Anyway up!

Jingoism aside, this summer has seen a real celebration of all things ‘Great Britain’.

The world’s attention has been drawn to the celebration of our Queen’s 60th Anniversary, the Olympic Games and now, the Paralympic Games.

One of the strongest symbols of Great Britain is our flag – the Union Flag (I think we’re allowed to call it the Union Jack again – but can’t be sure), which has fluttered across the country and on television sets across the world for months now. It is a distinctive flag, often seen included as part of other country’s flags: e.g. Australia, New Zealand.

But it’s often upside down! I don’t really want to nit-pick, but well, here I go …

See for a nice illustration and explanation of the ‘right way up’ and the ‘wrong way up’.

How do people learn which way up is correct these days?

When I was younger, I was in the (wolf!) cubs and (boy!) scouts, and we were taught that sort of thing. We were taught a lot of other ‘stuff’ too, much of it useless today, but quite a bit of the ‘stuff’ has been life forming. The flag issue was just one of those things that stuck. I don’t remember being taught about the flag (as such) at school, but we were sort of just expected to know. Many of my teachers were ex-service personnel, it being the time of compulsory national service, so perhaps they just thought we would know.

Sharon, who spent her formative years at school in America, hadn’t a clue there was a right way and a wrong way. I’m sure that many young people these days don’t know either.

But there is a wrong way; and it’s jarring to see it hoisted, printed, hung or displayed wrongly. The various websites I’ve seen (more than those listed) suggest that besides being disrespectful, hanging the flag upside down is illegal. I wouldn’t know about that, there are many more issues far more worthy of prosecution, but … well, I’m just saying.

Also see:

Jess and Jack

Last week I found myself in Glasgow hosting a stand on behalf of JISC TechDis at the RSC Scotland ‘Here Be Dragons‘ summer fair.

It was good to get back out on the road again and to meet friends old and new. It’s been a while since I was in Scotland to work, and therefore great to catch up with members of the RSC Scotland team.

This was the first of five RSC summer fairs I will be attending this month.

TechDis have recently launched two major new tools, which are aimed at improving the online lives of a significant range of people, not just learners. Although ‘Voices‘ can only be accessed by post 16 learners in England, ‘Toolbox‘ can be accessed via an open site. Other new tools, similarly sponsored by BIS are also planned for release in 2013 and it was my role to discuss all of these initiatives with callers at the stand.

I will concentrate this blog post on Voices.

The TechDis voices are two high-quality, youthful and modern voices (Jack and Jess) that can be used with text-to-speech (TTS) tools. Across England, staff and learners in higher education institutions and further education colleges as well as the skills, adult and lifelong learning sectors will have access to these voices.From:

Many of us will have heard the robotic voices installed on our computers and shied away from using them ourselves, but many computer users can and do benefit from text-to-speech facilities. Jack and Jess have been developed to make listening to computer generated speech that little bit easier. Go to Control Panel > Ease of Access > Ease of Access Center (in Win 7) and ‘click’ Start Narrator to hear the robotic Microsoft Mary. Previous versions of Windows and other operating systems present similarly dire voices.

Now go and download the new TechDis voices to hear what good quality voices CAN sound like.

Jack and Jess are available for both Windows and Mac machines. They work with the computers own facilities as well as freely available text-to-speech software like Balabolka and DSpeech, both of which have featured on either AccessApps or MyStudyBar.

If you’d like to know more, visit the TechDis site, or pop along and see me in Leeds [13th June], Taunton [14th June], London [27th June] and Sunderland (I think) on 3rd July. You’ll find more details on the respective JISC RSC web sites.