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12 educational ways of using 12seconds.tv

I first came across 12seconds.tv last year when it was in ‘Alpha’. It was an interesting diversion at the time, but I didn’t use it much and quickly forgot about it. Recently, I’ve noticed my email inbox filling up with notifications that people were following me on 12seconds.tv.

Thinking it was worth another look I’ve put together this ’12 ways of using 12seconds.tv in education’. Please feel free to add your own! 🙂

Pondering educational utility of 12seconds.tv on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #1 – Asynchronous debates on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #2 – Synthesis on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #3 – VoiceThread-like on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #4 – Class documentary on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #5 – E-Portfolio reflections on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #6 – Ideas box on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #7 – Exemplifying good practice on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #8 – Virtual ‘penpals’ on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #9 – Learning conversations on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #10 – Language acquisition/practice on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #11 – Mini documentary on 12seconds.tv

Educational use #12 – Lesson reflection on 12seconds.tv

For longer (constrained) videos, I’d recommend Flickr that allows you to post videos no longer than 1:30. As we’ve found with Twitter, sometimes being constrained can be a good thing! :-p

Learning objectives: the importance of trigger verbs

Right arrowI’m not sure whether it was because I was new to the profession, but it was during my teaching practices that I attended two in-service training events that have had a profound inuence on my teaching. The first, about the use of body language and voice in the classroom I shall share in a future post. This post builds on Learning objectives: the basics, and concerns the second: the use of trigger verbs when framing lesson objectives.

It’s important to use these ‘trigger verbs’ – words that relate specifically to actions – when framing learning objectives for (or indeed, with) students. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to know which trigger verbs to use. Is, for example, interpreting a high-order skill than categorizing?

The document below () is based on an original by Ron Rooney of the Education Development Service and provides some clarification. Let me say in advance that I’m aware that some people believe that Synthesis and Evaluation should switch positions from that given in Bloom’s original taxonomy. I’m just providing the document largely as it was given to me. 🙂

You should have the options to both download this as a Microsoft Word-formatted document and print it using the buttons below the table. ‘KS3’ and ‘GCSE’ stand for ‘Key Stage 3’ and ‘General Certificate of Secondary Education’ respectively. You can remove or change these if they are not relevant to where you are or what you’re doing!

What do you think? Is this useful? Is it out of date? :-p

Ed.D. Thesis snapshot: towards a bedrock definition of literacy.

Although I’m progressing well with my Ed.D. thesis, I do feel sometimes as though what I’m reading is adding epicycles on top of epicycles, rather than cutting (Copernicus-like) to the chase. Take, for example, definitions of digital literacy. For me to be able to deal with these systematically and critically, I need a bedrock definition of literacy upon which to base any criticism. What follows is a draft section of my thesis that aims to deal with just that. The quotation in bold towards the end is the definition of ‘literacy’ I’m thinking of using to base the rest of my thesis upon. :-p

N.B. You may want to read my previous post The 8C’s of digital literacy for context before reading this one!

Bedrock (and the light at the end of the tunnel!)

Image CC BY-NC tj.blackwell @ Flickr

Claire Bélisle (in Martin, 2008:156) identifies three conceptions in the evolution of our concept of ‘literacy’. First is the model favoured by UNESCO, the functional model. This conceives of literacy as the ‘mastery of simple cognitive and practical skills.’ Most theorists in the literature – and especially those who espouse ‘new literacies’ – would see this as a definition of competence, not literacy. Thus, ‘digital competence’ could involve a basic understanding of how the internet works (e.g. hyperlinks) and having the practical skills to be able to navigate it.

