BBC WebWise Social Media Basics Course

The Social Media Basics online course has been introduced into the BBC WebWise learning resources.  I have used and recommended the BBC online e-learning resources numerous times throughout the years within my work, including WebWise for IT / computer use, Skillswise for Skills for Life in Literacy and Numeracy as well as the RaW campaign to assist with Reading and Writing.

This latest addition is a welcome update as an advocate for Social Media / Networking and will allow learners to understand the various benefits and uses of the Social Media services available as well as the safety and privacy aspects.  I have delivered tutor-led awareness sessions as an introduction to Social Media and this will be a useful resource to signpost learners to for additional resources as well as to complement existing course material.

The Social Media Basics course covers the following areas:

  • Introduction to social media
  • Get started with social networks
  • Communicating using social networks
  • Stay safe on social networks
  • Protect your privacy on social networks
  • Etiquette and libel on social networks
  • Share photos and videos with friends and family
  • Organise events with social networks
  • Join groups and pages, forums and clubs

The BBC WebWise Social Media Basics course can be accessed by clicking here.


Totnes Healthy Futures Project Community Garden

Whilst I was visiting Totnes recently I visited the Totnes Healthy Futures Project Community Garden located in Lamb Garden between Cistern Street and Leechwell Street.  The project and garden was created originally with an aim to help people with mental and phyiscal disabilities and difficulties.  The garden is maintained by volunteers and was funded by a variety of sources, including Greater Dartmoor Leaf (Local Enterprise Action Fund), Leatside Surgery, South Hams District Council and the Big Lottery Fund.  The project garden offers growing sessions providing volunteering opportunities, learning how to grow fruit and vegetables, physical exercise as well as heathly eating information.  During my visit a selection of vegetables, fruit and herbs were developing, including different varieties of mint (apple mint, moroccan mint, black peppermint and garden mint) (as pictured in the gallery below or by visiting my Flickr set).

Raised Vegetable Bed – the VegTrug

This blog post article discusses planning and introducing a raised vegetable bed to the garden.  I have been planning to add a raised vegetable bed to the garden for sometime now, but never had time to get around to doing this garden project as yet.

After considering the many possibilities, including making my own and visiting a selection of garden centres for possible raised bed products I stumbled upon the VegTrug.  Although raised bed products and kits aren’t a new idea, the VegTrug seems to have become a popular product in a short amount of time.  The VegTrug is an attractive wooden raised vegetable bed in a range of sizes.  Due to it being raised above the ground, it keeps produce away from slugs and snails.  The British firm behind the VegTrug has also introduced a few innovative ideas, such as an iPhone app, website offering growing ideas, pictures, videos and other relevant content as well as a Twitter feed which I feel adds value to the product and their brand in order to ensure you make full use of the VegTrug and to provide and share new fresh ideas through users contributing their comments.  I decided to use the VegTrug for the basis of my raised vegetable bed, however due to popularity the size I wanted was out of stock.  Therefore, I reserved one and now waiting for new stock to be delivered to the garden centre in the next few weeks.  Due to waiting for the VegTrug to arrive, I have been able to plan my vegetable bed.  The plan so far for the raised vegetable bed is as follows:

A selection of vegetables, salad, herbs and fruit will be grown, initially as listed below.

  • Strawberries in one or two corners, due to cascading over the side
  • A row of carrots in the middle due to more depth
  • Curly kale
  • Mint in another corner
  • Lettuce or other salad leaves
  • Radishes
  • Spring onions
  • Other possible additions: beetroot, cabbage and potatoes

It will be situated on a paved area and produce will be planted using a mix of seeds and from plants.  Previously I have grown vegetables, herbs such as mint and fruit separately in pots and containers.  However, the VegTrug will allow me to have a dedicated self-contained raised vegetable bed in the garden for growing a selection of homegrown produce.  Other benefits include easy maintenance and weeding as well as watering of the produce due to it being raised and a self-contained area.  It is also versatile as the produce grown can change depending on the seasons and if not required during a particular period could be used for planting flowers and plants as a decorative planter.  I’m excited about the new addition to the garden and can’t wait to install the VegTrug, plant the produce and for the first harvest.  I will post further blog updates and articles, including pictures in order to follow how the raised vegetable bed grows and develops as well as changes through the seasons.

