Archive for September, 2008

RSS in plain English

September 25, 2008

rss diceWe discovered this wonderful YouTube video explaining how to get started with RSS. 

It’s just under 4 minutes long and really simply suggests what RSS is all about and how it saves you time.

Fun, easy and rapid.  Sounds a bit like Learning Pool!

See the CommonCraft’s show on RSS in plain English



It’s only rock’n’roll

September 19, 2008

Minus JackSome of you know me. I am often heard shouting about all things e-learning here at Kirklees Council but when I am not doing that I spend most of my time looking after my son’s band (managing is a far too grand a term).  


I would never have guessed that in my mid 40’s I would be a roadie, booking agent, promoter and all round taxi.  But the highs are worth all the time and stress, not to mention the money. 


This group of 16 year olds have already been featured on Radio 1’s Annie Mac show and opened for Ash.


Because of my connections with the band I have now drifted into setting up gigs for under 18 bands in my local area which again is a challenge but very rewarding. Believe me, getting groups of teenagers to turn up at the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment is a project management task to rival any I have had at work.


 What does any of this have to do with Learning Pool? Well, it’s all about making connections and sharing.


None of the work I do with the bands would be possible without Web 2.0 and social networks like MySpace. MySpace allows me to find young bands (and for them to find me), find venues, find events etc.


When it comes to promoting events the council are not too keen on people pasting posters around the town but with MySpace I can circulate posters to groups of people who,  in turn, can put them on their pages or send them out. I can help new bands who aren’t so sure of how to get gigs, find rehearsal space or whatever because, if I don’t have the answer, someone in my circle of friends will.


And that’s also what I love about the Learning Pool ethos. If you have a question then it’s likely that someone out there has an answer and, usually, you get more than one answer. We are all in similar areas of work with very similar goals so it make sense to pool that knowlege.


As I said, it’s all about making connections and sharing.


Oh, and if your interested (or have connections in relevant areas) then my son’s band is called Minus Jack and can be found at


Chris Allan
Kirklees Council 


“Taxi …. ?”

September 17, 2008


How to spot whether the car you’re getting into is a taxi:

  1. there won’t be a car booster seat on the back seat
  2. if the driver tell’s you he’s not a taxi driver, he’s not
  3. it shouldn’t be parked in a disabled driver’s parking bay
  4. it shouldn’t have a disabled driver’s blue badge in the window
  5. the driver won’t set off, despite you giving him clear destination details

Learning Pool team members – you know who you are ………………

Is RSS really so simple?

September 17, 2008

RSSI often find myself talking to people about technology and increasingly it feels like people don’t have a clue what I’m talking about! I’m trying hard not to take this personally and instead, I’m blaming the technology for this phenomenon. Put simply… there’s just too much of it!

In order to right this wrong I thought I’d give my own (unique and possibly inaccurate) take on what some of the technology out there is and how it can be used. I’ll start with an easy one… RSS.

Except it’s not so easy given that the technology is one that doesn’t even have an agreed name! I’ve heard it called Real Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary and even Remote Site Syndication but the upshot of it is that RSS is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

The key thing for me with RSS is that it is ‘opt in’ technology so that you can decide what content you would like to see, rather than relying on marketing departments blanket bombing you with what they want you to know. You pick and choose.

With RSS you can decide that you want the latest news from the BBC, plus the stock market quotations for your top 10 stocks (maybe not a great idea these days!) pushed to your desktop on an hourly, weekly or daily basis. That means that when you want to ‘top up’ on information, you just go to your desktop, email client or web browser and its all there.

So far RSS sounds a bit geeky and I have to confess that for a long time I struggled to see the point of it but these days I use iGoogle and have all sorts of RSS feeds that I’ve chosen ‘feeding’ me every day. This means that rather than browsing 10 or so sites every day, I get the top information from each and sift through it in seconds.

At Learning Pool we’re excited about RSS. With our brand new website you can subscribe to an RSS feed for our latest news as well as our latest blog.  This means that you can stay current on what is happening at Learning Pool and make the very best use out of your subscription.

So how would I use RSS if I were working in a council? 

Well, I would use it to add value to my communications. Let’s face it the hardest thing is getting eyeballs online so anything that reminds those eyeballs that you are still there has got to help. If it were me I’d have RSS feeds on the corporate intranet (I’d also talk to IT about pushing these onto people’s web browsers without them knowing!). I’d also have RSS feeds coming into my Learning Pool DLE to ‘liven’ it up a bit and then I’d run competitions where people can only know the answer if they’ve seen the feed.

Once I’ve got people using it, I’d be communicating everything I was doing about new courses, new e-learning, workshops and mentoring to my users and watching my usage go through the roof!

Want to know more?   Check out wikipedia and What is RSS? and, of course, our own FAQ’s.

Next entry on demystifying technology will be on WIKIs – but only if you comment on this one… so get typing!


We’re on the radio!

