Thursday, March 22, 2007

This is mine!

Perhaps one of the attractions of tools such as Bebo and MySpace is that the spaces can be customised. Every teenager using the systems seems to have a different colour scheme and sound and graphics are used with with a staggering disregard for conventional design rules. (Sorry... sounding like an old fogey!) But the point is, the teenagers using these systems value the opportunity to personalise - to stamp their mark on the system - albeit within the structure imposed by the system.

As part of my job I visit a large number of schools and have observed computers systems being used in many of the Scottish authorities. There is a reasonable variation of look to the desktops from authority to authority. (Grief, there can be variation from class to class in the same school!) However, many authorities now have managed systems and the desktops and disks are fairly tightly locked down to minimise the possibility of damage to the system either by accident or design.

Dzid behind the screen
Dzid behind the screen,
originally uploaded by dwuziu
In one authority, that will remain nameless to protect the guilty, the control of the systems is such that every pupil's screen has a solid black background with the word "pupil" written in an attractive yellow! Talk about dull! Very corporate. If left to their own devices, I suspect some pupils would have chosen a black dektop background but many more would be likely to choose a picture, but no, everyone has a stunningly boring black background with the word "pupil" in yellow! Oh dear! I wonder if the head of education in that authority has a computer with a black background and "Director of Education" written in yellow text? I suspect not.

Anyway... I noticed that one of the pupils had a number of icons arranged in a pattern on the desktop. Then I noticed the person next door was the same. And then I realised that the icons were arranged into the shapes of letters. They had made their initials out of shortcut icons! Brilliant! They weren't allowed to personalise the desktop... so they did it anyway. :-)

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Garageband hints and tips

{This is another session from the Apple RTC meeting in Newcastle. Again I'm having a go at sending direct from my SPV M3100" since that's what I used to take the notes in the first place.}

Joe Moretti - Music

Garageband puts the ability to create and play with music into everybody's hands. Lot of good stuff just built into Garageband. However he will also look at third party hardware and software.

Plug in an instrument and adjust the amp settings manually. You can then save these as instruments. Don't use the pre-sets.

The relationship with iTunes means you can burn a CD or save to mp3 player for pupils to work at home.

There are things you can do to save CPU. Eg convert midi instruments to real and lock tracks.

You can edit midi instruments and create basic beats to work with. (Double click the midi loop.) Detailed midi editing a good way in moving beyond using loops by creating simple rhythms.

Sound effects added to keys and saved as instrument. Look at details and play with the vocal transformer. Able to extensively edit the sound.

Use master pitch to teach about transposition.

Lots of stuff on his website.

{I've done some minor editing on this entry now (does adding a picture count as minor?) and I'm disappointed that I failed to capture the excitement engendered by this session. Joe was excellent and he showed some seriously cool stuff. Also, I realised there were a couple of things that I should have mentioned... Firstly, he plugged his guitar directly into the Mac, no amp or midi, just the guitar phono plug at one end and a Walkman style plug at the Mac end. He then played along with and recorded into Garageband. I didn't know you could do that. Secondly, he showed us a lead that plugs into the guitar but has a USB connector at the other end and some clever electronics in the middle so you can play your guitar and record midi tracks into Garageband. Finally, he showed us a free instrument plug-in - the MDR Acordian... and who wouldn't want an accordian for Garageband. :-) }

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Let Creativity Challenge the Child

{This is the first time I've tried posting to my blog direct from my new SPV 3100. Appologies in advance if it all goes funny. This post was typed live during a session at an Apple RTC event and probably should have been edited more carefully before sending!}

>From North Somerset RTC

Looking to challenge thinking instead of spoonfeeding. They found improvements across the curriculum. (Originally thougbt it would only impact media.) They used ComicLife to retell Chaucer. Another example was of using animation in Maths. For example, animated pizza to introduce fractions. Also motivational aspects was highlighted... even the previously difficult pupils.

Showing to governors had a huge impact. Also laptops are made available that can be borrowed.

Set up digital camera sessions for senior citizens.

Biggest impact has been to raise attainment.

