Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bank security - grumpy old man?

Serious question: Am I a grumpy old man?

Originally uploaded by CarbonNYC
Before you answer that, here is some context. Tonight, about 8:15pm I got a phone call from someone who said they were from my bank - lets call it the Abbey. The conversation went something like this...

Abbey: Hello. I'm from the Abbey and I'm phoning about an account you have with us.
Me: OK
Abbey: Before I go any further, can I ask you for some details to confirm your identity?
Me: Hang on. You've just cold called me, and I have to confirm who I am?
Abbey: It's Data Protection - I can't discuss your account until you have confirmed your personal details.
Me: Well, can I ask what it's about?
Abbey: No. As I said, Data Protection means I can't discuss your account with you until you have confirmed your identity.
Me: Are you trying to sell me something?
Abbey: No, I can assure you, this is not a sales call.
Me: is there a problem with my account then?
Abbey: I'm sorry, as I said, I cannot discuss your account until you confirm your identity.
Me: But you cold called me. You could be anyone. Surely you should be confirming your identity to me.
Abbey: I can give you a number if you would prefer to ring us.
Me: But you could give me any number. And what do I say when they ask me, "How can I help?" What do I tell them? "I don't know. You phoned me." Can you not give any indication as to what this call is about?
Abbey: I'm sorry, as I said, I cannot discuss your account until you confirm your identity.
Me: Grief! OK. What do you need to know?

At this point, and against my better judgement, I gave then my address and date of birth. Then she asked:

Abbey: And can you confirm your phone number?
Me: Sorry? This number that you just phoned a moment ago?
Abbey: Yes.
David: You want me to tell you the number of the phone, that you just rang, that I just answered, to confirm that I am me?
Abbey: Yes.
David: This is ridiculous! What is this call about?
Abbey: We're just going round in circles!

At this point we agreed that I would go into my local branch tomorrow and ask them why I was phoned tonight.

Was I right to be suspicious? In my defence, I would say that we are warned against identity theft by the banks themselves told to be careful with our personal details. Yet here is someone, claiming to be from a bank, but who could be anyone, asking for my personal details over the phone. Is it just me, or is that odd?

So, back to the original question. Am I a grumpy old man?

Monday, December 29, 2008

I knew it was a good idea...

I made a proposal that as part of the Scottish Government's Homecoming Scotland 2009 campaign someone should fund me while I investigate the effect of hearing the Glasgow born, and now internationally successful, Angus and Malcolm Young playing live with AC/DC at Hampden. For example, does it change the fans attitudes to the four capacities?

It seems like it wasn't such a daft idea after all since the day after I made my post, Christine Graham lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament: AC/DC - We Salute You

So now that MSPs are set to salute AC/DC, surely someone can find me some money to do important educational research at their Hampden gig!

Friday, December 26, 2008

How To Survive A Robot Uprising

I wasn't sure if I was going to blog during the Christmas holidays but a gift from a nephew contains information that must be shared. He gave me an extremely important manual: How To Survive A Robot Uprising.

*Take Me To Your Leader!*
Originally uploaded by -RobW-
As I walked about the Boxing Day sales I was aware of the number CCTV cameras. Thankfully, How To Survive A Robot Uprising told me how to fool gait recognition algorithms (pages 104-105). I thought I'd share the basics here:
  1. Do not attract attention
    Move with the crowd, move slowly, blend in!
  2. Wear clothing to mask your movements
    A trench coat, skirt or cape can make gait recognition more difficult.
  3. Exaggerate your walking style
    Change your walking style - hop, skip or put a stone in your shoe!
  4. Alter your stride
    Change the length of your stride.
  5. Never reveal your intentions through your gait
    If you need to sneak around - walk normally!
Hope this helps. Let me know if it saves your life. :-)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fun on Friday #14: Christmas Critters

I could have gone for the obvious and told you about Elfyourself - but I suspect most of you already know about that. Critter Carols though may not be so well known:

Create Your OwnpetcentricOddcast Powered

I tried using a picture of me rather than Colin but, not surprisingly, it didn't work too well!

This is likely to be my last Fun on Friday until the new year but I suspect you'll be able to have fun without my prompting until then. :-)

Happy Christmas and a very Good New Year to you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hazardous headbanging!

I remember when I was a pupil (a long time ago) a teacher tried to stop us headbanging. At the time we thought he was daft but perhaps he was right after all. I heard a report on the radio this morning that said: Head-banging causes banging headache. A report published in the British Medical Journal (and summarised in Scientific American) gives some medical evidence on the dangers of headbanging.

