About Kris Roger

Educational Technologist at LSE. Follow me on Twitter @KrisEdTech

Shock of the Old 2008 – Instalment 1

The ziggurat (?) of the Said Business School in Oxford, as viewed from the upstairs window. Thanks to dipfan at flickr.comWell, another week another web technology focused conference another broken WiFi network. I managed to get online for a total of 10 minutes so no live blogging from this conference.

Stuart Lee (Oxford) kicked off with a very entertaining introduction to the day with some informed jokes and a healthy dose of web 2.0 scepticism. I guess the main question really was how relevant web 2.0 is to mainstream higher education teaching in the UK. Can we stick our heads in the sand and hope it’ll go away? Do we want to?

In a way this was a very refreshing point of view as I was beginning to beleive I was quite out of step. If I was to believe many of the blogs out there we should be well on the way to planning, if not developing, personal learning environments based on every web 2.0 application site available. Especially if it involves Twitter (Facebook is Old Hat). Anyway, this was an energising start to the day.

The keynote speaker for the day was Professor Ronald Barnett from the Institute of Education. He lent academic weight by looking at what it is to be a student in the digital age and reminding us of the aims of higher education and posing many tough questions regarding the use of digital technologies. His ultimate conclusion is that there are so many unanswered questions that we barely understand the value of digital technologies because we barely understand our educational aims in higher education. We cannot therefore assume that digital technologies will be worthwhile and assessment of them is problematic. This does however mean that there are real opportunities for research. One nice comment that came out of the questions, was that enabling the student to enjoy themselves while attending a course does not necessarily mean that they are effective learners. As educators we sometimes have to take our students to uncomfortable places so that they can potentially transform their knowledge and attitudes to go into the presently unknown.

Niall Sclater from the Open University was next to speak regarding the perceived threat to the VLE from the PLE. He started off with a devil’s advocate approach by questioning whether we should be investing time and energy into developing our use of VLEs when there is all that free Web 2.0 software out there that we could and should be using. He then went on to look at the various PLE models out there. The main arguments against the PLE are the inability to brand, integration difficulties (very important to the Open University), reliability questions, accountability and other questions over the separation of the education and social space. Another query was whether the PLE model will fit the formal learning approach of universities as opposed to a more informal approach. Unsurprisingly, Niall’s conclusion was that we still need the VLE – his preferred model is to use his laptop as a PLE which links all these applications and services together.

More to follow…

‘Said Business School’ photo courtesy of dipfan from (licensed under Creative Commons)

April 4th, 2008|Conferences, Social Media, Teaching & Learning|Comments Off on Shock of the Old 2008 – Instalment 1|

Inaugural Echo 360 users conference, Coventry

Yesterday I attended the first-ever Echo 360 (formerly Apreso) conference which saw 40 or so people gather at Coventry University to look at how they are implementing lecture/event recording systems at their institutions. The day started with a number of presentations and rather than take you through every point I shall highlight some of the more interesting ideas raised during these presentations.

First off was the University of Birmingham who talked about their experience. A couple of things I mentioned that might be useful at LSE was as well as recording an event with Echo 360 it is possible to simultaneously stream this live at a fairly minimal cost. This uses a feature of the standard Echo 360 Osprey capture cards that we previously didn’t know about, called “Simulstream”.

They also showed a rather nifty remote control camera which may be of use at LSE where the lecturer would like to zoom the image rather than use the standard wide-angle shot. This could possibly be integrated into future versions of the LSE standard classroom lectern/media controls available to the teacher.

Newcastle University talked a little bit about evaluation and how they are going to assess the student experience of recorded lectures and pedagogical impacts for lecturers. Newcastle are unusual in the UK in that they are using Lectopia which merged with Apreso to form Echo 360 and they talked a little bit about their implementation. One useful feature of Lectopia they mentioned was that a ‘scheduled’ recording can be started using an audio trigger rather than starting at a set time. This means that there is less likelihood of five minutes of dead time being recorded before the actual lecture starts. this is hopefully something that will make it into a future version of the Echo 360 system. They also talked about the possibility of integrating the lecture recording schedule with their lectures timetable system. From the questions and discussion arising it also looks like the next version of Echo 360 will allow us to connect lectern controls to the lecture recording system which will allow easy operation by teachers if they want to stop or pause their recording.

