Archive for the ‘Ed Tech use’ Category

What I’ve been up to.

Friday, June 24th, 2016

The blog has been dark for while, mainly because I have been flat out.

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

  • I have moved offices three times.
  • Arranged the purchase of about 40K worth of EdTech gear.
  • Equipped and fitted out micro studio.
  • Designed the layout and wrote most of the content for our faculty Teaching and Learning intranet.
  • Plus the usual Ed Tech, Moodle, video and instruction design support, committee involvement and small side projects.

Hopefully I’ll get some clear time soon.

The best of 2015 Rounds

Friday, December 18th, 2015

I have been flat out and haven’t’ had time to post but there are some 2015 round ups

You Tubes 2015 Rewind

TechCrunch’s Favorite Things Of 2015

News.coms Best gadgets of 2015

Tom’s Guide 100 Gift ideas

Have a good holiday.

Hangouts are now a bit more useful.

Friday, November 20th, 2015

“Starting today, we’re making this feature even more useful by removing the requirement that guests have a Google account in order to join a Hangouts video call. Here’s how it works: guests without a Google account who have been provided with the video call link by the organizer will be asked to provide their name and then request to join the call.”

Weekend Funny – 27 Professors Who Got The Last Laugh

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

I’m a big believer in using humour in our teaching.  Buzzfeed has collected a few examples.

This teacher's very effective anti-cheating method.

Shove Chrome extension – good for practical jokes but maybe also lectures.

Thursday, October 15th, 2015


There’s an insane new Chrome extension called “Shove” that we’re sure nobody’s going to misuse. As spotted by Wired, it lets you drop a web page onto your friend’s browser, and vice-versa.  … however, it’s strictly opt-in. Once both parties agree, they can open up links in each others’ browsers anytime.”

First, I would not use this app with my sons or either brother.  My younger brother occasionally calls friends during church or in the cinema just to see if they have left their ringtone on.  It’s funny when it’s not you.

But imagine you are running a live Q&A event.  It could be very useful to have an off-sider quickly hunting up answers or resources and posting them straight to your screen or the projector.

Tech giants stab at Flash with pointy sticks

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Actually that’s not really the headline.   Some of the big players (Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix, but not Apple or FB) are coming together to create an open source video format for internet video that they don’t have to pay royalties to use.

flash stick

They are actually poking at  H.265 (the successor to H.264)  put together by  ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group and ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG).

I’m not sure what this means for us in education?  Backwards compatibility is paramount for us.  Will Firefox and Chrome bail on the older H.264 video (e.g. MP4) .  How easy will it be to convert our current resources to the new format?

Here’s a basic report from Wired

Those with a technical bent might want to read this

The Streaming Industry Gangs up on HEVC with the Alliance for Open Video

Weekend funny – selfie fails

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

selfie fail

(you know this isn’t going to end well)

Robot tutor – not as cool as it sounds (but it’s free)

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Actually only Wired magazine called it a robot.  It’s actually’s adaptive learning platform.

Basically,  students enter some info about learning preferences and the system hunts though it’s collection of resources for something that matches it.  If the student gets a question wrong the system finds a simpler resource.

It’s not that ground breaking, but what it does have is a large collection to resources that anyone can add to, and it’s now free (it was previously available via publishers like Pearson). figures out what each student knows and how each student learns best, to pinpoint the type of content, level of difficulty, and which media format each student needs. Its technology can take any free open content, algorithmically calibrate it, and bundle it into a uniquely personalized lesson for each student at any moment.

Anyone who wants to learn or teach a subject can use helps teachers, tutors and parents provide more personalized lessons. Students at any level can reach their academic goals at their own pace, and get extra help or more advanced lessons.

Upmarket Hangouts get supersized at Harvard

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Harvard Business School‘s HBX digital learning initiative today launched a virtual classroom designed to reproduce the intimacy and synchronous interaction of the case method in a digital environment.

Built to mimic the amphitheater-style seating of an HBS classroom, the HBX Live Studio features a high-resolution video wall that can display up to 60 participants. Additional students can audit sessions via an observer model. An array of stationary and roaming cameras capture the action, allowing viewers to see both the professor and fellow students.

hbx live 2

hbx live

My first impression is this looks very cool.  A slick digital performance space that allows student interaction.

My second thought is where did they get the cash to build it and fund the ongoing running costs (3 people in the booth?!?).  There is no way this is feasible unless you have insane levels of external funding (like maybe Harvard)

My third thought is what is it actually achieving?  Isn’t it just a big shiny Hangout?   It seems to be designed to replicate an environment that is familiar to the academic.  The students are still just looking at a (very well filmed) person on a computer monitor.

My fourth is it’s still dependent on the one thing we are short of which is good facilitator/presenters.  Actually if we want to do this  via a screen we probably need people with TV/drama training.

In a select entry MBA like Darden you could probably pull this off, but I suspect in an undergrad setting you’d have half the students on the video wall, reading Facebook and checking to see if the person on the third screen over is on Tinder.

Still, I like the idea.

I could be a good option if you are running a TV production company and looking for a side business in Distance Ed.  Maybe it’s something to think about if you are rebuilding your Performing Arts/Journalism facilities.

Thinking about it, I reckon I could probably pull of something similar for about $6K upfront (not including the laptop).  And there’d be no ongoing costs

  • Streaming hdmi video camera
  • Lapel mic or shot gun mic
  • Streaming Box (Magewell USB3 to HMDI converter)
  • Data projector to project the Hangout student view
  • Swyvl tracking camera stand.
  • Cheap set of studio lights from ebay

I’ve got some gear on order and I might have a go at doing this later in the year.  I’ll post it on YouTube when it’s done.

Some tips for buying a teaching video camera

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

The first thing to say is dollar for dollar, any current camera is better than the 5 year old one you may be using now.   I’m not going to provide an exhaustive list of features, just a few things that could trip up.

Panasonic HC-X920 3D Ready HD 3MOS Digital Camcorder with Wi-fi (black)

My basic premise is you want a camera that the average academic can use to record an event in a lecture theatre.   Best quality for the minimum effort.

  • Records in MP4 format – Staff should be able to put a compressed file straight into Moodle or YouTube with out doing any conversion.  Most cameras do this, but not all, and some of their formats don’t work well in some programs e.g. Camtasia is finicky about audio codecs (AC3) and Windows Movie Maker can’t handle the High Definition format MTS used in most major brands.
  • Fold out view finder that turns 180 degrees so people ca see themselves – this is pretty much standard now but check for it anyway
  • Has a physical remote control – This removes the need to clip the start and finish of your recording.  Staff can sit down, get their hair right, and take a deep breath before pushing the record button.  It turns out this is probably the main thing that will limit your options.    Many cameras now use OS and Android apps, which is fine if you are lending out a smart phone with each camera, and providing instructions on how to sync up the devices.

And don’t forget a tripod.  You don’t need a top of the range item, but don’t go too cheap.  Aluminum tripods are fairly rugged and cheap.  Personally I prefer having a mid level spreader for more stability.  Make sure the head doesn’t make any noise when you move it around.

If you have you own tips, let me know.

Audio is also important but I’ll deal with that later.