Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

So I’ve launched my new blog site: re-education.net with help from colleagues at work and students who I teach who are all champing at the bit to “sell” me photos that I can decorate my site with.

 

Now I’ve made my first discovery in stepping out of the wordpress.com roost… any post, even when I put tags and categories will not appear in the WordPress reader…

 

A depressed man sitting on a bench

Epic… fail? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, I’ve decided to celebrate this discovery by… starting another wordpress.com website, which aims to capture a-post-a-day for the 7 months I’m on long service leave… I’ll launch that on Saturday (Sydney, Australia time)…

 

Happy days…

 

Reader Safety Notice: NO show spoilers appear in this Post

I’ve just finished Season Three of Breaking Bad. This might seem like ancient history for some, but I’m trying to eke out my addictions. As a result, I’ve now switched to watch the final season of Dexter. As each episode is complete, I’m acutely aware that the end is becoming ever more nigh for this show.

Breaking Bad - Adventure Time

Breaking Bad – Adventure Time (Photo credit: B_Zedan)

Around me I have colleagues and students who are just finishing Breaking Bad and are aghast that I’m not doing likewise. One friend has gone from “no” to “whoa” in the space of a two week school holiday timeframe. All of Breaking Bad in two weeks?! Now I’m agog.

While all this is going on, I’ve become aware of how our viewing habits have changed. I say “our” as I’m wondering how many of the following applies to you. Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • Impatient at waiting for a show to come – week to week feels forever. I’d rather wait until I have the whole lot in my hands before starting viewing, rather than come to an abrupt halt at the end of the ep and have to wait a week for the next instalment.
  • We have lost our viewing discourse, as we are all on separate paths. The days of discussing an episode the day after are gone.
  • As a result of our viewing “alone”, we have to feel around, perhaps using careful euphemisms, to determine where we are up to in relation to others, even if across seasons.
  • I’m living in the moment, thus I’m ready to discuss the revelation of the previous episode, but often struggle to recall events for those playing ‘catch up’. By the time that someone has reached a cracker moment in a given episode, I’m struggling to recall the critical details of the episode.
  • Shows are like wine. One more glass before bed? We look forward to anticipate what time the next episode will end. Is that too late? What about if I bypass the opening credits and the “previously on…” (insert your show of preference here). Suddenly my wife is advocating a four show stint of Downton Abbey that will see our going to bed at 1:50am.
  • Suddenly, hearing the HBO white static at the start of a prospective show is an invitation to viewing nirvana.
  • I’ve started to notice (read “guess”) that each series is now following its own kind of arc – a bit like how you might have Joseph Campbell’s/Chris Vogler’s perspectives of the hero’s journey. Is it the case that a season of twelve episodes will describe a similar kind of arc as that of a quest movie (The Matrix is an example that comes to mind).

So as I finish this post, I’m about to watch the fourth episode for Dexter… and who knows, maybe the fifth… I just don’t want to run out too quickly…

My reason for writing this is to highlight how PLANE, the online Professional Learning Program for teachers, has been affected as a viable Online Learning Community (OLC) and to draw attention to those who might be unaware of this.

PLANE's landing page

PLANE’s landing page

For the uninitiated, PLANE stands for Pathways for Learning, Anywhere anytime – A Network for Educators. It offers a series of resources and professional learning in ICT for teachers. Learning comes in the form of short skill snacks that take a matter of minutes, to lengthier and more involved quests and courses. There are forum boards, a twitter feed, an activity stream, a virtual world based on Second Life to name but a small number of interactive content. Overarching all of this is the user’s Passport, which sees you accrue points as you journey about the site and take part in a range of activities. Simply, it is an engaging form of stamp or badge collecting. Here is a shot of my Dashboard from late August 2013:

I first came to PLANE earlier this year, during my first trimester of a Masters of Education, specialising in eLearning. A colleague had made a passing mention that I should check it out, and having signed up, I spent about an hour having a click around at this enticing site. This was in March and, having made a comment about it on a Forum panel to my university cohort, my subject lecturer mentioned in a Reply post that it was worth a look, but perhaps after the looming assignment had been completed.

