Monday, 30 June 2008

Blog of the Week: Language Log

Not that I'll be picking a blog every week or anything... But thought I'd point to Language Log here, a site I visit fairly regularly, which always has something interesting to say about the state or nuances of our (or, for that matter, any other) language...

Three highlights from the past week:
  • Beware of "Nerdview"! This is particularly aimed at e-Learning people I suppose (or perhaps just me?) and is especially timely as it's e-Learning Week here at Reading, where we run a number of workshops over five days in which staff can receive training, help and advice on using our VLE (Blackboard) and other tools out on the web (for the purposes of teaching and learning). This post (and this one too) should emphasise the need for those who spend a lot of time with the technical to take a step back when talking to those who don't.
  • A lot of students use Facebook and anyone who has an account and checks in regularly will already be aware that it's constantly being updated. This posting at Language Log details a subtle change for the better, which, though small, I'm quite pleased about. And the end of the post is reassuring; it's good to know Facebook are taking the complexities of identity, both real-world and digital, into consideration...
  • And, finally, a cartoon... The original post is about "talkativeness" and mentions gender but I don't think I need to explain how it might also illustrate generational differences concerning communication and technology... Shame it won't fit into my squashed blog; click to expand/enlarge...

Cartoon strip called 'Zits'

Friday, 27 June 2008

About this blog

I finally got around to sorting this blog out! Well, sort of... It still needs work.

Basically, I've been stockpiling stuff to go up for a while but rather put it all up with today's date, I've decided to back-date it. So for notes on meetings/conferences/etc I attended before today , I'll date it around the actual date of the event itself. Every post dated before this one will have a footnote formatted a bit like this:

[This post is back-dated. dd-mm-yyyy]

That date at the end being the date of the actual posting. Whenever I back-date posts, I'll create a new post to explain there's something new to the blog up with links. A bit like this one:

I can't really think of any other way of doing this at the moment. What do you think? Feel free to use the comments link below to leave me some advice! It's open to all...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Preview of Previews...

One thing that's always annoyed me about the Blackboard Basic Portfolio is the fact that if you want to see your portfolio you have to go right out of it back to your list and then click on the title to open it. I suppose you could leave it open in a different window and then modify and refresh...

Not good enough for me though. I've decided to add a "Preview" button to the main portfolio menu. It's written in from the left hand panel (which I control) using a bit of Javascript. This is what it looks like:

See the difference?

The whole lack of preview for templates when you go to add an Item annoyed me too - it's like you're going into a new page blind, with no support when you get there. So I've added a "Preview" button to that too:

When you click the button it detects which item you've selected from the drop-down list and then opens another window with a Preview HTML file in it. I'm still working on how to get some sort of div in there that warns users that they are in fact looking at a preview but I think it's a small step towards making the interface more user friendly.

[This post is back-dated. 27-06-2008]

Thursday, 19 June 2008

"Enhancing the Student Experience"

Eggh, up before 5.30am this morning and on my way to London by 7.15 but all for a good cause: to go to the BLU Conference at the University of Hertfordshire. My colleague Maria was presenting on behalf of Reading there and is no doubt getting smashed at the dinner tonight. I only went for the day though, staggering home this evening so I could blog on the following delightful topics...

  • A presentation on vlogging by a student at Hertfordshire called Miles Dyer, aka "blade376", who talked about his experiences, both learning and personal, on YouTube. Considering he'd never presented at a conference before he came across as very cool and engaging - but then he has appeared on More4 News, not to mention the millions of views his videos have got on YouTube itself, so he's experienced at appearing in the public eye. Here he is, giving a quick summary of the conference last night:

    His talk generated a lot questions in the after-session, mostly about the specifics of fitting Miles' experience into an educational environment. Could it work within the "enclosed" setting of the university? Would asking students to vlog sterilise the process; make it unexciting? Miles himself said that he tended to post videos when he was inspired by something - which is presumably why his vlogs are so popular, as they're never forced. Essentially, I think successful vlogging (and I'm guessing, having never vlogged myself) would be opportunistic and spontaneous - but, of course, the opportunity has to be there in the first place...
  • The keynote delivered by Betty Collis looked at how the company Shell have developed a learning vision and strategy within their workforce and she also looked at the similarities and differences between learning in Higher Education and the corporate sector. She and her husband produced a booklet subtitled "Technology as a Learning Workbench" which is available from their website here.
  • I saw a talk in the afternoon from Trevor Barker (also of Hertfordshire) who explained that we needed a new student modelling techniques to map onto the skills inventory emerging from use of Web 2.0 technologies. I couldn't possibly summarise the talk here but it left me with the feeling that I've still got a lot reading to do around pedagogy in general and, furthermore, that there's still a lot of work to be done by everybody in exploring the relationship between technology and skills.

Now I need to eat and sleep!

[This post is back-dated. 27-06-2008]