ITWales Slashdotted

Wow – ITWales got Slashdotted!
ITWales is a Swansea University company:
“ITWales is the industrial liaison unit of the Department of Computer Science, University of Wales Swansea. The Department is one of the most distinguished in the UK, with a growing reputation in research both nationally and internationally.”
The article is an interview with Ian Pearson, a futurologist with BT. It’s a provocative and futuristic read about robots and AI becoming commonplace within the next couple of decades. I’ve been trying to get Kim to buy a robot hoover, but she won’t go for it.
I like this statetment:
“When you touch something, it generates electrical signals in your nerves, which are essentially wires, and we look at it and think, “that’s basically IT” – it’s biological IT, so we need to talk to some biological companies to do that bit, but once we’ve got them in touch with electrical signals, it’s basically our domain.” I’ll bet groups could have long arguments about the similarities in reproducibility and reliability between IT and biological IT. Also the idea of tying a computer game like World of Warcraft directly into your senses (not a new idea, of course) pushes it even further towards its addictive moniker of World of Warcrack. A lot of his statements are deliberately provocative it seems, and many are based on a weak understanding of the problems (for our understanding of many areas of our biology is universally weak).

Podcasts of University Lectures?

This Ask SlashDot entry is an interesting and important discussion, not so much about the benefits of providing traditional lectures in alternate formats, but more about the importance (or lack of) in attending lectures.
The majority of the viewpoints (assumably from current or recent students) suggest that the most important thing at university is that the students pass the assessments, not that they turn up to lectures. The act of learning is the reason for taking the course, not the method of learning. Reasons for not using lectures as the primary source of information range from early start times, to lectures not being the best way for all students to learn, to poor interaction (large class sizes, no chance to ask questions) and poor quality lecturing. Reasons for going to lectures include interactivity with the lecturer, students being more focused during a physical lecture than when listening to a podcast or viewing a video, the social aspects of learning with classmates, the ability of an instructor to guage the level of knowledge within a class, and student input to a teaching session.
There are many other examples and arguments of the pros and cons of attending lectures, but like many long, rambling arguments there is a lot of personal preference being discussed here, and we all learn differently. Most would agree that providing learning materials in multiple formats, time-delayed or live, helps different students in the class and should help the class as a whole learn better. It’s worth skimming through the threads.

MacBook Pro

2006-09-12--Macbook Pro
Please welcome to the family, the new MacBook Pro! This new machine will help me in creating more online teaching aids like these, and podcasts and the such like. I was hoping that by getting a computer twice as fast as my current one I’d be able to keep up with the work of two people (as Jo is away on maternity leave). Will that work?
2006-09-12--Macbook Pro+Tea

Busy, busy, busy

On Sunday the Cardiff Tri club (my club) held a new triathlon. It was the Emily Prosser Sprint Triathlon, held on the Try-a-Tri course (but essentially not a novice event). Pete Beaumont set a new course record of 50 minutes and 2 seconds as a result of opening the course to all competitors. It was a charity event, and as I understand it over £2000 was raised to help fund alternative care for Emily Prosser, a little girl with cerebral palsy. It is hoped that this will become an annual event.
As usual, I was out taking photos for the website but I haven’t had a chance to pick a favourite yet. Normally my favourite appears here, but I’ve only briefly scanned through them because of my many other commitments (e.g. we have begun teaching again this week). The images look OK, but nothing has jumped off the screen at me. The course is a little urban in the areas that I could access, so eliminating the effects of the background from the competitor is difficult. A shorter depth of field would really help here, but I’ll need to spend more money on lenses to meet my criteria for sports photography.
Some of the images are in the Cardiff Tri Gallery, and the rest will appear later this week when I make time to work through them. By the way, this club website is doing really well, with many, many views and much interactivity. My intention is to transfer the site to a more modern content management system, but I’m struggling with time constraints. We’ll get there.