Belated Liveblog: eLearning@ed 2016

Last week I was delighted to be part of the team organising the annual eLearning@ed Conference 2016. The event is one of multiple events and activities run by and for the eLearning@ed Forum, a community of learning technologists, academics, and those working with learning technologies across the University of Edinburgh. I have been Convener of the group since last summer so this was my first conference in this role – usually I’m along as a punter. So, this liveblog is a little later than usual as I was rather busy on the day…

Before going into my notes I do also want to say a huge thank you to all who spoke at the event, all who attended, and an extra special thank you to the eLearning@ed Committee and Vlad, our support at IAD. I was really pleased with how the event went – and feedback has been good – and that is a testament to the wonderful community I have the privilege of working with all year round here at Edinburgh.

Note: Although I have had a chance to edit these notes they were taken live so just let me know if you spot any errors and I will be very happy to make any corrections. 

The day opened with a brief introduction from me. Obviously I didn’t blog this but it was a mixture of practical information, enthusiasm for our programme, and an introduction to our first speaker, Melissa Highton:

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College Development Network: Getting Best Value from College Licences – LiveBlog

Today I am at the College Development Network’s Getting Best Value from College Licences event, taking place at CDN’s offices in Stirling. I will be presenting on Jisc MediaHub (which I am, as of the beginning of this month, the service manager for – blog post on that to follow!) later this afternoon, along with my colleague Anne Robertson of the new Digimap for Colleges service, as part of the Jisc session. In the meantime I’ll be blogging the other talks as they take place. 

As always this is a LiveBlog so please do be forgiving of spelling/typos or other errors – comments and corrections welcome!

Coming up later on…

Welcome and Introductions – Jennifer Louden, Chair Librarians’ Development Network and Alan Rae, CS and CDN Copyright Adviser

Alan Rae is opening up the day by discussing the ongoing pressure on colleges to reduce costs, and asking those here if they feel they are getting value for money from CLA. And are we making best use of the materials out there, and I’m delighted we have representatives from Jisc here today, talking about Jisc MediaHub. Are we paying for things more than once? And are the creators of resources being appropriately reimbursed for what they do? And are the licences transparent enough? That’s what I do but even I find a few of them impenetrable.

Are you aware of the new exceptions? I’m not sure that all were aware of the previous exceptions, but the new exceptions seem to give us significantly more leeway than we had before… And if we don’t use them, we’ll lose them…

And with that I turn to our first speakers.

Creating Inclusive Experiences for Students Accessing Library Services – Margaret McKay, Subject Matter Expert – Inclusion, Jisc Scotland; Andy McMahon, Alternatives Formats Manager/IT Disability Support Specialist, University of Dundee

Margaret: I think that talking about how we can be inclusive, and accessible formats in digital media. I am from Jisc Scotland and there have been a lot of changes in Jisc recently. We now have account managers, some of whom are here today, as well as specialists – I’m the specialist in inclusion. But what do we mean by inclusion? Well it’s about ensuring that the systems we use are accessible, that the resources we produce, the formats we use and the activities we undertake is accessible. That is also about us as organisations being accessible and inclusive.

So, what else can we do? What are the quick things to do… Thinking about how we create headings and structures in documents, help texts etc. makes resources inherantly more accessible… And we have to be aware of the Equalities act, being sensitive to our practice and avoiding unreasonable practice. We have to think about images too – ensuring we use Alt text for images, a small thing that makes a really huge difference.

Within Microsoft Office there are automatic accessibility checks that can be used, these are worthwhile making use of. And you can also make use of “MS Office Speak” – which allows anyone reading a document to listen to what that document says… That’s great if you use it with the Scottish Voices – those are free voices from Coll Scotland, that can be used with this and other softwares.

All the main browsers have accessibility plugins – Safari Reader, Chrome Readability, Firefox Reader – these are great for struggling readers, there are text to speech tools we can use with learners too. And you can still access the enabling technology Jisc Tech Dis toolbox.

You might also want to provide information in Alternative Formats. Tools like Read and Write Gold, a software that assists dyslexic learners. There are free options too, like Balabolka. These allow you to turn text into MP3, to present that text differently. That’s software you can run from a memory stick. Libraries are also creating audio guides with tools like Audacity. And you can use tools like Xerte, which we’ll come back to. And if you do use multiformat learning materials you also need to think about, say, subtitles to help ensure that content is accessibility. You can also explicitly ask the learner if they need to access something in an alternative format – by adding a mechanism for them to request that alternative format.

One of the things aout the Equalities Act 2010 is that it is about making reasonable adjustments. Technologies are helpful. Students are aware that they have the right to use other formats etc. In England and Wales students there are changes to the disabled students allowance that helps them choose the tools to learn, and more of a focus on making the institution as a whole more accesisble.

Tech Dis also created some accessibility tools, including the “How accessible is your library?” Xerte tool. It enables you to go through, to answer questions that help you access the accessibility of your lirary… And within Adobe Reader you can do lots of things, fantastic accessibility features, that lets you work with Xerte, focus on particular content etc… There is also “The e-book platform checklist” available to help you assess e-books, including a check list for vendors during procurement – about colour changes, formatting, navigation, etc. – really useful questions for suppliers during the procurement process.

The changes in the Copyright law have big impact for learners with additional needs and disabilities, allowing resources to be adapted, changed, amended to make them accessible.

Load2Learn is a great resource, used mainly by schools but increasingly by Colleges and Universities and they are up for that… This repository allows the crowd to submit accessible versions of e-books, with Dyslexia and RNIB the organisations heavily involved in this resource.

Andy: I am talking about accessible books. The costs associated with making formats accessible can be high, it is hard to have like for like access to reading list materials. Until recently we received about £20k/year per student for making materials accessible. So what we do has to be very cost effective. For our students we have found that it is more important to have a wide variety of texts, so 95% of text is accessible rather than a small range of materials being more accurately converted/adapted.

