It was forty years ago today…

October 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Posted in waffle | Leave a comment

that Arpanet was switched on and the world took its first steps towards the global Internet.


Film and audio archives for education

October 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Posted in useful links | Leave a comment
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I recently came across a couple of excellent repositories of audio and video material.

The first is Europa Film Treasures, a collection of mainly pre-WW2 cinema from across Europe

The link that led me to this showed the first film ever shot from an aircraft: Wilbur Wright and his Flying Machine (1909)- how this must have astonished the audiences in early cinemas and bioscope shows.

The second is the British Library’s archive of sound recordings, made available through JISC funding – over 28,000 recordings of everything from birdsong to traditional music from around the world to oral history.

iSolutions workstation area capacities 2009

October 26, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Posted in useful links | Leave a comment
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I was asked for the locations of the largest workstation areas by someone who wanted to book them for low-stakes online assessment of large cohorts – but I couldn’t find a convenient list so I compiled this list from the info available via the iSolutions website: Continue Reading iSolutions workstation area capacities 2009…

Using a graphics tablet to annotate PowerPoint slides

October 26, 2009 at 11:58 am | Posted in hands-on | Leave a comment
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Following up a query from a tutor about annotating PowerPoint slides, I tried plugging a low-cost Wacom Bamboo A6 USB graphics tablet into my standard iSolutions Windows XP PC without installing the tablet’s driver software.This was to see how practical it would be for a tutor to bring a tablet into a lecture room and use it with the standard bench PC.

If you are presenting some PowerPoint slides and move the mouse, some semi-transparent icons appear in the lower left corner of the display. Click on the Pen icon and the following menu is displayed. Note that you can also choose the colour of the ballpoint pen (thin), felt-tip (medium) and highlighter (thick translucent). Then just use the mouse (or tablet pen) to draw on top of your slide. When you quit the presentation you will be asked if you want to save these ink annotations.

PowerPoint annotation tools

PowerPoint annotation tools

The pen and tablet worked fine, but like a mouse – in other words moving the pen over the tablet moved the cursor, but the screen was not mapped to the tablet surface. This sometimes made positioning the cursor awkward but the real impact was on my writing and sketching, which were pretty awful. Basically, when I lifted the pen away from the tablet surface, as one does when writing, the cursor stayed where it was on the screen.

I then installed the Wacom drivers and tried again. The 1:1 mapping of screen and tablet made it much easier to position the  cursor and the handwriting and sketching was much better. So the answer seems to be either use your own laptop or to adopt a university standard (Wacom) and get the driver installed on all bench PCs by default.

Back to the Future with Windows 7

October 23, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Posted in waffle | Leave a comment
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I’ve just installed Windows 7 on my MacBook using its BootCamp dual-boot capability. Sad, I know, but I’d like to compare OS X and Microsoft’s latest offering for myself. There are also still a few Windows programs that I’d like to run – the Xara illustration program, for example.

Anyhow, the installation went quickly and smoothly until I came to the part where I inserted the Snow Leopard disk and tried to install the Apple drivers (for the keyboard, touchpad etc.). I’d installed the 64-bit version of Windows 7, and an alert came up saying ‘BootCamp x64 is unsupported on this model’. Some Googling revealed a simple fix, which was unfortunately thwarted by Windows permissions. Luckily a further search revealed a work around which required… the Command window and typing some DOS commands.

Oh, the irony. The two latest, shineyest operating systems require good old DOS* to get them working together. It took me right back to the days I spent installing programs on Windows 3.1 – but at least I didn’t have a big pile of floppy disks to feed in and out.

* yes, I know its cmd.exe, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

The Academic Case for Lecture Capture

October 23, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Posted in lecture recording | Leave a comment
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The University ( iSolutions and LATEU) is exploring the potential for a lecture capture system to be installed in one or more lecture theatres. Yesterday we paid a visit to Bournemouth University to see their pilot service and talk to the staff involved in its implementation. It was good to see Barbara Newland again – she is manager of their Educational Development Services – and to gain an insight into the challenges they had overcome as well as the outcomes achieved.

They use Echo360, which is one of the main contenders for our proposed pilot. This system enables completely automated recording of scheduled lectures; all the tutor has to do is turn up, put on a tie-clip microphone and make sure it is switched on. Soon after the end of the lecture the Echo360 server will have encoded the video and added a link to the relevant Blackboard course. It is certainly our view that this level of ease of use is essential.

But what are the benefits of making a recording of a lecture available? Won’t it simply encourage student non-attendance? These questions and others are answered in this short report ‘academic case for lecture capture‘ in which I outline the main issues and summarise the research evidence currently available.

The other TELIC

October 9, 2009 at 11:54 am | Posted in waffle | Leave a comment

I heard the word ‘telic’ on the BBC news this morning and a quick look at Wikipedia confirmed that:

“Operation (or Op) TELIC is the codename under which all British operations of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and after are being conducted.

TELIC means a purposeful or defined action, but unlike the United States who called their equivalent military deployment Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Ministry of Defence uses a computer to generate its names so that they carry no overtly political connotations. As initial planning took place over the Christmas 2002 period, personnel jokingly referred to TELIC as standing for Tell Everyone Leave Is Cancelled.”

Oh well… so much for finding this blog via a Google search!

ERGO – Ethical Research Governance Online

October 7, 2009 at 10:07 am | Posted in systems | Leave a comment

I’ve just had a 30 minute meeting in Adobe Connect with Alex Furr (Psychology) at his home in Bristol – and the audio, video and screen-sharing worked really well with his consumer broadband connection. We were discussing ERGO, a system he has built which enables Schools to manage the submission and approval of ethical consent documentation for research projects.  In the past, this involved a great deal of photocopying and administrative effort, especially if changes needed to be made and resubmitted. Continue Reading ERGO – Ethical Research Governance Online…

Really useful clip art for PowerPoint

October 6, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Posted in useful links | Leave a comment
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Another top blog post from Tom Kuhlmann on his Rapid E-Learning Blog – this time on how to find related groups of clip-art on the Microsoft Office clip-art website. Usefully, he includes some excellent examples of sets with usable people. Simply search the Microsoft site for ‘style 1568’ for example.

Adobe Connect video – how to re-use a meeting

October 6, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Posted in systems | Leave a comment
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I’ve just uploaded a new video to EdShare that shows how you can quickly edit an existing meeting room in Adobe Connect so you can send email invites about the new date and time to the participants. This is useful as the invites include iCal info that enables you to add the meeting to your Outlook diary with the click of a button.

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