Saturday, September 29, 2007

TacheBack - the final push!

TacheBack - Day 29
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
There's only one day of moustache growing to go before it gets shaved off. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Everyman cancer charity. The total donated for my efforts to grow a moustache is currently £246.44 - which I think is pretty good!

I have been especially pleased the way people have reacted to what is, let's face it, a silly idea. The students were great with many coming up to me in the cafe and in corridors to give me money. A couple entered into the spirit and one posted a look-a-like picture Borat.

TeachMeet also reacted well with Ewan also posting a look-a-like (Clouseau this time). Also, at TeachMeet, Merlin John took possibly the best photo of of my moustache and wrote a great blog entry about my fundraising efforts.

And then there were friends and readers of this blog who reacted generously, including Kenneth who produced two look-a-like movies - Renee and Clouseau (again!).

I've also been accused of looking like Magnum PI and both Basil Fawlty and Manuel... but no look-a-like evidence for any of these. :-)

Finally, here is a short slideshow of the whole tache growing effort.

Although the TacheBack campaign ends on September 30th, I think you will be able to donate online for a while yet, so if you haven't done so already, it's not too late.

Thanks again everyone.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maps and mobiles

Avian GPS
Originally uploaded by 4tunate1
We interrupt our normal program...

I have a few more posts I want to make about the Scottish Learning Festival and TeachMeet but I found a new trick that I can do with my camera phone and wanted to share it now while I was still ridiculously pleased with what I discovered I could do. :-)

I have not made an EduFlickr post for some time (something I'll need to put right soon) but over a year ago I talked about geotagging. It has become easier to geotag photographs, for example Flickr allows you to place a photo on a map, but I still find it fiddly. During the summer however, I bought a version of TomTom that runs on my PDA and uses Bluetooth to connect to an external GPS unit. I thought this would help with geotagging and to a certain extent it does. I used it a fair bit while on holiday in Bath (see for example this view over the cricket pitch at Norton St Philips). What I did was use TomTom at the location I took pictures and noted the latitude and longitude from the GPS. While this was easier than fiddling about with online maps after the event, it was still a pain because I couldn't find a way to export the location data from TomTom. What I had to do was write down the position myself beside a label that I hoped would remind me where I was when I took the photo. As I said, easier than messing about with online maps but prone to errors and still more fiddly that I would have liked.

What I wanted was a way to automate the process as much as possible, or at least a way to export the GPS data electronically so I could copy and paste the geotags into Flickr. I know that some cameras are beginning to appear that have GPS built in but a quick check on Google confirms that they are still unusual and expensive... besides I already have a GPS unit and a perfectly adequate camera.

I was very pleased therefore to discover this article on the Avec Mobile site: The Easy Way to Post Photos with Geographic Coordinates on a Map. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Brilliant! Stunningly brilliant even! It uses the Shozu service (which I've used a bit before, e.g. Science Cow) and makes use of Shozu's GPS feature - something that I wasn't even aware existed. What's the matter with the Shozu people? They should be shouting about this feature from the rooftops! It's still not perfect, but it's as close to perfect as I'll get for free with my existing kit. Now when I want to geotag a picture, I'll just take a second picture with the cameraphone and let Shozu geotag it. Then, later on, I can replace the cameraphone photo with the photo from my camera - which will inherit the geotags from the low-resolution version. Have I said before that this is brilliant? :-)

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Stephen Heppell @ The Scottish Learning Festival

{I wrote briefly about Stephen Heppell's keynote speech on the Connected Live blog but I wanted to capture a bit more here while it was still relatively fresh in my mind.}

Stephen Heppell
Stephen Heppell,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Stephen thinks we live in a world that has to be built bottom up and that the Scottish Learning Festival is a great example of this. Everywhere he looks he sees groups of teachers meeting together, talking together and getting excited about education.


The Internet doesn’t really do identity well. How many identities do you have on the Internet and who will you trust with your identity. We don’t trust politicians or companies or… Perhaps we trust our community. Perhaps we trust the educators in this room. We should be more in control of our digital identity.

Time is also treated badly – can you still access the web page you wrote five years ago?

Small is effective

What happens in our schools? We’ve ignored phones, we have poor real time data and find it hard/impossible to measure what we think is/will be important. Used SketchUp, claymation and Mark’s Coffee Break Spanish as examples of the great things that are happening that
haven't been planned from on high and/or that are hard to measure.

We make the mistake of assuming one-size fits all is a sensible approach. We need to move to quality assurance rather than quality control. Not telling them what to do but allowing schools/pupils/parents to do what works.

