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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in plakboek's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, February 28th, 2010
9:28 am
Old Shoes in Harmony
Somebody asked the question, "now that I have a Masters Degree, is there any point to keeping my high school leaving certificate?"

Strewth!. If it brings you happiness, recalls good memories and puts a smile on your face, then hang it up there, right next to your Masters Degree. It very probably celebrates life-long learning journey, marking a milestone in your life.

Removing this is akin to deleting photographs on your digital camera from a past holiday to make room for your latest voyage, or painting over the lines penciled against a wall to record your child's growth. By all means, throw away your scribble notes, sell your old text books books, kick the dirt off your shoes.

Just take time to pause, remember the path you have walked.

Time to smell the flowers along the way.

Current Mood: nostalgic
Friday, February 26th, 2010
8:54 pm
Of numbers and moving averages
The draft Australian National Curriculum in the first four subjects, maths, English, science and history, will be released any day now. Don't hold your breath as the site is currently under construction. All that is missing for now is a picture of an animated workman with a shovel.

Whilst I don't mind trolling through numbers and trend-lines to better understand and manage learning, I am concerned how numbers and statistics can be so easily summarized beyond recognition with a press release to be bagged by the media.

".. 12 percent of schools have 70 percent or more of their literacy and numeracy results below or substantially below the average of their statistically similar schools ..."

Apparently it has been reported on the My Student website that at least 49% of all students are below average, a truly shocking statistic that is plainly being ignored. Honestly, how can the bottom 1% of students hope to fare better? If the glacial weight of the top 99% are not grinding them down, it will be the oppressive and collective weight of trend lines, box plots and assorted numbers lumped into a potato sack filled with statistics.

Say, did anybody spot the the ironic and dark twist in the last BBC Torchwood episode when league tables were used to determine how to best decimate the population of school aged children?

What do we really value, what matters and what are we trying to measure?

Current Mood: anxious
Sunday, February 21st, 2010
12:14 pm
Threads of some important discussions
Recently there have been some interesting discussions on the oz-teachers mailing list about the nature of this Australian list of educators and its longer term future.

I think that there are now so many outlets for social networking, some of the background chatter drops off. It is akin to opening the windows and doors on a closed staff room. The notice board above the coffee urn is still there, just don't expect any this or any one point to be a central store of knowledge, expertise or information. By illustration, my blog posts at http://plakboek.livejournal.com have declined to monthly letters whilst twitter and flickr networks have grown http://twitter.com/rgesthuizen

With so much free cloud storage with the great tools to build, share, collaborate in our professional lives with free email, free storage, free publishing. Rules are changing, with staff and students accessing more storage on keys and in clouds than I could hope to provide on a school network. (we just moved the school to Google Apps) No one list or even department of education databank or subject association network can now ever hope to monopolize educational social networking. I enjoy the deep thinking on this list and I often share this back with other networks, raising oz-teachers to supernode status.

Oz-teachers has an ICT flavour but the teachers that built this list were the first to connect to an online computer and very probably the most savvy teachers exploring computer technologies. This is not a bad thing. We should celebrate it as a cultural legacy and historical reality, not an IT hangover.

Whilst the new supermarkets and home delivery services have attracted many new customers, I guess I will still hang around the local oz-teachers fish-and-chip shop for the latest goss and meet my old neighbours .. the very same reason why I am a bit of an oz-conference junki, because it is so cool to meet face-to-face :-)

Current Mood: chipper
Saturday, February 13th, 2010
3:34 pm
Streets Ahead

Google Street View Car
Originally uploaded by sebr
During our January holiday drive through the country, we saw the Google car pass us on a lonely, outback road. I managed to hit the GPS save location button so now our family is waiting to see if we can spot our car on the highway. I suspect it will be a couple of months before the updated images go online to Street View.

The camera system was developed by a company called Nabteg and looks a bit like a small ball held up on a stick. I was curious to read that they are now showcasing a camera to take Google Streetview images in 3D!

On the eChalk list, Stephen shared this funny Google Street View sequence in Norway. Keep looking at the left hand side of the road as you move down the street.

