Archive for July, 2007|Monthly archive page

Summer holiday

No more work (or blog postings) for three weeks for me – I’m off on my holidays.  Looking forward to what the preparations for the next semester will bring.

See you all in mid-August.

Thanks from a student

Just a quick note to say thanks to those who responded to the questionnaire about Earned Value Analysis which I asked for help with a couple of weeks ago.

The student gained an additional eight responses, which has helped her research. The questionnaire closes tomorrow, so there’s just enough time if you’ve not contributed.

One more thing…

(frequently used by Apple executives to announce a new release).

This will be the last Macbook post until I either ‘put up and shut up’, or buy a £300 Windoze laptop instead.

But… having re-specced my Macbook this morning and reserved the order all ready to go when I get back from my hols, I read this article in The Register. Scary – do I want a laptop that has a tendency to melt?

Now I may have some views about the author’s attitude, in particular the lack of backups and/or lack of a standby machine of any sort (was it really the only machine in the family which she could work on), and some of the comments show the usual I hate mac/I hate windows extremes that you usually get, but it is making me pause for thought.

Of course people can be unlucky with their machine (I sent five system units back when I was trying to buy a pc for home, after recommending the machine to two of my friends who had no problems whatsoever with theirs), but most problems are simply annoying, this looked dangerous.

I think before I sign on the dotted line, I’ll have to do some thorough research, my current Macbook spec is £850, for a ‘consumer laptop.

Final blog post tomorrow before summer holidays, when I’ll try and review the year so far.

Course preparation

Working from home today, getting my moodle modules into shape.  The new version of moodle (we’ve recently been upgraded) has a handy ‘reset course’ setting, which allows all student information (forum posts etc.) to be wiped, but retaining the learning materials.  This makes is much easier to move a course to another instance.

I’m also proofreading and checking the ITMB prospectus entry for 2009!  I’m  not sure whether this is for September 2008 entry, or September 2009 entry, but either way it’s a long way ahead.  The only substantial changes needed are to remove reference to the ‘newness’ of the scheme – with the first cohort entering their final year, I don’t think it can really be called new.

Outside work, I’m having a crisis of confidence regarding my new laptop, considering this time last week I was all set to order the machine, I’m still concerned about the cost, when compared to a Windoze based machine.

Tomorrow is a busy day, poster presentations, supervisor meetings and discussion about supervisor allocation.   Good job it’s near vacation time!

Hitting the ground…

I’d like to say running, but it’s more like a ‘splat’.

Now that the role has been confirmed, I’ve spent much of this morning  looking through all the emails I’ve been receiving lately, which of course I now have to action.

I’m hoping that people will be supportive, and see that much of this is new to me.  I’m just sorting out the guru lecture schedule, we’re hosting one in November, and of course I want it to be ‘right’.  I’ve booked room, staff and tea/coffee, I just have a doubt about whether I’ve done it for the right date!

With this as well, other things are starting to slot into place teaching wise.  We’ll have more of an idea later, and I’ll be updating my home page soon to reflect this, it’s a useful stopping off point for people who want to know what areas I teach.

I’m just off to ‘refresh/recall/retain’  – a short course run by the staff development people here.  Let’s see if it helps me put names to faces a bit better than I do at the moment.  One thing I want all ITMB students to do is to upload their ‘proper’ picture onto moodle to give me a fighting chance of recognising them.

OU Open Event

An OU-focused time at the moment – finished marking TMA 02  late last night, everyone has done pretty well, though the marks are generally lower than the first TMA.  And now I’m sitting in the Lighthouse Centre, the same place that the LUGRadio conference was last weekend, using the free wireless hotspot here.  We’ve been ‘open’ for about an hour, but so far it’s been pretty quiet.

Having the wireless laptop access could be useful, allowing me to show potential students the OU web site and help them navigate.  Let’s hope that the battery lasts – my beloved iBook is definitely in ‘late middle age’ at four and a half years old, with battery life varying between one and two hours.

I’d better stop ‘live blogging’, and save the juice.

It’s official

I’ve had the confirmation email, and I think I’m safe enough to let people know now, I’m taking on the role of course director for the ITMB ‘IT Management for Business’ degree.  This is an exciting role on an interesting degree, aimed at providing graduates with a head start in working in companies.

I’d mentioned something about this in an earlier post, around the 18th May, when I thought things seemed to be a a bit more sorted than they were.  Eventually a panel sat and considered written ‘expressions of interest’ for the role.

