Saturday, November 29, 2008

Seeds Of Change

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone
A mobile phone projecting the word CHANGE
When is a poem not a poem
And verse runs into prose?
When is a home not a home
And strife contemptuous grows?
The Differential Calculus
Defines the least derivative
Of increments too small for us
In subtle terms definitive,
But the myriad seeds of change that fall
By each gradation's measure
Differentiate the large from tall,
The enjoyment from the pleasure;
If this sonnet is not proved true,
I've never judged, nor yet have you.

Kim Cofino is a twenty-first century literacy specialist at the International School Bangkok in Thailand. In her post What Is Literacy, she speaks of attempts to understand the “shift in literacy, especially considering that many people still believe that literacy is solely being able to read and write in printed form.”

She cites the Becta reports and the McArthur Report as concrete research-based examples “that would help people outside the educational technology field better understand this shift.” She also asks for our thoughts on the concept of literacy.

I put a comment against her post:

We go round in circles with this today - but one could say, 'twas ever thus.

When I was taught (English) literacy in the 60s, we had a teacher who honestly believed that if a word was not to be found in the dictionary, it didn't exist. Many English teachers (of the old school) believed this.

I was not very well educated in those days (that's why I was at school) but even I could figure that the words in the dictionary weren't always like that - we were taught this in the English class! Shakespeare, for instance, used a strange diction and some strange words. My question was, 'whatever happened to those?'

Today we have all sorts of problems with examination authorities who eschew mobile text language, especially in English examinations. And I wonder.

Recently I re-read The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson and was again delighted to find reference to a book that I'd read, 40 years ago, by Simeon Potter, Our Language (first published in 1950).

In both books the message was clear: language, and the ways that it is communicated, are living things. They react sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly, like swarms of bees, always on the move.

Literacy clearly has an association with symbolism. I think it is a far cry to say that literacy is only to do with the power of speech or the skills associated with that. Yet, without speech, the symbolism of 'literature', whether it is Shakespeare's script, or a text message using the symbols of that medium, would have no relevance.

Sign language, no less a language than any other, also has its base in symbolism - involving signs and actions. But it is really more like the spoken language, for it is not designed to represent the written words and often simply does not follow those.

Literacy is bound to the spoken language AND the written symbolisms that represent the language. A person who is incapable of writing, because of some physical disability, is no less literate than someone who is not disabled but who does not know how to write. But you would agree that there may be a difference. For instance, the able person who does not know how to write may not be able to read either. Not necessarily the person with the disability who cannot write.

So literacy can have many facets. We need to define these more explicitly. I gather that the visions we may have of these definitions change as much as language does.

It eventually comes down to opinion, either that of the individual or of the authorities. And to have any acceptable measure of literacy, by whatever means it is metered, requires standards.

Unfortunately, this is where it becomes set in a way that doesn't really fit the nature of language. So standards must be continually revised to meet the needs of society and its understanding of literacy.

Which brings us back to the question. My gut feeling is that we are chasing a moving spot of light. As quickly as we have defined where it is and mapped its shape, it has moved on.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

from Edward Fitzgerald's 'Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam'.

Haere rā – Farewell

Base Words Are Uttered

Kia ora tātou – Hello EveryoneSunset on the Pacific Ocean
Base words are uttered only by the base
And can for such at once be understood,
But noble platitudes:--ah, there’s a case
Where the most careful scrutiny is needed
To tell a voice that’s genuinely good
From one that’s base but merely has succeeded.

Wystan Hugh Auden.

I like to let a draft post cure a day or so before publishing it. Quite frequently, after this time, some drafts get the heave. This one was lucky. But I’m sure many will feel it should have joined the reject pile, along with a few others I've posted.

Gina Mink’s post, and her own reply to it, got me thinking – about all sorts of things. Apart from the bother I had getting a comment, with a link, onto her post, perhaps the time spent attempting to do this allowed me to think more about how I write posts.

Is my approach unique?

I wondered if my approach is one often used by others. I’m aware that the twenty-first century culture that is held by some bloggers, is such that most do not dwell on the crafting. To them, getting the message across is where it’s at. I’ve no problem with that.

I study poetry. I enjoy reading the skilled writing of others. From time to time, I come across blogs that are well writtenalmost crafted, and I can only admire those.

