What did you do today?

For a long time now, I’ve taken a Photo a day – since Jan 1st, 2011. I’ve only missed 1 day since – that said, if you have seen them, and have followed them on Flickr, you’ll perhaps have spotted that taking photos is one thing. Uploading them, another …

So, when during the week, I spotted a tweet from Ben Werdmuller, which lead to details of his latest project, Recording Life on the Ground  – it struck a cord. I’ve known of Elgg, his first major project, for a long time now; it impressed me when I first came across it.

This blog originally started out in Blogger (I think) and, when I started to investigate the possibility of linking WebCT and Elgg I moved my blog to Elgg. Sadly, we didn’t get the two linked, nor did I get Elgg set up at Portsmouth, but I did get those MScELT students who started in 2006 to use Elgg on what was then Elgg.Net

I’d never quite got into Known in the same way, though I have experimented with it. However, Ben’s latest project, designed to tie in with the current pandemic, is simple, but a good way to find out what people are actually doing.

Ben’s latest project, “Recording Life on the Ground” It’s based around a set of questions – he’d originally thought of 10, but 4 was the general consensus  – that’s not too onerous, but enough to get depth.

I’m looking forward to seeing the software, though of course there’s nothing to stop me answering those very questions here.

1: What did you do today?

I worked – mostly setting up exam modules for staff, but that wasn’t only it.

2. What did you enjoy?

The chatting – albeit on video, to members of the team; we had a few laughs, it was informal, but we got things done.

3. What did you find difficult? 

A very bizarre set of dates – one of my spreadsheets managed to have UK dates in one column – and US in another! Go figure! (Actually, I think it was because one column had decided to default to US dates, and the other had been left as a text column).

4. What has changed?

The weather 🙁 It’s finally broken. We’ve had a lot of sun. Today, it’s the last day of April, and finally the april showers arrived.


And to the future …

I finally left the University of Portsmouth last week, after 17 years, 1 as a student, 16 working.

Now to start to think about where I want my career to go – right now eLearning and/or primary computing are the areas that are particularly attracting me.

I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to check to make sure that all the materials that was on my Google drive, and is now backed up to a Hard Drive is accessible; I hope so … I also have to start moving all the contacts from the email address lists I exported, the Google + contacts and so on and so on. Oh, and try to sell a house. That, and get back to the blogging – and sorting out all those links I have bookmarked “to do something with”


Facebook it, Tweet it and the world knows: myth or reality.

That was the working title for the session that Timothy Collinson and I are doing for tonight’s Cafe Scientifique in Portsmouth.
As we’ve been discussing it (on twitter, natch!) it’s been quite hard to restrict ourselves to that – we’ve found ourselves drifting off almost into citizen journalism – in other words when people *wanted* their messages to be heard, rather than those that weren’t.
In many ways, that’s actually the difference between Facebook and Twitter. Most use the former, assuming only their friends will read it, most use the latter assuming the world will. But, sometimes mistakes get made.

Looking forward to it, though Social networking without gadgetry could be fun (that said, it means we’re able to focus on ‘social’ and ‘network’ without having to worry about technology getting in the way. [Just hope the flip chart doesn’t fall over, nor the glue sticks fail…]

Moved …

I’ve not blogged for ages … in no small part due to my tweeting; but also due to a particularly hectic first semester (now long over) – and the knowledge that we’re just about to move servers. I’ve now got an account on the new server, so spent yesterday mirroring this to there:
The new URL is http://dukee.myweb.port.ac.uk .
The last time that I had to move the blog was when the original server died. That was more fiddly, as I couldn’t ‘prepare’ the database etc. it was all a bit of a surprise!
This time, I’ve used WordPress’s codex – and it’s more or less working, though those permalinks seem to be causing problems again.
Now, just to sort out the permalinks, persuade it to autoupdate things (it is more nearly doing it than the previous system!) and start to blog!

What's in a name?

I’ve recently been involved with an email based discussion with other colleagues about aspects of “mobile” learning. There are various things we’ll be looking at, such as capabilities devices that students actually have, technical developments etc., and, the aspect I personally feel is crucial

…the pedagogical issues involved when delivering learning material on small form-factor devices

At the same time as answering the various messages that were flying around I read the 2010 Horizon report(pdf) – which has as “One year or less”, Mobile Computing. I then read a little further and noted that part of mobile computing is the area we’re interested in (small form factor), but it also encompasses wireless access in general.

The available choices for staying connected while on the go are many — smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices access the Internet using cellular-based portable hotspots and mobile broadband cards, in addition to wi-fi that is increasingly available wherever people congregate.

