Misleading Food Labels (again 2)

How do they get away with it? Here is another example of a misleading food label, this time by Heinz (although bought in Tesco). Original Salad Cream

I like mayonnaise, but not the mass produced gloop we find in supermarkets and especially not the low-fat (or worse, super low fat ‘light’) versions to be seen on the shelves. However, like most of us I do have to be careful about the amount of fat I eat as it really isn’t good for my health. So, as I don’t dislike salad cream, I often choose to use my childhood favourite instead of Mayo. Some people get quite snobby about salad cream but I’m prepared to accept the ridicule. I prefer it to mass-produced Mayo!

Fat is an essential ingredient in our diet, but not one we can afford to overdo as Mayonnaise contains over 80% fat! If you think that the ingredients are mustard powder, salt and pepper, vinegar, egg yolks (fatty) and Oil – you can see how this comes about. I also worry about what else manufacturers put into products like this, especially those that can be made at home. How on earth do they make ‘low-fat’ Mayonnaise? surely that’s a contradiction in terms.

So before I continue my rant, let’s investigate the fat content of low fat (sic) Mayonnaises. All the products on this page range between 3.6g and 5.6g of fat per 15g portion. On the same page, we see one product that has 1g of fat per 15g portion. However this one does bear the following summary:

With it’s eerie, blancmange-like appearance and complete lack of flavour our panel were shocked to discover this had come from the big name player: Hellmann’s. Some were left wondering “What’s the point?”

So, proper mayonnaise contains over 80% fat and the pretend, chemically enhanced, (Low fatmayonnaise products contain starches, cellulose gel, or other ingredients to simulate the texture of real mayonnaise) stuff ranges between 25% and 30% – yet (here it comes) Heinz choose to advertise their product as 66% LESS FAT, which in fact turns out to be exactly the same fat content (see alongside) as low fat Mayonnaise.

Wouldn’t it be fairer and less misleading if they said ‘has the same fat content as low-fat Mayonnaise’ – or – ‘more flavour with no extra fat’ – or – anything that doesn’t require the punter to have a degree in Maths.

The site I’ve linked to above makes the same mistake (legally) of stating a portion size with resulting nutritional content, so to find out what the percentage is you have to do some working out.

I much prefer the ‘per 100g’ version of nutritional awareness (see alongside), because anything you then read is a percentage: e.g. 26% fat in Salad Cream and most low-fat Mayos. That way, I can make my own choice of portion size. The manufacturers’ portion size is always arbitrary. How many of us can recognise the size of a 15g portion? It’s actually about a Tablespoon full – but it that heaped? or level? How would you know?

See also:




How big is the web?

It never fails to surprise me how much bigger the web has got every time I look at it.

I use the web for all sorts of things, but mostly to see how its many features might help learners to learn and teachers to teach. I try to work from a position of ‘what is it about THIS site that can/could/will enhance the learning process?’ I deliver workshops that underpin this basic use, but at some point during each workshop, I tend to realise that there is such a lot more that could be effectively used. This week’s workshop in Fareham, for the RSC-SE was no exception.

Over summer, I’d been commissioned to build a Web 2.0 Moodle ‘course’ that informed practitioners and managers about the benefits that Web 2.0 could bring. This had been a huge undertaking, which resulted in five Moodle sites, each one dealing with a different aspect of basic use. As far as I know, this course, and others built over the summer, are being launched at the JISC Advance RSC-SE ‘e’ Fair.

My Fareham workshop had been arranged to introduce the Moodle sites and to try out the staff development exercises that each course possesses. The five pages had evolved as I began to map out exactly what we could do with Web 2.0. Throughout my development, I tried to underpin the course with three core Web 2.0 uses: communication, collaboration and sharing. With these three as my bedrock, I expanded into five main themes: Web 2.0 overview; Blogs, Wikis and Microblogs; Creation; Storage; Social Networking. Each section of the site contains information, advice, lists of sites and services and case studies. Some features, such as Xtranormal and Screenr, are modelled as a matter of course.