The second model in the evolution of literacy cited by Bélisle is the socio-cultural practice model. This model takes as its basis that ‘the concept of literacy is only meaningful in terms of its social context and that to be literate is to have access to cultural, economic and political structures of society’ (quoted in Martin, 2008:156). This seems to make sense: that individuals have to be literate for something. A rejoinder might be that we could conceive of someone who was ‘literate’ marooned in the middle of nowhere. However, as Lemke reminds us:

Even if we are lost in the woods, with no material tools, trying to find our way or just make sense of the plants or stars, we are still engaged in making meanings with cultural tools such as language (names of flowers or constellations) or learned genres of visual images (flower drawings or star maps). We extend forms of activity that we have learned by previous social participation to our present lonely situation. (Lemke, 2002:36-7)

Within the digital sphere, the socio-cultural practice model makes sense. It deals specifically with the disenfranchisement felt by those not literate within a given domain. The model can also explain how hegemonic power can be grasped or maintained by those with access to literacy tools. A good example of the latter would be the Catholic church in Europe in the medieval period. The model is also a useful call-to-arms for those concerned about liberty and equality in society – in other words, social justice. It provides an arena for discourse about the importance of literacy in living a productive and rewarding life.

There are, however, problems with the socio-cultural practice model of literacy. It deals with literacy as an ideology more than as a practical skill. As a result, the constructive, creative and critical elements of the 8 C’s are only alluded to whilst the cultural, communicative and civic aspects are focused upon. The cognitive element is not addressed, nor is the link between literacy and confidence. The socio-cultural practice model of literacy does not, therefore, have sufficient explanatory power to be used as the bedrock for new literacies.

The final stage in the evolution of literacy, according to Bélisle, is the intellectual empowerment model. This deals with the link between new tools and new ways of thinking:

Literacy not only provides means and skills to deal with written texts and numbers within specific cultural and ideological contexts, but it brings a profound enrichment and eventually entails a transformation of human thinking capacities. This intellectual empowerment happens whenever mankind endows itself with new cognitive tools, such as writing, or with new technical instruments, such as those that digital technology has made possible. (Bélisle, 2006: 54-55, quoted in Martin, 2008:156)

This ‘meta-level’ view of literacy certainly deals with the cognitive element of the 8C’s as well as, to some extent, the critical and communicative aspects. The cultural and creative elements are inferred, but no specific mention is given to the civic, constructive and confidence aspects of literacy.

If these conceptions of literacy have indeed ‘evolved’ from one another then they are additive; they build upon one another. If this is the case, then the functional, socio-cultural practice, and intellectual empowerment models of literacy together deal with the earlier-derived 8C’s. Putting them together, we would get a definition of literacy similar to the following:

Literacy involves the mastery of simple cognitive and practical skills. To be ‘literate’ is only meaningful within a social context and involves having access to the cultural, economic and political structures of a society. In addition to providing the means and skills to deal with written texts, literacy brings about a transformation in human thinking capacities. This intellectual empowerment happens as a result of new cognitive tools (e.g. writing) or technical instruments (e.g. digital technologies).

This definition would seem to satisfy the 8C’s outlined earlier, dealing with the cultural, communicative, cognitive, civic, constructive, creative, confidence, and critical aspects of literacy.

Now that a working definition of literacy has been arrived at based on the literature, we need to test it against the four conditions outlined earlier that would make for a valid definition of digital literacy. This is because digital literacy is necessarily predicated upon a bedrock definition of ‘literacy’. To recap:

  1. ‘Cash value’ – it must be useful and must be able to make a difference in practice.
  2. Retrospective nature – it must include past (and future) instances of ‘digitally-literate practice.’
  3. Metaphorical nature – its position to other metaphorical terms in the literate practices arena must be explained adequately.
  4. Digital element – advocates must be able to explain to what the ‘digital’ part of ‘digital literacy’ pertains.

The definition of literacy has the potential to deal adequately with the ‘digital’ part of ‘digital literacy’ in that it acknowledges that changes can take place as a result of new ‘cognitive tools’ and ‘technical instruments’. Likewise, the definition can deal with both past and future instances of literate practices, as it mentions the ‘transformation in human thinking capacities’ that literacy brings about. Given that literacy is altered by the aforementioned cognitive tools and technical instruments, changes in the latter produce changes in the former. The metaphorical aspect of literacy is dealt with through its explanation that ‘the concept of literacy is only meaningful in terms of its social context’. The ‘cash value’ of the definition could be seen to be a call to action due to literacy involving gaining ‘access to cultural economic and political structures of society’ .

Bibliography

  • Lemke, J.L. (2002) ‘Becoming the Village: Education Across Lives’ (in G. Wells & G. Claxton (eds.) Learning for Life in the 21st Century)
  • Martin, A. (2008) ‘Digital Literacy and the “Digital Society”‘ (in Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M., Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices)

You can read my thesis as it progresses here and view notes I’ve made on my wiki here. 😀

How I mark students’ books.

Marking books

I’d love to mark blogs (or even Google Wave) rather than exercise books. In my previous school I used Posterous-powered blogs with my Year 10 History class. However, in some situations it’s just not practical for various reasons. This isn’t the post to go into the ins and outs of why this is the case. This is the post that explains how I mark books with some justification behind my actions. One reason for putting my system online is to get feedback as to how I can improve it.

Let me just say right from the outset that I don’t mark as often as other teachers. Or as often as they claim to, anyway. In fact, during these half-term holidays is the first time I’ve marked my classes’ books this year. I would have ordinarily have liked to look at them before now (after 2-3 lessons) but setting up a new Academy kind eats into any free time you’ve got…

One more thing by way of context. It’s usual, but not universal, in England for Key Stage 3 students – whom I’m talking about here – to get one lesson of History (my subject) per week. Marking their books at the end of the half-term means they’ve got a maximum of 6 lessons work in there.

With that out of the way, let me explain how I go about marking. I do it in two ‘waves’:

First wave

Crap at History?

In the first wave I’m concentrating on the following:

  • Encouraging students
  • Completion of work
  • Understanding of key concepts
  • Spelling of key words
  • Factual errors (to correct)

If I notice a pattern across books (either all or a subset of them) then this informs my teaching and/or direction of Learning Support Assistants.

I used to mark in green, after hearing that some students find red a ‘confrontational’ colour. However, after having students in two separate schools complain about this, I’m back on the red. That’s handy, as green pens are more expensive and harder to get hold of!

Sometimes I fall into the trap of ‘ticking’ work. There’s really no point in this, but I do it to reassure students that I’ve seen a piece of work that doesn’t really require any comment. I focus my time and effort on things that are likely to make a difference to their learning. Sometimes this is reinforcing/correcting understanding of a key concept; sometime it’s encouraging a student; sometimes it’s drawing attention to spelling of key words. It depends on what you’re teaching and who the student is.

Second wave

Marking: the Second Wave

Once I’ve been through exercise books with a red pen, I revisit them (the ‘second wave’). The purpose of this is to:

  • Make a summative comment on how each individual student is doing.
  • Inform the student on work that’s missing from their book.
  • Highlight 3 ways they can improve.
  • Enter data into a grid showing homework completion.
  • Add notes, comments and indicative levels to my (online, Google Docs-powered) gradebook

Before I started to do this (or an iteration of it) I noticed that students wouldn’t read the comments I made on books. Having an obvious bookmark (such as that provided by the full-page feedback) gets them reading what I’ve said. By observing a colleague at my previous school I’ve also realised the importance of building time into a subsequent lesson to let them read what you’ve said. :-p

Conclusion

This marking system takes time. The thing that actually takes the most time is the chasing up of books that haven’t been handed in for marking, students who haven’t completed homework, and monitoring the catch-up work of absentees. Once students get used to the system, however, they seem to like it. After all, they know that I’ve been through their books carefully and given personalised feedback. They appreciate that. 🙂

Comments? Suggestions? Use the comments section below!

Got a blog? Do this simple thing to boost your readership.

Image CC BY derrickkwa @ Flickr
Image CC BY derrickkwa @ Flickr

I tried to do something very simple yesterday. Surprisingly, it caused me a bit of a headache. What was it? I just wanted to subscribe to some blogs via email.

