Saturday, December 23, 2006


Now here is an interesting thought.

Second Life might prove to be an interesting venue for the completion of experiments that might cause ethical problems in the real world.

Are there no ethics in virtual space?

Ethical concerns don't seem to worry some bloggers.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Free Chocolate!

While out shopping I heard this story on the radio, it made me laugh yet within several hours it was showing in web agregators and on the television.
News travels quckly.

Publishing on line presents our thoughts to a world wide audience.
I suspect that some blog authors, Myspace users, Facebook addicts just don't realise that pressing the upload / publish / share button places everything in cyberspace for anyone to read.

Search engines are sophisticated tools, even the simplest of searches using Google, Delicious, Technorati etc. produces interesting results. If you don't want anyone to read your secrets keep them locked away.

Think before you blog!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Death of Beta.

Thanks to Lifehacker, this evening I note that Google have now completely rolled out their new version of Blogger. The little beta tag that caused some of our student bloggers so much trouble has been retired. In fact it has been neatly crossed out.

I noticed the Blogger beta version back in the summer. It is a giant amongst the free blogging platforms with much to offer. It provides painless entry into the blogosphere without an understanding of HTML, useful for the many digital immigrants amongst us. The drag and drop templates, easily applied labels and WYSIWYG post creator are ideal for use in educational settings.
Purists will argue that lack of understanding of HTML is a bad thing, I suspect that there is some truth in their thinking. My knowledge of HTML is slight but I know enough to understand what the new Blogger offers.

Making a post, or leaving a comment in a Blogger is so much easier than posting to the University Blogs!

While I am not really a fan of large organisations (as small is always beautiful); the closely linked diagnostic tools additionally offered by Google are bound to be of use to educational bloggers who wish to analyse the usefuless and readership of their site. Blog authors need to be aware of their readership, not in terms of numbers but in terms of identity.

So far in our blogging experiment we have no grumbles about the new Blogger. Our 130 students created and maintained their blogs fairly effortlessly. Whether they used them effectively is another question for another post. Whether they appreciated the potential of the medium is another question for anothe post.

From a personal point of view I am looking forward to a new Blog This button for Firefox.
But I can wait.
Its not as if I blog much.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lost in Space!

Seeing a link to this magnificent photograph reminded me of my childhood.

Many of my generation spent many hours following the exploits of NASA's men in space. Our teenage years were spent devising ways of following the space race whilst allegedly studying in school.

As a radio enthusiast, I followed our progress in space with the aid of what was at the time the worlds smallest radio, manufactured and sold by Clive Sinclair, (of ZX81 and Spectrum fame); which could be used during lessons to listen in to the radio transmissions between earth and the Apollo spacecraft as they travelled towards, around and eventually to the moon. To make absolutely certain that teachers didn't find my radio I secreted it inside a hollowed out text book. Its nice to read that such books still have some use for the owners of iPods!

It's all quite different now, the wonder of space is just a mouse click away, I have over the last couple of days spent hours watching the live transmissions from the ISS courtesy of NASA TV. No need to hide my radio earpiece, the streaming video has been permanently on view on my laptop.

I can't but help wonder:-
  • Do today's digital youth spend hours watching astronauts as I did?
  • Does anyone?
Or were my generation the real digital natives?

Thinking about space has led me to explore cyberspace. Enjoy the view.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


The cartoon posted on on December 1st makes interesting viewing (via abject learning). We bloggers and readers could do well to remember Dave's observation.

In February of this year, Stuart Luman wrote a short piece for the New York Magazine entitled Linkology. The article contains a graphic illustrating how the 50 most popular blogs (at that time) were linked to one another.
Food for thought

If we have to assess /evaluate student blogs, should consideration of the links between blogs be part of that process? Tools of the blogosphere rank the major blogs by links in, examining links out could provide more information.

This blog will never rate highly in the global scheme of things, visitors will come and go by accident or as a result of deliberate searching. The information here may be of use to someone. However in time the information linked to out of the blog may well be of use.

In a group of student bloggers, links and reflective / critical comments between blogs help students develop a community of practice and should be actively encouraged, especially if the comments are made in the right spirit by critical friends. The links out from a student blog would provide a richer view of the depth and range of a student's reading and thinking. Blogs that simply echo references / links provided by tutors reveal much about their authors, blogs containing additional links provide evidence of additional research. A showcase for the blogger.

