Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Good and Bad

Sarah Claus's "Good and Bad" Christmas list


Flickr - just love it! People's creativity and willingness to share / connect with others continues to amaze me
Twitter - chat-worthy, news-worthy, people-worthy... service flaky, but hey... nothing's perfect
Blogger - nothing like having somewhere to plop the entire contents of your brain every so often
Google Reader - fantastic RSS goodness, nice little improvements throughout the year - what's not to like?
Google Scholar - the nerdy version of Google search - makes academic searching a joined up process - hooray!
Google - okay, most stuff Google has continued to be pretty groovy. Google Calendar, GMail, Google Notebook, iGoogle... I'm a Google trollop, it's true. Yes, they do look like they're going to swallow up the world on occasion... but what's a little world-swallowing between friends?
Delicious - social bookmarking - why bookmark locally? Share the love!
Online document editing - Zoho, Google Docs... loving your portable office-style goodness. Making your working world portable is easier than ever. An internet connection and you're away.
Netbooks - I love my little Asus Eee pc. My days of trying to get a laptop to act like a desktop are done. A netbook bridges the gap without pretending to be something it's not. Rocking!
iPods - mobile learning-tastic! I've moved about a fair bit this year whilst finishing off my Masters degrees... and being able to put audio /video materials on my iPod has been superb

Your stockings will be bulging with well-deserved loveliness


SecondLife - I know, I know... I know it has lots of merits... but it failed, again, to win me over. It doesn't win over the media, it doesn't win over the majority, it doesn't win over me.
Microsoft - okay, not exactly bad... but haven't set the web 2.0 world on fire this year either. I even opted for Linux instead of Windows on my netbook - and the world didn't cave in either.
VLEs - Blackboard, Moodle, WebCT and the like... enjoy the burning embers that were the educational fire you failed to set alight. "Jack of all trades, master of none" isn't a great place to position yourself... will be interested to see how the monolithic VLE copes with 2009.
iPhones - expensive and still needs to prove that it's more than hype and hysteria. Not getting the iPhone frenzy... but then... *whisper*... I'm not really a big mobile phone fan either.
iTunes - yes, I love my iPod, but I don't like iTunes. I hate that feeling of being sucked into the big Apple machine when I connect my iPod to my computer. Not rational, but I don't care... Who said Christmas lists needed to be rational? :o)
Usernames and passwords - OpenID. 'Kay? Let's just accept that I cannot possibly remember all of my username and passwords, pop them in the bin and go for the OpenID approach. I'd really like that, y'know.

A lump of coal will await you all tomorrow morning. Let's start afresh next year, huh?

Stuff hovering between lists

Facebook - definitely not as 'hot' as it was for those of us who like bright shiny things, but has settled into an everyday use... which is a plus point
Linux - I want to embrace your open source goodness, honestly I do... but the geek-factor is still a little overwhelming even if you and I co-exist happily on a daily basis via my Asus Eee pc
Beta services - please stop enticing me to sign up and then disappearing into the ether. You and I both know I'm addicted to new sparkly stuff... give me at least a little chance to enjoy your offerings. Please?

For you, I give the gift of an e-mailed gift voucher. The gift that says, 'yeah, I remembered, but I didn't remember in time or care enough to think deeply about your present'. Set my world alight a little more next year and we'll review the gift-giving where you're concerned.

Long tails and music sales

Most music didn't sell a single copy in 2008 | Music | "According to a new study, of the 13m songs available for sale on the internet last year, more than 10m failed to find a single buyer.

The research, conducted by the MCPS-PRS's Will Page and Andrew Bud, brings us that much closer to proving Sturgeon's Law – that 90% of everything is crap. It also provides evidence for the famous old rock critic adage – your favourite band sucks.

More importantly, these findings challenge the 'long tail' theory that diverse, specialised items – though individually less popular - will together outsell mainstream 'hits'.

Page is the chief economist at the MCPS-PRS Alliance, a not-for-profit royalty collection agency. According to his and Bud's research, 80% of all revenue came from about 52,000 tracks – the 'hits' that powered the music industry. Broken down by album, only 173,000 of the 1.23m available albums were ever purchased – leaving 85% without a single copy sold.

'I think people believed in a fat, fertile long tail because they wanted it to be true,' Mr Bud told the Times. 'The statistical theories used to justify that theory were intelligent and plausible. But they turned out to be wrong.'

'The relative size of the dormant 'zero sellers' tail was truly jaw-dropping,' Page emphasised."

Interesting! Will have to have a re-read of my copy of "The Long Tail" to see what I think about the above comment properly. I'd also like to see the figures in slightly more depth to give them a bit more context. One to mull over... in between getting ready for Christmas and all that good stuff! :o)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Netbytes: Small talk is the next big thing for the twittering classes | Technology | "When a plane slid off the runway in Denver on Sunday, Twitter users were among the first to hear about it, because someone who was on the plane sent a tweet – a Twitter message – that said: 'Holy fucking shit I was just in a plane crash!'

Twitter users were also among the first to hear about terrorist attacks in Mumbai, earthquakes in California, and Heath Ledger's death. And as more people sign up, there will more likely be Twitter users around whenever something newsworthy happens. It's like having a wire service with millions of reporters.

Twitter is a 'micro-blogging' service, but it's a more like a combination of instant messaging, social networking and SMS on steroids. You send messages with up to 140-characters, from either a PC or a mobile phone. But instead of going to a single person, they go to anyone who wants to listen: your followers. You, in turn, receive the messages sent by all the people you follow. The result is a stream of messages that you can dip into whenever you like."

Reasons why Twitter 'works'... even though at first glance you think it shouldn't.

PS No, I'm not going to predict that 2009 is going to be the year of Twitter. It may be, it may not be... but whatever happens, it's got some groovy uses and users... and it'll be interesting to see what gap next year's 'next big thing' tries to fill. Twitter does a good line in maintaining communication without making hard work of conversation when you're short of time. It taps into succinct ideas and is a near instant means of exploring an idea with your colleagues - no matter where your colleagues may be. It can range between a brief, thought-provoking discussion to being the text-based equivalent of a 'hi... you alright' nod to a friend. It spreads thoughts in a flash and it's damned useful, all things considered!

Twitter. It shouldn't work. But it does.

State of the Blogosphere reveals state of the Technosphere

Technorati: State of the Blogosphere 2008: "Global Snapshot of Bloggers
Global Snapshot of Bloggers
Demographics U.S. Bloggers (N=550) European Bloggers (N=350) Asian Bloggers (N=173)
Male 57% 73% 73%

Taken from the "State of the Blogosphere" report now available from Technorati. Have to admit to feeling marginally annoyed at them deciding to have a 'male' category at the top of the demographics section with no female group. Why? Why just male? What a strange choice to make. Or is it just indicative of the 'State of the Technosphere'? Would never think to have a category labelled 'female' and ignore the males... oh no...

