How has technology transformed the classroom?

Last month I was asked to provide a few lines about how I believe Apple has transformed classrooms. Unfortunately for the organisers I didn’t want to concentrate on just what one company, or even one single piece of technology., has done to ‘transform’ or enhance the classroom. I also don’t agree we should concentrate on one single entity or company as being more important than another. So I wrote a more generic piece about my experiences with changes in technology, as well as its use, who uses it, and why, in classrooms. From this they could take a few choice snippets as it suited them. Here’s what I wrote:

“Classroom learning, and for that matter learning in general, has been transfdormed by the rise of mobile computing. Smartphones and tablets have brought about the ‘always-on’ availability of anyone with the funds to buy the devices. Being connected to the Internet enables interaction and engagement with networks of learners from any locations, from coffee shops to shopping centres, to libraries and schools – it is this that has transformed the use of technology for learning.

The rise of the App Store, whilst not a ‘technology’ per se, has brought about such a change in approach and delivery of learning resources to teachers, parents, and children – at no other time have so many passionate and talented individuals been able to design and implement such a varied range of learning resources, and have the ability to reach a global audience. This is the power of the App Store (once you filter out the dross and poorly designed Apps).”

You can read the published version below and on their website, along with five other perspectives from the likes of Erin Klein and Shelly Sanchez in the first part of the How has Apple transformed your classroom series of articles:

For University of Warwick Business School eLearning Consultant, David Hopkins, there’s no denying that recent technology has transformed learning, specifically with the rise of mobile computing. For Hopkins, smartphones and tablets bring about an “always-on” availability, and by developing the iPhone and iPad, Apple has contributed to this in the classroom.

Easy access to the Internet is enabling interaction and engagement such as, “networks of learners from any location, from coffee shops to shopping centers to libraries and schools,” Hopkins explains.
The rise of the App Store, he adds, has helped bring about this change in approach via the delivery of learning resources to teachers, parents, and children. “At no other time have so many passionate and talented individuals been able to design and implement such a varied range of learning resources, and have the ability to reach a global audience,” says Hopkins.

What do you think? Has Apple single-handedly transformed the learning and classroom landscape, or are they part of a more ‘organic’ movement? Is there a moment where you can see, from your own experience and perspective, a more profound shift in the use of technology in your classes?If so, what was it and when did it happen?

Image source: James Harrison (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Why I tweet #edchat

Inspired by the many talented people who draw and sketch their thoughts (and hoping I can emulate even just a smidgen of their abilities) here is my first (public) drawing from the iPad App Paper by 53 – why I tweet.

David Hopkins - Why I tweet

Please feel free to share or remix, comment or criticise  (although I’d rather you didn’t), and try for yourself. The Paper App and all the pens are now free (but wasn’t when I first found it!) and have produced some amazing artwork and drawings, some of which Julian Stodd used and allowed to be used in The Really Useful #EdTechBook.

It’s also worth noting why I add hashtags to my blog post titles, read about it from 2011!

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Maybe digital isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

So much of what I do these days, and what I produce, is digital. Tweets, status updates, audio & video files, documents, reports, etc. Less than 1% gets to where it needs to get to in any other way than by electronic transfer – money to friends (bank transfer), documents to colleagues (emails, networks, Dropbox), sharing (tweets, blog posts, status updates, etc.). Hell, even a message home to say I’ll be late will be a Facebook message instead of a phone call!

For my 40th birthday my brother bought my a USB turntable (Denon DP-200USB), something I (we) could use to rip our extensive collection of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s vinyl collection of rock, metal, and various dubious listening pleasures. So, the past few winter’s I’ve been holed up in the spare room with 300+ vinyl records (I’m sure we had more) and the turntable, ripping them, adding to iTunes, loading cover art and track listings, transferring to my iPod and listening to my childhood and teenage years in the car during the daily commute.

Even my two boys (ages 4 and 5) are getting in on it, asking for certain tracks or bands in the car with me, looking over the vinyl covers, reading the lyrics, laughing at the band photos (it’s the hair!), and not quite understanding just ‘how’ the sound works!It’s been quite an emotional experience, reliving parts of my youth I’d forgotten, just by hearing the opening riff or vocal to a song I’d not heard for decades.The feelings of a teenager trying to find his way in life, as lived (as many of us did) through our taste in music. Some of this music I’d not heard since I sold my last turntable – I’ve been slowly getting MP3 versions of the best stuff I could from the vinyl collection, but it’s still not the same as the crackles and hiss from the vinyl.

