Friday, October 29, 2010

Fun On Friday #88: Inanimate Alice

Part of me is grateful to Neil Winton for directing me to to Inanimate Alice. Another part of me is very, very miffed.

The Passage of Time
Originally uploaded by ToniVC
I'm grateful because it is a fascinating , engaging, immersive, interesting and wonderful piece of work. I'm not sure that it represents "...the future of reading" but I was certainly hooked and keen to "read" on so I could find out what happened.

I'm very miffed though, because it sucked me in so effectively that the preparation for a class that I should have been doing went out the window. Oops! Time management has never been one of my strong points but when I have something as fascinating as this to distract me, there is simply no hope!

So what do you think? Evil distraction that sucks away time or interesting story told in an innovative and striking way?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twitter Tales

This week, I was exploring the use of social networking tools to stimulate or support creative writing with a class. I based one exercise on the Fortunately/Unfortunately wiki.

Originally uploaded by respres
I started the story with this tweet: "Unfortunately, while walking to school I fell down a hole!" and the idea was that the students would take turns at continuing the story alternating between "Fortunately" and "Unfortunately". I'll give you the link to the story so far in a moment but a couple of explanations are required to help you make sense of some of the extra messages in the archive.

First, I just posted my tweet with out explanation. As a result, two people expressed concern that I had fallen down a hole! One of the messages in the archive is therefore me thanking them for their concern and explaining what I was doing. The other problem is, not all of the messages showed up in the archive. As a result, I had to re-tweet them. Unfortunately, we ended up with three "Fortunately"s in a row before I re-tweeted. Despite these teething problems, I think the story is beginning to shape up:

Hashtag archive - #BEd42010 A Fortunately, unfortunately story created by BEd students

What do you think of the story so far?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fun On Friday #87: Ada Lovelace

I was speaking to some students this week about Ada Lovelace. She was stunningly smart. She described a machine that was never built; realised that it was a general purpose device (not just a number cruncher); and wrote the first computer program!

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Then I came across Ada Lovelace: The Origin! on the 2D Goggles site. Perhaps not entirely accurate but outstandingly good fun and full of real information (in spite of the nonsense).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ways To Discourage Children From Becoming Computing Scientists

I was tidying up recently (and despite all evidence to the contrary, I do tidy up... occasionally) and came across a document from the Mathematical Association titled 23 Ways To Discourage Children From Becoming Mathematicians. My copy looks like it has been photocopied too many times from what looks like a typewritten original. The author is Anita Straker (does anyone else have fond memories of Martello Towers?) and I think it was first written in 1987.

It contains such gems as:
  • Make sure you always give the children's work a mark out of 10, but never give 10/10 since the child would have no incentive to do better.
  • Make sure that children know that they should get things right first time. Never allow them to amend what they have done.
  • Never let children work together, or they will copy each other, and then you will never know who does, and who doesn't, know their 7 times table.
See what she did there?

277/366: Drag and drop
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I thought it would be worth compiling a list of Ways To Discourage Children From Becoming Computing Scientists or How To Put Children Off ICT As A Learning Tool. Here are a few of my initial ideas:
  1. The first time you meet a new class at the beginning of the year, always cover the basics. You can never do, "This is a keyboard. This is a mouse." too often.
  2. Never believe children when they tell you how good they are using computers in fact never ask them what they can do in the first place because they will always exaggerate.
  3. In programming, always emphasise the syntax of new commands. Don't waste your time with problem solving; just get them to learn the keywords and all the variations of how they are used.
  4. Never play games on the computer. This will confuse children into thinking Computing is fun; it is important that they realise Computing is a very serious subject. (The one exception to this rule is games that involve repeatedly solving an endless supply of basic arithmetic questions.)
  5. Always make children write things out first before letting them on the computers to type it up and make it look pretty. But don't let them fiddle about too much with fonts, colours and graphics or they will waste valuable time that could be spent learning "This is a keyboard. This is a mouse."
  6. Let children use a computer only during specifically timetabled sessions. If they have a question they'd like to Google, make them wait until Friday afternoon when the whole class is in the computer lab. Children need to learn that computers are a scarce resource.
  7. The best way to introduce the FOR loop is to make the children write a program to display their name on the screen ten times. (All children have love to see their name on a computer screen.) An obvious extension exercise for children who finish early is to re-write the program to put the school's name on the screen 100 times. This will let them feel like real programmers and will show them the true power of programming.
  8. The ICT equipment in schools should be at least five years old. Modern computers are too fast and too easy to use. It is important that children struggle with technology so that they realise that Computing is a difficult subject.
  9. Never let children use their own equipment in schools. If you even see them looking at a mobile phone, send them straight to the headteacher. (If they are using a mobile phone, how will they ever learn "This is a keyboard. This is a mouse."?)
  10. Interactive Whiteboards are misnamed; the "Interactive" part of the name is redundant. Under no circumstances should a pupil be allowed to touch the whiteboard. Boards are expensive and pupils could break them or get them sticky and dirty.
I thought I'd take a leaf from Tom Barrett's book and start a Google Doc to collect more ways to discourage children from using computers. Feel free to add your own suggestions.