Brake Farm Community Resource Centre Blog Launched

I have recently launched a blog in relation to where I work in order to provide existing and potential learners, members of the community, trustees, staff as well as other interested individuals with news, updates, information and other articles about Brake Farm Community Resource Centre in Crownhill, Plymouth.

The blog can be viewed at:

A variety of other social media / networking services have also been utilised and linked to the blog, including a Flickr Photostream / Gallery, which provides a range of pictures from activities at the centre.  Ultimately, the blog and other social media features will continue to develop offering a rich interactive method of communication.

The blog and subsequent blog post articles should represent a useful communication and promotional tool, enabling a variety of benefits including keeping people up-to-date with the latest news, events and activities at Brake Farm Community Resource Centre.  The blog and blog posts will cover a range of areas about the centre, learning related activities and other events, featuring a variety of content including information, pictures, links and other media such as video clips.

Social Media Networking Learning Session

This blog post discusses the Social Media / Networking learning session I recently delivered as part of a research project.  The sessions delivered had an aim to increase learner’s IT literacy skills through utilising Social Media as the vehicle to develop IT skills and at the same time introduce Social Media / Networking topics, skills, knowledge and understanding.  Learners were able to become informed about the various Social Media sites available and benefits as well as the meaning of the various jargon and terms associated with Social Media.

The sessions allowed learners to learn the essentials, providing a taster to explore further if desired.  Through participating, learners were able to gain confidence, develop their skills, knowledge and understanding of both general computer use and Social Media.  Activities included communicating via different Social Media / Networking platforms and services, editing profile information, registering own accounts if desired, searching for people or groups of interest, searching for topics of interest, adding people as well as sending tweets and messages.

During the sessions, Facebook, Twitter, Google Maps, Street View and Skype were used for a variety of reasons, including work and personal interest such as sharing recipes, saving money, keeping up-to-date with the latest news and general communication with family and friends.  Learners were able to become familiar with Social Media terminology and see the relevance for their life.

A summary of the sessions are below:

Session 1: Introduction to Social Media tools and services (discussion), benefits of Social Media, introduction to Facebook and demonstration, introduce and discuss Twitter, Twitter activity (communicating via Twitter, find and add other group members, guess which group member by asking questions via sending messages), Twitter basics (tweets, retweet, hash tags), activity (search using keywords, find people of interest, search for topic(s) of interest / interest groups), upload picture, conclusion (terms / glossary / definitions, discussion point / questions)

Session 2: Introduce session objectives via Skype video conferencing, recap previous session, introduce VOIP services, Skype activity (instant messaging, video call), introduce and demonstrate Google Earth / Street View, activity (find and explore places of interest)

Session 3: Introduce session, recap previous session, saving money using the Internet, activity (find vouchers or sites relevant to needs), saving time using the Internet, activity (route planner, maps), conclusion and recap of sessions

Following the sessions, outcomes and findings included learners found sessions enjoyable, were motivated to move on to further learning or courses, felt confident to use IT and computers, although at first learners thought it may not be of interest and were reluctant about Social Media.  Throughout the sessions, learners could see the benefit and relevance of using Social Media, which encouraged them to register and use Social Media as they had a genuine reason to use it since having it explained, demonstrated and trying it themselves.  Other comments included “these sessions have really given me genuine reasons to use Social Media…”, “I spend enough time on the computer already and now this means I’ll be on it more!”, “this has given me the motivation to go on to further computer courses” and “I will be registering an account as soon as I get home”.

In conclusion, the sessions were successful in effectively using Social Media as a teaching and learning tool to deliver sessions covering Social Media / Networking concepts and activities as well as increasing IT / computer skills through utilising Social Media as the vehicle to develop IT and Internet skills.  The session objectives were made relevant to their needs and life in order to understand how Social Media tools and services could be useful as well as being able to gain, practice and improve computer and Internet skills.

