Archive for June, 2008

Hurray it’s Monday :-)

WARNING! THIS IS WHAT YOU MIGHT LOOK LIKE IF YOU HOLD ONTO LOTS OF BALLOONS
Been a bloomin fantabulous week this. The conference, the completion of the website (will give you the link soon), the people, the coaching course, the friendship… just grand. So much to smile about.

I’m really excited that it’s Monday again. That means I have a WHOLE ‘NOTHER 7 DAYS to play the game of life! What can I do this week I wonder?

Oh, I know, I can see bjork (still no reply to my message to her the other day asking if she’d like me to take her to the Peaks [that's the Peak District by the way, a national park].

I can tie up my CILASS ends (sob).

I can continue to look forward to seeing my baby – only 17 days until she arrives, marking the end of 6.5 months apart. I might not have much time to mumble after that… :-)

I’m going to register our new publishing company name and logo as a trade mark – £200 for 10 years, bargain! (Watch this space for that website launch too). I think I’ll become a shareholder this week as well, provided the solicitors get their act together. Quite how they can charge £700 to register a company I don’t know… Still, all of these expenses are covered by the generous start-up funds we’ve received.

The last of the wedding ‘issues’ are sorted. I had this feeling all along that we would get our band of first choice. They’d had to say ‘no’ when I phoned them a couple of months back. I’ve been reluctant to book anyone else, and was curious as to why this was. Finally, yesterday I had the feeling that it was time to give our band of choice another call. I did. they told me that their plans had changed – they said ‘yes’.

I delight in this intuition we all have, it’s bloomin’ amazing! Ok, so we may not be able to detect when earthquakes are going to strike as dogs can, but we can tell when our ceilidh band of choice will finally say yes (bet dogs can’t do that).

So caw blimey gov everything is fantastic. Thank you dear world for treating me so good.


RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

TTFN

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Why I love Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Lightroom Training

I’ve talked about this before, but I want to talk about it again
.

A few days back I was asked by a friend if I’d give them a bit of training in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, the most wonderful photo-processing software ever to have created for people who work with RAW images, or find Photoshop a bit OTT for their purposes.

It was an interesting experience, as it really demonstrated to me just what a fundamental shift the move to the use of image processing software such as Lightroom can mark.

Lightroom is the modern-day darkroom (in case you hadn’t guessed from the name!). Most people don’t need darkrooms these days as their cameras can do the processing for them. If your camera gives you JPEG images, it has taken the raw data that hit its sensor through the lens, and then interpreted that as it saw fit, enhancing colours and setting the contrast (etc) before throwing away the ‘unnecessary’ data and compressing the remainder into a JPEG.

For me, when I do shoot in JPEG with my little Sony Cybershot, I feel it’s a passive process (although one would not be able to tell this from looking at the images). All I do is chuck them straight into my photo library. There has been little by way of engagement with the images once they have been taken.

With my Nikon set to shoot in RAW, it just gives me the raw data (funny that), with no modifications. It’s then up to me to decide how that image is developed (by putting it through Lightroom).

Thankfully modern cameras are very good at processing images and creating JPEGs. All of my photos up until last summer were taken as JPEGs (including all those on my Trans-Siberian adventure), and to look at them you’d find it hard to tell the difference between them and those I’ve since shot in RAW. In fact you can’t.

I think for me though, photography is almost as much about the process as it is about the end result. I absolutely love processing my images, deciding for myself what the end result will look like. I also get great pleasure out of exporting these images direct from Lightroom to Flickr and into my iPhoto library for use in my projects, to share with other people.

You may have noticed that I have stopped watermarking my images. That was a conscious decision to not be so precious about them.

I’ve recently come to embrace keywording (tagging) too. I don’t just do it for the satisfaction of ‘being organised’ – with over 21,000 photos in my library now it’s vital that they have rich descriptions to enable me to find them at a later date. I tag them upon import, and these tags remain with the images all the way through to Flickr (or wherever else they go). If you are able to read the metadata attached to the image above, along with the details of what shutter speed I used / what lens I had on the camera, you’ll find all my tags (Flickr displays these by default).