Is it any wonder IT and the tech world is so male dominated when a major report on the blogosphere manages to leave off over half the world's population in terms of demographic analysis? Relegated to the 'gender' section goes any consideration of women's role in all this. Nice work, Technorati. *sigh*

Reflection is not just for Christmas

Why is it that only during the last couple of weeks of December any reflection takes place?  Summaries of the year.  Reviews of the last 12 months.  Predictions and comparisons.  That and stories about how to survive the Christmas season... because despite the fact that this time, every year, they publish the same stuff... we've all forgotten that there is no cure for a hangover, wrapping presents is a nightmare and if you didn't put your sprouts on to boil in August, there's really no hope for your Christmas day menu.

Seriously though, why don't we publicly reflect a little more?  How come it's only at this time of year that someone stopped the world and allowed us to have a think about the past 12 months? And how come it's felt that every 12 months is appropriate anyway?  Oh, questions, questions...

It appears that we're all about the 'big' reflection which takes place in December and then because we've reviewed the year, we feel happy to ignore it until... well... the next year when we put on our 'let's look back over the last 12 months' heads on again.  It's hard to reflect regularly and build that into what we do.  Why not try it though?  Seemingly now is a time of reviews and fresh starts - although that's half the problem - we attempt to start fresh rather than build on what's gone before.  So, reflect and continue reflecting throughout the year.  Reflection's not just for Christmas, y'know.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Open plan learning

I work in an open-plan office... and for the most part, it works absolutely fine. I have my colleagues nearby if I want to chat about a particular issue and there's a buzz of general activity which is kinda nice. Unplanned opportunities to share things in an informal way are readily available and it can be really productive...


And you knew there was a but...

When I need to really concentrate. To shut everything out, get my head down and do some writing or research, then the bubble of activity around me is horribly distracting. It's a struggle to be productive when I just think quietly about something. My only means of shutting it out is to go find a quiet space to work in, or plug myself into iPod land.

I wonder to myself if the collaborative, constructive spaces in which we increasingly expect students to learn don't offer enough of those quiet places to work. Sometimes the buzz which is all around is hard to shut out and though it's really important to be able to tune in, it's also really important to tune out occasionally. It's one of the reasons I like Twitter, I think. I love that it's there if I need it... but that it doesn't matter if I don't use it for a little bit because it's a kind of involvement without attachment.

I guess that we live in an open plan world these days. We're potentially connected every second of every day. Quiet spaces are still necessary though. Here's to switching off, guilt-free. Here's to people designing courses and recognising the value of not always 'doing'. Here's to a little time and space, once in a while.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Flexibility in education... as in traditional media

The Medium - Content and Its Discontents - "People who work in traditional media and entertainment ought either to concentrate on the antiquarian quality of their work, cultivating the exclusive audience of TV viewers or magazine readers that might pay for craftsmanship. Or they should imagine that they are 19 again: spending a day on Twitter or following a recipe from a Mark Bittman video played on a refrigerator that automatically senses what ingredients are missing and texts an order to the grocery store (it will soon exist!). Then they should think about what content suits these new modes of distribution and could evolve in tandem with them. For old-media types, mental flexibility could be the No. 1 happiness secret we have been missing."
Substitute 'media' for 'education'... and this article is a thought-provoking one when it comes to thinking about educational change. At a conference a few weeks ago I heard someone arguing that we shouldn't be lead by students' preferences... if traditional lectures were good enough for us, they should be good enough for them. There was a definite sense of 'we know bestness' about it and, y'know what... it didn't rest particularly easy with me. A tendency to deride or refuse to accommodate other perspectives and views isn't the behaviour of the educated... is it? Shouldn't we allow ourselves to open up to new challenge and new ways of doing things? If the goal is that education helps us become creative, critical, curious, independent, knowledgeable, capable individuals... why is it that the means of getting there should be fixed? There is still value in chalk and talk in certain circumstances - but surely it's the evaluation of those circumstances and contexts which makes for good delivery choices. One size fits all vs. a range of sizes which fit most?

Anyway, an interesting article about an area which is seeing massive change at the mo. Worth a wander.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


BBC NEWS | Education | Pupils can beat safe net filters: "Pupils are using special websites to hack out of their school computer network while in the classroom. They then access social networking sites and even hardcore pornography.

On one school's computer it was enough to type the word 'naughty' into the internet browser and hit return."

Another shock horror... no great surprise, story from the BBC News Education pages. There seems to be an attitude that if you block something that a) you are then safe and need not worry and b) no-one would ever think to try to break out of that environment. I remember hearing Randy Pausch's last lecture just over a year ago and the following quote stuck in my head:

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!"

It's a fabulous quote to remind us that blocking something is sometimes what motivates those with creativity and resourcefulness. Blocked sites in China and people seek out how to circumvent those blocks. A whole country seeking to implement a filter on certain 'harmful' sites and I bet you that it'll be broken within hours (minutes?) of being put in place. People restricted from putting content on official sites from educational institutions instead seek to innovate elsewhere. VLEs exchanged for personal learning environments in the name of choice and flexibility.

Why do we persist to think that the answer is always in more and more control? Clamp down and that's it. Problem solved.

Brick walls are a challenge. A wonderful, juicy challenge. The bigger the wall, the better the challenge.

Necessity is the mother of circumvention.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The triumph of the ridiculous

Charlie Brooker: 'Community payback' bibs? That's rubbish. At least come up with something catchy, like 'scum slave' | Comment is free | The Guardian: "* Comment is free

'Community payback' bibs? That's rubbish. At least come up with something catchy, like 'scum slave'
It shouldn't be a jacket. It should be a green leotard - and the typeface should light up like a Vegas casino hoarding

Petty criminals of Britain! Stop breaking into that shop for a moment and bloody well pay attention. As of today, those of you doing community service are required to wear a new uniform. It's a high-visibility orange bib with the words COMMUNITY PAYBACK printed across the back in bold, black type. How'd you like them apples? Not so carefree now, are we? Consider yourselves well and truly shamed."

Okay - absolutely nothing about e-learning, technology, education in general... but... I loved this article about which deservedly ridiculed the stupidly stupid policy which has come into force in the UK today of getting those doing community service to wear orange bibs with 'Community Payback' on them. It's the equivalent of getting someone to wear a dunce's cap and stand in the corner while everyone looks at him / her. I love the idea that it will help show that justice is occurring:

"For one thing, even though it's clearly designed to demean the rapscallion wearing it, the government's "respect tsar", whose real name is Louise Casey, says it isn't. "The point of the orange jackets is not to humiliate people but to make the punishment visible," she claims."
Good grief, woman. Why not take this one step further? Let's have perspex walls on prisons! Let's see justice really being done. When kids are given detention, make them walk to it with a loud-hailer, announcing their 'crime' as they slouch along. How about all public servants wear bibs with their job title and how much they're paid? Doesn't the British public need to see where their money's going and who's representing them?

Let's start first with MPs though. I hear Jack Straw is a big fan of people wearing brightly coloured comedy bibs in the name of visibility...

