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Learning Score

Just to mix things up a bit, I thought I’d do this as a series of videos – it seemed appropriate to the subject matter. Learning Score is a visual planning tool for educators. And. It. Rocks. :-p

  1. Official promotional video
  2. My quick overview
  3. Planning a lesson from scratch in 10 mins

1. Official promotional video

2. My quick overview

3. Planning a lesson from scratch in 10 mins

You can get a 14-day free trial at, but if you’re quick you can get a longer trial at! ūüėÄ

#uppingyourgame: an educator’s guide to productivity (v0.1)

I’m delighted to announce version 0.1 of #uppingyourgame: an educator’s guide to productivity is ready! This means it currently comprises of the cover, preface, introduction and contents page. #uppingyourgame is the first book to be published using the OpenBeta publishing model and¬†will be completed over the course of 2010.

If you want to buy into the ideas that this book contains (and will contain) NOW costs £2. You will receive free updates and notifications as each version is published. Buying into the contents means you have access to each subsequent version up to 1.0. If you decide not to purchase now the price will increase as I complete each chapter (and release each version) Рup to a maximum of £10.

Please note that this version has been superseded. Permanent link to the book’s page at

Once you complete the payment process, clicking on the orange button to ‘Return to DAJ Belshaw’ will take you to the download page. ūüôā

Things I learned this week – #3

CC BY-NC-SA Jeezny

I know¬†I said that these posts would be called ‘Sunday Scientia’ but that, erm, isn’t very snappy. Or descriptive. :-p

Top 3

  • From the wow-as-a-History-teacher-this-rocks-my-world department, it turns out that the Egyptian pyramids¬†weren’t built by slaves after all! ūüėģ
  • Matt Mullenweg (he of the WordPress-coding fame)¬†turned 26 this week. He made some resolutions for the coming year (much¬†as I did) and on the list was ‘learn more about Captology’. It turns out that¬†Captology is ‘the study of computers as persuasive technologies’. Interesting!
  • Nathan Yau from FlowingData has created a great infographic from¬†UNdata called¬†Graphical World Progress Report.¬†It’s fascinating and obtainable as a print. All proceeds¬†go towards the UNICEF relief effort in Haiti.


  • Need to send and receive anonymous questions? Try (via @burntsugar)
  • I’m sure that Graffiti markup is going to be extremely useful, but for me it just looks extremely cool
  • I was reminded of Jott for voice to text transcription on-the-go via a post on dy/dan
  • Google offer some very competitive pricing for extra GMail/Picasa storage. I thought this could be used for off-site backup using gDisk (Mac OSX only), but it didn’t seem to be compatible with Snow Leopard…
  • The wireless networks at my house have fairly boring names. I like these ones better (via @swissmiss)

  • David Pogue reckons that the iPhone is for sheep, whereas Android is for geeks. Baa baa. (via
  • Reed’s law on social networking sounds very grand and scientific, but is saying that they scale because they can have sub-groups very profound? (via @ewanmcintosh)
  • There’s lots and lots of free ebooks out there – especially useful if you’ve got an Amazon Kindle – ebooksearchr caught my eye in particular (via @coolcatteacher)
  • Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, reckons that privacy is ‘no longer a social norm’. I’d contend that he’s correct about a certain kind of privacy but it would take me a full blog post to explain…
  • Aza Raskin wonders whether we need a Creative Commons for Privacy? (via @chrismessina)
  • It turns out selling ebooks DRM-free doesn’t hurt sales. In fact, despite rampant piracy, it was found that sales actually went up!
  • Tuper Tario Tros is a mashup of Tetris and Super Mario. Play Tetris (kind of) as usual, then play Super Mario on the landscape you’ve created!
  • From the oh-my-goodness-this-is-unbelievable department, RCA Airnergy apparently charges gadgets using wifi signals. Which kind of makes me worry about what they’re doing to my body… (via @timlauer)
  • You can now upload any type of file to Google Docs (with resumable uploads). Handy!
  • Ever need to edit a PDF? Me too. Try this! (via @maggiev)
  • I won’t be buying an e-reader, and especially not after reading 2010: the only year of the e-reader. They’re stop-gap devices.
  • Need some Creative Commons-licensed media? Try looking here. (via @russeltarr)
  • If you need some guidance on how to use Creative Commons-licensed media in presentations, you could do worse than checking this out. (via @downes)
  • Alan Levine wondered what happens when a CC-licensed photo vanishes? (hint: it’s still CC-licensed)
  • Are you still, as I was, wondering “why use Google Wave?” Try this FAQ. I especially like the definition of it as a multimedia wikichat.
  • Need to schedule some tweets? Twuffer is a Twitter ‘buffer’. (via @cwebbtech)
  • You can crop & remove ads/offensive content from YouTube videos using (via @kiwicarol)
  • Although I’m not sure why you’d want to do this, if you’ve been crying out for a way to use up to 24 cursors on one screen you can now with this Microsoft tool. (via @tobywilson)
  • There’s a bewildering number of iPhone apps, which is why I was pleased to come across, a site dedicated to ‘the best produced and designed iPhone apps’ (via BoingBoing)

