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How to easily share educational resources via bittorrent

MoodleNet isn’t exactly my first foray into the world of Open Educational Resource (OER) sharing. I can’t believe that it’s now 17 years since I was, as a fresh-faced teacher, first involved in a European project around using bittorrent to share educational resources.

I feel like the global pandemic has helped sharpen our collective minds as open educators and edtech enthusiasts. It’s certainly made me realise that we should be using torrents to share resources. After all, the more people are ‘seeding’, the less it puts strain on the bandwidth at any one location!

The great thing about bittorrent is that it’s a mature decentralised technology. There’s lots of ways of achieving the same ends, but I want to show perhaps the quickest and easiest way of getting openly-licensed educational content added to a torrent that you can then share with others.

How does bittorrent work?

You don’t need to understand how it works to use it, any more than you need to know how encryption works to shop or bank online. But in case you’re interested…

Setup

Make sure you’ve got some openly-licensed content. If you don’t have any of your own to share, you can find some at OER Commons or via this list.

Also, you will need a bittorrent app, like Transmission (alternatives here)

Uploading

Create a free account at the Internet Archive. Here’s a direct link to the signup page.

Internet Archive (archive.org)

Go to the upload page:

Uploading files to archive.org

Press the green button to get to this page:

Drag-and-drop files to archive.org

Fill in the required fields to provide more information about the files to be uploaded. Then press the blue button to continue:

Enter metadata to archive.org

Downloading

Once the files have been uploaded, you (and everyone else on the web) will see a screen similar to this one. There’s some additional processing to take place, but you should be able to see ‘torrent’ in the right-hand sidebar:

Internet Archive page

If you click to download the torrent, you should see something like this. While you may download the torrent to your computer, you can also just choose to open it directly in your bittorrent app:

Download torrent from archive.org

The torrent is added to the bittorrent app. As you can see, the Internet Archive has auto-converted my original upload into other formats. You can choose to download all files (default) or choose some to skip:

Add torrent to Transmission

Here is the torrent about to start downloading to your machine. If you leave the bittorrent app running, you provide an additional node to ‘seed’ the files to others!

Downloading torrent

Conclusion

As you can see from the above, creating a torrent from files you already have (or can find!) is pretty straightforward.

The huge value of doing this via the Internet Archive is that they will always be seeding your torrent. This means there will never be a time when someone tries to download your torrent and there’s no seeds.


What could I do to improve this quick guide? Do you have any questions? Ask in the comments below!

How I plan my working days. [RESOURCES]

The great thing about working for an organization where you’re expected to be pretty self-directed is that you can organize your time pretty much however you want. The flip side of this, of course, is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of just doing whatever you feel like doing (rather than what’s important).

I iterated the daily planner below whilst I was still working for Jisc infoNet. I find it such an incredibly useful tool that I’ve continued to use it now that I work at Mozilla. You can print it out and/or download the PDF below:


The planning sheet was inspired by lots of different places I read productivity stuff, so if some of it looks familiar, that’s why. It’s fairly self-evident, but basically you:

  1. Circle the appropriate day, date and month. You can find this to the top-right of the planner.
  2. Add time-specific stuff to the ‘Morning’, ‘Afternoon’ and ‘Evening’ boxes. If you need to be somewhere or doing something at a particular time, add this before going any further.
  3. Think through the things you need to do today. Some of these may be things you didn’t get done yesterday or have written on a weekly ‘scratch pad’.
  4. Organise the things you need to do into groups. For example, most days I’ve got ‘writing’ and ‘reading’ as headings.
  5. Write down the tasks you need to do under the group headings. These will then have a number and a letter next to them – e.g. ‘1a’ or ‘3c’
  6. Add any other tasks to the ‘Emergent & other tasks’ box. These may be personal reminders or just less important stuff that needs doing sometime.
  7. Start adding tasks to your ‘Morning’, ‘Afternoon’ and ‘Evening’ boxes. I also schedule lunch and exercise. You can just write the appropriate number and letter to save space – e.g. ‘2a’ or ‘3b’.

You can experiment. You can change it. You can do what you like with it. Yesterday, for example, I drew different numbers of circles around tasks to represent time in a quasi-Pomodoro Technique style. Do what you like. Hack it.


If you find this useful, you could always donate to the #LettingGrow campaign.

How to teach using mobile devices

iPad

I’m mentioned in The Guardian today in a short article entitled How to teach using mobile phones. However, as is the case with such things, what appears and what I submitted are two different things. For a start, my emphasis was on mobile devices more generally (not just phones!)

