2013 in review

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I first was introduced to this really nice question by Neil Atkin (@natkin) and ever since I have tried to find a good way of showing it. So, look at the question and the explanation that I think is correct, as far as I can tell (but please point out any faults in my reasoning). Then, check out the simple demo I used to show this.

“If I am on a boat in a pond and I hold a 10 kg rock in my hand, what will happen to the level of the water if I drop the rock inside the pond? Will the water level increase, stay the same, or be lower?”

It’s all to do with Archimede’s Principle that states that the upward buoyant force exerted on a body immersed in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the body.

This should help us think about this problem. In fact, if the boat is floating it means that the weight of the water displaced by the rock when it is inside the boat must be the same as the weight of the rock itself. That is because the upthrust balances the weight of the boat, myself and the rock, or the boat would sink. So the rock displaces a volume equivalent to the space occupied by 10kg of water, i.e. 10 litres.

When I throw the rock inside the pond the water displaced by the rock is only the volume of the rock itself, which is most likely not 10 litres, but much less. So, the level of the water in the pond decreases!

I took these two photos before and after to convince you of this (the measuring cylinder we used in another attempt was to big to appreciate the difference). Click on either photo to enlarge them and see them in Gallery view.

Today I had the pleasure and honour to present at a great event organised by the really lovely guys at @WordpressWales, Just WordPress Workshops AKA #jww. In my blogging journey I have made many mistakes, which means I have learnt a lot along the way, especially because I have met and networked with some really inspiring people, so when you have the opportunity to be in the same room for a day with a whole bunch of inspiring and cool guys you aught to make the most of it. So, this post is really a reflection about what I learnt today and I will try to write one thing from each presentation. By the way, these tips are not in order of awesomeness, but follow the order of the presentations, and before you ask, yes all presentations were awesome. Obviously I cannot comment on mine, so leave some love in the comments if you happened to be at the event and you like it 😉


1. Be and invite guest bloggers – via @rightmoveaddict

Andrea Morgan gave an inspiring presentation on how she grew her following massively in a really short time. Her Blog is really cool and if you are an interiors kind of person you should certainly check it out. The main point I learnt from Andrea was to engage other bloggers in your field and get them to write for your blog and try to get invited to write for theirs. Andrea recommends, and rightly so, to retain editing rights to guest blogs on your site, so that your Voice is never lost!

2. Format your Blog writing – via @Whatsthepont and @Helreynolds

Helen Reynolds and Chris Bolton joined forces today to convince us that formatting our Blog writing can be a useful strategy to effective blogging. Chris had the “good fortune” (according to him) to get pneumonia and get off work for quite a while in March (I think) and that got him thinking about how to format his blog writing. Having thought about the format of your blog can help you focus on the important content of your posts and cut the unnecessary stuff that is likely to drive readers away. Helen then gave some examples of effective formats, so if you are thinking why I am writing a list of good tips, that is because I learnt a new blogging word today, “Listables” (or at least I think that’s what Helen called them). Apparently, lists of top tips are a really effective way to attract readers, so I have set a target to give more posts like this one a go.

3. Everyone has a book inside them – via @mindhiver

When Pippa Davies takes the stage you certainly cannot ignore her. She has the energy of a lion and the cheekiness of a monkey. It’s always a pleasure to listen to her speak and today she took us through her journey to turn her blogging into an eBook. Pippa is no stranger to publishing, so she gave a few great tips and tools for publishing eBooks online. A great tool that I want to try and see if I can apply to the classroom (hopefully in connection to the Literacy and Numeracy Framework) is Pressbooks.com and that is one of the things I took from Pippa’s session.

4. Put the crayons down and find your identity first – via @brandnatter

Russell Britton gave some really useful tips about what brand means and why it is so important to find the identity of your business, or whatever else you want to build, before you start creating content. Russell also encouraged us all to forget about Stock Photo like images and take our own. The point he was making is actually very useful, because using your own images will definitely make you look different from the rest! Half way through his presentation I noticed one of the pictures he showed as an example not to use featured in my presentation and my heart sank – yes, I was just after him 😦 but I think that taught me a lesson 😉

5. Engage the best in your field – via @Collaborat_Ed

Next it was me and I talked about our journey to try and climb the search engine results ladder. From the tweets I noticed about my presentation I could see that people seemed to find useful what I said about engaging the best in your field. These people are likely to be where they are because they have networked and shared a lot in their work, so they will respond to good stuff you do in their field.

