BYOD or Bring Your Own Device

The College’s Learning Technology team is back with a brand new blog post!

This post will summarise some useful (and free) ways student devices can be used within the classroom as a means to enhance participation, create opportunities for collaboration, and overall just provide further ways to make learning more interesting.

BYOD might sound like YAA (Yet Another Acronym) if there wasn’t enough already, but it is a very useful concept to consider in modern education.

Essentially most students have smartphones, and smartphones can access the internet and download educational apps.

It would seem a shame and a missed opportunity to not make use of this trend since half of the trouble – and most of the cost – has already been spent by the student purchasing these devices.



Thinglink is very straightforward and easy to use. It comprises an image which is either taken from the web or from your own computer and this image is used as a virtual pin board whereby either the lecturer or the students can pin information onto it – whether that information is text, a web address, another image or even an embedded video is entirely up to the individual doing the pinning.

Once created on their website the Thinglink can be embedded within Moodle on a course page by pasting the html code into Moodle’s html editor (ask us at if you need help with this).

It is easy to envisage how this tool can be used within the context of BYOD. Students already enrolled on a Moodle course will then be able to interact with the image using their smartphones to login to Moodle and the activity could be displayed on a smart board so everyone can see the interaction in progress.



Padlet is basically a collaborative wall for students or staff to post information. It is more like a virtual pin board where students can upload images, share links, or simply their written ideas. This suits being displayed on a smart board so that everyone can see what is going on.

Setting up a Padlet wall is very quick, and once again only requires a link to be shared to students. Padlet can be embedded on a Moodle page in exactly the same way as Thinglink and other forms of media.

Moodle Quiz 

One of the good things about the quizzes on Moodle is that they are often easy to complete on any device whether that be a PC, a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Students will have no trouble accessing these forms of activity as long as they are already enrolled on the Moodle page.

Being able to access Moodle outside of college also makes these activities doable in any setting such as on a fieldtrip. Even in areas where there is no wireless access students will commonly receive a mobile network connection to the internet.

If you have any questions regarding students using their own devices in or outside the classroom, on potential apps or learning tools please just ask us:

Bringing Virtual Reality to the classroom

Russell Wilson, Learning Technologist

Hi, and welcome to April’s Learning Technology blog post. Remember back in the early 1990’s when most people’s perception of Virtual Reality was that of entering a world similar to the 1992 film ‘The Lawnmower Man’? Subsequently, what people think about the term ‘virtual reality’ (VR) is that they imagine a scene where somebody is wired up to a computer wearing an odd helmet and making weird movements in the air. However, in 2016, things could start to get a little different …

First off some major companies are backing the use of Virtual Reality from a consumer standpoint this year. Already released and available to purchase are Samsung’s Gear, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, with Playstation releasing its version later in the year.

So why are we telling you about VR? Well, the fact is this form of technology has many applications now, and in the future, for the learning environment. Just as the use of iPads in the classroom far exceeded expectations, VR could go the same way. At a school in the Czech Republic pupils have taken part in a ground-breaking experiment. Instead of paper and pens they used VR and gesture control to drop them into a fascinating, immersive and educational experience. Take a look …

Nearpod which is a classroom iPad app already available to the staff at Ayrshire College via the Learning Resource Centre’s iPads in a box, and the company behind them is backing the launch of virtual reality lessons in Schools across the US. Take a look at the full article here: Virtual Reality Learns How to Get Into the Classroom

As a tool for the classroom many of the statistics have yet to be gathered, but what is clear is the thirst from students to utilise technology in the classroom and the benefit they get from this. VR tools have already been used to collaboratively to construct architectural models, recreations of historic or natural sites and other spatial renderings.

Lecturers have used VR technology to engage students in topics related to literature, history and economics by offering a deeply immersive sense of place and time, whether historic or evolving, to take them to places related to their studies that are inaccessible in real life. Such as Space, the inside of a Nuclear Reactor or an inhospitable part of the planet.

