Sunday, October 21, 2007

We are in Your Games

It's been reported here and here, that
"A British intelligence agency has targeted a new generation of recruits by advertising in computer games."
Adverts featuring the GCHQ website are to be found in a number of XBox 360 games, in the hope of capturing "the imagination of people with a particular interest in IT"
I knew all those hours spent playing Quake (in my youth) would come in handy.
It's an excellent idea though I'm not sure that all gamers are "tech savy".
But then what do I know?
It could well be that an ability to take on the Strogg could be an assett at GCHQ.

The news generated by the story took me to the GCHQ website (via the BBC), where you can find out what they do, look at job vacancies, crack some codes and explore their press releases. I liked the site. It's good looking with obvious navigation, loads of information and a few recruitment videos. There are jobs for technologists, mathematicians, linguists etc.

It was interesting to read the press release about their successful Universities Day part of their educational outreach programme. University language and careers departments were invited to GCHQ to learn about employment opportunities.
A good example of links between "business" and academia.

The home page carries a quote from a former prime minister.
"Secret intelligence gives the Government a vital edge."

Let's hope they use it carefully.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Problems with Facebook

Harriet Swain has a long and interesting article in today's Independent about social networking sites and their position in Higher Education.

There's very little I might want to add to the article, except to say "I told you"

This paragraph in particular caught my eye.
"Facebook owns the material on the site, including teaching notes and, potentially, research, says Lawrie Phipps, manager of the users and innovation programme at JISC. He has already advised a couple of research groups to take research notes off a site. While there are plenty of new technologies that lecturers can use in teaching, such as discussion groups, wikis, or Second Life, social networking is not one of them, he says, unless it's restricted to an institution's virtual-learning environment. "I'm on Facebook and I have a laugh with friends," he says. "But, if it comes to academic work on Facebook, it's totally inappropriate.""
Read that final sentence again,

"But, if it comes to academic work on Facebook, it's totally inappropriate."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Comes Round


It appears that some other commentators are beginning to question the usefulness of facebook.

Kevin Anderson pulls together some of the Web conversations about facebook on the Guardian PDA.

Does Facebook live up to the media hype?
I don't think it does, in fact I never really believed that it did.
It's certainly never going going to become a viable alternative to a VLE.

Despite many people's claims about the future of operating systems based on social networking, we would do well to remember this sentence
"Facebook is on the internet, it is not the internet"

Monday, October 15, 2007

On Spam, Google, Curt Bonk and Flying Fish

It's been said that I spend too much time on the Net, so to save time I've been trying out Google Alerts.
Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. Some handy uses of Google Alerts include: * monitoring a developing news story * keeping current on a competitor or industry * getting the latest on a celebrity or event * keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams
I have a few alerts running, one of which is for the "University of Glamorgan".
To be honest the responses I get for this query are fairly mundane and repetitive but on October 12th. I was intrigued to notice a message which included the following text.
UK E-Learning Reflections: UK leads the way or does it?
Monday the 15th was spent in Wales with a presentation to teachers of the future of ICT and schools at the University of Glamorgan ......
What caught my eye in this instance, is that I was there, I heard the presentation and after the event read the speaker's blog and therefore recognised the posting. (It's true I spend oo much time on the Net)

The speaker was Curt Bonk from Indianna University, the talk took place on January 15th at the University of Glamorgan, Treforest and he blogged about it on January 20th.. The talk was memorable; the speaker threw me a stuffed fish, and the blog made for interesting reading.
Why then, should it appear in a Google alert ten months after the event?

Following the provided link I found myself reading Curt's blog entry again, but this time on an anonymous blog, made of pieces cut and pasted from the net; 23 random articles, copied without reference their original source.
Examination of the page reveals that each article has been tampered with and links to commercial sites added.

It's spam!

The problem here is that I nearly fell for it.
The spam came courtesy of Google.
Google Alerts sent me the link.

Reader beware!

PS. (added 17.10.07)
My most recent Google alert message arrived yesterday informing me that this post existed!

If I were to adjust the settings on my alerts it would be interesting to explore how long it takes for an alert to be sent.
I'm just curious.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quids In!

What a story!

On their website Travelex say
Foreign exchange specialist Travelex today unveiled a unit of currency that has been created for use in space. It is the first currency of its kind in the universe and has been developed in partnership with a team of scientists from the National Space Centre and the University of Leicester.
I want one. They don't tell me where to get one.

I'll never get to spend it in space,
I just want one.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

On the Coming of Christmas.


On eMentors

Here's an interesting thing.

Oaklands College is using eMentors appointed from amongst the students to help teaching staff with "everything from laptops to interactive whiteboards.
"The scheme has helped lecturers overcome their insecurities towards information and communication technology (ICT) while empowering and engaging students."
It's a clever idea, but I would seriously want to argue that if a teacher \ lecturer can't use an interactive whiteboard they shouldn't really be using it. If an institution is using interactive whiteboards as a teaching tool, training should be provided for those that will be using them.

Remember the DFES report on the introduction of interactive whiteboards in classrooms?

Apparently the students are being trained, why not train the lecturers?

I wonder what the lecturers really think of the idea?
I wonder how much are the students paid to support their lecturers?

Sometimes I just wonder ...........

