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I’ve just come back from a fantastic few days in Nice in the South of France (more later) and while I was away it was the ALT-C 2008 – Association of Learning Technologists Conference in Leeds.  As well as the usual conference keynotes and break out sessions, they hold workshops where you actually have to do stuff.  James Clay is a pal of mine and with a couple of colleagues produced this video looking at the ‘digital divide’. Oh and it was scripted, recorded and all techie stuff done within 30 minutes – impressive.


I’d say a homage to Life of Brian, Smith and Jones and Pete and Dud with the expletives removed.  Well done guys.

It’s been a busy week with lots of visits to learning providers and we’ve seen lots of really innovative and imaginative use of mobile devices. On Wednesday, colleagues and I went up to West Cumbria for a meeting and spend the afternoon ‘playing’ with lots of the new kit that the college had bought with the ‘Learning for Living and Work‘ funds. Unfortuntaely the Wii’s were in use in the classrooms but we did have a go with the digital movie makers and the Tony Hawk headcams (these are usually used for skateboarders but did the job well). They are a great bit of kit for recording evidence of achievement in the workplace. They use the same software as the digi-cams so the college had managed to negotiate a half day’s training for 40 staff. I was delighted to hear they made sure that it was curriculum staff who had the training as well as the learning support staff – as ‘this technology is not just good for learners with disabilities or difficulties but for all learners’ – hurrah – someone who has seen the light. but I would say that wouldn’t I.

At the end of the week, I went to a Specialist College in North Manchester where I was fascinated to see the progress they’d made using mobile technology. They are part of a consortium which won a MoLeNet grant (yes that is the correct spelling it stands for Mobile Learning Network) and have invested heavily in some impressive kit. The Independent living skills lecturer has made some videos of recipes and instructions in a very clear and ordered way. Using an impressive Samsung handheld touch screen PC the learner can navigate their way round the instructions via an interactive PowerPoint page. The instructions were set in a grid showing either a symbol or word depending on the learner’s ability and tapping the square launched the next bit of film. Even better the learners can take the device from college to the residences or even home and practice their skills. As usual the big draw back of all this is the time taken – unfortuneately we haven’t worked out a way of cloning staff yet!

Although the Samsung was impressive, they will probably be using the small Asus eeepcs for most of the learners. These are fab small computers with a 7″ screen, but with no moving parts and with a Linux operating system. They are so fast it’s unbelievable and you are typing within a minute of switching on and at £200 worth every penny complete with speakers, webcam and wifi!

I posted about the videos that Lee LeFever and his colleagues at Commoncraft make a few months ago. Their ‘Zombies in Plain English’ has been short listed for a Yahoo video best animation award.

You can vote for them here.

Why didn’t we have stuff like this when I was at school. You can download it here

I’d like to wish a number of people Happy Birthday for tomorrow, December 18th.  Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones is 64, Steven Spielberg director of ET as well as many more films is 61 and Brad Pitt, ahem, is 44 and I am older than Brad and younger than the other two.  So happy birthday to you guys and also to me!

Animoto seems to be all over the blogs at the moment. It’s a great site that creates professional standard videos from your photos. There are a number of music tracks you can choose and you can do a 30 second video for free. See here for my trip to Emau Hill.

Just found a great blog with contributions from people who have to serve the general public. A good example: –

Customer: “Do you have that book from that movie Les Miserababah?”

Me:Les Miserables? Yes it would be on the 3rd floor.”

Customer: “What section would it be in?”

Me: “The fiction section.”

Customer: “So nonfiction is true, and fiction is not true, right?”

Me: “Yes.”

Customer: “How can this book be fiction if there is a movie about it?”

Me: “Movies are not true.”

Customer: “Really?”

Me: “Yes. Movies are not true, movies are fiction.”

See more here.

Yesterday I was at a day’s project management workshop as sort of joint host. It was on the theme of elearning, and was expertly delivered by John and Clive from JISC Infonet. It was held in the refurbished Refreshment rooms of Carnforth Railway Station which was the location for ‘Brief Encounter‘ filmed in early 1945 starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Although there is a lot of information on the history of the station the main theme of the visitor centre is a homage to the film. I wasn’t able to resist the temptation of speaking with a clipped British, don’t move your lips, accent for long.

Apart from high speed trains on the West Coast mainline thundering past every 10 minutes or so it is a lovely location and the building has been very tastefully restored. There is the original refreshment room, souvenir shop, with Brief Encounter playing on a large tv, and the Furness Room which is available for hire and the main rooms have 1940’s music playing softly in the background. An added bonus for me was I could catch the train there from my local station and I can recommend the cakes.

I’ve just finished watching the film, Deep Water, about Donald Crowhurst who attempted the first round the world yacht race in 1968/69.  How incredibly sad – we all have dreams, not many of us have the guts and determination to follow them.  Interestingly that a newspaper was instrumental in the pressure that he felt.  Not just a modern phenomenom then.

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