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Links for 2008-11-28 []

Posted: 29 Nov 2008 12:00 AM CST

  • Participatory Media Literacy / Participatory Media Literacy
  • Dr Mashup or Why Educators should learn to stop worrying and love the remix
  • OER Commons
  • Welcome to the Carnegie Commons
    The Teaching and Learning Commons is an intellectual community space provided to enrich and encourage exchange of knowledge about teaching and learning. To participate in this collective effort, you are invited to: * create representations of effective teaching practice * share these representations with the community * read, understand, and comment on others' work * build on the work of other community members * based on what is learned, re-create new representations to contribute to the commons.
  • Tech talks at Google
  • Convert pdf to word - Convert pdf to doc - Convert online pdf to word
  • Poynter Online - Unmuddling Middles
    any reporters write strong leads, back them up, and finish their story with an ending. But the middle "has no recognizable sequence of ideas, no flow of cause and effect, and no narrative, just puddles of information," as Roy Peter Clark and I complained in our latest edition of "Coaching Writers," on page 107. Many editors struggle to bring some structure to their writers' middles, or just give up and publish these sagging arches. How can reporters create strong middles, and how can editors help them by coaching? Reporters fail to write organized middles for two reasons: j-schools and lack of know-how. Many journalism schools still teach the inverted pyramid as "THE form" despite all the evidence showing readers cannot understand them. Few journalism schools teach the most effective form of explaining things in words, the stack of blocks

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stuff I like


Think Google has minimal design licked? Take a look at keyboardr!  I am a bit of a keyboard fan for quick navigation so this is right up my street and this actually seems quicker than using Google direct, not least because results appear as you're typing.

If you fancy  breaking out of the Google environment for a wee while, this could be a good place to start to see... *whisper*... other ways of searching...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Learning Outcomes - again

Recent Reflection: On less being more at Master's level: "... it does risk becoming formulaic, and also implying that there is a correct procedure for doing it. The more specific the directions, the more restricted the outcomes, and the less the scope for the exercise of individual initiative and creativity (if that is desirable in your discipline, of course!) Master's students are experts, or at least nearly there. They need to be given their heads rather than constrained."

Valuable comment on the trouble with learning outcomes in Higher Education by James Atherton. Yes, I agree. Yes, precision in specification does not mean that we can predict or truly direct outcomes. And while I'm at it... I actually think that in some circumstances they can lead to lazy and superficial learning. What do they really mean? Who dreamt them up? And how can it possibly work that (and I'm thinking of Open University courses in particular here) one party dreams up the learning outcomes, another is supposed to teach to them (even though their interpretation is never questioned) and another is supposed to learn to them. So many areas for potential misinterpretation or misplaced meaning. What point do they serve if "those who knew what they meant when they originally wrote them" are outside the learning loop between student and tutor? Bonkers.

Am thinking of getting myself a placard made up... :o)

Reuters Left Second Life... and I still can't get into it at all

On Reuters leaving Second Life...

Exclusive: Why Reuters Left Second Life, And How Linden Lab Can Fix It: "It's hard to say what, if anything, Linden Lab can do to make Second Life appeal to a general audience. The very things that most appeal to Second Life's hardcore enthusiasts are either boring or creepy for most people: Spending hundreds of hours of effort to make insignificant amounts of money selling virtual clothes, experimenting with changing your gender or species, getting into random conversations with strangers from around the world, or having pseudo-nonymous sex (and let's not kid ourselves, sex is a huge draw into Second Life). As part of walking my 'beat,' I'd get invited by sources to virtual nightclubs, where I'd right-click the dancefloor to send my avatar gyrating as I sat at home at my computer. It was about as fun as watching paint dry.

But here's how Linden Lab can make Second Life more fun and a better business:

1. Build good newbie-oriented content. Linden has always taken the position they're in the 3D platform business, and can't be expected to build anything with their own tools or even know what others are doing in Second Life. That argument didn't fly when the gambling scandal broke and it doesn't work now. Second Life has a monster learning curve, and Linden Lab needs to hold new users' hands through every step of their first five or six hours. A big content push isn't even that expensive: the company has proven it can pay Second Lifers $10/hr to do these things and have skilled content creators begging for the job.
2. Acknowledge that Second Life's reputation is now a liability. This isn't the worst thing in the world, but it does mean Second Life can't sit back and hope word-of-mouth brings in hordes of new users like it did back in 2006. Second Life needs to advertise, and the ads need to be hip. New CEO Mark Kingdon has an ad background and should have the right résumé to pull off a makeover.
3. Radically simplify the user interface. The Second Life UI is a mess, and there's been no major changes to it in Second Life's 5+ years. Making the Second Life experience easy-to-use, even graceful, isn't a nice-to-have, it's a business imperative.
4. Abandon the idea that Second Life is a business app. I wasn't in Second Life to play, I was there on assignment for Reuters. The login server would crash. I'd try to reach sources, but Second Life's IM window would hang on 'waiting' all day when trying to figure out who was online. 'Teleports' -- the ability to move from point to point anywhere in Second Life -- would stop working and I'd get locked out of my own office. These weren't one-offs, they were my daily, first-hand, happens-all-the-time experiences. For all its bugs, Second Life is tolerable as a playground, but enterprise users will never and should never use it for business. Re-focus on the core mission: Keeping the hobbyists happy and converting potential recruits into hardcore (read: fees-paying) users."

Have to say, a lot of the above resonates with my experience... or lack of... using Second Life. Okay, so, for point 4 substitute education for business and that's more or less my way of looking at it. I like the idea in principle, but the reality I find difficult to use, it has made previous laptops overheat and shut down, it's confusing, unreliable and generally frustrating. The learning curve to get to grips with it is pretty large - and if we're talking about anything more than wandering around lost and vaguely bumping into stuff, then we're talking about a fairly significant investment of time.

Let's put it this way. I turn on my computer and I want to interact with others. I open my e-mail, create a new message, type away, hit send... that's about it. I 'tweet' by typing a short bit of text and hitting the return key. IM - pretty much the same. Most stuff... the same.  Second Life and you're confronted with a whole host of gubbins that you need to get your head round to use it as an effective tool.  You chose a name for your avatar.  You create an outward appearance.  You appear in a weird 'not quite right' looking landscape and meander around aimlessly... occasionally harrassed by another avatar... unsure what to do or where to go.  I've tried to get my head round it, but it just hasn't intrigued me enough to engage me.  It's ever so slightly unsettling.  Do I 'know' the people I'm talking to?  Do I know their real names rather than the made up ones?  'They' seem to know each other, but I don't know anyone - and I don't even know how to get to know them because I can't seem to control my own feet let alone communicate on any level!  I don't feel comfortable in my avatar's skin.  I feel comfortable in mine.

Second Life seems to be its own barrier to adoption.  The argument that we haven't time for second life because we're too busy dealing with our first one isn't deep enough.  Engaging with something which is frustrating to use, unreliable and resource intensive... coupled with the need to spend hours to engage... well, I can see why although those who have overcome those barriers are loyal... I can also see why it would fail to become truly mainstream.  Not least because so much of effort required to cllimb the hill to real engagement is a personal investment of time spent outside the office.  A quote from a recent report on the use of Second Life in HE -  "Personally, I spent over 1500 hours being in-world understanding social interactions between October 2006 and May 2007, to get to grips with how SL works to hopefully help realise the full potential of what we/I could achieve." (Kirriemuir, 2007 - UK HE and FE Developments in Second Life) - and this describes an investment in time... in his own time!

1500 hours?  An ouch too far!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The times they are a' changin'... again...

