Saturday, June 30, 2007

Happy (Belated) Birthday to...

Happy (belated) birthday
Happy (belated) birthday,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
The cash machine is 40 years old. this year. The first machine was installed on 27 June 1967 (see this BBC report for more details) and now they are everywhere!.

I think the cash machine is a great way to introduce all sorts of issues related Computing and technology. For example, you can talk about the design of human computer interfaces (I think the Clydesdale Bank's machines have the best interface and I'm happy to bore passing strangers with my reasons why). They give you a familiar context to talk about commercial data processing, electronic funds transfer, computer security, identity theft, passwords, ... A cash machine even featured in my Flickr example of adding notes to a street scene.
Tonnes of educational possibilities... and they give you access to your money whenever you need it. :-) So, all together now:

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear cash machine
Happy birthday to you

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Friday, June 22, 2007

David and David being geeks

David  and David being geeks
David and David being geeks,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Playing with mobile devices while in a Chinese restaurant. :-)

Moblogging... just because I can.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Computing is... take two

Give us this day...
Originally uploaded by Mr. Kris
I came across an report in a blog I've never heard of before that got me thinking. :-)

The blog post is You down with SPP? and in it the author, Scott Aaronson, is reporting on a talk titled “Computer Science: Past, Present, and Future” by Ed Lazowska. It sounds like it was interesting and chimes with some of the things I've been thinking about following our recent computing conference. (Note to self: I must blog some more about this conference!)

Some of the quotes Scott records are fascinating (for a given geek-style definition of the word "fascinating"!). For example:
2004 was the first year that human beings produced more transistors than grains of rice.
The future of theoretical computer science lies in transforming the other sciences (math, physics, economics, biology) via computational thinking.
Had Watson and Crick been computer scientists, they would’ve realized immediately that the real import of their discovery had nothing to do with the biochemical details, and everything to do with the fact that DNA is a digital code.
I'll need to go on the hunt to see if I can find more about this talk.

And while I'm vaguely on the subject... I've been meaning to blog for a while about something I heard David Warlick ask in a recent podcast. (Episode 82 I think.) He asked someone, "What are you teaching in your classroom today that you expect your students to remember in ten years time?" (Or words to that effect.) AB has already blogged about this and I'm glad I made some sort of sense as I talked about it to AB, Mark and John on the train. I was worried I had gone all wide-eyed and techie - ranting about loops, branching and recursion. :-) I thought it was a brilliant question for any teacher to ask him or herself. However, it is particularly important question for teachers involved in teaching ICT. Technology is changing and developing so quickly that if all we are teaching is button pushing skills (e.g. how to use Word to format a table) what we are teaching could be out of date in ten months, never mind ten years. :-)

So, why not leave a comment here as to how you would answer David's question? I'll have a think too and in a couple of days time I may have a go at describing what I hope my students will remember.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Help Wanted

Gandalf and Legolas
Gandalf and Legolas
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
This is not my usual kind of post... but I'm looking for help.

I had an idea to do a bit of animation with some action figures which I'll post to TeacherTube if I ever manage to do it. Not having any myself (...well not enough from a single set) I asked daughter number 2 if she could ask her friend's wee brother (are you still following this?) for a loan of some of his figures. He came up trumps. I was looking for six or seven figures from the same series - superheroes or film characters. He gave me over a dozen from Lord of the Rings. Brilliant!

I put them in a box to keep them safe and left the box on the table to take to work. However, while having my morning shower, the dogs were left unsupervised for a while. One of them, I suspect Blue, managed to pull the box off the table and when daughter number two came down the stairs, the dogs were happily chewing both box and figures. Disaster! (Interestingly, the Orcs seem to have taken the most damage - see Orc 1 and Orc 2. Obviously the boys know who the baddies are.)

Orc 1
Orc 1
Originally uploaded
by DavidDMuir.
Help! So now I'm asking for your help. Does anyone recognise this style of figure? (I took a biggish picture of Gandalf and Legolas which may help with identification.) Even better, can anyone point me in the direction of a UK supplier so I can buy replacements? The fate of the ring bearer figure is in your hands. :-)

I have done a Crimewatch style reconstruction as a Story in Five Frames for the Flickr group. Please watch this reconstruction in case it jogs your memory!

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Who's afraid of wireless networks?

originally uploaded by poloballs
Following the Panorama program on the "dangers" of wi-fi various people blogged about it and most of the ones I read said, "Stuff and nonsense!" For example, Ewan (inevitably) had something sensible to say in Why question Wifi? A rundown of literature. The topic of wi-fi was on the agenda of the recent SICTDG meeting and a number of good links were suggested:
Most of the local authorities in Scotland were represented at this meeting and a few had prepared a response in case the Panarama program sparked off a lot of concerns among parents. However, the consensus was that there had been little interest in the issue. Councillors in one authority had asked a few questions but no one else at the meeting could report having a single enquiry from anyone else. Not one contact! It seems that Scottish parents are considerably more relaxed (and more informed?) than the Panorama team!

