Author: Ricky Snodgrass

AudioBooks, a Necessity?

I have always loved reading, losing yourself in a book, letting time fly by, then the bitter sweet sadness that comes when the story is over. This love for reading was majorly hampered by university for me. When I worked full time as a lifeguard prior to university, i could quite easily settle down each night with a good book and read myself to sleep… That changed at university in two ways. Firstly, at the beginning, I found myself reading academic texts for my course constantly, then taking other time to socialise, play in the various  clubs, and inevitably run around halls pulling pranks on my flatmates, (afetrall that’s what first year is for, right?). Essentially, the last thing I wanted to do was more reading, even though I could have quite easily made time to. The second and more excusable reason came in second year, when my studies got a little more serious and I stopped hiding in cupboards to jump out on my unsuspecting and usually drunk flat mates. I found that even though I set time aside to lay in bed and read my usual type of crime or mystery book, I would soon think ‘why am I not reading something more useful,’ and then stray away from the book at hand and pick up some much more complex academic text to read. It seems I had lost the magic of reading.

Even now all the worrying and writing is over, I find myself asking the same question. Why am I not reading something that is going to help me. I still struggle to immerse myself fully into a good book, I always seem to drift off and read blogs, pdfs and other online articles about the eduction, technology or other interesting sectors. Granted these are interesting pieces, but I missed the thrills and excitement you get with that completely fictional story, that concept of none of this can happen, but it could. To combat this I think the answer lies in technology.

Recently I started listening to audiobooks. I found that setting time aside to sit down and read can be a chore for some people, others like myself, face other barriers. I still love the concept of immersing myself in a story, I just find it harder than I used to. That’s when I thought I should try audiobooks, I commute to and from work for one and a half hours a day, which is plenty of time to listen in to a few chapters each way. So I tried it out. To my surprise, it was not the slightest bit distracting and you still feel immersed in the story. After a few tries in the car, I found myself listening to my books whilst doing jobs around the house, out walking or even doing the weekly shop. It simply looks like you are listening to music and is no more difficult to listening to music, just try not to pick audiobooks that will make you laugh or cry in the middle of your local supermarket, so you don’t look slightly insane.

All in all, audiobooks have been my answer to getting back in to books, and I have suddenly found myself listening to book after book. I am sure many people would argue that it’s not the same as reading a real book, and truthfully it isn’t, but I wasn’t actually reading any, so I may as well listen to them instead. Plus who doesn’t like the added bonus of listening to David Tennant narrate the role of an angry scottish policeman or Wil Wheaton narrating his story as the underdog in a dystopian, virtual reality based future.

Opinions, thoughts and arguments are always appreciated, plus, extra points for guessing the two books at the end!






Blogging is Hard, but I’m Back

6 Months. 6 months has passed since we (myself and girlfriend) made the 200 mile move to start our new life together, straight out of university and straight in to full time jobs. It is with this that I thought it was time to have yet another go and sparking some life into this blog. I could give some spiel into how busy I have been and not had 5 minutes to sit down and write these posts, but this would be a complete exaggeration. I have one excuse, and it’s the truth, blogging is hard.

Okay, okay, blogging is not hard. You can sit down and write post after post quite easily. But writing posts that are actually interesting, is the difficult task. I could quite easily sit and type post after post about how my journey was to work, what I had for lunch and the fact that I saw 3 (yes 3) magpies together today, but who cares. It is this difficult barrier I seem to hit everytime whenever I try to inject life into my blog. At some point I begin to question myself and think why am I doing this, or is this remotely interesting….and inevitably give up.

So this time I’m back, and I have a plan. I aim to approach my blog in a different frame of mind this time. Check back here for more developments …

iPhone 6 Review- Bending The Truth?

So as promised here is my review of the iPhone 6. After much deliberation, I bit the bullet and paid off my contract and upgraded to the new iPhone 6. After a bit off messing about and racing home to catch the Post Office for my delivery, I got my shiny new phone, and straight away I was worried.

Going from the 4s to the 6 was a huge jump in size, but after a couple of days i got used to, especially when i got used to using reachability. The obvious other concern was the BENDING, and frankly I call rubbish on that. Especially on the normal 6. The phone feels perfectly solid, and well built all round, so if yours has bent, its something you’re doing. Either attempting to bend it (most things bend if you do that, seriously I could bend my tv if i tried to) or your jeans are just way too tight. Don’t be worried by bending, as i think it’s just been blown out of proportion. Anyhow, heres the top 3 things ive been using/ found useful on the 6!

