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Thursday, July 10, 2008

CILASS for Students website (private launch)



This mumble features a fair bit of bathing in my own glory (so no change there then).

I'm delighted to say that the CILASS for Students website is complete. It won't be officially launched until the next academic year, but I won't be around then, so I thought I'd quietly launch it to my friends now ...as I made it :-)

http://cilass-students.group.shef.ac.uk/

The aim of the student-targeted site is to promote an understanding of and engagement in Inquiry-based Learning, raise
awareness of the work that CILASS does, and provide an opportunity for the amazing Student Ambassadors to tell the world about the incredible things that they do.

It's based upon an original site created last autumn by all of the CILASS Student Ambassadors, with further input from the CILASS core team. Being an 'official' university site, last year's attempt to communicate with students was severely limited by the uni's CMS (Content Management System) which basically guarantees that even the most exciting of ideas end up looking about as interesting as a pile of rotting onion skins. Here's the most exciting page on the university website :-p

I think it was around March when I proposed that we do our own thing. Take it out of the university template. Create our own site from scratch. I wasn't really imagining that I'd end up creating a 50-page site. Bloomin' crazy idea if you ask me, end of my final year and all. But it was something I really wanted to do, so it just sort of happened. I was able to use the material supplied by the SAN for the first site, and benefited from lots of feedback from them during the development process - special thanks to Emmy and Ali.

I must say, I'm really pleased with the result, and I'm delighted by the response it's received. The CILASS core team have been very complimentary; seeing the site for the first time the director told me it had made her day. The university's Pro-vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning also emailed to say how good he thought it was, whilst central support staff were also very impressed by how comprehensive it was - yet studenty in appearance.

I should add that it is still in need of a lot of padding. My goal was to create the basic structure and core content - the plan now is for the SAN to fill in the holes and make it into a great resource.

I'd like to thank Sabine and Nicola for allowing me to do this, for giving me the freedom to pursue the project in google 20% time style.

I'm now in the process of creating support materials for the site (using the gorgeous Screenflow - OS X 10.5 only). One fear of mine (and of the core team) is that without me there to supervise the site might fall into dissaray (look what happened to the beautiful site I created for Milky House 5 years ago! Talk about cannabalisation). Thus, support material is vital.

I'd like to be able to use the site as a part of my portfolio. I don't see myself going into website design for a living, but nonetheless, I think it's a good demonstration of versatility (and I don't want to be pointing employers at TGW now do i?!).

Thanks to everyone who contributed, a great team effort! I look forward to seeing it being developed further over the next year.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tech Talk: the power of feeds (and an IC video)

The CILASS tech group had a really interesting meeting today. Started out with planning for Friday's technology session that we'll be filming for upload to the website, then went on to discuss the recent developments in web platforms / streaming services etc. I find this kind of thing very exciting as I see enormous potential in it.

I'm really looking forward to picking up my podcast again and producing something a lot more interesting. Despite being pretty crappy at the moment and my posting no new episodes, I'm getting about 500 new subscribers every month, sustained growth. Imagine if this was a business - how much would I be paying to attract this kind of attention? I don't see myself as making money out of listeners, but rather, I see it as a case of using the podcast to promote whatever other projects I'm involved in which people may be interested in.



Other services I'm using and recommend for people interested in building up a web presence

I forget if I've mentioned it before but I've also started experimenting with Live Video Streaming via uStream (www.tamegoeswild.com/live), something else I'd like to use professionally in the future. Then there's Twitter (http://twitter.com/tamegoeswild), which I have mentioned before - essentially it's micro blogging, up to 140 characters per post.  Really been enjoying using that. It has tremendous potential, as when used with something like Twitterific it can also notify Facebook and update your Skype Status, meaning that you can get something out in seconds to hundreds (or thousands) of people. It's also really interesting observing how other people are using it, and how it affects ones own attitude towards being open to the world.

I also use tumblr, which is more than micro-blogging, but less than standard blogging. I have that reserved for quotes and things to be thankful for - updated via a dashboard widget for ease of use.

Finally, I've recently started using Friendfeed, which brings together all of the above and my YouTube Channel, and Flickr posts, into one single feed that is displayed on my facebook profile page (or can itself be subscribed to via RSS).

What I've come to appreciate is that these tools can be used as key elements of a marketing strategy. Yes, they require sustained input, but they needn't be all that disruptive and they are ultra-low cost, and, based on my exposure to other users, they're pretty effective in creating a buzz.



Another thing we were discussing was the idea that university should really be introducing students to things like RSS feeds (what is RSS?). RSS feeds can be such powerful learning tools, yet if you ask the average student what an RSS feed is, they probably wouldn't be able to tell you, (and through no fault of their own). 

I think I'm a bit of an RSS junkie though. I currently have 61 feeds in my reader, although about 40 of those are friend's blogs and other sites that are updated about once a month. The remainder focus upon: news from Japan; digital photography (that's how I'm learning Adobe Lightroom); business, inspiration and Lifehacks.

The great thing with RSS is it's so simple to subscribe and unsubscribe. Unlike email subscriptions you don't have that fear of being spammed - you can trial something, and if you don't like it you just remove the feed from your reader. YOU are in control. It's also good for producers, as you get a good idea of what size your audience is.

Aside from RSS, I think it would be good if the university made more use of 3rd party technologies, rather than relying upon expensive in-house development. 

Take the Catsters for example - here YouTube is being used to teach some pretty complex mathematics. Just looking at the comments on their channel shows how welcome this is.




Hmm, YouTube excites me, even when it's a mathematics channel.

Anyway, I reckon all this stuff is going to play a big part in my future. Quite how I don't know.

To finish off then I bring you a great little video of the Information Commons. If you're a Sheffield student the first minute or so is well worth a watch! 



I reckon we need a song like that for the Arts Tower - not just a video of how to get on the roof!

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Remote control of camera (and parents)


Beautiful day today. I was up at 6am, and together with my flat-mate Ali headed out to Ponderosa Park.

I'll be off to the IC soon to start writing this dissertation introduction (the one that has been turned upside down by yesterday's discovery of some new legislature governing NGOs in Japan due to come into effect in December this year), and at lunch time will meet up with a Japanese friend for lunch, and picture taking. She needs a photo for the university web site: after two years of being the 'face of Japan', my *Twinkle* is being replaced ...and I'm participating in her banishment from the web site. Ohhhh the guilt!


Speaking of photos, this morning I discovered a remarkable capability my Mac has: remote control (via the Internet) of my digital camera. What is most remarkable is how easy it is to set up. You simply

1) Plug digital camera into your Mac via USB
2) In Image Capture, turn on Camera Sharing
3) On some other computer go the web address you are given by Image Capture.
4) That's it.

Once on that webpage, you can see all the photos on the camera's memory stick, download them to your computer, and even tell the camera to take another photo. Or, you can click on the "Monitor" tab in which case the camera will automatically take a photo once a minute, and the web page will auto-refresh.

Some mumblers may recall that I set up a similar system last year, but that involved creating an automator action and FTPing them to my server. With this, everything seems to be done locally.

The wedding plans really are coming along nicely now. Mum and dad have been just great. In fact it's been a bit like remote control with them too. I just fire off an email with an idea or question, and next thing I know I get a response confirming that initial bookings have been made. Ah, the wonders of the Mac!

OK, I'd best get on. Have a lovely day.

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