An example of a few of the Tweets sent during the session are included below:

HP Palm WebOS Announcement: Future Revealed

The waiting is nearly over with less than ten days remaining until HP Palm’s big announcement(s) on 9th February, I thought I would take a nostalgic look back over my usage of Palm devices, Palm’s history and look forward to what possibilities could be available very shortly.

I have used Palm devices for over 10 years, initially using a Palm m505, then a Palm Tungsten T3 and TX.  All of these devices were PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), which used various versions of the original Palm OS operating system.  Since it was launched in the UK, I now use a Palm Pre, which is a smartphone.

When reflecting on the older Palm PDA devices, I used them for various reasons including personal and work activities.  The main features I utilised were for PIM (Personal Information Management), for example: calendar appointments, contacts, memos and notes.  I would use the devices for various other activities including accessing the Internet, playing games, listening to music, watching video clips and using a range of installed applications.  In the later TX model, I was able to use this for GPS Satellite Navigation in addition to the above uses.  Throughout using all of the devices, I enjoyed the convenience of being able to use a portable, handheld device in order to access, view, create and edit information, the ability to sync information between the device and Palm Desktop on my computer using the cradle or cable.  Just like the cradle with older Palm devices, the Pre uses a Touchstone dock, allowing the phone to charge wirelessly using inductive technology.

The Palm Pre uses the Palm webOS operating system.  Some of the main benefits of webOS are the multi-tasking capability, notifications of updates and messages (calendar appointments, text messages, emails and other alerts), ability to synchronise various online accounts (email, contacts, calendars and others including Facebook, Twitter etc) to the phone as well as a modern user interface.  The main method of interacting with older Palm PDAs was using a stylus, however with the Palm webOS devices they use natural finger gestures via the touch screen, like other modern mobile phones.  Multi-touch actions are also supported to allow you to zoom in and out of pictures for example.  In addition to the touch screen, the Pre has a QWERTY keyboard that slides out, due to being a slide type phone.

Another difference between Palm OS and webOS is the multi-tasking ability, whereas previously you would have to go in and out of applications.  With webOS you can multi-task being able to go between several open apps at once with each application being displayed within a “card” concept.  The webOS operating system is updated via automatic OTA (over-the-air) updates when necessary, allowing new features, applications as well as other improvements.

Throughout using all Palm devices, I continually use them throughout the day, everyday in my personal and work life for various tasks including contacts, appointments, alarms, reminders and typing notes allowing me to access information and complete tasks quickly and easily without the need of a computer, especially somewhere when computer access isn’t possible.

In relation to the upcoming HP Palm announcment, I imagine HP Palm has been busy behind the scenes preparing new devices, webOS updates as well as other new features and products in preparation for the big “Think Beyond” event on 9th February.  This is reinforced by the various leaks, rumours and duration since there has been a new device or significant webOS update released.

As a long time Palm user, I’m personally looking forward in anticipation to a selection of new devices in a range of form factors, such as phones, tablets / slates for the different needs of the users.  I also look forward to other improvements, such as new innovative features in webOS updates, new apps, faster performance as well as improved battery life.

The announcement(s) that HP Palm will be revealing in just over a week will hopefully represent the biggest announcements of what will be coming very soon and in the near future in terms of their roadmap for devices, webOS, accessories and other updates.

Featured in Plymouth Herald Newspaper – Beginner Computer Courses

Featured in Plymouth Herald newspaper on 8th January 2011 regarding the latest beginner computer course opportunities offered for the New Year.  The course activities are part of the latest UK Online Centres Go ON – get more out of life online campaign.  To view the article go to: or click on the screenshot below.

What I love most about HP Palm is…

What I love most about HP Palm is…that you can get on with life!  Whether for personal or business use and even when you have access to a computer to do something, sometimes it’s easier and quicker to get the task done from your HP Palm WebOS phone due to it’s innovative features and apps ready to instantly launch.  For example, the effortless and intuitive user interface, instant access to email, multi-tasking between applications, notifications alerting you of new messages or updates.

Having a HP Palm phone is especially important in places where you don’t have access to a computer but need to get something done, like send an important email as the resources and information you need is available at your fingers!  Also, with some devices it is difficult to be able to do anything, whereas with HP Palm you can complete multiple tasks: such as search for a Christmas gift online, find the best, order it, receive an email notification and read the email confirmation.  Finally, the only part that doesn’t involve your HP Palm phone is sitting back and relaxing whilst waiting for the gift to be delivered!  However, whilst you are relaxing you could play a game or listen to some music on your device!

