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I was going to post about World Malaria Day which was in fact two days ago, and as part of the research checked the Tukae site. I’m delighted to see that it has been totally revamped and has a very clear message on the work that is being done there. It looks good and there’s some slick flash animated quotes at the top (not sure how accessible it is but that’s a different hat I wear!) The mission is very clearly stated and there is a seperate page on the job creation and revenue raising activities that are an essential part of their work at Emau Hill.

The Malaria project is ongoing – this is to implement a practical, community based, 4 point programme to control and treat malaria, with a particular focus on children. It will reduce the incidence of malaria through:

1 Providing long-term treatment bednets,

2 Providing resource for insecticide treatment of dwellings,

3 Giving access to rapid diagnostic testing,

4 Holding a stock of malaria treatment.

This is a very ambitious project and the funding needed is considerable – £12,000 initially and £36,000 over a 13 months period. £7,000 is already raised.

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We held a Moodle User Group meeting in a Hotel in Warrington yesterday. There was a really good turn out of over 80 delegates and our whole team were in attendance. The morning was given over to various presentations from colleges, Adult and Community Learning and a Work based Learning providers. There were some interesting ideas and I was particularly impressed with the way that Tameside College had customised their Moodle so it looked – well not like a typical Moodle. If you’re not sure what Moodle is or what a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) is there is a decent explanation on wikipedia.

After an excellent lunch, our colleagues from the West Midlands did a very good demonstration of Dimdim which has a Moodle add-in for video conferencing. It’s astonishing how enthusiastic moodlers are. There was a real buzz in the room with lots of chatting and networking and the nice people at the hotel gave us doggy bags to take the delicious muffins home in. The line of the day though must go to Sheena from Trafford College, as we were discussing someone who may be suitable for a particular job she asked, ‘John, is that the one who died?’

Today the newest project from Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman is aired on Channel 4 at unfortunately silly o clock – 12.05 am. It’s called What About Me? and follows the 1GiantLeap idea in getting people from all over the world to talk, sing or play music to a beat or in reply to some previous singing or music. The latest trailer is here and the trailer for the first episode Bombardment is here.

The synopsis for Bombardment says “The backing track for this chapter was written one windy night in my van in Cadaques Spain. I had copied the riff from a sample of some Thai instrument. Sounded very different on my guitar, and as I played it to other musicians around the world it took on a whole new sound.”

Thanks goodness that Channel 4 also has a play again service so I’ll be watching it later on 4od.

And why not – here’s a taste of the first album.

It’s been a sort of corporate week. On Tuesday morning I travelled down to Birmingham for the annual JISC conference at the International Convention Centre. On the train on the way down I had a chance to play with my new bit of kit – the Asus Eeepc – essentially a small laptop with a 7″ screen. It is linux based and the beauty is that from pressing the on switch it is up and running within 32 seconds (yes I did time it) and you can have a working document open and be typing by 55 seconds. It has built in Wifi but I was unable to get onto the network at the ICC probably due to overcrowding. The keyboard is very small and although you do get used to it, if you are a touch typist like me and don’t look at the keys, you keep ending up in the line above the one you are typing as the shift key and up arrow are next to each other. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

The conference was good and I enjoyed it and got much more out of it than the equivalent last year. That may be more to do with my choice of break out sessions to attend. Also I knew a lot more people than last year so it was nice to catch up with so many friendly faces. The morning keynote was Lord David Puttnam, now chancellor of the Open University. Both breakout sessions I went to were regarding the JISC funded elearning projects. In the morning I went to the ‘sharing the elearning experience‘ and was impressed in particular by some work done on e-assessment at Nottingham University Medical School. The afternoon session was looking at the learner experience and expectations and how the ‘Google generation’ could drive change in Higher Education. A very high level committee of enquiry has been set up to look at the changing learner experience and they are working in a transparent manner using a wiki – here. The final keynote was Angela Beesley from Wikia, founders of wikipedia – with some interesting news on the future of wikipedia and planned changes. Video, Audio and presentations are here.

Instead of heading home, I went south to Gloucestershire where daughter number 3 has just moved. She had warned me that the house was still empty but I was cool with that. We had a great night out and both made ‘nests’ with duvets on her bedroom floor. However, the following morning, I scrabbled around her kitchen and discovered that she had no means of heating water. As she doesn’t drink tea or coffee this isn’t a problem for her. Having asked at the local shop if they sold ‘hot and wet’ coffee – rather than granules, I gave in and made myself a hot ribena with water from the tap!

After a trip into Tewkesbury and a quick look at the Abbey I hopped onto a train home.

Back in Yorkshire, I experimented with a new route into the metropolis that is Manchester and hit the jackpot. Hebden Bridge is about 20 miles from me and has free parking at its station. It was then 40 minutes on the train into the centre of Manchester for £7 – great. I headed off to what was the GMex centre and now called something bland that I can’t remember. The Special Needs North exhibition was all that I expected and all the usual suspects were there. I had signed up for one seminar and it was excellent ‘stop teaching and start encouraging learning’ much the stuff that we talk about most days but well presented. Astonishingly I cannot find a decent link to the list of exhibitors or the seminars.

We had a really good day yesterday at Haydock Park Racecourse. So actually no horses just a course, but it was a lovely venue with brilliant views over the track. The subject of the day was ‘Choosing and using an eportfolio’ and it was well attended. The keynote speaker was Graham Attwell from Pontydysgu – Bridge to Learning and was just superb. We got some really good feedback on the day and I ran around getting some audio feedback so will hopefully get a vox pop together giving a flavour of the event. It was also great to see some delegates from Specialist Colleges. My colleague John Dalziel did a couple of the workshops and produced two eMagazine supplements to go with them – Using Free Tools and Personal Development Planning. One free product that he used was Tiddlywiki, something I use all the time for recording and reflection.

The night before was memorable, as always with a team night out and we won the pub quiz, but had to trade the prize of 8 pints of beer (at 11.30 at night after closing time!) for a bottle of wine.

I had to travel to Liverpool for a meeting yesterday. As usual, I drove as far as Preston and parked at the station to get the train. As I approached the train, the guard or train manager or whatever they are called, was standing by the door. I checked with him -‘ Is this the Liverpool train?’. I was a little puzzled by his smirk as he assured me that it was. As I stepped on board and turned into the carriage I stopped abruptly. The whole train was full – full of people dressed up to the nines. Above every other seat back I could see wisps of feathers in every colour imaginable. All the men were in very smart very sharp suits. I think I did actually reel and had to hold onto the door frame. What the hell was going on. Disorientating? I should say so. Was this a wedding party and they had taken over the whole train? I gave up and stepped back into the door space giving the guard an quizzical look. Then it dawned on me – it’s the Grand National Festival, they were all on their way to Aintree. I looked back down the carriage and yes almost every man had a copy of the Racing Post somewhere about his person. Apparently it was Ladies Day and my goodness they made the most of it. As I got into the city centre there were more everywhere and every woman there had some sort of fascinator in her hair.

The back end of Word Press has changed and I now seem unable to upload a photo but the BBC have captured the atmosphere here.

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