As a result, I did not get back to have a look at PLANE until several months later, in July. It seems that, during this time, substantial changes were taking place that would see this OLC in a very different realm. The first thing I noticed was that the Twitter login seemed broken, so having sent an email from within itself (having managed to connect ‘again’ via Facebook), I heard nothing back from Admin. Later I managed to locate a comment to this effect – and that the Twitter Login would soon be fixed; as yet it hasn’t.

Having logged on, one arrives at the News Page. Here the warning bells start to ring. Firstly there is the current statement, that has been up for many weeks now:

PLANE will cease to validate professional learning or issue certificates for completion of PLANE courses after Friday 27 September 2013. Any registered PLANE professional development completed before 27 September will remain on a teacher’s Institute of Teachers record for the purposes of maintaining accreditation. PLANE will continue to offer the current range of professional learning experiences. Teachers will be able to use this professional learning as Teacher Identified Professional Development only, which is logged by the teacher on the NSW Institute of Teachers website and validated by the school principal or their delegate. Teachers can export evidence pages from PLANE as a standalone HTML website to show their school principal or delegate to have the learning validated on the NSW Institute of Teachers website. For more information regarding Teacher Identified Professional Development, please go to http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/.

Adding to this concern, the Twitter Feed (#planePL) seems stagnant, with no content from PLANE itself since late June and the Educator spotlight has remained the same during this time (this might be intended). By a sad contrast, the Activity Stream that occupies the right of the screen is scrolling continuously. A quick glance indicates that, for the most part, those “scoring” the achievements are probably new to the site, based on the types of activities that they are being credited with.

Going further and exploring the site in detail only appears to confirm one’s concerns. The events calendar has nothing coming up (the last event was June), the Virtual World is empty when I’ve visited, apart from the three virtual characters at Boot Camp (again, with no events scheduled), the Ask an Expert is similarly stalled in June. Other areas such as the Groups (which boasts a striking 162 groups) reflects stagnation through the lack of activity in Forum posts and outdated page information. One area which seems to buck the trend is the Share Club, where participants have managed to keep the content up-to-date.

In trying to study PLANE for my university assignment as an Online Learning Community, I attempted to do some research as to its status. My Google skills might not be the best, but even I found it difficult to find much in terms of what was going on. What I did manage to locate, in a Forum post inside of the site, was a Google Doc that raised worries about the future of the PLANE website and ongoing viability. Additionally, it highlights particular concern about the loss of accreditation for new scheme teachers, which PLANE offered. There were a number of other concerns raised in a detailed and thoughtfully constructed letter.

The pertinent parts to the response is printed below.

As part of my Masters coursework, participants are asked to take part in Forum Discussions. One exercise asked students to explore the for/against of the statement If you build it, they will come. In writing this post, this seems apt. Perhaps more pertinently is that “they” might well come, but will they stay, or even come back? Are they expected to take on the maintenance of the site thereafter?

It would be nice to know if this last observation is the case. Perhaps this might go some way to helping maintain and foster PLANE’s base. I understand that many of the “pilots” who helped administer the site have gone and that it resembles more of an empty shell today. A lot of money has been put into this and it would be unconscionable to see this drift,  rudderless, towards oblivion.

In closing, take a look at this photo. It is from PLANE’s Facebook page (also with last post in June). For me it captures everything PLANE can and should stand for – the energy of a range of dedicated practitioners who have come together to create a fantastic OLC. Please feel free to forward and disseminate this post in your own social and educative circles. Perhaps it can be steered to a more appropriate course for all users.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.15.26 PM

How many times, as a child, have we heard this phrase?

Illustration by Warwick Goble to Beauty and th...

