Tuesday, 18 September 2012

update: Learning across contexts – mobile for fieldwork

An update of the use of the mobile technologies for field work is available at http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/files/2012/09/Npton-Case-Study-EnvSci-Julie-Usher-and-Janet-Jackson-2011-2012.pdf

Intended outcomes

 To enable students to quickly and easily document 
findings and ideas in the field 
 To enable the student to access resources electronically
and re-use data in other learning contexts


Trial use of mobile technology on two field trips, to Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in December 2011 and to Stonehenge in February 2012. For both trips, the tutor set up a group blog in NILE, and asked the students to record their findings on site using mobile devices, and post them to the blog for 

The Wicken Fen field trip formed part of a second year module on Habitat Ecology and Management. Students were asked to observe and record details of the wetland habitat and share their observations with the group. They also planned to use GPS to tag the exact locations of their images and notes, to share with the wider community via Flickr, an image sharing site.

Benefits and Challenges

A feedback survey revealed that students enjoyed using the devices, particularly for photography and video, which 
helped them to record a lot of data very easily. 80% of the students said that the app was ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to use. 

Connectivity was a real challenge, particularly for the Wicken Fen trip where there was very little mobile signal. This was challenging  partly because of student expectations – when handed an internet enabled device, they expected to be able to connect and start accessing information. The purpose of the trip though was for them to record their own data, and be creators rather than consumers, so expectations needed to be clearly set!

Connectivity was also an issue for the GPS tagging of resources, and for some apps, like Dragon Dictation, which relied on data connection or stored information in the cloud. The weather on the Wicken Fen trip was also a challenge, particularly for those using touch screen devices!

Key points

 Framing the device is crucial – explain why you want students 
to use it and what value it can add for their learning.
 Allow students to experiment – some even recorded their 
stakeholder roleplays on site!
 Inclusion is important. Make sure you have loan devices for 
those that don’t have their own.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

iNorthampton v2 released into the wild

The update of iNorthampton, the University of Northampton's mobile App has been announced today: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2012/09/13/inorthampton-release-2-now-available/. Updates are in-line with comments from students and staff.

Content below taken from: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2012/09/13/inorthampton-release-2-now-available/

General Improvements based on feedback
“Need to be able to personalise the app more”
We have included the ability to define your role when using the app from the first launch. This puts a framework in place to enable us to deliver more personalised information in the future.
You are now able to rearrange the tools on the springboard to move the ones you use most to the top – or just to a new page (currently only available on iOS).