Why would I want to subscribe to blogs via email? Well, for all I love Feedly, I have to go to a different location to access this. This involves a physical and conceptual shift. Making blog posts (or links to them) appear in my email inbox means I can’t really ignore them. In other words, I’m more likely to keep up-to-date.

However, when I went to subscribe to some blogs the option to subscribe by email wasn’t available to me (necessitating the use of xFruits) or seemed to be available but then didn’t work.

It’s trivial (and free!) to enable readers to subscribe via email to your blog. Here’s how:

1. Go to Feedburner and login using your Google account.

Feedburner login page

2. ‘Burn’ (i.e. add) your feed to Feedburner (you can find your feed URL by clicking on the RSS icon to the right in your address bar when you visit your blog):

Feedburner - burn feed

3. Within Feedburner, click on the ‘Publicize’ tab and then on ‘Email subscriptions’ on the left-hand side:

Feedburner - Publicize tab

4. Follow the (clear) instructions as to how to proceed. It shows you how you can add the option to subscribe via email to your blog’s sidebar.

Feedburner - Email subscriptions

5. Click on the ‘Optimize’ tab within Feedburner and then ‘BrowserFriendly’ on the left-hand side:

Feedburner - Optimize tab

6. Follow the instructions, enabling the BrowserFriendly service.

Feedburner - BrowserFriendly option

7. Make sure all the links to your RSS feed on your blog point towards the new Feedburner feed. If you’ve got a self-hosted WordPress-powered blog, the easiest way to do this is to download the relevant plugin to do this for you!

The result, if you follow these steps, will be that if users click on your RSS they should see something like this:

Feedburner-powered RSS feed

If you need any extra help or have some tips please use the comments section below! 😀

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The difference between ‘crowdsourcing’ and being lazy.

Crowd

Image CC BY-NC-SA Samuel Stroube @ Flickr

I don’t usually get involved with things explicitly concerned with education in the USA. But there’s been one issue recently that prompted me to reflect on a wider concern: the difference between ‘crowd-sourcing’ and just being lazy.*

In fact, it’s more than being lazy. It’s taking a concept and twisting it for your own ends to look like you’re doing something you’re not. It’s an attempted shortcut to being seen as ‘innovative’. It’s bandwagon-jumping instead of hitchhiking. 🙁

The current Wikipedia definition of ‘crowdsourcing’:

Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions, finding the best ones.

When done well, the results can be outstanding. Take, for example, The Guardian‘s decision to open up and make available the 700,000 documents involved in the UK MP expenses scandal. They received over 20,000 responses highlighting irregularities.

However, crowdsourcing is something that can be done very badly and for the wrong reasons. Take, for example ISTE’s decision to ‘crowdsource’ the Keynote speech for its 2010 conference. On the face of it, and for those involved with ISTE, the idea must look cutting-edge and innovative. It’s got a Digg-like voting system for proposals and has created a buzz about the conference on Twitter and blogs. However, although it looks as if it’s ’empowering’ people, it’s actually doing the opposite.

As Miguel Guhlin points out,

…I’m tired of hitching my carriage behind some writer’s idea of what could be in business but is designed for education since they’re the chosen keynoter. While research may say something, the fact is, research has been speaking up for years in school change and reform…and you know what? People aren’t listening.

Go and read Miguel’s post in full, but to summarize it briefly here, he says that expecting a keynote to change things at the coalface means putting faith in the following process:

  1. Educators go away and learn how to use a tool to the extent that it becomes part of their practice.
  2. The tool is appropriate to use within the context of their school and educators are free to use it as they wish.
  3. Educators are able to get their school leadership onboard and stay at the institution long enough to make a difference.
  4. Parents offer little or no resistence to flattening the walls of the classroom through the use of Web 2.0 tools.

