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Finding your tribe

One of the most enjoyable and inspiring books I have read this year has been Sir Ken Robinson's "Out of our Minds"  and my ref...

Monday, 17 August 2015

#blideo challenge

This inspirational video clip was shared as part of the #blideo challenge. I wasn't nominated but couldn't resist the message on this one shared here: (with thanks to Whitney Kilgore)

There's more to this video than the powerful guilt-inducing recognition of triumph over adversity that makes our "first world problems" pale into oblivion. I don't know about you but the thought of waking up in the morning to the smell of landfill would be unlikely to get me strumming my guitar. What I find the most compelling about this video is the determination to work at something even though many may say it won't be "good enough". The instruments, created from everyday paraphernalia discarded by others, are not likely to produce the timbre of a Stradivarius or suchlike. Even after hours of crafting and practise their music is unlikely to be lauded as better than that of the LSO or other great orchestral organisations. However, the vision of these ordinary folk -  who are clearly transformed into musicians - allows them to see beyond mere musical perfection. Working with what they have - a not inconsiderable amount of talent and dedication - they are able to lift the spirits of all who hear them and show how the human spirit can overcome even the most dismal of circumstances. Playing side by side, each member has to listen to the others and harmonise, keeping in time and focusing on the performance. I cannot imagine anyone stomping off because " Victor's cello is out of tune!" If there is a lesson to draw from this then for me it is to understand that our efforts, no matter how imperfect others may consider them to be, are significant and should be celebrated. We are all fighting our life battles and will face our share of challenges. Harmony, no matter how imperfect the end result of shared endeavour, is better than egotism for so many reasons. If we understand this our lives will be richer for it. 

Here's my #blideo challenge to anyone willing to take it up:
(I nominate @sensor63 @mgraffin @bobharrisonset ) 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

of eggs and baskets #blimage

This #blimage challenge was posted by Steve Wheeler here

I know it's a bowl in the picture but with a little poetic licence it is easily connected to the proverb:

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket"

and for those learning English here's a quick test of your understanding of the meaning of this advice. 

I'm looking at this advice in the context of educational technology and change. Ubiquitous technology means that we are all becoming increasingly dependant upon tools to support learning. I would argue that this is, by and large, a good development overall as education needs to capitalise on the learning potential offered by digital tools and help inform their use so that we are able to influence the users. We do not need more passive consumers of an ever increasing wave of expensive gadgets, we need critical thinkers who understand the relative advantages and affordances offered and can make informed choices. They in turn can then influence the evolution of the markets and use their democratic power to regulate when necessary. 

One of the risks we need to ensure that users of technology understand is that of "lock-in". You can read more about it here. Some technical tools for creation that may be very enticing insist on producing file types that require ongoing commitment to a particular technology, tool or licence. This brings an inherent reduction in future proofing for your creation. At a time when the pact of technical change continues to accelerate you could very soon find that your well thought-out digital package of content is no longer usable. Remember Betamax or Sony mini disc cameras? Think of the time and money wasted and the potential for wheels being reinvented endlessly. 

Fortunately there are folk out there who are working to convince the technology industry of the importance of open formats and interoperability. Look at the work of IMS on Learning Technology Interoperability here. Also the open source media streaming company Kaltura campaigns for open video formats.  As users of technology for education we should ensure that we know how to preserve our educational resources so that they can be repurposed, accessed by anyone. That way educators' great ideas do not become obsolete overnight. Here are a few practical tips:

  • if you are making something using a browser based tool (a video, screen cast, audio recording) make sure that you can download the finished file so that you have a copy. Websites disappear regularly.
  • find good file conversion facilities (e.g. Format Factory, Freemake) so that you can save your file in a range of formats.
  • go open - use Creative Commons licences (CC BY) on your work so that others can remix, repurpose and develop your ideas. Sharing to a wider community increases the longevity of your work but you should get acknowledged as the originator.