Jocasta Williams from Echo 360 talked a lot about evaluation, so I think we will have to get back to her regarding our evaluation later this academic year. She also provided a link to some useful evaluation resources (including further research projects on lecture recording).

We were of course shown the next version (2.0) of the Apreso/Echo 360 event recording system and it looks as if they have certainly been listening to our feedback as most of the features/improvements that we’ve previously requested seem to have made it into the new product. We are just about to start beta testing the next version at LSE so we should the able to get our teeth into this pretty soon.

November 20th, 2007|Conferences, Images, Audio & Video|Comments Off on Inaugural Echo 360 users conference, Coventry|

Web 2.0 is evil?

Yesterday evening at the “Towards a social science of web 2.0” conference we witnessed an extremely interesting ‘debate’ between Charles Leadbetter and Andrew Keen; the former advancing a number of arguments that web 2.0, user generated content and open source development are essentially positive and good for the development of knowledge on a number of levels. His arguments were fairly balanced and well structured presenting both how web 2.0 could have both positive and negative effects on quality, democracy and the equality of access to information, especially in the developing world. But it has to be said his argument presented a definite positive outlook.

Andrew Keen was essentially the pantomime villain and played up to the role with a passionate diatribe against user generated content and virtual worlds such as Second Life. His argument was that most of the content created by non-professionals, or amateurs is garbage and not worth paying for and that the availability of this free content will eventually endanger quality content provided by experts that we have traditionally paid for. He also has a big problem with San Francisco “hippy” counterculture and makes the point that while the founders and proponents of the current Web 2.0 phenomenon are essentially against government intervention they are also very pro-market by virtue of their libertarian worldview. His arguments as presented this evening did seem to jump around from one point to another, almost as some sort of taster to the arguments presented in his book which he shamelessly plugged during his speech. I am almost tempted to buy a copy to find out what he was actually trying to say but I’m not sure that I should for fear that I will have fallen into some sort of perverse marketing trap. He did present some interesting and positive opinions on the value of media literacy in response to a question from the audience; in that we need to educate our children on the interpreting of media to discern where there is bias, commercial interest or just plain incompetence.

A good point was made by a fellow delegate while chatting over dinner; that both speakers presented a number of obvious truths amongst their more questionable arguments and so it was fairly difficult to establish any truth from the polemic. Overall these were two excellent speakers at least from an ‘entertainment’ point of view. It’s only a shame that Charles Leadbetter had to get a train halfway through the session so we weren’t treated to a full debate between the two.

Towards a social science of web 2.0

This week I’m at the “Towards a social science of web 2.0” conference in York along with Jane Secker from CLT and Gwyneth Price from the Institute of Education. This generally seems to be a very multidisciplinary conference with people from social science, library and learning technology backgrounds; although I would say there are probably more from a social science and academic background. There were two keynote speakers to open the conference, the first of these was Bernie Hogan (University of Toronto) talking about how he has developed ways of analysing social networks and how these relationships form different distributions and clusters. Second up was Scott Lash from Goldsmiths who was arguing for a new ‘new media’ ontology. I’ll be back to provide a summary later, maybe.

In the first of the parallel sessions I attended a paper looking at the spatial distribution of social networks by extracting location information from MySpace. The author (Tobias Escher, Oxford) then went on to clean and categorise this information and mash that up with with Google maps. This looks like a fascinating area of research which I hope to look more into later. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay to the end of this session as Jane and Gwyneth were presenting the LASSIE talk in another room.

