Monthly Archive for April, 2009

What I've 'starred' this week - April 28, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Evernote – a personal e-portfolio solution for students?

Evernote - Remember everything
Evernote - Remember everything

Last year I highlighted the Evernote as a notetaking tool for the 21st century. Since then I’ve continued to explore this service and believe it could potentially be a personalised e-portfolio for students. In this post I want to highlight why I think Evernote fulfils this role and how it might be used.

First the why. In the JISC infoNet e-Portfolio infoKit highlight a quote by Sutherland and Powel (2007) which describes an e-portfolio as:

“a purposeful aggregation of digital items - ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc, which ‘presents’ a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability”.

Evernote, which isn’t explicitly designed as an e-portfolio, describes their service as allowing you to:

“easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere.”

At the core of Evernote’s service is the ability to capture digital information (text, audio, pictures) from multiple platforms storing it either locally or on Evernote’s servers i.e. in the ‘cloud’ (definition of ‘cloud computing’).

Evernote have spent a lot of time in making it as easy as possible to capture and search information developing bespoke applications for desktops (Mac and Windows) and mobile devices (iPhone and Windows Mobile with Nokia’s Symbian in the pipeline). Users are also not limited to interacting with Evernote through custom applications and information can be captured/retrieved via web browsers (mobile and desktop) and even submitting notes using a dedicated email address.

One of the very impressive features of Evernote is the ability to search for information. As well as basic text searching Evernote utilise handwriting recognition and digital ink technology from their sister company, Ritescript. This means that any images or handwritten notes are indexed by Evernote and are searchable.

So hopefully the above description describes how information can be captured. Another key area of e-portfolios is the ability for users to share their evidence to a selected audience. This is achievable to a degree within Evernote by users making selected notebook public. Public notebooks some with a dedicated RSS feed (definition of ‘RSS’) which allows subscribers to keep up-to-date with the latest information the user has made available. The downside of Evernote’s current solution is public notebooks are visible to the world (there is the option of ‘security by obscurity’ – making the names of public notebooks obscure so that they cannot easily be found. Evernote however recognise this as a limitation of their service and have recently announced that there will soon be a new way of sharing assets).

Having a RSS feed for notebooks makes it easy to import information into other systems. For example if you are like Dumfries & Galloway College use WordPress as an e-portfolio solution then I’ve developed a plugin which reposts an Evernote notebook into WordPress. More information on this plugin is here.

It’s probably best to demonstrate how this all fits together:

Click to play: Evernote - a personalised e-portfolio solution
Evernote - a personalised e-portfolio solution from Martin Hawksey on Vimeo.

So Evernote is potentially a nice solution for a personalised e-portfolio. It is not without its shortcomings. Issues include:

  • the limit to only uploading pdf documents with the basic free service (premium members can upload in a number of formats)
  • lack of mobile application for non iPhone/iPod Touch and Windows Mobile users (although developments in this area are on their way
  • an easy way to privately share assests (again this is supposed to be on the way)
  • notes are stored in proprietary Evernote format (the service was never designed as an e-portfolio solution so it is unlikely to conform to any IMS interoperability standard, but this doesn’t rule out a 3rd party developing something using the Evernote API)

It is unlikely any e-portfolio solution is going to be perfect and I think Evernote ticks a lot of the boxes. A huge advantage of promoting a personalised e-portfolio solution is it truly belongs to the individual and not the institution, particularly important if you want to encourage and support lifelong learning.

What I've 'starred' this week - April 21, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

What I've 'starred' this week - April 14, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Microsoft’s vision of technology in higher education

Be inspired by the possibilities of how technology could be used in Higher Ed. Microsoft technologies can help deliver a seamless flow between lifestyle and learning and new ways to collaborate. Some of what is shown in the video is already possible. 

Vision for technology in Higher Education

Initially I was sceptical of this candy coated view of technology in education, but when you view this with “The Horizon Report: 2009 Edition” there are some common themes. In particular the Horizon report identifies key trends in how we are using technology to enhance the way we communicate and collaborate. How visualisation tools are making it easier to present information in more meaningful ways. All touched upon in the video.

