Technology and Radical Transformation

For those who are interested in the idea of technology and it’s relation to radical transformation of learning, I’ve read a couple interesting things recently which look at that idea.

Stephen Downes writes in his ‘Half an Hour’ blog as part of a discussion around the benefits of technology use in education. He sums up his own argument well, saying

  • “technology does not improve education by making what you are already doing better, it improves education by making what you are not doing possible.”

The other resource to explore is the latest issue of the ALT-J journal, entitled ‘The Transformational Impact of Learning Technology‘. In the introduction the editors write that in this issue they “look for radical change, rather than just doing the same at a different scale.” In this issue is the ‘Web-based lecture technologies and learning and teaching: a study of change in four Australian universities‘ paper, where the authors do not see in depth change and conclude that “technologies have been added on, rather than integrated into the curriculum”.

These three pieces all give us similar perspectives on learning technology. It’s something that enables you to do what you could not before, something that encourages you to completely rethink the way you do things, and something that should be properly integrated into learning design. These ideas give us room for thought and discussion about how technology could affect both our teaching and wider institutional strategies.

Quickly Updating the Files in Blackboard Using WebDAV

I’ve been asked how to update files in Blackboard using WebDAV, and though it worth sharing the instructions more widely. We have not used this method much and so are not aware if any problems and complications may occur. Let us know of your experiences if you do try and use it.

WebDAV allows quick updating of files on Blackboard through the familiar Windows Explorer interface. I’m not sure if this method will work on on other operating systems than Windows.

The first step is to find the URL for your Blackboard section. This video (which has no sound) shows the process in Blackboard version 8 which we currently use. Watch it full screen.

In Learning Edge/Blackboard 9.1, you can find the URL in a slightly different way.

When you have the URL for your Blackboard section, you can add it to your network places following these instructions.

Does blogging make better teachers, nurses, managers?

Andy Carvin's learning now blog on a screen at National School Boards ConferenceI’ve just started following someone widely regarded as a bit of an e-learning guru: Stephen Downes.   The first email update I received inspired me enough to create this posting.

Stephen pointed me to a post by Dean Shareski:

“ … suggesting that the way to make better teachers is to get them to blog.”

I’ve just read the article – perhaps something to consider across all professional courses at Edge Hill?  (Can I can hear ethical alarm bells ringing!?)

Comments sought, kindest regards,


Image by Steve Rhodes

“Have You Googled Yourself?”: Online Presence and Online Identity

We ran a session today for 3rd Year Students to introduce concepts around their online identity, which was approached from the perspective of them looking for work.

The supporting slides are linked to below.

"Have You Googled Yourself?": Online Presence and Online Identity

Firstly we noted the evidence that some employers search online for information about potential employees. The case for freelancers needing an online presence is more obvious, but was also mentioned.

We asked the students to search for themselves online using Google, Cluuz and a tool on the MIT site, and asked them to think about what they found about themselves and the impression that might give to the world.

This led on to talking about ways of developing a web presence either though a website, a profile on something like LinkedIn, or a collection of their accounts and published work on a Google or claimID profile.

Next we moved on from static resources and looked at the role of engaging with your community. LinkedIn have created the ‘brandyousurvey‘ quiz to help you think about the way you network online, and the students went through this. This led to looking at ways that you can connect with a global community such as writing a blog, reading and commenting on other’s blogs and real-time tools like Twitter for sharing resources and conversations. The links between these tools and lifelong learning were brought up.

Finally students were asked to think about steps that they want to take to develop their online presence, and make a plan.

Has anyone else had experience of running sessions along these lines? Do you have any advice that might help our sessions in the future?

“Facebook for books”

LibraryThing, a site described as “Facebook for books”, is a cataloguing and social networking site for book lovers.

Users can; create personal collections (up to 200 with a free account), discover new books (by tags, ratings, reviews and recommendations), and get involved in conversations about books. There is even a ‘local’ search so you can find book stores, libraries and book related events near by.

