Learning in a Digital Age – the new effective practice guide from JISC

An interesting new book from JISC:

Learning in a Digital Age – the new effective practice guide from JISC

Pre-order your copy now.

The latest guide in the well-received JISC Effective Practice series, Learning in a Digital Age: Extending higher education opportunities for lifelong learning, will be available from 15th June following its launch on 13/14th June at the Blended Learning Conference, at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield.,

An increasing number of students are benefiting from education later in life, bringing rich life experiences to their learning and adding value to employers and to society. Learning in a Digital Age demonstrates, through a range of case studies, how institutions are already using technology to:

  • attract and retain diverse groups of learners
  • offer professional development opportunities for their staff
  • enhance engagement and collaboration with employers and other organisations with a stake in effective lifelong learning,

The publication signposts some of the effective higher education practice taking place in the UK and addresses the benefits and challenges that arise in a digital age. It is aimed at individuals in further and higher education who have an interest in lifelong learning:

  • academic staff,
  • lecturers
  • tutors
  • learning support staff
  • learning technologists,
  • and information, advice and guidance professionals.

The guide will be available online in PDF, accessible Word and e-Pub/MOBI formats for use on e-readers, together with video case studies, expert podcasts and extended versions of the case studies. These can be read online or downloaded from www.jisc.ac.uk/digilifelong   from the 15th June 2012.

A limited number of printed copies will be available. To pre-order a copy please register your details at https://survey.jisc.ac.uk/digilifelong2012

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wireless Charging

There was a very interesting section on the BBC Click programme on wireless charging this week: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01f9n76/Click_24_03_2012/ The section on wireless charging is about 14 minutes in.  Of course the charging isn’t really wireless as you still need your original source of electricity to plug into but it can mean that far fewer wires are needed and for our library users it could really mean that they can be wireless. It seems as if developers of gadgets e.g. mobile phones, laptops etc are starting to install the receiving device into the gadget when it is built.  This means that if in the library we had desks that had the chargers installed into them the student could charge their devices without having to remember to bring in/carry their chargers and they could charge several devices at the same time. 

This You Tube video also has some nice footage of how wireless chargers are being used (so if the device doesn’t have a receiver already installed you can buy a cover for your device that has a receiver within it):http://youtu.be/IstnSZhtkq4

This video also gives some useful information about the history of this technology with an example of how it could be used to power a television (useful for those who hang TVs on the wall): http://youtu.be/MgBYQh4zC2Y

Post by : Lisa Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Kindle Touch vs. Kindle Fire

The phenomenon that is the Kindle continues apace with the release of the US of the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire. I bought a Kindle Touch on a recent trip and I like it very much. It’s a touch screen whereby the pages are turned by brushing or tapping the screen, font size is changed by ‘pinching’ and there is one physical button at the bottom to return you to your list of books. There is a wifi version or a more expensive wifi+3G, and I suspect the latter will prove very popular. The screen uses eInk and is still black and white but it is a nice step on from Kindle Keyboard.

The Kindle Fire is a slightly different beast. It seems to be marketed in the US as an eBook reader with apps for reason, but it is a tablet. It has an eReader but also music and video options, as well as games and other apps. It is slightly smaller than a standard Kindle and is very smooth to use. Crucially the price is very competitive, and by coming in a mere $199 it is setting itself up as an inexpensive competitor to the iPad. However, for my needs it wasn’t the right choice. I simply wanted an eBook reader with a long battery life. The Kindle Touch battery lasts at least a month with wifi off, while the Fire has a diminutive life of 8 hours due to its glossy colour screen and high resolution – this is why I say it’s a tablet rather an eBook reader. Another downside for me is that the Fire is backlit, making it harder to read in direct sunlight. Some people will argue that I can’t read my Touch in darkness, but I must confess that I have never needed to so I can’t see it being a problem.

