Friday, May 29, 2009

Fun on Friday #31: If it's on the Web - it must be true!

A conversation at lunchtime today on whether sheep could really roll across cattle grids led us to conclude that if it is on the Internet, it must be true.

cattle grid
Originally uploaded by minipixel
To prove the point, here are some helpful websites that I have come across.

Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division: A very useful site warning against the dangers of this substance. For example, did you know that, "DHMO is a constituent of many known toxic substances, diseases and disease-causing agents, environmental hazards and can even be lethal to humans in quantities as small as a thimbleful"?

The Ova Prima Foundation: This body has scientific proof that answers one of the longest standing and most basic of all scientific questions. I feel a logical extension to this research is required but perhaps getting ethical approval for the road-crossing exercise would be too difficult.

The Official Carluke Gude: If you are planning to holiday in Scotland, or perhaps wish to set up business here, you should check out the valuable information provided by this site before you settle on particular location.

Please share the sites you find most helpful by leaving a comment on this post.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I love it when a TeachMeet comes together...

A few weeks ago when I made the How to organise a TeachMeet in four weeks! post, I wasn't sure if we could pull it off but it looks like it's all coming together nicely.

I love the way so many people have pulled together and pitched in. It's not right to single out one person... but I would like to say that I've been feeling guilty because I hadn't done anything about sponsorship and with time running out I was very pleased to see that John has made first contact with the teaching unions.

So, please go to the TeachMeet Student Edition site and see what you can do to help make the first Student focused TeachMeet a success.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fun on Friday #30: Lunapic

Thanks to a Twitter message I just discovered LunaPic. It's an online photo editor with many interesting effects, like the Warhol effect (see Colin Warhol below).

There are a bundle of animation effects too! So, have a go and then do a show and tell on your creations

Monday, May 18, 2009


I suspect this is blocked in most schools but I've found it useful, so I thought it was worth passing on: Dropbox. The tagline on the site says "Sync your files online and across computers".

Box o' Receipts
Originally uploaded by Jim Frazier
It's a simple idea. You download a (free) application and then set up a folder on your computer (Macintosh, Windows or Linux). Anything you put in that folder is automagically synchronised with the Dropbox servers and with any computers that you link to your Dropbox account. Will I say that again? Automatic file synchronisation across multiple computers... for free.

To access your Dropbox, you don't even have to install the application. As long as you can access the Internet, you can access your Dropbox through the Dropbox website.

And it's not just a personal service. You can invite collaborators to access shared folders which makes it easy to set up group projects. You can also give read only access to a public folder by sharing a Dropbox URL (for example, here's a photo I took with my cameraphone of the venue for TeachMeet Student Edition).

What's the catch? I can't really see one. With the free account, you are "limited" to 2GB of storage but you can pay a subscription to increase your storage space if you want. I don't know that I would trust it with sensitive documents but for an easy way to synchronise between different machines and different operating systems, it looks great.

Two questions to end with. What do you think of Dropbox and is it blocked in your school?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fun on Friday #29: Visible Tweets

I seem to be hooked on Twitter at the moment (although I'm not posting as much as I'd like). One of the people I follow shared a link to Visible Tweets:
Visible Tweets – Twitter Visualisations. Now with added prettiness!
It's an interesting concept. Very pretty and strangely hypnotic. Try it with a current search term. For example, as I write this, there's a fair amount of traffic about TeachMeet Midlands, so try a Visible Tweets search on #tmm09.

What do you think about Visible Tweets?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Digital Natives Revisited

About a month ago I said I was writing about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants (Digital Natives: Fact Or Fiction?). This was the start of the writing project that caused me to put my life on hold (We interupt this service...) but as I said (Normal service will now be resumed...) I got there and thought it was time I told you some of what I found.

When I first heard the Digital Native/Digital Immigrant idea I was really taken with it. It has been criticised (quite rightly) as being an inadequate, incomplete or even misleading description of what can be observed but you have to remember that it is a metaphor. When the phrase “Digital Native” is introduced, almost immediately the hearer will start to make connections with examples from their own experience. However, like all metaphors, it can break down when asked to support too many concepts. As a shorthand for introducing ideas such as the technology rich world in which young people live it works. As a way of stimulating debate on educational issues related to teaching technically proficient students, it has been very useful. However, to use it to extrapolate that everyone born after a certain date is a competent and confident user of technology is probably pushing the metaphor past breaking point. Where the metaphor is used to make less confident young people feel inadequate or to provide an excuse for the disinclined (see Jenkins), the metaphor has ceased to be useful.

Therefore, as I said, I wanted to look for evidence of Digital Natives in the PGDE(S) cohorts of student teachers. However, I expected from Rebecca Eynon's presentation at CAL 2009 that other factors would be important in predicting student attitudes to and uses of technology. Specifically at age, previous experience and breadth of use.

