Monday, December 31, 2007

Googlewhacking grub

Google's custom search engine is becoming more popular. I used to run Google CSE on this blog, but it didn't perform very well, tending to return hits on archives rather than the original posts, so I binned it in favour of the Blogger search which doesn't seem to have the same problem.
Phil Bradley has just created a web 2.0 resources search engine, and a while ago, Tony Hirst created a recipe CSE, What's Cooking?

So clearly the next thing to do was to Googlewhack What's Cooking. My first successful attempt? "turbot caramel" (try it - the search that is, not the recipe!). And then come up with your own What's Cooking? Googlewhack - kudos for the weirdest combination (leave a comment)!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Question mark I can't decide what I think about the concept of transliteracy. I can see some of what the transliteracy proponents are getting at, but at other times, it feel like so much blindly obvious BS. Am I missing the point? Is transliteracy a real and susbstantive concept of just the latest trendy meme (trendliteracy?).

Transliteracy: Crossing divides. First Monday, 12, 3 December 2007
Abstract: Transliteracy might provide a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty–first century. It is not a new behavior but has only been identified as a working concept since the Internet generated new ways of thinking about human communication. This article defines transliteracy as "the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks" and opens the debate with examples from history, orality, philosophy, literature, and ethnography.

Testing Zoho Viewer

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Second Life Media Zoo Launch

I rushed home from work (since we can't access Second Life on campus) and tried to go to the Media Zoo launch. After 25 minutes, the latest version of SL had downloaded and I logged on. The first two attempts to teleport to the island didn't work for some reason, but I got there at the third attempt just after 5 pm:
Second Life
I wandered around bumping into things for a while, but it seemed to be completely deserted, except for some ducks. I tried to talk to the ducks in case they were the avatars of a Beyond Distance project (Mallard?), but they just quacked at me, so I guess not?
Eventually I gave up after 15 minutes. Oh well, I tried.

It's a long tail Christmas

Hit with the ugly stick Always on dropping the ball, Auntie BBC has missed the point as usual. The story is not whether some lily-livered Radio 1 executive dithered and flip-flopped over the bowdlerisation of the Pogues' Fairytale of New York, but the fact that the long tail has decreed that a 20 year old record will be the UK Christmas number one. Look on my works ye mighty and despair.

And of course, the long tail will have a similar effect on education:
The simplistic view would be to see the long tail in curricular terms: the interactive Web means that, in theory, every learner should be able to learn what they want when they want, without having to worry about the structural constraints that are inherent in any formal system of education.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What the heck is a PLE and why would I want one?

Not so long ago, the VLE/LMS could do no wrong. Now, it seems that no-one has a good word to say about them, and PLEs are the future:

Learning management systems under fire: Course management systems can just as easily stifle learning as enable it.

An educational technology dead end? Sakai may be open source, but it's not free by a long shot (those salaries add up)

Networks, Not Tools: It’s different now, somehow, than it was a year ago. It’s more immersive.

What the heck is a PLE and why would I want one?
A guide to the pedagogy and practicalities of personal learning environments.


Google BlogsearchGoogle Reader
Google Images
Google News
Google Scholar
Google Docs

Monday, December 17, 2007

Speedlinking 171207 logo Long tail evolution
The long tail is getting longer, but the head is getting bigger.

Towards the personalised learning environment: Reality versus rhetoric
Presentation by Steven Warburton, University of London.

Microsoft in Denial: Google Threat is Classic Disruption
To understand why Google is such a threat to Microsoft you need to understand how disruptive technologies work. If history is any guide, the Google threat will end badly for Microsoft.

Incorporating Screencasts In Online Teaching
Screencasts can be used to supplement teaching materials and can also be prepared in response to student email queries, then saved and sent to other students with the same question. Screencasts can be applicable across all disciplines for online learners.

BBC staff rewrote Wikipedia pages to water down criticism
An investigation of "anonymous" edits on the site has revealed that the broadcaster's staff rewrote parts of a page entitled "Criticism of the BBC" to defuse press attacks on "political correctness". Also included in more than 7,000 Wikipedia edits by BBC workers are unflattering references to rival broadcasters.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Speedlinking 161207 logo Google Reader adds a social network
Reader's friend list comes from the list of people you can chat with on Google Talk or Gmail chat. To invite friends to see your Reader shared items, simply invite them to chat. To remove them, delete them from your Gmail contacts, or from your Talk list.

The academic blogosphere as a kind of Invisible College - this site is supposed to help make the College a little more visible to itself and its readers.

Really Simple People
Really Simple People format (RSP) puts the portable social graph within reach. Now.

