Friday, August 27, 2010

Fun on Friday #79: EepyBird Car

World energy crisis? EepyBird come to the rescue with a Coke and Mentos powered car:

Perhaps not as much fun as some of their previous escapades (see for example Fun on Friday #6: Post-its) but something that could lead to classroom experiments... or at least playground experiments? What about building a Mentos powered skateboard? Or looking at other sources of energy, like water powered rockets, soda straw rockets, or balloon powered cars?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Retired Colleagues

Large changes have taken place at Jordanhill, with new courses being launched, and many long serving members of staff leaving/left.

David Stow 2
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
So many people left that the normal retirement conventions broke down. For example, at a departmental meeting held just before the summer break, a speech was made by an ex-head of department which gave a general thanks to five people who were retiring but no collection was taken to buy them a gift and no opportunity was given for them to say anything in reply. Which is a bit of a shame I think. With so many leaving, I can understand it is difficult to do things the way they were done in the past... but it doesn't feel right. The large number retiring may make it feel commonplace but to each individual, it is surely still important.

I'd like therefore to mention two people in particular, David Hart and Jack Winch, who have recently retired. I'd like to talk about them for at least two reasons: one is selfish as I'd like to record my panic at the fact that their retirement leaves me as the sole Computing specialist at Jordanhill; the second though is more important because I believe the huge contribution they have both made to computer education in Scotland and beyond should be noted. I was taught by them back in the mid-eighties as part of my preparation to become a Computing teacher and I suspect that between them they have had a bigger impact on the development of schools Computing than any government initiative or curriculum document.

David retired earlier than Jack and had the benefit of a "proper" retirement event. I don't think anyone who was there will ever forget David's story about his demonstration of how to evacuate a chipmunk. (Don't ask!) However, what I remember most about David is his enthusiasm and the quantity (and quality) of resources that he produced. As a student teacher I found his copious notes on BBC BASIC (printed on a dot-matrix printer if I remember correctly) extraordinarily valuable. Also, I am not a well-organised person, and so I greatly appreciated his quiet and effective administration of the courses he was involved with. I don't know how many times last year we arrived at a point in the course and discovered that we'd forgotten to do something that in the past David had just got on with and organised behind the scenes. (For example, we only realised at the first meeting after Christmas that none of us had produced an attendance sheet for the new term. We'd always just had a list when we needed it because David produced it for us.)

Jack retired just before the summer break and I think what I'll remember most about him is his sartorial elegance. His three-piece suits are legendary. (Although standards began to slip latterly when he appeared with the ten bob suit from Matalan!). I also remember as a student, coming out of a tutorial to find Jack sitting playing a grand piano that for some reason was in a hallway of the David Stow building. (I can't remember if he was singing too. I must have expunged that memory from my brain!) Perhaps more importantly though, I remember his patience and his skill at questioning. He had the ability to ask the right questions and prompt you to reflect on your own performance so that you would realise yourself where things hadn't gone as well as they might. And perhaps more importantly, he could lead you to see how things could be improved without brow-beating you or resorting to the "I telt ye, I telt ye!" method that I find it all to easy to slip into!

I am sure there are readers of this blog who remember David and Jack. Please leave your own comments and memories about them here. I'll be happy to pass your messages on.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fun on Friday #78: Creative Destruction

After a reasonably good return from holiday with a post that generated lots of useful comments (ICT: Tell me everything I need to know!), I've failed to keep the momentum going and so I'm posting a Fun on Saturday this week... However, it's an interesting one that I hope you'll like as much as I do.

I posted a YouTube video on my music site (Rock and Roll!) which involved a 3D projection onto a castle. I thought it was brilliant. Once you start looking for them, there are a fair few examples of the same technique. I think this one raises the bar significantly:

I like the music on the Iron Man example better, and the crowd in this one seems strangely unimpressed, but the visual effects are stunning.

Do you know of any other good examples of this kind of thing?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

ICT: Tell me everything I need to know!

I wrote a post some time ago asking how teacher education could prepare teachers for the 21st Century (see Initial Teacher Education and BectaX). I got some very helpful and interesting responses. This time though I want to ask a more focused question in the hope of getting equally useful suggestions:

What should I do in a one hour lecture to get new teaching students excited and enthusiastic about ICT in education?

A full lecture hall!
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
Some context to this question may help shape your responses. For the last few years I have had four lectures, each two hours long, where I could talk to the whole cohort of secondary student teachers. I don't think I was always successful in getting the students excited and enthusiastic but I tried to cover a range of topics, including: digital animation, interactive whiteboards, creative computing, ICT literacy, online safety, social networking, game based learning and Glow. I tried to be interactive, I built in discussion time, I used interactive voting systems, I did practical demonstrations and brought in guest speakers (such as Ewan McIntosh, Derek Robertson and Ollie Bray). It wasn't perfect and I changed what I did every year but there was space to explore and experiment.

This year though, the whole course has changed. The primary and secondary courses have come together into a single Professional Graduate Diploma course. As a result, there is a brand new structure and the number of ICT lectures have been cut to... one! A single lecture of one hour. To be fair, this is not the only ICT input the students will get during the one year course as obviously, they will look at and use ICT in smaller groups with a range of other subject specialist as well as on teaching placements. However, this is the only time they will be all together in the one place at the same time to hear about ICT. Also, it is timetabled for the first week of the course, so there is a real opportunity as I will be addressing hundreds of primary and secondary students and could help them to become excited and enthusiastic about the potential for ICT in education right at the start of the course.

So what do I do? What do I demonstrate? What key aspects should I focus on?

There are some things that are already fixed, for example, I will have to talk about the course virtual learning environment. So lets say I have forty minutes for other stuff. Now that I've given the context, I'll ask the question again:

What should I do in a one hour lecture to get new teaching students excited and enthusiastic about ICT in education?

I look forward to your replies.