Am I a Rugby Referee?

Source: RugbyDump

“the referee’s a teacher!

the referee’s a teacher!

the referee’s a teacher!”

Watching the Six Nations rugby tournament play out this afternoon, I was again impressed by the referees of this aggressive and skilful game. There are characteristics about the variety of voices a ref uses, and parallels can be made between the behaviours of individuals and groups that are encountered on the pitch, and those brought to mind by my role in the classroom. The most used is a calm, measured voice, proffering guidance, explanation and reason; spattered around the focal point of (often frenetic) activity amidst thirty players. When activity is high-tempo and noise fogs the air, you hear the ref bark an order, raised voice used deliberately to communicate effectively. You never hear that voice used to address an individual, even when the behaviour is shameful and breaks all rules of engagement. The phrases used are varied in length, considered, appropriate; sometimes stock words, sometimes ad hoc. The ref is always talking to the players. In groups, in pairs, one-to-one. The communication is multi-directional: the ref must listen to the players and his eyes at the sides, process the information and deliver a course of action that confirms the rules of play and is fair to all involved. Disputes must be negotiated with firm boundaries drawn and a clear absence of bias. Justice is not always done, but all parties must have faith in the deference of the ref to the agreed rules of the game and the people involved. The ref works hard, right in the mix of the play, not hiding thought or rationale.

When I teach, when I am at my best, it feels like this. Of course, the aggression of a rugby game isn’t in my classroom, but the learning is varied like the phases of play. It exists on spectrums between words such as: messy and tidy, fast and slow, turgid and buoyant, hazy and clear. When I am at my best, there are no cheap laughs, the tone is serious and cheerful. The players are the learners. The game is theirs, not mine. I exist to bring the game structure and let it breathe and grow to the conclusion determined by those who came to play, not by me. This is what I aspire to as a teacher. In observing the roles and responsibilities in society, it is the rugby referee that repeatedly chimes as being most like mine. It’s not sexy and exciting, but hopefully – if I can meet my aspirations, judge situations well and deliver my interventions with calm purpose – the players are at their best: agile and confident, shrugging off mistakes. The players feel the pleasure and purpose of their work, consuming the fruits of their labour.

Of course this analogy is flawed. Pupils do not appear at my classroom door prepared for the game of their lives. There is no audience, although let’s not forget how the social web can help here. I must be a coach and foster meaningful training that aligns with their sense of progress.

And, more importantly, I do not always arrive at my classroom door ready to ‘ref’ the game. As often as not, lessons do not unfold as I have implied above. And I could should have done more to make sure it was better. But, hopefully, I will be able to make the necessary calls with calm purpose and honesty to bring about something meaningful.

But sometimes, it just goes wrong…

Incidentally, I do think about football referees in a similar manner, but in the vast number of games I have watched of my preferred sport, the analogy does not hold as well. There are examples of when it does, but mostly when Pierluigi Collina was at the top of his profession.

Connecting the next billion people to the Internet

Guest post by Rebecca, a Year 10 pupil at Oundle School

On February 26th, Oundle School’s Computer Society was privileged to hear a fascinating and motivational talk by Ben Francis from Mozilla Corporation. Mr Francis has had many interesting jobs and projects (including an internship at Google) culminating in his current work at Mozilla as a Front End Engineer. What he told us has had a profound effect on me, putting into words some of the diverse ideas I have about the Internet.

Mozilla is a non-profit organisation committed to connecting the next billion people to the Internet. And how? Using $25 smartphones, running Firefox OS. It’s a beautiful idea. At present, the Internet is dominated by the wealthiest, most developed regions of the world, and the largest corporate businesses. The tragedy of capitalism is that it cultivates market monopolies. One of Mozilla’s core aims is to prevent Internet monopolies, as this stifles innovation and promotes inequality. The commercial imperative currently shuts out the poorest two billion people on Earth. Until every person can equally access the Internet, it does not accurately reflect the world’s population. Mozilla supports Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original, brilliant vision of universal connectivity. Even though this still requires financial layout for the (very) cut-price smartphones, it is clearly a great leap in the right direction for deeper penetration of the Internet in LEDCs.

Mozilla’s fifth principle is: Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet and their own experiences on the Internet. And the sixth: The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide. Neither of these can happen without truly global Internet access. (source: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/about/manifesto/)

Mr Francis also mentioned net neutrality, and the importance of the American Government renewing their pledge. Do you realise how close we just came to losing net neutrality? Only a determined effort by liberal-minded legislators in the US, cyber-activists, and organisations like Mozilla saw off an attempt by corporate business to introduce a two-speed Internet. This would have meant that Internet traffic would no longer be treated equally: a hierarchy would have developed whereby big business could buy privileged access. Everyone else (that’s you and me!) would be slowed down, blocked, or otherwise downgraded whenever we used the Internet, because we would have neither the money nor the muscle to buy a superior Internet experience. For more information, see http://www.theguardian.com/technology/net-neutrality.