So those are the two new offerings from Amazon which will (hopefully) be winging their way to the UK at some point. It is hard to compare the Kindle family with each other as Amazon have done a good job of giving each Kindle a different strength, so a new buyer just needs to think about what it is they need to do in order to identify the most appropriate product (eg do you want to mostly read books? Go for the Kindle basic or Touch. Do you want to mostly read newspapers or children’s books? Go for the Fire, etc). There is a nice little comparison here too – http://tinyurl.com/7mvudqh – for anyone who is still undecided about which Kindle they would go for given the chance.

Catherine Robertson

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

Kobo vs. Kindle

We have two eBook readers in our house. My husband was given a Kobo when he left his last job and he in turn bought me a Kindle Touch for my birthday. This led us to discuss the relative merits of each without coming up with a clear winner. Therefore I was interested to see this article on the Money Saving Expert blog which compared the two – http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/team-blog/2012/03/06/kindle-vs-kobo-battle-of-the-e-readers/. The main points seem to be that the Kobo is cheaper and is more ‘open’ as it can read a variety of formats, whereas a Kindle is more expensive and limited to proprietary texts (although limited is perhaps too strong a word given the huge catalogue of Kindle editions available on Amazon). The Kindle is more lightweight but only by a small amount and I personally really like the back of the Kobo which is rubber and therefore comfortable and easy to hold. The blog also noted that the Kindle page turn buttons were clunky, but this has been addressed in the Kindle Touch (currently only available in the US).
The battle of the eBook readers is ongoing, and there are other options out there, but the Kobo and the Kindle seem to be the frontrunners. Amazon reports that eBook sales have now overtaken print books in sales on their website and eBook readers are proving a popular choice as a gift (as I can attest). I am curious what effect this will have on library collections – it isn’t currently possible to download any of our eBooks from our eLibrary onto an eBook reader but it seems that some libraries do allow this, and this might be where the Kobo has the edge for students. As the eBook market for fiction and general reading gets more established it will be interesting to see what effect this has on the scholarly eBook market as students are demanding more texts online and the ability to download them to their eReaders.

By Catherine Robertson

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

New book: The Cybrarian’s Web

This looks like a good read!

The Cybrarian’s Web: An A-Z guide to 101 free Web 2.0 tools and other resources Cheryl Ann Peltier-Davis

‘This book belongs on every library innovator’s bookshelf. This isn’t just for the techies and, indeed, it would be a shame to limit its use to techies. Web 2.0 is first and foremost about the end-user experience and, so, for every reference librarian, trainer, director, web content writer, blogger and library leader, review the opportunities in this guide as part of your strategic planning process. You’ll be glad you did!’ – STEPHEN ABRAM, VICE PRESIDENT, CENGAGE LEARNING

‘Several colleagues of mine like to play this game where they try to point out an online resource to me before I’ve already found it myself. Had they read The Cybrarian’s Web before me, they’d be able to win that game for a while. Even after 15 years of experience with internet tools and resources, every few pages I learned something new and by the end had added many new tools to my online arsenal.’ – MICHAEL P SAUERS

More information: http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/title.php?id=8293

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Getting Started with ebooks” JISC Digital Media online surgery, held on Wednesday 22nd February 1.00 – 2.00 pm.

Andy Ramsden, e-learning development manager, University Campus Suffolk
Anna Vernon, E-Books for FE Project Manager
Sue Burnett, Facilitation and Publishing, Blended Learning and iTunes U, University of Glamorgan
Information about the session and links can be found at http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/surgery/session/getting-started-with-ebooks

Yesterday I attended the JISC Digital Media online surgery about “getting started with ebooks” – the aim of the session was to give an overview of ebooks and how they can be used in education. An ideal opportunity for someone like me, who is relatively new to ebooks, to find out what the pros and cons are and how best to promote and use ebooks collections already in existence.

I’ve never attended an online surgery before so wasn’t quite sure what to expect, although in the end it was very similar to a webinar, which I have participated in before. This was an interesting experience and certainly very informative. I did, however, have some difficulties with the technology, losing the sound connection towards to end so missed out on some of the discussion, question and answer session and I think I would have benefited from a good pair of headphones. However, this didn’t put me off and I think it helped me to gain a clearer picture of what is going on in the e-book world and the issues that need to be addressed before e-books become an easy format of choice for most students and staff.

