Monday, December 3, 2012

Rediscovering old friends and learning some new things

I visited some of my Jisc Techdis Ambassadors project colleges last week.

I worked with Epping Forest College as their Molenet mentor and was pleased to work with Vikki Liogier (@vikkiliogier) and Katheryn Lowe again. Since we last worked together, the college has continued to make great progress on developing their staff, with 16 e-pilot projects running in the college this year. The staff submit bids to have some technology to use and then contribute their case studies to share their experience. Their YouTube channel that I set up for them all those years ago is still being added to as a result of this method of CPD. Vikki is doing a great job of keeping the momentum going and continuing to use CPD ideas that work.

I had a productive update session with Vikki where we talked about how useful the Samsung Galaxy Note might be for some tutors who still want the ability to quickly make handwritten notes. The split screen function and the handwriting recognition is great on these devices. There's a 5.3" and a 10.1" version.

We also talked about for creating fun revision materials that can also be output as mobile resources. (I think @adamrsc has been promoting this)

I recommended for a simple quick hit for interactivity that most tutors would be able to use in class without having to spend a lot of time learning.

For tutors who already make videos, I recommended that she try This allows people to leave comments at any point in the video, creating a dynamic discussion list around the video resource.

Vikki is also keen to have more Textwalls for the teachers to use.

I spent the afternoon in Katheryn's class with her students, who are putting a video together to promote the College to other potential students. She's a lovely, engaging tutor who is keen to use technology with the learners and her idea for the project was to allow them to use some tool to storyboard the video before creating it. The learners took pictures and discussed these in class. They arranged the pictures in the order which they wanted for the video. At first, we thought about using for the learners to create the script, while advancing the powerpoint slides. However, with the varied needs of the learners, it occurred to me that using Voicethread would make more sense.

Voicethread is something I haven't used for a long time, but it's as good as ever. We easily uploaded a folder of pictures of the Canteen, for instance, and could record audio comments on each picture. You can also draw on the pictures. add text comments, or use the webcam to leave a video comment. Voicethread allows you to create a group of contacts who are allowed to comment on your thread.

In today's meeting at Treloar's, I showed them Voicethread as well for creating audio and video evidence for the learners. They wanted a good multimedia tool that would allow students using sign language to participate in the same way. Voicethread certainly allows this with the video commenting tool.

The tutors are raring to go with Voicethread and I look forward to seeing them again in January when they will have some progress to report!

At Treloar's, I was shown a great voice recorder, actually shaped like a microphone! It's called Easi-speak and it comes with Audacity software already loaded on to it.

After recording your voice, you can play it back straight away as the Easi-speak includes a speaker. You can charge it up via its usb connector and also edit and transfer the mp3 recordings. The familiarity of the microphone design makes it more user-friendly than your typical voice recorder. The fact that it saves recordings as wav or mp3 and has the editing software built in gives it another advantage. Add to that a usb connection and it's the bee knees! I've ordered one! I figure it will make a great Christmas present for my 8 year old who can record herself singing and play it back straight away. (I'm thinking I might be able to get her to practice her times tables and play them back…I can hope!)

The visits have been so productive in helping to work out what might be useful to these tutors. When you see tutors working in their own environments,  you are made aware of their needs in a way that cannot be described on paper or just over a conversation. When you are situated in the teacher's classroom, ideas are triggered on what tools might help them with a particular group of learners, in a particular learning situation and so on.

It's like trying to diagnose an illness over the phone or getting some help for your website problem by going to a company helpdesk. The staff who look after these work through a checklist and give you a generic solution. Sometimes this is enough and it is just what you need. More often than not, if your situation is unique, you have to go and see someone to get the right solution for you. Working face to face can prevent a misdiagnosis of the problem and save time in providing the right ideas to try.

So it's been a very productive week already, and then I go visit Sparsholt College, but let's save that for another blog post!

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