Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

ScanR: Turn your camera phone into a scanner


ScanR, a new free service that allows you to take a camera phone picture (or any digital picture) and turn it into a searchable PDF file


Convert photos of whiteboards and documents into searchable PDF files.scanR
is a powerful service that automatically:
    • cleans photos of whiteboards and documents
    • tags documents with extracted keywords
    • delivers the results as PDF files or faxes

This has potential in educational settings for students and teachers.

Crazy etcha sketch


Refresh browser to clear the slate. Fun.

April issue of Wired Magazine has a Games focus

You Play World of Warcraft? You're Hired!

There is something to learn in everything that we undertake. In school we 'learn about' lots of stuff but we also learn 'to be' via what was called the 'hidden curriculum' when I did my training.


This article talks about that learning 'to be' that happens (accidental learning) as a by product of playing multi-player games

It's learning to be - a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture - as
opposed to learning about.
Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.

the process of becoming an effective World of Warcraft guild master amounts to a total-immersion course in leadership. A guild is a collection of players who come together to share knowledge, resources, and manpower. To run a large one, a guild master must be adept at many skills: attracting, evaluating, and recruiting new members; creating apprenticeship programs; orchestrating group strategy; and adjudicating disputes. Guilds routinely splinter over petty squabbles and other basic failures of management; the master must resolve them without losing valuable members, who can easily quit and join a rival guild. Never mind the virtual surroundings; these conditions provide real-world training a manager can apply directly in the workplace.
Perhaps we should use WOW as one of our leadership training tools?

GIMP used to create first Google logo

Friday, April 28, 2006

'Design principles' or 'Victims of fashion'?

"White space, or any other visual form, does not have some inherent meaning; it means what it does because of a particular history," explain the authors in a paper in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. "This is a very important distinction in our approach. Most existing research into visuals asserts that a certain thing means this or that because of some inherent feature, and that we can count on it always meaning that. Our research refutes that."
This is interesting and suggests that design conventions are perhaps not principles as such but rather fads. Could we say victims of fashion?

Original paper that this alert refers to is here
Through our tracing of history, and by showing that creators and readers share an understanding about the meaning of white space, we hope to show that white space in particular, and visual communications more generally relies upon people coming to an agreement about what a particular visual means.

How C.R.A.P is Your Site Design?


So my design is CRAP - thanks for that :-)

Discussion of CRAP in relation to site design but could be adapted to DTP. Uses good clear and practical examples clarify the explanations.

Everything Web 2.0

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Learn with the free stuff first

How Piracy Opens Doors for Windows

The article focuses on how piracy can be used as a tool to gain market share. People may initially pirate the software but they get used to it and in the end, at some stage, they pay for it.
"The first dose is free," said Hal Varian, a professor of information management at UC Berkeley, facetiously comparing Microsoft's anti-piracy policy to street-corner marketing of illicit drugs. "Once you start using a product, you keep using it."
"Once you start using a product, you keep using it."

What does this mean?
  • everyone goes through school
  • schools pay to use propriety software
  • students sort of get addicted
Schools pay the proprietor to create market share for the proprietor.

This sounds a little stupid but this is what happens. Schools pay to use the proprietary packages that students start to use and they keep using it.

Piracy also prevents free, open-source alternatives such as Linux from chipping away at Microsoft's monopolies, especially in developing nations.
At zero cost to Microsoft, piracy enhances network effects by getting Windows out to users who can't or won't pay, without undercutting normal prices.
Schools condemn students
to costly solutions
that may
not be necessary.

I am certainly not against private enterprise and proprietary software. I applaud the quality of most of it. I am not a fan of piracy - fair days work for a fair days pay - everyone deserves fair compensation for their labour.

I just want schools to ensure that all of the players get a fair go and in particular not to condemn our students to costly solutions that may not be necessary. It is all about a 'free and open education for all'.

Thanks to Bill Kerr for alerting me to this via the IT Teachers talk list

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Canned Oxygen Could be the Next Bottled Water

The emergence of another possible billion dollar business, based on bottling and selling a free, natural commodity.

I suspect schools kids will be into this. We have students supporting the bottled water business in classrooms. It is good for the brain to be well hydrated. Fine - why does it need to be so commercial? Why can't this be done in a way that is more ecologically and economically smart. Besides, much of the bottled water is no better than the free stuff from the tap.

Soon we will have students bring their oxygen bottles to improve their performance in class and exams.
It is believed that a brief blast of pure oxygen allows you flush some of the impurities from your body, clear your mind, and eliminate some of that sluggish feeling that many of us have.
A must have prior to those important lessons and exams.
As far as the “new” canned oxygen product goes, it’s not just plain ol’ pure oxygen. You don’t think that marketers would attempt to sell oxygen in a can without spicing it up and making it a bit more “extreme”. Why breathe flavorless, odorless oxygen; when you can breathe “Mountain Breeze”, or “Mint Escape”.
That will certainly make the difference. If we need fresh air, what about we just open the window and work on making and keeping the air clean . Deal with the issue at its cause rather than these bandaid solutions.

I wonder if kids will use the commercial containers to smuggle nitrous oxide into class. :-)

Do teachers tend to be maximisers or satisficers?

I wonder if

  • teachers tend to be maximisers or satisficers?

  • this impacts on subject selection processes and outcomes?

  • this impacts on the number of people that end up being maximisers or satisficers?

If you are a teacher then please

  1. do the maximiser or a satisficer survey

  2. and then complete the teacher survey to help us answer this question – Do teachers tend to be maximisers or satisficers?

The following article provides more information about maximisers and satisficers and details a number of studies that correlate satisfaction with these characteristic decision makers

Maximizing Versus Satisficing: Happiness Is a Matter of Choice

Study of subject selection issues


This study focussed on girls selection of mathematics and science. I think that the observations of this study could be applied to the broader range of subjects and also to boys.