Showed us Wage Slips 4 U, Instant Life Experience Degree and Cheat House Online. He remarked that, "Bits of paper are worthless!" How do we represent process? How do I prove my experience? He showed a video of a Chinese midwife who could only get a job in a hospital kitchen in the UK. If we assume that certificating everything is the solution we will get it wrong.

Everyone is a publisher

From - To
From - To,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
{Stephen displayed one of the From --> To slides that I like. Managed to capture this one in a picture.} Moved from educational research (based in institutions) to learning research (based in communities). Stephen is not impressed by the idea that we can identify good practice in a school and then tell everyone to copy it. Doesn't work because schools are different. People are different. Better to look at it like a series of ingredients that schools can look at and then make up their own recipes. {Like the restaurant we went to after the TeachMeet. :-) - DM} Recognise schools as research centres. If we start from the assumption that our schools could be better, the scholarship is to look around and see what ingredients can be used to make our school better. Borrow good ideas – take ingredients and make a recipe for a better school. End of the process is to exhibit what they have done. A third of the staff does this action research at the time and in the end is rewarded with a doctorate. He talked a lot about this Learnometer project.

Successful nations

Blurry but readable?
Blurry but readable?,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
{Last time I heard Stephen talk about this I wasn't fast enough to write it all down... This time, I got a picture! - DM}

Nations that are showing astonishing progress are typically:
  • small, agile nations
  • stable culturally
  • track record of effective education
  • embracing a sense of change
  • embracing new technologies
  • outward facing often with global migration patterns
  • stable politically and administratively
  • egalitarian
Does this look like Scotland? Stephen thinks so.

A few closing quotes

A school’s policy should be: "We could so do this".
We don’t know how good or children can be – let’s find out.
Learning can inoculate children against poverty.

{John Connell has already picked up on this final quote.}

Saturday, September 22, 2007

In the Wild - Matt Locke

Matt Locke - Commissioning Editor, New Media Channel 4

Matt Locke
Matt Locke,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
It's not about the technology – it's about the warm bodies. Trouble is finding the language that is meaningful both to the creative TV people and the technology people. Is it about a utopian dream or a distopian future? The same kind of discussions took place when the telegraph started.

Don't think about the technology but ask what structures people are creating in their head. What spaces are they inhabiting while they use the technology? Some spaces are:

Private spaces – like using mobile phones.

Group spaces – Bebo, Facebook etc. Often these are more public than people think but they are used to create a social group.

Publishing spaces – Blogs, Flickr etc. Can be same tools as above but tend to be used in a different way. Teenagers can use these tools to explore their identity. Rehearse what their voices sound like to an anonymous audience.

Performing spaces – Second Life, world of Warcraft, … People perform to show off their skills for example videoing themselves playing games.

Paricipating spaces – Marches, meetings etc. For example Threadless - a t-shirt design community. People organising themselves online. {Like the TeachMeet wiki? - DM}

Watching spaces – Television, gigs etc. people sharing their experiences for others {Like the sharing of SLF – technology means that the ripples are felt much further afield that the event itself. - DM}

Alternate reality game (ARG) – Jane McGonigal from the Institute for the Future created World Without Oil where the participants had to write about how their life was in an alternate reality where the world was without oil. Often an ARG has the idea of creating a mission – a quest for people to complete in the real world e.g. get a group of people to a gathering/party by public transport. It's that kind of blended activity Channel 4 wants to create.

These are the guiding principles (according to Matt) – make them playful (not necessarily fun!). How can the learning come from the play? Allow people to be exuberant, to show-off, to cheat (like cheat sheets in a game). Not about creating a resource library. Do one thing well. Give things away {cf. my excitement of getting a free Second Life t-shirt! - DM}. Messy is good! Make your audience your hero – opposite in network world to X-Factor style TV where slowly large numbers are whittled down to just one winner. Immerse yourself – find the things that make sense to you and be passionate!

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to create successful online communities

Seminar based on work of Heads together/Deputes together.

originally uploaded by phil h.
Can online users find they have too many ways to go - too much choice leading to confusion and rejection of all the tools. Why have previous Scottish communities struggled?

Too high expectations?

Activity levels - 2006 Nielson noted 90% lurkers, 9% contribute a little and 1% account for most. For blogs it is 95%, 5% and 0.1% "Blogs are interesting like diaries but if you don't have time to read through them..." {Blogs like diaries? Not convinced - DM}

Learning communities, communities of interest or communities of practice. Communities of practice take time, sustained interaction and trust. Confidence to share not just facts but trusts and beliefs. Changing practice requires reflection and time to reflect so that deep learning can take place. {So blogs can't be used for this reflection? - DM}

How do you encourage this?
  1. Invest in the means, not the end. Focus on generating traffic. Regular communication about what's happening in the communities.
  2. Oops... missed this
  3. Focus on the needs of the members. If something is set up by the members themselves it will be more successful.
  4. Resist the temptation to control. {Is this a lesson Authorities need to learn about Glow? - DM}
  5. Don't assume the community will be self sustaining. "It is nice that things change". The site should be refreshed.
  6. Collaboration has to be an over-arching theme.
Heads Together are averaging about 25% of their members logging in per month - c.f. the Neilson figures above - Heads Together is a very active community with a high level of message generation. The team has a fairly positive attitude to "lurkers". They have evidence of reflection and sharing that goes on outside the community. Not all members will have the same level of activity at all times.

