Monday, April 30, 2007

Festival of Chemistry at the University of Leicester

ChemistryFifty six students from 14 schools in the East Midlands will enjoy an interesting fun-filled day of chemistry at the Salters' Festival of Chemistry to be held at The University of Leicester on 1st May. Each school will be represented by a team of four 11-13 year olds. During the morning the teams will take part in a competitive, hands-on, practical activity, "A Salty Tale" in which they will use their analytical chemistry skills. In the afternoon, they will compete in the "University Challenge", a practical activity chosen by the University, in which they will be required to create a series of coloured dyes from a set of chemicals provided, with the teams recipes being assessed by the judges. This will be followed by a fun lecture, by Tracy McGhie involving exciting demonstrations of magical chemical energy transformations. The day will end with a Prizegiving at which all participants will be given individual fun prizes and participation certificates and the winning teams will be awarded cash prizes for their schools.
The Salters' Festivals of Chemistry are an initiative of The Salters' Institute, whose aim is to promote the appreciation of chemistry and related sciences among the young. The Festival at The University of Leicester is one of a series of fifty-five Festivals which are taking place at Universities throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland between March and June 2007.

Molecules in Motion

Watch the video from TeacherTube:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Second Life: the future of medical education?

Ann Myers Medical Centerncurse at ScienceRoll has been investigating the education possibilities of Second Life for the last few weeks. The latest post in his interesting series describes the Ann Myers Medical Center in Second Life. Well worth a visit.

Kitchen Science

Science funRoger Highfield has a nice article, Dr Roger's Home Experiments, on the Daily Telegraph site, with videos showing six experiments which can be performed at home:
The non-popping balloon (latent heat capacity of water)
Defying gravity (lifting a person)
Measuring the speed of light (microwaves)
The imploding can (make a vacuum)
The great toothpaste challenge (high speed toothpaste)
The food that won't go mouldy (enzymes in eggs)
"A good experiment is more than educational. It can be compelling, uplifting and inspirational too."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Social Networking Site for Budding Entrepreneurs
Two final-year students from the University of Leicester have developed a new website,, to encourage social networking among students interested in one day setting up their own business, with the aim of providing a communications and support network, as well as facilitating potential professional contacts. By providing enterprising students with the opportunity to engage in virtual networking with like-minded individuals, the website's creators want MindCollab UK to be a source of guidance and inspiration - and a hotbed of original business schemes.
MindCollab UK offers a range of free services, including open forums, shared interest groups, personal weblogs and a user profiling system, as well as user-driven news and articles in order to tap into the site's members' potential. Initially, MindCollab UK will have a localised core of users in the East Midlands area, hopefully expanding into a nationwide service that concentrates on assisting the early stages of setting up a business.

dotsub: video 2.0

dotsubThe lovely Joanne on the ever wonderful RocketBoom has just alerted me to dotsub, a wiki-type closed captioning site for online video. As someone who's been playing with video a lot recently, this is just what I need to solve my accessibility problems!

Currently listening to: Clifton Chenier

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Statistics Videos

This comprehensive collection of free online videos is a step by step guide designed to help you perform most common statistical tests using the power of the procedures built into Microsoft Excel and SPSS.

Statistics videos

Learning Technologist of the Year Award - early warning

ALTALT is pleased to announce the first Learning Technologist of the Year Award.
Full details of the Award, including criteria, application process, prizes etc, will be published by mid May. The closing date for applications will be Monday June 18th, and answers to any questions raised about the Award will be published on the ALT web site during week beginning May 21st. The Chair of the judging panel is Professor Gilly Salmon, University of Leicester, and the judging panel will meet on June 27th. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on July 19th or July 20th and the Award will be made at the 2007 ALT Conference Dinner in Nottingham on September 5th.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Doctor Kawashima's Brain Training in the Classroom

Doctor Kawashimas Brain TrainingWhat would happen if you took three groups of 10 year old children and allowed:
  • One group to use Doctor Kawashima's Brain Training on Nintendo DS for 15 minutes a day.
  • One group to use Brain Gym activities for 15-20 minutes a day.
  • One group to serve as a control that did neither of the above?

