Making the Case for Online Learning

The FELTAG report recommends that we move to a 50% online model and I am sure a large number of educators ask “what’s the rush?” and “What are the benefits greater than what we already do?”. I could offer a number of answers, that are rather obvious, such as…

  • “What do we need to push us forward to catchup with our US cousins? another government mandate?” – It’s actually refreshing to have something worthwhile but with us ‘trailblazing’
  • “We can offer what we have to a diverse range of learners” – not to mention re-invigorate our own materials (your thinking of that colleague that has that photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopied resource!

But a recent TED talk by Daphne Koller says it all and much more whilst enticing top universities to put their most intriguing courses online for free with Coursera (cofounded by Andrew Ng). The lessons learnt make for interested observations. Daphne’s TED talk is certainly worth a watch-

What I did take way from the TED talk (given the complexity of requirements for Cousera) is that more than ever we will need Domain Experts (Educators) to organise, deliver and help develop the course materials with their strong understanding of teaching & learning but with a firm understanding of technology with the support of Technologists that can put in place the infrastructures and guide  others to what is possible whilst having a firm understanding of teaching & learning! The lines are becoming, and rightly so, blurred (no humming a certain tune please!) and we are going to be working in tandem for the good of our learners and not see technologists as a service.



Living with the Surface RT [Day 100]

Surface RT

I have hit 100 days with the Surface RT and I can say that they only thing about it that has been an uphill struggle has been this blog (only at times!). I certainly would have liked it to be more educational that it has been but attempting to blog daily has limited that. Id on’t intend to stop blogging, but I do not intend beyond today to blog on a daily (or attempt) basis but I do feel that this entry should look back at what I have tried to do and where i still/want to go with the Surface RT.

  1. Connecting wirelessly to another display
  2. Tethering to my phone for when I cannot get Wifi (made some headway – Bluetooth only real solution from a cost perspective, and so far not needed to!)
  3. Finding at least one good app (and free) for all categories (a bit ambitious now the categories have expanded i.e. sport & government not my thing!)
  4. Trying to write this blog from the Surface itself (setup has been on a PC, entries have been on an iPhone 5)
  5. Not writing this blog retrospectively (which it has up till now!)
  6. Purchase & use a stylus

I still have a few projects/research pieces involving the Surface RT that will be a part of this blog.

  • Tethering to my phone for when I cannot get Wifi (from my original list above)
  • Micro HDMI to mini HDMI adapter (on order)
  • VGA adapter (on order)
  • Working with whole groups of students and staff to utilise tablets in the classroom

I do have to say that I have not powered up my works laptop since July 2013, the Surface RT has been a great replacement and the abilities it has serves it well:

  • light
  • portable
  • Small form factor
  • Amazing battery Life
  • Productive (especially love office and OneNote app)
  • App store is starting to mature


I am going to have to dust off the laptop, if only because I’m teaching game engines and the software is on my laptop ready to utilise. I am still holding out hope that miracast will come to the Surface RT (although knowing it not coming), but overall I don’t see myself being drawn back to the iPad.

In fact I would probably be persuaded to move onto a Surface Pro or similar tablet/laptop device.



Flying back with the Surface RT [Day 70]

I really could not think what to put in this post mainly as I did not use the Surface for anything other than a quick game of “Water” by Disney before landing and it was more about occupying my time than anything else. I lost 8 hrs flying back to the UK and the rest was spent with my family or sleeping! I would say though that the Surface RT has been a great bit of kit and I don’t think it really has made me miss my desktop at all other than being a little slow at transferring images between devices (I thought I would do that in one go once I was back).



The Surface RT in Victoria Pt2 [Day 69]

The last day of the North American Trip has been reached and I am amazed at how prevalent WiFi is around the North America, Not only do we have WiFi at the Airport, but also on the Ferry back from Victoria to Vancouver and also the coach that we drove on and off the ferry in. In fact WiFi is so openly available that I have not had use my phone once to communicate with other than jumping on internet systems such as Facebook or Skype (which in all cases fared better on the Surface RT).


The Surface RT in Vancouver Pt2 [Day 67]

An extremely busy day in Vancouver yesterday with a visit to BCcampus which is a publicly funded organization that uses information technology to connect the expertise, programs, and resources of all B.C. post-secondary institutions under a collaborative service delivery framework. We provide valued services to institutions, ensuring B.C. learners, educators, and administrators get the best, most effective technologies and services for their learning and teaching needs. We provide an ICT infrastructure for student data exchange, shared services, online learning and distance education, communities of practice and online resources for educators.

Followed by a visit with Vancouver Community College which is refreshingly similar to a UK FE educational establishments, in that they services the community as their primary focus (don’t we all) win teaching staff having gone through teacher training  and delivering approximately 25hrs a week, inn stark contrast with Washington State that has 15 hers teaching face-to-fate with no requirement to have teacher training (although the insistence of a Degree).

Both organisations offered Eduroam (see an earlier post) that allowed for the Surface RT to jumps on the internet, again the iPhone constantly jumped on and off this network, so I am convinced that given the two devices that the Surface RT would definitely be my device of choice to jump on the net.


The Surface RT in Vancouver [Day 66]

Another hotel, and with absolute rubbish WiFi, but as I am near the top of the hotel there is a feint pick-up of the free executive “gold” WiFi. I cannot even so much as get out on the iPhone – the Surface RT does this effortlessly.


Road trip with the Surface RT [Day 65]

Well a train trip actually, Amtrak, a great way to see the land. I love the fact that the horn is blaring out every 10-15 mins (like the US trains are portrayed in the media) and they do love their marble in the train station. Although after a comfortable journey the horn blowing is a little annoying!

Everyone around me has iPads, what do they use to type up summary notes from the past week? My Surface RT! Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to convert anybody – make your own mind up. But there certainly is a convert amongst the team now.

Canada is wet, actually its very wet, but Vancouver is certainly is a lovely looking city. But its an evening with poor unreliable wife and typing up notes


The Surface RT in Seattle pt4 [Day 64]

Seattle News: We actually got time to sit in on a live meeting with the Seattle Times News Team. Particularly of interest was the discussion on the real-time analytics of their webpage as well as the discussions between which stories were to be web-on or as print as well but more in-depth, etc.

I must admit that the key thing w’s skyoing with my family, the room has free WiFi but both my device pick it up but the iPhone is not stable enough for a decent conversation, however the Surface really did an excellent job and di not stutter or lag through the conversation.


The Surface RT in Seattle pt3 [Day 63]

Yesterdays focus was a visit to Seattle Central  Community, this college felt more aligned with UK colleges not only in looks and community but with the issues of student economies and backgrounds. I have to say that, just like Shoreline, the staff are extremely welcoming and that they are passionate about their work and more importantly their student.

Where this college excels is in functional skills – I don’t think I have seen a classroom where all the students were focussed, engaged, motivated and enjoying themselves. This was not only doen to the software they was using but also the in-class support and I found myself drawn int the session.

The orgnsition is pro-active in producing eBooks and MOOCs and are seeing real benefits to the student community and wider audience.

Today was my third day of using the Surface for copies notes, I am really loving OneNote (although I am sure I am only touching the Surface [sorry!] of the software and really will set some future time aside to experiment more with it. I have noticed that colleagues are a little more selective with their note taking on the iPads, whereas I am thrashing away at documenting everything – even presentation notes that are coming my way in the future.