jfs: (Default)
Once a week, I go to a primary school in Bethnal Green to help the children there put together a school magazine. It's organised through the Community Relations team at work, I've been doing ti for about a year, and it's a lot of fun.

It's hard work (and really makes me appreciate the work that teachers do) but it's quite different to my day job and breaks the rhythm of the working week.

So this term, I've really taken the lead in project managing the magazine - of the people who can go regularly, I'm the one with the most design / printing experience. So we're encouraging the children not just to write articles and take photos, but also to proofread each other's work, and to think about what goes into making a magazine. I even briefly talked to them about page layout, and things they needed to consider about the number of articles we had. I've got an editorial board meeting with them this Thursday to show them the final proofs of the magazine and they get to say whether they're happy with it.

There's a whole heap of good things about doing this, but last week's session really raised a smile. 2 nine year old girls were putting together a recipe page, and they were decorating the edge of the page with clip art of chocolate chunks. As I looked over their shoulder to the PC, one of them turned to me and, with a very serious look on her face, said "We're only putting the pictures of chocolate on the left hand side and at the top, so you must make sure that this is a left hand page, otherwise the design won't work."

I think I managed to nod, say "I'll make a note of that" and turn away before grinning too much.
jfs: (Default)
Still planning on writing up the rest of the month's worth of music bits, but doubt it will be tonight.

Just putting a flag in the ground - I've been in my job a year. That's flown past!
jfs: (Default)
A colleague here is looking at learning more about social media (from a use / management pointo of view rather than a technical one.

I'm going to be pointing him at the following as good sources to keep in touch about what's going on with social media - feel free to add your favourites in the comments!:

Seth Godin: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ (Marketing in web 2.0)

Adam Tinworth: http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/ (Journalism and social media)

TWItip: http://www.twitip.com/ (twitter tips)

Guardian Internet pages: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/internet (general technology)
jfs: (Default)

Bookmarked for myself more than anything else - Clay Shirky talking from a couple of years ago on what we're doing with all our free thinking time - 20 minutes but really inspiring about what are we going to do with all the spare time we actually now have.

Shirky's point - that at a back of an envelope calculation, there's 100 million hours of work and human thought in Wikipedia thus far.

The USA watches 200 billion hours of TV per year. Or 100 million hours per weekend watching advertisments.

So by not watching the adverts, the USA alone could generate 52 Wikipedias per year.
jfs: (Default)
Some of this will be old hat to some of you, but I've just finished running our regular 'What can you learn in 15 minutes' day - this one about Web 2.0.

It's a pretty simple format. Get 10 or so presenters, and ask them to talk about one thing for 10 minutes - it's kind of like the 'Pecha Kucha' concept, only because we're actually trying to teach rather than just perform, we don't make people use PowerPoint, and we don't make them auto forward their slides.

The aim is more to inspire and inform than to teach, but there's a whole heap of penumbra stuff going on as well to do with promoting ourselves as a service.

Anyway, today we were streaming the presentations live, so people who couldn't make it to the hall could watch them. As well as the committee of the conference I gave a paper to last year on running sessions like this, there were several of the people in the Library school here watching too. As one of our presenters was talking about Twitter, I thought that I really should Tweet something about it. So I took a photo, uploaded it, and gave it the #ucl hashtag.

When I searched for the hashtag, I found the tweets that the library school were publishing. So I started talking to them, answering questions, getting feedback from the people on the live feed and passing it to the presenters. It _really_ opened up the day for me - put another layer of value onto what we were doing.

And while I was watching one of the presentations, I was sorting out a meeting with the people from the library school about running a similar sort of day but with much wider participation from academics across the University.

So - twitter - not just for twits!


jfs: (Default)
Far more pleased than I have any right to be.

But I have a completely legitimate reason to use the following image in a PowerPoint presentation for a course I'm teaching this afternoon ...

What could it be? )
jfs: (Default)
So, for the first time ever, I've handed in two resignation letters within 12 months. On the 18th September I start my new job as IT Trainer for UCL, back in the centre of London (and within 5 minutes walk of the place I left last year). It's ironic - the main reason I'm leaving UEL is because there isn't enough work for me to do - but the timing of the job offer has meant that I'll be leaving them at their busiest time. And with one of the team likely to still be in hospital when I leave.