Knowing this our department has invested in some affordable VR to start researching and piloting any applications that may be beneficial to our students and staff. VR headsets that can be used with smartphones are a cost effective way of starting to embrace this technology. We now have these in our college.4These are also available from Amazon just now but if anyone wishes to try an even cheaper alternative then perhaps Google Cardboard is for you.

Or take a leaf out of McDonalds and Coca-Colas book and create VR headsets from their packaging:

“Coca-Cola has not yet released their cardboard virtual reality headset, but McDonalds has. If you didn’t know this existed it is probably because it is only available in Sweden. They, much like Google and Coca-Cola, have produced a virtual reality device that is centered around cardboard. McDonalds, however, produces theirs with Happy Meal boxes. For a limited time only, they are offering this to their customers in Sweden. They are dubbed Happy Goggles, and they are created by tearing off a specific part of the box and folding it. After that, VR lenses are inserted and then it can be used with a smartphone.”

We hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to this newest incarnation of VR and we do hope to demonstrate some applications for lessons soon. 2016 so far does seem to be the year that VR will make an impact on the world.

In the meantime if you wish to see the VR in action or want to know more about its practical applications for the classroom please contact the Learning Technology team at

Apps for Inclusive Learning

Our Learning Technologists have been installing a number of useful apps onto iPads to assist the Inclusive Learning department.

The Inclusive Learning teams help students who require additional support as a result of a specific learning disability, a sensory or physical impairment, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, a mental health condition or any other condition that impacts on their learning.

In this article, Learning Technologist Joe Downes talks us through the best apps for students to use to aid organisation, memory, writing, reading, numeracy and more.

MindJet Maps – Type of App: Mind Map

To begin with there are many different mind mapping apps out there and it is worth trying out different ones to find one that best suits your preferences. Many are free whilst others have free versions with paid-for features. It is also worth keeping in mind that iPads make it very easy to create mind maps due to their touch interface.

MindJet Maps lets you build and customise your mind maps with a few quick and easy swipes. Different colouring, shape and sub-sectioning options are available. Markers and different colours can also be placed on any strand of the map to distinguish themes or grouped areas of information.

Photos can be used using the iPad itself to take them, and these can be incorporated into the mind map. Notes can be made on each strand and web-links added to them.

What makes this app especially useful is its availability on College computers thus improving the transferability of any creations.

Other apps worth a mention: Inspiration, iMindMap HD

Flash Cards – Type of App: Memory Aids

The name says it all. These virtual cards, like their physical equivalents, are very handy revision tools. One side contains a word or concept and the other gives a definition, an example or further in-depth piece of information on that subject.

This app lets you custom build your own ‘deck’ of flashcards, filling in both sides with whatever information you desire – whatever helps you best. These can then be ‘studied’ for revision using the iPad to scroll through the cards and to flip them over to see the answers on the back.

One of the most useful aspects of this app is its ability to search a large bank of pre-built decks online. These are handily sorted by subject area and can be downloaded and used as your own.

This app’s simplicity makes it very easy to navigate, and it has a handy text reader which will read out the cards as well.

Other apps worth a mention: Forgetful and Quizlet

Dragon Dictation Type of App: Writing

This app allows the user to dictate to the iPad. The user speaks out loud and the app writes the speech out as text. This text can then be transferred elsewhere using the app’s ability to send or share its creations.

Dragon Dictation is very easy to use and is surprisingly good at interpreting speech into text. This tool could make writing notes much easier for students who struggle with typing or writing by hand.

Other apps worth a mention: Evernote, iTakeClassNotes, Inkflow

 ClaroSpeak  – Type of App: Reading


ClaroSpeak is a free, as well as a premium app. It is essentially a text reader which can read any typed document. Documents can be opened from a DropBox or Google Drive account or typed into the app itself. This helps users who have difficulty reading enabling them to access material and keep up to date with their learning. Users can click to different parts of the document to enable reading from any point, and background colours can be varied to make the whole experience suitable for different reading or visual situations. A premium version of this app also allows the user to take a picture of text and this is then imported into ClaroSpeak. As a consequence, the user needn’t feel limited to text within a digital medium, but any text found anywhere in the outside world.

