“A Head Start – Using today’s technology in the education environment”. – Seminar/Workshop Notes

WORKSHOP #1Art and Design – A Head Start. – “Using today’s technology in the education environment.”

or… “If you like overheads, you’ll love PowerPoint.” – Edward Tufte

Presenters: Gareth Sleightholme, and Chris Faill

(with apologies from Dave Eccles, absent).

(all biographies and contact details at end of post)

Session Abstract:

Three tutors seeking out and using innovative technology in their Teaching & Learning, as well as their roles as Creative Professionals.

Hoping to will share with the audience a perspective and consideration of technology in terms of:

  • What’s out there?
  • How do we use it?
  • What do the students make of it?

Intro – while waiting for people to be seated, sign in, etc Screen shows images of “future” technology, in particular graphic interfaces, touch screen, augmented reality and “gesture control” UIs.

Iron Man 2

Quantum Of Solace

More From Iron Manand Minority Report

Brief Discussion – Minority Report [2002], possibly more than any other film over the last decade or so, seemed to point the way for technologists and interface designers, where did their ideas come from, what technology where the designers looking at? What’s the true distance between the futures portrayed on film and existing technology? Are our students (and colleagues) aware?

So, to get started, in today’s seminar we will be looking at some of the items listed below, using this Word Cloud Visualisation (the generation of which we will come back to later)…

i.e. “Technology”, examples of, and the teaching and learning associated with it, and how we we can be creative in how we are using it, and how we teach students how to use it.

But first, why look at speaking about this area at all? How important is this area for teaching and learning?


In a paper that looked at what we are doing here, specifically looking at reasons for the emergence of “learning technology” as an area worthy of research, and our subsequent sharing via communities of practice, whether working, day-to-day CoP, or extended communities such as this conference…

Conole, Ingraham and Cook suggested that the emergence of the area was due to three main factors.

Firstly learning technologies now have a significant impact at all levels of universities and colleges, from organisational and structural issues, through to changing the nature of roles and functions and impact on learning and teaching. However, little is understood about these processes and how they are changing.

Secondly, the variety and complexity of new technologies and the potential ways in which they can be used is changing rapidly.

Thirdly, partly because of the first two factors, more academics and support staff are now becoming involved in learning technology as part of their roles or as a means of understanding how learning technologies can be used effectively.

Credibility of the area is important in terms of educating senior management about the complexity of the area to help inform the decisions they need to make in terms of different ways in which learning technology impact on their business. Otherwise there is a danger that they will make ill-informed and rash decisions based on scant evidence or […] a superficial knowledge rather than understanding the complexity of the area.

This surface approach is evident in the ways in which many institutions have to date gone about choosing a Virtual Learning Environment to support learning activities, where senior managers often made the mistake of decreeing that all courses must use the system without considering whether or not this might be pedagogically appropriate or thinking through the associated staff development needs and time implications. Similarly senior managers frequently demand evidence of the cost effectiveness of the use of a particular technology without thinking through whether they have a genuine understanding of the comparative costs of traditional teaching methods or indeed whether a direct comparison is actually possible given that the introduction of the technology may result in a significant change in the learning and teaching process.”

“Learning technology as a community of practice”

Grainne Conole, Bruce Ingraham and John Cook
Email: g.c.conole@soton.ac.uk

…a paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 11-13 September 2003.

Did you notice the date of the paper? 2003, nine years ago. Yet attitudes remain the same, technology is still, by many staff seen as an intrusion into the teaching environment, a nebulous budget sapping requirement to satisfy ICT provision.

This is why we need to talk about it, discuss perhaps how to teach and catalyse students to explore and investigate this rapidly evolving area, without necessarily having to maintain cost prohibitive capital bids that when eventaully accepted, just accumulate obsolete hardware.

Tuesday, 3rd July 2012. – 15:00 to 15:45

  • Working Presentation Prompt –


  • What IS out there?

Well, I guess some interesting recent hardware and software developments that could be discussed regarding teaching and learning include:

  • Raspberry Pi –  a single motherboard PC that is been used with students to increase their programming knowledge. – …and definitely something that fits snugly into the bosom of the STEM agenda.

But, it still seems for some of us non-maths based/programming oriented tutors a little on the dry side at the moment, the innate possibilities are interesting but sure, but for me personally, it’s not immediate enough…

…but what about these

Or for capturing projects these

And then there’s


  • How do we use it?