So, if the source is a UoD owned ebook with a high level of accessible platform, it’s free to make accessible. Commercial ebooks like Kindle, iBooks, DRM free PDF it’s a same day service of £10-£50 per book. For an e-copy from the publisher to be readable it can take anywhere from 1 day to 3 months. The good ones can be fast and reasonable (e.g. Sage) but some are terrible. And the cost is around £50 per book. If we have a physical copy we can duplex automated copy (so you remove the spin and it is duplexed) – the cost is around £70/book but of course images are not described/made more accessible. If we had to do individual page by page scan to be readable it’s £300 per book. Individual page by page scan to be accessible it’s £800. If you outsource page by page scan to be accessible it’s more like £8000. Now we have 12 students we are supporting, and we deliver our whole service for £45k but that’s still a lot…

So, making the right decisions over procurement is crucial… You need to compare the market. I am not aware of libraries suing a publisher for their works not being accessible. Even our licence agreements from 8 years ago stated ebooks would be compliant with screenreader software JAWS. But they are not always. So we are strongly pushing our academics to switch providers towards the accessible providers. For us, in obtaining our materials, we look to an accessible library e-book platform, we look at Load2Learn which is a good site, we look then towards measures like scanning.

We have a webpage specifically to help in the procurement of e-books. We have providers with high levels of accessibility for disabled readers (Palgrave, Springer, Safari, Sage, Science-Direct, Pro-Quest – Literature online), some have some barriers (MyiLibrary, Wiley), some have significant barriers (EBL, NetLibrary, DawsonEra). Scottish HE Basically anything with downloadable PDFs tend to be more accessible, those where you have to use their own package/software to read tends to be less accessible.

So, we have iPad minis that are loaned to students from the service. They are pre configured for book and learning accss only. Books are availabe on our VLE (restricted access enabled). And using the iPads have broader use, it feels inclusive, the students don’t feel different from their peers.

We recommend with suppliers that tou don’t trust the supplier but actually go and check some sample texts… So you want to check reading flow, you want to try changing the background colour in adobe reader; try PDF reading on screen; And if you do use Read&Write Gold TextHelp there is a tool called “ScreenShot” (there is a good tour of this on YouTube) which lets you read anything on screen if it is clear, bypass all known protection technology, and enables students to copy and paste text into word as needed – for dyslexic students that copy typing is really tricky and not what they need to learn.

So, I just wanted to give you some practical help in procurement. One thing: We had a publisher who did not have a digital copy, but there was a perfectly formatted version on a Russian site online… It could cost us £10k to digitise a complex mathematical text… legally… Well legally we have a duty to provide access to equal information. We pay £60-£100 for a site licence for the book… The cost to make it accessible is many thousands… Well we can switch supplier for a better accessible copy for maybe £40 more than our original licence but there is also good potential in the new Copyright exemptions – if we make an alternative copy of a text we can now (explictly) share this with other institutions. And we can now subtitle someone’s video from YouTube without their permission. But we still have to notify publishers that we have made our alternative format copy. But to date we have had very little sharing of accessible copies.

Margaret: We do need to do more of this. My colleague used to work with publisher resources on accessibility, which will now move to Load2Learn. Structured PDF wasn’t seen as alternative enough by some publishers… Structured Word docs was seen as alternative enough.

Andy: I always say that PDFs are not one thing, many many different formats. I try to describe this to our medics as PDFs being like Cancer – one term but many many different things. So whenever you get a PDF you need to actually look into how accessible that is, it can mean so much.

Alan: I’m really pleased to hear that you raised the issue of exceptions there, some of those are really important for accessibility. And those slides will be circulated, also on the CDN website.

ERA and ERA Licences – Kathleen Roberts, Field Liaison Officer, ERA

I am the liaison officer for the whole of the UK for ERA, I am involved in outreach so going out and speaking to people in schools, universities and colleges.

A few years back we used to have something called the ERA service for off-air recording – what happened was that a sample of educational establishments was identified by the National Foundation for Educational Research – schools, colleges, language centres etc. They told us what they recorded from TV and Radio. We asked schools to report monthly. With colleges and Universities we asked the once per term. I would visit 80-100 educational establishments per year on using the licence, and what they were recording. But it fast became clear that our data was totally inaccurate!

The crunch came when a school of journalism told us that they were recording nothing. Our contact there was in the library. I just wasn’t sure I believed them so I contacted the School of Journalism directly… I started with staff in broadcast journalism – they recorded all news, Today programme, NewsNight, all of that stuff! So, I went back to the contact, showed her the material… she said “why aren’t they telling me about that”. And that once a term sheet was too much work to complete, so the staff weren’t bothering.

So, the system wasn’t working. We switched to a snapshot survey… In theory that should have been easier, but it was the same issue. So we have abandoned that too… We now rely on data from BOB, ClickView, custom schools services etc. From the electronic data we can see an enormous amount of usage going on, it’s very well utilised. People may pay a lot for this resource, but it is incredibly well used. A few years back I was at a large university and staff there complained, but before I could respond the people from the commercial IT and training section said they would give their right arm for the ERA licence – commercial licencing for a fraction of that material would have been much higher. I don’t make the policy but the service is high quality… where you can make the resources you need, that’s great. But where you want a professional, well produced repository of content ERA gives you access to that.

So, we now have a strategy of adding value to the basic ERA licence. We are trynig to give people extra. We have a strategy to do this… And I’m hoping some people here have seen the website, blog and case studies… I would like to get into some dialogue now or later on, or after the session, to get involved with ERA; to help us support licence users better… One of the sad things about losing the survey was that it did give us a chance to go out and talk to people. So, starting from September we want to meet with a small group of people to find out what you do, what you need. Individual visits are something we are happy to do. Let us know how we can improve the offer, how we can improve the support, we welcome that opportunity.

