Thursday, July 06, 2006


Originally uploaded by amiddlet50.
My co-presenter at Diverse and I sat around in this space checking our email etc for a while (no wifi for delegates actually).
Very pleasant.

Diverse -day 2 notes

Virtual Cutter tool
The big note to take away is the Virtual Cutter tool that I went to a demo of at lunch time. This has been around a while though it is now Open Source. The developer, Andre Rosendaal, is looking for collaborators in taking the Virtual Cutter further. The technologies are PHP and some javascript.
More info and access to the Virtual Cutter can be found at
I took to the Virtual Cutter because it may allow us to take the media object ideas and apply them to streaming video. With Podcasting/Vodcasting you're dealing with downloadable media. Now Joe Public can deliver (or source) streams and select 'In' and 'Out' points - in other words select chunks of media, but without needing the source or knowing how to edit it. The media can be embedded into Word docs, Powerpoint, Web pages, VLEs, or wherever you want it (as long as you maintaion an internet connection) using the simply copy and paste code.
Users As Producers
Keith Radley from SHU presented on the work he has been doing with Mike Bramhall and his Engineering students. He described the workshops and methods he has used to engage the students in the process of making video - a rich learning process.
Diverse seems to split into two camps: the AV technical people who view innovation more in terms of technical stuff, and the academics and educational support people. Now this second category do not necessarily have that different a take on innovation and I have found that surprising, but where we are seeing innovation beyond the technical is in the user as producer, especially whether it facilitates the learning itself and there have been one or two examples of this, including a community orientated project this morning.
Media Interventions and Innovation
Now I've said that I better be clear about the innovation in what I presented. There are several areas (technical, design approaches, user as producers, etc), but the main innovative point I have been trying to develop is to leave video as a didactic medium behind. It's just so obvious, so passive. But video DOES have an amazing role in blended learning and that is to inspre curiosity, inspire dialogue and to spark glimmers of understanding and questions, which can then be worked upon. Using very short clips (designed to engage) is what it's all about! So, there you have it!

Learning Space

Learning Space
Originally uploaded by amiddlet50.
My new desk in the LTI? Well, it would just about do me given some big slidey in-out trays under the comfy seat. Health and Safety issues perhaps but I knackered my posture years ago!

Learning space

Learning space
Originally uploaded by amiddlet50.
Study space (note swivel table and electric suppy for laptop in the seat), meeting space and cafe all in a really interesting learning centre called the Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Space for Podcasting?

Originally uploaded by amiddlet50.
One of the great things about the Diverse conference has been the opportunity to experience the new learning spaces they have. Ignore the ballons in this pic (they're part of a UCLAN poster) but look at the pod!
Given that there is absolutely nowhere in the Adsetts that is ventillation or PC noise free my though here was maybe this could be a great space acoustically. Don't be decieved! It's good, but the inflatable walls here stay inflated because they have fans pumping away continually. So, lovely to look at, but this is not the recording studio I was hoping for.

Media Interventions

Mediia Interventions
Originally uploaded by amiddlet50.
I presented on Media Interventions today at Diverse 2006. The photo is of me in action taken on my mobile and sent as a text attachment to Flickr and then this blog entry via Flickr to Blogger.
Yes this is relevant. So this process can be used by user producers too either using stills in Flickr or video in YouTube.
Keith Radley took the pic. He presented later on Users As Producers.
The session went well. Things were running late due to a massive over-run this morning. My task was to introduce MIs, and report back on two applications: Nick Nunnington's Blackboard Nugget and Sally Bradley's use of the idea to support her teaching.
The most important thing for me has been having the time over the last day or so to devote to ideas I kicked off some time ago (Audio) and those ideas developed more recently with Nick on the Nuggets. As a consequence my conviction to develop the idea further has developed and on the train journey home tomorrow I will do precisely that as I build upon what I have learnt over the last few days before running an MI session for the ACES faculty at SHU.

