house design, edtech & musings …so far!




It’s …Privates! Is it edupunk?

I was trawling through various blog posts and news sites yesterday and found this article on the Guardian’s website – ‘Sex, death and government oppression: how Channel 4 are re-inventing the educational video game‘- with a title like that you just have to read more…

A new game is being released that will probably upset a few people – but it made us (some of whom grew up with The Young Ones, Blackadder & Ben Elton) lol!

The name: ‘Privates‘; the aim: sex education for teenagers; the game: classic shoot ’em up.

I’ll leave you to read the details in the original article (and get a flavour from the trailer above). Needless to say, it’s much jollier than the ‘have sex and you will die’ campaign of the ’80s! It’s available online, on August 5th.

Also available from tomorrow, ‘The Curfew‘ is set in 2027 in an Orwellian Britain, with you playing a protester who could change the regime depending on your actions and relationships with others. It’s actually based on recent Government Acts trying to control teenagers’ anti-social behaviour. Another hit in the office is ‘War Twat‘ – a shooter where you fight buses, aliens and er …handbags!

Edupunk‘ is a term used to describe DIY attitudes to teaching and learning practices, originated from, I suspect, 40-somethings who are still ‘punk at heart’.  These games have been created by skilled programmers and designers so are not technically DIY, but they do seem to be tuned into other punk ideologies such as rebellion, anti-authoritarianism and generally being ‘shocking’. But do today’s teenagers share these attitudes? Will parents approve? More importantly, will these games be effective teaching resources?

As is often the case when reading, I’ve completely digressed from my original topic. This article also highlights ‘Smokescreen‘, an interactive drama that invites players to join ‘Whitesmoke’ where they experience the darker sides of social networking. It’s presented as a series of missions, each taking about 20 minutes to complete. This was released last year and has won it’s creators, ‘Six to Start‘, a couple of awards – I can’t believe I missed it before as, even though it’s aimed at teenagers, the messages are relevant to all web users and inspirational for future ‘myBrand‘ work.

It’s encouraging that Channel 4 are looking to small, independent ‘digital creative’ outfits and, in some cases, such as with ‘Privates’ creators, ‘Zombie Cow‘, helping these companies get off the ground. If anyone’s interested in creating a game, see 4 Producers, Channel 4’s online commissioning guide.

Can’t resist returning to ‘Privates’ for the last line – ‘ Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s The Sex Pistols’


myPeLC10 – Day Two!

Day 2 started with an excellent keynote by Dave White (Uni. of Oxford) who talked about the transition of co-digital to the post-digital. Through a diagram, based on David McCandless’ “Hierarchy of Digital Distractions“, he introduced the different types of users involved as  pioneers (building new stuff); players (networkers who influence the evolution of tech); pragmatists (want to know what tech is for and how to use it correctly) and phollowers (don’t experiment, use normalised tech). This made me think about what category I, as a Learning Technologist, would fall into…  I wouldn’t class myself as a ‘player‘ although certainly our role involves presenting at conferences and networking. I don’t think I totally fit in the ‘pragmatist’ category either as I show people tech and advise on how it could be used, usually in response to lecturers approaching me with an idea for enhancing their teaching. Dave concluded that the players and  pragmatists need to talk to each other – I would argue Learning Technologists, and other support staff involved with e-learning, make up a missing layer between players and pragmatists and actually are the ‘conversation‘. I’d be interested to hear what others think…

Discovery Learning with Web 2.0 Technology‘ (Rhian Pole, Swansea Metropolitan University)  presented the e-Tutor Project, comparing using a Social Learning Environment (SLE) made up of Ning, MindMeister (mindmap) and Google to the University’s VLE (Blackboard) with 26 students on a ‘Personal Computer and Internet Technologies’ module. The module was structured through the mindmap with links to the web. Students liked having a customisable personal page and map to organise resources (they preferred this to the VLE) and the fact they could use it for other areas of their lives. In fact, because they like the social features, productivity increased. There is an emphasis on research in this module and Google was used to create customised search strings to the map. This was found to impede the learners, however, as they were not searching themselves. Rhian concluded that this set-up improved the learning, allowing the tutor to review each student’s progress. The tutor role was crucial in guiding the students.