Put in that way, it’s clear that ISTE’s decision is far from revolutionary. As Miguel states, it’s time for a ‘radical reboot’ in national and interational approaches to innovation in education. Isn’t it ironic that we use a lecture format to encourage teachers to be innovative and move away from such a format? 😉

So if you’re a leader and are looking to be innovative, please do look about you to see what others are doing. But once you’ve done that, go back and think about what the objectives of your organization/business/conference/whatever actually are. Then see if the process/innovation/tool that you’ve come across is appropriate. Ask yourself if you’re going through the process/using the tool for the right reasons.

Do you know of any other examples of thinly-disguised laziness?

* That thinking was started by reading Charles Leadbeater’s We-Think: mass innovation, not mass production (my review forthcoming)

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Why Ewan McIntosh *was* (partly) wrong.

***Ewan’s gone back and added some clarification to his blog post. I’ve still got issues with points 3 and 4, but I’m pleased that we’re more in agreement than I initially thought. I thought about deleting this post, but I’ve learned that once something goes online, it should stay online!***

Ewan McIntosh

Based on an original CC BY-NC Ewan McIntosh @ Flickr

I like Ewan McIntosh. He’s a great guy: extraordinarily innovative and has worked hard for innovation within the educational community. However, I think that having moved away from the education sector he’s perhaps become a little out-of-touch with the realities of the classroom.

Normally that would be fine, but there are literally thousands of people who read his blog and are influenced by him. That’s why I want to take issue with a recent post of his entitled Why backward social-network-banning education authorities are wrong. I agree with the main thrust of the post about the folly of local authorities blocking access to social networking sites. However, Ewan concludes with the following:

What do I reckon could be done (only my tuppence worth, I add…) In a recent interview for Merlin John’s new Innovators series I outline how I believe things could change:

  1. design tools and learning spaces that entice and delight young people, rather than tools we have to mandate them to use – if the kid had a choice, would they use that or the competition?;
  2. plan less, creating time and room for movement as innovations come up;
  3. stand still and do nothing: look at what is working in the world around you and steal, steal, steal (and give credit where it’s due);
  4. if there’s a bandwagon, jump on it and see if it goes anyhere (a Coulterism);
  5. don’t do pilots, just do the real deal from the start.

(N.B. I’ve numbered these for ease of reference)

I’ve already outlined my opposition to the fourth point in On the important difference between hitchhiking and bandwagon-jumping. Here’s my reason for opposing, with varying degrees of intensity, the other points:

1. Tools & Learning Spaces

As educators, we should be using the best tools for the job. There are two ways to conceive of ‘best tools.’ The old thinking was that the ‘best tools for the job’ were those prevalent in industry. Hence we have schools teaching Microsoft Office to students in ICT lessons. That’s wrong.

But the opposite of that isn’t designing our own tools and learning spaces. It’s using the best tools for the job. Those are tools with a pedigree, a user base and enable us to get data out as easily as we put it in. That’s why I’m a big fan of Open Source Software. Designing our own tools and learning spaces can often lead to the creation of ‘creepy treehouses’, stripped-down versions of what’s available elsewhere and clunky functionality.

Knowing what Ewan usually says about these things, I think we’re probably actually in agreement about this. I just don’t think he’s put it very clearly in what I’ve quoted above.

2. Plan less

I actually think we need to plan more than we do currently as educators. Instead of planning in isolation, however, we need to plan in collaboration. We should be planning not only with other educators (in our own educational institutions and further afield) but with students. This is where real innovation occurs. 🙂

It’s the learning outcomes that are important, not the tools we use. Yes, students need to learn how to use tools, but that shouldn’t be the focus. So I agree that we should ensure we have time and space to allow for innovation, but we shouldn’t be leaving spaces to be filled with ‘cool tools’. That’s the wrong emphasis.

3. Stand still and do nothing

Granted, reflection is important. I spend a lot of time doing this and encourage my students to do the same as often as I can. But it’s not really a tactic that can be used that much. In fact it’s something that goes against 4iP’s (Ewan’s employer) mantra of ‘Do it first. Make trouble. Inspire change.’

