Hill Climb Sundays (Oct 31st 2010 Edition)


This weekend has not been a healthy one here at Circumstance Manor. Noah started off the cold and whatever cycle, Lisa picked it up and has been hacking away and feeling achy for days, and what started off as a few twinges in my stomach over the course of the week became a full blown nightmare.

[Queasy folk should bail now.]

Friday morning’s breakfast caused some mild distress, but the day had already been complicated by Noah hurling at school, causing Lisa to have to turn around, pick him up, and drop him off at his Grandparents’ house for as brief a time as possible.


I thought nothing more of it, despite the continuing ache, until it started to get worse as the day wore on. My abdomen really ached by mid afternoon, and felt rigid and distended. By the early evening I was feverish, dizzy, and shortly after, feeling very flush and finally hurling whatever was still inside.

Although generally one feels better after that, I didn’t. Despite the early hour I climbed into bed, and tried to rest. I woke at 1am to continued pain, that flushed fever thing, and a general feeling of “here it comes again” although it turned out not to be the case. Next time I woke up a few hours later things had taken a different direction… but the ache was gone.

Not having eaten much on Friday, I was good and dehydrated by the time I woke up again, and I gently and carefully began rehydrating. When things felt more stable I had just a bit to eat. That went well too. So now other than general weakness and some achiness, I seemed to be on the mend.

[Queasy folk can resume here.]

Having conquered the basics once again, I attempted to keep things moving toward health by going for my ride this morning. I had nothing and knew it before I cranked the pedals once… and essentially rode 4mph slower over the same route as the previous week. But other than the forgivable weakness it was a nice ride. I dressed warmly hoping to be both comfortable and to sweat out some more of the poison. It was cool and breezy out, but otherwise lovely, and other than my hands which were a bit cool, I was comfortable. I had forgotten how much winter tights add to each leg lift.


I had put Jack Brown Green’s on my bike since the last ride and they were loverly as always. I did notice something that feels like a poorly adjusted headset which I’ll have to have looked at. I had also changed pedals to make wearing mountain bike shoes easier. Winter is coming afterall…

I’ll have to take it easy this week to enable recovery rather than running myself into the ground.


TRP’s CX9 v-brakes


They’re designed for use with road levers and so pull the correct amount of cable, and they work gloriously well. Shuddering is a thing of the past and they’re powerful and smooth. As TRP says: “The CX9’s linear pull design is compatible with most lever types and provides huge amounts of stopping power.” I’d have to agree with the second part, and they work just fine with SRAM Force levers. They’re a great improvement over canti’s and about $100.00US.


A Rainy Day In August

I was so dripping wet at the end of that ride that there was no point in zipping anything up anymore. Too many transitions! (“Hey, it’s not raining anymore! Ooops.”) More of the story is here.

The pictures kinda show it, but I remember very clearly being extremely careful about my brake modulation. After a somewhat crazy ride, it would have been a real shame to lockup a wheel and fall in front of all those folks just as I cross the finish line.

The pictures are from Kreutz Photography ‘natch.



The Mac App Store: can it change the software business?

The Mac App Store: can it change the software business?:

What is it that makes the iTunes App Store so compelling? Will the value the App store added to the iPhone be added by the Mac App Store to the Mac?

Here are the characteristics I think make the App Stores valuable:

  1. They redefine software as content. The pricing, marketing, discovery and buying process is identical to that for content like music or video.
  2. They redefine the skill required to create a relationship with customers. They allow a new class of less-skilled and less-capitalized developers participate in selling software directly to the buyer. By “skill” I don’t mean engineering skill but marketing skill. A developer can create a product that can reach millions without having to acquire with channels and distribution skills.
  3. From a consumer’s point of view, they simplify purchasing and lower the price of software.

These three characteristics of app stores make them disruptive. The disrupted companies are the traditional software publishers. The response from game publishers to the App store were predictable: they condemned it for destroying value, “cheapening” their product, and creating a race to the bottom. They also predicted that it would all end badly as nobody would make any money.

The truth is that they were disrupted by different cost structures. The entrants did not need to spend on market development, and focused on innovating on the essential novelty of the user interface.

