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Showing posts from 2010

The devil detail is in the data .... alas ....

Having the space to escape from the treadmill (sic rat race) of full time teaching in further education over two years ago, a conversation today reminded me of the misunderstood goals of the system.

The obsession with standards and the specter of the inspection regime means that many educators are distracted by the way the data looks and seldom on the quality and relevance of the subjects they are teaching.

Maintaining standards is essential, having an independent inspectorate is important, but sadly many organisations are driven by meeting the requirements to maintain a high grade in the eyes of these, rather than a high standard in the minds of the employers and the experiences of the learners.

With the data, being this devil, you will often see that centres rated as outstanding have firstly accomplished the skill of making the data look good then secondly succeed in ensuring the teaching matches this view.

A very worrying thought, sadly a reality played out in many schools and coll…

Book Review : Review ....

Been reviewing a book today for a publisher whom will not be mentioned (and is not who you think it is either), to be fair on the whole the book is good and would survive the needs of the Post-16 education market and the IT industry. As a reviewer, if something is abjectly wrong, you get the luxury of pointing it out and ensuring that others in the equation don’t endorse the book.

Nothing really wrong, not wrong as in incorrect, but dated, in some places, and misinformed in others.

My favorite was the notion that Microsoft were leading lights in the development of BASIC, hmm not my memory of my youth, they may have taken the mantle in the late 80’s for their own purposes, but leading, I think not (private mutter, rant, open box with ZX Spectrum in and stroke fondly).




Ode to the long game ...

Lets say an ode to the long game,
Give a cheer for the strategy, never the tactic.

Lets give a hurrah for the long game,
Seeing the big picture and knowing the devilish detail.

Rise to the mission, play to the plan, don’t let them know what you are thinking, only what you want them to think you think.

Raise a glass to the long game,
And wonder what he really thinks, its easy to assume, easier to underestimate.

Are you dealing with friend or foe, are you fiend or fool, would you know if you are one of the heroes?

The game play is long, the process slow, the goal moves but the target remains the same.

What is my aim?

Ask yourself :

There is something to be said about the phrase, ‘misery loves company’, in spite of the fact this pithy wisdom refers to the need for those with woes to share them. There is another reality, many of us cannot stand those who are cheerful and happy all of the time.

Don’t they just make you want to ... [fill in blank]

At this time of year, one encounters souls who are full of the joys of the season. Children I can forgive in abundance, this is the season for them, but adults who, in the absence of the required child are still optimistically cheerful, need help, preferrably with a gentle stoke of a cricket bat over the head.

Why, please why?

In some event where to encourage adoption of a new faith the suggestion of joint celebration between ‘faith’ and ‘pagan mid-winter feast’ may come together has now become a time for optimistic spend/spend/spend. In fact christmas is reported as bad, if the sales are up/down/different per week/month/day/nanosecond against last year or some magical pa…

Is there anything new under the sun ...

I often return to this text from Ecclesiastes, always relevant, over 3000 years hence:


“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”?  It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the fo…

Dear pompous, fear not, a fool I not be

... Interesting dealings with a couple of centres today, having had no reply to emails about forthcoming quality review visits I get two very different responses:

Centre A : small operation, has a can do attitude, sees that there is an issue, but will get into gear and resolve the issue

Centre B : somewhat bigger, pompous peri-farting, asking why I have not contacted X in the first instance, when told that the details were of someone else in the organization; indignation, blaming others. Amazingly when centre told that they could change their own details, the information was amended within five minutes.

The reality is, when the reviewer visits and completes the audit, they have the authority to ‘block’ preventing the centre from awarding what may be a considerable range of qualifications based on their judgment.

Hard to remain impartial isn't it ....




Ipsos custodes ....

Some food for thought, when does a education authority become an expert on immigration. The answer is likely to be not at all, but today in my educational journey I have seen (anecdotally) an environment where the custodes of immigration attempt to be experts on a complex system with some adverse effects.

O dear ...






Ooooo such vanity we have ....

If my ego gets to the stage when I thank you for the work you are doing for me, please, please tell me.

Now thinking how to burst the balloon of someone so arrogant (or ignorant, equating to lost up own rear vent) to think that the work I do at a national level is for them.

Impressively, I was not angry, more amused having a fit of the ROFLOL’s (I do like this newspeak, do you think it may catch on).

First, foremost and only ever, the work I do is for students in spite of, educators, the learners themselves, accreditation bodies, vendors, employers funding bodies, QuANGO’s and this ego filled soul.








Now for a thought on local higher education

..... To stimulate discussion, for the last fourteen years I have never worked in the town that I live in, so when you read this article, take care not ot jump to any conclusions.

Passing the local college today, I could see that their local higher education centre is near completion ready to take on the custom in what I personally feel is an enterprising endeavor (or is it).

You have to think, that in these economically challenged times, where my university is rife with serious discussion on the shape of things to come, this college has either:

    Been incredibly forward thinking and has considered the potential of how the changing higher educational climate will benefit them

or:

    Has stepped too late into a market that is becoming more competitive, with reducing funding imminent and more student uncertainty.

The ideal of localizing higher education, does appeal, so long as the level/standard is appropriate, in the past before the economic uncertainty I was promoting my own highe…

If I like WikiLeaks does it ...

