Monday, December 18, 2006

Time to update your subscription to this feed

Sorry about this, but I'm moving off Blogger and onto Wordpress. New location is and the feed URL is

Hope you'll stay with me :)

Freedom and Flexibility with Web2 data

a look at how to pull a heap of data out of a Blogger blog and into a wordpress blog. Same concept applied to pulling from the Bloglines reader and into the Google reader

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Second Life is starting to grab me

I've kinda sat on the fence with Second Life. But really, there's no arguement about it. SL is an intensly engaging and inspiring space to be working in. Ever since the Future of Learning in a Networked World and talking more with Jo Kay and Sean FitzGerald I can see it more clearly.

With surprisingly little effort, IT here opened the communication port to allow access into SecondLife. Gotta hand it to the IT crew here at Otago Poly, for all my moaning about the profession generally (mostly legacy attitude from a gestapo like IT department in NSW DET), they have mostly been very responsive in taking off filters, allowing me to install software and try out things like Second Life.

Anyway, today I pulled a group of Occupational Therapy lecturers and others, to meet and watch as I met Jo in Second Life. In an intense hour of moving around, riding a balloon, visiting Harvard Law's SL school, and a Medical Library, not to mention bringing up a heap of Youtube videos, related websites, wikis and blogs, I think the group began to see how all this stuff can tie in together. (Links follow)

But, the usual overwhelmed feeling still pervades - that I fear will paralise anyone from moving into trialing out new practices with this teachnology. I'm ready, give me a project, I'd like to get iinto this I think...

Great links:
Jo Kay's BlogHud - where she is intergrating Blogging in with SecondLife
Jo Kay's Flickr photos - a bunch of screengrabs from Jo's SL experiences
SAE in Second Life - an excellent wiki page by Sean and Jo to support their presentations about edu use of SL
NMC Campus: Seriously Engaging - Youtube vid
Second Life Medical Library - an amazing range of information in a virtual library!
A Masters in Digital Media course blog - that also has a campus in Second Life
Cyber One - Harvard Law course that has a blog, wiki and Second Life campus

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Moment of truth - when the free stuff lets you down

As many no doubt already know, Blogger is upgrading (catching up) with better web2 like features. But somewhere along the way they have stuffed up. I have just now tried to help 2 lecturers get started with blogging - now I'm certain that they will never blog again!

The problem is that we can't successfully get Blogger to hold a new username. We go in, we set up, we create new posts, all is looking good - so we sign out and then can't get in again. Google is in there claiming ownership over the username and asking us to sign in there instead - which just confuses the hell out of those poor newbies. BTW, I'm also experiencing trouble with Bloglines too - just to rub salt into the wound. Bloglines isn't adding new feeds to new accounts :( I suspect it is the computers here... but I can still get in to my old accounts, but not the new accounts! Blogger's help is no help, and they certainly aren't being up front about it in their blog either... could it be something in the way we are set up here?... either way, blogger beta is not rolling out smoothly, reminds me of a recent Blackboard upgrade just 10 yards from my key board a couple of months ago... So the moment of truth has arrived. After 2 years of using bloglines and blogger without a single issue - here it is.

About now is when all the IT people jump in and say, "see! I told you so! Its better to have control" and about now I would be closer than any other time to say, "yep! I agree with you Roger!" But no! the moment of truth is here, and it is now that I must drop back to first gear and employ that network flexibility I've been talking about.

To my mind, the free, web based and externally maintained services like blogger and bloglines are still better than what might cost you between US$200 and US$35 000 per year if you start including part of the salary you pay someone to maintain your internal servers. So if I had something up my sleeve when the issues with Blogger become so noticable - we could have jumped out of Blogger and Bloglines all together and used one of the many other free blogging and feed reading services available. I could start using my to blog with, or my Flickr, or Multiply...

But that doesn't solve the problem of total newbies trying to get started. In the past, Blogger and Bloglines offered a reliable and easy service. Now that ivory tower has come crashing down and we are back to where we began. Either Blogger will regain some composure in about 10 hours, or I'm outa there and onto a whole other platform. In the meantime, IT can have their 12 - 24 months response time and try and get an internal blogging system up at no charge.

What a shame though. Right there was the making of two fantastic educational bloggers. Now, I'm sure they'll never blog again. I couldn't fix it in the time we had! They gave up trying after about 1 hour - or when I could say that I was at a loss :(

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Cormac Lawler - Wikiversity

I had a very interesting phone conversation with Cormac Lawler today. Cormac is an experienced user, researcher and collaborative coordinator of wikiversity. In it we talked about the history of wikiversity, the possible structure and uses for it, some issues and considerations, and future developments.

