Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

Thanks to Mrs Blethers, I've just wasted some time throwing snowballs at Buddy the Elf (among others). I am ashamed to say that I was on my third go before I discovered that you weren't supposed to hit Santa!

Also thanks to Mr Tosh (Master Blethers I believe) I spent some time smashing sprouts and listening to versions of 80's pop-songs. Ah... happy days! :-)

Now, all I need is for Mr B. and young master Blethers to chip in with game suggestions and I'll never have time to make an educational blog post again. (Ewan tried to distract me with the Irn Bru advert, but I'd already seen it - thanks Ollie - and it's not a game, so that doesn't count!)

My own contribution to festive time wasting is this Grab a Gift game from Santa Clause 3. Enjoy!

Happy Christmas everybody

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Monday, December 11, 2006

This will require deep thought...

Try entering the query:
  • What is the answer to life the universe and everything?
into Google. (Note - no quotation marks!)

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

EduFlickr: Telling Tales

I think I have mentioned a few times in previous EduFlickr posts that Flickr (and other online photo sharing tools) can be a great source of images and that these images can be used to stimulate creative writing. I've been meaning for some time to write a post about telling stories with Flickr but Alan has already given an excellent introduction to fliction. I will therefore content myself some observations and a couple of examples.

Colin's first haircut
Colin's first haircut,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
Although I have titled this Telling tales and I've talked about "creative writing", it should not be assumed that the English department is going to have all the fun. Apart from anything else, one of the examples Alan gives is of the Tell a story in 5 frames group where the pictures tell the story. Of course once a visual story has been published, often people give their interpretation in the comments and in the discussion area, so there is still scope for creative writing. However, I think some of the best submissions to this group demonstrate the power pictures to carry a story. For example one of my favourites is Women!, which tells a story in only three pictures. (See them here: one, two and three.) The text with this story gives you more information, but it stands alone as a good story without any words at all.

Flickr groups like this often throw out challenges, for example, the Six Word Story group (only six words because of Ernest Hemmingway's famous six word story: "For sale: baby shoes, never used.") recently had a discussion thread where people submitted six word stories and invited others to submit suitable pictures. And as reciprocity would have it, a number of pictures are submitted be people looking for six word stories. Plenty of opportunity here for cross-curricular work?

My final observation is that "story" can be interpreted fairly loosely and stories can be told within a variety of curricular contexts. For example, could you use pictures to tell the story of a glaciated landscape - from a corrie, through a u-shaped valley and down to a terminal moraine? (Scraping the bottom of my geological knowledge here - maybe Ollie can confirm if this makes sense as an example!) Or, Mr W's story about how to make toad in the hole. Or a photo story on the development of a model. Or... oh, you get the picture!

...And the examples? I thought it only fair to have a go at telling a digital story myself before making this post. So here is my go at a six word story and my first attempt at telling a story in five frames. Leave a comment if you have a go and let us know where to find your stories.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

New cars, synchronicity and iPods

I've been a bit quiet recently. I'd like to say it's because I've been too busy, but while I have been busy, it's mostly my lack of organisation that has led to the lack of posts! (See the photograph of my desk for evidence of my lack of organisation.)

I've got loads of things to blog about and I'll try to get some of them out over the next few days. I thought I'd start with our new car (well, new to us... it's about 9 months old). We picked up our new car on Saturday 25th of November. As we were signing all the forms to transfer ownership of our old car (see picture!) and take possession of the new one, we had to say when we got the old car. To our surprise, we discovered that we got our old car on the 25th of November 1999 - exactly seven years earlier! {Do-do, do do! Do-do, do do! - insert Twilight Zone theme tune here!}

Apart from having a working clutch (which wasn't the case with our old car) the new one is notable for having an auxiliary audio input socket - in other words, I can play my iPod through the car stereo. Huzzah! As a result I caught up on a huge backlog of David Warlick's podcasts in the space of one day's school visits. Huzzah! As always, David's podcasts gave me loads to think about. Huzzah!

In particular, I liked the way one of the people he was chatting to described information. (Can't remember who said it, but I think it is in Episode #70 if you want to check it out for yourself.) The chap said something along the lines of... "Information today is like white noise. It's always there but usually we tune it out. However, when we need to find something, we can tune in and find out what we need." I liked that. I've talked before about how many of our pupils carry about with them mobile devices capable of tuning in to this white noise and extracting the important stuff... but I'm not convinced that as educators we've really worked out how to cope with this or what changes it will bring to our education system.

One other thing that stood out from a recent podcast was the report of a conversation. A teacher who was perhaps concerned about losing their status as sage on the stage, asked something like, "But what do you do if a pupil asks you something and you don't know the answer?" The reply made was something like: "The same as when I do know the answer - I say, 'That's a good question. How do you think we can find an answer?' "

All good stuff. The only problem I have with the listening in the car method is that there is no easy way to take notes. (Hence all the "something like" bits above!) I think I need another iPod so I can record my thoughts in a podcast as I listen to other people's podcasts. :-)

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Geek Speak

I have remarked on a couple of occasions that tools such as online bookmarks are stunningly brilliant ideas but it seems that they always have stunningly stupid names. For example, Web 2.0 developers call a tool instead Delicious, or Digg instead of Dig, or Furl instead of... er... well you get the idea. :-)

Darth Tater's iPod

Darth Tater's iPod,

originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
To see just how silly it is all getting, take the Web 2.0 or Star Wars character quiz. You will be presented with 43 different names and you have to say whether each is the name of a Web 2.0 technology or the name of a character from Star Wars.

