Watch and learn

2 12 2008

Finally, a couple of online academic library tutorials that don’t induce an attack of the cringes, mainly by avoiding design rooted in the mid ’90s and not including annoying running jokes about cats:

The University of Auckland has produced a handsome (if more than a little bit in debt to the Matrix) online tutorial that uses a graphic novel style narrative, about a student researching a project, to guide the user through the library’s services. It incorporates interactive tutorials on the library’s catalogue and a section on help desk FAQ’s.

The University of California offers this tutorial, aimed at students of science, which runs through the scientific method, information literacy, subject based resources, scholarly communication and the peer review process. It also looks good enough to eat.

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Google Apps for Education, a sub plot in Google’s dastardly plan to rule the world, but an interesting one all the same

17 11 2008

Google Apps for Education Edition is a derivative of the Google Apps package, aimed at the education/higher education sector and offering a combination of email, instant messaging, calendaring, document creation and collaborative tools. It’s an interesting pitch at providing a set of communicative, organisational and creative applications and, of course, is in no way an attempt to bypass Hotmail, MSN or Microsoft Office as students’ first port of call for messaging or creating documents. A group of happy students from Northwestern University enthuse about Google Apps here, while Linkoping University give their opinion on it here.

I’ve been wondering about how a range of services of use to students could be integrated into one package, which would effectively ‘follow’ them around as they browse or chat, as the browser embedded applications in Firefox do, so it’s good to see someone as major as Google taking a stab at this, even if the tools available are largely communication based. I think it would be great to produce an online ‘utility belt’ that would bring together the functions of the library catalogue, Blackboard courses on information literacy, referencing tools and online journal resources/repositories/databases. I don’t know how possible it would be and, as Yahoo Pipes left me totally bewildered, I’m really not the person to be taking a stab at building it, but I think it would be great if someone doing research or writing a submission could use their utility belt to search for a resource, access it, find out how and why to reference it and then use a something like Refworks to cite it, maybe saving the particular chapter or article to Delicious on the way, all through the same application.





Campaign Alliance for Lifelong Learning

13 11 2008

The Campaign Alliance for Lifelong Learning (CALL) is a non-party political campaign group, pressing for a reverse in the 2 million drop in available adult education learner’s places in the UK. As they put it:

CALL believes our education system should provide:

  1. equality of access to high quality education for all learners (regardless of: class, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, asylum status or employment status), including a statutory right to learning in the workplace
  2. universal access to basic skills, ESOL and ICT courses and a first level three qualification regardless of age
  3. learner, teacher and community  involvement in all levels of decision-making about their learning wherever it takes place
  4. learning for personal wellbeing and development and the maintenance of local authority adult education
  5. a path out of poverty and disadvantage including widening participation in higher education and the provision of a second chance later in life
  6. a stable, motivated and rewarded workforce of professional practitioners.

It’s in part a move against the government’s employer led training initiatives and, alongside redressing the slide in adult education places, aims to re-engage with the views of employees and trade unions as influences on the provision of life long learning.





One to watch from the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

23 10 2008

Supported by the JISC Collaborative research into curriculum delivery project, the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (DCE) are implementing the Cascade Delivery Project, which aims to “properly explore implementing the technologies that can transform a learning experience across the whole of the Department”.

JISC invited institutions “to transform how they deliver and support learning across a curriculum area through the effective use of technology, in response to a particular challenge faced by the discipline(s), department(s) or institution(s) involved“, the challenge in the DCE’s case being the Government’s withdrawal of funding for students studying for a qualification lower than one they already hold. There’s an interesting interplay of policy here, JISC’s Collaborative Research project being prompted by the  Leitch Review of Skills and the World Class Skills implementation plan, which place further emphasis on employer-targeted learning, while the DCE faces a withdrawal of funding for ‘lower’ courses, more than likely undertaken by people re-training or studying for pleasure.

While the work produced by the DCE will no doubt be as exciting as ever, the message from the government seems to yet again be that education is training for work, rather than for pleasure or personal enrichment and that once you have set down a path in your education or career, the opportunities to change it are going to be limited. If the government’s intention is to ‘put employers’ needs centre stage in the design and delivery of training‘, then what becomes of the needs of the people undertaking that training?





I saw Obama in my Wii the other day…

17 10 2008

The US Presidential election is the media’s second favourite hobby-horse, after the impending apocalypse-like recession, so it’s nice to see that  the Obama vs McCain race is throwing up some interesting material relevant to information literacy and educational technology. As reported by this BBC news article, in the Democratic corner we have Obama’s campaign team using video games to display advertisements for early voting, while in the Republican corner McCain’s campaigners appear to be attempting to bypass YouTube’s content policies by using copyrighted material in their campaign videos. The purpose of the video game adverts is to capture the attention of notoriously ambivalent 18-34 year old male voter demographic, an age range which coincides with the age of many students in higher education. Being able to produce educational technologies that translate to popular gaming platforms could well be a key way of engaging with students, particularly as the internet connectivity of many consoles is blurring the line between PCs and Playstations as mediums for accessing the web. On the McCain/YouTube front, well, it just goes to show how a lack of info lit skills can bite even the supposedly great and the supposedly good on the bum.





No more rummaging around for lecture notes with NoteSake

10 10 2008

I had a trawl through Go2Web20‘s Web 2.0 directory, searching under ‘student’ as a tag and stumbled upon NoteSake. It allows students to login to a personal homepage on a laptop or PC and enter lecture notes in real time, with the capacity to tag, organise and share them. It’s obviously dependent on access to a  computer during lectures or classes but, as more and more people get their own laptops, applications like NoteSake could form a useful extension of liveblogging for students who want easy, organised access to their notes. Plus, as the notes are stored virtually, it could finally spell the end for ‘my dog ate my homework’ type excuses. Not that I ever used them.





Merry Isthmus

7 10 2008

The Isthmus Project is an undertaking by Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, supported by JISC, to create a service that integrates the features of the Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) used in higher education and the web based applications used by students in their social and academic lives. It’s an interesting and forward thinking step and, importantly, a well-reasoned one. There seems to have been a lot of talk about joining education and library services with web 2.0 and social technologies, but most of what I’ve encountered has been rather knee-jerkily reactive and piecemeal, whereas Isthmus looks to be a considered attempt to bridge the gap between educational applications and what the average student uses day to day on the web. The name’s fiendishly clever as well. The project’s objectives are to:

  • Research the best way to integrate user owned technologies with current institutional practice.
  • Create a prototype solution to facilitate the integration of user-owned technologies with educational technology systems.
  • Pilot a prototype solution and evaluate it
  • Provide guidance and transferable models to support other institutions contemplating the use of similar technologies.
  • Allow learners a more personalised learning experience through the use of user-defined tools.
  • Disseminate knowledge gained to inform concurrent and future JISC initiatives.