Audio is in ogg, goes for 1hour and is 7.9megs.
VLC media player plays ogg files.
Conversation was had and recorded using Gizmo Project.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Students struggle with information literacy

EdNA's Recent Items RSS pointed to an article in eSchool News that references a interesting results from a study of high school and college student's information literacy. Unfortunately I couldn't get a link to the actual published results as eSchool News wanted me to register before reading the rest of the article.. no wonder bloggers kick linkless journalists. I did manage to grab this though:

The report comes from an evaluation of the responses of 6,300 students from 63 institutions around the country to ETS's new ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Literacy Assessment. Students were given scenario-based items that were presented to them in 75-minute test environments. These information literacy tests included extracting information from a database, developing a spreadsheet, or composing eMail summaries of research findings.

The tests are meant to measure students' abilities to overcome three challenges they typically have:

"The ability to identify trustworthy and useful information;

"The ability to manage overabundant information; and

"The ability to communicate information effectively

The study found that 52 percent of those tested could correctly judge the objectivity of a web site, and 65 percent could correctly judge that web site's authoritativeness. But only 40 percent of students entered multiple search terms when researching a topic, and only 44 percent properly identified a statement that captured the demands of the assignment.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Wikiversity - Creating a course page

Creating a course page in wikiversity

1. Starting with your preferred basis for learning outcomes - such as National Learning Outcomes and Units of Competency - I like to use these standards as a starting point for creatinga Wikiversity page. I am starting with Peter Shanks progam which draws data from the Australian National Training Information Service, data out of their PDFs and RTF documents and representing it in more useful HTML and even

2. After locating the Unit Standard description, or the learning outcomes... I now go to Wikiversity to copy them across.

3. I did a search for the topic in Wikiversity and no entry close enough turned up. So I click the link asking if I would like to create this page.

4. Pasting what I have copied, one title at a time. Being sure to place single equals around main titles (=main title=) and double equals around subtitles (==subtitle==) and so on.

5. This has created now a contents table that links to the titles and subtitles in the page. Once the structure is in place - based on the Unit standard or agreed learning outcomes, its now a matter of entering content - which could be done with students during study times, or before the class or course starts.

Wikiversity - creating an account and profile

Creating a Wikiversity account and editing your profile

Text and image version for print below:

1. Go to and click your prefered language. In this example we use English.

2. In the top right of the site you will see a link to login or create and account. Click that link

4. If you have already created an account you can login here. If not then click the "create an account" link just about the login fields.

5. When creating a new account, be sure to answer the math problem as this helps Wikiversity determin that you are not a program designed to automatically create accounts for advertising purposes etc. Then proceed through the next fields for user name and password. Email is optional.

6. Depending on your browser, you will be asked if you would like to have your password remembered. It is generally best practice to say no to this question as there are programs designed to retrieve saved passwords from other peoples computers. This is especially the case for Internet Explorer uses.

7. Now that you are logged in, the top right of the site has links to your account settings. Click the link that is your user name.

9. This is where you add your details to create a profile for yourself. Click edit to add details.

10. Type in your details. Add single equal signs either side of words you want for main headings (=heading=) , double equal signs either side of words that you want to be sub headings (==subheading==). Single square bracketts make hyper links with the link first, then a space, then the words you wish to hypertext [ hypertext]. When finsihed, click save below the edit box

11. Note that the saved version now has your headings and subheading listed in a content box. Those content items go to anchored headings throughout the rest of the page.

In the next screencast I will show how to add an image to wikiversity pages.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Flogging the dead horse that died in the trough

There are times when I feel like my feedreader is talking to me... "go on Leigh, did you read that, its says what you say, say it again, here you go, read this, and this, and don't forget this, say it again..." Its a strange sensation hearing these little voices - am I going schitz? No its a reminder of how small our little band of web2/elearning2/networked learning enthusiasts are...

Chris Sessums has posted an extension to Will Richardson's frustrations at not seeing real changes in the educational settings he witnesses. Chris is suggesting Action Research as a way to help solve the problem. I suggested the same last year - but now I'm not so sure. I tend to think that action research (while admirable and certainly a method I would prefer working with) does not appreciate the extremely political and unfortunately hierarchical bureaucracy of institutionalised education. Such conditions in my opinion render results yielded through action research impotent. See DOPA and various educational departments banning all things Web 2 for a start. Then see mass implementation of learning management systems, intranet communications and secured content repositories for a second.