The Fire And The Anvil:

I recently re-read a wonderful little book by New Zealand’s celebrated poet James K Baxter. The Fire and the Anvil is a brilliant series of lectures. They are about the product of poets whose craft is forged in the fire of the creative mind. It's then hammered into shape by feedback from critics that alters the way the poets write. It is a reflective practice that involves the writing, the poets and their audience.

Much though I would like to bash out a post and publish it in ten minutes, I can’t often do this. Too often I want to go back and alter things. Some call it stuffing mushrooms.

I might even change a word or two after a post is published - almost heresy in some circles. Dave Ferguson has crafted a few posts on and around the topic of editing posts.

But from the moment I think about a post, I am aware that I’m following much of the process that Baxter refers to in his book:

The World Of Thou:

It “denotes the whole various world of relationship where being meets being.”

The Matrix:

“The primal substance of the” post, “non-verbal, which the verbal structure” of the post reflects – “its point of contact with the world of Thou.”

The Form:

“The whole complex verbal pattern” which the writer creates in response to the matrix.


Baxter’s period of gestation, “during which the matrix is carried obscurely in the mind”, is not unlike how the substance of the post is thought about before anything is entered through the keyboard or other interface.

Texture and Time-life:

These have their counterparts in the diction and crafting used by the writer. Sentence length and construction, the way each sentence sits with the paragraph, and paragraph length, are parameters that expert bloggers tell us are important to writing good blog posts.

All of these parts of the post writing process have closely corresponding items in Baxter’s sequence.

The crafting and how it helps me:

For me the crafting is part of the reflective practice of writing a post. It’s not just the diction and the paragraphing. It’s to do with the thought processes that lead up to that.

Ken Stewart wrote a post Why Do You Write.
It prompted me to write a comment which I later copied with little alteration and put it in a post. This was one of the few times I posted without crafting. But it had the essence of why I write, how I write and all of what’s in it for me.
  • Writing helps me organise my thoughts.

  • Prioritising those sparks further thought.

  • Organising what I write puts to rest serendipitous thought-threads.
When these are processed through exhaustive cycles of writing and editing, it is as if the thoughts are put to rest. I can sleep on them.

More reflective practice:

There’s more to blogging than just writing exhaustively edited posts – I’m trying to avoid those. Lately I’ve made use of action research as a means to develop my way of writing posts.

While I have not yet used blogging specifically as a teaching tool, it has helped me organise my thoughts about how I teach. This in itself is powerful reflective practice.

Of course, action research is reflective practice. It can be widely applied to more or less any people-related activity. And like it or not, writing a post is a people-related activity.
Haere rā – Farewell

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Return Key

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
A candle flame reflected in a mirror.
From time to time there’s a need for a return device on a web page or blog post. It could be a special post that requires the reader to return to the original page, or even a position on a long post where the reader is required to return to a link on the same page.

Remember to use the return to where you were key to come back to this position.
Try it out here (this feature will not operate from RSS Readers).

One link fits all:

The return key has the advantage over a complicated series of links, in that only one return link is required. I found it useful when I wrote my Comment Guidelines. Occasionally I will link to that during a post.

The return key at the base of the Guidelines page courteously permits the reader to return to the page where the link was, so reading may resume from there. No matter where your original link is, the return key cleverly bounces you back from where you came. Admittedly, it does no more than the 'go back one page' button, but it is correct and appropriate navigation.

Try it. You can return here if you use the return to where you were key at the base of the Comments Guidelines page
(this feature will not operate from RSS Readers).

Return keys of this type are especially useful when a series of links, to separate resources, are placed on a page that require the reader to return to that same page each time. A good example of this is in linking to the so-called link-pages of a sequence of digital resources.

By simply using the return key, the reader can easily come back to the same page. Try visiting these resource link-pages – remember to use the return keys to come back to this page.

(this feature will not operate from RSS Readers)

Simple elearning assignment sheets can be created in Word using a series of digital resources with link-pages fitted with return keys. If links to these resources are embeded in a Word file, the associated return keys on the link-pages can also permit the reader to return to the Word file when finished.

How does the return key work?

Here is the script:

html script for the return key

Inserted into the html of a blog page or web page, it is placed at the required position where the return key is to be displayed. The key responds to text alignment like ordinary text, so centering and left or right aligning of the key can be done easily.

The script invokes the browser history. When clicked, the key literally asks the browser to go back to the last linked page position.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Strange Observations in Cyberspace

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
December night sky looking north in the southern hemisphere.
I left a comment on Clive Shepherd’s post Blogging is No Longer What It Was. But this post isn’t directly about what I wrote on Clive’s blog.