Friday, October 05, 2007

On David Cameron, Facebook and life

Earlier this week David Cameron (bless) spoke to the party faithful at Blackpool. In a well received speech he mentioned the Internet saying
"We live in an extraordinary world of change and freedom. The Internet is transforming people's lives. The website MySpace has got 130m members. If it was a country, it would be the tenth biggest country in the world. Facebook, the social networking site, 30m members.

People are using it to talk with each other and meet people. I had a look the other day. There is a network on Facebook called 'David Cameron is a hottie'. It's got 74 members. And I looked a little further and there is another network called 'Am I the only person who doesn't like David Cameron?' and it's got 379 members - I am sure there is nobody here today. But the point is a serious one."
He's so right, "the Internet is transforming people's lives" yet Cameron, his speech writers, his advisers and his party so obviously don't understand it. He describes MySpace as a website and Facebook as a social network as if they were in someway different. He has explored Facebook, or someone has shown him around, yet he made no mention finding things of interest in MySpace. Remember danah writing about American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace?

He tells us that there is a network called "David Cameron is a hottie" and another called "Am I the only person who doesn't like David Cameron?" (facebook membership required), In telling his Conference (and us) of these networks he aims to impress but fails, revealing in fact that neither he nor his advisers understand how Facebook works. The networks he describes are not networks they are groups of little importance. I find it hard to understand how belonging to a group of like minded people who think that David Cameron is a hottie might "transform my life".

Networks lie at the heart of Facebook's structure, originally based on colleges networks have expanded and are now consist of geographical regions, colleges, workplaces and High Schools. Within these networks members join groups (such as those described by Cameron) often directly related to their personal interests.

A brief glance at these groups shows that conversation here is limited. Indeed to the members it is the belonging to the group that matters. I suspect that many Facebook users place or choose groups for their profile in the same way as train spotters might sport lapel badges or a WAG might leave books scattered on a coffee table.

Observers of Mr. Cameron on the Web or at his Conference might be persuaded of his digital credentials. I am not so sure. In Prensky's terms Cameron's words tell us that he is more of a digital immigrant than a digital native.

He is of course not alone, in every workplace, every classroom, every lecture theatre, every Faculty we constantly encounter those who would have us believe that their understanding of our digitally connected world is much more advanced than our own. Their voices are often strident, loud, and convincing but we need to take care that we are not led astray. Remember the story of the Emperor's New Clothes?

There was another speech much reported at Blackpool this week, 'the quiet man spoke'. Firmly embedded in the real world, he reminded the conference that
“You cannot love your country if you do not care for its beating heart, the people who live in this country"
Whatever our personal enthusiasm for the wonders of the Internet or Web 2.0 might be, those of us who are or were teachers, need to remember that all our work must be grounded in the real world, with real students in real groups and communities.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

On death!

I came across this while hanging around in

"When will my iPod Croak? Depending on how you use (or abuse) it, we can take a guess at how long your little friend has left in this world. Curious? Type in your serial number."
iPod owners ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you.

Steve Jobs has new toys for you

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Return of the Burnt Pyjama Story

Following the revelations of last March, it is good to read that UCAS are rising to the challenge created by plagiarised personal statements.

Next year all university admission forms will be examined using plagiarism detection software.

According to the BBC
""The new system, Copycatch, will compare every application submitted for entry next year with thousands posted on websites and 1.5 million from previous years."

If three sentences or more - 10% of the statement - appear to have been copied, the form will be passed to Ucas staff for further scrutiny.

They might then pass the case on to the individual institutions to which a student has applied for a decision on further action."
Hopefully universities will rise to the challenge and confront those guilty of fabricating their personal statements. Schools will also have to take care in the way they offer advice, and remind their pupils of the perils of copying from the Net or any other published source. Websites offering advice on how to apply to University will also need to consider what to do with their exemplar material.

On Silence

Such a sad story.

But this made me laugh.

"since she is devoted to her vow of silence it is not that easy to reason with her."

On Google Docs

Last night I used Google Docs for the first time.

Here are my first impressions.

Google Docs is an on line word processor, designed to facilitate collaborative work. In some respects it is similar to a wiki, but with many additional features.

The workspace is simple and clear, if you can word process you can use this, existing documents can be imported or you can start from scratch. The working or completed documents are stored by Google ( I know there are issues here), so accessing and working on documents is made possible anywhere with Internet access, at home, at the office, in the library in the cyber cafe.

What makes this application special, is the ability to collaborate, to work with others on the same document, at the same time or at a different time. Documents are shared via an email link in which collaborators can be offered viewing or revising rights. A revision history (cf wiki) is kept, allowing users to reference, compare or revert to earlier versions.

There is no doubt that this has enormous potential as a tool in educational settings. Imagine two users working on the same document; in the same room on two separate laptops, the revision history facility makes it possible for tutors to see who contributed what to group assessment activities, a class of students pupils can all access the same document, etc.etc.

A brief glance at the privacy settings suggests that work should be safe from prying eyes, the facility to publish documents to the web is provided offering viewing or editing rights according to the original author's wishes. A facility is also offered allowing posting directly to a blog (used for this post).

This is a special application, no wonder Microsoft and Adobe are rushing to release similar offerings.