Tablets for fun (Samsung Android & HP WebOS)

It’s been a couple of months since I started living with the Samsung Tab (7 inch) and I’ve enjoyed every minute, although I have continued to be jealous of those with the 10 inch tablet (regardless of make). There were just something that would have been easier on a larger screen, in particular relating to document editing and writing longer emails. I looked at the keyboard to see if that would help but found reviews to be so negative it put me off. The Samsung Tab has some nice features, including AllShare that doesn’t seem possible on other Android devices without coughing up more cash (something I am reluctant to do after spending so much on the device) which put me off purchasing a 10inch tab until Samsung released their new version. Once the new 10inch version was released, and I got to play with it, I really wanted it – up until HP dropped their TouchPad to the bargain price of £89. I am weak for a bargin!

I know most buying the Touchpad at the discounted price will no doubt turn to Android in the future, however I have to say that my ownership over the last week has been a joy of WebOSness. Yes there have been some times when the software seems to stop for a second, and sometimes (depending on wifi conditions) applications take a bit longer than on my other devices to open but some apps beat those devices hands down, in particular how Skype is embedded into the native interface, and the Facebook app that comes pre-installed. Since then I have been happily downloading new apps, and thanks to the price of purchase have even considered purchasing some! There are some things that frustrate me – apps available on Android are not yet available on the Touchpad and some apps downloaded run in a fake phone mode.

The accessories for the Touchpad also seem to be well thought out , in particular the TouchStone which we purchased two days later for half the original price after seeing it demonstrated at a local Comet. This device keeps the pad charged, gives us the time, and for Ewans first birthday allowed us to use it as a photo display from both facebook and other online account and for under £40 seems a great addition.

There is now rumours that HP will be doing another round of HP TouchPad releases to get rid of stock, if that’s the case I know my friends (having seen ours) will certainly be queueing for the device, without the urge to immediately put Android on it!

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Reflections on change

After talking to others who attended ALT-C and those who followed the Twitterings it became clear that there was a feeling from those who have been involved in Learning Technology for over the last 5 years that some things haven’t  changed and many discussions covered the same areas that have been discussed at the last few events.  How do we put a fine line under past technologies when they are still being considered by institutions as new? What discussions do we want in their place?

This issue can be demonstrated by a local college that has just implemented a VLE, while others have been running one years.  How do we support both colleges? Do we ignore the late adopters and expect them to read through the experiences of those before them? Where would they find that information and how do they know what is relevant to them? Would the public information be truly representative of what happened? Plus people are often happier to talk about failures face to face than put that information online for all to see.

Lots of questions leap to mind, including: Should there be an embargo at conferences so that they present only on using technologies introduced in the last year, but how would we be able to tell then what a successful implementation looked like? Have institutions themselves taken the “fun” out of learning technology with lack of investment in infrastructure and by blocking tools such as Wikis, Blogs and Twitter? Can we really spend more time talking about what is mainstream technology when the need to change is more important than ever? How can we get back to embracing the new, the wacky, and the exciting?

I believe that a lot of this can be down to culture, the lack of “need” to change, this can be seen at the perspective of a member of staff or a learner (as demonstrated in a recent post) and the lack of investment in infrastructure. What incentive does a lecturer have to use new technologies when rooms don’t have projectors and internet access, and learners can’t connect to the institutions network other than for simple web browsing? How many institutions can truly say that they have developed an infrastructure that allows, and more importantly supports,  teaching using technology choices up to the individual teacher (or learner)? This might be the two main points – supporting teachers and learners and giving responsibility to the individual. Tutors often see the choice of tools as confusing (as demonstrated in recent JISC projects WBL-Way and WBL) and can often blame technology with problems that could be to do with processes or data, which can turn them off from using anything new until it is fully proved in other institutions. I have hope for Enable here, that we can at least address some issues around processes and data, enabling (sorry!) staff and learners to use technology to support their work, giving them time to look at how other, new, technologies can support their teaching/ learning with the assistance of blogs and twitters from colleagues around the world.