On our website we now have a series of resources to support ERA. We have a blog with some resources… Been doing this for about five months. We try to anticipate useful programmes that may be coming up, we’ve tried to put them in context in terms of the curriculum… So if there is a topic of curriculum level… if we spot something coming up as a broadcast we’ve tried to highlight it. We are just dipping our toe in the water… It may be that we aren’t doing it very well – but we’d love feedback either way… Could we do it better? How could we do it better? We wanted to use a blog to encourage people to subscribe… I wasn’t sure about that. We discussed putting in on the front page of the website… But in any case we wanted to add something beyond legalese on the website, to enrich the content. To provide material of use in teaching and learning…

As well as the blog we have some case studies, you will see that in the newsletters I’ve brought along today. We’ve tried to collect a series of these, and we’ve tagged them by level… I want some feedback on this. We have a massive problem curating our content… You are experts in content management, in curating material. We are trying to add more value, but we are very aware that the more we put on, the more difficult it is to access…

We also now have a Twitter feed. It’s not exactly riveting but it does let us tell you when we are, say, at BETT. But this should help to raise awareness of what is there. When I did my teacher training course it was hard to know about all of the resources that may be available. And it is also important to understand the role of licencing, and that there are appropriate ways to use licenced resources. We are not the copyright police, but we are here to enable appropriate use of licenced materials, to help organisations use material legally.

We want more people to know about the ERA licence. And we want to know more about what broadcast materials you want, and how we can help too. We are happy to write articles if that is helpful. And how do we reach out – are there networking meetings we should be attending? Is there material we should be producing to curate materials? We aren’t currently organising materials in terms of curriculum areas… All of the blog posts and case studies.. would they be better organised by subject areas? What works best? Perhaps we need a Pinterest board to organise them?

I am conscious that we need more examples of good practice. We’d really like good practice in using broadcast materials… People like trainee teachers would value a lot of guidance and support with using broadcast materials, also those in HE and FE. The use of less obvious materials or off the wall examples are particularly good. For instance the use of The Simpsons in teaching maths [see Simon Singh’s book on all the sneaky books on maths], and people have also used The Simpsons in business classes to talk about “pester power”. So, we want case studies, inventive and innovative uses… If you are doing interesting things, we’d love to hear about it. We don’t promise they will have a starring role, but we do want to give you credit for what’s being done well…

So, how many have had a look at the blog and case studies before today? It looks like mostly not but I’d love you to go away today, take a look, and do send some feedback… We are a small team and we’d like to work smarter – and that means your ideas, your input, your feedback would be so valued by us.

Comment: I’m one of the main recorders for ClickView in my college. ERA seems quite passive to me… I never thought to go to you for advice on what to record. The process is easy, but finding what is needed and talking to staff… That’s what’s time consuming. So the blog looks really good. I saw one of the posts featured Horrible Histories though, not really appropriate for FE… So something more suitable, or a calendar of what’s coming up…

KB: So if we made an FE blog that was separate would that be good? Or would subject areas be better?

Comment: I go back to the older licences… I’m looking at various services… We have multiple sites and staff in particular curriculum areas and that is what matters. Some people do this anyway, some subject experts are already great at tracking what is needed, but others do need those subject focuses for the people who we still need to engage… They want to know what’s there for business, for construction, etc… Stuff specific to their areas…

KB: We don’t want to replace ClickView of BOB, and their searchable databases, but we do want to support those who don’t use those services. One of big college consortiums in England have a huge shared database with learning resources and materials, but that’s their own in-house integrated system. So we are particularly keen to reach those without a system, those partially covered. And we’d love a case study for every curriculum area… But then there are levels within there… We are not doing too badly for the first 5 months.

Comment: Can I embed video clips in my VLE?

KB: All our case studies are text based so far…

Comment: But that’s a good point, and resources on getting videos into VLEs etc. that would be very useful…

KB: We don’t have video material yet… but we may…

Comment: Would those case studies/examples be Creative Commons licenced?

KB: Might not be an issue if we have the examples… those case studies are the results of 3 years on the ground, following up THES articles, blogs etc. It’s really hard to tap into how teachers use materials in their learning and teaching materials. They don’t always want to be the focus of attention. But we are trying to help them see themselves as role models or exemplars. But one of ours commented that they didn’t think they were doing anything different/special… But the feedback we’ve had on that particular person has been very complimentary.

One example we have, on schools and weather forecasts… the teacher created a whole project out of that, measuring wind and rain… talking about precipitation… And when they came to using a whiteboard, choosing a style based on broadcast versions… The interesting thing was that the real learning outcome for that teacher was the confidence and the communication in the students, something that added to the science learning.

If anybody would like to get more involved, to chat to  me in your institutions, please do email me and then maybe we can work together to create something useful to yourselves.

Alan: Kathleen is very enthusiastic about the amount of recordings. We don’t have surveys… The ERA licence is good but I get reports that few of us are using those recordings – just how much use are you making of ERA Licences? I know YouTube is the elephant in the room.

Comment: I still don’t know what others in my college do!

KB: We do know when people sign up to BOB or ClickView…

Alan: But how many here sign up to those systems? [few shown] Those systems do, though, record exactly what is used and how often… So can’t we just pay for those? And those systems have subscription costs in addition to ERA Licences. And we have YouTube, and we have Jisc MediaHub available too of course… It is a benign licence. It’s always been there, I used it massively in a previous role. I also used TRILT to help me plan what I would use – a BUFVC service there.

KB: Those using ClickView or BOB – are you using it?

Comment: Yes, and we use it a lot!

Alan: That’s fine… If we get £1 million in value, that’s fine… Lets talk about add ons, development… But anecdotally I’m not sure that colleges feel they are getting value for money.

Comment: For a lot of staff people think of ERA as restricting and policing, rather than enabling. We try to educate them but there is so much to do to promote ERA as an enabling service, as a way to make resources available. It’s been seen as a thing for people who deal with copyright licencing only.