An area not fully explored in the Microsoft vision, but apparent in most of the scenarios they portray, is the influence of mobile technologies. This is an area which the Horizons report identifies as a critical challenge for the future particularly as there is a perceived “growing expectation to make use of and deliver services, content and media to mobile devices”.

Another document I happened to have open when viewing the video was HEFCE’s new ‘Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology’ strategy document. The Microsoft vision maps onto some of the example development goals. Including:

  • Students can access information, support, expertise and guidance, and communicate with each other, wherever they are studying
  • Technology is used to help students connect formal study with other aspects of life and work
  • Joined-up information systems support students in transition or while studying at more than one location or institution

So there are synergies with Microsoft’s vision and trends in the use of technology in higher education. Ultimately cost will be the biggest barrier to adoption. In this current economic climate I think few institutions will be prepared to splash the cash (or is this the ideal opportunity for radical change?).    

RSC-MP3: HE Update Mar ’09

Logo for RSC-MP3Welcome to our third episode of RSC-MP3, a monthly audio podcast highlighting some higher education focused e-learning news, interviews and resources brought to you by Kevin Brace (RSC West Midlands) and Martin Hawksey (RSC Scotland North and East). Links to the various topics we discuss are given along with the podcast links. You can listen to this podcast on your PC, or when “on the move” by adding it to your ipod playlist.

Each month we will interview a guest speaker and also record a conversation discussing current issues contained in our blogs (see links below). This month we interviewed Ms Carol Bailey, senior lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton. Carol discusses her use of the text matching tool Turnitin, and how the system helps her detect and deter plagiarism and collusion. Carol also describes how her students learn about correct referencing and paraphrasing from the originality reports and the digital feedback she gives them. Click here for the interview with Ms Carol Bailey in full (19 minutes).

HE Update
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Duration: 29 minutes
Size: 25.9MB

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Our blogs

Links from Kevin’s subjects: Timestamps represented as [minutes:seconds]

Links from Martin’s subjects:

RSC-MP3: HE Update Mar 09 – Interview with Carol Bailey

rsc-mp3-144pxThis month Kevin interviewed Carol Bailey, senior lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton. Carol discusses her use of the text matching tool Turnitin, and how the system helps her detect and deter plagiarism and collusion. Carol also describes how her students learn about correct referencing and paraphrasing from the originality reports and the digital feedback she gives them.

Related paper
Bailey, C. (2006) Supporting international students in UK Higher Education: key issues, and recommendations for further research. CELT-funded literature review for publication within the University. Available at

Interview with Carol Bailey
Duration: 19 minutes
Download Link
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01:10 – Text matching tools seem to have split in the marketplace some use it as policing tool others use it as a teaching tool to educate students. How do you feel about these approaches?

Two ways of looking at. Detection is very important and indicates that institutions taking seriously. Using Turnitin as a policing tool can also be  educational. It also saves a lot of staff time which they can dedicated to supporting students.

As an educational tool (allowing students to submit essays early to get an originality report)  is resisted for a number of reasons. Some believe it  won’t help because all it will do is make students better cheats by uploading essay multiple times to remove plagiarised text (also called ‘churning’). There is no evidence of this in the research actually happening. Also there is a worry that logistical problems where class sizes are large and teaching time has been reduced means that even when they want to use Turnitin as a formative tool they worry it will take up too much time. There is also fears that it takes to long  to show students how to use Turnitin.

05:00 – Involved in research activities are you aware of any trend or recommendations to make to institutions?

My work with Turnitin is limited to a specific type of student teaching English as a foreign language. So all my students are international students. Wanted to find out if Turnitin could be a tool to cut down marking time and also be used to show students how to use sources appropriately. Between 60-80% of students on the course have never used academic referencing before, or have used referencing in a different way, or it is acceptable in their culture to copy and paste, or they have never written an essay longer than 250 words. So a very distinct cohort of students so I’m not sure how this translates to other disciplines. On 2 modules do an essay 1st draft submitted, mark it feedback given in a one-to-one tutorial befire they submit 2nd draft. Used Turninit as a visual stimulus uploading first draft into Turnitin and showing students the originality report as part of the feedback tutorial. In some cases it was fine and in others a lot of reds, greens and yellows.

