Teach Touch Typing!

Your students type a lot, but I’ll lay odds that they type badly. Prompted by internet guru Seth Godin‘s blog, I’m going to reprise an argument I had with Mark Leighton a while ago, about why it’s vital to teach them to type properly.

Here, paraphrased, are Mark’s arguments as to why he didn’t need to teach typing separately, and my ripostes.

My students can type anyway

No, they can hunt and peck. To call that typing is like saying someone can drive if they can Continue reading

Gifted & Talented Challenge

nov5tv.jpgI actually wrote this a week ago whilst I was in Ukraine, and then discovered I’d failed to bring my password file. Sadly, the promise of worldwide access isn’t completely idiot-proof.

Geography author Paul Laird invited Alex (our CTO) me up to Huntcliff School last week to help launch the Redcar & Cleveland Gifted and Talented Challenge.

What Paul is doing is really innovative; pitting gifted kids from each of the participating schools against each other in teams to perform a series of challenges, and holding the whole thing together with a variety of web tools. Getting meaningful collaboration between schools is a huge benefit to the gifted kids, who often find themselves quite isolated and without a natural peer group in their own schools. There are benefits beyond G&T as well; cross-fertilisation of teaching ideas, for example.

Alex and I got really engrossed in Paul’s vision and came away wondering what we could do to support it, beyond hosting the quiz component which we already do. If you are doing or planning an inter-school competition I’d love to hear from you. And if there is a way we can support your efforts, we will gladly do it.

BBC Jam

So it’s bye-bye BBC Jam, or at least au-revoir.

If you have not been following this story, BBC Jam was the renamed BBC Digital Curriculum, which aimed to produce high quality online learning materials for up to half the English curriculum. It has now been suspended following some legal argy-bargy.

Plenty of pundits have weighed in with opinions about whether Jam was a good or a bad service, and just what its demise (if permanent) might mean, so I won’t. If you are interested, here is a pro-Jam post and here’s an anti-Jam post.

What struck me was just how small it was for something that has eaten £150M of the taxpayer’s money. After two years of effort by what must have been a very large team, they had 170,000 users. That sounds like a lot until you do the arithmetic. Supporting those users cost £882 each.

At that ratio, Yacapaca’s 359,455 members (as of 13:08 this afternoon) would have cost Chalkface just over £317M. Which happily it didn’t, as I would have had to do rather more than just re-mortgage the house to fund it.

What on earth did they spend all that money on?

Pokrovsky Cathedral

Pokrovsky Cathedral spires

My thanks to the software team for looking after me in Kharkov so well last week. I was there to lay the groundwork for some really exciting new features we have planned for Yacapaca; not stuff I can talk about yet.

What I can talk about is the beautiful Pokrovsky Cathedral (photo); largely restored since my last visit. I was fortunate to have a flat with a great view of both Pokrovsky and Kharkov’s other two cathedrals, Blagoveschensky and Uspensky. Click on the photo for a few more pics.