Fortunately someone far more methodical than myself was blogging from Jane and Gwyneth’s session providing a summary of the LASSIE paper as well as the two other papers in the same session.

More to follow…

Update: Jane has also been blogging from the conference and here’s a further posting from me on the Andrew Keen and Charles Leadbetter evening session.

Designing for Learning conference @ Greenwich

It’s taken a while but I’ve finally written up some notes from the “Designing for Learning” conference held at Greenwich University last Wednesday (July 4 2007). First up with the opening keynote was Gilly Salmon who talked about her visions of the new teacher moving away from traditional lecturing to being a facilitator of learning available 24 hours via wireless Internet access. I can’t say I can see this happening soon at the LSE. She then went on to talk about various projects running at the University of Leicester brought together under Gilly’s “media zoo” brand. Of course, each of the projects have animal acronyms such as “SEAL”, “ELKS” and “IMPALA”. These research projects are looking at the use of technologies such as iPods and podcasting, second life (of course).

The first of the parallel sessions that I attended looked at Canterbury Christ Church’s solution to organising and cataloguing their various study skills learning objects to make them easily findable. The end product is a website with a number of nice Web 2.0 style features including an efficient and clean looking search engine and a tag cloud. The solution was developed partly out of frustration with other learning object repositories such as JORUM.

My second parallel session looked at the use of Turnitin as a formative learning tool for students on “English for academic purposes” programmes. The rationale for their work was that there is a level of plagiarism that is a result of a misunderstanding of conventions and by using Turnitin on first draft essays the results can be discussed by the students and their teachers. It is made clear to the students that by submitting their first draft there will be no consequences if there is significant plagiarism found in the first draft. This approach has resulted in students using a greater number of sources, use of citation and appropriate paraphrasing.

After lunch the University of Leicester discussed the Adelie project, which has been looking at ways of planning learning redesign. The Adelie team works closely with department teaching staff where the main planning activity is a two-day workshop. One interesting component of this is having a “reality checker”; in other words a teaching colleague who hasn’t been involved in the initial planning who comes in to look at the outcomes at the end of the session.

The focus of the final session of the day was very much on the learner and how today’s students approach technology – “how well do we know our learners?” Linda Creanor from the JISC project “LEX: learner experiences of e-learning” talked a lot about Generation Y and MySpace and how these learners see elearning (VLE) as just another channel and in fact the term elearning could be viewed as a little anachronistic.

July 11th, 2007|Conferences|Comments Off on Designing for Learning conference @ Greenwich|

LSE video lecture service highly commended in national competition

Just a quick note to say that the LSE video lectures service provided by the Centre for Learning Technology and IT Services, managed to make the top three in the UCISA Award for Excellence competition with a highly commended award. As previously mentioned on this blog, the back end to the service is provided by Apreso. We’ve so far found the system extremely useful and have had plenty of very positive feedback from both students and staff, including some very welcome recognition from the LSE Students Union.

April 3rd, 2007|Announcements, Images, Audio & Video|Comments Off on LSE video lecture service highly commended in national competition|

Digital Media for Teaching workshop

CLT recently ran a workshop for the LSE Teaching and Learning Centre workshops programme called “Digital Media for Teaching”. You can find all of the links referred to at as well as PDF and Flash versions of the PowerPoint presentation on our course resources page. This workshop runs again on May 2nd. We also regularly run an “Images, Multimedia and copyright” designer workshop so look out for this on our workshops page – and we’ll advertise on our mailing list. You’ll find the handouts and links for this on our course resources page if you can’t wait. We also jointly run a ‘presentation skills’ (PDF link) workshop with the LSE staff development unit.
March 14th, 2007|Events & Workshops (LTI)|Comments Off on Digital Media for Teaching workshop|