Make me a bad person, will the government mistrust me. Do I get flagged as subversive or a risk, will they start a file on me.

Or

Has this already begun, am I public enemy not quite number one (maybe add a few zeroes).

So if I agree with Wiki Leaks, do I become a political liability, will those in authority mistrust me, will there be a trumped up case trying to frame me.

Maybe.

So, do I say #iamspartacus do I shout at tax evaders, Nick Clegg or a few trees, is it better to conform, rebel or fight from the inside, or not at all.

We are living in interesting times, sadly not exciting, amusing or free.

So dear watcher in Cheltenham or Langley or anywhere else (will this packet be sucked into China?), its nice to meet you, this is a little hello from me.







Framing the framework ...

Maybe I am not playing ball here, maybe I have not aligned my mind with the crowd, but for the love of cheese, why do we need another framework.

In the murky world of education there are more frameworks than one could feasibly shake a stick at, some influencing education, others acting as an interface between education an other stakeholders. And sadly some that serve no discernable purpose except to entertain the owners of the framework (there I said it).

When I deal with employers, educators, learners and their parents, I never ever hear the mention of frameworks, ever, not at all.

Why is this?

I don’t dispute the need for structure, I would equally advocate the need for a tools to link different bodies.

But, sadly, education has become a little framework silly.

So, if anyone is looking for a new framework, I do think there is space, there is a need for the framework-framework used to describe how frameworks fit into any given framework.

Do you think it will sell (I do).




Being Beige

........
Protect me from beige, its not the rage, never the fashion, simply not my passion.
Yet so many are, tan, beige or brown, its not your clothes, nor is it your gown.
Living a bland life, following the rules, there is a crowd, don’t be fools.

If you want to be be free, its not illegal or proud, its the need to be apart from the crowd.
You don’t have to be absurd, you need not be strange.
Your don’t have to be rich, nor infamous too.
Release your mind and think, what can you become that suits you.

If you can have a trapped nerve, can you also have a trapped mind?

Read an amusing rant, amusing as whilst the individual concerned was right in some contexts, the crux of their main argument/rational was based on a misunderstanding of the requirements when assessing a unit.

Fair enough, we all do this, so I wont cast the first stone.

What amused me more was the levels it passed through, each escalating this issue as a ‘real problem’, when if they had read the query it had a very large clue contained in the second paragraph.

Ahhhh well, someone will pay (me).





Scream thy last scream :

Whomever feels that education is an entertainment industry, please present your equity card now.

Policy dictates and the such

In the ever sifting sands of educational policy, a student, let alone a parent or an employer can be forgiven for being a little confused. What is more frightening is that many educators struggle to keep up with what is current and often in a fit of resignation, stick to older ideas, not because they are the better ideas, more out of the inability to cope with change.

Change is not always for the better, there is credence in returning to some ‘old values’ but in this push, there is often the removal of the infant with the bathing water. Equally as silly, so no winners are found this way either.

Common sense, whatever it may be has run off, dived for cover and pleaded insanity for its own protection.

So what is the current educational vogue, the word on the street is that we are returning to more academic subjects. Now what an excellent idea, we can have people with plenty of knowledge but dispense with the experience or ability requirements.

I have no issue with academic qualification…

Impressed with Kindle ... @openuniversity #T155

Yesterday saw delivery of awaited kindle at work, generally yummy feelings etc; but then I have always been a sucker for a new toy. Been doing all the normal try outs, have loads of legit free books on the device. Now for the first impressive feature.

Using a word document created for T155 pre-markup and structured content for Moodle, I managed to email it to my kindle (using an Amazon issued address), within minutes, it appeared on Kindle, formatted to the Kindle and with the inserted ‘screen grab’ images in a very recognizable format.

Impressed, in fact very impressed.

Off to play some more, me thinks.




Having blown my brains out with ...

Some 4000 words later and having ploughed into chapter 6 (of 7), I am having some fun looking at hacking, different attacks and the general concept of network security. None of this is high brow, most of the material is common sense, except that for many this may be the first time they have seen in print some sagely advice on systems security.

Bit tired now, like Zebedee says, it must be time for bed.






Like coloured ribbons ...

We do like our badges of honour don’t we, like pelts or scalps, in different domains of society there are those who like to display their badges with pride. Some I feel are very meaningful and highly deserved, but what often impresses me more is that those who have earnt them play this down as a mere consequence.

Then there are letters after ones name, I have them, others I know have them as well and like me don’t seem too interested in displaying them (I don’t think I have ever used mine, but I am sure I may be wrong). Yet I see some personalities who display their acronyms like a peacock in ardor.

Should I get some, to parade in front of others?





The lunatics that have not seen the asylum ...

If you are insane, would you be aware of this, or is your ignorance of the fact the real case for incarceration, to protect yourself from your own miscomprehension.

Ready to admit that I am living proof that you can function one egg short of a chicken, I do often wonder about the so called educational professionals I encounter.

Many are so lost in their own void that they cannot see what is happening on the ground, which is often sitting their in front of their nose. Happy to play political games, they seem to have no inclination that there are students out there getting poor, inappropriate and incredibly inadequate education.

