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A wiki of technologies

This wiki describes many of the types of technology that you might want to use in Open-space Learning, with an emphasis upon their usefulness in OSL. It gives recommendations for specific hardware, software and services. The wiki was compiled in August 2011, but efforts will be made to keep it up to date. If you wish to contribute, please contact Robert O'Toole.

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3G

Fast internet access using the cellular phone network. Almost ubiquitous (available universally) but expensive - requiring a special phone contract, and with high data charges.

A

Augmented reality

Superimposing data and digital creations over the top of real-life images (still, video).

Typically, a mobile device is used to identify the current location, taking an image when held horizontally towards some part of the local environment. Data is superimposed to augment the reality presented in the image (for example, information about art works being looked at in reality).

B

Blog

The word blog is used (confusingly) to refer to:

    1. a type of web site
    2. a genre of online writing
    3. a blog entry
    4. the act of writing a blog entry or of keeping a blog

      A blog web site is built out of a series of individual blog entries, created over time. It has a relationship with time that is different to a conventional web site. Each entry is time-date-stamped, originating at a specific point of time. The content of the entry might become out of date, but that doesn't matter - the entry is a record of ideas, knowledge, events etc at that date. The entries are usually displayed on a browsable time line.

      Each entry has a title and usually keyword tags that are used to classify it. Blog websites usually provide means to search the text of entries or to retrieve lists of entries that share a keyword tag.

      The entries themselves are usually text based, but with images, audio and video as required.

      As a genre, blogging has developed into a sophisticated way of writing. A blog most often presents a view point or the work of a single person (less often a collaboration). It need not necessarily present a controversial or challenging position (contrary to popular misconception). However, it is common for blog writing to be used by the writer to work-out their own position on a topic, or to test out an idea. Good bloggers are effective signposters of the nature and purpose of their writing - for example, stating when they are testing out a new idea, or when then are reporting fact.

      The Open-space Learning project has used Warwick's own sophisticated blogging system. This includes a system that allows for access to entries to be restricted to specified groups. Such "zoned publishing" works well in the academic context, or when getting less confident writers to participate. This is, however, only available to Warwick members. Posterous is a good alternative. This article discusses its use for an online journalism course.

      C

      Chat room

      The earliest form of interactive web. The chat room allows members to discuss in real time (synchronously) using short texts. Chat room elements often appear in other tools, as a fast, simple and reliable mechanism (for example in video conferencing tools). They can be effective, but beware of negative social effects, as ettiquete is frequently ignored.

      Cloud computing

      An approach to providing ubiquitous access to software and data. Cloud computing allows a user to create data on one device (e.g. a 3G phone), process the data using familiar tools (e.g. a word processor app), access exactly the same data on another device (e.g. a borrowed laptop at a conference), use the data on a different device (e.g. using a web browser based web application) - all seemlessly, without having to copy files across or worry about compatibility between systems.

      Google, Apple, Microsoft and others offer Cloud based versions of familiar software tools. A further step to Cloud based systems is the automatic and fast replication of data between devices through the cloud. Evernote, for example, automatically synchronises notes (including files, photos, video and audio).

      This is essential for ubiquitous computing.

      D

      Data projector

      Audiovisual device for projecting computer images onto a large screen.

      Design pattern

      An abstract description of a pattern of functionality, interactions and interfaces. A design pattern describes a design, not its implementation by any particular system.

      Digital camera

      Traditionally either a stills camera or a video camera. We are now seeing devices that will shoot high quality (12 megapixel or more) still images and high definition (HD) 1080 video. Still and video cameras are converging. For OSL purposes, speed and simplicity is essential. Cameras that shoot video or stills onto SD memory cards are particularly useful. Cameras that can handle variable lighting and sound conditions are best. We are currently using high-end Canon Legria video cameras, as they handle such conditions well.

      In the near future, we expect to see all cameres becoming web enabled, so that images are uploaded to cloud based storage instantly. This supports ubiquitous computing and live archiving.

      Digital surface

      An emerging type of device, turing traditional surfaces (tables, walls etc) into interactive screens. Microsoft are pioneering these technologies.

      Discussion forum

      A web page that enables asynchronous or synchronous text based discussions.

