Friday, July 31, 2009

Social Swine flu fever

This week I have mostly been ignoring swine flu...

Universities prepare for swine flu worst as nurseries take away soft toys | Education |
"The guide for childminders tells them: 'Try to avoid children sharing soft toys as these are hard to clean adequately; you may find it easier to avoid using soft toys altogether. Clean hard toys after use as the virus can survive on hard surfaces.'

The guidance for schools and nurseries says: 'Discourage the sharing of pencils, crayons and pens during a pandemic. Encourage the wiping and cleaning of hands and objects when passing round objects like musical instruments or toys. Do not allow children to share musical instruments.'

A spokesman from the DCSF said: 'We are not suggesting taking all toys out of play settings, just to take care with the use of shared toys, which can be a way of spreading infection. This is about striking a sensible balance between continuing life as normal but also taking simple, common sense steps to protect children.'"

... and watching the world going mad. "Kids. Don't share your teddies. No! Don't!!! Those soft toys are evil. Burn them! Burn them all!!!!" *sigh*

Okay, so my 3 and 6 yr olds have had it... but it was JUST FLU... okay. Honestly. They didn't turn into piglets (they may eat like them, but appearances can be deceptive)... they didn't turn violet... they didn't... well... they didn't do much really. They had flu.

Paranoia about Swine Flu and the Gartner Hype cycle... I bet there's a relationship which is pretty much identical. I also wonder if our increasingly virtually connected world is heightening that sense of paranoia. Before we may or may not have known someone who was poorly. Now, through status updates and Tweets etc... everyone is now a 'friend' and it seems closer and more dangerous than it is.

PS I've also got a bit of a chest infection. A bit of a chest infection. And. It's. Not. Swine. Flu. Honestly!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Return of the Mac...

I just bought myself a MacBook Pro and while I'm waiting for it to arrive, I thought I'd just share the various links others have kindly shared with a PC-based ignoramus like me for making the switch to (or back to, in my case!) a Mac:

General Mac basics
For free and useful, take a look at Apple's site. Their support pages are good.

Also, Mac 101 and Switch 101 (which is great if you're moving from PC to Mac)

These might answer many of the questions that crop up in the first few days/ weeks.

Also, Mac Help, Finder> Help> Search usually works well.

Open University-related:
For Open University-related questions, try the Mac General website (although this is jam-packed with stuff anyone using a Mac in education would find helpful)

The best news is that Virtual PC is no longer needed. If you need to use a PC, you can install Windows OS onto your Mac- see Mac General for details.

Other recommended sites:
Mac Rumors and Mac OS X Hints - both sites have forums too; you can pick up tips and tricks in those sometimes as well.

Books and Magazines:
Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual, David Pogue
MacUser magazine and website.

Oh, and if you're a student or work in Education... take a look at the deals available via the Apple Education Store. Well worth the saving!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Learning Outcomes... again...

Would love to know what people think about the following... yes... no... anything else?

Do learning outcomes really improve student learning?

Am having a mull about this and would like to know what other people think!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Tricks to using the iPod Touch in education

Really useful list from David Hopkin's eLearning Blog on how to uses the iPod Touch in education.

mLearning; Tricks to using the iPod Touch in class eLearning Blog // Don’t Waste Your Time … included the following:

  • Screen-grab

  • Save images while browsing

  • Emails

  • Apple App Store

  • Internet & Surfing

  • Note-taking

  • Podcasts

  • Documents"

  • I commented on it, but thought I'd expand his list a little further to include the following:

  • Get a headset with an in-built mic and you can record voice memos

  • Sync the calendar with Google Calendar to keep track of appointments / assignments etc (also good for accessing your Gmail too)

    image of the

  • Use the Contacts organiser to keep track of numbers / e-mail addresses you're given when out an' about

  • Create shortcuts to web-based e-mail by adding that page to your home screen - just open up Safari > go to your webmail > Click on the "+" (plus sign) button and then touch the "Add to Home Screen" option (see screenshot, left).

  • Get hold of the free TED Talks app to view some inspiring talks without needing to download the podcasts

  • Install the Skype app (also free) to use with that ipod headset with mic mentioned above... and free Skype-to-Skype calls / the ability to make phone calls becomes available wherever there’s wifi available

  • Access presentations from SlideShare by using mobile slideshare

  • Writing a timed essay or trying to motivate your way through a batch of marking? Click on Clock and Timer and speed yourself up!

  • The calculator is useful... but a quick rotate to landscape and you get yourself a free scientific calculator.

