• Dave Foord
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How to display the sheet name in a cell in an Excel spreadsheet

I use Excel a lot, not just for crunching numbers, but for creating teaching resources, lesson planning, managing my accounts and invoices and various other uses. One feature that I often use, is the ability to have the sheet name appearing inside a cell in the spreadsheet – so for example with my invoices – I rename the sheet name with the invoice number, this then updates the invoice within the sheet.

To do this I use the following formula below.

This may seem a complex formula, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t fully understand it (I don’t), you just need to copy and paste this into a cell in the spreadsheet, and the sheet name will appear. If you change the sheet name, the cell will change accordingly.

The only caveat is, that the workbook has to have been saved at some point for this to work – so if you do this with a new workbook, it won’t work until it has been saved.

This technique is unique to Microsoft Excel, it doesn’t work with other spreadsheet tools such as Open office, Google sheets or Apple’s Numbers.

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Evolution not Revolution of Education

I was recently introduced to this excellent video clip on YouTube which brilliantly portrays a very simple education message that seems to be being missed over and over again. The message being:

Individual technologies will not revolutionise education, however high quality, enthusiastic teachers who can use the technologies appropriately will help education evolve.

Enjoy the video…

Technology over the years, has allowed education to evolve and to adapt to the benefits that the technology brings, however it doesn’t and won’t ever replace the role of a good teacher. As mentioned in the video, every time a new technology comes along, those people responsible for promoting it (e.g. the people selling the technology), often fall into the trap of claiming that this new technology will ‘revolutionise’ education – and sadly many senior managers have been duped into believing this – and believing that putting their hands in their pockets and (often unstrategically) throwing money will solve all their ills.

It is often said that, and I will say again here, that technology in the hands of a poor (or no) teacher will make the education experience worse. Technology in the hands of a good teacher may make the experience better. The key here being the quality of the teacher. In investment terms we need to invest more in the staff using the tools, rather than the tools themselves – if we do this then education can naturally evolve.

Within Further Education in the UK, I am seeing a very varied response from organisations to the challenges that FELTAG brings – many are going to throw tokenistic amounts of money into trying to buy a solution – others are simply asking the already overworked teachers to do even more work in their own time to solve the problem, and then a few are realising that FELTAG is all about and requires high levels of senior manager joined up thinking and strategic leadership. If we look at the use of technology as evolution rather than revolution, that alone make the problem and challenge much simpler to comprehend and act upon – and is a good starting foundation for this area of work.

Using Burst Mode on the iPad/iPhone to take photos in sports settings

As a former PE/Sport Science lecturer, I think the iPad is a wonderful tool.

One problem with the default camera app on the iPad or iPhone is there is a time lag between pressing the button to take a photograph and the photo actually being taken, which in the world of sport is annoying as the action you wanted is often missed.

One app that I am finding really useful which overcomes this problem is Burst Mode – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/burst-mode-high-speed-camera/id393131664?mt=8. What this does is take a set of photographs in rapid succession, you then go through the set of images to select the one or ones that you want to use.

Screenshot of the BurstMode appThe image quality is superb, even in the relative low light of sports hall settings, and you can choose various settings including:

  • Delay between pictures.
  • Self timer delay (if filming yourself).
  • The number of pictures taken.
  • Low light Boost.
  • And various others options.

If you use the delay between pictures you have a range of options between 0.5 seconds and 5 minutes, it is a shame there isn’t a smaller increment (e.g. 0.1 seconds) which would be more useful for carrying out scientific movement analysis, however If you have no delay, the frequency of capture will be very quick – but will vary depending on the situation (e.g. low light will take less photos). This is not as accurate as a specialist camera or software – but with it being cheap and easy to use, means that each student can use it – rather than just one at a time.

If you do want to use the system to work out speeds of movements, you would need to know the frequency that the photos are being taking. It doesn’t give us this information automatically – but one way round this is to either have another iPad in shot which itself has a stopwatch running – or immediately before capturing your action, you capture another device (I often use my phone for this) that has the stopwatch running – then you can estimate the time gaps between frames. This is always going to be an estimate – but for a teaching perspective is adequate.

