Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Take note people!

Well those of you with the eager eye will have notice that my Blog's title has change from Learning Technologist to "Stephen Hodge... the Geek side", this isn't just a lame attempt at rebranding my blog it is in fact due to me leaving my role as a Learning Technologist (more on this later). But for the mean time I'm still employed as an LT so here's a Learning Technologist based blog post...

Taking Notes:
It's not a fact I like to publicise about myself but I actually suffer from dyslexia (apparently I have a reading age of a 12year old) you might have gathered from some of my awesome spelling mistakes! However I personally feel dyslexia is a made up condition it merely being a label people have given me to make me feel happier that I lack in certain skills... all its actually meant to me is that I have to try harder... but surly that means that other people have learning disabilities in their inability to do maths or to programme or have any form of  logic so why aren't we all labelled in such ways.... OOOOR just accept your not going to be great at everything... anyway I digress!

As a result of my "label"... or should I say as a result of the fact my brain returns white noise sometimes when I write/listen/read I've found note taking to be an area I particularly struggle with.... hence technology has come to my aid! Note taking can kind of be split into two forms, the physical taking of notes and the retrieving of the said notes:

A Pen and Paper:
Lets not get bogged down with technology for writing notes when the simplest one is usually the best a Pen and Paper, no batteries required and the cheapest option... lacks a little bit in the security front, can easily be ignited... and can't be easily backed up. Not my prefered option since writing with a pen hurts my hands and  you need the physical media with you at all times to view.

Optical Character Recognition: 
Pretty much the same as above but the paper is scanned into your computer and transformed into computer text through a technology called optical character recognition. Not the tidiest of inputs since your hand writing will need to be on the neater side of things and then needs to be scanned in and processed... but not a technology to be forgotten.

Digital Memo Pad:
The above two technologies combined into a stand alone product... a supped up note pad if you like. The resulting file can be in the form of text or a jpg...

Defiantly the easiest note taking option you simply have to press record and replay it later, if your needing to take exact and accurate notes this is defiantly the best option. However from my time using a Dictaphone as a student I can safely say I didn't reply the recording once, and most defiantly didn't think ooooh I'll waste an hour of my life re-listening to the lecture to make notes.... sooo to summarise unless you genuinely going to invest your time in re-listening to the lectures and making notes from them in your spare time then go ahead, but I know from experience this doesn't work for me.

I remember the first time I saw a laptop used in a seminar to record notes and remember thinking two things.... that guy looks stupid carrying such an expensive bit of gear around just to take notes and also... that's a very good idea... from the looks of it he was defiantly onto something as laptops in lectures, seminars, meetings etc are now pritty much the norm. (however due to the scope of a laptop they can often be more of a distraction than a benefit!).

PDA/Mobile Phone: 
The best option here in my opinion is the very item you have on you at all times, your mobile phone. Since not only is it always on you, its usually only able to do one thing at one time so the distraction a laptop might give (Facebook solitaire etc) is some what minimised... unless your using an advanced mobile operating system like Web OS  of course ;-)

I've probably missed some off the list here but that'll do for now, feel free to add any I've missed out in the comments.

Accessing the notes later:
This section being the main part of this blog post... the bassline if you like... So you've written your notes, admittedly some times I just write notes so I can maintain my attention and stay awake etc. But very often I'll be needing to actually use the notes I've taken. This is all very well if you have the medium you used to take the notes on accessable. But what happens if you left your note pad at home when your needing to read the notes in work... this is where the cloud comes into play!

Microsoft Exchange (depends if your institute has access to it):
With osX and most mobiles supporting exchange out the box and windows offering it with Office and their being online access. Exchange is one of the most widely avaiable options when it comes to cloud storage... as a University of Plymouth member we all have access to Microsoft Exchange (this is what your Email/Calander system is built upon), if your not apart of Plymouth Uni then your works/uni email system will most probably be built upon Exchange... Exchange offers a number of different platforms for writing notes these can be its actual notes section (although not available on mobiles), tasks, and calender notes. Once saved these notes are saved and synced with your exchange account and will be available on any other device/site you have which syncs with your Exchange account.