For more info visit the site and take a tour.

Did you know… that the Edge Hill Library Catalogue also uses LibraryThing for Libraries?

The new feature was added in the summer and gives you another way to find books in the Edge Hill Catalogue – browsing by tag.

When you find an item record in the Edge Hill Catalogue, if it’s been tagged, you’ll see a tag list at the bottom of the page – click on one of the tags to open the ‘Tag Browser’ window.

On the left you’ll see the item’s tags and related tags. On the right you’ll see items that match the selected tag. Click on an item to go to the library catalogue record or continue browsing by tag, by clicking on one of the tags shown or using the search box*.

*You can search for a word (adventure), a phrase (children’s fiction), or a combination of words and phrases (adventure, children’s fiction). You can also demote (-Harry Potter) or remove words and phrases (–19th century).

Take a look next time you use the Library Catalogue.

Tag Browser Screenshot

“Youtube meets Wikipedia”

WatchKnow-Logo looks like a great place to search for educational videos suitable for children from 3 to 18.

A large range of subjects are covered including, English Language, Literature, Maths, Science, History and the Arts. You can search by age and by category and there is an option to limit the results to ‘school accessible’ content only – so the videos you find can be accessed in schools where content from sites like Youtube or Google Video can often be blocked.

WatchKnow was launched last year (October 2009) by the co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger who describes it as “Youtube meets Wikipedia”.

The site aims to make finding high quality educational videos easy to find. So instead of needing to visit lots of different sites, like Youtube, Schooltube, Google Video, Teachertube, National Geographic, etc) and searching through educational and non educational videos you can visit just one site and search through only educationally relevant resources.

The site invites students, parents, teachers, librarians, and everyone interested in the education of children to use and help develop the resource. (Sign up for an account to get invloved.)

I did a quick search for children’s book ages 4-6 and found a large number of results; I particularly liked… Michael Rosen Performs ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ and The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

Take a look.

Open Courses and Web 2.0

Over the last few years there has been a massive amount of research and discussion about how new social web tools, sometimes referred to as Web 2.0, can be used in education.

Often though we get focussed on the tools and can miss some important reasons why these tools are so powerful, an example being the fact that they tend to grow in value as more people use them.

One online course that opened it’s doors to allow people who weren’t registered students to participate was Stephen Downes and George Siemens’ Connectivism course which we’ve mentioned before. The recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education talks about their experiences in more detail as does this research paper from 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010.

This course is interesting as we see some of the effects of running their course this way, with issues arising such as privacy, behaviour (one person joined to criticise the course) and inflexible licences for platforms like Blackboard (a problem we’ve struggled with in the past).

So clearly, seeking to using social web tools to their full potential is not without potential problems, but reading the research paper we can see courses and modules delivered this way can offer a different learning experience which might be beneficial. As George Siemens himself said “The question for me is … ‘what are the implications of people being connected in a certain way?'”. The Web gives us different ways of connecting as well as new tools, and it is worth thinking about situations where these new ways of connecting could enhance learning.

[image by umkcofficial]

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.

The PGCE Survival Guide

This free eBook: ‘The PGCE Survival guide‘ looks like it could be a really useful read for our Teacher Trainees.

It’s a crowd sourced book, meaning that the content was largely generated by the online education community – specifically twitter. The idea itself being that of Tim Handley (@tomhenzley /, who has only just completed his PGCE at the University of East Anglia.

It’s pretty impressive to learn that Tim is only just about to start his NQT year. My experience with teacher trainees leads me to believe that proportionally few truly understand and exploit the benefits of online technologies – and are so busy once they begin their programme, they struggle to find the time to learn.

I think this is an inspirational effort and great contribution to the educational community. It clearly demonstrates the benefits of engaging with a community of dedicated and committed education professionals online. I will be sharing it with the faculty here, hoping that it will inspire our trainees to investigate and embrace technologies like twitter, blogs and other online networks which can be so useful to them.