KB: We are trying to do that now…

Alan: We are producing the next generation of producers and users. Copyright will not go away. It is an essential part of your toolkit as teachers, and support staff…

KB: We used to have a separate Open University licence, that’s now part of ERA, so you are now getting more than you used to too!

And with that we come to our next speaker…

Overview of CLA/NLA Licences – Julie Murray, Education Licences Manager, CLA Gursh Sangha, Education Support Manager, CLA

British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC) – Helen Fitton, Marketing and Events Manager, BUFVC

Licensing Requirements for Public Use of Films – Robert Darling, Account Executive, Filmbank Distributors Ltd

Jisc Collections – Catherine John, FE Licensing Manager, Jisc Collections; Anne Robertson, Geodata Projects and Services Manager at EDINA; Nicola Osborne, Jisc Media Hub Service Manager and Digital Education Manager

It’s Good to Talk – Alan Rae 


GeoLocation in Learning and Teaching – LiveBlog

This afternoon I am attending, and supporting my colleague Tom, at the GeoLocation in Learning and Teaching event at the University of Edinburgh. This is an internal event arranged by the Social and Cloud based Learning and Teaching Service ( The event will be focusing on Geolocation technology used in learning and teaching at the University of Edinburgh.

We are kicking off with a brief introduction from Susie Greig to the day noting that “there does seem to be some interest in using GeoLocation in learning and teaching” – something definitely backed up by a very full room for this afternoon’s session!

Dr Hamish MacLeod, Senior Lecturer, Moray House School of Education– will be discussing the INGRESS game, he will describe the many rich features, and why he thinks they are (potentially) relevant to learning.

I think there are two real approaches to learning in gaming… One you might attribute to Marc Prensky – a kind of con folk into learning approach. I have much more sympathy for John Paul Gee’s take on gaming and learning.

I am talking about INGRESS, a mobile game (iOS and Android) but it is not a casual game, it requires proper engagement. It is a location dependent game – you have to get out there and use it in the world and it demands movement in the world. It is also an “exergame” – perhaps encourages exercise. It is an augmented relaity game, and alternate reality game, and it is open to users – you can contribute, interact, actively contribute to the game.

The game itself uses Google Maps as a basis, and the deceit of the game is that bright sparkly “portals” bring exotic matter to the world… and that exotic matter powers our scanner, our mobile phone… The object is to capture these portals and explore them. There are two factions in the game: green is the enlightened; the blue is the resistance…

The Enlightened is a faction attempting to help aliens called “Shifters” in the world. The Resistance are opposed to the Shifters presence in the world. Immediately shades of post modern theory…

Looking at a player profile you see a name, you see badges for achievements… and Google sits behind all of this… You can link your playing identity to your G+ profile (I haven’t).

The game is planet-wide – at least in terms of locations that are populated. My own neighbourhood is occupied by the enlightened faction… ! You can grab portals from your desk but the object is really to go further out, to explore the world…

The portals are not placed consistently, they tend to be associated with human objects… When you are proximal to a portal you can do various things… You can “hack” the portal to deploy objects useful in the game. You can deploy resonator or recharge it… Portals decay over time… You can also choose to attack portals… All of these portals have a physical existance… When one captures a portal, one finds out about the places one is moving around in… The information about the object the portal is focused on can be edited and added to… additional views can be included… If I really wanted some exercise, I would go up to Calton Hill… They will be less heavily defended because they are more remote than those in the city centre. Unclaimed portals are white… you use “resonators” to claim it… As a player I am level 6… that dictates what type/number of resonators I can deploy… I need other people to help me defend the portal… So there is a collaborative aspect whether you know who you are playing with or not…

There is a massive amount of media associated with the game: those announcing international events around the game; something that appears to be fan fiction, but managed by Google; and there is some back story about the game and the Shapers… Very rich media background to the game…

So, here, now… here is what one might do… Near here you will find a plaque to Clarinda, the name Burns used for Alice Macleroy who corresponded with him… There turns out to also be a plaque at the Carpet[I’ve misheard this] Tollbooth… Things you don’t know about the world around you…

From this game you can expose information, shapes to remember… puzzles and sequences to be echoed back to earn points… But these are not just arbitrary shapes, these are meaningful glyphs… Once we understand what they mean, they will read as meaningful or enigmatic sentences… A lovely illustration of George Meliores mystical number 7 in which we chunk information in order to process it better…

Here we see a (tweet) visualising a Christmas tree composed of links between portals… The two factions do compete in the game but this pattern is a massive act of collaboration and organisation to do this. There are halloween variants too… So the game is played at various levels, from casual to this sort of organised community…

We can add portals, and propose portals… It can take a while for portals to be vetted and recognised… I have managed to establish some… Including Hutton’s Rock on Salisbury Crags, and sites where core samples have been taken to find changes in the magnetic field over time… I’ve been systematic… and you could do that process, of creating portals.

You can also propose missions in the game – so there are missions around Scottish Enlightenment sites, The Royal Mile, Sir William Topaz McGonigall… So these user generated activities, projects… could be taken on to engage with resources in our environment that we wouldn’t usually engage with in that way…


Q PW: This reminds me of Geo Caching, but this seems to have far more central control. Is that good or bad?

A HM: It is controlled by Google, of course it is providing them with many points of interest. Offers of suggestions can be slow to do… Geo Caching can be more controllable activity for a group of students to use though…

Q SG: Are you thinking of using this on your programme?

A HM: We are thinking about the Games Based Learning game… We use World of Warcraft there… But we look at designs of games for learning so it is interesting in that contact. But our degree is online and interestingly INGRESS really relates to shared geographical space – WoW is better in a lot of ways.. But you could work on the pattern making aspects.

Comment FH: It could be about time rather than location perhaps…

A HM: To play with this in a geographically colocated group would be interesting, might be other uses entirely for a distributed group of learners…

Q TF: If I want students to learn about, say, medical education could I map it onto this game – or another – or does the game need to change?

