learningmathsonline.ac.uk officially launched today

October 2, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Along with colleagues at JISC, JISC Techdis, Niace, Learning Unlimited etc I’ve been working on a Maths project developing interactive resources for the past few months and together with another long time colleague Terry Loane we’ve been using a combination of Xerte, Articulate Storyline and other tools to develop the interactive resources in collaboration with the team from Learning Unlimited.

The http://learningmathsonline.ac.uk site has been public for a while now but it’s arguably it’s first official launch at an event today although behind the scenes we are still working on the materials as well as the site and will be for a while yet. One of the things we’ve been looking at together with Alistair McNaught, Shri Footring and Michael Rippon is how best to open the learning objects from the WordPress site from both an accessibility and usability perspective and particularly what the user does when reaching the end of a learning object to return to where they were.

The two links below are a test to demonstrate two possible ways of doing this. The first screenshot link is a standard chromeless pop-up window and the second is a lightbox pop-up. We’ll have to see what works best?…


Opens in a new chromeless window


Opens in a Lightbox window

Xerte training for Health Science students

October 2, 2013 at 7:14 pm

ron-smI delivered a very short Xerte Training session for some Health Science students at Newman University in Birmingham yesterday. (1st Oct 2013)

@BobRidgeStearn tweeted during the session and took the photo opposite. You can view related blog postings via their blog, including a post about what we covered yesterday and a previous post about the project.

Although we also scheduled an afternoon session with some of the staff at Newman, including Bob and some of his team, my main prep was to update some of my existing Xerte LO’s and some new LO’s to provide a wide range of guidance which I could use during the sessions but also which would work as self-access resources after the sessions and for the students in particular. As the student session was so short (and even shorter after one or two technical issues) I wanted to share some short but clear and important tips that I think are essential in creating effective learning resources and activities with Xerte. You can view one of the LO’s I used via the screenshot below. Please note the copyright info.


Xerte & XOT Update

November 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Last week I was due to deliver a guest speaker slot at a JISC RSC Eastern Learning Resources Manager Forum providing a Xerte Update. Most members of the forum had heard of Xerte and some of their organisations were using it but even so this was to be a general overview and update including latest news and developments etc. I decided to use the opportunity to test the latest Xenith/HTML 5 developments by creating LO’s that for the most part worked via both Flash and HTML5. The theory was that I would use the Flash player to present with but share the HTML5 links with the group to those same LO’s.

Note: development of both XOT and the Xenith code changes daily (indeed hourly on most days) at the moment so not all the pages or functionality included below will work 100% at the moment and some of these LO’s will work better via Flash or via a larger window. However this blog post is also to demonstrate that multiple multi-page LO’s can be embedded in a web/blog page or indeed a VLE page etc and hopefully work well on a wide range of mobile devices. Consider this a test and I’ll be updating this post or adding new posts as developments progress. Hopefully XOT 1.9 will be released by mid December – watch out for news via http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xerte/ or Twitter etc

The heading of this blog post could easily have been Xerte on iPad Updated because although the iOS apps that I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts are still useful we now have the results of the Xenith developments integrated with XOT to make development for and consumption on mobile devices much much easier!

Here’s the various LO’s I used, or at least prepared for the RSCE session, which I’ll be keeping up-to-date as developments progress.

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Xerte on the iPad

July 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Xerte on the iPad
I was prompted by a recent blog post on the excellent Rapid E-Learning Blog http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/m-learning-101-ill-take-my-rapid-e-learning-to-go/ and a question on the xerteforteachers list http://jiscmail.ac.uk/xerteforteachers about Google’s Swiffy http://swiffy.googlelabs.com/ to add my own post about Flash and in particular Xerte on the iPad. This always comes up as a question/concern during Xerte training and sometimes cited as a reason not to use Xerte. This perhaps reflects the popularity of iOS devices but I think also highlights a lack of understanding of the benefits and limitations of mobile interaction.

The question about Swiffy was whether it “will allow Xerte LOs to be converted to run on iOS devices?” Unfortunately that’s very unlikely given that Xerte isn’t a self-contained swf and effectively loads content dynamically at runtime. However there are other solutions for viewing and interacting with Xerte LO’s on the iPad and even the iPhone although see comments about the latter below.

Screenshot of Xerte on iPad via Puffin Web Browser

Screenshot of Xerte on iPad via Puffin Web Browser

App: Puffin Web Browser
iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/uk/app/puffin-web-browser/id406239138?mt=8
Cost: 59p

This seems to work quite well and is relatively inexpensive but I have noticed that some interactions don’t work correctly e.g. categories where the items don’t seem to snap to their targets. However this does provide a viable solution and for individuals or groups using iPads could prove very effective.

Screenshot of Xerte on iPad via iSwifter

Screenshot of Xerte on iPad via iSwifter

App: iSwifter
Cost: labelled as free and can be used and tested for free for 7 days but thereafter is a monthly subscription app

This works in a similar way to the Puffin Browser and seems to do a better job with some of the interactions e.g. the categories page type works. However although labelled as free this is actually a monthly subscription app and therfore may not be a viable or cost effective option, especially for group use.

