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Showing posts from 2013

New Year ...

One of the greatest joys when it comes to automation; is the fact that I can present this post from the comfort of my dining table. Days before midnight on the 31st of December.
So ... happy new year, enjoy.
If it has been a good year so far, may this continue. If your year has been a bit shit, don't let the bastards grind you down.

If you believe everything you read ...

Then it is better that you stop reading; Chinese proverb.

Yet in the cynicism of our modern moderately media savvy society. There are times where I wonder those reading what they read, read it with the possibility that what they are digesting may be:

WrongModerately incorrectBiasedNot answering the original question
So many facts, yet there seems to be a willingness to accept the words of well known sources as the final version. The same goes for media outlets to shout about individual scientific studies as 'fact'. In spite of the reality that each new study is consumed into the pantheon of knowledge to be eventually accepted or rejected.

In my mind, a fact is always a transient affair. It can sit in my mind as something to be challenge and open to adjustment when new information comes along to enhance or degrade my original notion. To enhance this, I tend to be at ease with many cognitive dissonances. Having contrasting and contradicting ideas sitting beside each other aware …

A social media breather ...

Some of you who follow the muttering of this blogger, may be aware that I am working on the notion of teaching by twitter (well multi-platform social media engagement to be tediously precise).

Following the study calendar of a particular module I chair at the Open University. With Christmas, came a study break and therefore equally a social media lull.

I could have tweeted over this period; like spam emails there needs to be a time when the relentless automation of communications technology must cease. So, with this in mind we took a break from the 23rd until the 30th. Only interrupting this silence with an occasional 'seasonally apt' message.

Why, personally I think students must rest, our forums fell silent christmas eve and someone ventured in late Boxing Day (the 26th). They have so much to do, it is equally important that we reinforce this time and communicate the need for quality time away from study as well as when we must equally focus on learning.

If you are a social…

Bedtime Story ...

Books for bed time; beasts at bay. Sleepy time slumber; boredom away. Literary tradition, words of joy. Which tale, to tell, about Girl or Boy?
Many books, many stories told.  Generation passed down, wonder behold. Tigers, Caterpillars, Builders maybe. Long lost islands or visions of the sea.
From babe to teen, youth to adult.  Reading is the experience of common cult. Everyone who can, will find the words to see. Imagination, inspiration, setting you free.
Do you read to your children, you should ....


Traditional 'many bird' roast ...

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Personally I find Turkey to be quite a tasteless meat, good for quantity but not so great when it comes to quality. If you are a fan of the bronze Turkey. I grant you it has more taste (not a lot, just a little bit more). But these seem to come in at a price that makes ones eyes water. Starting in the region of £70+ for anything worth having.

The rules of the Smith household Christmas dinner are ...

It must be differentThe quality must be highThe cost must not be outlandish Another tradition that has been agreed over many years is that 'Dad' (AKA me) cooks the dinner. Mum (AKA Shirley) has done it occasionally, but for this meal I feel that one must serve my wife.
So, lets explore this years treat, I decided that it had to be four different fowl. Duck, Grouse, Pheasant and a stuffing of Chicken with homemade mincemeat.
Taking each picture in turn, we will explore this treat. There are no set rules, only the pleasure of prepping and cooking this delight. Prep time is around two…

Creating Traditions ...

There are many things that signify Christmas; creating traditions is one of them. Not national traditions, nor international ones. Those personal traditions that are special to you, family and friends alone.

Why are they important, it isn't the ritual. It is the trust that you will have a shared experience with those worth sharing it with. Accepted, some traditions become habit and some traditions should best be stopped before they become too laborious. But those traditions that bring a little comfort, joy and familiarity to the season are the ones worth maintaining.

So, what are your traditions. What are the ones that are worth keeping and make the Christmas season worth revisiting every year?

Christmas Facebook Poem ... omnibus edition ...