A HM: You could have a walking tour of Edinburgh highlighting medical locations, historical dimensions and people associated with that… It might be forced or less forced depending on what you want to achieve

Comment COS: It might be fun for orientation sessions for colocated students.

Tom Armitage, Geoservices Support, EDINA –  will present on the mobile mapping and data collection app Fieldtrip GB.

I’m talking about FieldTrip GB, but firstly I just wanted to tell you a bit about what we do. We are a Jisc Supported National Datacentre providing services, data, support, etc. Our work covers geospatial services, reference, multimedia, access areas and tools including FieldTrip GB. Digimap is our main geospatial service, we run GoGeo that allows you to search for geospatial data and create and share your own metadata records via GeoDoc – ideal for sharing geospatial research data. We have Unlock which lets you create geospatial search tools, or to georeference your own text. We also have OpenStream which allows you to stream open data from Ordnance Survey into websites/GIS. Finally FieldTrip GB which lets you gather data in the field.

We also have projects: AddressingHistory georeferenced historical Post Office Directories; we are involved in Trading Consequences and Palimpsest projects, both about geoparsing documents and visualising that; Spatial Memories helped visually impaired learners to navigate the world through a mobile app; and finally the COBWEB project which is a large FP7-funded project with many aspects that link into data collection and citizen science.   

So, FieldTrip GB was about bringing some key fields to mobile. To be able to capture images, audio, text, location. To be able to use high quality background maps, and to be able to save maps for use “offline”. It allows you to do custom data collection forms, and to then access that form and collect data via your phone or tablet – it is available for Apple iOS devices or Android devices.

The main screen of the app lets you view online or saved maps, to capture data – both forms and GPS tracking. And the Download button lets you download mapping for use online. Login is via Dropbox… We chose Dropbox because it is free, the terms of use don’t give Dropbox access to users data – preferable to other services. And that also means the data is the property and responsibility of the user. And you can also potentially share Dropbox details to enable crowd sourcing…

So, the powerful bit of FieldTrip GB is the authoring tool… You can drag and drop different types of data capture into a form – text fields, multiple choice questions, ranges to select from, drop down menus, image capture, etc… You can drag and drop these items in, you can label and set limits/labels/choices as you wish. As soon as that is saved, it can be accessed from the app on your phone/tablet… And anyone with that Dropbox login can go in and use that form and submit data…

Those custom forms allow for easy data  management – consistent terms, single data structure, setting increments to aid estimates, reduced errors (or consistent at least!). Once you fill in a form, you click save.. and then you get to locate your data. Shown as a point on the map based on where you are standing. You can move that pin as needed, you can manually correct where the form things you are…

A wee bit about the mapping… We have combined OS OpenData, added contour mapping from other open sets of maps, brought in Open Street Maps, so we have a custom stack of high quality mapping for the UK, built on all open data sources… We have two different maps at the same scale – one is better in urban areas, one better for rural areas, so you see the appropriate mapping in the area you are in (may combine these in light of new data available openly from the Ordnance Survey).

The advantage of offline mapping is that it saves on cost in urban areas, and allows access in rural areas where there may not be internet access of any type. And everything cached loads faster too!

So, you go out, you collect data… You then can go back to the authoring tool to view data, to filter it, browse the data, edit or delete records if you need to, by uploader (if you include that in your form), to download/export it as kml, GeoJson, csv, wms. You can also share maps through Dropbox. GeoJson is good for embedding maps into websites. KML opens up in Google Earth – looks beautiful!

We’ve put together a vague practical lesson plan that you could use with a class… You set up a Dropbox account that you are happy to share. You download FTGB, you design your form, you share the form – and encourage downloading of maps, in the field you then collect the data using the form, you get back you get online and upload your forms/results, you go into the authoring tool and filter as needed (e.g. incomplete forms), then you can export your data and view them in your choice of whatever tools.

In the future release we will be releasing a global edition, based on OpenStreetMap. It will work the same way but with different background mapping. We may also be supporting upload of your own maps to use as a basemap when you are out collecting data. Similarly points of interest/waymarkers. Also extra sensor measurements – phone as a compass for instance, maybe also ambient noise via microphones. Potentially also more complex forms… we have had requests for logic to change later questions based on a form… All to come in future versions!


Q: Some of those extra features – your own maps, waymarkers, OSM – would be really useful.

A TA: Would be great to hear that from your as evidence for those developments.

Q: YOu talked about Dropbox, have you considered OneDrive which the university now has access to.

A TA: Yes, we built it to feed into any cloud storage provider… We started with Dropbox and have stuck with because it is most flexible

Comment NO: We are using FTGB in COBWEB, so we are self hosting rather than using Dropbox, also using access management.

Q JS: Can you embed images in the app for users to use to identify what they are seeing? e.g. an image of a tree.

A TA: YEs, also looked at in COBWEB, also dichotomous trees… Will all come, probably as part of the COBWEB development.

Dr. Anouk Lang, Lecturer in Digital Humanities, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures will discuss how she uses the SIMILE Exhibit platform, which runs off the Google Maps API, to create an interactive map to use with students to explore the literary culture of Paris in the 1920s.

I’ll be showing you a site I have built (see: using SIMILE Exhibit, using Google Maps. This is a map of Paris with information related to literature in Paris. Paris was a particularly important place for anglophone modernism – lots of Americans moves there – Stein, Joyce, Fitzgerald, and that decade was so important to modernism. The histories of this time are concerned with a linear narrative. When we see a map it is very seductive… But that is a representation, not accurate. But I was particularly keen to map those places that matter… It can be hard to understand the role of spatiality of the places in this movement (or indeed in general).

So, in this tool you can explore by person… So you can for instance view Sylvia Beech’s life, a book seller central to modernism in that time. Clicking on a place gives you more information about that place, it’s relevance.

