Blended Learning Course week 2

This week Neil Morris encouraged us to reflect on what we have learned and check #FLBLE1 on Twitter. Comparing to last week, I spent more time on reading comments,  responding some, exploring the resources shared in the sessions, and digesting the topic.

The focus in this week is to help us to get ready for blended learning: (1) understanding pedagogy (2) understanding a wide range of technologies (3) gaining digital literacy skills, and (4) knowing context/environment.

Firstly, the key learning for me is the pedagogy for using technology for learning and the impact of technology on pedagogy. Among the highlighted pedagogical approaches: ConstructivismSocial constructivism and Problem-based learning, social constructivism approach definitely is used in my practice, though I do not often talk about pedagogy when support users. It makes a lot of sense when I think why we support tools such as Yammer, discussion forum, Xerte Online Toolkits, Mahara, Panopto, blogs, and so on.

The problem-based learning is an approach that challenges students to learn through engagement in a real problem. I thought it is to help students understand a topic through developing students self-directed learning. However, I forgot it is most commonly group-based. The quiz exercise helped me to reinforce my learning of pedagogy. I also found an introduction of problem-based learning from HEA.

Secondly, being able to understand technologies and know what they are designed for is my area. I’ve learned more new applications this week, which I may be review or introduce to my colleagues later:

  • iObserve is a video and audio recording app that allows allows you to record observations, time stamp criteria, give instant feedback and create a signed declaration.
  • DREAMS LMS is a remote e-learning and marking system. I wonder if it is like the FutureLearn platform, but provides more interactive content creation functionalities.
  • NearPod is an interactive classroom tool to create, engage and assess. I wonder what are the differences between this tool and the VLE platform like Blackboard. A video introduction about this tool can be seen in the HCUK resources below.
  • The TAGSExplorer (developed by Martin Hawksey) is a very useful tool for visualising a tweet hashtag and its activities. It’s a good way to see what’s going on with the Blended Learning course tweets through a dynamic map. (below is a screenshot)

Thirdly, the discussion about digital literacy skills is not new for me. Although it is still at an early stage of development in our institution, I have been learning it for a few years now. I have shared our University materials in the discussion. As I think they are so useful, I’d like to share them again:

Fourthly, the big environment of my work context is not easy to change. In the case study when Borders College said that it took them 5 years to implement blended learning, I accepted that. Changing is slow in big universities. It took us two-three years to adopt a new technology university-wide. Still I am struggling how to help people get ready for adopting technologies in their practice. I may not be able to change the environment much, but I can make myself up-to-date of the new approaches and skills. Reading the comments in 2.8, I agree that the common barriers for people to embed blended learning within their environment include: unrobust infrastructure for adopting technology; limited finance, and a lack of visionary leaders to lead the transformation.

In addition, like most time I learned new resources:



What and How to Teach with Video – Week 1

The Digital Accessibility course I took on FutureLearn is very useful. It took my spare time but I enjoyed to learn new things that I can bring into practice immediately. I noticed a course “What and how to teach with video” on EMMA, another MOOC platform. I think it will be interesting and useful too as using video is so popular nowadays. Thus I decided to register. Although I was far too late, it’s still good to have the opportunity to learn it.

Firstly, I list some of the comparisons between EMMA and FutureLearn in terms of my experience.

  • Both websites are easy to use.
  • EMMA is beta version, so loading the course pages is slow.
  • EMMA provides blog functionality. However, this blog area is not course-based. It is a public blog opening to all EMMA users.
  • EMMA blog does not have spelling check feature.
  • EMMA blog – Add New Post – New Post Content – does not support Font and Colours settings.
  • EMMA comments do not support paragraph spacing, so make comments hard to read.
  • EMMA does not have ‘like’ feature option for comments, and can’t reply to a reply.
  • Both websites provide Progress for me to check. EMMA provides more details in one picture so I can see which one I have done, which one I haven’t easily.

The course has a clear structure and it uses videos in an excellent way because it’s topic is Teaching with Video.

The first week is about what to teach with video, leading to robust learning outcomes. It’s presented as four domains: Cognitive, Experiential, Affective, Skills and 33 Potent pedagogic roles. I watch videos every day and make videos occasionally, but never really summarised what I use video for. Taking this chance I will learn it systematically from Jack Koumi.

I really like that it has been separated between techniques (you facilitate learning by using video and you use video to provide realistic experiences) and teaching functions (what you try to teach by using video). At the beginning I was a bit confused between some of roles and a video example could play multiple roles. However, after using the guideline to check some of the videos I watched on Youtube, the 33 potent pedagogic roles do make sense.

Also I quite like the handout for each lesson, and the video in each unit was broken down by explanation and examples. As I registered late, reading other people’s comments are interesting. However, there are other languages in it, which is difficult for me to understand. I don’t know if EMMA can provide automatic translation for these non-English languages.

Digital accessibility course – week 3

If I say the Internet has allowed me to connect people all over the world, then I’d say mobile devices have allowed me to keep the connections any place any time (I know this is ideal). I really like this week’s learning as mobile phone has become an essential tool in my life. I learnt how mobile technologies have helped impaired people’s daily life (like telling the colours and road navigation), and what’s the constraints of the technology. I can’t imagine how inconvenient my life will be without the Internet and mobile phone.

