Friday, February 23, 2007

Competition for "The Goddard"

As you know since I first wrote about Jeff Bezos' plans to enter the space race, code named Blue Origin, the Hill is still visited daily by eager users of Google who come in search of further information.

"Gradatim Ferociter" is still the most popular search term that brings me readers, closely followed by "blog evaluation", "Internet inequality" and "panopticon".
Sometimes I fear that my interest in visitor stats is just a little panoptic!

However, aware of the nature and interests of my readers, may I offer this link to the story of Top Gear in Space.
Readers from the USA should not miss this opportunity to see how we have progressed in the space race on this side of the Atlantic.

Read the production notes or watch the biggest non commercial rocket launch in Europe.
Its a longish clip but so worth watching.
They don't make the comparison, but to my eye the Robin rises higher than The Goddard!

Jeff Bezos has better look out, the Brits are coming!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Internet Inequality

Sarah Richards' report "Internet Inequality in Wales Update 2006" is now available from the Welsh Consumer Council. I mentioned it earlier in the week, but since then I've been able to read the original report. For those of us working / thinking / learning in Wales it makes for interesting reading.

  • Data for March 2006 showed that 47% of Welsh homes had an Internet connection. In 1999 that figure was 10%.
  • The likelihood of home connection is unsurprisingly still related to social class, 64% of ABC1s are connected 67% of C2DEs are not.
  • Of particular relevance to us at Treforest is the low connection level in the Valleys, 40% as opposed to 53% in Cardiff. (I wonder how many of our students actually come from the valleys?)

The figures relating to students are curious. The report states :-

"Students are by far the most likely to personally use the Internet with 94% doing so compared to just 23% of people who are wholly retired or not working. Interestingly, only 72% of students have a home Internet connection but 94% personally use the Internet, suggesting that they use computers in locations outside the home and / or mobile technology instead of a home connection."

This raises all sorts of questions for HE planners.
(I wonder what the definition of home might be halls of residence, digs or real home address).

I suspect that these figures suggest that student Internet access is done from on campus, it would be interesting to discover just how much time students spend on line. Perhaps they are really not that connected!

This an excellent report, clearly and precisely written.

Kudos to the Welsh Consumer Council for reminding us that

"it is important to note that over half the population of Wales still do not use the Internet".

Those of us who access it daily would do well to reflect upon that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Searching the Web

CrossEngine is a web based search platform.
It brings together nearly two hundred search engines in one place, offering quick access to them all from one spot. Its quicker to access multiple searches here than it is to find a favourite search engine in the search bar in FireFox, it is easier to bounce around between engines and compare searches. There's a nice crisp interface , a search box, a list of engines or tabs leading to types of search. The simple effective functionality of this site could shorten searching time.

But all is not what it seems.

Comments on lifehacker suggest that searches in CrossEngine are different and so they are.
I tried searching for Treforest on Google through Crossengine and on Google in a stand alone window.

Both searches give me about 141,ooo results, Google direct in 0.12 seconds, CrossEngine in 0.11 seconds. The results are similar but different. They come up in a different order.
Using the CrossEngine link the Wikipedia entry for Treforest is second, using Google it appears in sixth place.

Conversely the reverse happens using Yahoo. Yahoo in a stand alone window offers about 54,900 results in 0.21 seconds, Yahoo through CrossEngine offers 54,000 results in 0.36 seconds, but the first 10 results are displayed in the same order!

Don't take my word for it.
Try it with your own search.
Does the same happen for you?

Why is that?

CrossEngine may not be going in my favourites list until I discover what going on.
If only I knew more about searching!

Non Web Users

The BBC writes of the work of the Welsh Consumer Council today. This is obviously breaking news as I can't find the original report. (or my search skills are not as good as I'd like to think they are!).
15.02.07 The report is now available.

