Computable Document Format

Teacher's Ruin ...
cc licensed flickr photo by Brave Heart:

I often found teaching some things quite physically labour intensive. Basic graph theory was one and some aspects of statistics. Bits of physics had their moments too.

For example, with the basic graph theory, it was good to show how graphs changed as the variables in the function that created them changed. It usually required much rubbing out and re-drawing, especially when you made the usual collection of mistakes. By the time you got back to the staff room, your arm was often so tired you could barely lift the gin bottle ! Imagine !! 🙂

So this news from Wolfram might just be of interest to anyone who has had similar difficulties in the past.

The Computable Document Format …

“As the name suggests, the CDF aims to bring real-time interactivity and computational power to documents, by enabling them to include a variety of graphs and formulas. This makes a “computable” document quite different than a “print” document. The information isn’t fixed but can be manipulated by the reader. Unlike static formats, CDFs are “as interactive as apps, yet as everyday as documents,” say Wolfram.

Have more of a look here:

(if you scroll done on the page you can see an example, although you do need to download and install a viewer to see it – painless …)

Be a Sharp Nosed Scholar !

cc licensed flickr photo by gak:

Are you regretting your choice of academic discipline ?

Is being a Professor of Economics* just not all you thought it was going to be and you’re wishing you’d followed your alternative dream of studying papyri in the shade of the shifting dunes on the west bank of the Nile, under the watchful eye of hungry crocodiles hoping you might accidentally stumble in their direction … and offer them lunch … ?

Well, maybe it isn’t too late !

Oxford University is looking for help transcribing 1000s of fragments of papyri from the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus (The City of The Sharp Nosed Fish) and has housed the scanned fragments in a new website:

The texts are all in Greek but cunningly the website contains all the necessary tools for you to start your career transformation into a classical scholar in no time !  (well … actually, quite a bit of time as this isn’t exactly fast paced work …)

*(amend as required)

Changing the Learning Lab

Since the formation of SALT the question has arisen as to what sort of web presence it should have. A static information site? A community driven site? Part of the main university site? How does this debate impact on the Learning Lab? Should all learning and teaching support be in one place? How do we make sure that we preserve our “treasure trove of goodies?”

Here in Learning Lab Towers we’ve been exploring whether we can export the Learning Lab into Joomla and WordPress in order to preserve the content but also allow the community to be maintained and to flourish. Having played around with both, using a nifty little tool called WAMP Server (thanks to Alex Roberts in LIS for this) it seems that we can for most of the site and the numerous Joomla plug-ins mean that we can expand the community driven nature of the site. We can also improve the navigation and give the site a more cohesive look and feel. The only downside is that we can’t find a decent wiki for Joomla. We could stick with PBWorks or maybe Mediawiki using university accounts? Or perhaps something else?

So the plan is to create a SALT site with all the learning and teaching resources in Joomla, WordPress and a wiki whilst preserving the content and philosophy of the Learning Lab. What do you think?

Move over Audacity?

Well not really because Audacity is a powerful audio editor but for making podcasts quickly and easily? Maybe? I’ve been having a play with Myna from a Aviary, which I picked up from Free Technology for Teachers.

It’s pretty straight forward to use and is web based so that you can use it anywhere with a web connection. There is also a large library of music you can add to your projects. The free version means that you won’t have much control over who can sea/hear you audio files though. You can set copyright information for the default ‘all rights reserved’ to creative commons You’ll also need to sigh up for an account to use it.

Have a look at the video and have a play.

Learning Technologists Anonymous?

Many men and women have heard or read about the unique Fellowship called Learning Technologists Anonymous since its founding. People who once used learning technology to excess, finally acknowledged that they could not handle learning technology in its current form, and now live a new way of life.

1. We admitted we were powerless over the latest learning technology -that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn developing our strategies over to the learning community as we understood it.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to the learning community and to ourselves the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked the learning community to work with us to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through Appreciative Inquiry to improve our conscious contact with the learning community, to understand their needs and find ways to work together to support those needs.

12. Having had a ‘spiritual awakening’ as the result of these steps we tried to carry this message to learning technologists and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

‘When you’re dealing with someone who only has a pair of underpants on, if you take his underpants off, he has nothing left – he’s naked. You’re better off trying to find him a pair of trousers to complement him rather than change him.’

Arsene Wenger

Something for the weekend!

Adding an announcement to one of my Blackboard sites with the new Google Chrome browser I noticed that the text area control has a grow-box feature. This enables you to drag a text area to make it bigger which is particularly useful if you have to enter a lot of text into one of the small Blackboard announcement boxes.

I can also tell you that in Chrome [and presumably Safari], all text areas on any web page have this facility turned on by default!

Worth the price of admission for Google Chrome? You tell me: it’s a nice usability feature that brightened up my Friday!

Google Chrome

A major development in e-learning technology this week was Google’s September 2nd announcement and simultaneous release of a new web browser called “chrome”. Chrome is the term used for the user interface (menu bar, toolbar, tabs) in the browser. A key design feature of Google Chrome is to minimize Chrome’s chrome to allow the web browser to become effectively invisible. The philosophy of Chrome is discussed in several videos that have been posted in the Google channel on YouTube, but for me the key video is the run down of the top 10 features that is embedded here.

Given the existence of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera, the question of whether the world is ready for another browser remains open, but the mere existence of application shortcuts and incognito mode means that I shall be trying Chrome. You can try Chrome too by visiting

Changing Expectations

I discovered this video while following up on another bloggable item for today’s news! Made for a presentation from the Open University to some educational publishers, it says a lot about why “Web2.0” is important as a medium.

The (brief) history of the movie recounted by Brian Lamb of Abject Learning (We can find what we need, will we find you?) and in Tony Hirst’s original post Changing Expectations: Educational Publishing are in themselves a great example of what’s possible when we share.

Incidentally Gardner Campbell’s (Bravatuesdays) post (The Glass Bees) that apparently inspired Tony in the first place, has some interesting things to say about Blackboard’s Borg-like assimilation of all things good about Web 2.0 and their “resistance is futile” mantra that seems to play so well with institutional administrations.