I therefore wondered if “Mobile” was the correct word for the group, and asked around. One suggestion was that “personalised” would be better, though my own view on that is that a student could have a “personalised” learning experience on the latest gaming machine with 2 24″ monitors – or her new android powered phone (clearly a rich student!); so it’s even more generic (though something, alongside aspects such as encouraging staff / students to make best use of OERs that should be being done anyway. )

My preference had been for “handheld”, so I asked on Twitter. Initially the answers had pointed towards “handheld” – possibly due to the leading nature of my posts! Simon Brookes included the point I’d forgotten – though would have known had I thought about it – about the frequent lack of keyboard. However, later in the evening, Jon Trinder and James Clay joined in, and the discussion swung back towards “mobile” (or learning mobility – which was Andy Black’s suggestion) – with the additional point that in that case a “mobile device” could be the coffee shop!.

In the case of UoP, I feel that we’ve already addressed many aspects of “mobile learning”. The wireless network is pretty ubiquitous (from talking to people at other Universities, it’s one of the most extensive), all our coffee shops (and, whether by accident or design, several local non-University ones) have it; we have both an encrypted and (more recently) non-encrypted option (I can now get the OLPC on it :)). We also have it in most teaching areas. So far, I’ve not heard that any academic staff have prevented students using laptops in lectures. There’s also a pool of loan laptops in the library. So, we’ve got good support and understanding, I think, for wifi access from laptops that are running reasonably recent versions of Windows (2000/XP/Vista/7), Mac OSx+. There are probably a few linux users – but the chances are they’re relatively geeky and installed it themselves. (The main drawback that I see to this is the lack of powersockets where you happen want them!)

The new group, however, is looking at netbook & smaller devices so:

  • huge range of OSes (and is more likely to include novice computer users with linux based netbooks);
  • small screen
  • limited input options
  • access via wifi or 3G

That’s why I feel that the word “handheld” is, in this case more appropriate – and could guide us when considering “the pedagogical issues involved when delivering learning material on small form-factor devices.” (by default, I’m assuming we’re thinking about using them to get students involved via discussion etc., as on paper, “delivering” could be seen as one way). There’s also raising staff awareness; most are, as I’ve already said, tolerant of laptops on desks. Most assume that phones on desks = (non-academic related) texting!
Any other comments?

Uni's Closed – but how did you know.

Following a post from Brian Kelly, I started thinking about how University of Portsmouth let students/staff know that it was closed today.
We had a number of sources:

I guess some will also have had the news second hand in some way; e.g. re-tweets, via friends in Facebook, via Victory if staff put information up there etc.,
What I’m not sure about is which route staff/students actually used. I’ve asked on twitter – so far everyone who is on Twitter used it – and also one other staff member via email – which is how she found out. (And how many haven’t investigated, so have a cold walk in)
Unlike Bath, we don’t have text messaging options – which would be useful today I think, as not all staff/students have access to the Internet at home.


Last week, Terry King & I went to the “International Elgg Conference” at Brighton University. Some of you are, no doubt, sick of me “banging on” about Elgg, (I see it’s recently won the InfoWorld “Best Open Source Social Networking” software recently)

Other Universities (e.g. Brighton, Westminster [theirs is closed, so the link is to Slideshare], Graz Technical University, Leeds University and Nottingham [private, so no links]) already have installations of Elgg; and it’s something I’d like to look at here. There are, however, aspects we should consider – we already have blogs for students via UPSU – though they don’t seem that active. However, some recent Ideas… by Shrey would suggest that there are some technical limitations to their current set up.

I can how hear students pointing out that they don’t want the staff to see their comments. Fair enough – though I’ve just found some of their blog postings! However, the feature of Elgg that I feel particularly powerful is the granularity of permissions. If you could be bothered, every single post could have a different set of viewers. So, friends can see one set of posts, lecturers another, other students on the same units a third and so on. (Oh, and to add to Shrey’s Twitter comment – there’s a “Shoutout” plugin that can either bring in your tweets – or if you don’t want a twitter a/c, you can just do it within Elgg – Edusapces have activated it)

One of the main drawbacks that I see at present in the way that the permissions systems work is that it’s not possible (as far as I know – but the newest version of Elgg has a lot more features I’ve yet to experiment with) to have users that merely have “read/comment” rights, but not posting rights. I can see why Universities don’t want to have anyone registering – due to storage issues, however, people might realistically want friends from home – but not the whole world to see certain comments. If, for whatever reason, they don’t want to use Facebook for that, then a “reader” user in Elgg would allow them to be added to a group, but not to have a blog. So, all are happy.

Back again!

I’ve been fairly busy over the last few weeks – what with marking etc. On Monday, on the way to the HEA Conference, I decided to test out both my new tablet PC & NXEC’s free wireless service. It worked fine – I got posted quite a few posts that had been in draft for a while.

On Tuesday the server died. Bang went the newest posts! So, I’ll try to remember what I wrote.