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Mailing Number 18 - 6 June 2003

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Becta expert technology seminars. The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) runs a series of free seminars. The next one, on 18/6/2003 at the British Library in London will be on Portable and Mobile Information Devices. Future seminar titles include Information Management in Education - 8/10/2003, Home, School and Community Links - 3/12/2003, Broadband Access Technologies - 18/2/2004. Details. The archive from past seminars contains the presentations given by speakers, back to June 2000, providing a useful insight into which issues seemed to matter, when.

LIFT purchased for all 750 UK Universities and Colleges. LIFT is a testing and fixing tool for web designers and developers concerned with creating web sites which conform to the requirements of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act. It is said to allow users to test for accessibility and usability issues directly from within the authoring environment while building new pages or retrofitting existing content. It works with Macromedia Dreamweaver and Ultradev, and with Microsoft Frontpage. LIFT Online is an external online validation tool which can be set to run tests automatically on a scheduled basis on an unlimited number of websites. Eduserv, which negotatiates prices for software for the UK Higher and Further Education community has grant-aided the purchase of LIFT, thereby giving each institution in the entire community free access to one LIFT product from 1/5/2003. It appears that a number of sector bodies, including the Higher Education Funding Council, the Learning and Skills Council, the National Information and Learning Technology Agency (NILTA), and the Scottish Funding Councils are covered by the license. Links:

Resources [back to top]

Andrew Moore's Teaching Resource Site. Spectacular English language and English literature teaching resource site run by Andrew Moore. Having first appeared in March 1999, the site "contains resources for teachers and students of English language and literature, as well as basic information about how to acquire skills in ICT and Internet technologies".

agLearn. agLearn is an e-learning programme on sustainable agriculture. The course materials are freely accessible, but to participate in a course (cohort-based, tutor-supported, ~6 week duration) you have to pay - typically ~$200 US, unless eligible for a scholarship.

Applied science learning object repository. Via George Siemens (?) the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia has "undertaken the development of a learning object repository to gather and manage digital educational resources for use and reuse".

Free simple chatroom system. From Janice Leatherland, via Julia Duggleby, Chatzy, seems pretty good at first glance. You can create instant, private chatrooms and invite people to come in. You don't need to subscribe, there are no downloads and, the system is claimed to work on any platform and through firewalls. Like me you may wonder about Chatzy's business model. Answer, chatrooms set up using the Chatzy have links from them to three dating agencies.

Course management systems. Via Infobits, the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) has just published Faculty Use of Course Management Systems [180 kB .PDF], by Glenda Morgan, which reports on how University of Wisconsin staff use course management systems. Four questions are addressed.

  • What is the extent of faculty use of course management systems?
  • What factors drive faculty to start using a CMS and determine whether they increase or decrease their use?
  • For what purposes are CMS used?
  • What pedagogical gains does using a CMS bring?

Communities of practice. 2001 article on the IBM research site by E. L. Lesser and J. Storck entitled Communities of practice and organizational performance. Based on 7 case studies from pharmaceuticals, software development, finance, manufacturing, chemicals, and telecommunications, the article defines cummunities of practice as "groups whose members regularly engage in sharing and learning, based on common interests", and concludes that communities of practive are "an engine for the development of social capital".

Observing users who listen to web sites. April 2003 article by Janice Redish and Mary Frances Theofanos from the US National Cancer Institute about how blind and low-vision users work with web sites. Concludes that:

  • accessibility is not the same as usability;
  • a site is not really accessible if it is not also usable;
  • compliance with accessibility guidelines and standards is necessary for people with visual impairments, but meeting those requirements does not guarantee that users of assistive technologies will be able to use the site.

For the latter, usability testing, with real users, is required.

For readers interested in web site usability, Usability Interface, the STC's Usability Newsletter is worth browsing.

Mobile devices in education. The April 2003 IEEE Learning Technology Taskforce Newsletter is devoted entirely to the use of mobile devices and wireless technology in education. Provides a useful overview of the diverse range of trials which are currently taking place worldwide.

Oddments[back to top]

Birmingham, it's a city of love...... Make sure your sound is switched on before you savour this, with thanks to David Jennings.

Mastercare Nightmare. Article in The Register about how, after months of complaining and being given the run-around, Marie Griffiths created a blog detailing Dixons Store Group's lack of customer care. Marie has since had the offending TV fixed, it would appear.

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Last updated - 7/6/2003; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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