Monthly Archives: June 2012

PowerPoint vs Prezi – Which is best for teaching?

As part of my teaching of travel and tourism classes I have got to give presentations. I use PowerPoint but have lately been using Prezi. I think both PowerPoint and Prezi are excellent but I have become a big Prezi fan because I think it is more professional and is better at engaging an audience than PowerPoint.

I have made a 5 minute video comparing PowerPoint and Prezi and you can see the video below. I have just started making video’s of my presentations so I apologise if you think they are of poor quality. I am working on improving them as I do more !

Higher education on the verge of a revolution?

Let’s start with a bold statement ! - Teaching, at the further and higher education level, is on the verge of such a huge change in the way it is delivered that in 5 years time we won’t recognise the educational lanscape.

Teachers has been slow to grasp the importance of technology and have relied on the lecturer to teach a classroom full of students for far too long. However, with the cost of a university education spiralling out of control and further education budgets set to decrease for many years to come change will be forced on these establishments.

Running a college is a very expensive business in terms of its buildings, staff costs and other resources. Its also expensive for the student. Its also very restrictive on the number of students who can attend the course and imposes strict rules about when a student should attend. As budgets come under increasing pressure, it is always the way that new ideas are born and new ways of doing things are found. This is already happening at the Khan Accademy. Also, the Stanford University professor who taught an artificial intelligence course to more than 160,000 students has abandoned his teaching position to aim for an even bigger audience.

Sebastian Thrun, a research professor of computer science at Stanford, has given up his teaching role at the institution to found Udacity, a start-up offering low-cost online classes.

A few years ago who would have imagined that we would download our music rather than buy it from a record shop. The high street is suffering whilst online retailers take their market share. Why can’t it happen in education too? The signs are already there and the environment is there too, Combine these factors with the technolgy that exists now and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the writing on the wall.

What might look like a challenge to large educational institutions is actually an opportunity. However, I fear the worst, because large companies and institutions are normally the slowest to change. We saw it in the travel industry when new airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet came from nothing to overtake the slow changing national airlines to change the airline industry forever.

Colleges and Universities already have the skills, knowldege and teaching expertise to offer qualifications in a radically new way. This will involve providing online learning so the student can learn at a time to suit them and also with a totally different way of monitoring a students progress. The way a tutor carries out assessment will change too. You have only to watch one of many You Tube videos about how the Khan Accademy is revolutionising how a students progress is monitored to see how things will look in a just a few years.

Colleges and Universities need to start to steer a new course now otherwise they face being left behind by new online universities that will offer cheap flexible ways of learning and obtaining a qualification.

If you want to see how teaching in the further and higher education sectors will look in the near future watch the fascinating video below.

Kids should code

There has been lots of publicity about kids being able to code. When I was at school we had binary computers. There was no such thing as a desk top PC. I remember going on a school trip to Burtons Head Office in Leeds in the 70′s and they had an air-conditioned room full of giant computers. That total computing power, back in those days, was probably equivalent to a standard desktop PC now. If only I had had the forsight to realise that computers would start a technology revolution and that I should learn how to be a computer programmer !

School children and students have learnt how to use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint and that’s about it. I agree that students should learn how to code. Knowing how to make an app. is just as important as learning PowerPoint but knowing how to code an app. will open more doors and give them the power to be creative.

Being creative, in my view, is just as important as literacy and numeracy and we need to encourage that in our schools and colleges.

I found this great You Tube video about coding and it features some famous faces!

England take a football lesson in draw against Italy.

Being a loyal England fan I watched the Euro 2012 quarter final between England and Italy on Sunday evening. It was inevitable, of course, that we would get beaten on penalties. To their credit England defended well and were well organised but that’s about the only good thing I can say about the England performance. The BBC football experts headed up by Gary Lineker were honest in their assessment of the England performance but I don’t think they were critical enough. The TV experts, flown out on a private plane to be at the match, failed to ask the question why the England players had tired legs and could not match the skills and passing game of the Italians.

The England team is full of the best most well paid English players in the Premier League. Why is it that they have tired legs and why is it that they can’t pass a ball or keep possession. I would have thought that the best players would know how to pass a ball, would have excellent skills on the ball and be fit enough to run for 90 minutes of a football game !

For far too long we have had the same type of England players who do not have the skills to compete at the highest level. Also, why was it that the Italians best player, Pirlo, was allowed so much space so that he could pass the ball with as much time as he needed on the ball? I would have thought that he needed to be taken out of the game by man marking by one or maybe two England players.

In my opinion it seems that despite high wages our national football team still does not have the skills and passing abilities that it should have. Why is this? Well, maybe it’s because we have too many foreign players gracing our Premier League teams. Is this not giving our own home grown players the chance to play at the highest level?

Some radical thinking needs to take place to work out why our players can’t keep and pass the ball like the Spanish and Italians can. Maybe they need to spend more time practicing !

What’s the biggest breakfast you can eat?

