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The 8 C’s of digital literacy

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Image by jared @ Flickr

Poets talk of a ‘muses’ and people talk of inspiration ‘just coming’ to them. Me, I’m a believer that connections come when you completely immerse yourself in something. About an hour ago I had a breakthrough with my thesis, the tentative title of which is What does it mean to be ‘digitally literate’? A Pragmatic investigation.

I’ve been looking for a way to organize the multitude of definitions of ‘digital literacy’ that there are – almost as many as there are writers on the subject! Then, as I was looking for categories, I noticed that almost every category I used began with ‘C’! I quickly wrote down eight and tweeted it out:

My original tweet

Josie Fraser, herself quite the expert on digital literacy, responded that I really needed a ‘critical’ element in there:

Josie - helpful tweet

She had a very good point and I noticed that the similarity between the things I wanted to put in the ‘cultural’ and ‘community’ sections I’d demarcated. Hence, I changed it round to come up with this, the 8 C’s of digital literacy. Each of the following I believe to be an element with which any definition of the concept must deal:

  • Cultural
  • Communication
  • Cognitive
  • Citizenship
  • Constructive
  • Creativity
  • Confidence
  • Critical

I haven’t numbered them as they’re in no particular order. I will, no doubt, be thinking and reflecting more on the subject. I just wanted to get this post out before anyone else tried to claim this as their own! 😉

A reminder that you can view my thesis as I write it, if you wish. 😀

Which is the best netbook operating system?

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

The above graph is known as the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and is an approximation as to how new types of products and technologies are adopted. I’m usually in the left-hand 2.5% for most technology-related things (well, I’ve got to be honest!) This post is about Netbooks, small form-factor devices used primarily to access the internet and run lightweight applications. Since 2007 I’ve had three netbooks: an Asus Eee 701 (with stock Xandros Linux), an Advent 4211 (MSI Wind clone upon which I installed Mac OSX with some success), and an Asus Eee 1000 (running Ubuntu Netbook Remix). The latter was a fantastic netbook and I was disappointed when I had to return it to my previous school upon leaving.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for a (very) cheap netbook with which I can mess about. If you’re thinking of purchasing one of these then I’d recommend first having a look at the excellent comparison of netbooks on Wikipedia. The problem with having a £1500 Macbook Pro is that it makes you rather reluctant to take it to places like the beach (now only 1.5 miles away from where I live!) In addition, my line manager at my new job as well as my father have been asking for advice regarding netbooks. As a result, I thought that now would be a good time to look at the best operating system to run on a netbook.

Why Linux?

You may be wondering why I don’t automatically recommend Windows 7 for netbooks. That’s because I’m a great advocate of Open Source Software. In the past, it was difficult to hand-on-heart recommend Linux (an Open Source Operating System) for the average person. I’ve used Linux since Red Hat Linux in 1997 and it hasn’t been until the dawn of Ubuntu Linux around 5 years ago that I’ve been able to recommend it to, for example, my parents (who have run it on their laptop for the past 3 years).

Linux is more flexible and configurable than Windows. Oh, and it’s free. 🙂

What to look for in a netbook operating system

To my mind, a netbook operating system should be:

  1. Quick to boot-up (from cold, hibernation and suspend alike)
  2. Work with no glitches (i.e. support hardware out-of-the-box)
  3. Intuitive
  4. Aesthetically pleasing
  5. Easily configurable

The contenders…

Below you’ll find quick video demonstrations of the following operating systems that can be installed on netbooks:

Why have I chosen the three above? There’s no sound, scientific reason apart from that a) 3 is a good number of options to give to people, b) I’ve used Ubuntu Netbook Remix before and have an interest in test-driving the other two, and c) Jolicloud, the other OS I wanted to test, won’t play nicely with virtual machines.

Oh, that’s the other thing. This is completely unscientific as these videos demonstrate how these operating systems perform within a virtual machine within my Macbook Pro. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. The videos are simply there to give you a taster… :-p

Easy Peasy (Ubuntu Netbook Remix)

gOS

Linux Mint

Conclusion

So… which is best? I’d love to be able to say gOS (or Jolicloud if I could get it to work). I love the idea of the netbook being a device simply to connect you to cloud-based working. However, practicality is the order of the day. You have to be able to work effectively offline. Whilst all OS’s will allow you to do this, Ubuntu Netbook Remix allows you to do this in a straightforward and streamlined way.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix – via Easy Peasy if you have an Asus Eee – is the winner! 😀

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Watch my Ed.D. thesis grow in real-time…

thesis

I’ve got until Tuesday to get a much of my thesis written as possible to send to my supervisor. I’ve made a start, but need as much help as I can get to continue to be motivated. I thought, therefore, that sharing what I’m writing in real-time with an audience might help with that.