Well some times it’s not simply about buying new tech and using it, what it is about its being informed enough to inform your students:

In our original abstract for this talk we used the phrase…

“Using technology not given or sanctioned by the institutions they work in but actively sought out, in the struggle to keep current and vital in our Creative Professional roles as well as our Teaching & Learning roles”.

By which we did not mean unlicensed/illegal software, but simply technology that was appearing over the horizon as we taught.

Sometimes so quickly that it makes it impossible to investigate costs, put in place purchase orders and develop briefs and lesson plans for its integration into the learning environment, at least without finding your self teaching something that has already become obsolete.

Sometimes we find ourselves simply showing students some of the the things coming their way… as we find out about them ourselves.

Trying to engender a culture of investigation and creative testing.

Here is an example of an ideas we’ve shown our students recently…

– the web browser built racing car…

Javascript & WebGL based control of Blender generated 3D textures and lighting… The engine renders using <canvas>, <svg> & WebGL.

Game graphics without a game engine… basically controlling beautiful 3D game graphics in a web browser.

Our colleague Chris Faill is constantly updating his own and his colleagues knowledge base regarding some of the latest twists and turns using technology in and out of education:

Introducing us over the last few years to sites such as Gizmodo and their sister site Designmodo (and it’s excellent but now abandoned Creative Friday, collection of videos of the latest tech and ideas), plus LaughingSquid which describes itself as “an online resource for interesting art, culture & technology”, and again provides an eclectic mix of new ideas and imagery from around the globe.

Sites like these giving us the opportunity to see strange pieces of technology such as the – Haptica Braille Watch – which along with the slimline Mac keyboards (with their left and right mouse USB capability) is a great example of differentiation in Design.

…and talking of differentiation, this device found by Chris.

The Inkling – (Show and Tell…) Video below.

This is a great way for creatives to interact, bridging one of the gaps between the digital and traditional creatives…

but what about the next step in user interface – gesture control

And though this is somewhat out of out reach at the moment, other technology isn’t…

Over in New Media we are looking at using Kinect to set up a motion capture rig in the New Media Dept – (retailing at around £80 these days)

New Scientist and The Guardian reported straight after the launch of the device that people where cracking it and using it for various non-conventional/considered use – a DJ using several of the devices to gather feedback from the movement of the clubbers dancing to effect his music software, which then fed back to the crowd.

Other uses see these Performers developing digital puppetry – The Puppeteers – which we later discussed as a possibility to use a similar process to motion capture a life model while projecting a 3D anatomical figure behind them.

– see also this search list of Other uses/applications of the Kinect.

More often than not, it is not in the wholesale creative idea that leaps forth from the brain like Athena from the skull of Zeus, but the simple bringing together of disparate existing ideas, truly reflecting what’s known as the “Mash Up Culture” we live in, that catalyses innovation and invention.

An In The Classroom Case Study – G20 Park Street a prsentation to mixed discipline Students and Staff on Augmented Reality Software

Amongst other technologies such as Microsoft Surface (not the new tablet tech) – 2 and its precursors like i-bar that we have evangelised about, was the rise of AR as a marketing, and creative teaching and learning tool.

Web cam – Augmented reality (see the AR blog for a thorough run through of the possibilities)

Discussion of our talk in G20 and Reactions.

Chris and I used a break period to show to students and staff the new technology we had been following on the internet, and trialing using a free plugin for Google SketchUp, we showed a variety of examples of the trials of the product, at expos, at conferences, the use for gaming, virtual pets, its use to operate 3D animations such as cranes and puppets etc.

For educators who teach students about commercial applications of technology through design, this “Minority Report” style future technology is a reality of the marketplace and not just a science fiction wow on the movie screen.

Feedback was mixed but interesting, fashion students thought it might be something that could be used alongside a catwalk show, a life drawing instructor immediately saw potential for it while others were not so enthusiastic; one tutor dismissing it as “just a toy”…

Several weeks later… BMW where using it for their high profile marketing campaign for their latest car.

Encouraging this sort of technology-scanning allows students to become aware of technology in advance of its mainstream use, “future-proofing” themselves, in a marketplace where information and preempting trends is paramount.

Indeed, people are already thinking about how AR might be used for Education and training – How about augmented reality as a tutorial media?


Further to the discussion on Augmented reality, we’ve seen its use on mobile apps such as Wikitude. An Augmented reality app that overlays information over live video through your phone, a technology which is still being explored today, its potential applications so varied.

As mentioned, many of these technologies first make it into our consciousness via the media of film or TV, Minority Report and Quantum of Solace both showing the potential of high end AR and Gesture Control, while even in mainstream shows such as NCIS, gesture control gloves patched to an rudimentary immersive AR user interface can be seen.

