September 21, 2009

Trail riding in Wiltshire and Northamptonshire – R100GS and R1100GS

BMW R100GS PD at Barbury Castle, south of Swindon. A long section of the Ridgeway byway, legally accessible by motorcycles in the summer, starts here.

At the start of the Ridgeway

In Wiltshire the Ridgeway mostly consists of well drained gravel tracks.

Ridgeway

The Ridgeway has some of the best wide open views to be found on an English byway. However, in some areas, deep tractor ruts require more concentrated riding.

Ridgeway views

Once that we had reached the end of the southernmost ridable section of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill, we took another byway to connect with a second stretch of Ridgeway further north. Wiltshire has many excellent byways open to bikes. This great track leads through a beech forest, with gentle hills and glades.

Forest ride

In Northamptonshire, the Banbury Track and Oxford Track are a little more challenging. This stretch, open only to motorcycles, is overgrown and rutted. On a grassier stretch, we both fell off at the same time, struggling through the thick vegetation.

Banbury track

Some of the tracks are barely used. Martin found much less grip on the grass with his Avon Distanzia dual-purpose tyres. My Continental TKC80 off-road tyres were better. We met the farmer (on a quad with his dog). He was friendly and chatted about bikes and the local routes.

Field



August 16, 2009

Walking with Attenboroughs

Yesterday: Walking with Dinosaurs on stage at the NIA, in the front row, face to face with the deadliest predator of all time.

Today: Lawrence's birthday at Brandon Marsh, pond dipping with lots of friends, and wallking in the footsteps of David Attenborough....

Footsteps


August 11, 2009

Child sentenced to Robben Island style hard labour

Follow-up to Robert gets his head smashed in Dorset from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

For his part in the brutal murder of Robert the Crab, Lawrence O'Toole (almost 4) was sentenced to a life of hard labour smashing rocks in the West Dorset ammonite mines. Lawrence was heard to comment: "this is well cool, just like Nelson Mandela, crime really rocks".

Rock

The campus police man was not amused at having to fruitlessly patrol an entirely harmless gathering of motorcylists in the Warwickshire countryside, while such outlaws roamed the land, perpetrating acts of unspeakable cruelty on defenceless crustacea.

Police


August 10, 2009

Robert gets his head smashed in Dorset

Children can be just so cruel. Especially Lawrence. Early on Friday morning we set off to Samway's, the West Bay fish monger, just around the corner from our apartment on the cliff top at Burton Bradstock, Dorset. The boy refused lobster, aiming his hammer at the most substantial target on offer: a 12 inch wide crab, complete with fearsome pincers. We returned home, I struggling under the weight of several kilos of sea food: the giant crab, a large skate, a smaller haddock, and a bag full of samphire.

Back in the kitchen, Lawrence was keen to get the crab out of its bag and start to pursue innocent squeeling ladies with its snapping pincers and pungent aroma. Emma was unimpressed. Eventually we deposited the crab in the fridge, by which time it was no longer merely "the crab", Lawrence having chosen a name for his deceased crustacea. For some inexplicable reason, the crab was called "Robert". Thanks Lawrence.

Robert

And so when finally the ominous mallet of supper-time hovered meanacingly over the prettily orange speckled carapace of fate, many jokes had been tossed into the boulabaise of family banter.

SMASH.

A crushing blow landed square in the center of Robert's head.

He crumpled beneath its shattering force, light splurges of gungy brown meat leaking out on the rebound.

Smash

Health and safety tip: always wear protective goggles when smashing a crab.

Teasing away a splintered fragment of shell, the intrepid culinary adventurers revealed the false dawn that is the body of the crab. Insubstantial but tasty. The carapace contains only brown sludge. Delicious brown sludge. I led Lawrence to believe it to be the crab's brain. Not sure if that is true or false, but it's a good story.

A mopping-up operation then commenced, us armed with chunks of good white bread sourced from Bridport's marvellous Washingpool Farm Shop.

And then onto the hard-core crab eating: chunky white leg meat, the extraction of which required heavier artillery - Lawrence's geology hammer delivered just the necessary impacts (with the crab now placed on the ground for maximum ballistic intent).

Eventually, it lay before us thoroughly exhausted and extinct. Only a single claw remained intact, providing hours of cheap entertainment for everyone, especially Lawrence.

Dead

Apparently, the skate (roasted), haddock (fried), and samphire (boiled) were also of excellent standing.

Well done to Samway's and to Washingpool.

Sorry Robert the crab.



June 29, 2009

My new research blog: Inspires Learning

I will be publishing all future entries concerning space, pedagogy, technology and design on my new blog at http://www.inspireslearning.com


June 22, 2009

Harvest time already

Eating carrot

Not prize winning veg...

Bent carrot


June 20, 2009

Watsonian Squire motorcyles open day

Today Martin and I rode down to Moreton for the annual open day of Watsonian Squire, makers of sidecars and importers of Royal Enfield motorcycles.

