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Just a quick posting – a Flickr tag has been set up for ordinary folks to send a message to the new President Elect of the United States, Barack Obama.  So if you want to send him your thoughts – write a message and then take a photo of it.  Upload to flickr with the tag messageforobama.  Some good stuff there.

A pal of mine, Andy Dubieniec, was diagnosed with non-hodgkins Lymphoma in May 2008.  He’s currently undergoing chemotherapy and last weekend he completed the the coast to coast cycle ride in 17 hours.  He also managed to record a number of mini videos along the way and has incorporated them into an eBook.  What a great use of technology to share what is essentially a very solitary effort.  Great stuff Andy, well done, and good luck with the final chemo today.

Myebook - Coast to Coast - click here to open my ebook

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.

The Learning and Skills Council have made £4 million available for shared cost mobile learning projects which must be led by an English FE college but can include work based learning providers and schools.  MoLeNET (Mobile Learning Network) was launched last year and a number of colleges and consortia had their bids approved.  Since then there has been some very creative projects ongoing and teachers are using mobile devices in increasingly innovative ways.  They have been particularly successful in engaging diverse learners, including neets (not in Education, Employment or training) ex-offenders and those with learning disabilities or difficulties.  There were 32 successful projects in 2007/08 and they are also invited to bid for further funding.  Their success will be celebrated at a conference at the Emirates Stadium on 18 September – and yes I’ll be there.

Last weekend saw a total eclipse of the sun visible in full from Siberia and China.  Astronomy picture of the day has a brilliant photo.

Explanation: What’s that black dot over the Sun? The Moon. This past weekend, the Sun went dark during the day as the Moon completely covered it. The total solar eclipse was visible over a thin swath of Earth extending from northern Canada to China. As shown above, many sky enthusiasts gathered to witness the total or partial solar eclipse, which lasted only a few minutes. The above image was taken during totality near Barkol in Xinjiang, China, with the Barkol Shan mountain range visible on the horizon. Although the brightest parts of the Sun are covered, the normally invisible corona of hot gas surrounding the Sun became prominent. Just to the upper left of the Moon darkened Sun are planets Mercury and Venus. The increased darkening of the sky toward the right indicates the darkened atmosphere created by the passing shadow cone of the total solar eclipse. The next total solar eclipse will occur next July and be visible in parts of India and China.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to see the fourth day of the test match between England and South Africa at Headingley.  Although it was a terrible result for England – they managed to avoid a defeat by an innings – just but still lost by 10 wickets, it was a great experience and I really enjoyed it.  Last weekend I was honoured to be allowed to go and watch Yorkshire play in the County Championship against Surrey.  This was the third time I’d been into Headingley as I had bunked off from my summer job in  1977 to go and see Geoffrey Boycott reach his one hundreth hundred in first class cricket.  On Saturday I was astonished to discover that Mark Ramprakash, the Surrey captain and series 4 winner of Strictly come Dancing, was about to do the same! Despite Yorkshire’s efforts he blasted along to 112 reaching the milestone just after four in the afternoon.

Ramprakash gets his hundreth century

Ramprakash gets his hundreth century

As someone said on the day, it doesn’t happen very often, not many people have seen it done at all and hardly anyone will have seen two with hardly setting foot in a cricket ground in between.  So again it was a pretty boring draw on the day but I enjoy live sport and it was good to be there on such a momentous occasion.

There is an article in the Guardian today which states that Skipton’s High Street is in the final for the accolade of Britain’s Greatest Street. It is in competition with the Portobello Road and Kensington High Street in London. I can’t imagine how they are going to judge it – they have virtually nothing in common. Skipton’s High Street is dominated by a market for four days of the week. One of the highlights of the year is Sheep Day and part of the high street is in fact called Sheep Street. It does have a nice church at the top and a pretty magnificent castle behind that. More info here.

We work in an old building at Lancaster University.  One of the other teams that work in our building are the Cumbria and Lancashire Online Education team. They set up a webcam inside a bird’s nesting box earlier in the year and now a couple of blue tits have taken residence and are busy feeding their 5 chicks.  The BBC have reported on it and you can see the amazing live images from the link here. Thanks Kev for the information.

I posted a few weeks ago on the TED prize winner Neil Turok’s vision to find an African Einstein with the setting up of 15 advanced centres for Mathematics and Science based in Africa.  He donated his £50,000 prize fund to Aims – the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, which he founded.

Professor Sir Stephen Hawking has made the journey to South Africa to launch the project today, along with 2 Nobel laureates in Physics, the Head of NASA and the South African Education Minister.  The British Government have declined to provide funding so the organisers have turned to high-tech entrepreneurs and scientists to back the plan.  The complete TED talk is here and well worth taking the time to watch.  There is also an interesting article in the Sunday Times today.

We heard this week that there are an estimated 13 million surveillance cameras in Britain. One unsigned band from Manchester decided to use them to their own advantage. They played their set to cctv cameras all over the city and then wrote to the companies asking for the footage under the ‘Freedon of Information Act’. Although not all of them replied, they had enough to produce a great looking video and for free. Cheeky, creative and good music.

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