Thursday, September 22, 2016

Blog post from 21/09/2006

This blog will be the musings of a welsh Primary School teacher who should probably get out more !!!
There are some interesting things happening in the world of Web 2.0 at present with the upcoming K12 online conference which look as if it is going to be an interesting step in global communication using the web. The site is still looking for us out there to give them suggestions for the conference content - another step forward. I know that David Noble at Booruch is into skypecasting in addition to running an excellent blog and podcast. I guess the leading light in all Web 2.0 stuff is David Warlick he who must be the blog/pod guru. You see I told you that I should get out more !!!!
An issue that I would like some feedback on is, how in the rest of the UK ( excluding Wales) laptops for pupils run by e-Learning Foundation works out. Their development Director Ray Moore wrote an article in last week's TES (15th September) headlined Home Sweet Laptop where he was showing how the digital divide is growing between England and Wales in as much as in UK as a whole 58% of homes have a PC and 49% have internet connection, while in Wales the same figures are 51% and 41% apparently lowest in UK apart from Northern Ireland and getting wider( straw pole in my Year 3 class - 15 out of 29 with no PC access at home ). In Wales we do not have the laptop for pupils due to the policy of our Assembly to use their funds in other directions ( that's another story).
The aim is that parents agree to pay £3 per week in order to give their child access to a laptop for use in school and at home ( they have a tie up with AOL for free internet access) - while even £3 is a small amount of money, there will still be parents who will not see the worth of computer access even at that price while others will find even that amount quite high on a regular basis. I would like to know if this disadvantages these pupils even more than when there is no scheme at all - this is a problem that my headteacher wanted clarification on also.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Ddraig Goch Blog!

10 years ago on Thursday 21 September 2006 the Ddraig Goch Blog first appeared. In its first few years the blog was dedicated to educational technology. The main focus of the blog in its early days was the integration into education of the plethora of 'Web2.0' tools that were appearing at the time... almost weekly back in 2006-7. It appeared to me that educators were being almost 'blinded' by the new possibilities and that we weren't necessarily as a profession looking at the issue from a fully educational perspective. I am pleased to report that this has improved over the past decade as global educators have fully explored the educational aspects of new programmes and more recently 'apps'. Over the years since my blog began education and 'ed tech' has remained a focus, the blog has diversified as I have.... not always in the desired direction. The result is a very eclectic posting history, which I hope still has the aim of considering the blending of education and technology. Looking forward to the next 10 years.....Hip!Hip!Hooray!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Relocation back to Wales

Since my late father's passing in November 2015 I have taken the time to re-evaluate my position. I consider myself to be hugely fortunate to have been offered the opportunity to relocate to The Netherlands in 2011. I would recommend to everyone that should an opportunity such as this arise in your life, that you seriously consider it. Of course there are strains placed on family life and relationships, however I firmly believe that the benefits of living abroad outweigh the negatives.
You gain the chance to view your own country as an outsider, this highlights the particular hangups that all countries and their citizens have about themselves. I am of the opinion that you gain a greater perspective on your own life and position from a global perspective.
I read a quote earlier today on Facebook from Tim Rylands - I'd rather look back on my life and say 'I can't believe that I did that', rather than saying I wish I'd done that. I fully agree with Tim's sentiment as it is not productive to look at what might have been. It would have been difficult to consider the 'what ifs' had I not taken the decision to relocate in 2011.
I know that personally I have grown in confidence and self worth as a direct result of having to live and work in a non English speaking country. I accept that the Dutch have very good English and use it regularly and that I worked in an English speaking environment. However, I believe that after over 5 years in the country that I began to think and react like a Dutch person.
The Netherlands is certainly a great country in which to enjoy the outdoor life, museums and the cinema ( with subtitles in Dutch). For me though the pull of 'the mother country' began to impact my thoughts more as we moved into 2016. My original plan was to retire and move back in 2017-18 however this shifted as 'homesickness' increasingly set in. In March I took the decision to resign/retire call it what you will? As with all such decisions, once made there was a sense of relief and the opportunity to look forward to new beginnings at home.... real home!
Time has moved swiftly from that decision and today I find myself back in Wales looking forward to getting back into the life of my small town..... I will of course miss my 'other life', however it will always be with me, and will influence me in the future.
There are aspects of Dutch life and culture that I will miss, no doubt I will require a few visits back in order to get my 'dutch fix'..... I will miss:

  • 'Real' Fresh Mint Tea
  • Savoury Pancakes ( at the Pannekoekhuis Sheveningen)
  • Bottled Belgian Beer ( Palm, Duvel and Le Chouf)
  • Pathe Cinema's ( Buitenhof in particular)
  • Hema
  • Those lovely custard slices from The Bienkorf
  • Dutch queuing 
  • Trams and buses ( 3 and 24)
  • Cycle lanes and priority for bicycles
  • Dutch 'Weekends'
  • My MuseumCard - and Museum Night
All of the above experiences and situations are locked in my heart and will not leave, I am sure that they will grow stronger with time.

