Graduation was a great day (17/7/2012) I achieved a First Class Honours BSc Computing and Society. It was great to see fellow graduands and their families enjoying the day and reminiscing with tutors and lecturers.
I would like to acknowledge the help and support I received from friends and family as well as the professional help from the lecturers and tutors, without whom I would not have achieved all I did.
Today (14 March 2012) I will be presenting some of my research at the University of Portsmouth. The event is organised by the School of Computing every year and local business leaders are invited to attend to review the work being done by students within the University. This year I have been invited to participate and present findings from a pilot study that I have conducted as part of my final year project. I took part during my first year when I demonstrated a web-based portfolio of my work and assessments.
The event will take place at Lion Gate 2.4c from 14:00. I am hoping to collect some additional data whilst talking to other students and delegates that are attending. A questionnaire based on the Google Forms questionnaire will be distributed to visitors in the hope that they can spare a few minutes to support the project and add to the sample that has been collected already (64 up to 14/3/2012).
Please use the link provided to help me with my final year project. The project is a study of eDemocracy.
Edemocracy is basically the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT); such as smart phones, laptops and computers, to allow the public to engage with the Government or Local Council in the management of society.
It only takes 5 minutes to complete. Your details will not be recorded and your identity will remain anonymous at all times. The questionnaire has undergone an ethical review process and meets the University of Portsmouth Ethical Policies.
Please forward this to as many of your friends as possible.
Well it was certainly eventful toward the end. Best laid plans don’t always work out. I am glad I had done the majority of the work prior to christmas 2011. Unfortunately just before christmas my marriage suffered some difficulties and my daughter and I had to move house at short notice. Luckily I have some good friends and things have worked out ok. The fact I had no internet connection for 2 weeks did pose a few additional problems in terms of getting project work done, but hopefully the effort I made prior to christmas and the long hours applied since I regained network access have paid off.
Overall the site has come out better than I could have hoped. I realise it may appear a little clinical but the focus was on usability and access to content rather than building a flash site which didn’t meet the criteria I had set myself in the design stage. Hopefully in the future I can further develop the site to incorporate some more videos of my own together with audio descriptions of the parts within a computer. By utilizing both these techniques the site will be more accessible to a variety of learners.
It was really useful to meet up with Tony Skinner and Adnan Ahmed over the christmas break and compare our work. This proved invaluable as we each had ideas for one another’s work, through the PLN and email as well as face to face reviews of work we have all benefitted. It was good to get an alternative perspective of the work we had been doing. My thanks to both of these gentlemen for their friendship, kindness and use of the internet when I had none.
A useful resource I found when reviewing some of the lectures from EdCom in 2011 was Kathy Shrock’s web site evaluation which you can get by using the link. It lists some of the most important things that as a developer you should consider when implementing a website.
THE FIVE W’S OF WEB SITE EVALUATION
Who wrote the pages and are they an expert? Is a biography of the author included? How can I find out more about the author?
What does the author say is the purpose of the site? What else might the author have in mind for the site? What makes the site easy to use? What information is included and does this information differ from other sites?
When was the site created? When was the site last updated?
Where does the information come from? Where can I look to find out more about the sponsor of the site?
Why is this information useful for my purpose? Why should I use this information? Why is this page better than another?
20012009. Kathy Schrock
I believe if you follow this advice and make sure your site adheres to these principles your are on the right track.
You can view the videos here . I am reasonably pleased with them.. The only downside in my opinion is the sound quality, however it was only a webcam microphone that was being used and although the gain on the microphone was set quite high having 4 pc’s running in my room has a tendency to disrupt the sound.
Once I had my Ubuntu system up and running it took all of 10 minutes to convert the 4 videos I had recorded and upload them to my flash drive, which was being used as a temporary host whilst the website was under development.
I tested a few different methods of displaying the videos but OGM with HTML5 was my favorite. I didn’t like the way the Flash player I had available would insist on auto-playing the videos as soon as the web page loads. I tried a Lightbox effect to, but the file size for the video was too large. If I had the time to upload them to YouTube this may have been a neat option as I liked the way the player sprung out from the page to play the video.
So overall the video’s do as I intended, they allow new users to familiarize themselves with the navigation of the site and explain how to operate the interactive features I have built into the site.
