SansBlogue  
Thursday, December 27, 2007
  Why I hate the photocopier
Photo by CloCkWeRX captioned "The most evil photocopier I know."
It is often the simplest ideas that are the most useful. From the most physical, like those few grains of rice in the salt celler that stop the salt coagulating by absorbing moisture, to the most cerebral, like the concept of zero. Donald Norman, author of the 1988 classic critique of the way VCRs (remember them?) work The Design of Everyday Things, has done it again. His new book, The Design of Future Things, deals with the failure of much technology design to relate well to/with humans.

Some machines "think" and the relationship works, a clothes drier that senses when the clothes are dry and switches off... but other machines drive us crazy. Like the college photocopier, I put a book on the glass, carefully positioned so that the left page will nicely fill an A4 sheet (A4 is global standard paper size for North American readers) that means an enlargement to about 133%, so I type that in and choose the correct paper tray. This will produce a nice clean, readable copy for the students. I press "Start", and the machine whirs. It "thinks" for itself. It's sensors inform it's "brain": the page is B4 size, it is placed crosswise, but the user has chosen the A4 normal direction tray (and the users commands, or at least some of them, must be obeyed)... So it outputs a sheet with the whole double page spread of the book shrunk to fit cross ways on the page, each word a marvel of micro-minituarisation.

It sounds as if there is a problem of communication between the photocopier and me (actually it is not just this photocopier, the previous one was nearly as bad) perhaps counselling would help?

Enter Donald Norman, talking about Delft (yes the city in Holland) apparently the city square in Delft (I have not been there, so cannot confirm this observation - perhaps you have and can confirm it for us?) the city square in Delft is full of pedestrians and cyclists all busily wending their ways in different directions at different speeds. Yet there are seldom collisions. Now if each pedestrian kept their eyes open (especially the ones in the back of their heads) and carefully dodged the bikes all hell would break loose and the city hospital would be full to overflowing. It is because the pedestrians, sensibly - but counter-intuitively, do not attempt to dodge the cyclists, but plod predictably on ignoring the bikes whizzing past, that the cyclists can easily avoid the slower obstacles in their path, and concentrate on not hitting other cyclists.

Donald Norman sensibly notes:
If our smart devices were understandable and predictable, we wouldn’t dislike them so much.
...The simple idea that is really useful? Make things predictable. If I simply put a book on the copier and press "start" let the machine make its best guess as to the output, but if I make settings myself then, do what I blasted tell you and don't even try to think! If the stupit machine would learn that lesson we'd get along fine.


PS if all goes well Barbara and I go off to the bach (or see location) for our summer holidays today, so not more posts till next year...

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007
  Happy Christmas
It's Christmas morning, lots to do... so, happy Christmas to you all!

Whether it is UK vs. US or not, I prefer to wish you a "happy" Christmas, since while I'd be happy for you to be merry, I'd much rather you were happy (if it must be a choice) ;)

God bless you anyway, and thanks for reading


Friday, December 21, 2007
  Christmas Newsletter
We have written our family Christmas newsletter. If you have not received a copy then please just ask and I'll add you to the list, it does not mean that we don't want to keep in touch, just that our list is old and patchy!

It contains family news from the last two years (since the last annual letter ;) and details of our planned sabbatical travel that I won't be posting here...

To get a copy just tell me tim@carey.ac.nz

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Thursday, December 20, 2007
  The Christian Elephant
Photo by Cody Simms