      E

      ePortfolio

      A personal web site in which the owner presents their work, personal information, plans and progress. It is useful both as a means for communicating to others and as a prompt for self-reflection.

      I

      iPod Touch

      A small and powerful wifi enabled mobile computing device. The iPod Touch is essentially an iPhone without the phone (and hence much cheaper to own). Within OSL, we use iPod Touch devices with Evernote, using the built-in camera and mic, as a multimedia notetaking/live archiving tool.

      L

      Live archiving

      The act of recording events as they happen (video, stills, audio, text) in an organised and accessible form - typically into a searchable, browsable time line. We have been using the Evernote online notebook, with iPad and iPod Touch web enabled devices, to capture all forms of media. Evernote presents these in an online notebook on a timeline, with search and browse facilities.

      M

      Microblog

      A blog comprising of entries that are restrcited in length and format. Twitter is the most successful microblog service, with entries restricted to 140 text characters (links can be used to extend this and to allow other media). The compressed format of microblog entries can have the useful effect of forcing efficient well thought out communications. It might also encourage shallowness.

      Mobile app

      Computer software that has been optimised to run on a mobile computing device. Because of the specific requirements that various devices impose, apps tend to be tailored to specific types of device. Apple devices run the iOS operating system, and require apps bought through the Apple App Store. Apple Apps are often tailored to run either on iPad or iPhone/iPod Touch (with different versions for each). Google Android based apps are less cross-compatible.

      The OSL project has used the Evernote iPad/iPhone app for live archiving into cloud-based online notebooks.

      Mobile computing

      An increasingly broad category of small portable devices offering Internet access and running computer applications. Including tablets (e.g. iPad), phones, advanced media players (e.g. iPod Touch), lightweight laptop computers. More sophisticated computing facilities are starting to appear in other kinds of electronics including cameras and cars.

      Mobile computing enables ubiquitous computing.

      N

      Network effect

      When your friends use a technology collaboratively (e.g. Facebook), it is usually beneficial for you to also use the technology. That is the network effect. It can be used for good or for evil!

      O

      Online notebook

      Evernote is an example of an online notebook. Notes can be created using a variety of devices (phones including Android, iPhone and Blackberry, desktop computers including Apple and Windows, tablets including Android and iPad). The notes can contain text, photos, audio, video, web clippings (snapshots of web pages) and files. As notes are created, the are replicated into an online notebook that can be accessed anywhere. Unless the owner chooses to share, the notebook is private to them.

      Other software may be used in a similar way - for example email, Twitter, online word processors, but without the efficiency, simplicity and speed of a purpose designed notebooks system.

      R

      Rehearsal room

      The OSL project has used the CAPITAL Rehearsal Room at the University of Warwick.

      The Rehearsal Room is primarily a teaching space. A double-height white room with semi-sprung floor, the room has been designed in consultation with professional practitioners to suit practical classes, rehearsals, readings and workshops.

      The room contains approximately 25 chairs, 6 cubes and 2 tables and white boards along one wall. AV facilities are available on request only (see notes above timetable).

      Rehearsal Room

      Reinvention Centre at Westwood

      The room was designed and refurbished by the Reinvention Centre in 2006 in order to provide an open, creative space for a range of teaching and learning activities. The room provides 120m2 of floor space with flexible, moveable furniture. This makes it easy for users themselves to transform the shape and purpose of the room, and the open design and layout facilitates active learning and interaction between students and teachers.

      The room is very light. The design makes maximum use of natural light from windows in the walls and roof. In addition there is a sophisticated lighting system including spotlights embedded in the floor and lights shining up into the rafters. This enables the room to be used for different functions and creates diverse ambiences. Fresh air circulates via two 'windcatchers' in the roof and the rubber floor is heated to make it a surface on which teachers and students can, if they wish to, work.

      Reinvention Centre

      S

      Social network

      A collection of interconnected people, usually mediated through an online service (e.g. Facebook). Social networking tools offer means for discovering people with shared interests or personal history. They offer activities to undertake with friends in one's network (from chat, video conferencing to online games).

      Using a popular tool for teaching may be attractive, given their popularity and ubiquity. However, many students do not wish to join a network like Facebook, or believe that social and academic activities should be separate. We must not force students to use a social network. The OSL project has avoided doing so.

