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    Archive for the 'Digital literacies' Category

    New Digital Skills Development dates for summer 2017

    By Caroline Norris, on 5 April 2017

    PhotoFunia-1486390268ISD Digital Skills Development has released new dates for the summer term.  As usual, we are offering a wide range of courses covering Excel, Matlab, LaTeX, Photoshop and more.

    As well as the popular Introduction to R we also have courses in data visualisation and manipulation in R.  Our new Reproducible Research series consists of three lunchtime sessions and will demonstrate how to use R, Git, Markdown and make.  You will need to bring your own laptop for all of our R and Reproducible Research sessions.

    For a full list of courses and a link to the booking system visit the student course catalogue or the staff course catalogue (you will need to follow a further link to get to the actual booking pages).

    Don’t forget….

    IT for IOE offer training in a wide range of digital tools including screencasting, blogging and Twitter, mind mapping and presentation tools, with some sessions specifically aimed at Mac users. You can also learn about text-to-speech software, how to make audio files from text and much more.  The summer schedule is already published and sessions will be available to book from 24 April.  Visit IT for IOE IT Course Booking for details.

    We have a vast range of high-quality video-based courses available at Lynda.com. These cover technical skills but also business, personal and creative skills as well.  Visit the UCL Lynda.com page to find out more.  We also have a range of technology-focused online courses available from Microsoft Imagine Academy

    Not sure what you need or have a more specific issue you would like help with?  Come along to one of the Digital Skills Development drop ins if you want more individual support.

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    Review: Automate the Boring Stuff with Python

    By Jim R Tyson, on 4 April 2017

    Author: Al Sweigart
    Materials:
    Book  $29.95 print, $23.95 e-book or from Amazon £15.54 print, £11.39 Kindle.
    Website
    Youtube fifteen free videos from the Udemy course
    Udemy: £50 (Discounted to £10 as at 4/4/2017 ) fifty one lectures following the book

    Python is often said to be a fun language to learn. Programming is sometimes said to be fun to learn. The combination ought to be fun too.  My lasting impression of these materials is that they are fun.

    Learners often find that resources for beginners self-tuition in programming are either daunting, or badly designed, or too simple minded to be of real help. This set of resources scores highly on all of these.

    Automate the Boring Stuff with Python is a book that is accompanied by a website, some youtube videos, and (for pay) a Udemy online course. There are eighteen reasonable length chapters and three appendices. The first ten chapters cover the absolute basics of procedural programming starting with simple interaction with the interpreter (do some sums!) through variables and assignment, flow control, writing functions, complex data structures, strings, input and output and debugging. There are one or two other topics that it was interesting to see dealt with relatively early such as searching with regular expressions and file manipulation – including compression, bulk filename routines – but they are simply explained and they make sense given the intention of the material (automating stuff). The book is well designed and clearly written. The website has the same material but includes an in-line interpreter so that you can type code as you go, make mistakes and correct them, and see the results when, finally, you get it right. I watched the free youtube videos and they were well made with clear explanations as were the other free tasters of the Udemy course.  The youtube videos get a big thumbs up in their comments sections.

    Overall, I think these materials are a good start for a beginning programmer who isn’t intending to become a software engineer. It would suit a learner whose aim is to write programs intended mainly for their own use. It doesn’t cover some topics that are increasingly included in early training for programmers, for example version control or test driven development, but for many learners overcoming the initial barrier to writing some effective code is more important than these aspects of best practice. The use of object methods, defensive programming and more can be tackled later.

    The second part of the book and course introduces the use of python libraries for some common and useful tasks. This section includes a variety of projects including web scraping, working with spreadsheets and word processor documents, integrating email in programs. In a higher education context you might want to include numpy, scipy, matplotlib but there are good tutorials for these – good at least for someone who already has basic coding skills and is familiar with the use of libraries – exactly where someone would be after finishing this course.  They are good choices if you want to learn scripting to automate the boring stuff, maybe periodically grabbing data from a website or a spreadsheet and transforming it before writing to a new file for example.

