Saturday, December 29, 2007

NoTube at school!

Originally uploaded by TW Collins
I've had a post bubbling away on the back burner for a while now and the way things are coming together, I better get on it soon. However, this is a holding post until I get time (ha!) for the full thing. Partly it is prompted by the reaction to my Queen's YouTube (or One'sTube as Mike puts it in a comment on Doug's post). Both John and Doug (rightly) complained that this resource would be blocked in most schools. Also, Doug's blog entry led me to Sean the Bass Player's post on the Student 2.0 blog. Other stuff I've caught up with recently (although it is fairly old) includes Gordon's comments on filtering YouTube, and John Connell's response.

I want to say more about this than I have time to write just now. For the moment, can I tease you (think of it as a trailer for an upcoming blog entry) by saying I think it is significantly more complicated than asserting "Web 2.0 good, blocking bad" - I have a lot of sympathy for Gordon's position. The issue deserves a more lengthy and considered response than I have time for just now... but I am working on it... honest.

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P.S. I'm now back home from holiday... and I missed the chance to wish you all a Happy Christmas... so I wish you a belated Happy Christmas! (And before we leave Christmas behind for another year, can I remind you of the Spot the Santa competition? There is still time to enter, and you know you want to win that coveted no-prize.)

I'll try to be more on the ball when the New Year comes around.

Monday, December 24, 2007

YouTube - By Appointment to...

The Queen has her own YouTube channel! This is to make the Queen's speech (and other things) "more accessible to younger people...". You can watch the first ever televised Christmas speech as well as documentaries etc. And this year, you can download her speech as a podcast too.

So the oldest British monarch, who was the first to send a message to the moon and the first to send an email, can add YoutTube and podcasting to her list. My daughter suggested that she might be a secret nerdfighter. :-)

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Saturday, December 22, 2007


I'm in holiday mode so don't expect too much in the way of sensible educational thinking over the next few days. (Stop that sniggering... I do have sensible educational thoughts sometimes.)

Catching up on a backlog of blog reading, I came across this belter from Derek (aka the man with the best job in the world): Marvelous free resources from Marvel Comics... »

I'll leave him to do the educational justification as I'm going to be too busy reading as many of the 250 "Limited Time Only" free samples as I can before the limited time runs out. I would be tempted by a subscription but I suspect when your subscription tuns out, so will your ability to access the comics.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

An "unequalled" subject

Door Knob
Originally uploaded by Sandra Rocha
I saw this on a poster that was stuck on a classroom door. The subject referred to has been omitted because I want you to tell me the subject you think belongs there, and to tell me why you think it deserves that place:
[Insert subject here] is the unequalled agent of mental discipline and the embodiment of constructive and inventive thinking.
{It reads like a quote but no attribution was given on the poster. If anyone can give me a source, I'd be very grateful}

So over to you - give me a subject and give me your reasons.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Talking Heads

I think there is great educational potential for animated talking pictures. You could get a picture of an historical character and put pupil generated words in their mouth... Or get pupils to talk in the persona of a fictional character... Or different pupils could record the same message but present it in different ways depending on the emotions shown by the person in the picture - in anger, in sadness, with resignation etc.

Well the chaps at PQ Computing Inc have come up with a program that lets you:
  • Create animated characters from any photo you want.
  • Easy to use. With simple mouse clicks, the animation can be generated in a few seconds.
  • Only one picture is needed to construct a realistic 3D face for animation
  • Animate any human or animal photos, paintings, drawings or even sketchs.
  • Automatically match lip movement with voice.
  • Support any spoken languges: English, Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, etc.
  • Create your talking photo album, live avatars on blogs, funny greeting card, pets talk show, etc.
(Quote from the PQ Talking Photo page.)

The product looks interesting. It is not as sophisticated as CrazyTalk, but I suppose PQ Talking Photo is going for a different market. Also, it does what it says it does and doesn't look like it's over-cluttered with extra features you may never need.

Perhaps I should have declared an interest earlier... but those nice people at PQ Computing Inc are offering a free copy to people who blog about their product before Christmas. To be honest, I think it's the sort of thing I would have blogged about anyway... but who am I to look a gift horse in the animated mouth? If (when?) I get a copy, I'll try to remember to post a proper comparative review.

