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 del.icio.us 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="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr." title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="http://www.thekingcenter.org/" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2269" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/mlk/" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/king.html" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2000/01/24/mlk/index.html" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools-c/pages/buckman/timeline/kingframe.html" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />
<a href="http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/" title="Martin Luther King">Martin Luther King</a><br />

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

At Last: a return visit to Last.fm

More than a year ago I wrote about Last.fm and a new feature I noticed yesterday had prompted this new update. For those of you not familiar with it, Last.fm describes itself as a "social music revolution". The basic idea is that you listen to music, either from a Last.fm "radio" station or from your own CD/mp3 collection, Last.fm 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 Last.fm 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 Last.fm where you live and it lists upcoming concerts it thinks you will like. It even tells you how many other Last.fm 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. :-) Last.fm 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 del.icio.us 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 del.icio.us/pgdes0607 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 del.icio.us 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' del.icio.us 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] strath.ac.uk, 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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