I scored 31 and so I was told, "31-40: As your doctor, I recommend moving out of your parents' basement." :-)

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Dropping a love bomb

Citizenship and Information Literacy

**Update: In the original post, I linked to Toms blog, but not to the specific post. Consider that fixed! Also, Tom has now tweaked his original post. I've reflected his tweak below and the copy and paste code is now his latest version.

This is an interesting idea from Tom Hoffman (found via John) - a socially responsible use of a Google bomb! Up until now, I have only seen Google bombs used to humiliate friends and annoy presidents, but Tom suggests using a Google bomb to try and knock martinlutherking[dot]org off the front page of Google results.

This sounds to me like an excellent idea. A double whammy: not only could you use something like this with pupils to teach them about good, reliable sources of information on the American Civil Rights movement, but you can teach citizenship within the context of ICT and information literacy. Brilliant!

So what do you do? Just use your blog, or some other web page to link the text "Martin Luther King" to good sources of information and don't create an active link to martinlutherking[dot]org. Easy! If enough people do it, Google should pick up the good links and push the bad one off the front page.

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King

And copied from Tom's post, here’s the code. You should be able to just paste this into a blog post.

<a href=",_Jr." title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

At Last: a return visit to

More than a year ago I wrote about and a new feature I noticed yesterday had prompted this new update. For those of you not familiar with it, describes itself as a "social music revolution". The basic idea is that you listen to music, either from a "radio" station or from your own CD/mp3 collection, will "learn what you like" and tailor what it plays to match your musical tastes. I said the last time that I wasn't sure that it had any educational application... I'm still not convinced that I could justify using it in school. In fact the things that attract me to it may be the things that frighten the powers that be who ban access to social networking tools.

The service has been steadily developing and in particular the social networking side has been growing and improving. I don't make as much use of this as I could, but can put you in touch with people who like the same sort of music, it has bulletin boards for fans of particular groups/genres, it has a blog(ish) tool, it has ways of recommending music and linking you to sites where you can buy it... in short it has many ways of encouraging and supporting online social networks. ...And it plays music I like into the bargain!

Clearly, there are similar issues to Bebo and MySpace accounts in that inappropriate material can be posted, inappropriate contacts made and children could reveal more about themselves than is wise. However, I have found it generally good at playing music to my taste and have bought a couple of albums as a result of its recommendations. (Although I am still unsure about the Goo Goo Dolls album I got at its suggestion despite Mr W's best efforts to convert me.)

You can, if the desire so takes you, look at the kind of music I listen to but the new feature than prompted this post was the recommended events list (see screenshot). You tell where you live and it lists upcoming concerts it thinks you will like. It even tells you how many other users will be attending the same concert - interesting or dangerous depending on your point of view.

However, the main point of interest for me, is that it's further evidence of the way computers and social networking tools are becoming increasingly personalised. I could find out about upcoming events by going to SECC Tickets or Gigs in Scotland but I get a whole load of information I don't care about - for example, do I care about the Sugababes' concert or Peter Pan on Ice? I think not. :-) however provides a personalised service and highlights just the stuff I am interested in. Brilliant.

Ewan, among others, has often talked about the value of allowing pupils to personalise their own space. Read/Write web tools are increasingly delivering highly personalised information in ways that are user customisable. Yet, at the same time, there is pressure to have all school systems looking exactly the same. Allow pupils to choose their own desktop picture? - Don't be silly! Let users add desktop widgets? - Not a hope! Have pupils write to their own blog while at school? - Far to dangerous! Allow some people to use a Macintosh? - Perish the thought, after all, "Nobody uses Macintoshes!" Even worse, permit children to bring their own computers into school and connect to the network? Impossible!

There's a reason they are called personal computers. I know there is also a reason why they often are locked down as tightly as possible in schools but this has the side effect of making them identical and impersonal. However, if we want our pupils to make effective use of the technology, do we have to find ways of allowing them to take advantage of the personalised environments that they can access/create?

{Sorry about that - it was a bit of a stealth rant! It wasn't obvious where I was going untill I got there. Am I tilting at windmills or is this a real problem?}

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

PGDE(S): Another new blogger

I gave a list of new student bloggers in my Welcome Party post. Another student has now owned up to starting a blog and you can find him at It's late and I'm tired... The most recent post as I write this involves a slightly bizarre cartoon but if you read the post before, "You're gonna get pure mad stabbed!", the reason for the cartoon will be staring you in the face. :-)

He is looking for advice on motivating the unmotivated. Any suggestions?

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Monday, November 06, 2006

EduFlickr: Goodnight Mr Tom and Hello Mr CogDogBlog

Goodnight Mr Tom

Imagine that you are going to teach a lesson that you know will be observed by your headteacher and the chair of the board of governors. What do you do? Play it safe and teach a tried and tested lesson that you know will work well? Or do you push the boat out and do something new with read/write web tools that could easily go squiffy?

Well if you are T. Barrett (is that Tom Barrett, or am I making that up?) you do the latter! See Lesson Observation Today! for details. Stunningly brilliant! This and more in the ICT in my Classroom blog.

Hello Mr CogDogBlog

What Can We Do With Flickr?
What Can We Do With Flickr?,
originally uploaded by cogdogblog
I must admit that I only dip in and out of Alan's blog but his recent contribution to the K12 Online Conference reminded me why I had subscribed to his blog in the first place. I was impressed with his use of Flickr to demonstrate what you can do with Flickr. Again... stunningly brilliant!

He has taken a similar approach to the other things he was talking about at the K12 Online Conference, for example, to introduce YouTube, he recorded a video introduction and posted it on YouTube. I especially like the idea of the video tennis games that can result from this educational use where people respond to your video with another video.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Domino Effect

Those clever people at Eepybird have done it again. (You may remember Eepybird - they were the ones who did the Serious Science Experiment with Coke and Mentos.) The are now at experiment number 214. Enjoy!

{Still catching up on my RSS feeds - this one came from a post on Jonathan Sanderson’s blog.}

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Just in time for Bonfire Night

This advert was brought to my attention by GadgetVicar:

Stunningly brilliant... and filmed in Glasgow! I can feel another back garden experiment coming on. :-)

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P.S. I'm a bit behind with my blog reading but I've just noticed that Mr Winton beat me to this by some weeks!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Welcome party

I wrote in Moblogging: Turn it on again about Ewan's visit to Jordanhill and our attempt to get students interested in blogging. A few students have already let me know about the blogs they've started, so I thought I'd introduce them here so that you can see what they have to say for themselves. They start their first major placement in schools on Monday (6 November) and I'm looking forward to reading about their experiences.

In no particular order, student blogs I know about so far are:
Writing at Night
Writing at Night,
originally uploaded by iwouldstay
I'll add more as and when I become aware of them.

Also, one of the students had created a blog sometime before the lecture that he was hoping to use with one of classes. Brilliant! Like I've said before, they're doing it already. :-)
Finally, those of you who watched the video of our lecture will have heard me say that I created a set of bookmarks for the students but I gave it the wrong name! (I was in some sort of a time warp and thought it was session 2005-2006.) I have now created another set and this time got the name right. :-) I have added some of the sites we talked about on Friday to and will add a few more over the coming days. If there are any sites/resources you think I should draw to the students' attention, let me know. Either add a comment here, or if you have a account, tag anything you think the students should see with for:pgdes0607. The for:pgdes0607 tag should mark it for my attention and hopefully I will eventually notice and add it to the students' bookmarks.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I've got mail... honest!

I don't think I'm that hard to find. A search of Google for "David Muir" Jordanhill throws up plenty of possibilities (721 when I tried it a minute ago). At least three of the links on the first page of results display my email address. (The first hit is a very old personal page which I must edit or delete soon... however my official page isn't much more up to date!)

So, I think I'm easy to find but a couple of people recently complained that they didn't know my email address. For the benefit of these people, and anybody else who cares, here it is as a mailto link: d.d.muir. I've also added a mailto to the sidebar (in the EdCompBlog Stuff section) so it should be easy to find from now on.

I thought carefully before putting my email here. I originally typed it in as d.d.muir [at], however I decided this was silly because A) as I said above, it is already displayed on other pages and B) I already get a bucket load of spam anyway! I'd like to ask any techie-types reading this if putting an email address in the form of a mailto link is better than just typing it in? Will spambots find it just as easily? Answers on a comment postcard please.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Moblogging: Turn it on again

Some time ago in Turn on, tune in... send email! I wrote about how I asked the students to email pictures from their mobiles to a PGDE(S) Flickr account and from there it was automatically forwarded to the a PGDE(S) blog. It worked. It was fun! I wanted to do something else with mobiles, but wasn't sure what.
Technology -
Technology - "Future Vision",
originally uploaded by $ydney
I thought of getting students to send in questions by texting them to me... then I wondered if the texts could be forwarded to an email address instead of me having to read them off my phone... then I thought if they can be emailed, they can be sent to Blogger... the final bit of the jigsaw for me was wondering if we could have a separate screen to display an updated list of submitted questions while we presented on another screen. However I dismissed that idea as a step too far.

...But then when I told Ewan what I was planning, he emailed back to say, "Wouldn't it be cool if we had a separate screen for the questions...". So I asked the technicians (at ridiculously short notice) and they said, "Yes!". :-)

The attendance at the lecture was ridiculously poor. (I suppose Friday afternoon isn't the best time slot.) However, I enjoyed myself. Ewan enjoyed himself (I think - see his post from before and during the session). Also, I think that most of the students enjoyed themselves. I hope that they were inspired. (They know where my blog is now, so perhaps some will tell me here.) Why not watch the video and let me know what you think. :-)

Coming up with the idea of texting questions was easy but I thought doing it might be trickier. However, Google came to the rescue. A quick search threw up a step-by-step guide on the iX Conference Wiki about how to use a free service from intelliSoftware. The wiki even suggested making the blog auto-refresh every thirty seconds to keep the content displayed up-to-date. Brilliant! The only problem is that the sender's phone number is displayed as the subject of the post. (I've edited the numbers out now, but they were there for a good while until I had time to go in and fix it.) For that reason, I wouldn't use this technique in a school. However, I'm going to contact the techie types at the University and intelliSoftware to see if there is any way to hide the numbers.