Last week, for the first time in 20 years, I bought a vinyl LP. Yes, it wasn’t the same experience as buying it from the local independent record store I used to spend hours browsing in (I bought this one online and waited for Mr Postie to deliver). But it came today, and I felt like a kid again – touching, smelling, handling, the LP, excited that’s a gatefold limited edition (those in the know know why this is special!) … and what’s more, it’s a new album. Yes, new music on an old format, and it made me feel so good! It made me think that all my MP3 tracks (some 10,000 of them) mean nothing, I’ve nothing to hold or ‘feel’. It may be the same music, but it lacks a connection and emotion when it’s just a track listed among so many others.

Next, for me, is to go and buy/make the hi-fi system I always wanted as a teenager – quality amp and speakers. I may not have the room or ability/willingness to blast it out like I used to (sorry Mum & Dad, I totally understand why you tried so hard to get me to use headphones now!) but I do value the quality of the audio experience, so I will be searching out decent equipment.

But what does this mean? For me it’s realisation that not everything that is digital is good. I realise that I now miss the old analogue, non-digital things like opening a CD or DVD case and reading the insert, opening a gatefold LP and reading the lyrics and seeing the band photos, holding the vinyl on the edges so as not to scratch the surface.

The connection is missing with digital artefacts, which is bizarre as I feel more connected with the world than I did back in 1992 (when I bought my first CD player).

I have also, of late, started buying more printed books. Yes, I still like my Kindle and eBooks, but I have realised that sometimes there is just no substitute for the real ‘hold-it-in-your-hands’ thing. For me I remember that it didn’t start with the predictable mid-life crisis or trying to relive a youth lost, it started with a power cut – no power = no Internet or TV or charged phones. I was stuck with candles (not too bad) and a book. But I didn’t have any new books to hand, it was all electronic. OK, so the power cut didn’t last more than an hour or two, but what if it had … I had nothing to do as everything needed power either to work or to charge up for reuse.

I wonder if our approach to technology and the environments we build for our students could benefit from this too?  Are we giving them so much in digital form (eBooks, scanned chapters of books or journals, PDF of presentation slides, links to news online, skype calls with experts and specialist, Apps and responsive website to make online collaboration and connection easier, etc.) that perhaps a paper copy would help?

I have been lucky enough to sit in on a few lectures recently, and the most animated and engaged students I saw was in one lecture where the PowerPoint slides didn’t explain a theory well enough so the academic switched on the visualizer and wrote it out long-hand, highlighting and updating the text as she went. The students could see something being built, in real-time, in front of them. They could see the learning ‘process’, not just the learning ‘outcome’. They could see that their academic not only knew the answer, but how to get there and how to explain it too.

So, is there room for non-digital analogue in our classrooms and learning journeys? Are we able to see the need or benefit of it if it’s there, or are we so fixed on the digital and the technology that that is all we can ‘fix’ into the equation?

With articles and tweets about teachers being replaced by computers, from the BBC and Huffington Post, I see a trend emerging that more and more people are turning away from the blind adoption of iPads and tablets for classrooms and actually looking at ‘why’ an iPad (or alternative device) would be good, and at ‘what’ it would be good at? Is there an alternative, not just to the device but to the intended use?

Here’s a good idea .. instead of using the iPad to get school children to play a game like Monopoly to learn about management, game-play, finances, control, turn-taking, etc. why not get the board-game out of the cupboard and play the ‘real’ version? Oh, I forgot, the contents of the games cupboard were binned in favour of a charging station for the iPads!

See, maybe going completely online or digital isn’t such a good idea? It isn’t about a ‘blended’ approach either, its just about using what works, where it works?!

Image source: David Hopkins (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Top 5 productivity tips for Adobe Captivate

Adobe Captivate is a powerful eLearning authoring tool which allows you to create several types of engaging and interactive eLearning courses. To make the most of this tool, here are the top 5 productivity tips I’ve followed over the years. Go ahead and use them if you like. 1. Take my advice — Always begin […]

Interview with Terese Bird, #EdTechBook chapter author

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, edited by David HopkinsAs part of a new series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this seventh post I talk to Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE research fellow, University of Leicester.