What would you do, if you saw their car drive past?
Sunday, December 27th, 2009
10:08 am
Life beyond the office
I suppose that now is a go time to give and reflect.

I would like us to engage with what it really means to transform ICT education, beyond rubbing the latest shiny new toy or unboxing the latest bit of commercial software. I like asking the big questions in my IT classrooms so here is one. What can we do to really help our students make this world a better place for us all to live in?

Around me, Australians have been playing with their new coal-powered technology gifts. It is sad to recall that we cried poor as we stood at the top of the CO2 heap, literally thumbing our noses at those in Africa and the Pacific that cried out for help at Copenhagen.

The OLPC is a fascinating invention. Like the student that freely dips into the wireless access spilling over the school fence from his neighboring home, the technology has even enough range to bridge between the different islands in the Solomons. Whilst the original vision for the telephone was that it could be used to pipe music directly to homes, we would be equally narrow minded to think that the Internet was only for reading school email and piping music to pockets filled with iPhones.

I teach some Sudanese lads who are struggling with renaming files yet can happily play computer games and chat online. Is it appropriate to measuring their learning from their understanding of a computer desktop, a metaphor based upon the workings of a small business office? The different ethnic groups at our school have vastly different traditions and ideas of what it means to 'be working together'. I am now not sure if the collaborative, learning model that I carry about in my head is best and only way forward.

I have had some indirect contact with of the huge technology issues faced by countries on our doorstep. From young computer technicians trained in Melbourne to set up Ubuntu Linux networks for East Timor, the KhmerOS group that has managed to retain a Cambodian keyboard and recover their language using Open Office and the network manager on Naru who is experimenting recycling old hardware using Kbuntu.

If you think you have problems with Internet, electricity, hardware, language or just collecting a dollar for a school excursion? Think again as you cram all that packaging to make it fit into the recycling bin. I have been reading over the blog stories posted by Beth Santos who is helping to deploy OLPC computers in a tiny and impoverished country on a tiny African island. An extraordinary implementation is taking place in this tiny and impoverished country. Tthanks to people like her, we are making a difference.

     http://bethstepsup.blogspot.com and http://xomike.blogspot.com

I hope you get some moments to spend with your family as I have been and take time to celebrate what it means to be alive.

Let 2010 roll on!

Current Mood: thankful
Saturday, December 26th, 2009
9:29 pm
Looking for wireless devices
Looks like we will be having Xirrus as wireless networking sponsor at ACEC2010. The wireless coverage that they provided at the VITTA conference was simply plendid.

This reminds me of this screenshot that I made during the ACEC2008 conference. It displays a wireless survey of all the different bluetooth wireless devices, computers and phones that I could detect using the free iStumbler software.

At the time, I recall that I was sitting next to Tony Forster on the back row, looking over approximately 500 delegates that were seated in the hall and listening to the keynote address. He was at the time trying to work out how to upgrade software on his OLPC XO-1 whilst I was trying to navigate the unfamiliar desktop on my new Macbook.

Soon after, I discovered that I had misplaced my wireless mouse and briefly thought I could find it using these wireless survey tools although sadly, it wasn't a bluetooth mouse. After many requests, extensive searches and much to my embarrassment, I rediscovered the mouse on the last day of the conference precisely where I had put it down on day one.

Just shows what you can find, if you just look under your nose.

Current Mood: cheerful
Friday, December 25th, 2009
11:40 pm
Crazy errors
I have published here a collection of quirky images collected over the past few years. They illustrate stuck OSX compuer desktops, Windows XP virus madness, website bugs and some really odd error messages.

That you can view these images is credit to the web-servers that limped onwards or operating systems that could still support a simple print screen command.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/plakboek/sets/72157622942174433 (or this flash slideshow)

Current Mood: awake
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
2:43 pm
Organise yourself
Some reflections about the power of self organizing systems after flicking back through some past copies of my New Scientist journal. After reading these articles, it is easy to see that they can really punch above their weight and should not be ignored as an option when designing new systems.

