Alan J. Cann and his able assistant Socky

October 30, 2007


Doug introduces Alan

Alan J. Cann – Embracing Web 2.0: online video – beyond entertainment

Alan is introduced by Doug Clow – although Alan doesn’t seem quite sure about this.

He begins by asking if anybody saw him at ALT-C in Nottingham this year and can confirm that his slides are original and not lifted from John Seely Brown’s slides as many of them are very similar. How disconcerting to watch your presentation go before your eyes when listening to the keynote speaker. NOW I remember where I’ve seen him before. I met him in Nottingham.

Actually, I think I didn’t just meet him. I think I saw him present and he talked about podcasts and the sock puppet called Socky that he created which his students really liked.

He’s talking about his blogs in terms of reusable learning objects. Usage seems to go up with time, with people visiting and revisiting his blog posts that contain basic information in text form, images, an embedded audio podcast and links out to other resources. It wasn’t designed as a reusable learning object but this seems to be the way it has been developed.

He’s now talking about the maths and statistics course that he teaches at Leicester with the Long Tail graph displayed. Many students score very highly – these are biology students and traditionally they don’t like maths but the have to do it because of the statistics they need to manipulate when they collect their data. Come on Socky, make your appearance. I remember Socky was for biology students studying maths.

He took over this maths course and at the time, the majority of the students failed. He decided that this needed to change. This course could not be a barrier. It needed to be an enabling, confidence building course for students who often felt inadequate in maths.

Now he redisplays the graph showing students at the lower end as plankton and at the top end as a happy linux penguin. Very amusing. Spends most of his time with the plankton. Asks himself if he can leverage the time he’s spend on his blog to enable him to adjust the way he spent his time with his students.

So he created a podcast.

Mentions that push delivery subscription model via RSS is a barrier to access, with the majority preferring the click and download model (pull rather than push). This is not a problem with the microbiology blog where people can access information as they want.

He’s a very engaging presenter. I do remember his presentation quite well. I think the title was a bit different, but much of the content is similar, but it is just as enjoyable second time round which is nice. He’s now talking about lonelygirl15 – the video podcast. Socky the sock puppet must be just around the corner….

Aha, there is socky. He asked students how many had listened to podcasts and came up with 10%. But nearly 100% had viewed videos. So this was clearly the medium of choice to reach this market. He has a resistance to “talking head” videos so these have about 15sec of talking head at the beginning. The rest are mainly screen shots of stats with voice over to show people how to use software to perform these tests. He was worried that they might find this a bit condescending but apparently they thought that he might be condescending and suggested that he leave the video but keep Socky in. They listen to Socky, but they don’t listen to him.

Alan and Socky

Just click on the image to see a larger version of the slide which shows Socky and Alan. 

Nevertheless, very accessible and acceptable to the students. Video is clearly the place to be with almost 100% takeup of the video podcasts.

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6 Responses to “Alan J. Cann and his able assistant Socky”

  1. James Says:

    Can we see Socky please?

  2. Gill Says:

    I’m just uploading it 🙂

  3. Juliette Says:

    When I taught maths to engineers, I showed some of them the MathTutor videos which some of them absolutely loved – students who never opened a textbook went away and watched every video. As far as I remember, most of the video was actually of a large piece of paper (or equivalent) with somebody writing on it and explaining what they were doing, which was a very deliberate decision I recall and the result of much experimenting with different formats.


  4. […] me to replicate all that here. The sessions I found most interesting were… John Seely Brown, Alan Cann, Erik Duval, Ray Corrigan and Tony […]


  5. […] me to replicate all that here. The sessions I found most interesting were… John Seely Brown, Alan Cann, Erik Duval, Ray Corrigan and Tony […]


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