DH – Hi Terese. How does the use of technology, in all its various forms, affect your day-to-day working life?

TB – Really, I do my job on the strength of first social media, and second mobile devices. I remember when I was being interviewed for my job at Leicester back in 2009, I was asked how I stay on top of developments in the field, and I said, “Twitter.” Even before I had any smart handheld devices, I was regularly using Twitter to learn from others in the field of learning technology and tech innovation generally. Even on extremely busy days, I can take a quick skim through Twitter, retweet a couple of things or put a couple of things on Scoop.it. Not only have I learnt from the blog post or news item, I have shared it, and often get some response on it — so in 20 minutes or so, I have done valuable horizon-scanning, learning, and networking in my field. I find other social media sites valuable as well: Pinterest, Academia.edu, YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Recently, Mendeley has figured in hugely for me — I love that I can get references and papers just right within the app, share references, write my own notes and annotations, and add material into my bibliography from the browser. As for mobile devices, the funny thing is I do not own a smartphone. When the iPad came out, I just felt that was what I needed in terms of both portability and screen real estate. I didn’t want to compromise with the small phone screen, and also I found it was cheaper to have a PAYG dumb phone that costs £10 just for calls and texts, and my iPad for everything else. I’m still not really tempted to get a smartphone. I am a bit tempted by the Apple Watch, though.

For other aspects of my job, I use my iPad for most meetings, note-taking, and email while on the job. Because my iPad is usually at hand, I can make very quick replies to most emails. I use my MacBook Pro and a 27” iMac at work for iMovie, iPhoto, Audacity and Quicktime especially to put together materials for our university’s iTunes U site. For everything else, for most documents and some research software, I use the university PC which is very handy in the way it’s set up, I must say. I appreciate the Windows environment; I’m not a total Mac addict. I appreciate Android as well, especially when I was trying to get Google Glass set up at the Medical School. Google Glass — impressive, but I can’t envision trying to use it personally, only for professional use I think.

Your question is about technology in all its various forms. I think I will bore everyone to death if I mention all the forms — lecture capture software and hardware, webinars and the paraphernalia to get them working, Skype, voting systems in lectures, Google drive and all the Google tools, don’t get me started on all the apps. I listen to the radio on my iPad and read books, I have a Bible app, iBooks, I listen to podcasts, I use the Blackboard app as both an instructor and as a student — I’m studying International Education as a distance student with the University of Leicester and Phil Wood the instructor gives us iBooks of all the learning material. I’d better stop there!

DH – It’s quite obvious that all these different technologies, and not just the hardware, have made you more flexible and more dynamic in your working practices. All you have to do, if you want to see how important technology is to students, is wait in line at the coffee shop or watch them when they’re together to see how prevalent their use of mobile devices are. For me the biggest question is are we doing enough to engage them on these devices, do we stop them from being distracted from push notifications from different sources and networks when they’re in lectures? If we are somehow able to utilise their attention and their devices, are we being unrealistic with the level of engagement that academic staff (as well as students) will need in order to keep up with them?

TB – I like these questions — they’re not simple. ‘Are we doing enough to engage students on these devices’ is related to the question ‘are we being unrealistic with the level of engagement that academic staff will need in order to keep up with the students’ To answer this, I’ll begin by saying that I’m increasingly seeing social media as mainstream media. As television was to my generation in my youth, so is social media to young people today — quite pervasive, potentially addictive and therefore laden with cautions, but ultimately it is a significant means of communication and networking and it is not going away anytime soon. So it is both silly and futile for educators to ignore social media. But I think students need someone to discuss with them or teach them ways of using social media for their learning. This doesn’t have to be the academic who teaches them content of their subject — it might make more sense for this to be taught as a learning skill like academic writing and study skills. So, alongside your writing session you would have a session on ‘social media for independent learning’ or something like that. Some students won’t really need guidance on this, but some students really will.

As I’ve been helping our Medical School to embed iPads into undergraduate student training, I’ve been amazed at the students’ ability to figure out ways to learn better, more efficiently, more socially, and in ways that are frankly more fun using the iPads than they did without the iPads. Maybe they figured these things out themselves because they are highly-motivated students. But I think everyone is different, and some students really will benefit from some guidance in these areas.

