Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy 15th Birthday to the World Wide Web

On 3oth April 1993 CERN signed off on the World Wide Web - and the www . A group of scientists including Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau(Mr Cailliau helped draw up one of the early technical proposals for the web and later helped convince the directors at CERN to "give the web away".) gave the internet to the world - for free.
The 'for free' part was important as they saw the web as mainly for academics at that early stage, and if it had been commercialised at that time many would have been put off.

Interviewed ahead of the anniversary ( by the BBC )Sir Tim is still optimistic about where the web will go in the future he even says that the world wide web is "still in its infancy" and he predicted that the web's ability to engender collaboration could one day see the web being used to help manage the planet.
Sir Tim believes the future of Semantic Web holds immense potential for how machines will collaborate in the coming days. In an interview with an Indian publication, he shared his views as:"It is evolving at the moment. The data Web is in small stages, but it is a reality, for instance there is a Web of data about all kinds of things, like there is a Web of data about proteins, it is in very early stages. When it comes to publicly accessible data, there is an explosion of data Web in the life sciences community. When you look about data for proteins and genes, and cell biology and biological pathways, lots of companies are very excited. We have a healthcare and life sciences interest group at the Consortium, which is coordinating lot of interest out there."( c Wikepedia)
Collaboration amongst educationalists in projects such as The Horizon Project and many others has just begun to make inroads into mainstream educational thinking who knows where we will be in another 15 years?
Things have moved a huge way forward - from my first dabbling in the www with a Compaq PC and Compuserve on dial up in 1994-5 when having an email adddress was fine, however nobody else I knew actually had one!!! so nobody to send messages to! Also waiting for over 30 mins for a single small bmp image to load from a website ( there weren't many around in 1995 either!). To now when with wireless on a small linux driven notebook I can be speaking to friends around the world in under a minute with full webcam and web searching at the same time..... who knows what 15 years from now will be like ( I for one will be coming up to retirement and joining officially the 'Sliver surfers!' watch out for the most connected group of OAP's the world has known - cyber grandad :-)


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ddraig-Goch not 100 % Welsh!!!!

Quite possibly not very Welsh! My paternal family ( the Fallows) are all from Cheshire, around Hazel Grove, Manchester, where they worked for the Christie Hatting Company ( now a museum of the Hatters Trade) - we have a few of their tools in the family including some natty scissors which are curved - for cutting out felt. The Harrington side of the family were railway people, in fact a relative one Elvidge Harrington was killed in a rail accident around the turn of the 20th Century. So an English paternal family pretty well 100%, with my father brought up in Manchester and Oxford before coming to Wales when his father moved with the Post Office (telecom side) to Cardiff just before the 2nd World War.
My maternal side the Grindle's also have a fascinating history having moved from the Somerset coalfield around Radstock, to the Forest of Dean mines around the 1930's, before moving again to the South Wales coalfield, which was sucking in hundreds of miners at the time. But I always knew that my maternal grandfather was born in the USA. I can just about remember him - he died when I was around 5 years old ( a long time ago!), a typical flat capped( Welsh) miner of the time. We knew that he was originally from somewhere in Ohio but never really where, until now. My uncle has had for years a copy of the probate certificate with Grandfather's birth details on, and here they are :

John Grindle ( John being my middle name!)
Born - Washingtonville, Columbiana County Ohio
April 5th 1884
To - Thomas Grindle and Eliza Cooper

There you have it - I don't really know if it makes me - English (uggh!), or American? (50:50) The only way that I can truly tell is when the Rugby 5 nations and World Cup come around - then.... definitely Welsh...... I wonder if I could go for triple nationality by parentage?

I absolutely love finding out about where we have come from, and how families are affected to a greater or lesser degree by larger socio economic pressures in their lives......

Friday, April 25, 2008

Asus Eeepc 900 - A price too far?

