What if …

Picture 3What if (I’m not on a list)?

This week I’ve looked at Twitter’s new (sic) LIST feature. I’ve created lists and I’ve looked for myself on the lists of others. This could eat away at my basic human insecurity. Why?

Well, lists are not new – I’ve had a Jaiku list on Tweetdeck (and Seesmic until I dumped it) for months. The people on that list are all my old chums from the by now terminally dead Jaiku. They are my original CoP. It gave me comfort to have a list with all my regular mates, colleagues and trusted gurus on it. It’s still there – but more and more these days I read my entire Twitter feed. There is such a variety of thoughts, ideas and fun that it has become difficult to choose which list I would read the most.

Picture 2

Now Twitter has given me the opportunity to create more lists.

Straight away I recreated my Jaiku list, then another called ‘ILT-Mates’ and another called ‘Gurus’. This last list was to be populated with people like @hrheingold and the two professors: Cook and Traxler. Then I thought that Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) should be on the list, and James Clay (@jamesclay) – how could I leave out Lilian (@xlearn), Dave (@davefoord) and Ron (@ronm)? And apart from a few names, ‘Gurus’ turned out to be the same list (almost) as ‘ILT-Mates’. Some people were now on all three lists!A selection of people I follow on Twitter

But what if Lisa (@notlob) found herself on ‘Jaiku mates’ and neither of the others? What if other friends didn’t feel comfortable with the ‘Guru’ grouping? Would I lose friends or respect? Luckily, I’ve kept my lists ‘Private’ and will probably never use them but what if they were ‘public’? Would they cause upset or anger? @shrifootring has me on her ‘fun to follow’ list and I am pleased and happy that she has done so – thank you Shri. But Lilian has me on her ‘Public’ mlearn’ list and happy as I am to be there, the little monster inside of me says, “Has she got a ‘private’ friends list?  Am I on it? Am I not good enough to be Lilian’s friend? Has she got a ‘Guru’ list? ???”

Of course I’m not that insecure – but others might be!

Is there a point to ‘lists’? I know there could be – but will there be? Will we be able to eat away from the basic divisiveness of lists?

Leeds

Improving language and culture with ICT.

Tomorrow, Sharon and I will meet most of the sixteen people arriving from all over Europe to take part in this course. Some won’t arrive until very late evening, so we’ll meet those people first thing Sunday morning at breakfast.

The course is taking place in Leeds.

This is a city I’ve hated with a real passion ever since I was dragged there twice a year as a cub-capped, short-trousered boy needing summer, then winter clothes from C&A (do you remember C&A?). I used to find it big, noisy and far too full of shops for comfort; the only good thing about it was the train journey from Huddersfield. Yet things change, and whilst it is still big (too big), noisy and far too full of shops for comfort, my preparations for this course have changed my view of Leeds.

The course was conceived by Khawar Iqbal and she’d asked me to help her deliver it if she won the European funding required to run it. Both Sharon and I have been heavily involved in the planning. Basically, Khawar has done the early people-stuff (recruitment, flight and transfer booking, hotel booking etc.) and Sharon has done the later people-stuff (venue planning, food, goodie finding and purchasing, bag packing, David pushing). I have had the leisure of planning the course around Khawar’s original ideas and with Khawar’s support and input.

And the planning has been a real pleasure. I’ve learned more about Leeds than I ever thought existed. I’ve walked the streets with new eyes. Until September this year, Leeds was still the place of boyhood dread; these days even the train journey was (is) to be dreaded (mainly due to the times I generally have to visit Leeds, the trains are overcrowded for about three hours at each end of the day). But researching the history, the culture and the city itself has opened my eyes to it’s (mmm, lost for a word here – not quite beauty …) Well.

So  we start on Sunday with a full-on day and continue through to Saturday with another full day planned (although the afternoon, like Wednesday is fofo).  We will also visit Bradford to look at culture within culture and part of our historical/cultural research will include Bonfire Night! What is it? Why is it? What does it say about us?