I think the texted questions added something to the presentation. Some of the comments were silly, some were fun, some were interesting, some were useful... all of them added something to the session. I would definitely do it again.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One Day In History

I heard about the One Day In History project on the radio yesterday and thought it would be interesting to give it a go. I took various pictures throughout the day to illustrate my post, but the history blog seems to be text only, so I thought I'd do it here with illustrations and then do a text only version on the One Day In History site as well.

I got up this morning at about ten past six, as usual, and took the dogs out for a walk. It was dark and it was raining. It is the October week school holiday and so my wife the English teacher and daughters 1 to 3 all had a lie in. Scunners! I left the house a bit later than usual because I find it really hard to motivate myself when everybody else in the house is still sleeping. I heard about the One Day In History project on the radio while driving to work at Jordanhill (the Education Faculty of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow). Thought I'd give it a go. We were invited to note connections with historic events or buildings during our day but they also said that things we consider ordinary may be of great interest to historians in the future. I'm not sure what people in the future may be interested in, but I am interested in technology, so I will try to note a few things about the technology I use during the day.

Sparse diary
Sparse diary,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
At the office, I checked my diary to see what was coming up. I use a digital diary - an old Palm m130 which has been dropped umpteen times and chewed by the dogs but it still keeps me more or less on track. This week is fairly quiet with only two classes and one meeting but the meeting and one class happened today. Both of today's events are tangentially related to the One Day In History project in that the meeting was with a researcher on how I use tools such as podcasts and wikis and blogs (oh my!) in my teaching and the class was about educational uses of online photo sharing sites.

originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
However, the day starts with marking! I hate marking, but this is marking that is more than overdue. It is completely and utterly late.

It takes a while but when I finish the marking I felt that I'd earned a tea break.

We headed down to the cafe where I had a cup of tea and a scone.
Tea and scone
Tea and scone,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
The scones at Jordanhill are legendary. They are fresh baked every day on campus and if you get there at the right time, they are still hot from the oven. Earlier this year the decision was taken to sell off the Jordanhill Campus and move the Education Faculty into the centre of Glasgow to be beside the rest of the faculties. There are, no doubt, many advantages in this move, but one major disadvantage, I suspect, will be the loss of the catering facilities and, in particular, the loss of the Jordanhill scone. This move (assuming it happens) will end a long association of this area of Glasgow with teacher education. The land was bought in 1911 and work began on the David Stow Building that same year although the move to the Jordanhill Campus did not take place until 1921.

The paperless office?
The paperless office?,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
After tea break I arranged for some handouts to be printed off on the photocopier. The paperless office has never materialised and the place of the photocopier (or some other paper copying machine) seems safe for many years to come. I then dashed off to my meeting which was on the other campus not far from George Square in the centre of Glasgow. The researcher was running late with the previous group so I had time for a quick chat with a colleague about a staff development module we are running called "Internet Communications". This will be our first time teaching the module and we are still trying to finalise exactly what we will do with it.
Coffee @ CAPLE
Coffee @ CAPLE,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I had time for a cup of tea before meeting the researcher. Unfortunately because we started late, I had to leave early to get back to Jordanhill for my class.

The class was a BEd 4 option class where we look at the uses of Information and Communication Technology in education. (BEd 4 means they are undergraduates in their fourth year of a four year Bachelor of Education degree.) I talked about the educational uses of online photo sharing before setting some practical work involving Flickr and digital cameras.
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
While they did the practical work, I was very unprofessional and ate my lunch - a chicken tikka sandwich and a can of Barr's Irn Bru.

After the class I did a bit of tidying up, checked my email and got a couple of things ready for next week.

During the day I used a variety of different personal computers. In my office I use both a very old Viglen computer running Windows XP and a slightly newer Macintosh computer running OS X. I also used a Windows XP laptop to run the presentation for the BEd class.

New hairdo!
New hairdo!,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I headed home shortly after five o'clock. Daughter number 1 had been to the hairdressers and her hair was shorter by about 8 inches (approximately 20 centimetres). I am ashamed to say, daughter number 3 had to draw this to my attention before I noticed.

Church expansion
Church expansion,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
Before tea (chicken - made by daughter number 1) I went to have a look at our church. The building is 80 years old this year and we are currently expanding and refurbishing our halls.

After tea, three of us went round to a friend's new home. She has just moved in (boxes everywhere!) and I was to help by putting up a couple smoke detectors and building her daughter's bunk bed. (Slightly worried that after re-building the bed, I had one bolt left over...) While we were working there, the ice-cream van came round. Brilliant - we don't have one where we stay now but in our last house we often looked forward to a late night ice-cream from the van. It was good to get a snack just as we were completing the bed. :-)

After that, it was home for supper and the last thing before bed was to take the dogs out for another walk. It was dark and it was raining!

That's my day. I hope someone now, or in the future, finds it interesting. :-)

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jowlers and other photo projects

I can't seem to get out of silly post mode these days... I'll start with the very silly and then move onto the slightly more useful.

David Jowling
David Jowling,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
While looking for ideas for an upcoming EduFlickr post, I came across the Jowlers website. This is a deceptively simple idea that produces some bizarre results. All you do is shake your head rapidly from side to side while somebody takes a picture. That's it. No fancy Photoshop techniques, no clever lenses for your camera. Just shake your head and take a picture. It took us a few goes to get the best result and I was getting a bit of a headache by the end, but I think you'll agree the result is rather fetching. Blue didn't want to be left out, so I posted one of him jowling too. Enjoy! {If anyone is up for the challenge... leave a comment here giving an educational justification for jowling in the classroom! :-) }

The slightly more useful part of this post is a link to the site that directed me to Jowlers in the first place. The site is called Photojojo and claims to "...find the best photo shiz anywhere"! I'm not sure what a "shiz" is, but it seems to be a good thing. :-) The site allows you to subscribe to a twice weekly newsletter that gives tricks, tips and projects related to digital photography. An archive of past newsletter entries is available on the site. Recent items that caught my attention include the Jowlers site listed above, Project 365 (How to Take a Photo a Day and See Your Life in a Whole New Way), Keep the Juice Flowing (Digital Camera Battery Life Tips), The DIY CanFrame (Transform a Tin Can into a Simple Photo Frame in 15 Minutes) and PhotoGlow (An Enlightened Photo Frame).

They publish huge range of ideas from practical tips (like prolonging battery life) to practical projects (like using a can as a photo frame). Simple ideas (like take a picture a day - or in a classroom why not take a picture every hour?) to complex constructions (like the illuminated photo frame).

Over one hundred ideas a year delivered to your mailbox or to your RSS feed reader. And it's free! Well worth checking out.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Playing with words

I have written before in this blog about some of the fun things you can do with photographs and websites like Flickr. (And I have had it in mind for ages to write another EduFlickr piece on a fun Flickr site... maybe next week.) However, thanks to Ollie Bray I found this site which allows you to generate newspaper clippings, like this:

Fake newspaper clipping

You can also generate clapper boards and animated talking tomatoes and... well go and have a look for yourself. However, where I really lost my way was when I moved from the newspaper site to the The Generator Blog. There are more links to software for generating fun images on this blog than you can shake a stick at!

Two of my favourites are The Dummies Book Cover (which I found on the Custom Sign Genrator list):

...and the Warning Sign Generator:
Have fun with these, and let me know when, and where you use them.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Video: Tag, you're it

I came across the veotag tool thanks to a post from Ewan on a meeting for East Lothian Glow mentors. In particular, he posted some videos of Don Ledingham (Head of Education for East Lothian Council, Scotland, UK) talking about East Lothian's policies. The videos are worth watching in their own right. Don says some good stuff in an interesting and accessible way. For example, I particularly liked his comment in Glow Mentors - Reversing Hierarchy for Mutual Benefit, that there no models of good practice. He said:
"You can have two teachers in adjacent rooms, teaching completely different ways and they can both be outstanding!"
Brilliiant! However, it is the veotag system that I think makes these videos really interesting. This system allows you to add chapter markers to your video and audio files. You can create a table of contents or a menu for your audio. Click on the chapter heading and jump directly to that part of the video. If that wasn't enough, you can also add tags and text to the different sections of video, so you can add notes or a transcript. It is very easy to use. I had a go with my Mentos video (see Back garden experiment for an explanation) and it was almost unbelievably simple to set up.

I think the educational potential for this is huge. Firstly, it makes video material much more accessible. For example, providing a transcript for people with hearing difficulties in this way is probably a lot easier than adding subtitles. Secondly, getting pupils to tag videos would be a great way to get them to interact with material rather than just passively watching or listening to it. Also, adding the tags and texts makes the content accessible to search engines.

Combining veotagging with Creative Archive material (currently offline during a consultation period) or other educational video and sound clips, perhaps from SCRAN or Teachers' TV, could be very exciting. I wonder if organisations like this would even start distributing pre-tagged material?

Finally, on a more or less unrelated matter, Derek Robertson brought a site called SingShot to my attention. It's essentially karaoke for the YouTube generation! Record yourself singing, rate others, leave comments - create a community of singers online. Brilliant! (Note Derek has just moved Hot Milky Drink to a new home.)

Why not listen to me murder a classic from the Monkees, rate me and leave a comment. Before you do however, can I say in my defence that my karaoke favourite, I'm a Believer, wasn't available and I had to record my singing with a cheapo webcam microphone. I may have a go later today with a better microphone... you have been warned.

Remember to rate Derek's efforts too. My favourite is his rendition of Word Up - especially the screaming at the end. :-)

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Friday, October 06, 2006

To boldly go...

I feel I have established my geek credentials on this blog many times over but I must be slipping since I missed this one... A colleague sent me an email from CNET with some news he thought I'd appreciate. He was right!

