Toshiba Tablet PC

ToshibaA couple of days ago, I was grateful recipient of a new Toshiba Portégé M700-100 Tablet PC. In a previous job, I used a HP Compaq Tablet PC TC1100, so this isn’t my first experience with this particular technology.

Though I’ve not spent much time using the Portégé yet, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far. The display is bright and clear, applications open in milliseconds and I’ve got it connected to a variety of wireless networks, VPNs and printers without any problems. Whilst getting to grips with Microsoft Windows Vista Business Edition has proved to be a little challenging – mostly in the form of Windows updates! – on the whole, it has been a case of so far, so good.

I understand that Microsoft Office OneNote 2007 is the application that I should be using when it comes to using the pen, but I’ve not been particularly adventurous so far with it, preferring to stay to the time being with the keyboard. I’m also intending to install SMART Notebook software to see how the Tablet PC can be used in conjunction with an interactive whiteboard.

If anyone reading this has any experience of Tablet PCs in a learning and teaching context, and has any tips or advice to share, please do get in touch!

JISC Conference 2008: Enabling Innovation

Yesterday, I attended the JISC Conference 2008 at the International Conference Centre in Birmingham. Having last attended the conference a couple of years ago in a different guise (i.e. as a student!), I was interested to see how the work that the JISC, and others, had moved on since I was last there. Some of my observations from the day follow.

The conference began with an introduction from Sir Ron Cooke, the JISC Chair, who emphasised the challenge of keeping up the rate of change in technology and the efforts JISC were making to address this. In particular, he addressed the growing importance of green computing and the impact this was having on some of JISC’s work. More information on this can be found in Issue 21 of JISC Inform. The Strategic Content Alliance was introduced; its aim is to “build a common information environment where users of publicly funded e-content can gain best value from the investment that has been made by reducing the barriers that currently inhibit access, use and re-use of online content.”

The opening keynote was delivered by the very entertaining Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, the producer of films such as Chariots of Fire, and now Chancellor of the Open University. He mentioned that when he first started in the film industry, that 90% of people were employed full time by the industry with only 10% classed as freelance. Today, these two figures have switched. Two generations from now, Lord Puttnam believes that the notion of a permanent job will no longer exist; in fact, it will be a “complete rarity”. He also remarked that the internet has opened up new and far ranging forms of peer review, and that somehow, this needs to be managed.

For the morning session, I attended the session titled e-Learning: Realising and Sharing Benefits [PDF slides]. Gill Ferrell from JISC Info Net began by highlighting the CAMEL project. This opening with then followed by three presenters from different institutions who gave examples of how e-Learning resources had been created to support learning and teaching. The presentation which most interested me was delivered by Chris Hall, a Learning Technologist at the University of Swansea, who talked about the creation of vodcasts for Archaeology undergraduates. The vodcasts (images supplemented by an audio track, created using iMovie) gave students a tour around a historical artefacts in Greece. The next stage of the project is looking at putting together a construction kit to help lecturers to create their own vodcasts, rather than rely heavily on the central support team.

During the afternoon, I attended the session titled Changing Student Experience and Expectation of ICT [PDF slides]. Sir David Melville (ex-VC of the University of Kent) began by introducing the notion of the Google Generation, those digital natives who were born post-1993. He highlighted that 65% of prospective higher education students now make use of social networking websites such as Facebook, whilst only 5% of students have not engaged with any such tools. More information on the work Sir David is involved in can be found both on the JISC Student Expectations study website and also the Changing Learner Experience wiki. Helen Beetham, a Consultant in e-Learning in the JISC e-Learning Programme followed this by talking briefly about effective e-Learners. One presentation slide in particular caught my eye- below is only an excerpt.

  • Many learners use wireless and mobile devices, communication technologies, social software and online information services to help fit learning into their lives.
  • Some learners are effectively blending formal and informal, online, face-to-face, collaboration and individual learning.
  • Some learners are skills in content creation, through using tools/technologies such as blogs, wikis and podcasting.

Students are also beginning to make informed choices about their learning.

  • Where do I want to learn?
  • Who do I want to work with?
  • What technologies can I use to support my learning?

My friend Jane Shuyska from the Department of Education at the University of Oxford gave an introduction to the Thema project, which is seeking to explore “the experiences of Masters students in technology-rich environments”. Jane mentioned the biggest online time thieves for Masters students: Facebook, Email and WILF-ing (“What Was I Looking For?”).

The closing keynote of the conference was presented by Angela Beesley, the Founder of Wikia [PDF slides]. Where Wikipedia serves to be an encyclopedia, Wikia is planned to be “the rest of the library”. Wikia Search is their next big project, though this will take some time before it is really effective. Angela also gave an insight into the future of Wikis.

Whereas wikis are predominantly text based currently, the future might be slightly different.

  • Richer formats e.g. video, images, diagrams
  • Semantic web, leading to more structured data sets
  • Introduction of “stable versions” [of Wikipedia pages]. In turn, this will make the information more reliable

I found this to be a really interesting and relevant presentation for me to attend, particularly is links in both with my current research interest as well as a couple of e-Learning workshops that I run at the University of Bath.

