Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Isn't technology wonderful... not!

I started a recent ICT lecture by showing a video clip of a man who has clearly had a bad day. Using an interactive voting system, I asked the students how many of them had ever hit a computer out of sheer frustration?

Abused Laptop Keyboard
Abused Laptop Keyboard,
originally uploaded by splorp.
Of the 76 who responded, 41% said that they had never hit their computer! I didn't believe them, but perhaps I just have a shorter fuse than most people. However 26% admited that they had hit their computer often or fairly often - my kind of people!

The solution may be to play this game and take out aggressive tendencies vicariously. Unfortunately the instructions for the game are in a language that I don't understand, but if you click on the screen a few times, it becomes clear fairly quickly how it works. I would like to know however if there is an ultimate goal and if it is possible to win, so if any modern linguists are able to help out, I'd be very grateful.

Let me know if this saves your keyboard from further abuse!

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Isn't technology wonderful

Well the marking is done, if not yet dusted, and I'm feeling demob happy. I had promised to do a post on blogs in education, but that will need to wait for another day. In the meantime, I thought I'd make a couple of posts on something a bit lighter.

originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
I've bought new headphones for my iPod (see Mr Potato's picture for full details) and everything is sounding great. When I got it at Christmas, I thought I'd choose some of my favourite CDs, rip them at the highest quality and then add some others at a lower quality until it was full up. Well after I'd uploaded all my favourites, I had barely made a dent in the storage capacity... so I just kept on ripping CDs at the highest quality. Finally, last night, I managed to fill just over half. (So is it now half full or half empty?)

It has been a fantastic trip down memory lane, re-discovering CDs I'd more or less forgotten about. For example, I thought I didn't like U2's Achtung Baby, but listening to it again, I think it's just that it ends badly. If it had been an album rather than a CD I suspect I would have played side one repeatedly and chosen it as one of my favourites... however, even on an iPod their Pop album is still dire!
Smiley face
I now have pretty much put everything on my iPod that I want to listen to... and probably some stuff I don't. After many weeks of CD ripping, my CD collection, which according to my wife the English teacher takes up a ridiculously large space in the lounge, now half fills a tiny box. Isn't technology wonderful!

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Read/Write Web 2.0 : Part 2

As promised, here is the second part of links and explanations related to last Friday's lectures.

In the second half of the lecture, I moved on to talk more about social networking tools, specifically:

  • Online bookmarks
  • Tagging
  • Photo sharing (Flickr)

I had originally intended to talk about Wikis, but again since time was against me, I decided miss this out. However, wikis are interesting, and potentially extremely useful in education. The most famous example of a wiki is the Wikipedia. The idea of a wiki is that anyone can contribute to and edit a set of web pages. This is how Wikipedia works. It is an encyclopaedia that is written by its readers. As it says on its own help page:

"Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written by its users (in over 200 languages worldwide). Anyone can edit Wikipedia, and its contents are free and open."

There are some concerns about the consequences of this way of creating an encyclopaedia. Is such information reliable? I have written about this in the past and I am no longer as skeptical as I was. If you want to look into it further, try watching Jon Udell's screencast which, among other things, shows how the Wikipedia resists vandalism and develops in scope and accuracy over time. You may also like to read an article from Nature that gives a reasonably favourable report on Wikipedia's accuracy when compared to Britannica. Also of interest is a Wikipedia Lesson Plan. Another example of a wiki is Wikibooks. I don't think the world of educational publishing has to worry about Wikibooks, but what if a class produced their own text book for the course you were teaching? Perhaps different people could be given responsibility for making an initial entry on a topic and then the rest of the class could edit, correct, add examples etc. as their understanding develops. The end product may not be as good as the school's text books, but the process of producing the wikibook could be extremely valuable. What do you think?

The first tool I did demonstrate was online bookmarks, specifically (there are others, but is the one I use most often despite its silly name). If you have ever saved a favourite/bookmark when browsing the web, it is very easy to see just how useful it is to to access a saved set of bookmarks from any machine. I used my bookmarks as an example. I showed the collection of links I had created for a digital video class which meant I could give the class a single web page to visit and all the links they needed could be accessed and I could keep it up to date - much easier than giving them a paper handout with hard to type web addresses that I can't update for them if a resource moves, disappears or can be replaced with a better site.

I also used my list to introduce the idea of tags. The tagging feature of online bookmarking tools make it much easier to organise and find bookmarks. Instead of having to choose a single folder in which to store a bookmark, you can add a number of descriptive tags. For example, I could tag the Jon Udell screencast mentioned above with JonUdell screencast tutorial and Wiki, allowing me to easily find the link by clicking on a tag or by entering the tag as a search term. makes it easy to add tags as it lists all the tags you currently use and suggests others have used to describe the same site. My guide to gives a step-by-step introduction and makes a number of suggestions on how it could be used in education. Download the guide and sign up for and remember to leave a comment here if you use it with a class - let us know how you get on.

