Friday, September 30, 2011

Comparing pebblepad to Mahara

Our Centre for Educational Development (CED) manager has organised access to trial pebblepad. The main reason is for CED staff to record their experiences, as they work with teams, to support the programme design process. At CPIT, we base programme design on principles of constructive alignment, starting with the development of graduate profiles. From the graduate profiles, flow learning outcomes which are tightly linked to learning and assessment activities.

I have used Mahara off and on and found the interface to be mostly intuitive. I have been playing around with pebble pad this week and in comparison, Pebble pad has a ‘prettier’ front page and is also mostly intuitive to use. There are more elements to Pebble pad as well, making it more flexible. Parts of Pebble pad are user customisable, so there is less of having to do things for the sake of filling up the space.

Pebble pad, like Mahara, works through the collection of assets/artefacts. A difference is that pebble pad treats ALL entries as assets, whereas Mahara tends to have an area for uploaded artefacts and the other entries (journal/blog, CV) etc. are separate ‘blocks’ that you can choose to display.

There is a sharper learning curve to learning how to use pebble pad because there are so many ways to collect and then display assets. Therefore, it is important to provide examples and opportunities for learners to see the bigger picture. One advantage of Mahara is that you can configure various 'showcases' for your portfolio depending on audience. You can do the same in Pebble pad as well by setting up separate webfolios or blogs but it is less obvious.

A trawl through the www indicates a slant towards pebble pad. Examples include this Australian report surveying TAFEs and universities, indicating more users of Pebble pad (p 17) and eportfolio platforms being the most widely used (amongst Australian tertiary institutes) although more so in universities than their TAFE sector who tended to lean towards using their in-house LMS. And a UK report comparing several eportfolio alternatives, trimming them down to a choice between pebble pad and Mahara and deciding on pebble pad as it would be serviced and the institute did not have to set up their own unit to oversee.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lenovo Thinkpad tablet - evaluation

ITC have provided a Lenova Thinkpad for us to have a play with for a couple of days. The Thinkpad runs on Android OS 3.1 and comes with a pen! It is pitched at the business user with documents to go uploaded.

The initial feel of the Thinkpad is that it is solid, with a slightly rubberised base for a secure hold. Positive reviews in general with usual comparisons to the ipad2, with the Thinkpad coming up well as far as capabilities is concerned. For our purposes, the solid feel of the Thinkpad is not a problem as we use it in workshop/workrooms where there is a danger of things being dropped/spilled on the tablet is a high possibility.

There are more buttons on the thinkpad then on other tablets reviewed so far (Acer Iconia, Toshiba Thrive). The on/off button is a bit awkward on the right top when the tablet is held in portrait mode with the buttons (home, go back, browser and lock display) on the bottom. The usb is on the wrong side as when you are in landscape mode, the normal approach is to have the buttons on your right which means the usb memory stick stuck into the tablet is in the way when you use the tablet on your lap.

Access to external files etc. is easy with mini usb, sd card and standard usb. However the usb file copy app means you have to copy your files across and I have not figured out the way to just run your files off the usb without physically copying your files across into the tablet. Plugging the tablet into your pc allows for easy transfer of files from PC to tablet. Downloading files as attachments through browser based email or gmail is less intuitive. You download on to another tab and the attachment ‘disappears’. I then discovered the files in ‘recent files’ when documents to go app booted up!

Of note is the OEM only mobile note from myscript to make use of the pen. There is an ipad version which seems to have more limited capabilities. The mobile note allows you to write with your pen on to the tablet. The slippery screen takes a small amount of time to get used to. Overall, runs well, converting writing to text, has sketching/doodling pen option and allowing you to transfer notes to email etc. also brings in photos and for limited annotation above or below but not ON the photo itself.
In all, a nice piece of hardware, displaying photos with clarity and bundled with enough apps to get things going from the business productivtity point of view. In comparison, the Toshiba Thrive's bundled apps are more user friendly and intuitive to use. The best part of the thinkpad was the ability to use a pen using mobile note. Something which is really useful for our tablet projects where we are trying to encourage our students to write notes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Andrew Massie's presentation on reconnecting Christchurch's electricity supply after earthquakes

Andrew Massie, one of my Diploma in Tertiary Teaching and Learning students who is an electrical trades tutor. Andrew is completing a project, recording the learning garnered during his academic study leave and then using the data to write a curriculum document for training electricity supply industry trades people, working as linesmen, specifically for cable jointing and line mechanics.

Andrew recorded most his learning through a blog and collected a range of industry pertinent photos and videos, recording the work he undertook. The timing of his academic leave coincided with the Canterbury earthquakes. Therefore, his blog and it's contents are now of interest to a much wider audience than just Andrew and myself!

I attended the presentation which was well attended by industry, the people Andrew worked on his attachments and a few of Andrew's family. The main objective was to assess Andrew for about 3/4 of the negotiated learning outcomes for his course, but the information presented was also of interest for finding out how a part of Christchurch's infrastructure was reestablished after the major earthquake events.

Much of the presentation focused on the technical details of different types of heavy duty cables used and how these are installed or repaired. For me, the really interesting part was to capture a glimpse of the distinctive work culture and practices of a specialised type of work. Andrew mentioned how putting up power poles was done with little verbal communication and yet accomplishing a highly technical and complicated task efficiently. How do we help our students enter such a tight knit community of practice and learn the required skills? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Core session on Mobile learning in the cloud

A well-attended session at this morning's CORE breakfast series, presented by Paul Rodley, ICT director from Christ College, a private boys high school in Christchurch. The presentation concentrated on aspects of cloud computing after a brief overview of ICT use in education.

