Friday, 30 April 2010

‘Digital natives’ need more IT support

For a while now I've been thinking about how to better support students in their IT skills via peer support. It periodically slips back into my conciousness and it did so yesterday when I saw someone tweet about a piece entitled Survey: ‘Digital natives’ need more IT support.

This quote resonated in particular...
While college students are adept at manipulating complex social-networking tools through their iPhones and BlackBerries, along with video and computer games, “they’re not nearly as proficient when it comes to using digital tools in a classroom setting; this turns the myth that we’re dealing with a whole generation of digital natives on its head,”
“Clearly, students are asking for better guidance, support, and training in using digital tools in the classroom and we, as an industry, need to pay attention and effectively respond to those needs in order to improve engagement and learning outcomes”.
I never did get a satisfactory reply to my email six weeks ago regarding funding for an IT peer support coordinator, so I'm going to try a different tack...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Making the plagiarism tutorials creative commons

Since my recent Inspired by Shirky post I've decided to make the plagiarism tutorials creative commons. After some very helpful advice from Tania (who's the Copyright Administrator for BDRA's OTTER Project) I've made the following changes to the tutorials to enable me to legitimately add a creative commons license:
  • removed the clock animation (that I can't remember where I sourced) and replaced it with a creative commons licensed image;
  • removed the screen shots of the various book covers and replaced them with generic ones;
  • referenced the definition of plagiarism appropriately (previously the source was merely implied from the screen shot of the dictionary cover).
I've only managed to update the Biological Sciences version so far but I'll be working my way through all of them over the next few weeks.

The creative commons license that I've chosen is Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales. Just to be clear, this means...

You can access the original PowerPoint file here. If you want to republish your own version you'll need Adobe Presenter. But don't forget - attribution, non-commercial, share alike! Also, it would be good to hear from you if you do make your own version.

By the way, this isn't the part 2 to the Shirky post that I promised - that will focus on the video animation format as per the critical student tutorial - and I'll try and write next week.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Playing with different formats

A colleague has just produced a rather natty little paper based resource on Revision and exams - top ten tips for students. You can see it below (imagine it double-sided and folded into eighths).
Revision and Exams - top ten tips

I was trying to thing how best to publish it on our website. The embedded PDF is a a bit unwieldy so I thought I'd try cropping the various images and turning them into a Flickr slide show (thanks to Steve Boneham for reminding me to embed a Flickr slide show in Wordpress - very easy with the Vodpod bookbarklet).

The other thing I've just experimented with is Animoto, complete with inappropriate Jazz soundtrack! Clearly I'd have to get the image size better proportioned, and I assume if I chose a slower soundtrack the images would be able to be on screen for longer so be more easily read - but could work.

Create your own video slideshow at

Just experimenting really. All comments gratefully received.


Having moved my site from to full Wordpress I've just embedded the content using standard html - so you can ignore the bits about vodpod and getting things to embed in wordpress - although I'll leave them in just in case their useful to anyone.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Social Media Guidelines

This is a really lazy post but I want to be able share some useful guidance and have something to refer back to later. A while ago I mentioned some Advice from helpdesk Hollie she kindly wrote for me on tweeting from Well I had a really useful meeting with David Morgan this afternoon about the Student Development Facebook page. I'll blog more another time about some ideas that will inevitably come from the meeting but the thing I'm sharing now (with David's permission) are the social media guidelines he's written for the Students' Union. Which I think are brilliant!
Social Media Guidelines

Friday Facebook fink

I've been feeling a bit behind the curve with Facebook pages lately (even though I've thought quite a lot about them in the past six months). I'm aware that there have been several significant changes to pages in the last week or so but I just haven't had chance to read up on them. It's interesting to watch it slowly become more friendfeed-like since they acquired it.

I've been really pleased with how our Student Development page has continued to grow and I've been beginning to think I should be doing more with it than just pushing RSS into it from our website and getting our helpdesk to post to it via Hootsuite. We are beginning to see more interactions but I'd like to think about how to encourage these more. So I'm looking forward to seeing David Morgan again this afternoon, who set up (I wish I'd been quick enough to grab a decent page name) to chat through some ideas. What a nice way to spend an hour on a Fridat afternoon :)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Testing Twitter hovercards

I wonder if this will work @ajcann @jobadge @nosnilwar @cjrw etc etc

Hmphhh :(

Wonder what I'm doing wrong?


D'oh! I should know by now that however much I love it just doesn't have the flexibility of
Maybe if I put this up I'll remember this kind of thing next time. And maybe one day I'll pay to get hosted...

Another update

Just got this working much more simply with the plugin. See @ajcann

Monday, 19 April 2010

Chrome portable

Just saw a very helpful tweet from Jo Badge about Chrome portable.
I've just installed it (to My Documents - doesn't require any permissions) and it and the extensions work a treat (the extensions weren't available on the previous portable version). The extensions I've put in are the ones I already have at home on the the full version - Chromed BirdGoogle Mail CheckerDiigo Web Highlighter and Bookmark, and RSS Subscription Extension (by Google). I've also added ChromeMilk - but I might just keep that as a tab to the full site on my home pages. I should probably find one for RSS too. Any other suggestions?

So, thank you to Jo, and thank you to the nice people at PortableApps.