Yes, we need to be aware of what others are doing. Yes, we need to take time to think about how what others are doing can be adapted for our own use. But we also need to get on and do it as well! Looking around you can equally lead to copying instead of innovation. Nothing can be imported wholesale and be expected to work perfectly without modification. Everything requires work.

5. Pilots

Ewan sets up a false dichotomy when he states “don’t do pilots, just do the real deal from the start.” Piloting before rolling out can be the ‘real deal from the start.’ Take, for example, my rolling out of e-learning tools and approaches at the Academy. The only reason I was confident in getting every member of staff using Google Apps straight away is because I’d ‘piloted’ it in various ways in other schools. I knew all the features, likely problems, and anticipated training needs.

Without pilots of tools and approaches the person responsible for roll-out is constantly firefighting. That’s a stressful thing to do and not conducive to innovation. Whilst I understand the sentiment about making bold leaps and being uninhibited, that’s not always as possible as we’d like to think. There are other factors to consider, not least child protection and politics. Research is vital.

What do you think? Have I made fair criticisms? Are Ewan and I actually saying the same thing?

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Learning objectives: the basics

Bullseye

A combination of my ongoing mentoring of an M.Ed. student, a request by a commenter (Ian Guest) and some broken links on the newly-restored teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk has spurred me to write this post.

As a teacher, I’ve never really known a world before learning objectives. It was certainly something that was expected of me during my PGCE at Durham University and from then on in my teaching career. And, to be fair, it’s fairly obvious why. If a learner knows what’s expected of them, and then can ascertain whether they’ve achieved a learning goal, then they’ve been successful.

However, I’ve seen learning objectives used really badly. I’ve seen a ‘learning objective’ that ran something like:

To know who the Romans were.

How would a learner or teacher know whether any type of meaningful learning has taken place with this as a learning objective?! A far better one would be:

To list 3 ways the Romans have influenced life in the 21st century.

This is SMART – i.e.

  • Specific – ‘list 3 ways’ tells students exactly what to expect.
  • Measurable – both students and the teacher can tell whether the learning objective has been attained.
  • Achievable – the learning objective is open-ended enough to allow for effective differentiation.
  • Realistic – this particular learning objective doesn’t really require any prior learning.
  • Time-related – students need to have achieved this learning objective by the end of the lesson.

Even better practice would be to use ALL, MOST and SOME with learning objectives. This allows for even more differentiation and sets and explicit baseline for all learners.

To use the above example again:

ALL students should: list 3 ways the Romans have influenced life in the 21st century.

MOST students should: decide which Roman innovation has been most profound.

SOME students should: explain how Roman innovations have changed/evolved over the last 2,000 years.

It’s only after the learning objectives have been formulated that lesson activities and resources should be prepared. After all, if the activities and resources aren’t focused on learning, what are they focused upon?

Do you have a view or some advice on learning objectives? Share it in the comments below! 🙂

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It’s energy that matters, not the hours you put in.

Zen Water

Image CC BY darkpatator @ Flickr

I was delighted to welcome my mother home from her three-and-a-half week visit to the UAE at the weekend. We got talking about what she’d been up to and she mentioned that she’d spent a lot of time reading books. In fact, she said, it was refreshing not to be constantly bombarded with information from the UK media. What followed was an interesting conversation between us in which I advocated carefully selecting a range of (conflicting) media perspectives from which to draw information and form opinions. The answer is not necessarily to cull the number of news sources but to make sure they’re not all telling you the same thing… 😉

To that end I was looking for more places from which to get my information instead of the same-old, same-old, when I came across The Twitter Times. This takes not only stories linked to by those you follow on Twitter, but those of ‘friends of friends’. You may argue that everyone in my Twitter network is likely to be related to education in some way. That’s correct, but some are tangentially connected to that topic and have networks that span many other disciplines and interests. You can see my Twitter Times and judge for yourself here.

Cover of "Ideas: A History of Thought and...

Cover via Amazon

One blog post that was linked to many times earlier this week was What problems does Google Wave solve? I noticed that it was originally written in Portuguese; ever since I started reading Ideas: a History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud I’ve realised that my monolinguism affects my conception of the world (and self). I investigated further.

