New Learning

January 10, 2011

WordClouds the next generation

Filed under: Learning Technologies,Uncategorized — kevhickeyuk @ 1:21 pm

For a long time I have been impressed with Wordle .  This is a site where you can add a bunch of text and it will create a wordcloud.  A wordcloud is an image that contains the words you have added, the more times a word appears the larger the word appears in the cloud.  So for example the word cloud below is made up of Barack Obamas inauguration speech.  The words ‘Nation’, ‘America’ and ”People’ are large, which means there were repeated many times.  Wordle is very easy to use and gins you options such as changing the colour scheme and removing specified words.

barack obama's inauguration speech as a wordcloud by wordle









I have just discovered an alternative to Wordle called .  The big advantage this seems to have over Wordle, is that  you can get the words to  appear in a specific shape.  So here is Jules Verne’s 20, 000 leagues under the sea as a Seahorse

Tagxedo word cloud

Again,  the more times a word appears in the text the larger it appears in the word cloud.  There are dozens on templates you can choose from or you can upload your own silhouette image.  I have embedded this as a standard image, but from the website you can  downlaod as a range of image types or get the code to embed as an interactive image. Is a similar site with less predefined templates but it allows you to create interactive word clouds where you can click on am image to search that word in Google.


November 26, 2010

MyStudyBar Planning and Vision

Filed under: Inclusion,Learning Technologies,Staff Development — kevhickeyuk @ 11:17 am

This post is related to an online presentation on the Planning & Vision components of MyStudyBar V3 which has been developed by the JISC RSC Scotland NE.  Many of the resources on this post link directly to those on including handouts in MS word format developed by Julie MacRitchie of Jewel & Esk College.

Click here to access a recording of the online training session on using MyStudyBar to support Palnning & Vision (26/11/10)

MyStudyBar is a collection of applications that can run directly from a USB Stick, a Network install or can be installed directly onto a PC.  The applications can be accessed via a floting toolbar which can be dragged to any part of the screen.

Downloading and installing mystudybar

The Latest Versions on MyStudyBar for Windows XP or Windows Vista & 7 can be downloaded as a zip file from Once downloaded the files should be extracted and added to a usb stick.

Planning Software

XMind Mindmapping Software

XMind and mind mapping tutorial in Word format

Sunbird Portable Calendar

Sunbird Calendar in Word format


HottNotes tutorial in Word format

Software to Support Vision








Virtual Magnifier tutorial in Word format

Sonar- Puts a ring around your Cursor








Sonar mouse tracking tutorial in Word format

Thunder- Screen Reader

Thunder Screen reader tutorial in Word format via

September 27, 2010

Accessibility and the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch

Filed under: Inclusion,Learning Technologies — kevhickeyuk @ 12:28 pm

At first glance the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch don’t appear to be particularly accessible devices especially for those who have problems seeing the screen, after all they are touch screens which makes it harder to feel and navigate than buttons.  Having said that they all come with some rather impressive accessibility features built in such as a screen reader and an option to magnify the screen.  I believe Apple are trying to encourage developers to incorporate accessibility features into any apps for these devices, but at the moment I think it’s a bit hit and miss as to how accessible they are.  As well as the built in functions there are also some great apps which are aimed at making the device more useful as an accessible tool.  These include Dragon Dictation from the same people who make Dragon Naturally speaking voice recognition software, iCanSee which turns the device into a magnifying glass and Speak It another text to speech app which I discovered via the blog of Lillian Soon.

I know I have only scratched the surface but i look forward to finding out what other useful apps are available.  Please let me know any you know about that I have missed out.

Two full reviews of the iPad, from blind users is available by clicking here.


I have had a few twitter messages regarding accessibility and iPads including

IOS has fantastic#accessibility, just got myself a touch and can vouch for it, for apps see and From Adrian Higginbotham

And a message pointing out a great blog post by Dave Sugden which includes a number of accessible apps and features of the iPad / iPhone operating system

September 22, 2010

Recorder Pen/ RNIB PenFriend audio labeller

Filed under: Inclusion,Learning Technologies — kevhickeyuk @ 2:31 pm

Recorder PenThe Recorder Pen from Mantra Lingua is a device, which plays back audio files when they touch special stickers.  Each of these small white stickers can be linked with an hour of audio, and it is very easy to record and rerecord an audio note for each sticker using a microphone incorporated into the pen.  The stickers cost about £12 for 189 stickers which they can be reused over and over again, with staff or students recording their own audio notes. The pens are about £50 and have headphone sockets so they can be used without disturbing everyone else.

I was recently involved in a workshop at a college where they had purchased some of these pens and they came up with a number of ideas on how they could use these pens;

–          Audio labels for images and items in ESOL/MFL lessons

–          An audio treasure hunt, giving students information on different parts of a college and clues as to where to find the next label

–          Used within an English lesson in which labels are placed around a sentence and students have to press the pen next to where they think an apostrophe might go, and the audio provides feedback

–          Audio notes to go alongside different pages in a text book

–          Getting students to create their own labels to identify different parts of a diagram on a poster, which other students could then listen to.

–          Use the stickers for multi-choice quiz, with each sticker saying ‘correct’ or ‘try again’

–          Helping learners with problems reading labels or notes.

There were some criticisms of the device, specificity that some learners might find them a little childish and some found it difficult to control the volume.

Since hearing about this device last week, I have also heard about the RNIB PenFriend audio labeller, which appears to be a virtually identical system (although the method of creating audio notes is even easier) which is specificly marketed as a device for supporting those with visual impairments.