Google Docs - http://docs.google.com:
One of my favourite on-line inventions is Google Docs... the fact that Google went "we like what Microsoft have done with Office... but we think it should be free and on-line.... BAM - Google Docs! The thing with Google docs being on-line is that they can obviously be accessed wherever there's a web browser and an internet connection, and with Google being pretty open with their API's there are a host of Applications (I hate the term "APP") which you can download for your mobile/desktop which hook into Google's docs... best of all Google Docs is free, and accessible via your Google login which you've probably got already.

Evernote http://evernote.com
I was going to leave it at Google Docs and Exchange but then realised... what that's rubbish! Apparently evernote is the top dog when it comes to cloud note taking! With applications for all platforms both mobile and desktop for online and offline access they do seem to have all bases covered. You get two options of accounts the free version which allows 50mb upload per month (30days), or for $5month or $45year you can upload 500mb (as well as extra file sizes you do get other features). The thing I like about Evernote is that it integrates with all platforms really well allowing photo/audio upload and allows offline mode out the box (no third party application), so you could in theory, go to meeting/lecture write breath notes, then whilst travelling back on a bus or train (we're all green here remember), edit the said notes to make sure they make sense and if you dip out of signal no worries! Then when you get back to your office computer all your notes will have synced and you'll have the most up-to-date info to work on.

SharePoint - MySite (dependant upon institute):
Well I couldn't do a post like this and offer a institutional option, bulive it or not this is one of the things SharePoint was designed to do, although annoyingly they kind of forgot about mobile computing.... so if your only planning on writing your notes using your computer then SharePoint might be a valid option. You could use one per module you teach on, or use your MySite, create a document library specific for word files, and every time you work on a document open and edit it whilst on your SharePoint site. This way you can come back to it later on another computer and edit away at it within your favourite word processing program (I'm assuming Word IS your favourite word processing programme)....

There are many other solutions out there but I guess the point of this post was to show you that there are many options available out there if you don't like taking notes in a lecture/meetings... hope its of some use, please feel free to leave comments if there are any note taking practices I've missed out!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Editing/Viewing Excel documents in SharePoint2010

Ok ok yes this sounds like a stupid blog post and really it is. Poor SharePoint2010 gets slightly confused, if you upload an excel document and try to open it, the system tries to open it within the browser but it doesn't seem to do anything other than error (this only seems to happen in a non Internet Explorer browser btw):

As stated above internet explorer doesn't bring up the error it makes you download it by default. We're needing to force it to download. 
This'll allow you to save the file to your local machine which you'll then be able to view/edit/re-upload. 

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Standardisation + Paramedics instigated via SharePoints wiki/page edit facility..

please note most of this is just waffle telling you about the product. skip directly to help (So how do I get to this Standardisation Log?)

Ok I realise I'm constantly harping on about Wiki's on SharePoint/Tulip, its not that I have a particular attachment to Wiki's its just that the page edit facility on SharePoint 2010 is based on Wiki's... which obviously makes it 100% ok... yeah... ok deal!

A long time ago I received a slightly confusing email from support desk asking me to help create something along the lines of a Standardisation tool for Paramedic students... for some reason Support Desk had been approached for an E-Learning question (yet I get inundated with support calls oooh the irony!), anyway the idea behind this project was that when conflicting statements get given from "external lecturers" if there was a way to log these issues, to be clarified by the course lectures. Now my first thought was oh Share Points forum facility will be perfect for this. However the student who originated this problem (incase your curious why I'm taking ideas from students now, his academics encouraged him to pursue this himself so basically I had the green light and backing from his academics) pointed out that this process should be a lot more organised and structured. In fact I believe he held a similar practice within the armed forces (although not digital).

So this lead me to think ah ha some sort of form which students can contribute to, this could indeed have been a simple Word document people can edit... but who wants to use word documents in this day and age... BRING ON THE CLOUD! (bring on the wall?)

So my plan was to create a editable page on SharePoint2010 (Tulip) which had a pre formatted Table for students to add to as and when the issue of standardisation arises. This has been housed on the Paramedics Main Program site so all years can add to this form.

