Monday, January 29, 2007

EduFlickr: A photo a day...

...keeps the inspector away?

10/365: The fryPod
10/365: The fryPod,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
In my last EduFlickr post, EduFlickr: A good year for the poses..., I talked about my recent addiction to taking a photo every day for a year and I suggested that this might make an interesting project for schools. Well Barbara has taken up the challenge (see A Flickr Activity/Challenge- Are you in?) and is well on the way to setting up an international photo a day project for schools.

She hopes to start on the 5 February, but if you read this entry after that date, I expect she'll be happy to welcome latecomers too. Have a look at the wiki she set up (Planning for a Photo a Day), make a contribution and join in. The more, the merrier. :-)

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

EduFlickr: A good year for the poses...

{Sorry about the weak attempt at a pun in this post's title!}

I noticed that a couple of my blogging chums (Gordon and Ruby to be precise) were attempting to document the year by taking a different picture every day. (Have a look at Gordon's and Ruby's photo sets to see what they are doing.) I thought it looked interesting and decided to have a go - so, Johnny come lately, I started my set on the 19th of January 2007. I have not been going a week, but already I'm surprised at just how addictive it is.

Not only is it interesting (so far at least) trying to come up with an idea for a picture but it is strangely fascinating looking at what other people post. There are a number of Flickr groups you can join to share your photos but the two I've been watching are Project 365! and Project 365. (No, I'm not sure either what distinguishes one from the other either... so I've been posting to both.)

Someone in one of the groups (Project 365) had the idea of setting a weekly challenge and that made it even more fun. Here for example is my entry for the week two challenge: breakfast!

I began to wonder if this would be a good exercise for schools - a photo for every day of the school year. Would that be an interesting record of the school's life? Perhaps different classes/groups in the school could each take a picture to compare the experiences of different pupils. Or even better, two or more schools could share their photos and set each other challenges.

Does anyone know of schools that are doing this already? Do any other educators think it's a good idea? What sort of safe photography guidelines would the children need?

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Derek Disgraces David!

We had the last of the big ICT lectures for the PGDE(S) course at Jordanhill on Friday. We had three sets of guest speakers.

First up was Jan Pollock and Neil Stewart talking about Glow. I found this very interesting because they were showing examples of what Glow will look like and showing us some of the things produced by the pilot projects. For a long time Glow/SSDN sounded like a good idea. It is now beginning to look like something that could be used. My only slight concern is that it is an intranet. A major advantage of the Read/Write web is its global reach. There is a danger that

we could shut ourselves off in a wee Scottish corner. However, I think people in Glow are aware of this and I hope they find a way to balance the security of a controlled, closed, intranet (desirable to reduce child protection concerns) with the value of access to a world of experience through the World Wide Web.

Next up was Nick Morgan talking about LTScotland's range of online services. I use their website a fair bit, but it was great to be reminded about just how much stuff they have up there... and to hear a bit about some future developments.

Derek demonstrates
Derek demonstrates,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
Finally, Derek Robertson talked about the Consolarium and more generally about games in education. He was great at de-bunking some myths but, more importantly, arguing the positive case for the use of games in education. If you remain unconvinced, head over to his blog post, The Consolarium visits Jordanhill, where you can download his presentation which has a load of links for further investigation. Unfortunately, the machine in the lecture hall wouldn't play any YouTube clips but if you download his presentation, hopefully you will see them in all their glory.

So why is this post called Derek Disgraces David? Well Derek challenged me to a head-to-head on Guitar Hero II. He chose a stunning track - YYZ, from the greatest band in the world but despite my adopting a classic rock stance and raising the goblet of rock before starting, I was exceptionally bad! Thankfully, when it became clear how bad I was, he stopped the tune before it was finished... but I had already been humiliated in front of the students! In my defence, can I point out that my only previous experience was having a couple of goes in Debenhams. Let this be an object lesson on the importance of rehearsal! For a change, I had remembered to bring a camera... but forgot to bring fresh batteries, so unfortunately there is no photographic evidence of my performance. :-(

As before, the lecture was videoed so you can watch all three presentations in all their glory. Jan and Neil are at the start (obviously), Nick starts about 43 minutes into the video and Derek takes over about 58 minutes in.

And if you want to see my public humiliation... the Guitar Hero slot starts around the 1 hour 30 minutes mark.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Technology Troubles Part Two

The problems described here proceeds my Digital diary disaster in time but I thought it was worth retelling here so that I could get a cheap laugh at the end. (And it is vaguely Educational Computing related at the end... honest.)

The youth worker at our church was getting married just before Christmas. Ordinarily, I would have liked to attend his wedding but he was getting married in India, so that made it a bit trickier. However, our minister was going and was going to be taking part in the ceremony. Just before the minister left for India he said that it would be good to set up a Skype video link during one of the Christmas services. This would allow us to see our youth worker and his family and would allow them to see us. I agreed to set this up with a confidence that was misplaced!

