Voiceless communication

I’ve never particularly been a gadget person but I have a son who is. He’s on his gap year at the moment, enjoying a 5 month’s ski trip, followed by 5 months in Africa (all self-funded). He’s been planning and saving for it since he was about 14, anyway as I was saying, he definititely is a gadget person, always has the latest “toy”, he has his GPS on his iPhone and has speakers and controls built into his ski jacket. For people like us gadgets are useful, fun though hardly life changing.

For those without the freedom of movement imagine how liberating this gadget could be.

Similarly this technology makes it possible for speech through thought alone.

Social Networks in Education

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I recently set up a Social Network for use within the department. I hope it will be used to improve communication lines between student, college and home. We all have a role as educators. Every time I teach a class I learn something from my students and encourage the students to share new found skills with each other.

Education extends beyond the classroom. Whatever their age, people should be prepared for lifelong learning. Whenever I learn something I can’t wait to pass it on. This blog is my means of doing so. The network above is a private network, which will allow our students a safe space to communicate. Any content generated is visibile only to group members and all is moderated.

Here is a link to a Wikispace dedicated to Social Networks in Education.

Ted 2008 Ideas worth spreading

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A few months back I discovered Ted.

This first talk I watched was by Dentist-turned-photographer Phil Borges who describes his attempts to document the world’s disappearing cultures.

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I then moved on to  ZeFrank. I now read a ZeFrank post most days. In fact his posts are usually the first thing I read. Thought provoking humour….. I love my RSS Feeds.

Yesterday’s post from ZeFrank

Mountain Wingsuit..  

As the man say’s      

ummm….awesome.

The Ted conference brings together 1000 of the worlds most remarkable people. The presentations last just 18 minutes and the best of them are delivered as beautifully produced quality podcasts which you can download or, if your Internet connection is good enough, view online.  

The are all issued under the creative commons license and you are positively encourage to spread the ideas.

Microsoft’s used the conference to preview their new WorldWide Telescope available in Spring — a technology that combines feeds from satellites and telescopes all over the world and the heavens, and weaves them together holistically to build a comprehensive view of our universe.

I was a very late swimmer and only really lost my terror of the water by learning to dive. Although I eventually certified as a PADI Advanced Diver, I’ve never totally overcome my fears so opted out of a night dive with my son one holiday. He came back evangelical…

“You cannot imagine what it’s like down there.. neon technicolour squid.. The sea is full of amazing creatures!” 

He came back covered in stings but he thought it worth it.

David Gallo: Underwater astonishments  gives me a glimpse at what I missed.

Inclusion

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Communication 2.0

And this someone with communication problems? I wish I was as gifted. She is also a prodigious blogger and quite an activist. Go Amanda!

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I’m finding it really difficult to move away from surfing this thread. I didn’t appreciate how many deeply rooted predjudices I held about Autism. I was aware of the amazing abilities of the “Autistic Savant” (individuals with autism who have extraordinary skills) and how rare these individuals were thought to be.  I suspect they are just the tip of the iceberg. The few who are lucky enough to hit on a skill that the Neurotypical world values. Amanda’s video reminded me of activites I loved as a child. Spinning, skipping, playing with water and sound as she was. At some stage I lost this joy. Grandparents tend to rediscover it “playing” with their grandchildren. In fact society educates us to put aside such “childish” pursuits in maturity. Our loss.

I remember listening to Radio 1 when I was young to a song “young, gifted and black” and at the end of it thinking. I wish I was black. That’s how Im feeling now. The blogs and links I’ve looked at today from the Autistic community are inspiring and again I found myself thinking. I wish I was Autistic. Perhaps I am.

So as well this documenting the emergence of “Web 2.0” perhaps we should also celebrate the emergence of “Communication 2.0” giving NT’s  like me a chance to experience of the sensory enriched world of the aspies and auties. Let’s stop trying to include them in our world and thank them for including us in theirs.

