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February, 2011

  1. Dancing with standards

    February 26, 2011 by Robin Englebright

    I have spent an awful lot of time over the past 3 years picking through the minutiae of specifications as they are developed, and progress toward standardisation. 

    It’s quite a consuming passion, and has permanently changed the way I work turning me into something of a pedantic ditherer; at once obsessed with detail and yet infuriatingly vague.
    I’ve just read a quote by a Mozilla developer which struck a chord, and thought it worth sharing.

    Implementations and specifications have to do a delicate dance together. You don’t want implementations to happen before the specification is finished, because people start depending on the details of implementations and that constrains the specification. However, you also don’t want the specification to be finished before there are implementations and author experience with those implementations, because you need the feedback. There is unavoidable tension here, but we just have to muddle on through … I think we’re doing OK.”

  2. #SWaNI what’s happening?

    February 11, 2011 by Robin Englebright

    Prompted by Steve Boneham’s very fine blog post, I thought I should really “eat my own dogfood”, and get on with posting information about the SWaNI programme as a whole.

    SWaNI LTIG? Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, Further Education Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants is an offshoot of the wider JISC LTIG programme. A total of £500,000 (up to £50k per project) was available for one year projects dealing with any aspect of e-Learning.

    From 32 initial submissions, 14 were invited to prepare a full bid, 11 of these submitted proposals and 7 projects have been approved for funding.

    The projects are just getting started, but as soon as there’s stuff to post I’ll add it to the blog.

    View SWaNI LTIG Projects in a larger map

    Name of Lead Institution

    Name of Project


    Reid Kerr College


    The project aims to create a range of templates and evidence how collaborative games can improve attainment levels of vocational learners by increasing their level of collaboration and engagement when they are undertaking theory based elements of their courses.  

    Coleg Sir Gâr

    SWANI (Smart Work-based learning Administration through Networked Information)

    The SWANI Project aims to transform the work-based learning management processes at Coleg Sir Gâr from the current paper-based system to an online networked system, provide a sharable EA model, and from this build an robust evidence base to promote the acceptance of electronic signatures to the Wales Assembly Government and Estyn. 

    Coleg Gwent

    MOtIvATE: MObile messagIng And communiTy Education

    The Community Education GCSE provision in the Greater Gwent area suffers from retention issues with learners, although those who complete the course are successful.

    The project proposes to investigate the use of mobile messaging to enhance learner support and teaching & learning strategies in this area, as well as identifying and overcoming possible barriers in using this technology in Community Education Settings. 

    Coleg Llandrillo Cymru

    Using peer eGuides to promote digital literacy (PEDL)

    The project aims to  promote digital literacy amongst students within the FE sector (including students studying HE in FE), through the use of peer eGuides. Implemented through training/support of students to become eGuides and by providing support to tutors and students on digital literacy issues. 

    Pembrokeshire College

    Without a Paddle

    The project aims to test the transferability of the Minimally invasive education environment trialled by Sugata Mitra in India, to other contexts. The project will use mobile devices to investigate how extant apps, designed for a multitude of purposes can be repurposed to support different learning outcomes. The project will present a configuration of apps to learners via a smart phone with a little or no explanatory context and hopes to stimulate the learner to develop initiative, problem solving and research skills.

    Jewel & Esk College (JEC)

    Synchronous Web Enabled Employee Training (SWEET)

    The SWEET project will investigate the impact of providing  employers and employees access to online training and qualifications through OSS video conferencing solution, BigBlueButton, for synchronous learning. This will allow traditionally low-skilled and low-qualified employees to engage in a classroom experience, without leaving the workplace, thus reducing barriers to participation.

    North West Regional College

    Try before you apply

    Try Before You Apply is a project that will investigate the benefits of developing an online, pre-entry course test-drive area to give prospective College students a flavour of the courses they are considering applying for. The theory is that by immersion in  College life, on a prospective course, learners will be better able to make an informed choice, improving course selection decisions, and increasing retention.

    1.     Full details of the projects will be posted on the JISC site:

  3. ILT Champions

    February 7, 2011 by Robin Englebright

    As I’ve mentioned here before, the ILT Champions list was set up at the turn of the century (what a strange thought) by Becta as part of an embedded peer support initiative. Champs went on a short training course, received a huge folder of resources, and were added to the champ-curriculum JISCMAIL list.

    The list remains as a vibrant community of very savvy individuals, and is often the first port of call for advice and guidance on a whole range of technology topics.

    As list admin, I promised a while back to try and summarise the activity every month, to act as a reminder for those on the list, and a resource for those not on the list.

    If you support the use of technology in FE in the UK and think you might benefit from joining the list drop me an email.