Specific improvements to current tools:
iNorthampton Maps iconYou want updates/improvements to Maps. “And maybe a campus walkthrough, using video or augmented reality”
The main campus maps have been updated and will continue to be updated as new maps are released.
We have made augmented reality functionality available for iNorthampton on the iPhone 4 and 4S. Users of these devices can now lay a map of key buildings on top of the picture they see on screen through their camera lens. This dynamically updates as the phone moves to reflect each building and its distance from the phone.
We are currently looking at a tour to be included in a later release.
You would like “to be able to check your library account and renew books”
The library website has become more ‘mobile friendly’ and you will be directed to this when you have conducted a search. You will see a link termed “View availability on Library Site” which will take you to the library site and allow you to login to check your account and renew books. We’re still looking into ways to bring these links into iNorthampton.
“There should be more content from the Students’ Union”
We have worked with the  Students’ Union to add SU news, the SU Youtube channel and SU photo galleries. You will see these when viewing the ‘news’, ‘videos’ and ‘images’ links from the springboard whilst in either the ‘Current Student’ or ‘Prospective Student’ profiles.
“I want to get notifications/reminders from NILE”
This is now available as part of a separate download of Blackboard Mobile Learn rather than being part of the app at this stage – we hope to bring it into iNorthampton very soon. The separate Mobile Learn App is recommended for iPad users in any case as it has been optimised for this device.
The link to NILE within iNorthampton will still provide mobile access to all of your sites on NILE and has been used in a number of pilot projects in The School of Arts and also Science and Technology.
“Why can’t I get NILE on my Blackberry?”
You can – but you have to get the separate Blackboard Mobile Learn app. It’s not possible to build this into another app on the Blackberry platform as it stands. We’re hoping that upcoming changes to the Blackberry operating system will allow us to improve the iNorthampton experience for Blackberry users.
iNorthampton Timetables iconImprovements to the timetable module – “I don’t want to have to log in every time, and should show more of my timetable when I do”
The iNorthampton link to timetables has been completely redesigned for Phase 2 and now allows:
  • The ability to pick any date in the academic year
  • Timetable location now links to Google Maps to assist with finding the building where room is located.
  • Improved help and advise
“Can we have a tool to report faults in halls?”
A telephone number has been included in the “Get Help” section of iNorthampton , and we are still investigating a more detailed GPS-based solution for a future development (sorry, no dates for this yet).
Suggestions for new features
“Please add bus times / traffic information / parking information / car sharing site / taxi numbers to the app”
Logo for the Northamptonshire County Council mobile appNorthamptonshire County Council have their own app (called NCC) for Android and iPhone, which was developed by staff here at the University. This already has live bus timetables, so we’d recommend you use this if you can. They also supply a text service to send bus times to your mobile. Sadly this does mean that  the NCC won’t let us use the timetable data, but we’re looking at including links to the timetables on the website, as well as to traffic information and the car sharing website.
At present we can’t collect the data for how many parking spaces are free at any one time on site, but we have asked Infrastructure Services to look into this for us.
The University does not have a recommended taxi company, so we won’t be supplying taxi numbers, sorry.
“The app should include email, and access to file storage”
We took the decision not to include email, as smartphones already include a tool to integrate this. File storage is a little more complex, as iOS devices in particular do not have an accessible folder structure where files are stored. There are a few web-based alternatives available though. Apart from files in NILE, you can also access documents stored on the web (or in cloud services like Google docs or Windows Live) through a mobile browser.
“It would be great to include links to other apps that are useful for learning”
We didn’t want to bulk out the app with these, as they may not all be relevant to all users. However when we find useful apps, we will be adding recommendations to ourLearnTech blog. If you’d like to make a recommendation, or write a guest post, just let us know!
“Opening times and menus for the restaurants would be good, and links to offers from Greggs!”
We’re looking at adding ‘places of interest’ to the maps in phase 3, and this will include all the eating places, hopefully along with opening times and menus. If you want offers from Greggs, they will give them to you – but only in exchange for a like from your Facebook account.
“A tool which shows the nearest free PC would be good”
We are still awaiting further development in this area and will update iNorthampton when this becomes available.
……and finally
We are also pleased to announce that Northampton’s experience with iNorthampton has also featured in an international Blackboard marketing campaign.
The app has been downloaded over 10,000 times during the past year.

Friday, 7 September 2012

mobile for fieldwork

This case study talks about a pilot run by Janet Jackson and her students in Environmental Sciences from the School of Science & Technology, whilst on two field trips to Wicken Fen and Stonehenge.
The main aims of this pilot were to allow the students to document and reflect on their findings whilst in the context (in this case the field trips), and then to access and re-use that information outside of the context.
Students enjoyed using the devices, particularly for photography and video, which helped them to record a lot of data very easily. 80% of the students said that the app was ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to use.
More details can be found at Leaning across contexts – mobile for fieldwork (case study, PDF 581KB)

HEA computing update : September 2012

Taken from: The Higher Education Academy Computing Update by Dr. Mark Ratcliffe


1. Workshops for 2012/13

. If you are interested in hosting a workshop, please send an email to Mark.Ratcliffe@HEAcademy.ac.uk.

2. STEM Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2013: where practice and pedagogy meet.

Following the success of this year’s conference, our next conference will be held at the University of Birmingham on 17 – 18 April 2013. The call for full papers, posters and workshops is now open.

The conference will explore the relationship between pedagogy and practice across the full range of HEA STEM disciplines, and this year in particular will focus upon:
• Improving the employability skills of STEM graduates;
• Innovative approaches to teaching and assessing large classes;
• Giving effective feedback to students;
• Growing diversity in the student population;
• Practices in peer mentoring;
• Impact of information technology in learning and teaching;
• Students as partners.

