Robot tutor – not as cool as it sounds (but it’s free)

Actually only Wired magazine called it a robot.  It’s actually’s adaptive learning platform.

Basically,  students enter some info about learning preferences and the system hunts though it’s collection of resources for something that matches it.  If the student gets a question wrong the system finds a simpler resource.

It’s not that ground breaking, but what it does have is a large collection to resources that anyone can add to, and it’s now free (it was previously available via publishers like Pearson). figures out what each student knows and how each student learns best, to pinpoint the type of content, level of difficulty, and which media format each student needs. Its technology can take any free open content, algorithmically calibrate it, and bundle it into a uniquely personalized lesson for each student at any moment.

Anyone who wants to learn or teach a subject can use helps teachers, tutors and parents provide more personalized lessons. Students at any level can reach their academic goals at their own pace, and get extra help or more advanced lessons.

Some tips for buying a teaching video camera

The first thing to say is dollar for dollar, any current camera is better than the 5 year old one you may be using now.   I’m not going to provide an exhaustive list of features, just a few things that could trip up.

Panasonic HC-X920 3D Ready HD 3MOS Digital Camcorder with Wi-fi (black)

My basic premise is you want a camera that the average academic can use to record an event in a lecture theatre.   Best quality for the minimum effort.

  • Records in MP4 format – Staff should be able to put a compressed file straight into Moodle or YouTube with out doing any conversion.  Most cameras do this, but not all, and some of their formats don’t work well in some programs e.g. Camtasia is finicky about audio codecs (AC3) and Windows Movie Maker can’t handle the High Definition format MTS used in most major brands.
  • Fold out view finder that turns 180 degrees so people ca see themselves – this is pretty much standard now but check for it anyway
  • Has a physical remote control – This removes the need to clip the start and finish of your recording.  Staff can sit down, get their hair right, and take a deep breath before pushing the record button.  It turns out this is probably the main thing that will limit your options.    Many cameras now use OS and Android apps, which is fine if you are lending out a smart phone with each camera, and providing instructions on how to sync up the devices.

And don’t forget a tripod.  You don’t need a top of the range item, but don’t go too cheap.  Aluminum tripods are fairly rugged and cheap.  Personally I prefer having a mid level spreader for more stability.  Make sure the head doesn’t make any noise when you move it around.

If you have you own tips, let me know.

Audio is also important but I’ll deal with that later.

Weekend funny – Media and toy makers are getting dinosaurs wrong

Don’t mess with the dinosaur geeks.

(First National Pictures)
The Lost World (1925), First National Pictures

While the rest of us are going “oooh that’s so cool,” they are sitting in a barely controlled rage.

What’s Wrong With the Flying Pterosaurs in Jurassic World

“In conclusion, I think that the flying animals in Jurassic World are not real and instead the producers used some type of computer generated graphics to depict the motion of the pterosaurs.”

A Dinosaur Expert Critiques Dinosaur Toys

Windows 10 info

There are a few conspiracy theories and a bit of confusion about MS giving away free Win 10 upgrades.


  • it is free,
  • it works well,
  • it is a vehicle for MS to sell you stuff (although how intrusive this is remains to be seen).
  • it does have some dodgy privacy settings, but you can turn them off.

It looks like MS is shifting it’s revenue model.  It apparently makes very little on upgrades  so it is giving away a system that will make it easier for you to buy related MS services and apps

It looks like a good system, but the upgrade process has been problematic for some people.

Here is a collection of reviews (very positive)

There are some dodgy default privacy setting, but you can configure them

Should you upgrade?  PC Adviser says ‘yes’.

The OS is clean, familiar, and easy to understand, plus it has a wealth of new, helpful features that you’ll actually want to use. The fact that it’s free for the majority of existing Windows users, and can be rolled back quickly to the previous version if you don’t like it, really makes it very, very easy to recommend.

Personally, I’d wait until the next update in October.  The truism when dealing with MS is “never get version 1”.

A couple of remote teleprompter apps

Here are 2 apps to look at, one from each church.  There are quite a few out there but these 2 appear to be better than most


Prompter for Android.

Tablets have remarkable capabilities for video production, and one of the best uses teams a tablet up with mobile apps for use as a teleprompter. Now anyone can have clean, clear dialog using professional video tools.This free app from MonacoDevDroid has mirror mode, full screen mode, and can read plain text. You can add copy on the fly, directly in the prompter or copy and paste with ease. The app runs remotely using Bluetooth and has a built-in timer so you know how long your segment runs.


Teleprompt+ 3

Teleprompt+ 3 adds rich text support for inline formatting, a quick edit mode to make last-minute changes to displayed text without leaving the current session, and a new design for a Universal app that runs on both the iPad and iPhone. Because it’s an app Teleprompt+ takes advantage of iOS to enable features like remote control for multiple devices (have a technician adjust text and speed on a master device while text is displayed on a second iPhone or iPad), Dropbox import for text, and audio and video recording through the built-in microphone and cameras.

Get a reverse image on you computer screen – Ultramon


One reason would be to use a standard PC screen and standard Office software with a teleprompter.  (I find the whole business of teleprompters a bit arcane, it seems to be either, professional and massively overpriced, or cheap and cobbled together).

The other reason is to display your screen in a mirror, I can’t think of why you would want to do this but I’m sure there are some marketing and artsy types who might need it.

Anyway here is some software to do it – Ultramon.  It’s $40USD

App for free local texting – kind of a bluetooth network.

Jott logoJott may be the next thing in mobile tech for school kids.  It is rapidly gaining publicity and there is a fair bit of noise about it in the tech media.

Jott, a messaging app that works without a data plan or WiFi connection, has caught on among junior high and high school students, according to co-founder Jared Allgood. He says the app more than doubled to half a million active users in March, up from 150,000 active users previous.

Jott can send messages from one device to another without any cell service as long as those texting are within close enough proximity to each other.It does this by using something called a mesh network that operates on Bluetooth low energy or using a router that can reach within 100 feet of each user. It’s the same way FireChat, a group messaging app, does this, but Jott can also message individuals within your network.

It is taking off in schools where kids have limited data plans.  In our situation where all students have wifi access on campus it might not be as applicable, but maybe it could be useful as a polling tool in lectures?  I’ll have to have a play.