Displaying SMS at Reading University

One of the tools I used yesterday in Reading was a rather nifty SMS tool, which allows me to receive SMS messages on a mobile phone and display them to the audience. All through the power of bluetooth and some technical wizardry!

As a tool when presenting it offers the audience a chance to interact directly – asking questions, making comments and so on. You need to be careful who you use it with though – there is no moderation, and although the sender’s phone number is captured, the messages appear without any names or identifying features… so all pretty anonymous.

The screen capture here shows what happened when it was used in Reading. As you can see from some of the comments… my mac fell over during the presentation!

If you are looking to do the same thing, drop me a line and we can talk about how we might work on it for you.


Reading University

I had the great privilege of talking to this year’s PGCE graduates at Reading University today, sharing my thoughts on education and ICT. I was invited to talk by the head of Education, Leslie Honour, who had read my CV and thought that I had something to offer.

I talked for just over an hour as a keynote speaker, covering a number of different aspects to education and ICT. Central points I touched on included my background as a teacher, and experience with computers (remember that first time with a mouse…?) plus a brief tour of what I am doing these days with Cleveratom. From there I went through the Digital Creativity work where I showed some of the stellar pieces we have had from children over the years, the use of online spaces for learning (lingering over Notschool, somewhat, as well as the power of virtual learning environments), the technology we could use as well as a brief thought about where the future might go.

As ever the focus is on the students and what we are doing/could be doing to provide better opportunities for learning. A common cry from any audience is “That’s all very well, Hal, but how do I do this as well as fit in everything else?” Of course, the answer isn’t to try to cram ever more things into the school day, but to use the technology wisely to replace things you normally do, working smarter with it all. How does this fit with the national initiatives? I think I could reasonably easily show how this kind of clever use of technology incorporates¬† the key skills demanded, and I’m pretty confident that I can offer greater opportunities to students through the use of ICT than without it.

One comment from today went along the lines of the extensive reliance on ICT to provide communities and social groups for learning would inevitably lead to the destruction of social groups as more and more people receed to an online existence. This is a pretty bleak picture, of course, but perfectly valid as a point, and achallenge to all of us to ensure there is an appropriate blend of activities, not all based on ICT.

In fact, it is important to remember that from time to time ICT should NOT be used – particularly when there is no real benefit.

And all of this needs to be in the context of the changes in society, the different needs of the learners coming through the system and the expectations of what they will do when they leave school and take their place in work. Additionally, the global context increasingly shows the shift in emphasis from the UK being the centre of the universe, to a far bigger distribution elsewhere on the planet. Did you know, for example, that China has well over 1 million schools (England and Wales has 24,000), and that by any measure the number of gifted and talented pupils in China exceeds the number of children we have got in schools in total? What are the implications of this for the future, do you think?

And if the average teenager spends around 6.5 hours out of school in media based activities (YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Television) what are we doing to capture the learning that is happening and how would we begin to assess it if we could? Should assessment criteria begin to expect a child to run a group in Facebook, or upload content into YouTube and have it critiqued by an audience?

Or do we do what we have always done, and accept that we will end up with what we have always had… which quite frankly is not going to move us up the world rankings given the shifts happening!

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein

Heath Ledger

ledger1It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Heath Ledger today. I have no remarkable stories to tell of knowing the chap, nor can I say that I was a massive fan of his work. Despite having only ever seen him in a handful of titles I have to say I had utmost respect for his talent. Moreover, my children still watch ‘A Knight’s Tale’ repeatedly, loving the story, the music and the characters, of which Heath Ledger is the lead.

What also saddens me is that such a young man (28, I believe) with such a promising future and respected back catalogue of work has been taken from us in such a way. Already the whisperings of drug abuse are filtering around the internet, amongst strong claims of a reaction to prescription drugs, or an accidental overdose. Whatever the cause, we are in a world where celebrities are elevated to unsustainable status and for some the way to deal with the immense pressure seems to be to find an outlet in drug use. Is this reasonable?

I feel a real sense of loss today, which is puzzling given my distinct lack of involvement with all things ‘Heath’ (apart from A Knight’s Tale each week almost), but nonetheless I am sad. My thoughts are with his family, particularly his daughter (Matilda) and those closest to him.

I only heard of his death when driving in to work and listening to the morning radio ‘crew’. Most had heard of Heath Ledger, but the ‘frontman’ of the show claimed not to have done, and was, in my opinion, less than generous in his comments about it all. It may well be that you have not heard of the fellow, Martin. It might be that you do not watch anything but blockbuster mainstream films (except, clearly, Brokeback Mountain), but regardless of your perceptions, the world has lost a talented actor through a drug related incident and is a duller place for all that. I would cut the family some slack right now, look at what Heath Ledger managed to achieve in his very short stay and celebrate some of that as a mark of respect, personally.

Daytime callers

“Hello, may I speak to Mr MacLean, please?”
“Certainly, may I ask who is calling?”
“Yes, its xxxx from Pure Insurance. Are you Mr MacLean?”
“I am.”
“May I interest you in free cover costing 99p a day?”
“You may not. But you could interest me in why you are calling me. Do you check your lists agains the TPS service?”
“erm… yes, we do…”
“In which case you will be aware that this number is registered and I am entitled to take action against your company.”
“Erm… I’m sorry, I am just doing my job…”
“Yes. Badly.”
“Would you like to speak to my supervisor?”
“You betcha!”

slight pause, muffled voices.

“Hello, Mr MacLean?”
“My name is xxxx . I’m very sorry to have troubled you, please accept my apologies on behalf of the company”
“I’m not sure that is good enough. Why are you people ringing me in the middle of my working day? You clearly do not check the TPS lists.”
“I assure you we do, but I will manually delete your number from our records to ensure that you do not hear from us again. I am very sorry that you have been troubled…”

And so went my first call of the lunchtime period for the first day working at home in goodness knows how long. I really ought to be kinder to these folk who are ‘only doing their job’. Trouble is, I find it too difficult to see it their way, and it’s too much fun to tie them in knots. And some days I’m just plain grumpy!

New iMacs for the company

So the time has come to think about the macs we have got at Cleveratom and how we want to plan for the future. Our trusty G4’s are reaching the point where we no longer use them – even video editing (so long the staple job of these machines) is faster on my Macbook Pro, easier to do and portable, too.

So what to do? We have a rather nice 1.25GHz dual processor G4 (Mirror drive drawer) which has been sat quietly for a month or two now, a 733MHz single processor ‘quicksilver’ machine from the same era, and another highly upgraded G4, running as a dual 1.2GHz (upgrade card) with two SATA drives as a raid array, additional firewire ports and USB2 ports added on. Any offers?

In their place we have just bought some shiny new iMacs which are now taking on the role of office machines, general purpose desktop kit. They look excellent – we used them at BETT on the stand and they were worthy enough to draw a few people over just because they look so good! Wireless keyboards, wireless mouse (although I personally don’t like the bluetooth connection struggling each time the machine boots), these are smart pieces of equipment.

So it appears to be crunch time for ‘Jolly Roger’, ‘Birdseye’ and ‘Jumbo’… is there a nice home for them to go to?