Yet, they will hail this as a success, me, I think this is pure madness, as these fools have lost any comprehension of what education is for.








The magnanimous of the mechanical mind

Grinding cogs of consequence, oiled by temporal decay.
Slowly churning, teeth biting into another wasted day.
Bitter redemption, as the gears turn, another micron passed as the passing years burn.

What is thought, but a puff of smoke, stroking the driving cylinders.
Giving hope delusion, giving us another day.

Dare not stop, daren't think, must not stop, never consider, too soon to contemplate, what fate has in store.
We dance this universe macabre, knowing that tomorrow, will become today, alas yesterday will be long gone.
Another step in the waltz, another shuffle for our minds, to our finale it binds.



Ok, this needs a little honing, not bad for a moment of divergent thought.



The last rule bender ...

A call for all those in education

Are you someone that thinks rules are there to follow
    Do you feel that the rules are in place for a good reason
        Do you think that ‘they’ have already thought of it, so we should not worry

Free yourself

Rules are opportunities
    Often there is no good, reason, and if there was, chances are it is no longer the case
        Become one of the ‘they’ and subvert, its fun

Its not anarchy, nor is it common sense, take the time to think, when it comes to you, you will know what to do.


Demanding emails....

Those of you who know me, know my persona is not the kind to make demands of. Ask yes, request certainly, negotiate by all means, demand best not, it gets quite emotional, the kind of emotional where you:

Wonder why your head has been detached from your torso Suffer a torrent of verbal GBH Cannot comprehend why I am rolling on the floor in laughter

So, with considerable amusement an editor from a long standing publisher relationship sent an email, three weeks ago.

 X needs doing, do it now, the deadline is Y

My out of office, for this period gives accurate information on my availability (none), and I see no retraction from the email.

I get another demand, demanding why I have not responded. I send an email saying ‘ahem one is busy’.

The reply comes with an edict to get it done if I have time, I don’t have this luxury, so choose not to do anything.

Come a couple of days ago, aggressive email comes in, basically demanding to know why I have done nothing.

Lets think ...

Wait a couple of d…

How increasing quality is lowering standards

This week, I had an incredibly interesting and worrying conversation with someone in the UK education sector. Without presenting any details, the gist of the conversation was about how their ‘OFSTED outstanding’ was avoiding delivery of ‘difficult’ and ‘commercially relevant’ subjects in the IT sector as this would risk their ‘achievement rate’.

Sadly, this is not the first time I have heard this, more is the pity that this would be difficult to prove.

The demands of the IT sector, preclude that our youngsters NEED to have commercially relevant skills and that in order for the UK to thrive in the international IT sector. Yet educators, are interested in serving the league tables and the status mongers, not their customers and the service they are expected to provide.

Imagine what disappointment it must be, to have gained a nationally recognized qualification and discover that employers have no need for your skills as they are too low, out of date or irrelevant.






Motivation for @worldskills

Over the last three days I have enjoyed the considerable privilege of watching, judging and supporting the competition of three young hopefuls from the UK on their quest to be selected for the UK squad at World Skills 2011.

It isn't easy, I mean, really it is not easy.

You have to be CompTIA A+ proficient before you set foot in the arena, then for what could be easily considered as a triathlon of six hour activities, each of these souls MUST be a Cisco, Microsoft and Linux expert. There are no half measures, there is not mitigations, if it does not work, they don’t get the points, simple fact.

Many seasoned IT professionals may be an expert in one of these disciplines, some maybe in two, these souls aged 19-22 have to be world class in all three.

Certain corners of the national press give our youth bad coverage, come and see these people at work, they have a passion worthy of respect.







Yesterdays mega-hype must have toy .... Is today's tat

By now you will have worked out I am a bit of a geek, ok lets face facts I am a lot of a geek, ok, totally geek. Over the years, I have seen many hype curves, with different technology toys that go from fashionable to every day then eventually become outdated.

That was the past and is also no different now. Who became excited when :

You could get a CD burner A USB memory stick (512K was something to aspire to) A MP3 player A DVD burner Flat screen monitors or televisions Optical mice (yep, they were cool once) SMS (text messages) Express on covers

Now, with mobile phones, iPads, touch screens, tablet PC’s, it would seem that the hype continues.

I wonder what comes next and what my inner geek will want to caress in the name of techno-consumerism.




Lacking imagination ... Rant, Rant, Rant

In the pursuit of all things wonderful in the development of IT vocational qualifications, I am frequently reminded that the standard of IT education in the UK is dependent on the quality of the teachers delivering it.

Some are good, some are fantastic, but there are many (far too many in my opinion) who have neither the passion or the ability to deliver good, robust and commercially relevant IT skills to youngsters.

My rants fall into three domains

Those who fear, fear itself and lack the drive to deliver The IT users who are abusing the minds of teenagers Unimaginative delivery and uninteresting assessment

So, are you one of those who fear, fear itself and lack the drive to deliver, the network manager wont let you, it may corrupt the minds of the students. You fear that they may become more technical than those managing the system, you fear that there may be a risk that they could do something irresponsible with the knowledge you have given them.

Do something about it ...

For F$$K’…

Now, i must admit that i did not expect this ....