BBC NEWS | Education | Let's not get personal: "Professor David Hargreaves, probably the country's leading authority on personalised learning, said he had struggled for the past four years to define it but had now concluded that it was 'a total waste of time trying to find a definition'."


Having a mull about all of this. I wonder why everything has to be so black and white all the time? Now it's in. Now it's not. In. Out. In. Out.

... and so the great Hokey Cokey of education continues... :o)



Links for 2008-11-19 []

Posted: 20 Nov 2008 12:00 AM CST

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stephen Downes on Online Learning

From Stephen Downes on the future of online learning:

Half an Hour: The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On: "Today, and for the last century, education has been practiced in segregated buildings by carefully regimented and standardized classes of students led and instructed by teachers working essentially alone.

Over the last ten years, this model has been seen in many quarters to be obsolete. We have seen the emergence of a new model, where education is practiced in the community as a whole, by individuals studying personal curricula at their own pace, guided and assisted by community facilitators, online instructors and experts around the world.

Though today we stand at the cusp of this new vision, the future will see institutions and traditional forms of education receding gradually, reluctantly, to a tide of self-directing and self-motivated learners. This will be the last generation in which education is the practice of authority, and the first where it becomes, as has always been intended by educators, an act of liberty."

Perhaps a curiously Westernized perspective? Either way, the whole essay is worth a read and will get you thinking, agreeing, disagreeing, predicting, reflecting... and generally giving your brain a good scratching as you canter through the world of technology and its role in education and look towards an interesting, tangled future.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

The ignorance of the intelligent

In this weekend's Guardian:

Oxford students in 'bring a fit Jew' party row | Education | "Students in the under-21 rugby squad are said to have attached pretend sidelocks to their heads at the 'bring a fit Jew party'. Sidelocks are worn by Orthodox Jewish men.

The party, at a curry house on Wednesday, has been condemned by the Jewish community as 'at best insensitive and ignorant: at worst blatantly antisemitic'.

The Oxford University Student Union is said to have convinced the team's captain to change the post-match party's theme to 'bring a fit girl'.

But Aaron Katchen, Oxford University's Jewish chaplain, said the original 'theme' had gone ahead. He was contacted by four students who had witnessed it.

The Community Security Trust, which deals with antisemitic attacks together with the police on behalf of the Jewish community, said the party would make Jewish students feel 'isolated and vulnerable'.

A spokesman for the Union of Jewish Students in the UK said: 'The actions of a few students have caused real offence. We are appalled that in 2008 old myths and antisemitic stereotypes are still appearing among supposedly educated students.'


Stupid to have done it (and personally I think that the suggested improved theme of 'bring a fit girl' is in a revolting category all its own)... but... the bit below from someone studying at one of the world's top universities just makes me cringe...

The captain of the under-21 team, Phil Boon, said he 'didn't see what the problem was'. He said Jewish girls had accepted invites to the party. 'I can understand why it might have offended some people, but it would have been an awesome social."

Yeah. "Awesome".

If that was the sound of the generation gap opening a little wider as I failed to understand his viewpoint... well... I'm glad I'm standing on this side of the gap.

*sighs again*

Thursday, November 6, 2008

HE motivation vs. real benefits?

Some research from the DIUS (Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills) reported in today's Guardian:

Parents want children to get higher education they missed | Education | "Four-fifths of parents who did not go on to higher education wish they had, and three-quarters of mature students regret not going to university straight after school.

The poll, commissioned by the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius), found that 16% believe they would now have a better career and 13% that they would have a better future if they had gone on to higher education.

The survey coincides with the launch of a national campaign to raise awareness among parents and their children of the benefits of higher education.

Some 86% of parents say they have actively encouraged their children to consider higher education, or plan to do so, because they regret not going themselves."

I wonder what the figures would be for those who had gone to university? I wonder if they all think it was a good thing or if there's any regret associated there? I also wonder if there are similar number of university-educated parents who want their children to go on to Higher Education because of the benefits it brought them?

Seems to have been a big ol' chunk of research missing because the above is fodder for a 'get your child into uni' campaign rather than a real reflection of its benefits to those who have gone. Me, I don't regret going to university straight from school... but equally I know that the degree choice I made then isn't the one I would have made if I'd waited a little longer.

There's a quote at the end of the article by Higher Education minister, David Lammy:

"We recognise the value that higher education brings, which is why by 2011 we will have increased funding by 30% in real terms since 1997 - spending £11bn a year."

... but I don't actually see that this research gives any weight to that other than revealing regret and perceived missed opportunities. This research reveals nothing about value. Motivation for encouraging your children into HE is one thing... but wouldn't it be nice if it were based on either concrete benefits or real reflections from those who had participated?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Work based training and plagiarism

Universities review plagiarism policies to catch Facebook cheats | Education | "Law students were the most likely to plagiarise, with 62% saying they had broken university rules."
Some pretty bad reports about the state of plagiarism in HE coming out at the moment... but... you can't help but give a wry smile at the fact that law students are the most likely to cheat. Who says degrees aren't vocational? :o))

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Learning outcomes and random musings...

I’m sure I’m doing it wrong - elearnspace: "Most educators have been told, during the completion of their degrees, that learning starts with objectives or outcomes. Then, often relying on a Bloom’s Taxonomy verb list, those outcomes are translated into activities and ultimately assessment. It’s an ok model, I guess. I just don’t like it. I have yet to find research that states that learning outcomes contribute to more effective learning (if you know of research on the subject, please let me know). I’m not advocating for disorganized approaches to teaching and learning. Some organization is obviously required. But we can organize with out wearing and educational theory straight jacket. As Dean Shareski states in I’m sure I’m doing it wrong: “Simple. Meaningful. Necessary. Education has become very good at making the simple very complex. That just seems wrong to me.”"
Interesting comment on Bloom's Taxonomy on the elearnspace blog... and... I have to agree with that sense of disquiet which is mentioned. Here's my main issue with the whole constructive alignment (Biggs, 1999) deal... learning outcomes aligned to assessment and activities = successful learning. A + B = C. How simple is that? Great recipe... right? They will learn what you want them to learn, you get inside their heads with the use of a cunning formula. Nice little box to put everything in too. However. What about when A + B = Z? What happens when they don't learn what you expected? What about A + B = C + D, transforms onwards to E... What about you say A + B = C and the student hears Z + S = H?

Learning outcomes are at once amazingly woolly and yet also strangely restrictive. The best you can do is hope that they learn what you intend, and that they enjoy the experience along the way. I've seen learning outcomes stated for various things I've studied. I've worked on courses where I'm meant to comment on how students are doing in relation to prescribed outcomes... but, y'know... I still don't find them massively helpful. Their explicit statement has never ever deepened my learning. I might find them useful to trot out to someone when asked what I've learned on a particular course... but... I don't believe that what was intended for me to learn was all I actually learned. Or that I didn't find ways of subverting the system to turn learning into something personally meaningful.

Hmmmm... I don't know. I think I may be in the 'sure I'm doing it wrong' category too because I really don't like learning outcomes either. I think they smack of something Isaac Asimov once said:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'
Learning. Deep, real, beautifully engaging learning is what makes you mull over an idea in your head in the wee small hours. Which catches you off-guard when you're meant to be doing something else. When ideas divert you from a safe path into exploring something new. It's what makes you write a blog post on something you've been thinking about for a while when you're laid up in bed feeling grotty (holds hand aloft on that one!)

