Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christchurch earthquake on Tuesday 22nd February

Christchurch was hit by another large aftershock just before 1 pm on Tuesday. I was at work and at my desk. The others in my office were having a meeting with their manager in the office. When the sharp shock hit, I knew this was big. There was no forewarning as per the loud roar as in the last one in September just a sharp jerk followed by a violent shake. We all dived under our desks as books and files fell off shelves around us. I could hear students screaming in the library as books fell off the shelves in the library. The lights went out.  when the shaking stopped, we all evacuated to a view of  the fallen towers of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the Catholic cathedral. It dawned immediately that this was a very big one. Eventually found out it was 6.4 but very shallow and centred 5km away near Lyttelton.

After evacuation, I located my son, who works in the marketing dept. at CPIT. He had been in the CPIT marketing car, on his way to the other CPIT campus. The car shook violently, he could see the road ripple in front of him and a shop near the car collapsed!! We milled around, viewing the damage to buildings all around the polytech. there were signs of liquefaction in the carpark, we could see the Grand Chancellor Hotel was on a lean and smoke and dust from the collapsed CTV building, about 100m up the street from the polytech.  I was really worried for friends who worked in the city (but yesterday, managed to contact them all and they are well but still shaken from the experience). We left in my son's car to try to get home just before 3pm, giving a colleague a lift as well. I had to leave my car as I had evacuated without keys, wallet or cell phone! Car still at polytech. Took us almost two hours to get home, a drive of 16 kms plus detour to drop colleague off, The roads will choked with traffic but also damaged. Cracks, holes, flooding and a grey sludge over many streets from the liquefaction. A scarry trip as we listened to the radio , featuring calls from people providing eye witness accounts from the city and the eastern suburbs.

At home, no damage to the north west suburbs in Chch. just the usual clean up of books etc. fallen off shelves. Electricity back just after 7.30pm and we could then follow the news on the TV. Only managed to get access to work email yesterday (Wednesday) evening and have been replying to concerned emails from relatives, friends and colleagues from overseas and other parts of NZ. News has not been good, with many people trapped in buildings and the central city in ruins with substantial damage to suburbs East and South of Hagley park. This event will take a long time to recover from. Infrastructure will be a challenge to bring back and this morning, 40% of city still have no electricity and 80% of city have no water. have emailed and will follow up with phone to friends, colleagues who I know have no water. We might be able to assist with providing showers and food etc. as required but the challenge will be getting things to them, or for them to travel to us, as travel into the damaged suburbs is not encouraged.

So priority will be to keep in touch with people. I suspect CPIT will be closed for next week as well as it is within the central city cordon and buildings all around it have either collapsed or are severely damaged. Meanwhile, I will have to work out a way to get access to my work drives so that I can work on various articles that are partway through.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reports pertinent to mlearning - Horizon 2011 and JISC mobile review

A couple of reports via delicious links provide a summary of the ‘state of play’ with regards to mlearning. The mobile review from the Joint Information Systems Committee in the UK (JISC) provides a good read and overview of work that has taken place in mlearning over the last decade.  I am particularly heartened by the assumption of the following:
Three things that learners do expect, however, are:

1. To be able to use their own devices with corporately-owned IT infrastructure.

2. For technology not to be used as a crutch for poor learning and teaching experiences.

3. Unhampered digital communication with their peers, tutors and administrators.

All relevant to current discussions we are having at CPIT on future directions for IT support of educational development.

The other report is the annual Horizon report. Content is similar to the Australian/ New Zealand report published late last year. Mlearning and ebooks are the closest to mainstream adoption. A direction I have taken with work from late last year and starting to consolidate this term, with developing interactive textbooks for use on tablets.

Friday, February 11, 2011

more tablets launched

Clearing my google reader this morning and notice the launch or eminent launch of a few new tablets being reported via endgadget.

First up, HP has launched their touchpad, with an OS based on the Palm OS, although there is no mention whatsoever of the Palm brand. It will be interesting to assess this tablet as I have always been a bit of a fan of the palm user interface and quite miss my old Treo at times.