Click here to access my thesis as I write it!

N.B. The comments are obviously notes to myself. Oh, and unlike everything else on this blog, this is most certainly Copyright – All Rights Reserved. No quoting at all until it’s finished please.

Do feel free to add comments here and/or motivational quotations, inspirational thoughts, and helpful guidance! 😀

Using Joe’s Goals to track and then improve your productive outputs.

In keeping with yesterday’s post about actually using tools before recommending them, I’d like to introduce you to Joe’s Goals. As with all the best productivity tools, it’s really very simple and straightforward. It looks like this:

Joe's Goals

As you can see, I’ve specified my ‘goals’ down the left-hand side and the days of the week appear along the top (along with the date). If you complete your goal on a particular day, clicking on the relevant box fills it with a green ‘tick’ icon. There’s also the option to have a ‘journal’ entry box which you can see at the bottom of the above screenshot.

I’ve been using Joe’s Goals for a few months now and have found it very useful. The satisfaction and motivation element of being able to ‘tick off’ that I’ve completed a target I’ve set myself is very worthwhile. There’s three main benefits as far as I see it for using Joe’s Goals are that you can:

  1. Track what you’ve been up to in order to see what you did when.
  2. Monitor trends (e.g. I’m statistically more likely to write a blog post if I’ve been for a run that morning)
  3. Motivate yourself to do something you haven’t done for a while (in my case, work on my Ed.D.!)

Have YOU tried out Joe’s Goals? What did you think? What are the alternatives? 😀

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The importance of heuristics in educational technology and elearning.

Dilbert - heuristics

This post has been brewing for a while.

I’m sick to death of people ‘recommending’ products, services, applications and utilities based on, essentially, zero real-world testing and feedback. Why? They can’t help with the heuristics.

What are heuristics?

Wikipedia definition:

Heuristic is an adjective for experience-based techniques that help in problem solving, learning and discovery. A heuristic method is particularly used to rapidly come to a solution that is hoped to be close to the best possible answer, or ‘optimal solution’. Heuristics are “rules of thumb”, educated guesses, intuitive judgments or simply common sense. Heuristics as a noun is another name for heuristic methods.

Why are heuristics important?

As I argued in my SHP Conference workshop Raising achievement in History at KS4 using e-learning, it can actually be damaging to:

  • launch into using educational technologies without thinking it through properly (the how not just the what).
  • attempt to replicate what someone has done elsewhere without thinking about the context.

People like Andrew Churches (of Educational Origami fame) deal with heuristics. They show how educational technologies can be used, things to think about, and issues that may arise.

What I’d like to see

Think about new users of educational technologies. Let’s say that someone wants to show parents what’s happening on a school trip in the following country. They ask for advice. Which of these would be the most useful response?

  1. I’d use a blog if I were you.
  2. Have you seen Posterous?
  3. I used Posterous successfully. Here’s how to set it up and here’s an example of how I’ve used it before. Ask me if you get stuck.

Obviously 3. I really don’t want any more of 1 and 2 thank you very much. :-p

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How to SPIN your way to giving more constructive negative feedback.

Spin

Image by jaqian @ Flickr

It’s difficult to give feedback, especially when it’s not positive. However, as a leader, it’s something that’s necessary to get the best of people. I know I keep banging on about Jo Owen’s book How to Lead: what you actually need to do to manage, lead and succeed but it’s excellent. Concise wisdom is what it is. 🙂

Owen believes that using the acronym SPIN can help leaders give more constructive feedback:

  • Situation specifics
  • Personal impact
  • Insight & interpretation
  • Next steps

Situation specifics

First of all, make sure the time and place is right. Give negative feedback in private when the person to whom you are giving it is calm. This needs to be as close to the event as possible (‘feedback, like milk, goes off fairly quickly’) but not when they are shouting and screaming!