Of course a vast range of links out is of no more use than a vast range of links in unless the commentary accompanying the links reveals evidence of reflection, linking new and old to create new learning. Anyone can create a list of links out (like leaving books on a coffee table), using / sharing /reading the links is what matters.

Beth Kanter writes about this.

She remembers Robert Scobel saying
"a bloggers influence should not be measured by in-bound links (like technorati) but by out-bound links"

Something for us to think about.

Second Life?

I have been accused in another place of spending too much time on the internet, but in fact all I do is use my RSS reader carefully.

Over the last couple of months we have seen how the profile of Second Life has grown. Indeed for while it was almost impossible to open a newspaper, read an e magazine or even scan a news feed without seeing a mention, an article or a link to Second Life. I spent a little time there a while ago and have to confess I was bored.

Whatever we think of Second Life or its many inhabitants; we cannot fail to be impressed by their Marketing department who have kept our eye on their activity in the real worlds of music, marketing, science and education. Only this month Judge Richard's A. Posner popped up to speak and talk about his recently published book Not a Suicide Pact. As a non resident of Second Life I missed the talk but the transcript of the dialogue seems interesting, covering a range of legal, ethical and moral topics.

Although I understand the urge to want to participate I was surprised to read earlier this week of the homeless teenage avatar representing the Asociacion Menajeros de la Paz (Messenegers of Peace).

Their web site states
"the brand new trend in internet, Second Life is a virtual world where players can create their appearance, objects and properties, but also it's possible to help improve life in the real world.
Since November 16th, a virtual homeless boy named MenajerosDeLaPaz jubilee is living in this world, warning the residents that mny people still need help and everyone can do something against poverty, injustice and abandon."

Good for them.......but I'm not all seems a bit gimmicky to me. Perhaps it won't be long before The Big Issue is on sale. Then possibly Lindens could be put to real use.

My Boing Boing feed pointed me at this critical article by Clay Shirkey that makes interesting reading.

He writes
"I suspect Second Life is largely a "Try Me" virus, where reports of a strange and wonderful new thing draw the masses to log in and try it, but whose ability to retain anything but a fraction of those users is limited. The pattern of a Try Me virus is a rapid spread of first time users, most of whom drop out quickly, with most of the dropouts becoming immune to later use."

I think I'm with Shirkey!

(A version of this post first appeared as a comment)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Myth of the Silver Surfers.

According to icwales the silver surfers just don't exist....

Research undertaken by ICM for the British Internet Broadcasting Company (who?),

"48% of 55 to 64 year olds have never downloaded anything; nor do they intend to"
"only 16% of 55 to 64 year olds would download a MP3 to an MP3 player"

Lets think about that
  • Lets think about the 55 to 64 year olds that we know.
  • How many 55 to 64 year olds do you know that own a MP3 player?
  • What might 55 to 64 year olds need to download?
and icwales tell us that silver surfers don't exist.

It's a good job I don't believe everything I read in the papers.

If Silver Surfers are a myth what about Digital Natives. Do they exist?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

On Blog Evaluation

David Warlick at 2cents worth has been writing about evaluating blogs.

It makes for interesting reading.
He and others have been wondering how blogs should be assessed. What was pleasing, was to read that they had come across the Blog Reflection Rubric from San Diego State University. Pleasing because we came across it earlier in the year and drew on it in developing our project.

David Warlick makes an interesting if obvious distinction when he asks "'Are you teaching blogging?' or 'Are you teaching communication?'".

What happens if the purpose of the blogging is to draw the student to reflect upon learning, to enhance their learning experience, to draw them deeper into the process of learning, to develop their skills as practioners of learning.

How do you assess reflection?

Perhaps we can draw upon David's further observations. He writes

"Of course, there are some distinct differences between writing on paper and writing on a blog. Your assignment might involve reading the blogs of classmates and then comment, responding to their writings in some way. This would probably require a richer rubric for evaluation, because you are evaluating a conversation, not just the putting down of some ideas"

I don't see that there are any differences between writing on paper or writing in a blog. Paper or a blog involves writing for a particular audience and purpose.
What is to be evaluated the writing or the purpose? A daily or weekly blog entry is no different to a daily or weekly paper journal entry and should be evaluated as such.

