learners are able to evaluate resources, think critically and reflect.
  • It is important to consider the ways in which mobile devices are integrated with other (ICT and traditional) tools in learning at home and at school.