Hello Everyone,

I am starting to reflect on a really successful meeting in Llandrindod last week. It was great to see old friends, and to make new ones. On the first day, we heard much about the strategic questions from various perspectives, e.g. funding, inspection and support. There was some interesting discussion, and I’ll revisit some of this in future blog postings. I am particularly interested in the E-Guides framework, and exploring ways in which thay may be emulated in Wales. More on that later….

Meanwhile, I am going to unashamedly steal some of Alastair McNaught’s closing presentation. For those who were not there, he did a real high wire act – giving us a choice of technologies which he could demonstrate, with plenty of real audience participation, and no safety net as far as I could see! Below is one example – ‘Make Your Own Podcast on a Telephone’. Once registered, you can simply dial up a number, key in a channel code, and speak. Your file is then stored on their server, and automatically uploaded to your blog (if you choose that option). Click on the link below to listen to my first blogged podcast. If you want to try this for yourself,  you can register online at http://www.gabcast.com (and probably other sites). It’s free, and it could be a really good way of enabling mobile learners to report back. See what you think…

Gabcast! ACLWalesPodcasts #1 – From Ynys Mon

A short report to test Gabcast


At the Edge

February 8, 2008

Blog text


Jill Evans and Jean Gaywood led a very useful session illustrating their approach to bringing online learning to more people in the Torfaen area. They have led a European project which has enabled them to set up courses online. The results so far have been highly encouraging in a couple of key respects:

Learner engagement has greatly exceeded the target for the project (especially from subjects other than Information Technology

Results for British Computer Society qualifications have improved greatly

The session was conducted on locally stored copies of Moodle on the laptops, which worked with very few glitches. This is reassuring for those teachers who will need to take Moodle into classrooms where there is no internet connection… Delegates had the chance to use various online quizzes, which the learners really enjoy using.

Currently, Jill and Jean are supporting learners directly by setting up courses and adding the resources themselves – the next step will be to provide training for tutors to set up their own courses.


Ideas you might like to follow up….

· Access to the Torfaen Moodle demo materials is available on request. If you completed their form, then Jill will contact you. If not then contact me (p.b.r.richardson@swansea.ac.uk) and you will be added to the list…

· A few people were interested in experimenting further with Moodle, but don’t have a server set up yet. The RSC can offer support to people in this position. Email p.b.r.richardson@Swansea.ac.uk to find out what we can do for you…

· If you are thinking of using Moodle , or already doing so, you may like to join the Moodle Users Wales Group, which provided excellent support via its JISC Mail list.Visit http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/MOODLE-WALES.html to sign up.


Video case studies

February 6, 2008

My colleagues Esther Barrett and Russell Symmons down in Swansea have just been putting together some lovely video ‘footage’ (should we still be calling it that) of adult learners using technology in all kinds of inspiring ways. These are often learners who have not used computers at all before, and many are doing course which have no obvious relationship to computers (e.g. lacemaking and stickmaking). Nevertheless, you can tell from the way that the talk about it that the technology has made a big difference to their work. Interestingly, it is often the communications bit of the ICT which really appeals, and first-time users can skip formatting disks etc, and go straight to blogging. More power to their collective elbow!

Here’s a link to the video.



Free Resources for ACL

January 18, 2008

Everyobody knows that there are loads of free resources for teaching and learning ‘out there’, but finding the best ones isn’t always easy. My colleague Hannah Dovey (now at St David’s College, Cardiff) has compiled a list of some of the best ones. Here it is: Guide to Free Resources for ACL

I hope you find this useful. Please feel free to suggest others to add to this list. By the way, another good place to look is the RSC Wales delicious bookmarks.

Come to the Edge

January 4, 2008

The JISC Regional Support Centre for Wales (RSC-Wales) is presenting a two-day conference on using technologies in the contexts of ACL, Voluntary Sector and Offender Learning. It will be of interest to those who support learning outside the bounds of univerisities and colleges – teachers and managers alike. It’s called ‘Come to the Edge’ because ‘the edge’ is often where the most exciting developments take place.

The conference will take place in Llandrindod Wells on February 7th and 8th, and you can register online now. Much more information is available at


Intute Informs

December 20, 2007

Intute Informs

I have just been looking at Intute Informs to see how useful it will be to the ACL community. To quote the website “Informs is a flexible adaptive tool for the creation of interactive online tutorials. It consists of easy to use software and a database of tutorials. These tutorials have been created by users as a shared community resource, which can be re-used by other registered users to facilitate creative collaboration.”

