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I spent yesterday at the public open day of the Handheld Learning 2008 conference and the awards ceremony in the evening.  We decided to miss out on paying for conference coffee and met with James Clay for a good cup of Italian in a nearby cafe – which James being James, photographed!  Most of the afternoon we spent in a session called Pecha Kucha.  This was an open session for anyone who had a presentation that met with very strict criteria and wanted share their ideas with the room.  Each presenter was given a number and then the numbers were drawn out of a hat to establish a running order.  The rules of the presentations were – each is allowed 20 images which are to be shown for 40 seconds only,  so each presentation lasts 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  It encourages presenters to be concise, keeps the interest level high and encourages collaboration and sharing of work.  It worked really well and made for a good and interactive afternoon – something I think we might use at our own conference.

In the evening it was the Handheld Learning Awards.  This is the first year they have done this and a panel of judges had chosen 3 candidates for shortlisting in each category, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and special needs. The vote was then done by text messaging which was a bit limiting – a choice of methods would have been better.  I was expecting a sort of low key type event with some polite applause – not at all.  There was a live band, champagne on arrival and some really good food.  Johnny Ball, the host was witty and entertaining and it was good to see Andy Black networking furiously.  The whole evening was great and we ended up dancing till late.  It was with a heavy heart I left this morning as I have work to do and couldn’t stay for the whole conference – which if it is as good as last year and last night will be great.  I’ll be there next year I promise.  In the meantime, I’m following them all on jaiku.  So well done Graham and the Handheld team – it was fab.


Well it was a week ago but the conference went really well.  It  was great to see so many of the great and good in eLearning in the North West and to meet some new friends also.  I was especially please to meet Nick and Paul from Janet.txt and think it is a fab bit of kit and am looking forward to finding more and more uses for it.  I’m sure I’ll be in touch with more ideas.  I managed to get a swim in the morning before the event, even though I’d forgotten to bring a swimsuit – good old asda – 48p!  How can you sell an item of clothing for 48p?  The venue was superb with fantastic views over the racecourse.

View from Princess Royal stand, Aintree

View from Princess Royal stand, Aintree

It was great that Bev from Accrington and Rossendale College had brought along some learners to deliver their seminar on using mobile technologies for learning.  During the day, I managed to get some people to record messages onto gabcast. A couple of my colleagues and I took photos and they can be seen using the RSCNW08 tag on Flickr.  Great day, great venue, fab food – can recommend it.

Last weekend the whole family descended on a small village in Derbyshire to celebrate the official naming ceremony for Finlay, who was born in January this year.  What a delightful child he is and he behaved beautifully.  Saturday night we all arrived and headed off to the pub.  It was great that my brother was over from Denmark/Tanzania (he has a hell of a commute!) and his sons Joe and Nickwere there.

The Valentine boys, Joe, Steve and Nick.

On Sunday it was all hands to the pump to get the food and room ready.  There was enough food to feed about 400 people and 70 were expected!  Sarah and Paul had written the ceremony themselves and it was perfect.  Paul choked slightly while he was making his promises to Finlay and I was thankful I’d stocked up on tissues.  I then did a reading from the book, The Velveteen Rabbit which is becoming a family tradition.  Each of the grandmothers gave Finlay a present which represented an element, so an oak sapling for Earth, stream water from Pia’s garden in Denmark for water, a candle that was burning as he was born for fire and then finally Kate my eldest and ‘godmother’ sprinkled fairy dust on him for air.  Each spiritual guide made a promise to Finlay and then finally Paul and Sarah officially named him Finlay Jack McCarthy.  So welcome young man.

He was such a good boy, looked at the right person and the right time and smiled and gurgled all the way through.

And his great Aunt got a cuddle also.

Yesterday I was at a day’s project management workshop as sort of joint host. It was on the theme of elearning, and was expertly delivered by John and Clive from JISC Infonet. It was held in the refurbished Refreshment rooms of Carnforth Railway Station which was the location for ‘Brief Encounter‘ filmed in early 1945 starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Although there is a lot of information on the history of the station the main theme of the visitor centre is a homage to the film. I wasn’t able to resist the temptation of speaking with a clipped British, don’t move your lips, accent for long.

Apart from high speed trains on the West Coast mainline thundering past every 10 minutes or so it is a lovely location and the building has been very tastefully restored. There is the original refreshment room, souvenir shop, with Brief Encounter playing on a large tv, and the Furness Room which is available for hire and the main rooms have 1940’s music playing softly in the background. An added bonus for me was I could catch the train there from my local station and I can recommend the cakes.

My nephew and I travelled down to the Peak District yesterday to visit his sister (so therefore my niece) and her husband who are expecting their first baby in the New Year. It was lovely to see her looking so well and happy and positive and I can’t wait to have a grand nephew! After the usual – how is everyone stuff we got in the car and drove to the pretty village of Beeley which is about a mile and half from Chatsworth House. The Devonshire Arms is a “chic country pub, traditional Inn and Brasserie” – and we went there for lunch and wow what a lunch it was. I started with marinated scallops – with a multi coloured salad. What I thought was a died egg – it looked like one ok – was in fact a dark purple potato. I’ve never experienced purple potatoes before and it was good and tasty and potato like, which is I suppose the requirement of a potato of any hue. Next was sausage and mash with a gravy that tasted like it had been simmered down for about 3 days it was so delicious. Finally and this is very unusual for me I managed a pudding – lemon posset. Simple, creamy, heavenly, exquisite, delicious – just wonderful, it didn’t touch the sides. So thanks guys and look after that not so little bump. I’ll see you in January – a promise!

This is such an inspirational video from the team at TED.

When he was just 14 years old, Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba built his family an electricity-generating windmill from spare parts, working from rough plans he found in a library book. In conversation with TED Curator Chris Anderson, Kamkwamba, now 19, tells a moving story of ingenuity and adaptation, and shares his dreams for the future.

What a remarkable young man.

Sauri was just an ordinary Kenyan village two years ago, where hunger, poverty and illness were an everyday part of normal life. Now the maize is taller, the children better fed and the water is cleaner. It is one of the 11 millenium villages to be chosen by the United Nations Millenium project to be an experimental prototype to enable impoverished villages to escape extreme poverty.

It’s an astonishily simple idea, invest approximately $100 for each member of the village for 5 years and see what happens.

African’s are in a poverty trap – they farm a small plot of land for himself and his family, and simply doesn’t have enough assets to make a profit. As the population grows, people have less and less land, and grow poorer. When the farmer has to pay school fees for his children or buy medication, he is forced to sell the few assets he has or else go into debt. But if he had some capital, he could invest in his farm, grow enough to harvest a surplus, sell it, and start making ­money.

The idea to ‘shock’ villages into prosperity with large injections of cash is that of economist Jeffrey Sachs author of ‘The End of Poverty‘. Africa has been ­drip-­fed aid for decades, but it has never received enough to make a difference. What money has trickled in has been wasted on overpriced consultants and misspent on humanitarian relief and food aid, not directed at the root causes of poverty. There is a full report here.

Having seen what Tukae are doing in Tanzania, I’m not surprised.  They are enabling the local population to build up their economy by giving them jobs and support.  Their current Malaria project will bring much needed health care and medicine to the children at Emau Hill.

Greetings from Glasgow.  I’m sitting in the training suite of  RSC South West Scotland – here for a two day meeting. I’m rather jealous of their facilities here at Todd Campus west of the city – meeting rooms, training suite board room. 

We went out for a meal in Glasgow last night to the Red Onion,  and  only a small vat of wine was consumed.  I always enjoy coming here, the people are really friendly and hospitable.  The weather got progressively better as I travelled further North on the train yesterday so  that squashed a few predjudices.  Kevin – that means the meteorological conditions by the way!

I noticed that Steve has put a comment on the Malaria post from back in February.  There is an urban myth that brewers yeast or marmite will act as a deterent for mosquitoes.  While Steve and I both fall into the ‘love it’ camp for marmite, it is a tasty spread not a reliable prophylaxis.   As Steve says ‘As malaria can make you very ill and very dead very quickly I don’t think I would want to sign up for any of them. The last person we had out in Tz who was into alternative prophylaxis spent a long time in hospital with v severe malaria. Would that taking brewers yeast or similar was any good – it would make treating people a whole lot easier, a lot cheaper and a lot less children would die. I eat a lot of Marmite and still get malaria.’  Good point, if it were that easy, Mr Bill Gates wouldn’t be spending some of his billions of dollars in a research facility at the hospital in Tanga.  2,000 children a day die of Malaria in Africa.

I’ve just finished a book that almost made me put on weight.  No really, it is by the front man of the band Franz Ferdinand, Alex Kapranos.  The tag line on the back of it is “tour the world – with odd people – eat odd food – with odd people – write about it”  That pretty much sums it up.  It was Radio 4’s book of the week some time late last year and I got it as a Christmas present and have only just got round to reading it.  It’s only a thin volume and you could imagine that you could get through it in one sitting.  There is one problem though, you can’t read more than about 15 pages without having to get up and eat something.  He is witty and sharp and it is very funny.  He writes about bull’s testes in Beunos Aires, puffer fish in Osaka and gluewein in the Munich Christkindlmarkt and everywhere inbetween.  His revenge on a snooty hotel manager in Singapore was as swift as it was sweet.  A little gem of a book.

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