On the use and abuse of Technology and its Management from the perspective of an academic at UCL specialising in Project Management, Systems Engineering and Space Science/Technology.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

UK Education resources : changes afoot

My usual mode of operation in the edu-game revolves around the annual round of production and feedback linked to the academic year. I'm looking ahead to future concepts right now, and it's around this time that I start trawling around the national resources. I've just spotted that the entity formerly known as LSTN has mutated into the UK Higher Education Academy.

The reason I'm looking here is to get a sense of what practitioners are doing with learning technology around the country. I'm suspicious that what I'm seeing is not representative of the best. Certainly sites the the UK HEA don't fit the zeitgeist of now, and more importantly my working practices. No attribution (Who are you guys?), no contribution (no comments boxes!), no RSS (what, none at all?). Too many empty strategy papers (aarrgh PDF!! arrgh dead URLs in the PDFs!!!) and out of date case studies.

An example, I came across an LSTN-branded working paper, in the Physical sciences subsite (why?), entitled Virtual Learning Environments stating that
The most basic form of asynchronous communication with computer technology is the use of email, where a message is sent and the reply is sent later i.e. asynchronously. So, all VLEs should provide at least basic email facilities.
What, university students don't have email they can use? Why are these dated papers still being circulated? Hasn't the community moved on in the last two years?

I suspect the valuable practical lessons are out there somewhere not being reported, at least not here. Back to the blogfields.

I'm ramping up my orbits around blogdom looking for inspiration. A very small sample can be seen in the sidebar of e-learning reports, an e-learning blog I'm involved with. I'm getting a consistent impression that the best learning technology practitioners, at least the ones who blog, are seriously struggling against two things.

1. Managerialism and corporate approaches to learning technology implementations. Example: teachers being required by directive or circumstance to use a particular VLE tool.

2. Directed experiences of the learner, i.e. prior programming of a student's responses at course-design time.

To some extent these two aspects support each other. Heavy tooling up leads to industrialisation of production, whereas the opposite models are also mutually supportive. Many commentators are advocating a pick and mix (a.k.a. the filling station model) toward both provider technology (blog, wiki, podcast, webpage, VLE if you must) and learner acitivity (browsing, using Google, emailing each other, discovery).

Friday, April 15, 2005


This link: points to a podcast. Double Loop Audio.

Er, What?

Pointing your podcast-gathering software to the above link will cause an audio file to appear automatically in your [insert media player of choice here]. If you set it up right, it'll happen quietly in your sleep. Later, you can listen to the 'cast on your 'pod.

If you want to know how it was done, blow by blow, leave a comment below.

It's done as a capability test. We might use it for teaching later on.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Why is it a triangle?

You know: time, cost, quality. Pick any two.

But why three? And not four points?

It could be because :
- jokes use triplets
- it's the next paradigm after Dualism
- it's just a verbal construct used in marketing

This is serious because something better could be in the fog, waiting. Like an integrated cost/quality metric. Or something.

There's a rambling thread on Jason Kottke's blog about this. Numerous forgotten-their-college-philosophy types and over-reductionist engineers pull and push at the question without its centre moving very much. It's even so long it reaches repetition point, but don't let that put you off. You know: Funny, Informative, Short. Pick any two. Or something like that.

Three Mind map blogs

I've just followed (mooo!) Beyond Crayons by adding three mind-map related blogs to my bloglines - over there in the sidebar. They are:

The Mindjet Blog (quasi offical team blog), Hobart's Mindjet Blog (again?), and the application-centric Writing about art is like dancing about architecture.

These are all by Mindjet staff - they make MindManager software. This tool seems to be growing in capability all the time.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Increasingly people are turning to web-based services to manage their personal information clouds. Here's mine:

Photos (and chat!) Flickr
Blogs : Bloglines
Bookmarks : Del.icio.us
Did I also mention Furl - haven't tried it but it behaves a lot like del.icio.us, but with storage of bookmarked pages and more privacy. Note that this is more of a commercial outfit than open-sourcey del.icio.us - look around as user:demo password:demo to get a feel if that gives you goosebumps.

The deal about these is that they don't care where you are, and they encourage sharing.

And now, real work. Academic citations can now be gathered in the same type of thing. Throw away your clapped out old EndNote and RefManager, embrace the shiney new world of CiteULike,. online, sharable, taggable reference collector.

Note the big big thing in common: tags tags tags tags tags.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Tipping Point reached

I am behind the curve, possibly, but I finally got round to picking up a copy of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (link Amazon.co.uk). This looks interesting from a variety of perspectives: social theory, project organisation, bottom-up behaviour etc etc. Even more interesting is the thought that one may be able to engineer and exploit -- for good, of course! -- such phenomena.

I go forewarned, thanks to this amazon reviewer:
The chapters on context and the case studies are the most interesting. He does a particularly good job in demonstrating how very small changes in environment (context) can have a profound impact. He provides the best and most convincing explanation I have read of why New York's 'no broken windows' zero tolerance policing approach worked. The case studies of smoking (smoking isn't cool, smokers, or rather people with a strong disposition to smoke, are), Micronesian suicides and the law of 150 are very interesting.Overall, it is worth reading (providing you are not too cynical or too familiar with the subject areas that he draws on) and it does provide a number of good conversation topics - I just wish that either he was more familiar with Occam or had a better editor.