But as book sellers like to point out in their renaming of genres, what appears to be Science Fiction might in fact simply be Speculative Fiction.

After all, it was science fiction authors such as Arthur C. Clarke that helped popularise of the idea that geostationary satellites would be the telecommunications relays of the coming decades, and he was right. So why not look to these futurist ideas in fiction to develop the design solutions of the future.

Another author (with an education in Computor Science)  Charles Stross was talking on his (excellent) blog about AR as if it was almost a passing phase some three years ago…

“One of the weaknesses of today’s smartphones is that they’re poor input/output devices: tiny screens, useless numeric keypads or chicklet QWERTY thumboards. The 2020 device will be somewhat better; in addition to the ubiquitous multi-touch screen, it’ll have a couple of cameras, accelerometers to tell it which way it’s moving, and a picoprojector.

The picoprojector is really cool right now: it’s the next solid-state gizmo that your phone is about to swallow. Everyone from Texas Instruments to Samsung are working on them. The enabling technologies are: compact red, blue, and green solid-state lasers, and a micro-electromechanical mirror system to scan them across a target — such as a sheet of paper held a foot in front of your phone. Or a tabletop. Picoprojectors will enable a smartphone to display a laptop-screen-sized image on any convenient surface.

The other promising display technology is, of course, those hoary old virtual reality goggles. They’ve come a long way since 1990; picoprojectors in the frames, reflecting images into your eyes, and cameras (also in the frames), along with UWB for hooking the thing up to the smartphone gizmo, may finally make them a must-have peripheral: the 2020 equivalent of the bluetooth hands-free headset.

Now, an interesting point I’d like to make is that this isn’t a mobile phone any more; this device is more than the sum of its parts. Rather, it’s a platform for augmented reality applications.

(Something taken on board by some of our students – for example Phil Shakesby’s – Hull History Viewer )

…two years earlier in 2007 Stross wrote this passage in his novel Halting State

“There’s also a brief printed note on paper. “Attach to front of building above eye level facing the street. When attached, initiate pairing with your phone to ‘unnamed device 1142.’ Passcode is 46hg52Q. Once paired, dial ##*49##*, and leave the area…”

Bloody typical. You pocket the bugging device, or whatever it is, key the co-ordinates into your specs, and let the overlay guide you along the pavement towards the target building…”

(Clearly a description of AR with the Goggles in place that Google are just beginning to develop – article April 2012)

Later he writes,

“He passes you a pair of heavy, black-rimmed military spectacles and a ruggedized phone… You put the glasses on and boot them. There’s a brief flicker as they check your irises against their preloaded biometrics, then the world outside the BMW [again with the beemers] is drenched in unfamiliar information all the way to the horizon…”

Stross discusses in a short post-script at the end of Halting State that all the technology exists barring one piece/device… clearly the goggles at that point.

Other AR devices and UI’s can also be seen in discussion for example here in a somewhat more compact design in the smart contact lenses from Fast Times at Fairmont High by Vernor Vinge, and somewhat earlier, the DreamTime contacts from Niven and Barnes’ 1992 novel The California Voodoo Game – ref article on Stross at – technovelgy.com

The application of this kind of technology has implications not only on the future of Gaming, which is the obvious UI use, but emergency service equipment development, hospital and surgery equipment, education, military (as always no doubt), shopping, wayfinding graphics and limitless other areas, for our young designers to explore.

It is with this futurist attitude of many “fiction authors”, that for the first time this year we include two novels on the recommended book list attached to the module descriptions and briefs in New Media; one being Charles Stross’ Halting State as mentioned above, the other Douglas Coupland’s J-Pod. – Both relating directly to Games and The Gaming Industry and its historical and future issues.


Another area of interest for us is using software and technology for purposes other than its original intent, stretching possibilities and overlapping ideas to create vectors of innovation and invention.

Gareth Sleightholme – This short screen capture using SketchUp was part of a longer lecture on  Drawing Basic Primatives – in particular looking at the cognitive processes gone through when Drawing a 3D Sphere on a the 2D plane of the paper. – i.e trying to conceptualise the z axis, which appears not to be there to the immediate eye, but possible in the minds eye (full post to be published soon).

Or these: From My Masters Study, examples of SketchUp Illustration to help students navigate some of the dense swathes of literature and lists that come with their courses.

Including the PGCE.

Elsewhere another collegue Paul Starkey – Using Flash as an alternative to PowerPoint, demonstrated the ability to have multiple presentations, all easily to hand, navigable via page to page tools, which saves time watching someone come out of the their presentation into powerpoint itself to find a note eight pages back, or worse flicking back through all the various pages (link to follow).