Other apps worth a mention: ClaroPDF, Audible, vBookz PDF

Recolor Type of App: Mindfulness & Wellbeing

Recolor is one of many colouring apps that have really exploded since the increase in popularity of adult colouring books in recent years. The app contains a choice of different drawings including abstract designs, wildlife and 3d images such as a Grecian urn. The colour options are handily categorised into varied tones, including skins tones, smooth pearl, birds of paradise … the list goes on. The reason I found this app very pleasant is because it doesn’t try and prescribe any solution. There is no information to fill in beforehand, it is just a calming and focusing distraction that is creative and gives a sense of completion.

Other apps worth a mention: Breathe, Feely, Pacifica

Tablets and education

Ayrshire College recently added to its stock of tablet computers with 30 new iPads to support learning and teaching across the College through the Learning Resource Centres on the three main campuses. The Learning Technologies team will be providing training in the practical use of the iPads, as well as how each curriculum area can use them for excellence in learning and teaching. Learning Technologist Bill Lennox explains.

Rise of the machine

In recent years information and communication technologies (ICT) have gained significant ground, both in the day-to-day lives of the young and not-so-young, and in schools and colleges around the world. Indeed, many believe they are the future of education. According to some experts technology has transformed society from top to bottom and changed public expectations on what education systems should deliver and how.

The use of conventional computers like laptops and netbooks is well established in schools and colleges, with a considerable body of literature to confirm their value and impact. Although the integration of tablet devices such as the iPad is still very much at the innovation stage, there is already published research on the impact of these devices on learning and teaching which demonstrates the benefits and innovative practice engendered.

In barely a handful of years, the tablet has appeared in educational establishments around the world as no previous innovation has succeeded in doing. The exact figures are difficult to pin down, but it is certainly the case that the integration of tablets into education is proceeding at an exponentially faster rate than previous technological advances like the personal computer. In the UK, around 70% of primary and secondary schools use tablet computers, and almost 10% have an individual tablet for every pupil. Around the world, several countries have introduced individual tablets for every pupil at every school. Statistics like these are rising all the time with more and more schools and colleges introducing tablets in one way or another.

Benefit of tablets

To see why tablets are enjoying such a meteoric rise in education, we need only look at the academic research which has been undertaken on their use and the many benefits identified, eg iPad Scotland Evaluation. A University of Cambridge study provides evidence that they help to motivate pupils who might otherwise be disengaged.

A separate study from the National Literacy Trust and Pearson suggests that tablets are particularly useful in helping students from deprived backgrounds improve their literacy skills more effectively than other traditional methods.

Several studies, including one from Bond University in Australia, have shown that using tablet computers increases student motivation in class and lectures. A large number of the studies from institutions such as MIT, the University of Hong Kong and the University of the West of Scotland have also shown that the use of tablets supports student learning and performance, as well as improving computer literacy skills. Even more significant benefits have been shown in studies which focus on the impact of tablets for students with learning difficulties or additional support needs (see University of Madrid study).

These benefits, and more, are driving the expansion of the tablet in education. At Ayrshire College, the Learning Technologies team looks forward to supporting our students and staff with the use of this powerful educational tool.

If you want to find out more, check out this literature review on the use of tablets in education.


Using the latest technology to support learning

In the second in a series of posts from Ayrshire College’s Learning Technology team, Michael Robertson explains why it is important to test out new technologies to provide a high quality learning experience for students.

Emerging Learning Technologies

At Ayrshire College, we are always striving for the best solutions to support excellence in learning and teaching. Our role as Learning Technologists is to assess and develop lasting solutions to digital challenges, and share these in a way that is accessible to both lecturers and students. While our day-to-day focus is on maintaining and training students and staff in the application of the Moodle virtual learning environment, we also work with other current and emerging technologies.


Mobile Development

At the moment, we are using devices for app development, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and designing college tools like the Moodle site to be mobile friendly. In regards to apps we have 3 piloted ideas currently underway. Our main project is working with the Learning Resources Centre (LRC) to develop a mobile app that will start as a Google Maps style tour, where students can use a bird’s eye view of the College to navigate and find out information about key areas around the campus. The intention is to integrate this into a fully realised 3D world of the campuses and allow students to navigate this using a personalised avatar.

