TERENA – Lecture Recording Competition #Glowplus #EDUScotICT

Earlier this year I was involved in facilicating participation in the TERENA Lecture Recording competition which took place at their annual conference.  The conference took place in Reykjavik, Iceland.  The purpose of the competition was to allow different lecture recording tools to be showcased and compared.

A number of people ( 16 ) were invited to present a short lecture in a lecture theatre in sequence.  A video camera captures the lecturer, a microphone captures the lecture audio and a video feed was provided of the lecturer’s power point presentation – all of this was organised by the event organiser.  The signals were split and each lecture recording solution combined them to provide the finished product.

Cisco has a lecture recording solution which consists of a number of its products working together as follows.

Using a Cisco C60 video CODEC which takes the three inputs provided and combines them for transmission and recording on a Telepresence Content Server (TCS).

Cisco MXE – Media Exerience Engine which converts the video into a number of formats which can be configured in advance.

Cisco Show & Share – a video portal where the finished product can be viewed via a computer web browser or hand held device.

The recording solution is cloud based – in this case the back end equipment which include the Telepresence Content Server (TCS), MXE and Show and Share Server are all based at a Cisco Lab in Cisco’s campus at San Jose, California.

So the video stream needs to traverse the Internet to get from the CODEC at the lecture theatre to the TCS at San Jose.  The event lasted just over an hour with 16 short lectures being delivered on a variety of topics.

The recording is started by an operator at the lecture theatre connecting the codec to the TCS in San Jose ( this is a one button press operation). After the last lecture is finished the call is dropped and the recorded video is passed to the MXE for transcoding, then on to the Show and Share Server for publication and viewing.  This process takes approximately the same time as the duration of the recording.  A second task is automatically done by the MXE – this is called Pulse Analytics – which scans the audio track to create a voice print for each speaker and then to create a key word index of the spoken words this adds a further period of processing time.  In all it takes 2 times the duration of the recording before it will appear on the Show and Share server.

At this point it is worth having a look at the end product.
(Note that there is no need to do any video editing to get to this point.  But you will see in this version some spalsh screens which I added to introduce each speaker and their topic – I did this using iMovie on my laptop.  The colour coded time line on the video and the keyword index are all created automatically.)

Now take a look at the end product by following this link – takes a moment to load – be patient 😉

Click here to view the video on the Show and Share Portal.

Notice that you can click on a speaker name in the speaker list to jump to a particular speaker and then click on the key word index to jump to occurrences of that word in the recording of this speaker lecture.  If you select a particular speaker first you can see that the key work index shows the key words used by that lecturer.

Can you imagine how  a tool like this could be used in Education!!!!  Lecturers/Teachers can record their lessons so pupils/students can view them again  – or even view them before attending class!!  See my post on the Flipped Classroom.


Mobile makes a difference – always available #glew #EDUScotICT #glow #glowplus

I recall an occasion when my dad was involved in a road traffic crash.  He was alone in the car but fortunately had his recently obtained mobile phone with him.  He called me and I was able to travel to where he was and assist him to as we waited for the recovery vehicle to arrive.  My dads approach to mobile telephony was moulded by his experience up to that time, consequently he would only switch on the mobile when he needed to use it.  The suggestion that he should leave it switched on was a foreign concept to him.  He was more concerned about not running down its battery…..

Of course he had a telephone at home which was switched on all the time and that was acceptable.  If he was at home and I needed to contact him I could do this by calling the land-line. But if he weas out and about – even with his mobile – it is more than likely the case that it would be switched off.  This made his phone a one way device!!!!  From him to others but the reverse was not really feasible.

Today’s young people seem to become equipped with a mobile phone/device at a very early age and they are very comfortable with the idea that they are contactable at any time – day or night!!!!  In fact I observe that people in general seem to react to a mobile phone communication – SMS or voice call with a irritating priority.  How annoying it is when someone’s mobile phone rings when you are in mid conversation and they interrupt the conversation to take the call or respond to the SMS…….  Gone are the days when you might walk up to a person already in conversation with another and politely wait for them to end the conversation before engaging with the new one.  Seems all you need to do is SMS or make a mobile call to get their immediate attention. 😉

I don’t mean to over generalise on this matter but I do think that the introduction of mobile phones and their now almost universal availability, has had a marked affect on people in general.  Particularly, the young generation.  How often have you been on a train and been surrounded by people who have their heads bowed writing the next SMS reply, or playing a game, of interacting with friends on facebook  etc.

