Knowledge retention

Saturday, 29 May, 2010

Donald Clark has a nice synopsis, in his usual brusque style (!), on knowledge retention as part of learning. He kicks off with the classic graph showing how rapidly retention drops off after first exposure, and then goes through a (mixed) variety of strategies to offset this loss. If students haven’t come across this then they need to be aware of it. And it goes without saying that teachers/lecturers should be building this style of knowledge “training” and re-exposure in to their schedules.

New School Academies

Saturday, 29 May, 2010

Well it’s a busy week in politics, what with a new government and the newly named Department for Education is kicking things off relatively rapidly. A nice summary from Mike Baker on the principal changes coming up in some new proposed bills. One of these relates to the setting up of Academies. Under the Labour government these have been relatively rare and intended to raise standards in failing schools by giving new management greater autonomy by removing them from the local authority and directly funding them from central government. It’s certainly a solution, although some may disagree with it. Under the new coalition government this is now firmly targeted at those schools graded as “outstanding” by Ofsted. This is simply grant maintained status under another guise and can only lead to fragmentation of the education system locally and a break-up of the delivery service overseen by local authorities. It doesn’t lend itself to 0-19 education; currently it is difficult enough to maintain over-arching responsibility for a child’s whole education, but this will make it nigh-on impossible. And buy-back services, which are driven through economies of scale, will start to become undeliverable. It is a poorly conceived policy that will not drive up standards for “whole education”, just limited parts of it and will be detrimental to our education system. And, just to rub salt in to the wound, any school that is currently “outstanding” can fast-track to academy status by the start of the next academic year. not only that but Ofsted will now not be required to inspect outstanding schools, just look for “warning signs”. Really, how barmy have politicians become. Have they not heard of “false positives”? Do they not realise that the consistency and quality of inspections covers a wide gamut? Have they lost total touch with reality to realise that schools can *rapidly* change from outstanding to good?

Laser scanning Mt Rushmore

Friday, 28 May, 2010

Gene Roe over at lidarnews gives a great overview of the recent project to laser scan Mt Rushmore by the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation in Glasgow. The photo and video links are well worth a look in. I wonder if our insurance and warranty would cover us for using our ScanStation like this?? ;)

Office 97 DOCX Converter

Friday, 21 May, 2010

People keep sending me damn Office 2007 files; I hate them! I have no desire or want to install the behemoth that is Office 2007 and whilst I applaud the move to an XML format (even if the certification process might not have been as above board as it could have been) we all had a perfectly good, and well understood, binary format in DOC (and XLS/PPT) files that could be opened by everyone and their uncle. Now we have this whole pain of incompatability to go through yet again. As a result Office 97 converters are advertised across the internet; some of the online services are naff, whilst the shareware ranges for malware, to bad to OK. And yes, I still use Office 97; its fast and mostly does what I want it to do, but alas Microsoft decided in their infinite wisdom that the Office Compatibility Pack would only support Office 2000 onwards. So alas I am stuck with the crap converter in Open Office (although at least I can open the files).

Or so I though. After a bit of Googline I came across this batch converter so tried it… it didn’t convert any of the files I had, but during the install it did a download which I suspected was probably one of the Microsoft converters. I uninstalled the crapware, but it left these behind and, low and behold, if I open a DOCX in Office 97 it converts it to a DOC file and, well, just loads it! Same for XLSX and PPTX. I don’t know whether the crapware spoofed it in to believing that at least Office 2000 was installed, but I’m not complaining. Of course, why Microsoft couldn’t do this I don’t know….

Schooloscope.. what, where and its up to you about the why

Thursday, 13 May, 2010

The Guardian reports on the recently launched Schooloscope site, a 4ip funded project to make better (and fairer) sense of school performance data. It’s still in beta and incorporates a base level of information, currently primarily from Ofsted reports but the intention is to add more. The Guardian like the design, although I think it’s a bit purile and treats us like school-kids… ahhh, maybe thats who its aimed at so they can pick a better school!!! Anyway, maybe a skinnable “stupid” and “not-so-stupid” version would be nice. That said the presentation paradigm is spatially based using a slippy map as the background showing the selected school and the performance of those nearby. A “report card” style info sheet is then placed over the top. I can’t fault this and the presentation is fair, although I’ve no doubt some teachers will quibble that it highlights league tables. As long as there is “performance” data, it will be presented and this is as good as it gets.