    It’s particularly nice that the website has an embedded interpreter, but I think you would want learners to move onto an IDE eventually and perhaps in some contexts you might want to replace the use of the in-line interpreter with iPython notebooks.

    Overall this is one of the best resources for beginning programmers I have seen and as a suite of resources it could be easily supplemented and adapted to meet an expanded or amended set of objectives.

    Have you discovered Microsoft Imagine Academy yet?

    By Caroline Norris, on 13 March 2017

    MIAYou may know it as ‘Microsoft IT Academy’ (it’s former name) or you may not know it all but either way, it’s worth a look.  This Microsoft learning platform offers a vast range of technology-related courses covering all levels from complete beginners through to specialist technical courses for IT professionals.

    Course delivery is via slideshows, ‘talking head’ video or MIA videoscreencasts.  Most modules include ‘Knowledge check’ quizzes and there is also a final assessment when you reach the end of the course.   You can print transcripts to show your progress and generate course completion certificates. Other features include closed captions and the ability to increase the speed or change the quality of the video.

    There are nearly 1500 courses so how do you narrow it down?  Click on the Catalog drop down at the top of the home page and then select See All Courses.  This gives you a set of filters to narrow down your options to something more manageable.  My first tip would be to filter by Language.  If you tick English and English (United Kingdom) for example you will immediately halve the number of courses.

    The next thing to do is to select a Product or Topic you are interested MIA screencastin.  If you know you want to learn a particular application the Product filter is probably the most relevant.  However, the Topic filter is probably more useful for exploring by theme.

    The Digital Literacy topic is great for real beginners and covers the basics of using digital tools.  Educator Resources – Teach and Educator Resources – Learn have some interesting courses aimed predominantly at school teachers including various courses on using Minecraft for Education, teaching coding and using ICT in the classroom.

    The Office and Office 365 topics have some task-focused offerings such as ‘Run more effective meetings’ (using Skype for Business) ‘Collaborate Using PowerPoint Online’ or ‘Create accessible documents’.

    Another way to find courses is to use the search box at the top of the screen.  Searching for Office Hours brings up some short videos aimed at teachers and administrators such as ‘Create a Survey in Excel Online’ and ‘Deliver Curriculum with OneNote’.  Searching for coding brings up the ‘Introduction to Programming with Python’ course and ‘Creative Coding Through Games and Apps’ amongst others.

    Whether you just want to improve your own productivity and effectiveness or you want new ideas on using technology in the classroom, Microsoft Imagine Academy might just provide you with some helpful inspiration.

    To register for Microsoft Imagine Academy visit www.ucl.ac.uk/isd/how-to/it-training/register-it-academy

     

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    Student digital experience tracker

    By Moira Wright, on 10 March 2017

    How should institutions respond to students’ changing expectations of their digital environment? What experiences at university prepare students to flourish in a digital world? What are institutions doing to engage students in dialogue about their learning environment and to gather intelligence about their changing needs?

    Following a successful pilot with 24 institutions in 2016 a student digital tracker tool, built on resources such as the Jisc/ NUS student digital experience benchmarking tool  and the Jisc guide to enhancing the digital student experience: a strategic approach. The questions cover issue important to learners and/or to staff with a focus on the learning experience.

    The student digital experience tracker will allow universities, colleges and skills providers to:

    • Gather evidence from learners about their digital experience, and track changes over time
    • Make better informed decisions about the digital environment
    • Target resources for improving digital provision
    • Plan other research, data gathering and student engagement around digital issues
    • Demonstrate quality enhancement and student engagement to external bodies and to students themselves

    The tracker is delivered in BOS – an online survey service specially developed for the UK education sector. Institutions using the tracker will receive guidance on implementation in BOS, real-time access to their own data, are able to benchmark their data against their sector data, and access further guidance on how to understand and respond to the findings.