Software has to be robust, easy to use, attractive and fast or the users will not come back. {As an example of ease of use, they have a button that says, "Thanks, I found this discussion useful". I wonder how this is set up? It could lose value if overused but I wonder if it is more like a rating system? - DM} There are resources there to bring people in but the community learns that the real pearls are in the discussion forums.

Staffroom - an area for relaxing. Example from current staffroom was a story from an early years head describing how a child told her they'd found a dead cat. "How do you know it was dead?" the head asked.
"I pissed in it's ear and it didn't move."
"You what?!"
"You know... I went 'Psst!" in it's ear and it didn't move."

Successful online communities need:
  • Purpose.
  • Induction. People need support - not just tools
  • Monitoring. "Sooner or later, someone will put up something inappropriate" {Is there a tension here with point 4 above? - DM}
If I have a pound and give it to my neighbour, he has a pound and I don't. If I have an idea and my neighbour has an idea we can share them and both win.

It takes time to get a community up and working.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In the Wild - Ewan McIntosh

Ewan McIntosh - Edublogger

Ewan MacIntosh
Ewan MacIntosh,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Do our children snack on the media? Are they snacking on education? In fact the history of snacking is very long - back to the 19th Century.

Have we always had short attention spans and always had a snack culture? Possibly, but Ewan thinks something has changed. Ewan showed the cup-stacking video. The mum just didn't get it! The children do - and they are reaching a worldwide audience. Also showed a one-man band type video to show the creative possibilities.

{Rats. My machine crashed and I lost some of what I’d typed in.}

We tend to ban the collaborative tools in school but allow the insular, individual uses. In the “real world” it’s about social networking and collaboration. Wigitised not webified. Our pupils don’t care about lost IDs etc. They have sites that they use for a while and then drop and move on.

Is life a list? A look at Bebo pages suggests no? Inventing by imposing shape on nature or discovering by revealing. Ewan prefers discovery.

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In the Wild - Pat Kane

Pat Kane - Pat Kane (author and musician and...)

Look out!
Pat Kane,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Part of the etymology of happiness is hap as in happenstance.

What are we teaching children to do in schools, compared with what they are doing with technology elsewhere? In schools we try to stop them using the tools they take for granted elsewhere. The reality of today's technology world is that it is confusing - yes, but the technology world our children inhabit is global and exciting!

What is happening in our society? Politicians are keen to build a sense of national identity and so all are talking about some form of national service but Pat thinks this is going about it the wrong way.

{Pat is really interesting and speaks intelligently but I'm finding it hard to follow his train of thought... I'll try and grab bits as they pass.}

Internet has grown out of contradictory roots:
ARPANET, the American military, the cold war and the nuclear threat <---> Tim Berners-Lee and the world wide web to allow people to share stuff.
Young people downloading with a careless disregard for musical property rights <---> Young people with a real passion for live music who discuss and share everything from an event.

Young people are looking for team, agency and purpose (in the way that say shipbuilding did). Is society/politics offering this? Pat says no but thinks artistry could. {Including the "artistry of care" Eh? - DM} Look for Michel Bauwens on Google: We regard what is truly plentiful as scarce [i.e. information] and what is truly scarce as plentiful [i.e. the environment]. Information does not need to be managed and controlled.

What we have is information, the possibility to choose and an unprecedented personal autonomy.

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In the Wild - Carol Craig

Carol Craig – Chief Executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well Being

Carol Craig
Carol Craig,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
Are we too interested in what's wrong with people than what's right? Seligman's book - Authentic Happiness explores aspects of happiness and well-being.

. First level: Most people associate money with happiness but once basic needs are met, more money does not bring more happiness. We can get on a hedonic treadmill (spelling?). It was as a taxi driver described it, "I am a monster of my own making."

Engagement. Second level - engagement: we get lost in the process of doing things. We get in the flow. We lose track of time. We get involved in things that are challenging (so we are not bored) but not too challenging (so we don't get discouraged). When in the flow, we don't feel happy - it is afterwards we feel the pleasure. (Carol claimed that teachers often experience flow.)