It's really not A + B = C. Learning outcomes might give direction, constructive alignment some superficial achievement of a goal... but they're aiming for Eureka, not 'that's funny'. 'That's funny', however, is the place where emergent, unintended outcomes live and are where creative thinking and deep learning are really at.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Less clever = lazy judgements

Brightest pupils less able than 30 years ago, research shows | Education | The Guardian: "The brightest teenagers were far less clever than a generation ago, while their classmates of average intelligence are more able than they used to be, the research concluded. It found significant improvements in the average performance of pupils."

Hmmmm... think this is going to go in my 'hate this type of 'research' pile. "far less clever" - don't you love that kind of headline-fodder? I think there are significant issues with the whole teaching-to-the-test ethos of the education system in the UK, but I don't believe that it makes children 'less clever'. You don't give pupils the skills to think deeply about problems or allow them to think outside very constrained curriculum-ized boxes and that's the fault of the system, not of the students. We don't encourage children or teachers to be able to enjoy learning broadly. We want boxes ticked. Standards met. We don't think about real learning terribly much. To then turn round and go 'oh, well, it's the children who aren't as clever' is lazy and part of the blame culture which isn't allowing a decent rethink of what's going on. Does someone, somewhere fundamentally think that children's brains have changed so they're not as bright??? Come off it. Empower them. Give them passion for learning. And stop worrying about petty, misinformed teaching to the test which is denying people their full potential.

There. Today's 'feeling grotty' induced ranting, done. :o)

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Wesch goodness and the changing face of education?

A Vision of Students Today (& What Teachers Must Do) | Britannica Blog: "Not surprisingly, our students struggle to find meaning and significance inside these walls. They tune out of class, and log on to Facebook."
Superb bit of writing from Michael Wesch and worth visiting the above and reading the whole thing - but the sentence I've quoted above is just so very true. Every day I go into work and walk past banks of students at their computers... and the majority of them aren't using our official sites. Aren't looking at the library's website or browsing for journals. They're looking at Facebook. Talking to their friends. Discussing. Sharing. Connecting. Oh to be able to tap into that engagement even for a short while instead of the 'this is the way I was taught and it didn't do me any harm' approach I so often hear expressed.

I was writing something about distance learning earlier today and, as with e-learning, I so wanted to dump the word in front and just talk instead about learning. Learning is learning is learning is learning. Yes, there are different things to consider with different modes of learning (but, I figure we cope with differentiating a pen from a pencil... one tool from another... so it's not that tricky to take on board!), but fundamentally what we want is for people to learn, isn't it? We want to translate learning into something rich, meaningful, powerful... unstoppable. Learning is fuzzy. It doesn't have boundaries. It shouldn't have boundaries. It shouldn't be boxed into 'explicitly stated learning outcomes' while the emergent outcomes go unacknowledged. Enough of the shoe-horning into traditional environments! How about some opening up... and really and truly open up instead of just half-heartedly nodding in its direction.

PS Read some of the comments too - some... ermmm... interesting viewpoints!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

First check for signs of life before announcing death...

Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004: "Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug."
Wonder how many people have blogged about this today?

How's about just valuing each tool for what it can offer you? Love this quote:

"The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter."
Ermmm... why? Total non sequitor. "The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose" could equally be spent brewing a cuppa, phoning a friend, drawing a small smiley face. And... The time it takes to send a tweet could be spent noting down a phone number, sending a text message, firing off a one-line e-mail.

This is also worth a look:

"text-based Web sites aren't where the buzz is anymore"

Ermmm... so... ermmm... how come you're recommending Twitter? Or Flickr and Facebook where community is enhanced by images, but forged through text? Really not shaping up to be a great argument, huh?

Methinks the announcement of blogging's death is a tad premature. I have a feeling Wired magazine may first need to get to grips with what constitutes living before making announcements about a technology's death.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Twitting point?

Has Twitter reached a tipping point? :: Claudine Beaumont: "Twitter, it seems, could be on the cusp of going mainstream. If you don't know what Twitter is, allow me to explain - it's a 'microblogging' service that asks the question 'What are you doing now', and encourages users to respond in 140 characters or less.

The tech community loves Twitter. Up until now, it's mainly be used as a platform for both canvassing and sharing opinions, and for connecting to other people who might be helpful or useful to you, or who might be able to contribute in some wat [sic] to something that you're working on."

Interesting article about the potential mainstreaming of Twitter. Don't know that it is headed towards mainstream - let's face it, for the majority of people blogging, let alone microblogging, appears on the list of 'eh?' or 'not for me' methods of communicating... but its use is becoming less niche and more and more apps being developed for it mean that it's potential is starting to ramp up.

So, what makes something mainstream? I don't believe that it's the celebrity use which Claudine Beaumont identifies. I think that the type of people using it at present - the young (Andy Murray), the publicity-desperate (Britney Spears) and the techno-embracing (Stephen Fry) - are going to make anyone sit up and say 'wow, this could be relevant in my own life'. I have a feeling that it needs to find a bigger, more purposive difference than just 'celebs are using it'. What does Twitter do that other things don't? Why would someone use it in preference to other things out there?

Me, I like it because I can easily and quickly connect with loads of other people. I can get a sense of the wider community beyond my desk and get / hear opinions / share resources rapidly. It not just the tech community... it's great for the education community too. But, it's definitely go that 'opt in' feeling and people continue quite happily doing what they do without ever actually missing it at all. Just as I do when I don't have time to 'Tweet'. Maybe there isn't a tipping point for it because the adoption of Twitter just isn't like that? It's part of Anderson's long tail of communication and sits quite contentedly in its own particular niche. It's a coming together of particular groups of people when it's used in one way, a mono-directional broadcasting system for others... an evolving, morphing 'thing' which doesn't really need a tipping point on a broader scale. If it tips at all, it tips on an individual basis.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Media facing 'carnage'

Saw this:
Media facing 'carnage', warns Guardian News & Media's Emily Bell | Media | "As many as five national newspapers could fold within two years in a worst-case scenario as the media suffers unprecedented carnage, Guardian News & Media executive Emily Bell has warned."

... said without even vaguely attempting to make jokes about newspapers folding...

What a wasted opportunity... :o)))

PS Yes, yes, serious issue... but... I will read it properly once I've stopped sniggering...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Abolition of Sats... when will the new beginning begin though?

Teachers' unions and opposition parties welcome abolition of Sats | Education | "He said the Tories would argue for fewer and more rigorous tests, less bureaucracy and more freedom for professionals, and a commitment to excellence for all – underpinned with a special focus on the most disadvantaged."

Okay... first of all... good news on SATS going for 14 yr olds (should go for all ages, in my opinion, but that's by the by!)... but... secondly, isn't the above little quote kinda scary??

"more rigorous tests"

Here's something which ties in with the above...