Image

Collective Tweeting ...

Been playing with twitter-feed and a way to link twitter-lists of many twitterers to a RSS feed, where one twitter account could become the voice for many.

What is the benefit, when you have a corporate tweet that has to represent many, why not get the many to contribute.

What's the risk, simply too many tweets, there needs to be a protocol (of sorts).

Iconoclasts apply here ...

By this stage in my blogging life, if you are a constant reader, you may have noticed that I do wander off down various mental cul-de-sacs shouting at trees and pondering ones own navel.

One of my ongoing thoughts is how we select potential employees/colleagues, job adverts and their supporting job descriptions ask for many positive and banal skills but seldom (meaning never) do we see:

Iconoclast required for growing team Mavericks need only apply Proven track record as a nonconformist Expert rule breaker

Yet, that is often what we want, many of us hope that we may become this and laude those who have accomplished this, yet will complain bitterly when the maverick iconoclast upsets our own little world.

Enjoy.






The last of the rule benders ....

Rules are not limits, not restrictions, nor are they barriers to accomplishing great things they are mere .... opportunities.

Often they need some exercise, flex them, bend them, give them a good stretch, it will do them no harm.

But ...

Some rules are there for the common good, leave them alone.

It takes little imagination to understand which rules in an organization are driven by legislation, against those that are policy and politic.

So, don’t be afraid,don’t every ask permission (well not too often) and go for it, you will like the results.

Going to speak on T155 Linux today ... but, what do I have to say

Quickly reviewing the slides; those of you who have done this before, will understand. As I am sitting here, thinking, do I have anything to say.

Doubt it.

A couple of words from our sponsors ...

First the Cisco CCNA certification, then the CCNP, next Linux, then Microsoft, we are on journeys towards VM ware and what next you may ask?

In my mind, its very much a question of balance, we need to offer the vendor certification and commercial ‘skill set’. But we need to ensure the academic credo and discipline this encourages.

The challenge arises when the certification competes for space within the normal business model, funding is not finite and the timescales of the best intentioned vendor is never the same as those of a higher education institution.

So, the question in my mind and maybe one for discussion is “how far do we dare go”.

Juggling with chickens ...

The catchy title has no bearing on my thoughts at the moment, it is an entirely random phrase that entered my feverish mind in the last twenty minutes.

I am sure a catchy term could be created from this:

today managing the staff was like “juggling with chickens” my chances of getting on Xfactor would be improved if I could only “juggle chickens” dealing with the board, was akin to a session of “chicken juggling”

Hmmmm, this one could work :-)

Now back to listening to some Mogwai


UK Government adopts Hexadecimal to solve economic crisis

After some considerable soul searching and financial analysis, the UK coalition government in a flash of inspiration (powered by Boris on his bike based dynamo) have solved many of the financial issues by changing all calculations to Hexadecimal after listening to some computer boffins.

Instead of having ten digits (0 to 9), hexadecimal enjoys an inflation busing sixteen digits from Zero to F, using the letters A, B, C, D, E and F for 10,11,12,13,14 and 15. The value of numbers such as 10 will mean that you actually have 16 and 1A represents 26. Large numbers in their billions, will diminish as we have more digits to represent them and could have a more interesting meaning, as £:DEADBEEF would represent a debt of £3,735,928,559. Would it not be nice to clear nearly four billion in debt by one unit of DEADBEEF.

As a result, you will be expected to retire at 65 ((6x16)+5) = 101, so with your pension book in hand, you know that you have already received your much deserved telegram from t…

An Ivory Tower moment ....

Working where I do has many blessings, being part of an academic institution having a strong reputation and public regard is rewarding.

Yet occasionally, there is the odd moment, where it gets stuck in its own Ivory Tower, unable to connect with the reality of the educational environment it works in.

Today, was no exception, after watching an email exchange between bemused souls (who do have their feet on the ground) reacting to an even longer email thread on the inclusion of “younger” students on a particular course.

At no point, has the university gripped onto the fact that:

We are part of a larger community already delivering this (for the best part of ten years, we are the newcomers) Many in the larger community are already delivering this to ages 14+ Apart from our reputation and distance learning mode of delivery, there is little else that stands us apart from the teaching community in this domain

Hand palms forehead, sigh of resigned amusement ...

Not in ... What my out of office autoresponder should say ...

A rise to all of those in email land:

I want it tomorrow, give it to me,
I have sent you an email, now its your respons-ibil-ity.
My work is last minute,
My planning is none,
I give you an instruction,
Now MAKE SURE its done!

You are not my manager, I don’t report to you, if I am on holiday, this is how I can help you ...

I may ignore your email, let my out of office do the work, come back from my break, and think you’re a berk!

I may consider a response,
Maybe pen a reply,
I might do something about it,
Or go swat a fly.

Email is not a tool, to disavow your role, if you want anything, others need to know.

It may be urgent for you,
it is not for me,
you want to send,
go, email, do job, be free!

Making demands, will not encourage, giving deadlines, will not entertain, if you are lucky, you may get my distain.

The moral of this tale, is that,
interesting it is not,
whenever you send an email,
that may need to avoid the bin,
take the greatest care,
over content within.

