Next week is the 2014 Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference in Dublin. The programme looks very comprehensive and has 6 streams in motion, which means it’s going to be very difficult to attend and cover all the sessions I want to attend – which means I’m going to have to be very selective about what, and who, I see.
Here’s my first impressions of what I will try and see -
Wednesday, April 30.
Keynote / Prof Stephen Heppell. I have met and talked with Prof Heppell on numerous occasions (at Learning Without Frontiers in 2011 and during my time working at Bournemouth University) and know that his unique perspective and style will make this keynote both interesting and hugely profound on the issues affecting education today. This is one session you do not want to miss. Continue reading →
“Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?”
The results are still being discussed and dissected today, almost 6 years after he first announced and presented his findings. And now Sugata Mitra is back, building on this pioneering work, with his new TED Talk “Build a School in the Cloud” (below).
Day two of the Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference started with this extremely useful insight into the roadmap Blackboard is taking with the ‘Learn’ product, as well as Blackboard’s own opinion on the conference theme: “Make Do or Spend?”.
Greg Ritter (@gritter), Director of Product Management with Blackboard Learn, showed Blackboards perspective on ‘the challenges ahead’ and on the conference theme, ‘Make Do or Spend?’. Greg showed us, and discussed:
Blackboard Analytics [product]: extract student data, from both Blackboard and Institution student-records systems, for use in reporting to different stakeholders.
Amazon Cloud Player (iPhone, iPad, iPod): If, like me, you download music from Amazon you already know that the DRM-free files load easily into iTunes and play nicely (and with good quality sound reproduction) on all iOS devices. Recently available in the UK is the Amazon Cloud Player which enables you, for free, to access all the music you downloaded from Amazon, ever.
Note: I prefer Amazon for downloading music as its (a) usually cheaper than iTunes, (b) better choice on compilation & special editions, and (c) DRM free MP3 files (not AAC, which don’t play on all devices).
So, to the app …
“Your music. Everywhere. Listen to your music collection from the cloud on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad anywhere you are. You can download or stream your library from the cloud – or play the music you already have on your device.”
You have the ability to match your other downloaded music from other sources (iTunes included) and have these available through the Cloud Player, but you are limited to 250 tracks on the free services – if you want more then you can have the Premium account for £21.99 per year and up to 250,000 tracks! That’s a whole lot of music, and more than iTunes offers at the moment.
You can link up to 10 devices to your Cloud Player.
You can create your online library to match the music stored on your computer(s) by using Amazon’s “scan and match” technology, which searches a catalogue of 20 million tracks.
All matched songs are automatically stored by Cloud Player in high-quality 256 Kbps audio.
All Amazon MP3 purchases, including music that you bought before the Cloud was introduced, are automatically saved to Cloud Player for free! Nice
What is also great about the Cloud Player is that you can access it from any web browser so you can have your music playing on your desktop while you work (very useful if you’ve not got much battery life left in your device).
At the moment I’m using my iPhone for recording and editing video so, as I’ve only got the base 16GB model, I deleted all my music and quite a few apps to free up storage space … this app gives me the ability to at least access some tunes.
One aspect of the App that I’m really impressed with is that it continues to play the music even when you start using other apps, it leaves it playing the background. This may be a small thing but other apps that I’d hope to continue in the background don’t and, when you go back to it again you have to wait from them to re-start and re-load the details, often losing where you were in the process.
This week I am attending the ‘Designs on eLearning: Crowd and Cloud‘ conference hosted by the University of Arts, London. With presentation on a mixture of eLearning techniques based around the inclusion on cloud technologies, the delegates can listen to experienced innovators to gain knowledge of (good) practice and experience from those utilising different aspects of technology in their teaching and learning.
Whilst obviously aimed towards those who are involved in teaching the arts or design in some shape or other, there is a whole host of experience and knowledge that everyone can take away with them if (like me) they’re not from this type of background.
I am not going to cover each and ever session I attend, the list and this post will be too long. This is the first in a series of posts that highlight what I liked and what struck a chord with me. Please feel free to leave a comment if anything here interests you or, if you attended the conference, to add to the report if I missed anything?
Keynote: Steve Molyneux (@ProfSMolyneux): “The printer, the ‘book’, and the cloud.”
Points that Steve makes includes:
Mobile learning – mLearning – began with invention of the printing press and the first textbook. Books are mobile, personal, have granular content, structured (chapters), meta-tagged data (index, footnotes, glossary, etc), and collaborative (margin notes). New tech (e.g. tablets) add the following to this list: connected, adaptive, communicative, location aware, touch sensitive. What Steve didn’t say here is that new technology like tablets are also (currently) more desirable?
New tech is out of date within hours of its release as the companies involved continue to out-do themselves and each other. It’s not only the hardware that’s out of date so quickly, it’s the content, information, and approach we have to this information, and how we produce it, changes just as quickly.
Students have more power in their own devices that we can provide them with in the computer labs. Question: why provide these costly labs instead of providing a sturdy and secure infrastructure to support their own equipment? Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) works?
Best video to showcase what’s wrong with classrooms and learning is still this clip from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (amazing that some in the audience hadn’t seen it before – the clip not the film):
Neo-Millennials: creating and mixing existing content and ideas … when and where they want!