As regular readers of Learn Online know, I've chimed in on quite a few occasions when the despair for lost web2 potential in schools sets in. When I post a rant like the one about to follow, I always get the, "..but Leigh, you must be more patient", or "you're not seeing where the changes are happening.." not to mention the anonymous troll comments. Just quickly, I'd like to knock those first two off before I flog the dead horse laying in the trough again.

Patience is waiting to die
The internet has been around for over 10 years now, and by and large all I can see for it - in a tertiary ed sense - is vast quantities of money spent, I mean VAST quantities!! in content creation and "PD training", resulting in a clear majority of teachers who still don't know how to use a web browser effectively, who can't resize an image before they attach it to email, who struggle to see the potential of the read write web, and fail to see the use of wikipedia (if they've even heard of it) at first glance.. etc

And now whole education Departments are recoiling in fear - banning mobile devices, censoring the Internet, debating open source benefits but never trying it, then attending conferences on digital game based learning - simply for the political photoshoot with a celebrity.

Rather than me offering hyperlinked references to those sweeping statements above, how about you copy each of them and drop them into google and see what turns up. BTW, if you're blushing with the feeling that I might be looking at you when I write this - right clicking your mouse when you click those search results will give you the option to open the link in a new window - yes, you can have more than one website open at a time - but please, just do yourself a favour, get firefox. Tabbed browsing is just so much easier!

So, no - I don't have much patience left. I am seeing yet another communicative medium with immense potential, being lost to mediocre and mostly bureaucratic mud wallowing. I still have all the patience in the world for someone who wants me to show them how to set up a blog and edit a wiki, I have endless patience for people willing to give it a go. But I snap at people who have never honestly experienced themselves in the read write web - yet have all the cliche lines against it... "how can we verify it?", "how can I rely on this service", "how do you know its the truth?", "but we use Blackboard", "what about my privacy and intellectual property?", "why would I want the world to see me?" Amazing to think academic minds can be so unimaginative.

I see the positives
For a fella who reads an excruciating quantity of information coming online about education, and much of it filtered through the communiques of other people who passionately read through even more excruciating quantities of information - I'd say the chances of me catching the encouraging stories are farley high. When I see'm I post about them. So before you close this browser tab, or hit your IE back button (if you're teacher still struggling to learn how to browse) - please go back through my blog and try and find numerous pointers to exciting developments in small pockets of the world. I do see exciting stuff at times, but rarely is it ever from within the walls of a school, college or university.

I am someone who works in or for an institution tasked with helping to develop educational practices to be more in line with current and future trends not to mention potential. I get employed to help maintain the institution's relevance through change in practices (at least I think I do). And I do still believe that that this objective is important, despite my sound offs. I have they privilege of working first hand with a wide cross section of teachers from all types of subject areas. I have worked in this role at many different institutions for 5 years now.

Action not research

As much as I would love action research to be a means to which we might work to solve the serious shortfalls in teacher staff's digital and network literacy, I tend to agree with Stephen Parker when he focuses more on the hierarchy, trying to get management bye-in and modelling desired communicative behavior... before those managers go and cut off the tails of the few long tail teachers that are already read write web savvey.

Last Friday I had the pleasure to meet Jacob and Dawn McNulty from orbitalRPM. OrbitalRPM offers consultancy services to business and corporations on how to improve their staff training, general communications strategies and leverage informal learning. Jacob has apparently been lurking in my blog for some time now. He and Dawn recently married and chose New Zealand for their honeymoon. Good choice I reckon. Jacob, being a typical Web2 obsessive dragged poor Dawn to Dunedin so we could meet. Needless to say, it was a pleasure, we talked Web2 to each other based on our respective lines of work.

I was excited by Jacob's simple but perceptively effective idea of how to improve communication in an organisation and at the same time leverage informal learning via the networked learning model. He claims high millage for his thinking with client work he does, and I was certainly impressed enough to want to get him back here to talk to my own senior managers.

Like Stephen, Jacob reckons we must have managers and leaders modelling the desired behaviour, then offer incentives to subordinate staff to do the same. That is to communicate openly and frankly about their thinking, their job progress and their concerns. In other words to blog. There, now I (a subordinate) have no reason to say I have no idea what management are thinking, the minutes from their meetings will become more readable, hopefully to a point of interest and engagement that I might even WANT to read them, the public can see what we are up to and the newspaper can more easily gather their press releases.

