Friday, 23 January 2009

My First Slideshare

I've uploaded the slideshow I presented at Durham to a site called Slideshare. It's free to sign up for an account there and, in doing so, you get some space to upload Powerpoint presentations to. This enables you to share your slideshow with people and receive feedback.

I've been a visitor to the site for a while and found it particularly useful for looking over slideshows from conference presenters I found particularly interesting. I signed up so I could "give something back" to the site by contributing my own presentations to the .

If you upload a Powerpoint file to the site, you can then embed the resulting slideshow into a blog, a wiki, a standard webpage... or even a Blackboard course, with relative ease. As I've done above. Aesthetically, this could be a nicer way of giving students access to your lecture materials.

Animations don't upload well, as you'll notice on a few of my slides. But I like the easy integration with the page.

I read the Terms and Conditions before uploading my presentation and IPR remains in the hands of the author, so far as I can tell. However, be aware that anyone can grab the code for embedding and put your presentation on their webpage -you can see I did this in previous posts with keynotes for the Durham Conference (here and here). This means the site is useful for viral publicity so long as you make sure you have your name on the front page!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Blog of the Week: The White House

Given yesterday's historic occasion, it seems only appropriate to make mention of The White House blog where you can read all about the inauguration, Obama's economic agenda, his plans regarding energy and the environment and the ways in which he intends to address other issues of the day. It's also a very nicely designed site.

When the time allowed, I had been following the blog at Change, the Obama Team's previous site. Obama may not only have been the first Presidential candidate to embrace the web but also the first to embrace Web 2.0. At Change, Visitors were able to submit ideas via the Citizen's Briefing Book - these ideas were published on pages where others could vote to move them up or down a scale and leave comments.

They also use plenty of discussion and video to liven up the site. Can you imagine such a thing happening if McCain had gotten in? Even if it had, can you imagine people engaging with it? It will be interesting to see how much of a difference it'll make. The Change site has officially closed now but you still see the previous postings by going to this site.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about a change as well - albeit of a smaller kind. Some people have been saying they can't see my blog so I'm thinking of moving from Blogger over to Edublogs where all the other learning technologists seem to be. Still, if I decide to move, I'll post a notice here. So, for now, keep watching this space.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


In an effort to get back into blogging, I've backposted up some notes from the Durham Conference. Day One is here and Day Two is here.

And for a more personal touch, here are some pictures of my niece Grace - born on 1st December and about the size of an egg - in varying states of wobbliness with different members of my family. Anyone who wants to hazard a guess as to who's who can leave comments below...






Friday, 9 January 2009

Durham 2009, Day Two

A photograph I took myself. Late at night. Inebriated...Click here for Durham 2009: Day One

No doubt some sore heads in the first presentation this morning after a three-course meal in Durham Castle, with lots of wine, followed by a trip to the nearby Undercroft bar... Still as this presentation was the usual Roadmap spiel from Blackboard it barely mattered. We still don't have a definite date for the release of Version 9 and while I'm sure the information they gave about Project NG was useful for some, I'm also sure I wasn't the only one who'd heard all this before.

They did mention that Blackboard was being re-branded and that three themes would be evident in upcoming versions: Blackboard Learn, Blackboard Transact and Blackboard Connect.

Following that, a forward-thinking talk from Sophie Paluch (College of Law), Kate Reader (Bristol) and Zak Mensah (TASI - soon changing it's name to JISC Digital Media) about mobile technologies in Higher Education. One thing I took away from this presentation was how much mobile technology has moved since it first came about - and how quicky. Sophie showed an advert on YouTube, and while I haven't been able to find the same one, this clip should give you an idea of the kind of progress that's been made.

Later I saw a presentation from Ralph Holland (Tyneside) and Merv Stapleton (City of Sunderland) on their comparison of e-portfolio tools and their usage in different (and sometimes novel) situations. One example Ralph gave of marines trying to maintain e-portfolios out at sea but being unable to due to lack of proper Internet access was particularly vivid. I would have liked to have seen more examples here but I spoke to Merv after the presentation and we're going to keep in touch and share experiences.

Lastly, we were treated to an inspiring final keynote from Paul Lowe; a very energetic speaker who runs an MA Photojournalism and Documentary course at the London College of Communication and has his own blog here. He talked about the course he runs, which recruits mid-career professionals and requires them to keep their own blogs for purposes of reflection. The talk itself was very inspiring and, as you'll probably notice from the slideshow I've embedded here, very visual - but the main thing I took away from it was that it didn't matter so much which tool his students practitioners were using but that how they used the tools to interact with one another that counted more.

Paul uses Blackboard but he barely mentioned it in his talk. And people on the course were allowed to use whatever blogging application they preferred. It seemed more important that they were paired up or put in groups so as to support each other during the reflective process (especially given that they were subject to a lot of criticism). Feedback was the crucial element here, I think.

Together with Andy's presentation the previous day, I came away determined to make more of an effort with my blog!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Durham 2009, Day One

So another year, another conference at Durham for Blackboard Users... Except this year, one of the keynotes is a user of Moodle! If that doesn't give Blackboard cause for concern...

The title of this year's conference is "e-Learning: A Reality Check - Do We Practice What We Preach?" and Andy Ramsden from Bath kicked the official proceedings off with a really stimulating and entertaining talk on whether or not e-learning has lived up to its early promise. A lot of his slideshow was made interactive by the use of PRS, which turned out to be an effective way of passing the main question on to us.

After letting the audience decide which way he should steer the talk, he went on to give us an outline of Collis and Moonen's 4-E model. As I understand it the model looks at the drivers behind the adoption of a new technology or approach at an institution and then compares these with factors in the institutional environment to determine a threshold, past which those drivers must push if adoption is to be successful. The drivers looked at include Educational Effectiveness, Ease of Use, and Personal Engagement, while institutional factors are all clumped together in the Environmental category - and there we have our four E's!

Andy went on to explain what practical steps they are taking to make sure these drivers are in place and strong enough - such as doing fewer case studies, and working more with a project blog. I also liked the suggestion that members of the e-Learning Team sit in on actual lectures and get a sense of teaching styles in place as well as what technologies are being used! And his tip to make the time to blog is something I'm following up at this very moment...

This was a good start to an interesting day. There were quite a few presentations on e-portfolios (my own included) a couple of which sought to readdress the definition of an e-portfolio, presumably because the lack of tools that actually meet the requirements mean learning technologists are now seeking Web 2.0 solutions. (My colleague Robyn and I have done some work on this too.) Peninsula Medical College are using Learning Objects' Expo wiki tool on their Emily Blackboard system for example.

Tim Neumann from the Institute of Education outlined some scenarios in which the requirements of an e-portfolio were very different and the work he has done provided some kind of explanation as to why there isn't yet a killer app when it comes to e-portfolios.

One final handy tip from Andy Cree who teaches Business Ethics at Teesside Business School. He talked about his course and about he used video podcasts to direct students on his course to areas of the reading list that might normally be overlooked. The short infomercial type videos he produced seemed to be a simple but innovative way of getting students to engage with other points of view.

The tip here is how he provided visuals to his audio commentary on the books - by using a site called morgueFile (I think he called it PhotoMorgue but I couldn't find that so I'm assuming he was mistaken). It's a site where artists, professionals and amateur photographers and upload their photos for anyone to use for free -so if you're looking for some images to enhance a presentation, be sure to have a look!