Monthly Archive for August, 2010

What I’ve starred this week: August 31, 2010

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

MASHe Monthly (Email Newsletter and Template)

It’s fair to say I’m keen to get my message out any which way. As well as the blogging staples of RSS feeds I also have a print-friendly PDF Magazine version and a eBook addition in various formats (EPUB | Mobipocket/Kindle | PDF).  For a while I’ve also give an option to sign up for a monthly email newsletter. This uses the MailPress plugin to handle subscriptions and send a monthly update which snippets of blog posts from the last month.

Old MASHe Monthly Layout [click to enlarge]One of the things I was never happy with was the layout of the email, which was basically a list of snippets of posts based on date order. As I uses this site to collect lists of links to news items and sites I find interesting in ‘What I’ve starred this week’ and more technical posts recording my personal research, there are times I would like to put these further down the reading order.

New MASHe Monthly Layout [click to enlarge]Fortunately MailPress allows users to use/create custom templates. Having tried to find a suitable existing template and failed I knocked together a new one. This allows me to highlight a featured post, followed by snippets of my regular posts, finishing with the list of links from ‘What I’ve starred’. With the lack of MailPress templates I thought it would be worthwhile releasing:

*** RSC MailPress template ***

You should read the MailPress documentation for more information on installation customisation.

[If you are testing the monthly template the plugin only pulls in a random older post. I’ve posted a workaround for this in the MailPress forum.]  

RSC-MP3: HE Update Aug 2010: Funding

RSC-MP3 LogoWelcome the the return of RSC-MP3. The RSC-MP3 series has evolved over time and in it’s latest incarnation I’m re-joined by Kevin Brace in his new role of Associate Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at Aston University.

We had a long old catch up/information sharing session and over the next couple of months I’m going to chuck our conversation, pulling out information you might find useful. For our first chuck we talk about funding, in particular JISC funding for educational and institutional projects. Kevin talks about his recent experience of submitting an unsuccessful bid which was going to collect international best practice in e-Portfolios and I talk about my experience on the other end as a bid marker.

The podcast is available via the usual methods and as a variation on the SoundCloud timeline commenting I’ve used my own uTitle to bookmark the audio uploaded to Vimeo. If you have a Twitter account please feel free to add your own comments.

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RSC-MP3: HE Update August 2010 - Funding (on uTitle)

Duration: 26 minutes
Size: 21.5 MB

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Additional resources

Here are links to materials from the ‘Bid writing for e-Learning projects’ hosted by RSC West Midlands which contains links to resources produced by Professor Mark Stiles on Bidding-DOs_and_DONTs and Feedback on HE in FE Bids which is “an analysis of recent unsuccessful bids from a bidding round which highlighted a number of key problem areas with applications”.

Also linked to from this page is RSC Northwest guidance on bid writing tool which headlines some questions you should ask yourself before planning and submitted funding proposals [biggest tip I can give is to read the marking criteria/weighting].

You might also find the RSC Wales Quick Guide to Funding useful particularly the section on ‘Resources from Funding event 6 July 2010′ section which an overview of the JISC bidding process and some tips and tricks.

To get an idea of funding available from JISC over the next 12 months they recently released the Roadmap of future grant funding and Roadmap of Future Invitations to Tender [for fans of Twitter we use the @rsc_ne_scotland account to tweet funding calls (as well as news/events from other JISC Services)].

JISC also allowed open access to the Programme Information Management System (PIMS). This was previously available to “JISC Executive staff only and is a record of all JISC-funded programmes and projects, from the year 2000 onwards”.

More information about the JISC Elevator proposal as a new funding mechanism is available on the mock-up site. If you want to leave feedback on this idea:

  • You can answer the two quick poll questions
  • and/or, if you have more substantive feedback , questions or ideas to add into the process, you can submit them at our uservoice site by clicking on the feedback tab to the left.

What I’ve starred this week: August 24, 2010

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Material to support Tony Hirst’s (@psychemedia’s) promotion

If you are a regular reader of this blog you’ve probably noticed that a lot of my work is directly influenced by Dr Tony Hirst at the Open University. Tony is currently Crowd Sourcing a Promotion Case… so rather than filling in his impact form I thought I would openly acknowledge how his cutting edge research has influenced my own work (I may regret starting this post as there is so much material on this blog which is a direct result of Tony’s work, but here goes).