Purpose. Third aspect chimes with Scottish values service to others. People who are happy have meaning in their lives.

Are we too focused on ourselves as individuals? The fixation on trying to make people feel good about themselves is not doing people any favours. If I do not see myself as the centre of the universe I am better able to cope with setbacks. Choice can be paralysing rather than empowering. It is possible that trying to boost self-esteem we could be make it harder for people to be happy.

English initiative (SEAL) which seeks to teach all children (3-18) emotional well-being (for example by expressing their feelings) could store up mental and emotional problems for the future. Problem children may be too narcissistic and think of themselves as too important. Cf. confident individuals - are we going to set targets and checklists etc. in A Curriculum for Excellence? In Scotland we are working on confidence rather than happiness but the danger is that it focusses in on self instead of

We need to reconnect people with what is important in life. Positive psychology is good and is researched based but if politicians turn it into checklists and measuring the happiness of pupils it will be a disaster.

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Scottish Learning Festival

Glasgow SECC
Glasgow SECC,
originally uploaded by cx1uk.
The Scottish Learning Festival is up and running... and I'm not there! :-( I'm snatching 5 minutes between a lecture and a tutorial to see what's happening. There's a good bit of activity on Twitter, photos are appearing, blog entries are being made on individual's blogs and on the Connected Live blog... and I'm looking forward to catching up in Second Life later too. The word technology may have gone from the title of the event but I'm pleased that technology is letting me see what's going on now and will allow me to follow it up later. Excellent! :-)

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Monday, September 10, 2007

TeachMeet and more

originally uploaded by Edublogger.
Can I start by saying I'm a bit miffed. I thoroughly enjoyed the TeachMeet at SETT last year and was looking forward to going to TeachMeet07 - 4th Edition this year. However, it clashes with the official opening of out new church halls, so I'm going to have to miss most of it! Scunner! I can stay until 6:30 and then I'll have to go (and even 6:30 is leaving it a bit late).

I'm also miffed that I'll miss the meal at Khublai Khans afterwards. The menu sounds fascinating. I think it is fairly safe to assume there's no other menu like it in Glasgow. (Fish dumplings, crocodile steaks, Mars Bar cheesecake...) Currently my plan is to text Ewan as soon as I can get away from the hall opening and see if it is worth dashing over for at least a look at the leftovers. I'm not sure if wi-fi is available at the restaurant this year but even if it isn't I'm sure someone will moblog on what the food is like as it's served. (If I were a gambling man, my money would be on Ewan to be the moblogger!)

I'm willing to spend a couple of hours travelling and risk the wrath of kith, kin and Kirk Session so I can catch as much as possible of the TeachMeet event. What lengths are you willing to go to to get there? :-)

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Teenagers Online

G is for Geeked Out
G is for Geeked Out,
originally uploaded by DefMo.
While preparing for a lecture, I came across a press release about a survey from MTV, Nickelodeon and Microsoft. It looks really interesting but, as yet, I've not been able to track down the original report. However, the press release from PR Newswire, a report on the Financial Times website and especially a report on PublicTechnology net give a flavour of what's in the survey.

Here are a few of the things that stood out for me:
  • The average 16-24 year old in the UK has 49 friends (7 close and 16 online friends they have never met), has 86 buddies on IM list and is a member of three online social networks.
  • Almost all young people are using technology to enhance rather than replace face-to-face interaction.
  • Their interest in technology is because of what it can do rather than what it is. Only 20% said they were "interested in technology".
The teenagers we are teaching are “connected constantly”... except when they come through the school gates. In school we try to ban the digital world our pupils inhabit. As I reported earlier, Digital world? It's more like Forbidden Planet!

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Monday, September 03, 2007

If I grew a moustache for you...

If I grew a moustache for you,
Would you grow affectionate for me?

-- By Steve Turner

TacheBack 07
TacheBack 07,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
This seemed like a good idea at the time...

My wife the English teacher saw an article in a magazine about a campaign to raise money for male cancer research. The idea is to get sponsored while you grow a moustache during the month of September. Full details can be found on the TacheBack website.

I immediately wanted to grow a walrus style moustache but my wife vetoed that idea and started trying to talk me out of the whole TacheBack idea. So, currently I'm aiming for more of a handlebar style but am prepared to fall back to a Tom Selleck, or even a Clark Gable if necessary. :-)

I would be very grateful if you would consider sponsoring me. You can donate online though my TacheBack sponsor page. To be honest, I feel a bit silly just now with barely visible stubble, especially when people don't know what I'm up to, so a bit of sponsorship would be a great encouragement to keep going.


P.S. Did you notice the sponsorship links? I'll do a bigger sponsorship link here, just in case you missed it earlier. :-)

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