During today (being Christmas Day), we have been releasing this poem in instalments. I do not pretend that this is the finest prose composed, it is corny and maybe painful. So what, here it is.
Its christmas morning in the Smith household Not a single turkey in sight Whilst one fowl breathes easy Five others take fright
Its 8:30 in the morning, The women still in bed, Leaving father to write this dodgy christmas thread
Soon it will be time for breakfast Our first set of seasonal treats Stockings filled to brim Have we hidden the amazon receipts?
Church service done, birth of Christ celebrated Children having wild fun ... Today isn’t only a pagan time Christmas is for everyone
Time to open the main gifts Time to remember Knowing that our Son is working So others enjoy their December
Lunch time soon, the Arnolds will arrive A mince pie welcome John and Yoko playing in the kitchen Sharing and welcome is what Christmas becomes

Bubble based education ...

If you are chasing the next 'thing', in any walk of life you could be considered to be a little on the vacuous side, lacking any substance etc.
Yet education has long been a chaser of trends. From educational style, teaching methodology to tech toy for enhancing the delivery experience. 
If you are a teacher, think about it, what trends have you imposed. What edicts from either your organisation or on high within the Government have you witlessly inflicted. Also what cool ideals are now quite uncool. Did that mean we were not educating our students properly when the uncool mode was cool.
Often I wonder if our students learn, in spite of us. As if the will to learn will overcome the best efforts of education to kick that out of students. There is collateral damage on the way; those who will be discarded by our ever changing ebb of ideas. But the majority, who still work, prosper and seem to learn. Have an innate ability to survive and discover new things. Even when they are be…

Yep, another Christmas; Smith Family blog post ...

Well wasn't that a **** year? Please insert applicable term, based on how well you think you know us. Good things have happened, but this has been marred by the chaos imposed by a specialist college that shall remain unnamed (yet south of Hull, north of Boston and east of Lincoln).

If you need any perspective, go back to our post of last year ... http://teraknorblogs.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/another-christmas-bah-humbug-message.html or get to know us. Either will work.

To be fair, good things have happened. When you are looking through the lens of a challenging experience; they are harder to see.

Shirley's business a bun in the oven is slowly developing (or proving), she has delivered some group sessions. Shirley has also learned that a community group have acquired funding for more of her time and expertise. The group that started in September 2012 has been gently growing in this time, with sessions most months. Here lies a small community that encourage, learn and make differ…

How to put a bullet in your foot by email ...

Last week I had an entertaining and interesting email from a centre one works with, within Englandshire. When I say, work with, they are a service provider that has been providing an excellent service since 2006.

Until last week, I would say without reservation they have been one of our most worry free. Whilst small, they reach a potentially underserved region and have in our minds delivered to a high standard.

For this, we pay handsomely and have never quibbled. In fact, since last September, we have offered them more work. Because they reach a smaller, they never get a full allocation. We never pay less, treating them as equals in terms of their fee.

So, you would think that we like them (quite a bit).

Then we get the numpty email; demanding extra cash for printing some supporting material. Immediately shooting a .44 calibre bullet into their foot, via the medium of email.

Something in the region of £20, which is less than 1.5% of the fee that we pay them (per day). And until now, …

Reboot ...

Am I a cynic?

Yes, it has come with some considered practice, care and precision. One does not acquire this overnight. It has to be worked on with dedication and occasionally polished so that it doesn't tarnish.

I do think that education needs a reboot, not rewriting, not upgrading, improving or some frigging new quality standard applied. It just needs a reboot. Someone needs to apply a three fingered salute (ctrl-atl-del) and say to everyone ...

Lets start again and reload all the good things we remember. But ensure that the needless bloatware of the last twenty years isn't loaded.

There are so many patches, variations and deviations in our current education system. To be honest it is effing confusing.

No one has control, there is no continuum, even the Government does not have the final say. The result is that we have academies, federations of academies, free schools, ordinary schools and schools under local authorities and some mix of all that I have just shared.

Everyone …

My unsubstantiated theory on trivial questionnaires ...

I do them, you may have done them, many are doing them. Yes it is the often trivial questionnaires on social media sites. Encouraging hapless, marginally bored individuals to measure themselves against a multitude of measures. That seem to be very popular on my social media stream.

They come in many guises ...

How northern/southern are you?What foods have you consumed?How 19xx's are you?What is your mental age.
Ironically, in my social media circles I would like to think that I have quite a diverse cross section of individuals. Equally interesting is that participation happens in all 'groups'. Maybe the idea that you have succumbed to social media means that by default you are also susceptible to these questionnaires?