It's acting Jim...
It's acting Jim...,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
What am I talking about? Well it seems that a group of Star Trek fans are making a new series of the original Star Trek. {That's Star Trek: The Original Series or ST:TOS to those in the know. :-) } My colleague found out from a couple of video reports on CNET:
The fans have four episodes so far - two currently available and two in post production. It seems that Paramount is allowing them to make the episodes on the condition that they don't make any money from it. The episodes can be download free from the Star Trek New Voyages website.

Well that's a good chunk of my weekend sorted! :-)

P.S. I've just found news on the official Trek site that the same fans are involved in the production of a Star Trek movie! This movie is directed by Tim Russ (Tuvok) and stars various Star Trek actors, including Walter Koenig (Chekov) and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura). I guess that's next weekend booked too. :-)

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

National Poetry Day

I think this still counts as National Poetry Day, so here is my contribution.

A mousey sat by my computer
So I decided to shoot her
I took careful aim
But missed! What a pain
Instead, my computer got blootered!

Think you can do better? Feel free to add your own ICT inspired limericks in a comment.

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What's the frequency Kenneth?

You may have spotted a few comments on some of my recent posts from Kenneth. I found them to be interesting and helpful. Well Kenneth has now started his own blog. Why not pop over and say hello. I'm not sure how frequently he intends to make a post, but I'm looking forward to reading what he has to say.

Warning: Before you go and visit, I feel I should warn you that there are gratuitous references to Barry Manilow, so the blog should probably carry a Parental Guidance certificate. :-)

It does however give me an excuse to re-purpose an old joke...

originally uploaded by e.dward
A man approaches the manager of a record shop. {Records are those big, black musical discs that old people still insist sound better than CDs... I told you it was an old joke.} He says the the manager, "I wish to make a complaint about the categories you've used to organise your discs."
I'm sorry to hear that sir.", says the manager, "What seems to be the trouble?".
"Well...", says the man, "I don't consider Barry Manilow to be easy listening."

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

SETT06: Edward de Bono (Part II)

{My laptop ran out of battery power part way through Edward de Bono's keynote. I promised at the time I'd type up the rest from notes and it has taken me until today to get around to it. I'll quickly cover some of the rest of the keynote and then I'll add my own thoughts at the end.}


Edward De Bono
Edward De Bono,
originally uploaded by Edublogger
One of the techniques he uses to make people think more carefully about decisions is PMI Points: Pluses, Minuses, and Interesting points. He also suggested using OPV (Other Points of View) techniques to help people consider more than one side of a problem. He said he has been criticised for using so many three letter acronyms {or TLAs :-)} but he says they are important. They give the ideas a place in your brain and therefore make it easier to remember and apply them.

Creative Solutions

The problem is that information comes in over time but at various points we have to make decisions based on the currently available information. However as more information becomes available, we may have to backtrack to get to a better solution. Creativity is not optimal. The best or most creative solution may only be obvious in hindsight. He illustrated this on the visualiser with some shapes. I will try to show what he did in the graphic shown below. {I thought this was one of the best parts of his talk. I found it a very helpful illustration. A simple idea that is tricky to describe in writing, yet very clear what he was getting at when you saw him do it.}

{For reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time, I decided to draw this using a free online drawing package called Gliffy. It was not the easiest package to use and I am not hugely happy with the results... but I suppose that, like poodles walking on their hind legs, it's impressive that it can do it at all! I published the diagram on Gliffy too... just because I could. :-)}

If you started in a different place, you may find a different solution - we can never predict the future perfectly. All pattern making organisms use systems that are asymmetric - that is, any patterns apparent with hindsight, may not have been obvious at the time. With hindsight you can see the logic in choices that get you to a good solution, but it may not be possible to to reach that solution first time by logic alone.

{There is more that he said that I still have to type up but I decided to break off here. I may do the rest later. Other people have blogged this keynote - e.g. Ewan (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5 - phew!) and Digital Katie. Also, the video of the keynote is now available. I'll spend the next section of this post talking about my reactions to this keynote.}

I've read a few blog posts about this keynote now and it is fair to say that not everyone was impressed. I thought it was good. Not outstanding - but good. From the people I've spoken to (obviously a fair and representative sample - ahem!) it appears that people who have heard him before were more disappointed than people who were hearing him for the first time. I was hearing him for the first time.

However, I found his delivery style oddly flat. He sat, drawing scribbling on the visualiser (more on this in a moment), and did not seem to engage with the audience. If he was one of my teaching students I would have given him into trouble for this! He did not come across as passionate about his subject. Compare this with the keynote I heard last year from Guy Claxton - someone who was clearly enthusiastic about what he was doing.

Some of the attendees have accused him of name dropping. This is possibly true, but if I was as influential as him and had made as big an impact, perhaps I would be tempted to highlight my successes (as I was saying to Tony Blair, David Cameron and Ming Campbell just the other day). To be fair, many of his ideas seem simple, simplistic even, so it is perhaps not unreasonable to keep talking about who is using his techniques as evidence of their effectiveness. For example the PMI technique described above seems too simple to be of any real use, so it may be no bad thing to name drop some big successes. It could be seen as boasting, but it may just be a way of saying, "Look, this technique really works." (As an aside, I suspect it is like the shapes illustration above. The techniques are only "simple" in hindsight.)

