Tuesday, 29 December 2009

AVATAR cliched spectacle that could have been so good!

Almost three hours.... of fantastic spectacle with a good idea hidden behind the appalling dialogue and the terrible last hour.

This smoothie of every dragon/fantasy/space epic/ just missed the mark. Wanted to like it and for the middle hour I was entralled then we ended up with all the transformer style machinery and it fell from the heights.

The worst bit? Leona Lewis singing the most amazingly awful song over the credits. Why do film makers choose such awful rubbish when it so diametrically opposite to the tone of the film?

Contrast it with District 9 which stayed on track and had a script which worked.

Final moan: the monsters etc looked like bad comic book stuff from the sixties.

Still, I am glad I saw it. My holiday escape!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

politicians and twitter - playground antics?

A few weeks ago, I attended the Tweetminster discussions about how politicians see social networking will change the democratic process.

MPs from all three parties spoke well and showed that there was real personality behind the twitter icon.

Kerry from Labour and Nadine from the Conservatives, spoke eloquently and demonstrated firmly how MPs could use Twitter to allow better access to their constituents as well as to the more general public.

Behind the speakers on stage were displays of tweets by those present and the wider world outside. What was truly sad and pathetic was the need of some of the twitterers to make rude, personal remarks about the speakers. Comments about what Nadine was wearing or Kerry's boots were the least unpleasant shown as they spoke.

As an ex teacher and still a member of the education community, this was like playground ganmes rather than adult intelligent discussion.

I don't agree with many of Nadine's party's policies but she spoke well, came over very warmly and I was pleased to feel I knew her a little better after her presentation. I have since followed her on Twitter with pleasure.

I also followed other labour and conservative twitterers. @LouiseBagshawe and @BevaniteEllie used to amuse me but in the last week I have unfollowed them because the childishness of their exchanges is frankly demeaing to all concerned. Strong feelings don't need to lead to pathetic personal remarks.

Similarly I am really disappointed that @KerryMP and @NadineDorriesMP have also started trading insults.

Its great that the ordinary voter can get to see behind the formal MP facade, but really sad that what we have seen recently is frankly very childish.

I have enjoyed reading Kerry and Nadine's blogs. I really enjoyed talking to them at the Tweetminster event. I think some of the attacks on Nadine have been utterly stupid.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Report on Education Quangos

Centre for Policy Studies publishes its report on Education Quangos in the UK.

Long document (54 pages), describing roles and waste of TDA, BECTA etc. But really it all comes down to one line - ABOLISH THEM!

Some interesting arguments and a lot of savings but is it the right way to go?


School quangos
A blueprint for abolition and reform

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Manic Monkey's Little Bridge

Little Bridge - interactive software for ESL/EAL


For anyone teaching English as a second language this is must have software.

I have used it in South Africa, with Xhosa and Afrikaans speakers. It worked both for experienced IT learners and those who were fairly new to learning through language software.

It is exciting and easy to use. The 3d animations are TV quality. The exercises are varied but fully supported with teacher and pupil books.

This is just great fun and fits alongside the company's other primary language software for French and German.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

new exciting EAL resource


including Talking Tutor


EMASUK has created a digital vault of resources that supports EAL teachers and learners. The vault contains three areas of support.

  1. Child friendly printable EAL resources in over 135 languages.

  1. The ‘Talking Tutor’ an online translator that translates and speaks

  1. CPD for teachers in:
    • Music,
    • Language Skills
    • Creative Play

EMASUK is a not-for-profit company that has been created after teachers requested resources to support and assist them in teaching EAL children. Currently there are resources in a myriad of locations on the web, some of which border on genius, other lean towards confusion and disorganisation. EMASUK has gathered a team of professional teachers to design and build resources that will allow a teacher to have resources the instant that a non English speaking child arrives in their class. They have access to unlimited downloads of child friendly resources in 135 languages in seconds, this includes subject specific, curriculum based, traditional games and assessment sheets at the speed of a download. Simplicity its self.

The ‘Talking Tutor’ is a web or server based tool that allows the teacher to welcome a new arrival in their class in one of 20 languages, with more to follow. Entry could not be simpler:

  • type or cut and past the text that needs translating, the new model for January 2010 will be voice controlled

  • Choose the language that you want it translated to, currently there are 20 languages available but there are more to come

  • Press the translate button and the text appears in the box below and the avatar speaks the text aloud for the individual or class to hear

  • If you want a response, and the child is literate, choose a keyboard in the child’s home language and they can respond in English

CPD is a major part of ensuring that teacher’s knowledge is kept up to date and that their skills are valued and honed. EMASUK has brought together CPD specialists that offer practical classroom techniques to help EAL learners feel confident and overcome natural issues that arise.