September 6, 2010

Research Presentation a Pecha Kucha

Filed under: Learning Technologies,Staff Development,Uncategorized — kevhickeyuk @ 3:06 pm

Pecha Kucha presentation as delivered by Steve Ingle from Edge Hill University at the JISC RSC NW Annual Conference 2010

August 25, 2010

Foxit Reader

Filed under: Learning Technologies,Uncategorized — kevhickeyuk @ 11:25 am

In my recent blog post My digital pencil case 2.0 I forgot to mention FoxIt Reader, which is an alternate to Adobe Reader as a way of reading pdf documents.  I have found this really useful as it opens allot quicker than adobe reader and it allows me to add notes and comments.

Classroom Management Software

Classroom management software allows staff to view the screens of all the computers within a teaching room or library, from a single computer.  This ensures students are not accessing inappropriate websites or going onto applications they shouldn’t behind the teachers back.  Many of the commercial options have trial versions which are available to download.

Different systems have different features, but some common features of these systems include;

–          Staff being able to block or allow internet access for an entire group or individuals (can be used to reward students at the end of a session)

–          Staff being able to restrict access to limited number of websites/applications (ideal for safeguarding issues)

–          Staff and students being able to send files to each other from individual computers.

–          Staff being able to take full control of everyone’s computer which can be used to show a presentation on individual screens rather than having to look at the screen at the front of the class.

Below are links to a number of case studies and testimonials of some of the different solutions;

*The links below are the result of a systematic web search and do not represent recommendations of specific commercial products from myself or the JISC Advance RSC.  If there are any systems you feel I have missed out, and there are case studies available, please use the comments section to let me know.*

King George V College and ‘Swat-It’ (Stop Web Access, Teacher Is Teaching). A system which was developed in house.

Preston College have used Ranger Remote to provide control within a classroom environment and to provide an alternative to an interactive whiteboard

Kings College use NetSupport School to prevent students from using email, browsing the internet and using software they shouldn’t during class.

Blackburn College who have used LanSchool to give the teaching staff control over what is or isn’t blocked and allows students to ask questions in a class without having to put their hand up.
Available via;

MidKent College have used LanSchool to manage the ICT classroom and library

Sandywell college who have used  SynchronEyes to ensure students stay focused

Hamble College (comprehensive school) use AB Tutor Control to provide staff greater control in rooms with poor layouts.

The School of Engineering at Blackpool and Fylde College have used BrowseControl to ensure staff are more focused.

Moor End College use Sanako 500 to increase communication, collaboration and support within the learning environment.

August 20, 2010

My digital pencil case 2.0

Filed under: Learning Technologies,Libraries and Learning Resources — kevhickeyuk @ 11:57 am

For the last couple of years I have been study for a Masters with the Open University.  When I began the course back in 2008 I wrote a blog post in which I listed a number of online resources which I found useful.  I have decided to revist the list and update it.

Evernote In my original list I included Google Notebook which I used to clip and store content from web pages as well as type individual notes.  In 2009 Google announced they would no longer be developing Google Notebook, so I moved over to Evernote.  Evernote allows me to clip web content, save entire web pages, upload and save pdf documents, and other content.  These resources are stored online and can be searched for and retrieved via a web site, a downloadable desktop application or an app for my mobile phone.  What I find particularly useful about Evernote is its ability to search the content of all the resources I have saved including all the text on saved web pages and all the text within the pdf documents I have saved.

Freemind In my original list I included Mindomo, an online mindmapping tool which I used to plan my assignments.  I have gone on to use mindmaps more and more, not just for planning assignments but also for general note taking.  I still use mindomo and I also use Thinking Space for taking mind map notes on my android phone, however the main mindmapping application I now use is freemind, which is free to use and available as part of the fantastic EduApps package of free applications which run directly from a USB stick.  I prefer freemind as I find it so quick to load and easy to use, although some of my collegues prefer XMind which is also part of the EduApps package.

DSpeech For this course I have had to do allot of reading which can take alot of time.  Using DSpeech text to speech programme I have converted text documents to mp3 audio files which I have listened to in the car.   I still read through the text to make sure I have all the important information, but listening to the documents is the equivalent of skim reading a long document.  DSpeech is also available as part of the EduApps package.

August 2, 2010

‘We never had that in my day’ OR ‘We’ve built-up the infrastructure, now what are you going to do with it?’ a Pecha Kucha

Filed under: Learning Technologies — kevhickeyuk @ 2:46 pm

The following Pecha Kucha presentation, entitled ‘We never had that in my day’ OR ‘We’ve built-up the infrastructure, now what are you going to do with it?’ was delivered by Colin Hawksworth at the JISC RSC NW Annual conference 2010.

July 15, 2010

What’s been hot this year?

Filed under: Learning Technologies,Uncategorized — kevhickeyuk @ 2:54 pm

As the colleges take their summer break I am hoping to catch up on some of the elearning resources that the RSC NW team have discovered this year.

Here are a few of them;


Thanks to Anita for pointing this one out.  A website with lots of online resources for interactive whiteboards, including word magnets, random choice generators and timers.

Mouse Mischief

Thanks to John Dalziel for finding this one.  A free powerpoint plug in from Microsoft which allows multiple mice to be used.  This means many students can vote and interact at the same time.  A really useful budget alternative to expensive voting kits


Safeguarding has been a high priority this year and while there are lots of resources & videos available, most are aimed at younger children.  This high quality interactive game/drama from channel 4 has a holyoaks/skins fell to it and is aimed at collage age kids.  It’s very engrossing and teaches a range of online safety skills without patronising

USB Microscopes

Whenever we show people this piece of kit we always get loads of ideas about how it could be used.  Not just for science but to show off the workings of a computer or how to attach false eyelashes.

MUVI camcorders

A tough but tiny clip on camcorders that record in high resolution. Clip on clothing for hands free recording of evidence.  Under £50 form Amazon

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