ALT-C 2010 Day #1

September 7, 2010

So it’s Tuesday the 7th September and I am in Nottingham for ALT-C. It’s a very busy day with lots on and I have a fair bit to do too.

The conference opens at 10.00am and then Donald Clark delivers the first keynote of the conference.

He is intending to be controversial and I need to pay attention more so than usual as I will be on a panel later discussing the keynote.

…there’s a dark secret at the heart of HE that really holds it back – the lecture. Apart from being pedagogically suspect, many are badly delivered and few are recorded. Donald will do some deconstruction of the lecture in terms of its history, lack of relevance in the terms of the psychology of learning and serious limitations for students.

This may well be controversial for the largely HE audience at ALT-C whose institutions are dominated by lectures.

And before you ask, yes he is aware of the contradiction!

After the keynote there are many parallel sessions and as per usual a fair choice of subjects and topics. I quite like the idea of the mobile learning demonstrations, but I do know a fair bit about that subject so will probably not go. The Fun with ‘Faux-positories’ sounds like  a different and interesting workshop.

This workshop will give participants a chance to work hands-on with Diigo and Netvibes to develop their own resource sharing and dissemination sites for their departments, communities, or classes.

Alas it was cancelled due to illness.

I do also think the two e-book short papers would be of interest and useful for the symposium later on.

After lunch I am as I had said part of the facilitated discussion on Donald’s keynote. I suspect this will prove quite popular once the keynote has happened!

Like the morning the afternoon parallel sessions offer a wide choice.

I think the Changing staff development short papers will be useful. The demonstration on copyright would also be of interest, less sure about the advertising demo in the same session.

I am really liking the look of the Institutional changing paradigms short papers session.

I would probably attend the Student voice expectations short papers session, however from the abstracts it looks like it may have too much of an HE focus to be really useful.

After a range of other sponsored presentations I will be running my e-book symposium.

After dinner there is a range of F-ALT activity and the EduBloggers meet up in the city centre.

As is usual for ALT-C a very packed and busy day.

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ALT-C 2010 Day #0

September 6, 2010

So it’s Monday and I am off to Nottingham for ALT-C.

For FE this is a particularly busy time and as a result not many of my FE colleagues will be attending the conference which is a pity as there is so much they could contribute to this conference and so much they could take away. I am lucky in that I have a fantastic team working hard in the libraries, likewise most academic staff I work with are working their socks off with enrolment and induction. As a result though it is a busy week for FE, it’s usually quite a quiet week for me, so in many ways an ideal time for a conference!

For me that is the real value of ALT-C. I am usually presenting in some capacity (and this year is no exception) and I always learn something new that will help me in my day to day role at the college.

I am driving to Nottingham, slightly wary, as the last time I was in Nottingham three years ago, my car was broken into and I had a load of stuff stolen. This time I am taking a lot less stuff (as I am not doing a mobile learning workshop this time) and I am expecting to rely heavily on my iPad (rather than a laptop) for my conference amplification and back channels.

I am involved in three sessions this year. The first is being a panel member in a session that responds and feedbacks to Donald Clark’s keynote. The second is my e-book symposium which is generating some interest, though nowhere near the hype and expectation of the VLE is Dead last year. I am also part of the Guerilla EdTech workshop which will be fun.

The networking and social side of ALT-C is also good and it will be nice to touch base and make contact with old friends and new ones too. Social networking services like Twitter, blogging (and in my case Facebook slightly) have ensured that contacts made last year, and at previous ALT conferences have been sustained and built on.

So looking forward to what will be an interesting conference.


Do you like books or do you like reading?