However, it only seems fair to give a link to the counter-argument. So here is The Truth About Wireless Devices webpage, which I think you'll agree gives a careful and rational report on the dangers of wi-fi. If, after reading this alternative viewpoint, you are at all concerned, can I suggest that you put on a tin foil hat and sing this song. Altogether now:
I've got my tin foil hat on.
Hip, hip, hip, hooray!
My tin foil hat will save me
From your mind destroying ray...

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Another Heppell quote

I forgot to add this to my report on Stephen Heppell's talk to SICTDG...

He had already talked about the new technology that was being developed, shipped and appearing in our schools. Sometimes authoritis were putting it in and sometimes the pupils were bringing it in whether or not the schools liked/knew about it. His final words to us were:
“Be brave, be playful!”
I can live with advice like that. What about you?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Heppell talks to a Sick Dog

Well, actually, he was talking to the Scottish ICT Development Group - shortened to SICTDG and pronounced Sick Dog! :-)

Stephen Heppell
Stephen Heppell,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I was pleased when I heard Professor Heppell was going to speak to us - he is always informative, challenging and ...eminently quotable. :-) I apologise in advance if my hero worship shines through. (I tell the students, in fact I tell anyone that will listen, that I have a t-shirt with Stephen Heppell on it. I don't know how many believe me, but I do... honest!)

I'll start with a quote:
“The only problem is, the pupils arrive in carpet slippers and their pockets are stuffed with Werther's Originals.”
There will be a special no-prize for the person who comes up with the context in which he made this statement!

He started with a brief mention of BBC Jam. He described its suspension as "An unmitigated disgrace." Hear, hear says I! If you don't know the background to the BBC Jam situation, there is an article at the Guardian which explains a little, and various people blogged about it at the time, see for example Ewan (in Why does toast always land with the Jam side down?). The good news is that Stephen is determined that the work done so far will not be lost. He thinks he will be able to put something together with a charity to host it and open source software to run it. I hope he manages to make it work.

He also talked about something he'd been doing in Singapore - innovative and interesting. He went on to say that the countries that were successful and innovative tended to be small, have stable governments and people happy with their national identity. (He said more than that, but these were the only ones I managed to type!) Essentially, he said that Scotland met most of these criteria and was well placed to do interesting things. Of course, he was talking to a group of Scottish educators, so he would say that, wouldn't he. :-) Still, he sounded plausible and I believed him. Wha's like us, eh?

Apparently, he is also involved in helping with the design of the media centre for the 2012 Olympics. He thinks that the media people hadn't realised that they no longer have a monopoly as the sole providers of information. Everyone with a cameraphone ...Internet connection ... is potentially a provider. People will be recording and sharing all sorts of stuff. How can the media centre help support this kind of citizen journalism? He talked about layers of information (is the Internet too flat?) where one person might take some pictures, someone else might annotate them, someone else could thread a pile of stuff together. Everyone as a broadcaster.

Time for another quote:
“There’s a lot of tosh being talked about Web 2.0 ...which you will recognise as Learning 1.0!” :-)
He was asked about Glow - how did he think we could make it work? He said it was designed to fill a perceived need, but for it to be successful, it would have to be agile. He then talked about the 10 year innovation cycle - something I've heard him on before. Essential idea is that something new comes along, early adopters pick it up and start doing really good stuff with it. A little later bigger players, seeing the early successes start trying to build stuff - they think it is about content and are usually wrong. Towards the end of the ten years people start worrying about standards and where its going next... And then the next innovation appears and the cycle restarts. The last innovation he identified (that we are in the middle to end stages of now) is all the Web 2.0 stuff. It's reached the stage where people think it is about content and so are paying silly money for things like YouTube. The next thing, he thinks, will be identity. He said that people can find your stuff on the Internet (your blogs, photo, podcasts, etc.) but they can't find you. I'm not sure what he means by that but it sounds interesting and I hope I'll have the chance to hear him again on that topic.

He said loads of other interesting things as well, but that'll do for this post. The last thing I want to add is to comment on how he did the presentation. The best thing about it was, it wasn’t a presentation! He had a pile of icons on his laptop – photos, videos, animations, graphics, web pages – and just pulled them up as he talked. It was a very fluid. The things he showed us supported what he was talking about but did not constrain him. Very different from the usual Powerpointless presentation. Excellent!

As ever, when I hear him speaking, I found my brain had to run just to keep up. Loads of things to think about and loads of ideas to chase up. What do you think? Can Scotland be innovative in its approach to education? How do we prepare our students for a world where everyone is a broadcaster? Can Glow be agile? What is the next big thing - identity or something else?

What do you think?

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