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Showing posts from February, 2016

What I like about the (Western) Australian mindset …

How can you combine laid back, as well as a can do mindset - be very open minded yet seem to be parochial - not British yet so British (this may annoy some). This is what I like about the Western Australian mindset. I cannot speak for the rest of Australia - only because I have not spent time there (yet).
Having worked with the Cisco Academy programme since 1999 and spending time with a multitude of interesting souls in Europe and farther afield I am always fascinated by how other education systems manage to wrestle with vendor vs state and win/lose in the process. In the UK we have had our losses, wins and current losses. In the state (not national) focussed education system within Australia the same challenges are present.
Over the last couple of weeks I have had the privilege of spending time with some innovative minds - left field thinkers who see the solution and do not need permission to solve the problem. Working around obstacles, often ignoring their existence while pursuing th…

Another good month on the blogosphere hamster wheel ...

I have been away, a long way away ... have you noticed? Unless you are a personal friend connected to me via Facebook, I am sure that you have been completely oblivious.

February 2016 has been a great month on the blogger hamster wheel - the last two weeks while I have been located approximately 9000+ miles away from home my automation has worked for me. Kept in GMT, my ghost in the machine has been doing its stuff.

Often I have plenty to say, so I plan when I say it and share it via my various social media channels. Sometimes the blogger reservoir is dry at other times plenty of ideas emanate. So one writes them, edits and plans at least two weeks into the future.

I still have a small set of ideas sitting in draft - some never make it, others mature and become the kind of things I would like to share. I am sitting eating breakfast as I prepare this article - I plan to schedule it for 5pm local time which is 9am GMT.

Readers do not read posts when they appear, we are all timeline scr…

The Quantum Yes ...

As anyone every asked you a question, where you are given two choices and they are both YES.

Is it sunny or raining outside .... YES ... look of confusion? Are you at home or working today ... YES ... another look of confusion. Even more elaborate questions where both states can still be true result in me saying YES to both ... the Quantum YES.

Please tell me that this is not a recent phenomenon - as my causal mind seems to think that this is occurring more often in recent years. I have occasionally been guilty of being able to say YES to multi-fragment questions with multiple options.

Does this happen to you?


Getting the delivery model right ... alright?

I am an external examiner (in HE terms) for a MSc programme at a university as well as a Foundation Degree with final year BSc top up at a Further Education (FE) College. There is a part of me that will always respect FE - part of my heart and soul is linked to education in this world.

The college in the south western peninsula of England (I am sure you know who I am on about) - isn't using new ideas. Yet compared to their higher education equivalent they are still years ahead and setting the pace.

It is all about getting the delivery model right - student centred timetabling. Instead of spreading the timetable over five days with patchy sessions. Get them in for two days a week. Intensify the experience, set the cost at the right level and what do we have:
Better attendance (maybe)Students able to manage their time (maybe)Opportunities for students to work and overcome their student deficit (definitely)Clear time to study (not that they always use this)Clear time to rest (as if w…

More "Teaching by Twitter" - slides with @CurtinUni ...

For my audience in the UK - you will have missed the overnight tweet covering my presentation at Curtin University (yesterday) ...


Teaching by twitter [Presented at Curtin University, Western Australia] from Andrew Smith

Are you getting the people you need or the people you deserve?

Let us ponder the following thought: Are you getting the people you need or the people you deserve?An interesting thought (at least it is for me) - when you have pressured deadlines and put out a call for collaborators/participants with a short timeline for response or availability. Are you getting who you actually want/need or are those able to respond and be available individuals that would be better suited to working on your competitors project.
From a self centred perspective, I have received a number of ‘participation’ requests recently for national projects that are clearly in my area of expertise. However the timelines are silly, with requesters acting surprised that you cannot wrangle a two day sized hole in your diary with only a couple weeks notice.

Miracles are possible, however my ability to work them is seriously flawed.
If you are under pressure to get souls involved in a project - please explore why you are in this situation and how the demands will always get you less tha…

Why do we need a CAPSLOCK key? ...

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Why do we still have the CAPSLOCK key - how often do we actually write in continue capitals? This affordance of the typewriter age is still with us, before underline, italics or bold text - CAPSLOCK worked for headings and maybe memo's where your line manager wanted to should at you.

In writing CAPSLOCK - I have my little pinky poised over shift, I DO NOT need CAPSLOCK.

When was the last time you used CAPSLOCK - in fact this blog article may now seem as if I am shouting at you?

In fact - do we know anyone that should be banned (forever) from using capslock!