It’s just that I love blogging. I love the blogosphere and everything that’s in it. I’m not on a doctor’s prescription. But when I see a new post, I just feel like I’m witnessing something fresh and newly created – very very new - shiny, like a newborn star.

Primal observation in space:

I’m sure that the feelings I get when I discover things in the blogosphere are similar to the feelings my ancestors had when they looked up at the stars. Their eyes filled with wonder at what hung above them.

The sky must have been a great sight in those days. No city lights to haze the atmosphere. Come to that, no haze. Astronomers using optical equipment today, talk about the ‘seeing’, when they refer to how clear the atmosphere is above their telescopes. The ‘seeing’ way back in the days I’m talking about must have been something special!

Present day astronomers refer to the magnitude of a star - a number that they hang on how easy it is to see a star, or other visible light source in the sky. The fainter the star, the larger is its magnitude number.

Our ancestors would have been able to see faint stars of about magnitude 7. Today, we are lucky to see stars of magnitude 5 near a town - that’s about 7 times brighter. It's simply because the glare of streetlights prohibits us from seeing objects much fainter than that in the sky.

Observation in cyberspace:

Often, when I look into cyberspace, I feel like an early, prehistoric observer, sitting high on a hill, looking up to a vast night sky.

I make observations, and think that no one has ever spotted them before. Of course, like my ancestors, I am probably seeing some things that have been witnessed many many times - long before I saw them.

In cyberspace there are some beautiful stars, some brilliant stars - some with planets, interesting nebulae and scatterings of faint luminescent clouds. There are comets and shooting stars. Now and again, a supernova explodes and releases so much energy that the whole of cyberspace seems to resonate with it.

One of the observations I've made is to do with how commenters put their comments on a new post. Have you ever noticed, when a post first appears in the blogosphere, how most of the comments appear almost immediately afterwards? Logical don't you think?

Some posts differ from others though. Some attract no comments at all. Others are like supernovae, attracting so many comments immediately after posting, that it takes a while before it all stops. But it is very, very rare that a swarm of comments appears against a post well after the period when that first activity has ceased.

I often wonder about this. I take pity on these cold, abandoned, commentless posts.

I even think about racing around cyberspace with a bagful of comments, specifically looking for old posts, perhaps ones with no comments at all (and there are millions) and just dumping comments, willy-nilly, wherever I can – copy and paste fashion - just to give these lonely posts a bit of company. A bit like one of the tasks in the past Comment Challenge, when participants were asked to write 5 comments in 5 minutes on 5 different posts. That caused a bit of a stir among sedate bloggers!

Black holes:

But posts go off y’know, like stars that appear in the night sky and then just disappear! They shine bright over a brief period, perhaps get brighter, fade a bit, glow dimly for a while, and eventually collapse into a black hole – lost in cyberspace, never to be found by the average observer. Not even winked at.

Eons later, an intrepid wanderer might stumble across a darkly hidden post and check it out. Seeing this frozen, abandoned site of past activity, the observer realises that no one has been there for ages, and bounces off again into cyberspace, searching for newer, fresher territory.

As I post this, I realise that what I’ve written is like a newborn star. It may shine for a short while. It may even attract some attention - a comment or two. But eventually, it will join a growing mass of black holes, lost in the vastness of cyberspace.

They say that black holes are the re-cycling centres of the Universe.
I wonder how long it will take for this post to be recycled?

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Monday, November 24, 2008

Online Communities - Grown or Built?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allA huge tree viewed from its base.
photo by Nicolas Allan.

I recently left a comment on Richard Millington's post, You Don't Need To Be An Expert.

He claimed that, "you don’t need to be an expert within the industry to build an online community. But you do need the ability to recruit and motivate experts." He saw the job of building an online community like that of the entrepreneur who simply recruits "experts who love to run an online community".

I wondered about his idea and expressed that I would like to see it in action. Somehow I felt that, fundamentally, there was something askew with this idea. I left a comment:

Building online communities is something that everyone seems to have an idea about. It's a bit like education. Everybody thinks they know how to teach.

I would say, from my limited expertise in this field, that anyone who thinks it's about building is in for a shock. It's a bit like building a tree.

Can you build a tree?

You can build a log cabin. But that's what it remains. Watching an online community form and expand is more like growing a tree than building one.