So the Mac App Store could be disruptive to traditional software vendors. A large new population of software developers could emerge targeting the Cocoa environment and they may bring new apps that move the jobs that the computer is hired for to appeal to new users.

However there is a problem. The Mac is a small target market relative to iOS. Apple announced that there are 50 million Mac users. This compares badly to the 130 million (or so) iOS users. It won’t be long before 50 million iOS users will be added every three months.

So the first thing that Apple needs to do is grow the Mac installed base. Perhaps the new Air and following updated to the MacBooks will do just that. But the growth rate needs to be an order of magnitude faster. And I suspect price is an obstacle to this growth.

Regardless of this obstacle, the Mac App Store has the potential to change the appeal of the Mac. As the first personal computer with an App Store, new uses may emerge and create the same app-platform effect.

[All good points. See more here.]
Source: asymco

The week in links (10/25)

Hill Climb Sundays (Oct 24th 2010 Edition)

A little chilly at the start, but a beautiful day for a ride. Sad that I didn’t have enough time to grab the Jones and really hit the woods, but thankful for the good weather and chance to give the Kish a workout. It still needs some tuning… but it’s almost there.

I posted next weeks ride using the new Rapha Rendevous software (iPhone) as “The Whiners Delight”. Interested in trying the software out with a group, but I can’t make any of the rides posted as yet. In the meantime… allez!





Mac stays Open?

There’s a number of threads about this topic since Apple announced OS X Lion and the app store for Mac. And that definitely changes things… especially if you can run iOS apps on your desktop.

It changes things because of cost. iOS apps, despite their surprising abilities, are less expensive than their desktop equivalents. Since they often seem to work just grandly for people, it makes you wonder whether people haven’t been living with bloated, feature crazed software. It also makes you wonder whether a “pro” app, or a development environment will ever be sold through that store.

And it changes things because you give Apple a say of whether your app “qualifies” with all the pain that has caused developers. (Code signing is mess. In the words of the governors race “the pain is too… damn high!”

But what of the long tail effect the store generates? That is, dev’s are “gaming” the current store by updating often (leaking the most minor improvements drop by drop) because it brings you to the fore of various marketing efforts. (Think a “recently released” list). It may not be best for their users, but if the only channel to sales is that store then marketing efforts are significantly limited to how people find things in that store.

So far the iOS store seems to generate high sales for the top items and virtually no attention for the vast majority of offerings. First in category, timing, etc. play a large part of this type of sourcing and the tools to find gems hidden in the dust are slim at best.

But that’s inside the store. On the Mac there’s no reason why other stores couldn’t compete, at the moment, although you’d have to find a way to bootstrap that store. But it’s not harder than what dev’s are doing now.

Let’s just be more tasteful than the average Mall though. ‘K?

iPads, Curriculum for Excellence and the Next Generation

[This is important enough to “reprint” in full. Go Fraser! Here’s a feed for the #ediff hashtag on twitter]

iPads, Curriculum for Excellence and the Next Generation:

There’s been an incredibly fertile discussion channel on Twitter since last Friday, organised around the hashtag #ediff.

I was working on a presentation about our iPad deployment when Frank Crawford (@frankcrawford) posted three tweets that chimed almost exactly with the topics I was working into my presentation.

Frank’s first tweet:

Outcomes for kids – CfE – learning, being confident, contributing, participating. Where does tech contribute?

I’ve been developing a presentation to explain where we see our 1:1 iPad deployment in the light of Curriculum for Excellence. Inspired by Frank’s tweets, I’d like to expand on some of the thinking here.

Successful Learners

The iPad will not create successful learners by itself. We are finding, however, that the increased relevance of iPad-based teaching is producing increased levels of engagement both in class and with homework and study at home. Engagement is a necessary condition for success but it is not, alone, sufficient.

We often get questions like “well, how do you know your pupils are learning when you teach with the iPad?”. The answer, usually, is “the same ways we know pupils are learning when we teach with textbooks, paper, whiteboards, multiple-choice tests, art materials or newspapers”.