The church has a broadband connection in its office and for reasons unknown they use AOL (or Internet Lite as someone described elsewhere). Plan one was to use my own wireless router with the church's connection and hope the signal would reach the sanctuary. Problem one was that the church router had an USB connection and no Ethernet. Scunner.!

Plan two was to connect the church's Macintosh laptop to the router and run a long telephone extension into the church. The problem is of course that I need to download all the setting files etc. which I can't do in the church because I don't have an Internet connection. So I download the stuff at home, run round to the church to try it out, run back home to download more stuff and check the online help, run back again... You see the problem? Eventually I got to the stage where the Mac was making contact with the Internet but was dropping the connection after no more than two minutes (and usually significantly less than two minutes). The really annoying thing was that after being thrown off, the only way I could get back on was to restart. This meant I wasted hours connecting, getting thrown off, restarting, tweaking a setting or two and then starting all over again. Scunner!

Eventually, on the Sunday afternoon before the link was due to take place, I got it working with a Windows laptop. Windows 1 - Macintosh 0. Scunner! :-) However, at least it was working and in due course the connection was made, we talked to India, they talked to us and everyone was impressed. So, all's well that ends well I suppose.

Two things about this experience seen relevant to educational computing. Firstly it brings to mind the Arthur C. Clark quote:
"Any technology, sufficiently developed, is indistinguishable from magic."
I often say that part of the job of the ICT/Computing teacher is to open the box and show how the magic works. While the computing industry is saying, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!", I want teachers to lift the curtain and show pupils what the levers do. The problem is, I think, that networking and communications is not yet, "sufficiently developed" and experiences like the one described above are still too common. The technology gets in the way of the learning rather than supporting it. (I may return to this theme in a future post.)

The second thing that started me thinking was one of the help pages I accessed while trying to get it all working. I took a screenshot. This is from an official help website not just an amateur/enthusiast page. Have a look at point 7. It was the "alot" that first caught my eye as I skimmed the page - I then re-read point 7 more carefully. Oh dear!

My spelling is not very good (understatement) and my writing style could be better so perhaps I shouldn't criticise, but it seems incredible that despite (or because of?) all the wee red and green squiggly lines that Word displays, we can still produce gibberish with surprising ease. My favourite example of gibberish comes from a students essay. The student confidently wrote that, "The computer is not a pancreas." We assume they were aiming for panacea but just took the first suggestion the spell checker offered. If you can offer a better example of a spell check error I'd be interested to see it. :-)

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Digital diary disaster

I use an ageing Palm m130 as my diary (and for entertainment and a few other bits and pieces). I like it. However it is getting a bit old. The handwriting recognition section is so worn that it doesn't recognise my writing any more, the clip that is supposed to hold it together has been bashed so many times that it no longer holds it together and the battery barely lasts from one day to the next! ...And therein lies the root of my digital diary disaster! I took my Palm home over the Christmas holidays but forgot to take the charger. :-(


17/365 - New Agenda,

originally uploaded by athena.
By the time I got back to work and plugged it in, the battery was so flat that it had forgotten everything. "No problem!" I thought, since all the stuff was on my office computer and all I had to do was sync the Palm with my desktop and I'd be back in business. I'd have my diary, my contacts list and most importantly, my Sudoku game back. But you know what they say about the best laid plans...

For some reason, when I tried to sync the Palm, it tried to sync with a user called DavidDMuir. Not a problem you would think but unfortunately my diary etc. was saved under a profile called David Muir. Of course, I didn't realise that straight away and followed standard Computing procedure for the next wee while... In other words, I tried doing exactly the same thing two or three times in a row, before restarting the computer, trying the same thing again, resetting the Palm, trying the same thing again and only then did I notice that my computer had a user called DavidDMuir with no calendar entries and a profile called David Muir with everything I wanted still there!

Now that I'd worked out what the problem was, I thought it would be easy to fix... but I couldn't find any way of making the Palm sync with David Muir rather than DavidDMuir. Curses! Therefore I followed standard Computing procedure 2... I used Google to try and find a solution. I couldn't find an exactmatch to my problem, but a couple of sites suggested renaming a user on the desktop and then creating a new user with the same name that the Palm was using to sync. ...So that's what I did. I renamed user DavidDMuir to Temp and renamed profile David Muir to DavidDMuir... and then I hit the HotSync button... and then I lost everything on my desktop computer too!


I was a bit upset. Backup? What backup?

I failed to find any way to recover what I'd deleted and eventually became resigned to my loss but couldn't quite bring myself to rebuild the missing data. However, two days later I remembered that I had synced with my laptop at one point in the past and sure enough, there on the laptop was most of my missing stuff. Huzzah! I've lost the most recent entries (perhaps a month's worth) but most of it is now back on my Palm. :-)

It is therefore worth saying that if I agreed to meet you, and arranged the meeting some time in December, I probably no longer have a note of the date, time or place we agreed. Feel free to contact me and check I still expect to see you. And if you think that the entry to send you a £5000 cheque may have disappeared from my To do list, feel free to remind me of that as well.

So, Happy New Year! Sorry I was a bit quiet over Christmas, but hopefully I am back into the swing of things now. :-)

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