Well Derek Robertson has done precisely that in Dundee. His early results suggest that it might just work - but are any differences statistically significant in this small sample size?
Come on Derek, we need to know!

Maths phobia and politics

Gordon BrownIt is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.

It won't come as a surprise to anyone that it's fashionable to diss maths, but I was disappointed at our future Prime Minister's lame effort to ingratiate himself to a class of teens by rubbishing his own maths skills. OK, anyone who spent as long as Gordon climbing to the top of the greasy pole of UK politics is likely to have better people skills than numeracy, but playing the old "Don't call me a boff" card is a bit lame Gordon.

And then it gets worse.

The Royal Society of Chemistry claims that English schools are discouraging pupils from taking A-level maths as they chase higher places in the league tables. It would be easy to believe this, but the RSC boffs have failed to produce a shred of evidence that league tables have anything to do with it (no, I'm not defending educational league tables, I'm having a pop at Gordon Brown, right?). You don't think maybe our future PM's spin doctors have seen the writing on the wall and advised Gordon to dumb it down and that the kids are smart enough to pick up on this? Don't call me a boff!

On the other hand, let's pray that Gordon never sees this:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sometimes words can paint a picture

RatAlthough I would like to have seen this for myself ...

"I unfortunately missed a couple of times and hit Tony on the foot. The rat was quick and agile - but I was quicker."

Save money - eradicate polio

Polio vaccinationGetting close to eradication polio has cost more than $5 billion, and the WHO predicts that completely eradicating the virus will cost another $1.5 billion. Vaccinating enough people to keep the virus to its current low levels over the next 20 years would cost more than eradication. A low-cost control policy that relies only on routine immunisation for 20 years with costs of more than $3500 million could lead to roughly 200,000 paralytic poliomyelitis cases every year in low-income countries, whereas a low-case control policy that keeps the number of cases at about 1500 per year could cost around $10,000 million discounted over the 20 years.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Make Internet TV

Make Internet TV is a great guide to making video for online use from the Democracy video player people. The only criticism I have is the Promote page, which only discusses Democracy player and fails to mention alternatives such as YouTube, Revver and Watch the video:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Take a byte of a trend

Times Higher Education Supplement, 13 April 2007
Don't get stuck in the Stone Age, excite and stimulate a new generation of students with some high-tech lecturing tools. Just log on and download a wealth of new ideas, says Harriet Swain