Main Entry: rig·or
Function: noun
1 a (1): harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2): the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3): severity of life : austerity b: an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
Yes... yes... more of those 'rigorous' tests, please. That's bound to help. Back to the 'good old days', huh? *rolls eyes* And while we're at it, let's give a 'special focus on the most disadvantaged' (in that vague politician-esque, unspecified kind of way which neither defines disadvantage nor explains what form that focus will take)

Tweak, tweak, tweak with a system which shoehorns kids in at a far younger age than other European countries, teaches them to pass tests... and then looks shocked when they emerge, aged 18, with a clutch of qualifications but no love of learning or depth of understanding. Wonder who's going to be brave enough to do more than tweak and spout meaningless rhetoric?

Internet use 'good for the brain' - no way, huh?!

BBC NEWS | Health | Internet use 'good for the brain': "Professor Smith said: 'A simple, everyday task like searching the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults, demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn as we grow older.'"

Am nearly ready to file this under my pile of 'obvious research which is common sense tarted up and given funding'... but... well... y'know... guess it's mildly interesting. However, don't you just love the last bit of the quote above. People in "can continue to learn as we grow older" shocker!!! Headline making stuff, huh?


Guess everyone's bored of the financial crisis and is digging around in the desperate pile for variety.

This blog post courtesy of 'cynics 'r' me' :o)

Thursday, October 9, 2008


BBC NEWS | Magazine | The man who reads dictionaries: "Ammon Shea spent a year reading the Oxford English Dictionary - 20 volumes, 21,730 pages and 59 million words - and he rates poring over a dictionary as enriching as reading a novel. Why?

The prospect of talking to a man who reads dictionaries for fun prompts a sudden vocabulary-insecurity complex and a fear that every word he utters might sound like a painful medical condition."

Nice little article... and... I'm about to out (or promulgate *grin*) myself as... *whisper* someone who also loves reading dictionaries. I LOVE them! They're full of little gems and words which describe things you didn't even know you didn't know. And the feel of a new word on your tongue as your pronounce it for the first time. Love that too! Think I may be delving ever deeper into the vat of nerdiness, day by day. :o)

Anyway - an anti-dote to the 'no-one learns appreciates language anymore' stuff. Next time you're after a book to read... flip through a dictionary. There's loads of yummy goodness tucked away there.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Corporal punishment and the way backward...

Corporal punishment seems to have made its way back into the news again this week:
Ariane Sherine: Three compelling reasons why one in five teachers are wrong to call for the return of corporal punishment | Comment is free | "But according to a poll in today's Times Educational Supplement, over 20% wish they could: more than one in five teachers support 'the right to use corporal punishment in extreme cases'. No doubt desperately trying to quieten a mob full of screaming, brawling juveniles, while thinking back wistfully to the days when short-trousered pupils listened to their teacher in orderly and thoughtful silence, they've decided that physically hurting disruptive children is the way forward."

Guess this is a handy way to reveal at least 20% of the teaching profession who are 'not suitable for teaching'. First off - lay a hand on either of my children and I will sue you (yes, I'm one of *those* parents) and secondly... remove yourselves from the 1930s and get a check on reality. As the author of this article in The Guardian says - if these kids are unruly and quite possibly experiencing violence at home - to no positive effect - why on earth would hitting them in their only 'safe' space bring anything other than cold, superficial comfort to a teacher who hasn't got better teaching strategies up their sleeve?

I get so tired of this well-worn 'belief' that children are somehow worse than they ever were before. One of the favourite quotes I've read recently about this subject is the following:

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint"
(Source: The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn 2007)

You know when that was originally said? Twenty-seven hundred years ago by the Greek poet Hesiod.

Hitting them doesn't work. Being a better teacher. Having better people skills. Better and more creative strategies for working with children. Being given flexibility to adapt and modify the curriculum as appropriate. Wouldn't they be preferable options? Oh, no... let's hit them. And make them wear stupid clip-on ties because that's tremendously effective too.

Children of whatever age are brilliant. They are filled with amazing potential. Tap into it and you'll discover what they can really do. Hit them because you failed - get another job. Please.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's small, white and sitting on my desk...

... my little spangly Eee PC!! Well, from turning it on to being on the web... 5 mins tops. Installing FirstClass... about a minute. Dead, dead simple and v.impressed so far. Not least with how quiet it is or how easy to use the little keyboard is (though I am glad I went for the 1000 rather than anything smaller as I don't think I could've coped with the diddyness of those keyboards)

Anyhoo - off to do more playing, but for something which is user-friendly and utterly non-techie (if you want it to be)... this is pretty damned good!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

State of the Blogosphere 2008 - blog fact-central

Technorati: State of the Blogosphere 2008: "Welcome to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008 report, which will be released in five consecutive daily segments. Since 2004, our annual study has unearthed and analyzed the trends and themes of blogging, but for the 2008 study, we resolved to go beyond the numbers of the Technorati Index to deliver even deeper insights into the blogging mind. For the first time, we surveyed bloggers directly about the role of blogging in their lives, the tools, time, and resources used to produce their blogs, and how blogging has impacted them personally, professionally, and financially. Our bloggers were generous with their thoughts and insights. Thanks to all of the bloggers who took the time to respond to our survey."
I'm sure I'm the last person to note the appearance of this... but if for any reason anyone was slower than me, then the State of the Blogosphere is awash with factorial goodness about what's going on with blogging. Interesting to see that if you're looking at a blog, the writer will most likely be male (especially if you're looking at a European one - 73%) and a college graduate (ranging from 67 - 74% of bloggers). No real comment to make on that other than it's something that will be stored away in my brain and used for a bit of thinking until I can connect the dots to come up with something coherent about it all. (some days I really shouldn't just type what I think, huh?!)

All interesting stuff if you like that kinda thing! Me, I'll be bookmarking it for future use.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Embracing the inner geek

So... I took the plunge. I've ordered myself an Asus eee pc ... and even resisted the urge to go for the safety of Windows, instead going with Linux. 'Tis a whole new geeky world out there. I'm tired of my whiny, over-heating, Vista laptop. I'm fed up of it conking out. I'm fed up of the dead battery. And most of all... my 2 yr old picked most of the keys off my old laptop so it's not looking too happy all in all! I don't care that I'm not using Microsoft Office - I happily switch between umpteen things from Open Office to web-based apps to Microsoft. It's what it does that I'm after, not the corporate safety net.

Maybe this'll be a whole lot better than mobile computing = lugging a widescreen laptop around and trying to find somewhere to plug it in before the battery dies and the OS blue screens. Here's the possibility of real mobile computing!

Will report back when it arrives!

(PS Even resisted the urge to buy a pink one. I'm not shallow, oh no siree bob. *massive grin*)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

School ties and the system

Tim Dowling: How to be a school tie rebel without getting it in the neck ... | Education | The Guardian: "Pupils at the Arthur Terry school in Sutton Coldfield have had their school ties banned and replaced with clip-on models. The ban is an attempt to stamp out the sort of personalised styling that results in either a morale-sapping loose and/or asymmetric knot, or the downright insubordinate shortened tie with extra-fat fastening. The school's headteacher claims that discipline and even attendance have improved since the clip-ons were issued."

I wonder if at any point they thought that just doing away with a stupid, pointless symbol would be better than trying to rectify the 'issues' which came from something meaningless they'd imposed in the first place? It's a tie. Just a tie. A flippy, floppy bit of fabric. I love the claim that discipline and attendance have improved because of clip-ons. Show me the research. Show me the actual research that proves a causal relationship rather than a simple correlation which could be explained by any number of factors.

