Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Having just read a very interesting blog about the wonders of Twitter by Joeyanne Libraryanne I have finally been swayed into setting up an account.

It's handy as it enables full exploitation of mobile blogging too - so I can now start to practice what I preach!!

Joeyanne Libraryanne also demonstrates some innovative ways in which libraries can use Twitter, and if you've got time, check out this wiki entry, aptly titled 'Twittering Libraries' by Lindy Brown which delves even deeper into Libraries and the Twitter phenomenon.

So if you want to follow the project in a 'micro-blogging' fashion you can now do so by signing up to Twitter...and following me on my journey over the remaining 3 months of the project!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Learning 2.0 @ LJMU

Over the past two weeks the Learning Development Unit (LDU) at LJMU have teamed up with LIS to host 2 face-to-face sessions, to be followed by 8 weeks of online sessions, providing a Web 2.0 training programme for all LIS staff.

Last week we explored the murky depths of the ‘e-portfolio.’ Students use this tool (hosted within Blackboard) to help support their Personal Development Planning (PDP) and Graduate Skills. We are using it to document our thoughts, feelings, achievements, experiences and successes over the 10 week training period, providing evidence of our understanding of Web 2.0 technologies, reflecting on the ways which we can use them to support students and integrate them into our working lives.

The set-up ran smoothly with Alex Spiers (from the LDU) directing us step-by-step through the process (and not allowing anyone to get left behind and lost in the woods…!!). We were shown how to import content, including pictures and also how to modify pages to suit our needs. We were shown how to share our portfolios and had fun looking at everyone’s ‘about me’ section – some brilliant photos I must say!!

This week we have unearthed the delights of Blackboard’s Discussion Board Tool and an IM Messaging service called Pronto. Bethan Hughes (LDU) gave us a succinct and informative overview of how both applications work and discussed the possibilities of such tools for use in an academic setting.

Firstly we played around with the Discussion Boards – posting questions, replying to threads, taking part in a group discussion…the functionality is very straightforward to the point it is ‘clunky’ and a bit ‘clumsy.’ It seems that everything has to be done in such a step-by-step manner that it inadvertently becomes unusable as a result of this…another thing that I felt was lacking was a lack of a ‘notification’ option so that you could be notified when someone else had posted on a topic/discussion of interest.

Then we moved on to Pronto. Pronto was, like the E-Portfolio, easy to set up and having extensive(!) IM experience, I personally found it really good fun. Didn’t feel like learning at all…!! Pronto is better in an academic setting compared to that of a generic IM tool as it enables ‘groups’ to be formed via its integration with Blackboard. In other words, as a student registered for Module A, by signing up to Pronto you would be put into contact with all the other students registered for Module A. From a lecturer perspective it allows east management of their numerous student/module/tutor etc groups.

The face-to-face sessions have been really good, not only in the sense of learning something new, but also in meeting people from other sites and from different job levels and collaborating with them to enjoy the experience together.

I’m excited to see what the online sessions will bring and am looking forward to exploring Web 2.0 technologies in a more formal manner, reflecting on the processes undertaken, rather than ‘playing around’ with Web 2.0 in an ad hoc way and not really thinking about the experience.

And a big thank you to Alex, Bethan, Leo, Will and Stephe…

Thursday, 15 January 2009

E-Learning Forum (LJMU January 12th, 2009)

The day kicked off with brief presentations from me, Will Reid and Leo Appleton. Firstly me and Will gave a brief overview of the mobile learning project before Will and Leo revealed the new training programme that began this week for all LIS staff – Learning2.0 @ LJMU.

The first full E-Learning presentation was from Phil Denton from the Faculty of Science demonstrating the WoWIE (World of Work Internet Explorer) project. Phil gave an enthusiastic presentation about how communication between SSOs, Tutors and students is facilitated contributing to students’ successful acquisition of WoW skills during their time studying at LJMU.

The second presentation was delivered by Katie Barnes from the Faculty of Health (with a bit of technical help from Jim Turner!). Katie gave a very energetic and animated presentation about her use of Wimba Classroom with students both on campus and at a distance. She explored the pros and cons of a ‘virtual classroom’ using video examples to illustrate her points. Through her time using Wimba Classroom, Katie has found that delivery, access and revision have all prevailed enabling her students to study in the best way that suits their needs. However, be forewarned, as Katie admits herself – “it is not for the faint hearted…!!”

Next, David Sorfa from the Faculty of Media, Arts and Social Science, gave a presentation about his experiences of the online marking tool Turnitin GradeMark. David showed us how the software works and how it can be personalised, for example David likes to use the word ‘clumsy’ which he could then store, with a definition, to be used as and when he needed. The main advantage for students being that they no longer need to battle to be able to read their tutor’s handwriting!! But also, printing problems are overcome, tutors can add comments to student assignments at the click of a button and the students can keep all their work, marked and annotated in their e-portfolio. David spoke eloquently about Turnitin GradeMark and I felt he really ‘sold’ the idea, one point that was highlighted though was the danger of only making comments relating to things that the students have done wrong, grammatical errors etc. and not giving praise when they have expressed something well. Electronic submission on the students’ behalf fits in with the ever-growing emphasis on technology-enhanced learning and for students that are not based near to the campus centres will be a godsend!

Alasdair Gordon-Finlayson from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Psychology presented next demonstrating Wimba Pronto – a Blackboard based chat environment – similar to MSN but with the ability to manage student/module groups through its integration with Blackboard. It creates an online community, especially important for distance students and can be used both formally and informally. With a bit of help from Bethan Hughes, Alasdair gave an engaging ‘live’ example of how Wimba Pronto works and revealed some of the pitfalls (forgetting to change your status to ‘appear offline’ and getting half a dozen students messaging you on a Saturday night…!). Wimba Pronto seems like a good tool for creating online communities in a university setting, putting students into contact with other students on their course and breaking down barriers. The main problem I see is encouraging students, especially those that live on-campus to embrace this chat tool, rather than just using MSN or another similar program…

The afternoon was rounded off by Alice Bird from the LDU showing a glimpse of the next developments for Blackboard…Blackboard NG. The main benefit appearing to be the ‘opening up’ of Blackboard allowing tutors and lecturers to create mash-ups of external sites that are of help to their student groups. Another interesting prospect is that of Blackboard Sync – the ability to sync Blackboard with applications such as Facebook enabling us to speak to the students in their language. Excitingly for the mobile learning project is the potential of a mobile platform – something that several students that participated in the face-to-face surveys before Christmas enquired about.

The E-Learning Forum provided a great opportunity for different departments and faculties to share their experiences with e-learning and technology-enhanced learning and really helped in giving me an overview of some of the innovative practices currently operating within LJMU.