Looking back on 2012

Tray of brussels sproutsOnce again, it’s time to round up the year’s events: to clear away the past to prepare for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

It’s been a strange year work-wise with little in the way of continuity. Without work from LSIS, JISC TechDis and the JISC RSC-SE, the year would have been very bleak indeed.

I started the blogging year with a rant about Michael Gove’s well-publicised wish to turn all school children into computer programmers.  However, in the speech he used to announce his programming initiative he also said: “As online materials grow and flourish, we all need to think about how we can guide students through the wealth of information and techniques freely available and accessible online.” … a statement that I heartily agree with and something that is still sadly lacking in everyday teaching and learning environments.

Learners need to check the validity and veracity of the information they find on the Internet and to evaluate its worth for their purpose.

Quite a number of teachers spent their own ‘learning’ years, studying worthy tomes without any thought of the way that contradictory, conflicting and simply inaccurate information might ‘one day’ be easily found ‘online’. They were not brought up to undertake research in the manner that today’s information sources demand; the ways that their charges need to employ.

Moodle training has been a great feature of my work this year and will hopefully continue to be something that draws interest from customers. My first Moodle training event was in January at Pontefract Sixth Form College, arranged by the Yorkshire and Humberside RSC. The most recent was for Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) in December. I spent a week at the college, close to Maidenhead, towards the end of November, delivering training to Moodle Champions in VLE use and then again just last week, I delivered a short online course to the same team – about features of Moodle Admin.

Ambassador logo

During the summer months, I was employed by TechDis to be their RSC-Conference Trolly Dolly.  In this role, I promoted the newly launched ‘TechDis Voices’ and ‘TechDis Toolbox’; two of the most significant and exciting initiatives of the year.

I continue to work with TechDis over the winter 2012/13 as part of the Ambassador programme. I’ve already travelled widely in the south east of England as part of this face-to-face TechDis Accredited Trainer role, visiting Lingfield, Weybridge, Margate and Aylesbury.

During December, I decided to deliver a series of #Advent #SugSnips#SugSnips. This revived a very successful delivery of #SugSnips during 2011.

I’m not convinced that this current short series of posts, delivered in a completely different way to before and copied to Facebook, has been quite as successful. Time will tell (I haven’t checked the individual logs yet). However, re-tweets and shares have been non-existent. Maybe it’s time to re-think the #SugSnips idea?

Finally, back in August 2011 I asked why does Flickr not have a belting App? Well, it does now – having released a new (and absolutely ‘belting’ App) during the latter months of 2012.  Well done Flickr. Here it is.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this, may I wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year?

Happy New Year.

Advertisements

iTunes update

screenshot of iTunes pageMy iTunes has updated twice in as many recent weeks. Unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned neither update has improved my listening experience.

I currently have 254 Albums and over the years I have come to know where to find each one in ‘album’ view – I have never liked the ‘song’ or ‘artist’ view.

Furthermore, I tend to have my MacBook Pro screen resolution set at 1152×720 because that has less strain on my eyes.  By default therefore, the iTunes album-icons are huge but until the recent updates, there was a tiny slider (bottom right of the iTunes screen) that I could adjust to reduce the icon size – which made scrolling through my collection quite a breeze.

However, the slider has now gone and there is no way to change the icon size in Tunes. Why?

It’s a question I asked at the Apple Store in the Trafford Centre the other day and no one there could answer.

The update seems to have been to introduce ‘Up Next’ which as far as I can see is something that basically Guilds the Lily. I’ve yet to see a reason for me to use ‘Up Next’ (I already have plenty of Playlists) so, had the icon-size slider still been there, the update wouldn’t have irritated me this much. Another change for change’s sake perhaps.

So Apple. Why?

Brooklands

This post is an extended version of that published by me on the TechDis Ambassadors Posterous Space


picture of a well-sprutted potato

Mr. Potato

I recently visited Brooklands College in deepest Surrey.

The supported learning team there is working on one of the JISC TechDis Ambassador programmes and my role for the day was to observe, report and deliver a little training.

The department action plan’s main aim is for the team to make better and more effective use of the (Blackboard) VLE and our prime objective for the afternoon training was to explore uses and tools for creating and editing audio. No problem.

Except:

Except I’d forgotten to ask if they had any microphones. I often carry my own 15 sets of ‘Pound Shop’ Headphone/Mics with me, but on overnight stays like this (I was elsewhere the day before) my suitcase and my backpack are so crammed full that I’m unable to fit my Mics in. Hey ho.