Second one, is the possible price in the US of A of the blackberry playbook. Again will be keen to try this one out as CPIT is currently using blackberrys as their corporate phone. 
Comparisons of the various tablets also provides interesting reading. Looking forward now to the coming of the new ipad.
The perenial difficulty we face, as educational users, is the various operating systems running on different hardware platforms. So far, I have tried to work on projects that are not dependent on hardware OS. In our mobile portfolio projects, we relied solely on the phones apprentices owned. At the moment, tablets are still seen to be 'new' and most students do not own one. Instead they own mobile phones, although by observing students in the library, the number of iphones seen in students' hands seems to have increased in the last 6 months or so.
For the 'interactive textbook' project, we have committed to developing a 'front end' template for the Android OS and have purchased an Archos 7 to test drive things. So, for the first time, we will need to explore possibilites for acquiring a class set of tablets to evaluate students' experiences with using the tablet based 'textbook'. I might now also think through the advantages of running a similar 'textbook' layout via Moodle. We can then compare the two and see if reliance on hardware is really required or whether we just ram up the LMS to be accessible across all devices.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Zaggmate – ipad case and keyboard

While away from the office over the summer ‘break’ I began blogging using the ipad. However, the on screen keyboard, even on landscape, tended to limit me to a hunt and peck routine. Therefore, as an Xmas present to myself, I ordered a zaggmate ipad case. Two alternatives, one with the case only and the other with an integrated Bluetooth keypad. I have now been playing with the zaggmate keyboard/case for a couple of weeks and am pleased with its overall performance.

To begin, the case itself is strong but light and matches the smooth, minimalistic design of the ipad. When the ipad is placed into the zaggmate case, the whole looks like a chunkier mac air. Synching the ipad to the zaggmate took all of about 10 seconds. So far, no hassles with the Bluetooth link and although I have used the keyboard off and on for almost two weeks, I have not had to recharge the case/keyboard. The ipad sits sort of securely on to a ledge on the case and is held up with a plastic backpiece which is brought up from flat. I have mainly been using the keyboard on a desk but it seems to be quite solid on my lap as well. However, might not be as secure, say on an aeroplane fold out table when the flight becomes bumpy, as the ipad is only kept upright by the plastic back piece and the way it just fits the case.

The zaggmate weighs in at 200g, the ipad 680g for a total well under a kg. However, total weight still more than double of a mac air 11” (only 380g) but heaps lighter than the Mac book pro 13” which is over 2 kg and still lighter than an ASUS eee PC at around a kg.

Therefore, I now have the alternative of just using the ipad on screen keyboard for quick notes etc. and the zaggmate keyboard for when i need to get to grips with more or am working on re-editing documents. Last week, I attended a one day 'academic writing' workshop facilitated by Dr. Marianne Tremaine who advocated the use of a 15 minute daily writing time slot to raise writing productivity.  So the use of the ipad and zaggmate should assist with meeting the goal.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Sharepoint as an LMS

CPIT has now moved into a fully Microsoft based environment for their intranet.  As part of this move, the Microsoft collaboration platform, Sharepoint, will be launched for institution wide use later this year. My sister-in-law works as a corporate staff developer and the organization uses Sharepoint as both its CMS and LMS. At present, we use Moodle as a LMS. Therefore, a good reason to explore if there are advantages to using Sharepoint as an LMS and possibilities for integration of Moodle with Sharepoint.
Also found some references to integrating Moodle with Sharepoint, mostly at the school level rather than at a corporate training or tertiary insitutions. There is a Moodle to sharepoint plugin but is has a 2007 date so not sure how up to date it is. There is a guide to using sharepoint as a file sharing part of Moodle, with some discussions on the Moodle forum and on a educators forum of how to integrate sharepoint and Moodle.
The general approach seems to be to use Sharepoint as a file system and link these files on Moodle. Which is not too different from what we do now. Will need to do more investigation into this to explore how others integrate Sharepoint with Moodle.