Ok, rhym…

Floating towards 1000

In the world of the Open University, 1000 is an important number, but not an abnormal number with some courses attracting over 1000 students on each presentation. When we worked on the initial proposal for T155 Linux: an introduction, we envisaged 250-300 a presentation, considering it to be a valid niche interest course.

Well ... Yes it is a niche interest, but a slightly bigger niche than one had appreciated. Already averaging 500 students per course, in under six months, we have  reached over 1000 students. We are getting impressed noises from members of the Linux community.

The course does very much what it says on the tin, we originally mapped it to the CompTIA Linux+; with the change in certification, we are now mapping to the CompTIA Linux+, Powered by LPI 101, (and over 50% of the 102).

So, the question I ask myself and all others reading this ...

Is it the subject that is attractive? Why do so many want to learn more about Linux? Is the certification link a key element?

Your w…

Frumious ....

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two!  One, two!  And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day!  Callooh!  Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

So many words, so little interest, I think ...

Have you ever had the issue of trying to follow an email conversation, especially when the thread is drawn out.

    Not easy.

One thread can be a little bit of a challenge, when the threads are multitude the conversations many and worse still, many of these threads are interwoven.

    One could be excused for becoming a little confused.

I am sure there are many tools to manage the many threads, I have seen some in the past but alas they don’t keep a track of the many new emails you may spawn as a result of one conversational thread you may have generated.

    Resulting in potential confusion, more often a reduction in personal productivity.

The reality in my mind, is how many opportunities are missed as a result of this communication form and how unproductive this ‘high speed’ communication medium may be.

Colored Ribbon ...

Have just seen an email from sources, better not shared, but immediately in brought to mind a favourite quotation (recently ripped from the web).


"A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon"
Napoleon, 15 July 1815. To the captain of HMS Bellerophon.

Misunderestimated :

I honesty cant remember if a misunderestimation is a Mayerism or a Bushism, to be fair to either the movie mogul or the former president of the united states, it is a great word.

Think about it:

Misunderestimation : to underestimate the opponent in the wrong way, not only have you underestimated them, but your assumption was based on an entirely flawed view of their potential.

Does this mean that the opponent who has been misunderestimated is oblivious to their minor victory, or have they in a Machiavellian accomplishment, orchestrated the deception.

If the latter is true, then the opponent is a worthy competitor.


Confessions of a Linux Convert ...

Ok, I admit it, there was a time when I used to be a complete Microsoft fan boy, it was shameful, taking the proverbial ‘Michael’ out of Linux enthusiasts. Before this I was working with Novell, having used both the Bindery and NDS, before acquiring an active directory and Windows desktop skill set.

Now, times having changed, using (or abusing) one operating system is a risky business, in my home, we have Windows 7, Mac, Ubuntu and XP running, at work I have a Windows 7 professional machine and various flavours of Linux running on different boxes in our server room.

Do I think Linux is the best ... Not really, do I think any other operating system is better, nope, not at all. Linux has many advantages, which gives it considerable commercial potential, until support and documentation is standardised. There will always be issues, but saying this there are many who could level this complaint against Microsoft and Apple.

Where I tend to sit, is on the line of technical and commercial expe…

Nature abhors a vacuum ...

After a few days distracted by other affairs (called work, one does do it occasionally), I started reading the email logs of one of the course forums at work.

A little later and somewhat awed by the frantic posting that had taken place, I could see that in the absence of  an immediate or reasonable answer to some questions. A group of souls managed to create their own version of perpetual motion with their posts (I did wonder what the carbon footprint was of the number of packets exchanged in this pursuit).

I am now of a mind to start trawling the literature to see if anyone has analyzed this ‘asynchronous behavior) .

Now to unpick the issues from the frenetic email debate.

Chaos Theory ...

What would you do if you could control chaos,
Could you,
Would you,
Do you believe that it is possible?

I don’t, there are many who try, spending lifetimes on experimentation and research to come one step closer to the unreachable.
Noble efforts in the maelstrom of reality.

Scientists are perplexed by dark matter, it undermines their understanding of other foundation principles, relativity, it appears simply does not add up.

Maybe it cant, or, maybe we cannot, but lets be fair it does not stop us from trying.

If you believe, or even if you doubt, or are one who is sure that there is nothing to believe.

Maybe we can agree on one thought.

If the universe is so chaotic, then what is the mystery holding it together, how are these incomprehensible factions all managing to keeping it going.

I am always up for a better answer than the one I have, yet I have found none as forgiving.

Couldn¹t stop laughing ...

The silly season is upon us, the national academic machine grinds forth, back in action after its brief seasonal hiatus.

As is normal, those in the system, allegedly making decisions about what is done when, by whom and for how much are starting to kick out ideas of which consultants are to do what work.

Was approached three times today for different ‘consultancy contracts’:

Number1: not bad, fee ok, just timescales and load means that may be best to give a miss, after some negotiation, may end up sharing with another esteemed soul, so not a bad result.
Number2: silly deadline, not a request, more of a ‘telling me’, no mention of fee, knowing work from the past it is not worth effort for return, so I share that one is busy.
Number3: left rolling around in laughter and tears, when shared with wife, the laughter continued, silly deadline, fee of £100 for what is five days work on complex subject.