Discovering versus teaching principles of social information management
Nobody understands what does.

Linear and non-linear learning
In nature, linear learning doesn’t exist.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rampant Disintermediation (updated interactive version)

It's video Friday on SOTI. But then again, it was video Wednesday and video Thursday as well. I find myself posting more and more videos here. In part this is for a little light relief, as in the example I posted yesterday, because I believe that education doesn't have to be boring. But it's also because more and more well-crafted internet videos have serious points and are making us think. Take the following example. Anyone who has heard me speak over the past few months has had the pleasure of my views on the long tail in higher education. But the first couple of times Martin wrote about disintermediation, I scratched my head. Although this video is about commerce, it's not hard to see how the (humorous) message it contains applies to higher education:

RSS subscribers - visit site to watch the videos

Here's another example. Take a look at these two videos about Second Life. Which one tells you more about the educational potential of this technology?

OK Tony, here's the poll:

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Here's the original:

Feral cat care

And here's the Facebook Fotowoosh version:

RSS subscribers - visit site to watch the video

And the educational value of this is???

BTW Fotowoosh people, I have been unable to install the FB Fotowoosh application via Flock (several different OS X machines) - the page just cycles endlessly without ever loading. I was able to install it via Firefox. I can't run the FB Fotowoosh application via Flock - the page just cycles endlessly without ever loading. I am able to run it via Firefox - see the above sample.

Goodie Bag: Trajan, the movie font

RSS subscribers - visit site to watch the video

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Asterpix - impressive video annotation

I'm very impressed with Asterpix, which lets you annotate videos with hotspots and bookmarks, all of which are hyperlinks, like this one.

RSS subscribers - visit site to watch the video (it's worth it)

Best of all, because it's based on Flash, Asterpix is cross platform (unlike Fotowoosh), and there's a Facebook application, Hypervideo.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Doris Lessing We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women who have had years of education, to know nothing about the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers. What has happened to us is an amazing invention, computers and the internet and TV, a revolution. This is not the first revolution we, the human race, has dealt with. The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, changed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked "What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?" And just as we never once stopped to ask, How are we, our minds, going to change with the new internet, which has seduced a whole generation into its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging and blugging etc.

Web 2.0 technologies for undergraduate and postgraduate medical education

Objectives: To identify the current familiarity and use of Web 2.0 technologies by medical students and qualified medical practitioners, and to identify the barriers to its use for medical education.
Methods: A semi-structured online questionnaire survey of 3000 medical students and 3000 qualified medical practitioners (consultants, general practitioners and doctors in training) on the British Medical Associations membership database.
Results: All groups had high familiarity, but low use, of podcasts. Ownership of digital media players was higher among medical students. There was high familiarity, but low use, of other Web 2.0 technologies except for high use of instant messaging and social networking by medical students. All groups stated that they were interested in using Web 2.0 technologies for education but there was lack of knowledge and skills in how to use these new technologies.
Conclusions: There is an overall high awareness of a range of new Web 2.0 technologies by both medical students and qualified medical practitioners and high interest in its use for medical education. However, the potential of Web 2.0 technologies for undergraduate and postgraduate medical education will only be achieved if there is increased training in how to use this new approach.

Web 2.0 technologies for undergraduate and postgraduate medical education: an online survey. Postgraduate Medical Journal 2007 83: 759-762.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

Social Networking and Data Protection

Facebook logo From JISC Legal news:

Staff in FE and HE considering (or already using) external social networking sites in a work related capacity in teaching and learning, or in communicating with students will be interested in the report that the Information Commissioner is to investigate a complaint regarding the retention of personal data on servers of a well known social networking site. This story highlights a concern that the level of privacy and data protection offered by some social networking sites may not always match that provided by an institution's own systems and staff should check that their use will not conflict with their institutional policies. For the full story and links see The Register.

kudos: Jo

The way we were

Brian Kelly asks:
Can you remember what your institution’s home page looked like when the service was first launched? And how did it evolve over time?
June 13 1997:
June 13 1997

August 9 2007:
August 9 2007

Personally, I prefer the old version...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Presence and group work

Twitter The Problem:
Intra-group communication and recording student contributions to group work on the University of Leicester i-Science degree.

Proposed Solution:
i-Science students generate designated Twitter accounts and use them to update their status at specified intervals during group projects, e.g. every 2-3 hours.

(AJCann on Twitter)

Research Skills Developer (Postgraduate Science)

University of Leicester Student Support and Development Service - Student Learning Centre Salary Grade 7 - £28,289 to £32,796 per annum
Available immediately Ref: D3550

The University of Leicester is seeking a highly motivated individual qualified to PhD level in a science discipline with the ability to make a contribution to the skills development of postgraduate and other early career research scientists. Based in the Student Learning Centre, the post-holder will be required to work closely with a range of partners that including academics from across the Faculties of Science and Medicine and Biological Science.