  1. The fingerprint recognition. After a worrying start (I left the protective cover on), and a bit of setting up, the scanner is by far a very neat feature of the 6, (and probably the 5s too). Not only does it make unlocking the phone extremely easy, it aslo makes remembering all your passwords that little bit easier too. It will be interesting to see how it gets on with applepay this week.
  2. The better processor, better games and bigger screen. All three together just makeusing the phone for this sort of thing much more…beautiful. Im not a big gamer and normally don’t get too impressed by things like this, but when you have it, its just so, well, nice.
  3. Lastly, and probably the biggest thing I’ve used is Health. This app is very well put together and works a treat. Although ive not used it with external apps yet, ive been told they were brilliantly too. The main thing I use it for is to see how far I’ve walked in steps and KM, and then use that as an excuse to be lazy at home if ive had a busy day 🙂 but that’s just me.

Altogether, the phone is solid and although the battery life still leaves a lot to be desired, it is a lot better than the past. Again, apple have produced a nice solid phone, with new gadgets and hopefully they will excel with the apple watch next year!

If you want to know anything else, drop me a message or a tweet!

Teach, tech and troubles- A busy few weeks…

Well, it’s been a hectic few weeks and frankly, i’ve been a bit rubbish on the blog front! This week has been especially busy with the build up to the Technology Celebration day at Loughborough College (which was excellent thanks to everyones hard work!), and car troubles thrown into the mix, but now I can hopefully find a bit of time to post a bit more.

There’s two things I want to really ramble on about in this post. Firstly, my first experience of doing some training on my own at my new job. I had the oppurtunity to deliver a couple of sessions, and its safe to say i was slightly nervous before hand. However, i knew that once i got in there I would be fine. And yes, I was, but not only that, I loved it, being up there sharing ideas and just seeing people get enthused about what I’m talking about. So basically, I cant wait to do some more, and with my upcoming Level 3 course, I cant wait to delve back into the world of teaching and training.

On a completely different note, as we all know im a big techy, I have given into the mighty apple marketing strategies and upgraded my 4s for the 6. Normally, I’m stingy and go for an older model to pay less, but I splashed out this time, mainly so i can get the watch when its available :-). SOOOOO hopefully at somepoint this week I will attempt to do a bit of a review of how I have been using it and what not!

SOOOOO, a bit of a quick post tonight, but hopefully that’s a bit of catch up, and now I hope I can find time to update the blog more, find a couple of ‘gimmicks’ and with a bit of inspiration from @iwilsonysj and his waffles, i hope i can do some sort of video recording. I have been enjoying his Live Waffles lately, and covering a wide array of subjects, they are interesting every week. Definitely something you should check in for!

Hopefully, see you all later in the week……

‘Yes, but what do you do?’

So second post as a Learning Technologist, and after a rather good response from my first, I’m quite enthused to keep this going! So first of all thank you to all the support and feedback on my last post. This time I want to cover something I have experienced, and no doubt other LT’s have too: the ‘What do you do?’ question. I’ve struggled with this from my parents to insurance companies, and although it can be frustrating, I kind of take a little bit of pride in it. Something that I hope others do too!

Let’s start with the basics, my Parents. This all ensued the Christmas after I went to Uni, with the, ‘I don’t think I want to be a teacher anymore’ panic, followed by the ‘What are you going to do then’ fiasco. After a bit more time at university I decided that I wanted to go into some type of higher education role, and with a keen interest in eLearning, this seemed like the ideal role for me. Good. Let’s calm my parents down. Well, it’s safe to say that the conversation went down like a lead balloon. Trying to explain the role to two people who still use post it notes stuck to the side of a laptop, it’s safe to say they wouldn’t be understanding any time soon. So I rounded off with a, ‘It’s a job that varies where ever you go,’ and left it at that. Nearly a month in and a phone call every couple of days telling them what I’ve been up to and I still get ‘Okay, but what do you actually do.’

The next experience I had of this lack of understanding was with my car insurance company. Obviously needing to change my occupation from student to learning technologist. I was optimistic to say the least when I said I was a Learning Technologist. The following response that followed was ‘Oh right, you teach technology.’ No, no, no my friend, it’s a bit different, I work with technology in education. ‘Oh, so you work in I.T.’ Nope. ‘You’re a Teacher then.’ Nope – is there any sort of educational support? After 20 minutes on the phone, I think I ended up being a Teacher…

The last memorable conversation, (there’s been plenty), was with a guy on holiday. Sat on the beach with a pint we got chatting, conversation ensued and we got to the ‘what do you do question.’ After a couple of minutes explaining that I had an interview the following day for a LT position and explaining all the things I would be doing (yes, I was excited). He turned away, taking a sip of his beer and ever so straight faced said, ‘Yes, my son works with computers too. ’ Ugh.

