Talking of iPads and Learning

Well, Steve Jobs and iPad 2 may make these comments seem obsolete! Just as I am writing my blog, he unexpectedly appears on stage…

All the same, I am fascinated by the online conversations among members of the Association for Learning Technology about using Apple iPads for elearning. In part this fascination is because I now have daily access to an iPad, but it’s also because these ALT members are well-informed and adventurous.  

I start with Seb Schmoller’s suggestion: Educause’s “7 Things You Should Know About iPad Apps for Learning” That gives me a quick overview, including a few examples of institutions trying them out.  

Our own Terese Bird notes a US college’s one-iPad-per-student programme and a New York Times article on use of iPads in American schools. 

Terese Bird also says she heard about a paperless course created in Switzerland with iPads that paid for themselves by saving printing costs. 

Simon Brookes sends this report on Reed College’s apparently successful use of iPads. He also mentions Stanford Medical School requiring first year students to have them. Elearning in hospital? 

Then of course there are techie views galore. I shall skip them.

Whether iPad or iPad 2, I still have the same question uppermost in my mind: what educational benefits are there? Or, to put it another way, can I think up ways of helping students who use iPads to learn more from, to understand better, to think critically about – their courses?

If Stanford, Reed and Seton Hill, just to mention three higher education institutions, have found out how to make it worthwhile for students to own iPads, shouldn’t the University of Leicester know about that? I think so. It sounds like a timely small-scale study for the Beyond Distance Research Alliance, possibly one funded by the university itself

David Hawkridge

The final goodbye

Today marks my last month of working with Beyond Distance and the University of Leicester. Looking back nearly three years ago when I first joined this prestigious and internationally renowned research centre, I count myself lucky to have been given the opportunity to share in the Beyond Distance vision. I started as a WoLF working on a mobile learning project collaboratively with Leicester College. WoLF was both interesting and challenging, opening up my world to technology mediated mobile learning. The HP pocket PCs we gave to Teaching Assistants who participated in the project at the time are today dwarfed by the power of the I-Phone. One key thing I learnt from the WolF project is that, with the right kind of contextualised learning support, the “techno-stressed” can overcome their fear of technology and go on to achieve excellent grades.

Like a chameleon, I changed my colours from a WoLF to a GeCKO. The GeCKO project compared the environmental impact of blended and face-to-face learning. A key outcome of GeCKO was a framework for measuring the carbon footprint of teaching and learning in higher education.

The IMPALA projects had been ongoing long before I joined Beyond Distance. In a bid to extend the endless possibilities of podcast technology, IMPALA4T investigated the use of student generated podcast to support student transition into higher education. One of the major findings of the this project was that a “hot and cold knowledge” menu, served in the right doses and at the right temperature can make the difference between students dropping out of University or going on to achieve a degree.

In my time with Beyond Distance, the project which perhaps captured my attention and sustained my interest most was perhaps the OTTER project.  Before OTTER, I had always been a proponent of “Education for All”, and a great believer in the fact that Open Education “provides people around the world with an opportunity to access high quality learning opportunities”. The OTTER team was fantastic. With a “butcher” (apology to Ale) as a project director, a nit-picky copyright officer, savvy learning technologists and a contemplative project coordinator, my work as open educational resources (OER) evaluator was bound to be enjoyable. I am convinced that the CORRE framework, a key outcome of the OTTER project, is bound to make the work of academics who are interested in turning existing teaching materials into OERs much easier.

Looking back, I am amazed at how my contact with Beyond Distance has challenged my own thinking on what learning should be all about, and how to envision learning futures. Apart from the already-mentioned projects, from CHEETAH to DUCKLING, OSTRICH to MOOSE,  and SWIFT to CALF, the world of learning in higher education is a world of possibilities.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Beyond Distance team, especially Prof. Gilly Salmon. Without doubt, the knowledge and experience I have gained from working at Leicester will be invaluable in my new role as Information Literacy Officer at Aberystwyth University.  To me the acronym BDRA means more than “Beyond Distance Research Alliance”, it also stands for “Britain’s most Distinguished Research Attraction”.