The Google Wave post is a reasonable one but I found another post by the author (Daniel Tenner) more interesting. Entitled Counting hours doesn’t make sense it included this gem:

When we measure results instead of hours, something interesting happens: the distinction between work and not-work blurs away and vanishes, for two reasons. First, clever ideas can make a huge difference to results, and ideas occur anywhere, at any time. In fact, they’re least likely to occur while sitting at a desk working. Secondly, it soon becomes obvious that our actual output of things done is correlated far more to how we feel on the day than to how many hours we spend “working”. The real measure of work is not hours – it’s energy.

We all have a certain amount of energy each day, that can fluctuate depending the day, on our general level of fitness, nutrition, health, state of mind, etc. Some activities (such as going to the gym) increase our daily pool of energy. Others (such as staying up all night or getting drunk every evening) decrease our daily pool of energy.

‘Productivity’ by the hours one works is implicit in our culture. It’s the reason that, despite increased efficiencies and an ever-increasing population, we work longer hours now than ever before.

My wife thinks that I work all of the time. And she’s right, I do. But then it depends what you mean by ‘work’. I’m just as I’m likely to think of something related to elearning in the shower at home as I am about football when I’m in the office. It would make as much sense to say that there’s a synergy between my work and my leisure interests. Consequently, it makes no sense to demarcate and delineate ideas and energy to physical spaces, especially when we live in such a connected world.

It’s always struck me as strange that despite what we know about physiological and psychological ebbs and flows in human beings we remain tied to straightjacketed corporate routines. And none more so than in education. Take, for example, the (current) Autumn term. Each half-term is usually around 7 weeks long – just at the time when the nights are closing in and energy is likely to be lowest. Which is the shortest term? Spring! We start off the year at an naturally energy-sapping time. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

What’s important in any organization is that the core purpose of that organization is delivered upon. In education that’s the education of young people so they can operate effectively in the adult world. Their minds should have been opened in the process, their horizons raised, and their imaginations fired. That’s unlikely to occur when the adults who surround them are tired and clock-watching.

So when you’re feeling ‘unproductive’ just remember that you’re being human. It’s not about the hours you put in but about the energy you devote and the results you achieve.

Get the energy right and the results – whatever you or your organization decide they should be – will follow. 🙂

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How to restore a very large MySQL file without errors.

File this one under ‘geeky’ and ‘stuff that took me a while to find out so I’m sharing it with others’.

I *Heart* MySQL

Image CC BY-SA Kevin Severud @ Flickr

During the couple of days I’ve been off work ill this week I’ve transferred teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk from a UK-based webhost to Bluehost (which hosts this, among other sites). It was about time my former blog (active 2005-2007) had some TLC as it was becoming progressively broken.

I had a 42MB MySQL database backup – the file that contains all of the blog’s important information (post and comment text, etc.) – but every time I tried to import this into a new database at Bluehost I kept getting timeout errors. It was then that I remembered I’d had this problem before and I’d managed to solve it with some sort of script that breaks the file up into smaller chunks to feed to the database incrementally.

After a while searching, I came across it again. It’s called BigDump and the process, if you’re familiar with installing WordPress manually, is fairly straightforward:

  1. Go into phpMyAdmin and execute DROP_TABLES on your target database.
  2. Download bigdump.zip from http://www.ozerov.de/bigdump.php and extract the zip file.
  3. Open bigdump.php using Notepad, TextEdit, or similar. Edit the relevant lines to point towards your database, username and password.
  4. Create a folder called dump on your web server and upload both bigdump.php and your MySQL database into that folder.
  5. CHMOD the folder recursively to 777 (i.e. give read/write permissions when accessed via the web)
  6. Access the script via (e.g.) http://yourdomain.com/dump/bigdump.php
  7. Follow the instructions!

This should lead to your database backup being successfully inserted into your new database. You can then use the data in whatever web app (i.e. WordPress) that you want! 🙂

css.php