The college had very kindly downloaded Audacity for us, so I knew we would all be able edit audio – but the trainer-machine was as useless to me for traditional audio creation as all the other machines (no Mics remember?).  My own PC laptop’s Mic is currently playing silly beggars too so I demonstrated www.vocaroo.com via my MacBook Pro. I showed the interface on the trainer-machine (connected to the projector) and then went through the (very easy) audio creation motions on the Mac. Ditto, editing with Audacity. Despite being a bit Heath Robinson, this all seemed to work.

During this part of the session we explored:

As ways of creating audio files.

Then I introduced MyStudyBar as a means of creating audio by using Text-to-Speech (TTS) and BANG – they were blown away.

Everything on MyStudyBar (nearly) was taken up, played with, discussed and copied for immediate use by staff and learners. Wow, it was amazing just how our colleagues took to this and how they came up with creative ideas for use.

We ended up with discussing ways that the learners could create their own audio using any of the tools we’ve discussed and submitting it via – any of various ways. Also of showing learners pieces of text in PowerPoint and the having the text read to them (insert audio).

Phew.

No sound on my MacBook Pro

Picture of a Sound Mirror, with John Rousell

I’m in the middle of a very busy period of work right now and one of the things that helps to save my sanity during lonely nights in a Travelodge is the ability to listen to music or watch DVDs on my laptop.  My laptop is a 15″ MacBook Pro and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.  However, it does have its idiosyncrasies! Idiosyncrasies that often make we want to just chuck it out of the window.

At this moment in time, I cannot load the latest copy of Microsoft Office onto the laptop because it simply won’t read the (official, paid for) DVD. It will however (fingers crossed) read other DVDs so that problem is on the back shelf until I can get to one of the ‘local’ Apple Stores (all an hours drive away).

A much more immediate problem appeared recently.

As I travelled back from Maidenhead last Friday, I continued to work on some documents as I listened to music on my headphones. So far, so normal. Then this weekend, as I worked on my previous blog post, I wished to listen to music without the headphones but no sound would come out of the laptop. I tried everything I knew to cure the problem but without success. So it was ‘on to the Internet’ …

I found this post was probably the most technically correct, but the solution didn’t work for me. However, the author did lead me to this forum, where the cure was really found. My worry about this solution though (it DID work) is twofold:

  1. A) – the forum thread started back in 2006 (so it’s not a new problem – come on Apple, get your finger out) and
  2. B) – a matchstick! Really? A £1,300 laptop has to be prodded with a matchstick!!! Grrr.

Anyway, many thanks to everyone who bothers to post solutions to techie problems on the internet. You are the salt of the earth. Thank you.

#Advent #SugSnips

https://i1.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8201/8162101242_dae954feae.jpgSome readers may remember the series of #SugSnip tweets I posted to Twitter every day of 2011.

I’d started these postings on 1st January 2011 (see my 1st #SugSnip blog post) and they culminated in a publication on ISSUU. The publication had a foreword by James Clay and this year, I am taking a leaf from his book (so to speak) and copying his idea of daily  posts throughout #Advent. In my case I’ll run right through the month.

 – See James’ 2011 musical advent calendar.
– Also watch
his 2012 cinematic calendar as it unfolds this year.

Please read on (beneath the ISSUU book) to learn more about my series of #Advent #SugSnips 



My thanks once again to http://cpwilson.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/embedding-issuu/


I’ve toyed with the idea of delivering #SugSnips again for quite a while as I’ve missed the research involved, it’s been a sort of hobby for me. However, I wanted to present the information in a different way. My first thought was to create a Google Presentation and to post the link to one slide per day. However, this turned out not to be as easy as I’d first thought. Although each slide had a different link the whole presentation was viewable – so not much use for a daily ‘reveal’.

Each of this month’s #Advent #SugSnips has therefore been created as a separate presentation. I had to use Google Chrome to be able to capture each presentation URL (rather than the ‘edit’ URL) but this seems to work OK. You tell me?

I’m also using bit.ly again to create the shortened URLs of this link, reducing it from 114 characters to just 13!

Also like before, because it was the most reliable during 2011, I’m using HootSuite to schedule my Tweets. This time I am also copying the daily posting to Facebook.

Creating the presentations hasn’t been straightforward, but I’ll log that journey later this month. Suffice to say I won’t be recommending the method I’ve used for easy distribution.

I hope you enjoy reading these #SugSnips. I will publish the entire 31 slides as a single presentation in January, along with the bitly bundle. Enjoy.