eRambler
Jez Cope's blog on becoming a research technologist

#altc2012 Part 2: Apps & networks

It’s been a little while since ALT-C 2012 now, so I thought I’d better write up the rest of my notes. Here’s day 2 in all it’s glory.

My day started off with James Clay’s workshop entitled “A few of my favourite things” — just an opportunity for gadget lovers to share some of their favourite apps (mostly iPad/iPhone, but a few Androids in there too).

There were a lot of popular apps in there, like the ever-present Evernote and Instagram, but there were a few interesting ones I hadn’t come across, or was able to see in a new light:

JotNot
Lets you take a photo of a page and semi-automatically straightens it and enhances it so you get a flat, high-contrast version — a scanner in your pocket. Looks like this is abandonware, but instead I discovered Genius Scan, which has many more features.
TunePal
One for lovers of traditional music: search for info on and dots for a traditional tune by playing a bit of it into your phone.

Next followed an interesting session introducing some tools from projects on the JISC Digital Literacies programme. I particularly liked the digital literacies lens on the SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy. There’s a lot of (perhaps true but not very helpful) talk going round at the moment about “everyone having a different definition of digital literacy”, so it’s good to see a fairly concise high-level view of what we’re actually talking about on that subject.

As a recovering mathematician, I found Natasa Milic-Frayling’s keynote on network analysis fascinating. Her team at Microsoft Research have developed an Excel plugin, NodeXL for analysing networks (and obtaining data from social networks to analyse).

She described some interesting work analysing voting patterns of US senators, and correlating connections in social networks with geographic distribution.

Students introduced to NodeXL were able to get straight into playing with network data, and quickly took on board the basic concepts (various ideas of the importance of a network node) without needing to grasp the underlying maths (such as the various equations for centrality).

My last session of the day was from Clive Young of University College London, talking about “blended” roles in e-learning. These are typically those people who provide general admin support to lecturers, and are increasingly being expected to managed VLE modules and other online elements of courses on behalf of the lecturers.

At UCL, these teaching administrators with blended roles had self-organised into a support network, as they were getting no targeted support on how to use Moodle from the e-learning team. This was, of course, rectified, and in the end 10% of the staff identified in blended roles went on to achieve CMALT status.

All interesting stuff, and I’ll be back to post my thoughts on day 3 soon.