I came across fur.ly today.

What a difference it will make to my #sugsnip series of Twitter postings. For more about #sugsnip please see my original post and last week’s review.

Fur.ly is a URL shortener!

It works in much the same way that bit.ly and snipurl (and many others) take long internet addresses (URLs = Uniform Resource Locators) and shrink them down to a more memorable size. (e.g. the address of last weeks #sugsnip posting reduces down to http://bit.ly/sugsnip and http://snipurl.com/25ph3l)

Fur.ly however, goes a stage further and can hold several links in one shortened URL.

For my #sugsnip series, this will be (eventually) a great boon. I say eventually because I already have quite a few set up with the Tweet-schedulers I mentioned in my previous post and a few more stored ready to go. The point of #sugsnip is to model the use of micro-blogging tools as a means of knowledge delivery – short, sharp bits of information that have all been double checked for accuracy.

The double-checking means that most #sugsnips carry two shortened URLs (usually by bit.ly) that direct the reader to two different web sites (there may well have been more) supporting the information supplied. Quite often I have to visit several sites, especially if one of my sources has been wikipedia, as many websites seem to just copy from there. I DO try to find corroborative evidence before posting.

However, the use of two URLs does take up valuable characters that could be used to introduce the subject in question. Using fur.ly will allow me to not only put my usual two URLs inside the one link, but others too – if I feel it to be useful.

Many thanks for the supportive comments I received after last week’s post – especially to Lisa who commented on the post itself. 🙂

Twitter #sugsnip – first review

It’s been a few weeks now since I started my #sugsnip challenge. I started on January 1st with the intention of posting a snippet of information to Twitter every day for a year. https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/twitter-sugsnip/.

I’m now approaching my fiftieth (50th) uninterrupted posting (19th February 2011) and thought it might be worthwhile reviewing the process so far.

I had thought that the idea of posting short, informative messages via Twitter (but the challenges outcomes would not necessarily mean that Twitter would be exclusively used) was a sound one for use in education. Teachers might see how they could send similar snippets of subject based information to learners and I firmly believe that modelling this idea is a useful way of evaluating its potential impact.

Since January 1st I’ve recorded 13 comments, re-tweets or other re-postings from readers. A 26% response from a disinterested audience doesn’t prove anything, especially as it is 26% of the total posts that received a response and not 26% of the actual readers – who’s number I cannot possibly know.

I remain quite encouraged by that feedback nevertheless, but would be more encouraged, if there were more of it. Perhaps my eclectic choice of subject matter is what prevents visible interest? I have tried to do subject-weeks (e.g. food, history etc.) but maybe even these are too off the wall. Please let me know.

Remembering to post something everyday has been more of a challenge than I had thought it might be. To overcome this I though it would be worthwhile trying out a few of the Tweet Schedulers available. I’ve tried three so far:


I didn’t stay with this site to long because it just didn’t work for me. Whilst it does have all sorts of facilities in addition to Tweet scheduling, it missed a few of my scheduled Tweets, very early on. The interface isn’t as clear and straightforward as some either.


So far, Twuffer has been my favourite, although it has let me down a few times. Out of 37 Twuffered Tweets, 3 didn’t show. They seemed to have ‘gone’ but then didn’t show on Twitter. However, although I moved onto another scheduler after those three failures, I will try again because the interface is straightforward and you have to login through Twitter, so there is no separate registration.


So far, futuretweets has not let me down. Once you are ‘in’ it works in very much the same way as Twuffer and seems very easy to work with. Of the two I would still prefer Twuffer, but this might only be because I tried that first.

I’ll try others as I go along.

So what do readers think? Has anyone noticed my #sugsnip challenge on Twitter? Could you use a similar methodology to communicate with learners?

ITQ for Accessible IT Practice

I’ve just finished another enjoyable day. This time, I’d gone to Bolton Arena to speak at a JISC RSC Accessibility event about the new ITQ for Accessible IT Practice.

Earlier speakers had discussed Visualisers and Audio Pens (e.g.) as well as the use of My Study Bar: MyStudyBar is a tool which helps overcome problems that students commonly experience with studying, reading and writing. The tool consists of a set of portable open source and freeware applications, assembled into one convenient package: See also MyStudyBar On-line Training. I’d found these inputs quite invigorating and because of the audience responses to the inputs, I’d found the event as enjoyable as (and for much the same reasons) as last week’s accessibility event. https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/accessapps-workshop/.

My presentation had been agreed weeks ago, when I’d expected the ITQ to have been launched and well under way, so it was a relief to finally get hold of marketing materials from TechDis just yesterday. The ITQ gives practitioner’s a way of being rewarded for the work the do every day of the week. It has been developed by TechDis over the last 12-18 months and is authenticated by City and Guilds. Because ITQ’s allow a spiky profile to be certificated, it means that most workers (e-Skills UK say that 92% of jobs advertised in Education require IT skills) can easily achieve the qualification. In these uncertain days, the more qualifications we have, the better?