P.S. It is said that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but in my experience, some people fail to spot sarcasm. Can I therefore make it clear that although I have posted ten ways to put children off Computing, my hope is that this list will encourage people to do the exact opposite!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fun On Friday #86: Presentations

Another Friday, another YouTube video.

I was talking about presentations this week, so I went looking for Life After Death By Powerpoint. I discovered that Don McMillan has updated it, for example, he's added a section on graphs at the end:

The sad thing is, I have seen many of the things he criticises used in "real" presentations.

{Apology: Another week and another Fun on Friday with no posts in between. Too much to do, too little time. (Or rather too little organisation and self-discipline!) I will try to do better.}

Friday, October 08, 2010

Fun On Friday #85: Bloom's Taxonomy

As readers of this blog, you are clearly bright and intelligent people; people who are interested in education. As such you are probably already familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy but for those who are not in that fortunate position, here is a very helpful YouTube video which will tell you all you need to know.

Perhaps this is too serious a topic for a Fun on a Friday but I hope you find it useful.

{I feel a series coming on... what movies teach us about educational theory!}

Thursday, October 07, 2010

TeachMeet@SLF2010: Reflection

It's now two weeks since TeachMeet@SLF 2010 but I wanted to do a quick post with a few thoughts and observations.

It was a slightly different experience for me this year since I was (at least nominally) in charge of the Flashmeeting. Can I start therefore by apologising for not being very good at my job. For a start, we were a bit late in starting the feed from the meeting, so people were hanging about a long time before we got up and running. Then, during the presentations, I kept forgetting to point the camera at the screen. Finally, rather than look after the Flashmeeting during the roundtable discussions, I abandoned the laptop at one table and went to a different one myself. Sorry folks.

In my defence, I abandoned the Flashmeeting during the roundtable because I was feeling a bit isolated; sitting at the table all on my ownsome instead of sitting at a table chatting with friends old and new. At least Ian noticed my predicament:

And to be fair, all though I was left all alone, Ian did bring me a drink!

Loads of interesting ideas (as usual) and some new innovations (largely thanks to David Noble I think). I liked the roundtable sessions and the World Cafe discussions as they both gave opportunities for interaction. I think it was good too that the number of presentations were limited so that everyone who signed up to do a presentation got the opportunity to do so. I remember how frustrated I was last year that my name wasn't picked and I didn't get a chance to do my bit. Names were still picked at random but just to decide the order of the presenters. (I was beginning to suspect conspiracy when we were reaching end of the evening and my name still hadn't come up; I was the second last speaker!)

All the people presenting were very good and it seems insidious to mention only one or two... but I'm going to do it anyway! I really enjoyed Jen Deyenberg's presentation on GPS and Geocaching. She delivered her spot at about 90mph and packed a ridiculous amount in to her seven minutes. Excellent stuff. She has posted something on her own blog about her talk and John has posted the audio too. The other presentation I thought was interesting was a two minute one from Sean Farrell talking about how to make Glow login easier for younger pupils. He has a screenshot of a proof-of-concept of how it might work. It reminded me a bit of the visual password system used by Vidoop (now owned by Confidant Technologies - not clear if it will remain free). I wonder how the Glow people or Local Authorities would react to using an OpenID system to login to Glow?

The World Cafe event I sat in on was on the future of TeachMeet... but I think I need another post to do justice to my thoughts about that topic!

Just a brief review here, but other people have already written about TeachMeet, for example, I like John Johnston's post and John has also been doing a fantastic job of posting audio from the event on the TMSLF2010 Posterous site.

P.S. Thanks to all involved in the organisation of this event - especially David Noble who took on the lion's share of the organisation.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Fun On Friday #84: Sand Dance

I was listening to a play on the radio which played a snatch of music that reminded me of something... I couldn't place it at first but suddenly it came to me: Egyptian Ballet by Alexandre Luigini. This in turn led me to look for a video clip for today's Fun On Friday.

The name of the music may not be familiar to you but I suspect you would recognise the tune and, if you are a certain age, you will almost certainly recognise the names Wilson, Keppel and Betty. Here they are, at the peak of their powers performing their Sand Dance to the tune Egyptian Ballet. (The sand dance starts around the 20 second mark):

The ease and style with which they perform is a testament to the constant repetition and polishing they did over many years of performing. Making something look that effortless is extraordinarily hard work! If you need proof of this, look at some of the videos of really poor attempts to copy the routine that are also posted on YouTube!