Now for the more vocational, you would have ‘social media for business’ and ‘social media for marketing.’  These could be covered by the careers services of a college or university. And why should we do this? So that students can cultivate good habits of using social media for personal lifelong learning, and networking to serve their professional purposes. This includes the skill of determining good versus bad online sources and also curation and knowledge of which medium is good to communicate which kind of message online. I suppose these are aspects of ‘digital literacy.’ And alongside this, we need to somehow discuss or at least flag up with students the social media troublespots — things like addiction to the notification, addiction to the ‘like’ (this is more of an issue with young pupils), and admitting that in fact we cannot multi-task so that when it’s time to focus on an assignment, it is best to shut off the electronics. Similarly if the lecturer is not encouraging tweeting during her lecture, then maybe it’s best to ask students to switch things off during the lecture or for part of it. Nothing wrong with that! Perhaps we should also be discussing things like online radicalisation, porn addiction, trolling, and other things which adults need to consider in their own behaviour. Again these would not be things covered by the academics but more by the ‘study skills people’ and these could be the learning technologists.

Interview with Terese Bird, #EdTechBook chapter author

DH – Your chapter is about the student-led innovation in mobile learning; do you consider enough is being done to include the student body in the different aspects of their education? By this I mean more than just the individual classroom activity or learning resource, but the wider progress along the route to the qualification, and the design of the qualification itself. If the inclusion of ‘students a co-producers’ works in the classroom or lecture theatre, what about in the meetings that determined the structure, requirements, and technology they will need to work with?

TB – In my work at the Medical School, we are listening to the student voice by means of surveys and other online feedback, informal meetings and class observations. This is unofficial, and it is so valuable: I could not do my job without it. In the university generally, most if not all of the main committees include students. It was because of a student petition that lecture capture technology was adopted. There are other changes the university is considering for which the student voice is actively being sought. Even still, I think students’ input should be sought more. At these meetings, sometimes the student’s role is a bit observational and maybe rubber-stamp-y, as opposed to really integrated into the decision-making process. Maybe that is down to the individual committee or student; at any rate, I would like to see more healthy and constructive rabble-rousing on the part of students.

DH – I’ve read in a few places recently that children/students, who have been classed as Generation Z (born after 1995), are starting to push back against the technology that previous generations have adopted and embraced (Bloomberg Review: ‘Will Generation Z Disconnect?’). Do you think we’re doing the right thing, in Higher Education, in advancing our understanding and use of mobile technology if the students of the future (2-5 years hence) are going to shun the devices and online networks? Do we need to be more considerate and more understanding of the role technology takes in the process of learning?

TB – A Learning Technologist must always be a horizon-scanner. We need to keep up on consumer trends (because consumer devices will find their way into HE classrooms in students’ backpacks) and societal trends, how is communication evolving and where is it going. Academic communication should happen in the media and methods of the present world, and should not insist on happening in the media and methods of the past world. At the same time, we should evaluate what we do, and put it to research in some form, so we can see what students are thinking, whether any interventions help them or hinder them.

The Bloomberg article is interesting because as I look carefully at the survey findings, I am not sure we can conclude that Generation Z is turning away from tech or internet commerce/communication; indeed, the article refers to this generation as ‘overconnected.’ Yet they would prefer to get together with friends in person rather than online, and would prefer to ask someone for a date in person than online. This is very welcome news, by the way! The article doesn’t give similar findings from teenager surveys of the past, or of other demographic people in the present, so I’m not sure how this can be said to be a trend of revolution against technology. And also, as students, these teens would need to consider the professional and academic need to communicate with someone whom there’s no way of meeting in person. Regardless, though, learning technologists and all academics need to be continually sensitive to the student voice, and again that’s why we need to keep dialogue with students about how they’re learning. And there comes a time when we don’t need to be using a certain system or method anymore; it’s important to be able to recognise that. At the same time, we need to stay on top of tech developments which might really solve problems we have in HE, in ways we might not even be able to imagine at present.

DH – Considering the time and effort taken to get new technologies adopted and implemented in HE, do you think we have the flexibility and imagination (not individually, but institutionally) to say “we don’t need that anymore”? Are we individually brave enough to say to the powers-that-be that something we fought hard for is no longer needed or relevant (I’m pretty sure most HEIs still have an overhead projector for acetates, somewhere)?