Because I have to help deliver Advanced PDA/e-Guide courses in London and Birmingham this week, the lovely Lilian Soon will be working with the group Monday through until Wednesday – so I know they will be in good hands.

Which reminds me – I plan on reading through the Advanced course today (as well as the Leitch 2006 Report, the Digital Britain Report and another big paper I’ve already lost the will to read), so I’d better go.

Gloucestershire

Yesterday I delivered workshops to 22 people over three sessions.

I’d set out to show how the ‘m’ in m-learning could also mean ‘modern’ and not just mobile. Like others I think that the ‘m’ and the ‘e’ before learning needs to disappear – but not just yet. There is still a lot of work to do before we can truly say that ‘learning’ is all encompassing and includes the use of tools and resources appropriate to that learner (those learners) at that time (24/7) and in (or out of) that place.

We did a little texting early on to show how we could engage learners and then tied this activity to Bloom’s Taxonomy. I notice sometimes, when I introduce this, that shoulders sag and wry smiles are glanced at each other. But no matter – I like to think that I deliver it in a palatable way – I was a chef after all. Having fixed Bloom’s in the minds of my groups, I moved on to show how technology need not be a barrier to the delivery of higher order thinking skills. I did this by means of two simple odd-one-out exercises. The first had an easy answer but the second needed thought and discussion before coming to a conclusion. This works well as it allows the groups to become animated, talking to each other and working out (often wrong) answers. They all see/saw the point I’d tried to make and was able, once more, to tie-in the result into Blooms. (For those who’ve seen this: I’ve replaced Bush with Barak!)

We then went back to texting and to an exercise that required the group to evaluate a piece of Shakespeare (the two morning groups had to do the same with a newspaper article). The activity engaged the group at the higher levels of Blooms and I like to think that they understood that once again, the technology was by no means a barrier to the learning that took place. Hopefully they will realise that THEY are the experts in their teaching rooms and that as such it is their job (their skill) to make the learning as valuable and inclusive as possible. Simple thought and preparation are often enough on the one hand, but on the other, an understanding of the available tools is just as essential.

We addressed the current plethora of tools next by looking at various Web 2.0 facilities. The discussion around Web 2.0 (what it is and what it isn’t and what it might do and what it might not) was valuable and I think that each person took a better understanding of blogs/wikis; Web/Web2.0 away with them. They explored the various sites for around 20 minutes. Videojug and MoleTV were favourites of most vocational tutors with builders and hairdressers becoming quite animated at what they found on these sites. MoleTV was a big winner with the practical trades. Others found online Mind Mapping software useful. No one really looked at Flickr or YouTube, although one or two did investigate Delicious.

During two of the three sessions we were able to discuss how these web sites could be made to address our Blooms pyramid and on the third we looked at individual tool types (video camera, MP3 player etc,) and addressed these in the same way. I’m a big believer in going where the learner needs to go at that time and provided it fits my aims to roll with it. The time exploring Web 2.0 sites was very much an example of this. I’d planned a 15-minute session with 10-minute feedback and identification of pedagogical opportunities but the group were so animated and engaged I allowed them the full 25 minutes to explore. They were discussing use across the room anyway!

I thought that the day was a really useful one, with engaged learners throughout. I had prepared too much (as always) and struggled to fit everything in – in fact on two sessions I stopped well short and on the third, we adjusted the session to fit the room. Sadly, the room did not engender group work, which is what I’d planned. But that’s always a difficulty in colleges: computer rooms are for computering and non-computer rooms are designed for ‘stand and deliver’. We need to make more rooms (spaces?) available that offer the opportunity to blend learning activities. Two or three to a computer is not always a bad thing especially if the activity is well planned.

My room was also very very warm – so to the teacher I met at MoLeNET training last year but whose name I have forgotten :-() who loaned me his fan – I must say a hearty ‘thank you’. It was a real life saver. Thank you Gloucestershire College.

MALT Conference

It’s surprising, the things that you miss when you’re blogging – especially from a different country. And it’s not only blogging.