David Woolman wrote an excellent article on the subject for WIRED

Free Stuff

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The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation formed to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open-source community. They review and approve licenses as OSD-conformant namely that

  • The software can be freely given away or sold
  • The source code must either be included or freely obtainable
  • Derived Works: redistribution of modifications must be allowed
  • Integrity of The Author’s Source Code
  • No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups: no one can be locked out.
  • No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor: commercial users cannot be excluded.
  • Distribution of License: The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
  • License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
  • License Must Not Restrict Other Software
  • License Must Be Technology-Neutral

Popular new applications such as facebook (social networking), have given unprecented access to developersFacebook has given an unprecedented amount of access to developers. Users can browse and add third party apps. But there is also a crucial viral component – when a friend adds an application, it is noted in their news stream on their profile. Clicking on the item brings you to the app, where you can add and/or interact with it yourself.

The payoff is two way. Not only do developers get deep access to Facebook’s twenty million users, Facebook also becomes a rich platform for third party applications.

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A new Microsoft initiative DreamSpark Offers Millions of Students Access to Professional-Grade Software Developer and Designer Tools.

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If you have no aspirations of becoming a developer you might be interested to know that both higher and further education students in the UK can own Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 for £38.95 or pay £12.95 to use it for a year.

The specific criteria, now on their website is:

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This promotion ends 30th April 2008. The full retail price of the software is £599.

Not to be outdone Adobe are also offering a free Academic license for their Flex Builder with charting development environment.

Widgets and Blidgets

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Flickr photo  Kramchang / Mark Chang

I love the new language that new technology brings. Do you know your widget from your blidget? They are small applications written by third parties that you can add to your blog. I’ve added a counter that tells me how many times the site has been visited and a vodpod widget that displays video’s I have stored in another website. There are literally thousands of widgets you can add to your blog. Widgetbox claim to be the worlds largest widget directory.

One of the features of widgetbox is that you can instantly turn your blog itself into a blog widget – blidget. You can see my blidget on the left column of this blog and if you click on get widget you could add it to your blog another way of keeping track of your favorite blogs.

For visual learners a videoclip from Learning Web 2.0

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Learning from students

I was teaching a class yesterday when one of my students drew my attention to a youtube clip he wanted to add to his blog.

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I watched the video and explained that they would have used video editing software to produce the effect.

“How do you know it’s not real?”

I explained that I could tell from my experience of having seen lots of similar effects.

“But how do you know it’s not real?”

I then thought that it would be a good teaching point (the class was on how to find information on the internet) to explain to him the point of always confirm your information by looking at different sources. Like a man on a mission he soon came up with the confirmation that this is in fact a real art instalation in Liverpool

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My E-Learning curve (blended)

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I’ve just returned to teaching, although very part time at the moment (2 classes 6 hours a week), so I thought I would use this breathing space before getting a full time post to investigate how the current technology is being applied in education.

I’ve been in the IT industry since I left Surrey University in 1980, although it was the Data Processing Industry then. It’s appropriate how the labels applied to the industry itself reflect the conventional wisdom of the time. Initally all we did was process data. Ton’s of it. It was so hard to process the data, that the act itself became the focus. We often had no idea  why we were processing it, or who we were processing it for. Over time the focus moved to Information Technology. Everyone realised that data itself was meaningless without context.

The 90’s saw the meteoric rise in communication technology, the Internet, world wide web, mobile phones, putting the C into ICT.  Not only should a context be given to the data, but you had to commicate that information. The buzz was “right information to the right people at the right time”.

Information was still king.

Complex systems were developed to process information. The cost of such systems was incredible. They could never be scrapped,  so much investment had gone into their development in terms of man years, hardware and software costs and even more into their maintenance. They represented millions on company ledgers.

I had a lucrative pre -millenium year as a contractor making piddling changes to hundreds of obsolete programs that were written in the early 70’s, mainly because the knowledge to recreate them disappeared with their authors. Ahhh I hear you sigh that’s what we need to process knowledge.

Wrong!

We should avoid processing anything. It implies to me,  simply going though the motions.