Changing Values

As an institution we have a new project running called the OER project (Open Educational Resources) and this has started some interesting conversations and thoughts over the university. As part of this a senior lecturer started talking to me about it on the train. They had a recent experience where learners had rebelled against the new forms of teaching in their award and requested a move back to the traditional lecture approach. As part of this the tutor has created an online paper, rather than getting them to research content to discuss.

They were interested in the value it would bring to the university and how we look at charging learners for their university experience, rather than just content. This has a clear link to the post, http://www.paulgraham.com/publishing.html which talks about how society willingly pays for media but not the content of the media (such as a set cost for a paperback regardless as to the content of the paperback, are all authors considered equal?). We talked about how the value was in the contact with the tutors, that it was going to become a personal experience, and the assessment to achieve an award, so it appears to be all the wrappers around the content (like the CD and its packaging).

I just wanted to get this thought down to see where it took me, and at the moment the project has a lot of questions to ask at Staffordshire University and externally to its value and cost. 

Programme office

This is a big question for me, and the project, at the moment as its part of the next stage of the project. We have helped with the development of a strategy for the university around Curriculum Design and Development but how is that managed? How do we keep it up to date and what is the cost benefits to making all the recommended changes?

We have spoken to over 15 different initiatives in the university, plus senior management, discovered over 9 general CDD issues that overlap the initiatives and have suggested that they get addressed, but other than acknowleging that they are issues what depth of analysis do we need to do as a project to understand their impact to the University? Should this be done now or once agreed by Executive / Senior management that they are issues we need to investigate. How much time would need to be invested in this? Lots of questions on this going through my head and on top of that is how we engage in the piloting of project outputs and getting the rather informal initiatives to provide final reports that can then be used to build future recommendations? I will be covering this thought more in the main blog soon. I am also wondering if we are doing enough on expectations.

On the plus side we have a day with the cluster coming up next week so that we can discuss things like the base line report and using modeling, after that we have a SMWG meeting and in a few weeks time it will be the programme meeting so a lot of getting together and chatting about thoughts on the project.

Thoughts Please

I am testing polls out here, I am interested in those of you out there involved in the Award development process. Please take a moment to answer my quiz!

Paperwork a go go

I have a telephone conversation with Tony (our critical friend) today about the level of input that appears to be going into the official documentation for JISC. This has become a bit of a bug bear for us as each submission seems to be leading to more suggestions, and guidelines on some documentation is somewhat limited before submission – so expecting further work on existing documentation in the future. It does seem that the level of advice is the same for those with project management experience and those without, and everything needs to be explicitely stated more than at any point in the past.

Project Plan

Work has been busy recently and I have finally managed the JISC final Project Plan, although this is not the final one for the project as it will continue to be refined based on the work taking place within the project. I have had a number of different things appear on my to do list and also as things to be noted, I am trying to get them all down and done but no doubt I will lose something.

The main thing two things I need to deal with are:

  1. I need to sit down and organise an end of phase day with the project team so that we can see what is happening for the next phase and to make sure everyone is happy with where we are at the moment.
  2. Deal with capturing what constitutes a better student experience with the help of the student union.

From my own learner perspective here at the university I was surprised that I have a general student number and a different student username to login to the computer systems. This means my last two assignments have gone in with the incorrect data on it. This assumption has come from me working in FE where they were one in the same,  did I miss something during induction (as I was away that day)? Is there something hidden in the depths of my award handbook that explains the difference? Something to consider – if I miss it how many others do and what impact does it really have?

I have  been reading a draft from Shrewsbury on their tutors perspectives to HE in FE, this was very interesting and related to the information from the HELP CETL http://www.help-cetl.ac.uk/?p=4_3 where issues around resources and timetabling was seen across the board with colleges delivering HE in FE – but little to help with understanding how we can deal with these issues, if indeed it is possible at all. Fingers crossed on that.