TB – I don’t think I have yet been in a situation where I have fought for an innovation and it has run its course and it’s become clear that it’s time to retire it. I think that when that happens, it happens sort of naturally. For example with the overhead projectors, even tho they were easy-to-use and almost never failed, they gradually got replaced by something that just looked better: PowerPoint on a better projector. So making that decision should not have been that difficult because it was happening naturally, gradually. Now there is another case: the case of something innovative being purchased but never really used very much. That would be the infamous case of the interactive whiteboards purchased in many UK schools in the past decade. They didn’t really get used because they were not easy to use and the people making the purchasing decision didn’t take this into tconsideration. To avoid putting all eggs into a basket that doesn’t work so well, I recommend the following remedy: try one as a pilot, evaluate, and work with the learning technologist throughout the process. Is it now time to close the door on interactive whiteboards? Perhaps. Aside from them being difficult to use, if one cannot throw an iPad image onto the whiteboards, then they’re kind of obsolete.

DH – Thanks for your time Terese. Terese’s chapter for the #EdTechBook is called ‘Students Leading the Way in Mobile Learning Innovation’ and looks at what, and how, the student’s are using their own personal devices, and what (if anything) we can be doing to utlise and maximise their interest and passion for being networked and mobile.

More news about The Really Useful #EdTechBook will be posted here and other social media platforms, using the #EdTechBook hashtag. Please follow and join in for news on the book’s development as well as each individual author’s own interpretation of the process and their own chapters.

Image source: Dave Stone (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tips on running a Tweet-chat

Last week I was involved in the second iteration / cohort / running of the BYOD4L short course. Along with a number of colleagues we ran a series of tweet-chats each evening along the course themes – timed between 8-9pm the tweet-chats involved facilitators posing questions and ‘facilitating’ the responses and direction the chat took.

Taking is back to the beginning … what is a tweet-chat?

“A TweetChat is a virtual meeting or gathering on Twitter to discuss a common topic. The chat usually lasts one hour and will include some questions to stimulate discussion.” – BYOD4L Tweet-chat

“A Twitter chat is a public Twitter conversation around one unique hashtag. This hashtag allows you to follow the discussion and participate in it. Twitter chats are usually recurring and on specific topics to regularly connect people with these interests.” Social Media Examiner

I thought I’d write up my experiences of running three tweet-chats now: two for BYOD4L, and one for the Leicester Forensic Science FutureLearn MOOC. Each uses a different approach, but both very valid and engaging for the students / participants as well as the course team(s).

Generic Tips:
Irrespective of the approach you take (question or ask-an-expert, see below) there are some generic tips you should be aware of, both to help you run the tweet-chat and for the participants to understand what to expect. You should also post these somewhere for the participants to view – here are the one’s for the BYOD4L course.

These include:

  • Explain: make sure you explain a little about Twitter and a tweet-chat, how it works, and why you’re doing it. Not everyone will understand it they way you might.
  • Hasthag: advertise the hashtag well in advance. Remind participants they can save the hashtag after they’ve searched for it on Twitter, it’s easier to find on multiple devices when they need it. Keep the hashtag as short and as unique as you can (remember the 140 character limit!) so as to leave as much room in your own tweet and your participant tweets for the actual content.
  • Account: Consider having a course-specific account to use for posing the questions rather than your own personal one. This is good if you will have multiple facilitators engaging the participants, but is not necessary if it’s you on your own (see support below).
  • Support: If you know the engagement level will be low you can probably handle it on your own. If you think there may be more people engaging (there is not figure here but my experience is that more than 10-20 participants will make it hard to handle on your own) then get support from colleagues.
  • Participants: participants will need an account to engage and join in the tweet-chat, but not if they just want to watch the tweets. Highlight this as not everyone has, or wants, a Twitter account.
  • Time: Try and arrange for a time suitable to your audience, remembering the differences in time zones if your audience is international. You wont find a time to suit everyone but if you show willingness to take this into account when you set it up it’ll reflect well on you.

Tweet-chat

  • Reminders: Use the accounts that will be used during the tweet- chat (your own and / or the course account) to remind those watching and using the hashtag about the event, time, etc. I like to use a few tweets in the days leading up to the event, the morning before it, one hour before and the minutes leading up to it.