Have any of my blog posts or other communications significantly influenced you? If so, which ones, and how? Did they impact on any projects you have worked on, processes you are involved with, or policies you have had a role in developing? 

Yahoo Pipes

Who’s Tweeting Our Hashtag? - this work was the genesis of a series of posts (6 in total) which presented solution for a free electronic voting system using Twitter. As well as presenting this solution to member of the eLearning Alliance FE/HE SIG the work was also mentioned in JISC Inform Issue 27.

Tony’s numerous posts on the use of Yahoo Pipes, which were my introduction to this tool, have also influenced a number of other posts on this site including Using Yahoo Pipes to generate a Twitter ‘out of office’ messaging service, Creating a PDF or eBook from an RSS feed ( and Festive fun: Auto tweeting your Google Reader shared items using Yahoo Pipes and twitterfeed, as well as uses within our RSC which have not yet been documented including twitter - noreplies (TwitterPad) and the JISCAdvanceUberTwitStream.

Google Apps

Maintaining a Google Calendar from a Google Spreadsheet, Reprise -  this work resulted in Using Google App Scripts as an Event Booking System. Again just as Yahoo Pipes are used to support the operation of our RSC, the event booking system was also piloted with one of our events and is likely to be used more extensively.

Just like Pipes, my interest in Google Apps was a direct consequence of reading Tony’s work in this area. Consequently this has resulted in other research  including Convert time stamped data to timed-text (XML) subtitle format using Google Spreadsheet Script and Using Google Spreadsheet to automatically monitor Twitter event hashtags and more

Timed Tweets/Twitter Subtitling

This is best summarised in the wikipedia entry for twitter subtitling which highlights that my resulting work on this area is not only a built on Tony’s initial research into Twitter Powered Subtitles for Conference Audio/Videos on Youtube, but also its very beginnings was a question raised by Tony and furthermore its continual development is a collaborative endeavour.


Evidence of the effective supervision of full and part time post graduate research students should be included under this criterion as well as innovative contributions to the development of early career academic staff engaging with research or other modes of scholarship - Excerpt from Academic Staff Promotions Committee Guidance 

I don’t know if the Committee guidance on supervision is supposed to just limited to OU staff/students, but I feel the above statement is evidenced by the examples I’ve highlighted. Concise and constructive guidance has meant that I have taken my personal development into a new direction and so enthused am I by Tony’s work, that I spend hours of my own personal time exploring new ideas.

The inevitable ‘Death of Google Wave’ post

Wave breaker
Wave breaker
Originally uploaded by photosan0

Having written and presented a fair bit on Google Wave over the last year I couldn’t let the news that Google were pulling the plug pass without comment.

In the beginning …

It all started with such optimism back in May/June 2009 when I posted Google Wave – Opportunities for communication, collaboration and social learning in education. Like many others I perhaps focused too much on the real-time ‘almost character-by-character’ interaction, but I soon discovered that its possible strengths were more about how easily it was to embed waves in other sites and systems including VLEs (Black Wave: Embedding Google Wave (etherpad and mindmeister) into Blackboard, Black Wave 2: Blackboard Wave Integration!, Moodle Wave: Embedding Google Wave into Moodle). And also not forgetting the power of robots and gadgets (Educational Extensions (Robots and Gadgets) for Google Wave).

Malformed wave

Many commentators have expressed their opinion about where Google went wrong. For me it was perhaps a chicken and egg scenario. Google wanted to employ the community to develop the product with/for them, but they couldn’t open the doors to everyone. This meant the focus was the beta site, ignoring any integration with other Google products (notably Gmail and Docs). (I hope you are struck by the irony of being able to embed Waves in Blackboard but not Gmail).

The crest

The pinnacle of my work on Google Wave was perhaps my presentation at our JISC Winter Fayre in December 2009. Whilst my slides are available, we have no recording of the event which is a shame because I was on fire ;-), but my Google Wave 101 post mirrors the structure and content of my talk.