1. This New Scientist article proves that ants are smarter than people. I knew this all along :-)

2. This New Scientist article explains why a central system that we use now cannot work. The world is not entirely ideal, we all know this. Factoring in this spontaneous variation is wasteful. There are better ways by ending our fiddling and adhoc rules.

3. This New Scientist article is cute .. why not use mobile phone data to map traffic density?

4. There have been ideas that we need to deregulate the skys. Smart planes are safer than running with rigid sky highways. Now, if we had smart cars and traffic lights as described in this New Scientist article?

5. After you glance at the above ..the next New Scientist Article and this New Scientist article will make more sense. It almost has a political message if you read between the lines.

Current Mood: cheerful
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009
12:27 pm
Flat fuel

Oil Droplet by der_makabere


The production and sale of diesel in Australia is very odd. I could not understand why it is more popular (and cheaper) in Europe. My friend Gary was explained to me that it had to do with the even stranger pricing system that we use. It is something that will probably never change until we have a pricing review to flatten competition.

Diesel is increasingly the dominant fuel in Asia. In China, diesel fuel is used for heating and was stockpiling before the Olympic games. This created a short term problem in Australia. It seems that we just cannot make enough to meet local demand.

The sales of small diesel engines continues to boom and I was interested to read that whilst petrol-electric hybrids have been embraced as green icons by politicians and the media, a Hyundai i30 diesel won the Greenfleet technology class, even beating the Toyota Prius hybrid using just 3.2litres/100km compared to 5.6litres/100km.

Whilst the price of diesel relative to petrol is an important consideration, diesel has a higher energy content compared to petrol and delivers more kilometers for each litre of fuel – particularly when combined with new, efficient diesel engines. Here is an interesting review that explains this difference. It also explains why low sulfur diesel is good for the environment.

It explains some of the complex reasons why I choose to power my family car with this fuel.

Current Mood: chipper
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
10:53 pm
ACEC2010 social networking
I have been doing some work on the social networking elements of the ACEC2010 conference and it has been interesting to re-examine some of the many different web2,0 tools that we are preparing to use.

Some are new, some are empty, all are growing as they fill up with people, contacts and content.

A great way to quickly explore these tools is to watch this sideshow of 16 images that i have published to flickr. I am interested in your thoughts and feedback.

Watch these spaces :-)
Monday, November 30th, 2009
10:15 pm
Tweet cloud distraction
After a hell of a day sorting out reporting issues for just everybody else at school, I had an interesting discussion with my junior IT class talking about the value of tagging and social networking. Some had never really noticed the value of the tags used with YouTube. We had fun examining the ABC news tag cloud and playing with Wordle http://www.wordle.net to farm and sort words that I used in my reports. Here is a tag cloud that I just made with http://tweetcloud.icodeforlove.com that analyses your twitter posts to determine the most popular burning topics and keywords. My technicians had a bit of fun playing about with it and here is my cloud for November:

Hmm, so it is packed with stuff that I can wrote into a single sentence. Here goes .. issues raised by VITTA09 conference keynotes, ACEC2010 Melbourne conference, free software ideas (software freedom day), a morning wish for more thinking and reflecting time bundled with thanks to you all for another great year online :-)

Current Mood: cheerful
Sunday, November 29th, 2009
11:12 am
Beyond the critical mass
My suspicions were confirmed after talking to Amanda at QSITE09 in QLD. Thinking back to the changes I noticed at NECC2008, I can now confirm that whilst mailing lists are not dead, they are no longer the best way forward for all special interest groups such as teacher subject associations. Web2.0 tools such as YouTube, Twitter, Nings, Flickr, Delicious, EdNA, LinkedIN, Facebook, etc. now have a complex and important role to play.

it means we must increasingly rely on social networking to build bridges between different groups, not just find the biggest mailing list to dominate and post alerts. Whilst it may be we will get less e-mail, it does mean that it is more importan to keeping track of your interests and matching them to online groups.

Two decades ago I nicknamed the "Chandler critical mass" as a measure of how large a mailing list needs to be to become successful tool. I now realise that I had left out some important dimensions: the features and flexibility of the tool for collaboration, the enthusiasm and willingness for users to wield it to develop new ideas, bound together with the sense of community ownership, community and tradition .. features of the oz-teachers and eChalk mailing lists. Anything less and they would become just another a news list.

