Virtual Worlds and Gaming for learning

November 24, 2008

Virtual World Watch is ‘Tracking activity in UK universities and colleges’. It’s set up through a collaboration of researchers including ‘Silversprite‘ (aka John Kirriemuir) who writes a great blog on Second Life research and using video games for learning. It’s the future.

This interesting article and videoclips show how a future generation are using new technologies for learning.

And more recently, the Nintendogs DS game is being used to teach pet care – in association with The Dogs Trust (and launched by Girls Aloud, naturally).

Cloud computing Vs Personal storage

October 2, 2008

Cloud computing seems to be the buzzword du jour in the world of technology. Cloud computing is a new concept of computing that uses third party software and storage space provided by companies such as Google or Microsoft, to handle work that would normally be done on your desktop computer.

There’s certainly an interest here at the College to try and utilize this technology and the advantages are numerous: No maintenance, free storage, no software installation, no access restrictions. But while we continue to explore the options of Google Docs and MS Skydrive, there is also a backlash against using this new technology.

This Guardian article has GNU founder Richard Stallman giving his opinion on cloud computing, “It’s stupidity. It’s worse than stupidity: it’s a marketing hype campaign.

It also has Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle saying, “The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do,” he said. “The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?”

Is cloud computing just a fashionable fad in computing or will it revolutionise the way we use computers?

My main concern is the security of data put in the hands of third party companies, but with an incredible amount of data already out there on personal PCs (emails, bank details) and the increasing gaffs of data security breaches from personal hardware, maybe the ‘safe hands’ of Google would be a better idea?


September 29, 2008

The new wave of smartphones are upon us! We’ll all be GPS-ing, 3G-ing and touchscreen surfing the web on-the-go soon.

Let’s have a quick look at a few on offer:

T-Mobile G1

Caused a big stir when it was launched last week, it’s the first phone to feature Google’s Android operating system. Android was developed by The Open Handset Alliance – a collaboration of developers creating an open and free mobile platform.

Lot’s of people think the phone is ugly – I think it looks solid and functional. What’s more off-putting for me is the geeky nature surrounding the phone (and promoting it).


We all know what this is all about…What I find sad is the amount of awe and wonder with which people treat the phone. People seem to wrap it up in all sorts of protective cases and then touch it like they’re rubbing a precious stone.

Samsung Omnia

A direct competitor to the iPhone, the Omnia is an all singing and dancing touch screen phone with a better hardware spec than it’s rival. Runs Windows Mobile 6.1.

Sony Ericsson Xperia

A rather swish looking touchphone with slideout keyboard (ok, so this phone does make the T-Mobile G1 look like a brick). Features some quirky touch phone features such as the nine panel grid layout.

The website is worth a look if only to hear an odd sounding European woman explain the phone to us (“I just love this giant touchscreen!” and tantalizingly, “I can’t live without my daily dose of celebrity gossip.”).  I’m sold.

Phasing out IE6

September 18, 2008

Scott Mallinson reports on the phasing out of Internet Explorer 6 by some mainstream web companies but warns that it might exclude users who are yet to update to a modern browser.

Shamefully, I only upgraded my work machine to IE7 a few weeks ago – although to be honest, I’m not a browser geek. I’ve only ever dabbled with Firefox and Safari.

Online Collaborative Meetings blog

July 23, 2008

I’m maintaining a blog for a work project tracking our research and developments into online collaborative meeting tools.

Read about the project here:

Matt (Multiple Account Twitter Tweeting)

July 18, 2008

Matt‘ is a useful Twitter tool created by the innovative Bath based web development company Carsonified. Matt (Multiple Account Twitter Tweeting) allows you to post to multiple Twitter accounts without logging into each one everytime. Useful if you are Twittering to a work account and a personal one.

Read my friend Scott Mallinson’s excellent write up of the whole project.

Durham College Student Vodcasts

July 16, 2008

I quite like the Vodcasts featured on New College Durham’s website.  The fun, magazine style format works really well. The presentation and camera work is pretty impressive too.

It’s good to have something made by the students for the students available to download easily.

Microsoft’s LCDS

May 14, 2008

Our e-learning team found and installed Microsoft’s new LCDS application recently (Learning Content Development System). It is a tool that allows you to author your own e-learning course structured with modules and topics and populate it with images, quizzes, interactivities, animations and audio/video.

Once you have created your course, you can publish it to the web or an LMS, as a SCORM ready package. It’s all template based and simple to use.

This would be a great asset for teachers who want to create their own e-learning courses. The only downside is that the software uses Microsoft’s own Silverlight plug-in for a lot of the multimedia elements. I uploaded a .wmv movie file and in order for it to be viewed I had to install Silverlight (without installing this it threw up an error and essentially crashed my course and had to start again from scratch).

From what I can gather, Silverlight is Microsoft’s attempt to halt Adobe’s monopoly on viewing interactive web material which Adobe has had for years with its Flash Player. Sadly, this means that if people want use the LCDS they have to install Silverlight – this might sound simple enough but a nightmare if the LCDS was to be used by College staff for students. Entire IT systems would have be updated with this new plug-in.

Continuing research in Second Life…

May 7, 2008

I’ve been trying to explore learning in Second Life a bit more with varying results. I visited Learn 4 Life’s offices at Education UK and various UK Colleges and University areas that they have set up. It seems like there’s a big grab for land just to get ‘on the map’ as it were – but it all seems for promotional/marketing purposes. I’ve also tried talking to people there to try and find out more about Second Life and learning but no one really seems keen to talk. There were some people who seemed to be experimenting with Script – they were trying to sit on a box or something. Maybe everyone is still at the experimental stage.

I’ve found some good links though. John Kirriemuir’s Flickr page on UK Universities and Colleges in Second Life is a nice collection of images complete with slurls that you can jump to in Second Life. I discovered John Kirriemuir after reading an article by him on games in education. He keeps an interesting blog about his life living on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides. Read all about his own research into Second Life here.

Tasty Technology: Virtual keyboard

April 25, 2008

There was a nice bit of kit featured on the Guardian’s Dork Talk page recently. It was the LaserKey CL850 Projection Keyboard, a device that projects a virtual keyboard onto your desk and uses light sensors to detect which ‘keys’ your fingers are tapping.

It’s a bit of sci-fi wizardary come to life.

The device is aimed at the handheld technology market and communicates with your PDA or Blackberry via Bluetooth or USB. This would be a great tool for people like me who find using tiny fiddly, plastic buttons to type anything bigger than a simple text message a bit of a nightmare. It would also enable mobile communication and learning to be taken to the next level – increased accessibility, accuracy and speed for typing on screen.

The only downer about this product is that it’s yet another additional bit of hardware that you need to carry around with you along with your mobile device. If your Blackberry itself could beam out the keyboard then we’d truely be in sci-fi business heaven.