Downloadable application forms and further particulars are available from If you require a hard copy, please contact Personnel Services - tel: 0116 252 2435, fax: 0116 252 5140, email: . Please note that CVs will only be accepted in support of a fully completed application form.

Closing Date: 25 January 2008

A detailed description of the job is at

The sock meme

Oh la la!

RSS subscribers - visit site to watch the video

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The infamous bubble video

Just in case you haven't seen it yet:

RSS subscribers - visit site to watch the video


VectorMagic Argh, still recovering from a nasty system crash here yesterday, so posting might be a bit light for a while, but I've just discovered VectorMagic, a nice online bitmap to vector graphic conversion tool, so I thought I'd share.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Speedlinking 021207 logo Beyond Information
"What we care about is what makes information inadequate." David Weinberger's keynote about the value of the implicit at Defrag Con. He's describing the route to web 3.0.

Fight For The First Year in College
Myths and realities of how to survive the first year of college.

In Defense of Cheating
We need to rethink the curriculum and not try to cram everything students will ever need to know into their heads in a short period. Instead, we need to train curiosity, self-reliance, cooperative skills, and knowledge of how to learn on their own.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Loophole Generation

I'll give 'em loopholes In the latest edition of Innovate, Jennifer Summerville and John Fischetti put their finger on the biggest and most serious problem in higher education, the failure of the majority of students currently entering university to engage with the educational objectives perceived by academic staff, instead preferring to put their energies into complicated strategic games:
When we speak to colleagues across campus and across the country, almost everyone who teaches online tells the same stories. An increasing number of students spend considerable energy seeking, finding, and negotiating loopholes in online course assignments. While this behavior is not new or shocking, the anonymous, self-driven nature of online classes may exacerbate the tendency. Rather than the exception, this behavior is becoming the rule.

We coined the phrase Loophole Generation to describe a group of students whose approach to coursework is influenced by the ease of online communication, hovering parents, a limited sense of intellectual curiosity, and a lack of experience in solving problems imaginatively. These students spend their time (and their instructors' time) exploiting gaps in class policies or assignments - sometimes spending more time than would be necessary to complete a particular project in the first place.
This is equally true of UK higher education as it is of the USA. I've been tending to blame the changes on assessment practices at GCSE and A level, but hearing the same complaint from the USA makes me pause. Summerville and Fischetti identify four loopholing strategies:
  • The Excuse Maker: Old howlers typified by "my dog ate my homework" have evolved into more plausible stories such as "the system was down," "I have a virus on my computer," or "I sent you the wrong attachment." Appeals to a family or personal crisis remain the most popular source of excuses for not completing assignments, and the technology that makes online education possible makes an ironic contribution to this class of loophole-seeking behavior.
  • The Bully: The bully can cast a pall over an entire class, often by combining negative comments with personal insults, threats, and harassment. Some bullies use derogatory or flippant language in discussions and postings that they would not use in live settings. Communications technology can enable this behavior, making students feel less pressure to moderate their self-presentation.
  • The Cheater: He or she may copy entire assignments from another classmate, submit work posted as examples by the professor as his or her own, contribute little to no work to group projects, have someone else help with an online test, or purchase an entire paper from an online retailer. These students are fully aware of what they are doing. Even with university honor codes and instructor-developed online codes of ethics, this behavior persists.
  • The Plagiarizer: specializes in creating a mosaic of several sources and presenting the results as his or her own. Many such students have plagiarized their way through high school and basic studies courses in college, often without completing any project that consists of something other than borrowed information. The ease of access to an abundance of materials on the Web makes this easy to accomplish, and the emphasis on test-taking in K-12 education has influenced many students to seek answers rather than to explore questions.
Their suggestions for eliminating loopholing include making it more difficult to find and exploit loopholes in classes than it is to actually complete coursework and designing coursework that rewards independent thought and squashes the idea that loopholing is a productive use of time.

Alternatively of course, we (academics) could just show some cojones, expose their lying and cheating behavior as worthy of shame and publicly chuck them out without qualifications. Sadly, I don't believe that in our cost-driven higher education system, where bums on seats are more important than truth, trust and integrity, that this is likely to happen. Instead, we will continue to beat ourselves up over our failure to devise sufficiently complex assessment strategies that the cheating little bastards can't crack. Maybe they would benefit more from some tough love.

Or am I being too hard on the poor little darlings?