Whilst it is more work for us to now also network with people using web2.0 tools for social networking, there are rewards of new opportunities and connections.

That is a good thing :-)

Current Mood: bouncy
Friday, November 27th, 2009
12:09 am
Google SVG whiteboard
Here is a fascinating bit of hot news. Google have built into GoogleDocs a whiteboard and it is has been built using SVG technology.

I have been involved with some fascinating collaboration using Google Docs with different teams editing the same page, at the same time. I am now interested to try it out with this new function.

"The team and technology behind Insert Drawing originally came from the startup Tonic Systems, which Google acquired in 2007. The drawing feature that we've built relies heavily on a relatively new capability in browsers: the ability to render vector graphics. We use the SVG (scalable vector graphics) standard to accomplish this in most browsers and VML (vector markup language) where SVG is not available." reference

Some of you probably read about the interesting work by Bill Kerr with SVG and that I have used it in the classroom with Inkscape, a cool and free open source SVG drawing program.

This is going to lend some weight behind this powerful open standard and is worth trying out ..

.. when collaboraitng online of course ;-)

Current Mood: cheerful
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
6:59 am
Reconnecting with educators
Share photos on twitter with TwitpicA quick blog post to acknowledge that I am at the VITTA conference. Great to meet up with old and new friends. It is good to follow the Twitter back channel for #vitta09 .. almost as much fun as the #qsite09 channel that I followed in Brisbane for the QSITE conference :-)

I am puzzled by the decision to turn off the free wireless Internet during the Monday morning although I hear that this was a late request by the VITTA keynote. Puzzling as those with G3 phones and laptops continued to tweet and grin from behind their technology tools. The wireless network this year has been good, for once I can use it from all the corners of the venue and it works so well done Xirrus! I hope that the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre has this all figured this out for 2010.

With the QSITE conference and again last night from the VITTA conference .. after lugging another satchel bag filled with paper fliers home, then emptying them into the recycling bin I do wonder what options there are to distribute promotional material to meet sponsorship goals. There has to be a better way.

So I am asking if anybody has any ideas for how we can better manage this for the next ACEC ICT national conference to be hosted in Melbourne next year? http://www.acec2010.info One chap has suggested to me that we should just copy all the sales information to a USB key or the Cloud then use social networking tools to better connect sales people with 'friends of' and 'bird of the feather' groups.

Quick, before more trees start falling!

Current Mood: cheerful
Saturday, November 14th, 2009
11:39 am
Learning amongst the shepherds
Some interesting discussions are around about the kind of environment we would like to have when schools move towards a 1:1 laptop program. It is curious to see how much interest that there is in tools to regulate and control exactly what students can do on their laptops and what they can see, in effect tightly shepherding their thinking and learning using technology tools to control what could be seen and done on the computer screen. Some research in Australia by Intel was cited that found that this restricted the ability of students to 'own' their learning. They were unable to naturally progress very far as they were being held back by the teacher.

This embraces the current debate that spans the development of self-directed learners and the vertical / horizontal scaffolding we need to put in place to enable this to happen. Already there is general agreement that it is going to be hard to achieve this when we shepherd students along the strictly narrow path of directed learning. A well intentioned and constructivist classroom environment build around 1:1 laptops can be easily subverted with the right technology, strategically placed barriers or rules to recreate just another traditional, chalkboard lesson.

When this happens, put me back next to the camp fire with a stick and some sand.

I think we should articulate our vision first and then do some background reading. I have the greatest confidence in grass root educators that ground their decisions in personal experience and hard research evidence and less in bean counters that crank out fancy websites, brochures, slick charts or slide shows.

Should the curriculum drive the management strategies?
Sunday, November 8th, 2009
4:03 pm
Of open whiteboards
If a person creates an activity for an interactive whiteboard using a particular piece of software designed for a particular brand, they often cannot share it wiht someone using a different brand of interactive whiteboard. The question has been asked if there is a generic or open-source software to create learning activities.

