Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Video tours of houses

Here is an idea I had when working for TSB in the 1980s, that to sell houses you could put the information on computers, and allow people to search by various attributes (size, price, location etc) and then see videos of the house as an aid to finding the one they wanted.

I then went on to suggest one could use virtual reality to re-decorate the house, plan a new kitchen etc. All this could then be sold to the customer along with the house and mortgage.

The world is only now catching up with me.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Shocking news

The Internet is good for education! A new study has just found this, and appears to have surveyed my son as well (the only person to have met someone they encountered on the internet without telling their parents first).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The counterblast begins (I hope)

At last there seems to be the beginnings of a counterblast to this test, test, test of children that started under Major and expanded enormously under Blair.

While testing (in the sense of formative and diagnostic testing in class) is (and always has been) an essential part of education (though these days usually under the name assessment). Summative testing is stressful for all parties, and as the article suggests damaging to education.

Unfortunately, I don't think that this will move anything like fast enough, and many more children will have their education damaged through over (summative) testing. Damaging because it narrows the curriculum to focus on the tests, damaging because it ensures that focus is primarily on those who can be bumbed up a grade (the borderline cases) to the detriment of those who are mid grade, excelling or doing poorly. Damaging because it makes education boring. Damaging because the focus moves from learning to testing. Damaging because it is stressful for all involved.,,2099635,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Thinking and how education can harm it

A nice post here on how to turn people off learning.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Visualising the web

I have just come across Walk2Web, a tool for visualising web sites. I haven't yet worked out exactly what it does, but I think that the way that it offers a view of surrounding sites (that link back), and a history of ones exploration are very interesting.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

One Laptop Per Child

The first One Lap Top Per Child school has received its computers, and I am sure that the teachers and children and community are very pleased with them. You can see more pictures at
including children smiling with their shiny new computers.

While there is something to be said for Negreponte's One Laptop Per Child programme, and the computers cost $100 each and are wind up I do wonder if this is the most useful use of resources in a country that has huge class sizes, considerable poverty and easily curable diseases.

It seems to me to be part of the furore over the "digital divide" from a few years ago, which wasn't a digital divide at all, it was, and is, a wealth divide. Poor people have less access to technology because they are poor. The solution is not to give them bits of technology but to address the underlying causes. But that is more expensive, more difficult and if really done would affect the life styles of the rich:

Nigeria has something like 80 million children, so perhaps 50-60 million school age children, so the cost of simply buying the laptops is $8 billion. On top of this each school will require a satellite dish to connect to the internet - and that will need powering, so will require a generator and then there will be whatever the connection (usage) costs might be.

Then there is staff training if the computers are to be used effectively in school the pedagogy needs to change from one which is based on lack of resources - including text books - with the result that it is highly didactic to one which is based more on participation and sharing. This will be a huge culture shift for the whole of society. It may well be a good thing, but without such a change the project is likely to end up as little more than a way of downloading electronic text books. (Plus any personal use that the children may make of the computers).

If I am right about this then the cost of the computers will be a small fraction of the total cost of implementing a meaningful One Laptop Per Child programme. - running the systems, developing resources, staff training, IT support etc.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Shock of the Old

The Shock of the Old
David Edgerton
Profile Books

Published by my brother, and I met the author at one of his parties last year.

The thesis of the book is that most books which discuss technology focus on innovation and invention rather than use, and thus paint a false picture of technology and what it means. He argues that there is a relentless focus on the new, and that this results in the same story being told over and over again for each new technology. Thus, he cites the idea that various technologies have been offered up as making war unthinkable - aeroplanes and the atomic bomb being two of them. His point being that each of these technologies is repeating exactly the same ideas as the previous and that they will not have the supposed effect.

His more important and profound point though is that it is use not novelty that is important, so that new technologies actually only have a small impact and those that do have an impact will continue to for a long time, particularly when you take a world rather than a western view of the technologies. Examples he gives include that Hitler used more horses to invade the Soviet Union in World War II than Napoleon did during his invasion; and that more people were (and still are) killed by personal weapons (guns, pistols etc.) than by newer weapons, providing convincing figures. Or, he argues that printing, or radio have greater impact than the newer internet because in many countries the penetration of the older technologies is so much higher, and China and India alone account for half the worlds population, so what they are doing is important.

I have a lot of sympathy for his argument, though find the style very polemical and sometimes off putting, and I think that there are (some) counter examples. For instance, mobile phones are available in places which have never been wired for old fashioned telephony.

I do think that it is a useful antidote though for all the techno-enthusiasts who chase one new technology after another thinking that it is the solution to all problems as we have seen with learning objects, VLEs, Web 2.0 / education 2.0, PLEs, eportfolios etc. etc. Each of these has been offered as the solution (sometimes even by the same people) precisely because they lack both the historical and the usage model that he cites.

Anyone who is looking at new technology should read this. 

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Successful prosecution under Disability Discrimination Act

The Project Management Institute has been prosecuted under the DDA for discrimination in the provision of an exam to a blind student.  They failed to provide an adequate version of the course materials, and refused to make necessary adjustments in the examination.

details available at: