I’ve finally made a start on the historical research I mention in the last post – it’s not a huge piece of work, but it’s a start.


I’ve only drafted the ‘About’ page for now as I’m still considering the first post. This will hopefully set out where I hope to begin my research, where I hope to it will take me and why I want to know.

There’s nothing much to report on the work front.

I’m still waiting for something concrete to be arranged on the chance of part-time work at a local college and there is still a chance of working up some online webinar work with a friend, but most of summer has been work-free, apart from some online Functional Skills marking, which has been a godsend (and a delight).

Back to my research.

Photo hosting

picture of angler with huge fishI’ve had a Flickr account for several years now and I like the service so much that I have paid a little extra for the privilege since 2007.  I’ve also had a Photobucket account for about the same length of time, but I haven’t used that much. Mainly because I prefer Flickr’s interface and facilities.

I think that photo hosting sites like these two are essential in today’s online world. With both services, you can show your favourite pictures to anyone and everyone around the world. You can set access controls to individual images so that some can be totally public and some private to only selected viewers. For me the most useful facility is that I can insert pictures into my blog directly from Flickr/Photobucket. Both sites offer editing facilities – Flickr uses Picnik and Photobucket uses Fotoflexer, both of which are useful editing sites (I prefer Fotoflexer).

two chairs covered in snowHowever, Photobucket presents non-stop video advertising during the time you are uploading images and I find this intensely irritating. By comparison, I also have a different ‘free’ Flickr account where the adverts are far less intrusive, whilst on my main ‘paid’ Flickr account there are no adverts at all. I think that I prefer this option. By paying just a little over $47 every two years, I avoid all of the irritation of advertising (I even record T.V. programmes, so that I can fast forward through the adverts) and am not limited to the number of images I upload.

I don’t think that there’s a ‘pay for’ option on Photobucket.

Another service that puts Flickr in front for me is the fact that I can attach various levels of Creative Commons to my images and that I can search for similarly usefully copyright free(ish) images on the site.

150 Friends

How many friends do I have?

The question caused me to stop and think following a recent Facebook comment from Col Hawksworth as the answer appears to be 150!

150? Really, so many?

Well so Robin Dunbar has been suggesting since 1992. It’s a flexible number where Dunbar has set the more likely norm at 148, having extrapolated research into primates onto humans. Dunbar argued that …

…150 would be the mean group size only for communities with a very high incentive to remain together. For a group of this size to remain cohesive, Dunbar speculated that as much as 42% of the group’s time would have to be devoted to social grooming. From: http://bit.ly/vVKEqe

MMmmm. Now that I’ve read some of Dunbar’s work, maybe I do have 150 friends, especially online and in my wider field of work. Dunbar insists that his theories hold good even with burgeoning social networks like Facebook and Twitter – because 150 is the maximum number we can have some personal history with:

…there is a general relationship between the size of the brain and the size of the social group. We fit in a pattern. There are social circles beyond it and layers within – but there is a natural grouping of 150.

This is the number of people you can have a relationship with involving trust and obligation – there’s some personal history, not just names and faces. From: http://bit.ly/rrbyO4

To celebrate my birthday earlier this month, I invited some friends around to my home for pie and peas and as much to drink as they liked. I had to limit the numbers because the house would have been too full, but over twenty people attended and I could easily have invited another twenty – if there had been room. So that’s a third of all the people Dunbar suggests I could happily call friends. Around another thirty or so sent their best wishes via Facebook or Twitter and many others sent cards and/or texts. So I can go with the 150 (ish) number, now I’ve thought about it.

But the key is ‘personal history’. Only those with whom we have had personal history can be called friends. One friend (a true friend, even by his own statement) once said to me “you can never have more than a couple of friends Sugg! Everyone else is an acquaintance” and I ‘sort of’ went with that. His idea of a friend was someone who would drop everything to help if needed, someone you could/would confide in and someone you could rely on totally. I am lucky enough to have several friends like that and most of them came to my birthday party.

On the wider periphery of friendship, social network friendship especially, we have similar interactions don’t we?

When someone needs the answer to a question, or help with a cause we try to help in some way and if we can’t we re-tweet or ask other friends if they can help. Don’t we? Each of those social interactions deepens the trust and adds to the personal history Dunbar refers to.

Online, I have a number of ‘friends’ I’ve never met and in those cases, ‘friend’ is perhaps an ill chosen term – ‘acquaintance’ might be better. Nevertheless, some of those non-met friends have helped me online and I have helped them (not necessarily the same person tit-for-tat you understand) and they thus begin to form the outer edges of Dunbar’s Number.

Thanks Col 😉

Also see:




Testing Scribd

I’ve just come across a site called http://www.scribd.com, whilst looking up some nonsense doggerel on the ‘net. I found what I was looking for but wondered why the entire book (too shamed to say what the book is/was) was there on line. I suspect that like YouTube, everything anyone can be bothered uploading will be there until the copyright police get around to checking.

However, what I found intriguing was the fact that I could upload my own documents and have them turned in to web paper (!!!) The way I see it online is very much the same way that I see files on Slideshare.

So I uploaded an old document and am trying to show it here (they even provide a WordPress embed code! – which works!)

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. http://mindmug.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/reasons-to-be-cheerful-part-iii/) 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.