150 Years


Today marks the 150th birthday of the world most famous clock, Big Ben.  It’s famous in structure, design, reliability, and without a doubt, the most recognizable clock chime ever.

It’s famous appearance make it one of the premier landmarks in London and has appeared in so many photographs, television shows, and movies with a UK content.


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It’s a fascinating piece of architecture with an equally as fascinating history.

Read about the history and design/structure here.

To celebrate this historic day, consider doing the following…

  • Download the Big Ben application for your iPod/iPhone.  (Free for the next 48 hours)
  • Take a virtual tour of the Clock Tower.  Full screen mode is pretty cool. (Only UK residents can actually do it.)
  • Download a Big Ben Screensaver.
  • Check out the neighbourhood in Google Earth.  Make sure to turn on 3D images.

Above all this, read about the history of Big Ben, the Clock Tower, and the United Kingdom.

Later that morning
First comment indicated that Google.co.uk had a doodle to celebrate but unfortunately it didn’t appear in the comment.  I’ve embedded it here.  As you can see, it’s very nicely done.


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links for 2009-05-30


Interpreting PBWorks Data


I had an interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday that turned into something interesting and interpretive.  We were having one of those “If I was King of the Education World” conversations.  We were talking about the use of technology along with other things in the classroom.  One of the things that we talked about was the design of the day.  We have this notion that tradition rules and that we teach during the day and students do homework at night.

There are a couple of challenges with the model.  One is that textbooks might be at home when they should be at school or they’re at school when they should be at home.  At home, homework is done in isolation and at school, often there’s enough time to get started with homework but you have to pack up and move on to the next class, only to pick up later on.  In terms of technology, this is where we see the big digital divide (real or imaginary) where some students have computers at home and varying levels of internet access.

So, we hypothesized, why not turn the tables around.  Issue students a textbook if you must, on the first day of school and have them take it home and leave it there.  Change the day so that homework is done at school and students do their reading for the next day at home.  In terms of technology, that way you could even the playing field with everyone having access to the same level of access.  More importantly, the students would have access to each other for collaboration and for work.

But, it’ll never work.  Students don’t work at home.  Or do they?  Are we making assumptions here?

Our conversation turned to the use of wikis.  In our district, this has been the Doug-declared “Year of the Wiki”.  This tool has sprung up like wildfire and amazing things have happened.  While there is some use of other formats, the wiki of choice has been PBWiki (now PBWorks) for us.

In good tracking fashion, every change to a wiki page is noted in the page history.  You can scan the list and you get a feeling of when students are editing their pages.  When you look at the comments area, you also get a sense of when comments are made to comment.  But, it’s just a feeling.  As I looked up and down the history, I thought “There’s got to be a way to present this better”.  I found a way, it provided some interesting insights and I want to share it with you here.

So, first I go to the page that I’m interested in and display its editing history.  I’ll show my history because the name of the editor is collected as well.

Once I highlight the text that I want to analyse, I’ll just copy it to my clipboard and I’ll open Notebook and paste it.

It’s kind of rough but there.  As I look, the data is all separated by spaces.  So, I’m going to do a search and replace.  I’m going to search for a space and replace it with a comma.

The times are a little odd as they’re separated by colons.  I’ll do another search and replace to change the colon to a comma.
This is interesting because I’m going to save it and then bring it into Excel as a CSV (Comma-separated value) file.  In that format, each piece of information will be in its own separate column.

In cell O, I’m going to do one thing.  I’d like my report done by the hour so I’m going to use the CONCATENATE function to concatenate the hour with the appropriate am or pm.

Now, I’m going to select the entire spreadsheet and copy it and create a new collection of cases in Fathom.  (I could do the next step right in Excel but I wanted to work Fathom into it!

So, open Fathom and drag a new collection to the workspace and paste the data from above.  Drag out a new table and drag out a blank graph.  All that I really want to do now is plot Column O.  My desktop looks like this.

For truth value, I’ve actually switched from MY data to a student data.  So, just what are we looking at?

We’re looking at a graphical summary of when this student edited and made changes to the wiki.  Look along the horizontal access.  How much work is done at school?  How much is done at home?  When is it done at home?  What is this telling us about student desire?  Does the student think about wiki changes on the way home from school and immediately hop on the computer?  Or, does the student wake up with some new inspiration and just have to make a change?

Now, we might not be able to change the world and turn everything upside down overnight.  But, let’s not underestimate kids.  With motivation (in this case working on a wiki), amazing things can happen.

I’d be interested in hearing other thoughts and interpretations about my little exercise above.  If your students are creating wikis, this might be an interesting activity for them to go through to see just what their engagement in wiki work and design and collaboration is all about. Does this help build the case for why you want to use wikis or any other online tool in the classroom?

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links for 2009-05-29


Waving at the Future


There was a big splash of news yesterday as Google demonstrated one of its new products from its laboratory.  They’re calling it Google Wave.

You can’t download and play around with it yet as an end user.  However, the potential if you are fond of using social media to make connections seems to be incredible.

You can read about it at:

As you can see, it’s making quite a bit of headlines right off the bat.  I’m reading the reports and am thinking of how many collaboration spaces and tools that I use regularly that might gel together in one spot should this work reliably as advertised.

I’m also liking the screen shots all done in Chrome.  With its clean design, there should be lots of horse power to drive this.  Where are the Macintosh and Linux versions?

It’s more than a notion.  Check out the video.

This could be big.  I can’t wait to get my hands on it.  At present, the best that can be done is sign up to be on the waiting list.

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links for 2009-05-28


You Will Be Found…


…and once you’re found, you will be indexed.

I’m reading Ross’ reply to yesterday’s post and thinking about how easy it is for him to find himself on the internet.  With a unique name like his, he stands out and without even trying, you know that he’s going to be returned as one of the top hits on any internet search.

Above and beyond that, his contributions to education should be recognized as well.  He’s a technology leader, former member of OSAPAC, and is one of the key mover and shakers in Mathematics in the province of Ontario.

For a lot of these reasons, doing an appropriate search will dredge up all kinds of ref

erences.  I thought that I knew most about him but I did a search and found even more details.

So, the indexing continues in ways that we never realize.

I had a similar revelation myself the other day.  I was looking for a particular blog and stumbled onto a site that was indexing ME and this blog.  According to postrank, in its recent analysis, I had moved up 157 positions.  I didn’t even know that I was on the list!  Heck, I don’t even recall knowing about the list.  But, there I

The logo of internet search engine company Goo...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

was.

Whenever I talk to people about online identify and the like, eyes typically glaze over.  Here’s Doug going on about some computer, nerdy thing again.  But it’s happening and happening everywhere.

Not only do we need to be aware of it, but more than ever, we need to be actively guarding the content and just what we’re becoming associated with.  Even more importantly, we’ve got to stop passively giving a nod and a wink to this with students.

Not only will YOU be found, but THEY will be found as well.  And, once found, what types of story and information will be delivered along with this discovery.

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