The students were so impressed that they begged to be allowed to upload their 2nd draft before final submission, which after consultation was allowed. In subsequent semesters it was easier to allow students to upload their work by themselves 1st and 2nd draft.

09:00 We’ve found their was no increase in plagiarism from previous years using traditional methods, but there has been an increase in collusion which would not have been previously detectable [Turnitin keeps a database of all uploaded work making it possible to make comparisons against other students work]. Didn’t find evidence of ‘churning’, we think because they hadn’t plagiarised in the first place. The ones that upload more than once appear to insecure about their sources, hadn’t used quotation marks correctly.

90% said they would be more careful about their academic writing now that they knew their work would be checked using Turnitin. 89% said that all students should be able to access Turnitin to check their own work before submission.

It [Turnitin] is not a magic bullet, it still can’t detect all plagiarism although it is getting better. It doesn’t also teach students how to paraphrase or how to reference. You still need a writing teacher. Haven’t been able to track students as they continue their writing career at the University.

11:54 - My recommendation was that all students should be able to access Turnitin as a learning aid in at least one module early on in their programme to raise awareness of academic writing conventions.

13:40 – How has your teaching practices have evolved and benefited from the use of these tools?

One of the first effect was to save a lot of time in terms of marking. It takes twice as long to mark a plagiarised essay because the sources of plagiarism have to be identified then the sources located before then giving feedback on the essay as a whole. Using Turnitin does the detection freeing up time to give feedback on the essay. This year I’ve been experimenting with another function of Turnitin called GradeMark – the online marking feature. Students submit portfolio of assignments via Turnitin and I give feedback on it online so I don’t have to worry about downloading and uploading. A nice feature of GradeMark is there is a clipboard that you can use for frequent comments, sets of ready made QuickMarks which cover language and punctuation. I’m not using the ready made QuickMarks because the language isn’t appropriate for my students but I’ve developed some of my own with links to grammar websites and pages in textbooks. The feedback from students is encouraging because students are using the links. So with GradeMark I can give a lot more feedback. Get pleasure from students actually using the feedback. Not spending less time on feedback but using the time to give more feedback. There are also benefits in terms of administration as everything is online.

EduApps – Portable applications in your pocket

Back in September 2008 we launched AccessApps, an initiative developed by the Scottish JISC Regional Support Centres in cooperation with JISC TechDis. This consisted of over 50 open source and freeware assistive technology applications which can be entirely used from a USB stick on a Windows computer as known as portable software.

The huge advantage of portable software is that it can entirely run from a portable storage device (e.g. USB pen/thumb drive, memory card, mp3 player) without the need for installation or configuration on the computer being used (particularly useful for students working on locked down machines on campus).

The video below prepared for the IMS Learning Impact awards nicely summaries what AccessApps is and the philosophy behind it.

Find more videos like this on RSC Access and Inclusion

Portable software is nothing new and sites like have been going for a number of years. AccessApps is probably unique by highlighting assistive software that is open source and freeware, making it freely available for anyone to download.

Building on our success so far (which has included winning a Scottish Open Source Award) we are now expanding the AccessApps brand with two further software bundles, LearnApps and TeachApps. We are collectively calling these three strands as EduApps.

EduApps USB StickAs well as updating the existing AccessApps software we’ve been trawling the net for new applications to include in the two new packages. Notable inclusions include the popular open source VLE, Moodle, and two a learning object creators/editors, eXe and Xerte.

In total we’re hoping to make 86 applications both freeware and open source available via EduApps (here is the complete list of software we are hoping to distribute).

UPDATE – We’re busy putting the final polish to EduApps. We want to make sure we get it right, rather than putting out a rushed version. Please bear with us, it’ll be worth the wait - we promise! EduApps is here!


This blog is authored by Martin Hawksey e-Learning Advisor (Higher Education) at the JISC RSC Scotland N&E.

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