All entries for July 2007

July 30, 2007

I love MindManager and I hate my forgetfulness

Follow-up to There is always a way to escape the routine from The URSS Blog

It was a great day and a terrible one at once. Magnificent in the way that I discovered the software MindManager and terrible, because I lost most of the work which I have done today. Good things first, however, MindManager is exactly the tool which I was looking for all the time. I am now able to take notes in a far more efficient way, interlinking different thoughts, working organically. In this sense I am glad that I woke up today.
On the other hand, I was probably too excited and lost not only my USB stick, I forgot it in the Learning Grid, but also most of the work which I had done today. Whether I did not save properly or whether all the data is on this USB stick, I do not know; well, its gone. Luckily it is not assessed work due tomorrow so I learn to be a bit more careful with my work.
Also, Dan being back brought some major motivation, since it is so much nicer if you can communicate with someone about what you are doing. Moreover, joint breaks are far more relaxing than wondering about by yourself.
Here are some impressions of my day:

July 29, 2007

There is always a way to escape the routine

Follow-up to Skills and Research from The URSS Blog

If I will ever lose marks on my Bibliography in one of my essays, I will be seriously annoyed. Today, I finished to type up my notes and order them in form of an annotated Bibliography. It showed me how much I have actually read so far (yes I was a little bit happy with myself) and gave me good directions on what text I should consult in order to write my short summary on higher education reform .
Peter Wax’s Handbook on the Bologna Process in Germany, was for example a source which I had completely forgotten, but turned out to be a key text for the next days of my research.
Also, I want to experiment with this ‘mind mapping ‘ software which we have been introduced to on Friday to break up this general Bibliography into more specific parts. Maybe, I will also use for some general brain storming activities, such as the one for my report. I shall see how I will get on with it.
Dan is coming back tonight, I cannot express how much I am looking forward to stop working and living on my own. I guess researching is only nice if you have other, more sociable activities, such as teaching, to counterbalance the loneliness. At least this is a finding for myself: I need people to see during my research. Otherwise, has the sun given extra motivation. I found that going out for extended walks gives a good counterbalance to all this deskwork.
Yesterday, I discovered the ‘Grand Union Canal’, which connects London to Birmingham and is one of the beautiful remains of industrial Britain. I passed by some very quaint villages, most prominently Offchurch, if anyone has ever heard of it . And was much more relaxed when I came back.
Grand Union Canal

July 27, 2007

Skills and Research

Follow-up to Back to the basics from The URSS Blog

Today was a good day. It started with better weather and continued with a good Warwick Skills meeting. First, however, I continued with my organisation of current notes. I hand wrote all my comments up to this point, which makes it appear as if I am doing everything twice. Even though, it is also quite nice to have a sheet of handwriting with every article. Tough call! Anyway, I guess its just a job which has to be done now; I will decide later how I want to proceed. One possibility would be to print the notes out and file them with my articles or something like that.
The Warwick Skill meeting gave me some interesting inputs on various aspects of the whole URSS project. I decided to defiantly take part in it, as it offers the opportunity to start something like a learning process, between all the photocopying.
There are some technical solutions to organise myself which I have not heard of before and sound very attractive. A so called ‘Mind Manager’ program, that can be accessed in all computer facilities at the university is defiantly one of the inputs I will take on board from today’s meeting. It was said that it enables to create sub-mind maps and interlink those with individual documents; exactly what I need for my chaos of notes.
Furthermore, we are being offered to have our own e-portfolio, which would be essentially my own website. Sounds cool, but I do not know whether I have enough to say yet. I applied anyway, just to see what it is like.
Finally, we were told, that instead of a presentation, we are encouraged to use alternative forms of presentation. I thought it would be cool to produce a pod-cast, or maybe even a small film on our project; see what Dan thinks about it.
Now it’s the weekend, hopefully all the donkey-work is done by Monday.

July 26, 2007


Follow-up to Back to the basics from The URSS Blog

For once I have the feeling to have made good progress. Yesterday, I saw my supervisor to discuss my short report and to discuss further steps. It was a productive meeting; one hour beforehand I had made a ‘personal wish list’ of what I want to get out of the meeting, and it worked. Now I have a clear vision on how I will proceed in the next two weeks.
Firstly, I will refine my findings on the German context. To have measurable signs of success, I will start by writing up an annotated bibliography, continuing with a short history of higher education reform. This further assignment may lead me to do some more research, focusing on ‘white papers’ and debates in parliament, but that should be fun. I hope that I will have done this by this Sunday, so that Dan and I can start our joint work on the Bologna documents on Monday or so.
Today, I looked at the pieces of literature which I added recently. They may be helpful in the long run, as they have some interesting conceptual points on what role a university should play in the 21st century. They further confirmed some of my ideas on the current debate and highlighted some parallels between the German and the British debate, which I must point out to Dan.
Now there is a plan and new motivation!

July 24, 2007

Back to the basics

Follow-up to Americanisation rather than commodification? from The URSS Blog

Today, I reopened my research on the current discussion on higher education reform. The reason for doing this, despite already having written a first draft report, was that I had simply forgotten to do so.
Most of the morning I spend researching the OECD source side which proved to be very helpful for statistics of the German economy as a whole, but also for its education system in particular. But it had more to offer, I found out that it publishes its own periodical on education issues, which offered plenty of literature on recent debates on higher education. The current German problems in education as a whole were covered in the most recent economic outlook on Germany. All in all I was pleased to have consulted the site.
Following this I visited some of the ‘think tanks’ who continued to come up in my reading. On these sites I was less successful than I expected. Either I did not search properly or they did not publish the white papers I was looking for only.
Exactly this was the case with the commission of the state governments (KMK). They only referred to their publications, without giving the option to access them online.