Then the managers need to create incentives. Jacob and I talked a little about what this may look like and where it might come from - we thought the following was realistic:
  1. $200 per month bonus to every staff member who regularly maintains a blog for their work. In it should at least contain notes and reflections on training sessions and other learning, issues and concerns, ideas and solutions, links to resources etc.
  2. The money for this come from a fraction of the formal training budget. Call it small money for big informal learning.
  3. Coupled to this incentive are efforts to forge communicative networks between these blogs. Support agents who monitor the blogging and make introductions to emergent synergies.
The long and the short of this post is that action research will not achieve a speedy enough result, and while there is a disconnect between the workers and the bosses, change is made impotent. I think the modelled behaviour from leadership with incentives will set up the infrastructure and potential for an action research culture to develop.

I hope Jacob offers a more detailed idea to this post when he's back from honeymooning with Dawn.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Screen Hunter - a free, easy and fast way to take pictures of your screen

For a while now I've been thinking to return to the good old days of screencasting - plain old screen grabs with text. Easy to follow along to (so long as the person creating the screencast is thorough) and very portable when printed. Video is quick and easy for the creator, and handy for people who just want to get the scope of something, but when detailed step by step stuff is required (say, for complete newbies) then I think the good old screen grab is needed.

A long time ago Vivian Evans pointed me to ScreenHunter Free for Windows. I never really got into it at the time, I think I was searching for a free video screen recorder, but in my born again screengrab thinking a went and fetched it this time and boy is it light and fast. It is a free and simple little application that will initiate when the key of your choice is pressed. It will either capture the screen, an active window or a region of your choosing, then automatically turn it into either a JPG, GIFF, or BMP image file and save it where you set it to save. It makes for rapid screengrabbing compared to having to paste into an image editor.

Here's a demo:

Go to the website: and choose the Free option.

Find the little blue button for Downloading

Fill in your details (just an email address will do) and click the "join and download" button.

From the list of options find the option ScreenHunter 4.0 Free and click the link ending in .exe This will set your computer to download an .exe file which is generally a file for installing software. Sometimes virus software comes as exe, which is why your computer will probably ask you if you are sure you want to open the downloaded file and install the program. Just say yes and you will get a new window which is the start of the installation process.

Go through the easy steps to install ScreenHunter.

After the installation process is finished (and it is a very quick process so don't blink) you will see a window with three tabs across the top. Tab one is displaying and it is called "From". In this tab are option for you to set such as which key would you like to use when wanting to take a picture of your screen and what region of the screen would you like to picture.

The "To" tab has settings for what type of image file you would like the picture to be saved as. I have chosen JPG which is a very common file type for pictures - especially photos. The "To" tab also has the setting for which folder you would like to send your screengrabs to. I have mine set to go to the desktop.

Once you have set up ScreenHunter, press the key you designated as the photo button and click OK when the little window pops up to confirm.

There! quick as a flash you have a series of images taken from the computer screen.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Shaggy Rules!

I just got off the phone with Peter Shanks, creator of the Training Packages Unpacked tool. It is a system that reaches into the MSAccess data base of the Australian National Training Information Service NTIS (a place that manages expressions of Australian competency standards or training units for qualification), and pulls it out of the PDFs and RTFS and redisplays the information that teachers and learners need on a web page for us web people to more easily reuse. Then he goes the full 9 yards and makes the newly formatted data available for those of us using wikis, Moodle, html, XML and an assessment spreadsheet. Now its just a simple process of finding the competency unit you are using for learning, teaching or assessment and copy pasting your prefered format into your prefered system.

Here's me extracting out an overly verbose unit statement from the Training and Assessment package - Design and Develop Learning Resources. Now, it is still a big wad of text, but now it is in Wikiversity where I and many others can chop down and make it more realistic. Peter and I agree that this statement alone should be enough for people to structure their learning around. Students could work together building up this wikiversity entry with resources and the like.

Here's the audio of Peter and I talking about all this today (3.5meg - 30 minutes - ogg file). I couldn't get an MP3 through to Podomatic or Odeo, security settings here prevented my uploading it. But a through way to Wikimedia commons who rightly only accept open standard media formats like Ogg was A OK.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Excellent video about web2 and web3

Graham Stanely has published an excellent video that overviews educational uses and ideas of Web2.0 and Web3D. Quite useful if you are still introducing people to the concepts, or trying to motivate people to stay on it.

Many thanks Barbara Dieu for sending this through.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Good bye computer

At last! an alternative to this back breaking, arse flattening, nerdy looking laptop interface!

Nokia's N770, Internet tablet.

It's the versatile Wi-Fi web browser with possibilities to spare. The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet is built on a Linux-based open source platform, which means you've got the power to transform your device into virtually anything. Now your options are as wide open as your imagination.

