hard-hat, firstaid

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.
hard-hat, firstaid

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?
hard-hat, firstaid

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 :-)
hard-hat, firstaid

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?
hard-hat, firstaid

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!
hard-hat, firstaid

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 cheerful
hard-hat, firstaid

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
hard-hat, firstaid

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 cheerful
hard-hat, firstaid

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.
hard-hat, firstaid

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 :-)