So, how do you build this? You have a script that is free to use. You enter data into a Google Spreadsheet… There are some predefined fields here… I put in bibliographic reference to allow me to use it in teaching. I put in a person as I am interested in the social links within modernism. The reason I like this is taht in the humanities is that we aren’t really trained to use GIS, but a spreadsheet we can just about manage!

So the data is piped in from a Google spreadsheet, but you have to build the front end. I found a guide from Brian Croxall will walk you through the process – you can use his JavaScript and tinker with it…. So you get it up and running…

I originally built this for teaching. The 1920s wasn’t recognised as important until much later on 1950s/60s/70s. By then it is clear, in the biographies, who the big important players are. And those who never quite published that master work etc, insert themselves into that history. For instance we have Canadian writers (e.g. Morley Hallaghan, the only person to knock out Ernest Hemingway) who have interesting interactions with the big players. John Glassco’s Memoirs of Montparnasse, documents his bisexual adventures with both male and female writers of this tine… He locates himself close to key locations… But he has a rival, Morley Hallaghn… So he mentions meeting him but never assigns the location/space there… It sheds a whole new life in their relationships that would have been invisible if I’d looked at those works in any other way… mapping their locations was so useful.

Now I built this for research, but it does double duty for teaching. It is a framework for research, but I got students to think about sociality of modernism in Paris. I asked them to find one piece of information relevant to modernism, arts, culture in Paris, and to find the Geolocation associated with that person – the details are often vague in biographies and texts. That task took them a long time… Then the students were given access to the spreadsheet… So you can then see those entries, and visualise them on that map… And we were able to see patterning of which writers stayed where. So you can explore the locations of women versus those of men. So Paris in the 20s had a group of unusually strong women, publishing each others work… so where did they hang out? That concept is in play… That cotidillon sense of our everyday place actually shaped literary history. Place is such an interesting lens through which to consider this work. We may only have sparse information of where these people live and stay – and we may have location only for months or a few years… raises useful questions, lets us ask critical things… Mapping this stuff perhaps helps you see biases, particularly around the prominence of particular places versus others.

So, students begin to understand the research process… you have contingent data that you need to make an arguement out of.

Something I love about the Digital Humanities is the sense and culture of openness… And when you teach there is a commitment among the best teachers in this subject to share the very best students work online. That makes students very aware of this very public process – they are very serious about, it is their reputation on the line/building up, and a thing to point employers and peers, etc. to in the future…

So, we build this stuff… We need to embed it so students have to learn a snippit of HTML. Students also learn the importance of precision. If students use “1920′s” rather than “1920s” will hide their work in the faceted search. It seems like a tiny thing but in this subject changes in punctuation can be so important – whether in student work or in those writing on Emily Dickenson’s work.

The other thing that this was helpful for was bibliographic referencing… They were expected to get a proper reference… As we clicked in things in class I mentioned errors… As I did that students were editing their own references live in response. The publicness of the sharing made them keen to correct things! I also really like the serendipity of this – and other new tools – in teaching.

I should say that you can’t do spatial analysis in this. But the SIMILE Exhibit tools do let you view a timeline (and click for more data). But the map is  a point map, I would pull the data out and put it into Arc GIS to do serious spatial analysis on this data… So looking for the shapes, comparing literary to tourist areas for instance.

So, if you want to play, I have a sand box. Find it at:, just email Anouk for access. If you do edit, do include an identifier to ensure you can identify your own entries – and view just those points on the map.


Q: Will you put in iTunes?

A Anouk: Will I make it an app? No. Firstly Google Maps Engine is going, so need to move to OSM. But also not what I need for my students!



Duncan Shingleton, Research Assistant/Technician, School of Design will presentation on various location based research projects Design Informatics has done:

Walking though time – negotiating the streets of Edinburgh in 1860

Comob – Networking people movements

GoGet – Objects hitch hiking on the path of humans

Treasure Trapper – Mobile game in conjunction with Edinburgh Museum and Galleries.

Mr Seels Garden – Food narratives in the city

Ghost Cinema – cinematic narratives in battersea


Jonathan Silverton Chair in Technology Enhanced Science Education in the School of Biological Sciences – will present on “Virtual Edinburgh: turning the whole city into a mobile learning environment”


New project: Managing Your Digital Footprint

This Monday (29th September 2014) the Managing Your Digital Footprint project launched across the University of Edinburgh.  I’m hugely excited about this project as it is a truly cross-University initiative that has been organised by a combination of academic departments, support services and the student association all working together, indeed huge thanks and respect are due to Louise Connelly at IAD for bringing this ambitious project together.

I am representing EDINA across both of the project’s strands: a digital footprint awareness-raising campaign for all students (UG, PGT, ODL, PhD) which is led by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) in collaboration with EDINA, the Careers Service, EUSA, Information Services, and other University departments; and a research project, a collaboration between IAD, the School of Education, EDINA and EUSA, which will examine how students are managing their digital footprints, where such management is lacking, and what this might mean for future institutional planning to build student competence in this area.

Before saying more about the project it is useful to define what a “digital footprint” might be. The best way to start that is with this brilliant wee video made specially for the campaign:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Digital footprints, or the tracks and traces you leave across the internet, are a topic that frequently comes up in my day to day role as social media officer, and is also the focus of a guest week I provide for the MSc in Digital Education’s IDEL (Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning) module. Understanding how your privacy and personal data (including images, tags, geo locations) are used is central to making the most appropriate, effective, and safe use of social media, or any other professional or personal presences online. Indeed if you look to danah boyd’s work on teens on Facebook, or Violet Blue’s writings on real name policies on Google+ you begin to get a sense of the importance of understanding the rules of engagement, and the complexities that can arise from a failure to engage, or from misunderstanding and/or a desire to subvert the rules and expectations of these spaces. What you put online, no matter how casually, can have a long-term impact on the traces, the “footprints” that you leave behind long after you have moved on from the site/update/image/etc.

