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Browsing youtube

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m messing around on youtube.  Here are some gems I’ve stumbled cross.

First up, what might an honest and upfront conversation with a particular type of student look like?  Oh dear, oh dear!  Go on, admit it, you smiled, just a little bit…..

Second up: there are a number of these type of videos blowing about on youtube and to say they annoy me is putting it mildly.  No, I don’t have a problem with the message.  There is a lot of truth in the message.  I have a problem with how it’s put across. Isn’t it ironic that the kids are using hand-written cards to get across the message that they want to use more technology?  And why are they so glum?  Cheer up, for crying out loud, and go read a book.

Actually the video reminded me of a comment I read recently (apologies, I cannot remember the site) from a first year undergraduate complaining that they don’t do anything interesting in IT class  Instead they spend the time doing the ECDL syllabus. While I commiserated with the student’s position, the student needs to know that syllabi are not always decided by the teachers who deliver it, quality control procedures typically mean that a syllabus cannot be deviated from much, what one student considers boring is highly stimulating to another, and finally, ECDL is a good foundation in IT. A problem is that ECDL might not been studied by all students in their prior learning while others proudly show off their certificates.  This causes particular problems for a teacher – what do you do when the majority of a class have already done all the material while it’s brand new for a sizable minority – without causing feelings of inferiority / superiority, without operating double standards, etc?

Third on the list: I quite like the ideas in this one, even if the whole thing is meant to be a parody.  The iPaper is an interesting idea in and of itself.

Fourth is another futuristic one.  This one takes a pot shot at the nonotechnology movement. How small can things really get?  Have we reached the practical  limits on size?   Or, the more likely scenario, are there applications out there for tinytech that we are still exploring – those applications are just not the ones we already have?

And, finally, a century of educational technology chronicled in one youtube video. The early part of the 20th century had the radio, gramaphone, and the silent / talkies movies but not all educators used them.  Then along came WW2 and things really sped up technologically but to what extent did the tools make it into the classroom?  By the time the 1970s calculators were the cool learning toy of the day.  Yet, as I recall, it was to be many years later before students were allowed use them in exams. Scroll on further and you have youtube and Facebook and a whole lot more social media, and many educators don’t use those either.

The lesson: new media, its applications and levels of usage are relative to the time. Technology has never really had a fundamental effect on or caused a radical overhaul of how school/college based learning and teaching takes place.  It’s still predominantly desks and chairs and a teacher delivering.  New technology comes along and supplements or complements what’s already there. As tools (Sony walkman, anyone?) go out fashion they are replaced by others (Apple ipod, anyone?).

The words educational reform have been heard for years and years.  Technology has been changing and evolving for decades.  Yet there hasn’t been any fundamental change in how teaching and learning takes place. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?


Anyone for tennis tech? It’s about Wimbledon – what else?

I have only vague memories of the McEnroe / Borg final of 1980. By the following year, I was more tuned in. The year after that was when that tournament really started to capture my attention. I started appreciating the statistics as well as the tennis.

The problem was there were very little statistics to be had. There was no Internet. The commentators didn’t have many. Childhood pocket-money didn’t always stretch to expensive hard-back fact books. Newspaper reports were my main source of info.

Move on 25 years and the extent to which things have changed is astounding.

  • A team of tennis experts log every stroke played on every court. These are translated into stats and updated real-time as matches progress. So when you’re sitting in your living room asking yourself how many aces has Andy Roddick’ hit and up pops the stat on the screen.  While you’re wondering how many forehand winners Roger Federer has hit in a match, the stat appears on your screen.
  • It’s not mere presentation of stats. There is analysis too. This comes in the form of Jason Goodall. Every now and again, Jason appears and takes us through an analysis of e.g. a player’s serving choices.  A graphic of where a players first and second serves hit the court is given, the spin and angle achieved and what these mean for an opponent.
  • If you’re not in front of your tv to watch the tennis, not to worry. Watch on-line on the Wimbledon website. Even if you don’t fancy paying the required fee for this, you can still keep up with the real time score-board on the website which displays each point result as it is scored.
  • Mobile seems to be where it’s at for this years Wimbledon. For iPhone owners (unfortunately, a category that does not include me) can avail of an app that gives them real-time scores updates and snatches of video of key points in a match.  The info goes to the users as opposed to having to go to the trouble of visiting the (albeit very informative) site.
  • For those lucky enough to attend the championships, there is the G1 Android mobile facility that allows text messaging on such necessities as where the nearest strawberry vendor is, or the fastest route from Court 2 to Henman Hill.  The technology uses GPS and digital compass technology to pinpoint the users exact position and the direction that user is pointing the camera on their handset.
  • Many of the players have their own websites and blogs. Here’s Anna Ivanovics. There really is nothing like getting the info straight from the source.
  • There was a time when Hawkeye was non-existent in any form. I can remember the more colourful characters of the game having fun with the first manifestation of Hawkeye when it beeped if they hit a serve long. Hawkeye now has moved on to much more sophisticated things. It provides an electronic re-construction of any required shot, its direction and where it lands on the course. Impressive!
  • HD tv allows very impressive visuals – apparently. I can only take someone else’s word for this one.

It’s all hugely impressive and light years away from my early viewing days back in the 1980s. But it is not perfect. There are subjective judgements still involved in some regards. For example, experts can disagree on whether a particular error is forced or unforced. It is a matter of opinion.

