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Showing posts from March, 2015

Random acts of ignorance ...

A couple of years ago via the request of a 'professional' friend, I agreed to step in as an external for a University undergrad programme that is on teach out. As programmes come and go and need updating, they needed someone who would be happy to sit as an independent external examiner while the second and third years of an exiting programme completed its natural process.
To say that they could not organise a fight in a fairy cake factory is an understatement. First mitigating with an idea that they were playing catch up was unrealistic. This mob are actually less organised than a bag of kittens and singularly lacking any sense of direction.
Either the silence was deafening, or the lack of communication annoying. Last minute requests for award boards, aggravating and an inability to book meetings in advance, frustrating. Their handing of any quality assurance process reaction, rather than action (with a smattering of inaction).
I finally blew my gasket when a promised set of …

Developments in Packet Tracer - Anywhere, using HTML5 for @CiscoNetAcad with @kmiou & @ict_forge ...

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Over the last year I have presented hints about some work I am privileged to be part of. Involving KMi and FORGE, the project aims to develop future Internet technologies, enabling the simulation of networking technologies.

Cisco Systems, via their academy programme and under the thought leadership of Dennis Frezzo created Packet Tracer a pedagogical network simulator. Deployed on Windows and Linux systems as well as having an Android version. It offers a complimentary practical experience, enhancing the online teaching for IT Essentials, CCNA Routing and Switching and the CCNA Security curriculum.

Looking to create an eBook that has inline practical activities, using the Apple iBook format. KMi are keen to leverage the success of the Open Universities iTunesU presence. After some initial hitches and technical experimentation, it was soon realised that the HTML5 affordance of the iBook means that Packet Tracer could be offered via any web browser.

The programmers (Aitor and Allan) al…

A year of writing for @ConversationUK ...

Credit must go to my colleague Yijun Yu, we were hiding away in my office busy working on material for our imminent (at the time) digital forensics module. When an email came back with edits and suggestions for a discussion article on the search for MH370. Yijun already had success with his discussion piece on cloud computing as a search tool for locating lost aircraft.

More than happy to include me in the edits and use some of my technical knowledge, the article appeared that afternoon with some credit attributed to me. 
What was interesting was the dashboard, tracking the readers, republication and comments. Up for a punt, I gave a couple of articles a quick bash ... one concerning the pointlessness of porn site licensing (where did that idea disappear?), another regarding Heartbleed.
I was bitten by the bug, I found that I could quickly pen responsive articles that seemed to engage non-technical and technical audiences alike.
Now, here I am a year later, with over 40 articles and …

Montgolfier measure of educational impact ...

Lets forget all the little ways that inspection regimes like Ofsted attempt to measure the quality of teaching in our national classrooms. There is no proof of effectiveness in the quality of the teaching, only in the schools ability to create a culture that conforms to an inspection regime.
So, with my view of the value of the accuracy (and therefore validity) of an Ofsted observation. I cannot see why we cannot equally apply the "Montgolfier measure of educational impact".
It works on a simple principle, the more hot air a teacher produces. Therefore increasing the likelihood of a hot air balloon rising (hence the Montgolfier measure). The more probable it is that the teacher may have some desirable effect on the students.
Why not, we see teacher centred and student centred around the world and it would seem that they have the same value. So why can we not face facts and accept the signal to noise ratio involved in teaching at all levels.
With all of this due some conside…

Dear Universe ... for f**k sake please stop calling it ICT ...

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Those who have taken the time to follow me over the years, well done; I appreciate the slog it must have been. By now you may have developed a small understanding of the way my mind works and have a view of the subjects I dislike (if not despair at).

May I there introduce the greatest culprit ... ICT ... Information and Communication Technology. A crap term that no better describes a pencil:

Than a comprehensive server infrastructure:


Both are information and communication technologies; one having greater meaning and more purpose in the context of computing than the other.
Don't get me wrong --- I like pencils, they are useful and possibly more reliable than any computer system I have ever encountered. But to use a crap term like ICT in education that covers such an extensive scope is in my mind the ultimate epitome of meaningless jargon.
Having visited many schools, where the teachers proudly tell me about their ICT curriculum. They do not know the suppressed rage I endure and t…

Occam's Razor ...

I have for some considerable time been a fan of Occam's Razor (Ockham's razor is a well known alternate spelling). The premise of which is:
Among competing hypotheses that predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Or, better said in plainer terms:
The simplest answer is often the most likely. Often in educational assessment, verification and academic quality control situations. I encounter 'experts' (note the quotes) who infer complex often machiavellian conspiracy into their academic observations.

While there is always the possibility that students (as well as academic centres) engage in nefarious shady acts to conceal their rouge intentions. Often the reality is that they are merely clumsy, made mistakes and could have approached the work in question more appropriately (and under less time or personal pressure).

So, PLEASE!!!, when marking, verifying and engaging in the act of looking at the academic work of others. DO!!! apply Oc…

Passing effect ...

Recently I was at a very useful event, involving academics, tutors etc within the Open University academic universe.