I feel that this kind of engagement with my photos helps me to improve my technique. It gives me the opportunity to study them in detail, to get a feel for what worked, and what didn’t. It encourages me to take more photos, which will lead to more experiences, and a greater appreciation of what was in front of the lens.

If you would like to engage more with your images and are prepared to put in the few hours necessary to learn the Lightroom ropes, I would recommend you switch your camera to RAW (if it allows it), and download a free Beta version of Lightroom from www.adobe.com/products/photoshoplightroom/.

Next, grap yourself a free 7-day trial from the best software training company in the world, Lynda.com, and check out the Lightroom tutorial. You can get that by visiting www.lynda.com/deke (normally $25 per month).

Finally, enjoy. Oh, and consider subscribing to the (free) podcast from The Radiant Vista. (N.b. Anonymous: somehow I don’t think that podcast will be your cup of tea).

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LTEA Conference 2008: Long Live Inquiry-based Learning!

It’s now the day after the closing of the LTEA (Learning Through Enquiry Alliance) conference 2008, and my head is beginning to clear. I attempted to write about my experience of this event last night, but I was “all conferenced out” as fellow student ambassador Barbara put it – my mind was just a sea of tags:
conference tag cloud
It was an intense week. In the days leading up to the event’s opening on Wednesday, I worked with the CILASS core team to help prepare the conference Wiki, a virtual space in which delegates could share, discuss and reflect upon their experiences of Inquiry-based learning. Aside from passive use of Wikipedia, I had no prior experience of working with Wikis, and thus found myself engaging in an intense IBL activity on my computer. Once I’d familiarised myself with the basic structure, I was surprised by how easy it was to manipulate; this has encouraged me to contemplate how I might include a wiki within my own website (another project to add to the IBL-inspired list!).

In addition to co-ordinating the wiki, my duties (most of which were of course shared with my amazing friends in the Student Ambassador Network) included: taking photos (that was a self-assigned role! Thanks for indulging me, CILASS), processing and uploading them to Flickr throughout the conference; ensuring that the technology was working for those presenting; uploading powerpoints to Slideshare (still a lot to do there); facilitating sessions; being available for delegates should they have any problems; watching over the luggage, drinking coffee, and eating chocolate.

Thinking about it all now, a few episodes come to mind. I’d like to share those with you.

It’s Wednesday morning, 9am. As the other Student Ambassadors arrive there’s a feeling of great excitement and happiness in the office: the months of preparation are over, and it’s too late to worry about anything. We’re blowing up balloons to tie to lamp-posts in order that delegates don’t get lost on their way to the Keynote in Firth Hall. Turns out that Jamie is a Balloon-mungster, and prior to joining the CILASS team was at the forefront of a new movement which campaigned to promote the simultaneous blowing up of multiple balloons. Jamie’s love of balloons spreads across the office, and before long the balloon bath is the hottest attraction in Sheffield.

jamie sabine natalie and the balloons

natalie balloons balloons_8061

11am, and the delegates are now arriving. They are greeted by the blue T-shirts and big smiles of the Student Ambassadors – a welcome sign of the kind of atmosphere that will embody the entire three-day conference.

Photo: James Gould

It’s now Wednesday afternoon and I’m facilitating a presentation by four members of Sheffield Hallam University’s CETL. They’ve all been using Inquiry-based technologies to help enhance the learning and teaching experience. As I sit there hearing about their successes I find myself getting tremendously excited and inspired – the work that these tutors are putting in to help students become autonomous learners really is something to be shouted about. When bringing the session to a close, I think it might be appropriate to offer a quick bit of feedback as the only student in the room:

“I’m very happy to have just completed a four-year degree, and am looking forward to moving on into the workplace. But I tell you, hearing what you’re doing with IBL inspires me to such an extent that I’m thinking I’d like to start another undergraduate degree!”

