Thursday, 21 February 2008

Getting to Grips with Interactive Whiteboards

The interactive whiteboard is a wonderful tool to use with learners — great for group activities, demonstrations and for capturing the attention of learners through their involvement. But while many learning providers own them, not all staff have been able to successfully integrate them into their teaching.

To address this the RSC West Midlands are now offering Interactive Whiteboard training, free to staff from West Midlands based work based learning providers. In this short staff development session, Alison Nock of the West Midlands RSC, will show what can be achieved using interactive whiteboards and show how they can be used effectively to enhance teaching and learning.

This is a beginner workshop for tutors who are starting to use or who are interested in using an interactive whiteboard. Its suitable for delivery staff or anyone wishing to know how to use a whiteboard to create engaging interactive lessons for learners.

The two hour workshop will take place in Wolverhampton on 12th March from 10.00am -12.00pm. There are a limited number of spaces available. For more information and online booking details, please go to the RSC West Midlands website.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Using Google for your Surveys

Yesterday I spent some time playing with a new survey tool in Google Spreadsheets. (Thanks to Darren Draper for sharing this tip)

In his post he describes how we can create online surveys using Google Spreadsheets forms feature and shows us with illustrations just how easy it is to set one up. The post highlights the fact that results can also be viewed in real time and should you wish, they can also be embedded directly into a webpage.

This sounded like a great idea so I got my RSC colleagues to help me with a very quick sample of my own. So the very simple “what did you have for breakfast survey” is here - if you want to answer its two questions and see how it works feel free – it’s open to anyone. Because this survey is published live, you should see your results on a web page here and also in the live spreadsheet that I’ve embedded below. (Might have to wait a short while though, republishes every five minutes)

Like Darren I think this tool has a lot of potential. For example, a couple of possible applications of this tool within the sector are:

  • Induction - Interactive questionnaire for learners and employers checking accessibility to hardware and broadband connection, survey link delivered via email.

  • Internal/External Verification - Online Quality Assurance questionnaires used for sampling learners and employers.

(Both those tips are based on Innovate’s Examples of the Use of Technology in Work Based Learning).

I have used various other free survey tools previously (just one example here) but was very impressed with just how easy this Google one was to set up. With all of the collaborative tools built into Google spreadsheets and traditional spreadsheet functionality at your fingertips it’s potentially very powerful too. It’s something I will certainly use myself. In the meantime I’ll be adding this link to the Google Docs and Spreadsheets page of our RSC Wiki.

Thanks to Darren for sharing and to Stephen for signposting.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Free Manuals for Free Software

Recently I mentioned a listing of free software applications which are useful both at home and at work. Since then Ive discovered there are now also manuals about how to use this free software in the form of FLOSS Manuals, available online. (Once again thanks to Marcus P Zillman for the link).

Why is this important? Free software gives users the freedom to copy and redistribute the software which can potentially save learning providers a lot of money. However with lack of good documentation or training much of this software is overlooked. Thats one of the reasons why these free, customisable FLOSS manuals are a great idea.

In the first section of the site you can read manuals online or download them via PDF. These generally cover the following areas:

what does the software do and not do?

how to install and configure the software

a basic introduction to the interface

using the softwares most important features with hands-on step by step tutorials

where to go for more help

Through the WRITE section you can write manuals using a 'wiki'. You can see a wiki in action as well as learn more about the potential of wikis here.

Finally, what I think is the best bit... In the 'remix' section you can remix chapters from any of the manuals into a single pdf. These can have a table of contents automatically generated, and you can also include a cover that you can design yourself. These are ideal to provide to staff on CDs/USB sticks for reading offline and could also be useful for staff development. You can also include the remixed manual in your own webpage by cutting and pasting 5 lines of HTML.

These FLOSS Manuals are something I’ll definitely be using in the future, particularly when we are demonstrating free software for the Work Based Learning Sector. Watch this space and our events page for details.

162 Tips and Tricks for Working with e-Learning Tools

The eLearning Guild recently asked its members for their favourite tips for using software for the creation of e-Learning. This resulted in a total of 122 people contributing 162 usable tips that have now been collated as a free digital e-book. The tips range in length with some being very basic, and others quite advanced and include everything from customising clipart in Powerpoint to considering e-assessment.

Last year the E-Learning Guild also published “The eLearning Guild's Handbook of e-Learning Strategy”. This e-Book aims to help learning providers make a connection between learning, e-Learning and their organization's mission, business objectives, and the bottom line. In that, chapters addressed everything from crafting a focused strategy, to keeping your strategy focused, to change management.

The books are aimed at an American audience but are still relavent as the tools and suggestions they make are universal. They can both be downloaded from the E-Learning Guild site here.

e-Assessment Online Community of Practice

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) are setting up an e-assessment online community of practice to explore the topic of assessment and look at how technologies can be used in assessment delivery, recording and storage.

To help establish this online community a face-to-face workshop is being held in London on 25th February, during which practitioners can bring and discuss assessment materials they already use. Following this session an online community will further allow the sharing of ideas, experiences and resources. If you would like to attend the workshop or be part of the online community of practice please email to arrange.

If you’re simply interested in learning more about the opportunities offered by e-assessment, the guide ‘E-Assessment: Guide to effective practice’ that I previously mentioned in a previous post might prove useful. That covers the use of e-portfolios for assessment and offers a number of case studies in this area.