It's just been pointed out to me that it has inbuilt flash too - even better!

Inspired by Shirky

I'm sure other people have written reviews on Shirky's brilliant Here Comes Everybody (not least this interesting page on Wikipedia) so rather than attempt a review I'm just going to try and think about an application of one of his ideas in the book that I found particularly striking.

For a while now I've been thinking about how I could develop more academic skills resources for students here at Leicester (and anyone else who would find them useful for that matter) and I've come to the conclusion that I can't. At least not at the scale I'd like to. My job involves various aspects including teaching, student consultations, managing the website, overseeing our helpdesk, and resource development. The resource development bit just gets squeezed into the gaps around all the other stuff. However, without wanting to blow my own trumpet (okay, maybe just a little bit), many of the resources I've developed have been well received - having more than 50,000 views (yup, fifty thousand) and lots of good feedback. The resources are:
You'll see I've tried a number of formats; the flash-based tutorial using Adobe presenter (inspired by the Vaughan Library tutorials), I once also tried to ape (briefly) the CommonCraft in Plain English videos (though you can't call your own creations that) but they were deceptively difficult to produce. The critical student one was inspired by Steve Boneham's Overview of microblogging from JISC web2practice. What I really like about this last format is:
  • you don't need much technical skill (other than a good working knowledge of PowerPoint animation) to create them;
  • other than PowerPoint the tools you can create them with are free (I used Screenr to do the screen capture and audio);
  • neither do the tools require any installation (useful when working in an environment that restricts such things);
  • when published on YouTube you can add closed captions (useful for accessibility reasons);
  • it's embeddable;
  • and the format is even suitable for mobile devices (like the iPhone).
So, how does this all relate to Shirky? Well, it comes back to the point that I can't develop online resources as much as I'd like too. So how about I try and demystify the process a bit and try and get others more involved (either other learning development professionals or subject academics interested in academic skills). The last chapter of Shirky's book is called Promise, Tool, Bargain, in it he says this (p.260).
Every story in this book relies on a successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users. The promise is the basic "why" for anyone to join or contribute to a group. The tool helps with the "how" - how will the difficulties of coordination be overcome, or at least be held to manageable levels? And the bargain sets the rules of the road: if you are interested in the promise and adopt the tools, what can you expect, and what will be expected of you?
Although he does say in the next sentence...
[...] the interaction of promise, tool, and bargain cannot be used as a recipe, because the interactions among the different components is too complex.
But even though he says it can't be used as a recipe, I still think it's worth a go. I could apply for funding for this but there's little of it about in higher education at the moment, in any case, I'd like to see if it can be done without funding. So...


Or why would anyone want to be involved in this project? Well, I think it's a good opportunity to contribute some valuable creative commons, open educational resources and learn some valuable new skills.


We'd need a space to discuss and collaborate on the development of the resources. It could be Twitter, it could be this blog, or it could be a space we set up especially for the purpose (as long as it was public and not a walled garden like Ning). In terms of developing the tutorials themselves I guess people could use whatever tools they liked but I think it's important that the final output should be in YouTube with closed captions for reasons of both consistency and accessibility. My recent experience, as mentioned above, has been with PowerPoint and Screenr, but people could use whatever animation (I'd love to see it done with Open Ofiice's Presentation tool) and screen capture software they were most familiar with.


Shirky says this is difficult to pin down at an early stage, but it would include receiving feedback, comment and support from me and whoever else joins.

It might not work of course. This whole idea also relates to another of Shirky's chapters, Lowering the cost of failure, but that's probably the subject of another post. If between us we could make 5 or 10 decent tutorials I think it would be a worthwhile project.

What have I missed? If there's enough interest this post will need a part two, which will be more of a how-to, including the original template files. Who'd like to help?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A year of blogging

It's been just over a year since Alan Cann finally persuaded me to start a blog (I was worried I didn't have anything to say). My first post was on 3 April 2009 on Developing online tutorials at Teaching and Assessment Network. It was a slow start but in the last few months I've been beginning to find blogging really useful. If you look at the archives for this blog you'll see that they extend back to January 2009 - that's because I tried to start with a team blog for Student Development, but it didn't work - but I've imported my posts from then for completeness.

Alan (him again) put it very well last week in a post of his last week re his thoughts on blogging.
To be perfectly honest with you, the main reason I write this blog is so that I can find things again. Now, I have lots of ways of finding things, such as Google, social search and all the tags on my delicious account, but they don't help very much when you can't remember what you're looking for. Writing about things lodges them in my brain so that's less likely to happen. It also changes what I decide I need to know. Along the way, I've found that some of the stuff I write is of interest to other people. Which is nice.
I don't look at the stats for the blog very often but I guess I should make it at least an annual event, so here are the top posts of all time on my blog (cue relevant music).

The Remembering the milk post is largely because James Clay retweeted it at ALTC2009 (thanks James!). I'm pleased to see one of the Tagginganna posts up there, Advice from Helpdesk Hollie, and of course (who could forget) the-practically-went-viral Brown cake.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A better conference wordle

Just taken out all the usernames from the conference wordle which results in something more informative and less self-referential (a part from the word 'twitter!). Click on it to see the original and bigger image.