Archive for March, 2013

Larvae Jewellers!

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Larvae Jewellers!

I saw an article on Fawn Review that really amazed me today!
The contemporary French artist Hubert Duprat was aware that larvae built protective cases around themselves using materials from their natural environment. His curiosity about the potentialities of that lead him deprive the larvae of all resources except for gems, jewels, pearls and gold. The resultant images show that the insects not only adapted to these materials but created incredibly beautiful trinkets.

So…linking this amazing art back to education.. do our pupils only make their educational ‘cases’ from the knowledge, skills, and opportunities we lay out for them, just as these larvae made their cases from the jewels set out by the artist?…I actually just loved this artwork but maybe it is all symbolic of our role as teachers too??
Comments welcome 🙂

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The Most Sexist Gadget I’ve Ever Seen

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

The Most Sexist Gadget I've Ever Seen

I’ve been thinking about getting a new tablet, but I certainly haven’t been thinking about something as stereotypically nasty as the ePad Femme.

Sounds like a feminine hygeine product? Check. Has a pretty pink background? Check- well, isn’t that every girl’s favourite colour?
Don’t worry, ladies, there are preinstalled apps for Yoga, Shopping Lists, and Recipes, so you can keep in shape for your man and make sure there’s a nice home cooked meal on the table for him when he gets home.

Yes, I’m being completely serious- the Middle East-based Eurostar Group has made the ePad Femme exclusively for women. Due for release later this year, it will retail for about $190… But to be honest, I don’t think I’ll be buying one.

Any comments welcome as always 🙂

Leap Motion

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Leap Motion

After reviewing the MYO Gesture control wristband earlier in my blog, I thought I’d have a look what else is cropping up in the same market this year- I found ‘Leap Motion’.
Gesture control on a tablet has been around for years, but this small device takes it to a new level. Leap Motion sits next to your computer and can detect your hand movements with an accuracy of 1/100 of a mm. Without touching your screen, you can flip through photos or reach into a 3D diagram and manipulate objects.
For business users, the implication could be as simple as this: a way to answer the phone or give a presentation with just a flick of the hand, but for teachers like me, could prove a much easier way of controlling the interactive whiteboard! I want one!

The Future is..Bendy?!

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

The Future is..Bendy?!

Another day, another review of a gadget. This time, I’ve been discussing with friends the PaperTab (see photo)- the world’s first ‘paper tablet PC’. With the black and white easy-read screen (think Kindle/Kobo eReader) PaperTab looks to combine the tangibility of paper with the speed and convenience of digital.

The key difference between the PaperTab and an iPad is that each display is essentially one app. By limiting a single app to each PaperTab, users can do things like share PDFs just by tapping two tablets together, fast-forward during a video by bending the display, and opening emails by touching two displays together.

However, not quite as peachy as it seems, the PaperTab runs from a computer underneath the desk (see the leads plugged into the PaperTab in the photo)..but if this is perhaps a glimpse of things to come, I wonder if the future is-indeed- bendy?

Thoughts welcome as always!

Gesture Control in the Classroom

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Gesture Control in the Classroom

So I have been looking at a new gadget due to be released later this year; ‘MYO’, produced by Canadian developers Thalmic Labs.
Apparently it will be the end of camera sensor control (think of EyeToy/ the Wii/ Dance Party games), as this one-size-fits-all wristband will offer the wearer the chance to control their Android device/MAC/ Windows PC and smartboard/interactive screen simply by moving their hand.

The developers claim you can control presentations, video, content, games, browse the web, create music, edit videos, and much more.
So how does it work? The MYO uses Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to communicate with the devices it is paired with. The MYO detects gestures and movements in two ways: 1) muscle activity, and 2) motion sensing. When sensing the muscle movements of the user, the MYO can detect changes down to each individual finger. Developers claim that when tracking the position of the arm and hand, the MYO can detect subtle movements and rotations in all directions.

The MYO is a apparently a whole new way to interact with technology. But will it catch on?
Due for release later this year at trial price of 149$, I guess time will tell.