The immediacy of blog access provides some interesting differences with paper publishing and RSS makes the monitoring of blogs more immediate; but the content remains whatever medium is used for the publishing. The methodology of blogging may need to be considered as in the San Diego rubric; but apart from the inclusion of links and the possibility of linking of individual blogs and the possibility of a vast audience what difference is there to the methodology of blogging and paper journal writing.

Neither do I believe that the blogosphere challenges our notions of what it means to be literate. Its a medium not a literacy.

David's post is attracting comments and suggestions from other practioners. I'm looking forward to reading them.

Seymour Papert

I was saddened to read of Seymour Papert's accident.

In my previous life, I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce Papert's Logo to many of my pupils. The effect it had on their mathematical and logical thinking was astounding. I first used it on the BBC computer (remember them?) and then on the RM Nimbus with the marvelous turtle.

It was such a shame that we only had one computer between thirty children, all they could do was encounter the programme, if only they could have spent more time exploring the world through Logo.

I know that children would gain far more from spending time creating mathematical figures in the Logo environment than they do from being forced to watch PowerPoint presentations of mathematical shapes on interactive white boards.

More information about Papert can be found here.
Who would have believed all those year ago that the turtle would have evolved into Lego's Mindstorms.

Intelligent Design indeed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Panoptic Thoughts

I am constantly surprised by the Internet and the numerous opportunities it provides some of us.

Several weeks ago I was participating in a discussion about "Benchmarking" in one of the University blogs. Someone mentioned the panopticon leading us to consider how awareness of one's audience might influence what is written in a public blog. This led me to think of the panopticon in relation to my own work.

Writing in the 19th Century Jeremy Bentham designed a radical new form of prison the panopticon. Circular in form, the prison comprised of cells arranged around a central point occupied by a guard. From the dark centre the guard can see all the cells which are constantly lit, but the prisoners cannot see the guard. As a result of this the prisoners are aware that they might be watched at any time, but they don't know when they are being watched if at all. Bentham suggested that under such circumstances the prisoners would behave all the time.

In the 20th Century Foucalt drew upon Bentham's design as a metaphor for modern society in which we are observed from the centre and encouraged to conform to the norms of society. It is not difficult to see that in this model a small centre can control a large population. This is often referred to as "panoptic surveillance".

To some extent Bentham's model can be used to describe a group of students blogging. The tutor in the middle observes student blogs through RSS feeds, the students aware that they are being observed (but not sure when) will be encouraged to conform to the norms of the group and will participate in the learning community.
Or will they?

In the original panopticon the prisoners were not allowed to communicate with one another. In a community of bloggers communication is to be encouraged. One might assume that prisoners in the panopticon would attempt to communicate with one another.
Or would they?

One might also assume that a group of students asked to keep reflective blogs would attempt to communicate with one another.
Or would they?

One might assume that being aware of their possible audience (their tutor / their peers) such a group of students would be encouraged to reflect carefully in such blogs.
Or would they?

Blogging tools facilitate observation from the centre, allow communication to and from the centre, and communication around the centre. Encouraging the communication around the centre lies at the heart of effective use of blogging in a learning community. We need to consider how this can be facilitated.

Heleen van der Klink writes about surveillance on the Masters of Media blog in Amsterdam. Drawing on the work of Bentham, Foucalt and Giles Deleuze she takes the argument further and writes of "synoptic surveillance" in which a majority of bloggers watches a central minority. This is an interesting concept. Could a majority of reflective blogging students have a positive influence upon a tutor / department / university?

While researching the panopticon I came across the following. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Visiting an out of town shopping centre today it dawned on me that Christmas is not that far away.

So here is a litle something to help you prepare (via kottke)

Since I wrote this post I have heard that the lady who created the Advent calendar (above) has died.
Her many friends miss her. From what I have read she was a special lady.

Friday, December 01, 2006

In the Beginning

When I first created this blog Google didn't support categories or labels.

All sorts of of suggestions were made in the blogosphere as to how this failing could be overcome. With the introduction of beta.blogger labels are now supported.
This means that my clumsy attempt at categorisation using technorati is no longer needed.

Over the next couple of weeks I intend to attach labels to my more interesting posts and will also remove some of my existing tags.

I will also probably delete my earlier test posts detailing my experiments with labels and tags.
They won't be missed