You have to plant the seed. They don't all germinate. When one does, you have to water it with care, provide nourishment and support. As it continues to grow, you may have the opportunity of seeing it blossom and fruit may appear - if you've cared for it properly, that is.

As the tree gets bigger, more fruit can be harvested after each year's blossom. But you have to maintain the tree, lest it catches a disease and gets sickly. A sickly tree doesn't bear fruit.

If the tree is from good stock, you may be lucky enough to take some of its seed and plant another tree or more. With appropriate care you can have an orchard of good fruit-bearing trees.

But you have to tend the orchard, for the same reason as you had to tend the single tree that grew.

No. I don't think online communities are built. I'd be inclined to grow mine.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How do I know?

Tēnā koutou katoa - Greetings to you allA bus, perhaps how it would appear to the visually impaired.
Several discussions in recent months have prompted me to think of ways to assist the visually impaired to access blogs and websites. This topic can spark intense emotions in some people, usually the sighted. It is very much open to misinterpretation of intentions, so please be patient with me as you read this post. I am just a learner.

Odiogo - a useful application?

Only recently, I installed Odiogo by way of a trial. This is part of my intention to find ways of making access to the Net easier for those potential readers who are visually impaired. Many such people, who are web active, obtain access to web and blog sites through the use of assistive technologies.

The quality of the audio presented by Odiogo is reasonable and may well be better than some downloadable screen-readers. Comments are not picked up, however, and in this respect the facility falls well short of being useful for any reader who wishes to participate in discussion. This is a biggie as far as I’m concerned.

I am still unsure of how useful Odiogo could be to the visually impaired. I’d appreciate your help if you are familiar with the use of this technology, particularly if you have experience of its use by the visually impaired.

Middle-earth blogspot’s a bit different:

You may have noticed a few things different around my blog recently. For instance, I no longer use links in my posts that directly open the linked site in a new tab or window – I’m still amending a few odd links in earlier posts. Opening a new window can be confusing for the visually impaired who follow text on a post with a screen reader. Another is that related-post links will be found at the bottom of my posts from now on.

Here are some other things I’ve learnt so far about blog posts and screen readers:


It’s possible for a screen reader to describe the content of an image in a blog or web page. This can be useful, especially of the image is referred to in the text. Information about the image can provide some relevance to what’s read in the text and has the potential to be helpful.

But this depends entirely on the text contained in the so-called alt attribute in the html code associated with the image. Without this, the image has an invisible attribute. Such text should describe the image appropriately and explicitly for it to be of any use to the reader.

The alt attribute of an image used in a post is accessible through the html of the post. It is found in the image tag and can have the form shown here:
src="The image address on the site." alt="The explicit info about the image."

Click here for more:

A link should have a link-label that’s relevant to what is linked to, so that the reader understands what to expect. The common ‘click here’ and ‘more ’ link-labels do not convey anything useful and can actually be confusing to the person trying to interpret what they’re looking at.

I guess a similar rule applies to link-labels as to image alt attributes. There is also the advantage that a well-labeled link or image is picked up more readily as useful content by search engines and can be an asset to the blogger.

Blogroll position:

I didn’t realise that the position of the blogroll was so problematic. Apparently blogrolls located to the left of the page cause problems. Blogrolls should be located on the right of the page.

There are other parameters that can affect post readability for the visually impaired. Good summaries of those can be found at the American Foundation for the Blind web-site. Among the useful information there, is a page on How to Make Your Blog Accessible to Blind Readers and another on Improving Your Web Site’s Accessibility.

If you have any information on Odiogo - good or less so - that might be of use to others, please add a comment under this post. As well, if you have any tips you may have on adjusting a blog so that it improves access to the visually impaired, put them in a comment here. I’d really appreciate that.

related posts - >> ( 1 )

Ka kite anō - Catch ya later

Friday, November 21, 2008

Digital Games and Learning Objectives

Tēnā koutou katoa - Greetings to you allThe sky at night in the southern hemisphere, looking north in December

I recently left a comment on Rupa Rajagopalan’s post on eCube -
6 Quick Steps to Create a Game Based E-learning Course. Rupa is an information developer whose primary focus for the past few years has been instructional design with a specialty in game based learning.

She mentioned in her post about the importance of having the option to skip intros and tutorials in game based learning. Some learners can get put off doing something that is easy to work out during the game. Others need more help.

I explained in my comment to her that I had used an example of this in a star-map
resource, that I’d built specifically for year 10 learners in New Zealand. I linked to the resource in my comment.