After the storm

In my humble opinion if Google truly believe in ‘doing no evil’ then they need to open source every single line of code and let the community decide the future of Wave.

Do I regret spending so much time on Wave? No! That’s what the RSC is here for, to invest time in researching emerging technologies and practices to disseminate to our supported institutions (Here is a collection of my Wave posts).

What I’ve starred this week: August 10, 2010

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Reliving ALT-C 2009 keynotes with preserved tweets

iTitle: Any flv/mp4 will doUnfortunately I won’t be able to attend ALT-C this year and will have to muddle on as a remote delegate, primarily surfing the conferencing twitter stream.

Brian Kelly posted about the Use of Twitter at the ALTC 2009 Conference last year and by all accounts if ALT are able to video stream the keynotes again combining these two channels should mean it will be practically like I am there (but without the lunch queue ;-).

In Brain’s original post I noticed he mentioned the Twapper Keeper service (perhaps his first mention on this on hos blog) and that he had created a notebook for #altc2009. Having missed Martin Bean and Terry Anderson’s keynotes and wanting to gear myself up for ALT-C 2010 I thought I’d see if I could relive the keynotes with the preserved twitter stream using iTitle.

Knowing the twitter archive was available the next step was to see if I could find the video. On the official ALT-C 2009 keynotes page I saw they had the videos hosted on Unfortunately this wasn’t one of the video hosting sites currently supported by iTitle. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this problem as I had to manually tweak the pages for the JISC10 Conference Keynotes with Twitter Subtitles. Rather than having to keep tweaking pages I thought a simple solution would be to just let the user define a url for where a video is hosted (which works well with blip as they give direct links for videos in .flv and .mp4 format). So here are the videos with tweets (NB the jump navigation only works for loaded parts of the video)

Martin Bean
Vice-Chancellor of the Open University

iTitle: Martin Bean’s Keynote | Martin Bean’s Keynote

Michael Wesch
Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, USA

iTitle: Michael Wesch’s Keynote | Michael Wesch’s Keynote

Terry Anderson
Professor and Canada Research Chair in Distance Education at Athabasca University, Canada - Canada’s Open University

iTitle: Terry Anderson’s Keynote | Terry Anderson’s Keynote

Something about the value of your institutions website (and how you might improve it)

University Website

The image above from webcomic was doing the rounds on Friday.

I’m sure you recognise parts of your institution’s own website in this diagram, in particular I usually find more joy in finding faculty members phone/email addresses on Google rather than on the official site.

A couple of tools which sprung to mind when I saw this diagram were Google’s Browser Size Tool, which let you see contours of the the average percentages of users browser window size. This helped Google discover that 10% of their visitors couldn’t see the download button for Google Earth without scrolling. You can also overlay these contours on your own site. I’m sure many web admins are also already using Google Analytics click overlay to work out where visitors are going (and if they are on the ball assigning goals and click values).

If you want to chuck some formal/informal evaluation techniques into the mix Mike Nolan has been using a modification of Nick DeNardis’ EDU Checkup turning it into ‘Slate My Website’ in which groups collectively perform first impression and ~5minute reviews of a sites design, content and code (more info in this post by Mike).

If you are looking for something a more formal usability technique I’ve always been fond of ‘cognitive walkthroughs’:

The cognitive walkthrough method is a usability inspection method used to identify usability issues in a piece of software or web site, focusing on how easy it is for new users to accomplish tasks with the system. The method is rooted in the notion that users typically prefer to learn a system by using it to accomplish tasks, rather than, for example, studying a manual. The method is prized for its ability to generate results quickly with low cost, especially when compared to usability testing, as well as the ability to apply the method early in the design phases, before coding has even begun.

The topic of maximising and streamlining institutional websites featured in a couple of presentations at IWMW10, including Ranjit Sidhu’s ‘So what do you do exactly?’ In challenging times justifying the roles of the web teams and Paul Boag’s No money? No matter - Improve your website with next to no cash.

I’ve embedded Paul’s presentation below who suggests that one of the best ways to make sure you get the most out of what you’ve got is to simplify your offerings by automating the removal, hiding or review of material.

What I’ve starred this week: August 3, 2010

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.


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

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