This morning I delivered four workshops at the MALT conference near Dobeles, 50km southwest of Riga. It was supposed to be one workshop, delivered four times under the title of ‘Gadgets and Gizmos’. I thought that calling it ‘m-Learning’ might be a step too far but delivering the basics of ‘m’ was my goal.

I’d set out with a basic plan and built upon that as I passed my time here talking to people and trying out the various services I could access. The first casualty was MMS: For whatever reason, T-Mobile’s partner over here refuses to handle my MMS (and my email via Outlook refuses to ‘send’ replies!). I tried each of the three available carriers – to no avail. I’d asked for ‘Internet’ provision in my workshop and therefore tried out my various connections via the hotel WiFi (which only works in the reception area) and these worked a treat. Upload pictures to Flickr via Wifi? – no problem. Stream video live to QIK? – no problem. However, the problem was (during the conference workshops) that there was no WiFi! There was internet, so I wasn’t completely stuffed, but WiFi has become something we’re beginning to take for granted. I miss it now, in my room where I’m writing this in Word (ready for cutting and pasting into Notepad before cutting and pasting into WordPress) because I’d like to visit a map of the region and add a few links to Dobeles. But never mind.

I’d made my mind up to show the Busbi videos, the Gyro Suite and Mobile Phone functions during my half hour sessions. In the end the Busbis went out the window because there just wasn’t time for the groups (approx 25-30 in each) to split up and play with them. I decided to use the Gyro keyboard and mouse to demonstrate basic interactivity with Word and with PPT. I passed the keyboard around and the filled in interactive boxes in PPT – but it was like a hot potato or a ticking bomb, they couldn’t wait to get rid of it. I decided to keep the mouse to myself and to show drag-n-drop techniques in Word. Both pieces of Office software are underused and it was a pleasure to see the participants discussing the potential.

With the Mobile Phone, we discussed texting (I’d tried to get them to text Lilian’s text wall during session one but there was a reluctance by most so I ditched it – just demonstrating the wall and discussing the potential for use), we discussed photos: I took one of each group and printed it on the Pogo Printer, which impressed them greatly. We discussed video and I showed them a QIK video I’d made the day before. We briefly looked at other functions and the opportunities a modern phone allowed for learning opportunities themselves to become mobile – not just the device. During three of the four workshops I’d demonstrated iPadio and the Spinvox function it now employs. I was quite impressed by the ease with which they got the point.

And then the bell rang. I used an online timer to tell me when 25 minutes were up and each time it rang, the queue outside the door had been there 2-3 minutes already. Hey ho. (Final evening and last day later …)

Latvia

So, now it’s Tuesday.

After another morning of boring meetings on Monday, I escaped to the city again. It really is a nice place, full of interesting old buildings, industrious, happy looking people and it’s clean!  I learned that Riga has apparently been chosen as the European city of culture for 2014 – so book your place now.

Whilst here in Latvia I’ve noticed many things and been told many things about the country’s history and some quite personal stories. Many living Latvians will struggle to remember the last time the country was free of occupation of one sort or another and many will have been brought up to adulthood under a Soviet Regime, but enough parents remembered the free time between the wars to help the country back to its feet after independence in 1991.
History sites:
http://www.balticsworldwide.com/tourist/latvia/history.htm
http://timelines.ws/countries/LATVIA.HTML
http://www.li.lv/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=26&Itemid=449
and finally:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1108059.stmnotice how Latvian history begins in 1918 for the BBC.

Talking to Latvians I’ve met has informed me of  slightly more personal story. Apparently, Lenin recruited Latvians for his ‘Praetorian Guard’ security team (this would need verifying) as they had the purist of socialist motives and beliefs. This can be contracted with the disdain with which ‘Stalinist’ buildings are regarded here. They make a distinction between what we might call ‘Soviet Bloc’ Blocks and Stalinist Buildings. The Soviet type is more worthy of rescue!

What other things have I noticed?