The Web is Mine!

The nature of the web has changed!

Users are no longer mere recipients of the static web, but agents and co-creators of the Social Web, or Web 2.0. Old school transmission is replaced by community feedback through comments, as in this article itself, and in some cases, content creators, editors and publishers.

wikipediaSome time ago David Wiley identified Wikipedia to have only two employees for its 15 million articles (over 3.3 million in English) – almost all of which have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. By you and me. Our teachers and our students. This demonstrates unparalleled cooperation amongst global communities of practice, and yet because of this very strength, many traditional academics scoff at the thought of Wikipedia, and other user generated sites, as reliable sources for educational content. However as a starting place for research into a topic, I struggle to find a more appropriate single source as Wikipedia. For example, researching teaching and learning theory leads me to Behaviourist approaches (Pavlov’s dogs and Skinner’s rats), through to the constructivist approaches of Piaget and Vygotsky. youtube Quick searches at other sources such as You Tube might return a Von Glasersfeld talk on radical constructivism. As an introduction to a topic, I now have a basis to explore books and dare I say it, peer reviewed research articles.

This is where the web is educational! The web, educates.

Is there a boundary where web content is simply web content, and educational content is somehow subcategorised into something else? No. The Web is the most powerful educational resource one could imagine. A source which pulls together the thoughts, opinions and research from a global community of users, is shaping our everyday lives. The Web has changed! Such a community could never be achieved, heard or published, without such digital communications. Exemplifying this very point, You Tube suggest 24 hours of user generated video are uploaded every minute.

It is these chunks of content; educational, reusable, repurposable, that brings me to my key point – the openness of the web. The openness of such content can impact upon teaching and learning like no other approach. Like no other technique, tool or technology. Creative Commons Through user generated movements such as the open source movement, came the Creative Commons – a series of licenses that users/authors/developers can freely apply to their works to legally allow re-use, re-mixing and re-sharing.

Listening to Peter Hartley recently, a Professor in of Education Development at Bradford University, I was intrigued at his openness towards his own knowledge, or limitations thereof. A classic study into Social Psychology by Dr Zimbardo, is an area of particular interest for Professor Hartley, and one in which over the years, he has crafted a thought provoking lecture. In the Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo researched ‘What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph?’ However, as Professor Hartley candidly admits, his knowledge in the topic is ‘limited’, for want of a better word. As he didn’t take part in the actual research, he cannot describe the feelings of inmates, the feelings of being dragged off the street and ushered into a police car, the feelings of prison guards watching over the jail cells. Professor Hartley can only convey his understanding, albeit of high regard. His challenging lecture of Zimbardos prison experiment has received somewhat of a facelift since discovering some open resources through the Open University iTunesU pages. There he was, Dr Zimbardo himself discussing his reasoning, his rationale. Leading commentators debating methodologies and ethics of the study. And in a few clicks, subjects of the research, inmates and guards, discussing and reflecting on their mental states throughout the experiment.

So how can anybody teach this topic any better than its primary researcher, Dr Zimbardo? The job of the academic in this instance, is to shape a session which asks the right questions of the learners, or even, encourages the learners to ask the right questions (of the research, other learners, the teacher). His job is to structure resources to engage learners and encourage interaction and reflection.

The richness of such a learning experience is unequalled, and yet there are many questions… But what does this mean for the role of the traditional academic? Who is comfortable with reusing other sources of knowledge than ones-own, with fears of credibility and legitimacy?
But none should reign through more than this: How can I restructure my lectures and seminars to take advantage of such powerful resources?

The answer lies in the changing practices within Institutions.

• The new academic and multi professional teams, where people work smarter, where the lecturer is not the font of all knowledge, but where curriculum development is a joint venture between academics, learning technologists, media developers and information specialists.
• Changing practices where ‘new’ skills are encouraged: those of searching the complex web, finding, reviewing and reusing appropriate resources, and structuring them in the learning environment.
• Changing skillsets in encouraging and harnessing learner exploration, reflection and discussion around topics.