I already teach on the first, second and most likely final year of the scheme, as well as looking after some of the placement students.  The area that I am interested in is looking into is working with e-Skills, the government supported body that originally thought of the ITMB degree, which now runs at thirteen universities across the UK (though we were one of the first to be validated).

I’ll try and find appropriate links etc., this is just a quick note to thank everyone for their support, especially the outgoing course director Richard Midgley, who’s looked after the course through validation, and two successful years of running.

I’ve still got to reflect on what this means for my teaching next year and in the future.  This will all probably be after my holiday however – I’ve got a busy few days ahead.

Another diversion

Just what I need at the moment when I’m less than a week away from my summer vacation, brushing up my French, writing my final assignment for my musical appreciation course (I failed the first assignment with 30% – Doh!), and trying to revise hard for my PRINCE2 exam tomorrow – another diversion.

But Wiki On a Stick (WOAS) is so clever. When I mentioned my interest a couple of days ago, little did I know that my good friend Simon had got there before me, and pointed me to this clever bit of html implementation. In a single file it creates a whole wiki with everything I wanted apart from simple image embedding, and the ability to track changes.

I’m still learning the wiki ‘language’ (in reality simply formatting commands, reminding me very much of the old commands in Wordstar), but it’s sparked off a lot of ideas about how I can use this in teaching.  In particular I’m thinking of setting an assignment for MSc students where I provide an empty ‘wiki’, and they have to complete the missing sections.  I could also provide feedback to them in the wiki.  The only problem I can see is how to provide samples to the external examiners – if it can’t be printed out they’re not happy – I was recently lightly reprimanded for putting ‘feedback provided electronically’ on cover sheets when using moodle to provide marks and comments back to students.

Well, enough procrastination.  Back to PRINCE2 revision.

I know how students feel now

I’m revising today and tomorrow, in preparation for the PRINCE2 requalification examination early on Friday.  It’s going OK so far – if a little overwhelming.

The core text is ‘Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2’ – a 450 odd page text book.  It’s undergone a fairly major revisions since I took the first exam in 2002.  In particular, the Business Case and Organisation sections.  Whilst I’m looking at the whole manual, I’m focusing on the eight Components today.  Tomorrow, I’ll focus on processes and techniques.

For ‘light relief’, I’ve got four other approved books – the PRINCE2 Pocketbook (PRINCE2 for dummies), Business Benefits through Project Management, Tailoring PRINCE2 and People Issues and PRINCE2 (I’ll add hyperlinks later, I’m doing this as a respite between sessions).

It’s been around four years since I’ve sat a timed exam like this – for all of my studying ‘for fun’ over the years I’ve avoided courses which have an exam.  Still, this is only a 70 minute, on-line exam.  It’s a cut-down version of the full three-hour practitioner exam, open book (I’m guessing it would have to be if it was on-line).

To keep me amused, I’m having a BBC 7 day, including a ‘listen again’ for the programmes I’ve missed.   I’m fortunate that they’re having a series of programmes to celebrate the centenary of Robert Heinlein’s birth – his first novel, Methuselah’s Children is being broadcast all this week.

Wikis (or should that be Wiki’s)

I’m becoming increasingly interested in wikis (I’ve just checked, and the plural is wikis – looks strange to me).

The reason is three-fold.

  1. I’m thinking that the life of this blog may be limited to maybe a year.  By that time I’ll have gone through the full cycle of an academic year.  By that time I think I may have said all that I need to with regard to working for two institutions, and may end up repeating myself (how often can I blog about poor presentation skills I hear you moan).
  2. I’m interested in students using wikis to share their knowledge in some modules.  I am luck, moodle has a built in wiki tool, so there’s no set up and configuration.
  3. If I do close the blog down, I want to be able to store some of the knowledge which I have gained by blogging (almost) every working day for a year.  Therefore a personal wiki could be a good place to store this.  The problem is I want a web-enabled, but private wiki, so that I can get access from home or work), and of course cross platform.  I’ll have to evaluate these.

So if anyone has experience of using wikis themselves, then please drop me a note.

Meanwhile, I’ve been speccing a replacement for my four year old, but still going strong iBook.  I’ve had a serious look at a Windows laptop, planning to run a Linux variant on it, but to be honest my skills aren’t up to maintaining it.  I also love my iPod and iTunes.  It’s true what they say, once you’ve had a Mac, you never go back.

So this could be my ‘birthday treat’ to myself, in just under a months time – I’ll probably order the day I come back from hols.

White Macbook

With the educational discount, it’s quite affordable – only twice the price of a cheap Windows laptop!