Trumpet Blowing

At the risk of being accused of a self-publicising narcissist, may I nonetheless mention two e-Learning related posts from my Blog Fresh and Crispy.

Your comments are always welcomed there or here.

Rethinking Education

Michael Wesch has been very influential in framing the debate around e-learning. I first came across him via his video The Machine is Using Us, published in March 2007, and I still use it as an introduction to my Level 1 lab course on Practical Internet Technology. It has 1,358,994 views on YouTube. His second, A Vision of Students Today (published October 2007), has had 4,112,629 views, is shown at virtually all e-learning conferences and is cited by all e-learning bloggers at some point.

Now his third magnum opus, Rethinking Education has just been posted. Will it be a focus of debate for the next three years?

Thanks to Rita Kopp (@welshcloggy) for the link.

Nexus at Aberystwyth

Our friends at @rscwales have today re-tweeted Mary Jacob’s (@msjacob) announcement of new case studies in technology enhanced learning (TEL) hosted on the Aberystwyth University Nexus site (

On an initial scan, I was particularly taken with Grade Centre for electronic learning portfolios by Ayla Göl because I believe that Blackboard’s grade centre is a sadly under-used component of our institutional VLE. However, there’s a lot more gold to be mined in this excellent resource that has come out of the recent Gwella project.

I look forward to seeing similar high quality case studies coming out of SALT.

Wolfram Releases Course Assistant Apps

Stephen Wolfram has recently announced the availability of the first of a planned series of “course assistant” apps: An App for Every Course, and More. These apps, which are powered by Wolfram|Alpha and cost $1.99 (£1.19) for Algebra and Music Theory and $2.99 (£1.79) for Calculus, have the potential to allowing students and teachers to do a lot more interesting stuff in lectures, seminars and examples classes than the traditional “chalk and talk”. It’ll be interesting to see if they turn out to be game changers.

I was already intending to use Wolfram|Alpha in one of my courses next term. I may just shell out a fiver to acquire the algebra and calculus apps.

An interesting question for me is this: if we and our students have such sophisticated tools available to us, why do we insist on cutting them off from all of their tools except paper and pen (we don’t even allow them to use their own calculators) and assessing students in a closed-book examinations? What are we really assessing?

The screenshots, reproduced from Stephen’s post (I hope that that’s OK), show the home screen and results screen for the Calculus Assistant. To find out more, the home page for the apps collection is here. Power users can acquire the Wolfram|Alpha app for $1.99 (£1.19) and there are loads of educational resources for Wolfram|Alpha which is powered by Mathematica.

Thanks to Tony Hirst’s blog for the link.

Confessions of a Converted Lecturer: Eric Mazur

Last week, Paul Lattreille lead a SALT Seminar on Teaching Large Groups. I’m hoping someone from this community will report on that session in more detail, but as an appetizer here’s a talk by Harvard Physics Professor Eric Mazur, that gives some justification for one of the ideas, Peer Instruction, that Paul shared with us on that day. It was recorded at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). I hope that, like me, you’ll find it inspirational and worth passing on. I’ve just ordered Erik’s book Peer Instruction a User’s Manual (Prentice Hall, 1996) because, unfortunately, there isn’t a copy in the Library!

Here are some questions to test your understanding of the talk.

  1. What is a lecture really about?
  2. What is Eric’s recommended structure for a “lecture”?
  3. What level of improvement can you achieve by using peer instruction rather than traditional lectures?
  4. If you use Peer Instruction, how could you gather evidence that peer instruction is working for you?

Incidentally, thanks for Paul for sharing this video via Twitter. More gems from the SALT community are to be found in the sidebar at the right.

Nuggets from JISC Innovating e-Learning Conference 2010: #3 ALLÉ

The Anytime Learning Literacies Environment (ALLÉ) has produced an interesting set of digital literacy resources that take the form of learning journeys through Tools for Learning, Using Libraries, and Academic Studies. These prototypes are being used with first-year business studies students in an embedded form at Thames Valley University and as a supporting resource at London Metropolitan University and their success will be evaluated at the end of the ALLÉ project.

Eventually, they will be released for customization by other institutions. They have been created using GLO maker which may well be another nugget in a later post.

Nuggets from JISC Innovating e-Learning Conference 2010: #1 Xpert and Xpert Attribution

Along with the other Chris (Hall), I’ll be attending the 2010 Online Conference JISC Innovating e-Learning Conference 2010. Unfortunately, as a paid conference, the materials, session recordings and discussions will not be available to the public until the new year but I thought that I’d nonetheless post links or comments on anything of interest that I see, hear, watch or discover. Maybe Chris will do the same.

 Taken from on 2010-11-18
Original URL – created on 2005-08-11 13:18:28
Heather Alderson CC BY-NC 2.0

The first of these are Xpert and Xpert Attribution, both developed at Nottingham University as part of one of the JISC OER projects. Xpert Attribution ( is particularly interesting. It is a media search tool that looks for copyright free or creative commons licensed comments and returns them as media objects with attribution added that you can use in your presentations, lectures, etc. The image of our Technium building included here was obtained by searching for Swansea University using this tool.

When you have the image, the tool will add an attribution string to the image itself or return suitable embedding code (as used here, after some adjustment for the purposes of this blog). Results can be also be imported into PowerPoint.

Attribution and use of freely reusable media is vital if you want to safely and legally prepare materials that you want to make publicly available. Xpert attribution makes it easy. There are some limitations: only Wikipedia and Flickr are regarded as having sufficiently robust attribution metadata and licensing to be used as a source. Audio and video media seem to stem only from OER projects in the UK and US.

Xpert ( a search tool that looks for OER objects. This is perhaps more useful if you are looking for complete learning objects to use or adapt for your courses. The search engine could be improved here. I looked for control systems but needed to quote the search term to get relevant hits, and there weren’t many, except those from MIT and Stanford that I already knew about (an opportunity perhaps?).

If you want to follow the conference, the Twitter hashtag is #jiscel10 and I promise to report more goodies as I find them.

Play Learning Tool Bingo!

Jane Hart’s Centre for Performance and Learning Technologies (C4PLT) has just published the final list of the top 100 learning tools for 2010. The list is nicely presented on Slideshare (up two places to number 5 from last year’s number 7) and I’ve embedded it here.

Having gone through the list, and finding that I was using quite a few of the tools listed, I thought that it would be fun to turn the list into a game of “learning tool bingo” and see who gets closest to a full house.

How to Play
Here’s the Bingo form on Google Docs Go through Jane’s presentation and if you are using or have used the tool, mark it off on the form. The results in text form are here and as here as a graphical summary.

JISC Digital Media on e-Learning Stuff

My first Podcast of the Week over in Fresh and Crispy was James Clay’s e-Learning Stuff. The latest episode (episode 61) is a small gem in which ILT & Learning Resources Manager at Gloucestershire College James Clay interviews Zak Mensah of JISC Digital Media about ten new advice publications that have recently been made available on the JISC Digital Media website.

The guides are

  1. Introduction to e-Learning
  2. Designing Learning Experiences
  3. Common Methods for Viewing, Using and Producing Digital Media Resources
  4. Considering the delivery of digital media online
  5. Organising Digital Media Content in a VLE
  6. Mobile Learning for Education
  7. Providing Live Support to your Community over the Web
  8. Audio Feedback
  9. Telling it like it is – a how-to guide on creating audio feedback
  10. Using Multimedia in a PDF

In the podcast A Conversation with Zak, James and Zak discuss each of these guides and why you might want to read them. Should be worth a listen if you are interested in the issues around creating and using digital media in your teaching.