And I meant it. I am so impressed by the effort that is being put in by IBL-orientated staff to help students engage with their subjects, and by the positive results they are achieving. People must be told about IBL! It should become a norm for prospective graduates attending university open days to ask, “Could you tell me what inquiry-based learning techniques are employed within the department?”

We’re now between sessions, the busiest time for me and my USB stick. Myself, Pam from the CILASS core team and Pepe the penguin have to make sure that the presenters in all five of the simultaneous sessions hosted in various spaces around the IC have their presentations/videos lined up and are ready to roll. Remarkably, there’s not a single problem with the technology at any point during the conference – it all goes like clockwork.

pepe and the conference flash drive_8470

The next parallel session has begun, and I’m back in the office processing photos and slides. We’re all buzzing – things are going really well. I’m starting to think about what a great team we make, students working with the core CILASS staff. I reckon we could be hired out (at great expense, of course) to dazzle and amaze conference delegates around the world!

Conference GCHQ:

Conference GCHQ

Tom, Barbara and Nat point delegates in the right direction:

the road to the keynote_8356

It’s nearing 7pm – time for the conference dinner at Whirlebrook Hall. Myself, Nat and Sabine have a true Inquiry-based learning journey to the venue as we don’t know where it is: we stop at two pubs and a private house to Inquire as to where we might find it. Finally we locate it, and we’re actually almost the first to arrive (further proof of the effectiveness of IBL)! Champagne in hand we move out to the terrace, where I soon whip out my camera once again to try and capture the atmosphere. Dinner is then served: a melon slice creation, soup and then a main dish of goats cheese wotsit on rice. Delicious. Finished off with a dessert, and more wine. I must come to these conferences more often… I’m really happy to have the chance to talk with Pam and Sabine. I learn about giving birth, and breastfeeding, things I feel I ought to know about in preparation for the birth of our children in 2010 / 2011.

Nat, the new CILASS Student Co-ordinator for the Student Ambassador Network

conference dinner_8267

Tom, and Laura: Clearly the stress of being the outgoing SAN co-ordinator is getting to her

they weren't always that way

Day two of the conference, and we’re on the coffee. It’s going to be a long one, but with a timetable in my pocket detailing what needs doing when, it’s actually pretty relaxing. It offers reassurance that things are going to happen as planned anyway, just do your bit: the power of teamwork.

Now and then someone will come into the office raving about this AMAZING session that they’d just been to – onto the award winning CILASS student blog it goes.

The delegates are happy. The keynote address, given by the President of the University of Miami, is both relevant and thought-provoking. As the day moves on so notifications of changes to the Wiki increase in number – it’s being used as hoped!

Thursday evening sees us take a coach from the IC to The Edge, the new student village where the delegates are staying. I’m happy, relaxing with friends, eating olives and parsnip crisps, chatting with a member of Sheffield Hallam’s CETL. We’re then ushered through to a large room adjoining the bar: time for a bit of entertainment and reflection with Playback Theatre (York).

conference playback theatre_8387

Playback Theatre are quite remarkable. Consisting of teachers, counsellors and actors, they literally play back to the audience thoughts and feelings that have arisen from the conference. An academic might express her feeling of fear that arises from embarking upon new adventures in IBL, and the joy of then seeing students come into their own through the new module. The actors listen to the story, and then spontaneously create a short performance that sums it up. There’s little in the way of ‘lines’ as such,rather, movement and sounds take centre stage. I was delighted, amused and entertained by their production. Others in the audience were deeply touched; tears were shed. For me, it highlighted just how much passion the delegates had for what they were doing, how, at the end of the day it’s about doing the best one can to make a difference, and finding satisfaction though helping others.