It seems to me that we do need to accept that “mobile” is now firmly embedded in or culture and we do need to recognise this in all aspects of life.  I can recall the time when I would interact with my friends only on a face to face basis – where as now relationships and associated commuications seem to be continuous and less dependant on physical proximity.

Schools have a habit of asking children to either not bring their mobile phones to school or to switch them off when in the classroom.  I feel that this is a matter that does need to be re-thought.  We should make use of this medium for the benefit of every child’s education. We should certainly consider that mobile phones are definitely now a defacto medium for communication for many/most people and embrace this as an acceptable way to reach learners (and teachers) more efficiently.  Is there a need to include phone etiquette basic social skill we want children to learn from an early age?

Lets also remember that the days where phone were a medium for only voice communications are truly in the past!  That time is history – we need to recognise that we can communicate and interact with people using voice, text, and graphic and even video using these devices that have now been firmly adopted by todays society.

I expect there will be people like my dad around for some time to some but lets face it, todays youth are now setting their own standards for communication in light of their adoption of mobile communications.  We can’t expect to get their attention if we continue supress this technology in our schools.  Just a thought!!

Net losses – #glew #EDUScotICT #glowplus

I read the following article with some interest yesterday.


I want to start by clarifying my own position on the topic of Internet Filtering in a schools/LA/Education context.

For reference – here is a link to my earlier post on this topic https://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=453

I consider that some degree of filtering is necessary to protect users from the considerable amount of illegal/undesirable content which is available and accessible on the internet and also prevent illegal use of publicly funded facilities.  The Internet Watch Foundation provides  and maintains a filter list which it considers contains a list of content which is unacceptable for use/access in schools.  Any network provider who is making content available for children should take account of this and apply at least a basic level of filtering in line with the IWF approach.  There may also be additional content which should also be blocked.

When I was involved in provisioning the original SSDN Interconnect (now known as the Glow Interconnect), one of the driving objectives was to provide more cost effectively a connection to the internet which could sustain classroom (and admin) ICT needs for schools, libraries and LA’s.   The SSDN (Glow) Interconnect provided an unfiltered path – again I say an unfiltered path, to the internet via Super Janet.  The Interconnect provided bandwidth/capacity which far exceeded the amount of bandwidth LAs could traditionally afford.  The Interconnect was/is provided by the Scottish government at no cost to the LAs.  It remained the responsibility of the LA to provide connectivity between Schools and the LA SSDN (Glow) Interconnect node – LAs also had to sign up to the Janet Acceptable Use Policy – which refers to the transit of unacceptable information/data across the network.  The connection between the school and the LA SSDN Interconnect node was/is paid for by the LA (the cost of this, which to some extent was dictated by circuit bandwidth, geographical location and circuit length etc).  LAs provided the connections that they could afford which resulted generally in urban schools being provisioned with better connectivity than rural ones.  ADSL was often used to connect schools which was always, in my opinion, an inappropriate technology for schools connectivity (I don’t want to develop that line here) but it was often the best that could be provided.  The Broadband Pathfinder (Scottish Government funded)  project lead to an improved position for schools in the following LAs, Shetland, Orkney, Highland, Moray, Argyle and Bute, Dumfries & Galloway and Scottish Borders.

Why do LA’s Block certain traffic types?
Now some comments regarding the position in Scottish Education which has lead LA network administrators blocking whole services as opposed to specific instances of inappropriate content. This includes Twitter, facebook, youtube etc……  I believe that some original decisions were based on the need to protect bandwidth resources.  This particularly in relation to YouTube where there was a concern that LA WANs were not designed/provisioned to support video traffic.

