Archive for April, 2012

Lecture Video link hardware

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Here’s how we set up our webcams for the lecture video link.   Custom mounting a webcam isn’t a new idea, there are plenty of ‘Maker’ style sites with instructions.

We’re using 2 Logitech c525 HD webcams.  They have a swivel mount so we can turn them toward the audience during question time.

webcam tripod

We’re using flexible tripods (Gorilla pods) to allow for our atypical sloping lecturns.  They also have detachable tripod mounts.

webcam tripod1

I drilled hole in the base plate with 5.5mm drill bit.  The base is metal so you need a high speed drill and a sharp bit.  You need to aim for just below the logo or you push out a small cover plate on the other side.

webcam tripod2

Screw in the tripod mount.  You need to strong hand to do this.  A 6mm drill bit might do the job better but we wanted a tight fit.

webcam tripod3

The finished job.

webcam tripod4

More about robots

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Audrey Watters (who is one smart person) has a post on the University of Akron’s robot essay grader paper.  Tossing Sabots into the Automated Essay Grading Machine

It provides a good overview of the issue from both sides.


My personal hightlights are:

Comment IV

This is an example of an absurd answer that recieve 6/10.

It opens with the statement

“In today’s society, college is ambiguous. We need it to live, but we also need it to love. Moreover, without college most of the world’s learning would be egregious.”

Check out the automated feedback, which includes this statement

“* Uses grammar and mechanics correctly (virtually free of errors) and demonstrates understanding of correct usage”

Comment VII

“Robots can give a grade. That grade, according to the study by Shermis and Hamner, approximates that of a human. But a human can offer so much more than just a grade. And without feedback – substantive, smart, caring, thoughtful, difficult feedback – what’s the point?”

Comment VIII

“What do we want from students’ essay writing? Why do we assign them? What are we assessing? Critical thinking? Grammar? Persuasiveness? Vocabulary? Content knowledge? Comma placement?”

One step closer to a robot teacher.

Monday, April 16th, 2012

My teaching side is battling with my geek side over this.

Is this a reflection of advancements in Artificial Intelligence or the inadequacies of our production line assessment processes.

“can a machine that cannot draw out meaning, and cares nothing for creativity or truth, really match the work of a human reader.

In the quantitative sense: yes, according to a study released Wednesday by researchers at the University of Akron.”


“The Akron education dean acknowledges that AES software has not yet been able to replicate human intuition when it comes to identifying creativity. But while fostering original, nuanced expression is a good goal for a creative writing instructor, many instructors might settle for an easier way to make sure their students know how to write direct, effective sentences and paragraphs.

“If you go to a business school or an engineering school, they’re not looking for creative writers,” Shermis says. “They’re looking for people who can communicate ideas. And that’s what the technology is best at” evaluating.”

Even email from ‘friends’ can be sus!

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

“This is spear phishing, a rapidly proliferating form of fraud that comes with a familiar face: messages that seem to be from co-workers, friends or family members, customized to trick you into letting your guard down online. And it has turned into a major problem, according to technology companies and computer security experts.”

Basically never send passwords or financial details to anyone in response to an email and never click on any links in the email.   If you’re not sure ring them to confirm first.

Jobs vs marks

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Will Work for Beer

A 2009 US study suggests that full-time students who are working fewer than 20 hours a week  may, in fact, have a higher grade point average than their jobless peers.   And, this is mainly for “beer money” or other non-tuition expenses.

Present stats without rendering your students comatose

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Another reason for getting a Gmail account

Motion Chart

If you want to see how it could change the way you present stats in a lecture have a look at

iBooks/iAuthor, not all they’re hyped up to be?

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

A little while ago Apple announced their iBooks / iBookstore / iAuthor take over of the education text book market.

Most eLearning / edtech people where underwhelmed and unconvinced, but saw it as something cool to keep an eye on.

I personnally hoped they would set the bar for open source developers.

It may be that apps not iAuthor are be the best option for innovative text book developers who work in an iPad walled garden.  I suppose this begs the question, what is the difference between an innovative, interactive ‘etext’ and an a full blown eLearning resource.  What is the role of a hard copy in this scenario?  Given the proliferation of student wireless devices do how much hard copies matter and for how long?

Publishers Struggle with iBooks vs. App Problem