There are various other similar apps out there – with a range of prices, and there may be one better than this, but of the ones that I have tried I have found this to be the easiest to use, with the best quality of image and well worth the cost. Some people will tell me that I could just use the video tool, and then use one of the apps that takes a still image from a video sequence, but I have found with these – the image quality isn’t as crisp – which for sport is essential.

If you want to use an app like Burst Mode – it works very well with the device being hand held – but if you want to use this for more scientifc analysis then I would recommend a bracket to attach it to a tripod – as I discussed previously – https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/device-to-attach-an-ipad-or-tablet-to-a-standard-tripod/

If you work for a school or college, and are interested in me coming in to run a training session on how to use iPads in the teaching of PE and Sport then please get in touch.

If you are serious about blended learning – give teachers a mobile phone

In 2002 when I was working as an FE/HE lecturer at a college, the team leader made a decision to provide all staff in the team with mobile phones. The team in question was a PE and Sport team, which due to the nature of the subject, we were often teaching on the field, in the sports hall or at non-college facilities. Health and Safety had insisted that when in these locations the teacher had to carry a mobile phone – so we had a bank of (I think) 4 such phones for this purpose – but logistically this was a nightmare. No-one took ownership of the phones, so they weren’t set up for individuals with useful numbers stored in memory – they were often not charged, and the mechanism of having to return phones after the session (when you didn’t always go straight back to the college after a session), was a nightmare, as well as someone having to co-ordinate a booking system to make sure staff took the right phone, to make the logistics work.

So to partly overcome this problem, and to try and improve communication within the team (which had expanded so much we now occupied 4 staff rooms rather than 1) – the team leader managed to argue the case to provide all staff with a mobile phone. At first it sounded very expensive, but the college managed to get a deal with their provider, so the handsets themselves were quite cheap, and the package was basically a pay as you go – but at a reduced rate due to the number of devices. Any private phone calls that staff made – they paid for themselves – and all in all this was a highly successful model of working.

What we realised very quickly after deploying this model, was because these were work mobile phones, we could pass the number onto students. This had numerous advantages:

  • If a student was running late due to traffic, bus broken down etc. They could text the tutor with an apology/explanation – which saved you disrupting the class to deal with their late arrival. They could now just sneak in, without the tutor having to stop.
  • If a student wasn’t understanding part of an assignment – they could either text or call – even out of hours. The beauty of a work mobile phone was I (as the tutor) had the choice as to whether I wanted to take that call, or to ignore it. If I was happy to take the call, and I could help the student, this would probably save me (as the tutor) time in the long run, as the assignment would be quicker and easier to mark, if it had been completed the way I had wanted it.
  • Logistically – if for example a venue changed at short notice – we had various mechanisms to get messages to students (email, VLE, SMS bulk messaging system, notice board) but we didn’t have a mechanism for the students to easily reply to these messages to enter a dialogue. Having the mobile phone in our possession meant we could pick up these queries even when not at our desks.
  • There are then the numerous teaching and learning things that we can do with mobiles (which I cannot cover here, but have discussed previously on this blog).

In 2002 I knew that our team was ahead of the game in this way of thinking, but I thought that within a few years this would be norm, it horrifies me that in 2014 with the cost of mobile telephony being as cheap as it is – hardly any institutions provide their teaching staff with mobile phones. We waste huge amounts of money setting up complex landline based systems with a phone on a desk, then ask teaching staff to spend 28+ hours a week teaching – not at their desk. They come back from a 5 or 6 hour stint in classrooms at various locations, to find not just a mountain of emails, but also half a dozen voicemail messages from parents, students, other colleges etc. all needing a response a few hours ago – and now they have to spend the next 45 minutes trying to chase things up. Had they been able to take the call in the 10 minute gap they had between lessons – the issue could have been resolved quickly and instantly which is better for them and better for the students.