I declined Number3 as well, didn’t quite feel that I was the right person for them.

Eco eh! What and uh!

Social taboos prevent me from describing the room in too many words, but as a norm, it supports a very human need to satisfy a call of nature.

On the wall, was too signs.

One above the paper towels declaring that these are not eco-friendly Another above the hand dryer, declaring that this is eco-friendly

In my somewhat slow and befuddled mind, my thought was that both are not eco-friendly, they both consume resources, both add carbon to the atmosphere. Just the where and when differs.

Can anyone out there help me, as my brain is having an emotional moment.

Up Down Up Down Up (one hopes)

Been an interesting afternoon working at home, fending numpty emails, seeing excellent news on virtualisation developments, calming down a panicking ‘service provider’, seeing emails on other positive developments and hitting head against wall with some c**p HND units I have to rewrite (I was not the original author).

Back to the c**p units.

Not very creative writing ...

Amused, reading a letter from an employer (not one of mine), full of poor grammar and paragraphs which form literary cul-de-sacs in the highway of the communiqué.

No good, when they are trying to manage the training and education of their subordinate.

Did chuckle.

Self selecting GCSE success

Just seen a tweet, 1:4 of GCSE results are A grades, this is not the same as
1:4 of all 16 year olds having an a grade GCSE. With the range of vocational qualifications on the increase, having GCSE equivalence, there is actually a skew in what is being lauded.

The vocational results tend to be returned quicker, and are seldom counted in this media fest. Now with around 40% of study at level 2 (GCSE is a level 2) in vocational subjects, with many students having a mixture of both. It could be said that

25% of 60% have A grades, which is around 15% of students, that is a more realistic reflection of the grade profile.

But i am sure the media machine selects the data it likes to present.


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Stranger in a strange land ...

Today in a town not too far drinking coffee in a café, whilst Shirley was shopping, an incident kicked off between an irate male and two of the young female serving staff.

No, it is not what you think.

Having intervened, as the other customers gawped, as it was a Autistic man (to how I know, it didn’t take much to work out), probably older than myself very upset that the chairs and tables outside the café were ‘an obstruction’ and was an offence under the ‘highways act’.

Inconsolable, he ranted and stomped for about five minutes whilst the onlookers became increasingly more threatening to him, before he wandered off into town.

Now for the thought ...

Who needed protecting, society from him, or him from society.

As the situation worsened, I could see that no one else could see, what I was seeing, someone with a high functioning disability, inept at social interaction, seeing a wrong but reacting badly. Everyone else, could see a nuisance, a threat and an insult to their sensibilities. …

And to all those A Level Students ....

Listening to the news on more than one occasion today as I mark students work, answer emails etc. I do feel for the youngsters who collected their results.

At a stressful time, where their perception of their collective futures is at its most vulnerable, you have:

The constant commentary on the fact that A level results have improved for 28 years in a row Hype on this new A* grade The disappointment facing many who don’t get the grades The challenge of clearing in a university system having to face a reduction in numbers The additional burden of this being a ‘3rd generation’ baby boomer population (post war copulation, work it out). A shortage of alternatives The perceived need for higher education

Worse is the way the media seem to pitch this as a panic, with August being a generally dead time in the news, they have a new week franchise to pick this to pieces.

My views on the UK education system has a tone of cynical experience, but lets be fair, no matter what we may think as to the …

The certainty of crowds

Maybe as part of a national citizenship programme everyone, including the aged should go on a "walking in crowds" primer.

Being a bit of a curmudgeon i have a healthy dislike of crowds, especially the shopping centre variety, with particular distaste for the saturday experience.

On the seldom occasion i am encouraged out of my troll like existence to venture into the madding crowd, i return with a sense of exasperation.

There are is in society an unerring subgroup of souls who stop dead in their tracks in a crowd, without indicating or signalling their intentions and pulling over to the side.

Oblivious to the amassed chaos, they create an island, causing, sudden manoeuvres redirections and additional chaos in the throng.

If you are one who likes to wander aimlessly in crowd, stop/start and wonder why everyone seems so pushy and rude. Maybe you need some crowd training, it's not difficult.

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Well, one is a student again ...

After 18 months of transitioning through the slow bureaucratic treadmill at the Open University, I am soon to be a student again, for my PHd. Such are the processes involved, for a member of staff.

Such is life.

So, from the 1st of October 2010 until September 2016 I promise to consider :

Being a sponger and lay about Skipping lectures Drinking lots of coffee Acquiring a traffic cone

Ahhh student days again, it has been twenty years, do you think I will manage.

Now that was a good coffee!

Sitting in the White Lion (was chalk hill) in the chalk cut just north of Dunstable, now that was a very good coffee.


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Educating and innovating inside a police state mentality

Had to do something today that did not personally cause me any problems, but did make me stop, think and become a little sadder for those trapped in the environment in question. Because of the attitude of the organisational culture involved, all references will be vague, not any sense of self preservation (as one is long shot of this environment) but out of respect for those who are still locked into a contractual bondage.

Around six years ago, probably at a peak of innovative zeal and educational activity, I was privileged to be part of a four strong team teaching Networking and Telecommunications. Splitting infinitives where none previously existed and gaining recognition for our students as well as the college I worked at.