Ages of education… Control of education is no longer in the hands of the state, the teacher, or the institution. The power of education is now in the hands of the learner, in a 24/7 connected way that we have never seen before and still don’t fully understand the implications (discuss?).
Knowledge is power
iTunesU – a lengthy video clip but a good one to demonstrate the latest (2012) ‘iTunesU App Demo‘
Remove the projector to truly make the learning spaces mobile by using NearPod – lecture without a ‘front’. Steve showcased the following video demonstrating NearPod:
To close the keynote Steve explained that without a concerted and considered approach (my words) to implementation of this technology and these devices (see the above video, even using NearPod the students are still sat in rows and single seats! They should be able to move and group themselves, to aid collaboration and engagement), and the advantages that this new tech offers, we still suffer from “all the gear, no idea” mentality!
If, like me, you are a user and fan of Dropbox then you’ll be looking for ways to enhance how you use it. There have been some excellent guides on how to use and abuse it (links below) but here is another great way … Dropbox Forms!
“Create a dropbox form and we will create a folder named Jotform in your Dropbox. When you get a new upload, it will be there instantly. No mess, no BS.”
So, how can I use it? Well, I’m not advocating using it instead of a VLE, but those who don’t have or use their VLE you could set up the form for students / peers / etc to upload files? I’m sure there are other uses beyond this, and some might even be better than Google Docs (?) … if you think of anything, please share using the comments below.
Last year I left my 4gb USB stick in the socket of a PC that was sat on the floor (I know, silly me, but I was in the middle of a presentation). As I walked past I clipped the stick and bent the ‘sticky-out’ bit right back … damn!
The case broke and my heart sank – I use that for work and personal files to transport them between work and home (and friends, etc). I got home and was about to drop it in the bin when I thought I’d plug it in and see if it still worked. It did!
I taped the case back up, bent it straight again, and have been using it regularly since then. Until last week when something broke. And that was that (I’d expected it for a while so I’ve been using my iPod and iPhone for data back-up of the really important stuff).
So, instead of buying another I looked at online storage solutions and came across Dropbox. The free account gives you 2gb of online, secure storage (which you can get an additional 250mb for if you follow the simple steps during install and setup).
So now I have an online storage solution, available on work and home PCs, and on the iPhone (although I really only use this option to review files, other mobile devices are coming soon), and I can easily share and store files or folders with colleagues, friends, etc.
Here is a presentation I’ve put together on how to install and use it.
There has been much written about Cloud Computing in recent months, and this presentation is a good resource to add to the mix; looking at what advantages, or disadvantages, can be expected for a library in the Cloud (I tweeted this presentation over the weekend but, after re-reading it, thought it worthy of a post here);
“There’s a shift happening and its all around us. We may not be a part of that shift yet, but I’m sure each one of us will soon be. We might want to think that technology is changing the way we collaborate and yes that’s true! But there’s a lot changing in the way we think as well. Managers are starting to think differently, staff definitely has a mind of their own and are more empowered each day and the focus on collaboration is much more than we saw even 3-4 years back.”
I keep hearing people talk about the ‘cloud’ and ‘cloud computing’. So, what is it?
“Cloud computing is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet.” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing).
Does that help? No, then how about …
“The concept, quite simply, is that vast computing resources will reside somewhere out there in the ether (rather than in your computer room) and we’ll connect to them and use them as needed.” (Times Online, May 2008).
“Cloud computing basically lets you access software applications, hardware, data and computer processing power over the web. You don’t have to purchase and run software in your computer anymore. The cloud, the abstract physical description of what the Internet can do (personal computer, processor, storage), is there for you anytime, anywhere.” (Smart Schools).
So how does this relatively recent ‘thinking’ affect what we do as educators and facilitators? According to Twine.com cloud computing is simpler, faster, and cheaper for organizations to implement–which is why it is soaring in popularity in education.
“Most … just want to use technology tools and resources; they don’t care where these resources are located or who is delivering them. Cloud computing makes it easy for them to do so. Faculty members simply go to the web to request the IT services they need for themselves or their students. From a menu, they can choose the operating system, the software applications, and the server capacity they need, and then they can schedule this request to repeat for the entire semester, or as needed.”
Cloud computing, in education, is able to be both good and bad. Why?
It allows you to work from multiple PCs (home, work, library, etc), find your files, and edit them through the cloud.
It can be used to support teaching and learning experiences.
Most software is free, available and ready-to-use.
Students can have a richer and more diverse learning experience, even outside standard school hours.
Schools and jurisdictions can minimize costs; e.g. outsource Institution email to Google or Microsoft.
It allows users to create content through the browser, instead of only searching through the browser.
Not all applications run in the public cloud.
Sensitive student data is no longer completely controlled by the school or the teachers.
Internal networks are still needed for disseminating policies, printing, grouping students, web filtering and local storage.
Who owns the intellectual property rights over some things you posted on cloud services?
A deleted account does not mean deleted content.
Can you truly rely on the cloud to correctly and accurately filter (adult) content?
Is it the way forward? It sounds very very good, and I want to know more. But can we explain the benefits to the IT department and the bean-counters; these people only know about control when everything is locked down tight, on their own internal systems. Can they be ‘advised’ to drop this out-dated thinking in favour of the new ‘cloud’?