As FE and HE institutions look to increase the amounts of online learning within the provision – one part of being an online tutor is we need to have as many methods of communication between student and tutor as possible – as different students will have different preferences as to how they communicate. Not all will like using email, and even less will want to use the inbuilt communication tools within the VLE. I recently worked with a college that conducted a survey asking learners what their preferred method of communication was, and as I expected – SMS (texting) still came out as the learners preferred method of communication. For them it is cheap (most contracts will offer at least 2000 text per month), it is quick, and they have a record of the conversation in their phone. When we offer online learning we need to provide students with the ability to communicate by phone (and a proper number not a 08 number to a switchboard that costs the learner), email, and SMS as a minimum.

We don’t have to provide top of the range phones. A basic mobile that does calls and texts would actually suffice, and cost hardly anything – although for a little extra you could get a basic Smartphone which would then cover the email, VLE and Skype communication options as well.

If teams are unsure how to fund such an initiative – here is an idea: Most teams that I talk to have weekly meetings, that last at least an hour. If we assume that the staff time at that meeting is worth (estimating low here) £10 per person per hour – why not agree that in the first week of each month, there is no meeting. We could then get a contract on a basic Smartphone for £7.50 per month, leaving £2.50 per month spare to cover any out of contract calls, or data usage. If there is any really important information that staff needed to get at the missed meeting – why not write this up as a summary and send to the team to read on their new mobile phones.

As colleges start to seriously look at elements of online learning – the provision to staff of mobile phones is the easiest, and cheapest thing we can do – the efficiency benefits it brings, easily outweighs the costs, and should be a no-brainer for management to see and action. I hope that in the coming months and years there is a wake up in the sector that paying lots of money to tie a phone to a desk that a tutor is hardly ever at – is absurd, whereas spending money to provide a communication mechanism that follows the tutor around, is what students and tutors want, will increase efficiency and staff morale, improves health and safety and is an essential thing that needs to happen.

If anyone would like to discuss further then please comment below, or via my work mobile phone 07922115678.

Using headphones to take photos with iPad or iPhone

I recently learnt a little known iPad/iPhone trick – that is really useful, especially for people using an iPad in a teaching and learning situation.
Using headphones to take a photo with iPad
If you have a newish headphone set that has a volume control on the headphones – then this can be used to take a photo or video on the iPad. Pressing the volume down button on the headphones – will have the same effect as pressing the button on the screen when in the default camera app.

There are a few uses of using this technique as follows:

  • If I am creating a video of myself (e.g. introducing a topic to learners) – I can start and stop the video with my headphones, which are out of site of the camera – without having to lean forward and (visibly) touch the screen.
  • If I am carrying out movement analysis in a sports setting, and I have set my iPad up on a tripod (see previous blog post on this topic) – if I touch the screen to start the recording – I risk wobbling the set-up, which reduces the quality of the video. By using the headphones there is no wobble in the system.
  • Again if the iPad is on a tripod and I am operating the taking of the photos/videos – by using the headphones, I can do this without having to look at the device – which means I can keep my full attention on the class. If I am pressing the button on the screen, I have to momentarily take my attention away from the class, potentially missing something important.
  • If working outdoors in the cold, it is possible to operate the camera with gloves on.
  • If working in certain environments such as a workshop, kitchen, farmyard – it is possible to operate the camera even without fully clean hands. At the end of the session you can wipe the controls of the headphones clean.
  • If working with disabled learners, the processing of holding the device, and looking at the screen, and pointing in the right direction, and then taking the photo can be tricky for some, often resulting in movement of the device as the on-screen button is pressed. By using the headphones (and possibly a tripod) we can reduce this effect. This won’t work for all – some will find the on-screen button easier to manage, but others will find the headphones option easy to control.

There will be many other uses that I haven’t listed here (maybe people will comment if they can think of any).

Device to attach an iPad or tablet to a standard tripod

image of an iPad mounted on a tripod

As a former PE/Sport science lecturer, the iPad is a wonderful device, that I wish existed when I was teaching, as  it’s potential for me to video something, then play it back easily with options to slow motion, fast forward etc. is superb, and if I wanted to carry out some slightly more scientific analysis, then we now have an affordable device, that can be easily used by the teacher or students, and I am very impressed by the quality of photographs and footage from an iPad, as even when capturing at a fast frame rate as is often required in sports analysis situations, the quality is excellent, even in low lit indoor situations.