Illustration by Warwick Goble to Beauty and the Beast: the heroine is the youngest daughter in her family. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I get you to think about what it means in your mind, like a Pavlovian response, you’d have your imagination firing off possibilities. Quite possibly incorporating images of Fairy Tales, Fantasy, stories set in an indeterminate past. Princes and princesses and simple moral codes. Quite possibly it suggests other or further ideas for you. It was only when my daughter was watching Play School on TV recently, when a presenter began a story with this well-worn phrase

Once upon a time

that I gave it closer scrutiny. And I realised that I, for one, had not really given much (any?) thought as to what this actually means. My own coding sees my mind shift straight away into the premise that I am about to be told a story, quite possibly with an authoritative voice and my own position as listener being that of (or similar to) a child. But thinking about this phrase more closely, it struck me as odd. It sounds like a point being placed on a timeline, when the event that you are about to hear takes place – surely this is not a particularly striking idea to put into a child’s mind? At worst it sounds too clinical – like some kind of science experiment, rather than a story involving flights of fancy and fantasy. Perhaps this is the reason that teachers soon steer students away from using this cliched start in their own writing.

A few years ago, I recall hearing an actor discussing his role as Richard in Shakespeare’s play Richard III. The opening lines will be familiar to many:

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York;

What made this interview noteworthy was his observation that he (and I apologise for being unable to remember the actor’s name) had, for some weeks, been rehearsing these lines without actually understanding what they meant. My memory of the interview was that having admitted to this and saying that this was, it appeared, a not uncommon mistake, he did not go on to clarify what the two lines meant. This set me musing on them, and wondering whether it involved the use of double negatives, which often confused people at the best of times (the “I haven’t done nothing” kind of thing). My understanding of the line is that, from Richard’s perspective, he means the following: If it is the winter of your unhappiness, then are the times actually good for you (the opposite being the summer of your happiness, rather than the summer of your unhappiness, if that make’s sense). Thus the “glorious summer” is a real downer for Richard – who revels when the times are bad, making the most of his own political run when chaos reigns.

What other phrases do we take at face value, rather than giving them the necessary scrutiny?

You don’t need to like or dislike Arnold Schwarzenegger to appreciate this. I’m just using “Arnie” as a guide. You don’t even need to have seen Terminator (1 or 2) to understand my use of it as an example. If you’ve ever seen a film where there’s a high body count by closing credits, you’ll get the gist of the idea.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 (Madame Tussauds).

Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 (Madame Tussauds). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had my movie ‘pitch’ for several years now. I’m blogging it here, because I can’t see myself ever making it (at this point, anyway). Basically it goes like this:

The screen is split in two. On the left side of the split, the audience quickly recognises Terminator (or other equivalent film) is playing. This film plays in its entirety.

On the right, the alternative film plays. In this instance, it might open with a policeman, sitting down having breakfast with his family. Subsequent scenes might show him doing relatively routine activities; dropping off his children at school, buying some take away coffee, doing paperwork. The actor playing this role should be relatively unknown and the reason why would become apparent in due course.

About half way through Terminator, the left and right screens would start to come to reflect one another. Thus the policeman seen doing run-of-the-mill activities (as I understand most policing is on a day-to-day basis) would come to have an interaction with Arnie. For these moments, the screen would show only the ‘original’ film. The policeman might die in the police station shootout, perhaps he is collateral in another scene where his car is crashed by Arnie’s truck – the more obscure it was, in many ways, the better. The audience will now recognise that the small time extra in the big budget film is actually the ‘star’ of the film that has been showing on the right hand side of the screen.

At this point, the screen would split once again. Terminator (or X) would continue on, as before, while the camera on the left would remain with the dead policeman. Over the course of the remaining film, the scenes would return to everyday life: his family receiving the news; their shock at his sudden demise; preparations and the subsequent funeral.

The point? Not much really – just to show, using an unorthodox method, how we overlook details and the casualty count (or take it for granted) when we watch an action movie. Just something a bit different. Hope you liked the idea.