I don't think there is anything new in the report in which we are told that
"53% of all adults in Wales still do not have access to the Internet."........."at home, at work or in public spaces like libraries"

I believe that the population of Wales "in the 2001 census was 2,903,085, which has risen to 2,958,876 according to 2005 estimates."

A careful look at the figures does show a change since 2005, particularly in the Welsh valleys where the percentage of home Internet connections seems to have risen from 26% to 40%. The same figure for Cardiff has risen 5% to 53%.

Tellingly the report tells us that many of those not connected to the Web

"do not think being online was relevant to them or an important resource."

The Consumer Council advise that these figures show that public bodies should maintain face to face and telephone advice information systems.
No they don't.
Public bodies should maintain face to face and telephone advice information systems whatever the take up of Internet access.
There's a difference between being connected to the Internet and being able to use it.
The time has come to start considering how effectively those that are connected, use the available resources.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Creating a Blogger Archive.

There will come a time when an archive or a backup copy of a blog will be useful.

In an educational setting such a facility could be of use, particularly if the blog is to contain material that might be required as part of an assessment. The author of the blog and the supervising tutor might need a copy.

The Blogger Help files are not that helpful, in as much as "Blogger does not have an import or export function" but Blogger help does answer the question "How do I create a back up of my entire blog?'

But look how complicated that is.
Here is a nice set of instructions that I came across with a little help from Lifehacker.

The same set of instructions offer advice for archiving comments.
Unfortunately the comments are not combined with the original posts.

I have tried out the method using this blog, it works.

Should I ever move blog host, now my words come with me.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Interactive White Boards

I didn't notice, but back in January the DfES published a fairly large scale evaluation of the use of Interactive Whiteboards in the Secondary Schools of London. The study undertaken by academics from the Institute of Education can be found here. The London Evening Standard commented here.

The conclusions of the 164 page report will be a disappointment to those in Government but no surprise to those of us a little closer to what was once known as the chalk face. Throwing technology into classrooms without preparation doesn't work. It would appear that IWBs are not the answer to what ever question it was that the Government asked. The final sentence of the concluding paragraph reads

"there is no evidence of any impact of the increase in IWB usage in London schools in the academic year 2004/5 on attainment in the three core subjects."

The report should be carefully read by all of us concerned with using technology to assist / develop teaching and learning.
Here are a few quotations

"When use of the technological tools took precedence over a clear understanding of pedagogic purpose, the technology was not exploited in a way that would or could substantially enhance subject learning. (p7)"

"There are potentially some drawbacks to the ways in which IWBs are currently being used. The technology can:
  • Reinforce a transmission style of whole class teaching in which the contents of the board multiply and go faster, whilst pupils are increasingly reduced to a largely spectator role;
  • Reduce interactivity to what happens at the board, not what happens in the classroom."
Those with responsibility for the rollout of the technology and training for best practice in its use need to be aware of these dangers and help refocus discussion amongst colleagues on their pedagogic aims so that teachers harness what the technology itself can do in the light of their broader pedagogic purposes. (p8)"

As a refugee from the primary sector I was delighted to read

"the use of IWBs in secondary schools may look very different from the predominant uses of IWBs found in primary schools, particularly in relation to the amount of control pupils are invited to exercise over the technology. We think that KS 3 Consultants might benefit from working with KS 2 consultants to identify both similarities and differences in use so that this can feed into CPD in both areas. (p60)."

Underlying this report however is a core issue, the staff using these IWBs have just not been sufficiently trained in their use, as Seb Schmoller notes :-

"used badly they reinforce bad teaching and may detract from good teaching: and in some circumstances they slow down rather than speed up learning"

When will they learn?
If technology is dropped from a great height it always breaks.

Flickr, Google and Walls.

I've been following a number of discussions which I think are of interest and linked one to another.

Josie Fraser has been writing about Pictures of Children online. Her wise observations bring together several strands of thinking about consent, ethics and digital presence.

