Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Weekend reflection – The new world of social involvement (Kony 2012)

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

If you haven’t heard of KONY 2012 you soon will.  Basically, Kony is a Ugandan warlord and from all reports a despicable person, and there is a global grassroots movement to get him arrested.  The movement is a bit hipster/cool/trendy and is supported by youth targeted merch.  While everyone agrees with the sentiment (the guy really is scum) , the process has drawn criticism for being a bit naive and simplistic.  Have a listen to the NPR report for a reasonable overview of the issues.

Regardless of what you think about the KONY 2012 cause, the way they have gone about it is interesting.  The idea of using YouTube and social networks to promote a worthy cause isn’t unique but it is still fairly novel.  GetUp are a good local example (if you are interested in Social Justice and equity issues in Australia you should have a look) .    KONY 2012 is particularly interesting due to the size and speed of the movement  (although the Invisible Children group has been active since 2006).

In the long term, one of the main advantages of the KONY 2012 movement may be the lesson it provides for future people power movements.    Particularly in a world where information is easily obtained and strong informed (and un-informed) opinions can be more easily presented.  Again if you are looking for a better managed example, have a look at GetUp.

If you feel spurred to action to support kids and families in developing nations, but have some reservations about donating to Invisible Children, here are some well established and proven alternatives.

Oxfam ( http://www.oxfam.org.au ) – buy a someone a goat.  If you’re a Monash person you can get a gift card from the Campus shop.  Too easy.

Worldvision ( http://www.worldvision.com.au ) - Sponsor a Child – This is a larger commitment, but let’s put it in perspective, how much to you currently spend on junk food, pet food and wine?  Worldvision also have gift cards

If you are more commercially minded or prefer a self help option, support a microloan project

Worldvision Micro (http://www.worldvisionmicro.org ) is probably a better choice than most (although I’m no expert) because they have a more holistic approach, as opposed to development banks who have come into some criticism recently.

If you are a religious type you don’t have to look very far, all Christian denominations and all major religions have overseas (and local) social support arms.  You might have to ask a few questions to make sure your money goes where you want it to.  Some overseas programs are focused on social aid while others may be focused on evangelical mission.

Anyway have a good weekend.

Must read Excel tips for any academic taking over a course.

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Three things you must do when you inherit an Excel workbook

This article from Susan Harkins at Tech Republic is a must read for collaborative researchers and new chief examiners.

The three tips are:

  1. Unhide everything
  2. Remove Hidden formats
  3. Look for formula inconsistencies

The one thing I would add is keep a copy of the original.  You might find when you finish cleaning up the spreadsheet some components no longer work as intended.

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/msoffice/three-things-you-must-do-when-you-inherit-an-excel-workbook/7176?tag=nl.e056

Split dates into separate excel columns (more fiddly than it ought to be)

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

One of our academics wanted to calculate the difference between to columns of dates based on the year.

Easy I said, we’ll split the date columns so the years are in separate columns.  You can do a simple =A1-B1 to get your result.

It is almost that easy, there are however a couple of tricks (if someone has a more elegant solution please let me know).

  • First insert a column to the right of the column you are about to split
  • Click on Data
  • Select the column and click on Text to Columns
  • Select Fixed Width
  • Click on Next

split date1

  • Drag the line across to your desired separation pont
  • Click Next
  • On the next screen just click Finish

split date2

Here is the confusing bit.  When I split the  column is I found the year column had a full date in it.

split date4

To fix this

  • Select the dodgy year column,
  • Right click and select Format cells

split date5

  • Select Number and remove the decimal places
    You’ll notice that the Sample is showing the original year
  • Click OK and you’re done

splitdate6

A good visualisation of the European Crisis

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The Debt Quake in the Eurozone

visualisation of European debt crisis

This static image is simple, well designed and focuses on one key issue, public debt as a percentage of GDP in 2000 and 2010.

You could use this type of image as the backbone for a lecture, or series of lectures.   It could also be the starting point for a range of problems and exercises.

Mint.com also has an education page.  It’s aimed at secondary students but the structure of the lesson plans is worth a look.

Some thoughts on OpenClass

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

I am a cynic by nature.  If you tell me something is magical I want to see actual magic.  If you give me hype instead of information I will walk away, and if you tell me something is free I will give you my definition of free and see if you still want to play with me.

So I have been giving some thought about Pearson’s offer of a free LMS.  In hunting around I came across this blog post by eLearning industry expert Michael Feldstein and it provides some food for thought.

http://mfeldstein.com/why-pearsons-openclass-is-a-big-deal/

“Overall, I don’t think the biggest concern is whether Pearson will fail to maintain the platform as free. Rather, the more serious question is what will they be getting if they succeed.”