Thankfully, they’ve still linked to the resources I was asked to produce. If the link in the article doesn’t work (it didn’t for me) just search ‘mobile devices’ at the Guardian Teacher Network. I’ve decided to reproduce what I originally wrote here:

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to be in the pocket or bag of every young person it’s some kind of mobile device. They may forget their planner or even a pen, but they’re unlikely to be without their mobile phone. This, understandably, can lead to some frustration.

From the smartphone to the iPad to the Nintendo 3Ds the range of devices that young people have access to is growing – and so is their power to connect people. However, many parents, teachers and even children themselves are unsure as to how mobile devices can be used for anything more than entertainment. Do mobile devices have a place in the classroom? Are they merely distractions to learning?

On the Guardian Teacher Network, you can find now find a PowerPoint to get adults and children alike thinking about how they can use everything from their mobile phone to their games consoles for learning. The PowerPoint gives 10 different scenarios in which mobile devices could be used to add value to what goes on in the classroom – or even fundamentally change the types of activities that are available.

The associated Cribsheet gives suggestions and links to further resources as to how discussions about mobile devices can be framed with school governors, senior leaders, teachers, parents and children. There are many ways in which the resources can be used – everything from a PSHE lesson (perhaps drawing up guidelines to responsible and appropriate use) to Staff CPD or even a ‘town hall’ style meeting with parents.

With schools increasingly having the freedom and powers to innovate around the traditional curriculum through Academy, Trust or Free School status, now is a good time to be talking through the issues involved in mobile learning. Not only will it really engage pupils, but there’s the potential for it to be used as a ‘trojan horse’ for real curriculum change!

This was the second, more objective, draft. I’ve been promised that my first, longer and more polemicised draft will be used in a few weeks’ time. We’ll see.

PS Congratulations to @colport and the people behind #ukedchat – they’re mentioned in The Guardian today as well: Twittering classes for teachers

Image CC BY mortsan

5 interesting productivity-related resources I’ve come across recently

You may have noticed that other blogs pad out their content with Delicious or Diigo auto-posts. It’s sad to see the social media equivalent of tumbleweeds when you come across a homepage filled with such ‘content’. I’m not into that at all – indeed I usually unsubscribe from the RSS feed of such blogs.

The opposite of auto-blogging is curation. I’ve been using Licorize to turn bookmarking into projects (see my Research section) but it can do a whole lot more than that. What I’ve done below is to cherry-pick some resources relating to user outcomes and productivity for your delectation using Licorize’s ‘send draft to WordPress’ feature.

Do let me know if they’re useful. 🙂


Go Off the Grid Stress-Free with Quiet Hours [Lifehacker] “When you shut down your email or IM client so you can actually get things done, it’s easy to forget to turn them back on again. That’s likely great for the task at hand, but not so great when the boss is looking for you because she can’t find the report you were supposed to send her. Quiet Hours lets you shut down your communication apps stress-free, and automatically re-opens them after a user-defined period of time.”

The Downtime Learner theory Dean Groom on immersion by downtime. Draws on gamer theory.

WorkSnug “Connecting mobile workers to the nearest and best places to work in the major cities of the world.”

How to write 1000 words a day (and not go bat shit crazy) « The Thesis Whisperer

10 Simple Postures That Boost Performance — PsyBlog

UX: 5 valuable resources

I realised recently that the middle of my Venn diagram is ‘user experience’ (broadly considered) user outcomes. This incorporates what’s known as UX:

User eXperience (UX) is about how a person feels about using a system. User experience highlights the experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction (HCI) and product ownership, but it also covers a person’s perceptions of the practical aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency of the system. User experience is subjective in nature, because it is about an individual’s performance, feelings and thoughts about the system. User experience is dynamic, because it changes over time as the circumstances change. (Wikipedia)

Since then, I’ve been looking for resources that will help me sharpen my thinking around UX. Here’s five that I’ve come across:

  1. UX booth – a blog ‘by and for the User Experience community’.
  2. Chris Messina’s Design Patterns – a collection on Flickr of ‘interesting interfaces and design flows from around the web’. Definitely worth checking out!
  3. UX Myths – a collection of user experience misconceptions, with explanations of why they aren’t true.
  4. Smashing Magazine: 25 User Experience videos that are worth your time – the title says it all!
  5. UX Magazine – a really nicely laid-out site (as you’d hope!) settting out ‘to explore, promote & discuss the multiple facets of user experience one article at a time.’