During this time the team created a conceptual complex network infrastructure, Widgets R Us, a massive physical case study that spanned across five labs and had a direct route via the corporate DMZ into the Internet. (so papers published this year by another are …

Infinate combinations, finite versions.

Ok, maybe this is an odd blog entry, not that i am particularly worried. In the microcosm of human culture that is the south east of England. Where i have spent more time now than my childhood home.

I am beginning to notice frequent iterations of the same facial characteristics. To the point where it is becoming increasingly rare to note any unique experiences.

Is this what the spices is like. Do we only have a fixed set of faces?

Moreover whilst hair styles come and go, many facial sets also sport common hair styles. I am sure i am no different.

So, where is that different face, who has it?


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A momentary commentary on marking

Just finished off some marking I have done for the Open University T155 Linux: an introduction course. Whilst it would be imprudent to share the marks given or the quality of the work submitted by students. One subject I can comment on is the range of applications selected by students.

For half the marks, students have to select either two applications or a GUI improvement, the choices presented have been wide, varied, interesting and diverse. Admittedly I am aware of the manifold applications freely available for Linux, but unleashing 400+ students on a mission to make a personal choice and find an application (or two) that has not been covered on the course and install them has been refreshing.

The cunning plan behind the assessment is to guide the students learning on the course to a life post-study, having installed Linux, installed applications (solo, without guidance) and used the CLI. They are at least proficient users (and abusers) of the operating system.

Personally may blag…

This is for the social media spam bots

Seeing a RT from Cory Doctorow, lets see if the spam bots RT my mention of Social Media?

Linux a go go .......

Well, twelve weeks, 467 students start, 457 students complete, 340 students submit final assessments (75%). In Open University course terms is a very good course for recruitment and retention on a first, or that fact any presentation.

The course team ... See http://twitpic.com/25js3k had a little celebration, the one without the Ubuntu tshirt was given one and forget to bring it.

From left to right we have ...

Kevin Large : course external technical consultant and author
Andrew Smith : course chair and author
Nicky Moss : critical reader
Deirdre Bethune : course manager, herder of course chair and authors
Ian Cameron : course internal technical consultant and author

Looking forward to doing the marking co-ordination and marking over the next couple of weeks, then onto the next presentation in October.





Momentary thought

Seeing how some people you and I know have to grip onto ideas, with vigor and zeal, I share this thought from a greater mind ...

   It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it
    Aristotle

Nothing wrong with considering a possibility that may not be a reality.

Enjoy.

Its all flapdoodle, panic and oh dear, the sky appears to be falling in ...

Watching panic on two different educational fronts in the last fortnight, I have not come to any solid conclusions about the cause, but I have some interesting ideas.

In an educational process, where change is inevitable, you would expect that the educators have become used to this. Qualifications have a validated lifespan, after which they must be (ahem), revalidated. Normally when revalidation takes place, improvements are made, old material is removed, new material added.

THIS IS NORMAL.

Yet, with this September coming and the fact everyone has been made aware that the new qualification and credit framework has been on the horizon for at least three years (as far as I recall), you would think that they are prepared.

Some are, others not.

I tend not to get queries from those who are prepared, they have read the information, approached the situation in a calm manner and taken the time to consider their options.

Then there are those who have left it to the last minute, either because …

Getting the vendor units into the BTEC IT

I am sure some who read this will immediately add critique, why not unit x, or you should have included unit y, fair comment, until they take the time to make the voluntary contribution to get these units into the UK Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) National Database of Accredited Qualifications (NDAQ), we will enjoy the benefit of those we have.

The challenge of keeping vendor units in the QCF is a matter of timing, in the intervening period from agreed to inclusion to actual inclusion, some vendors have already changed their certification. Overcoming this will never be perfect, national qualifications have five year shelf lives, academic centres tend to plan their delivery in one year cycles and the vendors are driven by commercial objectives that in all cases are international in their nature and heed not the educational system of the UK (or any other nation).

This is compounded by the need for all vendor units to be awarding body neutral (this is another painful conversati…

Lost in France ...

Hi, sitting in a bar at the moment, french music playing, there is a casino and daughter is on the roulette, Son and Wife on the Blackjack. Panic not, we don't gamble, its a family event at the resort we are staying at, anyone can play etc,
Probably wont make another contribution to this blog for another week, but reading my email tonight, has given much to blog on. It does amuse me, what people will email and the viewpoint they have when sending it.
Never mind, it could be worse.

Time ...

When orbs are aloft and the spheres are in the air,
For balancing acts, please come, do stare.
If you want to see a trick, you like a quick treat,
Then enjoy the delight before you, its a temporal feat.

Juggling life, balancing plates, spinning yarns, time never waits,
Bouncing balls, doing tricks, having turns, no one learns.
Time marches away, it never stops, entropic decay, as the universe fades away,
Mortal man, no control have you, time rules as does relativity over fools.




Merely a random moment.

Free swimming being axed for children, please retweet

Have just learnt that our new coalition government is to axe free swimming for children and over 60's. Whilst i have not been a particular fan of the previous labour government for some considerable time, i have to be fair and declare that i felt this was one of their better decisions.

