Something that’s come to my attention very recently is Google Wave – Google’s reinvention of e-mail/instant messaging/collaborative editing/blogging/discussion boards etc. into one combined platform. The name still sounds a bit ominous to me, you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the film “Die Welle” – I was initially concerned that Google would be trying to route all forms of conversation through its servers for advertising targeting purposes. However, my fears are tempered for now as it seems that Google Wave will be a completely open source platform that can be installed on any server. Apparently no messages need to go near a Google server, but I guess we are still at the early stages of its development and implementation.
Looking at the announcement video (embedded below or available from the Google Wave website), the concept does look very impressive and I can see all sorts of potential benefits for elearning and academic research. Especially, if the server side technology can be hosted in house. The first 30 minutes of the video are enough to get an idea of what it does and how it works. Alternatively, Wilbert at CETIS provides a more thorough description of the technology and its potential applications, advantages and disadvantages.
Here at LSE we’ve been using lecture capture systems for a few years now, starting with Anystream Apreso and moving on to EchoSystem by Echo 360 over the last academic year. I’ve been meaning to post a review of our experience of implementing these systems on this blog, never quite getting around to it. Eventually, the editor of the Association for Learning Technology newsletter asked Chris Fryer and myself to write a review, which you can find in full on the ALT newsletter website.
As you may have heard, the first LSE Teaching Day will take place on Tuesday 9 June. School director Howard Davies will open the proceedings, which will include a programme of workshops, seminars and panel discussions including innovative approaches to teaching and the latest technologies and resources for staff.
The main speech of the day will be given by Dr Jonathan Leape, senior lecturer in Economics, on ‘Thinking Like A Social Scientist’. Professor Janet Hartley, LSE pro-director, will close the event with a presentation of the Teaching Excellence Awards at a wine reception.
Response has been good and there are a limited number of places left. To book your place and view the full programme, visit www.lse.ac.uk/teachingday. Registration closes on Thursday 28 May.
Yesterday afternoon I went off to the salubrious surroundings of Piccadilly to BAFTA headquarters to attend a launch event for the newly rebranded ‘JISC Digital Media‘ service. The new service previously existed under the name TASI, which we were told, in no uncertain terms, we are no longer allowed to mention. I came across TASI many years ago as a very useful support website for using digital images in teaching. Not only providing the technical know-how, but also some very good pedagogical reasoning for using images.
Video and sound too!
As part of their relaunch and new funding, the new JISC Digital Media service also supports use of video and audio material in addition to still images. To quote the launch booklet “JISC Digital Media exists to help the UK’s FE and HE communities embrace and maximise the use of digital media”. They’ve redesigned their website, with a bright new look, to make it far easier to find useful support guides and related materials, such as upcoming training workshops.
Digital media helpdesk
One thing that had passed me by previously was that they also run a national helpdesk. They can provide technical and copyright advice for institutions looking to set up support for digital media use within their teaching and learning. They can also provide help for more complex requests such as setting up a digitisation programme within an institution – possibly leading to consultancy.
Upcoming training courses run by JISC Digital Media include “Copyright and Digital Images”, “Colour Management”, “Building a Departmental Image Collection”, and “Essential Photoshop Skills” and many others.
If you are an LSE member of staff then please contact us at CLT if you have any questions about the JISC Digital Media service or about digital media in general.
Great news, after a Herculean effort digitising a ridiculous number of hours of news footage (3000 to be precise) the newsfilm online project has made the full ITN/Reuters archive live and available to all LSE teachers. You’ll find all the usual famous news clips from ITN and Reuters plus some very obscure clips dating all the way back to the 1st of January 1910 (footage of German military action if you’re interested). If you are on the LSE campus simply login using the direct access button. If you’re off campus you need to login via the UK Federation button.
Please contact us at CLT if you would like to make use of any of these clips in your teaching. We can provide advice on how best to present video in your Moodle course or how to include them in your PowerPoint slides for class teaching. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone extension 7833.
Well, here I am on the second full day ALT-C 2008 and I would usually have written a full summary of the least a couple of sessions by now but this year there seems to be so much blogging and twittering already going on that I’m not sure how much value I can add to all of the chatter.
My highlights so far have been Hans Rosling and a crossing the chasm workshop. I’ve now got to get ready to go to the conference dinner but hopefully I shall follow this post up with a bit more content as the conference ends.
In the meantime see my ALT-C 2008 links to everyone else blogging and twittering, if you really want to!
Just looked at a poster by Bangor University (Psychology dept) who are using a Mac mini as a kind of Echo 360 recording station developed in-house. It uses a VGA to USB dongle so captures everything displayed through the projector. Interesting as a low-cost alternative to Echo 360.