Diverse - day one report

I feel as though I'm on a bit of a mission over the next few days. We've recently made some commitment to bottom out the thorny questions surrounding the capture of lectures (using whatever technologies) and so the strand I've been pursuing here has been to do with gaining insight into that.
The subtitle of this year's diverse is 'Developing innovative video resources for students everywhere' and so not only do I expect some interesting and innovative insight I expect our session on Media Interventions to be well received.
However the conference's own history has emerged from the Diverse project at Derby which, quite a while ago now, was exploring the capture of lecture(r)s on video....
'Video lectures and the feeling of learning'
I began by attending a presentation called 'Video lectures and the feeling of learning' presented by Palle Quist from Aalborg University, Denmark. Essentially he described some research he had conducted with the best way of presenting the lecturer. Having noted that captured lectures that run for more than 10 minutes will bore the student, he described how he had tested the formats of 'fixed talking head', 'camera following presenter and moving to slides' (replicating what a student's eyes might do), PowerPoint with voice over, 'the full length standing news presenter' against a projected backdrop, and the slightly more casual, but very similar approach adopted by weather presenters. The first three used academic presenters and the final two used examples taken from TV. So unfortunately the research was flawed. He found that students chose the professional, familiar approaches. The suggested conclusion would be then that we should move away from the lectern approach and adopt a professional, high tech approach with professional performers...
The question of whether we should move away from the capture of the lecture (nevermind the lecture itself) was not considered.
A paper in the same session demonstrated a much more interesting and realistic approach (though that was not its prime intention) of a lecturer presenting in a studio to a small handful of students (we didn't get as far as discourse... though who knows it might have taken place). More on that paper in a second.
The next was
'Online presentations: an alternative to lectures?'
Valerie Will from the University of Paisely described her experience of using Impatica for PowerPoint. The interesting thing for me was why, as a teacher, she had decided to do this. Her reason was that she felt it gave her students more opportunity to explore and review difficult theoretical content that they had struggled to engage with in the lecture theatre. Yes, there's a good reason to recording lectures: repeatability and review. But on all other counts (pedagogy, time, production values, support, etc) this is not a viable approach in my book. We looked at software like Boxmind a few years ago - a similar system - and our immediate response then was to try and break the box of talking head, rolling transcript, synchronised audio and PowerPoint. Cognitive, multimodal overload or what? However she had the personality to make a talking head work, but not many do. She discussed the need to be highly scripted and very well rehearsed. She also noted that she depended heavily on technical support.
Triple L
The Triple L project from the Netherlands was introduced in the next presentation. This new project is setting out to create repositories of video lecture learning objects. It was a very interesting presentation of a sound project acknowledging the important ideas in Laurillard's Conversation Frameork (SMS is one way in which they expect to encourage that interaction). I never thought I'd appreciate a bit of theory - must be getting old! The project's goal is to 'Reuse live events (yes!) as learning objects within learning environments.' Still the lecture was the 'event 'that was used - albeit in the example they showed they had brought the lecturer into close contact with a small group of students.
Project Pad
I didn't mange to get to the session on Project Pad due to clashes - this is the tool used by Glasgow Caledonian's Spoken Word project (in collaboration with the US) to allow for the annotation of media. This project is something I really want to find out about as it touches on a lot of my own interests. Maybe tomorrow...
The Keynote was very interesting: Patrick McGhee (Vice Chancellor (Academic) at University of Central Lancashire). It's good to see a VC so tuned into the mobile technologies that we're interested in. There are some very useful points I would like to bring into our session tomorrow, especially the idea of video to 'inspire curiosity' (actually that phrase is probably in there already as it's fundamental to the Media Intervention idea. He also said that video pedagogy development is a subversive activity - damn right. I only hope we don't shock too many people tomorrow! The point being that the technology and its history of use is hard to escape from.
Maybe it's the lecture capture strand I'm trying to pick up on, but I'm not getting much sense of innovation at the moment.
Panel session on lecture capture
There was a panel session on video capture of lectures. I won't go into detail. However there are a lot of people here hung up on production values rather than pedagogic values. Someone said students love captured lectures, but they would now have high expectations of video production. I suggested students love PowerPoints too - not necessarily the best learning tool, and not necessarily the sexiest artifacts a student could encounter from an aesthetic point of view! I feel I could lose some potential friends, but what the heck.
At the end of the session I had a chat with Chris O'Hagan, who is the person behind Diverse I think. Someone who has undoubtedly innovated in this area for a long time and achieved a lot with it. He was very open to my semi-sceptical position and appreciated my comments that we were in danger of missing an opportunity to remodel our pedagogies with technological and theoretical advances rather that to reinforce C19th approaches and philosophies embedded in the lecture model.

Notes from HEA Conference - Enhancing the student learning experience

Susannah and Richard at Nottingham station - note gadget!
I'm just here for one of the 3 days (joined by Susannah and Richard - see left) and now sitting in the sun post lunch and thinking that this isn't a bad learning environment.
I attended the plenary 'The Impact of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTaL) on the student learning experience. A general note: in the hour an a half session there was very little room for input from the floor. I think this reflected badly.
It was good to see a panel that represented the US, Canada, Sweden and the UK.
There were several points made about student awareness of and involvement in the SoTaL.
Digital game-based learning: a winner UK higher education?
An excellent discussion session (!) led by myself, Richard and Susannah. It went really well and was well attended. General conclusions were the main challenge will be the cultural change; (especially amongst staff); that a 'binary' of "crusty academics" and neomillenial learners was not a useful interpretation of the position we find ourselves in, especially given another general area of agreement: games are not so new. 'Digital' introduces a layer of technicalities (and opportunities) but it might be more useful to consider how current good teaching practice can be enabled to extend more into the digital domain.
Sue Holmes Key Note - New ways to support an integrated student experience
(Vice Chair - Association of University Administrators)
Yet another Hallam face (this conference seems more like the SHU LTA Conference than a national HE conference!).
I didn't really take anything away from this - I was hoping for a few more ideas and less context setting personally.
Sue likes to refer to students as 'customers', and I know why, but most of the conference seemed to be discussing students as partners, which from an LTA perspective I find much more useful.
I attended two excellent idea-laden sessions in the afternoon. One from Bournemouth College of Art where they have used role play in a court room setting to engage creative students in research and communication. The second was looking at how Case-based learning scenarios could be used and developed. In this I found ideas for the digital media work I'm doing.
Unfortunately I'm now on the train to Diverse and have left those notes in Sheffield, so more on these when I return.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Notes from ALT workshop 'Learning Games: what is the value of digital games in education?'