Screenshot of Xerte on iPad via LogMeIn Ignition

Screenshot of Xerte on iPad via LogMeIn Ignition

App: LogMeIn
iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/Uk/app/logmein-ignition/id299616801?mt=8
Cost: £17.99

This wouldn’t be a viable app just to enable access to Xerte content but it does provide that option as well as access to all your Windows applications and perhaps network applications etc. There are obviously other ‘remote connection’ apps and as mentioned in the Rapid E-Learning post many organisations use Citrix to provide this type of connectivity. Also as mentioned the LogMeIn app doesn’t play audio on the iPad when viewing the LO’s but if you were using this or a similar app to control the presentation machine connected to an interactive whiteboard obviously the audio would play through that systems. So this could be a very effective solutions for that type of scenario.

reenshot of Xerte on iPhone 3gs via Puffin Web Browser

Screenshot of Xerte on iPhone 3gs via Puffin Web Browser

So similar to the actual Flash player on Android devices the Puffin Web Browser technically allows Xerte content to be consumed on an iPhone. I say technically because practically and therfore also in terms of pedagogy,  I’m not sure this is really an effective solution or strategy for such a small screen device. That said I did previously work on a custom Xerte template optimised for use via Flash Player on Android devices but that means you have to create content specifically for mobile devices which obviously has disadvantages. Whether the higher resolution of the iPhone 4 makes use via the Puffin Browser more realistic I’m not sure as I haven’t tested on iPhone 4 but it’s not really just a case of the clarity of screen display anyway. There are clearly considerations about the time learners might realistically spend on interactions aimed at larger screen devices or at least the consumption rather than creation of content on such devices. Of course what Xerte does facilitate is lots of ways that content captured or created on mobile devices can be dynamically loaded into Xerte LO’s. e.g. YouTube, Flickr, RSS etc

So I think there are now viable solutions for viewing and interacting with Xerte LO’s on an iPad, technically there are solutions for iPhone too but I think a more realistic proposition for small screen devices like iPhone might come through a future development which provides rendering of Xerte content via HTML and Javascript – who know that might come as a result of the developer days in September – fingers crossed!

Video demo to follow…

Gadgets for improving sound and video

November 12, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I was just tidying up some files on my external hard disk and found an article which was meant to be in a MoLeNET newsletter at the beginning of 2010. These were just short snippets about some gadgets I’d purchased around that time for use when recording audio or video and to improve on sound or picture quality in one way or another. So anyway I thought I’d quickly post the snippets here and add thoughts about an additional microphone that I’ve purchased since…

3gs micThe first is a cheap Microphone for improving the audio when recording video via the iPhone 3GS.

The problem with recording video with the iPhone is that the mic isn’t really facing the subject being filmed. There are lots of the rigid mini jack mics available but they suffer the same problem and this little flexible mic fixes that. I purchased from http://tinyurl.com/3gsmic (the page includes a video demo made by a reviewer). The mic can be swivelled to face the subject and improves the sound significantly. This improves the clarity for everyone but obviously helps with accessibility too.

Blue MikeyMy second gadget purchase at the beginning of the year was also a mic for my iPhone but for a very different purpose and also works with the iPod Touch and other iPod’s to provide CD Quality Stereo audio recording. It’s the Blue Mikey and there’s lots of info and sample recordings online at http://www.bluemic.com/mikey/original/  

I bought mine from play.com but I should also mention that there is a new model now available with additional features such as line input and USB pass-through. Many MoLeNET projects have purchased high end audio recorders such as the Edirol devices http://tinyurl.com/fieldrec for recording podcasts etc but I think this mic, together with an iTouch/iPhone and either the free Blue Fire app or the paid for Fire Field Recorder app, could provide a very viable and effective alternative and of course there’s all the other applications and benefits the iTouch provides compared with a dedicated field recorder.

Mini Motion CamMy third gadget, unlike the previous two, may not appear to have obvious teaching and learning benefits. However I think it’s a classic example of subverting the original purpose of something to benefit classroom use. We often wish to film student activity in the classroom and to effectively capture all the different learner interaction that takes place. Using a static tripod doesn’t really fit this purpose and hand-holding a small digital camcorder can make your viewers feel sea sick! To the rescue is this inexpensive ‘steady cam’ unit from a company in Nottingham. http://tinyurl.com/minimotioncam It’s called the Hague Mini-Motion Cam (the link contains a YouTube demo) and is designed for the digital camcorders we all typically use, although there’s a bigger version for larger camcorders too. I can see real benefits when filming vocational activities or sports etc but I have to confess though it would look quite funny to see someone using one of these with a Flip Camera mounted on the top!

Samson GoFinally I more recently purchased a Samson Go mic for about £30 and have been really impressed with both the build quality and more importantly the sound quality for such an inexpensive mic. It’s great for recording narration for screencasts, interviews, learner feedback, group discussion etc and works via USB on both Windows Laptops and Apple Macbooks etc. However it should be noted that it doesn’t work via a normal 3.5mm mic input so only works via USB and therefore won’t work with various audio recorders etc.