September 11, 2008

We’re thrilled to be featured in the latest Public Sector HR podcast from the fab team at Prized People

Billed as the online radio show for People Managers in the Public Sector, this is a wonderful resource featuring monthly shows on topics such as employee engagement, customer service and how HR leaders can add value to their organisations.

Show #011: E-Learning

Posted using ShareThis

Thank goodness we’re still here!

September 10, 2008

black holeWorking at Learning Pool I never thought I would be sat writing an article that mentioned particle physics, but two days are never the same so here goes …


Well, we all survived the switch on of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN today, despite the scaremongering that the world would end and a black hole would open in the earth. Although the long tunnel coming out of Birmingham New Street station could almost be classed as a black hole, sort of.


I’m not able to explain the full details of the research that CERN is carrying out, but I’m sure that it will be ground breaking.


We do have to thank them for the invention of the World Wide Web By Tim Berners-Lee back in 1989. The way we use the web has changed radically over the years, to the point that it’s hard to imagine life without it.


So here we are in 2008 and there’s much talk about Web 2.0 or Web 2 technologies. So what exactly does that mean?


I found this explanation from Wikipedia useful, “Web 2.0 is a living term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web.”


For the elearning community there are some challenges ahead to make the best use of these. Engaging learners and allowing collaboration are just two ways of making use Web 2 technologies.


If you are subscribing to the Learning Pool DLE you already have these tools at your disposal, at no extra cost. So you can make use of the forums, wikis, blogs and other functionality in your DLE.


If you need more help contact you account manager or ring our customer support desk on  0845 174 1101 or email


Now, where did I put those super conducting magnets?



HMS President – revisited

September 5, 2008

Way back in the summer of love and happenings, or 1966 to be precise, I became probably the youngest Royal Naval Reservist (RNR) in the UK at the tender age of 16½.   

The London Division of the RNR was based on HMS President, berthed on the River Thames, a former decoy vessel of WW1 vintage.


As a lowly rating (my specialisation was communications – strange that I ended up in Learning & Development), we drilled once a week on a Tuesday and changed from our civvies into naval uniform on HMS Chrysanthemum, which was berthed a short march along the Victoria Embankment to HMS President.


So my return, 42 years later for a Learning Pool extravaganza, brought the memories of that summer flooding back. 


The main deck of the ship has been changed to reflect its current use as a venue and on the lower deck is now offices for start up businesses.  This meant that the familiar round portholes had been replaced by large, panoramic windows with great views of the Thames and its surroundings. 


 Another change was that in 1966 as a junior I was not entitled to the rum ‘tot’ but, of course, that obviously did not apply in 2008 as Learning Pool provided a free bar.


My evening was complete as the current operations manager of the company that now owns the President gave me a guided tour of the ship.  I even visited places that, as a non-commissioned rating, were out of bounds.


My lips must remain sealed on my ‘experiences’ as I am still bound by the Official Secrets Act, but listen very carefully I can only say this once…


Colin Smith, LB Bexley

Summer BBQ – with sunshine!

September 5, 2008

Who’d have thought it?  We actually got a sunny day, albeit a windy, blowy one, for our Summer BBQ this week.  Paul donned an apron and flipped some burgers, team Learning Pool gave it’s new purple t-shirts an outing and everyone sampled the blue cocktails. 

Oh – and the huge Learning Pool birthday cake stayed at home in Derry. That’s because me, Emily and Andrew were left stranded at the airport when our flight was cancelled.  Problem with the cockpit computer, apparently.  Not something to be fixed in a jiffy, anyway.

It was a bit like a Steve Martin film when we realised our original travel wasn’t going to plan – planes, trains and automobiles were all considered.  But it wasn’t to be.  Lesson #1?  Always get the earliest flight you can to give you options if something goes wrong.

What a kerfuffle we all had, trying to replace the stuff the Marketing team were bringing over.  Name badges (diligently prepared by Andrew the afternoon before), colour copies of literature, hand outs, registration forms, camcorder, cameras and cake – all in our bags.  All packed up but nowhere to go. 

We were so disappointed not to go to the party.  Emily’s arms were aching from carrying the 20″ inch (and 20lb) cake flat the whole time, from car to check in and through security (where it was x-rayed and safely kept from the staff who all wanted a slice).

But the show went on, thanks in no small part to the wonderful and fantastic staff at HMS President, our lovely moored ship on the Thames.  Gillian, Chris and the rest of the team at HMS President take a bow (pardon the pun) – you were fantastic and went above and beyond the call of duty.  Lesson #2?  Always choose a good supplier, one who steps up the mark when the going gets tough and who you can depend on.

But it was a great event.  The tables we had on DLE, Authoring, Content development and Member development drew the crowds (thank you to the hosts – you know who you are).  And the networking over cocktails and the barbeque was informative and fun, as always.

Learning Pool cakeAnd the cake? 

It made it back to the office in one piece where it was admired for a bit, and then eaten.  It was delicious.