  • Music is probably the simplest method of making a new arrival feel welcome, but many teachers feel unsure of its use. David Stanley is a music specialist that uses music to reinforce phonics and phonemes, create comfort zones and challenge learners to try new words, experiences and sensations in letter sounds.

  • Understanding how a new arrival learns a new language is important if teachers are to be effective language teachers. Mirela Timo is of Albanian origin and has a passion for helping non English speakers to learn English and still maintain the positive aspects of their own language and cultures. Mirela will work with teachers to give them the skills and personal understanding to create empathy and passion for the learners development.

EMASUK has a vault of resources that covers the spectrum of teachers support. From immediate language based resources in printable and audio formats, the Talking Tutor to create communication between teacher and pupils and parents, offering the first real time translator that will off the teacher the opportunity to give instruction ad involve the learner in normal classroom activities, and CPD for teachers to help them develop their classroom based practice.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Little Bridge - interactive software for ESL/EAL


For anyone teaching English as a second language this is must have software.

I have used it in South Africa, with Xhosa and Afrikaans speakers. It worked both for experienced IT learners and those who were fairly new to learning through language software.

It is exciting and easy to use. The 3d animations are TV quality. The exercises are varied but fully supported with teacher and pupil books.

This is just great fun and fits alongside the company's other primary language software for French and German.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Twitter and Iran

My thoughts about the way the Iranian protests have become a "fashionable" trend.

The problem is we do not know what happened. The young in Tehran who have access to social media do not necessarily reflect the voting population. It is quite possible the election was won by the ruling party.

Similar things happened in South Africa. The people of Cape Town who showed cynicism about Zuma were the minority. He almost won his 2/3 majority because the rural voters supported him. Same in the UK, the vocal and media savvy Londoners may tell the world what the British think but the Celtic outskirts may have views diametrically opposed.

All the green overlays and the urge to retweet could be used to serve some awful causes. There are real examples of the Iranian government assuming Twitter identities and passing on false info.

It worries me intensely that people in the West have adopted the cause in Iran without having a full understanding of the history, the context and the issues.

Just having the ability to use Twitter does not automatically make you the Good Guy.

an interesting blog to read

The Dark Side of Twittering a Revolution BY Jamais Cascio

digital story telling - Inanimate Alice

or as the educationists call it - multi modal media!

There are lots of examples of great little animations or digital stories on the web but for many teachers it is hard work tracking them down.

I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the people behind Inanimate Alice, a really great example of online story telling that gets to you on first viewing. It has also thrilled learners all over the world.

It tells the story of Alice as she learns about life and technology. Music is grand, style superb. Different countries feature and it is available in several languages. Episode 1 is even there in Afrikaans!

4 stories so far.

I have to admit that the story gets less effective as you carry on through the episodes but the first one is really engaging. Some of the writing for the classroom is also a little "iffy" but a good teacher would be able to use this in their delivery very effectively. Learners who I have seen using it, love it. It is interactive and exciting.

But best of all? It is entirely free! Brief outline of the story below. The website also tells you how you can get involved.

'Inanimate Alice' tells the story of Alice, a young girl growing up in the first half of the 21st century, and her imaginary digital friend, Brad.

Over ten episodes, each a self contained story, we see Alice grow from an eight year old living with her parents in a remote region of Northern China to a talented mid-twenties animator and designer with the biggest games company in the world.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Monday, 1 June 2009

Teachers TV in the UK

Up until last year I guested on Resource Review as a "resident expert" !!! The channel is an amazing free resource and the programmes can be watched online or downloaded for class or staffroom use.

Several of the programmes I used in South African schools very successfully. The Interactive WhiteBoard guides were (still are?) great.

Well worth a look from anywhere in the world.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

so many things about Basingstoke

This blogspot is hopefully about things that might interest and support the global classroom and the world community we all belong to. However, we can't join that group without recognising and celebrating our local community.

Twitter has enabled many tourist offices to big up their towns. Basingstoke has joined in. @basingstoke.