I like photographs. I like Flickr. I love looking at the photographs deemed interesting, I love looking at the wonderful landscapes, I envy the skill of the photographers, but I don't feel the need to post personal photographs for the world to see. If I ever place family photographs on Flickr (and to be honest I'm not sure that I will) they will always be behind the family and friends wall.
Having a digital presence doesn't mean not having a private life.

Josie points to D'Arcy's "Deflickering".
I note his sadness at re categorising photographs of his son to the friends and family setting, but he's done the right thing. I don't really understand his thoughts about having carved his son out of his online place, to my mind he's placed his son into a far more special and safer online place.

D'Arcy deflickered his photographs in response to Cole Camplese seeking advice in "Flickr You."
On February 1st. Cole wrote
"I just pulled all of the little lady and little man from public view on Flickr. It hurt a bit, but it is the right thing to do. Funny how conversation just sort of sparked action. I like this social stuff … I hope I’m not being too open"

Well done Cole, I hope others will follow his example.

Josie mentions the conflicts we face in contributing to our children's digital presence and asks "Would you have liked your parents contributing to what searches of you might return?".
Can you imagine?
But think on, it might be time for us to consider how we have been contributing to our own digital presence.

Read what Nelson has to say about "Google search history and privacy".
Like Nelson I'm not sure that I want Google to be storing data about me. Time to do a little opting out. This personalisation of search results only happens when you sign in to a Google account. Time to question whether I want or need to go through that particular door. What's to be done?

Finally Apophenia has written a thoughtful post "about those walled gardens".
She's right, walled gardens aren't all that bad, but sometimes it depends which side of the wall you're standing.

Stephen Downes (not David Brake) notes
"the best wall is one with a door, and the best door is one with a key"

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Just what is Web 2.0?

Watch and Learn!
a video by Michael Wesch from Kansas

Boing Boing describe this as

"starry eyed as techno optimism gets, and it might just choke you up a little, if you care about this stuff"

Learning with Tesco.

Students of the Open University who shop at Tesco will be able to use their Tesco Clubcard points towards the cost of their OU fees.
Who says learning can't be bought or sold?

The scheme is simple.
If you spend one thousand pounds in Tesco you receive ten pounds worth of Clubcard vouchers. These in turn can be cashed in against the cost of undergraduate tuition fees.
Ten pounds worth of Tesco vouchers being worth forty pounds discount in OU fees.

What does that tell us about the value of Tesco vouchers or the cost of OU courses?

According to the BBC, the university's vice chancellor said that this partnership :-

"was true to its principles of open access ........ allowing the university to extend its reach to new students ....... making access to the university's programmes as flexible as possible ....... giving our students a number of options to meet course fees".

I just don't agree.
If Tesco really cared they could just give the money straight to the OU, without making students shop the Tesco way.

The same story "OU extends reach through Tesco Clubcard Partnership" on the OU's news page contains the following sentence;

"The OU is the first university to add the Clubcard scheme to its marketing activity".

Does that mean that other University's are to join the scheme?
Might the other supermarkets be considering entering the student market?

The press release continues
"Millions of Clubcard holders will be encouraged to consider study through the University by exchanging the vouchers they hold for full or part payment towards courses."

So let us just stop and wonder?

Why do the OU want or need to market their courses through Tesco?
Why do Tesco want to help OU students?
What about students in full time education?

It is alleged that the real value of Clubcards lies in the massive data base potential provided to the supermarket.
Do Tesco really care about offering their customers the opportunity of gaining further qualifications or do they just want to add a certain type of person to their data base?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Apollo Revisited.

Regular readers will be aware of my childhood interest in space exploration.

During the Apollo programme, the astronauts took many photographs. Some of these were in the form of panoramic sequences, which have now, some thirty plus years later, have been digitally scanned and stitched together into 360 degree quicktime panoramas. The source of the newly scanned images is here at the Apollo Image Gallery.