Anyway, now I have a good top up for my reading if we decide to continue focusing on the German reforms in more detail

July 22, 2007

NMR Week 5

This week brought more complex simulations in the form of Post C7 3-spin (3 atom) ones (after working out the problems of last week’s 2-spin ones). With more spins the Simpson simulation becomes a lot slower. I only managed one arrangement of the 3 spins (at different spinning speeds and number of pulse sequences) in one day, although this process had to be done accurately for suitable comparison with the equivalent setup using the Spin Evolution simulation.

Throughout the week I tried three more arrangements of three atoms, modelling them on the compound alanine and looking at both carbon and hydrogen spectral simulations. The amplitudes of each arragement’s spectra after different numbers of pulse sequences produced what is known as a build up curve. They should look fairly similar in shape…some did but some of the later ones didn’t…This is probably a problem with estimating the spectral peak amplitudes and I will try different methods at some point. If I do get good curves, it it a good indication of the simulations working correctly.

Amy put B05 in the spectrometer so now we have all six of the CP spectra!

Americanisation rather than commodification?

Follow-up to Friedman and education voutchers from The URSS Blog

I decided not to go into uni today, but to do some reading at home in Leamington instead. It was a good decision, since I got far more done than I thought I would and I feel more confident about my report tomorrow.
Essentially, today’s reading helped to get some overview over the debate on higher education, which has taken place in Germany over the past forty years. Most helpful today was an article by Andreas Stucke on the role of a “myth of American universities” in this particular German debate. This was so important to me because it confirmed my guess that the current Bologna reforms have been discussed beforehand, only then they were forwarded to make German universities (and the economy as a whole) more competitive compared to American. Roman Herzog, the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, of whom I read a speech today, mentioned all the major points of the current Bologna reforms then already (baring in mind that the speech was held in 1996). Moreover, he says “…all the debates have taken place already, it is now time to act!…”.
The second key finding of today was a better understanding of the practical dilemma a Humboldian model of higher education faces in times of mass higher education and reduced public spending. An article by Uwe Schirmank and Markus Winnes reiterated the argument, which other stated before as well, that the research university is by definition elitist. I would not go as far, since further funding might open some possibilities. However, they may be right that many students in the current situation may not even want to study at a research led institution, but do so because of the reputation that goes with it. I am not sure what my point on this is yet, but it is certainly a very interesting debate (I also think that this argument is essential in the debate on establishing so called “elite” universities in Germany).

Tomorrow I will work in the library again

July 21, 2007

Friedman and education voutchers

Follow-up to Back in Leamington Spa from The URSS Blog

I was glad to be able to get a bus to campus this morning , after there was even more of this terrible whether last night. Anyway, everything worked out.
There is no particular system I use to get through the German literature which I brought from Frankfurt, except possible relevance for my report which is due on Monday. There I intend to sketch some of the defining features of the German higher education system; of course an incredibly broad task.
The first two pieces I read today were published by a German think tank called “Bertelsman Stiftung”, a driving force behind higher education reform in Germany. On of the authors was a already known to me through the media, Lothar Spät, and he sort of said exactly what I expected from him to say. Namely the cure for the German higher education system is competition. More interestingly though, he mentioned the a system of education vouchers to secure social sustainability of such an amendment.
This reminded me that it may be useful to consult good old Milton Friedman on the matters, since I remembered him to be a very prominent advocate of such a system in education.
The reason why I mentioned this is, because it made me aware how important it is to use the resources the library offers. Even though, I also tried to find some statement in Giddens’s ‘Third Way’ on the issue, but I could find anything ( despite a refrence in one of the articles).

July 20, 2007

Back in Leamington Spa

My research time in Germany has come to an end now and I am nearly all happy that I went to Frankfurt. On my last day research I visited the German National Library. Luckily I was not in the need to get any new material from it, as my findings have equipped me with enough literature for more than a month. It was still a brilliant experience to see the reading and how many people use the facility as a natural part of their research life; We shall see each other again that is for sure!
Me in front of the German National Library

Also I was privileged to talk to the Bologna coordinator of the FH Frankfurt, who gave me some first hand insight into what it means to implement abstract higher education policy. Not only did we have a very interesting talk on how the bologna process is implemented I also got some gifts; great J. Furthermore, she suggested that I should get in contact with attack to find some alternative views on the WTO negotiations on intellectual property, after I suggested that their may be some links between the bologna process and these negotiations.

After all I will miss my book trolley and the good old photocopying machine, but I am looking forward to the hours in the Learning Grid where I will hopefully utilise my bulk of information.
Me and the PhotocopierThese were my books

July 17, 2007

0vßß– Hierarchy Graph

Just a short update from me today, since my last blog i have found a suitable graph producing library for PHP (a web based programming language), and collated the data that needs to be plotted.

In the background of the plots I needed to plot the theoretical allowed values- this presented a challenge, as none of the academics in the department remebered how! However after a trawl through papers, and a week of fiddling and coding i was able to produce the graph below, in the correct form, and generating the curves on the fly, so eventually the user will be able to change the paramters at will!

Neutrino Hierachy

July 2007

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