Champion Blue
Champion Blue,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
From tagging bookmarks I moved to tagging photographs, but really I wanted to show the educational potential of online photo sharing. I demonstrated Flickr by showing a picture of my dog Blue. I used various tags on this picture, but the one I highlighted was that it was the geotags. These specify where a photograph was taken and can be linked to tools such as Google Earth and Google Map. Are you going on a school trip? Do you have links with schools in other parts of the world? Do you want to show children places, or buildings or geographical features of interest to your subject? Take a photograph, geotag it and tell the children how to find it with a map tool! If you are interested, Make: Blog has a good guide on how to geotag photos.

Other potential uses of Flickr were also demonstrated including a getting to know you exercise, an example of a photograph being used to stimulate discussion about computer lab layout {sorry, I had messed up the previous two links... but I think they are fixed now} and a brilliant example of an art class sharing what they have learned about a piece of art. If you can't think of an idea where a visual image can be used a a stimulus for discussion or comment in your subject - you are not thinking hard enough! To add notes or comments to a photograph, you have to create a Flickr account, which you can do for free. There is good online help at Flickr and teach42 has provided list of Flickr related tools and ideas. If you use Flickr with a class, leave a comment here to share what you did and let us know how successful you were.

Another long post, but I think that gives you links to most of the stuff I talked about. That only leaves the promised links to the video of our lectures. You have been very patient and I think you've earned this:
  • My lecture on social networking tools
  • Ewan's lecture on blogs and podcasts and Web 2.0 and educational uses for all of the above!
Don't forget that Ewan has already posted a version of his presentation on his own blog.

Let me know what you think. Are these videos helpful or interesting? Was it good to get the links and further ramblings here too?

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P.S. I'm still marking essays... honest!

Friday, January 20, 2006

ICT Lecture: Read/Write Web, Web 2.0, Web: The Next Generation, ...

There are loads of things I want to blog about following last Friday's lectures but I have been completely snowed under with marking. Can I state here for the record: I hate marking. No, that's not right, I really hate marking. Don't get me wrong, I know how important assessment is but I hate the process of sitting down with thirty-odd 3500 word essays and knowing that you have no choice but to get on with it and mark them all. However, I am getting through them slowly but... er... slowly, and I think I have earned some time off to blog.

So here is part one with a brief description of what I was talking about at the start of my lecture and some links that will hopefully be of some use. A link to a streamed video feed of both my lecture and Ewan's will follow in the next post.

Chris left a comment on my previous post about whether students should get lecturer's notes or if they should make their own. Here's my presentation. As I said to Chris, I am not sure how much use it is to students without the addition of their own notes from the lecture. A couple of comments on it before continuing. Firstly, I did a copy and paste from my previous presentation but forgot to change the 2 to a 3 on the title screen - so it still says "Teaching and the Internet 2" instead of "Teaching and the Internet 3". Sorry. Secondly, I didn't have enough time to show all the slides and skipped the last few to go straight to some demonstrations. I was going to use my iPod and iTunes as a way in to talk about and the social tagging and community building it supports, but I decided to go straight in to instead. I've posted about before. If you want to see the kind of music I listen to, have a look at my page. I'll say a bit more about in my next post.

Darth Tater's iPod
Darth Tater's iPod,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
The Darth Tater photo used in the presentation has already caused a bit of discussion. A student emailed me because she was having and an argument with her son. He said it was a potato, she said it was an egg. He was right of course, but mum could salvage a bit of pride because he thought it was a Spud Trooper. Here's a picture of both in case you are interested. If you go to my Darth Tater photo, you'll see that it has gathered a few comments. Feel free to add your own ideas about why Darth is listening to U2. (Again, I'll say a bit more about Flickr in my next post.)

My lecture started with some thoughts about searching the web. My argument was that search engines are trying to get even smarter and that we should use them to do the grunt work as much as possible. To illustrate this I used Teoma and demonstrated how it shows suggestions on how to refine your search as well as collections of links from experts and enthusiasts. I also showed some of Google's tools: Personalised Search and Google Suggest, before briefly touching on Google Map and Google Earth. I didn't take the time to demonstrate Google Earth, but if you haven't already installed it - what are you waiting for? I think there are all sorts of educational uses for this type of software. See for example Ollie Bray on how he uses it for land use studies and for annotating with an Interactive Whiteboard. Also, have a look at the Google Earth Community for all sorts suggestions on educational uses of Google Earth. They are not all geography based, for example I saw one that was a maths exercises involving Spanish football pitches!

Please leave a comment here if you have any good ideas about using Google Earth in the classroom.

Before leaving searches and moving on to social networking tools, I mentioned how you can use search engine technology to keep track of the stuff on your own computer. This appeals to me as it seems much more sensible to let the computer look after where stuff is rather than trying to force the user to develop more effective filing habits. I like the way these tools don't just look at file names, but look at the content too. I also like it that they are so fast. I've talked about flat hierachies before, so in this post I'll just give you links to Copernic (the one I use on my Windoze machine), Desktop Google and Yahoo Desktop Search. The Macintosh has this capability already built in to OS X. It is called Spotlight. Can anyone recommend any others?