What the iPad has allowed us to do is to bring digital resources up to the same level of availabiliy as paper resources in our teaching. It’s unthinkable that pupils would only have one or two hours of access to books each week, yet that was the position with digital resources before we deployed the iPad.

Confident Individuals

When pupils learn with the iPad, they are learning in their own technological vocabulary. Personal computers – whether Windows or Mac OS X – are not most teenagers’ common experience of personal computing.

We find that pupils are incredibly confident in using the iPad and that this feeds into confidence in their work. Our art teacher, Jenny Oakley, recently talked to me about the impact of iPad on her art teaching.

She told me that the iPad forms a kind of “digital safety net”:

In some ways it more effectively helps pupils to develop confidence in their abilities and an enthusiasm to try than some traditional media. This is largely due to the immediacy of its set up, tidy up and effects, the security of an ‘undo’ button and that mark making is controlled directly by the finger itself.

Pupils do not have to overcome the hindrance of learning to manipulate another tool or implement, rather they can use the natural tool they have been developing dexterity in since birth. Once taught the basic principles of a range of art apps, pupils can achieve worthwhile results. They then begin to feel more confident and so become more willing to try – in the art classroom this is half the battle.

As a direct follow on from this pupils then do actually begin to achieve better results – their increased confidence increases their effort and enthusiasm and they feel less threatened and more relaxed. This confidence can then be extended and transferred into other art media.

We are seeing same impacts in other areas, such as creative writing at all levels from Primary to Higher English, where digital text editing and peer evaluation are producing excellent results.

We are also focusing heavily on presentation skills using Keynote on the iPad. It is my personal belief that Word Processing – setting text on a computer in preparation for printing on paper – is a skill that will wane in value over time. Communicating your ideas to an audience is a skill that is already a clear competitive advantage for those able to do it effectively. Few skills demand the development of confidence like public presenting.

Effective Contributors

iPad is removing the friction in contributing. At its simplest, the easy flow of documents to and from the iPad has already transformed our processes of setting and submitting homework.

In class, we are seeing greater collaboration and sharing with iPad. The design of iPad directly lends itself to working together and collaborating – even without specific software support for networked collaboration. The iPad can be handed over to another pupil, turned around to show results and quickly connected to a classroom projector to share work with the entire class.

Compare this to the prior experience of trying to turn a desktop computer monitor around to share your work with someone else, or the experience of three or four pupils huddling around one computer to collaborate.

An example from Computing: we often do exercises where pupils are given a purpose and a budget for buying a computer system and they have to specify a couple of options and recommend one.

In earlier times I, in my “exam conditions” mentality, would often force this to be a solo exercise. Recently, I tried it with paired working with two iPads: one pupil worked the web to find results and the other pupil operated Numbers on their iPad to catalogue what they were finding together. They collaborated on the recommendations then, at the end, emailed me their spreadsheet and CC’ed the web-searching pupil so both had a copy of the shared work.

Each pupil made a solid contribution to the outcome and the results were effortlessly shared.

Responsible Citizens

Acting responsibly online is just one (admittedly huge) aspect of the entire citizenship agenda. As a big part of the iPad deployment, we comprehensively reworked our Acceptable Use Policy to make direct references to resources such as social networking as well as the more usual email and web publishing.

Responsible citizenship goes further. By sending iPads home with most pupils, we are giving them access to global sources of information and we’re working with that in class. No longer can pupils use the “we don’t get the newspaper in our house” excuse for being unaware of current events.

Here’s a comment from our Modern Studies teacher, Emma Rukin:

The tasks have become more challenging and worthwhile, as the iPad allows for multi-faceted tasks to be set that combine reading, comprehension, source analysis and internet research in one. Similarly, pupils who require extra support with, for example, a written task, are much happier being emailed a writing frame than being given extra sheets in class.

The biggest difference I am noticing is that pupils are increasingly suggesting uses for the iPad themselves. In particular, after just a few weeks of iPad 1:1 deployment, pupils are asking if they can use the internet to supplement answers from textbooks, or to find out about particular things that interest or confuse them. In the upper half of secondary pupils have improved dramatically in their ability to find relevant accurate answers using the web. They are improving their ability to frame a question.