Yes, that includes me.

To put value in these questionnaires is dubious at best. My wife who is comes from the almost northerly part of Englandshire scored less than me. I come from the south west!!! Go figure? To be fair, I could work out most of the question…

For free consultancy, do not apply here ...

As many of you know, at least those who know me, I exist in variety of roles as well as my day job at the Open University. Offering consultancy at different times in different contexts, to a range of organisations.

For the outright majority, they understand remuneration is required. But occasionally for a couple of less than inspired souls. They cannot seem to get into their heads that I do not do free consultations.

The result is that instead of getting the answer they need, I will send them on a merry dance.

Loving it when a plan comes together ...

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Glimpses of what can be accomplished ...

There are bits of my job that make it occasionally worth while and today was one of those moments when all around is an otherwise maelstrom turd soup of education at the moment. I came across a centre hidden away in the southern Chilterns where there is some good work afoot and they don't know it.

This little centre is not without issues, but within its confines are educators who have the right idea and could with a little leadership and wisdom take many of their subjects to another level.

Lets see what next year brings.

Ensuring an upgrade path ...

Following an excellent conversation with some dear friends. A new educational organisational upgrade path has been discovered. Assuring quality standards requires a framework and with a framework comes iteration and version numbers.

Time to develop a new framework ...

Continual
Review
Assured
Practice

... or CRAP. There was a time when working in education, I was subject to the ministrations of CRAP 1.0. A time when the organisation decided to rid itself of the teaching experts (after a successful second grade one inspection not long into the residence of a new CEO).

Over the successive years, with this excellent outstanding pinnacle of education. The organisation slowly descending, slowly eating itself, evolved into CRAP2.0.

After not having an inspection for some considerable time a culture evolved. Focussed on results, success and acquisition of more partners. Forgetting that it was a previous culture that brought them success. Allowing quality assurance and judgement to be left to ex…

Lead, you lead, lead I lead, follow who?

We all think we know who (or what) a leader is, often without giving much thought to who may be the real leaders vs those who like to think they are in charge.

In social and work situations, I often amuse myself by watching and prodding those who think they may be leading. Often they are not. Unaware what happens around them, it often carries without their intervention, wisdom, 'leadership' or input. 
To lead is to effect change, to manage is to ensure that what is remains so, without the wheels falling off. Some managers may have political guile, but if we don't see anything new come into play, then leaders they are not.
Leaders survive change, leaders may see change on its way and shift, to ensure survival.
So, if you a leader you are, so do you think?

Courage ...

Don't be afraid to do the right thing, fear not making a contribution. Ignore the crowd and want no absolution. Take courage when all others are headless fowl, take courage when nobody wants to own the challenge ahead.

As those in authority care not and wreck the good work done. Remember, they know little and understand less. Telling them, will not make them listen. Shouting does not make you heard.

If you do not seek glory, recognition or appreciation. If you comprehend, seeing the challenge ahead and prepared for the fight then maybe, possibly maybe you are worth knowing.

Success is seldom acquired; always earned ...

If you follow this blog and occasionally pay attention, it often presents observations of education at its finest as well as most fetid.

Observing some attitudes in the skills competitions, it strikes me that for some out there. The notion of acquiring success is more important that growing and developing the talent pool that would create successful competitors.

Watching former colleagues; I am more inclined to believe it is a culture of development, mentoring and motivation. From this you find competitors that have the magic 'it factor' and stand a chance of success.

Yet out there are educational establishments and training providers that could be suspected of being more interested in the short term accolade. Rather than putting in the effort required to garner repeated success.

The two best british competitors have come from one college in the last six years. Without a doubt, it wasn't the college as a whole, but the considered efforts of one soul with the support of a …

Going for Gold ... a @CiscoNetAcad Winner @SkillsShow in UK ...

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For those +Daily Mail readers who dismiss our youth ... may I introduce a clutch of motivated souls who go the extra mile to excel at what they do as well as compete so that one day they may represent our nation at +WorldSkills

You will see this one of many at Flickr


Shout out for some great Judges @SkillsShow ...