I love a cooked breakfast once in a while, but could I eat one of the largest breakfasts served in the UK which consists of 8 eggs, 12 rashers of bacon, 12 sausages, potatoes, mushrooms, hash browns, black pudding, beans and 12 slices of bread. The answer is a definate No! This breakfast, however, is on sale in a cafe in the UK for a cost of £15. If you can manage to eat it you get your money back.

You can watch the video about this enormous breakfast here.

This breakfast weighs a staggering 9 pounds, the same weight as a small child !

The video about this enormous breakfast is part of a BBC series about how Britain’s weigh on average 3 stones more than we did 50 years ago. It seems that the eating habits of some Americans, with their super sized portions has caught on over here.

The problem with TV programmes like this is that they can glamourise this type of eating behaviour. In fact there is a programme on one of the channels called Man vs Food where the presenter travels around trying to find super sized eating challenges. Having seen the programme once it made me feel ill just watching it.

If we are all going to get bigger it raises questions about the size of aircraft seats and other similar things as well as the most important things – our health so ….TV producers please do not make TV programmes about over eating glamourous!

Bored of listening to music? Listen to TED!

Quite a while ago I discovered TED. No, this is not some strange man that I found in a remote place! TED stands for Technolgy Entertainment and Design.The BBC in an article today describes TED as a cult. I wouldn’t quite go that far but there is no doubt that since videos of TED talks were put online they have become mainstream rather than just listened to by those willing to pay thousands of pounds for an annual membership.

TED talks, if you don’t know are lectures lasting about 20 minutes that are given on just about any subject you can imagine. The talks are given by experts in that field or by people with a passion for the subject. They can be inspiring, educational, informative, bewildering, bizzare and mind bogggling but the one thing they all have in common is that they are very thought provoking. TED talks are an outlet for ideas and there is something that will interest most people.

Some of the quotes and subjects you can see online range from -”The Secret to Happiness is Low Expectations” to “Lessons from Death Row Inmates”.They are educational and as the website says are “Ideas worth spreading”

I find TED talks so interesting that I have found myself listening to talks rather than listening to music. I have downlowded the TED app and I often lie in bed at night listening. I can understand why the talks have become cult listening material and if you haven’t tried listening I suggest you give it a go.

The top TED talks you can watch are:-

1. Ken Robinson on schools killing creativity – viewed nearly 11 million times

2. Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight - viewed 8.7 million times

3. Pranav Mistry on sixth sense technology – viewed 8.3 million times

4. Steve Jobs on how to live before you die – viewed 8.2 million times

5. David Gallow shows underwater astonishments – viewed 7.4 million times

6. Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense – viewed 6.4 million times

7. Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action – viewed 5.7 million times

8. Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability – viewed 5.1 million times

9. Arthur Benjamin does “Mathemagic” – viewed 4.2 million times

10. Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen – viewed 4.1 million times

Viewing figures as of 20 June 2012 on TED website

England to win Euro 2012 ?

It has been a bit of a roller coaster for England but the unexpected news for England fans is that they have won their group and are through to the quarter finals where they will play Italy.

England have been a pleasant surprise for me in this tournament. I have been impressed with their defence and the England strikers are looking good although Wayne Rooney was not at his best even though he did score the winning goal. Andy Carroll’s goal against Sweden was fantastic and the subtle touch of Welbeck to score the winning goal against Sweden was top quality. The weaknesses for me are Scott Parker who I think is not creative enough and ex Leeds player James Milner who I think has been ordinary.

Italy are always well organised in defence but they are beatable and I predict that England will win.The interesting player to watch will be Balotelli. The Man City player is voltile and I can see fireworks happening if the England players wind him up.

England are so unpredictable as well. Their passing at times has been poor and I worry that good attacking players will expose their defence. Whatever happens, it will be entertaining and lets hope England carry on surprising everyone.

Cycling the Monsal Trail

A few weeks ago I visited the Monsal Trail in The Peak District. It’s near Buxton and Bakewell and is well worth a visit if you are a cyclist or walker. The Trail is part of the old railway line that ran between London and Manchester. It was completed by Midland Railways in 1863 when the Monsal Viaduct was finished. For over 100 years the railway line remained open but it was eventually closed in 1968.

In 2011 the tunnels of the Monsal line were re-opened after being refurbished and now you can cycle or walk from Bakewell to Blackwell Mill near Buxton. There is a small car park at Blackwell Mill which gets very busy at weekends or you can park near the old Bakewell station where there is a bigger car park. You can hire cycles as well if you don’t want to take your own.

The Monsal Trail is fantastic for cycling. It’s flat and fairly wide although there are a lot of walkers that you will need to respect You will travel alongside the River Wye at times as well as through several tunnels so it’s a really entertaining cycle ride with plenty to see. The Monsal Trail cycle route is perfect for children and adults alike. You will, of course, have to cycle back the same way unless you can arrange for someone to pick you up at the other end.

Here are some photos that I took of The Monsal Trail on a very cloudy day.