The implications all this technology has for training are truly extensive. Amateurs and professionals alike can benefit from watching Andy Roddick’s serve is HD. Professionals can obtain videos of their next-round opponents previous Wimbledon matches complete with a collection of stats, from the percentage of points won on first serve down to how far behind the baseline the opponent like to stand when receiving serve.  Non-players get to study the best the game has to offer (Roger Federer, perhaps) and study what it is about their game that makes them great.

Yes, Wimbledon and technology have come a long way. Yet, it cannot predict this years finalists. Having said that I wonder if someone somewhere has entered copious amounts of data into some type of decision support system to try to make such a prediction. Perhaps, I’m running ahead of myself with this suggestion. Even if I’m not, surely it’s just a matter of time? Whichever, I’m backing Federer this year.


Update – someone who has an aversion to comments (you know who you are!) tells me that all is atwitter at Wimbledon this year. It’s not only the fans who are tweeting, the players and organisers are happy twits too.

On the subject of Twitter, guess what’s the top tool for learning this year?

Three cheers for the Gaelscoil in Newcastlewest

If this isn’t joining the Bebo generation in their own world, what is? Having a Bebo page for your school really makes a lot of sense. We know that Irish youth are heavy Bebo users, and so the pupils will be heading in there. This is a great way to show off your school and its ethos and achievements via a channel that the pupils can relate to.

Only downside is that the blog is not being kept up. I wonder could they organise something like have a particular class responsible for the blog on a weekly basis. At the end of each week, the nominated class for the week could blog about what they’ve done, found interesting, learned, are planning for the near future, etc.

Interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a word as ghaeilge for “downloads”.

Being nosy, I’ve gone and had a look at the schools non-Bebo homepage. (How interesting that I find the bebo page before the more ‘official’ page).  Have a look at the virtual tour or the slideshow – in terms of space, they have a lot going on.  They seem to have a positive and progressive attitude to technology in learning. They reach out into the community. They encourage artistic expression.

The alumni seem to be doing well. Three cheers for Elizabeth.  Three cheers for Gaelscoil Ó Doghair!!

Technology – distractions and interuptions

Tech gadgets offer us a lot of positive things.  Time saving and convenience stand out the most. Could you live without your mobile, your computer…………….  An interesting effect is these tools are also a big distraction, causing a significant amount of interruptions throughout any given day. Here’s a list –

  • The mobile phone – how many times do you walk into a coffee shop or restaurant and there’s at least one mobile on most tables?  Diners will interrupt their eating to take and make calls. You never hear a comment such as “can I put you on hold for 10 mins while I enjoy this delicious cappuccino”.
  • The ringing phone – what is it about a ringing phone that causes an impulse to drop everything to answer it? My brother has made an art out of refusing to be distracted by a ringing phone. Often, this stretches to being totally oblivious to the shrill. 10 minutes later he’s surprised to discover he’s had a missed call even though everyone else in the vicinity is far too aware of it.
  • The text messages – do text messages need to be read and answered the moment they come in? Probably not. Self test over the next week – see how long is a comfortable delay before you read and / or reply.
  • The email – I have 2 email accounts in my workplace. One is permanently open on the screen, with an icon in the tray to tell me about new messages. Yes, I interrupt my work when I see the envelop appearing.  The other is web-based so it logs itself out very quickly. Consequently it doesn’t cause interruptions in my workday to the same extent.
  • The facebook – social networking is a useful and interesting way to see who’s doing what, and particularly so for overseas friends I don’t see that often.  However, unlike my students on Bebo, I don’t find it an interruption in my life.
  • Twitter – this is the ultimate distraction.  A short time back I finally gave in and started tweeting. But I’m not sold on keeping up with the minute detail of someone else’s life. It’s too much. I know there are people permanently on the tweet, and how they make time for this is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong. I see the benefits, but it’s got huge potential to be distracting and it is a significant problem in this regards for some people.
  • Chatrooms – I went through a period a number of years back where having 3 chatrooms open at the same time was a regular occurrence. I learned some cognitive multi-tasking but then decided I should study for a second masters degree and the multi-chat rooms was just too distracting to concentrated study. Now, I have a much more balanced approach to chatting.
  • RSS and blog/news readers – there is a sheer convenience of having one site that literally holds all that you need to know from a multitude of sites of interest.  Unfortunately  I can find myself hitting the refresh button far too often – has x posted his blog for the day yet, did Y make it into the news sites, did Z make a comment on the latest controversy in the financial world, etc.

The internet full stop – it’s a truly wonderful distraction. How on earth did I possibly live without it? How would I live without it if I had to?  Internet addiction is on the rise, particularly in terms of people spending more time online than offline, and not being able to switch off. Is this something society should be concerned about, or is it something that’s a standard feature of modern 21st century life?

getting to grips with new fangled technology

The one thing we can all be sure of that things change. It’s the only certainty in life. Thing is, sometimes when things change we’re thrown. We see the new technique, method, object, concept, and struggle to make it work for us. Often, we look back on that struggles and wonder how the heck did we make such a song-and-dance about it.

This vid’s been viewed a whopping 1,300,000+ times on good ole youtube and there’s a reason why. It’s absolutely spot on at illustrating the wah! factor of getting to grips with something new.

Often, new stuff involves changing mindsets – which can be very challenging indeed. When a person gets so entrenched into an idea or a way of doing something it’s hard to change, even when the simplicity of the concept or skill is totally obvious to someone else.

In a hundred years time, will we look back at the start of the computer revolution and have similar skits about how difficult it was for non digital-natives to adjust to a computer world?