Name that Network

By default, your computer’s drives usually have creative names like “My Computer” or “Macintosh HD”. Home wireless networks usually have equally uninteresting default names, like “linksys” or “netgear”, or that ultimate of all default SSID names, “default”. USB Memory sticks and portable USB drives often have even less interesting names, usually based on their brand, or a series of random characters.

Some people give their computing equipment names that make them a little more interesting, or at least a little more unique and personal. I’ve seen people use names of planets, Greek gods, fictional characters, and many other esoteric collections as the source of inspiration for the names of their networks and computing gear. I once worked as the network manager in a Catholic school where all the servers were named after saints. IT geeks often have an unusual sense of humour, and it commonly shows up in things like this.

As I was running some backups tonight on my two main home computers, my attention was drawn to the names I’ve given to my own machines, drives and home network over the last few years. There is a common, albeit fairly geeky, thread behind their names.

See if you guess where I got my inspiration from… if you think you know where these names come from, drop me a comment below.

My MacBook Pro’s hard drive is named Raskin and the backup drive is named Atkinson. My iMac’s hard drive is named Hertzfeld, and it has a backup drive named Engelbart and several terabytes of attached storage on drives named Wozniak and Tesler. Finally, my wifi network is named Espinosa.

If you can tell me what all these names have in common, without Googling them, then you are obviously pretty darn geeky yourself!

ULearn 09, Day 1

So here I am in Christchurch, New Zealand for Ulearn 09, certainly one of the biggest Ed Tech conferences in NZ, and probably one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere I would think. It’s a education conference that I’ve wanted to attend for the last few years, having only ever heard good things about it, but for whatever reason I just haven’t been able to get here for it.  This year was different, and after hearing how good it was from my work colleague, @sirchriss, I was very keen to get here. Fortunately, a number of Australian educators were sponsored to attend the event this year and I was lucky enough to have my presentation submissions accepted, so here I am.

It really is a beautiful part of the world, and Christchurch is a very attractive city.  The conference itself is quite large, with close to 2000 delegates, 400+ workshops and presentations, 150 support staff and over 60 vendors.  The logistical effort to plan and host a conference of this scale is significant and the organisers do an amazing job.

I got up early enough this morning to attend the Powhiri, a kind of Maori welcoming ceremony.  I’m constantly struck by the energy and pride of the Maori people, and think it’s wonderful that the two cultures of New Zealand, the traditional and the contemporary, exist together in such harmony and respect for each other.  This is a country that really values their indigenous people.

But mainly, today has been full of meeting people. Many of them for the first time (although I felt like I’ve known many of them for a long time.) I bumped into @janenicholls at the Powhiri, and then during the day I kept meeting more and more people who looked just like their Twitter avatars. “Hey, you’re @moodlegirl!” or “Hey, you’re @keamac!”, “Hey you’re @dwenmoth!”, etc, etc. Then of course there was the reconnecting with people I have met before, people like @rachelboyd, @allanahk and @dragon09. I also attended the unconference session in the afternoon at Boaters, where I got to meet many others and to take part in some powerful conversations.  I really enjoyed the unconference – really just a very informal gathering to chat about whatever topics came up – and I got a lot out of it.

After the unconference, I met up with Matt from Core-Ed to record a short video interview as part of the Edtalks series.  This is another terrific NZ initiative, and involves recording short video interviews with leading teachers about some of the things they are doing with technology to make learning more engaging for the kids they teach. Over time the Edtalks video library has grown to become a valuable collection of good ideas and best practice for other teachers, and it was a bit of an honour to be asked to make a contribution to it.

Tonight, I went to the dinner with about 40 other conference folk, where I met still more people that looked a lot like their avatars.  More conversations, more great ideas exchanged, more opportunities to hear about how other people approach this incredible job called teaching. Likewise, I had a few people say to me today, “Hey, you’re @betchaboy!” as though there was almost a sense of celebrity to it for them. It’s really, really weird. After having a day full of these “Hey, you’re @that_person” moments, it made me think about how funny it is that we have these little “celebrity” moments when we meet someone that we’ve only ever know from the online world, especially if it’s just from reading their blogs, following them on Twitter or hearing their podcasts. I mean, we are all “just” teachers, and yet there is that glimmer of excitement when meeting each other for the first time.

It reminded me of an Intel ad currently screening on TV back in Australia, where Ajay Bhatt, the co-inventor of the USB, walks into a room full of “fans”. The ad concludes with a great one liner that kind of sums up the experience I had in meeting people today… I won’t ruin the line by telling you what it is, you can watch it for yourself…

Andy Warhol once said that everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame.  Maybe with the rise of global social networks, extensive personal learning networks and the notion of “celebrity” now existing way out on the edge of the long tail, we’ll all just want to get our 15 minutes of obscurity instead?

Looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow…

Technorati Tags: ulearn, ulearn09

This textbook is broken!

Our school is just about to provide Netbook computers (Lenovo S10s in case you’re interested) to all of our Year 6 students.  This is part of a project to provide an immersive technology-rich year at an age where we think it will do the most good.  Lots of Web 2.0 and open Source software tools, use of Open Office and Google Docs as their main productivity environments, access to school hosted blogs and wikis, etc.  We are trying to make use of these tools to promote creativity, productivity and higher order thinking. We want to expose them to the many great digital resources out there, while teaching them the information literacy skills needed to navigate through the massive amounts of information available.  The kids and their teachers are SO excited and, to be honest, so am I.

So when I stumbled across this video this morning I really had a giggle.  The students who made this clip did a great job of pointing out the limitations of non-digital media in a very funny way.  It’s so true, and although I don’t really agree with the whole “digital natives” idea in terms of their deeper understanding of technology, I certainly agree that our kids do just expect things to work in a certain way.  And they are right… Why shouldn’t a picture be clickable?  Or a word be linkable?  Or a page be zoomable?  And what exactly is the point of text if it’s not hypertext?

Enjoy the video.  I did.

Happy Humans

There is a backstory on this video, but to be honest, it probably doesn’t really matter all that much.  It was made by Matt Harding, the famous “wherethehellismatt” guy from YouTube. The real point for me is that life is for living and that people all over the world want basically the same things – to be loved, to feel happy and to enjoy life.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

I look at that video and love seeing the sheer joy on people’s faces that comes from just being happy.

Enjoy.  I’m off to dance!

The Vegemite Taste Test

I was just doing a tidy-up of my hard drive and I found this video that I’d almost forgotten about, so I thought I’d put it up on YouTube so I know where to find it in future.

Back in 2006, I spent a year teaching in Oakville, Canada, as part of a teaching exchange.  I really enjoyed the whole experience, which was life-changing in many ways.  In fact, I’m back in Toronto at the moment and despite the -24 degree temperatures this really is like my second home.

When you go on a teaching exchange you act as somewhat of an ambassador for your country, taking whatever opportunities you can to share some of the culture of your own country with the locals.  So one day, I decided to let my Grade 9 BTT101 class experience the classic Australian taste of Vegemite.  Most Aussie kids grow up with Vegemite, a yeast based spread that usually goes on toast, crumpets and crackers.  Seeing the reaction of non-Aussies makes me realise that it’s somewhat of an acquired taste, but it’s savoury, salty, yeasty taste is actually quite yummy when you’re used to it.

Of course, I managed to tie it into the syllabus, teaching a lesson on computer basics and the concept of input, processing and output… I brought a toaster and a loaf of bread into class, and we dicussed how bread was the input, the toasting was the process and the toast was the output.  Input, Process, Output.

Of course, once we had made some toast we couldn’t waste it, so out came the Vegemite and the kids had a taste.  Although I love the taste of Vegemite, apparently these Canadian kids didn’t think so.  Still, although they weren’t big Vegemite fans, I was pleased that they at least tried it.

Fortunately I captured their reaction on video. 🙂

Human Tetris

Found this rather funny video on Edublogs TV.  As a Tetris fan from way back, this just made me giggle…

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Speaking of Tetris, I take a class of kids with some pretty severe learning difficulties once a week to do some computer stuff with them.  A few weeks ago, one of the girls finished her work early and since there was only a few minutes till the bell she asked if she could play Tetris online.  A moment later when I walked by she was playing the game and she was totally awesome at it!  I mean, I was blown away at just how fast and accurate she was…  this is from a student that usually really struggles with many other intellectual tasks. Tetris, although based on a simple concept, is a game that requires a good sense of spatial awareness, timing and multitasking to play well… and this girl was playing really well!

I called her regular teacher over and pointed out how good this girl was at the game.  Her teacher had never actually played Tetris before and wasn’t quite sure how the game worked, so I asked the student to give her teacher a lesson in how to play it.  It was great to watch this student, who normally struggles so much with even relatively simple learning tasks, showing this teacher how to play the game… and being quite the master at it in the process.  The teacher was hopeless at it, the student was awesome.

I wonder what sort of places our classrooms would be, and how it would affect our students’ attitude, morale and performance, if teachers were hopeless at stuff more often while allowing their students to be more awesome at the things they are good at.  Often in schools we judge our students performance based on the things that we deem to be important to us, rather than what is important to them.  I’m not suggesting that everything should always be a game, but  I suspect we should always be actively looking for opportunities to let our kids be “smarter” than us.