  • Me, I love my iPod Touch. It's got just enough stuff to fill in most of the gaps when you haven't got access to your main computer. It's lighter and quicker to turn on and get online than a netbook. It has oodles of apps available (though you end up using just a few select ones). It's 'shove in your pocket-able'. The battery life is excellent (can be left in sleep mode for days) and it charges quickly. What's not to like? Oh, and although you don't get the phone bits you do with an iPhone, for on-campus use, you'll most likely have a wireless connection available... so who needs the additional monthly contract cost / extra initial cost of the iPhone? :o)

    "Free" by Chris Anderson - available... free!

    Living by what he's writing, Chris Anderson (of The Long Tail fame) has written a new book, "Free" and made it available via Scribd for nowt:

    FREE (full book) by Chris Anderson

    Like the price... may like the content enough to pay the 'real' price too! Like this model of distribution!! Here's to 'free'!

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    Things I love about tagging

    I'm a bit of an online hoarder. I love collecting snippets of information, articles, news items, hints, tips... you name it... I want to put it in a little bag and save it. However, 'favorites' and 'bookmarks' and me don't really get along terribly well. I'm also a bit of a computer-floozy. I'll swap computer at will. As long as I have an internet connection and a keyboard I don't care so very much about the hardware that I'm using... so managing multiple instances of bookmarks is a pain in the backside. Yes, something like xmarks can be a useful add-on, but I still have to sort out installing that... and y'know what... I'm lazy. Something I can use on-the-fly really works for me... which is why tagging is such a handy dandy thing to do.

    So, what're the plus points of tagging?
    1. Categorise resources in the way you want to categorise resources
    2. No favorites folders! The same bit of information can have lots of different 'tags', no need to try to shoehorn it into one folder.
    3. They help you search and retrieve resources easily
    4. Those tags are shareable and subscribable... which means you can share what you find and keep track of what others find too
    5. Agree on a unique tag for a project / subject area and you can track all materials for that project
    Of the above, number 5 is one of the most useful, I find because it lets you do things like this:

    Using something like Friendfeed or NetVibes you can quickly add in the various RSS feeds for your tag of choice and... bingo... all resources in one place, no matter where they came from or who originated them. If you're using Twitter, just use a unique hashtag and you're away. Unique tags are also great for following what happens at conferences and can help create a vibrant backchannel for live comment and discussion. Have a look at the CommonCraft intro to Twitter Search for more detail... it's sure to fire off some ideas on how to use this stuff!

    I also thought it would be handy to quickly jot down some of the main ways of I use tags:
    • Aggregating resources for my own use
    • Aggregating resources (from a variety of sources) for projects
    • Pooling resources for a team (for example in the Educational Development Unit at NTU, we use the tag NTUEDU on Delicious to pool any elearning-related links we find)
    • Creating a backchannel for an event using a unique tag
    • Subscribing to specific tags to follow what's happening in that field
    Will try to add more to the above as they come to me.

    PS Am I very sad for my tag-love?! :o)

    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Communities of reciprocity and Twitter

    Just seen the following on the BBC website...

    BBC NEWS | Technology | Twitter followers 'can be bought':
    "Twitter users who lack an audience for their messages can now buy followers.

    Australian social media marketing company uSocial is offering a paid service that finds followers for users of the micro-blogging service."
    Oh, good grief... buying followers? Hmmmm...

    Actually, this has got me thinking. There seem to be three main ways in which Twitter is used:

    1. Those who see it as a consumption-only medium: happy to follow but rarely contribute directly... primarily following celebs etc
    2. Those who see it as a community of reciprocity: sharing, retweeting and commenting
    3. Those who see it as a broadcast-only medium: collecting followers, but rarely interacting with them... primarily using it as a means to transmit their message

    There are people who seem to flit between the three main groups above but I think that people / organisations tend to broadly fit into one of the above. I suppose there's a fourth way in which it's used - as a 'because others are using it' choice. However, these people rarely if ever post updates or add followers and eventually the account lies dormant and the service is declared 'pointless'. For me, however, the way it works most effectively is in the middle - the community of reciprocity. You build up an idea of the person behind the account through the way they behave. The way they interact. The way they involve and share. For those people, a network can't be bought... it's sought out and / or earned.

    I was thinking that this idea of online communities of reciprocity relates to why online communities do or don't work as well. It's not enough to say that an online community is automatically a 'community of practice' just because someone has set it up to be so (I've attended several conferences / talks where the talk was of communities of practice and all they actually meant was that they'd set up some online forums). Without the recipricous element, it is a sterile place to be and the potential for longevity isn't (I would guess) as powerful.

    You can buy your Twitter followers if you want... it won't necessarily buy an engaged set of followers. I wonder how effective services such as uSocial will be and what the quality will be like for those who pay for it??
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