    Summary of posts to the list in January 2011

    We currently have 593 subscribers, this number has been stable at around 580-650 for the past 6 years or so.

    This month we’ve had around 300 posts from 90 individual posters, which compares to the usual 200 posts from around 120 posters.

    Last time I looked we had folk from about 75% of UK colleges, and reps from all partners. Over the years that has changed as some have moved role, college or in extreme cases continent.


    I’ve done a very basic summary of the posts, I think next month I’ll try and be a little more informative, but if there’s anything that tickles your fancy you can always go and look at the archives: (if you are a member of champs list)


    I think “poster” of the month has to be the lovely Dave Foord who provided lots of links to resources, going that little bit further. 


    Dave Foord



    >A request for examples of monitoring software to track A level student progress, provided the following solutions:


    Using ALPS data,

    Inhouse system :


    >BETT highlights:

    Trolleys, IWB’s and voting systems from unfamiliar providers, 3D TV’s projectors, throngs of Euro visitors, STEM centres, RM Slate


    >A request for blogging tools for use by staff, to host in house resulted in a discussion on the merits of internal vs external hosting. Possible internal solutions included wordpress, which has a wealth of various themes and plugins making it very configurable. A new version of the flexible Joomla platform released on Jan 13th provided similar breadth of function. There are blogging functions already in Blackboard, Moodle and Mahara, and tools in IFLs Reflect. 


    >A discussion took place about inspection and the level of access provided to Ofsted inspectors. Tracking of accounts provided show very little use. This isn’t surprising, as inspectors want to see the impact on learning, rather than resources, but there is a wealth of engagement they miss. 


    >Moodle 2 roll outs are being reviewed, but as Moodle 2 has a substantially different approach in many ways, it’s not a simple incremental update, and will require a deal of end user support.


    >A request for ESOL game templates prompted suggestions of using NLN materials and:  


    >Excellence gateway case studies now on Delicious:


    >There was a discussion about using MS and Google office solutions, MS is transforming into with a range of price points.


    >A suggestion to run an informal champs conference in the North of England was well received with 2 colleges offering to host it, and over 30 people willing to attend in principle. The JISCmail survey tool used to gather the data wasn’t quite so well received, being blocked by several institutions, and requiring a login to access.


    >There was a request for a link to an IMS Content package player, and was suggested.


    >Suggestions were requested for Interactive resources for accounting. Xerte was suggested as a roll your own solution:,as was Excel, Accountancy Plus have a demo of their materials on a moodle instance.


    >There was a request for useful ipod/touch apps, suggestions included a list created as part of a molenet project including Literacy, numeracy, and accessibility, and the Connsense bulletin


    >Promethean IWB pens were discussed, replacement tips are apparently available free of charge from promethean: Solutions for lost pens included wiring them on retractable dog leads, or issuing to teachers.


    >There was concern over news that JISC services funding may be withdrawn from 6th form colleges, due to Government departmental cost saving exercises. The lack of strategy and communication was making it hard to plan. The issues were taken up by various list members.


    >Concerns were raised about the commercialisation of the molenet services. Letters received by list members were discussed and there seemed little appetite for a paid service model.


    >Maxos – moodle and Xerte on a stick was highlighted as a useful tool for trying out technology, Thomas Rochford of RSC Eastern, was lauded for creating this.


    >A request for motor vehicle resources resulted in a brief discussion about LJ Create, and offers from users to demonstrate them. Links to IMI and HSE were also provided


    >Suggestions for a tool suitable for use with staff bulletins centred on WordPress, with subscription widget , or the glogster tool


    >Suggestions for a wiki tool to use with students included Free wikidot , PBwiki free for instructional use, wikispaces which is ad free for educational use,  

    and a guide on use


    >presentations and resources,from the Online conference 2010 available on the JISC website for general viewing:


    >There was a request to identify alternatives to camtasia as screen capture software. Screenr was suggested  with examples on how to use to create learning objects

    >There was a long discussion around the best solutions for streaming and managing video, which devolved into a discussion on what licences actually allow. The outcome was that the whole area is confusing, and there are no simple solutions. JISC Legal provide a good sounding board.


    >Suggestions for Sports and Public services resources suggested using the list. The round 4 life science NLN materials are good, the earlier Round 2 sports one less good. shows how to take images out of the NLN materials to put into your own resources.


    >There was a demand for information detailing students views and expectations of technology in their education, a link was provided to


    > There was a polarised discussion regarding PC booking, with some advocating a free system, which liberated staff, and others advocating bookings which focussed the use of equipment. Favourable mentions for iCAM, MyPC and Netloan.


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