We went on a somewhat anachronistic ride out, the two of us on Indian built Enfield Clubman 500 cafe racers, following a lead rider on a Kawasaki Ninja superbike. Einstein was of course wrong. Time travel is possible, and the Enfield is the necessary transport. The bikes rattled, barked, popped and crakled, rather like one of Lawrence's noisy breakfast cereals amplified to a 1000 watts. Martin recited the classic classic bike joke: the throttle is a volume control, with no effect upon acceleration. I did manage to get to 60mph. The vibrations settle down a bit at that speed, although a visit to the dentist is still required. Despite the experience, Martin is still keen on the idea of flying to Delhi, buying a Bullet 500, and riding into the Himalayas.

Primitive? It's now got electric start, "Japanese" style controls, and disc brakes...

Enfield Clubman

Marlon Brando? Steve McQueen? Sid James?

Go faster

So that's what happened to the British motorcycle industry...

Rusty

Next time we plan to go dressed as Maharajas, to celebrate the Enfield's Indian engineering.


June 12, 2009

Asturias rocks

Follow-up to A short walk in Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Pleistocene cave bears discovered living on the Asturian coast...

Cave bears

If you like limestone, you'll love Asturias...

Rocks1

Rocks 2

Rocks 3

Blow hole

Beach

Vandalism?

Art.

Harbour



June 11, 2009

Academic integrity activities and tools being assessed in focus groups

PLATO

Leiecester University

Australian National University

Prepare for Success

Monash

Warwick Avoiding Plagiarism


A short walk in Asturias

Follow-up to Ribadesella, Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Sand lizards basking on a rock near to the edge of Poo de Llanes. Too fast for Lawrence to catch.

Lizards

Finding interesting insects on the long-distance coastal path.

Insects

A small river runs out of the mountains and down to the sea. We followed its course.

By the river

Spring wild flowers.

Flower

Along the river.

Lawrence

A shoal of fish. Lawrence wanted to jump in and catch them (in the style of Nigel Marven).

Fish

The river bed widens out into a cove.

River and beach

And down towards the sea.

Towards the sea






June 01, 2009

Ribadesella, Asturias

Follow-up to Funicular de Bulnes, Picos de Europa, Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

The Rio Sella cascades down from the Picos de Europa, quickly losing its momentum, and flowing out into the Bay of Biscay at the smart sea side resort of Ribadesella.

On several occasions we drove the short distance along the twisty coast road from Llanes, for drinks and food at the elegant Pastelería-Bombonería Nerian.

Ribadesella's long beach:

Ribadesella beach

Just like Baywatch:

Beach babe

Lawrence always finds interesting material for a beach sculpture:

Art

The Hotel Villarosario is one of many elegant buildings:

Hotel

Towns and villages in Asturias usually have a new play area:

Play area

The play area is next to a lagoon with a series of bird hides. We spotted a citrine warbler in the trees.

Lagoon

ThePastelería-Bombonería Nerian serves great pizza, hambuergesas, and an amazing selection of confections:

Cake


Chocolate shop

Chocolate shop 2

Fruity




May 20, 2009

Funicular de Bulnes, Picos de Europa, Asturias

Follow-up to El Museo Jurásico de Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

From our house in Poo de Llanes, Asturias, we could look South towards the Picos de Europa range. I had ridden through the mountains with Martin a couple of years ago, and wanted to take Emma and Lawrence to see the mountains, streams, meadows and eagles.

We drove down to the Arenas de Cabrales for coffee and tortilla. Here's a photo from the Garganta de Cares (gorge of the river Cares) to the East of Arenas:

Picos 1

Steep meadows fill the valleys:

Picos 2

The road winds along the river:

Picos 3

A grain store, typical of Asturias. Traditional farming practices are common throughout:

Picos grain store

Boarding the Funicular de Bulnes train, which travels 2km underneath a mountain, up to mountain village:

Funicular de Bulnes

At the other end of the tunnel, we walked along a remote mountain foot path.

Bulnes 1

Fishing in a mountain stream:

Bulnes fisher man

Goats, just like those in Lawrence's herd in Africa:

Bulnes 3

A view across to the peak of Naranjo de Bulnes, still covered in snow at Easter. As we looked out to the mountain, many large raptors drifted by on a thermal: Golden Eagles & Griffon Vultures.

Naranjo de Bulnes



May 18, 2009

El Museo Jurásico de Asturias

Follow-up to Poo de Llanes beach, Asturias from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Near to Colunga on the Asturian 'jurassic coast', MUJA is an amazing museum full of fossils, reconstructions, and informative displays. It is built in the shape of a giant foot print, with each toe representing a different part of the Mesozoic, along with some Permian and Tertiary exhibits to put them into context.

It's a great place to hear a lecture by a leading palaeontologist:

Palaeontologist

Some of the exhibits can get quite hungry, best appease them with sacrificial children:

Sacrifice

This photo gives an idea of the vast size of the halls:

Brachiosaur

Lawrence correctly identified the oviraptor and explained its name (egg eating raptor):

Oviraptor

A display illustrating possible colour schemes for various Ceratopsidae.

Caratopsidae




May 17, 2009

Poo de Llanes beach, Asturias

Follow-up to Asturias again from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

This image from Google Maps shows the lagoon at Poo de Llanes, in Asturias. You can see how it has three parts: the shallow lagoon, a second sandy lagoon that fills up with water at high tide, and a creek with a river leading into the lagoon. Our house for the week in Asturias was in the village just at the bottom left of the picture, with a short walk down to the sea.

Asturias 2009 14

The house:

blog_images 1

Countryside behind the house, looking towards the foothills of the Picos de Europa.

blog_images 16

blog_images 12

blog_images 17

Looking towards the creek.

blog_images 18

blog_images 19

Looking towards the sea.

blog_images 6

blog_images 5

Mountain weather in one direction, blue sea and sky in the other.

blog_images 3

blog_images 20

blog_images 2

blog_images 10

Wading across the lagoon to a sea cave.

blog_images 11

blog_images 3

blog_images 9

blog_images 13

blog_images 15

blog_images 14






April 27, 2009

PhD proposal latest version – Learning is Designed

I've been overwhelmed by the response to my planned PhD research project. On this basis, if it were a published book I could have already sold over 20 copies, just to the people to whom I have briefly outlined it. Lots of good advice and encouragement. Thanks.

Here's the latest version:

Learning is Designed

This is a time of rapid change in all sectors of formal education and informal learning (for example, within businesses). Some of this change is deliberate and managed, but much of it is un-planned and ad-hoc. Even when an institution introduces a new centrally supported provision, little may be known in advance of its effects and uses. This is particularly true of the introduction of new technologies that enable an un-precedented degree of user-configurability and personalisation - both in virtual and physical space. Teachers and learners are now able to assemble a diversity of learning spaces and tools from an ever increasing range of components (including 'free' general purpose tools such as Facebook). Diversity has been the result, with positive and negative effects. For example, different students following a common course may find themselves using wildly varying tools and approaches. A single undergraduate student might be faced with a confusing degree of variation between approaches used by different tutors. Students from different educational backgrounds, even different schools within the same background, may come to university with very different experiences and skills. And because of the pace of change, a student might find things shifting over their three years as an undergraduate. And to what end? The result could be disruptive. Or alternatively, it might promote a more flexible and adaptive attitude to learning, teaching, research and future employment. It could even provoke an un-foreseen creative response.

Are teachers and learners equipped to cope with this change? What effect is it having? Are there tools and techniques that will help them to become more in control? What can we do to help teachers and students to get the most out of these new possibilities? How might we help them to become more agile? What can we do to bring on the 'creative' response?

This project seeks to address these questions with research activities focused on a leading research university as well as schools, businesses and other places where learners learn and teachers teach. A range of research methods will be employed, including surveys and experimental teaching. In particular, software and techniques drawn from the design and creative industries will be tested to see if they can make a significant difference. The core hypothesis being: adding 'design literacy' to 'information literacy' and 'digital literacy' enables students and teachers to more effectively design their own learning and to harness the true potential of new user-configurable physical and virtual learning spaces and tools.

The project will be undertaken in three phases, each with a distinct methodology:

1. Surveying the current situation and its historical precedents (literature reviews, surveys of students and teachers, interviews).
2. Experimentation with new design-led pedagogies.
3. How to meet the challenge of bringing design-led pedagogies into various educational institutions and curricula, and how to ensure good practice is adopted widely.

The author has well established contacts with several HE institutions at which research will be undertaken (including Warwick, Oxford, Oxford Brookes and Worcester), as well as through the Higher Education Academy (National Teaching Fellowship, subject centres), the CAPITAL Centre and the Reinvention Centre, the Learning Grid and Teaching Grid (user-configurable spaces at Warwick), schools (in the Coventry area) and businesses.

A suite of Apple iMac computers and video cameras has already been assembled for use in the project.

In the second year, substantial funding (up to £200,000) will be sought from the Higher Education Academy to support the use of design-led pedagogies as widely as possible.

About the author:

Robert O'Toole is a PGCE qualified Information and Communication Technology teacher, with 15 years of experience in learning technology and learning design. He has taught at all levels, and is currently the Arts Faculty E-learning Advisor at the University of Warwick.

Robert presents his work to a local, national and international audience, and has strong links with the University of Oxford. He is the recipient of a Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence and the prestigious Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellowship

He has an MSc in Knowledge Based Systems, and attained a first class degree in Philosophy at Warwick.


Search this blog

Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder
© MMXIV