I read an intriguing post over at Boing-Boing last week which explained how to create a set of  augmented reality overlays for a magazine. Layering digital information over real-world objects (via a mobile phone display) is one of those striking “World Of The Future” developments that seemed like a pipe-dream in childhood.

This got me thinking about applications for this kind of technology in education; a multi-multimedia resource could potentially be achievable, albeit with some hefty coding input.

I imagined a hard-copy hand-out (do people still do those?) that had video and other applications woven through it but it struck me that the amount of effort required for this to actually happen would probably out-weigh the benefits: a multitude of person-hours in developing might be more profitably used in actually teaching the content to the learner. You would also need to factor in the ubiquity of SmartPhone ownership and the student downloads of AR reader – how big would your potential audience be?

I wasn’t really deterred by these thoughts – just trying to get it to work once would be an exciting achievement – but then I saw the reviews of the specific AR browser (required to create this project) in the Android Market and was horrified by the hostility of some of the comments. It appears that once downloaded, the browser is essentially uninstallable, constantly searching for updates and hogging power from the battery – the final nail in coffin for me.


With advent of the iPhone and the emergence of Android, mobile phones are truly fully fledged computing devices with a telecommunications system seemingly bolted on. Throughout my time as a Learning Technologist I’ve always wondered how to develop a culture whereby students use the phones as a cornerstone to learning in college but this hasn’t really kicked-off. The infographic below paints a different picture however and the question I have to ask myself is: do we as an institution not have a sufficient infrastructure for these activities to take place or do UK students not use their Smartphones in the same way?

Generation Mobile

From hackcollege.com

Not that I’m counting, you understand…

We’re now over 4 weeks into the new academic year and the change in the educational landscape has been marked in such a short space of time. The use of our VLE/MLE has recorded its highest number of individual users since we’ve been using Moodle and this is – in part – due to integrating the ULCC’s Personal Learning Plan plug-in. We’ve been running with this system for the past 12 months and – as ever – there were concerns about how the system would cope rolling over from one academic year to the next. Thankfully the plug-in has coped and there has been a smooth transition despite the changes made to the format of our eILPs.

The keenest change we’ve all experienced has been the reduction in course hours – there is evidence here that the use of ILT has increased steadily and that course materials are finding a home in Moodle and that where staff would provide personal support in the past, students are now being directed towards the VLE.

The challenge now is to find time for staff to develop their own skills and really push the technology at their disposal – unfortunately this skills development time is non-existent and, as we all know,  creating truly interactive and engaging online materials takes a lot of time and effort. It makes you wonder if the balance will ever be restored.

I can’t quite remember where I stumbled upon this website but I’ll forever grateful that I did.

Information & Learning Technology - One Thing Well

The ethos behind One Thing Well is to highlight software which is simple yet useful. Applications riddled with bell and whistles housed in beautifully designed GUI are not generally featured here; the emphasis is on effectiveness. Much of what is selected is at the ‘high-end’ of the IT skills scale – anyone happy working at command-line level will feel comfortable here – but there are some gems that anyone with the ability to ‘tinker’ will find interesting. The One Thing Well RSS feed has been added over there (→) on the right…

Recent finds for me were:

  • Readable – an accessibility bookmarklet for adjusting font sizes and style on almost any webpage
  • Sigil – an eBook editor/creator.


Information & Learning Technology - SummerSummer is traditionally the time where educators take stock of the last academic year and look ahead to the start of the new term. With a requirement to be ‘reflective practitioners’ we have much to reflect upon in 2011: the education sector (with FE in particular) has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and the dictum of ‘More for Less’ has never been so appropriate.

In our institution, with an imperative to save money, one natural (but perhaps counter-intuitive) solution is to cut the hours of courses, which effectively means that learners will spend fewer hours in classrooms and the hours that they do spend there will be focussed mainly on the use of the facilities that our institution have available; bricklayers will be laying bricks, media students will be making films, catering students will be cooking – in short this means that students will be learning by ‘doing’.

This is obviously A Good Thing: in vocational education there has always been an emphasis on learning the tools of one’s trade and that is why our learners come an FE college as they are perhaps less inclined to take a more ‘academic’ route and Ofsted are always keen to praise establishments where there is an emphasis on ‘active learners’.

However many vocational disciplines have underlying theories and concepts: a student making a documentary film needs to know and understand the codes and conventions of the documentary form – learners need to make the vital link between what we do and why we do it. Unfortunately under the current model the teaching of these theories are most at risk of being neglected; there will be less time available to undertake teacher-lead classroom activities.

I think this is where ILT/e-Learning will fill the gap. If staff are engaged with the e-learning tools at their disposal and manage their courses and resources with care, there are distinct opportunities for learners to learn independently and collaboratively with minimal input from teaching staff. This is an opportunity to employ blended learning in it’s most consistent form, employing synchronous learning in workshops in asynchronus learning through the MLE.

These are interesting times in FE sector but let’s hope they don’t become too interesting.