From the end of July, the current government will axe this resource.

Taking it from my biased perspective, my daughter has taken great pleasure in this opportunity, improving her fitness,, swimming skill and self confidence. It has encouraged her to swim more and i can see that other children and families have been doing the same with increased use of the local pool evenings and weekends.

We have been as a nation concerned for some time about the health of our younger generation, this albeit small contribution by the government was a reasonable endeavour.

So, what am i going to do, and what could you do, apart from lobby you local MP, i suggest we all go to the local swimming pool and use it with gusto …

Owning the vision

I am sure this affects many who read this, I have a playback mind, where conversations I have had, usually with considered and thoughtful individuals are mentally revisited (often multiple times).

Having recently had the pleasure of such a conversation, my mind is awash with both stimulating ideas and considered review of some of the facts I have learnt.

The ideas will evolve, where my hope is they will take flight in time.

But for the considered review of the facts, my thoughts are deeper and concerned.

Looking at the behaviour of humans in large organisations interests me, as i see the same attitudes replicated in different organisational types and across different cultural communities and nations.

If anything, it reinforces the view that we are all so much alike, in spite of any outward or patriotic appearance.

Not that this is a good thing, more it is a mark of inevitability that no matter what enterprising endeavour takes place it becomes lost in the system that is the system itself.

S…

Trust ... Or mistrust

Reading this article on the BBC website ...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/10277993.stm

In summary, it claims that the technology described could be used to administer a fair and valid assessment in the privacy of the home.

As soon as I read this my first thought was the assumption that the examined individual will not have access to a mobile phone or laptop with internet access and that these cant be used in silence (my iPad [yes the bright shiny toy] can be used in complete silence).

Unless the webcam can see the keyboard area as well as simply beyond the candidates face, I personally doubt this system can be 100% fool proof unless the technology changes or the candidate has a personal proctor present who is entirely independent of the process.



Airports don't you love em ... Not!!!!

Currently sitting in another airport writing this blog, whilst I could consider myself more fortunate that I travel for business a few times a year. I can pity those having to exist in the eternal agony of a lifestyle of airport terminals.

For what was once considered glamourous occupation, air travel and become for all intent a mindless drudge, with each airport a banal replication of the other.

Having become conditioned to this mode of travel, one has learnt how to travel light, how to get through each security check unimpeded and what is required to ensure Internet connectivity.

So if anyone considers making the mistake of making jealous noises when i tell them where i am off to next, i hope they are equally envious of the airport experience at either end (this i doubt).


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Location:Jubilee Rd,Ingliston,United Kingdom

Its a numbers game ...

Typical of many in the ‘western’ world, we are currently watching our food intake, where on medical advice a member of the Smith household has to watch closely their dietary fat intake.

In this quest, many accomplishments have already been made in the last two months and the diet is working very well with some excellent culinary choices.

This blog entry is not about these successes but the challenge of getting the right information from the manufacturers on the fat content in their foods. Whilst we are not inclined towards processed food, there is still a surprising amount that you buy where you have to be sure that the levels are appropriate.

The magic number is 4g per 100g, or 4%, a little variation (5% for example) is reasonable, but you need to be strict for the diet to work, and working it is.

Therefore a studious review of products is required and what is required/desired that fits the percentage requirement is purchased.

In the UK over the last few years, there has been a conce…

Apple Computers ... a note of thanks

Many who are reading this, know what an Apple fanboy i am, this is not a gush or eulogy about their technology, but a genuine compliment to their Milton Keynes store manager who was very reasonable in responding to a financial error on the part of Apple.

Like all tales, we have to wind back to eight days prior to this blog post, when at 7am Shirley (my wife) and I were happily queuing for bright shiny new iPad. Having the phone, two mac book pros from work, iPod in touch and shuffle, the fanboy was getting a new toy courtesy of Shirley [insert big smile].

The queuing was reasonable, well managed and supplied with free coffee and muffin courtesy of Apple. All good.

Once in the shop, service was courteous and well organised, toy and additional bits acquired. All was going well until we used the card to pay when the card reader decided to have a fit at the end of the transaction.

After an hour of trying to recover the payment in the hubbub of numerous customers wanting nice bright shiny iPad…

Blogging on the move

Just playing with iPad (read toy) on train on move, this will become less impressive with time.


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Location:Carlton Rd,Harpenden,United Kingdom

It's dull, dull, dull

Listening to a presentation at the moment, from someone in a nationally influential position who could and should review their public presentation skills.

They are reading from their slides and supplying us with long pauses.

Hmmmmmm


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Location:East Ln,Walton,United Kingdom

The new iSmug

Sitting in my garden at the moment I am both chuffed and appalled with the fact that I joined the worldwide surge to purchase an iPad today.

In deference to all Daily Mail readers I am one of those self satisfying brigade of smug Apple technology owners and thinking about this (albeit briefly) I am personally proud of the fact.

The iPad is indeed a yummy, scrumptious tool (or toy, it matters not) and boy is it solo easy to use. Now I cannot take any credit in buying this delight in technology a special thank you (and knowing wink) must go to my dear wife, Shirley.

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Location:Dunstable,United Kingdom