I’ve been learning

April has been a quiet month work-wise; yet despite it being quite a busy month with family and friends – http://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/easter-visitors-and-beer-trip/ – I’ve managed to find the time to ‘play’ with a couple of new things. New to me of course – not necessarily new to any readers.

One of those new things has been In-Folio.

“In-Folio is a uniquely accessible Open Source e-Portfolio that enables learners, particularly those with disabilities or learning difficulties, to store and arrange multimedia content into simple online pages.”

As a Techdis Accredited Trainer, I have been given an In-Folio account to play with; to allow me to understand what it is and how it works. Well basically, it’s an e-Portfolio and it’s dead easy to use. I have a big issue with many e-Portfolios, especially those that don’t allow the user (the very people who give a reason for e-Portfolios to exist) to take their portfolio with them. This one allows the user to save/export as a simple Web Page or in LEAP2A standard format. I’m not altogether sure how widely available In-Folio is, as it was designed by The Rix Centre, in conjunction with Techdis for use in Specialist Colleges. But, you could always drop Techdis a line.

I’ve also had a play with Teamviewer and compared it to Join.me. Both are competent screen sharing tools, allowing you the opportunity to teach or train at distance by showing and telling what’s on your screen. However, the telling bit is a little unclear: With join.me, there is no sound, but with Teamviewer there is at least the chance to switch to VoIP. Having said that I didn’t get the VoIP option on my Mac either as viewer or as viewed, nor did I get it on my iPhone. So maybe PC to PC would VoIP?  Both should work alongside Skype though – although why you would want to when Skype has its own excellent screen sharing feature, I don’t know.

Each tool can be operated without downloading the small application and each tool has a mobile ‘App’ (for iPhone/iPad and Android). Teamviewer allows the transfer of files and remote control of your screen – even from the mobile App. Join.Me only allows remote control from the non-App versions. I’m not sure when I would use these tools, but it’s nice to know that they are there – just in case.

Another tool I’ve been playing with has been the RM Learning Platform, Kaleidos. This seems to be widely used in schools and certainly in the Salford area. I’ve used it quite a bit whilst doing some odd bits and bats for and alongside RM, but have now been asked if I might be available for a more strategic roll-out to primary schools. I was at a school last week where the group I had were aware of the learning platform (KLP) but where that awareness varied from “I only know that it’s there'” to “I’ve been on and started to create some stuff”. The session had to include some work on the need for ‘planning’. A more strategic, planned roll-out should work much better. Fingers crossed.

I’m about to start an investigation of something about to be rolled out by Xtensis – so please watch this space.

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File storage and e-Portfolios

One of today’s topics of discussion was file sharing and the use of various facilities to create personal e-Portfolios. The e-Portfolio aspect of this discussion is certainly something that has taxed me for a long time and one that I have had a few goes at creating.I used to use e-Snips (http://www.esnips.com) http://grab.by/57O0 (Screen shot) and to promote it as “my own VLE” but over the years it has become unsuitable for use due to the way it has evolved. It now has a tremendous amount of adverts http://grab.by/57Oo (Screen shot) not all of which are appropriate for use in an education setting. So, although it is there and although it offers up to 5 gigabytes of free storage (with sharing options), I choose not to use it. This is a real shame because it used to be the way I easily shared files with colleagues and people who had attended sessions I’d delivered.

Instead, I now use Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com/) for storing most of my files. The benefit of Dropbox, is that I can access my files from any computer I use, provided it is connected to the internet. Where one has the software downloaded and installed on computers (I have mine on my Mac, my XP machine and my Vista machine) even the internet isn’t needed. Files altered or added to the offline version are synchronised between all machines as and when they do go online. If we like, we can share individual folders on Dropbox (which I have done on several occasions) for all sorts of reason. I have a folder I share with my wife, because it’s easier for us to share particular documents that way (easier than email or saving to external media); I have a folder I share with colleagues when working on collaborative projects and an further folder I share with my iTQ assessor. Furthermore, I have the Dropbox App on my iPhone – which allows me to view most of my documents pretty much anywhere T-Mobile allow me to have a connection! This is my real portfolio now.

To make the portfolio have more value and to stop filling up the 2 gigabyte free space, I also use YouTube http://www.youtube.com; to store video and http://www.flickr.com to store images. This saves room because each of these services provide embed and share codes which direct the viewer back to the hosting site – meaning that the portfolio document need only contain the code (URL).

Other facilities I’ve used are Scribd (see in use https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/building-vles/) for presenting word processed files online and Tiny Grab (see http://grab.by/57S7 for example) for sharing screen shots.

Use of these facilities makes my working life, my social life and my learning life much easier, whenever I have a need to share or access any form of digital documentation. They could easily be put to effective educational use if only institutions were able to agree on an acceptable use policy.