From now on I am looking forward to new employment opportunities and to working from my home as a base.... and reconnecting with my 'Welshness'.

Thank you Holland for the experience and thank you to the IB for the opportunity.
Put the kettle on it's time for a cup of tea!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Did we ever consider our digital footprint?

Checking on an online app that I had first used back in 2007 prompted me to look back to when this blog began and it was.....Thursday 21 September 2006!
I am sure that when it all began for me that I did not pay much heed to the collective power of a decade of blogging. Back in 2006 I had no idea how long I would continue writing, or even if there was an audience for my random thoughts.... I am still unsure!
The blog first began as a test before I unleashed the power of blogging on my unsuspecting pupils in Cefn Fforest Primary School back in 2006. Little did I realise at the time that not only could it enthuse our pupils, but also that it would also give me a whole new group of online friends, many of whom I may never meet in the 'real world'.
What has 10 years taught me, mainly that I actually have the stamina to sustain my thoughts across a range of topics and of course a range of jobs. One truth that is certain is that I found the transition away from teaching and the classroom a challenge from a blogging perspective. As your pupils will tell you, writing for an audience is a powerful force. Once out of the classroom I lost that immediate contact with the group, dropped away from online forums that I had been active in, and eventually of course the blog lost direction.
There have been a few readjustments across the years, however, this blog remains the random thoughts of an untamed educator  released into the 'real world' ... this I suspect will never change.
I look forward to raising a glass of champagne on 21 September and wishing the Ddraig-Goch blog a happy 10th birthday!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Google glass ideas

I want to float my 'Google glass' idea to a wider audience.
Having used Apple FaceTime to take my grandchildren on a short tour of the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam my mind drifted to how Google glass could be used for a similar purpose. I propose a business idea to run remote tours of museums and art galleries for those who are unable to travel either due to age and infirmity or simply cost.
Use 1 - for residents in sheltered accommodation who retain a love of art and museums. To run remote guide led tours streamed in 'real time' and recorded for future use.
Use 2 - for schools either (a) to prepare pupils for a forthcoming visit to a gallery or museum by giving them an insight into the geography and layout. (b) for pupils studying a particular period who are unable to travel to a venue. An educational guide would lead the class through a gallery answering questions as they move through. 

A further use was suggested by a colleague of mine who recently remotely attended a friend's wedding. The wedding was in New York however those present were usinga variety of social media tools to attend from 10 different countries. How cool would it be to use google glass to give an 'in the room point of view' for remote attendees. This could also be recorded for future use by the happy couple.

I see a use by Estate Agents .....letting agents to produce walk through videos for prospective buyers/tennants.

I look forward to hearing the thoughts of the community......and possible partners?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Weight of Elephants

Saturday 17 May 2014 - Filmhuis Den Haag The Weight of Elephants (New Zealand)
We meet up with 10 year old Adrian in semi rural New Zealand. In fact the isolation of the film is enhanced by its setting, in and around Invercargill, one of the southernmost cities in the world being at the southern tip of New Zealand. 
Adrian has been abandoned by his mother and is being brought up by his grandmother. Gran is also caring for her disturbed adult son Rory, uncle to Adrian. In his lucid moments Rory bonds with Adrian over the youngster's love of sea monsters. As we meet our characters Adrian is objecting vociferously to having his head shaved by Gran in order to clear head-lice. The 10 year old foresees how this will further alienate him from his peer group in school
The cutting and camera angles in Daniel Borgman's movie enable the audience to experience the awkwardness that Adrian feels as he tries to fit in with his school peer group.
Adrian is haunted by the fact that everyone who is most precious to him abandons him. He is left to his own devices after school and creates his own fantasy world in the abandoned playground next to his Gran's house.
The Weight of Elephants - International Trailer from Katja Adomeit on Vimeo.
In a parallel storyline the TV and media is full of the search for 3 youngsters who have been abducted. While playing in his fantasy world Adrian becomes aware of his neighbours - 3 young children. He has not seen them before and they do not go to school..... has he discovered the abducted children?
After a number humiliating experiences in school Adrian gradually realises that fitting in is perhaps not the best strategy. He befriends his new neighbours particularly Nicole who is his own age. He also finds company with other 'outsiders'.
The cast inhabit their characters well with the children undoubtedly being the stars of the film - The naturalistic acting style of Nicole (Angelina Cottrell) and Adrian (Demos Murphy) in particular steal the show.