I have only ever edited one Wikipedia page but, inspired by this research, I have now made my second edit. :-)

Perhaps I should stop listening to my Merry Axemas and Merry Axemas vol. 2 CDs - it's too close to Christmas to risk neck injury. What I really want to know though is, how do you get to do research like this? The researchers state:
"We attended several hard rock and heavy metal concerts to find the most common style of head banging executed by audience members. The bands performing at these concerts included Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Skid Row, The Hell City Glamours, L.A. Guns, Ozzy Osbourne, Winger, Ratt, Whitesnake, and W.A.S.P."
It appears that someone paid them to do research which involved them going to rock concerts. I could do that! Surely someone at Learning and Teaching Scotland would be willing to pay me to investigate the effect of Metallica on mental maths. As a working hypothesis, I would suggest that the fast, rhythmic quality of their music will have a positive effect on their fans ability to complete simple mental maths questions. To fully test this however, I would need to attend a concert to see if the distractions of the light show and slightly off-rhythm responses of fellow fans interferes with the test group's ability to answer questions quickly and accurately.

And surely the Scottish Government with their Homecoming Scotland 2009 campaign would be willing to fund me while I investigate the effect of hearing the Glasgow born, and now internationally successful, Angus and Malcolm Young playing live with AC/DC at Hampden. For example, does it change the fans attitudes to the four capacities:
  • successful learners
  • confident individuals
  • responsible citizens
  • effective contributors
It seems clear to me that we need to capture the data at the height of the euphoria caused by the concert and then follow the test subjects up a week later to see if their attitudes are different while simply listening to the music on headphones.

What do you think? Will I be able to get research money that will pay me to go to concerts, or at least buy my tickets?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Very belated Fun on Friday #13: Countdown

Somehow or other, time just slipped away from me last week, which is a shame because I had a topically appropriate Fun on Friday idea.

This Friday was the last episode of Countdown with Carol Vorderman and the site I wanted to share was this Countdown Game. It is a good simulation of the letters, numbers and conundrum rounds - complete with annoying countdown clock!

This would work well projected on a whiteboard/screen and would make a good end of term activity - fun and vaguely educational. :-)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Student learning blogs

I encourage students to use a blog to reflect on their development through their year at Jordanhill. A few have had a go and I have been given permission by two students (so far) to share their blogs with people who read my blog. They are almost at the end of their first teaching placement but I am sure they would still value any advice or comments:
At least leave a comment to let them know that someone other than me (and their mum) is reading. :-)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Fun on Friday #12: Go animate!

There are educational uses of this tool. For example, I've seen it used to teach both French and Maths. However, I've used it to tell a joke (for a very loose interpretation of the word "joke"):

{Credit where credit is due. I stole the joke from Katie Barrowman - I think!}

I like this tool but could do with a bit more information on how it all works. They clearly want to make this a child/school safe resource because when I initially tried to save my joke, was prevented from doing so and was told "Please avoid using bad word". This confused me more than a little. Eventually I worked out it was my description that was causing the problem. I initially typed: "This is what passes for humour amongst nerds. :-)" - can you spot the bad word? {Question to Mrs Blethers, and anyone else that wants to comment, should that be "amongst" or "among"?}

If you have a go - make sure you leave a comment here with a link to your creation. Have some fun this Friday... you know you want to.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

YouTube Symphony Orchestra

This is a brilliant idea. I hope my musical daughters are paying attention (because clearly they don't have enough to do already!).

See also the BBC news report and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra page for more details.

Let me know if you have a go. (Sorry Spookingdorf, there doesn't seem to be a ukulele part.)

Thanks to digitalmaverick and theokk for drawing this to my attention.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More from the creative BEds

I have already posted a couple of the podcasts our BEd Computers, Creativity and Education class produced. I thought I would post some video this time.

We had already spent some time over the proceeding weeks looking at the whys and wherefores of digital creativity, so I cut the introduction to the bone and went, more or less straight away, into a demonstration of I Can Animate. (A stunningly useful piece of software!) But I also did a "here's one I prepared earlier" with videos from schools, previous years' students as well as some demonstration movies to give students a flavour of what the package can produce.

We then split them into groups of three or four and gave them just over an hour to create/assemble models and sets, to film a short section of animation and to import it into iMovie to add sound effects and music.

Here's the films that Amy Linzi and Donna (I think) produced:

So what do you think? Do you have any advice for the students? What are the best educational uses of animation you have seen?