Now I know this can be frustrating, but after a while you get used to, even see the funny side! Personally I take pride in knowing that I have a job in a field that’s at the forefront of education. The fact that people haven’t heard of the job role makes me think that I’m doing something worthwhile, that many others don’t know what it’s all about. Plus, who doesn’t like being a smarty pants about something!!!

My First Three Weeks as a Learning Technologist

It’s been three weeks since I started my new job as a Learning Technologist, so I thought it was about time that I transverse my ideas about the experience so far. Frankly, after a big move and starting only one week after moving, it was safe to say it was a bit of a hectic first few weeks, but I was a good mixture of nervous and excited in my first week. Through coming straight out of university, and the role seeming to be different where ever you go, I didn’t know really what I was going to be doing in my first week, so it was nice to start on a cpd day, where I had a good idea of what was going on.

The experience of starting a new job is always daunting, however, it was completely different this time around. I think the reason why it felt so different is because after 7 years of working in the leisure industry, I was now starting a completely different type of job, a career even. So instead of turning up doing the same job every week for 8 hours then leaving, I would have a continuous work load, with new challenges every day. And for anybody who knows me well, I knew I would thrive in this environment. However, at first, it was quite hard to get into that routine. But the staff at my new job were extremely helpful, approachable and just generally supportive, and although I took in lot of information and a lot of new practices in the first week I loved it!!!

Going into my second week I felt that I could now achieve some things on my own, get on with certain things and just ask for more jobs when I got others done. However, the type of jobs I found myself doing in my second week I would have never thought I would have been doing. But that is the beauty of being a Learning Technologist, you never know what you are going to be doing until you get there. I’m learning more about the policies that are in place, the procedures and the training that is given.

So going into my third week I had more of an idea of what I was doing. My workload was now my workload, jobs got passed on to me, and staff came for help and I could just assist them without help from others. I also found my normal jobs that I will be taking over, so as well as FELTAG and other generic Learning Technologist jobs, I will be taking over the eLearning blog and twitter, and looking after and creating case studies. I also had the chance to deliver a training session with another LT, which I loved, and cannot wait to get back in to the teaching/training side of things again. I have my first 1:1 training session this week and an open day to look forward to.

So all in all, I love my new job, and can officially say that moving and taking this job was the best decision I’ve made for a long time. I look forward to going to work, to see what awaits me, and I think any job where you can say that is a good one! I look forward to seeing what else awaits me in the job role and hopefully this is the start of an ever growing blog of the life of a Learning Technologist!
Learning Technologist

#ocTEL Week 3 Catch Up

Seeing as last week was my final week of university I got a little behind with #ocTEL, so I thought I can catch up this week.

Week 3- Activity 1

I thought I would have a look at screencast-o-matic. Firstly I am going to have to say something about the name. I really do not like it.

On the other hand, using the tool is extremely simple, the fact that you do not have to sign up to use it is an added bonus for me. The interface is extremely useful and the fact that you can change the size of what you want recording is brilliant. One downside is that it will only record up to 15 minutes, but most of the things I do with something like this would not last that long. The other issue is that you only can seem to publish your file rather than download it, this is an option I would like to see.

Activity 2
With regards to the four different activity basis, I would like to think that the activities I create take into consideration all four of the areas. However, I would assume that one will feature more heavily but this would change depending on the activity. Mostly, this would be the pedagogical approach for me. Coming from an educational studies background, the pedagogy behind any activity will always be at the forefront as it is something I have constantly been exposed to in my studies. This would then influence the technology I use, not the other way around. The pedagogical approach and purpose to an activity is key for me, technology is just the medium I use to deliver what is necessary.

Activity 4
Although I have come across many different theories such as this throughout my studies, Kolb’s reflective cycle is the one that I have used most predominantly. I have most times before I have completed an activity I have practiced it many times before taking into consideration Kolb’s learning cycle. By recoding myself or recording my slide timings, technology has allowed me to practice my timings and presentation skills very well. Not only that but through the use of forums I have been able to gain opinions around the activities I plan on completing. My learning styles do change if technology is included as I believe less reflecting is needed to be done, if things like recording is included. This allows a user to reflect upon themselves without the use of peer feedback. In other ways, I do attempt to gain feedback through technology such as text wall so that it can remain anonymous thus making it more honest and reliable.