Of course many of the high quality resources available come from those places with the resources to do so – the Open University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford, and other well funded projects. But what about the individual academic who does not have such wealthy resources at hand?

Search, explore, find, retrieve.
Create, share, discuss and debate.
Remix and repurpose.

The web is not a closed book with strict copyright. The web is mine. Yours. Everyones. Just look for the little cc logo :-)


Educational Technology Links: Cakes on Twitter

When writing posts for Cakes we have usually tried to create something original and substantial rather than merely passing on links to articles. However there is a place for a stream of news from which you can pick out interesting articles, resources and tools from, and so we have set up a Twitter account as a way of passing on links that we have found interesting and relevant.

You can keep track of our posts either by following @CakesLTD on Twitter or subscribing to the Web Feed in your feed reader.

If you are wanting to use a Twitter account in a similar way in your course, you can easily connect it to your Blackboard section or other course pages. This screencast (without any sound) shows you how. Try watching in full screen view.

[image by LittleMissCupcakeParis]

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence..

SOLSTICE Conference 2010: Videos

Back in June the SOLSTICE conference 2010 took place, and if like me you missed the keynotes you’ll be thrilled to know that they are now available online.

In the first keynote Professor Gilly Salmon points to the evidence and enablers for learning in Higher Education to be fit for purpose for the rest of the 21st Century.

The second keynote was by Professor Peter Hartley and looked back at 5 years of the SOLSTICE project.

If you enjoy those videos, there’s more to come! The 6th SOLSTICE conference is planned for 9th June 2011.

Making Paper Books Nearly as Good as eBooks

While I understand the sensual pleasures of holding a real book, smelling the ink in new books or various unidentified scents in old ones, and placing on a real shelf to ornament your house, I think that from a practical perspective eBooks make studying easier in many good ways. You don’t need to wait for them to be returned to the library, or travel there to get hold of them. You don’t need to spend time searching through the book to remember where the quote that you liked was. You just go online, read, and use the search tool to quickly find the section you remember allowing you to focus on the important aspects of studying and learning.

However, many of us still like libraries and paper books and want to get the most out of using them. The good news is that using barcode scanning apps on our Smartphones we can add enhanced functionality to paper books that previously only existed in eBooks. For example ‘Barcode Scanner’ from ZXing Team (which you can find in the Android Marketplace app store) makes it easy search through the text of a book by photographing the barcode on the book in question, and clicking on ‘Book Search’. You are then taken to the Google Books page for the book in question where you use the search feature to search through the text of that book. It’s like having an enhanced index. Or you could just go to the Google Books page directly, but that’s less fun.

I’m sure there are other good pieces of software for the various platforms, which do similar things. Anyone want to share their knowledge and experiences of these?

By the way, to find your way to Google Books for mobile devices, you can use Barcode Scanner to follow the link encoded in this barcode created at Kaywa.

[top image by guldfisken]

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Russell Prue – Keynote at RSC Annual Event 2010, Bolton.

Russell Prue

Russell Prue (image from Ewan McIntosh)

This is just a collection of notes I made during Russell’s keynote – not really a ‘Keynote’ as I’d expect it – rather a collage of interesting technologies wrapped between some poignant stuff.  Russell is difficult to pigeon hole – perhaps ‘Entertainer’ with an educational evangelist theme.  My jury is out on his radio stuff, which he seems to be pushing from all angles, but perhaps I can see the educational potential in communication, team work etc …