Important dates/deadlines:
• 21 November 2012 - deadline for the submission of full papers, abstracts for posters and workshops;
• 17 February 2013 - deadline for the submission of camera-ready papers;
• 1 March 2013 - at least one presenting author to be registered.

3. Skills in mathematics and statistics in the disciplines

HEA STEM are planning a strategic project in 2012-13, investigating the ways in which mathematics and statistics affect the student experience and transition into university across specific disciplines, including Psychology. The first part of this process involves producing a report for each discipline; please keep an eye on the HEA website for more information, coming soon.

4. New to Teaching

Following a very successful STEM “new to teaching” event held in Birmingham earlier this summer, I am now planning for a similar discipline specific event next summer. If your institution would like to host such an event for approximately 20 people, please let me know. The HEA will cover the full cost of this one-day event.

5. An update on Special Interest Groups

Earlier this summer we launched two very popular special interest groups:

• “Innovation in teaching programming for better student retention, progression and achievement”. If you are interested in joining this group, please contact Quan Dang at q.dang@londonmet.ac.uk

• “Contract Cheating”. To find out more, please contact Thomas Lancaster at Thomas.Lancaster@bcu.ac.uk

6. ITALICS, November 2012 issue

The second issue of ITALICS for 2012 will be a general issue. Papers are welcome on all aspects of learning and teaching in the Information and Computer Sciences disciplines.
Important dates
• Deadline for submission of papers – Friday 5 October 2012
• Notification of outcome – Wednesday 31 October 2012
For further information http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/journals/italics

7. Open Educational Resources for Educational Developers Just Launched

The HEA/JISC-funded 'Academic Practice in Context' project has today released its full set of materials for free use under a Creative Commons licence. The materials feature the equivalent of 300 study hours worth of Masters Level resources intended to aid educational developers in the design and delivery of PGCert courses and professional development workshops.

The materials are categorised under eight themes including feedback, learning spaces, e-learning and values, and are mapped to the UKPSF for ease of use by accredited programmes; they are designed to elicit dialogue and reflection on disciplinary ways of thinking and practising.

The resources are hosted by the University of Bath and can be accessed via the project blog http://disciplinarythinking.wordpress.com and JORUM (keyword: discthink) http://www.jorum.ac.uk.

For more information contact: Dr Helen King, University of Bath (h.king@bath.ac.uk)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

How to Make Your new NILE Sites Available

All of the new 2012 – 2013 NILE sites are currently set as unavailable to students by default, so when you have finished building your new NILE sites, you will need to  make them available to your students. Students will be automatically added to sites where possible but will not see any content until it has been made available.
Once your content is in place  you can go ahead and make the sites available so that when students are added to them, they can access the content immediately.
In order to make your NILE site available to students please follow these 5 steps:
  1. Enter your unavailable NILE site.
  2. Under the Control Panel (on the lower left of the window) select Customisation, and choose Properties.
  3. Under Set Availability, select ‘Yes‘ to Make Module Available
  4. Click Submit
The new upgrade to NILE also speeds up the process of making a NILE sites available if you have a number you need to access:
  1. Click on the arrow next to the house icon [See screenshot]
  2. Select another of your NILE sites.

        Get in touch with the Learning Technology team on LTSupport@northampton.ac.uk if you have any issues or questions, and keep an eye on our blog for more updates.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Recent paper published by Dan Bailey and Dr Jonathan Adams at The International Conference on Engineering Education 2012 Turku Finland July 30 – August 3, 2012