Cross-curricular developments. Example given of iMovie the pupils produced to explain science concepts. Sets made in tech, storyboads in english and animated in ICT.

They also have an annual awards ceremony sponsored by their reseller.

"Our role is to challenge people to be more creative."

{Sounds like a good quote to end on!}

Thursday, March 08, 2007


originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Andrew said, "You should be blogging this." So here it is. Blogged from the Apple RTC do at a Chinese Restaurant in Newcastle.
- Taken at 9:36 PM on March 08, 2007 - cameraphone upload by ShoZu

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Educationally useful

Further proof, as if such proof was necessary, that Flickr is educationally useful.

I found a picture of the Pringles man in chocolate mousse on Flickr. This lead me to the TinkeringTimes blog which in turn got me to the Chocablog. (Pause briefly here to savour the wonderfulness of that name - Chocoblog! It puts the name EdCompBlog to shame!) In particular, it took me to a recipie for a chocolate Dalek cake.

Never mind A Curriculum for Excellence or Glow: this is what they should be teaching in schools.

Extermination by chocolate! Brilliant. :-)

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P.S. Sorry... I'm obviously still in need of a cup of tea and a lie down after yesterday's post.

P.P.S. If any student feels the need to sook up to me, a 15 inch high chocolate Dalek cake will go a long way to getting in my good books. :-)

P.P.P.S. Photo of cake used by kind permission of the Chocoblog.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Acronym

I tried inventing a new acronym in the previous post: Read Only Web (ROW) for the old web - Web 1.0 - and was tempted to have a go at an acronym for Web 2.0 too. I toyed with the idea of Write Read Internet in Teaching and Education (WRITE) but thought it was too clumsy. Then, ROW reminded me of ROM so I looked for a ROM/RAM type pairing and came up with Read And Write web (RAW). I had even started to type ROW/RAW into the post, before I decided it was too silly and that I would never tell anyone I'd even thought of using it... Ever.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Tool verses Content

This is not my daily photo
This is not my daily photo,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
On Friday I attended a meeting of the Scottish ICT Development Group (SICTDG - pronounced sick dog!). Gordon has already given a brief summary of the range of items discussed.

I wanted to focus on one thing related to Glow (the Scottish schools digital network project).

One of the Glow team said:
"Glow is not about content it is about tools."
This provoked some consternation. A number of people argued that there had to be content. Content that would bring people to Glow and that it would have to be good to ensure that they keep coming back. Content was described as, "The glue that makes teachers stick to a system." To give teachers Glow without content would be like giving them blank sheets of paper but no text books and telling them to teach.

Now I can see some logic in this position but I remain unconvinced. It reminds me of the old reasons people gave back in the 1980s to explain why computers were in the school but not used extensively: "There's not enough subject specific software." My feeling is that computers are used much more extensively now but the software that is used most often is the general purpose, content free stuff like word processors, graphic packages and (especially now) web browsers, rather than subject specific software.

It also seems to me that there is already a load of good "content" already available but that it is not used as widely as it might be (e.g. Scran and GridClub).

Finally, there are models out there of tools that when made available to teachers, are embraced and used effectively (e.g. the Exc-el network of blogs in East Lothian).

So what do you think? Does a desire for content come from being stuck in the Read Only Web of the past? Am I expecting too much from most teachers in believing they will embrace the read/write web and be happy to go content free? Do we need the glue of content to make teachers stick to Glow?

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The Now Show!

I meant to post this on Saturday but my time management is even more off than usual!

I heard The Now Show with Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis on Radio 4. (You may be able to catch it on Listen Again, on download or on their podcast.) They were talking about the nonsense currently being pushed by James Cameron - that he's found the bones of Jesus. They said it ironic that the director of The Terminator was trying to prove that Jesus did not say, "I'll be back!"

This amused me. :-)

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

...Because I can!

The future's bright...
The future's bright...,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I explained in the description of a photo I posted to Flickr that the nice people at Orange had helped be to set up my phone so I could use it as a wireless modem. Well here I am, on the train from Dundee, posting from my laptop using the phone as a modem. :-)

I find this ridiculously pleasing. Boys and their toys, eh? :-)

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