When I worked at one company our printing stopped because of a systems software error and when the sytem’s programmer got his act together to get it back online he managed to delete the table which decided which report was printed. Eventually he managed to restore it from backups, but it took him hours, the joys of tape storage, mislabelling, etc, etc……  we were down to firefighting,  individually printing reports for those departments screaming loudest.

I managed to persuade my manager to not install the old report printing table, but compile a new one adding the report to be printed back on the schedule only when it was asked for. The list never got back to half it’s original size. Eventually we stopped maintaining those programs whose reports were never printed. Our maintenance backlog disappeared. Through out the business everyone had been processing the information, going through the motions, busy doing nothing. I feel that a lot of education follows these lines. As teachers and students we go through the motions of learning instead of actually acquiring and sharing knowledge. As 21st century educators it is important that we stop trying to simply impart facts to a generation that has facts at their fingertips. They already know how to find facts, our role should be as a guide through the overwhelming bombardment of facts they encounter. Teach them how to learn, not what to learn.

After the millenium I had made such a good living out of the processing industry (easy to shine if you think out of the box), that I retired. Well I stayed home and enjoyed nurturing my children. The pre school years were idyllic. But as soon as they left my playground and went off to school to be educated by others my retirement was ruined. My social life became harder work than any employment had been. So I really examined what I missed about work and the children leaving home and realised that I actually loved sharing knowledge.

I would get a buzz as a programmer solving other people’s  problems and even more teaching them how to solve their own. I left school at 16, got my “A” levels from  “Rapid Results” correspondance course in 6 weeks, and have throughout my life tried to empower people I meet to have the self belief that they too can pick up any skills they want to. They just have to find an explantion that they can understand, or an educator they can relate to. I challenge anyone to watch the commoncraft plain English guide to blogs no matter how technophobic you and not understand!

So examining my soul I realised that the only thing that would truly fulfill my destiny was to train as a teacher. OK I might have been influenced by the media campaign running at that time, and also the fact that I thought of it on the Thursday was  duly signed on the GTP scheme by Monday and two weeks later was in front of my own class (ICT) on a 90% teaching timetable, with a PGCE academic workload (plus mentor meetings, trainer meetings, subject meetings etc, etc). The key knowledge I acquired during this year was

  • best plans lead to best lessons
  • there is never enough time
  • what time there is so easily wasted
  • especially surfing the net

I was trying to define knowledge engineer for the “AS” ICT students. I thought it was probably just the latest fancy term for programmer but thought I had better check it out when I encountered

Epistemics knowledge is their business.

 These guy’s are guru’s in the field of knowledge.

To cut a long story short that act led me back into Industry and rekindled my interest in the technical. A few projects later and I’ve come back full circle.

For the Technical

My aim to develop an E-Learning ontology template using PC-PACK that will interface with an open source VLE like Moodle or Drupal  and use a reasoning engine to  populate and maintain it from RSS feeds.

Then of course I’d get the commoncraft guys to explain it to me!

The aim of this Weblog or blog is provide a communication platform to share with anyone  who is interested my e-learning curve (blended)

For your glossarys

e-learning is a general term used to refer to computer-enhanced learning

blended e-learning is e-learning with some face to face (or f2f) content.

In the 80’s as a programmer was refered to as firmware (as opposed to hardware and software) how things have changed…not

 So what have I found that’s worth passing on.  Commoncraft Productions  produce excellent video guides to the new technologies. 

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Ever wondered what this symbol means? Watch the Commoncraft video guide to RSS and learn how to make your Internet research more effective.

The BETT Awards is an annual scheme that highlights exemplar digital products intended for the education marketplace. The scheme is the result of an ongoing and successful public/private partnership between Becta, the Government’s lead agency for ICT in education, BESA, the trade association representing the educational supply industry and Emap Education, the organisers of BETT – the largest educational technology show in the world.

Have you developed any resources that you would like to share? Use the comments facility to communicate!

I have included a just for fun category to encourage you to keep checking the blog!

Oh and of course Merry Christmas!

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