Below is a summary of the main speakers’ findings and experiences.

There were three main speakers –
Andy Ramsden talked about his “holy grail” of an integrated world where the barriers to collaboration have been removed (if only) “e-books and e-learning: trying to bring them together”
Anna Vernon spoke on the issues surround e-book discovery and promotion in the context of FE “making the invisible invaluable”
Sue Burnett, gave an interesting talk about ebooks from the perspective of the publisher and editor.

Andy Ramsden

Andy has been involved in a 5 year project/task to see if it is possible to collaborate with other students/lecturers using ebooks via a Kindle and Google Docs. Andy’s ideal or “holy grail” is to have a learning environment or space whereby lecturers make recommended reading available to students and then students can easily make notes and share their notes with others on the course and then use this information in an e-portfolio. However, this is a lot more difficult than it sounds, the problem of combining different technologies is a real barrier, the interaction between Google Docs, email and then a Kindle is not a smooth path. The recent development of new software now found in Kindles, iPads and Androids seems to offer an answer. However, when Andy looked into these technologies he found there was a lack of consistency in functionality across these platforms and has come to the conclusion that his “holy grail” is not yet achievable and that “…ebooks are personal and not collaborative”.

Anna Vernon

Anna has been involved in a project to make ebooks available in the FE sector. Anna looked at some of the advantages of e-books, as well as some of the barriers to their use, and shared with us some useful tips about promoting collections and the best ways to aid resource discovery.

The main advantages to having a good ebook collection is that they –
• save space
• can be accessed anywhere at any time (ideal for distance learners and part time students)
• very portable
• concurrent usage aids access to books at peak demand times
• offers a solution to managing short loan collections i.e. eliminates vandalism and theft
• offers additional functionality e.g. searching, note taking, automatic citation.
• Helps students with print related disabilities

Barriers to ebook usage
• A major barrier to access in an educational environment is that only 60% are currently Athens/shibboleth compliant.

Make Access Easy
• If possible use WAYFless URLs in the library portal to make access easy
• If publishers support SP-side WAYFless URLs use those

Promoting e-resources and e-books
• Making e-books available via the catalogue is really important as this increases usage. Obtaining quality MARC cataloguing records is therefore vital.
• Promote your collections via the catalogue, library website, blogs, Moodles, Shelf Wobblers and coffee mornings
• Promote “e-book of the day” or e-books on a particular topic to coincide with an assignment/project
• Promote e-book collections to appropriate staff
• Get learner support/disability staff to promote features such as speech tools, font size and change of background to appropriate groups
• Support academic staff in the use of e-books, give sessions on how they can be used for learning
• Promote via Subject Guide
• Use QR Codes to promote e-books. Make reading lists available via QR Codes

Sue Burnett

Sue Burnett looked at the pros and cons of e-books from a publishers/editors perspective. The main drivers for publishers are –
Who? Who is your audience, students or general public?
Why? Why are you publishing, to share knowledge, to gain more readers, to make money?
What? What are you going to produce – will it be interactive, will there be video links, will it be available on different platforms, what limitations are you going to use. With e-books there are lots of production choices, will it just be available in e-book format or will there be print as well? If you are producing a series then templates could be used to aid consistency in style and layout
Where? This is about distribution, is it going to be open access or is it going to be restricted with a login, is it going to be made available via a website, itunes, pre-publication.
When? When will it made available
How? How will it be made available – there are many choices and many platforms.
Copyright Issues
When publishing e-books Copyright is a major issue. It’s important to get clearance for usage and to acknowledge sources and to use Creative Commons. There is a common perception that if a resource is on the web it’s safe to use, this isn’t the case. With the advent to e-publishing it is easy for self publishers to forget about copyright or not to be aware of the law. Publishers also need to be very aware of content and make sure they are not being libelous.
Finally the distribution and discovery of the e-book is important. Metadata is important and will aid resource discovery, but metadata is expensive and needs to be taken into account by publishers.