Pardon me, but there is another elephant in the room. It is smaller and less important than the first one but it is there... and Mark has decided to talk about it:
Preaching is the big fat elephant in the room. Most preaching is appalling, disconnected and boring and yet no one talks about it. We all pretend that everything is ok.. we wouldn’t want to offend the preacher. They are doing there best and all that… But I think we need to talk about it.
I think Mark's diagnosis is right. Too much preaching is second rate, if we are going to be disconnected from life, or boring then there is little point in preaching at all. And if we are going to be disconnected from the "word of life" there is NO point. And, Mark's right, a lot of preaching IS either disconnected or boring. His 4 points (what he claims an unscientific and biased sample of sermon tasters want) are spot on too:
  1. Unless preaching brings the word of God to life it is pointless - no one wants to hear my (or your!) opinions or wisdom.
  2. Unless preaching leads to action it is worthless except as entertainment, and frankly Shortland Street is more entertaining than most sermons! (Actually SS is preaching, and often contains an implicit call to action, it's just that the message is never Christian and often not even morally sound.)
  3. The least significant of the four, requiring preaching to be memorable, will largely be covered by the combination of 1, 2 and 4 - get them right and it will be memorable even without Marks funny hat ;-)
  4. Preaching is boring, because it lacks excitement it lacks zing largely because often one or both of the first two are weak. You'd have to work hard to make biblical preaching that connects to my life unexciting, but it can be done... But, if the preacher has been grabbed by the word, and plans to act on it themselves... That is bound to be exciting, because lives will change (not just pagans who are converted, but long term Christians who are too ;-)
PS: Graham Doel points out that I ommitted the link to Mark's post, oops .

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
  Firefox extensions
This is NOT a real post, it is a request for help. Does anyone know anything about writing or editing simple Firefox extrensions (XPI files)? If so and if you'd be interested in helping the Hypertext Bible Dictionary project please contact me eithere through the comments or tim (at) carey.ac.nz - thanks!


Saturday, December 15, 2007
  Gospel preaching?

Just watch the video, and then ask yourself:what allows these people to get away with such a con?


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Thursday, December 13, 2007
  Computers in class :: or a false view of teaching?
Photo by Hari Bilalic
Another teacher fires a round in the war against laptops in class "Computers in the Classroom…Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be?" Is this a "Dog Bites Man" headline, or what? R. Scott Clark talks sense about the fact that students who make handwritten notes are likely to do better than those who try to typewrite a transcription of the lecture. Students and other profs chime in to complain about the clacking noise... yada, yada, yada...

BUT, the whole conversation is again so wrong. The "lecture" should not ne something you can, or would want to transcribe! Think about it, if it is transcribable why not just buy the book, a $20 paperback costs far less per student than a teacher and you can read it when you want - and you can choose a "better" teacher ;-) The lecture as a means to transfer information and ideas (as data) is inefficient and inconvenient, compared to print. Use the "lecture" time to do more, add value, get students engaging with the ideas and information and long term they will learn more.
Photo by peiqianlong
If one dictates a "lecture", and students write a transcription (or even - though this is much better - makes selected notes) by hand or on a laptop then the teacher was replaced by technology over 500 years back! When Herr Gutenberg invented moveable type he made the printed book cheap - why take lecture notes, if the teacher just "lectures" save travel-time, boycott the class and buy the book....

HT to Joe Fleener

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Friday, December 07, 2007
  International Biblical Writing Month
Targuman read International Academic Writing Month: the Final Scorecard - Chronicle.com as a result he proposes some sort of "International Biblical Writing Month" with a bunch of bibliobloggers as its core. I'm game if others sign up, I have a couple of articles that need finishing urgently! However, since it is already 7th December and Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat I suggest January 2008 as the auspicious month... Unless we declare the month to be Holidaruary which runs from 10th December - 9th January in the old currency...



PS: in view of Jim's request below, and because I am one person who certainly does not know what it is all about - but I suspect most others in the biblioblogger circus don't either (except AKMA who knows everything, or at least everything that Dr Jim West does not ;) I'll explain, at least what I understand by the proposal, and therefore what I am offering to "sign up for".

Once upon a time a bunch of people who thought they "had a novel in them" got together (virtually) and assigned the month of November to write, to proclaim on their blogs how much they had written - or confess how little - and to support and encourage each other in writing. They called the scheme MiNoRoMo or some such name (NineOhTooWonOh?), then years later a bunch of academics, who know a good thing when they see it, and who must publish or die, made up their own version with a much more serious and grand name. Few if any biblical studies writers joined in. But many among the biblioblogger circus have writing projects, theses, articles, books... and perhaps we could leverage (trendy marketing term thrown in to make this all sound respectable) the community spirit of blogging to help us actually write and finish something... We're proposing now till the end of January.