Late Sunday evening (8/01/2012) I realised that the overall size of my project website was in excess of 38mb. Victory the University of Portsmouth Virtual Learning Enviroment, to the best of my knowledge only allows you to upload a 10mb file, therefore I had a major issue. Luckily I had my web server up and running. The only problem was the version of Apache I was running did not include PHP5 the script I had chosen to write my site with.
After some digging around I found the package I needed hosted on Debian’s server and proceeded to install this. I was still having an issue with connectivity. I checked the resolv.conf file in the root directory of my server and realised where I was going wrong. I didn’t give much thought to my recent house move and the fact that my ISP Gateway had changed even though DynDns updater was reporting the correct IP address. A quick change to the resolv.conf file and everything began working as expected. Now I had no need to upload my file to Victory and my site was live.
Thjs morning I decided to create the videos for the help page of the project website. The screencasting using BBFlash Express went well with a reasonable quality video and audio. I remember doing something similar for another project and converting the generated BBFlash file to AVI. This went ok and exported from the recorder and saved to the file I had created.
My problems began when I realised that in the previous example of this type of webpage I had used the HTML5 format to display the video as it does not require the user to have a player installed. The format for this type of video file is OGV. Now whilst there are convertors out there they are not free and £69 is more than I want to pay at the moment. Then I remembered that I had used Ubuntu and a free convertor last time to generate the OGV file required to embbed the video in a webpage.
Ok so now I have a solution to my problem, what about Ubuntu? The machine I have as a test bed for various software installs and testing different OS’s has currently got Windows Developer Preview on it, effectively Windows 8 Beta, together with Windows 7 64 Bit. What to do? I know, use a spare harddrive and install Ubuntu. After about 2 hours messing around I had installed Ubuntu and now needed to find the convertor. The version of Ubuntu I had decided to run was old, I think version 9. The convertor I wanted is no longer supported in this version so now I have to upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu.
I will report back once this process is completed.
Since the design stage of this website, accessibility has been a priority in the development of the site. A number of applications have been tested in an effort to discover what might work best across the site.
I have tested ATbar on the BlackBox site with mixed results. I had planned to incorporate the ATBar in the header of the page so that it was always accessible to the user. This produced a number of errors. The first being the PHP scripts used by the ATBar developers rely on the designer of the site implementing a Live website. Currently this project is only a prototype and will not be hosted live at the moment, for development purposes it is being Hosted via Xampp. The second issue with this type of accessibility feature is the way the application changes the layouts within the website, in some cases completely removing the divs used to hold elements of the page in certain places, rendering image position and text wrapping useless. After further testing I found that using the ATBar in the web browser itself was a much better option. This will also be an option from the accessibility page for the project, together with instructions for the user, so that they can adjust the viewing preferences for the site via their prefered web browser.
As a result of the difficulties experienced above I searched for alternatives. I found a number of fixes which could be implemented but again they are reliant on a Live site.
Had I had more experience I would have liked to have developed a CSS selection bar to sit at the top of the webpage in the header, which on this site is always present. This would have allowed the user to select the most appropriate format for viewing via a number of selection buttons. Text resizing would work independently of all the other features of this controller. Background colours could be adjusted according to the users preference and the font colour would contrast with the background accordingly. Due to a lack of knowledge of suitable ways to achieve this I have not spent anytime developing the idea.
One change I have made since the development of the site from the design stage is to use an Off White/Shade of white background for the entire site. Having done some research it was found that this type of colour was recommended as it works for more users than the light grey I had used previously.
I have included screenshots here to give you an impression of the before and after effects.
The development of this website has followed the plan created at the outset, focusing on the use of easily understood descriptions of the components of a computer. External sources have been used to deliver information about the history of computing and how the silicon chip is made.
It was felt that the use of video to guide the user in the best way to navigate the site would be useful. This has been included on the main page (index.php).
The external assessment included in the site is still under development although the basic function is in place the questions need to tweaked and additional challenges for different types of learning techniques need to be incorporated.
The revision quiz functions as planned and adds a useful instant feedback feature to help students with the learning process.
Finding suitable hardware tutorials written at an appropriate level to be included in the resources was difficult. One resource that really met the need was Teach-ICT.com. This site is really full of useful information and resources for students and teachers to develop their knowledge if ICT.