IMdB gives a score of 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes do not have any score yet as the film is quite new. I would suggest a score of 7.5 would be a fair representation of the film. I think that viewers will find this to be a rewarding experience.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

19th and 20th Century History in Pathe Buitenhof

Quite by chance over the past few days I have been fortunate enough to see two excellent examples of the historical film genre.
Buitenhof again was the venue, I was heartened to find that even after a break of two weeks of film attendance that I have retained the Foursquare Mayorship of the cinema.
The two films show the huge range and variety within a film type. On Thursday evening requiring escapism I headed for my favourite venue to watch The Invisible Woman.
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this recreation of the somewhat secret relationship between Charles Dickens and Ellen (Nelly) Ternan. When they first met Nelly was 18 and Dickens 45. He had been married married to his wife of 22 years,  Catherine with 10 children. Nelly was the third of the three Ternan acting sisters.
The film gives what seems to my sensibilities a very good evocation of 19th Century England. You can almost smell the mustiness and feel the confinement of the Victorian age. The acting is earnest and indeed Felicity Jones as Nelly gives a spellbinding performance. However,  I found the film uneven in its rendition of the story. this could be explained by stating that it follows Dickens turbulent moods however it meant that the film failed to fully engage me leaving me ultimately unsatisfied. IMDb gives the film a score of 6.4 while Rotten Tomatoes has the critics scoring the film 76% and Film-goers 52%. I would agree with the Rotten Tomatoes score which is sad as there could be a much better film somewhere in the cutting room!

Sunday 6th April - Pathe Buitenhof  - The Book Thief
I tried to put to the back of my mind some criticisms that have made of this film, and have not read the book on which is was based. I am happy to report that the film is sprinkled with wonderful performances which are drawn together into a well told story. 14 year old Sophie Nelisse gives a magnetic performance as the central character of the film Leisel Meminger. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are excellent as the very human husband and wife, with the acerbic Watson lovingly scolding the husband to whom she is devoted. Rush as the romantic and wistful father who holds the family together, but also threatens its very existence thanks to a promise given in a previous war.  I also want to make mention of Nico Liersch also 14 years old who plays Rudy, Leisel's love interest... his striking Aryan looks mark him.
I enjoyed the film the period was well presented and the characters fitted within this very well, each playing off each other. I felt that The Book Thief was everything that The Invisible Woman could have been. While IMDb scores the film 6.4 while Rotten Tomatoes scores the film with 46% from the critics and 76% from us the film-going public.
I think that the Rotten Tomatoes score for The Book Thief by film critics show that on occasions the critics in their earnest desire to give the viewing public the full picture can forget that an audience is often looking for a film which grabs them, takes them on its journey unfolding human emotions along the way. I am glad that I for one managed to banish the naysayers. This is a must see film.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday Film - 29 March Pathe Spui: Captain America: The Winter Soldier IMAX 3D

I did not have my expectations set very high entering the cinema on Saturday, the main draw of Captain America; The Winter Soldier was to experience once again of Pathe's IMAX 3D experience.
One of the issues that I have with Captain America is that of all Marvel 'Superheroes' he has the most difficulty operating in a contemporary setting being rooted back in the global wars of the 20th Century.
Captain America has also been portrayed previously as a rather 2 dimensional 'cardboard character lacking a personality or a sense of humour.
Whether it is the inclusion of  The Black Widow ( Scarlet Johansson) as a foil for our hero, or the bright and crisp screenplay from a strong writing team. The result I found to be as refreshing as the exciting reinvention of Ironman back in 2008. We see Chris Evans breathe life and character into the character of Steve Rogers.
Of course we are not in the audience of Captain America for an in depth exploration of character..... This is after-all a blockbuster 3D tale about a soldier who jumps out of planes without a parachute and seems to be able to defend himself against a huge amount of bullets and rockets with a simple shield!
The story-line has also been used quite recently... I recall another hero,  James Bond and M in a recent tale about a compromised organisation which begins to turn on itself.
Taking the film with all of these compromises into consideration I still found this a credible superhero vehicle.

Of the supporting cast - Robert Redford, Samuel L Jackson and the previously mentioned Scarlet Johansson. Redford and Johansson give strong performances. I agree with others who have suggested that Johansson as The Black Widow has earned herself a film of her own. While Jackson's Nick Fury character I am beginning to find repetitive and too predictable.....There is the hope that change may be on the way regarding  the Nick Fury character(plot spoiler). However I believe that at least 80% of the audience could see through the seemingly actual demise of the character....note to director... must try harder next time!
I must admit I was relieved again to know that it was only really America that was at risk, and narrower than this that it was Washington DC that was the backdrop for our story..... the america-centric nature of the film is a little disappointing and this may ultimately cause it not to play well in the rest of the world.

However with all of its faults I did find the film well worth my time, it moved along at a good pace. Others have reported the final 20 minutes to be too full of over the top  'Bang! and Crash! I would disagree I felt that it was in proportion and leading us to the all to predictable ending.
IMDb give the film a strong 8.3 while Rotten Tomatoes scores Captain America: The Winter Soldier 94% from the critics and +99% from the audience.
I am of the opinion that the Rotten Tomatoes score is somewhat high presently, I would tend on balance to agree with IMDb with an overall score of 8.3 to 8.4.
While I wouldn't say this is a 'not to be missed' film and while it is unlikely to ever be thought of as a classic film, even of its type, I think that the film has merit if taken at face value, I have no doubt that audiences will continue to score this film highly.