Is the soon to be released Asus Eeepc 900 ( pictured above from Tech Radar review) a step too far - read this excellent review from Tech Radar, now these guys like me and many others ( including a host of teachers and ed techies at BETT08 in January) love the Asus Eeepc 701 ( the 4GB webcam gizmo) and as they say at a price point of around GBP£200 it is a no brainer - since I bought mine for my daughter - Mrs H has found it great for her web shopping while watching the TV astounded by its smallness yet 'bigness', if you know what I mean? Laura who it was bought for has found it great for her AS Level work in school - and managed to convince her schoolmates that it was a pc and not a kids toy! I try to sneakily use it whenever I can find it - which is not very often!
I and everyone have been thoroughly impressed by the machine... so what's new, well admittedly the new 900 has a much improved resolution 9 inch screen, a 20GB flash drive and 1GB of RAM ( with a slower speed than the 701 processor though!) and is slightly thicker than its predecessor - it will now be available in its original Linux format (good) or in Windows format ( greedy on memory - bad!) .... but the clincher for many including their target market - teenagers and schools is the PRICE! With a price point of £330 it has immediatley priced itself with the big boys - Dell Inspirons with larger hard drives, screens and the same, if not better RAM. You can pick up end of line and reconditioned machines for less...... if only they had stayed true to the original models promise and tried to keep the price at around £250 they would have a true winner which would make other manufacturers sit up and really take notice.
I want to buy another of the 701's as I have been without my Dell Inspiron for a month now as daughter 1 has taken it to University for the last 2 months of her degree ( after killing off my Toshiba Satellite in March!) - My big hope Asus is that with the advent of the 900 - your 701's will actually drop in price making them as the Tech Radar reviewers say - even more of a 'no brainer'

who's. amung .us - a blog stats widget for your side bar

Who' is a great little stats widget which allows you to place a little button in your side bar which tells you how many people are on your blog at one time. The display is neat and not too showy. The stats you get are a bit limited but the thing that I like shown below is the world map which as you scroll over it tells you where your viewers are from - a great little widget - go get it from who'

* yes I did deliberately choose Nelson, New Zealand *

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Investigating web conferencing applications (updated 8th May)

This morning I got to test out live the dimdim web conferencing application which went live earlier this month, following a long period of beta testing. The reason for the test is that currently in our online professional development environment which is a Moodle Virtual Learning Environment. We currently use a 'wimba' tool called 'Virtual Live Classroom' for synchronous online teacher training. Wimba tools are built to fit into the Moodle environment, and Live Classroom enables the online mentor to their share their desktop environment and files with participants.

However the past year has seen the growth and development in this area, dimdim is an open source application ( runs from browser either standalone or from within a VLE) which allows :
  • video conferencing
  • desk top sharing
  • File sharing - powerpoint and pdf
  • an interactive whiteboard ( which can be locked)
The dimdim environment is very easy on the eye and non threatening to participants, it appears to work smoothly with file transfer note being too delayed. There is a limit of 20 people per room which is probably enough for most general uses. We were very impressed with the look of the interface, the only problem that we hit was that pdf files were re sized to the landscape rectangular main window which made the pdf's very difficult to read - especially as we use pupils assessment material which is often handwritten.

Other applications that are of merit are :

The Gong Project from Hong Kong University of science and Technology - they have an additional snazzy tool that I might try out called 'nanogong!'

Unfortunately in the literature the Gong Project does own up to the fact that there is a lag in audio due to all audio routing through their servers in Hong Kong however you can run it from your own servers ( at a price I guess)...

WiZIQ which allows quite a range of file and flash sharing, it allows more people in a room, it is a free application as well and is being developed, having changed technology from Adobe Flash to Adobe Flex recently.Another web conferencing application that I have used before, as part of the 'When Night Falls again' session of K12Online 07 is of course Elluminate.