Productivity & Inspiration

  • I was delighted to come across this ‘How I work’ series again from a few years back, including how Marissa Meyer at Google deals with the amount of information she has to process. (via dy/dan)
  • If you’re not great at making decisions, Hunch might help. Or not. :-p
  • Happiness, it would seem, spreads like a virus. Are you infectious?
  • Almost everyone I know uses an online calendar, usually Google Calendar. But what about if you need something slightly different? This online calendar roundup mentioned which looks especially useful for families.
  • Zen Habits looks like it’s turning into a list blog, but when Leo delivers posts like 20-plus amazing fitness blogs to inspire you, I don’t mind too much.
  • Kathy Sierra (@KathySierra) recommended a book about the link between exercise and brain performance. That’s recommendation enough for me – I just bought it! If you don’t follow Kathy on Twitter already, do so now.
  • Google have reorganized their Become a GMail Ninja help section to be more useful: ¬†(via @mortenoddvik)

Education & Academic

Data, Design & Infographics

  • You’ve probably noticed from this site that I like minimalism. Swissmiss links to some great ones.
  • Macbooks cost different amounts around the world, which makes for an interesting infographic.
  • I found this infographic showing what covers the surface of the earth. Have a look below – I was surprised that there’s as much land covered by snow as good farming land):



It’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly. (via @igorkheifets)

The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was before you came in. – James Baldwin (via @heatherdenton)

Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great – Machiavelli (via @dahara)

A failure establishes only this, that our determination to succeed was not strong enough. – John Christian Bovee (via @dahara)

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson (via @IsabelLambert)

It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them – Benjamin Franklin (via @lynnegordon)

Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things. – Theodore Levitt (via @TheArtMan)

My visual resumé [infographic]

Inspired by the wonderful infographic-style resumés of graphic designers on display at FastCompany and Cool Infographics, I decided to have a go at my own. For best results, click through to view it full-size! :-p

Doug Belshaw's visual resumé

Before you ask, I used Keynote, part of iWork 09. It’s a wonderful drawing package! ūüėÄ

NOT Friday Fun

I had intended, as per my proposal in The new blog order to post another batch of some humorous, light-hearted stuff today. But I don’t feel like it. ūüôĀ

Why? It would seem a little inappropriate given the huge loss of life due to the earthquake in Haiti to do anything else but provide a link to a place where you can donate to help the relief effort. Having grown up through various appeals (Ethiopia, Kosovo, etc.) I used to be pretty much immune to such appeals. Things kind of change, though, when you start a family of your own. A BBC Radio 4 report this morning about injured children sleeping amongst dead bodies did enough for me to donate this time around. ūüėģ

Donate to UNICEF $

Don’t want to use this? Want to donate to another charity? Check out Google’s Support Disaster Relief in Haiti page.