If I am doing some analysis, then I need to mount the device onto a tripod so that it doesn’t move, shake or vibrate. I spent ages trying to source an affordable attachment that would attach to a standard tripod – and surprisingly I struggled. There are many expensive alternatives that are too costly for education (in my opinion) or there are some very wobbly looking options, which I wouldn’t trust, or the options were unique to a a particular model of device which I didn’t want. Luckily a colleague of mine, Ron Mitchell – did locate what I was looking for, which is made by a company called iStabalizer and is called the Tab Mount. The only place that I could find that sells this in the UK is Amazon (which is a shame, because as a company I prefer to use companies that pay their taxes), and the direct link (at time of writing this post) is here – cost at time of writing is £22.95.

Basically the device is a spring loaded mechanism, where the top and bottom pull apart then spring close again and clamps tight around the tablet, and then has a standard tripod thread on its back which can be used to attach to the tripod. It will work with a range of tablet devices of different size , and in most cases you shouldn’t need to remove the device from any protective case that it is in, which I think makes it ideal for education.

Image of the iStabalizer tab mount

You do lose the use of the arm of the tripod with this arrangement, but for sport analysis where the tripod isn’t going to move, this won’t matter. As well as uses in sport, this could have obvious uses for other subjects such as music, media, art or simply for a teacher than wants to film their students and doesn’t want to have to hold their device.

If any PE/Sport Science teachers are interested in a training session on how to use iPads or other tablets in a PE/Sport setting then I run bespoke training sessions through The Tablet Academy, details of the iPad based session is available at http://www.tablet-academy.com/courses/using-ipads-in-pe-and-sport/65.html. These courses can be arranged for an individual organisation, or there are the £99 courses which are great for schools that maybe have only 1 or 2 PE teachers, and the Tablet Academy isn’t just UK based, there are centres setting up around the globe.


All images by Dave Foord – http://www.flickr.com/photos/davefoord/sets/72157640918612424/

Reversing the order of a Moodle Course

Many years ago, when I was teaching at a college, and at the same time responsible for the ILT/e-learning provision within that area, I used to hold regular course rep meetings with students (I would give them a free lunch as an incentive) so that I could find out things about what they liked or didn’t like about the things we were doing. These proved really useful meetings and many things were changed or implemented as a result.

Picture of someone doing a headstand in front of a frozen waterfall

Upside down

One thing that came up in a meeting, was a student suggested that it would be better if the content on the VLE was displayed in reverse chronological order – e.g. the most recent stuff appeared at the top and older stuff moved down accordingly. At the time I had never seen this done before and the other students thought it was a stupid idea, but I saw where he was coming from, and as services like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, News Feed etc have evolved the norm is for the most recent content to appear at the top of the list and everything else to move down – so it makes sense that the VLE could do the same – if a course is 30+ weeks long, why are we asking the learners to scroll down through content and resources that they covered 9 months ago?

I have tried this technique with a few courses that I have been involved in, and I think it is a better way of working – the only problem was that within Moodle there wasn’t an automatic way to do this, I either had to pre-create my weeks in reverse order and then set the restrict access settings for each week to make them appear at the right time, or I would create the weeks content as I went and would manually drag this topic to the top of the list when appropriate. Neither solution was ideal and not something that most teachers would have the time or inclination to do.

However – whilst searching for something else on the Moodle plugin site I came across something called ‘Weekly format reversed’ a plugin that will do exactly what I want – automatically reverse the course for me. I haven’t tried this yet as none of the moodles that I am working on at the moment want this approach, and looking at the comments it looks like there were a few bugs, but hopefully if enough people use and contribute to this plugin they will get sorted out. This way of working may not work for all people, but is certainly something that is worth trying, and things look very different when viewed the other way up.

If nothing else – this reduces the need for excessive scrolling, which is one of the main considerations when designing a VLE area.