The idea is you announce on your blog what you'll be writing, and then post updates on progress, and link to other people's updates and projects. As a result (a) you are encouraged or shamed into writing and (b) you get feedback that may improve what you are writing...

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  Experts and Web 2.0 :: teaching and learning
Photo by Cdr Aitch
In his post Web 2.0 and experts: a metaphor Nichthus continues to ruminate on the relevance or place of Web 2.0 approaches to teaching.

This time he proposes a thoroughly Kiwi metaphor: refereeing decisions at a rugby match (I'm sure denizens of other sports-mad nations can translate ;-). Of course, in terms of the Rugby match he's right, no one but the blindest, most one-eyed fan would want the crowd consulted over a difficult point of interpretation of the rules of a sport that could decide a world cup.
Photo by Jitsu
BUT is refereeing a match, or indeed any other decision making process, the best model for teaching and learning? By this I mean: when I learn am I placed in the position of a referee who much decide what is "right"? In a totally, 100%, unguided system I might be, but if I have a guide or teacher (whether by my side or on the stage ;) the model no longer describes my experience or the process.

In teaching and learning the question is not: which decision will be taken - was it a try or not? Rather the issue at stake is: will the learner acquire the desired information and skills, and through what process will they be best facilitated in this learning?

Here Web 2.0 provides a much better model than a referee. For, through the advice and critique of my peers, through trying things for myself, as well as through professional advice and critique, I am likely to learn more and better - not least because my peers motivate me. The joy of discovery motivates me, in ways the threat of bad marks does not. I respond better to stick and carrot than just stick! Maybe to use another Kiwi metaphor teaching is more like herding sheep than refereeing a rugby match, sheep are more likely to find their way to the desired pasture if they are part of a flock moving that way than if they respond alone to the shepherd's yells and waving arms! Of course the ideal is to have a few sheepdogs helping too ;-)

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Thursday, December 06, 2007
  Advent Podcasts
[devo.bmp]Stephen posted a link to an Advent podcast, from people he has taught. Devo-to-Go offers short devotional talks based on advent readings each just a few verses long.

They are a bit longer than my 5 Minute Bible podcasts, and as well as the "sermon" each day also features a link to the source of the music clips they have used.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007
  Neat tool: countries I have visited
I saw this neat tool on "Moving at the Speed of Creativity" Edublog without thinking I imagined that, since on my sabbatical I will be visiting some strange and far away places, I'd be able to update it with lots more red - but of course I won't. Thailand is already red, Sri Lanka is small and I don't count airports so tiny UAE won't get added :(

Still you may enjoy it and it will be interesting to see where you have all been!

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  Biblical Studies Carnival: Call for submissions
Just had an email from Tyler Williams, the Biblical Studies Carnival needs your help (more than usual) Tyler has only just been told that the person who was due to compile this month's carnival has had to pull out, and since it is already December (or probably very nearly December for you retarded people in the Americas ;-) Tyler needs nominations fast. Please give: title, url, blog name, author name, and a one or two sentence summary. Posts nominated should have been uploaded in the month of November and must be able to be called "academic biblical studies" broadly understood.

You can also make submissions via the submission form at BlogCarnival.com or you may email them to biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail DOT com. I'm off to make mine now...

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  Why e-portfolios?
Do NOT yawn, despite all the boring waffle and technical jabber, e-portfolios actually matter to ordinary mortals!

Cathy Gunn (U of A) has posted a video of extracts from Mark Nichols presentation on e-portfolios (see also my post below) so now you can see what I meant, his "A movie or a snapshot?" really does explain why this matters. Unfortunately it was posted to an Apple site, so I can't embed it here (or at least I can't see how to...) sometimes Mac people are just SO proprietary - I wonder when a shareable YouTube pirate version will appear!?

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