Tweet-chat

  • Announce: Begin the tweet-chat with a welcome message.
  • Close: Close / end your tweet-chat with a closing message, statement, or call to complete a tweet-chat survey. If you are running these regularly then remember to highlight the next one. Don’t forget to link to or tweet about the archive.

Tweet-chat

Oh, and don’t forget .. make sure every device you are intending to use has all updates applied, is fully charged (plugged in even), and that you even have a back-up to hand in case one fails! I have used a laptop, iPad, and iPhone on all the tweet-chats I’ve facilitated and at least one has caused a problem (usually laptop) which meant I’ve had to use a back-up device.

Tweet-chat

Team-led Tips (BYOD4L)
In this approach the team develops and delivers the questions on the agreed and advertised hashtag, in this case #BYODLchat.

  • Delivery: It’s up to you if you advertise the questions in advance or use the hashtag to build up the excitement. I prefer to release the questions one at a time, leaving between 10-15 minutes for answers and engagement.

Tweet-chat

  • Questions: I have found it really useful to use a Google Doc in collaboration with the people I facilitate the tweet-chat with to generate the questions. In a one hour tweet-chat consider 4 or 5 questions, leaving about 10 minutes for each. This will enable the question to filter through the Twitter timeline (not everyone’s devices updates quickly) and for participants to engage with the question, you, and each other. Agree on who will run the official account (if you use one) and who will tweet the questions first. Get this wrong and it could be very confusing for participants.

Tweet-chat

Tweet-chat

  • Answers: In your question remind participants to start their answers with A1, A2, etc. (not forgetting the hashtag). Without either of these it’ll be difficult for you or them to keep track of the conversation.

Tweet-chat

  • Conversation: If you want to continue a conversation with an individual you can continue to use the hashtag of it’s relevant to the whole cohort of participants. If it’s not then carry on, but without the hashtag.
  • Distraction: It’s probably worth making sure everything else on your device is closed down (Facebook, email, etc.) unless you need it.
  • Links: Keep a browser open with your website and / sources already loaded. During the tweet-chat you may want to put a link in to a tweet so by having it already to hand makes it easier (and quicker).
  • Noise: Don’t try and read and reply to every tweet, you wont be able to. In one hour there can be many hundred’s of of tweets and you will end up a wreck if you try and do everything. This is why you may need to engage fellow facilitators to help the session run smoothly.

Participant-led Tips (MOOC) 
This approach is the complete opposite of the above – here the participants pose the questions in an ‘ask the expert‘ type of approach, much like a Reddit ‘ask me anything’ (AMA), in this case #FLForensicsLeic.

  • Begin: Use your own Twitter account for the answers as this is an opportunity for you to show your own ‘expert’ status. It will help build your profile and network and show your experience and expertise in the area. Make sure, in the documentation introducing the tweet-chat, you mention the names and accounts that will be used, and that the Twitter profile it up to date with both professional photo and biography.

Tweet-chat

  • Questions: The questions will come from the participants, so there is nothing here to prepare. But you do need to be prepared for anything, from any direction. You can easily manage this by ignoring tweets that are not related to the topic you’ve advertised.

Tweet-chat

  • Resources: Be ready with resources (or have someone else on hand to deal with this for you). In the case of the tweet above (ref. Jeremy Bamber) a link to background details or information will help everyone else using the tweet-chat.

Tweet-chat

  • Conversation: Considering the number of individual questions coming at you in this style approach of tweet-chat it may be worth advertising before the event that continuing discussion will only happen after the timed event has closed. This will free you up to concentrate on the event and questions, and remove any bad feeling a participant may have that you didn’t reply immediately.
  • Hashtag: The hashtag is all the more important on this approach as activity can be very difficult to follow – the more participants asking questions, the harder it will be to follow changes.
  • Team: You will definitely need a team to help you here. The more people you have asking the questions, the more cluttered the hashtag will become and the more difficult it will be to identify a conversation or continuation of a tweet. If you think you will have a lot of questions then it may be worth considering alternative technologies (e.g. Google Hangout) and not a tweet-chat.
  • Archive: Using one of the archive tools (e.g. FLForensicsLeic Storify) you can arrange the tweets in collected form, therefore question and responses (and extended conversations if appropriate) collated.

Other formats
It is possible to run other formats for your tweet-chat (open, free-for-all, etc.) but I have not run any of these. I have, however, been involved in a generic free-for-all when the community directed the questions to each other and answered them. Needless to say it was bedlam – difficult to see the questions, difficult to work out responses or answers, nye on impossible to follow a topic or conversation.