The closing plenary saw us once again in Firth Hall, summing up the questions and ideas that had arisen through the conference. Thanks were then given, with special mention made of the CILASS core team, and the Student Ambassadors. My mind flicked back through the previous few days, and indeed us SA’s really had had a positive impact upon the entire conference. By participating to the extent that we did, we were able to not only paint the place with bright happy blue t-shirts, but also to provide the student point-of-view in many of the discussions – this of course is vital as students are half of the equation when it comes to Learning and Teaching.

I feel that this conference was a model for what a conference should be, and I hope that everyone who attended from other universities goes home and sets up their own Student Network!

Me, demonstrating the brand new CILASS student website – made BY students, FOR students

san skills session_8408
Photo: Sabine Little

The overall feeling I have looking back on the LTEA Conference 2008 is one of gratitude. Gratitude for having been able to take part in such a fantastic event. Gratitude for having been a part of such an amazing team made up of such genuinely lovely people.


Photo: James Gould

There was very much a feeling of partnership between students, staff and visiting delegates throughout, with little sign of hierarchy. I felt very much valued and appreciated as a student: this makes me feel incredibly positive about the future of higher education in the UK, and I won’t hesitate in moving back to the UK from Japan 10 or 15 years down the line in order that my own (as yet to be conceived!) children are able to benefit from it.

Long Live IBL!

This post is cross-posted on the CILASS Student Blog

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Wordle

This is a summary of this month’s Mumble.

mumble_wordle_200806

Thanks to Natasha for the link, and Sabine for making me want one!

Create your own at http://wordle.net

From the train: Nuclear Drivers and Being the Change

I’m on the train back to Sheffield. It’s been a pretty easy journey, relaxing. For the first leg I was on a rail-relacement bus. I sat at the front as I often do on buses, provided they have seat-belts. Next to me was a chap in his 40s. Pretty scruffy, stinking of cigarettes.

“This bus journey is costing me £400″ he said to the driver, clearly pretty pissed off. “I’m a truckie – got a load of nuclear waste to take to Germany tonight, have to be at Dover by 10pm. I’m gonna miss that ferry because of these engineering works – you have no idea how much trouble that’s gonna cause. They have to make special allowances for me, have to make sure I’m on the deck – it’s a nuclear load you know”

The bus driver mumbled something about the train company working to upgrade the track.

“Yeah, well, it’s just not good enough. I’m gonna make sure this rail company gets all the bad press it deserves.”

Well, that’ll certainly help, won’t it?

Things were quiet after that. Just the guy at Stockport who seemed suicidal in a manic kind of way. Thankfully he didn’t jump in front of the train – just banged repeatedly on the door until it opened.

I’ve been reading more of the Be The Change. I tell you, if you have any dreams of starting any kind of movement or company to bring about positive change, this book is a must. It is so inspiring. You can’t help but feel “Why not me?” after reading this book.

The other message that comes out of it’s butterfly-adorned pages is that it is vital to follow your passion. You also need to have a laser-like focus; seek advice as widely as possible; have a plan that is set and followed, yet flexible; get a great team around you.
If you have these things, you can’t fail in whatever you do.

I’m struck by what these people have achieved. They have touched the lives of billions. They are incredible – and yet at the same time they are no different from Joe Bloggs. Indeed, it’s that message that is one of the loudest. These folks don’t have buckets of money, they aren’t nuclear physicists, they don’t necessarily have any clear idea of what they want to do at the outset – but they do find their passion, and follow it.

Mind you, if I look around, I see people like that everywhere, doing amazing things (be they small or big amazing things) on a daily basis, making a difference. I bet if I interviewed a sample of my friends and acquaintances (and mumblers) I’d be able to fill a book that was just as inspiring, in its own way.

All of this keeps on leading me back to my new life with *Twinkle*. Just can’t get her out of my head. This new partnership excites me so much. Scares me too. So much change, so much opportunity – am I going to be brave enough to step outside of my comfort zone and follow my heart? It would be far easier to just settle for something that doesn’t stretch me too much, but I think long term that would be quite painful.

Ho hum.

Just pulling into Sheffield Station, must dash.

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