To sum up

This was a very useful surgery and gave me a good overview of the main issues in the production, use and discovery of e-books and the issues that need addressing. Certainly access to mobile technology and e-readers is becoming more common and the demand and need for users to interact with a variety of technologies in order to learn and collaborate with each other will increase. The issues of compatibility across different platforms, ease of access, different download formats and the range of e-books available are all potential barriers to e-book usage, but the technologies are changing very rapidly and public/student awareness of e-books is far higher now than ever before, so demand will probably increase. I agree with Sue Burnett that copyright is a very important issue, particularly with the ease of sharing and copying information in an electronic environment. It will be interesting to see how things develop in the next few years.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

JISC Innovating eLearning conference – screencasting & digital literacy

This is rather belated, but in November I signed up for the JISC Innovating eLearning eConference.  Recordings of all of the sessions are available here: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearningpedagogy/elpconference11.aspx.

A couple of the most interesting sessions – for me, anyway – were Phil Ackroyd’s comments on screencasting and Lord David Puttnam’s keynote address on digital literacy.  Here are some of the notes I made:

Phil Ackroyd (City College Norwich), Screencasting

What do we mean by screencast?  Video, audio and screengrab – you can choose which of these you want to include.

Phil’s recommendation is to make screencasting an accepted part of toolkit – used anywhere, anytime.   Norwich use screencasting for staff training, student feedback (talking over a screen showing the student’s essay – personalizes feedback & very well received), an aide memoire, marketing, student peer assessment, teacher development.  Phil’s own aim is to replace lengthy booklets/handouts with screencasts and has created a library of over 100 screencasts.  These tend to be very short and context specific.

Software examples:

  • http://bit.ly/165LV – free windows based recorder
  • Camtasia (paid version required)
  • Jing (5 min limit)
  • Screenr (online – also 5 min limit)
  • Mediasite (expensive – added advantage of including video and allows live broadcasts too)
  • Personally, I’ve used Cam Studio for simple screen capture and voiceover but you do need to get the settings exactly right to avoid ‘audio lag’ (i.e. voice and screen getting out of sync).


  • Keep it short – a 5 minute limit is good!
  • State length of video in publicity (people need to know time commitment before they click the link)
  • It maybe considered re-inventing the wheel but it allows you to make quick, institution-specific, education-specific, fit for purpose learning objects
  • Don’t worry about it being too polished, especially when starting
  • Challenge students to make screencasts – encourages reflective learning as they watch screencasts as soon as they are complete.

Useful links / tips:

But does it improve achievement?  It’s not about the technology.  Hattie – any innovation will improve things if you do it with enthusiasm and diligently.  Encourages peer assessment, self-assessment, personalised feedback, etc.

David Puttnam, Towards a Digital Pedagogy (keynote speech)

There is an institutionalised reluctance by politicians, teachers etc to embrace digital changes.  Other fields (e.g. medicine) have changed dramatically over the last 100 years but teaching has not.

To win back learners, we need to view the digital world as they do – technology is not an add-on but an essential part of their lives impacting how they view, interpret and interact with the world.

Is teaching schizophrenic?  Generational divide – i.e. teachers under 40 are more likely to be digital natives (although this term may be misleading).

Why are we making such a meal of implementing digital pedagogy?  Mainly because we are only digitizing old practices.  Can’t use technology to produce the same practice / curriculum.

Teacher training should be non-negotiable and ongoing process.  Regular, preferably paid time-out for professional development.

Getting the education system right is the goal.  World class education secures world class NHS, world class pensions, etc.  It doesn’t work the other way around.  Educational expenditure is win-win.

One problem is copyright – want teachers to be able to use any material they want without worrying about copyright.  BUT as a trade-off, we will have to teach copyright and make our students very aware of it.

Challenges / themes:

Using technology creatively – it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  It is/should be more than digitizing existing practice.

Potential of voice recognition tech to change learning at every level.

Prelude for societal change?

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment