Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants for FE (SWaNI)

This post is mainly for staff at FE colleges in the Scotland North & East region

As part of JISC’s Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants a call has been published just for FE colleges in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (See Grant 10/10: Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants: SWaNI FE). The deadline for submissions is 9th November 2010. With these grants:

JISC wishes to fund projects of up to one year that fit with the vision, outcomes and principles of the JISC e-Learning programme and support innovative approaches to learning and teaching.

There are a couple of points highlighted by my colleague Lis Parcell at RSC Wales worth remembering:

  • this call is very unusual in being ring fenced for FE in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: it’s a great opportunity!
  • that there should be a pedagogic justification for a project: technological innovation needs to be driven by institutional need and also be capable of making an impact on the sector as a whole.
  • there have been five earlier rounds of these grants, and it would be useful to look at some of the successful projects
  • Learning and Teaching Innovation Grant calls are unusual in having a two-stage bidding process, so you can ‘test the water’ with a proposal without going to the extent of writing a full bid straight off

If you are interested in submitting a proposal there are a number of ways our RSC (and the wider JISC Services family) can help. In terms of resources as well as the recording of the online townhall meeting and resulting FAQ document you might find this interview with Kevin Brace and associated resources on funding useful.

Our RSC can also help in your bid proposal in a number of other ways including:

  • reviewing a draft proposal
  • highlighting existing projects/research related to your bid
  • sitting on your project steering groups
  • incorporated into your proposals dissemination plan

For any advice please contact us.

I’m sure you have lots of ideas for projects and it is always best to apply for funding for something you were going to do anyway but if you need some ideas you could:

;-)

Create&Convert: Can you afford to ignore this?

A recent article in Fortune highlights ‘How corporate America went open-source’ which in turn highlights:

A Forrester Research survey of the business landscape in the third quarter of last year found that 48% of respondents were using open source operating systems, and 57% were using open source code

In reality the level of open source usage is probably higher than the reported thanks to open source projects like the Apache webserver, Firefox and the Android mobile operating system.

Within our own RSC we recognise the value of open source not just because of the potential cost savings but also because it encourages innovation. One of our flagship innovations is the award winning EduApps project, which has used the model popularised by portableapps.com to provide a range of open and freeware application which can be run from a USB stick.

Since it’s launch in 2008 the EduApps project has evolved finding new family members:

  • MyStudyBar - a suite of apps to support literacy (also available in Spanish Mi Barra de Estudio).
  • MyVisBar - a high contrast floating toolbar, designed to support learners with visual difficulties.
  • MyAccess - a portal to all your favourite and accessible applications providing inclusive e-learning options for all.  

All of these are the brainchild of Craig Mill our e-Learning Advisor (Accessibility and Inclusion). One of Craig’s continual frustrations is the amount of public money that is spent through the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) on commercial software to support writing, reading and planning as well as sensory, cognitive and physical difficulties when there are open and free alternatives.

To illustrate this we surveyed a number of products which provide commercial alternatives to MyStudyBar and calculated an average cost of £115 per user licence. Since March 2010 through downloads from our site alone we estimate we have potentially saved, at time of writing £729,560. It is worth highlighting this figure doesn’t include all the versions of MyStudyBar that get redistributed after downloading with an entire council looking at rolling out MyStudyBar across their entire network you can arguably add another digit.

Craig’s latest little baby is Create&Convert. This suite of portable applications has been put together in response to the Equality Act 2010 which came into force on the 1st October 2010. JISC TechDis have prepared a Single Equality Duty guidance document which highlights that the Equality Act now means that further and higher education have a requirement to take:

a proactive approach to shaping institutional processes and the promotion of equality

Create&Convert is a free tool that has been designed specifically to help institutions or organisations comply with the Act in the way that they publish information. It brings together in one neat package a range of open source programs that can quickly and capably translate electronic documents into an accessible alternative format, such as audio or a talking book. All of the tools are the outputs of the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium, and are therefore completely free to use and distribute.

Create&Convert interface image

Create&Convert will work with any new or existing document that is in editable form, such as the common Microsoft Word. In a nutshell, Create&Convert is a legislation-compliant, budget-friendly tool that can transform exclusion into participation for the learner.

Click here to find out more and download Create&Convert – Can you afford not to?

What I’ve starred this week: October 5, 2010

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: September 28, 2010

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Free SMS voting using intelliSoftware SMS Gateway service

Technology -
Technology - "Future Vision"
Originally uploaded by $ydney

Previously I written about Using a Learning Apps (xLearn) textwall for SMS voting for £25/year, but what if you haven’t got £25 to spare? How about free SMS voting*, and when I say free, I don’t mean free for the first 15 votes like SMSPOLL.net or free for the first 30 votes like PollEverywhere.com, I mean free for as many responses and polls you like!