Other proposed projects involve using Augmented Reality for tours and induction with things like QR and AR codes to allow placement of information points and interactive elements throughout the real world. Augmented Reality is about blending the real world into the digital world via device features such as cameras and gyro/accelerometers.

The last project in mobile is working with on-site students to allow them to report back to lecturers and integrate their logs (photos, notes, etc) into a centralised form that the lecturer can mark and assess without either having to report in person.

Unreal Engine 4 – Gamification

At the other end of the scale, we are using high-end software development tools, in the form of Unreal Engine 4, to develop more engaging software for “gamifying” education and its support for learning. This allows us to use a wealth of advanced graphical technologies that can be optimised for limited resource machines to top-end gaming rigs and even mobile devices.

Gamification is not a new thing but it is not widely understood. Essentially, it takes the concept of setting objectives and rewards, then putting these into a setting that aids learning and engagement of a topic or tool.

An example we already have on the College’s Moodle site is Level up! and Achievements which give the users rewards for usage of Moodle and their courses/units.

The Future

With a look to the future, we are working with other technologies such as immersive experiences using Virtual Reality and Abstract interfacing. This uses motion/spatial data and gestures to allow for controller-less interactions with software and devices whilst providing a believable environment for the users. We believe that we should assess technologies for the benefit of everyone in a learning environment and work towards reaping these benefits as soon as we can.


Bringing assessment up-to-date with the ways people learn

Ayrshire College’s new look learning technology team has been working with Hospitality curriculum staff to introduce eAssessment into SVQ qualifications through the virtual learning environment Moodle.

One of the team, Stuart Milligan, describes a pilot project which aims to showcase these online assessments to other curriculum areas in the College, and highlight the ease and efficiency in how they are prepared and used.

Why use e-Assessment?

When we think about traditional and current assessment methods, is there really any justification for just doing what we’ve always done? We now perform daily tasks like banking, shopping, communicating, watching TV and taking photos using devices at our fingertips. Yet many still think education can’t be digitised. Well, we know it can!

Another reason for going digital is to be considerate of the environment by reducing our carbon footprint. And a college can make a difference by saving paper through eAssessment! Look at how much paper is saved by our hospitality students alone –

40 students x 15 assessments x 5 sheets of paper per assessment = 3000 sheets of paper!

Before and after! Hospitality Lecturer Graham Headland with Learning Technologist Stuart Milligan

How will e-Assessment benefit students?

Lecturer Graham Headland said “Using Moodle is a simple way of bringing assessment up-to-date with the way of studying. Students are embracing Moodle. From my point of view, I have no big folders to mark – all assessments are in the one place, they are easier to track and they are available 24/7. Ultimately, it gives our students more time where they want to be – in the kitchen!”

Hospitality students will benefit through e-Assessment in many ways, including –

Receiving results quicker – Moodle’s ability to automatically mark answers means that students can receive their results without having to wait for their lecturer to mark their (and everyone else’s) assessments.

Quicker feedback – Students will receive feedback on correct and incorrect answers almost immediately after receiving their marks. Wouldn’t that be handy for identifying areas that you might need to improve on? Have you ever queried a wrong answer and had to patiently wait to speak to your lecturer for an explanation? With eAssessments you don’t have to.

Available on mobile devices – Just as Moodle can be accessed on mobile devices, so too can online assessments. Who would have thought that education could be at your fingertips after all?

Colleges Innovation through Technology – eAssessment (CIT-EA) project

Ayrshire College is working in partnership with City of Glasgow College on a JISC-funded project that aims to identify and address barriers to the uptake of eAssessment.

The CIT-EA project aims to drive future development through a sector wide eAssessment implementation plan, piloting this year with HN Business. Two members of staff will take part in the project and they have exciting plans for rolling it out to lecturers across the College and place us at the cutting edge of eAssessment in the college sector.

Watch this space for more exciting news on learning with technology at Ayrshire College!