It would be interesting to see a parallel study of boys subject selection behaviour.

Will doing this subject improve my future options?

Psychology professor maps choice-making in the brain


Smith's current study focuses on which parts of the brain are used in the decision-making process.

There are deliberative and emotional tradeoffs with decision making. Mapping brain activity during decision making supports this, even when making high risk decisions. It seems that fear centres of the brain are not consulted during this process. So what could these trade offs be?

Will doing this subject improve my future options? (I wonder if students use the deliberative or the more primal emotional sections of the brain to address this question in course counseling)

the deliberative areas of the brain did not show high usage with decisions relating to risky gains”. Could we consider 'future options' as a risky gain? Is it possible that our talk about 'future options' is not engaging the deliberative decision making we had hoped for?

Are girls or boys more likely to comply and do a subject on the basis of keeping future options open?

I enjoyed this subject in year 10 and want to do it in year 11. What were the reasons that the student enjoyed it? Was it the teacher? Was it the subject? Is this predominantly a deliberative or emotional decision being made?

What can we learn from consumer psychology to help us with subject selection?


How true does this quote from an article dealing with consumer psychology reworded to talk about subject selection and students.

Consumer Student Behavior and Marketing Course Counseling Strategy

The study of consumers students helps firms and organizations schools improve their marketing course counseling strategies by understanding issues such as how

  • The psychology of how consumers students think, feel, reason, and select between different alternatives (e.g., brands, products subjects, courses);

  • The the psychology of how the consumer student is influenced by his or her environment (e.g., culture, family, signs, media);

  • The behavior of consumers students while shopping or making other marketing course counseling decisions;

  • Limitations in consumer student knowledge or information processing abilities influence decisions and marketing outcome;

  • How consumer student motivation and decision strategies differ between products that differ in their level of importance or interest that they entail for the consumer; and

  • How marketers teachers can adapt and improve their marketing course counseling campaigns and marketing course counseling strategies to more effectively reach the consumer student.

Understanding these issues helps us adapt our strategies by taking the consumer student into consideration. For example, by understanding that a number of different messages compete for our potential consumers' students' attention, we learn that to be effective, advertisements must usually be repeated extensively. We also learn that consumers students will sometimes be persuaded more by logical arguments, but at other times will be persuaded more by emotional or symbolic appeals. By understanding the consumer student, we will be able to make a more informed decision as to which strategy to employ.

Subject selection - Keep It Simple Stupid

One choice too many
Variety is the spice of life, but too much spice can leave your tongue on fire. Americans have too many things to choose from, and the result is a society of stressed-out and unsatisfied customers.

The Tyranny of Choice
Logic suggests that having options allows people to select precisely what makes them happiest. But, as studies show, abundant choice often makes for misery

The Cost of More: Psychology of Choice in Interaction Design
There has always been a difficult balance in the amount of choice offered to consumers. Too little choice means a store may be omitting services or products important to some users (and worse still, that a competitor might include). Too much choice adds complexity with increased potential for confusing or frustrating potential purchasers.

Subject Selection and the Psychology of Choice

Is it possible that our education system is creating maximisers and in so doing diminishing happiness and satisfaction? While I have been a very strong supporter of the notion of more choice means greater engagement and satisfaction, my views on this have changed. To me now the challenge is to work out what our optimum choice situation for course counselling might look like. How many subjects should we present in the course book? How do we work out what to present and what not to?

13 April 2006
Our entire market economy is based on one idea, the more choice you have the happier you get. But science suggests we’re going against human nature. In fact, too much choice can actually make you sick.
Now one man is taking a stand; Barry Schwartz has worked out that a certain increase in choice does make us more satisfied but once you get beyond that satisfaction declines sharply.
Nick knows all about this. He’s what’s known as a maximiser and he cannot decide which of anything to buy without weighing up the pros and cons, and agonising over what he should do pre-purchase and then agonising about what he might have missed out on afterwards – up to the point of developing depression. So what’s the ideal amount of variables we as humans can handle?

"The Psychology of Choice" - Implications for game design

Gamasutra - Features - "The Psychology of Choice" [02.06.02]

The play of any computer game can be described as a series of choices. The total path of a player through the game is the result of a thousand little choices, leading to success or failure in the game and to enjoyment or dislike of the game itself. The principles underlying the choices players make and the way in which a designer can shape those choices is a key component of game design.

Need to create a login at Gamasutra to see this article but I think it is worth it.

The article does not talk about the stress associated with too much choice in the Maximising section. Too much choice can lead to maximisers not making a choice. "Too much choice can in itself be demotivating." http://www.syntagm.co.uk/design/articles/choice.htm


Can people feel worse off as the options they face increase? The present studies suggest that some people—maximizers—can. Study 1 reported a Maximization Scale, which measures individual differences in desire to maximize. Seven samples revealed negative correlations between maximization and happiness, optimism, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, and positive correlations between maximization and depression, perfectionism, and regret. Study 2 found maximizers less satisfied than nonmaximizers (satisficers) with consumer decisions, and more likely to engage in social comparison. Study 3 found maximizers more adversely affected by upward social comparison. Study 4 found maximizers more sensitive to regret and less satisfied in an ultimatum bargaining game. The interaction between maximizing and choice is discussed in terms of regret, adaptation, and self-blame.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Will the real Ronald McDonald please stand up?

Ronald McDonald passed away on 12th October 1900 and rests in the Mount Gambier (South Australia) cemetary along with his son, Ronald. Ronald junior passed away on 29th May 1896. Their resting place is near the main entrance. The building behind the trees in the background is the chapel which is to the left of the main entrance.