Video and its use to convey knowledge was always attractive for educators.  The introduction of YouTube and other similar services would provide attractive possibilities for learning and teaching which when appropriately exploited, would add value.  Video needs bandwidth – and many LAs were aware that to open up the likes of YouTube would lead to a potential flood of network traffic.  This could certainly lead to problems on the LA WAN and reduce performance as seen by end users to unacceptable levels.  So I would maintain that in order to open access to video based sites it would make good sense to increase bandwidth on school uplinks and ideally move to synchronous circuits (same bandwidth for up and down stream data paths).  Interactive video services – video conferencing etc was another video application which was commonly blocked.  There may be other reasons for blocking access to video services (the common use of commercials etc) but I think that the original bandwidth preservation issue may well have lead to a continuation of the “status quo” even as bandwidth provision improved.

I take the view that all of the services listed above should be made available where there is a clearly understood and demonstrable value of the service to the learning/teaching process.  Regarding the question of who is best placed make that judgement – I think the answer to that has to be teachers.  This said there is also need to be able to identify abuses of the “network” and to provide mechanisms to deal with such incidents.

Ideally, I would like to see system that provides access to most of what the internet/web has to offer as long as the content being access is legal, relevant and appropriate for the individual viewing/using it.  This applies to web pages, any other web accessible services/content including social network tools and interactive services etc.    But the users we are responsible for are at a wide range of different stages in their IT literacy journey and I feel that this needs to be given careful consideration when designing filter policies.

What could be done to improve the situation?
‘What if’ there was a badge system which pupils and teacher can be linked to – simply put the there would be a beginners badge (all users would be assigned this when they enter the school system) through to a advanced user badge (the ultimate level which all teachers should attain and also any pupils considered to have achieved internet maturity) and various intermediate stages.  The badge would be accessible by the filtering system (which should be a nationally provisioned and linked to the Glow Directory and authentication system) so that users would have a filter policy which is linked/controlled by their badge level.  There would be an incentive to progress through the badge levels which would be based a on users “network maturity” – the topic of how to define “network maturity” certainly need further investigation/discussion.  Network abuses, if they occur, would result in the user being demoted down an appropriate number of badge levels – the number of levels of demotion would be decided by school staff.

A users publishing rights as well as their rights to view internet based content should be controlled by their badge level.  Being a network user should include the concept of consuming content but also that of publishing content.  For this reason I think it reasonable that a pupils of low network maturity should be able to engage in network activity’s – such as blogging – but their content should not be published automatically – and be subject to teacher or peer review!  A very mature pupil on the other hand should be able to have their blog posts immediately viewable on the public internet.  This brings me to the point that there is still a valid need for a Glow like intranet environment which becomes more open in as the user matures.  I think this will be subject matter for another post.
In conclusion
In this post I supports the need for a filtering service – but one that is “fit for purpose” and sensitive to an active users degree of “network maturity” as opposed to what still seems to be the case today where an all or nothing approach is taken.  The end goal of the school education system should be to help pupils achieve full network maturity and the badge system would be a mechanism to allow them to see progress towards that goal.

To read more of my blog posts around Glow Future see here https://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=575

Note – the views expressed in this post are my own, based on my own knowledge and experience and are in no way connected to my employer which is Cisco International Limited.


The Flipped Classroom

Just been reading a white paper from Cisco about the Flipped Classroom.  The paper describes how the teaching and learning model used around the world today has it rootes in the 18th century.  This is based the premis that lessons are delivered in real time by teachers and lecturers and then students do further study and review the content.  Following is an extract from the paper which sets the scene.

“For the first 19 years of his career in education, Jon Bergman–like most educators–rarely had the time to speak to more than a few students each day in his high school chemistry classes. His teaching model followed the conventions established generations ago: Standing at the front of his classroom, he delivered lectures to students who furiously scribbled notes. He presented homework each evening, which was briefly reviewed the next day in class before beginning a new lab. Students who quickly grasped the concepts Bergman presented did well enough on tests to pass his class; those who struggled or were reticent to ask for help did not.
But six years ago, Bergman and fellow educator Aaron Sams–then teaching in Woodland Park, Colorado–had an epiphany: Instead of relying on their lectures to cover the material, they began capturing their lessons on video.  Given their school’s rural, economically diverse population (with 20 percent lacking high-speed Internet access), the pair burned the videos onto DVDs that students could watch at home. In this way, students who were unable to understand the lessons the first time were able to review them as many times as needed to fully grasp the material–without worrying about holding back the class, or appearing slow.
By “flipping the classroom” in this fashion–having students review teacher-created video content outside the classroom, and reserving class periods for assignments they previously did at home–Bergman and Sams empowered their students to take charge of their own learning, at their own pace. As a result, students were able to complete 50 percent more labs during class time, and test scores increased dramatically. Bergman and Sams have since implemented the model at the Chicago high school where both now teach, with the same results.”

