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The latest TED conference took place last month in Monteray California. If you haven’t come across these talks they are awe inspiring. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and began in 1984 as a conference devoted to the converging fields of technology, entertainment and design. Over the years, the scope has broadened. But the formula remains the same: Gather the world’s leading thinkers and doers; offer them four days of rapid-fire stimulation. The result? Unexpected connections. Extraordinary insights. Powerful inspiration.

The talks are made available on the TED website and one of the latest is by Professor Neil Turok, who is a theoretical physicist who grew up in Africa. He was the founder of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town, South Africa. As he says “If you don’t have math, you are not going to enter the modern age.” At AIMS “We emphasize problem-solving, working in groups. Everyone lives together in the hotel, lecturers and students, so it’s not surprising to find impromptu tutorials at 1am. We specially emphasize areas of great relevance to African development”.

His wish is to create 15 more across the continent.

The physics stuff in here is pretty mind blowing – well it is for me, but the ideas and thoughts behind the AIMS project are truly inspirational. See the whole talk – here.

You can become a member of TED for free and even attend one of the Conferences – if you have a spare $6,000.

Penguin books have launched a new initiative to tell six different stories in six weeks, using Google maps. Yes I did write that. The first one is available now and is called The 21 Steps – a homage to The 39 Steps by John Buchan. “One minute, Rick Blackwell is sightseeing at St. Pancras in London; the next, he’s caught up in a conspiracy that takes him far away from home. Rick needs to use all his skills to find out why a dying stranger seemed to know his name – and to stay alive”.

It’s an interesting exercise and I enjoyed it. On the longer journeys, my screen didn’t update quickly enough, but that is more likely a fault of my PC rather than the technology and be patient in Chapter 4 – you do get there eventually.  There will be six stories altogether, the next one will be available on Tuesday 25 March. This would make a great tool for teaching and learning.

YouTube have announced the winners of the most popular clips on their site for 2007 as voted for by viewers. At the same time Professor Michael Wesch from Kansas State University, who produced the ‘Vision of Students today’ video has produced some statistics for the site. Total video uploads as of January 28th this year – 70 million, March 13th 77.4 million and March 17th 78.3 million – suggesting that 150,000 to 200,000 are uploaded each day. They did a short breakdown of categories from a sample – the details of which are here, and came up with some interesting figures.

The time to watch all content, as of 17 March would be 412.3 years.

Amateur content – 80.3%

Uploads probably in violation of copyright – 12%

Average age of uploader 26.57

This is an ongoing piece of research and you can see the wiki for the project here.

The BBC reported last week that many schools were failing because of the high numbers of children showing ‘signs of dyslexia’. A study by Hull University said that dyslexia was a major cause of failure. Why this is news is still a cause of frustration to me, though I don’t know why, I face it every time I go into a college. I’m told on a weekly basis that ‘Oh we have a very thorough assessment and if they are dyslexic we do …’ Most experts would say that dyslexia is not a hit or miss syndrome. You don’t either have it or not have it. Like Autistic spectrum disorder, it is a continuum which in severe cases needs specialist teaching and intervention. However, what is not acknowledged is that small changes in teaching methods would benefit all learners with or without a diagnosis of dyslexia. The report states that up to one in five pupils could be affected and so the Government is piloting a scheme to train specialist dyslexia teachers. If one in five is affected then all teachers should be trained to deal with this ‘disorder’. If the numbers are in fact one in five then it is probably not a disorder but just a variation of the norm. Understanding the needs of dyslexic learners should be part of all teachers’ professional development and an integral part of initial teacher training. A simple start would be to allow electronic access to the lessons – but there again I would say that wouldn’t I, as an elearning adviser.

I posted about the videos that Lee LeFever and his colleagues at Commoncraft make a few months ago. Their ‘Zombies in Plain English’ has been short listed for a Yahoo video best animation award.

You can vote for them here.

Why didn’t we have stuff like this when I was at school. You can download it here

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