September 4, 2010

17:15 – 18:15 on Tuesday, 7 September in Room 1

eBooks and eBook Readers bring new challenges and new opportunities for learning technologists. Sony has the eReader, Amazon the Kindle and now Apple has the iPad. Publishers are now offering more titles as eBooks. There is a huge growth and interest in this new medium. Some learners prefer physical books and the feel of paper, but do eBooks have the potential to offer more to the reader? Are eBooks a new way for learners to access information and learning? Are they just a digital version of print, ignoring the affordances of new technologies? This symposium will explore the potential of eBooks, the role of eBook Readers for learning, and the ways in which learning technologists can utilise eBooks to enhance and enrich the learning experience. The panel consists of: educators who have used eBooks with learners; researchers who have researched the use of eBooks in education by learners; publishers who have designed and developed eBooks; and learning technologists. Each member of the panel brings their experience of embedding the use of eBooks with learners. These experiences have been through using eBooks in the classroom and in the library with learners. Researching user behaviour in the use of eBooks and designing eBooks for learners. The session will commence with an overview and introduction of eBooks and eBook technologies, through mobile devices such as the iPad and using the browser. The members of the panel will each deliver a presentation on their view of the future of eBooks. They will pose questions to the audience to stimulate debate and discussions. Panellists with the audience will debate the strengths and weaknesses of eBooks and the various eBook Readers available. They will discuss whether eBooks offer new pedagogies or reinforce existing ones. By the end of the debate participants will have had an opportunity to discuss the advantages and challenges that eBooks bring to education and the role they could play in the enhancement and enrichment of learning.

Music: Comic Plodding by Kevin MacLeod Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0” http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


100 ways to use a VLE – #12 Keeping a teaching journal

September 3, 2010

We never have enough time.

Teaching is a challenging profession and speaking to many teachers and lecturers one of the key issues that comes up again and again is time, or more specifically the lack of time.

I have talked about time before on this blog back in 2007. There are many productivity tips out there on the web, but one way to save time is to stop reinventing the wheel. Once you have been teaching for a while it has to be said that you will be teaching stuff you have been teaching before.

Even when qualifications change, or we have a change to syllabus, most of what we teach doesn’t change.

Before I did all this e-learning stuff I was a business studies teacher. When I started working in FE, my students were doing the BTEC National in Business Studies, we then moved to the AGNVQ in Business before moving back to (a different it has to be said) BTEC National in Business. Through those changes, though the qualification changed and the syllabuses were different, the topics and subjects were basically the same with marginal differences. So despite changes, much of what I taught was the same from year to year.

For example, demand and supply analysis is pretty much the same now as it was then and ten years previous to that!

What made life easier for me was keeping a teaching journal of what I was teaching, what worked well and what didn’t. This was a practice I picked up undertaking my PGCE and FAETC. So where is that journal now? Probably thrown away! It was in a lever arch file I left at City of Bristol College when I left there in 2000. Someone who could use that content now won’t be able to access it. Nor can I use it now either.

By using the VLE as a store for my teaching journal, I could have kept copies of my notes, resources, reflections on practice all in one place. I could have referred back to it as and when I needed to. If I wanted to I could much more easily share that content with other practitioners in my teaching department. They could add their own commentary and notes if they used my stuff. If I ever moved on, the valuable content would still be there on the VLE and of course as it was in a digital format I could take a copy with me.

There are other online places to store a teaching journal, a blog for example, however the VLE with its range of functions can allow the teaching journal to be much more than just a reflective blog. You could use image galleries, voting, forums, etc… as part of the journal.

Maintaining a teaching journal makes a lot of sense for teachers, there are many places to keep that journal, on the VLE can be a possibility that shouldn’t be ignored.

Photo source.


New iPod touch

September 2, 2010

Apple have announced their Fall (or Autumn) line up of iPods for the holiday season. In what is becoming a traditional annual announcement, Apple showed is their new iPod shuffle that looks like a second gen model (it has buttons), a new square iPod nano that has got smaller, lost the camera and video playback of the previous version and a new iPod touch that now has many of the features of the iPhone 4G.

The new iPod touch probably has the biggest interest for education users and as it now comes with a camera as well as a much nicer display will be much more useful for various educational activities. Moving from the iPod touch to an iPhone eighteen months ago I was totally impressed with the impact having a camera had, though the iPhone 3G camera was pretty weak as cameras go, it allowed me to do so much more than just having the older iPod touch. The cameras on the 3GS and 4G iPhones are even better and are great for shooting video or taking images. I am looking forward to using the new HDR feature on the iOs 4.1 upgrade available next week. However the new camera on the new iPod touch is not in the same league as the iPhone 4G camera or even the original iPhone 3G camera! It will be okay for shooting video and taking low quality stills. However this is probably going to be okay for most education users. You can always use a proper digital camera for taking photographs, the iPod touch is so much more than just a camera.

iOS 4.1 does make the iPod touch more than just a camera or a media player, with all the apps available, wifi and the web at a touch of the button, there is so much about the iPod touch that makes it idea for enhancing and enriching the learning experience. For some learners this will be their “main” computer.