Mobile devices request people to use fingers and eyes a lot when interact with the screen, therefore people who have certain disabilities face many interactive difficulties when using mobile devices. Thus input and output methods matter very much.

I have learnt to consider the accessibility features on mobile devices from four aspects: vision, hearing, physical- and motor-skills, and cognitive. I have learnt Switch Access Scanning technology and speech input built-in technology like OK Google can help people who have mobility and dexterity difficulties to operate touch screen to search information. The screen reader technologies (e.g., TalkBack, Text-to-Speech (TTS) and Magnification gesture built-in options) can help people who are visual impaired to read information on mobile devices easier. Braille input/out technology like Built-in Braille Keyboard on iPhone, Google BrailleBack and Bluetooth braille display can help blind people who are able to read Braille.

I have learnt some very useful apps:

  • VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader (iPhone app).
  • I was amazed by these people who have a disability themselves developed very useful mobile apps, for instance ColorVisor is designed for colour detection; WalkersGuide is designed for blind pedestrians to access routes easily.
  • iBeacon-compatible-apps are something I’d like to explore more. I can see it will be very useful for elderly people who are losing memories.

There some useful resources for me to learn the assistive technology:

The other day I came across the Alibaba Warehouse video which shows how technologies (e.g., TTS, recognition labels, robots) have changed the work process. I think when more and more people aware the accessibility issues, mobile technologies will be developed better and better to meet people’s needs.

ALTC2014 day2~ evidences & case studies

It’s the second enjoyable day at ALTC 2014.

The first session I attended was the Augmented Reality from Allen Crawford-Thomas and Judy Bloxham (JISC RSC). It’s fun to try the apps and discuss about the potential uses. It brought new experience immediately. Blippar and Layar worked well on my mobile, but Zapper didn’t, similar to other people next to me. Heard the SAMR Model again in the session. Also to know an interesting term “calm technology” means interaction between digital technology and reality is designed for users without realising the technology. Their paper ‘Immersive Learning Experiences through Augmented Reality‘ is worthwhile of reading. I like the idea that makes the interaction between human and online resources more real, more like learning in the reality.

From Catherine Cronin’s talk, I got some useful resources: the book Networked, ds106 open courses posted by Jim Groom and his view “openness is ethos not a license.”, #iCollab – the international community of practice of students and lecturers, and Gardner Campbell‘s work on learning technology and education.

I had interesting conversations with people from different institutions and realised many universites/collages do have a bigger VLE support team, like 7-9 people plus people from pedagogical side of supporting.

The UCISA TEL Survey of technology enhanced learning 2014 is another timely resource. The findings will be very useful for us to review the services we provide to some extent.

Learn from the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards winners, Congratulations!


In addition, some new ideas for me:

  • Students may feel confused with online learning, and they need to have the sense of ‘belonging’ to the institution. (from Helen Anne Beetham‘s talk)
  • We need to bring in the minimum standards for the online learning (from Martin Lynch and Catherine Naamanis talk)
  • Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) is importantly increasing(from Simon Kear‘s talk)

Transfer mp3 files from old phone to Google Nexus 5

I wanted to move all my .mp3 music from an old phone to Google Nexus 5. After a couple of hours trying based on my available resources, I worked it out as follows:

I copied all my .mp3 files to a PC. It’s so easy with the old phone. Connected the USB cable between the phone and the PC, and copy/paste the files from a phone folder to a folder on the PC.

Then I plugged in the Google phone into the PC. However, it didn’t not work, it showed battery charging, but didn’t see the phone storage. Well, I followed this fix advice to try it again. Unfortunately, it did not work.  Thus, I tried Google USB Driver and it clearly did not help.

Afterward, I thought it should work if I copy the files onto my Google Drive and then on the phone I can download them to the phone. In this way I can play music offline in case I don’t have the Internet access.  It’s a good idea, but it didn’t work like the way I thought.

I uploaded the files onto a Google Drive folder. I used this instruction to set up offline access. I checked Google Drive on the phone and saw the files were there. I played each single file, it played without problem. However, it didn’t auo-play like the media players do. Then I used the Google Play Music app and see if it will read my library and play the music files. No. it wouldn’t. The file needs to be on the phone devise. So I used the File Manager app to search where the Google drive files were stored after I had saved them on the devise. Yes, they were under …/… I then moved these files to a “Music” folder. However, the Google Play Music found my Music folder and all music files, but it returned  “Couldn’t Play the Track You Requested“.

Well, I had the music files on my devise and I could play them through File Manager. However, I was unable to use Google Play Music to play them. What could I do? I then tried a few apps, such as Folder Player, Music Folder Player, VLC and Android Music Player. They were all the same – have the music file name listed, but the mp3 files couldn’t be played.

Now, I deleted my files on the phone and clear its cache. I started it again by trying transferring files using WiFi or FTP.  I tried  a few apps but none of them allow me to copy/paste all my files as some files are quite big. (NB: it’s recommended to not save files on your mobile devise. Use the Cloud service.)