You can register for free, as long as you share the materials which you create. I think this is a powerful model for sharing resources, and there is already a significant number of resources up there. Well worth checking out!

Essentially, each tutorial consists of a URL through which you would like to guide your learners, and a ‘guide on the side’ panel which you can script yourself (or use the tutorials which are already there).

Most of the material which is already up there relates to the general area of Information Literacy, and I was interested to see how widely applicable the system would be. The answer in my case was ‘not very’, although this may depend on your subject matter. One obvious problem is the need to keep material updated to match URLs, and this may not be easy. Even Google is apt to change its appearance, and highly specific instructions like (‘Click on the Grey button just above the ‘O’ in Google may be subject to all kinds of inaccuracies depending on Browser configuration, etc.

But don’t let me put you off! There’s lots of good material which can be used as a focus for activity in the classroom, as well as ‘homework’. I would be interested to hear anyone’s views on this.

If you do try this, a few specific points to note are:

  • You need to use Internet Explorer in order to format text easily (alternatively you can type in the formatting characters, but this is a fiddle)
  • You need to set your browser to allow pop-ups
  • You will need to allow scripted windows.

A small but select band of people from the Adult and Community Learning (ACL) assembled at lovely Seiont Manor to hear about opportunities of using a range of technologies inside and outside the classroom. It was also an opportunity for people to raise issues, such as ‘what are the barriers to using the new tools?’. The event was arranged by the JISC Regional Support Centre for Wales.

Alison Trimble told us about opportunities raised by the new interactive web technologies (sometimes called Web 2.0), as well as some of the dangers which lurk in these online worlds, if people are not wary. Her presentation was called Miracles Take a Little Longer.

Siân Williams told us about the National Grid for Learning (NgFL) Cymru resources. These are designed by teachers to share with other teachers, and she showed us some excellent examples. The scheme was launched for school resources, and is currently being extended to the ACL and FE sectors. Many of the resources which are already there are very useful across a range of levels, and he resources for adults will expand. Teachers can also apply for funding to develop their own, which are then shared across the community. If you have simple resources which could be developed for online presentation, please get in touch with NGfL and find out about the Innovative Resource Fund. ngfl-cymru-presentation-seiont-manor.doc

Esther Barrett taught us some Italian names for fruit and vegetables, showing off various ILT skills in the process, including a crossword made using ‘Hot Potatoes’ (http://hotpot.uvic.ca/). The crossword was fun for people to do, but Esther also emphasised that it is even better when you get the learners to create their own crosswords. It’s great for teaching language skills, and could be used in a lot of other contexts. The process was rounded off with people voting for the best answers to a quiz on this topic.

Alistair McNaught told us about some of the many ways to make technology more accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities Alistair’s presentation. Starting from the premise that delivery of learning materials in an appropriate range of formats is a learner entitlement, he showed us a huge range of tools. The talk was transmitted from England via Instant Presenter. Alistair and Esther managed this effectively despite some technical glitches, although people did say that they would have like to be able to see his ‘talking head’, and also the screensharing wasn’t happening for us on this occasion. There are lots of really useful links in his powerpoint presentation.

I rounded off the day (Paul’s presentation) by asking the participants about their own experiences, in an attempt to establish common themes – opportunities and barriers for using the technologies. Good experiences which people shared included using ‘Sills for Life’ diagnostics (this is engaging for learners, and the automatic functions help teachers to identify learners’ needs).


Effective learning is often a blend of online and classroom activities. People gave some nice examples of this, and it would be good to report some of these as case studies. Participants also some real potential benefits from the use of free electornic resources, including the National Learning Network (NLN) (contact me for details) and NGfL Cymru

We reflected on the fact that broadband is now available in around of half of Welsh homes – this is a huge opportunity (but let’s not forget about the other half!).

There were however plenty of barriers.. These included

  • the difficulty of training part-time tutors to an appropriate level,
  • hard to set up sophisticated equipment (e.g. interactive whiteboards) in remote learning venues
  • the systems in some colleges are restrictive (e.g. prohibition of social network sites)
  • management in workplaces not allowing access to the best (or any) equipment
  • lack of time for teachers and learners to develop the appropriate skills

The JISC Regional Support Centre may be able to help with some issues. Please feel free to contact us if there is anything specific – we may be able to help, and if not, we may well know someone who can. It’s worth a try!