Thursday 26 April 2007

Moodle VLE . . . or is it?

Have a look at these two links:




Monday 23 April 2007

Through the glass, darkly

Landed on tumblr which may provide one solution for my problem in what to suggest instead of Blogger. Only had a quick look and grabbed the nice address while I was there which I shall now proceed to experiment with. Not sure how the RSS feed works but it certainly looks simple, very simple, and clear and is another way for any of you to publish stuff like this.

Thursday 19 April 2007

Why Blogger gets banned

Just returned from a very interesting Web Technologies Day, organised by RSC Eastern, at which I was, as ever, keen to get people using web logs and talking about how Blogger makes this pretty simple and how the built-in RSS feed can be used to weave a bit of magic. I was initially dismayed to find that urls were blocked by the venue (an FE institution) but they were kind enough to remove them for us on this occasion. What I hadn't appreciated before, though, was the reason for the block in the first place. That is the 'Next Blog' feature that is built in to a navigation bar that comes with all the templates. This is a bizarre and, in my view, totally useless feature, taking people to another random blog which could throw virtually anything onto the user's screen. I've written to the Blogger people to suggest that this is revised at the very least and preferably removed as I can't see how anyone finds it of any value.

Just as I don't want young or easily-offended people in my sessions to get offensive material thrust at them when they might just have thought it was my next blog or another on an associated topic that would be presented, so too, I imagine would someone with a passion for, say, Something Deep & Dark be particular happy with my e-learning ramblings popping up between Revues of Gothic Blackness and Even Darker In The Night or whatever their taste may be.

Anyway, there are ways to edit the template that I've discovered and you'll see that the whole bar has disappeared on this blog but (a) it's fiddly and (b) I've lost the useful Dashboard link so it's not ideal. I also understand that the contract entered into upon setting up a Blogger account does require that users retain specified features of the navigation bar but it does not appear to specify that one has to include the annoying links and I would relish the publicity that Blogger banning me for not showing the bar as I don't think I have much choice.

So, if you want to know how to do it I can supply some instructions but what I really hope is that Blogger see sense and, at least, make the Next Blog an optional thing. If they don't, and in anticipation that they won't, I am now on the look out for an alternative web log provider that is as simple to use and which can be simply edited, can incorporate the same types of additional content and also looks good. Suggestions much appreciated and I'll let readers know what happens.

Wednesday 11 April 2007

slides with a difference

Slideshows ancient and modern

Another addition to the webtools site soon will be With a bit of luck there'll be some pretty flowers above in a display made in just a few minutes with that tool. Substitute pics of students doing things or some course-related visuals and you've got a nice change to PowerPoint.

Don't get me wrong, PowerPoint is one of the Microsoft greats, its oldest features being, in my view, some of its best - like being able to make quick graphics and save them has got me out of trouble time and again when there's no familiar image editing applications for students in classrooms and it's an excellent way to fill the screen with something attention-grabbing.

However, just try figuring out animations and orders and the rest for something like the show above, never mind putting on-line for everyone to see at their leisure. That would take more than a few minutes!

For an imminent webtools session or two I'm using another alternative - Thumbstacks. Very simple, no special effects but I love the way you can just do it there, on the screen, and it's there, wherever you can access the internet.

Wednesday 4 April 2007

I keep remembering things I forgot to include

. . . in the new Webtools site, that is. Think I might call it Webtools2.0 for a while because I'm doing an event soon with a worrying title that includes the words Web2.0 technologies. Ah, but that would then imply that I know what web2.0 is which I'm not sure I do. Hmmm. The point is I spent many nights burning the old midnight oil on this and you ought to have a look at least. Only published it a couple of days ago and there have been 930 page views already which beats anything else I've done so hopefully someone somewhere got inspired and will be making a better impression in class after the break.

I can just see it now: that usually apparently ICT-illiterate old lecturer who normally heaves the OHT from the window cill and passes that huge pile of still-warm photocopies of some book pages to the poor lad whose name just happens to land him in the front row left or right and the next ten minutes are taken up by the sound of transparencies slithering around and notes being passed around - but this time he walks in, naked, in a manner of speaking and drops a url into the stunned silence or slaps a really smart-looking web page on the screen. "How did you do that, Sir?" someone asks. The emphasis could be on any of the first five words.

There's the usual brief descriptions of what things with mostly pretty odd names and pastel logos are supposed to do and I'm hoping that people will use the Comment links to add something about what they might to or even have done. That bit's possible thanks to a wiki - pbwiki are really making life easy in that respect - and one or two other interactive features courtesy of Google's Notes and Labpixies' Todo list.

And yes, I'm sure I'll have omitted someone's favourite - so don't whinge, just tell me and I'll do my best to remember to add it. Incidentally, there's something called the Curriculum Champs list here in the UK where some really clever people recently listed their choices of software and I've tried to include as many of their suggestions. Trouble was, over half of them were quite expensive things so I couldn't include them. All the stuff I've added is free, almost entirely ad-free and most of it doesn't need any special knowledge or complicated downloads / installations but works on the web wherever you happen to be.

Hope you find something inspiring.