Monthly Archives: December 2013

This weekend was a great step forward in sharing with the British library releasing loads of open copyright pictures.  Shortly after turned up in my G+ stream and I could add videos clips as well.  Finally I found educational clip art.  Ah a great weekend for sharing I thought.

Then as the week went on and I did some digging I noticed the Elephant in the room, while the British Library had got it right with its picture shares and embed codes (and was even crowd sourcing the tagging and cataloguing of pictures)

Elephant in the room

Elephant in the room

It seems that not all shares are equal, having looked at the clip art I see that they allow “up to 50” pictures in a project and ask that you link back to their site (read the full licence here

So the clip on the left (of me throwing my toys out the pram ) comes from

Im not sure if I am allowed to use 50 of them in my blog, in a single post or what.  More to the point you have to download them as tifs and then add them to your project and add a reference to where they came from.  Its not massively onerous but it requires thinking about (unlike CC images – once you know the licences you are good with all of them) and filling in all the details yourself.

Compare this with Wiki Media Commons (which has been my go to site for images for a while) where you get an embed code which includes all the licencing and attribution stuff as part of it.

The thing is if I want to encourage academics to reference their images correctly it has to be easy and non time consuming – otherwise they will simply drop in any image and then get cross with me when they want to share a “presentation I have been using for years” and I have to point out they have to lose most of the images because they are unsourced/illegal

I very much like the clips – even though I cant embed them in my blog as it doesnt support iframes (and the links seem slow)

Then at the end of the week I found this,

Me doing a Happy Dance

which among other things allows me to search for CC clipart, which comes with embed code with the licence details meaning I am once again happy… Merry Christmas all!


Its nice when the room is smarter than you are

Last week I was due to deliver a workshop on collaborative learning, sadly I had to cancel as only 1 person had signed up.  I had been thinking of an alternative way to deliver the content so this prodded me to write it up into a blog post.  In theory this would allow someone to cover the information in the workshop without attending – its not bad for a first pass and could do with some more work (I particularly want to look more at what students might be collaborating on – in the live session the discussions between attendees generally provides lots of ideas, working through it on your own? Probably not so much).


It took me a couple of hours work to write it out and tweak it so it made sense.

The Room

In contrast I was looking at G+ and saw this post by +Dan Leighton.  I jumped in and made a quick comment

if I was planning a leadership event I would break it into 3 stages

  1. What kind of educational organisation do I want mine to be

  2. What GAFE tools can I use to support these aspirations

  3. What do I need to do to enable my staff to use these

A couple of comments later I suggested they could share around a google doc and would be able to between them come up with a fairly decent session plan (I also shared a google doc and stuck my quote above in it).

I didn’t think much more about it, finished off my work and went to meet a friend down the pub (it was Friday!)


My phone did make a few bleeps etc as the night went on but I didnt pay much attention.  However on the bus home I noticed a number of comments and replies.  When I checked the doc I found that it had got a fair bit more detailed – please see for yourself.

Now its not perfect or anything, but its a very good start on planning a day session and if any of the people involved do get around to running a “Google Educational Leadership Academy” then they have some good ideas to build on.

So the next time I want to think about some training – I am going to ask the room, its smarter than me AND it does the work while I am in the pub 🙂

Supporting collaborative learning through technology

Part of my job is providing training sessions for academic staff and one I deliver is “Supporting collaborative learning through technology”

This works well face to face but I also want it available online. So……

First have a think about what collaboration is, use this document to write down

  • What you think collaborative learning is
  • What collaborative activities your students do as part of your class.
  • What ideas you have for an online collaborative task

In the F2F class we would now have a discussion about the following points (you may like to think of short answers as it will help you later on)

  • what it is you want your students to do collaboratively
  • how long it will take (effort and time)
  • what (if any) marks are associated with it
  • how the students will be organised

Working Together Teamwork Puzzle ConceptNow it is fairly common when asking your students to do collaborative work to split up into groups, most VLEs have some form of group functionality.  My VLE is Blackboard and the instructions on creating groups can be found on Blackboard help here.  If you have lots of students you may want to use the Batch Groups Tool.