When I give talks or training sessions on social media I always try to emphasize the importance of doing fewer things well, and of providing accurate and up to date bios, ensuring your privacy settings are as you expect them to be, and (though it can be a painful process) properly understanding the terms and conditions to sites that you are signing up for, particularly for professional presences. Sometimes I need to help those afraid to share information to understand how to do so more knowledgeably and safely, sometimes it is about helping very enthusiastic web/social media users to reflect on how best to manage and review their presences. These are all elements of understanding your own digital footprints – though there are many non-social media related examples as well. And it is clear that, whilst this particular project is centered on the University of Edinburgh, there is huge potential here for the guidance, resources, reflections and research findings from the Managing Your Digital Footprint project to inform best practice in teaching, support and advice, and policy making across the HE sectors.

So, look out for more on my contributions to the Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign – there should be something specifically looking at issues around settings very soon. In the meantime  anyone reading this who teaches/supports or who is a student at the University of Edinburgh should note that there will also be various competitions, activities, workshops, resources and advice throughout 2014-2015, which will focus on how to create and manage a positive online presence (digital footprint), and which should support students in their: professional networking; finding the right job; collaborating with others; keeping safe online; managing your privacy and the privacy of others; how to set up effective social media profiles; using social media for research and impact.

Digital Footprint campaign logo

The Digital Footprint project logo – anyone based at the University of Edinburgh will be seeing a lot of this over the coming months!

The research strand of the project is also underway but don’t expect anything more about that for a wee while – there will be a lot of data collection, analysis and writing up to do before we are ready to share findings. I’ll make sure to share appropriate updates and links here as appropriate. And, of course, questions and comments are welcome – just add yours to this post.

Find out more


ViTAL Webinar on Video and Flipping – LiveBlog

This lunchtime I have been attending a ViTAL webinar (held via Adobe Connect here) on “flipping” which they describe as “the video-based approach that emerged in the US and has raised huge interest in the UK and Europe”. There is more background in an article on flipping in the UK edition of Wired this month:

Our presenter for this session is Carl Gombrich, Programme Director for UCL’s undergraduate interdisciplinary degree: Arts and Sciences BASc. Carl has Maths, Physics and Philosophy degrees and is a professional opera singer!


Screenshot from the ViTAL Webinar on "Flipping"

Screenshot from the ViTAL Webinar on "Flipping"

So here are my notes from Carl’s talk:

This is my first webinar – in fact I’m really pretty new to technology in general. He’s currently setting up an interdisciplinary degree of Arts & Sciences. It’s a major launch of a degree for UCL, it starts with 80 students this year. And we’re really thinking in this climate – and the recent changes to student fees, funding etc – about how we can best engage our students. I am entirely focused on teaching – I’m not involved with the REF at all – and I am desperate to do something better than huge lectures to foster engagement with students.

So about 18 months ago I started to hear about “Flipping” with the launch of the Khan academy. I’m a fan of those and would have loved to have had access to those videos at school. So I wanted to think about how lectures could share content and do this ahead of the lecture so that contact time is really saved for stuff that really counts.

The idea of Flipping comes from about 2007 – Bergman and Sams although some say they have been doing this for much longer – where there was real questioning of why we gather students together in person in a room. I wanted to think about their model and think about how to make contact time more useful, more valuable, so wanted to add polling to the face to face sessions so that lecturers can really get a handle on what students want, to foster engagement through questions and why that’s a good idea.

You can see a 12 minute presentation on my blog about the kit I used but lets just run through quickly. I used the Echo 360 lecturcast system – the tool used at UCL. You just download it and it’s a few clicks to get started. I used a bog standard camera and mic – the built in options on laptops are fine. The lecturecast system could pair an image of the speaker with any materials. You can switch between the materials as you want. You can use MS Office docs along with any bespoke images you want. The exciting thing about video is that you can make it pretty interactive. You can stop the material, you can replay it to engage more with something you don’t understand etc. The other kit I used was a tablet – a little graphics tablet – I use Wacom/Bamboo – it just lets you underline, circle, highlight content as you want.

Actually after the presentation I did for the HEA I have learnt far more about how you do this stuff… some of the technologies are far more fluent, allow realtime noting etc. I think PowerPoint for Mathematics is a real killer. You have to see the process as you do in music, it’s visual, you learn best from seeing people thinking aloud. I think Khan does that so well, not everyone agrees but I think he’s a really excellent teacher.

So, that’s what I did. I think that sort of model is transferable to any old-style model. Any old knowledge transfer system should be transposable to the idea of making videos in advance. But if you want to do that what do you do?

Well you need to record lectures in advance – at home, in the office, event outside. Use lecturecast – this bit is easy. Then you ask your students to view the lecture before the timetabled lecture slot. Now that, of course, may not work… So… ask your students to upload 3 questions each with timings based on the video lecture (to indicate when questions arise) and send these questions to Moodle – everyone can see the questions that way and you also have evidance that the student has viewed the lecture and raised a question. Cognitively I think that’s very interesting but inevitably there’s also a command and control aspect here about ensuring students are taking part. And my colleague Matt Jenner has helped me set up some basic tracking in Moodle to know that students are participating. The other thing we dop is take a poll of the most popular, say 10 questions.

I was recently at a conference with Thrum, the man behind the Audacity web programming course at Stanford which you should look at as that is truly revolutionary, and he also uses polls and questions to gauge student need, to shape the teaching.

So back to what to do… the final stage is to go to the timetabled lecture slot with questions – interact, debate, solve problems with the students. That’s where it’s really pedagogically interesting. You get to know the students really well, you can get a sense of learning type (if you believe in those) and you can really get a sense of how they are doing. It’s a way to get back to more personal relationships in learning.

So the good things about this approach are that students can interact with lecturers on questions that interest them, problems they want to work through. Students can be split into groups and perhaps support each other (see Mazur) but the key bit is they get their questions answered. Better relationships are built up especially around mentoring, contact, etc. And submitting questions could be part of formative assessment so that everyone is involved in learning and that can really soldor that engagement. And that old lecture time can be used for summative assessments – short tests, blog pieces, group work, longer assessments etc.