Elluminate has great application sharing capabilities, including desktop sharing and breakout rooms- of course it is not free ( the V Room for 3 participants is however if you wan to give it a go) but again has Moodle integration as do the others above. It requires a download which some of the others do not - but is much more powerful with more features ( it depends how many of them you actually use!)
I have long been a fan and advocate of Flashmeeting a UK based web conferencing application as many people will know.

Flashmeeting is good as a standalone web conferencing application again requiring no download - it is limited to either a whiteboard session or web cam session but you cannot toggle between each as far as I am aware with ease - it is easy to use and uses a small amount of bandwidth as only 1 person can talk at a time. Unfortunately Flashmeeting doesn't stack up against the newer and more capable competition quite as well as expected - it scores on its simplicity which going back to the beginning dimdim seems to have matched to some extent.
It all comes down to looking at your priorities, how do you plan to run your online classroom, what tools are essential to the environment and for us and others how are they integrated into VLE's - you pay your money ( unless its a free open source of course!) and make your choice, one thing is for sure the applications here are only a step along the way and this year there are undoubtedly others out there waiting to give us greater scope in online learning.

Following a comment from Andrew at Mikogo, which you will find here I was pointed towards another open source application called Mikogo It looks cool though as yet I have not tried it out - will do over the weekend - Wow how many more will appear??
One more to make a late appearance following a comment left today (8th May) is Batipi which is a paid for hosted service.
" We help you to plan, and host online presentations and training. Whether you need to schedule a video conference with the management team, plan for your next upcoming webinar, or create memorable sales presentations, our event consultants are standing by 24/7. Experience the difference, experience Batipi."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Podfather returns !!!

After too long away from the microphone The Podfather returns with a short roundup of some EdTech news...... it is really good to be back as an educational podcaster.

Click here to get your own player.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jo McLeay and family visit Wales

Wow!! now this is a first, Jo McLeay, hubsand Bob and son Kieran ( with iRiver) who are currently touring the UK, have come to a slightly damp Wales today for some Welsh hospitality ( you will have to ask Jo about the man from the B&B !!! sorry Jo not quite what we meant by local hospitality!).
It was on Thursday of last week that Jo Twittered, that she and the family were in the UK, in London at the time and heading towards Stratford Upon Avon for Friday and Saturday. A suggestion was made about it being an idea to meet up for a meal or coffee as they were so close to us here in Abergavenny, and that is just what happened. We met up in Abergavenny at around 1.45pm and headed off for lunch. Jo received a gift of a rare mini Dylan ( a Welsh dragon - the other one is in Nelson New Zealand with Allanah King), and a Welsh flag..... It was also very interesting for the spouses of online junkies to meet, Bob and Debbie having quite a lot in common with their nocturnal spouses!!!
Of course there was wireless broadband at the lunch venue and also at the Hotel where Bob, Jo and Kieran are staying on Sunday evening, so it didn't take Jo long to break out the Asus Eeepc for a spot of Twittering ( unfortunately much of Oz was asleep as it was 1.20 in the morning!!) - above you can see Jo, Bob in the background and mini Dylan sitting on the table.Cuddly Kiwi also came along for the meal - he seemed to enjoy the drinks more though!!!! But he did get to meet Jo and her family :-)
I hope that again the extended family members did not find the Web 2.0 chat a bit obscure, after all Jo and I had much to catch up on from Web 2.0 to discussion about IB online learning and blogs

Tomorrow ( Monday) the McLeay's will be doing some sightseeing around South Wales before heading north to Edinburgh prior to heading back to Melbourne.
We wish them well, it is always great to meet people that you have only previously met virtually and meeting the McLeay's was certainly a pleasure - we thank them for their company today.
Thanks also to Sue Tapp, Judy O'Connell and Allanah King and many others for their best wishes on the day - as first as an Aussie blogger visited Abergavenny (yes there was a song in the late 60's by Marty Wilde about Abergavenny - is this our only claim to fame?)
Now the Harrington's simply must visit New Zealand and Australia to meet up with all of our antipodean friends :-)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Yes Mr Sutton (@HGJohn) I have used Ping. In fact this post from has been posted to Twitter, Blogger, Facebook and Pownce -lazy way!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hey try out - a way to post to all of your sites from one place - a beta app (beta code - techcrunch )
Paul is trying out - a beta app which will publish directly to all of your web applications from the one place - cool app :-)

Thursday, April 10, 2008 Links

Our Personal Learning Network Journeys....