As I touched on above, his use of the visualiser (a sort of video version of the overhead projector) was unusual. To be honest I still can't work out if it was brilliant or barmy! He must have gone through hundreds of OHP slides in the course of the talk. Sometimes he just drew a couple of arrows on a slide before wheeching it off and starting with a fresh one. Sometimes he scribbled a quick diagram. Sometimes he wrote up a couple of words. (Very scribbled handwriting - again something I would have complained about if one of my student teachers was writing like that.) All this and more should have made it a barmy way to do things... but although it was bizarre, it seemed to work for him. Perhaps it's an illustration of the fine line between genius and madness. :-)

I was describing what he did with the visualiser to a colleague, and she remarked, "But you remember what he did?"
"Well, yes..."
"And you're still talking about what he did!"
"Well, yes..."
"Well, it worked then, didn't it?"

Hmm! It did work. I guess it was effective. (If you follow the link on the picture illustrating this post, you'll see a few more pictures that Ewan took of his slides... or watch the video.) Somebody has already remarked that it made a change from the Powerpointless presentations you often see. It reminded me of the moment in Will Richardson's presentation at eLive where he started drawing on his tablet to make a point. Perhaps Will's approach gives the best of both worlds - a structured presentation but with the possibility of spontaneous additions on a tablet computer when appropriate.

However, despite all of the reservations above, I thought the power of his ideas shone through. The delivery may have been dull, but the ideas were exciting. The techniques he presented were simple, but they were the "Of course!" type simple rather than the "Well, duh!" type simple (if you see what I mean). Finally, the presentation style was different but vive la difference!

I think I've talked myself into it. The ideas were good and the examples were helpful. I think I will write up the rest of keynote... but I may read his six hats book first, so don't hold your breath. :-)

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Safe or sorry?

I have so many things I still want to say about SETT and the TeachMeet but I'm getting further away from both and still not finding the time to type up my thoughts. (Is there any significance in "typing up" compared to "writing down"?)

I realised today however that I have written a the equivalent of a couple of posts in comments on other peoples blogs in response to the whole issue of filtering. This seems to have stirred up a few people in the aftermath of SETT/TeachMeet. It is not a new topic (see for example Open the windows) but perhaps the imminent arrival of Glow and increasingly easy access to the Internet is bringing more teachers up against the frustrations of a restricted service.

Read some of the conversations I have joined and add your own thoughts:
What do you think? Is this a short term problem? Will the the issues go away or get worse with near omnipresent wi-fi and ubiquitous access to the technology to take advantage of it? Or will things get worse as schools (and governments?) try to ban, legislate and restrict?

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Belated... but better than never?

At the entrance,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I spent a good bit of Friday (when I should have been preparing for classes) reading other people's posts from SETT and the TeachMeet. It was interesting comparing notes for sessions I had also blogged, as well as reading about sessions I missed. (Did anybody blog David Weinberger's keynote?) There were a fair number of posts, but while most have been picked up by John Johnston's Tagmix and Hitchhikr, a few seem to have fallen through the net. In particular, Technoratti doesn't seem to have found Ewan's posts - I wonder why?

However, reading all these posts remind me that I've been a bit lax about saying thank you. I've got a few more posts I want to make on SETT and TeachMeet, but thought I should get the belated thanks in first.

Firstly, a huge thank you to Ewan, both for inviting me to co-present at his SETT session (Creating Communities), and for TeachMeet. A special thanks is due for TeachMeet as the idea for the format was his, he set up the wiki and then he did a lot of work behind the scenes to pull it all together. I was a bit cheekier in a previous post where I said the TeachMeet was being put together by a bunch of numpties who were making it up as they went along on a wiki! That was not entirely true. :-) However if it hadn't have been for Ewan, I suspect it would have looked like it was organised by numpties instead of turning out the great success that it was. (More of this in a future post I suspect.)

Other thanks are due to various sponsors that I should have been acknowledging as I went along. Specifically, Stormhoek who provided the wine, Promethean who paid the hotel's corkage charge and also bought some wi-fi access for us, and to LTScotland who paid for our meeting room and also helped out with the wi-fi.

I very much appreciated the wi-fi access. It was a bit slow in the TeachMeet room (we were in the furthest flung corner of the hotel) so I couldn't do the live demo I had planned (I'll say more about this too in a future post) but it worked a treat in the seminars and the exhibition area (...and I suspect I'll say more about wi-fi access in yet another future post!). A final thanks however should go to Scotsys. I had run out of wi-fi credit and was sitting having tea and buns with John Johnston when we noticed the number of wi-fi networks available from exhibitors. Many were locked down, but some appeared to be open. We tried the Scotsys link and were given free access with a good strong signal. I think my Interactive Chatting Teddies post was made on the Scotsys link. :-) I felt a bit guilty about it though, so I went to their stand later and thanked them, however they seemed quite relaxed about it, so thanks again to them. (Perhaps this is a way ahead for next year. If the SECC are still asking funny money for wi-fi, perhaps a number of exhibitors would be willing to open up their wi-fi for public access. Just a thought.)