  • Taxi drivers are mad. I mean really mad, not just taxi driver mad. Mine wove in and out of traffic at speed as if he was weaving warp and weft together. (link – http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-warp-and-weft.htm)
  • The traffic lights are the only ones I’ve ever seen outside of England that work like ours. Red; Red + Amber; Green; Amber; Red. The ‘Green Man’ though, still works like the American version where drivers can still enter your crossing at 90 degrees and run you over (see Taxi driving above).
  • All staircases are dim at night! The hotel staircases have no lighting at night – but this morning, in full daylight – they had!
  • I actually found a Gent’s urinal that had headrests! Why?
  • Many of the autumn fields have old fashioned hay stacks – like Monet’s painting.
  • Most of the country is flat and the highest point is about 300 metres above sea level.

So there you go. Next post will be the conference (I think)

So, now it’s Tuesday. After another morning of boring meetings on Monday, I escaped to the city again. It really is a nice place. I learned that Riga has apparently been chosen as the European city of culture for 2014 – so book your place now.

http://www.bestriga.com/en/page/expanded/gpart/6/type/articlesnews/object/321

Whilst here in Latvia I’ve noticed many things and been told many things about the country’s history, some quite personal stories. Many living Latvians will struggle to remember the last time the country was free of occupation of one sort or another and many will have been brought up to adulthood under a Soviet Regime, but enough parents remembered the free time between the wars to help the country back to its feet after independence in 1991.

History sites:

http://www.balticsworldwide.com/tourist/latvia/history.htm

http://timelines.ws/countries/LATVIA.HTML

http://www.li.lv/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=26&Itemid=449

and finally:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1108059.stm – notice how Latvian history begins in 1918 for the BBC.

Talking to Latvians tells other, slightly more personal story. Apparently, Lenin recruited Latvians for his ‘Praetorian Guard’ security team (this would need verifying) as they had the purist of socialist motives and beliefs. This can be contracted with the disdain with which ‘Stalinist’ buildings are regarded here. They make a distinction between what we might call ‘Soviet Bloc’ Blocks and Stalinist Buildings. The Soviet type is more worthy of rescue!

What other things have I noticed?

· Taxi drivers are mad. I mean really mad, not just taxi driver mad. Mine wove in and out of traffic at speed as if he was weaving warp and weft together. (link – http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-warp-and-weft.htm)

· The traffic lights are the only ones I’ve ever seen outside of England that work like ours. Red; Red + Amber; Green; Amber; Red. The ‘Green Man’ though, still works like the American version where drivers can still enter your crossing at 90degrees.

· All staircases are dim at night! The hotel staircases have no lighting at night – but this morning, in full daylight – they had!

· I actually found a Gent’s urinal that had headrests! Why?

· Many of the autumn fields have old fashioned hay stacks – like Monet’s painting. http://www2.bc.edu/~dohertyp/web_site/images/monet-haystack2.jpg

· Most of the country is flat and the highest point is about 300 metres above sea leve.

So there you go.

Sunday in Riga

I finally got out yesterday afternoon (it’s Monday as I write this).

I’m here because I’ve been asked to deliver workshops on Tuesday at the MALT Conference being held at a University somewhere outside Riga. Also see https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/malt-project/ and the ensuing four posts. And – because my expenses are being covered by the project, I’m sitting through tedious meetings I only half understand. Nevertheless, I’m learning ‘stuff’ that might be useful in the future. But – I really wanted to see Riga while I was here – and in daylight.

So when we’d finished on Sunday, Brigita and Liesma (both Latvian) took Lorella (Italian) and me for a trip. We drove to what Brigita called the Jugenstil, and then we walked into the old town.

