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For the last four or five weeks, we’ve been walking in the Dales most weekends.  While recording the latest elearning stuff podcast last week, we had a brief discussion on the use of animoto so thought I’d use some of the photos from the last trip up Great Knoutberry Hill to do a short video.

Yes I know – too many sunrise and Hellifield Station photos, but I like it.

Just a quick posting – a Flickr tag has been set up for ordinary folks to send a message to the new President Elect of the United States, Barack Obama.  So if you want to send him your thoughts – write a message and then take a photo of it.  Upload to flickr with the tag messageforobama.  Some good stuff there.

I spent an interesting and useful hour this morning on a Skype conference call with colleagues from all over the country.  The idea which we had initially discussed at the JISC conference in March was for an eLearning podcast but a very informal and chatty one.  It was all hosted and co-ordinated by non other than James Clay who is pretty well known on the eLearning scene and featured in an earlier post with his video from ALT-C. He did all the techy recording stuff and five of us just chatted – though apparently I need to work on my levels!  Hopefully, we’ll get a couple of 15 minutes sessions which we can publish.  We chatted briefly about the Learning for Living and Work projects which have been going on in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber and on the ‘Digital Native, Digital Immigrant’ debate which is covered in just about everybody’s blogs – see links below.  We’re hoping to do this on a weekly basis and to bring in lots of other eLearning folks also.  For those who cannot see any use for Jaiku, this was arranged and organised on there.  The final thing will be published on James’ blog – eLearning Stuff. The five of us were, as well as me and James,  Dave Sugden elearning consultant and general good chap, based in Huddersfield, Dave Foord another eLearning consultant from Loughborough (I think),  and Nick Jeans an eLearning professional from Sheffield – no online presence yet but wait for it.  Thanks guys – as the saying goes – I think it’s got legs.

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.

I was in Glasgow last week for the inaugural meeting of the Accessibility and Inclusion role group.  Members from the other RSC regions who had responsibility for Accessibility and Inclusion were there and it was a great opportunity to discuss developments, and share experiences.  There is some seriously good work going on and I was particularly impressed with a project that Margaret McKay has been doing with Glasgow Metropolitan College.  They have implemented a cross college process to make learning materials accessible.  CALM – Creating Accessible Learning Materials – is a project to ensure that learning materials are ‘accessibile, readable and available in a variety of formats to meet the requirements of learners with a range of additional learning needs.’

This is a college wide approach and not one which is just for the learning support staff.  All staff have had training and more importantly, the college invested in admin staff to provide support in converting existing documents into more accessible formats.  As the continued gripe from staff that we get is – ‘we haven’t got the time’  providing admin and technical support has been crucial to the success of the scheme.

So now I’m wondering if we could do something similar in a college in the North west.  I have a couple of candidates in mind but may possibly speak to them before posting to here.

It was a great visit and we had a superb traditional scottish meal in the Bothy restaurant.  Yes I had haggis with neaps and tatties and it was very nice.  I also discovered ‘tablet’ which is like kendal mint cake without the mint – I think that’s the nearest I can get to it.  Thanks to Margaret who was a fantastic hostess and it was great to see everyone from around the UK and NI.

Well it was a week ago but the conference went really well.  It  was great to see so many of the great and good in eLearning in the North West and to meet some new friends also.  I was especially please to meet Nick and Paul from Janet.txt and think it is a fab bit of kit and am looking forward to finding more and more uses for it.  I’m sure I’ll be in touch with more ideas.  I managed to get a swim in the morning before the event, even though I’d forgotten to bring a swimsuit - good old asda – 48p!  How can you sell an item of clothing for 48p?  The venue was superb with fantastic views over the racecourse.

View from Princess Royal stand, Aintree

View from Princess Royal stand, Aintree

It was great that Bev from Accrington and Rossendale College had brought along some learners to deliver their seminar on using mobile technologies for learning.  During the day, I managed to get some people to record messages onto gabcast. A couple of my colleagues and I took photos and they can be seen using the RSCNW08 tag on Flickr.  Great day, great venue, fab food - can recommend it.