6. Get approval from your boss – via @Tanwen_Haf and @DyfrigWilliams

This was another double act and focused on the barriers to blogging and social media the public sector hits. One of the biggest hurdles seems to be that anything that gets published on public sector websites needs to go through a long process of approvals and if you want to blog about current issues you know you’ve lost the race even before you even start. I suppose that is a problem that is true of big brands too. Brand image is really important and CEOs can often get really anxious about potential negative feedback they get on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. My answer to that is – Would you rather be talked about without knowing it, or having the opportunity to promote good stuff being said about you and defend your choices when not so nice things are said about your brand? Social media is not just a good way to promote yourself, but also a tool to gather information about what your audience thinks about you, so use it to your advantage and do not be afraid, or paranoid about it.

7. .com might just be all you really need – via @Joel_Hughes

Joel showed how much stuff can be done and achieved through a blog built on WordPress.com and that for a lot of purposes you don’t really need to host your own website using WordPress.org. I think the coolest and geekiest thing Joel showed was his “call to action” buttons made in wordpress.com. I never knew you could do that and I will have to check out his website to see how to do it, because it looks pretty awesome.

So, this are the 7 tips I took with me today and I hope you will find them useful too. If you haven’t attended one of the @WordpressWales events yet I strongly suggest you come to the next one. Keep an eye on their Twitter feeds and their website, so you will not miss out next time.

Anyone who insists technology is disempowering has probably not come across really young learners interacting with it. Today I was reminded about how intuitive, engaging and formative technologies like the iPad really are.

I want to call Nonna!

My 2 year old boy, Martino, felt like talking to Nonna (grandma in Italian). I say talking, but, although he can say quite a few words, he hasn’t learnt to say many sentences yet. What he has learnt to do, and very quickly, is to use an iPad. In fact, he’s so good at it that today he ran in the kitchen, took the iPad Mini and came back to the sofa looking pleased with himself. Then, he turned it on, swiped to access the apps, found FaceTime inside a folder and called my mum from the recent calls. When Matteo (my eldest) heard the ringing sound of FaceTime he asked Martino, if he was calling Nonna. “Sí, Sí!” answered Martino.

IMG_1666Needless to say that this unexpected call made my mum’s day, but what I’ve witnessed today, and many other times since Martino was one and a half, is something that made me think deeply about the power of technology.

Our learners are deeply engaged with technology, they grow surrounded by it and naturally embrace it as part of their learning. I believe it is essential we engage our students with technology to harness this enthusiasm our young people show for it. I heard of many primary and secondary schools that began to use iPads when they noticed their youngest learners kept touching the screen of PCs and laptops the first time they used them. iPads, smartphones and tablets are engaging and an integral part of many learners’ every day routines. They are drawn to them and naturally interact with such devices with great interest and proficiency, so using them in the classroom seems to me to be a logical way to engage children in their learning. This will make schooling more fun, but that should never be the driver for integrating technology in the classroom! iPads and other technologies open ways to redefine pedagogy and learning experiences. They empower learners and teachers, so that students become more independent and creators of knowledge, rather than simply consumers of knowledge. Let’s embrace technology for the right reasons and not thinking that the kit will solve all the teaching and learning challenges in our schools.

There are many ways to use technology creatively and innovatively to enrich our learning environments and much can be learnt from educational blogs such the CollaboratEd.org.uk Blog (@Collaborat_Ed), Neil Atkin’s Blog (@natkin), maybe this Blog you are reading and, one of my favourite, Gavin Smart’s Blog (@GavinSmart).

Yet another mind map to help you making sense of the Guide for Schools: Part 2 of the NSP (Phase 2). This map deals with the content of the NSP Toolkit aimed at supporting school in the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) in Wales. You can use the HD image below as it is in presentations, or download the iMindMap version to edit it from this Biggerplate page, or just navigate through the map via this online viewer. Whatever you do with it, please acknowledge the source, Alessio Bernardelli (@asober). Let me know if you find this useful.

NSP Toolkit

This is another mind map you might find useful when thinking about what will happen in phase 2 of the National Support Programme for the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework in Wales. You can use the HD image below as it is in presentations, or download the iMindMap version to edit it from this Biggerplate page, or just navigate through the map via this online viewer. Whatever you do with it, please acknowledge the source, Alessio Bernardelli (@asober). Let me know if you find this useful.

Stages of Phase 2

I am preparing for the 2nd Cluster Meetings in my role of NSP Partner and I am going through part 2 of the Guide for Schools and since I understand things better when I mind map them, here is a mind map of the Phases Activity diagram on page 38 of the document. I hope you will find it useful.

