Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Accreditation for prior learning?

If you watch my Flickr account (and there is no particular reason why you should) you will have noticed that I have been more than a little obsessed lately with a guitar. This is because last October, I won the opportunity to build a guitar with Bailey Guitars thanks to Rock Radio, Bailey Guitars and Elixir Strings. (I took a picture of the goodies I won at the time.) However, I can't play guitar and wasn't sure I'd have the time to build it. Daughter Number Two though can play and so it was decided she would build it.

Well now it is done and it is gorgeous -- it looks gorgeous and when someone plays it properly, it sounds gorgeous.

My daughter did a stunningly good job. Mark Bailey was a patient teacher and he is very, very good at what he does. In making the guitar she practised a huge range of skills and learned about woodwork, music, design and goodness knows what else in the process. (Grief, I wasn't there for most of the time and I learned a lot! At a trivial level, I learned what a luthier is and even learned a luthier joke!) She chose the wood, made design decisions, sketched logos, soldered wires, drilled, shaped, sanded, planed, ... As I look at what my daughter achieved, part of me feels she should be able to take the guitar to the SQA and say, "What do you think of that then? That's got to be worth a Higher at least!"

I realise the SQA are unlikely to go for this but with Curriculum for Excellence developments encouraging cross-curricular projects - building your own guitar offers all sorts of possibilities. Apart from Technology, Music and Art, there's some good Physics there too (e.g. investigating why is the bridge of the guitar not at right angles to the strings?). I don't know if Mark Bailey works with schools but if I were in a technology department, I'd be contacting him to find out!

In closing, I thought I would share a video of the first time this guitar was plugged into an amplifier. It will quickly become obvious why my daughter has claimed the guitar as her own and wont let me near it!

And do you want to hear the luthier joke? ... Look away now if you don't want to read it...

A luthier won the £10 million on the lottery. He was asked if it would change his life. "Oh no.", he replied. "I'll just continue keep making guitars until the money runs out."

...Well, do you know any better luthier jokes?

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Re-visiting old sites.

Well... when I say "old", some are fairly new. :-) What I mean is, I'll be using this post to look again at some sites I'd looked at in the past but have now realised that I missed something, have discovered they can do something new, or got excited again about the educational potential.

This post was prompted by an item from Terry Freedman - Increasing the conversation. He talks (among other things) about using Seesmic to post two minute video tips. I think I had come across Seesmic before but after watching Terry, I decided to go and try it out for myself. You can go to Seesmic and see the results of my experiments so far, or just watch my first attempt below:
It has to be said that while recording videos and sending replies is very easy, the interface is more than a little rough. Finding your way about is tricky to say the least. However, a final plus point is that the community seems very responsive. For example, within minutes of me complaining that you couldn't delete video, someone had posted a reply telling me how to do it.

Also, thanks to Terry's post, I found my way to Tom Barrett's blog and from there to Tom's Seesmic videos. I watched him talking about VoiceThread in a video about Online Collaboration. I thought VoiceThread was about annotating videos but I had obviously got it confused with a completely different site (which I will need to look up again too). I had played briefly with VoiceThread last year and clearly thought it had potential (I posted a Powerpoint presentation and a picture of a computer lab in October 2007) but never got around to using it with students. That's something I'll need to put right next session. However, the most interesting thing about Tom's post was his ideas for using VoiceThread as a way of encouraging peer assessment. Brilliant!

Finally, and I'm not sure how I got to it from Terry and Tom's stuff, somehow I ended up at Picnik. I used to use Picnik (a free, reasonably powerful, online photo editing application) to edit many of my Flickr photos but since it was integrated into Flickr, I have not been back to the main Picnik site. This was clearly a mistake. The Flickr version of Picnik still has a number of effects and tools that are labelled as Premium - that is, you have to take out a paid subscription to Picnik before you can use them. However, I discovered that the Picnik website is now advert supported and you can access features that were previously only for Premium users. You can see the results of me playing with these tools in my Guitar Hero Polaroid here, as well as in my HDR-ish landscape and in my Orton-ish flower. Quick, easy and free - brilliant!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How Do You Browse?

Generation C - Connected, Communicating, Creative, ...

When I first came at Jordanhill as a lecturer (nearly twenty years ago - grief!) I told students that, before my children left school, they would be carrying a computer with them the way that I carried a pocket calculator. As the years have gone by, I continued to make this prediction... but I was becoming increasingly worried that my prediction was wrong. Then, one day, I realised they already had a portable computer that they carried with them every day - it's just that it's called a mobile phone!

One example of the computing power of mobiles can be seen in their uses as web browsers. The Opera Browser people published a report in May (see this press release) which they titled: State of the Mobile Web that describes some of the trends they have noted in mobile web browsing. For obvious reasons, the report deals only with the use made of their Opera Mini browser but I suspect it gives a reasonable view of mobile browsing habits more generally.

The part that first caught my attention (and that made me chase up the full report) was:
Almost 40% of traffic worldwide is to social networks. In some countries, such as the United States, South Africa and Indonesia, the social Web accounts for more than 60% of the traffic.
Interesting? I think so. For example, the top site visited by Opera Mini users in the UK was Facebook. My guess would have been that searching for information would have been the top use (and to be fair Google was in second position in the UK) but clearly social networking was the dominant use.

Also of interest was Opera's claim that the use of WAP or special mobile versions of sites was in decline. This may have something to do with the power of the Opera Mini browser but it may just be human nature - stick to what you know. If you use a particular site while browsing at home, you are likely to use the same one while on the move. My own experience with mobile browsing (generally not not with Opera Mini... yet) has been to stick to "standard" pages. Occasionally, where a page is too hard to read (text too small, or graphics throwing everything out) I've gone to it through Skweezer, which does a great job of rendering tricky pages so they work on my phone.

I was told recently that mobile browsing was very common in Africa because mobile phone coverage was more reliable than Internet access. I'm guessing that this is unusual and that for most people, mobile browsing is the exception rather than the rule. However, do we, as the Opera people suggest, expect there to be One Web - not one for "standard" computers and a different one for mobiles? One web to rule them all... :-)

So, how do you browse? Do you use your mobile for browsing and if so, are you aware of altering your behaviour or expectations?

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