Be specific about what happened. Using terms such as ‘unprofessional’ is not helpful and can actually be provocative. Talk about what it is in particular that is the problem (e.g. lateness to meetings).

Personal impact

People can argue about objective matters but not about how things make you feel. For example, saying that arriving late for meetings makes you think they don’t consider them to be important cannot be argued against.

Going down the ‘personal impact’ path allows you to talk about the issue without arguing, for example, about the number of minutes late, number of times, etc. Deal with the issue and

Insight & interpretation

Instead of telling people what to do, ask them if the impact that they’ve made (i.e. upsetting you) was the impact they wished to make. Get them to reflect on their actions. They are much more likely to value the solutions they come up with above any solution that you hand them.

Next steps

Once you’ve been through the above steps, you should now be able to calmly agree ‘next steps’ between you. Focus on the future being positive and constructive. Don’t play the ‘blame game’ and avoid discussing the past at this point.

Conclusion

Owen advises taking time over each step and not rushing through them. Although no-one looks forward to giving negative feedback, I am happier now that I’ve got a constructive way of approaching it!

What are your thoughts? 😀

The Big Move

This weekend sees the Belshaw family up sticks and move to Northumberland. I’ve already started as Director of E-Learning at The Northumberland Church of England Academy, but it was Hannah’s last day at her school today and Ben’s last day at nursery. We’re moving out of what has been, to be honest, rural bliss.

I put together the above video in iMovie 2009. I love the easy-to-use Indiana Jones-style effects. A big improvement over the previous iteration… 😀

HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (advanced)

As promised in HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (the basics…) this post outlines more advanced options when using Cooliris as a presentation tool. It covers the following:

  1. Using a Nintendo Wiimote to control your presentation
  2. Customising the HTML page
  3. Adding titles to slides
  4. Linking to websites from slides
  5. Adding a ‘branding image’

1. Using a Nintendo Wiimote to control your presentation

WiimoteThe Nintendo Wiimote is a wonderful thing. It (potentially) connects via Bluetooth to any suitably-equipped computer. I use a Macbook Pro and a program called Darwiin Remote (free) and it couldn’t be easier to both use the buttons on the Wiimote as well as the motion-sensing element to control the cursor. If, however, you’re using Windows you’ll need Wiin Remote (free) but good luck getting your ‘Bluetooth stack’ working (try BlueSoleil – or better still, buy a Mac!) Linux users need WiiLi.

If you have no joy with the above, simply invest in something like the Kensington Si600 Wireless Presenter which will do the job – albeit in a less cool way… 😉

2. Customising the HTML page

PicLens Publisher does all the hard work for you in terms of creating the HTML page, thumbnails and RSS feed you need to present using Cooliris. However, if you want to customise your presentation to look a bit more like mine, then you’ll need to edit the HTML page produced by the program.

In keeping with my love of all things free and Open Source, I’d recommend the cross-platform program KompoZer for this. It’s got a WYSIWYG editor and is very straightforward to use! If you look at my presentations, I add the following:

  • my avatar
  • title of my presentation
  • details about me
  • link to HTML version of presentation
  • details about the presentation method (feel free to link to my posts!)
  • Creative Commons license information (at bottom)

3. Adding titles to slides

This is the bit that involves delving into code. Don’t worry though, as it’s very straightforward. You need to find the file entitled photos.rss and open it with a text editor. You should see something like this:

Piclens RSS - title highlighted

The part of the RSS feed that I’ve highlighted (between the <title> tags) is the title of each slide. This is what you need to change in order to alter the title of the slide. They’re in the order you specified when you made the presentation.

Result:

Title

4. Linking to websites from slides

This is very much like the above process of adding titles to slides, except you edit a different part of the RSS feed:

PicLens - link

The highlighted section above (between the <link> tags) is where you need to put the link to the webpage you wish to display when the relevant icon is clicked during your presentation:

Cooliris link icon

5. Adding a ‘branding image’

This is perhaps the least useful of the advanced tweaks – yet in some ways the most satisfying as it gives you ‘ownership’ of your presentation.

Cooliris - branding image

The branding image needs to have a transparent background (I used a PNG file but I suppose you could use a GIF) and no more than 26 pixels high. There’s no real limit to its width. You can add anything in there – as you can see I put the shortened link to the presentation for people to go back to. Need an image editor? Try the GIMP!