By the time this automated post hits the interweb; I will be deep into the second day of judging at the Skills Show. Privileged to be amongst 100's of educators, experts and employers supporting the competitive aspirations of many young people (and some older) as they all work towards Gold, Silver, Bronze in their chosen fields and maybe selection to represent the country in international competitions.

Much is said of the competitors, but often little credit is given to the judges, who are the motivators, movers and drivers behind this massive community.
With this in mind, I would like to give a 'massive shout out' in the fields of Information Technology and Computing to ...
Toby Bell, Northumberland College, the organiser and a massive heroAndy Jones, Northumberland College, the go to guyPauline Ingrams, Highbury College, the quiet motivatorBrian Proctor, Barnfield College, who cares far beyond the callJefferson Martin, Highbury College, the stalwartBill Shearer, Retired,…

Unsquare dance ...

Less Dave Brubeck, more a chaotic shambles. I have to grin and bear it whenever I see an unsquare dance take place within education.

Chatting to someone I recruited into further education sometime in the last millennia. I was entertained by their tale of lesson observation. Due to their technical nature and still working in the sector (as an ISP amongst other commercial interests) they are the kind of person most colleges would consider an asset. With this in mind they predominantly teach at the higher education level.

So, along comes observer, using an Ofsted model of observation to witness a higher education lesson in action.

Some of the students were working on their own HE learning; which is normal as well as others engaging in the lesson. Which is also normal. In a post 18 post level three world, the process of learning and engagement becomes student lead, not teacher managed. The experienced academic facilitates the exploration of knowledge, understanding and all the clever stu…

Corbomite manoeuvre ...

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Most of you know that I am a Star Trek fan; I tend to avoid the full fandom, just enjoying the programmes and occasionally playing with the toys.

With so many programmes, spanning over 45 years of television. You will get some interesting plot ideas applicable in everyday 21st Century situations.

The corbomite manoeuvre is the classic notion of bluff and the potential of retaliation. The aggressor, does not know the entire strengths of their new found adversary. The defender, uses guile as well as force to offset the notably strong assailant.

In this class episode, Kirk persuades a more powerful aggressor, that the hull of the enterprise is built with this mythical substance. When fired upon, it will return the force applied in equal measure to the assailant.

Now the question is, do you think I am using this tactic ;-)





Liking the sound of ones own electronic voice ...

Watching some forum participants; spill trite into an electronic medium. I have formed the somewhat biased opinion that there is a category of souls who like the sound of their own electronic voice.
So, yes, I am one of them.
Looking at my blog statistics, there is a definite ebb and flow of followers clicking on my links. Currently I am in neither peek nor trough, just trying to work out if the readership is going up or down.

Going the way of the floppy disc ...

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The floppy disc is a redundant technology; some souls still hold on for dear life, expecting miracles from this 1.44 megabytes of storage possibilities. Why, I really do not know, being able to store that minute of mp3, may hold some importance somewhere.

Most computers no longer come shipped with floppy drives. It is a pointless cost for a device offering storage a millionth the size of a typical hard drive.

So, what is going to happen the the flash drive (aka memory stick).


I found this one (above) in the garage today, after a much needed tidy up. Its 4gig, nothing special yet I cannot recall needing to use one in the last year. Now, with cloud based services, drop box and google drive. The transfer of large volumes of data relies on the interweb and automation rather than a data device in my pocket.

Solid state media has become the stuff of larger scale storage and I know that this device, popular for over ten years will linger for a long time yet.





10 reasons, that 10 reasons annoy me ...

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You see them everywhere, magazines, website and aghast reputable news papers all doing top ten lists. You have seen them, ten reasons, ten best, ten things to and so on ...

So, being no better, here comes my top ten of ten reasons why top ten lists are crap:

Reason one, I will always put my most biased least research opinion at the topNow, I will try and add another witty item, most lists do.For many of us, the notion of a list, gives a complex concept, or something that is important to us credibility.Our minds work in number groups, we all see patterns. Ancient cultures focussed on this; numbers such as 3, 7, 10 all have meaning (as does 6). Ok, they also gave this some mythical meaning, ironically we still have in modern culture, four horse riders etcNow we have reached the half way point, this alone would merit comment.Have you noticed that this is simply the number nine, gone awry?Have you ever tried to remember something by using a mnemonic (or acrostic). Richard of York gave bat…

@guardian right wing faction ...