Geraldine Jones (Uni. of Bath) introduced me to ‘Voicethread‘, which she used successfully with her students to facilitate peer-assessment (Peer Assessment in a Web 2.0 World: Revisiting the ‘Big Ideas‘). In short, Voicethread allows you to create, share and discuss digital stories. I’ve had a very quick play and it looks impressive – expect a dedicated post on it later!

me in action!Back on chairing duties in the afternoon for the ‘Handhelds/e-Books’ stream. Lee Bryant (City of Bristol College) described how the quality of research was lifted through students using ebooks (eBooks for HE in FE students). This was followed by a presentation by Udo Bleimann (University of Applied Sciences, Darmstadt, Germany) comparing different types of eBook Readers (eBook Readers in Academic Personal Knowledge Management) – Sony’s got a good review due to it not having to be recharged for a couple of weeks although, due to cost, the conclusion was that these would be ideal for researchers/ Phd students.

The final presentation in this strand (Using Flip Camcorders to Support Learning in Large Classes) was by Laura Taylor and Elisabeth Dunne (Uni. of Exeter) who described using flip cameras with large classes of students who spoke different languages. The students were divided into groups and the cameras used to record ice-breaker videos. These were then reviewed by each other and content revised. Students loved using the cameras and this was reflected in the numbers attending the classes. As this was a group project, students didn’t want to let other members of their group down so felt that they had to be there and make a good contribution. However, logistical issues such as recharging camera batteries and converting the videos to flv, were very time-consuming…

The conference ended with a plenary session with Steve Wheeler, Dave White, Josie Fraser and Thomas Fischer. I won a wireless mose in the prize draw – a great way to end a very enjoyable conference!

Photos of PeLC10 by Dawn Wheeler. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

myPeLC10 – Day One!

PeLC10 registrationDay 1 of the 5th Plymouth e-Learning Conference, ‘Learning without Limits: Facing the Challenges’. (8th & 9th April 2010) Not much travelling for me!

First up, a very relevant keynote for me as Josie Fraser talked about digital identity and online communities.

I then chaired the ‘e-Portfolios’ strand and was really pleased to hear how well initially skeptical and slightly resistant UoP staff and students had engaged with PebblePad.  Trainee Teacher, Kasia told how she organised her work via blogs and how good it was to have it all in one place. The final webfolio was hard to create but she’s very proud of it. What was really appreciated by everyone was the ability to be able to communicate with peers through commenting on each others’ blog posts. Students found PebblePad easy to use and through compiling their webfolios, understood more the need for reflection. Excellent feedback!

Next, Julie Swain, Claire Gray (UPC) and Dave Croot, who has been central to the acquisition and rollout of PebblePad here, presented how it is being used to support Public Services Foundation Degrees. Again, the feedback was very positive, particularly from the employers involved.

Carolyn Gentle (UoP) gave an insightful talk about her experiences around online classroom culture – I’m noting this here because we’re currently developing an online tutoring course and her input would be valuable!

Sharing Presentations in Web 2.0‘ (Tobias Jokisch & Mesut Kizilkaya – Uni. of Applied Sciences, Germany) introduced CoCoMa (Collaborative Content Manipulation). The aim of this project is to extend common slide editing with pedagogical concepts. A lecturer creates slides and each student can then create their own version of a slide. This could be used in lectures to give a more thorough explanation to complex ideas, or to get solutions from students to set questions. As this is still in development you are unable to embed audio or video as yet, but slides can be imported and exported to other presentations such as PowerPoint. See for more info.

Roger Emery & Accalia Atkinson (Solent Southampton University) gave some good tips about using audio feedback. Inspired by the JISC-funded ‘Sounds Good’ project they concluded that it saved time; improved feedback quality and students benefited from being able to listen to both the first and second marker and felt they gained more from it. Tips included:

  • put grade in the middle so that students listen to the whole file (about 5-7 mins.)
  • they used Sony UX80 which records direct to mp3 but eats batteries!
  • method accepted by external examiners

Files were uploaded into a Discussion Forum within Moodle which meant that, although students could only listen to their own files, as they were received when they were at home they discussed their feedback through the forum.

Finally I attended the ‘Microblogging in education‘ workshop facilitated by Carmen Holotescu (West University of Timisoara, Romania). Unfortunately there were not many attendees and very few used twitter for teaching. I learnt there are alot more microblogging platforms out there apart from twitter! It’s a shame this was programmed so late as I think it would have been a very informative and fun session had energy levels been a little higher.

So a very long day – but rewarding…

WordPress/ I.E. Problem …and Solution!

We’ve been having problems embedding videos and presentations in WordPress – they never seem to load in Internet Explorer! (See Mark P’s post of 27th Jan.) Here is the solution – credit to Mark P but I thought I’d make a note of it because I’ll forget otherwise!)


If you remove the object id tag (see highlighted code in the pic above) – it works! :o)


If you then switch back to the Visual Editor, WordPress will very kindly put the object id tag back in – grrr!