Holistic Teaching and Technology

Much of this discussion also links to an area of Education and Teaching and Learning I (GS) am particularly interested in.

i.e. the presentation of holistic information.

The Leo Burnett.ca website navigation is an excellent example of holostic presentation via this great website interface.

as is,

Scale of the Universe – a similar non-compartmentalised interface with vast amounts of information presented on a seamless navigable canvas.

An early example that brought this to my attention was one of the great Mash-ups (see “remix culture“) of traditional (Whiteboard and Marker visuals) and technology (Flash Animation and Video) – RSA Animate’s – “Dan Pink – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”.

…long with (love him or loath him) Ken Robinson’s – Changing Education Paradigms  which catalysed a industry of imitators and speculators on creative teaching and teaching creativity in schools.

an adapted talk also resulting in this great Poster – based on the final pull out shot of the illustrated lecture in its entirety.

This sort of holistic overview can also be easily used in classroom presentations now using online software such as Prezi

An example of which can be found in our colleague Dave Eccles’ – Prezzi on, ironically, Presentation Methodologies.

…all of the above supporting data visualisation guru Edward Tufte‘s arguement that…

“There are many true statements about complex topics that are too long to fit on a PowerPoint slide.” [and] “What this means is that we shouldn’t abbreviate the truth but rather get a new method of presentation.”

He also said…

PowerPoint is like being trapped in the style of early Egyptian flatland cartoons rather than using the more effective tools of Renaissance visual representation.”

Edward R. Tufte, Beautiful Evidence

So, that’s what we have been looking at and what we think of it all… but,

  • What do the students make of it?

It has to be said, that not all students find the technology easy.

For all of the struggkles we have had trying to wrestle students away from Facebook, they are not always the most technology comfortable demographic.

Facebook rather than being a sign of our students rebellious nature, or their Internet Native comfort, it might instead reflect some elements of “comfort herding” behaviour, if you’ve every had to teach a technology class you must have heard the call echo around the classroom “I ‘ate computors!”, or for the more specific luddite, “Oh no! I ‘ate Macs”… curious indeed for a so called “internet native”.

That said, we can push through those attitudes…

Here are some examples of the work we’ve done recently with students:

1 – Social Media driving documentary evidence of projects –  Park Street World Skills

Peter Guy Project Manager with the Leeds college team (above right) checks out the blog and the time-lapse footage (see the most recent footage below) from the previous day as well as his own stirling efforts as site video correspondant.

…and here you can see the team using Convergent Technology and Social Media.

Below you can see Hull College Deputy Chief Executive and Deputy Principal Gary Warke and myself accessing the Youtube timelapse footage taken by the media teams cameras as it appears embedded in the ParkStreetWorld skills blog on a mobile device…

Which I guess throws a positive light on the educational demon of social media… something that some of us have been evangelising for sometime now.

But I guess it’s like anything, where a surface knowledge or experience can colour an interpretation.

Youtube being the classic example – sometimes seen as a plague of awful distracting music video selection and hilarious dogs falling off bicycles, it can be, upon deeper exploration first contact for students with higher thinking about art, getting to hear first hand (without the dreadful, energy-sappingly interactive interface of reading) the words of a creative who may go on to influence them in the future.

Lucien Freud – On Portraiture

Francis Bacon – Southbank Interviews

Jay Ryan – Talking about Screen Printing

Saul Bass – Learn To Draw

Besides, it’s always been here… just in different forms: – Brainpicker article.

2 – The Use of Games Engines as a tool for creating engaging Heritage Interpretation.

Best of New Media HSAD links:

Here you can see the results of using Games development technology to create interpretation media for heritage projects such as those we have worked on with the Hull and East Riding Museum.



Final Video. – Students who worked on the Precious Cargo project have been invited to see their work presented as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad in Westminster later this month.

This is simply a step for the students to see that you don’t necessarily have to use the technology for what it states on the box as we discussed earlier.

Even with our younger students:

There is opportunity to engage students with something a little more Art School friendly than Moodle (the interface of which can make you feel like you are doing your taxes online rather than engaging in lifelong learning), tools like Basecamp as mentioned, or:


…and of course students blogs.

Hayley Ryan, who has just finished her BTec and is moving on to Illustration here at Hull, used her blog as a way of evidencing her process, and though reticent at first has gone on to find her creative voice discussing work not only produced in college, but commissioned work sought out and taken on in her own time.