If there was to be a right wing faction of the Guardian newspaper; I suppose I would be a fully signed up member. More conservative than liberal (note the small c and l), all in favour of many capitalist values. I stop at the 'self interest' of the Telegraph, the corporate megalomania of the Times and the nimby mindset of the Daily Mail.

For me, there is nothing wrong with capitalist values so long as they include social responsibility.

Preferring to get my news via Twitter; my iShiny and old aunty beebs interweb site. The bile between different pundits make the news more interesting.

Reading this article (and blog entry) ... http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/01/richard-littlejohn-wrong-about-jack-monroe-daily-mail it does not take much to see that some more well known and named columnists. Focus not on the truth, nor news, but playing up to their own baying audience. I don't know 'Jack'; something tells me this is a brave and considered soul. Alas…

My social media experiment ... so far, not bad ...

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Before you ask, no I am not a 'come lately' into the arena of social media. I have been a steady blogger/twitter/linkedin/facewebber since 2007/8 trying new platforms as they come and go. After all, who remembers Google Wave?

My current social media experiment is probably based on action research in its most unrefined state. There is plenty of suck it and see, some waggling of fingers in the air and a culmination of some years of experience as a minor academic engaging with different online communities.

The current work I am doing with our Cisco module will need refining; especially after trying to push 170 updates into HootSuite to cover Routing and Switching alone.

Each platform has its benefits and associated limitations. Some of the more ad-hoc updates elicit some quite interesting responses (as you will see from the example below). As well as many of the scheduled updates. I am also interested by which platforms give what responses, when and also how this appears.

I cann…

By omission ...

Often you can see into a situation; not by what is said, but by what is omitted. Trouble is, you can become over sensitive to this, leading you into a fractured path of seeing every option, opportunity or eventuality.

Right or wrong.

I had an interesting conversation earlier this week. I asked a simple question "what do you think the impact of these national changes will be on me". The recipient replied, "you will be out on your ear". "No", i replied, "there will be no impact".

The look of incomprehension was a picture.

I can see a number of pathways ahead; but as I am not dependent on any of them and capable of replacing one opportunity with another. The real issue, is that my motivations have been misunderstood.

Cascading automation ...

For followers of this blog; may I announce that I do also publish (exactly the same) on two other blogging platforms.

Spam it maybe; syndication, it could be, assuring reach, you tell me?

The joys of automation via IFTTT is that I can put all posts from here to word press and tumblr. It has been quite useful, as I did have to pull down one post recently to protect someone from a truth that another did not like.

The reality is, the post is out there, twice and beyond their immediate conceptual grasp.


On a merry-go-round of do nothing ...

There is a merry go round of do nothing taking place, plenty of talk, in fact too much talk and too little action. I am now seeing the same conversations, that I started over two years ago come back and describe the same concerns without any resolution.
Same unheeded warnings, unheeded. Same misunderstandings Same apathy
Same fear ...
Yet, since the last quango standing is almost legless, a power vacuum has formed and some notables are going it alone.
Ho hum; I worry for the way vocational education will go post 2015.


Social media penetration (so far so good) ...

Social media is a fascinating beast, noting how different souls engage with different platforms. I am in the throes of an unintended personal thought experiment. Which if I had given a little more thought to, could have doubled up as some half-reasonable research.
In a self imposed beta, I am using social media to help support the delivery of an online module at the Open University. I can see how some souls choose to engage with different platforms, and with this see how their style of engagement differs.
From the extreme to the sublime and diverse intervening range, the exchanges are fascinating. Some seem to lack any concept of ‘appropriate’; others extend the sum total of knowledge. I have one who favourites all tweets, another who likes every Facebook post.
I have not yet, worked out which posts are ‘killers’ vs ‘deadbeats’, but I have noticed how some unexpected themes generate multi-platform interest.
As far as penetration goes, we are a long way off; currently the figures sta…