      T

      Tablet

      A type of computing device that is physically thin and lightweight, of medium form factor, and with a touch-screen. Tablets like the Apple iPad feature cameras, microphones and wifi access. They use a variety of operating systems, which with the exception of Windows 7, are designed specifically for the Tablet format.

      The OSL project has used Apple iPads. They are excellent for displaying multimedia in an OSL session, and for taking multimedia notes. However, they are heavy and awkward to hold.

      Telepresence

      An andvanced form of video conferencing. Advanced camera, mic and screen systems are used to give a greater sense of presence for distant participants. Some systems use multiple cameras with the ability to detect and switch cameras as different participants speak. Telepresence systems use dedicated equipment and special network connections. Warwick uses the Cisco telepresence system.

      Theatre studio

      A performance space, typically with black walls and a sprung floor, and configurable lighting and audio.

      The OSL project has made great use of the CAPITAL Studio at the Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning at Warwick.

      The Studio is used to host workshops and classes and is also used for performances, masterclasses, training events and by visiting theatre practitioners.

      The room is a black box studio with semi-sprung harlequin floor. An overhead wired grid provides access to the lighting bars from a technical room on the first floor. There is also the facility to build a section of raked seating in the room. See the technical information page for full technical specifications.

      The room contains approximately 25 chairs, 6 cubes and 2 tables, a moveable white board and a projection screen. AV facilities are available on request only (see notes above timetable).

      CAPITAL Studio

      U

      Ubiquitous computing

      An environment in which access to computing facilities (especially networked computing) is everywhere and instant.

      This is increasingly realistic, as a result of widespread wireless web access (wifi or 3G), mobile devices, touch screens, web-enabled surfaces, connected surfaces etc. Using these tools, we can access information, record ideas and events (as photos, sound recordings, video, text) instantaneously as we work, without interrupting the flow of our activities. This transforms the classroom, but also extends learning out into many other environments - in fact anywhere with a connection.

      V

      Video conferencing

      Conversations and meetings conducted at a distance online with video and audio. Sometimes combined with text chat, screen sharing (in which one person can allow other participants to see and use their computer desktop), and file sharing. The OSL team at Warwick have used Cisco WebEx, which provides all of these facilities. Older video conferencing systems required specialist equipment and network connections. More recent systems like WebEx work with standard computers, web cams, microphones and internet connections. WebEx allows for multiple video participants at different locations. Skype is a similar system, but only supports 1-to-1 video.

      Telepresence takes this a step further, with higher quality connections and sophisticated camera, mic and screen setups to provide greater verisimilitude in the presentation of distant participants.

      Video editing

      Creating a film with a narrative, sequences of shots, subtitles and other familiar elements. The move to high quality compressed video formats (especially MP4) has speeded up the video editing process. Most importantly for OSL and the use of video editing in teaching, they allow us to rapidly review large amounts of video footage, and drag-and-drop selections into a project. This allows for narratives to be built, played, tested and altered rapidly. Editing software that supports immediate viewing of footage and edits is essential. We have used Apple iMovie on MacBooks and iMacs. We may soon move to the new Final Cut Pro X, which is as fast and intuitive, but with more sophisticated effects.

      W

      Web content management system

      A systen that makes it easy for non-technical people to create, edit and manage web pages in a web site. Warwick uses its own system, Sitebuilder. Other widely used systems include Plone, Microsoft Sharepoint, Drupal, Joomla! (yes it is a silly name with an apostrophe), Movable Type and WordPress. Here is a long list.

      Wifi

      A wireless internet connection that allows computers and mobile devices to connect to the internet through broadband or via institutional network connections (at British universities, the high speed JANET connection). Wireless is a cheap and fast way to enable ubiquitous computing. Many universities have widespreads wifi networks. However, connectivity can be effected by buildings and other sources of interference.

      Mobile devices like the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad can be configured to automatically reconnect to the network when in range. This supports seemless synchronisation of data with cloud based services. For example, Evernote allows a mobile device user to create notes when not connected, and automatically uploads them when a connection becomes available.

      Z

      Zoned publishing

      An approach to publishing or sharing work, in which the work is released to a restricted group of people, and perhaps later to a wider group or to the general public.