A final word for the moment... As I said at the start, I think this is a great tool for schools... so it's a shame that at least one of the demo animations (I didn't look at the all) is in poor taste (to say the least) and I would judge inappropriate for school use. That's a shame and I hope it's something they reconsider before the official launch.

Anyway, here's an example of what it can do (Blogger allowing!):

blogmyspacedvd to ipod video convertertalkingphoto, dvd to psp convertertalkingphoto, dvd to zunetalking photo album

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Where's Santa?

I seem to have lost Santa.

If you think you can help me find him, go to the picture and add a note to show me where you think he is. There will be a special festive no-prize for the person that gets closest to Santa's actual location (as defined by a panel of expert judges).

Hope you can help... And I hope you have a good holiday when it comes.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Computing is... again!

We had another meeting today of the group of people considering the future of Computing Science education. There was another attempt to define what we think Computing is and we are perhaps slightly further forward but once again, we found it easier to say what Computing isn't. It isn't ICT.

It seems so obvious to me that there is a distinction between ICT and Computing that I may on occasion just state it as a fact and assume that people will go, "Of course! I see it now..." Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

I don't want to get too depressed though because some people get it. For example, three recent articles/letters in the Times Educational Supplement (No bytes at the back end, What lies underneath and Put computing in its rightful place), a post on the BBC web site (End of innocence for Mac fans) and the Guardian article that I've already blogged about.

The main problem seems to be the people in charge. In particular our Scottish Government don't seem to get it. For example, I wrote about our ideas for placing Computing in the Science area of a Curriculum for Excellence in my post Digital World. We pulled these thoughts together, made the distinction between ICT and Computing Science and presented what we thought was a good case to Maureen Watt (Minister for Schools and Skills). We received a reply - not from Maureen Watt but from someone else (a civil servant we assume). This reply assured us that ICT was firmly embedded in the Scottish curriculum and ICT was being taught very well and ICT would be even better with a Curriculum for Excellence. (I paraphrase... just a bit.) It basically said, "Thank you for your letter. Now go away." Bah! Did they even read our letter? If they did they completely missed the point. We may or may not be doing well at teaching ICT but ICT is not Computing!

We're going to try again. :-)

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Monday, December 17, 2007

The family that blogs together...

Daughter Number 1 drew the vlogbrothers (Brotherhood 2.0, nerd fighters, etc.) to my attention. She thought it would be the sort of thing I'd like. {I think she wants to try it herself - cheaper than wasting her money on texts and mobile calls to her parents after all!} I must admit, I'm not sure if it is a bold social experiment or just a couple of nutters messing about. However, it is done with care and attention and I can't help but feel impressed. For example the first video I watched (July 27: How Nerdfighters Drop Insults) included a nice riff on Shakespearian insults and a good punchline related to organising a home library. It is not a "sit down in front of a camera and record four minutes of stream of conciousness" stuff but a carefully crafted and well edited video message.

I wonder how lasting this form of communication will be. There is an ephemeral quality about electronic communications. I've been meaning to write a post on unwitting testimony for some time now (maybe this week...) and I'm sure there's all sorts of stuff in their exchanges that will be of interest to future historians but how accessible will their video be?

However, the main thrust of my wonderings has been on the nature of families and family communication in the age of the read/write web. I've become aware of a number of families that are making use of social networking tools to maintain family connections. For example Mrs Blethers seems to keep up with Blethers Boy 1, Blethers Boy 2 and more recently Baby Blethers through blogs, Flickr, Twitter and Skype. Also, the McKinlay clan are popping up on Flickr (Mister McKinlay, Master McKinlay and at least one other). As a final example, I was amused to see that Digital Katie's mum calls herself Analogue Ali and sets her daughter "Where am I?" tasks through her Flickr account. There was much speculation not that long ago on the death of the extended family. Are we seeing the emergence of the extended eFamily and is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Finally a rant... I see these families using read/write web but what do I get from my own immediate family? Grief -- because allegedly I spend too much time on Flickr! Ridiculous... especially given the Bebo addictions of Daughter Number 1 and Daughter Number 2. Pot calling the kettle... if you ask me. {I think I'll get away with that because, as although they claim I spend too much time doing this kind of thing... they don't actually look at it. :-) ...Or should that be ROLF? <-- Private family joke just to see if any of them are paying attention!}
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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Any answers?