And the bad things here?

Well some are concerned about the kit working, technology issues. But I am really a middle aged late adopter and I can manage, we owe it to our students to engage in this stuff and it’s easy to do.

“It will take me double the time – 1 hr to record the lecture, 1 hr for the interactive class” – well perhaps in the current fee climate we owe it to our students to spend that extra time. But being kinder on the lecturer you also do not have to rerecord the lectures every single year but you can rerecord as needed to update or correct anything. And like writing lecture series you can do this far ahead of term. And colleagues have pointed out to me that we don’t have to spend a full hour video – a series of shorter more intense videos might be better and allow you to really focus on the threshold concepts. I don’t know how much more work this would be – maybe 25% more in the first year but reducing over time. But the gains are so much more than any additional time one puts in.

“I hate working to camera” – I loathe working to camera, particularly I hate still images. It’s a real issue for me. But it’s where we are with the technology… I remember my grandparents generation refusing to use the telephone! We all use email now and I think video is really becoming that ubiquitous. We just have to go through that process of getting used to it.

“Students and colleagues will make fun of me or say inappropriate things about my style or the lecture” – this is falling away because of the ubiquity of video. There is an issue with trolling but it’s not a big issue with this sort of video. BUT there is a good reference in my slides here – students have other things to do, we need to rise above those concerns.


And references from the community in the chatroom here:
Q via John Conway (Moderator)) We’ve had a comment about the Panopto product – it lets students annotate notes and save to their own profile, and they can then make them available online for discussion.
A – Carl): Lecturecast isn’t well used yet in UCL. The idea of polling questions in advance is the reflective thing – students can go away, come back, think about the questions. We learn when we aren’t thinking directly on the topic so those gaps can add some real advantage.
Q) What is the difference of Camtasia and Echocast 360?
A – Carl) I think they are versions of lecturecast systems but fairly similar
A – John) Lecturecast is the concept really. Camtasia is a vendor of several sets of softwares. It’s something that we’ve had to be careful to phrase things – see the previous presentation on Lecturecasts on Ning.
Q) What about doubling student study time?
A – Carl) Well we know the thing students most value about studying at university is the contact time and so I think making that more useful will be appreciated. But perhaps it does require reshaping of expectations. perhaps you shave reading time to allow this video engagement. I don’t think you add too much time and hopefully it will be something they value.
Q) Our experience at Aberystwyth is that lecturers are not keen to videoed and students are not that bothered to see them. The audio and the content are the key thing.
A – Carl) Speaking to colleagues there I have a sense that a face is really important for younger students – perhaps children/young people not adults. The audio is the key bit for older learners. But I’m not hugely sold on video particularly. The ability to draw on the screen, to show the process etc. is really important here.
A – John) We have some material on the usefulness of capturing body language – adding additional feedback and information here.
A – Carl) Matt here at UCL has made another point – there’s something on my blog about “do you need to see your lecturer”. I think a few minutes to see them on video may be enough. If you never see/meet someone in the flesh you lose something BUT once you have that, once you have a sense of them as a human, then you can go back to the virtual and use that sense of them to really better understand what you are engaging with online. I think there not meeting/meeting via video/meeting in the flesh. Both of the latter are important but perhaps we don’t have to do as much in person as we once did.
Comment) In teaching negotiation video is hugely important
A – Carl) That is a hugely important point I hadn’t considered – any teaching that requires understanding human interaction – psychology say – will really make the
Q) Do you make any of your material available under an Open Educational Resource model?
A – Carl) I’m not sure if we’ve worked out the economics of this… if a lecturer makes their materials available for free what does that mean for the lecturer and for the institution, doesn’t it undermine that? I certainly don’t want to release them all before students get here. Maybe I’m just not brave enough here!
Q) Many lecturers are used to presenting materials but some are not used to being facilitated? Should we offer training on how to be a good facilitator? For instance would they need training on how to handle debates in the classroom?
A – Carl) Gosh, maybe. I’ve always done my teaching the way I do. I suppose I just expect teachers to have those skills and I’m lucky that setting up a new degree I can choose my colleagues here. But if you don’t naturally engage with clickers, with new technologies that have proven pedagogical value then yes, you would want/need access to training.
Q) What is you say something untoward on camera?
A – Carl) That’s a really interesting issue and is far beyond just education. I would hope that we would really learn to handle this as society in a sensible way. As educators we should lead though. I think if you make a comment to a group of 200 people that isn’t being recorded should be fine with doing that when you are being recorded and be backed up by your institution.
Q) Could you use some of the captured content in the classroom?
A – Carl) I think you would not want to show long clips but with a bit of planning using a clip related to the key questions as you are addressing those.
Q) What feedback have you had from students?
A – Carl) As I mentioned earlier I am setting things up for September 2012 so I don’t have research base for this teching method yet but we do have research that what students value most is contact time. We are also trialling some split screen head to head debates for students to engage with
Q) How will you evaluate this approach?
A – Carl) Some open ended questions at the end of term will probably be the way to do this. I am cautious about over scrutinising students – I just think that’s the wrong atmosphere for what we’re trying to achieve.
Really most of the first and second year undergraduate courses you might be teaching are already on the web in some way – via existing educational materials online. But you really add the value meeting the teachers face to face and discussing and engaging with them.
Comment) Isn’t this the same as reading before a lecture?
A – Carl) Yes, some of my colleagues have said that! But the medium is really changing. In a way we’ve always asked students to do pre-reading – and they have rarely done that. But I think video, I think polling students is a qualitative shift that makes this difference.
John) Thank you all for coming along today and if you have any further questions and comments do take a look at the ViTAL (Video in Teaching And Learning) Ning community: We will address any questions raised there on Ning and perhaps in a webinar in the future.  The next webinar will be on video and pedagogical design.


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