Anyway - the various bits of paper are now flying around the world to move me smoothly from one role to another.

Weirdly, I'm even looking forward to the commute again.
jfs: (ghosts)
I have one of those dull but necessary jobs to do at work today - resetting all the student data in most of our 1300+ VLE courses. The difficult work has been done already. I've found out which 30 or so courses must not be reset for one reason or another, and made a backup of all the courses so that a) we have an archive of our VLE from this academic year and b) if I mess it up today I have a second chance to get it right.

So now we have the dull part - going into each course category by category, identifying the 'Do not resets' and unticking them, double checking, triple checking, then clicking on 'reset'.

Once that's clicked, our VLE server then goes through each course and strips all the student data out - their marks, their messages, their emails and finally, their Ids. It's a virtual representation of the work that's going on in school-rooms throughout the country at the moment - posters and projects being taken down, new decorations and posters, the class pet sent home with a succession of schoolchildren. If it's done correctly, the next students in that course should have no idea that there were any previous occupants of their virtual classroom.

It doesn't always work, of course. Last year, there was a slight ... messup with the population of the courses. A failure to appreciate the value of a certain checkbox (and that's literally what it came down to, we found) meant that when our IT services upgraded the student record systems, said record system decided to populate each course with the previous year's class as well as the current one. Some lecturers noticed this virtual overcrowding and were somewhat vehement in their demands that we chase out the interlopers. Others carried on regardless, either happy for their wisdom to be regurgitated or not noticing that the boys at the back were somewhat older than was to be expected.

So, we reset over the summer. This is a job that will take all day, and possibly Monday also, and while there are other things I can be getting on with, there aren't that many.

And as I sit here and stare at the screen, the progress bar limps its way across the screen, coughing like a Victorian beggar from the Southwark stews, lungs full of smog and vitriol. Slow and vindictive he crawls, waiting for me to turn my head away so that he can shudder to a halt. Any concentration I can apply to other tasks is of necessity fractured by my need to check back on him, moving him on with the toe of my boot if necessary. He's angry of course; that belly burning rot that is caused by the sight of Oliver Twist across the road - the new shiny server who is destined to replace our faltering Fagin here. Yes - his days are numbered because of his age and decrepitude, and rather than try to keep up with the new boy on the block, (try and fail, of course, and he knows that would be the case) he has chosen sullen slovenly servitude.

Frankly, the day the body tips into the paupers grave is one I am waiting for with some joy.
jfs: (penalty)
I may have lost my degree certificate. This is annoying, but the last I remember seeing it was 4 years ago, just about the time I started at SPH, and in the middle of my move to London.

It's probably in a box in the basement somewhere, but hey ho.

So, just in case, I mailed MMU (which used to be Manchester Polytechnic) and enquired about getting a replacement copy.

I received a somewhat terse reply, written by someone who's really not very good at communicating electronically - they'd changed the subject line of the email such that it almost got caught by my spamtrap, and hadn't left anything in the body of the email to give me any context. However, that's not so big a deal - I've communicated with enough poor communicators not to worry overly about it.

I was informed that I couldn't get a reprint of my certificate. Well, I'm guessing that's what I was informed. What I was actually told was something that I was very well aware of, which is that "Your certificate was given to you at the 1991 Awards Ceremony" which I'm choosing to interpret as "We're not going to print you another copy". Again, not particularly cause for confusion, despite the fact that Manchester Polytechnic degree certificates were about as ornate as some of the swimming certificates I received when I was a child - as I recall, there was the tiniest amount of gilding, and a photostated signature. The sort of thing it would be reasonably trivial to forge with Photoshop and a good quality printer.

What was confusing to me was being told that "You can obtain verification from the Open University" - apparently there's a form I need to fill out, which I'm going to be sent.

Anyone out there in Academia have the slightest clue why I need to apply to the Open University for verification that I passed a degree at a bricks and mortar university 15 years ago?

January 2017

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