Riga is considered the world capital and metropolis of Art Nouveau (German: Jugenstil). The Riga ‘Jugendstil’ [DS – spelling corrected by German national!] is unique and distinct from its German cousin. No other city in the world has preserved so many fine examples of buildings made in this style that dominated art and architecture at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. Art Nouveau with its decorative elegance, curving lines and freedom of choice is regarded by many as the cream of architectural styles. More than 700 buildings or nearly 40% of all buildings in the very centre of today’s Riga are built in the Riga Art Nouveau style.’
[ http://acre.socsci.uva.nl/case-studies/riga.html ] also see …
http://latviasfriend.blogspot.com/2007/07/art-nouveau-jugenstil-in-riga.htm

A lot of refurbishment seems to have taken place over recent years and it really makes a visit to this area worthwhile. It’s beautiful. I think I’d like to come again in late Spring as it’s a bit cold right now. However, Riga looks wonderful as the leaves are still hanging colourfully from their branches and add a nice touch of autumn colour to the buildings and the town. The buildings are fabulous – something I’ve not been able to do justice to (via Flickr) because of the fading light, lack of elevation and (although excellent in every other way), the camera. Take a look at the dragons, the faces, the bodies, the shapes and the colours. Wonderful!

Riga is astride the banks of the Daugava [ http://www.riga-life.com/riga/river ] and a small waterway (the Pilsetas kanal) separates the old town from the wider Riga area. A park surrounds this waterway and it is crossed by many bridges: Luckily, this suits Latvian couples who wish to get married, as tradition demands that they ‘cross seven bridges’ together before arriving at the church. On the (presumably final – or first?) bridge, they signify their union by padlocking themselves together on the bridge! Someone must let them out because now, only the padlocks remain.

I’ll finish there for now and write a second ‘about Riga’ post later because this is getting a bit long now.

Daylight

Many thanks to the replies re: Schiphol – see below for details. Maybe it’s not as big as I thought!

So, I arrived – the plane was 30 minutes late but no matter, picking up luggage and finding a taxi was a breeze. I’d used a taxi company owned by Air Baltic, paid for a voucher online and this made it so much easier. Thank heavens for bijou airports. The airport is not too far from the city and it was an easy, but wet, journey to the hotel. I was met in the hall by colleagues and told that ‘we’ were going for dinner in 10 minutes – so whoosh, I dropped my bags in my room and returned to the lobby. What they meant to have said was “we’re hoping to go for dinner in 10 minutes” – others kept arriving so it was at least 45 minutes later before we went out.

But it was a great dinner, although served in a very busy but anachronistic setting.

It was cowboy time!

The restaurant was set up like a Wild West bar, complete with swing doors and leather tassel clad waitresses. It was a Latvian version of the Aberdeen Steak House but with a cowboy theme. My heart dropped. But – luckily it needn’t as the food was great. I had Baltic Herring Pieces (I think that the menu actually said ‘bits’). And why wouldn’t I? This fish is closely associated with Baltic/Scandinavian cuisine and I needed to try it. I was surprised by the nouvelle cuisine style service but pleased with the combination of flavours, textures and tastes. First of all the fish was not highly spiced or pickled – it was delicately sweet and only slightly sour and served with boiled potatoes and mildly pickled onion. Very nice – but made nicer by the available breads.  Apparently, black bread is a stable around here and there was plenty of that around. But the best one was a type of hard rye bread – not like pumpernickel but softer and whiter. It was stuffed with seeds, firm, slightly sweet and very very tasty. I followed this with an ‘El Buli’ steak (steaks are not my usual preference) which was perfectly cooked and also very tasty.

So that was day 1.

I’m posting this half way through day 2. I’ve been involved in a meeting all day and ‘hopefully’ I’ll get a chance to go out for a walk around Riga later this afternoon – before dark.

Schipol Comments were:

James Clay Says:
October 17, 2009 at 22:42 edit

Schipol Airport is 2,750 hectares.

King Fahd International Airport in Saudia Arabia is 78,000 hectares.

Heathrow is 1,214 hectares.

Bristol is 176 hectares.

AND

Lilian Says:
October 17, 2009 at 23:59 edit

Schipol is Europe’s 4th largest airport. And you know how you’re feeling like a fish out of water because you can’t do certain things online? I feel like that when I come back to England from Singapore and the taps don’t run automatically and the toilets don’t flush automatically etc. And as for train doors that you have to open from the outside…what’s that all about?