Free tools to create online games and animations – no coding required

Despite the recent shennanigans surround the BBC Jam project, the corporation continues to be a key player in interactive web developments – even if it just as a conduit for providing information. Yesterday (15th May) the BBC website posted a story about SCRATCH a free set of tools which allows anyone to “create their own animated stories, video games and interactive artworks” without having to create any code. Developed by the MIT Media Lab, the site is primarily aimed at children, but that’s no reason for grown ups not to use it; particularly in an educational setting. One of the downsides of being featured on the BBC site is that the SCRATCH website has been inundated with traffic and so isn’t working to capacity (I still haven’t been able to access it). However, the blogsphere is full of the story and there are a number of videos on YouTube about it. Looking at these it certainly does look like a fairly intutive system. Tony Hirst has an interesting article on it too on his blog .

JISC web2.0 online conference – presenations & discussions available online

All this week Tom Franklin and Mark Van Harleem are hosting an online conference on web2.0 and its potential impact on the education sector. Although places have been limited for the synchronous presentations, copies of the presentations are available on a moodle site, and anyone can participate in the discussion forums there ( you obviously have to register first to get access to the forums). So far the issues discussed have covered institutional issues, content creation and sharing and pedgagogy. Overall the live session are working well, with just the occassional gremlin. You can log-in and join the discussion @

Joint Pedagogy Forum and EC SIG meeting, 26 April

Liverpool Hope University hosted the joint meeting of the Pedagogy Forum and EC SIG last Thursday. The meeting focused on design for learning, with presentations from a number of the projects involved in the current JISC Design for Learning Programme.

The team from Liverpool Hope started the meeting with an overview of their experiences of using IMS Learning Design with teachers and students. Mark Barrett- Baxendale, Paul Hazelwood and Amanda Oddie explained the work they are doing in the LD4P (learning design for practitioners) project where they are working on making a more user-friendly interface for the RELOAD LD editor, the DesignShare project (part of the current JISC tools and demonstrators projects) where they are linking a learning design repository into reload, and the the D4LD (developing for learning design) where they are working on improving the presentation of the OU learning design player. The team are working with practitioners in both HE and FE (and are running a number of courses with students) and so far, have received positive feedback about using learning design. The screenshots they showed of the interface they are working on for RELOAD certainly looked much more user friendly and intuitive. The team are also looking at the role of web2.0 in the DesignShare project as it will link RELOAD and the Opendoc repository using widget like technology.

Professor Diana Laurillard then gave us an overview of the the London Pedagogic Planner tool. This system, although still very much in prototype, has been designed to help scaffold the planning process for staff. Taking a process driven approach, the system prompts the user to input all the factors relating to a course/session/lesson design i.e. room availability, number of teaching hours, number of student hours outside the classroom available. It is hoped that this scaffolded approach to planning can help to exploit the pedagogic value of learning technology as it allows the user to ensure that their designs (whatever their pedagogical approach and what technology they exploit) are workable within the instutional constraints they have to sit in. An important focus of the tool is to put control back into the hands of teachers and so in turn help the wider teaching community come to more informed decisions about how to integrate learning technology into their own practice.

After lunch we were joined remoted by James Dalziel – thanks to James for staying up very late due to the audio gremlins having lots of fun in the morning 🙂 . James gave us an overview of LAMSv2 and some of his thoughts on the need and potential for pedagogic planners. LAMS v2 is based on a new modular architecture which the team hope will stand them in good stead for the foreseeable future. Whilst retaining the core concepts of the original system, this version introduces a number of new and improved features including: improved support for branching; live editing of sequences – no more runtime lock-in and the ability to export sequences as IMS LD Level A. (There’s no support for importing IMS designs as yet, but it’s something on the team’s to do list.) One other interesting feature is the inclusion of a portfolio export. Basically this feature allows a student to keep a record of all their activities. The system creates and exports a zip file which contains html copies of activies. Through work with the New Zealand Ministry of Education, the v2 can now provide joint classes using the Shibboleth federation system. In terms of pedagogic planners, James outlined his thoughts on current needs. He believes that we need lots of different versions of planners and more research on the the decision making process for designers and teachers. This is obviously an area of increasing focus, but hopefully the two JISC planners are making a good start in this area and it’s something that will be discussed at the LAMS UK conference in July.

Marion Manton and David Balch then gave us an overview of the Phoebe planner tool they have been developing at the University of Oxford. In contrast to the London planner tool, Phoebe has taken a wiki based approach with more emphasis being given to providing advice and support on potential pedagogic approaches. Though there is no reason why the two system couldn’t be used together and that is something that both projects are exploring. As with the London planner, Phoebe is now entering phase 2 and is looking at ways to improve the interface for users. David and Marion outlined the approaches they have been considering, which hopefully will provide looser connections between the content in the wiki and the notes that user create when they are using the system. They are hoping to take a more drag and drop, web 2.0 approach so that users can feel more in control of the system.

Dai Griffiths from the University of Bolton rounded up the day by giving an overview of his impressions of the learning design space. Dai has been involved in many projects relating to IMS Learning Design – notably the UNFOLD project. Dai began by questioning if IMS is agile enough to take advantage of the web 2 world. Increasingly specifications such as content packaging and learning design seem to be at odds with developments in social software. He then went on to highlight some of the confusions that exist around the purpose of IMS Learning Design. Being both a modeling language and an interoperability system there is still confusion about the purpose of the specification. Often projects only focus on one area and forget about the other. There is still a need for interoperability, but perhaps now we need to move to thinking about looser couplings between content, activities and infrastructure and not try to do everything by following one complex specification. IMS LD as it currently stands deals with formal education systems but what about informal learning, can it play a role there too? This is something the TenCompetence project is investigating and they are hoping to have a number of extension to RELOAD launched later this year which start to address that space. Dai closed by re-itterating the need for community engagement and sustaining and building of contacts within the learning design space which is one of the aims of the support wiki for the Design for Learning programme.

Thanks to everyone who presented and attended the meeting for making it such a worthwhile meeting. Also a big thank you to everyone at Liverpool Hope for being such generous hosts and having the patience to work through all our technological gremlins. Copies of all the presentations from the day are available @