Internet Calling

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet includes pre-installed Google Talk, Google's free instant messaging service that lets you chat and make calls using Voice Over IP technology. The upgraded software platform also supports SIP-based VoIP solutions, perfect for broadband business use.

Instant Messaging

Whatever your instant messenger of choice, the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet will keep you connected to your buddy list when you're on the go. With Gaim, a multi-platform instant messenger service, you've got instant access to friends and co-workers while you're out and about.

The Gaim port for the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet supports the following clients:

  • AOL Instant Messenger
  • Yahoo! Messenger
  • MSN Messenger
  • Gadu-Gadu
  • ICQ (via OSCAR)
  • Internet Relay Chat
  • Jabber (XMPP)

  • Lotus Sametime
  • Novell GroupWise
  • OpenNAP
  • Zephyr
  • SILC
  • Google Talk, IM only (using the Jabber protocol)
  • QQ, 3rdparty plugin

RSS Reader

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet's desktop comes equipped with an intuitive RSS reader, designed to render feed items with ease. The device supports scheduled retrieval and gives you a convenient way to check headlines at a glance. And by downloading the latest version of FBreader, you can turn your Nokia 770 Internet Tablet into a handy e-book reader — choose up to 18,000 free texts to peruse on the go.


Enjoy your favorite video clips stored on your device, memory card, or streaming from the web. The large format, high-resolution screen and on-board speakers (with headset jack) deliver a movie-going experience on the go. There's even a built-in USB 2.0 for easy uploading and downloading.

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet supports the following file formats:

Video: 3GP, AVI, H.263, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, RV (Real Video)


It's the ultimate mobile music player. Listen to music tracks and other audio files stored on your device, memory card, or streaming via the web. The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet's audio player supports many popular sound formats and enables you to create and manage all your playlists. Just plug your favorite set of headphones into the 3.5mm headset jack and you're ready to rock. And if you're looking for a bigger sound, you can hook up your device to your compatible home stereo system. You can also enjoy a wide variety of Internet radio channels streaming anytime, day or night.

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet supports the following file formats:

Audio: AAC, AMR, MP2, MP3, RA (Real Audio), WAV, WMA
Internet Radio Playlists: M3U, PLS


The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet offers a number of options for text input. On-screen, users can choose from a full-screen fingerboard, a half-screen stylus-tap keypad, or handwriting recognition. Bluetooth HID support also gives users the option of an external Bluetooth keyboard, purchased separately.

The full-screen fingerboard enables users to write longer text, like emails and documents, in a convenient and natural way. The QWERTY interface mimics that of a regular PC or laptop keyboard, making text input simple.

An edit menu gives you quick access to copy, cut, and paste functions, while the handy special character mode lets you enter in symbols and foreign language characters. An optional predictive text system makes typing fast and easy. Both keyboard functions also support typing in multiple languages at the same time, and a numeric keypad allows for the quick entry of numbers.

In handwriting recognition mode, the movement of the pen is recorded and compared to a library of characters. When a match is found, the character is input to the text field. The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet recognizes several different handwriting styles, but you can also train the device to recognize your personal style with a built-in training program.

So, what I wanna know is: can I plug in a monitor and hardrive for when I need to do a big type up? and does it take a microphone?

Please please please be so!

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Another free video encoder. It is amazing how many formats SuperC can encode to and from. A must have on your PC, ready for you-never-know-when.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

SMH - Youtube in Melbourne School - Stephen Hutcheon counters Catherine Munro

Stephan Ridgeway alerted me to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that is definately worth looking at - Youtube is a class act - a refreshing look at the positive adaptation of undeniably popular communication into some Australian school curriculum. Certainly a more informative counter to an earlier SMH article that should shame not only the paper and its 'journalist', but a doctor, the NSW Department of Education and some schools.

Stephen Hutchinson, a technology and society journalist worth following up on has told of a Melbourne School students,

...dissecting the fare on the world's most popular video-sharing website, they're creating their own mini movies and uploading them onto the site.

In fact they are doing interesting market research by the sounds of it

His class is about halfway through an eight-week project in which students - with parental consent - compile and upload videos to YouTube.

Then they wait and watch to see which ones take off and which sink without a trace - as is the lot of most of the 65,000 videos that are uploaded to the site daily.

They examine how, for instance, one of their videos with the title Hot Chix rates compared with another one called Funniest Cats You'll EVER See!!.

And its Funniest Cats' that is in the lead!!

Make sure you follow the link to the blog entry that supports the article for some interesting questions to Stephen from the students (on youtube video of course) which Stephen answers by text of course :)

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