Just so you know!

Work – week two…

First up I attended a meeting to organise a Technology Enhanced Learning Showcase Day. There are lots of new TEL initiatives and activities going on in the University at the moment and it will be good to see what staff are doing within TULIP, Plymouth’s Teaching and Learning Environment, and beyond, particularly as further tools were introduced last September. It’s also envisaged that the event will result in the formation of some SIGs (Special Interest Groups). Mark P’s set up a free Crowdvine (used by ALT-C) site for us with a view to facilitating these SIGs – haven’t done much with this yet apart from signed in but will probably have more info next work post.

Tuesday morning was spent teaching – it’s amazing how quickly two hours go! The students were great – none of them had ever really done any web design before but they’re really keen. The session went smoothly apart from me making the classic mistake of using the wrong sort of pen on the whiteboard – just as I was demonstrating how to design your page using tables and how to ‘merge cells’ – doh! There’s so much stuff to cover – webdesign, using Dreamweaver, file size and compression, using Fireworks, CSS for text… that I’m pretty sure I shall be running an extra tutorial for them: this usually happens but quite flattering as the students ask me themselves. I’ve also been invited to sit in on the assessment in April which I’m looking forward to.

Next up, I attended a meeting of the Plymouth eLearning Conference Organising Committee. Not much to report here apart from it’s on 8th – 9th April, therefore not too far away! There are alot of abstract submission deadlines at the moment so I’ve been trying to get these typed up. Unfortunately PebblePad has been down this week so I’ve been unable to access myBrand which I really need to look at, update and re-focus… I found some really good blog posts and even a very relevant blog!

It was good to see all the FLTs at our meeting on Wednesday morning where we discussed the TEL Showcase Day further. Jackie reminded me I need to re-vamp Tandem Exchange Online as it would be good to demo this at the VC’s Teaching and Learning Conference in July – it should fit perfectly with the ‘Internationalisation’ theme.

Other bits and pieces this week – checking all the ‘In at the Deep End’ updates have been done so the books can go to print on Monday; giving feedback on a really informative webpage Paddy in Careers has put together around ‘Online Presence’ and looking at a Camtasia presentation created by Glen (also Careers) entitled ‘Instant Job Offers’ – it looks really good and could be a good tool for presenting myBrand – another job for next week!

Back to work… week one.

This year I’ve decided to use this blog to document the work I do. Although we’ve all been submitting weekly work records for a while now, I think this will prove useful for several reasons. So, to last week…

It snowed alot – even here! We were greeted with an email telling staff to make every effort to get to work – I wonder just how much support employers would give to those who injured themselves severely trying to do this?

Work-wise, I attended a Xerte demonstration presented by Joan. Xerte is an e-learning development environment created by clever bods at Nottingham University. There’s a few glitches but on the whole it looks pretty good. I’d like to try it for myself so will pencil in some time in the next week or so.

Fran asked me to remind her how to access and add content to the extranet’s CMS. While going through it we discovered that I seem to be the only person who can add content to the new Teaching and Learning Directorate area – need to get this sorted urgently!

I’m teaching BSc Cruise Management Final Year students for two hours on Tuesday, so needed to prepare my lesson plan and make sure my workbooks are up-to-date. They have to create a website which showcases a UoP student on placement on a cruise ship; reports on the 2nd International Cruise Conference and advertises the BSc Cruise Management course. My role is to teach them how to plan and create their sites, using Dreamweaver and Fireworks. This will be the third year I’ve done this – examples from last year are on the University’s website.

Learn Spanish in Second Life!

learnSpanishJust a note on something I thought looked quite interesting…

Language life Spanish classes give you the opportunity to converse with teachers and other students in ‘real life’ situations such as cafes, hotels, restaurants and banks within a virtual Spanish city – Ciudad Bonita. Courses are spread over 10 weeks and include weekly class sessions, practice time and web-based exercises. They claim to focus on speaking, listening, reading and writing – it would be interesting to see how they do this…

Lipsynching is not great in SecondLife  – this would be expecially problematic for teaching and learning a language. The course uses VOIP so I guess the sound is OK but wouldn’t there be a slight delay? Why not use video for teaching pronounciation? How well populated is the city for practicing?

Lots of questions that I haven’t got time or money to investigate at the mo. It’s $267 (approx £169) for a 10 week course – but one it would be good to return to at some point!

Aqua Dock

aquadockI was recently asked where I got my Apple-inspired Dock for a PC (see pic). It can be downloaded for free from Softpedia. You then add your shortcuts by dragging the exe icons in the Program Files folder onto the dock. Voila!

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