Proceedings can be found at: julkaisut.turkuamk.fi/isbn9789522162946.pdf

Daniel C. M. Bailey, daniel.bailey@northampton.ac.uk
Jonathan P. Adams, jonathan.adams@northampton.ac.uk
Twenty-three years ago the University of Northampton along with a number or local engineering companies including British Timkin, Cosworth, Cummins, Express Lifts and KAB Seating formed a partnership to provide industry experience for undergraduate students. The founding aim of the NETP was: “to create a pool of ‘industry ready’ Engineers to support the Northamptonshire area”.
The NETP set up a paid placement scheme where students would spend a year split between three companies, attending University one day per week to continue with their academic studies. It is estimated that the NETP has offered over 500 placement opportunities since its inception.
In recent years the NETP has developed to meet the changing needs of both industry and Higher Education (HE). Changes have included the expansion in the level and range of methods of engagement with the University and other stakeholders, including; schools, colleges, local government and support organisations. To reflect this wider remit new mission and vision statements were recently formulated.
Mission: To create a pool of industry ready engineers of the highest calibre and position the NETP as a unique example of good practice and collaboration between Academia and Industry adding value to all stakeholders.
Vision: Aspire to increase membership and diversity by providing a platform for full student placements, formal and informal networking, sharing of good practice and inspiring students and Partners alike.
This paper will evaluate why the NETP has been sustainable and how it has developed to meet the changing needs of educators, employers and students. Particular areas of focus will be; how the NETP has input into skills and knowledge and course / curriculum development; how it has supported graduate recruitment, enterprise and professional skills development; and how the NETP has supported research and local economic development. 


Recent paper published by Professor Phil Picton at The International Conference on Engineering Education 2012 Turku Finland July 30 – August 3, 2012

Proceedings can be found at: julkaisut.turkuamk.fi/isbn9789522162946.pdf

The University of Northampton, phil.picton@northampton.ac.uk

Whenever an ultrasonic wave encounters a boundary between two media it is partially reflected and refracted, as any acoustic wave would be. Unlike light, the wave also undergoes mode conversion so that in the general case a single incident wave could produce two reflected waves and two refracted waves. The angles which define the path of the wave are determined by Snell’s law and are easily calculated. The relative amplitudes, on the other hand, require quite complicated formula when the angle of incidence is anything other than 0 degrees. This problem gets compounded when the angle of the incident wave goes beyond the first critical angle. At this point the angle of the refracted wave becomes imaginary and the equations to calculate the relative amplitudes become complex. This paper describes a tool that has been developed, using a spreadsheet, which performs the calculations for all incident angles. The user selects the media and the type of incident wave and the resulting waves are shown graphically as well as numerically. The tool was developed primarily as part of an undergraduate course on ultrasonic testing, but could be used more widely. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A diagrammatic language to build and share STEM teaching narratives

Dr Tina Wilson, Visiting Fellow with STRiPe (Science and Technology Research in Pedagogy) has recently had a paper published at the STEM Annual Conference 2012 at Imperial College and The Royal Geographical Society London 


The general objective of this overall work is to propose a methodology for the creation of language-neutral multimedia materials (without audio or text), which can be directly embedded in STEM courses in any language. The overall design of this project was discussed in [1]

The design was based on four stages: 1) a very explicit design of the course, mainly on the dependence of the concepts, using Compendium, 2) the careful selection of icons for some key concepts, 3) the generation of short interrelated animations, which try to identify a suitable graphic language (with both formal syntax and semantics), 4) the proposal of metadata, some internal to each animation and other external, to interrelate them. The final export of this educational package would consist of animations and their metadata, which would help facilitate re-use, and embedding within other courses.

In this paper we focus on the third stage. In the types of short animations discussed, we detected two complementary vocabularies. The first one labels the intentionality of certain scenes: presentation of a formal definition, presentation of positive examples and negative examples. The 

second marks the dependence of the concepts and their construction process: for example, if one is a specialization of a previous one, or if you are graphically emphasizing the use of a universal or existential quantification at that point in the construction of the concept.

At this stage, as the ultimate goal, we hope to achieve a semi-automatic process of generating animations. From the definition of first order logic of a concept (or other less formal descriptions), through the graphic language that is being investigated. This is a goal to be achieved. But we trust 

that this contributes to the creation and reuse of materials in the STEM area beyond existing language barriers.

[1] J.L. Fern├índez-Vindel, and T. Wilson (2011). Multilingual media components directly embeddable 
in open educational resources in science and technology. International Conference on Education, 
Research and Innovation - ICERI 2011 14-16th November 2011, Madrid, Spain.

Paper can be found at: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/stem-conference/Computing1/Jos%C3%A9-Luis_Fern%C3%A1ndez-Vindel_Tina_Wilson.pdf

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