You can download and read the paper on the following link.


Today with so many opportunties for teachers to place resources online which can be accessed any time – the concept of the flipped classroom has in my view, much to offer. But as with most new innovations this is not “an all or nothing” opportunity,  I see it more and another methodology that teacher can use to complement their existing tool set.  This not so much a revoluion as an evolution which should be exploited as and when it will bring added value to the learning situation.

I do think that there is a responsibility on education authorities ( governments, districts and local authorities) to ensure that this sort of approach can be exploited for the greater benefit of learner througout the world.  It may be that these agencies are the enablers by providing the support, services and training to help teachers engage with this type of approach.


glew.org.uk POC for Glow Futures #glew #EDUScotICT

Glow Futures project seems to have taken an interesting turn with the introduction of glew.org.uk.  Glew is the work of Charlie Love and has been constructed to provide a portal front end which provides an easy place to start when accessing a range of application cloud and hosted applications as follows.  It is a excellent proof of concept (POC) – which will need to evolve in a number of ways before it can become a national portal.

Glew Desktop
Picture of Glew 1st June 2012

You can read more about the components in the following page which is a snapshot of Charlies Glew Wiki page.


I do not propose to say a great deal about this here but I do want to ask the following questions about how this proof of concept might evolve into a service and become the face of Glow in the future.

These are to an extent issues that I think need to be carefully considered as well as some questions that occur to me.

  • Glow should continue to be a national platform with a set of core services which are hosted – so who/what organization will take responsibility for hosting arrangements? As the service scales, the hosting requirement CPU/Power etc will increase – how will this be dealt with?
  • Other third party services should be available to users to enrich the feature set – who will be responsible or by what process will third party services be assured and included?
  • Single Sign On (SSO) is essential – will users retain their current Glow UID/PWD in the new platform? If so, how will this be enabled? If not, what procedures will be put in place to provision new accounts nationally?
  • What mechanisms and procedures will be implemented to ensure that the user base is trusted?
  • Will we see a presence service which is universal throughout the platform?
  • Will the UI be customizable to individual user needs, including  the very young, those with particular physical needs, etc?
  • What formally constituted organization will be responsible to ensure that the core services will remain available and provide adequate performance on a 365/24/7 basis?
  • What will the terms of service be?
  • Who will pay?  The portal and authentication service needs to be hosted and powered – these are not likely to be available on a free basis, especially as the service scales up.
  • Who will ultimately own the service and take responsibility for the conduct of its users?
  • Will Federated Authentication be available to support access to external and federated services through the UKAMF.  Currently this includes, as examples,  SCRAN and other services managed by Education.
  • What provision for retraining staff and users will be made to facilitate a smooth transition?
  • Concerning the future evolution of the service, what plans/procedures/facilitates will be put in place to allow system upgrades and modification to proceed with minimal risk to continuity of service.

One aspect of Glow which had been noted as a great success Glow Groups.  This is an aspect which should be retained in the new solution – I see that Glow does feature access to Google Group’s which is a reassuring start but fundamental to the set-up and management of such collaboration is the existence of a role based user directory.

So, will there be a national directory that will allow special interest groups (SIGs) to be established, including role-based SIGs that can be created and populated in a top-down manner as well as bottom-up, and that can be ‘owned’ by schools, by local, regional and national bodies, as well as by individuals?

What will happen to all the currently-established Glow Groups?  Is there a migration plan in place to allow not only users but the groups to which they belong making a smooth transition to the new platform?

Of one thing I am certain, to make a smooth transition from Glow 1 to Glow 2 will require a well designed plan which can be executed without major disruption to the user base.

I trust that the above matters are being given very careful and comprehensive consideration.