Finally, this FTP app “WiFi File Transfer” allowed me to copy/paste all files from the PC to the “Music” folder on the phone.  Plus, the Google Play Music recongnised all the .mp3 files and played as I expected.

Last point, there is a bit help for you to use FTP transfer. (You may learn it from this guide)

  • Use WiFi File Transfer app to get the phone FTP address. (looks like ftp://**.***.**.**:****)
  • Go to your PC, click the “Computer” icon and key in the phone FTP address to the devise location bar.
  • It will show you the phone storage. Find the folder where you want to paste the files to (e.g., “Music”). Leave this window open.
  • Open a new local disk window on your PC and go to the folder where stored your files.
  • Select the files and drag them onto the FTP window.
  • Now it has completed the transfer.
  • Go to the phone and check the “Music” folder and use a music player to play.

There are may tips online about Google Nexus 5. My tips here are particularly for this requirement and worked in a way I wanted:

  1. There are many ways allowing us to transfer files between phones, such as directly connect PC and mobile, Bluetooth transfer, and Wifi transfer. Choose the way that works for you.
  2. If you want to connect Google Nexus 5 to a PC, you need to use the original cable that came with the phone! It’s likely a standard USB cable will charge the phone but the computer won’t recognise the phone and therefore you are unable to see data  on the phone.
  3. If UBS connection does not work, use wifi or ftp to transfer files.
  4. Some free wifi file transfer apps will only support small file (e.g., smaller than 6M) transfer. They ask you to upgrade to a Pro version with a little charge. If you want to save time, it’s quick to do so. If you want to play with Android phone and apps, you’d better uninstall it and try another app.


Vine is a mobile service that lets you create and share short looping videos. Videos you post to Vine will appear on your Vine profile and the timelines of your Vine followers. Posts can also be shared to Twitter or Facebook.

Mobile Learning in UK Universities

Does it sound like a year of mobile? Mobile marketing becomes bigger and bigger, and mobile learning in education boost. Read John’s post about university mobile apps. I was wondering how’s the mobile apps/services by the UK university learning and teaching support.

Here they are:

  • Cardiff University Mobile  – allows students to get useful content (e.g., campus map, news, find PCs, email, calendar, e-learning, modules, student support) on their handset.
  • City University, London Mobiles – provides library services (e.g., find library site locations, check catalogue, renew books, search databases), campus map, access learning resources through mobiles.
  • Huddersfield UniApp – it allows users to search map and locations, get university information, access contacts, and find PCs.
  • LJMU Mobile App – it allows students to access library records, University maps and locations, get information about student services and find friends.
  • Mobile Bath – the University of Bath is preparing for offical launch of their mobile site. It allows students to view campus map, search contacts, find PCs and get latest campus news.
  • Mobile Oxford – provides functions of searching places, contacts and library collections; accessing news, podcasts, university service status and e-learning. The service includes information not only relating to students’ experience of study, but also their experience of live in the city, such as transport and weather.
  • MyMobileBristol is a mobile web application developed by the University of Bristol with collaboration from Bristol City Council. It has useful information relating to central Bristol such as transport, pubs and places and wireless hotspots.
  • Northumbria Mobile App – supports students to browse courses, view photos of the campus, request a prospectus, get information of accommodation, library, sports facilities, and keep up to date with the latest news and events.
  • Open University mobile connections – it supports VLEs,  learning objects, library services, assessment, language learning and professional development through mobiles.
  • St Andrews Mobile – University of St Andrews provide smartphone application that allows users to access university information (e.g., library search, find locations and friends, RSS feeds, get learning resources).
  • Sussex Mobile – gives easy mobile access to course timetables, details of library loans and reservations, campus locations and a pocket guide of useful information about the University.
  • UCL GO! – it supports students to access UCL University and Union information, such as find locations, search contacts and library, and use calendar.
  • University of Bradford – it supports VLEs and university information on mobiles. Users are able to check emails, access University maps, systems and news, as well as keep track friends.
  • University of Dundee – Mobile Map allows users to search university locations by mobiles and My Dundee (Blackboard Learning Environment) supports users to access modules and course documents.
  • University of Edinburgh U@Ed – enables students to easily stay informed with convenience that mobility brings.
  • University of Liverpool Blackboard Mobile Learn – allows students access course materials in the university e-learning system through mobiles.
  • University of Kent Mobile Web Application – it will be launched soon. As they said, it will support students accessing campus maps, place locator, help resources, university news, and e-learning.
  • University of Reading – the University of Reading UniApp is designed specifically for the needs of the students at the University of Reading and the Library Mobile-friendly resources present increasing library services on mobiles.
  • University of Sheffield CampusM – it is under development; allows students to find PCs, contacts  and a web based version of CampusM for all phones that can access the web.
  • University of Wolverhampton (WLV) Open Days – it aims to enhance students Open Day experience (e.g., find locations and friends, get support information and university news).

Other resources:

(You can find university provided apps on Android and Apple Store websites.  Feel free to add cases of practice if I missed any.)