I’m really proud of the work and hope that the sites are successfully employed all over the south-east. My remit was to make the course downloadable by institutions, and as a result there is no built-in requirement to use forums etc., or any form of assessment, as these would need to be set up locally. Nevertheless, even as they stand, the five pages are a powerful collection of Web 2.0 I.A.G.

So, back to Fareham: I had to combine ‘storage’ and ‘creation’ as each of these is a huge subject and needs more time to complete than we had available. This, the third session of the day, was less successful then it could have been due to difficulties with the Internet connection but it wasn’t until the final session, Social Networking, that it occurred to me that rather than modelling the Moodle staff development activities, we could have done more exploration of what’s out there and discussed usage. To fill in time lost earlier, I showed iPadio and Screenr to the group and was immediately blasted with lots of ideas for use (whereas creating media and uploading to YouTube and Flickr had not rung any bells).

And there hangs my question: what else could I have demonstrated? What else would have rung their bells and got them excited about Web 2.0 use, whether it be storage, creation or whatever?

What might I have missed when building the Moodle course?

Cinderella Experts

This has been a comparatively busy week. A weeks of highs and lows.

The low was at a college I visited, where they’d spent £900+ on some software that came on a WinMob device (x 10 units = circa £10,000) but hadn’t been able to deploy the tools yet, despite having had two lots of training. Summer curtailed the first effort and an OfSTED visit curtailed the second. All is set up now to begin deploying straight after half term, fingers crossed.

The software allows a teacher to set up a graphical interface which learners can then follow – ideal for some autistics and those needing reminders of and instructions for various tasks. I can’t name the software, that would be unfair, but the tutor involved was gutted when I showed her what we could do now with an iPod Touch (current version or previous).

I showed her iConverse, which is a tool designed for young children and learners with communicative disabilities and toddler-aged children who have yet to master language. £5.99 on iTunes. She saw that it could pretty much do the job needed and with iPod Touches running at less than £200 they could have had five times as many units to play with – and with hardly any training required. The same devices could also have run the SpeakIt App which allows words to be typed in to it (or cut and pasted in) to be read out aloud. £1.99. And then of course there are all the useful FREE Apps that would make the purchase worthwhile. But now they know. Now YOU know.

I also attended the JISC e-Ped Experts meeting in Birmingham on Wednesday.

I’ve not been able to attend any of these periodic meetings for a while now, but the current scarcity of work allowed me to attend this week’s. And although I have nothing to do with any of the projects which were being reported on I thoroughly enjoyed the day. The people I met made the day for me – networking is one of the real benefits of get togethers like this.

These JISC led ‘experts’ meetings have always been good, a great chance to share information and to comment on the work of others but there was a time when I felt I was attending a dinner to which I’d not been invited. Not much has changed I’m afraid. None of JISC’s project money has gone to F.E. in England for quite a number of years now – through no fault of those working in F.E, just some political machinations. Actually, I mislead my readers as some money has gone to F.E: if they teach H.E. to more than 400 FTEs and if those 400 directly benefit, there has been the chance of funding. Still, there has been no real financial imperative to foment innovation and its spread across F.E.

That sounds like sour grapes, and I suppose it is, but as I sat and listened to some interesting and exciting new initiatives (we did have a little debate on Twitter about what ‘innovation’ was, so I’ll avoid that word if I can) but all of them were from H.E. and yet all of them had been done and are still being done in F.E. Sadly there’s no platform to shout out about these successes. Very often the tutor doing that inventive work is doing so in a silo and getting little if any support from the institution itself (even less now that there will be 25% cuts across the board). Why doesn’t Sandra get the chance to show what she’s doing with Nintendos, or Gill what she’s doing with PSPs? Why has Paul’s use of memory cards gone unsung? Jonathan’s great work with GPS and special needs learners? Is it that their work isn’t well regarded or is it just because they don’t have a platform to shout from any more?

Hopefully, the drive to be more efficient across public sectors will help funders to realise that F.E. cannot be left out in the cold like this, there is too much for everyone else (especially in H.E.) to lose by not taking note of the ‘innovations’ which are being trialled and then discarded or embedded in a whole variety of sub-H.E. subject areas.

It was great to see many old friends in Birmingham; the old Ferl team seemed to be there in force – in different guises these days, but there nevertheless. Many friends from the various RSCs too, I renewed my acquaintance with Paul Richardson, with Shri, with Cam and although no longer with RSC, with Helen. It was great to hear Ron talking about Xerte again, I learn something new from him every time he speaks. I’d like to have had more time to speak with Geoff Rebbeck, we keep seeing each other but saying nothing more than hello. And finally, it was sad that Sarah Knight couldn’t make it to the meeting, I’d so looked forward to seeing her again. Sarah is the backbone of all these meetings and the person who holds it all together.

I hope you’re feeling much better now Sarah xx.

House for Sale

I live in one of the most beautiful parts of Huddersfield.  Of course that’s a personal and subjective view; yet within seconds I can cross the road and be walking in the countryside. And what a countryside it is.

I live ‘up’ the Colne Valley (we rarely say ‘in’ the Colne Valley), which still bears much evidence of its historical role in the wealth of Great Britain. The A62 trunk road from Huddersfield to Manchester runs along the valley, formerly one of the great Trans-Pennine arteries, often closed in winter, but now superseded by the M62 some miles to the north west. Following the same route from Yorkshire to Lancashire are the twin industrial revolution lifelines, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Trans-Pennine railway with two stations, at Slaithwaite and Marsden, serving the valley itself.

The Colne Valley is where Thomas Armstrong chose to set his fictional family history, The Crowthers of Bankdam, which detailed the explosion of industrial change in the Yorkshire woollen district: Huddersfield and Ramsfield are hardly distinguishable from each other. Even Kit Ormerod, in Armstrong’s powerful King Cotton, paid a visit.

So, given the cracking location – why can’t I sell my house?

It’s been for sale since Easter now and we’ve had just two viewings. The estate agents say it’s not the price and although they suggest that the market is slow, they cannot fathom why we’re getting so few visits. I know also that many people are worried about next week’s spending review and how that will affect their jobs but my work is already affected (i.e. I have very little) and a four bedroomed house is getting a bit too big for just two of us.

House for sale.

Estate Agent.

Rant over 🙂

FERL etc.

I recently read this blog post by Col Hawksworth: Afterglow.

In it Col expressed his frustration that just as he felt things were beginning, things were actually ending.  He saw the dying embers of investment in e-Learning across the wider F.E. Sector.

I know how he feels.

Several years ago when I was the college ILT (and then e-Learning) manager, I had the opportunity to attend quite a number of ‘e’ focused meetings and committees which aimed to support the take up and use of good ILT practice across the sector. Many of these were formulated by the superb FERL team working out of Becta. (e.g. The Ferl Practitioner’s Programme, Preparing for Inspection etc.). Then, about the time of and following Becta’s decision to become more strategic (which hasn’t seemed to do them much good in the long term) the FERL team disipated. Some stayed on and carried on the good work as best they could but many moved onto other areas and continue to ensure that ‘e’ is pedagogically embedded as well as possible. Remnants of the FERL team can be found in all walks of UK ‘e’ life. Just look closely.

For a period until about five years ago, there was an annual FERL Conference and no matter which Becta imposed political title the FERL conference bore, those attending relished every minute. And it wasn’t just the workshops that caused the enjoyment (even though at that time they were introducing a whole host of new and exciting tools, tips and techniques), it was the delegates themselves. Each person had a tale to tell and I for one enjoyed every tale I heard. Those war stories were in pre-Twitter and Facebook days and our community of practice (COP) continued (continues) on the ILT Champions mailing list, which  must be one of the more enduring and successful JISC mailing lists ever.  Many thanks are due to Rob Englebright for holding this together.

Now, like Col Hawksworth, I always felt a sense of sadness when those meetings and conferences broke up. This was because I knew (it was my belief) that we ‘the COP’ knew what was needed to embed ‘e’ and change institutional practice and not the Quangos, to whom the Government went for advice about funding. And I knew, in my heart, that nothing would change. And so, capital money was thrown at the sector, lots of it – but little or no ring-fenced revenue to support staff development.

Over the last six years, one shining light of ILT staff development has been the NIACE led e-Guides programme, which has always received tremendous feedback. More recently this has been funded by LSIS and been seen to complement the eCPD programme which they also funded.  Both programmes, like MoLeNET have been hugely successful and had begun to change the hearts and minds (the culture?) of staff rooms. The eCPD programme had begun to change the culture across wider areas of institutions. Because, we must not forget that ‘culture’ is not a single entity, it manifests itself in many ways; so much so that ‘culture change’ will always require vision and flexibility.

However, all of these programmes have now foundered on the rocks of low investment in staff skills.

As I commented on Col’s blog:

“I hope you come though this and use whatever means you can to disseminate and spread news of the excellent works you have done at Birkenhead 6th Form College. As you suggest (I think) there should be no cut off point and good practice should be allowed to flourish.

Time has proved that my own post-conference feelings (2002-2005 ish) were truly misplaced. Whereas my fears were that nothing would ever happen due to changes in Government priorities and a general failure to understand F.E. (by the Gov), they were wrong. People made the necessary changes happen. The early adopters and innovators (the original Champions and Mentors) are still out there and have worked long and hard to embed the ‘e’ we see being used in such a wide variety of ways today. They should be saluted because without their tenacity both in-post and as they moved on, have made the programmes we now see closing, a reality.

You [must] now take up the mantel and shout out VERY loudly. Keep blogging, keep tweeting and most of all keep up the good work.”

Social Avatars

This is me before the ghostly washoutI’ve been thinking a lot recently about the way in which people represent themselves online. I’ve been specifically interested in the avatars people use on sites like Twitter.

My first Twitter avatar was a pair of green bowling shoes with red toes. I must have used that one for over a year. Then for no reason whatsoever, I changed it to a ‘crop’ from a photo I had of a robin on a power line. The ‘crop’ showed a magnificent winter-blue sky with the tiny dot of a bird mid-lower-right third of the image. I used this for over a year before changing, this time on purpose, to a disguised ghostly image of me. This change received some negative comment, as did the next slightly disguised picture of me with a halo effect.

So I’m now back with the robin. What have I learned/observed during this experimentation with avatars?

I think we all develop a virtual representation of ourselves that becomes an online reality. By tampering with my visual representation, no matter how tiny it is, I upset the equilibrium with which ‘followers’ and/or ‘friends (used in Twitter/Facebook terms) view me. A friend who has seen me deliver workshops and met me on many occasions socially and professionally had been upset that the ghostly washout did not represent the colourful me. Another friend suggested that the halo image was portrayed to her as an old granny (doing her knitting?). Both examples of comment were true. The ‘washout’ did not work as a representation of my work and/or character and the ‘halo’ did indeed look like a granny doing some crochet work! The impersonal images of bowling shoes and robin elicited no comment whatsoever.

granny effectThis leads me to believe that we look for true representations of someone in a photographic avatar and where the person is known by us socially and/or professionally, we feel personally slighted when that image does not represent the person we know. A non-human representation does not evoke the same response.

I’d also felt a slight discomfort when colleagues and friends changed their avatars too, but I wasn’t sure why. I was not surprised therefore when James Clay said (when we last met) that he was fed up with people changing their avatars.  My ears pricked up and I asked him why. He suggested that it isn’t as easy to identify a ‘tweet’ if you’re scanning through the (whichever) interface to read items of interest. And it suddenly occurred to me that that’s why I had the discomfort.

ghostly washoutWhen we become regular Twitterers (is there such a word?) we have to learn that we cannot read everything – no matter how many people we follow. We have to treat the stream of ‘tweets’ just like we would view a stream. A stream flows, it passes by us: that’s it. Therefore recognising the tweets of our favourite tweeters (I’ll look back on this one day and say “WHAAAT?) is done quickly by eye and we learn to recognise that person’s avatar.

Discomfort is caused when our avatars change, so to anyone thinking they should change their avatar – think twice.

Thank you to everyone who commented on my avatars while I was in the experimentation stage. Please do not be offended that I have changed back or that I have not specifically mentioned you here. And please be assured that I was not offended in any way or at any time. I suspect that I will re-visit this one day as I really do find it an interesting subject closely allied to human computer interaction.