» Personalisation in electronic environments Josie Fraser gives a good overview of where we are, and, more importantly where we could be going with personalisation in electroncic (learning environments). She looks at a range of differing levels of personalisation and control that the learner can have over the environment, and sees a difference between a “learning environment” and “learners environment” – the latter having the degree of personalisation. Early in the paper, she comments on the difficulty inherent in attempting to offer personalisation at the institutional level pointing out:

provision which attempts to pre-determine what personalisation might mean without allowing for flexibility risks excluding and failing to accommodate learner’s needs.

Students are coming into futher and higher education with diverse experience in their use of “Web 2.0” type tools, some often associating them with personal activities, and not realising their potential in their learning. At the institutional level, we have to encourage students to use the tools with which they are familiar, to explore new ones, while supporting those to whom all this is new. We have to find a way to enable students to use tools that offer networking and collaborative facilities (where appropriate), yet are suited to their personal needs.

Firefox 2.0 and Zotero.

I’ve been having a look recently at Firefox 2.0 (despite deciding how much I like Flock) in part due to the fact that Zotero only works with Firefox 2. I’ve used Procite for keeping references in for a while now, but it seems that the University is keen to encourage staff to move to Endnote. I’ve started to have a look at it, and while you can’t import directly from a webpage, as ProCite can (but only if you have the web page open in a very ancient version of Netscape), I think that I could get used to it. It seems a bit easier, so less options to have to worry about!

However, both ProCite & Endnote are limited to the university system. That’s where Zotero comes in. It will let you export data in a format that Endnote can import (RSS seems the best from my albeit limited tests so far). One feature of Zotero that seems very useful, is that though all 3 of them can save the URL to the page, it’s only Zotero that can create a snapshot of the page – essentially by saving the HTML & images on the page (though not videos, but it’s a lot better than having nothing!).
A USB  stick with Firefox 2.0 / Zotero / MoinMoin (or similar) / Open Office could be a pretty powerful student tool I think!

Collaborative Notetaking

DyKnow seem to supply some collaborative notetaking software. It looks interesting, but, though I can find several places telling me that the *client* is free, I can’t seem to find the cost of the server – which it seems to need! There are other tools that I have found, that are free; for example:

  • Google Notebook (can have private or public books)
  • MyNote it – designed for students – and you can enter your University.
  • Wikis
  • etc., etc., etc,

Then we might want to see if it’s possible to draw together this, with other tools, either for an individual or an institution to form a PLE.

Blogs and ePortfolios and Assessment

Barbara’s thinking Out Loud about blogs & ePortfolios. Here at Portsmouth we’ve been talking about blogs & ePortfolios; I’m hoping to have Elgg set up for the start of next academic year, and to test it with some students, primarily for blogging, but, as all the groups that I’ll be working with will have to create some elearning software, I don’t see any reason why they can’t use the files section to share work in progress with other students/ me for feedback.

I very much agree with Barbara’s point that portfolios shouldn’t be a static repository for final artefacts; rather more for work in progress.

Well worth reading. (and the links too!)

More on PLEs

I’ve already mentioned my thoughts on the use of Google as a way of creating a PLE. A post of Joan’s on the Social Learning site points to Graham’s position paper on PLEs – which is well worth reading. He’s got a list of tools that could be combined to make a PLE (given the list, I think he’s a Mac user). One thing he’s mentioned is Ecto – which others had mentioned at the PLE workshop. What I’m not sure about is what the differences are between that ($17.95) & w.bloggar (free).

PLEs & Google.

Since attending the PLE workshop, I’ve been mulling over the possibility of using a Google personal page as a form of PLE.

I’ve already downloaded Google Notebook, which resides on the lower bar of the browser. I’ve got several different feeds onto my personal page (Gmail, Google Reader, BBC news etc.,), however, there are some things that I can’t get. Oddly, it’s not possible to have bookmarks on the home page – so I can’t like, for example to my Google webpages , Writely account or Google Spreadsheets, should I want to create something.

However, I’ve recently found Google Modules, which allows you to add more modules to the home page, and Google themselves seem to have more options, judging by the list they offered me this morning of “new tools”.

Google has definitely grown massively since I did my MSc project – when I was looking at search engines. Then, other students looked at me oddly as I was extoling the virtues of this new search engine I’d found (1999), today, they look at me oddly when I suggest that they might like to try other search engines! (Look at the Google page & the lower logo – it says “Beta”!)

I seem to have found a strange interaction. When I’m editing a post in here, if I’ve got the Visual Rich Text editor on, and I select some text (not uncommon!), I get the Google Notebook floating button sometimes. That can, (not always), add some hidden HTML to the page … I was going to try to quote it here, but even enclosing it with code tags seemed to cause confusion (The code had google in it, which is what allowed me to work out what it was). Once it’s there, it mucks the whole blog up, until it’s removed. But, as it’s hidden, it can take time to work out which is the offending post.
Luckily, it’s not too big a problem, as I’ve just discovered I can disable the floating button & just use the “Note this” option in the right click menu. It was frustrating this evening though, knowing I’d done a lot of posts – and one of them was clearly doing something that was confusing it…