    UCL students are invited to participate in the survey and a link has been added to students Moodle landing page on the right side. Alternatively you can access the survey using this link: http://tinyurl.com/ble-student-survey-2017 – please advertise to UCL  students. The survey is open until March 31st 2017.

     

    New Digital Skills Development dates

    By Caroline Norris, on 7 February 2017

    PhotoFunia-1486390268ISD Digital Skills Development has released new dates for the second half of term.  As usual, we are offering a wide range of courses covering Excel, Photoshop, RStudio, Matlab, LaTeX and more.

    After a successful pilot last term we are pleased to be offering a Data Visualisation in R course again for those with a basic knowledge of working with datasets in R.  Looking ahead to next term we have scheduled our hugely popular Python course led by Research IT Services.  It starts in early May and runs for five consecutive Friday mornings.

    For a full list of courses and a link to the booking system visit the student course catalogue or the staff course catalogue (you will need to follow a further link to get to the actual booking pages).  Dates are currently available up to and including 24 March.

    Don’t forget….

    IT for IOE offer training in a wide range of digital tools including screencasting and video editing, blogging and Twitter, mind mapping and presentation tools, with some sessions specifically aimed at Mac users. New sessions this term include one focusing on video sharing tools and a new advanced Endnote workshop.  There is still some availability on this term’s sessions.  Sessions are now available to book until March.  For a full list of courses and access to bookings visit IT for IOE IT Course Booking.

    We have a vast range of high-quality video-based courses available at Lynda.com. These cover technical skills but also business, personal and creative skills as well.  Visit the UCL Lynda.com page to find out more.

    Not sure what you need or have a more specific issue you would like help with?  Come along to one of the Digital Skills Development drop ins if you want more individual support.

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    Walking in a data wonderland

    By Samantha Ahern, on 9 January 2017

    So where do we begin? Straight down the rabbit hole or some contextual rambling?

    The contextual rambling.

    I have recently been thinking about the logic puzzles, syllogisms, of Charles Dodgson and the literary work of his alter-ego Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  This and discussions with my colleague Dr Steve Rowett lead me to explore Anastasia Salter’s project Alice in Dataland (http://aliceindataland.net/).  Alice in Dataland is an experiment in critical making, an exploration guided by the question: “Why does Alice in Wonderland endure as a metaphor for experiencing media?”

    Down the rabbit hole.

    Exploring Anastasia’s project has generated some questions of my own; What if data is Alice and data analysis is Wonderland?

    It has been noted that each new representation of Alice has showed her in a new and different way, it has been argued that these changes have added to our interpretation.  Is this also true of our analysis of data, or do we see “different truths” through different lenses of our analysis? In other words, do our analysis of data add to understanding by providing insight or do we alter the narrative told by data by how we choose to analyse or visualise it.

    In August 2016 theNode (http://thenode.biologists.com/barbarplots/photo/) reported on the kickstarter campaign #BarBarPlots! with the focus of the campaign being how to avoid misleading representations of statistical data.  This follows on from a 2015 ban on null hypothesis significance testing procedures by the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, which was discussed in an article by the Royal Statistical Society (https://www.statslife.org.uk/features/2114-journal-s-ban-on-null-hypothesis-significance-testing-reactions-from-the-statistical-arena).

    Do these analyses constitute re-imaginings of the data and like the use of Photoshop and other media tools described by Salter re-imagine Wonderland or data analysis as a remediation of reality through a different lens?

    When data is collected over time to create user profiles, and potential in learning analytics creating identities through narratives (data analysis and visualisation), again noted by Salter: “it is through narrative that we create and re-create selfhood” (Bruner, Jerome. Making stories: Law, literature, life. Harvard University Press, 2003.).  Are these generated identities subject to “defamiliarization of perception”; threatened by time as new data received alters our models and the story told? I am not sure, but it is an interesting thought.

    white rabbit