That's all for now. In the next post I'll concentrate on social networking tools and give you the link to the video of our lectures. Before I can do that though... I have to mark a few more assignments.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Digital Natives and Early Posting of Presentations

As a follow on to my earlier post, I thought I'd make a couple of comments about digital natives.

First though, some background. A fairly regular request from students is for presentations to be made available before lectures rather than after - normally the presentations are made available later the same day, or as soon after that as possible. I can see the advantages of pre-posting of presentations. As a learner, I would much rather have the presentation in front of me so I could annotate it as I listen to the lecture. However, many lecturers are quite resistant to the idea. Some would even prefer that the students didn't get the presentation at all. The most common reasons for not providing the notes are:
  1. Students wont attend if they have the notes.
  2. Making notes available early would spoil the surprise(s) contained in the presentation.
In principle I have no problem about posting the lecture notes before hand. If students think they will get the same value from a downloaded presentation as they will from attending the lecture, on their own heads be it! I have a bit more sympathy with objection 2, but in the past I have provided a slightly edited version in advance where effectively I leave the set up but remove the punchline (if you see what I mean). In practice however I find it difficult to be organised enough to do this.

For example, I fully intended to post my presentation for the ICT lecture I did on Friday with Ewan by Wednesday at the latest but inevitably I was working on it right up to the last minute. I eventually posted it at 23:56 on the Thursday night. The first student to find my post read it at 23:58 and downloaded it at 23:59! Wow! Throughout the night, or rather the following morning, students continued to download the presentation. There were a number of downloads up to about 03:00 on Friday morning, then a slight gap before they started up again at 07:39. At the start of my lecture, 10:00 Friday morning, I showed the students the message history - the presentation had been downloaded 32 times - the last student downloading it at 09:50!

Even during the lecture, the presentation was downloaded twelve times. Digital natives, or digital dodgers who were not at the lecture? Well at least one was at the lecture as he emailed me to tell me what he had done and to direct me to the blog he created while listening to Ewan explaining about the value of blogs! (To Blog, or not to blog...) To really nail his digital native credentials, he should now show me the electronic annotations he made on the presentation he downloaded. :-)

Please go to Chis's blog and give him some encouraging comments. Why not suggest some things he could blog about.

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Ewan @ Jordanhill

Yesterday, Ewan talked to our students about Web 2.0 (a bit), blogs, podcasts and a lot about why we would want to use this stuff in our classrooms in the first place! It was good stuff.

Ewan at Jordanhill
Ewan at Jordanhill,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
This is a picture of Ewan in full flight. (I took it handheld with the flash off, so he looks a bit blurry.) He seems to have an unfeasibly large number of gadgets round his neck and yet later on he took an iPod shuffle on lanyard from out of his pocket to add to the collection! On his own blog (where some of the students have already started leaving comments) he says that he, "Had a nervy start to my lecture at Jordanhill". Well, from where I was sitting, it didn't show. Ewan said, when faced with such a large group, he finds it hard to judge how well what he says goes down. It is also hard to deal with the huge range of understanding in the room. However, as well as the positive comments on his blog, I've also had a few emails from students expressing their appreciation for what he did. For example one said, "I thought the speaker today was very interesting".

One of the things he did that I thought was really cool was to interview some of the students as they arrived in the lecture hall. He took their photo with his camera phone and recorded their replies with his iRiver. Then, while I was doing my spiel, he added this stuff to his presentation so it was ready to use when it came to his turn to speak to the students. Brilliant! Digital native or what?

I think what he did was great and I am very keen to see his presentation again. There was so much packed into what he said that I think there will be a lot to be gained from repeated viewing. (I'll put a link here as soon as its available online.)

The best thing about it though, as far as I'm concerned, was his emphasis on learning and the learner. As he has said before:
It's not about the tech, it's about the teach.
Finally an apology. Ewan asked where was the student was who writes ToProbationAndBeyond. We publicly slagged her off for not being at the lecture. However, if we'd read her blog, we would have seen that earlier that morning she had posted a message from her bed of sickness. She is down with some sort of flu thing and is being forced to watch "This Morning" (worse than having flu in my opinion, but when your ill perhaps normal critical faculties are impaired). So sorry Lesley for calling you out in the lecture. I guess I might have to offer you chocolate on your return to apologise.

If anyone who saw his presentation is reading this, what did you think? What were the best bits? What made you think? What made you go, "Hmm!"? What are you most looking forward to trying out for yourself?

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Have you heard the one about...

I wouldn't normally do this since I suppose it is not entirely politically correct, and Mrs EdCompBlog has adopted blond as her hair colour of choice, but I thought that this blond joke from Stephen was so good that I had to give it a mention here. Enjoy!