Twitter handles for @twitter …

I have been on a hunt for some twitter handles for a community I participate in - with Twitter now reaching double digit years since inception it isn’t surprising that many of the ‘good ones’ have been taken. A bit like domain names, you have to become more imaginative about the name your choose.
However, some of the handles I would have chosen and have checked out - aren’t doing very well. Around since Twitter was wobbling around in nappies. These accounts had a brief spasm before dying off to their own internet ignominy.
Kind of a shame you cannot recall a good handle if it has been unused for more than a year. As unused domains can be eventually claimed, it would be an excellent step forward if notice is served on inactive accounts - plenty of warning given, before others can bid on these names. It could raise revenue for charity as well as Twitter and generate some commercial interest in wanting a social media name.

The myth of workload analysis

Earlier this month I was sitting at a round table evening meal with assorted academics from five different universities. Collectively they were bemoaning the different forms of workload analysis taking place at their institutions, namely:

What mythical process is used to define the value of some of their activitiesThat the process of analysing workload should itself become a workload recorded process At my University we look at days and 1/2 days - distance learning makes life easier in this respect. The tradition of face to face means that each contact hour and the relevant preparation time becomes a measurable experience.
Education is not a widget - it lacks the subtlety of a sausage machine mind set. Some subjects are more involved than others - within a module as well as within a curriculum. Worse is that some years some students require less input and others are more demanding. This is normal - sadly workload bean counting cannot easily account for this.
In the obsession to count …

Bridges still exist and I defy you to prove otherwise ….

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Ok, so for my non-techie friends I may be losing the plot, however it isn’t as bad as it appears. I know that these kind of bridges do still exist - take a peek at this nice one in the image below.
Yet in network engineering we have had bridges for some considerable time … they used to connect different segments on an ethernet coaxially cabled network. The exciting thing is that they have not gone away - we still use them, the tech is very much alive and in use.
Yet I have to occasionally argue with teachers who have little to do with ‘real’ network engineering and are stuck in trying to teach outdated curricula with scant understanding of the technology at play.
When I here - “Why are we still teaching bridges?” - an unfulfilled private murderous rage bubbles within often leading to the temptation to insert a power line adapter (or ethernet over power) where the sun shines least.
Bridges in networking come in many forms : Decent VoIP phones act as QoS bridges between the tagged trunk and …

Grand Master Eye Spy ...

To all with children, wanting children, looking after children or simply bored - may I introduce you to Grand Master Eye Spy. It is like Eye Spy, but harder. When you are sitting with them bored, wriggling in social situations where their bottoms have to be in one place. You can be nice and give them easy ones to guess or mess with their minds and help them observe their environment with greater care.
Immediate obvious objects are not allowed. It must be intricate or not immediately obvious yet visible to all observers in the game. Eye Spy is great for spelling, recognition and free family entertainment - the Grand Master version keeps their minds amused by trying to get them to outwit the parents. Something with time and experience they will succeed.

I think that @facebook proves why we need teachers ...

I think that Facebook (and other social media services) offer unequivocal proof of good teaching - by seeing evidence that some of us have either missed valuable lessons at school, were asleep when the subject was being covered or that it was never covered at all.

Think about it - how many times have you seen posts shared, shared again and sod it shared umpteen times that contains:

Science that does not existFacts that are simply not trueTests in logic that are illogicalMaths that rely on knowing some principlesGrammar, Spelling that rely on knowing some principles
We know (at least I know) that many of these images/posts are click bait - yet I see some souls who I assume to be of modest intelligence posting them. If you are unsure, check out the fact first before sharing this rubbish - it may seem plausible - yet it is likely that it is not.

It is fair to say that some of these opportunities enable us to learn by research and a little critical thought. Occasionally we all have to che…

Inflight wifi - it is rare, so airlines more please ...

It would appear that inflight is still a rare experience – yet flying with one of the eight airlines currently offering this service (in anger). IT has been a liberating experience.
As a pre-blogger, someone who will stage the release of my posts especially when I know that I am to be busy. The option of writing posts like this one on an accumulative flight time of 17 hours does give one the ability to cope with the haul.
So – dear airlines, we will pay, I was happy with the small data freemium – and was willing to pay for additional service (the rate was very reasonable). I can cope with the erratic bandwidth. I have been able to keep in touch – solve a couple of work related problems and engage with friends around the globe on social media.
As chance would have it - one was able to have a facebook exchange with one friend in mid air on one of the eight airlines (probably above the North Sea as I was heading towards the East Indian Ocean.

Meeting @CiscoNetAcad heroes @oldmuzz and @1adamsau ...

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As you read this post, I am either in an airport or on an aircraft making my way to Perth in Australia - to visit a couple of excellent Cisco Academy heroes.

The Open University ASC has an interesting community of Cisco Academies affiliated with us - none less close than Curtin University in Western Australia and their Cisco Academy for the Vision Impaired.

Over the next couple of weeks my blog will auto-post pre-written content, as the time difference and agenda means that a little common sense is required. However - in this time I will also share experiences from these climes.