This ITQ has been developed around the use of those accessible techniques made available by IT. The level 3 has 3 core units:

  • User Fundamentals
  • Text to Speech
  • Improving productivity with IT

Plus three from seven optional units.

See these and learn more here.

There are four stages to the ITQ.

  1. Update skills gaps and knowledge
  2. Create evidence portfolio
  3. Have portfolio assessed
  4. Submit completed assessment for certification

TechDis have created a bank of learning materials and advice strategies that are available for a small charge:

(current indicative prices – subject to change)
Less than 100 FTE staff – £225
100 – 249 staff – £325
250 – 500 staff – £425

Which includes 90 minutes online IAG from TechDis Accredited Trainers who have already undertaken the qualification. I am one of this very small group.

Should your institution find assessment of the ITQ a problem, those same advisers/trainers are able to undertake assessment activities too. They can even arrange for City and Guilds registration and certification. But these activities are outside the TechDis pricing deal and need to be negotiated with them individually.

Contact me for more information: dm @dsugden on Twitter.

AccessApps Workshop

I had a really good day on Thursday. I’d been asked to deliver training to a group of teachers and learner support assistants (LSAs?) and agreed that I should do one hour’s input and then supervise a 1.5 to 2 hour workshop session where they could expand upon anything they liked. This actually worked very well and I came away enthused by the participants’ responses to the event.

I’d been forewarned that they were not as enamoured of AccessApps as perhaps they should be, but that they were pretty open minded about the use of technology generally. Everyone had their own particular need, according to the need of the learner(s) they supported. I therefore planned and delivered an input that delivered three main themes, with and underpinning but less visible fourth.

1 – Mind Mapping web sites:

2 – Photo editing web sites:

3 – Access Apps and

4 – Underpinned by use of various Google Docs facilities.

The big winner, in the end was AccessApps! Which, made me consider why I’d been advised of their earlier dislike. At the end, I asked everyone to tell me (via a TitanPad) what was the one thing they would take away and use again.  The answer? The RSC-Scotland EduApps webpage: http://www.rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk/eduapps

Of course, I had to consider why this was the case. After all, they had seen the various applications before – hadn’t they?

Well, apparently – previous training sessions where AccessApps had been shown, were either very directed, short or just; well – ‘shown‘! Also (and I think that this is the main reason here at this college), if they wanted to play with AccessApps, they had to book a USB Stick containing the Apps out of the library – presumably to copy and use as they like. What I had given them was access to the website itself where they could investigate and download exactly what they like, when they like and without having to ‘go’ anywhere.

In the same way that it is more beneficial in the long term to give starving people the skills to farm, I’d given the participants ‘permission’ to grow their own AccessApps suite and to use just what they want, when they want. It’s great to see people leaving a training session with smiley faces 🙂

e-Learning Context

A Reply to http://elearningstuff.net/2011/02/02/focus-on-the-technology-or-not/

picture of a Starbucks cup of coffeeToday I read James Clay’s recent blog post (above), but I can’t decide whether to agree with him entirely, or not.

Generally, I do agree with James when he says:

“In the context of the classroom or lecture theatre, a practitioner is facing a series of learning problems that need solving. Some of these if not all of them can be solved using traditional learning methods and processes. However some of them can be solved smarter, more efficiently (ie cheaper) or solved faster using learning technologies.”

.. and again when he goes on to suggest that focusing on the technology during training sessions can often present teachers with interventions and solutions that would help them.

However, the issue I would take is that for this to happen, the teacher/practitioner would need to welcome the use of technology and to embrace the idea that such an intervention would work. I’m just not sure that this is universally accepted yet.

Many of us embrace the use of technology for learning and welcome it in its many forms. However, we start from a place where technology’s foibles and idiosyncrasies are expected, sidestepped and/or researched, so these don’t bother us at all. The staff James is talking about (generally, not specifically) do not – and this makes it much harder for them to accept technological change or to give up their time to explore/understand those same foibles.

I know it’s an old argument, but how many teaching colleagues do you know were shown PowerPoint all those years ago (it might still happen) and still use that as their main form of a): delivery and b): use it badly? (Please replace PowerPoint with any technology of your choice).

My point? Well, I believe that a pedagogical need to should be required before a technological intervention is offered. I get James’ point about context and I suppose I just stand slightly to one side of his position, but there’s often an awful lot of background needed by the practitioner before he/she ‘gets it’.

I’m sorry if this is a ramble, I suppose it would have been better discussed over an e-Learning Stuff Podcast but …