Put the image you have generated into the images sub-folder of your presentation folder. You then need to add the following to the bottom of the photos.rss file:

Cooliris - branding image RSS

I’ve highlighted the section you need to add – although of course you’ll need to change name_of_your_file.png to whatever you decided to call your branding image! 🙂

Conclusion

I think Cooliris is a great presentation tool. It’s engaging, free to create and access, and enables people to re-use parts of your presentation (if you CC-license it!)

I’d like to thank Alan Levine for pioneering this method. The blog posts he wrote that guided me are below:

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Surviving the matrix: 5 common leadership pitfalls and how to avoid them.

The Matrix

by Jamie Zawinski (Wikimedia Commons)

Jo Owen, in his excellent How to Lead: what you actually need to do to manage, lead and succeed has a wonderfully concise and vivid section on the ‘pitfalls of survival’ for leaders. This post outlines these and gives some advice as to how to avoid them. 🙂

Owen calls the middle management of an organization ‘the matrix’. It can be an uncomfortable and difficult place from which to emerge, he says. The five most common pitfalls of survival are:

  1. The expert in the matrix
  2. The cave dweller
  3. The politician
  4. The boy scout
  5. The autocrat

expert

The expert in the matrix

The expert in the matrix has been promoted because of their technical competency. On becoming a leader they are out of their comfort zone and therefore lean on their exceptional technical skills. They are likely to demand almost impossibly high standards from their subordinates leading to friction and discontent.

cave_dweller

The cave dweller

Cave dwellers try to avoid the matrix as much as possible by hiding in their ‘cave’ of pseudo-certainty. In an attempt to recreate the security they felt lower down the organization they become more territorial and less valuable to the organization. These, says Owen, are likely to be the first to go in any organizational ‘rationalisation’.

Machiavelli

The politician

Coming across as rather too enthusiastic about ‘learning the dark arts of the matrix,’ the politician works hard to cultivate a power network. They are constantly on the lookout for new initiatives and seek a position in relation to them. Politicians seek to be close enough to projects to be able to claim a stake in them if successful whilst being able to distance themselves from projects that fail or are discredited. After a while politicians are seen for their true colours and are ignored.

Scout emblem

The boy scout

The opposite to the politician is the boy scout. They think that by working hard and delivering results they will automatically receive recognition and promotion. In practice, however, they got ‘lost in the matrix.’ Boy scouts need to stake their claim and show that they are leading and delivering.

autocrat

The autocrat

Autocrats act as if they are already higher than they actually are in the organizational hierarchy. Whilst they talk about the importance of being a team player, in reality they are chiefly concerned with people being loyal to them. If they perform well, autocrats can succeed and are promoted. If not, they become irritating and a burden to their colleagues.

winding_path

The path through the matrix

So how do middle managers be successful in and/or find their way out of the matrix? Owen believes this comes back to the ‘three and a half Ps’ that he outlines at the start of the book:

  1. People – focus not only on those you have direct formal control but those ou can motivate and coach. These widens your circle of influence.
  2. Professional – model the values needed as a senior leader. One of the best ways to do this, believes Owen, is to chair meetings well.
  3. Positive – being positive is especially important in the middle of the matrix. Treat ambiguity and change as opportunity instead of risk. Learn how to deal with conflict in your particular context and you will be successful.
  4. Performance (the half-P) – you need a ‘claim to fame’ to emerge from the matrix. Show that you can deliver exceptional results out of ambiguity and complexity. Actively take on challenge.

Conclusion

I really liked this section of Owen’s book In fact, the whole thing is becoming invaluable to me as I step up from being a an ‘expert in the matrix’ (and ‘boy scout’ at times) to, hopefully, becoming an effectively and successful senior leader! 😀

Leadership Day roundup

Honk!!! Honk!!! Honk!!! :)))

cc-by-nc-nd Denis Collette…!!!

I didn’t realise until this evening that today is ‘Leadership Day’. The hashtag is #leadershipday09 if you’re interested in media relating to it. I haven’t got time to do anything else, I’m afraid, other than link to this Diigo list of relevant blog posts and make a list of those on this blog you may find interesting!

My 5 Top Leadership blog posts (by popularity)

  1. Four ways to understand organizational change
  2. Are organizations like brains?
  3. How to Lead: Focusing on People
  4. Lord Bilimoria on leadership.
  5. Four ways to make your organization live long and prosper.
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