The aforementioned heroes are:

Iain Murray - the nerd and genius behind CAVI











Aubrey Adams, former author, further education teacher and now educational consultant working with Iain among others.




Are you a Critical Thinker - I think it takes practice ...

Firstly lets go with a large chunk of cited text from ... http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/critical/ct.php
Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following : 
understand the logical connections between ideasidentify, construct and evaluate argumentsdetect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoningsolve problems systematicallyidentify the relevance and importance of ideasreflect on the justification of one's own beliefs and valuesCritical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. Have you digested the above - does this fit with your thinking, it does with mine.

I believe that we all have the capacity to be critical thinkers - I am aware that we all also have to put it into pr…

Don't work this one out 0*0+0/1 ...

Stop ... do not do it, do not write down the answer.

It is 0, that is not the point - social media friends often fall for these calculation memes. Where operator precedence (knowing that multiplication and division, has priority over addition and subtraction) is used to catch souls out and also what happens when you multiply or divide by zero.

So - please, please, and another PLEASE ignore them - partly as these are designed to expose mathematical inadequacies and we can all fall for these, the same as we can for grammar errors. Also - they are tedious, please stop filling my timeline with this tosh.

Tip 1: if there is a zero in the mathematical expression chances are it will do something to the result.

Tip 2: if there are two expressions, such as divide and subtract or multiply and add in the same calculation - stop and think for a moment.


Lets all panic as a free social media service like @twitter makes a little change ...

Should I panic as some of my research focusses on the timed outputs of pedagogical content based around a microlearning model. Twitter lends itself to this, yet as is the case with mass broadcast social media ... unless you personally focus on one specific account, everything is easily lost in the maelstrom of social media utterance.
I am not panicking - not yet, I doubt that I will.
Why, well dear reader - Twitter is free, for free I get an excellent service and Twitter is able to occasionally ply promoted tweets into my timeline as well as for everyone else. The new proposition to adjust their model to promote some tweets is their call - it may work for me, I may find that it annoys me. Yet, I will watch and learn, observe and adjust my use of twitter.
After all - this isn't the only platform I use, it would not take any great effort to shift focus to Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn which I also use.

Own goal for @vtechtoys ...

Tech Toy manufacturer is trying to divest responsibility for their own cock ups (and the contributions of some hackers). While there is considerable debate regarding who is at fault over the hack and data leak. Making security the responsibility of parents when your technology offered the back door is a bit below the belt.

At this rate, they will certainly solve their own problem as the media and social media combined raise awareness. While I no longer have little humans and did have a couple of VTECH classics when my children were small. I would not commend to any parent any company that cannot take responsibility for their own failings.

Yesterday was Safer Internet Day - I could have put the message in one sentence ...

I am by no means belittling the idea of having a safer internet day - yet every message I saw, every site that gave advice and the few reports I caught on television and radio could be boiled down to.
Create and maintain an open and sensible dialogue with your children regarding their use of the Internet. My children are now adults - they are also from the first generation to grow up with the internet in its full glory. Very minor mistakes were made - this will also be the case for you (and maybe your children).

It is better to be their friend on social media than not at all - it is better to guide them and laugh with them at some very silly and random things. Help them know the difference between banter, wit and stepping over the line. Referee the occasional debate and allow them to disagree with you.

But do agree on when you call the shots and draw the line often for their own protection - my view is that are children are normally quite reasonable individuals. Sadly there are others…

Two extremes - our farthest @CiscoNetAcad Cisco Academies at @OUCisco ...

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Today and this Saturday I am travelling to our two outermost Cisco Academies affiliated with the Open University ASC.

At this moment The OU to Cornwall College is 284 miles, our official farthest in the UK and no record breaking achievement for distance.


Yet, we have another couple of Cisco Academies - affiliated by peer support between the Open University ASC and Curtin University Cisco Academy for the Vision Impaired. I am heading here on Saturday.

Roughly 9443 miles - the difference is noticeable. Nobody has confirmed this yet, I am of the view that the OU+Curtin have the longest distance relationship within the Cisco Academy programme. If anyone is able to beat them - then a couple of pints are on offer for the lead members of the two academies involved.


Lack of availability ...

When I say I cannot do something because of lack of availability - it means that … wait for it, “I am not available”. This week three separate parties from entirely different roles have struggled with this information.
We would would like you to do something, here is a short turnaround, it is urgent. Reply == no sorry too busy, Feb is a fully booked month. Replies have varied from them giving me more information to telling me how to do thing as well as questioning some other aspect and then still trying to get me to do something.

Either they are idiots or they cannot read simply worded emails - I am not available. Busy, bugger off, bye for now.

Egads I found myself defending McDonalds Salads (in the UK) and hating churnalisim even more ...