The following day, Rupa sent me an email asking if I’d like to write a post giving some detail about some of the ideas I’d mentioned.

Here’s how I built the star-map resource.

The objective:

The curriculum objective for this resource was straightforward:
Learn to use a digital planisphere to locate astronomical features.
I began my hunt for a resource for this objective with the intention of finding a suitable Internet based planisphere for the southern hemisphere.

A day scouring the Internet returned only star-maps and charts of the northern hemisphere. I decided to give up searching for a suitable resource in favour of building one from scratch. It didn’t take too long.

The vision I had for making the game was to first build the planisphere and to make a tutorial for it. A series of quests, perhaps one or two, where the learner followed instructions to locate a set of objects in the sky, would provide the game.

The main thing was to keep to the objective. For as much as I’d like to have veered off in cosmic directions, the objective was simple and the resource had to address that.

The planisphere:

I used Photoshop. I created a huge square and pasted in the scan from a paper planisphere that the school had used earlier to teach the same objective. With some elaboration, adjustments and additional features, the digital planisphere was complete. I used layers for the star names and constellations. When the planisphere was ready in Photoshop, I used 30
degree rotations to create 12 sectors that formed the twelve views of the night sky, one for each month of the year.

A chart of the constellations in the December night sky
Considering that there were 3 layers to start with, this gave 36 different layers: 12 monthly star charts with the accompanying 12 monthly name labels for the stars and the 12 monthly constellations.

A crop in Photoshop, choosing the mid-month view of the night sky looking north, gave me the 36 views that were needed to make the complete planisphere.

The engine:

This was to be a web-based resource. I would use html built in DreamWeaver. A simple panel that I designed for monthly selection of views lay on the left of the view of the night sky. Two hourly intervals were convenient and provided a suitable range of three views from 8pm till midnight. Included in this panel were two toggle buttons that permitted selection of star maps, named stars and constellations. There was also a return to main screen button.

The tutorial:

It needed a tutorial. I felt that the best way to provide an optional tutorial was not to start with it. Instead, I put it as the first option so that it was always available, no more than two clicks away from the game.

A page from the star-map tutorial
The tutorial used the ‘engine’ of the planisphere with overlays, where appropriate, to provide instructional text. I felt that it was important that every function of the planisphere should be covered in the tutorial, with no repetition. Learners had to be kept on track during the tutoring.
I used a range of methods to achieve this.

The trails:

Originally the planisphere had two trails or quests. It turns out that they were quite successful. Learner feedback was more than favourable, though many requested more of the same. Eventually, I found the time to build a third and longer trail, which left scope for further ideas for projects in the future. The planisphere now has three trails – Cosmic, Stellar and Galactic.

Additional to the objective was a need to include a Māori cultural aspect as this is always a part of curriculum objectives in New Zealand. I included three relevant
Māori legends, one at the end of each trail.

Why not more?

I was always tempted to expand the resource. One idea I had was to link to some of the wonderful NASA sites at relevant points in the trails. I didn’t pursue this, simply because it would detract from the intended objective.

The advantages of a digital planisphere:

The original paper resource used in teaching to this objective involved the learners in an activity to cut out and construct a paper star-map. They were then asked to use it to locate stars at night.

One fine starry evening, I tried one of those star charts and found that it was impossible to use. There were two reasons for this. One was that there was not sufficient light to read the star-map when looking at the night sky. The other was that even a torch didn’t help. Shining a standard torch onto the white paper star-map has a blinding effect on the eyesight.

An example paper star-chart
Some planispheres, like the one above, are printed with white dots for stars on a black background. This helps, but even the glare from the white writing on such a star chart, or the white border of the page it’s on, causes temporary ghost images in the eyes that ruin night vision.

It is impossible to see any stars in the sky at night until these ghost images disappear. This can take several minutes and by that time you need to refer to the star chart again!

This project was finished in 2000. One jubilant learner sent me an email after she’d used my digital star-map. She found it to be ideal. She had taken her wireless laptop into the garden, late one summer evening, and spent an hour or so locating
Stars of The Southern Sky.
Ka kite anō - Catch ya later

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Individuality and Self-reliance – is that you?

Kia ora tātou - Hello Everyone
A stylistic view of the human brain from above
I was impressed with Mattias Östmar’s response to the questions
I asked him. He left a comment on my post, Thinkers, Scientists or Mechanics and was quick to respond to my interrogating disposition.