It is called vendor lockin and it sucks. To a degree, all the big players are guilty of it and it is part of the reason why opensource software and open standards are so important. Worth reading up the related article on Wikipedia about this topic.

We use an Australian made IWB board called a 2Touch that doesn't require any software to drive .. even works with a netbook running Ubuntu remix as the operating system. Web based is the way to go in my mind so something like KindleLab is worth exploring. I have even had fun using MIT inspired program Scratch to make IWB activites and again, it can be readily used with any IWB system. In my mind it is important that teachers and students can adapt and reprogram the learning objects created.

On Friday, I was talking with a developer who was interested in projecting Apple iPhone applications onto a whiteboard. I didn't realize there were tools around for doing this for free or that they can automatically scale up for larger screen formats. His interest was in teachers sharing applications for free or even opting to sell them online for a couple of dollars and was sounding out my thoughts.

With the Google inspired Android only a couple of years down the track, things are going to look very interesting.
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
10:40 pm
Powered by Drupal
I needed a fresh look for our college website and called upon Donna from Creative Contingencies to lend a hand. Compared to our old default themed school website, her new theme is a huge improvement. I am particularly delighted how she used Gimp to create a banner with the suspension bridge image from our Balook Camp in Gippsland.

I notice that we are not the only ones using the open source software Drupal to drive our online content, it is also being used by the Australian Prime Minister and the Whitehouse.

A year ago, Peter got our first open source powered website up and running running. Since then, Arran has done a great job with the upgrade to Version 6 and maintaining the engine that powers this website, today finishing an important upgrade. At this sage I need to shuffle the blocks about. do some housekeeping and rethink the entire site architecture.

Early days yet but at least it is looking much better.
Friday, October 30th, 2009
12:10 am
Geocity closed
Back in June 1997, GeoCities was the fifth most popular site on the Web. I used it to set up a small personal website. On the 27th October, Yahoo closed down GeoCities and my website slips into the pages of history.

With the closure, Yahoo! no longer offers free webpage hosting and a raft of competitors have moved in to fill the void. 

I was interested to read that the archive.org project has done a special sweep to archive the remaining projects. This will help counter the digital decay that can destroy some of the historical pages that are sprinkled through the website.

You can read up about some of this on the GeoCities Wikipedia page.
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
8:09 pm
Critical path towards the exams
Today I had another year 12 Information Technology revision class about project management whilst we work our way towards the end of year Victorian examinations.

I talked about the chap who cuts the grass with a junior apprentice. The boss rides the lawn mower (50 min) whilst the apprentice does the edging (30 min) and sweeps the path (10 min). There is only one mower, edger and broom. The broom can only be used after the lawn is cut and edging is done. The group had a good laugh when the remaining few finally understood that the apprentice was on the critical path (pun not intended).

I am enjoying going over the past exams. Students are now in awe at the work that is put in to assemble these when I walked them through an examiners report. My mind keeps turning to all the delicious discussions we have post examination time for particular questions.

Iwonder if any other subject deconstructs their assessment tasks with such energy and enthusiasm? It is worth noting at this point that QLD seems to do quite well without any formal state-wide exams. Hmmm :-)
Sunday, October 11th, 2009
11:33 pm
Fast Fourier transforms
The CSIRO ought to get more recognition for their pioneering work in this field of developing the Fast Fourier Transformation chips that lead to the development of WLAN or Wi-Fi networks. It came out of the research they were conducting in radioastronomy and is a great example how blue sky research can often bring about commercial spin offs or advantages down the track that may not be imediately obvious or aparent.

The ABC Catalyst science show gave some good background to this work and their legal fight.  It is a pity that this history is only given a brief mention on Wikipedia .. perhaps somebody could fill in the gap ;-)

Crikey, I recall all the fast Fourier transformation calculations that were crunched through slowly in Fortran on the mainframe that underpinned the mysterious workings of the NMR and IR machines I used back in the early 1980s when I worked at ICI Australia. To build a chip to come up with these calculations was a huge step forward.

Current Mood: chipper
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