*excluding the price to send a txt msg

I’ve been think about free SMS voting for quite a while, 4 years in fact! Back in 2006 one of the first blogs I regularly read was David Muir’s EdCompBlog. At the time I worked at the University of Strathclyde in CAPLE and David was in the Faculty of Education. His blog was great to find out what was going on at the other end of the institution, something Brian Kelly regularly highlights.

In October 2006 David posted his experiences on Moblogging: Turn it on again where he was able to mash a free SMS textwall using intelliSoftware SMS gateway. At the time I left a comment asking if David had:

thought about parsing the text messages for voting? i.e. students text ‘pgdes2blog Q1B’ to answer B in MCQ for question 1 etc? (Anonymously said …)

As it happened David had but neither of us was in the position to come up with a solution back then. Roll forward 4 years (with a Twitter voting solution inspired by David in between) and the old grey cells get a jump start after David posted some reflection on his student induction 2010 style in What did they need to know?. David mentioned he used his free textwall solution again collecting responses on this blog.

Both of us realised that if David was collecting responses on a blog that it would be easy to reuse my earlier Learning Apps solution to grab and parse the responses (using RSS). In fact it was so easy all I needed to do was change one line of code.

So below is an alternate version of XVS – SMS voting using Learning Apps:

*** RSSvs – SMS voting using RSS ***

With this version you can submit any RSS feed and it will extract/graph the number of occurrences of an answer option after a question identifier in the post title. Here is an example of a response chart which is generated from this test blog

So potentially you could use anything for voting which somehow creates results as an RSS feed. But how can you use this for SMS voting?

How to use RSSvs with intelliSoftware  

Unlike the Learning Apps textwall it doesn’t have a native RSS feed for the SMS inbox, but as David has already demonstrated it is possible to automatically forward messages sent to intelliSoftware as an email which can then be used to publish a blog post. This is possible because a number of blogging platforms allow you to create posts from emails (e.g. Blogger: How do I post via email?). Here is how to setup your intelliSoftware account:

  1. Create a blogger account and enable mail-to-blogger (taking a note of your personal mail-to-blogger address)
  2. Usual form filling. Important: Username will be your message identifier i.e. students have to start their response txt with your username so keep it short and meaningful
  3. Once registered login and select ‘Preferences’ in ‘My Account’
  4. In the ‘Forwarding’ tab enable ‘incoming message forwarding’, choosing forwarding type email and entering your mail-to-blogger address.
  5. In the Advanced Settings for this you can also modify the email template. Important: Make sure [Message_Text] is included at the end of the ‘Email Subject’, you should also remove [Message_From_Number] to prevent students mobile numbers being published.

Collecting and displaying responses

When you want to ask a question give users the options and instructions like “to vote for option ‘A’ send a text message to 07786 XXX XXX with ‘xyz #q1 A’ (where 07786 XXX XXX is the mobile number found in the Trial Service section and xyz is your username created with intelliSoftware).

The question identifier (in this example #q1) can be anything you like as long as it starts with ‘#’ and the options can be anything you like (a, b, c … 1, 2, 3 … etc).

To display a response graph visit the  RSSvs Site and enter the rss feed for the blog you are collecting responses on and the question identifier.

Important Tip: If you are using Blogger Blogspot you can increase the number of items returned by adding &max-results={and a number}. For example: http://rschetest.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss&max-results=200 

Once the form is submitted you can swap between the live results and a static chart. (the url of this page can be included in PowerPoint slides allowing you to link directly to the results) Below is the format it uses:

http://www.rsc-ne-scotland.org.uk/mashe/twevs/rssVS.php?id={see note}&tag=q1&options=-&type=live

idis an encoded version of your RSS feed url.The encoded id is fixed so can be reused

tag – your question identifier

options – optional number to restrict the number of options displayed

type – setting to ‘live’ displays the chart with realtime updates. Leaving blank displays the static chart

 

As intelliSoftware have been providing their SMS forwarding service for free since 2006 I would encourage you to have a look at some of there paid for services. Lots of developer tools to look at and the Multimedia Messaging Service MMS looks interesting too.

What I’ve starred this week: September 21, 2010

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

How to Google Instant(ise) a Custom Search Engine (CSE) – Revisited

Previously I posted How to Google Instant(ise) a Custom Search Engine (CSE), which like a lot of my pet projects is perpetual beta (my general fallback to explain away bad coding or user interface). In particular it wasn’t until I took Chris Jobling’s Google Custom Search Engine for #PLENK2010 and ‘instantise’ it that a couple of issues became very apparent:

  1. Wouldn’t it be good to allow a traditional search on hitting the return key or clicking ‘search’.
  2. It would be great to make it easier to share the joy of Instant Custom Search Engines.
  3. Google Scribe was more of a hinder than help

So I’ve come up with Instant CSE v2. This version has been beatified slightly using the Google search styling and also pulls the traditional Google CSE ‘search element’ results in when the search form is submitted. You can also instantise your own custom search by extracting your CSE ID and adding it to the url e.g. http://www.rsc-ne-scotland.org.uk/mashe/search/?cx=012010416210434366262:-vttp31xsd0 (I haven’t fully tested this feature so feedback is very welcome).