Literacy -> Digital Flow: digital epistemologies & ontology.

This post comes from my (ongoing) Ed.D. thesis, which can be read in full over at You may want to check out my wiki to follow up references.

CC BY-SA luc legay

Some would reject the idea of a dialectic when it comes to literacy. Instead of encouraging an interplay of old and new conceptions of literacy, they would espouse a clear demarcation. New technologies call for new literacies – and perhaps, epistemologies:

[A] seemingly increasing proportion of what people do and seek within practices mediated by new technologies – particularly computing and communications technologies – has nothing directly to do with true and established rules, procedures and standards for knowing. (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:242-3)

There are three main reasons why “what people do and seek within practices mediated by new technologies… [have] nothing to do with true and established… standards for knowing.” The first relates to the personality traits of people involved. A common internet saying is that “the geeks will inherit the earth” – certainly they are the early adopters, the first to figure out ways of using new technologies. By the time technologies reach the mainstream they are far from neutral having been tried, tested, accepted, rejected or accommodated by a ‘digital elite’. Skewed epistemologies can lead to skewed literacies.

The second reason why practices surround technology-mediated practices are different is down to identity. Digital interaction removes a layer of physicality from interactions. This can be liberating in the case of, for example, a burns victim or someone otherwise disabled or disfigured. It can also be ‘dangerous’ as individuals are often able to remain anonymous in online interactions. Physical interactions are bounded by time and space in a way that digital interactions are not. Whilst asynchronous interactions have been possible since the first marks were made in an effort to communicate, digital interactions go beyond what is possible with the book. In the latter, it is difficult to accidentally take something out of context as one has to deal with the book in its entirety. With digital interactions, however, it is much easier to misrepresent and distort the truth, even accidentally. Interactions and texts tend to be shorter online. Thus, in the fight for the soundbite distortion can take place.

Third, practices mediated by technology are different because of the element of community involved. Traditional Literacy, is predicated upon a scarcity model of education and exclusionist principles. An example of the latter is a near-synonym of ‘literate’ as ‘cultured’ (in the sense of having a knowledge of ‘high’ culture). Communities on this model are based on the who rather than the what – identity rather than interest. With technology-mediated practices, even ‘niche’ interests can be catered for.

These, then, are three reasons new technologies can be linked to new epistemologies. Whether new epistemologies necessarily lead to new literacies is an interesting question. As Erstad notes in quoting Wertsch (1998:43), all interaction is mediated and involves social and psychological processes. This is transformed when technology is used to do the communicating:

Regardless of the particular case or the genetic domain involved, the general point is that the introduction of a new mediational means creates a kind of imbalance in the systemic organization of mediated action, an imbalance that sets off changes in other elements such as the agent and changes in mediated action in general. (quoted in Erstad, 2008:180-1)

It is at this point that Lankshear and Knobel’s demarcation between ‘conceptual’ and ‘standardized operational’ definitions of literacy becomes useful. Conceptual definitions are what primarily interest us here – the extension of literacy’s “semantic reach” as opposed to ‘operationalizing’ what is involved in digital literacy and “advanc[ing] these as a standard for general adoption” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008:2,3).

Instead of coining terms and giving existing concepts a ‘digital twist’, those who reject the dialectical approach propose ‘New Literacies’. They would reject Gilster’s (1997:230) assertion that ‘digital literacy is the logical extension of literacy itself, just as hypertext is an extension of the traditional reading experience.’ Instead, New Literacies theorists such as Lankshear and Knobel believe that ‘the more a literacy practice privileges participation over publishing, collective intelligence over individual possessive intelligence, collaboration over individuated authorship…, the more we should regard it as a ‘new’ literacy” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:60).