You remove every other bit of a child's identity by shoving them into a uniform... and then claim that you're educating the 'individual' when you work your hardest to stamp out any element of personalization. Another thing to enter my list of things that drive me mad about the education system in this country.

Private, public... bland?

Digital Natives » In the News: When Private Identities Go Public: "How many teenagers are comfortable with their parents or teachers or even a random stranger friending them on MySpace or Facebook or Twitter? Our digital identities are constructed for our peers – be it our real life friends or a specific online community. We strive to present ourselves as unique and opinionated to our peers. A bland profile is as good as no profile at all. Genuine interactions with friends are uncensored by concerns of political correctness, sanitizing these interactions online in fact changes the function of social networking tools. Just as we carry ourselves differently at a job interview than when hanging out with friends, our digital identities are tuned to a specific purpose. The distinction, of course, being that what is posted online can potentially be accessible, per Clive Thompson, by everyone. Those who have been thrust into the spotlight, like Levi Johnson and Caroline Giuliani, have learned this the hard way."

This is a useful one to return to - the sanitised online self. It's something I know I've mused about in the past. How much of you stays 'you' when you put it online? When you can't be selective about who you allow into your life (through the wonder of the interweb) then how real can you afford to be? I'm aware I very rarely mention anything at all about my personal life on my blog. That's a conscious decision on my part. Better to say not very much at all when you're using a blog than to say too much and mop up the pieces for ever. For all those people who moan about their jobs... their relationships... their lives. What if the people you were talking about read what you wrote? What if what you were saying wasn't expressed in a constructive way but in the sort of ramble which everyone needs to get out of their heads from time to time? How best to live with the consequences of that? Or are we all turning into self-sanitizers until we figure this connectivity business out properly?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Educational Benefits Of Social Networking Sites Uncovered

Another 'worth a read' article:

Educational Benefits Of Social Networking Sites Uncovered: "The study found that, of the students observed, 94 percent used the Internet, 82 percent go online at home and 77 percent had a profile on a social networking site. When asked what they learn from using social networking sites, the students listed technology skills as the top lesson, followed by creativity, being open to new or diverse views and communication skills."

Interesting piece of research from the University of Minnesota on the positive aspects of use of social networking sites. They've come in for a fair bit of flak over the last year or so... but the fact that people are motivated enough to participate, create, share, think and learn together in this informal way has got to be more than something you can write off as 'flavour of the month'. Worth bookmarking and tracking down the original research if you're trying to make a case for more personalised learning systems.

Information Overload: Blogs As Content Navigators, Information Filters, Trusted Niche Guides - Robin Good's Latest News

Information Overload: Blogs As Content Navigators, Information Filters, Trusted Niche Guides - Robin Good's Latest News: "Information Overload: Blogs As Content Navigators, Information Filters, Trusted Niche Guides"

Interesting read.... not least because I've been absolutely snowed under the last couple of weeks and haven't even had a chance to browse through the goodness served up by Google Reader while I've been floundering. "Blogs as content navigators, information filters and trusted niche guides... if you've got time!"

Friday, September 12, 2008

Can Social Media bridge the gap?

The people at ReadWriteWeb seem to think so...

Five Ways to Use Social Media to Reach People Who Don't Use Social Media - ReadWriteWeb: "Sometimes it feels like social media is just not relevant to the people you're trying to reach. That's a common dilemma, but we believe it doesn't have to be that way. In this post we discuss five strategies for using social media to reach people who don't use social media, and we've listed specific tools you can use to do it."

Like this little article... have stashed it under 'could be useful for the future'. Doesn't address the issue of the so-called digital divide or other issues of disenfranchisement... but... you gotta love their optimism at the end and it's worth a read!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Creepy Treehouses and ill-formed thoughts

Are Institutional Portals and VLEs Really “Creepy Treehouses”? « UK Web Focus: "I first came across the term “creepy treehouse” during Ewan McIntosh’s plenary talk on “Unleashing the Tribe” at the IWMW 2008 event. Alan Cann mentioned it again in a recent comment on one of my blog posts, suggesting, I think, that the University of Bristol’s MyBristol portal is an example of a ‘creep treehouse” which we should avoid building."
Useful article from Brian Kelly on creepy treehouses and VLEs...

Have been mulling this over a lot myself lately but haven't got anything coherent to say about it yet other than I do think that there is relevance for the term in describing some of the developments which are happening in eLearning / blended learning in the UK. There is something unsettling about the OU's 'MyStuff' for example. Would they really have called it "MyStuff" without there having been a "MySpace" first? Anyway... ill-formed thoughts 'r' me at the moment about it all... I think there's a mismatch between the intention of educational institutions to deliver services which resonate with students, and the perception of those services by the end users - the students. More thinking required...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The generalisations that prevail

Virtual Learning » Is online socialisation necessary?: "Of course the World has changed hugely since 2000 and most of us are much more comfortable now with online socialising, developing varying degrees of addiction to email, Facebook or Twitter."

WARNING!!! Sweeping generalisation alert!!! "most of us are much more comfortable" - are we?? Can we just step back from that position of assumption for a minute and ask why it is that there is a significant percentage of the population not connected. A whole load who have zero awareness of Twitter. A grand total of 100 million users of Facebook in a global population of several billion.

If you start from a position of assumed competence and assumed literacy then you start from a position of neglect of students as individuals, each of whom have varying needs and expectations of what they hope to get from their learning experience.


Thanks to Nigel Gibson for flagging this one. Interesting article, even if it got my rant button pushed!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Day without Google? Not today, ta everso

Just Let Me Check One Last Thing . . .: "each time I fled Google's grasp over the course of this assignment, the blue 'G' found a way to surprise me around corners, grinning like some horrible fanged maw."
A lovely little article on Rob Dubbin's day without Google in the Washington Post. I did this last year... and... it's weird a) how reliant you are on one company for all things internetty and b) how much you come over all 'duh' and can't think your way round using it when it's not there! I couldn't use my search engine of choice, couldn't blog, couldn't look at my e-mail, couldn't take notes online, couldn't check my news feeds, my calendar etc. Now, I know there are perfectly good alternatives out there, but I'm lazy. I like Google. I like its stripped down simplicity. I like the way it puts everything in one place for me to use. Okay, so I also know that there's a bit of me that knows I'm a sell out by relying on it so much... but... y'know what? I don't care. I like Google and this year, I don't want to do a day without Google. Nice little article, but I don't want to repeat the experience of being non-Googled. I'm happily enslaved, ta everso.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Things that depress me in the education system...

Top exam board asks schools to destroy book containing knife poem | Education | The Guardian: "Britain's biggest exam board has been accused of censorship after it removed a poem containing references to knife crime from the GCSE syllabus.

Officials at the AQA board said their request that schools destroy the anthology containing the Carol Ann Duffy poem Education for Leisure had been triggered by concerns in two schools about references to knives. A spokeswoman confirmed the decision had been made in the context of the current spate of knife-related murders."
... exam boards dictating what is or isn't acceptable to teach our children and the lack of awareness of what constitutes culture to say that a poem of this calibre should be removed because of references to knives.