If you’ve experience in any of these please share it below, positive or negative.

Image source: mkhmarketing (CC BY 2.0)

I don’t write anymore, I sketch #sketchnote

A couple of months ago I had one of those ‘ah ha’ moments I should have had 25+ years ago at school. I have never been good at taking notes. Never.

At school I was always behind and struggling because I couldn’t keep up with my teachers and their dictated notes. I wasn’t alone with this, but it was still hard. At University it was the same, but it felt worse because everyone else wrote and kept amazing notes from lectures, demonstrations, field-trips, etc. I survived and gained my degree because I had generous friends who helped me when I needed it.

Now, with nearly 18+ years since graduation I’ve finally realised why I am still making rubbish notes in meetings, conferences, etc. (apart from the obvious reason that I suck at it). It’s the wrong medium for me. It’s not that my handwriting is so awful I can’t read it (which, unfortunately, it is) it’s that I don’t respond to those kinds of notes. Therefore I shouldn’t be trying to take notes like that.

I should be sketching, or rather taking ‘sketchnotes’. 

The Sketchnote HandbookI recently found The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde. Why, why, why hadn’t this been around all those years ago. All of a sudden I could think more clearly when taking notes (it’s about the ideas of the presentation, meeting, conference, etc.) rather than the specific content being presented. It’s about making visual clues to these ideas and how I respond to them when I look back after the event.

When was the last time you re-read your meeting notes and they made sense? When was the last time you shared your meeting or conference notes, willingly? With sketchnotes (as with written notes) your record of the event is still personal to you, and how or why you chose to record that idea or concept, but the result is something that others can use to enable their own recall or memory of the presentation.

The Sketchnote Handbook The Sketchnote Handbook The Sketchnote Handbook Sketchnote from April 2014 East Midlands Learning Technology Group Meeting

Last week I was able to put my test sketching to good use at the April East Midlands Learning Technology Group meeting. Previously my notes have been tweeted on the #emlt and to the @EastMidsLT, but last week I decided to sketch as the event progressed.

Clearly I have a long way to go to improve (perfect?) my own style, and work on my typeface and drawing skills, before I really want to share every one I produce, but it’s a skill I am enjoying learning and perfecting and testing.

Sketchnote from April 2014 East Midlands Learning Technology Group Meeting

One thing I will say about sketchnotes is that your sketchnote will look better, and mean more, when the event or presentation is well structured and easier to see how much space you will need, therefore how much space you can use. If you limit each sketch (and by association, each meeting or presentation) to a single or double page sketch, then you need to be sure you have enough space for the concepts you want to record. There will be nothing worse than, as you fill the page, you suddenly find you need a little more space.

PS. This is one book you’ll want in paper format. I don’t know how it renders on a Kindle or eBook devices but the whole book is sketched and a completely graphical and a wonderful book to flip through.

Photowall from Chromecast App

Photowall from ChromecastPhotowall for Chromecast (iPhone/iPad): I recently wrote about the Chromecast I bought and have been trying out. This App, Photowall, is probably the best app currently available for schools and classroom activities.

Photowall enables students in (and outside) the classroom to ‘send’ images to the TV screen.

“Photowall for Chromecast is a new Chrome Experiment that lets people collaborate with images on the TV – using phones or tablets. Anyone can take a picture and send it to a Photowall to instantly see it on the big screen.” 

Photowall from Chromecast (free):
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photowall-for-chromecast/id814088518

All you need, from what I can see and have tested, is one device that can connect and ‘open’ the Photowall through the Chromecast. Once the Photowall has been created anyone can connect to the website on g.co/photowall, enter the passcode for that particular ‘wall, and send images to the screen.

  • Select images, doodle/draw on them, add a caption, and/or send to the ‘wall.
  • Send the code you’re provided when you create your Photowall to others you want to participate and they can send their own photos to the ‘wall – use the g.co/photowall link.
  • Save your ‘wall in a YouTube video for posterity.

You don’t have any input into the layout, length, music track, etc/ used to create the YouTube video, it’s all done behind the scenes. Here’s an example created from my first Photowall experiment:

YouTube: David’s Photowall

Here’s some images of Photowall: setting it up, using it, etc.

Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast

New kit: Chromecast

A few months ago I was trying to decide on whether to spend £100 on an Apple TV or £30 on a Google Chromecast. I opted for the cheaper, newer, untried, unknown Chromecast.

Here are my thoughts, so far … it’s not there yet, but it has potential.

It is easy to set up and easy to use. Simply plug it into an HDMI slot on the back or your TV. If’ you’ve a USB port on the TV too then use this for power, if not you’ll have another cable trailing on the floor to a plug. Follow the short, simple instructions to set Chromecast up on your wifi, either through your laptop or iPad browser, and that’s it. It took about 3 minutes in all and then I was away.

YouTube: Chromecast guided tour

This is what you get in the box (as well as a couple of cables):
Chromecast

You’ll also need to download the Chromecast App for your device in order, I think, for the options in the different Apps to work.

From my iPad I’ve been able to use YouTube, Netflix, and from last week, the BBC iPlayer:

YouTube (free) - find the video you want, send it to Chromecast and watch it on the TV. Chromecast automatically sets the best quality it can display based on broadband speed and TV resolution, so if it’s an HD YouTube clip and you’ve a relatively good connections, it’ll stream in HD. The YouTube app has the advantage of being able to add further videos into a queue, which will automatically play once the previous one has finished.

Netflix (free) - Again it’s as simple as finding the film or programme you want and sending it to the Chromecast. The content is then streamed straight to the Chromecast leaving the device as a remote to control the playback, or surf while you watch the film.

Chromecast Netflix

BBC iPlayer (free) - This is new, the iPlayer App was only updated last week, so I tried it out over the weekend with my boys. They love the Cbeebies children’s channel and, nstead of crowding round the iPad screen, we had it streamed to the TV – far more sensible and better on their eyes and backs (no crouched seating positions, not too close to the screen, etc.).

BBC iPlayer Chromecast

Photowall (free) - Announced just days ago, this app from Google (flagged as an ‘experiment’) lets you and others send photos from your device or laptop to a Chromecast-connected TV, allowing you to show and share photos, doodle, or make notes on images on the screen.

Chromecast Photowall

From the laptop it’s as easy as installing ‘Google Cast’ from the Chrome store to your Chrome browser, connecting the two together, and you’re away. There is a minor delay between what you do on the laptop and what is streamed to the TV, but so long as you don’t try and stream video you’ll be OK.

  • Video quality from Netflix, YouTube, and BBC iPlayer was excellent – HD quality on an HD TV. There were a few occasions where we had either poorer quality video or it stopped streaming for a minute or so, but that’s down to the Internet connection, not Chromecast.
  • The downside is that, for the moment, you cant use the iPad Chrome browser, it’s only the desktop version that can stream to a Chromecast.
  • The full list of apps that can ‘cast from are listed here.

While the device is aimed at consumers and consumable media, it could be used in classrooms or schools – it’s small and cheap, easy to move and connect on different TVs or networks:

  • [Laptop / iPad] If you’ve a screen in a reception area or corridor, then stream student work from YouTube. You could make this a prize for a competition or ‘good work assembly’ to have the winners on a screen next week.
  • [Laptop / iPad] If you have a TV in the classroom then students can showcase their work from their own laptops to the TV and talk the class through what they did, how or why they did it, etc.
  • [Laptop / iPad] Use Photowall app to create a gallery on the TV for students to share their pictures (homework, group work, etc.) on the screen and provide a talking point.
  • [Laptop / iPad] Show educational videos, from your desktop, from YouTube or BBC iPlayer apps.
  • [Laptop] Share a presentation, through the Chrome browser, from SlideShare, Google Docs, desktop, etc.
  • [Laptop] Show a website (educational, of course) and use it to spark debate or project work.
  • [Laptop] Create mind-maps and show in real time.

This is one bit of kit to keep an eye on. As more Apps come bundled with Chromecast support, the device will gain popularity and use. In the meantime I can use it at home, albeit in a limited way, but it’s enough for now.

Note: I tried to connect it to a TV in a public space (with permission) here in Leicester. Connecting to the TV was easy, but Chromecast can’t connect to an enterprise level wireless network (i.e. eduroam). If this is what your school or institution has then save your money. If Google are reading this … if you can sort this little hiccup out you’ll have a really powerful device for school’s to have and share.

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