Transformational Leadership

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Transformational Leadership

I believe that being a leader means that although you need to guide others, and take charge in a formal no-nonsense way when needed, a key part of that leadership should show your staff how to also take control and become leaders of their own professional development and curricular areas. Bass defines a good transformational leader as someone who ‘recognizes the transactional needs in potential followers’ but tends to go further, seeking to ‘arouse and satisfy higher needs, to engage the full person of the follower … to a higher level of need according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ (Bass, 1985, p.230).
Transformational leadership is often intertwined with ‘capacity building’. The theoretical study by Hopkins and Jackson (2003) discusses the ‘heart of capacity’, referring to helping staff reach their capacity by distributing leadership roles and opportunities amongst them, as having four components; two of these components are chiefly ‘social capital and cohesion- trust’ and ‘values coherence and moral agency’, which implies that all staff are working towards the same goals with a clear moral purpose.
I believe that transformational leadership is a type of leadership style that leads to positive changes in those who follow, as they are involved in the processes and changes that take place, but are also ‘focused on helping every member of the group succeed as well’ (Cherry, 2005, p.1). Nothouse concurs with Cherry that transformational leadership is when the leader engages with the staff and ‘creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower’ (Nothouse, 2010, p.172). This relationship is clear when walking into the staff room at my school; the head teacher inspires his staff by respecting each member’s strengths and weaknesses, and encouraging each person to better themselves through training and taking risks.
I wonder; is transformation leadership something you believe your managers employ? Would you classify yourself as a transformational leader? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
References:
Bass, B. M. (1985) Leadership and Performance. New York: Free Press
Cherry, K. (2005) Transformational Leadership: What Is Transformational Leadership? Available at http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/a/transformational.htm
Nothouse, P.G. (2010) Leadership: Theory and Practice, Fifth Edition. London: Sage Publications

Utopia v Dystopia

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Utopia v Dystopia

From the day he was born, my iToddler enjoyed watching Baby Einstein DVDs about colours and shapes, enjoyed the ‘Talking Tom’ cat Android app repeating his parents’ voices back in a high-pitched manner, and now loves dancing along to Nursery Rhymes streaming on YouTube. Is he being raised in a ‘digital culture’? Without a doubt.

The most interesting issue raised for me by the EDC MOOC was that of utopia versus dystopia: Francis Fukuyama’s ideology, that human nature and human ways of being are under threat by scientific and technological advances, is one that I have enjoyed debating via Twitter over recent weeks.
Fukuyama is best known as the author of The End of History and the Last Man (1992), in which he argued that the progression of human history as a struggle between ideologies is largely at an end, with the world settling on liberal democracy after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Fukuyama predicted the eventual global triumph of political and economic liberalism, warning that our human ways of being are threatened by technology as it undermines the basis of our commitment to humanist ideas which underlie many educational philosophies and approaches to practice, such as equality, freedom and autonomy.

Is the ever-embeddedness of technology in our lives really such a bad thing? Is it as ‘dangerous’ as Fukuyama fears? I don’t believe that technology undermines who we are, but in fact enhances us and allows us to explain and express ourselves in ways never before possible, connecting us to others and making our everyday lives.

I do not yet know how my son’s iChildhood will turn out. No doubt the iPads and laptops at his future nursery will equip him with IT skills that people of my generation fought to learn in the first years of Secondary school. But these IT skills will, in my opinion, prepare him for a future in an ever-evolving digital world, where his future job will no doubt involve some- if not all- digital input.

Isn’t achieving ‘equality, freedom and autonomy’ easier with these skills and devices? I would dispute Fukuyama’s dystopian ideas with those of a utopian, united future where technology provides access to information, enabling us, and re-asserting who we are- being human is using technology. If we are fortunate to live in a society where such digital delights are available, should we not share them and introduce them to our young? Perhaps many technologies now do go ‘unnoticed’ in our everyday lives, but wouldn’t you let your toddler play on your iPhone if it made them laugh…?