Complete this web search on McDonald's Kale Salad depending on your locale you will get reports from different news sides, such is the nature of search engines. However - lets stop and think about a couple of sentient facts before we get all excited about the salad that has more calories than a Big Mac.
Yes - it is true, McDonalds in the United States have introduced a salad that has more calories than a Big Mac. ONLY in the USA, NOT in the rest of the planet - they are using parmesan shavings (nice) which does bump up the calorific value. So when you pop off to a nice restaurant and consume a decent Chicken Cesar, the chances are you are consuming the same (if not more calories). So, let us think a moment how bad McDonalds actually are? Many of UK media sites are churning out the same report - from a news agency no doubt and forgetting to add salient facts like. Currently only in the USA and also not yet here in the UK. If you can use the Interweb and check the McDonalds site in …

Degrees of separation and why Facebook is very wrong ...

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I am sitting here writing this post and actually annoyed with the Facebook findings - while the data is valid, the connection of 3.57 between individuals also valid it ignores a number of practical very obvious facts.
Not everyone uses FacebookFacebook represents around 1.59 billion usersThe planet has 7 billion souls (give or take)Not all accounts are active on FacebookSome souls have multiple accountsUnder 13s (should not) have Facebook.There are other social networks - that are used in preference. Looking at the above figures, around 22% of us use Facebook - not many is it!
Now stop and think, if you and are are 3.57 connections apart - you must know someone that is not using Facebook. I can think of quite a few. Ask around, you will be surprised at who prefers to opt out.
At your end, add 1, and at my send lets add another 1, as these souls are not connected. 3.57 + 1 at my end is 4.57. Take my 4.57 + 1 extra soul at your end means that these unconnected souls are at 5.57 degrees …

Quantum Brain Fart ...

Do you like to have fun with words, phrases and meanings - I certainly do. As a personal dalliance I contributed this to the Urban Dictionary. Vote if you wish?

In its full glory, here is the definition taken from my Urban Dictionary contribution:
When you both remember and cannot remember if you have done something. The state of being unsure if it is a false memory or a factual experience. Schroedinger to Heisenberg; darn your uncertainty principle, I am having a quantum brain fart trying to remember if I did (or did not) put the cat in the box.

Social Media Canvassing for Volunteers - it works ...

Around a week ago some colleagues and I worked with a global community of enthusiasts - everyone completing a short activity on a web based network simulator. Following a short social media campaign - we managed to acquire just under 400 volunteers, where:

We had over 600 active sessions on our simulator (some souls are plain greedy)Over 110 completed the short post activity analysis survey (as some souls are simply shy)
We canvassed for the volunteers via email and social media - taking a cold look at the list of volunteers who disclosed their location, more came from outside the UK (non-email) than within. Ethics notwithstanding and ensuring that your volunteers have the option of remaining anonymous. I think that finding your community within social media and then giving them a choice on what they wish to accomplish makes for an interesting opportunity, There is a level of self selecting audience in the sample given, however looking at the comments, not all are easily biased by who…

Short presentations focus the mind ...

Recently I completed a couple of short presentations the <= 10 minute variety. Both on campus, both in the context of good practice = information sharing.

Does anyone else feel the same, getting the message out in such a short time takes more preparation than a normal public waffling session. Do not get me wrong, I do try and be concise (I am sure others may disagree) - yet here is a new challenge?

It is about the pithy message - not the full story?

Common Passwords, what is all the fuss about?

If you are like me - you often notice that there is a frequency of articles around password strength, passwords that are too easy and common passwords. I have been guilty of joining in the fray and adding my own pennyworth of wisdom.

Just like this article.

Preferring to avoid thinking like the crowd and seldom succeeding - my thoughts wandered to the need for passwords when the service we are using has a lower value. Think about it, there are sites and services we sign up for that often ask us for a password and we do not wish to use our best special words on them.

Most individuals are not fools, they may not be internet security experts yet they manage to have a level of modest sophistication in the password decisions they make. Let us consider a couple of scenarios ...

This site is giving me free stuff - yet they want my email and a password. As we often associate the same email address with many accounts. It is a fool's errand to use the same password for our email as well as …

Why not GIF a Cisco config like its 1987 ...

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Compuserve introduced the GIF (graphics interchange format) in 1987 ... it has seen its own rise, fall and is now back in vogue. Able to support single images and animation by virtue of a flipbook slide show - it is able to transmit the moving image via a short low bandwidth solution when data rates were at a premium.

Almost 30 years later - enter the world of social media. In June 2015 - Twitter introduces more video formats to their feeds. Ok, so I never in a rush to run with the crowd, preferring to observe before I engage.

So here is the idea, there are many free web site based GIF creators - just ask the interweb you will find them. There are also many great screen capture applications - I found CaptureIT in less than five minutes and worked out how to configure a control key sequence to capture the active window.

With a little bit of trial and error - in ten minutes I had the following result:

For the Cisco inclined in my readership - this is no technological marvel. However - …