BbWorld Europe 2007 – Blackboard mention the 'M' word

This’ll be a quick post as my tired old legs need a rest. Just a note on the Blackboard ‘next generation’ talk (presented by the head of product development) that I attended yesterday afternoon. This was generally disappointing as it was a rehash of the opening keynote with a little more detail, but it still managed to be suitably vague. Bb confirmed that they’re extending support for WebCT 4 CE for those that want to wait for Blackboard 2.0/NG or whatever they choose to call it (hey, they even refer to it verbally as WebCT rather than Blackboard Learning System CE 4 blah blah blah). It strikes me then that there is little incentive to migrate to CE6 in the near future if there are going to be further changes down the line and waiting is now ‘officially’ an option. They also outlined how they see the future Blackboard Academic Suite architecture as a framework for linking a whole number of Blackboard and non-Blackboard systems together – including… Moodle as some sort of ‘niche’ VLE within the Blackboard universe. See ‘Other 3rd party CMS or LMS’ in the diagram below.

From Blackboard Conference 2007

Just attended an interesting session on how Sheffield Hallam University provide Blackboard support for their staff – essentially they outsource their first line support for basic technical queries, thus allowing SHU staff to concentrate on pedagogical and more in depth questions.

Before that I listened to a discussion about the application of blog, wiki, podcasting and other ’emerging technologies’ for teaching and learning. There were a few people trying similar things to LSE, one person even plans to use Elgg to support their PhD community – didn’t get a chance to chat unfortunately. But generally I got the impression that wikis and blogs haven’t become ‘mass market’ anywhere else yet (at least nobody from Warwick piped up).

It looks like this is going to be my final post from the conference as they’re packing up the cyber-cafe around me – guess I’d better go and catch the end of the final session – Blackboard’s approach to open-source; should be fun.

February 28th, 2007|Conferences|Comments Off on BbWorld Europe 2007 – Blackboard mention the 'M' word|

Hello from BbWorld Europe 2007 (TM)

Or the Blackboard (WebCT?) 2007 European conference to those that speak English. I was planning to blog more extensively from the conference this year, but my plans have been scuppered by a distinct lack of internet access at this learning technology conference. There’s no wifi in the conference venue and the ‘cyber cafe’ (haven’t heard that term in a while) consists of about 15 stand-up email terminals for a 400 delegate conference.

It’s lunchtime on day 1 – the guy from the World Bank (Bruno Lanvin) provided a broad and interesting perspective on how technology is currently the key globalisation driver and how education and technology can work to reduce global inequalities. Typical keynote fayre.

The opening Blackboard keynote was okay – a number of vague statements on future directions and how they won’t make the same mistakes re. stability and quality in future as Blackboard have invested lots of resources for testing and quality assurance. I became more depressed when Mr Chasen added 2.0 to the end of a number of key terms. Apparently we’re to have Blackboard 2.0 (I thought they were already on 7?), along with Web 2.0, e-learning 2.0 and even… ‘education 2.0’ (I wonder if Bb have trademarked that yet). I think he means they’re planning to employ a bit of Ajax technology here and there.

To end on a brighter note – some Manchester University colleagues covered copying course content between different flavours of WebCT and Blackboard for simultaneous delivery of the same course at 4 different institutions. Their conclusion was that JISC Reload really didn’t help, while the WebCT IMS export tool was the key to migration. They had quite a few problems with migrating just one fairly basic content based course, so it served as a good reminder that we at LSE will need to be extremely thorough with our migration plans this year.

Finally, I need to go and see a brief glimpse of some Cote D’Azur sunshine after being stuck inside all day!


February 27th, 2007|Conferences|1 Comment|

Integrating Drupal, Moodle and Elgg

Stumbled across this interesting, but old, article that focuses on an example integration of Drupal, Moodle and Elgg, relating to Matt’s earlier post about collaboration with Columbia and Brown. Some interesting ideas here – enabling connections between VLE, portfolio and content management systems, including public facing web sites. I would expect some political implications regarding who runs (owns) what though! If you have time it’s worth reading the discussion/comments too.


January 18th, 2007|Tools & Technologies|Comments Off on Integrating Drupal, Moodle and Elgg|