Check out Jeff Utecht's article from 3rd April regarding how we develop/grow our personal learning networks. Jeff's blog post sprung from David Warlick's article ( My Personal Learning Network needs a ########! )....both of the guys are suffering as many of us are from information overload. How many times have you stayed up those extra few hours past midnight ( wherever you are) in order not to miss a conversation? I know for certain that I have, to listen to Ed Tech Talk chats which don't start until 2amGMT!!! and even to the extent of getting up at 5am to join in a Ustream discussion from Bangkok International School and the list goes on.....
There certainly comes a point which Jeff says in his article when something ( usually your family commitments!!) takes you away from your network for a period, this is a good thing as it allows you the time to reflect on the networks that you are involved in.... and is bad as in my case friends and colleagues thought I had dropped off the edge of the world!!!! It even got to the point were Allanah King in NZ left a message on my answering machine at home in Wales wondering where I was!
I can relate directly to Jeff's graph above ( from Flickr - Creative Commons licence) where I guess I have entered Stage 5 where I don't strive to be involved online all of the time, I make time for the family ( when you have grandchildren you have to - they don't understand unless they are at the centre of the universe - and who would deny them that?).
I think that you have to strike a balance otherwise a bit like I found around the start of the year 'bloggers block' can set in and then you might actually find that you switch off from your PLN for a period in order to re-adjust your body clock ( it helps to know which time zone you are in - let alone everyone else!)
I realise as well that a change of role also has an effect on your PLN, I feel a little on the outside looking in these days as I am not in the classroom anymore, it affects the way I interact in the online community as it is bound to do..... so in closing I apologise to those who missed my rather boring Welsh accent for a few months but I am in Stage 5 and am gradually getting back into the networks that I find most valuable and thought provoking.
Incidentally if you want to see how we have grown into the use of online applications which is also a driver of our PLN's check out the top 100 apps here ( thanks to John Sutton from Creative ICT)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Asus EeePC Mini notebook

Having seen the Asus Eeepc in action at BETT08 in January, I have finally ( a bit late as James Forbes-Keir here at the IB had on a delivered a few days later!)taken the plunge and bought the Eeepc for my daughter to use at home and in school- it actually has now appeared on the shelves of our local IT store ( Curry's Digital) at a fairly reasonable price for the 4G version of £249.00.
Laura uses Google Docs/Spreadsheets to save work at school and at home and now has her own small laptop to keep updated on ( important in her AS year in school), in addition of course to the obligatory social networking that all teenagers are involved in ( at least this old foggey has some idea of what his kids are up to!!!).
See an excellent down to earth ( and British) review of the mini-notebook below.

First impressions are very encouraging - I have managed to borrow it on a few occasions and found it fast and efficient ( the Linux operating system fires up really quickly) and it manages easily to find our wirelss network even though it's 2 floors up from the router. The new addition has its first day in school today when Laura returns after the Easter break to continue her 6th Form studies...... more news to follow.
Thanks also for support in the cause of the Asus and its Linux Kernel from my colleague and well known tech genius James FK .

Related posts updated on 3rd May 2010:
  • OLED transparent screens for new breed of laptops (link).
  • New slate/pad computers (link).
  • The swivel screen laptop battle (link).
  • Asus 900 meets OLPC (link).

A dear friend

It seems very apt to be writing this blog post in tribute to a dear, dear friend. The world has lost a true global educational  IT innovator...