Showing posts from October, 2012

The infinite indifference engine ...

If you are a geek (like me), you will know of Babbages difference engine.

Great idea, never worked until over 100 years later, we had the precision engineering to 'make it so'.

Meanwhile back in the now and the real world of education, I have come to know and love another less worthy concept.

The infinite indifference engine; powered by apathy it has many homes in many walks of life. Through the shrugged shoulders, jobsworth mentality of the zombiecrat sect. Somehow I see this in my professional world as well as in the other more personal domain regarding the care of our daughter.

As an all pervasive force, it sucks the life out of everything it touches, in some Douglas Adams mode, the more it grows, the more red tape is generated, the more procedural an organisation becomes.

Self fulfilling and self powered.

Maybe we need some form of measure to undersand the power (or potential) or any infinite indifference engine running in a corporation near you.

Funding Fun Fun Fun (not) ...

Last week I presented a 25 minute session on the current 'state' of funding in the UK (well England, Wales and NI to be precise).

Putting it in brief terms, it is all change and for less cash.

Sorta cheers you up, warms the cockles of your heart, alas.

Dingbat ...

If music be the food of love, then play on, but if you like the Prodigy and Firestarter then keep playing (it louder).

Within a year of joining the world of education, a colleague I had started with had moved on to a college in the west country (and to be never heard of again). Their replacement was an interesting soul, very good at the gab; but a bit rubbish at matching this with any content.

As an educator; you get 'non teaching time'; to prepare lessons, manage student support, mark work and  do all the exciting admin that comes with the profession. For one academic year motor mouth and I shared the same admin time in an otherwise deserted staff room.

Soon tiring of his meaningless chatter; I soon resorted to playing Firestarter (it was not too long after Fat of the Land was released). Numpty would enter staff room, I would play firestarter, numpty started some marking, I played firestarter. If bored, I played it.

Eventually chatterbox started going to the library to work,…

Avoid or evade ...

At one time in an old job for an organisation I worked for; there was a systemic rout of the 'H:' (or home) drives of any staff/students, smart to the winds of change, one promptly removed MP3's of some of my fave music.
There are times in class when you want the students to focus, either on set work or practical exercises, over the years I found that some of my less eclectic music aided the harmony. Music doth quell the savage beast (and student).
Solving this took little imagination; reasonably adept at web design and at the time quite comfortable with flash app development. I found a flash based MP3 player, that worked off of an XML file pointing to MP3's anywhere on the net. So, with some tweaks, UI adjustments and changes to the code. It was not long before I had a formidable collection on music on one of my websites (no longer there I hasten to add). 
The result was; Andrew could still listen to music at his leisure and students pleasure, whilst the other staff/…

Nothing new here ...

I doubt that we were the first; not by a long shot, i would guess that stimulated by the harmonic resonance of the Cisco Academy programme we may have been ahead of the pack.

What am I chuntering on about you wonder; it is the preponderance of papers cited in journals and conferences on the creation of 'labs for teaching networking'. I look at each and see the Widgets Network of c2003 to c2006 created by a team of four Cisco Instructors at my old academy. I think that this was a collective intellect and had an equal 25% input from each participant.

Nothing imaginative; nothing special yet so many dish out the same papers on the matter.

Maybe you think that there is an element of the green eyed, fortunately I have ploughed a different furrow and have some papers which fall into a more rarified domain. Instead it is the concern that out there are so many sharing the notion of good practice when (lets face it), it is not any new practice at all.

Accurate ... not yet ...

In a world of information; we seem to be obsessed with facts but seldom question their accuracy. Then chances are we have always (as a species) been like this, just not at such a pace or volume.

Fact : there have been six James Bonds on screen
Fact : there have been seven James Bonds on screen
Fact : there have been eight James Bonds on screen

Check it out; all are true, all are quoted, most will think its six, some know its seven, how many can put a finger on number eight? In fact there is an opportunity to be pedantic and say there were nine (and not include the one who did a radio play).

Obviously this is a currently correct fact, it will eventually change.

So facts are easy, you can search the web for anything, but tend to rest at the first fact you find. This is the case in print; in media and in education. As the argument is plausible and the recipient of the fact possibly unaware, you have the luxury of perpetrating an error.