So, here's the poem in full:

Education for Leisure

Today I am going to kill something. Anything.

I have had enough of being ignored and today

I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,

a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets

I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.

We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in

another language and now the fly is in another language.

I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.

I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half

the chance. But today I am going to change the world.

Something's world. The cat avoids me. The cat

knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.

I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.

I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.

Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town

For signing on. They don't appreciate my autograph.

There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio

and tell the man he's talking to a superstar.

He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.

The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.

Carol Ann Duffy

It's a wonderful piece of writing as far as I'm concerned. Darkly, bleakly, sinister. Evocative. Powerful. Loaded with seething emotion. Even if you don't like it, to pull your skirts up from round your ankles and shriek that it's somehow contributing to teenage knife crime is beyond ludicrous. Are we are so weak as a society that we can't cope with teenagers reading it??? Or analysing it? Or turning it into something of lasting worth in their lives? Jeez. The only thing that's acceptable is literature from long dead 'greats' who are at a sufficient distance from our lives that we can breathe a fearful sigh of relief that their base behaviour won't contaminate our precariously balanced social order. Could someone kick the exam board and check that there is still life in it?

The most recent complaint was made by Lutterworth grammar school's exams invigilator, Pat Schofield, who welcomed the board's decision and said: "I think it is absolutely horrendous - what sort of message is that to give to kids who are reading it as part of their GCSE syllabus?"

Get a grip. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is criminal. Let's pacify the nation and let them watch Big Brother 24/7. Heaven forbid they should read anything which has any greater meaning than you might find in an outlet of McDonalds.

Truly, dismally, pathetic.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Writing risks - slander not libel?

Online comments are more like slander than libel, says judge :: Shane Richmond: "Defamatory comments on internet “bulletin boards” are more likely to be slanderous than libelous, a High Court judge ruled last month. The judgment came just as I was going on holiday, which is my excuse for missing it until now, but it raises interesting questions for comments on newspaper sites.

First, though, the judgment itself. In a libel case concerning comments posted on an investor’s bulletin board, Mr Justice Eady said that such comments are “contributions to a casual conversation (the analogy sometimes being drawn with people chatting in a bar) which people simply note before moving on; they are often uninhibited, casual and ill thought out.”

This, Mr Justice Eady said, makes them “much more akin to slanders (this cause of action being nowadays relatively rare) than to the usual, more permanent kind of communications found in libel actions.”

However, he emphasised that he was not saying “that blogging cannot ever form the basis of a legitimate libel claim”."
Worth noting from The Telegraph - kind of murky waters generally... but it's interesting to see that a different mindset is being attributed to comments published on the internet to other forms of written libel.


Monday, September 1, 2008


Links for 2008-08-30 []

Posted: 31 Aug 2008 12:00 AM CDT

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

Really wanting to like this simple idea... still v.early days (it's in Alpha right now), but integrating something so simple into your web browser to bring together services you use all the time... well... that's right up my street! Yet another reason why Firefox is rocking... and IE is lagging.

So... if you want it... get it from Mozilla Labs.

IE gets makeover - but still not lighting my fire!

BBC NEWS | Technology | Internet Explorer gets makeover: "IE8 offers a few surprises compared to the initial beta version released in March.

New features will include improved privacy and search functions, and ways to keep track of portions of web pages.

The release debuts two functions that were not available in the March release. However, many in the blogosphere have noted that several of the improvements in IE8 have been available on other browsers for some time."

So... in other words... "blah, blah, blah, IE8, blah, blah, old hat, blah, blah, nothing anyone else hasn't already been doing, blah, blah, get Firefox 3, blah, blah".

This, courtesy of 'Sarah's condensed reviewing service'. :o)

Man's 'pants' password is changed

BBC NEWS | England | Shropshire | Man's 'pants' password is changed: "A man who chose 'Lloyds is pants' as his telephone banking password said he found it had been changed by a member of staff to 'no it's not'"
Fnar!!!! Never attempt to subvert the system. *They* will get you!!


PS Yes, I know there are a whole load of issues connected with privacy, security and the expressive rights of the individual etc... but... I'll think about them when I've stopped laughing. :o))

Wednesday, August 27, 2008



Links for 2008-08-25 []

Posted: 26 Aug 2008 12:00 AM CDT

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Rapture of Apture?

Bloggers – "Bloggers: Add multimedia to your website, with one click

Apture is a new platform that let's you embed rich multimedia into your website with just one line of code."
Forgot to say, I added 'Apture' to my blog the other day... and... it rocks!! What a simple idea. Create a blog posting... post it... and you get a whole load of options to add other media to whatever it is you've written. Want to add video? Links to Wikipedia? Images? Documents? All can be done through a simple click and select menu. Once you've create an Apture account (for free) and added a single bit of HTML to your blog's template, you're away. I'm still in 'can't quite believe this could've been that easy' and am trying to only use it for sensible stuff rather than graffiti-ing my own blog with additional multimedia. But... oooooooh!!! How cool to be able to create content in such a simple, rich way. Head now buzzing with ideas for embedding stuff like this...

Apture. Currently on my 'like it a lot' pile of web 2.0 loveliness!

The Online world and the Offliners

BBC NEWS | Business | Two-thirds of UK homes now online: "The ONS data suggested that more than two-thirds of adults go online every day or almost every day, with men more regular users than women.

In the 35% of households with no access, there was an increase in the proportion that said they did not want the internet at home, from 3% in 2006 to 24% in 2008.

The survey also found that the better educated were more likely to be online.

The ONS said that 93% of adults aged under 70 who had a university degree or equivalent qualification had internet access.

This compared with just 56% of those with no formal qualifications being online."
Some interesting figures in this report - especially the 93% figure... not least since it applies to such a large age range. Questions in my head - if those with a lower level of educational achievement are excluded / excluding themselves from the connected world, how can those working in e-Learning reach them? How do you open the door for someone who can't even see there's a door open for them? I wonder too whether the fear factor prevents people from making that step into an online world? Fear of the unknown, maybe? Or is that too simplistic? Is it cost? Is it indifference? Active dislike? Either way, one third of people not being online in the UK and 44% of those with no formal qualifications are significant societal groups.

I try to imagine what life without the internet available at home would be like. Y'know, it's fairly easy to do... but I don't think that my life would be richer for it. It's not that I don't do the other things people without home internet access do. I see friends. I read. I go out. I do any number of things. But... there's an easy route to information, communication, applications and so much more that's available via my broadband connection. Today, I exchanged e-mails with someone I haven't seen in 16 years. I chatted with friends living in different countries. I researched articles from collections in libraries I've never visited. I chatted with colleagues who'd never been in the same room with me. Would I miss it if those opportunities were no longer there? Yes. Would I know what I was missing if I'd never experienced it? Probably not. Life goes on regardless, doesn't it?

The question is perhaps are the 'offliners' (those homes without an internet connection) choosing to stay offline or are they being excluded? Is it really offline vs. online at all? Learning vs. e-Learning. Isn't it just that the world is becoming blended and, just like the television, a piece of technology which was once out of reach for the majority will ultimately become just as everyday for virtually all.

PS I don't have a television. I am a 21st Century anomaly. :o)


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