Mattias’ Typealyzer looks interesting. At first sight, it looks like some sort of Web2.0 gadget. It is. But there has been a lot of research gone in to its design and development.

Mattias is from Sweden. Hear what he has to say about his latest researches into blogs, blog posts, writers and personas, and what he and his team have done. I found them fascinating, especially the potential to investigate networking behaviour.

Learn more from Insights from the blogosphere.

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Haere rā - Farewell

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Is The Alternative?

Kia ora tātou - Hello everyone
Parent and child at a road safety crossing.

Tomorrow at TCS, a colleague and I will be giving one of the last eTech sessions for the year. Our session will be on the use of OneKey, the kidsafe search engine. This is a repeat of sessions for teachers that proved extremely popular earlier this year.

We will show a group of secondary teachers, hands on, how Boolean search criteria can be used as a tool for making resources used in student project work.

A contractor in the school, who learnt about the planned session, pointed out that, OneKey isn’t as safe as it could be. For instance, when the search criterion, ‘date’ is entered, OneKey returns a range of dating agency sites.

The implied argument is that, perhaps we should not be using OneKey as a search engine with year 9 to 13 learners who would be using their own computers at home.

I see OneKey as a safer alternative to regular Google. Used with the recommended preferences on a browser, it seems reasonably safe.

My argument:

Students should be well supervised while using a computer in the home – under any circumstance. This is part of a recommendation on cyber safety I’m about to present to the school’s Board of Trustees, seeking approval for implementation in 2009.

Parents are to be made aware of the possible dangers when learners have access to the Internet. The learners are also to be made suitably aware of the possible dangers of using equipment on the Net.

With proper instruction and supervised practice, I feel that there is no reason why young learners shouldn’t be able to advance to using regular Google as they moved up through the school.

Road safety as an analogy:

Children should be introduced to road safety. They should also be well supervised, during their formative years, when walking on the walkways adjacent to road traffic. Sooner or later they should be able to use pavements by themselves.

What is the alternative to this? Prohibiting children from walking to school, as a blanket rule for road safety, is not an option in my mind. Why should there be any difference when it comes to using computers with access to the Internet? Surely the same principles apply.

related posts->> ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )

Haere rā - Farewell

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thinkers, Scientists or Mechanics

Kia ora tātou - Hello everyone
A map of brain activity according to TypealyzerMy brain activity while I write this post - according to Typealyzer.

Bloggers are generally categorised as thinkers, scientists or mechanics. That’s the conclusion I might have come up with when I decided to find out more about how Typealyzer categorises blog sites listed in my RSS Reader.

Michele Martin, Stephen Downes, Amy Gahran, and others wrote posts on the latest Web2.0 download for performing a Myers-Briggs analysis from a blog address. Stephen declared (I think with tongue in cheek), “The fact that my site turns out to be INTJ - exactly as I test consistently on the Myers-Briggs tests - is coincidence. Right?”

Data validity:

The inference is that data from a blog site can be used to determine the personality of the writer. Hmmm. This could have implications to do with data validity, if a blog site was used to categorise the person who writes posts on it.

I decided to do a bit more exploring. What I found gave me food for thought. By the way, the Typealyzer put my blog site in “The Thinkers” category. The picture above is supposed to be my brain activity while I write this post.

Anyone who has visited my blog and inspected my blog roll will be familiar with some of the bloggers whose names I list here. Yes. You’ve probably already worked out what I did.

Site analysis:

I went through the list of blog sites in my RSS Reader. I took each site and pasted its address into Typealyzer. It didn’t take long. A few sites incurred errors for one reason or another and couldn’t yield any data. There were other sites I visit less often that I left out of this study.

Apart from Mathew Needleman, whose site yielded “ISTJ The Duty Fulfillers”, here are the sites listed according to the names of the bloggers associated with them. I have deliberately listed their names in some sort of random order.

A table of blogger's names arranged according to Typealyzer analysisAdmittedly, this analysis is entirely anecdotal. The sites were certainly not chosen at random for they are all selected from my RSS Reader.

What could it all mean?

I mused over the results. The most prevalent sites were the INTJ and INTP types. Of all the least likely personality types I’d meet in a crowd of 100 people, the INTJ and INTP would be among them (according to Myers-Briggs USA inferential statistics). In fact, together they would represent just over 5%. That’s 5 people, in a room of a random sample of 100!