The whole team are running about doing last minute preparations for our annual conference on Friday this week.  It will take place at Aintree Racecourse and has the title ‘The eLearning Effect – Enhance, Enlighten, Engage’.  We have put together some web 2.0 features to gather feedback from the event.  Firstly a flickr and blog tag – RSCNW08 to group photos from the day and the preparations – I’ve put a few up there in advance of the team.  We also have a gabcast channel – which I’m going to use to record audio feedback during the day and beforehand.  I have managed to organise a demo account with an SMS company txttools, so will be asking delegates to sms questions or feedback during the day and finally we have a virtual conference on Facebook.  Please come along and leave a comment or just say hello.

Lee and Sachi LeFever at Commoncraft have produced another cracking video explaining how social media works.  As part of our job we spend a lot of time trying explaining to people how and why Web 2.0 works and there you go -  they’ve done it in all of 4 minutes. Watch and enjoy – or you can download it here.

Today the newest project from Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman is aired on Channel 4 at unfortunately silly o clock – 12.05 am. It’s called What About Me? and follows the 1GiantLeap idea in getting people from all over the world to talk, sing or play music to a beat or in reply to some previous singing or music. The latest trailer is here and the trailer for the first episode Bombardment is here.

The synopsis for Bombardment says “The backing track for this chapter was written one windy night in my van in Cadaques Spain. I had copied the riff from a sample of some Thai instrument. Sounded very different on my guitar, and as I played it to other musicians around the world it took on a whole new sound.”

Thanks goodness that Channel 4 also has a play again service so I’ll be watching it later on 4od.

And why not – here’s a taste of the first album.

It’s been a sort of corporate week. On Tuesday morning I travelled down to Birmingham for the annual JISC conference at the International Convention Centre. On the train on the way down I had a chance to play with my new bit of kit – the Asus Eeepc – essentially a small laptop with a 7″ screen. It is linux based and the beauty is that from pressing the on switch it is up and running within 32 seconds (yes I did time it) and you can have a working document open and be typing by 55 seconds. It has built in Wifi but I was unable to get onto the network at the ICC probably due to overcrowding. The keyboard is very small and although you do get used to it, if you are a touch typist like me and don’t look at the keys, you keep ending up in the line above the one you are typing as the shift key and up arrow are next to each other. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

The conference was good and I enjoyed it and got much more out of it than the equivalent last year. That may be more to do with my choice of break out sessions to attend. Also I knew a lot more people than last year so it was nice to catch up with so many friendly faces. The morning keynote was Lord David Puttnam, now chancellor of the Open University. Both breakout sessions I went to were regarding the JISC funded elearning projects. In the morning I went to the ‘sharing the elearning experience‘ and was impressed in particular by some work done on e-assessment at Nottingham University Medical School. The afternoon session was looking at the learner experience and expectations and how the ‘Google generation’ could drive change in Higher Education. A very high level committee of enquiry has been set up to look at the changing learner experience and they are working in a transparent manner using a wiki – here. The final keynote was Angela Beesley from Wikia, founders of wikipedia – with some interesting news on the future of wikipedia and planned changes. Video, Audio and presentations are here.

Instead of heading home, I went south to Gloucestershire where daughter number 3 has just moved. She had warned me that the house was still empty but I was cool with that. We had a great night out and both made ‘nests’ with duvets on her bedroom floor. However, the following morning, I scrabbled around her kitchen and discovered that she had no means of heating water. As she doesn’t drink tea or coffee this isn’t a problem for her. Having asked at the local shop if they sold ‘hot and wet’ coffee – rather than granules, I gave in and made myself a hot ribena with water from the tap!

After a trip into Tewkesbury and a quick look at the Abbey I hopped onto a train home.

Back in Yorkshire, I experimented with a new route into the metropolis that is Manchester and hit the jackpot. Hebden Bridge is about 20 miles from me and has free parking at its station. It was then 40 minutes on the train into the centre of Manchester for £7 – great. I headed off to what was the GMex centre and now called something bland that I can’t remember. The Special Needs North exhibition was all that I expected and all the usual suspects were there. I had signed up for one seminar and it was excellent ‘stop teaching and start encouraging learning’ much the stuff that we talk about most days but well presented. Astonishingly I cannot find a decent link to the list of exhibitors or the seminars.

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