Have you come across UX resources that would help? 😀

Ways to find great resources and ideas for lessons

 

lesson_resources_large1

Where do you get your lesson ideas from? Do you just follow the scheme of work? When you innovate what is the spark for your inspiration?

Do you sometimes struggle to find time to discover resources and wish there was somewhere you could go to prevent you from doing the lesson planning equivalent of rediscovering the wheel?

Where can I go other than search on Google?

Teachers in the UK are probably aware of the TESconnect Resource Hub. If you’re not, that’s a great place to start! Before the TES launched this, one of the main UK-based repositories for lesson plans and ideas was the Teacher Resource Exchange, run by the National Grid for Learning (NGfL).

Talking of the NGfL, they have regional hubs which can be found quickly by typing (for example) NGfL resources into your favourite search engine. 🙂

Learning from colleagues in other schools

Most school subjects have spawned forums on the Internet where teachers of those subjects can discuss ideas, resources and issues. I know of the ones for subjects I currently teach (or have in the past) For example, History teachers have the History Teachers’ Discussion Forum and historyshareforum.com, Geography teachers have Staffordshire Learning Net, and teachers of ICT have the EffectiveICT.co.uk Forum.*

Searching for the name of your subject plus the word ‘forum’ in a search engine should bring up some promising links. Alternatively, try the excellent Shambles.net. Links galore! 🙂

Digging deeper

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AaSnY4XjMg]
What about if you want do something original or obscure, though? That’s when finding websites that previous visitors have marked as especially useful would help you on your quest. Enter social bookmarking services. There are many of these, but the two main ones are Delicious and Diigo. The former has been discussed on elearnr before, but in a slightly different context.

The idea behind social bookmarking sites is that instead of saving your ‘favourites’ or ‘bookmarks’ in the web browser of one computer, you store them in an account online. You can then ‘tag’ these with keywords and make them visible for others to see. These sites then, as you can imagine, become very useful as hotbeds of links to fantastically useful websites.

Have a go right now. Head over to Delicious and Diigo and type in the name of your subject followed by resources. Click to enlarge the images below which show the results I obtained when entering history resources!

Delicious search results - 'History resources' Diigo search results - 'History resources'

The ultimate targeted resource and lesson idea finder

All of the above are great ways of using the power of communities to help you find something, but what about if you need something very, very specific – and fast? Enter Twitter.

Twitter is a micro-blogging social network. It’s like text messaging meets Facebook in that you have 140-characters to send a message. Educators worldwide use it en masse to share good practice, ask questions and find fast answers. A future E-Learning Staff Session and elearnr blog post will tell you all you need to get you signed up and interacting. 🙂

What? You can’t wait? Head over to Twitter For Teachers to find out more!

___________

* My Twitter network directed me towards these additional forums:

** Thanks @mtechman for reminder of this excellent resource!

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elearnr – new blog for a new role!

I’ve mentioned several times before that as of this coming academic year (2008/9), I shall be E-Learning Staff Tutor at my school. This involves me ‘raising the baseline’ of educational technology integration and helping staff blend technology with their exisiting pedagogies.

To that end, and to avoid giving this blog an unduly narrow focus, I’ve set up elearnr. I’ve advertised it as a place for ‘elearning links, resources and guides’, although it will grow and evolve as my new role takes shape.

Feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed here:

elearnr

I’m a published author!

It’s a red-letter day in the history of the Belshaw clan. Although our publishers didn’t tell us it was imminent, Nick Dennis* and I have finally had the first of a series published:

Oh, wait, you didn’t think it was a book, did you? Come on… this is 2008 – it’s digital, baby! :-p

*Nick’s finally started his blogging journey. Spur him on by commenting on his first post, please!

5 ways to make ‘textbook lessons’ more interesting

The Teacher's Toolkit

Update: I’m no longer in the classroom but would highly recommend Paul Ginnis’ Teacher’s Toolkit: Raise Classroom Achievement with Strategies for Every Learner. I’ve found it extremely helpful to my own practice and when mentoring student teachers!


Textbook

When I started my teaching career I worked myself into the ground. Determined not to just use textbooks as a prop, I did ‘proper’ lesson plans for every single lesson and didn’t use more than a single page of a textbook (tops!) per lesson. I’ve come to realise that textbooks can be your friend. Here’s some suggestions to make lessons based around them more interesting…

Continue reading “5 ways to make ‘textbook lessons’ more interesting”

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