The resulting panoramic views (with sound), of the surface of the moon are breathtakingly beautiful. (via kottke)

I do hope we go back to the moon, soon.

Who Is Reading This?

Curiously the number of visitors to On a Hill continues to rise; the number of comments is rising but only just!

There are discussions taking place relating comments elsewhere.
Some bloggers allow them, some don't.
My limited observations tell me that far more blogs are read than are commented on (the one percent rule). I rarely leave comments on the many blogs that I visit but I learn much by reading them.

Interestingly when I make the effort to leave a comment on someone else's blog, my visitor statistics show me that they nearly always come and check my blog.

Eric Schmidt CEO of Google met some Republican governors in the USA last year, a meeting, reported in the New York Times. During the meeting :-

"Mr. Schmidt said that by by Google’s calculation, a new blog is being created every second of every day. He said that Google now estimates that the average blog is read by one person."

Is that true?
If that is true why oh why do Technorati spend so much time counting and indexing them?

Monday, February 05, 2007

On the Using of Parachutes!

Here is a truly masterful piece of academic writing that for some reason I came across earlier today.
From the title, right through to the conclusions there is much for us to learn here.
It doesn't matter which academic discipline you follow, read this paper from the

Although the article at first glance appears flippant there is a serious message here about the use of evidence based research.

As I read the paper my eye was drawn to an entry in the side bar of the
BMJ site, offering a view of the citation map. I've not seen one of these before. Its a neat idea.

This little video (from glumbert) might help you appreciate the difficulties faced by researchers in the field of parachute development and the relative uselessness of

Sunday, February 04, 2007

No Content!

Grow a Brain points towards this interesting piece by Drew Mackie in California.

Writing on the back of the cereal box Drew says:-

"This post has no actual content. I'm only putting this up so I can tag this post with what Technorati claims are the current most popular tags in the registered blogosphere. I'm just trying to see how much traffic this actually would steer my way. This is only an experiment."

I will be interested to see what effect his tagging experiment has on his stats.

Experiments of this kind a very much of the moment, because the blogosphere having tagged, moves on and tags again.

Checking Technorati a moment ago I note that the list of popular tags has changed. No one's tagging Stacy Schiff any more.

I see she's a Pulitzer winner.
Should I have read any of her work?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On the sharing of photographs.

Astute readers of On a Hill will have noticed my presence on Flickr.
Two photographs thats all, one day there will be more but for now two will do.
I placed them not so much as examples of my skill with a camera (sic) but more as objects of research.
I wanted to know how Flickr worked and how it links with Blogger.

I was interested therefore to see several references to Flickr around the blogosphere over the last couple of days.

First an excellent piece of writing by Kottke describing and comparing Flickr and Fotolog. I'd not heard of Fotolog but it certainly merits a look. There's a group based around "the state of " Cardiff with 55 members. In his post Jason writes of Flickrs editorial control:-

"The folks who run Flickr subtly and indirectly discourage poor quality photo contributions. Yes, upload your photos, but make them good. And the community reinforces that constraint to the point where it might seem restricting to some. Fotolog doesn't celebrate excellence like's more about the social aspect than the photos."

I am so dull, I have admired the images to be seen on Flickr and have often wondered why they seem so good. I thought that maybe Flickr users only posted their very best photos. I certainly thought long and hard about which photographs to place.

Later Kottke posted about Flickr again. Old school users of the application are annoyed that they need to change to a Yahoo login. It makes sense but I can see that some might think its all about numbers. I thought the same about the need to hold a Google account to open a new Blogger account. No matter what they say they count their members.

Then this evening while stumbling around in Digg I came across this.
I just don't know what to believe.

Now I'd not heard of Zoto either but it seems there's quite a battle going on out there in cyberspace.

I've lots of digital photographs, but to be honest they're not worth sharing.
I'm certainly not going to pay to share them!

Its unlikely that anyone would want to see them, so they're staying on my hard drive.