So how do I get to this Standardisation Log?
Currently this Log is only on the Paramedic Practitioner (Community Emergency Health) program site, but I'm sure with time this idea might spread to other courses. You can access the log by clicking the link on the left hand menu titled "Standardisation Log".

Great so I'm at this Log... I need to raise a query
Well I've given all students on the site contribute rights to this page so all you need to do is bring up the edit panel that can be done by clicking on the little note book icon:

Then the whole page becomes editable to create a new line in the table simply go to the last box "complete" and press the TAB button, then type away completing your query. When your done, you need to make sure you click the "Save & Close" button otherwise your changes won't be saved. If your a student that's all you need to know.

So how do academics get to know about these changes?
For the moment no notifications have been set up... mostly because I've not been told who the academics to notify are yet! However using SharePoints Alert Me Tool I hope to keep academics and students in the loop about any modifications to this Standardisation Log.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Ladies and Gentle Men I bring you... UpMedia... how to upload and how to view...

UpMedia has occurred from the universities not just Plymouth but universities in general's view to keep all their eggs in one basket! This isn't a bad thing since I'd much rather have social workers or Nursing students where confidentiality is key to create videos for their courseworks on our servers rather than somewhere else out there in the world! Having said that to compete with someone like YouTube or Vimeo is always going to be a uphill struggle.

Plymouth Universities answer to this is to implement UpMedia a system based on Helix with the idea that the videos can be uploaded via a Module/Programe separate to that sites file space, UpMedia does this job perfectly and it encodes the files into a universal standard under the RealMedia codec which VLC supports (quickly looks at the above picture). UpMedia has only just been opened up in the past 24hours so there are many bugs with the system so I'm sure with time we'll have a slick and easily to use system.  

How to I get to UpMedia?
Currently UpMedia is only listed on your Modules/Programme pages (soon to be on your MySite), you first need to create a UpMedia library for that site then you can upload to it. 

How Create your UpMedia library:
  1. Go to your site and click on the bottom link on the left hand menu "Administration".
  2. Under the tiny heading of "Create" you should see three links... no they are three links not just one long link (heard of lists?), click on "More". (as shown below)
  3. Then BAM you should see a link titled "UpMedia" and their snazy logo (fair play whoever created that logo does look cool). Click on this link. (again as shown below)
  4.  You'll be asked to give it a name and if you would like emails upon changes and if you want it displayed in the left hand menu (tick as you so desire). 
  5. Click submit and your done! 

How do I upload to this new UpMedia Library? 
  1. Go to the newly created library, if you ticked the box for it to appear in the quick menu it'll be listed under "Lists".
  2. Then click on the "add new item" link:

  3. This'll bring a pop up window where it'll ask you to browse for the file you wish to upload, browse for the said file and click ok. (I've found it doesn't like files over 2gb).
  4. As soon as your click ok it'll start uploading:
  5. Once the uploading process has done it'll put a little tick to the left of the name... I'm assuming it'll refresh over time but to give it a little prod click the greyed out "ok" button to get it to refresh (don't click your refresh button).
  6. You'll then be asked to fill out some key information fill it out and click "Continue" take note as you go through the "tick boxes" as this is where you can list it on itunesU etc (more on this once the systems properly live).

    (click to make it bigger)
  7. Your final step is to select a screen grab to be used as a thumbnail (or you can upload your own custom one). and where you would like your file to be listed under etc click finish and your upload will be complete. 
  8. It'll finish by giving you a message of "You are logged in as: [username] Media file data saved successfully". Then close this box (it doesn't close automatically yet). 
  9. Refresh your page and BAM your newly uploaded file will display. 
.RM What's that? How to I play my finished file?
  1. Go to your UpMedia library with the newly uploaded file. Click on the thumbnail and it'll start downloading. 
  2. If you have VLC or RealPlayer on your computer it'll play fine....
  3. If not download VLC for free PLEASE download VLC not RealPlayer... although use RealPlayer if you want just I'll sleep better at night knowing your using VLC instead of RealPlayer. 
Well that's all I've got to say about UpMedia so far, its great that its here and I'm sure your all just as excited as me that we now have somewhere to store all our large video files rather than using external space (if its over 10min that is). Hats of to the team who created it, would not like the stress of creating such a large system as this to hold a rather large amount of users etc! So High Fives and Pancakes!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Forget my VLE I want to get mashed up....

