Digital Dark Age: Now or Never?

Digital Dark Age: Floppy DisksUntil recently I owned hundreds, if not thousands, of computer storage devices. Not just CD’s, hard drives and USB sticks but 3½” & 5¼” floppy disks, DAT tapes, cassette tapes and even a few ROM cartridges from a long forgotten computer console I owned in the early 1980s. A significant life event made me question whether this plastic mountain, stuck in a perpetual digital purgatory, was worth keeping. I no longer owned the appropriate devices to enable me view the contents of each storage device and it was taking up way too much space in my home. After much thought and with a sad heart I decided to dump the lot. I now regret that decision. While I’m sure my electronic files consisted of nothing more than a few poorly constructed Word documents from my university days, a handful of excel spreadsheets where the most sophisticated cells made use of bold and perhaps even a few early digital photos, I still worry that I’ve destroyed some important image, audio, text or file that I, or someone else, may one day need. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has deleted or trashed old devices for the same reasons as I and a recent interview given by the VP of Google, Vint Cerf, made me think again about the so-called Digital Dark Age.Read more…

The Paperless Educator Challenge: The end…?

PaperlessThe Paperless Educator Challenge is over! Almost…

In September 2014 I made a very simple sounding pledge: not to print or write anything on paper until December 2014. At the very start of the academic year, fresh-faced from a summer of no teaching, this seemed like a taxing challenge but one that I could, if I put my mind to it, realistically achieve. My plan was simple, during this 3-month period I was to trial ways in which I could reduce my own personal paper usage and to educate others on how to avoid wasting paper. It’s now time to reveal the experiences and results of the Paperless Educator Challenge. In this blog I’ll detail what worked, what didn’t, the reactions of my peers and offer some tips on how to help you move away from paper.

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The Journalist, the Pianist and the Clacton Cock-up

Camera & Two PhotosIt sounds like the start of a slapstick ‘whodunnit’ but the following is a true story. Not only is it all rather amusing but it’s also a useful reminder on how the internet has become a quick reference library full of (un)reliable sources. The story goes like this… My friend and colleague Robert Hunter, the pianist of this story, was accompanying a double bass player at the Essex Young Musician of the Year Competition in July 2012. As it turns out the bassist that Robert was accompanying, Matthew Paris, won first prize. Picture the excited scene: Matthew is thrilled, Robert is delighted, they both want to capture this victorious moment in a photo. Robert quickly passes his iPhone to someone who snaps a smiling image of our winning duo. This photo, in which Matthew is proudly clutching the winners cup, is the start of a chain of events which leads to much confusion nearly two years later.

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Time for a student email watershed?

Watershed - Asleep at the deskI’m worried. I’ve noticed a steadily increasing number of students sending me emails late into the night. Many of these are one-off late night panics: ‘Sir, I won’t be in your lesson tomorrow because..’.  However, a significant minority are also from students asking for advice, requesting a worksheet or handing in work. At this point let me be clear; I’m not worried about receiving emails, I’m concerned that students are sending them late at night. This isn’t about me complaining how my inbox is getting filled after-hours, I’m quite happy to ignore my email account after a day at school. My concern is that any student who is emailing late into the night is clearly not tucked up in bed ensuring that they are getting a decent nights sleep. Talking to colleagues in other schools this is not restricted to where I work – it seems to be a growing problem. Is it time for a student email watershed?Read more…

The importance of converting your files to PDF

Adobe PDFIf you’ve created a document and sent it via email, there is no way you can be sure it will appear on the recipients device in exactly the same way as it appeared on your screen. That is unless you send it to them as as a PDF. Think of all those images you’ve painstakingly inserted into a Word document, the charts you’ve generated in Excel or those swirling text graphics you embedded into a PowerPoint presentation. They may look picture perfect on your device but can you be sure that the recipients of your document have exactly the same settings and software on their device as you do? It’s highly unlikely that they do. As a result, it’s possible that they will receive a garble of images and text that are oddly floating over some important information.Read more…

Audacity: create and edit recordings with ease

Audacity LogoAudacity is a free, easy to use and extremely powerful tool that enables teachers to create high quality recordings. Whether you’re wanting to create, edit or splice together a collection of recordings then this is the perfect software for you. At first glance the array of buttons, dials and plugins can seem a little overwhelming but this blog post takes you through some simple steps to help you create your first Audacity project. Read more…

Socrative: A Beginner’s Guide

SocrativeSocrative is a superb online resource to use in the classroom. Search Twitter, Google or chat with teachers from other schools – almost everyone will agree that it is one of the best apps/websites to use with students. What seems to be missing are some easy to follow, step-by-step instructions on how to get going with this great tool. This blog posts aims to correct that wrong by providing some easy-to-follow guidelines. You’ll even find a short quiz all ready and waiting for you to test on some willing volunteers.  Read more…