Thursday, 23 June 2011

Twitter Favourites

How do you use the Favourite option on Twitter?

I don't think this is how it's supposed to be used, but since I am now following over 200(!) tweeps, I can't always read things as soon as I see the link. So I have TweetDeck on my phone, which I use to monitor tweets on an hourly basis.

If I see a link that I want to read, I favourite it and then, when I have time, I go onto my PC and  read whatever is on the other side of the link. At that point I unfavourite it, but if I think it's worth keeping (and let's face it, with the people tweeting out there, it generally is worth keeping) I'll add it to Diigo.

The flaw with this MO is that I frequently don't retweet, because it's been a while since the original was tweeted. I must try harder at that.

So tell me, what do you use favouriting for?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Students in the Workplace

There is a big push going forward now to extend formal education into the workplace. Apprenticeships are one example and there are various projects going forth to cover varying levels of education for full time employees.

We are working on one such project with local employers and it's great. The employers are interested, committed and communicating openly with us. The staff they want to have trained will get full support.

The problem that I see (and currently have no way of addressing) is that these employers are interested enough in training their staff to consult with us on the courses we are creating. Our first cohort is going to be made up of employees from similar companies where the employers are invested in training their staff. This means the feedback we get is from people who are willing to release their staff for some time and supply them with access to the tools they need to study at work. They are also willing to structure shifts around when their staff need to study.

Do you see where this is going? There are going to be several employers out there who just aren't interested in training their staff. How do we overcome the barriers they find to put in our way?

Monday, 6 June 2011

It's a funny thing

I browsed a little of Steve Wheeler's blog today and one of his articles opens with:

"I'm firmly of the opinion that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in schools is misplaced and therefore misused."

I stopped reading at that point* because I periodically struggle with this thought. If the technology is available in a library, and you want to teach your class how to develop a wiki, you have to spend the first and last 5 minutes of the class in shifting them around. Then you have to deal with the disruption once you reach the library and your students experience the novelty of the situation.

If the technology is available in the classroom it takes up a *lot* of space and if they are placed on desks, then when they are not in use they are blocking the student's participation in the class (it's difficult to see over a normal sized monitor, and keyboards take up a lot of space.

The solution therefore is portable - you simply pull the machine out of the desk when it's required. But then you have to have a deep level of trust in your students not to damage them or steal them.

Therefore, issue each student with their own laptop/ tablet that they can use whenever and however they wish. And can you hear the collective intake of the accountants' breath?

The truth is, this technology isn't as expensive as it used to be and there are all kinds of options for making it cheaper. But in this time, with all the cuts required, I find it hard to push for the students to be given these if the only way it will fit into the budget is by removing the expense of a member of staff.

There are also other expensive problems. What I have to get used to is that in my position, I don't need to solve those problems. After all, the areas they occur in are not my speciality and there could be many problems I never considered. Maybe I should get used to floating the ideas and have other people dealing with the practicalities.

Note - I didn't stop reading because I wasn't interested, but because it was important to me to figure out my own opinions on the matter before reading somebody else's

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Web Conferencing software

Over the last couple of weeks I've been immersing myself in a new project. It's currently at that stage where money, organisation, time and stress are in their least desirable configuration.

I have, in the midst of this whirlpool, been investigating web conferencing software as a potential delivery system. Honestly, I like it. I am biased towards this idea. Unfortunately, I can't play fantasy software, as I am required to provide something that the college will value as much as I do (being a responsible adult sucks sometimes).

So, I started with the wikipedia Web Conferencing software page. It isn't a comprehensive list, but it's substantial and gives me a base of operations. Of these I whittled it down to my three favourites (some by more superficial means than others, I have to admit). Open Meetings, Buddy Meeting and Adobe Connect.

I liked some of the others on the list, but had to dismiss them as being untestable unless I can get our Moodle server duplicated, me given the admin password and permitted to install whatever I like to find out how they work. I also dropped a few paid ones on the grounds that they appeared to have no additional features when compared to the GPL ones.

What I'm saying here is that I'm open to suggestions and recommendations about good web conferencing software.

Having tested these three, I can honestly say I like them all and think that the free options are perfectly adequate for our current needs.

However, Connect offers a plugin to allow you to embed your conference in Moodle. This for me is the clincher. I want that. I want everything as much as possible to be on the same page. I want our students to have as few points of failure as possible. Maybe this is the way to do it?

But maybe this functionality is available with a cheaper solution. I feel it is very much worth a look.