So you've been reading up on Steve Wheelers learning practices have you? Well although I don't fully agree with all of Steve's points I do see where he's coming from. I don't like feeding trolls so shall just leave my views in the safe middle ground (that's the A-Level Geographer inside me!). Anyway whether you agree with Steve's views on a the use of a VLE or not sooner or later the need to host a document of some sort externally may arise! This could be down to a number of reasons, your wanting to share a file with an unknown number of people and a direct easily shareable (tweetable even) link might be more suitable, or it could just be the file your trying to email is just to darn big!

So where can I put these files?!
There are a number of solutions here the most trusted option in my opinion comes from the big G - Google. In 2007 Google started its bold steps into the area of cloud computing, having your data stored externally and accessible anywhere in the world. Google Docs is in fact a truly magical thing to use first off all you need is a browser so goodbye Microsoft Office (for personal use all my word processing is done on my Google account), and best of all its all free! Google Docs allows you to invite sharer's so you can collaborate and edit the same document together take a look at this little video which explains this all in a bit more depth:

So how do I get started?
Well first log into your Google Docs account with your Google account.. you might already have a Google Account, if you've used Blogspot, Picasa, Youtube, Gmail that account will work... if your yet to have a Google Account then where have you been? Jump on in and become a part of one of the greatest things on the internet!

I'm going to give you steps on how to upload your document, but Google have got it going on when it comes to usablity to I'd imagine you won't need to check back here once you've get started.
  1. Go to http://docs.google.com log in
  2. Click on the Upload button:
  3. Next Click on the link which says "Select files to upload", that'll bring up the browse to file window find the file you wish Google to host and click ok.
  4. Your file should then be listed you can upload multiple files here if you so desire. Ensure the 'Convert documents, presentations, and spreadsheets to the corresponding Google Doc formats' box is checked. When your happy click "Start Upload":
  5. It'll take a couple seconds or so to upload (depending upon your internet connection). Once done click on the file name to check its all ok:
  6. This will open the document up in a new window on the far right side of the page you should see a button titled "Share" click on the little drop down arrow to the right of it. You'll get a couple of options such as 'sharing options', that allows you to select specific people to share your document with which is emailed to them via a specific link, however we want the whole world to see my amazing document so I'm going to click on "Publish to the Web":
  7. You'll get a pop up box click the "Start Publishing" button right in the middle and magically your documents URL will be displayed:
You can view my document here.

Hope this was of some help you can stop sharing whenever you feel fit, Google's Policy is that if you delete something on their servers they won't keep it, so don't worry about them being sneaky with your files!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Our Survey says....

So you've been tasked with creating some sort of Survey to capture your audiences views on specific points, using a unstructured set up such as a blog or wiki isn't enough you basically want to quiz them on some certain area's of interest to either figure out if they've actually learn't anything or just to get a general overview of your group... why not give them a survey?

Survey's are great... ok no they're not they're both a pain to create and a pain to fill out! So why not make this painful process as simple and easy as possible?! Let SharePoint (tulip) do the hard work! Incase you've not caught on by now SharePoint has a built in Survey tool and its pretty cool if I'm honest!

How do I get to this "Pretty cool" survey tool then?

This "Pretty Cool" can be found on your SharePoint site of choice under the left hand menu "Surveys" its the very top option you might very well have missed it I know it took me some time to find it! If you click on this link you'll be brought through to the page which lists all the surveys your SharePoint site has, I'm assuming that by looking at this tutorial this'll just have the dummy survey created by default!

So lets get on and create a survey, some advice if your yet to fully arrange the finer details of your survey asides from the fact you actually want to create one I suggest you create a couple dummy surveys first so you know what this tool is capable of doing first. Since it seams when it comes to creating a survey the technology is a tiny bit of a barrier, this is regardless of the platform your using in fact I've found SharePoints survey tool to be quite powerful!