An excellent workshop with presentations from David Squire (DESQ), West Notts College Key Skills, and the Nottingham LEA e:Games project. None of them HE by the way! Telling.
The fundamental question was the same question we will ask at the HE Academy Conference: Are digital games valuable to higher education and if so what would they look like? Here are a few notes:
David Squire session
Rules of play and game design principles
See book of that title by Zimmerman
Games need rules, tension, user agency/control, competition and reward. (Not convinced about the 'competition', but maybe that is what distinguishes games from just interactive approaches such as simulation.
Games create engagement, immersion, flow, intrinsic motivation.
JP Gee describes games as being 'pleasantly frustrating.'
'Discovery games may be a useful approach for HE, but how do 'open ended' games fit alongside learning outcomes? And the setting and checking of session objectives?

Life Styles
Discussion about neomillennial learners who multi-multi-task in digital environments (MySpace, mobile, homework, radio, etc) Limited attention spans and need for autonomy.
Do 'games' belong to education (HE) - should we expect students to accept us entering a domain that they own. (Similar to use wanting to use the student's mobiles for learning). Or... do/will students expect us to use those media?
I wondered how limited, multi-tasking attention spans tally with the huge demand games require. They are (should be) intensely 'motivating'.
The idea of students having control of their learning experience is an interest thought. Arguably students expect to be able to control their learning and if we are not accommodating this then we are not accommodating our students. Many games support learner autonomy.
So 'games' present questions that align with other thoughts we are addressing (learning spaces, autonomy, etc).
David Squire proposed the following categories for games that may be useful in learning:

1. Edutainment - (home + school)
2. COTS (Commercial off the Shelf) - we have dismissed this in our work as not be a generally useful approach in HE, though the classic example of Civilisation being used in history classes was cited again.
3. Mod-ing - editing existing games with relevant content and contexts. This needs to be explored more by us as it may go some way to addressing the issue of 'economies of scale' that is an obstacle to HE.
4. Constructing - making your own (or just learning by making your own). Yes, mileage here and we are using this technique in our on-going inter-professional approach. But I also thought we could offer paper-based game design as a power 'learning by doing' approach.
5. Edu-games - games that are made specifically for education by games developers. Again this may be an economies of scale question for HE though I can see potential in subjects that use a very similar curriculum (eg Medicine). Blend/merge/mix learning and play. Interlock.
Never Winter Nights session
West Notts College
The was really useful. They demonstrated how they had mod-ed 'Never Winter Nights' produce a sophisticated 3D game that supported assessment. However, it required a lot of 'beyond the call of duty' type time!!!! Still, we should definitely (re)proove the concept as I believe game mod-ing could be a powerful solution for HE. More info here:
Licencing? Because the game is not based on the current version licences are very cheap.
Accessibility? takes non-gamers about 20-30 minutes to pick up techniques. Voice over text responses.
Level progression is gated by passwords revealed through successful activities.
Save game state function so students could come back (and tutors could demo).
Note on game design: too many options away from the intended path is a very bad idea. There's a need to balance distractors.
The mod-ng process required skills similar to C. Graphics could be dragged into the environment.
Resistance to take up? Staff yes - some. Students? No, just one or two out of 7-800 students using it.
The team ran tutor awareness sessions and tutor guides to deal with common 'I don't know how to play computer games' responses.
(How) did the enthusiasts convince the college? A lot of enthusiasm was needed to kick start and proove concept. Then convinced Senior management, especially when they won a Beacon Award.
Note on the culture change challenge: staff are having to learn about new technologies (games) and about new pedagogies. Multiply that for each member of teaching staff and this represents the challenge to an educational organisation I think.
A project run by Nottingham LEA and now going national to engae disaffected young people with education.
A totally different approach of using games to attract people to an educational environment. The project has established a game league. Students form teams or clans and play different games aginst other teams to progress up league. They are awarded points for completing and for team skills.
The whole purpose is to develop team skills, communication skills, ICT skills, etc.
The League supported by a website where teams have a presence.
Other notes from discussion:
More than one student playing a game at same machine: "They'll be talking." Hence peer support, complimentary skills, etc
Hardware specs for HE are never going to be equivalent to specs required by state of the art commercial games.
My ' media interventions' concept: yes, games fit in with this idea of creating short, high impact focal points.

Introduction to Conference Notes

As is becoming habit in the LTI I'll use a blog to make and share notes from conferences I'm attending.
This week I'll be attending an all day ALT workshop at SHU titled 'Learning games: what is the value of digital games in education?'.
Tuesday I'm in Nottingham where we are presenting a workshop at the HE Academy Conference titled 'Digital game-based learning: a winner for UK higher education?'.
Wednesday to Friday I'll be in Glasgow at the Diverse Conference at which I'll be presenting on Media Interventions (Digital Audio Learning Objects and Video Nuggets).
I'll post notes from all events.