Now for the thought, how do you cope with the cogni…

And the money tree has a leaner crop...

Recently I the pleasure of speaking at the CompTIA EMEA conference on the current state of funding in England and its effect on the delivery of IT (as in Computing) education.

The tale is not good; there is less money and with less money there will be less time to teach many of the larger programmes. With vendor (commercial) certifications there is always an extra cost; just to get the certification to the student as well as te cost of skills (in the educator) and the resources (used to teach).

So .... not good is it.

A college principal recently shared with me and interesting view on this matter; in a world where money is reducing and demand for quality is on the increase. They enjoyed the irony that sixth forms were finally in the same financial boat as further education colleges.

Think about it; now after almost twenty years of A levels getting a better rate of funding; the student centred funding model means that an extended BTEC has the same rate as 3x A Levels.

Less for the col…

Two little words ...

Was at a meeting recently for an organisation other than my own.

Most of the meeting was procedural; matter of fact and 'getting on with it'.

Then the matter of the organisational mission statement came up, it will please you to know that it comes in three parts ...

The vision statementA mission statementAnd a 'values and norms' statement
I have never been a particular fan of these articles; often wondering if the organisation actually adheres to these statements. Leaving them as mere mumbo jumbo to be muttered by a compliance Shamen at the start of some inner sanctum meetings.

Yet this meeting wasted considerable time on rehashing TWO words of this statement.

It would be inappropriate to share the ones I heard, but take the time to go out there and have a look for these vision statements. They are all variations on a theme and they all say NOTHING.

So with this in mind, I have wondered what my 'vision statement' should be.
Andrew Smith transforms the community …

If music is the food of love, then play on … @The_Globe ...

Whilst still very happy in ones ignorance of Shakespeare, our second outing was undoubtedly equally as impressive as our first experience.
Shirley and I promised ourselves some time ago that we would attempt to try all the cultural stuff that we other otherwise never bothered ourselves with. In many ways, when it comes to the ‘arts’ we willingly admit to being lacking.
So, in a tweet does one decide where our second outing descends?
Being a bit of a Fry fan boy, seeing a tweet months ago on his part as Malvolio in the Twelfth Night at the Globe no less spurred me into action. Planning into the future is always an interesting challenge, work logistics, child logistics, and the weather in October. So with all that in mind, one booked the ‘better view’ and ‘covered’ seats.
Anyway we got there, intact and open minded.
The Globe is a very interesting theatre; it does create an intimacy with the stage (and therefore the cast) something many typical theatres lack. If you are looking for opu…

Setting a challenge ...

In my early days exploring network security from a teaching perspective, a colleague and I were interested in an application that could do a 'man in the middle' attack. Another member of our department was very interested in what we were up to and bravely made the statement ... you can't get the data from my computer it won't happen.

Rag to bull, challenge issued.

It did not take too much effort, based on the tools around at the time (which are still very useful), we managed to work out what his firewall was and deduct how it was behaving. With this information, we set up one of our computers to capture everything from an IP address range (we knew how the college addressing scheme worked, so could work out with little effort where their machine was most likely to be), and simply waited.

Within 20 minutes we had harvested a considerable collection of data, which was dumped to a text file.

Our colleague had been in the staff room all this time, with glee we beckoned the…

Downside up ...

If you are a windows user, you may (or likely may not) know that if you press ctrl+arrow (in any direction), it will rotate the display.

To be honest, I can't remember when this was introduced, but like many windows shortcuts, it took some considerable time before it became a 'known fact'.

Now, one hapless colleague in our computing department was not respected for their technical ability. Often wandering around in a daze, they were better known for their disappearing acts rather than their teaching.

At one point, before flatscreen monitors, a colleague and I had managed to acquire 21 inch CRT monitors for our desks (long story, but in 1999 they were impressive). Jealous, this colleague would often ask us to source one for their use.

Eventually we became fed up, mainly as they hogged desk space and we changed to some nicer monitors with inbuilt speakers. To say that we were technologically superficial, is a fair statement.

So, I let the hapless colleague have my old monit…