Steps to creating your first Survey:

I'd like to note that I'm creating this dummy survey on a mac using safari with Silver Light not installed (so pretty much the most backwards way of using a Microsoft product)
  1. Go to your SharePoint site, click on the "Surveys" link on the left hand menu.
  2. Click "Create" from this new page.
  3. Under "Tracking" select "Survey".
  4. Give it a suitable name and if you feel you need to give it a description do so, you have the option to make it display in the "quick launch" menu, this is the left hand menu. The following two options are useful, of "Show User Names" and "Allow multiple responses", they've both quite self explanatory, you do however get the chance to change these later if needs be. When your happy here click next. Its sometimes worth allowing multiple responses start with as it allows you to test the survey a number of times once done!
  5. You then get thrown right in the thick of it by constructing your questions. Its worth noting that although its useful to get this initial stage all done 100% correct its not vital since all information can be changed if so desired, i.e. question, type of answer and order can be altered and removed (if so desired). The creation of questions is a 4 part affair:
    • First you enter the question, I've found that its worth setting a consistent form to your questions, i.e. if you start of numbering them make sure you remember to continue this numbering throughout (including the format of numbering 1) or 1. or 1- etc) and likewise be consistent with how you end these questions I found I was constantly swopping between : and ?'s.
    • Next you have to enter what type of answer you require there's a long list to go through I'm no professional of what each section is but I'll try to explain to the best of my ability:
      • Single Line of Text - best used for single word answers or phrases, you get the added option of limiting how many characters the user can type in.
      • Multiple Lines of Text - if your asking for specific feedback about a question or asking for comments, you also get the option to limit the number of lines displayed in the box (i.e. the box's size) however if exceeded the box will start scrolling. (its wise to only use the Multiple line option if you know the user is going to type a lot in there the less used the better as it'll maintain a snappy survey for both the user and the computer).
      • Choice (menu to choose from) here you get to create your very own multiple choice question, similar to the choose your nationality question so many online application forms ask.
      • Number (you can set a max and min number if so desired).
      • Currency
      • Date & Time
      • Lookup (information already on this site) I don't quite get this type of answer, you get the option to select which area of the site you want to lookup and then the user can select that option, i.e. if you got it to look at modified site content you'd be given a list of modified site content to choose from the only way I could see that this might be useful is if you wanted students to choose their favourite document or something similar and equally as boring as that! 
      • Yes/No (check box) - you don't get the choice between choosing yes or no you get the choice of choosing yes or leaving it blank (doesn't quite look right so I end up creating a Yes and No option in the Choice answer option. 
      • Person or Group - your answer will be a person or a group on your site could be useful if you've doing per assessments... particularly if your doing online per assessments and have set groups into anonymous groups users could select the group which they think is best/worse etc. 
      • External Data - I have no idea what this option is since its not fully functional due to the system not being set up to allow it. (just pretend it doesn't exist). 
      • Page Separator - this tool is actually the most useful tool on this list as it allows you to group your questions the end result is a page approach to the survey so users don't feel initially bombarded with questions. 
      • Managed Metadata... ok don't quite know what this does either.. shall add to these two when I've got some time to look into them some more!
    • The 3rd option... wow that's quite a long list up there! anyway the last option is you get to customise your chosen type of answer i.e. you can add the extra options if your using a multiple choice question or how many characters you want to use on a Single line answer etc. 
    • Last but not least you also get to use the very powerful tool of "Branching Logic" this being "if answered yes to above skip to question x", but you can do this with all range of answers from yes or no to multiple choice etc. 
  6. So when you've gone through all your questions you'll probably want to check out an overview of them to check you've included them all and if you need to reorder or edit any of them etc. This can be done by going to the list of surveys you have for your site, click on the survey in question.
  7. Within here you can participated in the survey by clicking on "Respond to this Survey" button or edit and change the settings of the survey:
    Click settings - survey settings
  8. Survey Settings - allow you to edit any of the questions by clicking on them, from this overview page your able to see how the layout of your survey looks, a system which I've done is that if you've implemented the "page separator' feature make sure that you explain what page your on in the next question (page 1 of 10 etc). At the bottom of the page you can click "Add a question" to get to the add question menu again, and change order of the questions  does as it says on the tin. You're also able to save the survey as a template, which is particularly useful if you've made a generic survey for a range of modules/programmes. 
I think that's all I'm going to say about this Survey tool this post has far to little amount of images for my liking and to small amount of comedy so I feel a little uncomfortable being so serious through such a large amount of typing!