In an attempt to flesh out this conception of New Literacies, however, the authors tie themselves up in knots, so to speak. By seeking to explain what is ‘new’ about New Literacies, Lankshear and Knobel make reference to ‘a certain kind of technical stuff – digitality’ (2006:93) which seems to somewhat beg the question. What is ‘digitality’? They do concede, however, that ‘having new technical stuff is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for being a new literacy. It might amount to a digitized way of doing ‘the same old same old’.’ The authors attempt to deal with the difficulty of New Literacies involving identity by demarcating between ‘Literacy’ and ‘literacy’. Their demarcation is worth quoting in full (my emphasis):

Literacy, with a ‘big L’ refers to making meaning in ways that are tied directly to life and to being in the world (c.f. Freire 1972, Street 1984). That is, whenever we use language, we are making some sort of significant or socially recognizable ‘move’ that is inextricably tied to someone bringing into being or realizing some element or aspect of their world. This means that literacy, with a ‘small l’, describes the actual process of reading, writing, viewing, listening, manipulating images and sound, etc., making connections between different ideas, and using words and symbols that are part of these larger, more embodied Literacy practices. In short, this distinction explicitly recognizes that L/literacy is always about reading and writing something, and that this something is always part of a large pattern of being in the world (Gee, et al. 1996). And, because there are multiple ways of being in the world, then we can say that there are multiple L/literacies. (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:233)

Earlier, Lankshear and Knobel moved from new technologies to new epistemologies, here they move from ontology to literacy. It is not clear, however, that such a move can be sustained. What do the authors mean by stating that ‘there are multiple ways of being in the world’? What constitutes a difference in these ways of being? Does each ‘way of being’ map onto a ‘literacy’? The authors claim that to be ‘ontologically new’ means to ‘consist of a different kind of ‘stuff’ from conventional literacies’ reflective of ‘larger changes in technology, institutions, media and the economy… and so on’ (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:23-4).

This is so vague as to be effectively meaningless.

Wednesday Wisdom #2: The value of novelty

Wednesday Wisdom: the value of novelty

You can purchase an inexpensive copy of the book from¬†Amazon or read it online for free via¬†Google Books. ūüėÄ

The new blog order.

(image CC BY-NC Jeremy Brooks)

So here’s the plan. To make blogging every day sustainable, I need a system. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Monday Motivation – hints, ideas and tips about productivity, motivational quotes and the like.
  • Tuesday Tech. – an update on edtech stuff and related musings.
  • Wednesday Wisdom – a mashup of Creative Commons-licensed photos and quotations from Balthasar Graci√°n’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom.
  • Thursday Thesis – parts of, or ideas, related to my Ed.D. thesis.
  • Friday Fun – some end-of-the-working-week light heartedness, fun and random stuff.
  • Saturday Stats – an opportunity for me to post things related to visualization and infographics.
  • Sunday Scientia – the new name for Things I Learned This Week (‘Scientia’ is Latin for ‘knowledge’)

Thoughts? It may mean I need to change the categories around a bit… ūüôā

My favourite music of the ‘noughties’.

You can listen to all of the music I mention below through this Spotify playlist!

My history, June-October 2009

So 2000-2009, commonly referred sniggeringly as the ‘noughties’, has come and gone – and with it the majority of my twenties. For all of it I listened to what I would deem quality music, and for a good deal of it used to track what I listened to (and make recommendations). The visualization above shows my listening habits for part of 2009, courtesy of LastGraph.

It’s not always the case that what you listen to most is the music you actually love the most. In fact, quite often it’s the case that you save music for special occasions or ration it so familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. So here are the three tracks that were made in the ‘noughties’ that I love the most – and why. The links will enable you to listen to the song on Spotify. ūüôā

John Mayer – 3×5 (2001)

I remember being in Caf√© Rouge in York with Hannah when we heard this for the first time. It must have been 2003 as we were just married. We asked the waiter which album was playing and he replied it was John Mayer’s Room For Squares. I went home and immediately bought the CD. Annoyingly, however, it’s the only album of Mayer’s that isn’t available on Spotify (which I now use instead of CDs and MP3s).

