Making learning more intuitive

A research project that I have been working on is the Intuitive Learning Resources (ILR) project.

ILR researches the creation and application of visual learning objects where content remains the focus, not the interface. The project was born from previous research highlighting the positive results found when student are provided access to intuitive learning objects at a time, place and pace to suit their individual learning needs.

We have now created a web page to house the various resources created. Click here to view the various resources currently been used by students.


Trying out augmented reality

The picture below is a trigger for an augmented reality overlay, showing how the ditch at Avebury Henge has silted up over the past 4,500 years or so.

To see the augmented image, go to the App store on your Apple or Android tablet or phone and download the Aurasma app.    Register with a username, password and email address, and then press on ‘discover auras’ and search for lizfal. Press on ‘follow’ and then press the small purple square at the bottom of the page. Your camera viewfinder will open. Find the image in your viewfinder and hold still for a few seconds – you should see the augmented image appear! You have to have a wireless connection or 3G active to be able to see the augmented image.

Alone / Together

You’re sat there again. Writing.

All alone.

The internet’s there. It always is. The distraction factory: a cacophony of noise telling you that everyone else is having much more fun than you. The world’s happening in some other place.

And you’re still sat there.

But what if it wasn’t just you? What if you were able to share the writing process with others? What if you weren’t alone?

That’s the premise behind Shut Up and Write Tuesdays, “a virtual writing workshop for academic folk”. It’s an extension of the Shut Up and Write premise that originated amongst the Californian creative writing community and grown in popularity here after being adopted by the student academic community.

Using the Pomodoro Technique that I’ve talked about before, it takes place across Twitter every Tuesday.

In practical terms it’s a Twitter exchange that comes to life through a hashtag (#suwtues / #suwtuk / #suwtna – depending on whether you’re following from the US and Canada, the UK and Western Europe, or the Asia-Pacific region).

There’s a countdown, people chatter and get ready to start – there might be the odd exchange about what you’re currently writing – then…

YOU’RE OFF! 25 minutes of writing. In Twitter silence.

When time’s up, you’ve a 5 minute break to visit the toilet, make that cup of tea, tell the world what you’re dog just did… Procrastinate as much as you want before… YOU’RE OFF AGAIN! 25 minutes more writing…

That’s the idea and it seems to work – at least judging by the enthusiastic global chatter every Tuesday morning. I like it too.

But what’s actually happening?

Erikson and Kellogg might say that participants are benefiting from something they call “social translucence”. Through the social networking platform we’re able to experience the activities of other visible participants that “support coherent behaviour by making participants and their activities visible to one another” (Erickson et al., 2002).

It’s translucent, rather than transparent, because information is selective (whether intentionally or not) and we can hide a lot behind those 140 characters!

Yes, of course participants may be manipulating and making visible activities that are not actually taking place through this “social proxy” on Twitter, but the common language and shared group aesthetic (tea, cake, casual and informal), as well as the low ‘risk’ nature of the activity (personally completing some writing), creates a reassuring environment where ‘trust’ isn’t a necessary factor for success. There’s no leverage to be gained by seeking to manipulate impressions – you’d only be kidding yourself!

We have a ‘sense’ that we’re sharing an activity with other similar people. And while, like the example I’ve given before about collaborating (while not collaborating), we’re not working together to achieve the same goal, we are working ‘together’ through sharing the same virtual space and experience.

The ‘alienating power of technology’ used to to unite.

Erickson, T., Halverson, C., Kellogg, W., Laff, M. and Wolf, T. (2002) Social translucence: designing social infrastructures that make collective activity visible. Communications of the ACM [online]. 45(4), pp. 40-44. [Also available online]

Image - V.H. Belvadi's desk by V.H. Belvadi - from:

How technology can be used to support informal learning in the workplace

Professor John Cook and Dr Patricia Santos are hosting a workshop to discuss how technology can be used to support informal learning in the workplace – mainly focused on Higher Education, Creative Industries and Healthcare sector.  

 The project team is pleased to discuss with you whether the tools and applications we have developed might be useful in your work and learning context. The workshop takes place on June 20th from 10am to 5pm at Armada House in Bristol. Entry is free but places are limited so please register by following the link below if you wish to attend. Coffee and a buffet lunch will be provided, with an informal reception and drinks following the workshop.

University of West England Vice Deputy Chancellor Prof. Jane Harrington will open the event.

To book your place, please go to