Category: Web 2.0

Technology Enhanced Learning: Digital Inclusion Forum

Technology Enhanced Learning Logo
Technology Enhanced Learning

Yesterday saw the launch of the newly formed Digital Inclusion Forum set up by the Technology Enhanced Learning Programme, which is funded by the ESRC and EPSRC and directed by Richard Noss here in the UK.

In 2008 BECTA‘s Disadvantaged Learners Report observed that the lack of a single voice in UK policy championing disadvantaged learners has led to unhelpful fragmentation – particularly in addressing digital disadvantage across education.  Hopefully this Forum will help to draw together disparate resources and streams of research and practice to give more cohesion to those seeking to mitigate exclusion within technology enhanced learning.

The Digital Inclusion Forum has two key purposes:

  • To identify key inclusion-related questions and issues for research into digital inclusion issues in education
  • To discuss and evaluate the contribution that the TEL research programme can make to the digital inclusion research agenda.

According to Jane Seale, the group convener, there will be two main phases of activity:

  • The first phase (May-November 2009) will be the development of an online space for sharing digital inclusion related resources, discussing inclusion-related issues and scoping priorities for digital inclusion research. It is hoped the online space will be a platform for the collaborative writing of a web-based document that starts to draw together what the key issues are in relation to digital inclusion research.
  • The second phase (December 2009-September 2010) will involve the setting up of a commentary group who, drawing on the web-based document will co-author a TEL branded publication which offers a commentary on digital inclusion research and highlights the contributions of the TEL projects to the field.

The forum welcomes input, with invitations being issues specifically around contributions to an emergent Digital Inclusion Reference Library and posts to the new discussion forum.

To add any digital inclusion references that you think are relevant and make a significant contribution to the field visit:

To add to a conversation thread or post a response on the Discussion Forum visit:

The forum also notably draws on blogs and other resources tagged with ‘digitalinclusion’. This marriage of expertise and materials will hopefully accrue into a valuable resource for everyone working to achieve access and equity in technology enhanced learning.

Internet Tools for PhD

This week I belatedly took at look at the Guardian Top 100 Website listings for the year ahead (2009). This is always an interesting read. New Entries vie against previous success stories, and the chart’s Non-Movers are frequently a good indication of developer’s hard graft and continuing innovation.

The list covers several areas. For fellow (PhD) researchers and those interested in potential educational tools, I’ve shortlisted and annotated the topics I found most relevant:


Visualisation is the final category on the Guardian list, but I begin with it as it is the most relevant to those seeking new tools for data manipulation.  Three sites are listed, foremost amongst them being Google Visualisation tools,  featuring dozens of tools for making data more comprehensible. Of these tools I noticed Motion Chart, a temporal-visualisation of data that appear to be surfacing from Google’s acquisition of Hans Rosling’s GapMinder project. Notably there also appear to be tools for creating Sparklines, an efficient visualisation originally pioneered by the ‘Da Vinci of Data’ himself, Edward Tufte. Other sites recognised by the Guardian are Many Eyes, IBM’s visualisation tools, similar to Google’s and DabbleDB which allows you to create online databases and analyse them.


As someone desperate to avail themselves of Apple’s Keynote for presentations, I was interested to check out 280slides cited as ‘A presentation create presentations online. Very slick.’ Alternatives to PowerPoint always bear investigation – although this appears to be a fairly PPT dependent app so far.  Dipity is also listed and offers the opportunity to build multimedia timelines. If you’re plotting the course of your studies, or want a reflexive tool for realtime use, this could reward experimentation for those using varied sources. My addition to this category might break the no-download rules, but I’d also recommend the Open University’s Compendium for wicked problems and solo or communal mind mapping.


Research diaries and journals are vital to those developing reflexive practice, blogs also offer the opportunity for PhD students to share research and develop an academic presence online.  An increasingly streamlined category, this year the Guardian cite only WordPress for content creation and Bloglines for managing your feeds.  The management of social information is a strong theme in this year’s list.

Physical from virtual

I’ve previously blogged on available small scale printing from Blurb and others. The Guardian also raise London based Moo for business cards and Lulu another stop for book, photobook, calendars and other sorts of publishing. I’m still dreaming of a 4-colour thesis.

Twitter, and associated

For those trying to surveille the social web, Monitter offers a useful service for watching keywords on Twitter. Importantly, no log-in is required (as of April 20th).  Again, this is the second highlighted service that deals specifically with filtering mass generated social information.


If you’re looking to share video consider Vimeo for better rights control than YouTube and a cleaner interface.  My addition here is Easy YouTube a more accessible interface built over YouTube that removes a lot of the complications and distractions users have to wade through. This was developed in response to the AbilityNet Web 2.0 conference, which highlighted (amongst other things) the inaccessibility of Web2.0 tools for people with learning disabilities.  There are also rumours of developments for captioning (subtitles) on YouTube circulating at Accessify. Exciting times!

Virtual worlds/MMORPGs

Second Life is notably absent from this year’s list. Moshi Monsters crops up as an “educational” virtual world for kids.

And finally, The Guardian lists Cartoons, as ‘eveyone needs some relaxation’. Absent, but nontheless essential viewing for postgraduates everywhere is Piled Higher and Deeper, the only PhD based comic strip you’re ever likely to need.

BSL Online Learning Support launched

At the start of the month I signed on to a CACDP course for a level one certificate in British Sign Language (BSL) at South Nottingham College. As anyone learning a sign language will know, paper notes can be difficult to revise from, so I anticipated hitting video materials online safe in the knowledge that we are all living in the future, I would find everything necessary to my personal advancement with the aid of the mighty YouTube. A bit naive?! Frankly, yes.