I also wondered about the sheer lack of IS types other than the mechanics who seemed to be almost as prevalent as those in the two other groups. If they'd followed statistics, however, the mechanics should have been more numerous.

My selection?

I recalled Michele Martin’s posts on homophily and wondered if it was something to do with my choice of blog sites. Have I been unconsciously selecting blog sites according to their 'personality'?

Or is Typealyzer not really doing a valid analysis? Stephen Downes’ and Michele Martin’s evidence, in support of Typealyzer’s accuracy, seems compellingly convincing. Using USA inferential statistics, their claimed personality types are among only 2.1% of the population. Yet the group they are in is the largest group listed in my table. There are 13 other group types not listed here because I simply didn't find any more. Where are they all?

All sites in my blog roll are written by bloggers who have an interest in training or education. Could this be a factor, an artefact of how they are selected, that has put them into these exclusive groups?

One last thought. I was introduced to Amy Gahran’s site through Stephen Downes’ post. She found that her site returned “ENTP The Visionaries”. When I entered her site address on Typealyzer, the return was “ESTJ The Guardians”.

I wonder if I was holding my mouth right.

( 2 ) << - related posts

Haere rā - Farewell

Friday, November 14, 2008

Are We There Yet?

Kia ora tātou - Hello everyone
A stylistic view of a human brain from above

I am always fascinated with technological advancement. In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed amazing developments in tools. Next to my fascination for new tools is my curiosity about why, with all the tools we have today, people are still moaning about us being behind the times.

We have people who write posts pressing us to give up using books. They see them as stone-age content containers. We have people who wonder if we should give up using paper. It’s seen as a bygone technology that has no place where we are going. There's some merit in all of those ideas.

I dropped in on Darren Draper’s wonderful post, “We’re almost there”, and left a comment:

We ARE in 2008, yet we pine for an age that hasn't arrived.

It is about perception. We have not yet come to grips with the idea that, though technology has advanced, the human frame has not.

To cope with and project for the twentyfirst
century, needs not only different education, but a whole shift in how we operate as individuals and as communities. Though the technology has given us the tools, our own biological limitations keep us in limbo.

And yes, we get frustrated. For humans CAN fantasise about what COULD be. That's why we are able to progress. Just the same number of years back into the twentieth century and we did not have computers as we know them today. We did not have the Internet the way it is today. We did not have blogging or Twitter or Seesmic – or YouTube.

But you know the funny thing? I was in school in the 60s. They taught me all I needed, to cope with how to use the technology of the twentyfirst century, which is why I'm blogging today. That’s why I use Google. That’s why I embed YouTube videos into my blog posts.

The technology permitted the blogging. It was not my ability (or lack of it). If blogging had been around when I had just left school, I would still have been able to do it - FACT.

We have an arrogant opinion of ourselves. We think that because we have invented wonderful technology - and we have - that the way we think and the way we work as communities should also have improved by leaps and bounds. Get real. This is the twentyfirst century.

And this is the reality of the twentyfirst century. We have the technology. For as much as we'd like to, we just don't have the brains yet.

Haere rā - Farewell

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Never a Dull Moment

Kia ora tātou - Hello everyone
A collage of trophy cups

I attended my daughters’ Prize Giving Ceremony last night. I have two at the same school. One got a prize.

We filed into the large hall for a ceremony kicking off at 7.30. And what a ceremony! Speeches, musical entertainment, speeches, singing, speeches, prize presentations, more musical entertainment, prize presentations, speeches, prize presentations, and more singing and speeches.

The performances by the girls were magnificent. Their singing and their orchestral music were truly inspiring. Much of it was arranged and conducted by the girls themselves.

The highlight of the evening was the Head Girl’s speech. It was the only speech by a student. She was by far the best orator. And she delivered by far the best speech – full of wit, it had real punch. I felt good about that, for the other speeches were, well . . .

I couldn’t help but thinking that a prize-giving ceremony that ran to over three hours must have another message. It certainly wasn’t a message for the students of the school.

The audience, of girls, parents and family, was exhausted after the first two hours. Some had left by 10-o-clock, and the ceremony was still going on with no promise of an end in sight. Sigh

When the ceremony eventually came to a close, after a summary of the guest speaker’s speech by another well-meaning speaker, we were invited to tea and sandwiches. The rooms of the hall were milling with hundreds of people.

My wife and I spent a good 15 minutes looking for our daughters. We found one. She was utterly exhausted. I went off looking for the other.

Approaching midnight, as I drove my family carefully home, I was reflecting on all that I had witnessed. I wanted to feel like a proud parent. I was a proud parent. But none of that parental pride was left.
I felt that my daughters had been duped by their own school.

I had my reflections confirmed by a colleague and father of a girl who’d collected a prize at the same ceremony. “It’s all about the school patting itself on the back,” he said.

Why do school’s do that? Why do they need to do it? I thought that schools were ‘putting students first’. Perhaps I was wrong in this case.

Haere rā - Farewell

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Elearning Self-assessment

Kia ora tātou - Hello everyoneElearning Self-assessment
Self-assessment is one of these lonely things that some may think smacks of navel-gazing. The practice may not always be looked on as a laudable, useful activity. In the context of apportioning ticks for knowledge or ups for skill achievement, it looks inward.

Yet for the lone learner, it has the potential to be a very important and effective learning tool. The temporarily, teacherless elearner has little option than to practice self-assessment. Indeed, any learner who takes the initiative to learn on one’s own (as a life-long learner would) is confronted with the need to assess his or her own learning progress.

In this post I’m going to attempt to list the pros and cons of learner self-assessment with a view to providing possible insight into ways of improving its design.

the pros:


Even the simplistic answer-at-the-back-of-the-book has the advantage of immediacy. As a young and failing student of Mathematics, I was saved from continuing along that path of failure. I was given a gift of a falling-apart Math textbook from a caring teacher.

It had the answers at the back. Many successful distance students have discovered what I did - immediate feedback of knowledge gain, or skill attainment, can provide powerful encouragement for further learning.

It can be performed at a time convenient to oneself, as can the learning activities that should accompany it. Through a series of immediate self-adjustments in learning or understanding, acquisition of skills and knowledge can be accelerated.


Self-assessment can be a complementary accompaniment to self-paced learning. No other form of assessment is as convenient in this respect. For some learners, it can also be looked on as non-threatening. There is no embarrassment borne by checking one’s own answers - no possible exposure to others of ignorance for the sensitive learner.

No need for sophistication:

Computer based instruction, or any development of that, can be a facile means of self-assessment. Even if it’s the computer that does the assessing, the learner is still in control of the learning pace. Well-designed digital resources don’t have to be overly sophisticated to be successful either. Their real strength is immediacy. When the resources are being designed, there is always the potential to give helpful explanation and further teaching where appropriate.

Strength in introversion:

The introverted learner can often find an inner strength that contributes to momentum gained in learning. For those learners who can provide this for themselves, it can bring a new self-confidence.

the cons:

The solitary learner:

Self-paced self-assessment in learning is a lonely journey for many learners. For some it can also be depressing. A lot of its success depends on personality. The extroverted learner who enjoys discussing and chatting around the topic can find the learning atmosphere brought on by self-assessment to be hollow, lonely and boring.

Assessment requires energy:

Learning on one’s own requires energy and initiative. The learner is required to bring energy to the learning process nearly all of the time. Self-assessment can be just another boring task that the learner has to do. In this respect the digital resource may provide some relief. However, energy is still required to ‘hook on’ to the learning. Without that, the process can become mechanical and the incentive to stay on track can fade away.

Lack of encouragement:

Nearly all of the encouragement provided by self-assessment comes from the learner. There is no great pat on the back - no accolade that brings the moment of joy and celebration of what has been accomplished in learning. It can be nothing more than ho-hum, which is far short of encouraging.

Frustration in extroversion:

The extroverted learner, who needs people around for ideas and interaction, can become frustrated and exasperated with the task of self-assessment. Some find dredging up the energy for learning to be enough of a chore, without adding to it yet another duty of checking for mistakes or learning that’s gone awry.

In summary:

In most elearning environments, computer assisted self-assessment can form a major part of the learning cycle. So critical is this to learning, that the design of the feedback given to the learner can make or break successful engagement. A simple RIGHT or WRONG response has its uses. But it can be severely limiting when it comes to encouraging engagement.

A better process may lie in providing a sweep through part or all of the learning cycle, perhaps without having to say YOU'RE WRONG. Another approach to the learning cycle is always useful too. But for some purposes, a simple chart or checklist may be all that's needed.

( 10 ) ( 9 ) << - related posts - >> ( 7 ) ( 6 ) ( 5 ) ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )

Haere rā - Farewell