Web Technologies Post

– Spyro Comic Adaptation – inc. Comic and Video as part of Adaptation Pitch.

This project came about through my own experience of having to pull together pitches for clients who work at a prohibitive distance and the rise of the online pitch (even at amateur level) – for example, Kickstarter, PeopleFundIt… along with online short films as adverts, for example Jason Munn and his book promo for The Small Stakes, and the excellent short Moonshine, publicising a book on the personal work of creatives from Dreamworks.

…and the previously discussed (and excellent example of this) – “What is being Creative?”

All this takes place in an environment in which we encourage the use of online technology such as wix, twitter, dropbox to aid the student in moving towards becoming a self-promoting, portfolio sporting professional with a creative voice.

Finally: a recent find of mine (GS – others have been using this a while I’m sure) which I’m still investigating as a side issue as part of my Masters research in Visualising Educational Concepts for use within Arts Schools.

A piece of software created simply to – As Tufte might put it – “decorate” data… but in my opinion perhaps with the potential for a little more.

This image which appears at the top of the post was created in a piece of Tag or Word Cloud software, simply using the written content of this post as the raw input data.

Tag Clouds, word clouds or weighted lists take raw written data and weight the presentation of the individual words by use showing the more used words at a larger scale. – My (GS) blog apopheniainc has one on the side that shows at a glance the probable content of my blog.

The software I’ve been looking at is:

Wordle – Information Visualisation

In particular taking our BTec students “Adaptation Project” Brief and creating a “Wordle” from that and seeing what “weighting” in terms of vocational language the document holds. and how they might appear in a skim read by students (who, of late and in this context – i.e. reading the brief – tend generallynot to be deep readers – I suppose not unlike THIS).

From there I was able to see (potentially; remember this is still an experiment in progress) what could be important gaps in the brief that I may not have tackled, or perhaps just not emphasised enough, with the right language?

Of course, it might be that a development of this software could be looked at with a more specific purpose, here I am simply using a piece of software for something it wasn’t designed for… still, with interesting results

I’ve looked at several other areas where this might help, Modules development, Vocational language and vocabulary comparisons between upper level and lower level assignments at a glance for formative feedback (only, this is not a summative assessment tool by any means) in tutorials or in briefings etc.

This is very much still a work in progress.

In conclusion: I guess it doesn’t matter whether you are the kind of tutor who is using his i-pad in the classroom to demonstrate the latest “gamification” developments development via the Cloud for your sociology lesson, or you are still just getting to grips with the laser remote for your interactive white board; what matters is putting the potential for experimentation and awareness of the technology that is filtering into the accessible world today in front of your students allowing them the opportunity to investigate and experiment themselves… and above all, to stop fearing it.

Teaching students to use a specific piece of technology in a specific way to achieve an again specific goal is one thing, but not to encourage them to explore beyond those restraints is falling into the trap we have seen in secondary schools, whereby students are channeled through the narrow door of examinations and discouraged from exploring outside that particular box.

Presenter/staff Bio’s:

(absent/apologies) Dave Eccles:

Course Leader and Lecturer for the Faculty of Arts (Art & Design) across both FE and HE Dave Eccles is also owner and designer for DeadCreative, working on brand communications and advertising for national & International Blue Chip and Boutique clients. Dave has an interest in anything and everything visual and creative, understanding how we communicate and why with a particular focus on digital technology and technology interface for design and education.

Chris Faill:

Learning Advisor and now Fractional Lecturer, Chris Faill is an avid technologist, with a real feel for what is going on and being used out in the world, constantly trying to get the students to experiment with software and webware that he finds by scouring Futurist and Technology blogs and forums. You can follow Chris at @ShortBoyTall on Twitter.

 Gareth Sleightholme:

Avid Blogger, Twitter and other Social Media User, Gareth Sleightholme has taught across an number of disciplines but now focuses on his core area of Design For Entertainment Media via his work with BA Animation and Games Design Students and Btec Extended Diploma Students at Park Street.

Gareth has been a creative freelancer for most of the last two decades and is currently looking at Visualising educational Concepts for Art School Education on the Design MA here at Hull. You can follow Gareth on Twitter at @hesir or via his blog http:apopheniainc.wordpress.com

Location: VP Presidents Suite – KC
Start Date: 03/07/2012
End Date: 03/07/2012

~ by hesir on July 3, 2012.

One Response to ““A Head Start – Using today’s technology in the education environment”. – Seminar/Workshop Notes”

  1. […] …and a related post looking at how some of look at technology in the classroom can be found HERE: […]

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