Video games – baby steps

I have just finished reading a really interesting book on video games as educational tools, by James Paul Gee.

In my quest to understand video games I have discovered Gem Miner, which I have downloaded to my mobile phone. I chose it because it was a recommended ‘top’ game for android phones, and would allow me to play it whenever I had a spare few minutes, for example on the bus.

My first impressions (after an hour):
– The training module at the beginning is very useful, but still relies on the player to explore themselves as well. For example, I worked out that I can get back out of the mine by stacking ladders on top of each other. Had I looked more carefully, I would have noticed that my tool cart included a lift, therefore I would have not wasted as many ladders when I fell down the shaft.
– It is important to work out how to save your game and keep an eye on stamina of the character you’re playing as. It’s also essential to know where to go to get healthier again.
– It takes more time than anticipated and I got very involved, starting to care that the little miner was happy.

I’d be grateful for any other suggestions of ‘beginner’ games for someone who has dabbled in Wii sports, Lemmings (in the 90s, together with my dad), never left the training area of Second Life and somewhat failed to grasp World of Warcraft (I did enjoy dancing in fountains though). Thanks :)

Note added on 18 August: I realise that my question was rather unspecific and didn’t lend itself to a proper answer, as I totally ignored the fact of games variety, genres, etc. Fortunately a kind colleague has since pointed me at ‘interactive fiction‘, which sounds quite exciting and doesn’t mean that I have to learn lots of new things about controls and such (which is usually where I struggle) just yet.

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Library Camp Leeds 2014 #libcampls

Short notice but: Another library camp is happening in Leeds on 23 August, aimed at Leeds people but also welcoming others, of course. It will take place in the beautiful Morley Library, which is a Carnegie library, so have a look round if you are coming to library camp.

Here are the details of the event: Wiki and Tickets


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Presentation skills

My workplace has discovered PechaKucha. Teachers now use it with their students, to increase their confidence and presentation skills, especially in a business context.

So I threw PowerPoint Karaoke in there, and we had a session this afternoon:

  • Two volunteers
  • A presentation of 60 seconds each – 4 slides
  • Each slide will move on automatically after 15 seconds
  • They have never seen the slides before

First introduced to it by Ned Potter (@therealwikiman) at an event he led (and on his blog) I am a fan of PowerPoint Karaoke (aka Battledecks) for several reasons. Some of them are:

  1. People enjoy it because it’s informal
  2. It lowers barriers because everyone can present and/or make a fool of themselves
  3. You can test a presentation on others by letting someone else present it. This will show any weaknesses in your presentation, e.g. lack of clarity.
  4. You can reinforce something you have talked about previously by making it fun.

Using PowerPoint Karaoke with language students can be beneficial because students tend to forget about their lack of vocabulary and nervousness when put in an informal (and relaxed) PowerPoint Karaoke situation. To help them in advance you could give them a topic area that you will use for your Karaoke session, and maybe a list of related vocabulary.

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Offer letter

Just a quick update: I have received an offer letter for the MA Technology, Education and Learning at the University of Leeds. :)
Note added on 25 June: I have accepted the place. It’s happening!

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Baking stuff again

Tomorrow we are launching a new digital strategy at work, and there will be cake and gin. In preparation, I have baked diggers (using a Hairy Bikers recipe) for the first time last night. They seem to be very similar to flapjacks. Are they perhaps even the same thing?


(I should have joined #blogjune…)

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What I have learned so far this week

This week I have discovered CamStudio, free software that allows you to record screen-casts and audio. I needed this to record a presentation for a last-minute event where the technical facilities were a bit unreliable and would possibly not allow me to present live. Twitter was, as usual, quick to the rescue when I asked for software suggestions. It took me a while to work out the audio settings (it is automatically set to not record audio!), but then it was really easy and intuitive to use. There are some help videos online already, so I won’t record yet another one. Just be aware of the format it record in and it’ll be fairly self-explanatory. I spent too much time recording the presentation, until it was good enough to share, but hopefully someone will find it useful.