You can download the iMindMap version of the image below from this Biggerplate page, or navigate the Mind Map in this web view.

Phases Activities

You might have noticed from the changes in my profiles across the social media world that my role is changing and that I have been appointed as a National Support Programme Partner in Wales by CfBT. I will work with them four days a week and developing as an independent consultant for one day a week, so if you are looking for CPD training in your school give me a shout 😉

But back to the focus of this post. When I was preparing for my interview I was trying to get a clear picture in my mind of what the National Support Programme offers and what the role of the NSP Partners involve. If you have come across me before, you probably know that the process of getting a clear mental picture of things to me means only one thing – Mind Mapping :-). So, I made two Mind Maps that really helped me organise my thoughts around these issues. I have added the images of these two Mind Maps below, but if you are an iMindMap user, click on each image and you will be taken to the Biggerplate page where the maps are stored and where you’ll be able to download them and use with iMindMap.

The National Support Programme

National Support Programme

The role of the NSP Partner

NSP Partner Role

I hope you will find these tools useful. Please leave a comment below as feedback.

It’s been a while since my last post, so my fingers are itching now, especially because what I am going to write about had virtually no input from me. My four boys have been completely immersed in Minecraft for quite a few months now. In particular, they love playing together on two iPads and an iPhone, so they can cooperate, send messages to each other and they’ve even made three beds in each of the houses they built, so they can sleep together in any house they find themselves in when it gets dark (and for those who are not familiar with Minecraft you better go to sleep when it gets dark, or zombies and creepers will come to get you).

A self organised geography lesson

One day my six year old invited the other two, four and eight respectively (the two year old can use the iPad very well, but on Minecraft he tends to destroy stuff, so it’s better to leave him out of a creative session 😉 ), to join him in his Olympic Games. So, they set off to build flags for each country (well, just a few actually, but I was pleased they added Italy). They found out what colours the flags for the countries they wanted to add were and made them out of Minecraft blocks. You can see the results below.











A bit of Literacy

Then, they created various games. There was a ring for sword fighting, a hurdle race track and even target shooting. The boys also placed some signs with some basic rules for the games, as you can see below.



And finally a bit of numeracy

Now it was time to mark out the difficulty of the target shooting game, so they added some signs to show how far from the target the archers should stand for an easy, medium and hard shooting session. This shows how you can develop “using number and measuring skills” through a video game that kids find incredibly engaging. So engaging, in fact, that they set off to create what became (in my opinion) a great learning journey completely independently. I believe this is a really nice example of a SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environment) that Sugata Mitra talks about and that the nature of the game, the intuitiveness of iPads and the ability to collaborate in real time from different devices facilitated this process many folds.


The power of technology

I’ve always been fascinated by the way very young learners interact with new technologies, and it was observing my nephew searching the internet when he was ten that prompted me to start this Blog, but I have never seen anything as powerful as an iPad in allowing children to create their own learning journeys. I watch my two year old who can get in and out of the apps he wants, build helicopters in the Lego app and fly them, call my mum with FaceTime (it’s true! It happened several times), etc… Then, I see my four year old who since he was three could create amazing buildings and objects in Minecraft at a speed that makes me feel dizzy, or my six and eight year old boys who use iPads to search for information they are interested in, find video tutorials on YouTube that show them how to create portals in Minecraft that take them to other worlds, etc… and I see so much that I am proud of. But I also see a fantastic tool that empowers them to learn through play. If they can learn things by themselves using these amazing technologies, think about how much more could be done in the classroom with them!

This is my second mind map in an attempt to visually display the draft Science Curriculum in England and this time the focus of the Mind Map is Energy. In my previous post on this issue I set out to see how coherently the new curriculum has been written and I suggested that depending on how difficult it would be to mind map the various parts of the curriculum could give an indication of that. I have to say that in this second Mind Map I could find quite a few key ideas that interrelated to other branches quite nicely. However, I felt that I had to separate Conservation of Energy from Dissipation of Energy, even though the new curriculum has them under the same heading (which is fine in the document I think), as I wanted to stress the importance of the Principle of Conservation of Energy. Something I was not too sure about was the inclusion of renewable energy sources and fuel resources under the Conservation and Dissipation section. As a whole I am fairly pleased with this Mind Map and I think the development of this unit is quite coherent. I might have missed something though and I value your comments in that respect.

You can use the Mind Map below, or download the iMindMap version and edit it from this Biggerplate page.

Physics Energy