Using the instructions (find them for your own VLE if you are not using Blackboard) create a group and put you and one student into that group.  You should see a lot of tools available for that group as tick boxes below the group description – leave them all ticked for now and finish making the group.

In a little aside we are going to look at why the internet and some of the tools associated with it make collaborating so much easier now (and yes a lot of you should already know this – the video is 6 years old)

At this point we are going to have a look at the tools available inside the VLE and these are Discussion Boards, Blogs and Wikis.  In Blackboard (and in most VLEs) these tools allow students to post a chunk of html using a WYSIWYG editor so they can add text, pictures, video, flash etc – pretty much anything you can do on the internet.  The key difference in these tools is in how they layout these “posts”

Discussion Board – someone posts (Question), others reply and their replies (Answers) are posted below the first post.   Over time you build up a list of initial posts (Questions) and clicking on a question will show you it and all the replies (Answers) to it.

Blog – someone posts, others can comment on the post.  Each new post stands alone, posts appear down the screen starting with the most recent and going down to the oldest post.  Students often respond to a previous post by making a brand new one of their own (maybe with a link to the first post if it is a fair way down the list).

Wiki – someone posts, this creates a new page.  You can create as many pages as you want and link them together.  Students can edit any post/page and so work together to create the pages.  You can also make comments on pages.

I think the first 2 are very similar and are used for talking about the collaboration (with discussion boards being more formal/organised).  Wikis by contrast allow students to actually work on something together.  At this point you want to consider what tools your students need (and they may need more than 1!) and if they are going to have them for a group or for the whole class.

Beyond the VLE

Now most of this is looking at Google tools (because my Uni has GAFE) but you can do similar things with Microsoft SkyDrive.

You can share & collaborate on all google drive files, you already used a Doc at the start of this session – how about this article on presentations? (has a nice video tutorial at the bottom – I used the instructions on the video to embed my presentation below)

There are also lots of other types of files you can share and collaborate on – lets go to drive – click “Create” and then “connect more apps”.  As you will see there is a lot to chose from, what I particularly like is if you add an app to your drive, share a file of that type with someone else – when they open it, it automatically asks if they want to add that app to their drive.

Students can share with email address OR share “anyone with link” – can put links in the “Group Blog/discussion board” that you gave them in the VLE.

In the session we would have a discussion about the ownership and retention of evidence of work
You need to consider that when you use things outside of your VLE (ie the google tools), the person that creates them tends to have ownership and this person is often the student. This means the students can continue modifying and improving whatever has been created.
You do need to think about what you are going to keep as evidence and how you are going to get it (example google sites – you cant download the websites that are created in it)

For the adventurous

There is google sites – make your own webpage (and collaborate doing it)
Youtube – make and share videos, comment on them (can use some of the Blackboard options (blog/disscussion etc) to allow students to link/embed in the course
And for the really brave Google+ (which has Hangouts!)
Finally although its a secondary school class check out this blog post for more Googly ideas

If you do use G+ 
My Uni does not (yet) provide staff with the ability to get g+ from their work email.
The alternative is to setup a G+ from your personal gmail (this has the advantage that you can take your network of contacts with you if/when you move jobs)
To get yourself to a flying start you may want to read this (its more about how to get the most out of G+ personally rather than for teaching but you will find it helpful (and your students might too))

Followup and Consultation

Of course, if this was my face to face class you would be now have an outline of what you were going to do (based on the various discussions), I would book a follow up session where I pop’d into your office to look at what you had setup and to discuss any problems and the next stages.  Of course I cant do that on the blog (but if you work where I do feel free to ring me) however if you are doing collaboration with your students and want some advice then add a comment and I will see what I can do for you.