All Modern studies pupils now have access to a wide variety of news sources, meaning their knowledge of current affairs is growing, and their weekly assessments reflect this.

One of our English teachers, Rosalind Creighton, sent me this:

The S2 class have been analysing some of the articles that have been written about the implementation of iPads in the school. I emailed them a document with links to various articles and questions on each article. This made it much easier for us to read the articles as a class, and saved on photocopying.

The purpose of this unit of work is to teach children how to assess the reliability and credibility of sources; recognise bias; and understand the techniques writers will use to persuade their readers (all CfE experiences and outcomes!).

I’d particularly like to thank certain sections of the press for providing Mrs. Creighton with such a, well, broad spectrum of material to work with.

What Technology Should Be

Frank also tweeted the following desiderata for the use of technology from a learner’s perspective. The tweets are here and here – I’ve just reformatted them in a list for this blog.

As a learner, technology should be:

  1. Everywhere, ready to use.
  2. Easy to use.
  3. Desirable to use.
  4. Challenging my skills.
  5. Sharable
  6. Collaborative
  7. It should play to my passions
  8. Used in useful contexts (from the learner’s perspective)
  9. Authentic

I believe that point #1 is well placed at the top. We are convinced that the ubiquity of 1:1 deployment is the sine qua non in transforming our learning and teaching. Without 1:1, you lose the sense of personal engagement with a personal device. The pupils’ sense of ownership is dramatically diminished.

I don’t think I have to make a case to readers of this blog that the iPad is, by any measure, easy and desirable to use.

Making sure that iPad use challenges the skills of a learner is a big question that we are all on a learning curve with right now. I think the whole school staff are only just starting to understand how far we can really push pupils equipped with their own iPad. As readers of this blog can probably tell from the changed tone of my posts over the last few weeks, this is precisely where my thinking is going right now.

I’ve already discussed the capabilities of the iPad in sharing and collaboration, but one more story: last week, I was accosted in the corridor by two pupil reporters wanting to interview me about iPads for the school newsletter. I was running around fixing wifi base stations and quite busy. Instead of taking me to a classroom where they could formally interview me and type my answers into a computer, we found a couple of seats in the hallway. They pulled out their iPads and we did the interview questions and they took notes on my answers right there and then.

Instant, frictionless, collaboration and sharing using high technology transparently with a strong focus on the actual task of “doing the interview” rather than “doing the interview and recording the answers on the laptops that we have booked for this one afternoon of the week”.

We have only given one directive to our teachers for using the iPad: it should be used everywhere it’s useful and nowhere that it’s not. We did not dictate many specific uses for the device, preferring to leave it to classroom teachers to identify the places where the device will be useful for each subject’s unique requirements.

The only specific use we dictated was that everyone should use the Calendar app to record homework. That’s a useful context for learners and we’re seeing dramatic improvements in homework return rates.

Frank appended a “(yuk)” to the last idea of authenticity but I think there is a point to be made here. I personally believe that pupils – particularly early secondary pupils – crave relevance and authenticity in their learning. I can teach about mainframes and disk drives and everyone’s bored. When I facilitate a discussion about why Apple switched from hard drives in the iPod Classic to flash memory in the iPhone, everyone wants to talk about it.

By deploying the iPad in the school and using real-world commercial software instead of “education-specific” clones of real software, we are delivering an authentic experience in school that mirrors and is relevant to the experience of technology that pupils have outside the school and bring to school with them.

[So there ya go. I’ve been thinking about how to correct this situation for Noah for weeks now.
Source: Fraser Speirs

Hill Climb Sundays (Oct 17th 2010 Edition)

The hectic Sunday schedule continues. So another short ride, but going as hard as I can while I’m out there. Shipped the Moots off, long live the Moots. Annual pumpkin patch trip? Check. Hand picked vegetables? Check. Bowls produced by old geezer to keep himself busy? Check. Noah declaring he can’t walk another step (yah, sure)? Check. “The mundane is to be cherished.”

It’s not too late to join me on one of these lovely rides. C’mon out.