What I love about 3×5 is the feeling of distance, the sense of the inexpressible in the lines:

Today I finally overcame
tryin’ to fit the world inside a picture frame
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I’m in the mood to
lose my way but let me say
You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes
it brought me back to life
You’ll be with me next time I go outside
No more 3×5’s…

In perhaps my first use of the term, I’d call it a ‘bittersweet’ song. It’s positive yet mournful at the same time. I wish the live version did the studio version justice. It’s legendary – perhaps even more so in the context of the rest of the album. ūüôā

The Cinematic Orchestra feat. Roots Manuva – All Things to All Men (2002)

When this came out I was working at HMV in Meadowhall, Sheffield. The Cinematic Orchestra produce that sound that’s all encompassing and envelops you. I absolutely adore, for example, the soundtrack to the film The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos they did recently. The first three-and-a-half minutes is Cinematic Orchestra at the top of the game. Then Roots Manuva’s rhyming kicks in.

His lyrics make little sense. That doesn’t matter. It’s more than the sum of it’s parts. Wonderful. :-p

Bon Iver – Woods (2009)

Like the rest of the known world, I found Bon Iver’s album For Emma, Forever Ago to be beautiful and with an engaging backstory. However, it was when I started using Spotify that I came across the excellent EP Blood Bank – containing the sublime Woods. It’s rare for a track to be perfectly matched in sound, concept, and execution, but that’s exactly what we find here.

Wondeful melodies combine and build up to a crescendo. Use of auto-tune actually adds to atmosphere of the song, being used to make elements sound almost like wolves howling. It’s an extremely atmospheric track. One to play with headphones on, alone. I love it. ūüėÄ

Honorable Mentions:


Although you wouldn’t know it from the above, my tastes are fairly eclectic. I’m as likely to listen to The Prodigy as I am to some Ludovico Einaudi. But the above are those I come back to time and again. I’ll no doubt have made some glaring omissions – if so I’ll come back and edit this.

Hope you enjoy the above songs as much as I do!

Things I learned this week – #2

The most significant things I’ve learned this week have been snow-related. Have a quick look at the above¬†YouTube video of me building an igloo. That took me¬†7 hours!¬†Instead of getting all philosophical and talking about how good it felt to create something out of nothing and how I started to feel ‘at one’ with the snow, I’ll reflect on some practical considerations:

  1. I should estimate how long things are likely to take before they start
  2. The size of an igloo depends on the angle of the walls – easy to forget!
  3. There are lots of different types of snow.
  4. Igloos are actually quite warm!

I considered sleeping in it, but having worked on it for 7 hours straight every single muscle in my body hurt. I went in the bath, read my book and went to bed… :-p

Here’s a brief overview of other stuff I’ve learned this week, broken down by category.


Productivity & Inspiration


Data, Design & Infographics


This made me laugh! (via Mashable)

This resonated with me Рvia Jennifer Hagy @ indexed

  • The ever-relevant and insightful Harold Jarche¬†looks back at Seth Godin’s predictions for 2009 from 5 years ago (startlingly accurate) and his own from 2007, as well as looking forward to new and emerging business models.
  • I love mashups and¬†Best of Bootie 2009 absolutely rocks. Especially DJ Earworm’s¬†United State of Pop 2009 (top 25 Billboard songs, mashed up!).
  • Mashable reflects on¬†ways social media has changed us. This post makes a lot of sense and I’m going to start to use the term ‘ambient intimacy’ to explain a lot of what goes on, online. It makes sense. ūüôā

Frozen Britain seen from above

BBC News posted a great satellite photo of what Britain looked like without the Gulf Stream last week.

  • There are some places in the world you’re just not allowed to go.¬†This post on listverse (via¬†@dougpete) highlights the ‘Top 10’ of these.
  • Vicki Davis (aka Cool Cat Teacher) in a reflective and revealing post entitled¬†Sojourner Truth outlines her recent struggles with blogging and celebrity.


You’re only given a little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it. (Robin Williams)

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it. (Bob Hope)

(both via @gbmiii)