Adieu, farewell to you all.

Samuel Nikoi (30 September 2010).

Announcing the Beyond Distance MSc in Innovative Education and Training

Beyond Distance Research Alliance is very pleased and excited to announce its first degree programme: MSc in Innovative Education and Training. This exciting new course will be conducted by collaborative distance learning. Students will benefit from the tutorial support of our own Professor Gilly Salmon, Dr Alejandro Armellini, and Dr Palitha Edirisingha. The programme will begin October 2010, and can be completed in only 22 months. Study will pursue the themes of learning design, technology, innovation, change, research, and futures. Planned modules include

  1. Learning Innovation
  2. Research to Practice
  3. Looking Back for Moving Forward: Hindsight and Insight
  4. Creating the Future for Learning: Foresight and Oversight
  5. Proposal Preparation and Pilot
  6. Learning Futures Project

Above image is a collage created as an online e-tivity by the international delegates to the Beyond Distance Learning Futures Festival Online 2010

Our goal in this course is to enhance practice and professional development in technology-rich educational environments, giving students the opportunity to consider and critique the developments, likely trajectory and implications of digital technologies for learning. Participants will be encouraged to identify, formulate and debate theoretical and practical insights into education and training at any level and in any country and sector.

If you have been looking for a masters programme that will not only prepare you for the future of learning and training but also to be a leader in this field, this is the course for you!

For more information and to inquire further, visit

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist

Dear Father Christmas…..

As always I’ve been a good girl and decided that a seasonal approach to my final blog entry of the year would be appropriate.  Below is a (short) list of some technology that I’d like to find wrapped up for me on Christmas day:

  • Sony PRS-600
    This is the latest version of the Sony e-reader, we’ve been using the Sony PRS-505 as part of our DUCKLING project (, but this latest version features a touch screen which I think will make it more intuitive and easier to use based on how I’ve seen people try to initially use the PRS-505.  The Kindle is reported to be the ‘most wished for’ Christmas present (, we might be seeing students coming back with e-readers after the holidays ready for University produced e-books?
  • Universal Solar Phone Charger
    I’m forever running out of battery on my phone and on my iPod, very annoying when you’re expecting a phone call, listening to music on a long car journey, or tweeting during a conference.  This handy little gadget will enable me (hopefully) to keep my technology charged, or at least until I can get back home.  With our culture seemingly becoming more dependent on technology this means we never have to face the panic of being without.
  • Microsoft Surface
    Because a girl can dream that she can afford these things! Microsoft Surface lets you touch the surface of a screen which is on a horizontal surface to move files, edit video, even ripple water!  If you can afford it, this could revolutionise the way you interact and collaborate in education and business.  
  • High Definition Eyes
    This might not be on my Christmas list quite yet (I still have 20-20 vision), but I’ve included it to show the advances in technology and that advances will always be made.  This news story is about an ‘artificial lens’ made from light sensitive silicone which can be fine tuned to each individuals prescription.  Reading a brief history of cataract surgery ( people have always been curious and felt the need to advance, and it makes me wonder what will be next? 
  • Etre Touchy Gloves
    Why are these on the list?  Basically because they’re fun! These are gloves with the tip of the thumb and index finger missing to enable you to keep your hands warm in winter while still being able to press the buttons on your mp3 player, phone or whatever device you are using.

Hopefully you’ve seen something that you like and can see how some of these gifts would be used for education, I’ve given a brief reason how and why I think they can be used.  I used the Guardians Christmas Gift Guide for inspiration: and I hope that you all get everything you want for Christmas (if you’ve been good that is)!

One last thing to add to the list that will improve your New Year: Registration to our Learning Futures Festival Online – registration closes the 23rd December.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

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