Activity 5

◾How easy was it to find a relevant resource? What feature of the search function was useful to you in your search, and why did that appeal to you? Conversely, what feature was missing or prohibited you from easily finding a resource?
Although it was fairly easy to find resources with the search criteria I used, there were a lot of resources that came up that were not relevant too.

◾Are there any limitations to the use of your preferred resource for your learners (e.g. copyright licence; login requirements)?
Sometimes I did have issues where a resource looked perfect to what I wanted, and then it was not freely available. It was either restricted and you had to pay for it or it was behind a login.

◾How will this help your learners?
Just giving more options to where they look for resources will be helpful. Most people are restricted to either the university search service or google scholar.

#ocTEL Week 3. TEL ONE

Within this activity I decided to watch one of the Khan academy videos, the one I chose was explaining vectors and scalars. The questions are listed below, with my answers.

-What elements of these do you think are appealing to different learners?
The clear audio is essential to these videos, enabling learners to understand a new concept very easily. As well as this, the diagrams and notes that are displayed are extremely useful. The fact that they are aesthetically pleasing, which should assist in engaging learners.

-What learners, if any, would they be inappropriate for and why?
For learners who engage well with instructions and explanations in a passive form, this type of learning will be extremely useful to them. However, for learners who prefer to get physically engaged with a subject, other resources may be needed.

-How do each of these resources differ from that of the resources we’re using in ocTEL? Do they promote social learning, re-use of their materials, or open access?
The whole concept of the Khan academy is based around distance learning and the re-usability of the resources. It also promotes an open access and education for all as the resources are free to access.

#ocTEL Activity 2.5

Activity 2.5

Firstly, I believe I need to admit to something slightly embarrassing. I have come across the game Runescape before, when I was younger, playing many hours on it. However, the embarrassing part is that since I have come to university I have found myself procrastinating on the game on a few occasions. But we all do embarrassing things whilst at university!

Anyway the game allows users to learn basic computer skills to start off with. This is simply using different shortcuts, mouse clicks and interacting with other people. However, the further people delve into the game the more content seems to elude. It can be through simple thinks you pick up along the way (copper and tin make iron) or it could be through the interactions you have with other players. Sometimes intellectual conversations take place in these games (well rarely) and that can be with anyone from around the world!

The thing that I originally found engaging was the level of customisation to the game. There are so many elements that allow you to change your gaming experience. This also meant that there were many different focusses that the player could have throughout the game. Alongside this, were the ‘quests’ that the player could take part in. This gave another level of purpose to the game. It also meant users could develop their abilities to follow specific instructions.

The demotivational aspect of the game for me was the repetitive nature. In order to advance further through the game the player must ‘train’ their character. This would then unlock more and more content and quests. This for me really discourages the learning side of the game as the hours that need to be put into developing the character, do not seem to justify the learning that takes place.

#ocTEL Activity 2.4

Activity 2.4

Title of activity

Exploring Geography through Twitter for trainee teachers.

Intended learning outcome(s)

  • To understand how social media can influence teaching methods
  • To understand the connectedness of people within teaching activities
  • To apply geographical knowledge to a new situation.

Activity description

The activity is designed for students who are studying primary education at university. Geography is the subject chosen, but the same method can be applied to many other subjects. Each participant will need a twitter account.

The purpose of the activity is to allow students to go and wander freely around, the campus, city or specific area of your choice (whichever you feel suitable). Using smartphones or tablets they must each take a photo of three locations, of which you can add simple instructions if you like. (somewhere manmade etc.). This will provide the different levels or purpose to the activity depending on the subject you are covering. The students must then tweet their photos using a specific hash tag (something that is specific enough to bring up your tweets only. After the activity has taken place the students can the come back to the lecture theatre and the tweets can be displayed via an application like TweetWally. Discussion can then be stimulated around the wide array of pictures that have been taken.

Timeframe for activity

15 minutes for the discussion. The preparation to the activity can be given a time frame in lesson, or it could be an ongoing activity to do over the week.

Prerequisites (e.g. existing academic knowledge and skills, technical skills required)

Knowledge of Twitter is essential.

Knowledge around the subject should be prepared for previously.

Links to the technology to be used