If you are interested in making your own custom searches for courses or events I recommend reading Alan Levine’s OPML to CSE recipe (OPML is one way to output the source url for a collection of RSS feeds) or Tony Hirst’s  work on hashtag communities.

A couple of Instant CSE’s to play with:

Morphic Resonance, Threshold Concepts, e-Portfolios and OERs

The Cattle Grid
The Cattle Grid
Originally uploaded by gwendolen

Probably the most unlikely blog post title ever, let me expand.

On Friday we had our ePortfolio Scotland 2010 conference at Queen Margaret University. The final presentation on the day was by Dr Gordon Joyce entitled ‘JISC Effective Practice with e-Portfolios – Where are we now?’. As well as giving an overview/update of the JISC ePortfolio programme he introduced the JISC funded e-Portfolio Implementations Study (ePI) which is investigating, analysing and documenting how intuitions go about large-scale portfolio implementation.

The thing that caught my attention was the framework they were using to capture this information, ‘Threshold Concepts’.

Threshold Concepts’ may be considered to be "akin to passing through a portal" or "conceptual gateway" that opens up "previously inaccessible way[s] of thinking about something" (Meyer and Land, 2003).

This wasn’t the first time I’ve come across this theory (having worked with Ray Land at CAPLE), but it was the first time I heard it being used as a analysis framework. I’ve embedded Gordon’s presentation below, he starts talking about Threshold Concepts and ePI from slide 15, so you can find out how they are using this framework.

JISC Effective Practice with e-Portfolios – Where are we now?

At almost exactly the same time as Gordon was giving his presentation John Robertson from JISC CETIS published a blog post on Threshold Concepts And Open Educational Resources in which he:

considers the possible possible application of threshold concepts to open educational resources and the conceptual challenges faced by those advocating the use and release of OERs

Now what are the chances of that! Or is it just a case of ‘Morphic Resonance’?

Morphic Resonance I hear you ask. I first came across this concept on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Museum of Curiosity’. The basic idea, as I understand it, is that ideas can be shared without contact, a bit like collective unconscious. An example regularly cited is the observation that sheep in part of Australia discovered they could cross cattlegrids by rolling across them. At the same time thousands of miles away the same behaviour was witnessed in a different flock of sheep, morphic resonance.

So if you are putting a JISC bid in I recommend you reference Threshold Concepts ;-)

What I’ve starred this week: September 14, 2010

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

How to Google Instant(ise) a Custom Search Engine (CSE)

Furry 2yo instant coffee
Furry 2yo instant coffee
Originally uploaded by avlxyz

Update: This solution has evolved slightly. More information in How to Google Instant(ise) a Custom Search Engine (CSE) – Revisited

Google have grabbed quite a few headlines with their new Instant search and there has been a rush of developers ‘instantising’ other sites. The one which has got the most attention is Stanford student Feross Aboukhadijeh who after making YouTube Instant has been offered a job with YouTube.

Following this and some other ‘Instant’ sites popping up (usually with an employ me banner) Tam Denholm has come up with instantise.com which at last count has 16 different sites that you can get an instant style search result. A number of these are created by just adding a ‘site:a-single-site.com’ operator which limits the search just to a particular domain.

But what is you want to search across multiple domains like the ALTC2010 custom search engine created by Tony Hirst from the #altc2010 hashtag community (See Deriving a Persistent EdTech Context from the ALTC2010 Twitter Backchannel)?

Fortunately the Google AJAX Search API used in Tam’s example can be directed filtered using a Google Custom Search Engine. Here’s how to do it (BTW :

  1. Log in to Custom Search and set up your own custom search engine
  2. Next you need to sign up for an API key on the Google AJAX Search API
  3. Download this code unpacking the files
  4. In instant.js you will need to enter you AJAX API key and your Google Custom Search ID (this information is on the Basic’s page of the CSE control panel)
  5. Upload files to your server and test them

I only modified Tam’s files slightly but one addition I made was to include the Google Scribe bookmarklet script. Google Scribe is a Google Labs project which provides autotext completion. Whilst this is probably not as accurate as the prediction used in Google Instant (Scribe helps build sentences rather than return the most popular search terms) it still potentially speeds up the process of getting search results (here is more info on Google Instant, behind the scenes).
If you want to see how all of this looks:

*** Here is a Google Instant(ish) search of this blog and some of my other social media activity ***

BTW if anyone wants to give me a job you should also check out my post on Convergence @youtube meets @twitter: In timeline commenting of YouTube videos using Twitter [uTitle] ;-)

About

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

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