Personally, I see nothing but positive changes ahead in Education as we continue to enhance our teaching and learning with digital devices, and I very much look forward to watching my toddler grow up in our digital utopian world.

Reference:
Fukuyama, F. (1992) The End of History and the Last Man. London: Harper Collins Publishers

Being Human in a Digital Age

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Being Human in a Digital Age

The MOOC I participated in over the past 6 weeks raised many key issues for me, making me reflect on questions such as: ‘what does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?’.

We tend not to question, in our everyday lives, where the boundaries of ‘the human’ lie; but developments within digital technology, bioscience, philosophy, ecology and popular culture are increasingly pushing at those boundaries and making them seem less secure. Examples of such developments include:

*biomedical developments in cloning, genetic and tissue engineering, transplantation and reproductive medicine
*advances in artificial intelligence and the promise of seamless brain-computer interfaces
*the increasingly mundane and unnoticed embeddedness of digital technology in our everyday lives
*’posthumanist’ and ‘anti-humanist’ philosophy which has challenged some of our often taken-for-granted assumptions about ‘human nature’ and the ways in which we define what it means to be human
*movements which question the ecological sustainability of human-centred ways of thinking.

In all of these and more, we are seeing a constant flow of new challenges to our definitions of what is ‘essentially’ human. Not all these challenges, of course, are simply ‘digital’ – they are technological in the broadest sense. However, they do help us understand how digital re- workings of ‘humanity’ are positioned within a broader cultural context where the constitution and boundaries of the human are very much ‘up for grabs’ (Hayles, 1999, 84-5).

As Elaine Graham expresses it:

What is at stake, supremely, in the debate about the implications of digital, genetic, cybernetic and biomedical technologies is precisely what (and who) will define authoritative notions of normative, exemplary, desirable humanity into the twenty-first century. (Graham, 2002, 11)

Who or what, in your view, will define what it means to be human in the future? Who or what defines it now? These are crucial questions for those of us engaged in education in all its forms, because how we define ‘desirable humanity’ will inform at the deepest level our understanding of how and why education might be conducted and why it matters. Paying attention to online education foregrounds these issues in a new way, helping us look at them afresh.

Any comments/questions/ideas welcome 🙂

References:

Graham, E. L. (2002). Representations of the post/human: monsters, aliens and others in popular culture. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press

Hayles, N. K. (1999) How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

MOOC #2

Monday, March 4th, 2013

MOOC #2

Well after successfully completing my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) yesterday, I have now just signed up for my second! It won’t be starting until May, but if any of you are interested in participating yourself it is ‘Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence’ and is free through http://www.coursera.org.

This 6-week MOOC will explore how emotional intelligence, hope, mindfulness, and compassion help a person reverse the damage of chronic stress and build great leadership relationships.

So do we, as leaders, suffer from stress?

Great leaders move us through our emotions.
They establish a deep emotional connection with others called resonance. Their own levels of emotional intelligence allow them to create and nurture these resonant relationships. They use their EI as a path to resonant leadership through mindfulness, hope, compassion, and playfulness. Unfortunately, most people in leadership and helping positions (i.e., doctors, teachers, coaches, etc.) lose their effectiveness over time because of the cumulative damage from chronic stress. But humans can renew themselves, neurologically, hormonally, and emotionally.

With the aspiration of ‘Headteacher’, I hope that if I can even learn one useful tip about myself or others from courses such as this to better equip me for the role, then it is time well spent.

Forget teddies..it’s iPads now!

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Forget teddies..it's iPads now!

I’m not sure if any of you saw the story on the news over the weekend about a 5 year old boy who racked up around £1700 on game add-ons on his father’s iPad after he downloaded a free game app.

Click the photo for the link to the full story.

My questions are: is 5 too young to use an iPad without supervision? Is it even POSSIBLE to supervise our children online?.. My one-year-old is already besotted with Android apps on my phone..how long before he will be able to use such devices without my guidance??

Would love to hear any thoughts/ideas that you may have on this matter!