The new model has increased in price with the base 8GB model now at £189, though it should be remembered that the previous 8GB model was the previous generation (i.e second generation) and was re-introduced alongside the third generation iPod touch in September 2009. This new 8GB model is the fourth generation iPod touch; maybe that accounts for the extra £30! Over that 8GB model it has a lot more memory, 512MB compared to 128MB, a faster processor and a better battery life.

The key really is will learners be buying this device? Probably.


New Sony Readers

September 1, 2010

I started writing my previous blog post on the price of Sony Readers last week, but only published it this morning.  Andy Kemp on Twitter told me that today Sony have announced their new range of ebook readers and linked to the story on Engadget.

Sony’s tweaked its entire Reader line up — the Pocket, Touch, and Daily editions — by adding improved optical touchscreens, speeding up page turns with E Ink Pearl displays and slimming down the brushed aluminum hardware. Beyond that, it’s also updated its Daily Edition with WiFi — there’s still no connectivity options for the other two.

Engdget have reviewed all three new models with the cheapest reader now $179 which here in the UK would translate to roughly £136 so the cheap models in Waterstones are still pretty good value for money as is the new Kindle from Amazon at £109.

Listening to TWiT on the way into work this morning a lot of discussion by the panel on the pricing of the Kindle and an expectation that the price would drop again. Remember when the Kindle first came out it was $399 and now is just $139. In a year or two it might be $40 and after that free when you buy four or five books from Amazon!

It is an interesting time for ebook readers.


Just £99.99

September 1, 2010

When the Sony Reader first caught my attention it was over £200.

Today you can pop into Waterstones and get one for just £99!

This is quite a dramatic price drop and as a result I suspect quite a few more people will consider purchasing one of them as an impulse buy.

The more net savvy consumers are probably likely though to purchase the £109 Kindle from Amazon that does a very similar job but also comes with WiFi.

Though some people will wonder about buying a dedicated e-book reader, there are many advantages to these devices for users and learners.

One way to think about ebook readers is thinking about how mp3 music players, such as the iPod, fit into our lives.

Yes we know listening to CD or vinyl on a dedicated sound system is always going to be a preferable experience to listening to music through earbuds on an iPod.

Yes we know that we can play music on our desktop computer and it has a lot more storage than any iPod!

Yes, it is entirely possible to copy your music collection to a laptop and carry that around with you so you can listen to it any location.

Yes listening to the Now Show live is nice on the radio, even though we know we can download it as a podcast.

What the iPod brings is a combination of convenience and access that is different. The ability to play music when and where we want to is what makes it different, a dedicated stereo system is great for music, but it’s not portable. It’s not always easy to use a computer to listen to music, for example while on a bus, again the iPod makes life easier if you want to listen to music while travelling. Podcasts of radio programmes again make it easier to listen to shows such as the Now Show, the News Quiz at a time and place to suit us, which may not be when the show is broadcast.

Despite the quality and storage arguments, I suspect most people reading this blog have an mp3 player or an iPod.

eBook readers are not there to replace books, they are useful in providing a reading experience at a time and place to suit the reader. Yes paper books have their advantages and can be a wonderful reading experience, however try carrying ten or more at any one time. Being able to access your library whilst travelling, on holiday, anytime on the move is what makes the eBook Reader so compelling. With the Kindle the ability to quickly download a book when you want to read it is a real advantage over buying paper books that would either normally require a visit to the bookstore or ordering from Amazon.

Though it is possible to read e-books on a computer or a laptop (or even an iPad) the e-book reader isn’t there to replace that experience, but allow a more portable way of carrying and using e-books. I have all my music on my iMac, but I still use an iPod to listen to music. Likewise I may read e-books on my laptop, but having those books on an e-book reader is an addition to how I use e-books not a replacement. I can use my e-book reader alongside my computer so that it acts as a reference device, in the same way I currently use paper books when writing or researching on the computer.

I do believe that e-book readers have their place in how we access information and knowledge. I do think at this time we don’t know how best to use those e-book readers and as with music and video these new ways will arrive over time. At around a hundred pounds, e-book readers are going to be much more affordable and I can see many people finding one under the Christmas Tree come December. Some will ignore it, some will sell it on eBay, but many I believe will start to use it and use it a lot to read books.