Monthly Archives: January 2013

LLAS e-learning symposium 2013 pt1: A sense of community

I’ve just come back from attending the LLAS’ 8th e-learning symposium at the University of Southampton. I really enjoyed the event: the talks were great, full of ideas and directions to explore (the keynotes in particular), but above all it is really the people who made it worthwhile for me.

When I presented at this event last year, I met a few fellow HE language tutors, a good number of which I got to see again this year: @AngloFLE, @CeciliaGoria, @languageforall, @nkthorne and @Citricky, to name a few. And it was great to see the ever-enthusiastic organisers @AliDickens, @johngcanning, @KBorthwick, @laurencegeorgin, @eri_llas, @37Nasher and the rest of the LLAS team.

The event was also the oportunity to meet face-to-face with a few people whom I’d been following, reading or and interacting with on Twitter. It was really great to meet @WarwickLanguage, @nikpeachey & @mikeneary!

By the end of the second day, I’d spoken to people from dozens of institutions, teaching every language you can think of and sharing an interst for technology-enhanced learning and innovative teaching practices. It really was a breath of fresh air in the middle of a busy academic year!

But the best thing about this event is that I truly began to get a sense of community. This is probably the most important thing I’ll take back with me: the feeling that I’m starting to know a few people around the country, whom I meet online or offline once in a while, and I have an idea of who they are, what they do, and we can count on one another for ideas, support, inspiration and so on. It was great speaking to you all – see you next year!

My next post (or two) will be about the content of the event. Too much to write about in just one post!

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5 things I like about the vocab app Quizlet

For some time now we’ve been using a vocabulary-testing application on some of our French courses. It’s particularly useful for medical French courses, given the amount of terminology there is to memorise. The app we’ve been using isn’t the sexiest, but it does the job at displaying vocab pairs and then test you on them. The main downside has been that it’s a Windows-only app (sorry, “programme”) and a good number of our students now use mobile devices or Macs. Quite a shame, I should think, as learning vocab is perfect for bite-size, on-the-go learning in public transports.

Vocab testing app

The old…

So yesterday I asked around (meaning, I posted a tweet with a question mark in it) if anyone knew something a bit more modern, sexier, and that could run on a phone. Within minutes, the ever-helpful @simonjhowells suggested I had a look at Quizlet. Well, thank you, Simon, I think Quizlet will do the job just right, and here’s why in 5 short points.

Quizlet screenshot

… and the new!

  1. High performance. Quizlet lets you import your own vocab lists and is quite smart about recognising the format. I imported around 800 entries in 37 lists in a couple of hours, with tagging and assigning them to classes. Assign a language to a column and Quizlet will read out the words for you in a variety of languages. It’s generally highly customisable.
  2. Fun. You can learn and test your vocab in a number of rather fun ways. I found myself practising cardiology vocab playing Space Race!
  3. Fresh-looking. A nice design can go a long way when you’re looking for motivation to learn about infectious diseases typology.
  4. Embeddable! I was so excited about this. Students will no longer need to download an .exe file onto their computer to run it. Neither will they need to go and search for the right vocab list on the website: any individual list of exercise can be embedded right there in your VLE.
  5. Social. Quizlet has everything you would expect from a web 2.0 learning platform. You can invite your friends, compare scores, chat about a task, add to it, and of course you can share your content! There are currently 181 entires under ‘Medical French’. Our entries are available here.

Anyway, I’ll see how my students find it this coming semester. A nice bit of change to look forward to!

iPad tip: how to store videos on an SD card

iPads tend to come with rather limited storage (16BG to 64GB) and Apple places strict restrictions limiting the use of external storage devices such as USB sticks, SD cards and hard drives.

So what do you do if your iPad is full and you would like to bring a few films (ripped from legally-purchased DVDs) to watch during your holiday? Well, there is a way to do that without jailbreaking. It’s not without flaws and it only works with video files. But it works.

I described how to do this on a French forum a couple of years ago, and I recently noticed that my post got over 16,000 views! I thought it could be useful to translate it into English and post it here. Here we go.

iPad and SD card

How to externally store video files to view on your iPad

Firstly, you’ll need Apple’s iPad SD card adaptor. You can find it here or here, depending on whether your iPad has a 30-pin dock connector or the new Lightning connector.

Secondly, you need an SD card to store your films. These come in all sorts of sizes nowadays (up to 128GB). To give you an idea, a full-length film will weigh between 1 and 2GB, depending on your preferred quality. Your SD card must be formatted using the FAT-32 file system. You can do this in just a minute on a Mac or PC, just Google it if you’ve never done it before.

Thirdly, the video files: The films you want to watch must be encoded using the h.264 video codec for which iPad has hardware support. Audio is best supported in AAC format. File format can be either .m4v or .mov. To rip a DVD into an iPad-compatible video file (using one of the above formats), I recommend that you use (and make a small donation to) the excellent Handbrake. It has an ‘iPad’ preset which will do the work for you if you don’t want to hear about codecs and file extensions.

Next, you need to place the videos on the SD card. Simply copying the files onto the card will not work. As you are using the Camera Connection Kit, you need to make your iPad believe that you’re trying to unload videos you’ve shot with your own camera. For this, create a folder called ‘DCIM‘ on your SD card. Inside this folder, create another one called ‘102_PANA‘ (that second folder can have many names, but I have tried and tested this particular one).

Then you’ll need to name your videos like they’ve been generated by a camera. Many names will work, but I recommend the following: start with ‘P1000769.m4v‘, then increase the number by 1 for each new file: P1000770, P1000771, etc. These imitate the file names generated by a Panasonic camera and will be recognised by your iPad.

Folders to createOnce this is done, open the ‘Photos’ app on your iPad (NB: even though you want to access video files) and plug in the adaptor containing your SD card. A new tab, “Camera”, should appear. Tap this tab and your videos should show.

Accessing videos<br /> from iPad

To watch one of the videos, tap on it and choose “import selected”. This will download it onto your iPad. This means that you must save enough space on your iPad to accommodate the largest of your files. Once viewed, the file can be deleted from the tablet.

Drawbacks

The main drawback of this method, as you may have seen on the above screenshot, is that file names are not displayed when iPad accesses the SD card. The only available information is the length of the file. This is not a problem when you have 2 or 3 films on your SD card. You can download one and check if it the one you want.

However, it becomes tricky when you store a number of episodes from a TV series, which are all about the same length. I do not have a solution for that problem. A workaround can be to preemptively make a note of the length of every episode, in order, and use some additional notes to distinguish those of similar lengths. It’s far from ideal, but if you’re like me and you really cannot go on holiday without taking with you the whole of Arrested Development, it’s a good enough solution.

Another drawback is that, predictably, DRM contents (i.e. films purchased on iTunes) are not supported by this method.

Anyway, I hope this can be useful to some of you. Any comments or questions welcome.