Although the latest HP Palm phones use the WebOS operating system, which is completely different than the previous Palm OS existence, the HP Palm principles, features and benefits remain the same: innovative features and technology, focus on the user experience as well as incorporating the latest features of today, such as Flash content and social networking apps.

Sometimes you even forget it’s a phone too!  But for a multitude of simple tasks and activities like calls and managing contacts and calendars, then this can be done easily as well.  Also with features utilising cloud services, this further releases the dependence on using a computer and allows you to sync your information without a computer for backup purposes and to access via online accounts.

Another feature is the App Catalog, enabling access to a selection of constantly updated applications to download and use, such as games, tools and various software for playing music or Internet radio stations, editing photos, checking the status of trains and planes and checking the weather.  This enables users to expand their HP Palm experience and productivity even further.  Another example is the Poster app, enabling you to access, create and edit blog posts and content, which is what I used to publish this blog post you’re reading.  Other features, like over-the-air updates add new features to make it even better and faster as well as important updates to ensure your HP Palm WebOS device doesn’t get left behind.

Whatever reason, whether for business or pleasure, whatever time of the year, wherever you are and whatever you need to do, you can be reassured you’ll be able to do it on a HP Palm phone or device.  Due to the above, a HP Palm smartphone is the ultimate handheld device as it’s so powerful, productive, innovative, quick and useful, that it’s difficult to get on with life without one!

Updated Plymouth Page

I have updated the Plymouth page on my site, which features useful information about Plymouth.  I’ve been meaning to update the page for a while and have removed old content and integrated widgets to display news and information from a variety of sources.  For example, a weather forecast for Plymouth, news from my Twitter Plymouth News list stream (consisting of various sources of news and information) and embedded pictures of Plymouth and South West from my Flickr photo set.  The page provides the above Plymouth information directly on one page, enabling visitors to access several aspects in one place as well as the content automatically updating.

Hopefully, learners, colleagues, friends, family and other users of the site will find the updated page useful.  Access the Plymouth page through the main drop down menu available on the site:

Advances in Digital Camera Features

There has been many developments in technology over the past few years that have contributed to the advancement of digital cameras, resulting in new features being introduced.  Although, you might have thought that digital cameras already possessed a variety of useful features, tools and didn’t need any additional functions, some of the latest options are useful and explored within this article.  Over time, aspects such as picture quality, memory, speed and battery life have naturally increased, as you would expect due to advances in technology.

The following lists some of the latest developments and features that have been built into digital cameras:

  • Social Networking integration – Social Media upload function (such as the ability to upload pictures to a photo sharing site like Flickr or a video to YouTube, depending on the manufacturer / model, other social media services are supported)
  • High Definition / HD quality (both for picture and video content)
  • 3D photos (leading on from HD, another new feature is 3D technology, useful for recording panoramas, people and objects)
  • Touch screen (greater emphasis on integrating and using touch screen technology instead of buttons to reduce size of camera and remove the need to add certain buttons and dials)
  • Face detection improvements (ability to register, tag and save faces of friends and family)
  • Blog cameras (some manufacturers have introduced cameras in a pocket size format specifically with bloggers in mind for recording video blogs)
  • Panorama sweep mode (instead of previously taking several seperate shots, the camera now has the ability to take one single sweep and automatically stitch the pictures together)
  • Front LCD panel (useful for taking self-portrait shots and on some camera models, ability to display a smiley face to ensure children smile)
  • Built-in GPS (to record location details and automatically geotag photos)
  • Better quality and advanced camera functions incorporated into camera phones and smartphones

There are other features that have recently been added to digital cameras and in the future, there will be more new functions introduced and current features enhanced.  However, the list above represents what I feel to be the most significant and useful developments in recent times in digital camera technologies.

The latest features explored above have been incorporated into my existing course – Using a Digital Camera and Digital Imaging.  This course introduces learners to digital cameras and digital imaging.  For more information, please visit: