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Showing posts from May, 2012

The best advice on how to study comes from those who are studying

I have just been perusing the blog written by @MAmanda87. She is a student of the Open University and has been interviewing fellow OU students and asking about their experiences.  As a former OU student myself, and a lecturer currently working alongside the OUVS, I have always had a love for the OU so it is heart-warming to see just how positive these experiences are.  Perhaps the most interesting thing though, is the tips and advice given by the students.

I have always felt that the best way to advise students about their studies is to let other students do the advising.  As a tutor it can sometimes feel as though there is a disconnect between myself and my students - an kind of sub-textual understanding that although any advice I might give is welcome, that I am not really 'one of them'.  I remember (back in the days when I was young and relatively healthy) going into my local  weights gym. I'm not talking about those fancy places with giant video screens and a sauna.  N…

The Dustman and the Cat's Scratching Post

A wee story, written on a train after seeing a scratching post out by the bins yet again.  I'm sure there is an analogy in there somewhere...


A cats scratching post sat in the road and stared at the dustman.  It was a proud scratching post.  It had sat proudly in a pet-shop window for barely a month before it had been adopted and made to serve the scratching needs of a somewhat cantankerous moggy over a period of five months.
To be honest, this was not its finest hour: A battle of wills between itself, and the Dustman.
For three consecutive weeks, the scratching post had gone out onto the road, and sat next to the bins awaiting collection.  And for three consecutive weeks, the Dustman has stuck to his guns and refused to take it.  The scratching post was beginning to take this personally. Why would the Dustman not take it?  Did the Dustman find it in some way objectionable?  This was simply not fair.  All the other rubbish got taken to the tip and incinerated - why was the scratching…

I need a new laptop, pt. 4: Operating System

The question of operating systems is an awkward one to address, partly because there are many people who do not really know what an operating system is (and it is very difficult to explain), and partly because advice about operating systems is usually given by people who have a strong, passionate and evangelical love for one of them in particular.  In view of this, I should put my cards on the table right now and explain my own personal preference - but instead I will do this at the end, and perhaps you can tell me whether you were able to predict it.

What is an operating system? This heading is really to allow those who already know this bit, to move smoothly on to the next section.  In order to explain what an operating system is, I am going to need the help of your imaginations while I construct a wee analogy...

Imagine an empty room.  Nothing in it at all.  Bare walls.  Not even a floor - just some rafters which look down on the plumbing pipes below.  For the purposes of this …

I need a new laptop, pt. 3: Brand

The issue of the particular brand of laptop which you use has actually become far less of an issue in recent years.  When considering what kind of new television to buy, or what kind of fridge, you can generally assume than some brands are going to be more reliable than others. With computers though, the issue if often far more to do with who makes the little bits that go inside the computer, than who makes the computer itself.

For example, you could take a laptop made by Sony and a laptop made by Acer. You are more likely to have heard of Sony and to assume, therefore, that the brand must be a more reliable one.  However, you might subsequently find that the Acer has a graphics card made by NVidia, an Intel Ivy Bridge processor and 8GB RAM, while the Sony has an Intel graphics card, an Intel Celeron processor and 2GB RAM.  Most people should not really be expected to know what all of this means, but actually what these internal components do mean is that the Acer is a better machine …

I need a new laptop, pt. 2: Size and Weight

Laptops can be bad for you
If you have decided that you needs a laptop, then presumably it is because you intend to carry it around.  Size and weight become a significant issue here because any benefit of a nice chunky laptop may well be overcome by the disadvantages of back pain if you are not careful. A small and light machine certainly sounds preferable to long-term injury - but remember that you may well be using the machine for long periods of time. Hunching over a tiny laptop and squinting for hours on end at a reduced screen can cause as many (if not more) health problems than lugging a monster around.  Research by UNISON found that 61% of laptop-users asked suffered from backpain, 60% suffered from neck pain and 68% suffered from eyestrain. 55% found laptop computers heavy, but not much can be made from this as doubtless as many would find the Sunday Times heavy if they had to carry it on their shoulder for 45 minutes every day.

The NHS seem to be putting a lot of focus on …

I need a new laptop, pt. 1: What do I use it for?

Right. This is the first part of a short series examining all the laborious and tedious decisions which have to be made when buying a new computer (see the first blog on this here).

If I want to make sure I am not spending money for technology which I am never going to make the most of, I need to think carefully about what I use computers for.  This is not necessarily quite as straightforward an issue as it has been in the past.  When I started out in education, PowerPoint was about as radical as multimedia in the classroom got.  Now though, what was once expected in a few template slides is now expected in video, audio, image, animation and interaction.  In other words, common computing tasks are much more system intensive than they used to be.  They are, as well, much more varied.  There was a time when if you wanted to edit a photo, you would have pretty much had no choice but to invest in expensive software like Photoshop.  Now, there any countless alternative options which are …