Oooh one last thing viewing responses that can be found on the image above just after clicking on your survey of choice "Show Graphical Summary of Responses" and "Show all responses" that's all that gets displayed on a non internet explorer computer, if your using windows and have Excel installed you get the choice to download data to an Excel format for post analysis! FUN TIMES!

I might add to this post in time once I've had more of a play about, but hope its been of some use!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Setting Permissions on individual pages/sites in Tulip/SharePoint 2010

Well I'm going to attempt to spice up this very very boring subject by adding lots of pictures of cats taken from icanhascheesburger...

well I did warn you!
So lets say you've split your students up into groups and have set up a number of sub sites/libraries for these students to use as their own. However what you don't want to happen is for other groups to view/edit/copy these groups works! Luckily the big M has our back on this one... no not Mc Donalds... Microsoft Dummy!

Getting to the Permissions for your Page

1) So go to the site or page your wanting to have unique permissions, and from the Ribbon Menu™ select "Page".
2) From the resulting contextual menu select "Page Permissions" roughly just below where you clicked "Page".

Your then get greeted with a really scary looking page... but don't worry here's a picture of a cat to make it look nicer!

Altering a groups Permissions

Ok I think I'll quit with the cat pictures now they're getting in the way! Anyway so back to this task the default setup for your SharePoint pages is that they'll inherit permissions directly from their parent. Which is quite self explanatory you change the main site's permissions it'll change the sub site's permissions. We want this to stop since we don't want to make it unique! So:

3) Click on the "Stop Inheriting Permissions" icon:
 You'll get a warning saying bla bla bla click OK! Unless you genuinely accidentally clicked on the "stop inheriting permissions" button in which case why are you reading this tutorial... however if your just experimenting don't worry as you can re inherit permissions back again if you change your mind!

From here you can alter the different groups permissions, for this example if you wanted to edit the students group you tick the box next to students and in doing so will enable the "Edit User Permissions" icon in the "Ribbon Menu" click this icon and it'll bring up a menu you might recognise from SharePoint 2007:

I won't go into explaining all these different tick box's as they're quite self explanatory, you need to have at least one ticked so alter these to your hearts content... Once happy click "OK" and your done.

Removing a group from your Site/Page
If your not wanting your group to have any permissions on your site you can't just un-tick these items you have to actually remove the group from your site. So to do this go back to the "Permissions Tool" page by cancelling this pop up or repeating this tutorial up till step 2.

When your at the list of groups/users tick the little box next to the group your aiming to remove and click on the "Remove User Permissions" icon which'll be enabled, ok the warning and your done.

Adding changing an individuals permissions for your site
However if your wanting to enable individual students/staff to alter a document/page/library we need to go back to the "Permissions Tools" page (the page we got to from step 2 up above). When here click the "Grant Permissions" icon.

When you click this a pop up window will appear which might look a bit scary to start with but is actually quite simple. The top box is where you add the different staff/student names. If you know their full name as listed on the system type it in here separated by a semi colon ooor even easier search for their names using the address book as shown in my 5 steps to glory image:

If your unable to view that image it goes like this:
  1. Click the address book icon
  2. Type name into the search bar
  3. Click on the right name
  4. Click add
  5. Click ok
Once you've clicked ok you'll go back to the original pop up menu but you should notice the "User/Groups" box has been filled out with the users names... much like in an email address...

We then need to change the permissions for the added staff/students for this example I'm wanting the to be able to edit the page, so I'm going to select "Full Control" I'm sure Contribute would be suffice but seeing as its just for one page I'm happy for students to have more permissions as the aim is to get them involved with this technology not constrain them! By default an email will be sent out to the people listed you can unstick the box to stop this from happening if so desired.... which is particularly helpful if your doing a covert operation! Once happy click OK!

And there we have it you've made your sites page custom... your sites' been pimped you just need Xzibit to give you a pinch.... pimp my ride... ok forget it... more pictures of cats! 

Errm that's all hope this has been of some use!