Monday, May 25, 2009

Presentation at Aoraki Polytechnic staff professional development day

I was invited to do presentation at the Aoraki Polytechnic staff development day last Friday. I had a pleasant drive down to Timaru with grand views of the snow covered Southern Alps for company. The staff development day is one day when all staff at Aoraki come together to learn, network and re-create. Although Aoraki is based in Timaru, it has satellite campuses from Dunedin, Oamaru, Ashburton and Christchurch. The day is therefore a good way for staff separated not only be subject discipline areas but by geographical location to convene.

The day began with welcome in the three national languages of New Zealand, Maori, English & NZ signing. The CEO started the official talk fest followed by updates the various campus managers.

Keynote by Sue Lindsay on daring to be different.A good presentation on strategies for success and resilience in challenging times set the scene for the rest of the day. My presentation was well attended. I described the CPIT baking tech online & mportfolios underpinned by the precepts of cognitive apprenticeships.

This was then followed by brief presentations on the Aoraki Foundation learning project (taking a different approach to CPIT by using short staff development powows) and the Aoraki use of Moodle as an LMS.

Drove back to Christchurch into cold and wet weather which persisted through the weekend :(

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wolfram Alpha

This came through on Derek Wenmouth’s blog. The wolfram alpha site is a computational visualisation tool. It is an interesting way to bring information together and especially useful for visual learners. It is at present a good resource for subjects that have some form of statistics or numeric emphasis to them.

A good video provides a series of examples. Examples from subjects associated with stats & numbers include maths, economics, geography (demographics). There are also interesting uses in using the site to calculate nutritional values, medical type measurements, climate and an extremely fascinating area of genetics (enter a gene sequence & see what happens!)

The site is an extension of the work of Stephen Wolfram’s work with mathematica and a new kind of science (NKS) which is to study science using a ‘principal of computational equivalence’ to discover links & synergies between various aspects of applied research in science.

The layout of the wolfram alpha pages allows display on mobiles. Chunks of information are also ‘micro’ providing sufficient information to do further exploration. Hopefully, a mobile version will be available in the not too distant future as some of the applications are imminently suited to mobile uses. For example, I would use the nutritional values one quite often & other ones on demographics / anagrammer/ current weather etc. can be useful when you encounter information that needs to be clarified & a desktop is not available.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Personal content management and mobiles

I was catching up on reading as preparation for writing a couple of papers for conferences. The concept of personal content management (PCM) came up via doing a Google search. Personal content management can be thought of as being a subset of personal information management (PIM). One way of bringing together personal information would be via mindmap tools like personal brain.

However, I was more interested in mobile versions of PCM and this dissertation on facilitating personal content management in smart phones by Antti Aaltonen provided useful reading. Antti is also one of the authors of a book on personal content experience: managing digital life in the mobile age which is a report on the work on a group on Nokia researchers. This site is always a good one to keep up with the latest on mobile technology.

The book covers a good overview of development in the past decade on an increase in mobility of people and their devices along with the growth and increasing importance being placed on personally generated content. Factors which enhance the development of PCMs include the ability to access content, share this content and through this sharing re-live the experiences stored. Confidence that the content will not disappear & that it can be kept private if required. Seeing the content as part of a bigger whole and being able to exploit ‘mobility, metadata and context’ to further extend on personally created content. Good links can be made with the concept of PCMs, eportfolios and narratives. This book actually uses five personas (two 16 year old students, a 28 year old activist, a 40 year old artist and a 56 year old plumber) through out the book to help explain the concepts introduced.

Of interest was the motivation towards mobility explained by our innate desire to be mobile (new nomads) and our short attention spans (five seconds!). I have recommended the book to the library and will do a more thorough evaluation of the book when it arrives.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Prezi came via Ignatia webs. It’s a interesting presentation tool which provides a visually exciting alternative to the ubiquitous powerpoint. There are good examples in the prezi showcase including this one on why blog.

A good learning site is included which models the possibilities for using Prezi although less visual / interactive learners will appreciate the manual which provides good summaries.
Prezi is very intuitive to use. When you place an object or text on to your ‘frames’ the prezi wheel appears. This allows you to rotate the object, resize (zoom in/out) or move things around. Very cool!

I had a play and put together a presentation in about an hour, learning as I went along and experimenting with the options. Did not manage to remove some of the ‘frames’ but overall a useable presentation which I will tidy up next week.

The presentation can be assessed via the web or you can download as a zip file and run without actually having to be web connected. File is very large but opened smoothly on to my desktop.
This is possibly the best find so far this year (apart from Google books & xtimeline)

Friday, May 08, 2009

21st century elearning - virtual schools

Yesterday, I attended a presentation by Professor. Niki Davis, University of Canterbury and Bridget Somekh, Canterbury fellow from Manchester Metropolitan University on 21st century elearning at a CPIT lunch time meeting convened by Nick Ford.
An example of 21st century elearning was presented via case studies of virtual schools. This was defined as primary and secondary school students being able to learn from a teacher who was not situated geographically in the same school.

Case studies were presented on the Florida virtual school, Iowa learning online and an example from the UK called ‘not school’ convened by Anglia Ruskin Ultralab (now disbanded). Each virtual school had different organisational and funding structures and met various objectives. What most had in common was the ability to provide access to specialised teachers who were recognised as leaders in their field.

Many virtual schools are set up around video conferencing facilities so that a teacher is able to teach more than one class at a time, one in physically in front of them and another linked to them via video conferencing. This provided opportunities for students in smaller schools and in rural / remote areas to study subjects they were interested in. The UK example catered to students who had been removed from the school system or who had reasons that prevented them from attending school (eg. Victims of bullying).

All in, interesting to learn about the diversity in virtual schooling, be provided with examples of teachers who exemplify good elearning practice and view the technology currently in use.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mindmapping tools #2 & timeline tool

These came via Jane Hart’s great blog.

First up, personal brain. This provides for the construction of a traditional mindmap. It is very user friendly and intuitive to use. It has comprehensive features which allow you to link to your files, webpages etc. so that it becomes an extension of your usual filing / folder system on your desktop. A guide to ways to use personal brain is a good summary of the uses for mindmaps.

The other was dropmind which is available as a web version or desktop version. This is a more visually exciting platform & the web version allows multiple users to edit and share a mindmap. Presentations can also be generated. The user guide is a pdf file (compared to personal brains series of videos) but the interface is intuitive and user friendly and should not be difficult for students engage with after a short introduction.

Another interesting concept is xtimeline. This nifty site has a collection of timelines ranging from the history of tea to economics to notables like Steve Jobs and Beethoven. There is also a history of the internet which is open for public editing. You are able to make use of the timelines posted by other users as a resource or built ones yourself. Each node in the timeline is a link to more information including pictures and videos. Individuals or groups can work on each timeline so this resource is ideal for use in education.
All not suitable for mobile use as yet but xtimeline has potential due to it's ability to organise a lot of information into a small start up page & then provide the links greater information depth via each node.