Had an interesting conversation with a guy from Waikato University in New Zealand who has been using Moodle for staff development. Use of discussions was the most successful element and staff hadn’t really found use of a wiki of great benefit but can see its potential. Unsurprising I guess. His team has also developed extensions that allow automated creation of courses from the University management systems. I mentioned our reading list management system to him, which made me think that we should really do a poster (or paper) about it next year.
I couldn’t end the day without a quick goodbye to WebCT. After 9 years of reliable service to LSE, WebCT is finally being switched off – well the licence expires at some point over the weekend. See our short account of the move on our website. All postgrad courses were migrated to Moodle last summer and now all of the undergrad courses have been migrated ready for the 2008-09 academic year.
Anyway, cheers to WebCT (well – versions 3.6 through 4.2 anyway!).
George Soros is speaking tomorrow (May 21st) as part of the regular LSE events programme but this is the first time that LSE has streamed such an event live. I mention it here because we’ve been able to do this on the back of our investment in Apreso (now known as Echo 360) and the automated recording of teaching lectures. Using Osprey SimulStream we’ve been simultaneously capturing and streaming some of our public lectures to extra LSE lecture rooms as an overflow facility. If you’d like to watch the web cast live there will be a link from the LSE events page tomorrow from 5 p.m. (BST) and The Washington Note are also hosting the webcast. Mr Soros is funding the back end of the streaming infrastructure. FinChannel.com have posted an article if you would like more detail.
George Soros photo used under a Creative Commons licence courtesy of WorldEconomicForum at Flickr.com
Today has ended up being a day for looking at web conferencing software! This morning I went with Matt to London Knowledge Lab to look at Elluminate. We already have a licence for Wimba Live Classroom and unfortunately so far it hasn’t proved to be a reliable enough platform to recommend for use by LSE staff. Hence we are currently investigating various options in anticipation of interest from various LSE collaborative projects with other international institutions. This isn’t however an invitation for lots of phone calls from salespeople! We were fairly impressed with the functionality provided by Elluminate as well as hearing good things about its reliability. One interesting feature is that it buffers audio so that should there be any net congestion it will play catch-up with the audio by playing it at a faster than normal rate. I was slightly disappointed to find that it uses Java technology, including a rather (un)impressive 20 MB download before you can even get started. I guess this isn’t an issue so much when most people now have broadband access but it does provide a significant delay before you can get going. The big java applet does however mean that the interface is fully featured and not dependent on your web browser. It seems to do everything most people would need from a web conferencing system and most importantly it seems to make it fairly easy and it apparently just works. The only thing lacking in the current version seems to be a sensible way of managing video from more than one participant. Only one video feed is viewable at any time and the video doesn’t follow the audio automatically as it does with Live Classroom. There is also no way for the session moderator to switch the video feed from one participant to the other. We are hopefully going to try this out for ourselves sometime over the summer.
Coincidently our centre director forwarded me an invitation to a demonstration of dim dim being run by Jim Judges at the JISC Regional Support Centre for the West Midlands, so definitely not a sales pitch – just a straight demo/experimental web meeting. I’d already come across dim dim a couple of weeks ago and have been playing around with it so kind of already knew my way around; but I hadn’t tried using it in a live web meeting situation – which of course is the only way to test these things. I’ve been very impressed with the look and feel of the software and it uses a Flash streaming server for the audio and video rather than Java, which I’m happier with, but I guess not everyone would be. My experience at the meeting was pretty good, I could see and hear the main presenter perfectly and apparently everyone could see and hear me pretty well too. There were problems however with some of the participants having problems with their microphones – nobody could hear them or they were very quiet. It’s hard to know whether this was a fault with dim dim or not. However, there was one poor soul who didn’t seem to be able to see or hear anyone very easily and could only really contribute through text chat. There also seemed to be a few user interface problems – there were the volume slider bars for each speaking participant but for me they seemed to have no effect on the speakers’ sound level. I’m using Firefox so that shouldn’t really be a problem.
Interestingly, both of these systems integrate with Moodle – they appear as new activities and integrate user accounts, but I’ve not seen either of these integrations in action.Unfortunately it appears that the dim dim integration is limited to the open source “don’t use this in a production environment” version of the product, which is limited to 20 concurrent users. There isn’t much documentation on the dim dim website so it’s kind of hard to know whether this is true or not, maybe someone will read this and correct me! I shall update here if I hear otherwise. Anyway, I think I’ve gone on long enough – if you`re at the LSE and you`re interested in using this kind of technology please get in touch and we`ll see what we can do.
‘conference hall’ photo courtesy of shinemy from Flickr.com (licensed under Creative Commons)