Moving house

I used to tell my students to never let themselves age. I advised them to retain their enthusiasm and to always remain young at heart.  To be adventurous, to be safe but overall to consider others. I thought that that was good advice – I still do.

Our brains don’t really get old but illnesses apart [e.g.] they do mature. My own brain thinks that I am every age I’ve ever been and at heart, I’m still a young, enthusiastic, adventurous man. My body though, has a mind of its own. I suspect that this is natural; minds and bodies rarely understand each other. And, we rarely talk about it.

I touched on this briefly before [] but recent weeks have been a real reminder that I am not in my mid twenties, which my brain is apt to believe, but further away from the wrong side of 50 than I’d care to admit. I’ve spent quite some time these last few weeks packing up my ‘office’ stuff (ready to convert the room back into a bedroom) and my elbows have told me, repeatedly, that I should stop. My brain reasons that ‘it’s only a few boxes – don’t worry’.

Sharon and Gail have packed up quite a bit more of the house and today [I drafted this a couple of weeks ago] has been the day to remove this clutter (where does it all come from?) to storage, in preparation for staging the house for sale. John Rousell kindly offered to help and we managed the task reasonably simply this morning.

But despite having help and despite it only being ‘clutter’ (John and I have always helped each other – and others – to move house) my joints are taking great pains (literally) to remind me that I am not the twenty one year old my brain insists that I am.

Yet, despite these signs of age, I can think more clearly than I ever could; I believe that I am able to reason, teach, train, address and debate better than I ever could.  How does that happen? Why must our bodies have (ha ha) minds of their own? ;-(

Strange Times

Strange times indeed. For some people, academic Easter holidays have already started and for others, there’s another week to go. For me, it is a particularly slack period which is being filled with unusual activities. For example, I’m writing this while I wait for the Skype call to come though from Kevin Brennan in New Zealand. Kev asked if I would talk to a catering conference which is taking place at his university. For him, it’s already Saturday morning and they are about to kick-off. For me, it’s approaching 8.30pm on Friday and I’m talking until 10.00pm (ish).

The slackness has come from the fact that much of my work is LSC funded and there has been a mad rush to get it finished and invoiced before the end of March (more accurately I suspect; before the Easter holidays). I have some residual work with MoLeNET and the RSC-YH but other than that, until things settle – who knows?

I say when things settle because the election that is looming is likely to bring about big changes to the way non compulsory education is funded. The recent budget has just toyed with things but I suspect that whatever flavour of government we have, the big savings will have to be seen to be made over the next five years – they are just not telling us yet.

Already, previous employers are talking about putting hugely successful course online and un-facilitated (see my previous post); colleges are nervous about their financial situation, quite a few are talking about shedding staff already – so despite apparent upturns in the economy, things have still to change.

So other than New Zealand? Well, I have a conference call with a contact in the middle east next week, to discuss e-Learning in the UK: I have a couple of days work in April, supporting a European project delivery and I have the best part of a week in May/June in Vienna doing likewise.

Unusual times.

The future of learning (Fofo?)

I’ve attended a few project review meetings recently and am disappointed, to say the least, with what the future might hold for learners. Although the changes might affect me and the work I do, I’m trying to write this objectively with real concern for teachers and trainers and their ongoing eCPD.

First of all, the projects I’m taking about have all been successful, both quantitatively and (especially) qualitatively. In each case those who have attended the courses, all of which this year have had a blended learning approach, have been enthused and have begun the process of cascading their enthusiasm to colleagues.

But the job isn’t over. Although there are bright, committed, even innovative colleagues out there in the wider F.E. sector (e.g. there are many more that haven’t yet ‘seen the light’.

This is recognised by the fact that funding has been discussed for post-March 2010. But funding which has been reduced so much that only online activities can be supported. Purely online: no element of face to face. Fofo – find out for oneself (or similar!)

Now, we all know that hard times are in front of us and we all understand why funding is being cut (we don’t get the chance to agree with it but there you go) but it’s how the cuts are being implemented that I question.

I’ve yet to read any research which suggests that online learning is better than face to face or blended learning. Learners faced with online (purely online, no support, no guidance) need to be motivated, committed and driven – things we often don’t have time to be, especially at times like this where teaching hours are being increased and colleagues are being made redundant. Learners need learners. Human beings need human contact. Blended learning works – it’s as simple as that.

Even the OU recognise this and they are dealing with highly motivated learners [see first comment].

It would be a travesty to put ANY of the courses I am talking about online and to give them the name they currently hold. It would demean the work and commitment previous learners have shown to the courses. Put them online by all means – but give them a different name, because THEY ARE different. And don’t expect miracles.

Adding Windows to a MacBook Pro

Subtitle: MacBook Pro 4

At Christmas, I began to install Windows onto my MacBook Pro.

I’d bought Parallels Desktop 5 earlier in the month and set myself up to carry out the installation. Being a chef at heart and a user of technology, I liken my ability to carry out technical computer tasks to a good driver not knowing or caring how the car works: fill it up, check all levels – drive away. So I left myself the entire holiday period to go through the installation. I’d guessed (rightly) that this wouldn’t be a simple put it in > click go > installation.

The guy I spoke to at Apple said that I could easily ‘migrate’ my Windows computer lock, stock and barrel, and the Parallels installation literature didn’t shake that belief. But that didn’t happen. To cut a long, frustrating story short; the migration cannot be completed if your Windows computer (lock, stock or no barrel) has OEM software installed. Hey ho. Time to move on.

My idea has been to just carry one laptop with me wherever I go. Most of my training work is with Windows based products but the machines I own, which run Windows are not as reliable as the MacBook Pro. And of course, Windows takes an age to get itself going on a morning. By having Windows working through Parallels, I’d hoped to solve that problem.

Anyway – time passed (I was too busy to be bothered) and I managed to get a (what turned out to be dodgy) copy of Windows XP. Of course, you cannot buy XP anymore and support for it finishes this year; but that’s the version I wanted. So I deleted my part-migrated version and started from scratch. This went OK until I got to the Microsoft Validation page. Oh-no, I’m caught bang to rights. But for £95 I could purchase a validation code. So I did that and away I went.

XP loaded easily after being given a kosher validation code, then I had to go and find the various service packs. It took me back a fair bit to see Windows Movie Maker in its original (pretty bleak) clothing and to then see it as it should be – well dressed and ‘cool’. It all took a while (luckily I was able to do this whilst working on another machine and just clicking ‘go’ every now and again).

  • I downloaded Cam Studio easily enough and it worked (yippee).
  • I downloaded Photo Story 3 and it didn’t work until ….
  • I downloaded Windows Media Player 10 (I hadn’t planned this but PS3 needed it)
  • I downloaded AVG (although I wasn’t sure I needed it – I did!)

So now, all being well I can have a laptop that works when I want it to, as well as a laptop that can do Windows-based stuff – all in one machine! But do I need to install Office 2003 (which I have) or just cope with my Mac version of Office 2008 … Perhaps I need to check and see how the clever interactive stuff works (which doesn’t normally work in Apple!)