Although we may be living in the future (robot companions notwithstanding, DISCUSS), it quickly became clear that YouTube is not the place to rehearse your BSL. American Sign Language is, perhaps unsurprisingly, king, and even then using the search tool to hunt through the video archive for relevant vocabulary is increasingly like dowsing with a meat hammer. I was therefore delighted today to discover that CACDP has very recently launched an Online Learner Support Pack for BSL 101.

The Online Learner Support Pack is a free resource for everyone starting to do BSL101, and is a great way to help learners get off to a good start in learning British Sign Language.The Support Pack allows access to hundreds of videos of individual signs and sentences to help practising between classes, so if you have trouble remembering a sign, you can now go online to find and practise it instantly. Topics from BSL101 covered include the manual alphabet, numbers, transport, meeting people, weather, and directions.  As the internet becomes more mobile, I wonder if this can and will become the BSL pocket dictionary?

CACDP stress that this resource cannot be used to learn the complex language of BSL alone, as it is intended to only to compliment the methods of BSL teachers.  However, for those learning, or wishing to ‘Brush Up’ their British Sign Language skills, the online support materials are currently available to all, gratis.  To register visit:

Easy YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare

Following on from their wonderful ‘Accessibility 2.0: a million
flowers bloom’ conference, Abilitynet have made podcasts, transcripts and summaries of all the presentations available.  If you weren’t able to attend (or even if you were) I highly recommend checking out these resources. Click to visit the downloads and podcasts pages:
Podcasts, transcripts and summaries of Accessibility
2.0 presentations!

You can also subscribe direct
to the podcasts with this link –

Perhaps even more interesting are some of the developments since the conference, which I think will have implications for major areas of teaching and learning. AbilityNet summarised these factors as follows:

"Bringing together passionate
experts in a field where there are few cut and dry rules can lead to heated
discussion. Since the conference has led to several interesting

  • A heated
    exchange between Jeremy Keith and Mike Isofarro Davies has resulted in ongoing debate about the
    accessibility of Microformats, hopefully it will lead to an accessible solution
  • What are the
    accessibility concerns with microformats? the BBC’s Jonathan
    Hassel explains
  • Christian Heilmann developed EasyYouTube, a YouTube player for people with learning
    disabilities as a direct response to Antonia Hyde’s presentation on Rich Media
    for people with learning disabilities
  • Christian
    gets fantastic feedback – EasyYouTube also works with screen readers and
    schoolkids use it to access YouTube
  • Following on
    from this success Chris developed EasySlideShare and EasyFlickr
  • Christian
    has taken the idea further by organising Scripting Enabled – an accessibility hack day"

In particular EasyYouTube, EasyFlickr and EasySlideShare look to me like great tools, and the fact the day conference has already led to such positive outcomes (in its first year!) is fantastic.  Congratulations AbilityNet and all involved!

AbilityNet plan to
host Accessibility 2.0 again in Spring 2009. If you would like to receive updates, contact

Second Life and Accessibility

At the recent NCeSS conference I was put in touch with Gareth White, from Sussex University.  Gareth is a post graduate who has been looking into the accessibility of Second Life for people with visual impairments.  Second Life is a hot accessibility topic, with some high profile instances of disability culture in evidence – most notably Wheelies Nightclub (the first virtual disability nightclub in the world!), but features some clear barriers to participation for blind and partially sighted people, amongst others.

Gareth’s blog (at gathers together some interesting opinions and materials in this area, including work on the use of haptics for adding tactile sensations to virtual worlds and an extensive list of relevant links.  Importantly, his work has been accepted for the forthcoming ACM International Conference on Digital Interactive Media in Entertainment &
Arts, hopefully making the detail of his research more publically available.  I’ll be sure to signpost the resulting paper.

Social Tagging

My good friend The Wired Jester has posted an article considering a couple of interesting examples of social tagging on Flickr and Last.FM (MySpace 2.0?).  Tagging has never been my strong suit, but if you’re looking for creative responses to the Social Web, this is a great short piece.  Click on this link to read Web 2.0 Vandalism.

Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0

Small but interesting vignette on where this is all going (sponsored by Google!).

Social Bookmarking in Plain English

A Commoncraft show short film on Social Bookmarking.  It’s a three step plan!

Websites and Web 2.0

I’m currently occupied building a small website for a research project looking at web 2.0 activities in early secondary school.  The website aims to explain web 2.0 for school teachers in plain terms, and I’ve been increasingly struck by how difficult it is to expound all the myriad of ideas about web 2.0 and it’s ilk without reverting to techno-talk or jargon.  If anyone out there in Internet land knows of a definition of web 2.0 that is clear and concise let me know ASAP!  I’ll post a link to the research site here when it’s finished.  This may be a line in the sand…

Serious Virtual Worlds

I’ve just recieved notice of the first European conference dedicated to the professional application of Serious Virtual Worlds.  This will co-incide with the launch of the recently founded Serious Games Institute (SGI) website.  The early bird discount has expired, however, if you’re interested, the conference takes place form 13 – 14 September 2007 @ The Serious Games Institute, Coventry, UK.

The prevailing theme is ‘The Reality of the Virtual World’ taking a close look at how virtual worlds are now being used for ‘serious’, i.e. professional, purposes.

Day 1 – Introducing Virtual Worlds: presentations and conversations introducing virtual worlds and the 3D web from Cisco,  Forterra, Linden Labs, Giunti Labs, Daden, Ambient Performance, TruSim and others, closing with the launch of the Serious Games Institute and Coventry University’s ‘Second Life’ Island.

Day 2  – Serious Virtual Worlds: Action & Potential: live virtual world presentations and conversations from PA Consulting, IBM, Reuters, BP, Trusim, Forterra, and others

For more information go to