In closing, a day very well spent which gave me an overview of much of the work that the JISC is currently engaged with and supporting. Next year, I understand that the JISC Conference will be in Edinburgh. I’m looking forward to it already!

Feedback from the meeting

Following last week’s e-Learning team meeting, I’ve got a few comments to make relating to questions asking during and following my presentation. I’ve included a screenshot of the matrix below for information.

eatbath Matrix screenshot

One of points raised related to the aim for creating the eatbath wiki classification index. Whilst I think that I’m still working this through in my own mind, I believe part of the reasoning relates being able to better support (and develop) colleagues’ uses of wikis to support collaboration at the University of Bath. By becoming more aware of uses of wikis will enable the team as a whole, and me specifically, to put forward relavant staff development opportunities… such as my session titled Exploring Collaboration using wikis during during the Enhancing Teaching through Technology summer seminar series at the University of Bath during May and June 2008.

A colleague commented that the matrix, as it stands at the moment, could (potentially) be applied to any online collaborative activity, not exclusively to wikis. Good point! So I’m thinking about how the model could be changed so that it could be wiki-related/focused. [I’m heading up to Birmingham tomorrow to the JISC Conference 2008 and have, for the train journey, printed out information relating to Steve Wheeler’s Wiki activites 5 stages model — perhaps this will spark some thoughts.]

Another comment related to the fact that wikis might not remain in a particular quadrant following the beginning of a wiki’s lifespan. Instead it moves from quadrant to quadrant as the wiki develops and users become more used to both learning outcomes and the use protocol for the wiki. If this was the case, it might make sense to swap the content and location of quadrants C and D.

Related to the note about wiki protocol, does there need to be a level of ‘socialisation’ that needs to occur before effective wiki use for comfortable collaboration to occur. If so, does placing a wiki in a particular quadrant, require a set of pre-requisite ‘activities’? What would be the best format for presenting these? Would it be a grid of some sort, which would in turn help you to classify your wiki?

Thinking cap on…

e-Learning Team Meeting presentation

This week, my efforts during my weekly development time were focused on writing a presentation called “Building a classification index for the use of wikis in an educational context”. This work draws upon both an earlier blog post which looked at a model developed at the the University of Israel, along with some work done at Georgia Tech in a paper entitled A Catalog of CoWeb Uses. My presentation, available below, can also be found on SlideShare.

First steps to classification

I’m currently doing some work at the University of Bath which intends to create a matrix to classify the use of wikis in an educational context. Whilst researching any previous work in the area, I came across an essay I wrote during my MSc studies entitled: An exploration into the functionality and appropriateness of Wikis as an e-Learning tools in relation to learning goals and in the context of a Year 9 History scheme of work.

Following a literature, I constructed a detailed plan to embed the use of an e-Learning tool within a (real life) project where pupils would utilise wiki functionality to create a worksheet concerning the exploration of the history of the local area, and in particular, mining. This would be followed by a period of evaluation of the task. In terms of the assessment of the task, I came across a blog post by Ulises Mejias (2006), who explored a criteria for summative evaluation of wikis as a learning technology in higher education. As my example related to a secondary school class and a specific project, I adapted Mejias’ questions as appears below:

Quantitative Data ¦ Wiki-related (Mejias, 2006)


  1. How many pages were created?
  2. How many edits were made?
  3. How was the creation of pages and edits distributed through the group?

Page Activity

  1. Which pages were edited the most?
  2. Which pages were edited the least?
  3. What was the average number of times a page was edited?

Collaboration index

  1. What was the average number of users that edited a page?
  2. Which pages were edited by the most/least number of users?

Participation Index

  1. How many edits and new pages are attributable to n segment of the class

In addition, the aim was follow up this first data collection stage with a small number of individual and group interviews with the pupils. An interview schedule could include questions such as:

Qualitative Questions


  1. Can you show me a piece of work that you are particularly proud of and talk to me about it?
  2. Did you find that working both individually and in groups increased your enjoyment of the ‘Year 9 Mines Unit’? Which type of working did you prefer and why?
  3. What did you think of the role of the teacher during the entire unit? Did you have too much autonomy over your learning?

Wiki-related (Mejias,2006)

  1. What pages or sections of the wiki did you find most valuable and why?
  2. What pages or sections of the wiki did you find valuable and why?
  3. What obstacles did you encounter during your participating in this wiki? Where those obstacles overcome? If so, how?
  4. Do you feel the wiki contributed to the learning experience? How so?

Following Mejias’ work, the question remains, what is the most effective way to classify the use of wikis in an education context? I would assume that colleagues have not got time to conduct a series of interviews about how wikis were used in a particular context, and why the activity in the wiki followed the path that it did. In particular, the qualitative questions could yield useful data (for later analyses and interpret), but this needs to be collected in a easy, quick, and potentially “box ticking”, manner.


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