How can educators capture learning using technology when technology keeps on changing so quickly? Work on the actual use of technology and adapt hardware as they are updated. Examples of using mobile technology concepts include location based technology, domination of ebook, cloud computing in schools, bring your own device classrooms, online collaborative learning, rise of the tablet, on-line class management, social media in education, snack learning, mobile learning in workplace learning.

Provided case studies used at his school including using tweeter in a economics classroom, ipod touch with ebooks in English class, ipads with English and Geography classes, using QR codes to access information, teacher generated ebooks with embedded videos and align mobile access to LMS (moodle),

Stressed importance of surveying students to work out how and what sort of technology they are using as this changes quickly from year to year. Also to enable teachers to make use technology including building confidence and providing sufficient support.

Encouraged access to cloud computing as one way to provide equitable use via a variety of devices. Examples include using mediacore for storing videos, myportfolio (Mahara), eTV for archiving NZ based TV programmes and the public cloud (youtube etc.) Lucidchart and for doing diagrammes, aviary (flash based) for editing and storing multimedia, Google docs, plus socrative to quiz students and poll everywhere (both accessible by multiple devices),

Possibilities include ipads as an interactive white board (for $5 to $10) - we have been testing doceri which cost US$50 per PC - teamviewer allows control of several devices, booktrack for soundtrack for books.

Used page three of addiction to angry birds infographicto provide challenges to teachers for keeping up with technology and using ICT to enhance student learning - keep it simple, rewarding, realistic and have fun :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Blogger interface

Noticed last week that blogger was inviting people to try out their new interface, so I clicked on the relevant panel and a nice, clean mainly white /pastel coloured screen came up. On the left, you can click on links on overview of your blog, posts, pages, stats, earnings, layout, template, settings.

Of interest is the stats area. A bit of a surprise to find out that the post ‘learning welding #3’ - on observing non-verbal interactions-, comes up on top for the week and month. Perhaps someone out there (the country accessing this link is South Korea!) has made a link to the posts as an example of observations of non-verbal interactions?

The all-time high post is one I put together from the ITP trade tutors forum last year, followed by posts from ITF research forums! As these are mainly notes to self, it is interesting people pick up on these posts. This also indicates there is (perhaps) large gap in the blogging community for trades-based type posts. I will need to encourage more of our trades tutors to blog. One, Andrew Massey, an electrical tutor, blogged extensively on his academic leave attachment to a line maintenance firm through the first six months of this year, over the period of the Christchurch earthquakes. By all accounts, the blog has been taken up by various civil engineering types, interested in the after effects of the earthquake, from an electricity supply viewpoint.

I have sitemeter installed on this blog and check the sitemeter stats weekly, they generally show interest in tech. related posts, as whenever I post items about tablets, or use of apps etc. the visits to this blog go up.

Also, as of last week, I am able to blog directly from my ipad, although the blogger app is an iphone version. Will try this out at the next conference/forum I attend.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Literature informing tablet based interactive etextbook project

I have been doing a catch up on literature that forms the foundation of the interactive etextbooks on tablets project. The four theoretical approaches to learning underpinning the project are mobile / mlearning, learning as students make meaning (constructivism/connectivism), situated learning in simulated workshops/workrooms and leveraging on multi-literacies and multimodalities.
 Some recent material to explore in deeper depth over the next few weeks pertinent to each approach, and to add to existing literature include the following.

mobile learing - The Joint Committee for Information Systems (JISC) have put out the recent wiki document covering an overview of mobile learning, strategies, pedagogy, technical considerations and case studies. A sort of one-stop shop to find out about what is mobile learning and how to implement into educational settings.

Also of interest is mobile usage and Derek's blog provides a cartoon to bring together data on how American's are always connected via their mobile devices.

Constructivism - George Siemen’s work on connectivism has been introduced as a concept that updates constructivism into the information era. A recent presentation (on sensemaking and wayfinding)provides a summary of some of his recent thinking including how connectivism builds on and extends traditional teaching/learning approaches into the digital era (slide 10).

Situated learning and multi-literacies/ multimodalities - A recent post from Artichoke, provides much food for thought plus ideas to follow up on. She discusses the challenges of assessment for learning in the digital age and provides an example from a NZ primary school context,  with usual caveats and provisos.  All in, the above provide me with ideas on how best to structure the literature review section of the report and to make the links between mobile learning and the affordances mobility/mobile hardware/multimodal apps, provides for students to record their learning within simulated work environments.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Using onenote and evernote in education

I have started using onenote at work, as a way to keep random notes, interesting websites, maps of places I am about to visit and other items that do not have an official digital home as such on my work or home PC.  As usual, learning by doing has helped to provide an opportunity to evaluate how to use onenote more effectively. As we are using evernote on the net tablet project, it is time to do a bit of a comparison between the two. Of note too is that there is an ipad version of onenote for the ipad.
There is a comparison between onenote and evernote on this blog. With onenote having more features and being compatible with the Windows suite of Word, powertpoint etc.
I did some research to look at how to transfer onenote files into other platforms/software tools and came up with how to share notebooks from between onenote users from the official Windows office site, which will be useful for teachers to set up base material and for students to add to, annotate and re-organise, producing their own 'textbook' through the exercise. The site also provides instructions on how to share and export onebook files and also found these useful - how to view onenote files when you do not have access to the onenote programme and similar.   
There is also the possibility of providing students access to onenote files through Moodle and something to try out this week, importing evernote files to onenote as a way for students to retain access to their notes compiled on the tablets using evernote.