Luckily, this future dystopia has been seen off – thanks to individuals like Mr Francis, and organisations like Mozilla. It’s another victory for equality online, and an important one. It’s certainly enlightened me, and made me more determined to make a difference in the world, in cyberspace or otherwise.

Rebecca Siddall


 

See the award winning website Rebecca built and wrote about engineering geological repositories for carbon capture and storage, and to safely dispose of long term, high-level nuclear waste. http://www.engineeringgeology.co.uk/

Today in Digital Education

The TIDE is nigh

Talk is cheap. In fact you can record whatever it is you’re saying and deploy it on the web. In a podcast…

TIDEtalks was born on Sunday, 8th March 2015 . It is a recording of me talking about Digital Education with my mate Dr Doug Belshaw, man of Mozilla and many other talents, including Open Badges and Digital Literacies. If you know me online, then you probably know Doug too. We like to talk tech and, at least in TIDEtalks, we try to keep it educentric. Doug and I approach things in different ways and, in my mind, it makes for some interesting conversation. So, we thought we’d make it a regular thing and share it online in case anyone might think the same. There are show notes below the audio so you can get an idea of content before committing yourself to this aural assault.

Any thoughts you have about how we might steer this ship would be great to hear on here or twitter or facebook or wherever. If you are dealing with something you suspect Doug and I might lend an ear to, please knock on our virtual door, or ring the bell.

Big Data Science and other things Wolfram

WOLFRAM

Yesterday, I decided to book myself on a conference that was not explicitly about education. Wolfram are working with data – BIG DATA – and big banks and other corporations to help them make sense of their copious amounts of data. People are drowning in the stuff. It was refreshing -inspiring and regenerating – not be at an education conference discussing the same old topics, but instead to be filling my boots with nourishment to take back into my school.

Wolfram are building a unified computational platform to address the needs of the emerging computational knowledge economy. I have one over-arching criticism: it’s not free! It is hard to imagine Wolfram taking off if they have financial obstacles for education. Maybe they will address this, or already have, it’s hard to tell.

I was really impresswed with some of the Wolfram products. They all presented using Mathematica and CDF (Computational Document Format) as demonstrated here. This might have excellent uses in  schools and I will be having a go at creating my own CDFs in future.

Here are storifies of my tweets for each talk I was able to understand – some of the content flew right over my head on the 39th floor.

Introduction by Conrad Wolfram

Turning any website into an API by @AndrewFogg

Unexpected Visualisations by @iamZupnik

Data Science Platform by Wolfram

Data Science in Education by @ConradWolfram

 


 Introduction by Conrad Wolfram

 


 

Turning any website into an API by @AndrewFogg

 


Unexpected Visualisations by @iamZupnik

 


 

Data Science Platform by Wolfram

 


Data Science in Education by @ConradWolfram

YikYak GeoFence

YikYak App

YikYak App

What is YikYak?

YikYak is a geographically localised anonymous twitter-like app gaining popularity. It allows users to post, without identifying themselves, to up to 500 users in the local area. It is quite easy for offensive and abusive messages to reach users quickly. The messages can contain inflammatory or personal references which can be disruptive to a local community. This poses many potential issues for schools across the UK. Also, be aware of the Yak game. Users post messages and exchange their beloved banter of all sorts, never knowing if the message is legit or spoof, or who posted it. The appeal of YikYak is that it plays no part in your digital footprint; no care is required in what you post. The police, apparently, can identify who posted an update, should things escalate sufficiently to get them involved.

What can you do about it?

When we first applied for a geofence, via the YikYak site, it became apparent they are USA-based and the geofence service seemed to serve the other side of the Atlantic only. We heard nothing back from YikYak, but had not seen any usage in our area. Upon further investigation (using the app) in the new term, activity had began and some of it was particularly unpleasant and identifiable to our school. However, a geofence had been initiated, but it failed to cover all areas of our school. So, I have sent another request including grid references and postcodes of our most peripheral pupil occupied locations. Fingers crossed.

The geofence makes the app do this:

YikYak GeoFence

YikYak GeoFence

To do this for your school, enter the postcode for the building into Google maps, and the grid reference appears in the address bar, so you can copy and paste it. Below is an example for 10 Downing Street.

Using Google maps to locate a grid reference

Using Google maps to locate a grid reference