One link to the destination basingstoke site lists "30 things you may not know about Basingstoke"

Among the gems someone feels will make us go weak at the knees?

Festival Place was featured by Jeremy Clarkson in BBC’s Top Gear TV show in November 2008. (damned by association?)

Basingstoke and Deane won a Silver Gilt Award at the South & South East's 'In Bloom' Awards 2007 and 2008.

The wikipedia entry makes more interesting reading

I live in Basingstoke and generally its a good place. Lots of facilities, especially for the young. Two multi-screens, a world class concert hall, theatres, ice rink and great sporting facilities.

But again if you are young the public transport system absolutely stinks. I use buses all the time in London, but here in B, expect the last bus to be long before I get back. And a bus on Sunday? Forget it.

AND - a complete lack of individual character. An enormous shopping centre, with the same shops you find in every UK town. Lots of chain restaurants and pubs, but no little places to eat that you would find all over London. Lots of people have asked me to recommend a good place to eat. Its easy to find easy food but no place that stands out as unique. Happy to hear about good places that aren't pubs with a menu.

The town is bland and and to me our Museum says a lot of what's wrong. Milestones was built with millions of public money but they charge £7.50 to get in. It is billed as "Hampshire’s living history museum" but it seems to have forgotten what century we are in. The sort of experience that has transformed the free museums in London has been completely forgotten. No interactivity or use of new technologies. A real disappointment, although the cafe's teacakes seem to go down well according to reviews on the site.

So I love Basingstoke, and intend to celebrate it on these pages, but the local council really seems to have missed the point in its "big up pages".

If you live here, work here or just passed by on the M3 one day in the summer, let me and the Council know what you would like for the place. Hopefully not another Festival Place.

Friday, 29 May 2009

and an older cartoon from the Herald

Zuma, Zapiro and Satire

the banned documentary link to video

Lots of stuff in the last few days that gets you worrying about the power of the new government in South Africa. The documentary that has now been banned twice, the threat of legal action over the Zapiro cartoon and the puerile clashes between Zille and Malema.

My point? When I first saw the accompanying cartoon I was shocked and a little chilled. But satire shouldn't be easy. In the UK we had the Spitting Image thing and at first those of us who loved it felt we were being edgy and out there. Then we discovered that some of the Tory politicians portrayed in puppet form wanted to buy the rubber version!

Zuma seems to be working hard to reassure people that he is really working for all. Threatening to take Zapiro to court does him no favours. And Malema!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

the Stephen Fry story-Carry on Twittering?

stephenfryOoh missus, me abs and me pecs!

Stephen's latest tweet (thursday 28th noon)

Stephen shows links and new Twitter utilities at his best. But sometimes......

Read all of his updates to see the best and the worst of Twitter. It's fine having the trivial when you are the famous Stephen Fry but if you are an ordinary punter from Hampshire what value this tweet:

Afternoon all, Hubbys gone to Shanklin for a couple of hours so Im left at home to Twitter!!! Should be ironing though ha ha" @Linda100 (and she has 300 followers!)

tools, ideas and innovations from some great people

The people on Twitter who have been the most useful to me in recommending
sites, tools and ideas.

My little fave bunch.

and of course @stephenfry !!

the great TWITTER debate

As a late arrival to this community, I have sometimes seemed over enthusiastic. But there are so many silly things said about what goes online, as well as some very silly twitterers. But I don't think people in education have seen what we can all do with this. Lots of pioneers but the wagons are a long way behind.

So some initial thoughts while they are still in my head.

1. Did some searching for refs to BASINGSTOKE and discovered some useful ideas and people and one twitterer who had nothing to say but had over 1000 followers! Its really easy to see why people who just dip their toes in the water get the wrong impression.

2. On the day of the SOUTH AFRICA elections in April, I watched the voting on BBC News24, SkyNews and AlJazeera. All interesting but not nearly as informative as the tweets from people actually lining up to vote. People in Cape Town were telling each other via TWITTER what queues were the longest and heading off for another station.

The Guardian correspondent in Africa wrote stuff for the paper but in his tweets he gave us much more interesting info. (@SmithinAfrica) . Where else could you get descriptions of what was happening as people arrived for ZUMA's slightly premature celebration party that evening? And I was able to pass on to those who were interested, what the media in the UK was reporting. Some of it was just plain inaccurate.

3. The power of Stephen Fry!! Next post

me (sort of...)

me (sort of...)