Thanks to a Twitter tweet from Teach42 I discovered Polldaddy. So, for instance, if I want to get some feedback about which posts people like best, I can easily include a poll:

Now, I know that the new Blogger templates allow you to add a poll, and as soon as soon as I get around to a long overdue refresh of this blog, I'll add one to try it out. However, Polldaddy also allows much more sophisticated questionnaires to be developed. For example, please answer my extended questionnaire.

There are many educational uses for polls like this. For instance, I mentioned in a lecture recently that I'd been at a workshop before a production on The Crucible. There was some discussion about whether we are supposed to think that John Proctor is still attracted to Abigail Williams. I thought that sort of thing would be a great thing to ask by a poll on a class blog. It would allow the teacher to get a quick idea of the range of opinion in a class and for pupils to see that it can be legitimate to interpret a scene in a number of ways.

Steve Dembo (i.e. Teach42) also drew my attention to Poll Everywhere. This looks like an interesting alternative to the audience vote style personal response systems that some schools are using. I was sceptical about the use of such voting systems until I tried using them in a lecture. I found them surprisingly useful. There are obvious issues about asking students to pay to vote in class but I think it is worth investigating further. If I try it, I'll try to remember to let you know how I get on. I have a blog post on voting systems that's been bubbling on the back burner for a few months now. Maybe this will inspire me to finish and post it. :-)

In the meantime, what do you think of using tools like Polldaddy? Can you see potential for your classes? If you are already using that type of tool, I'd love to hear if it worked.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


BBC NEWS | Education | School work priority for children

The survey of 507 boys and 493 girls, across all social classes, in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, revealed that half think they are British and half are patriotic saying they are English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish.

...So saying you are British is unpatriotic? How odd!

This report, and the bits on the Newsround site, are both a bit light on detail about attitudes to technology. However, the BBC report reveals that "The real world still beats online, children would rather play outside and talk to friends face to face" and the Newsround report says, "Most kids would rather play outside than on their computer". ...So despite changes in society and technological advances, children are still children!

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Getting ratty with Technoratti

Once again, Technorati seems to be missing some of my posts. At the moment, it has failed to pick up three of my last seven posts. This happened to me before before but I thought the problem (what ever it was) had been resolved. Now even the work around (change the time submitted on a post it failed to spot and resubmit) isn't working. Odd.

Anyone else having problems?

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Guitar Hero versus Violin Virtuoso

I said a bit about Joe Moretti's session at the recent Apple RTC meeting in Southampton. I forgot to mention he said he'd read that peripatetic teachers of guitar now outnumber teachers of violins in schools. His comment, if I remember correctly, was:
"Isn't that dreadful... why are so many kids being forced to learn violin?"
I couldn't find the report he referred to, but this one seems close:

Violin losing out to guitar in music lessons | News crumb |

a government-backed study has found that guitars and drums are, in fact, becoming the instruments of choice in the classroom.
Not everyone will share Joe's pleasure in this finding... but the solution seems obvious - do a Jimmy Page and play the guitar with a bow. :-)

I assume that part of the reason for this shift is that guitar and drums seem more relevant to children's experience of music. I'm reminded of the attempts to convince Daughter Number 2 that playing the flute was a good idea. Her music teacher suggested she should listen to James Gallway, but this failed to inspire. I tried Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull - but that was dad rock and that too failed to impress. Her sister, Daughter Number 1, seemed to come closest when she found the beatboxing flautist on YouTube. Relevance matters and dads (and teachers?) rarely manage to pull it off!

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Note this

Wanted to try posting a photo with working notes.

Alan Levine thought that Blogger strips out javascript... but it seems to work OK here.

Details of how to do it can be found at Yuan.CC Flickr Experiments via CogDogBlog.

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