When I analysed the results, I wasn't surprised that experience and breadth of use were important but I was surprised at how unimportant age seemed to be. In fact on a couple of occasions, the older students expressed more Digital Native like opinions than the younger students. I hope to formally publish the findings elsewhere, so I'll just mention a couple of the things that surprised me just now.

It appeared that older students enjoyed learning to use a computer more than younger students. This seems counter intuitive since it might be expected that digital immigrants would dislike having to learn how to use new technology and resent the difficulty and effort that they have to put in to do what Digital Natives are supposed to be able to do without effort. Part of the explanation however may be that it is a non-issue for younger students. Do children "enjoy" learning to walk or is this just something they do and what they enjoy is the increased mobility and independence walking brings? Perhaps learning to use a computer is something younger students just do and what they enjoy is what this allows them to achieve.

I was also surprised by how many younger students' experience of technology seemed to coincide with the start of their undergraduate degree. There were 24 of the youngest group of students (12%) who had four years or fewer of experience with using computers. While this is not a huge number of students, it shows that we should not assume all young people are familiar with computers and confident in their use of technology. Perhaps it also says something about the use of ICT in secondary schools that so many could have come through school education apparently untouched by technology.

There's much more of note but I think that will do for now. :-)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fun on Friday #28: More Optical Illusions

A few optical illusions to puzzle over today. :-)

The picture used to illustrate this post is worth seeing at a larger size. It looks like a series of lines zig-zagging up the street but looking at it from a different angle shows just how clever it really is. More details of this illusion, plus many others can be found on the Dark Roasted Blend site and from the artist's own site.

Talking of dark roasted blends, I like the coffee bean photo on the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Kid's Page. How long does it take you to find the face?

Also, to go back to artists paining illusions, I did enjoy this report of an Invisible Car.

And to finish, a 3D model to cut out and build (I do like practical build activities, see for example Fun on Friday #6: Paper Critters). This is a model of a small dragon whose head seems to follow you round the room. (This reminds me of a Pete and Dud sketch where they claimed you could tell a painting was good when the cherubs bottoms seem to follow you around the room... but perhaps that's a topic for a future Fun on Friday!)

Update: Nobody seems to have pulled me up for missing out the link to the 3D dragon model. I've added the link and trust me, it is well worth printing out and making. It amuses me every time I walk past it! If you build it, let me know what you make of it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

How to organise a TeachMeet in four weeks!

Announcing TeachMeet Student Edition 09 - #tmse09

The proposed date of 9th June is an insanely tight deadline but I thought it was worth a try. What's the worst that can happen? :-)

Some time ago I floated the idea of having a TeachMeet that was pitched at student and probationer teachers (TraineeTeachMeet). It was generally felt to be a good idea. I started some initial work and a very competent and wonderful student from Glasgow University, who was at TeachMeet Borders, did some work checking out venues etc. However, deadline doom took over my life and I dropped the ball.

I am not at all sure that it is possible to organise a TeachMeet in four weeks but thought it was better to try and fail than not to try at all.

I've created the wiki page (PBWorks now I notice rather than PBWiki) and I'll do some more publicising and organisation this afternoon. However, that's it officially launched. It's an unconference, so lets see what we can do, together, in four weeks!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Fun on Friday #27: SAM Animation

Animation! Or more to the point: free animation software! :-)

I've written before about animation (Fun on Friday #12: Go animate!) and I do a fair bit with students (More from the creative BEds). Whenever I demonstrate creating stop motion animation, students always ask where they can get animation software. I used to recommend I Can Animate. In fact, I still will recommend I Can Animate - it's a great piece of software which is fairly cheap but stunningly good at what it does. However, the next thing I tend to be asked is, "Are there any free programs that do this?", as they play the poor student card. Up until now, I've said, "Not really." but now, I can tell them about SAM Animation.

SAM Animation is great wee program that is available as a free download for Macintosh and Windows. The interface looks a bit clunky (at least it does in the Macintosh version) and it does not recognise the built-in camera on my iMac (not much use for animation anyway) but it is free and it does what it does with the minimum of fuss. Well worth every penny you don't have to spend on it.

The program seems to be primarily intended for schools and educators. For example, the developers seem to be trying to create a community of users with a YouTube-esque Gallery and a wiki with Classroom Activity ideas.

So, if this latest flu virus brings about the aporkolypse, and you end up hiding indoors away from human contact, make sure you have downloaded SAM Animation and at least you can amuse yourself by making pasticine animations of a sneeze while you wait for the symptoms to develop and/or disappear. :-)

[Addendum: I fully intended to have a "proper" entry before the return of Fun on Friday... but the best laid schemes, gang aft agley - especially when you're suffering from sleep deprivation!]