One discussion raised by an informed soul is how they have a 'Java Programming' qualification (from another organisation) yet cannot program in Java to save their life.

With an impending assignment submission and experience in reading assignment expectations. They worked out that the design element with plenty of clever words would help them acquire a probable (and therefore acquired) acceptable passing mark. Whereas those who focussed on the coding, spending less time on the design. May actually have failed the assessment.

Implicit in the admission was the notion that their code wasn't very good and that those who focussed on the code were more likely the valid Java programmers.

Sadly, I have often seen this play out in multiple arenas and understand why industry often has a cynical view of students exiting higher education. Do not get me wrong, design is …

Call Centre 0 : Customer 1 ...

Excited by the prospect of an empty nest, wife and I decided to make a momentous investment ... in an unlimited cinema card.
Yes, you are correct; we really know how to live the high life.

Accounts created online; card ordered, money exchanged cards appear. However, we cannot seem to be able to book tickets in advance using either of our new fangled unlimited cards.

Sad face.

After numerous attempts, I call the help line. Impressed at how quickly a call centre soul picked up the call I explained how we kept getting ... "an error was encountered when trying to validate this card number".

The conversation went:
Try again in 15 minutes, I was told you have done something wrong. Nope, we are getting the same error. Have you incorrectly typed in the long card number? No, I have just copied and pasted the same number I have told you and you know who I am?  You must have typed it wrong, erm, no, you have checked my credentials and I read out the number.  You should wait 15 minutes…

To upgrade or not upgrade? That is the all-too-frequent question ...

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By Andrew Smith, The Open University

The question of whether or not to go for the upgrade or stick with the devil you know is an increasingly common contemporary dilemma; the lure of new features against the threat of potentially disabling a device that plays an important role in our lives.

For example, Apple iPhone users who were quick to upgrade their phones to iOS 8 got burned by bugs. In fact many cynics see “point-zero” software versions (eg, 8.0) as nothing short of testing releases, and wait for later minor updates (eg, 8.1) to iron out the problems.

But even this behaviour can’t explain how Microsoft’s venerable Windows XP operating system, introduced in 2001 and officially retired in 2014, has grown its market share against more recent versions.










Desktop operating system market share, Jan-Feb 2015.netmarketshare
The problem for software and hardware developers and technological giants such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google is that despite technology’s constant, rapid advancement…

Zero is a threshold concept ...

In computing zero (0) is a number, meaningful, significant and applicable in all number systems. So you may think that it applies in binary, it does. It also applies in octal, decimal and hexadecimal.
Now, already I guess some of you reading this are thinking … well of course we all know that zero applies in maths. I agree, of course it does. The threshold concept is developing the notion that we must count from 0, not 1.
I have seen programming loops, subnet calculations and memory addresses all fail because some hapless student has forgotten to count from 0. Why, because since we were toddlers, we would be encouraged to start from 1 when being presented with our fingers.
Counting from one to ten is sensible; it fits our biological imperative; it does not require explaining and can be based entirely on experience.
Yet that immediate process makes the first time teaching of zero challenging in schools. I cannot recall when this done, as zero is both nothing and a numeric threshold.

Having presence within the OU brand ...

As promised earlier today, a copy of the slides used at a marketing presentation at the Open University. An interesting experience and one that gave me a minor glimpse into a different mindset.
Do I think that academics should engage with marketeers, simply put, it is an unequivocal yes. We need them as much as they us. We may create the programmes for their promotion, they bring us the students but need to understand how we operate.
If we do not help them, they cannot help us. Sadly we need them more than we may appreciate. Yet comes another challenge, for many academic establishments we are a cornucopia of differing experiences. Yet they have to attempt to present a singular brand.
So ... the challenge, lets become imaginative and find a way to enable the collective brand of large educational establishments explore niches. 
Having presence within the OU brand from Andrew Smith

Network Managers in Education ... you should be ashamed:

Three souls, three different situations yet I see the same repeating story ... network managers (and their like under different job titles) within education should be forced to try and teach the subjects they attempt to circumvent.
Again, time again, and often again, I encounter teachers, lecturers and academics who: Cannot teach a subject because a network manager lacks the skills/understanding to give them the supportEndure unreasonable restrictions around curriculum mandated subjects in computing/IT as the mythical notion of security (and their misunderstanding) prevents any advancementFind their network support are unwilling to install software, often taking months.Discover that the network team prevent pointless features on a network, yet leave glaring gaps in their systemsEndure the network bods, challenging the teaching based on some seriously dated ideas Yet with no experience of the curriculum, the network managers know best. While I am an ardent critic of teachers who cannot…

Off to do another presentation (soon) ...

I will upload onto slideshare (soon) ... but must note with gentle pleasure that this is presentation number four focussed around my work with social media and other mediums.


A short presentation was declined for next week. But, pleased to note that I also have a 20 min slot in our upcoming eSTEEM conference.


Two out of the three have been online, to USA and Botswana respectively, once face-to-face in the UK at ALT-C.


Now for a bunch of marketing souls ... ;-)