November 20th, 2009

“An organization that wins by exercising power starts to lose the ability to win by doing better work. And it’s not fun for a smart person to work in a place where the best ideas aren’t the ones that win.”
Paul Graham, via daring fireball

I’m getting serious about mobile platforms. I need to decide if I’m buying an iPhone or an Android. A lot of younger colleagues and friends love their iPhones (go for it Jonathan), but I’m leaning towards an Android at present for the openness. We can ignore all the app store hassle by using web apps that run in the safari sandbox to deliver learning experiences, plus Moodle Mobile.

I’ll squeeze the knowledge I can out of the HTC running Mobile Windows 6 I was lent by the college, I’m still learning about mobile computing. Watch this space.

Paul Graham’s essay suggests ignoring market share and focussing on what developers use. I need eyeballs, market share, access to use the mobile platform for learning.

Fish Soup

November 13th, 2009

Lech Walesa

“It is easy to turn the aquarium into fish soup, but it is more difficult to reverse the process”—Lech Walesa

Possibility space worksheet

November 8th, 2009

Scroll down for scientific poster stuff

Possibility space diagram screen grabbed from worksheet

Download a one side worksheet on possibility spaces in probability [ PDF ].

The worksheet has an example of throwing two dice and adding the scores, and tries to explain why there ate 36 equally likely outcomes, of which six happen to give a score of 7. The first version of this worksheet had some of the possibility space illustrated above filled in as a guide. That proved counter productive as students forgot to count the filled in squares as outcomes!

Table formatting in follows a slightly different approach to the same process in MS Office Word. In OpenOffice, you have to…

  • Select the row
  • Select Table | Table Properties
  • Click repeatedly until the line style you want appears in the dialog box

Rodent on steroids

November 7th, 2009

Orvieto, Italy, November 6, 2009: In partnership with the community, WarMouse announced the release of the OpenOfficeMouse, the first multi-button application mouse designed for the world’s leading open-source office productivity suite. With a revolutionary and patented design featuring 18 buttons, an analog joystick, and support for as many as 52 key commands, the OpenOfficeMouse is intended to provide a faster and more efficient user interface for applications such as Writer and Calc than the conventional icons, pull-down menus, and hotkeys presently permit.

I have a 109 button mouse. Link via Daringfireball. Scroll down for scientific poster stuff.

Scientific Poster Links

November 5th, 2009

Poster session (copyright Swarthmore College)

Students on science degrees usually learn how to present findings in the form of a ‘poster’. A science poster is a special kind of wall display invented so everyone who attends a conference can present their results even though there is not enough time for them all to speak. MS PowerPoint (and OpenOffice Impress) can be used to make posters easily – just use a single slide resized to A1 or A0 depending on the size of your poster. Then set up columns using text boxes and import (or draw) some images.


Below are some links to places where you can find out more about scientific posters.

The handout I used in the session today – (Leinonen, 2007)

A Swarthmore College page on scientific poster design, with a downloadable PPT Column based template already set up, and an alternative template based on a central graphic with boxes.

North Carolina State University provides a very full web site on the principles of scientific poster design. Excellent material but will take you a bit of time to read through. If you want to use poster design with your students, it would be good to read this material first – you will get plenty of ideas for activities out of it.

Should is a Web site where you can obtain free large resolution images. The strange name comes from newspaper practice. The ‘morgue file’ was a filing cabinet where journalists kept photos and pieces of writing that were not actually used in the newspaper.

A periodic table of visualisation. This is an unusual site that shows examples of lots of different visual metaphors. You could make use of a visual metaphor to help you structure the information on your poster.


You don’t have to use PowerPoint if you know another package well and prefer to use that. To ensure that the result can be printed on a College printer, export your completed product as a PDF file. Use ‘embedded fonts’ if you are using more than Arial/Times New Roman/Courier or the Web safe fonts, at least I think that will work!

General PowerPoint tips: One Hour PowerPoint looks like quite a nice page.

Something completely different: This has nothing to do with scientific posters, but is another different way of using PowerPoint. Pecha-Kucha is the Japanese word for ‘chit-chat’. A Pecha-Kucha presentation has 20 slides and each slide is shown for 20 seconds. The slides are usually purely visual, just photos with a bit of text on top. The presenter has to talk over the slides in a structured way. People organise Pecha-Kucha nights, and the phenomenon has taken off among designers and other Web types. Planning a Pecha-Kucha presentation would help a student focus on the essentials of a topic and cut away the extraneous material. I’ll screen cast a Pecha-Kucha presentation about e-learning and you can see what you think…

Telephone Box Gallery

October 31st, 2009

Gallery on the Green, Settle, Yorkshire

The Gallery on the Green is a postcard gallery in a telephone box in Settle. The Upper Settle green is a small patch of grass in an older and quiet part of Settle, away from the market place.

When we visited, there was a range of small images on view, and a comments book. I can remember actually using the phone box when it had a working pay phone in the days when mobile phones needed separate battery packs. The red box looks reassuringly familiar. The crows seem to have decamped from the large plane tree, judging by the quiet and absence of ‘crow marks’ on the seat under the tree.

Lowest terms

October 22nd, 2009

6 minutes and 43 seconds on how to cancel down a fraction to its lowest terms. I’d rather describe that as ‘remove all the common factors from a fraction’. Produced using the NCH Debut video capture software, and edited in Windows Movie Maker. Notes on how to do all this coming soon.