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October 09, 2006

A more effective Monday

Writing about web page

Quite a lot of stuff happening now – I guess I’m getting there.

Last week had a trip down to Southampton for a meeting with the EDIT4L people and the external evaluators plus the programme manager. It was all very relaxed – it’s so much easier when it’s with people that are easy to get on with. Then Thursday was a workshop that ties in with the EDIT4L project. Southampton have designed an online toolkit that takes users through the process of creating lesson plans. The idea of the project is to take people through the use of it and get feedback. The three people who turned up to the workshop were really helpful, and we got a lot of good ideas about how to best make use of the toolkit.

I still haven’t got anywhere on the PhD – yesterday was spent editing more papers for the DIVERSE conference proceedings. We’re up to 20 papers now – and they’re a really interesting selection. I can’t wait for the proceedings to be published. The other publication is the first of three editions compiling papers from the first four years of DIVERSE. ALT are publishing them and seem to be really efficient. They’re just getting on with it with no fuss, no endless meetings, no laborious decision-making. People like that are such a breath of fresh air to work with.

I’ve finally got to grips with the Design Patterns concept. Last week involved going through a La Verdad - Earth Humset of concept maps of the various elements identified with using games for learning, selecting the appropriate taxon for that deployment pattern and adding it to a table. The process wasn’t made any easier by working in an open plan office. It’s the sort of deep thinking that I need total quiet for, otherwise the thinking doesn’t happen. Whoever thought that work could be conducted in a space like this wasn’t really thinking (maybe they were in an open plan office at the time). Even turning up Earth Hum to full volume on my earphones didn’t drown it out (listening to Earth Hum doesn’t really contradict the “complete quiet” dictum, since it’s the closest music you can get to white noise). Ironically it’s now completely quiet in here apart from the tapping of a dozen keyboards.

This morning I was involved in a videoconference with Amsterdam using Breeze – which worked pretty well. Students here and students there discussed plays, one from NL and a couple from UK. It’s difficult getting a free-flowing conversation going through videoconferencing, but it’s early days yet. That’s part of the Streaming Theatre project.

Also today I’ve started a distance learning course at the University of Genoa. It’s on Narrative Learning Environments – and I’m still not too sure what they are. I’ll keep you posted.

September 25, 2006

another technical malfunction

It’s now getting difficult to concentrate – the heat’s building up due to air conditioning failing. If there was one thing to prove that open plan offices are a complete non-starter (and there are many things that prove that) the most undeniable has to be the complete incompetence of this place to get the air conditioning sorted. It doesn’t work on really hot days and goes into overdrive on cold days. During the winter it’s like being in a wind tunnel. It’s got to be a health and safety issue, but everyone ignores it. One of the advantages of being able to work at home occasionally is that it gives my respiratory system chance to recover from sitting in a constant draught.

I seem to remember – years ago – windows were designed so you could open them. It’s a great idea. When it’s too hot you open the window, when it’s too cold you close it. If it got really cold you get a fan heater to warm the place up. The great thing about it was that it was simple, it worked, and you could control it. Once you remove the control people have over their environment, that’s when things fall apart. Plus environmentally all the energy that’s wasted is incredible. In winter, when the aircon’s on full, we have to sit here with fan heaters pumping heat in to compensate for the chill factor of the aircon. Where’s the sense in that?

To be fair – it’s not just University House that suffers from this. I was in the Custard Factory last week, and there was one spot in the meeting room that was about 10 degrees colder than the surroundings because it was directly under the aircon vent. You’d think if people were going to insist on installing and using the technology they’d think of a way to get it to work first. You’d think.

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