Other things I have learned, or they were reinforced:

  • listen to the scouts and be prepared, at all times, for every eventuality
  • ask clear questions and persevere if you don’t get a clear answer. Suggest solutions yourself, even if they don’t seem relevant at the time.
  • be aware that people have assumptions, e.g. about the equipment, skills and time you have
  • manage your time well and go to bed when it gets too much. Sometimes you just have to stop.
  • promote what you do, so that others can help you – they will not know unless you tell them
  • have a test run, especially if technology is involved

And some projects I have learned about this week:

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Public library lovers

Put your money where your mouth is and support Richard and Sue’s great idea: National Public Libraries Festival #PubLibFest

Support the National Public Libraries Festival from Sue lawson on Vimeo.

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Professional registration

I have recently attended a training day about mentoring that was organised by CILIP. The first half of the day introduced general concepts of mentoring and coaching, broken up by some practical exercises. The afternoon introduced CILIP’s take on mentoring and how it’s used as part of the professional registration processes.

(Levels of registration explained)

It was a useful day and I have since applied to become a CILIP mentor.

I really hope that they don’t change the rules about who can mentor whom. At the moment, the rules only state that someone going through one of the registration processes (that’s Certification, Chartership and Fellowship) needs a CILIP-trained mentor, but not that the mentor needs to have an equal or higher registration level (which you might expect for Fellowship, for example). The mentee chooses a mentor they want to work with and if both parties agree, the process starts and takes however long it takes.

I love the idea that going for Fellowship status could involve being mentored by a library assistant who has just completed their Certification. After being a manager for a while it can be difficult to know what happens ‘on the front line’ and the odd half day on a library counter will never tell you. Staff might also not be as honest with you once you’re the boss, for reasons you can’t even guess at. A mentor who works at a lower level (and is passionate about their work) could help you get in touch with that side of the library landscape and give you new insights and ideas for improving your own service and organisation. That is a very exciting thought!
Please, CILIP, make these links possible and encourage them.

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Like many other students I am currently waiting for exam results.

I sat the exam for the OU’s Professional Certificate in Management a month ago and it was stressful. It was my first exam in about 10 years and my first in the UK. I ran out of time for certain parts, I sweated, I panicked. And we all know that could have been avoided. Apart from the overheated room, maybe. I still finished on time, but didn’t feel totally happy.

The University of St Andrews gives some good tips on post-exam stress. Just reading those calmed me down. Keep things in perspective, in the exam and afterwards! WikiHow also helped, with a range of lovely pictures. I’m glad I didn’t have a whole range of exams to sit in a short space of time. How did we live through that at school, having so many exams? A colleague said we were probably institutionalised. Another suggested having a pint before exams helped.

I have learned that you can plan your timings over and over – it (probably) won’t work out. Just learn what you can and use as much as possible. Leave time to read your output at the end (I didn’t and it still annoys me).

My tip for afterwards: get a nice novel and your favourite food to relax with. And then be patient.

Note added on 13 June: I have passed the exam :)

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An AFHEA now

I have been recognised as an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I briefly mentioned that I was applying for this in October, and finally submitted my application in March. And they emailed me this morning to say my application has been accepted.

Now, if you work in Higher Education you probably know a bit more about the Higher Education Academy. If not, you might wonder what I’m on about and what an AFHEA is good for. The Higher Education Academy (HEA) lists the benefits of professional recognition on their website:

‘By applying to become an Associate Fellow you will have the opportunity to:

  • Think deeply about and thereby enhance the quality and effectiveness of your work in the area of teaching and supporting learning in higher education;
  • Ensure your practice as a teacher and/or supporter of learning is aligned with a nationally recognised standard for higher education
  • Gain national recognition for your role as a teacher and/or supporter of learning within the higher education context.’

I found it useful to look at my work and relate it to an official standard, the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF), as it helped me to see the gaps in my professional development plan, and to plan how to address these. It is also a useful process for showing how my role is relevant to the university I work for, and how it relates to wider aims. I was already used to reflecting on my work and development from having completed the chartership process, so the AFHEA wasn’t as daunting, but really helped me to relate my skills to the Higher Education sector.

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