It’s bound to happen one time or another in your life. You leave work for the holidays, not realising or forgetting that your stuff needed to be packed up, ready for the office to be renovated. It happened to a colleague of mine who was on long service leave, returning to discover that the proposed move date had been brought forward and 20 years worth of files, kept in a storage room, inadvertently being turfed out. Files gone forever.

English: Wooden File Cabinet with drawer open....

Filed away… forever? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the flip side, I recall a teacher who, having taught for over 30 years, had discovered the liberating power of throwing everything away… every three years. His rationale? Quite simply, to ensure that you keep reinvigorating yourself and, in the process, avoid becoming stale. Of course, the internet has probably gone some substantial way to overcoming ‘resource loss’. So much is available online that you can quickly locate resources that would previously have taken you ten times as long to source.
But, it was this observation, from the first colleague who had lost her files, that stimulated the question – What would you save if the internet were shrinking?

At my school, we have just opened up a wonderful new library – ironically, perhaps, with about two-thirds of the books from the former library. The rest (many never even borrowed) were sent to our charity schools or culled. Many of these books will never come back… on the basis that, if you want to read them, they are accessible online.

So, my brain stimulator to you:

Imagine that the internet were shrinking. Before the inevitable happens, you have the chance to save, from the cloud, those sites, pages or resources which would be the most critical, precious, personal or beautiful to you. To sharpen the task, what if there were only 5, or perhaps 10 ‘items’ that you could preserve.

For the purposes of this, I’m not looking for you to have to get all 10 – even being able to say the one or two that first leap to mind are of interest… Feel free to put your suggestions in the comments below.

Ironically, as the internet gets ever bigger, how successfully are we cataloguing all these experiences? All those sites that we once viewed and thought: Hmm, that looks pretty interesting. I’ll pop by some day and have another look… only to never do so? Maybe those filing cabinets, notebooks, photo albums and journals still have a place in our lives…

I’ve had an idea for the next tech gadget; I apologise if it is already on someone’s drawing board – and if it exists already, I’d love to hear about it.

It’s a virtual desk. Well, a real desk, that does some ‘e’ things…

The idea came about this morning, while working on a uni assignment. My course is all online; the readings, the university website, even uploading my assignment. At the moment, I am working on an iPad and a desktop, switching between using apps like Notability (great for virtual highlighting and note making on the PDF documents I’m viewing), to stalwart programs like Word (where I’m writing the piece itself). Along the way, I’m dropping out of the virtual realm, making notes, thoughts and doodles on paper.

It’s not entirely satisfactory though, or at least it doesn’t feel right in the sense of a tactile and functional learning process is… or even the sense of the aesthetic. And that is where the virtual desk comes in. I got the idea, in part, from the Australian Museum’s virtual display of a collection of things that bite and sting – the blue ringed octopus, ants, box jellyfish, a shark etc – that you can prod at on a large table, with projections from above, and information pops up about the type of ‘bite’ you have received from your virtual prodding. The desk senses your interaction and responds, albeit in a relatively limited fashion, accordingly (try as I might, I couldn’t find a photo for this post!)

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer ...

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer interface he first designed as part of the advisory work for the film Minority Report. The system, called “g-speak”, is now real and working. Note the gloves Underkoffler is wearing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The virtual desk would be a real desk that, when switched on, would allow you to have a Minority Report (and now I HAVE found a pic, using Zemanta, that seems to show that something approaching my desk, is on the way). But rather than having something vertical, I’m pitching for something horizontal… traditional. A desk where items, such as documents, would appear in front of you. Items that you could slide around, see at once, write on (whether that be with a stylus, like a pen or pencil) or in a way that leads to type being produced.

I would like to think that the desk could be an old one… even a leather topped one (which is something that I have never owned), or something befitting the title “bureau”. And when you’ve finished and switched it off, that majestic item retains its place in your house, rather than being another in a long line of ‘computer ware’.

Just a thought that I figured I would get down while it was in mind. Feel free to send me a pic if you have something like this at your house!