This statement may seem a little extreme but read the full post and you will see how he gets there.

“What does Pearson get out of all this? They potentially get all the data on your students and an iron grip on the point of sale for all curricular content. Everything that worries you about what Facebook and Google know about you and everything that worries you about the control that Apple exerts over the iTunes and App stores should worry you about Pearson’s ambitions.”**

And he finishes with a statement which I am totally on board with.

The future has yet to be written, and a lot depends on the kinds of agreements that Pearson strikes with its customers and commercial partners. And, of course, OpenClass may not be successful, for any one of a variety of reasons. My point is simply that people need to pay close attention to what the company is doing with OpenClass. Pearson is attempting to shift from being a product company to being a platform company, in the way that Google and Facebook (and, increasingly, Apple) are platform companies. I happen to use Google and Apple products quite a bit and, for the most part, accept the trade-offs that I am making in order to reap the benefits that they provide. But we don’t have anything like this kind of a bargain in the educational technology market, and the implications are far reaching. Now is the time to think carefully and read all the fine print.

To sum up my own position – maybe yes, maybe no, but probably not yet.

** If you don’t have a least a passing concern about these things you really should.

Low fuss grading?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

When it come to marking and grades there are no real good or bad ideas just good and bad implimentation (supported or hamstrung by policy).

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/08/03/grading

The basic idea in the above article is, if you complete all the work you get a credit,  if complete most of the work you pass, if you don’t complete enough work you fail.  Students review each others work and decide if each completed item is good enough.  The teacher provides the work and the marking framework for the students.

If this is treated as a way to increase teaching and learning time by reducing part of the marking load then it could be a winner.  Done right, the process will produce valuable teaching opportunities.

If (as is more likely) it’s treated primarily as a way to reduce marking workload with no serious QA and no tradeoff back into teaching, then it’s a potential disaster.

What Bloom’s iPad might look like

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

One of our clever academics, Kerrie Woodhouse, found this and sent it to me.

blooms ipad

Even if you don’t have an iPad this provides a good guide to the sort activities needed for good teaching practice.

Interesting to note that essentially passive, content apps aren’t listed e.g. YouTube, wikipedia

The very clever Kathy Schrock also has one based on Google apps

Check out her site at Kathyschrock.net

One of greatest men you’ve never heard about has died

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Michael S. Hart (1947-2011): The founder of Project Gutenberg dies at 64.

Alongside Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg (started in 1971) is one of major game changers to come out of digital revolution.  It may not seem so radical now, but the ideas and ideals underlying Project Gutenberg (which pre-dates Wikipedia by 30 years) helped lay the groundwork for how digital information was going to handled in the future.

Project Gutenberg offers over 36,000 free ebooks to download to your PC, Kindle, Android, iOS or other portable device. Choose between ePub, Kindle, HTML and simple text formats.
We carry high quality ebooks: All our ebooks were previously published by bona fide publishers. We digitized and diligently proofed them with the help of thousands of volunteers.

No fee or registration is required, but if you find Project Gutenberg useful, we kindly ask you to donate a small amount so we can buy and digitize more books. Other ways to help include digitizing more booksrecording audio books, or reporting errors.
Over 100,000 free ebooks are available through our Partners, Affiliates and Resources.

Linking lecture theatres via desktop video – Polycom

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

We have a winner.

Polycom runs directly over our system, not out to some server in the US and back, so the video and audio are quick and clear.  And because it’s loaded into our system it also has a local directory of existing Monash Polycom users.

Installation is easy.  Monash people can download it from the “Get Programs” list.

polycom

It is very simple to use and allows you to show your desktop although it doesn’t allow you to share control of desktops.  It can be used to call multiple people, but I haven’t tested that myself.

So if you you are a Monash person wanting an easy, simple and reliable video conferencing option I would recommend Polycom.  If you need to share desktop control you’ll need to look elsewhere.

If Polycom hadn’t panned out the next stop would have been Go To Meeting (commercial with 30 day trial), Team Viewer (commercial but with a free option) and Skype.

A short rant about journals

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Why isn’t there an Australian G8 branded suite of  ’A level’ academic journals so our top researchers can meet their publication targets without having to produce research based on European or U.S data, which is frequently of marginal use in an Australian context (and therefore of marginal value to students and Australian society)?

It’s not hard to do.  We’re not some intellectual backwater filled with slack jawed professors in moulding tweed.  We already have people on international editorial panels, we have authors and editors of major textbooks.  The skills are there.

It’s not expensive, particularly across 8 universities and particularly given the recent developments in digital publishing and distribution.

This should be a no-brainer.  Why do we continue to piss in the pockets of international journals at the expense of our own academics and locally useful knowledge.

Rant over.