So – here’s the poignant notions that I think might be relevant to us at Edge Hill – and the bits in square brackets I’ve added in post-conference:
  • There are 27,000 unemployed graduates in the UK [the Guardian says up to 40,000 new graduates will fail to find employment within 6 months of graduating –]
  • Employers are looking for staff who are literate and numerate, both in traditional and new technologies.  Employers are looking for leaders who can motivate, help create stuff and innovate.
  • This led to Russell urging us to ditch the [Victorian] education system – to move to create autonomous ‘self led’ learners (but not suggestions about how).  Perhaps a new system may address the current learners (and future employers?) needs in the 21st century.
  • Technology can make a good message grow rather fast – ref Lauren Luke who started selling makeup on eBay in 2007, create a YouTube channel the same year, and now as a 60million following:
  • Plea to stop being precious about education – don’t ‘Ban’ YouTube, Skype and Face Book.
  • Students to be involved in the creation of an Acceptable Use Policy.  Further, Russell questioned the use of filtering systems to ‘protect’ children in schools – stating that the UK and France are the only two counties to use such systems.  [However, are these filtering systems more for the protection of the school than the child?]
I note these snippets:
  • The use of Twitter for organising people in real-time cutting-edge ways – like organising transport when European airports were shut down under the ash cloud (#AshTag, #GetMeHome and #RoadSharing) – days ahead of any provision from officialdom.  If you’re still unsure about Twitter – take a look a the common craft Intro to Twitter:
  • Free Skype call recorder –  Consider use for student assessment.
  • YouTube sharing profits from videos.  Russell showed a video created by a primary school community (pupils and teachers) – kids signed up the school for a YouTube channel, made a dance video, and have (unconfirmed) profited £10k from the advertising on the back of the video (Jai Ho Short Film):
  • Text to movie service – – ” … if you can type, you can make movies” – see:
  • Voki – a free service that creates speaking avatars that you can put on your blog, website, or BlackBoard course.  Voki is featured in this video from teachers tv (5:22 on):
  • Dr Who Trailer Maker:  I think this would make a thoroughly engaging activity for key stages 2-3 (9 – 13yrs).
  • Wordle – creates word clouds – see
  • Cheap GPS tracking devices that can record someone movements during an activity.
Other snippits too numerous to mention – listed on Russells technology blog:
Out of all of these, my favourite at the moment is – have a go … and get back to me with if you use this in your practice.
Apologies for a bulleted list – but I got Russell’s stuff as a mosaic – hence the format above.

Research into Virtual Worlds in Higher Education: The Cloudscape

Cloudworks is a kind of social network for educators, which enables people to create ‘cloudscapes’ – that is collections of links to resources (clouds) about particular topics. Clouds can be added to cloudscapes by anyone with an account and an included discussion tool encourages conversation around the resources.

I’ve been collating research on using 3D Virtual Worlds in Higher Education, and used Cloudworks to both make the list available and enable others to add to it. If you are interested in using Virtual Worlds like Second Life for learning and teaching, this list might be useful to you or you might like to develop the resource further.

If you’re not sure what we mean by 3D Virtual Worlds, have a look at the session notes for ‘The World of Virtual Worlds’ beginners guide session. This goes through definitions, examples, uses and contains lots and lots of links to resources.

Data Liberation and Online Learning

In my own formal and informal learning, free web based tools are really useful. For example Feedreaders like Bloglines are a quick and easy way to follow updates from a large number of web sites, journals, and other sources, and social networks on Ning are useful to keep in touch with communities of practice. In my teaching I use Google Docs to create and distribute materials, as each document can be given a web address and easily shared, and even worked on collaboratively.

However as we’ve mentioned before, nothing lasts forever and whenever you create important data using a tool or service that is out of your control you need to consider how you can back it up and export it to another service.

I write this now because Bloglines has been ‘down for scheduled maintenance’ for a while now which indicates it might be closed, meaning anyone who hadn’t backed up their data from it might have lost it. Also Ning has announced that it is closing down the free ad supported section of it’s business, which was used in a small way here at Edge Hill University and by many educators around the world.

Whenever you look at using at any online tool in your teaching or learning, the ability to back up and export your data to another service (you should always have a Plan B) is vital.
Update: Bloglines is back up now at 3pm BST on 23rd April… but still export your OPML file as the owners don’t seems to see it as a priority and it might not be here much longer.