So, thanks again to everyone mentioned above. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I suspect that both SETT and TeachMeet will feature in my posts for a good wee while to come.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

SETT: Edward de Bono Keynote

The Powerful Effects of Teaching Thinking Explicitly as a Skill

Top hat
Top hat
originally uploaded by julia_adelle
Edward de Bono's opening words were, "Good afternoon blonds, ladies and gentlemen!" He said he'd explain why later. {I guess I must have missed why. Did any other blogger pick this up?}

He said: for 2,400 years we've done little about thinking. About 2,400 years ago there were the GG3, the Greek Gang of 3. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. Plato came up with the ideas of categorising things - a logic system that puts things in boxes. It works well with things like doctors diagnosing and deciding treatment. Based on judgement, it works well, but we need to think about design - about the possibilities rather than just the facts.

Judgement <<------>> Design
Truth <<------>> Possibility

People think you can collect the information on computers and make decisions based on this information - but this is not enough. You need creativity. EdB is interested in designing software for the brain. He defined a new word - Operacy: The ability to make things happen - skills of doing. (c.f. literacy, numeracy, etc.)

The teaching of thinking skills has a measurable effect. For example, a school for violent teenagers taught thinking skills. A 20 year follow up study found a huge reduction in offending rates. Also, big impact on self-esteem. Gave another example of a tenfold increase in the number of lines of text produced by primary school children taught the six hats methods.

For 2400 years we have used argument to explore a subject but this is a very poor way of doing things. For example, if you are arguing, "Is it A or B" you don't think of the possibility of C, D or E. Sometimes, when we have people who are arguing - both can be right from their perspective, but they need to see the other side (or sides). This is called parallel thinking. The idea is that all the parties in the argument all look in the same (i.e. parallel) direction at the problem. Then they all change perspective and all look in a different, but still parallel to each other, direction. While working on a problem, everyone puts on the same "hat" so that everyone is looking in the same direction. They have tried this with juries and they found they reached decisions much more quickly.

Six hats:
  1. White hat: Information. What do we know, what do we need to know.
  2. Red hat: Emotions and feelings without a need to justify.
  3. Black hat: Caution. "This wont work. That's wrong"
  4. Yellow hat: Value sensitivity.
  5. Green hat: Creativity. Look for new ideas and possibilities - lateral thinking.
  6. Blue hat: Organising - overview of situation
As a way of exploring a subject, this is much more effective than argument.

Logic errors are rare in thinking. It is much more likely that the problem is from perception (90% of the errors). A mathematicians has even said that it is impossible to prove things from first principles because we have to start with certain assumptions that we take on faith. {I think I may made this last bit up... I kind of lost what he was saying because the laptop sent a battery warning.}

CORT program creates some tools for perception. For example, C&S Consequence and Sequel.

{At this point my battery died. I took notes on the rest by scribbling in the margin of the conference programme booklet. I'll transcribe and upload as soon as I get a chance.}

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SETT: To blog or not to blog?

Susan Buchanon, Fiona Cunningham, Fiona Andrews and some children from primary 7.

Woodhill Bloggers
Woodhill Bloggers,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
"A blog is what ever you want it to be". However Susan warned about coming up with contrived projects. The technology should fit the curriculum, not the other way around.

Good intoduction to podcasting can be found at PC Pod.

Why use?

Woodhill did Modern Foreign Language podcasts. Reasons given to the headteacher:
  • real audience
  • motivational
  • flexible (anytime, anywhere)
  • interactive
  • strengthens home school links#
  • ...and more but lost it. :-)
Susan was inspired to try blogging after SETT 2005. Started small with Blogger and a focus on French vocabulary with Primary 6. They got three iPods from Enterprise funding and another from Comedius {right name?}. Established a development group including a classroom assistant who was very experienced French speaker (Fiona Cunningham).

Fiona explained how desperate the pupils were to help with the podcasting and to get the files downloaded to their own players. (Most of their pupils now have players.

All the soundfiles etc. are available on the Woodhill Blog, either for download to iPod or, for those who don't have mp3 players, to listen to it on the web.

Like the Teddies presentation, the pupils' voices were heard - this time because the pupils were with them they stood up and explained what they did. They showed us how they used the iPod and how they answered questions.

In the project, the pupils blogged about what they did. The pupils loved the project. They thought the iPods were cool and liked getting out of class. {DM: It suits the way they like to work! :-)} Again, it was a pupil that showed us here how they used Blogger. {DM: I thought it was brave to have the children do a live blog post. I hope they leave the test post he did in place!} He said, "As you can see, it's very simple.", in fact he said that anyone can use it even parents and teachers! :-) Comments have to approved by the teacher before they are made live... but in response to my question she said she had never had any inappropriate comments. She also explained the online safety training they did.

They now have other sites and are using "two stars and a wish" to comment on the pupils online work.

See Eco Warriors an environmental project, a wiki developed with other schools and blog for parents to get feedback from parents and encourage home school links.

Susan highly recommended Will's book.

Susan then went on to show some other primary school blogs. What was brilliant was that Susan showed some examples of primary blogs including Sandaig (with a picture of John and Spencer and Campbell taken earlier today) and the Interactive Chatting Teddies blog (where there was a picture of me with Campbell and Spencer taken earlier today! Ah the wonders of the read/write web and the wireless internet access here at SETT. Stunningly brilliant! :-)

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