For years, your black and white slide show was the hit of the first-year lecture scene. Now you sense it doesn't have the same impact. What are students looking for these days?
Why not ask them? If you want to keep up to date with the latest technologies and teaching methods, talking to people is a good place to start, says Gaynor Backhouse, project manager for technology and standards at the Joint Information Systems Committee. "Talk to students about what they are using and why, and talk to your kids," she says. "There are a lot of assumptions made about these technologies and how rife or otherwise they might be."
Henry Keil, who was The Times Higher E-tutor of the Year last year, says keeping abreast of matters relating to educational research is no different from attempting the same in your own speciality subject area. He recommends attending relevant conferences, using the local learning and teaching support group and talking to colleagues, "in particular younger people, since they will be determining its success".
Toby Bainton, secretary of the Society of College, National and University Libraries, says that if your institution has a subject librarian it is also worth touching base with them from time to time about resources you might not have heard about.
Alan Cann, senior lecturer in biology, who has run a regular blog for the past year as a developmental platform, recommends keeping in touch with the relevant subject centre of the Higher Education Academy. The discussion lists, web journals, newsletters and other services these provide can be invaluable, he says. "There is no reason not to be aware of what your subject centre is doing."
Next, Cann suggests keeping tabs on the centres for excellence in teaching and learning, set up by the Higher Education Funding Council for England a couple of years ago. These focus either on different subject areas or on particular generic skills, such as creativity or work-based learning, and are at various stages of development. Cann suggests checking what centres are available and what the ones that interest you are up to.
Then there is the blogosphere. "If you are very selective and develop skills to filter information, there is a lot of useful pedagogical information being discussed out there," Cann says. He says most of it is coming from the US at the moment but predicts this will change. Cann's personal favourites are Will Richardson's blog, which discusses use of new technologies in classrooms around the world, and he also recommends looking at EdTechie, a blog by Martin Weller, professor in educational technology at the Open University. But he also suggests searching sites such as Technorati or Google Blog Search for topics of particular interest to you. From there, you can build a personal network, bookmarking blogs that you find useful.
The way to stop yourself spending entire days trawling through these blogs for new stuff is to sign up for a blog aggregator, such as or Google Reader. This checks your chosen news sites and blogs for new content and e-mails you the headlines. It also allows you to share interesting items with colleagues. "Almost by definition, much of what you read won't be of high value," Cann says. "But every once in a while you will find a nugget." And Lawrie Phipps, programme manager, users and innovation, at the Joint Information Systems Committee, says it is possible to have updated information from your favourite blogs or websites sent to your homepage to avoid clogging up your e-mail inbox.
Melissa Highton, senior staff development officer at Leeds University, says you should check out social networking sites such as MySpace, or Elgg, which is more specifically directed at educators, to learn from other people about further sources of information that could interest you, as well as to build up networks.
Phipps is taking this kind of online information-sharing further by setting up an online community of practice where about 150 people from some 50 institutions can learn from each other about developments in new technology through discussion forums, blogs and wikis (websites that allow visitors to add and edit content, and offer access to expertise).
"What is really exciting at the moment is the sheer number and volume of JISC projects going on," Phipps says. Keeping an eye on these is therefore essential for anyone wanting to keep up with the latest in podcasting or using computer games in teaching.
Backhouse, who runs TechWatch, a JISC service that looks at new technologies and how they impact on education, recommends doing this by reading the regular TechWatch reports. She also suggests looking at the American-based online Educause Review, which produces reports about developments in new technology that may be useful in higher education.
Phipps says that if you really want to keep up with technology it will help to immerse yourself in it. He has a blog at work on the JISC site, and another at home using Blogger. He also displays his photos using Flickr and posts videos on Google Video.
But Backhouse says you shouldn't get too worried about keeping up with the latest technology trends. "I'm not bothered if someone looks down on me because I don't have a ccount," she says. I have a very utilitarian approach to technologies. If they aren't useful, don't use them."

Monday, April 16, 2007


Student Biryani

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is gathered in New Zealand from the manuka bush, Leptospermum scoparium, which grows throughout the country. Manuka honey is being used on patients with wounds which have not responded to standard treatments. A successful trial of active manuka honey on unresponsive skin ulcers was recently published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. Staff at a hospital in Australia recently used active manuka honey as a wound dressing on a patient for whom honey without UMF ("Unique Manuka Factor") had failed.
Manuka honey has an antibacterial activity due primarily to hydrogen peroxide formed in a "slow-release" manner by the enzyme glucose oxidase present in honey, which can vary widely in potency. Some honeys are no more antibacterial than sugar, while others can be diluted more than 100-fold and still halt the growth of bacteria. The difference in potency of antibacterial activity found among the different honeys is more than 100-fold.

Too good to be true? Apparently not.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Marketing science like sliced bread

WonderUniversities UK and their hench-bunnies, the Council for Industry and Higher Education, thinks that we should pay A-level students for passing exams in science and maths. That means we're in trouble. That's not a good buisness model.

Fortunately, Seth Godin has the answer.

Safe is risky. Be remarkable. We need otaku. Watch the video.

If Robert Scoble can beg, so can I

Robert ScobleRobert Scoble's video podcast, ScobleShow, has been downloaded millions of times, but as of yesterday there were only three reviews on iTunes. So he used his blog to ask people to leave reviews for his show.
This isn't so unusual. MicrobiologyBytes has been downloaded nearly 100,000 times in the last year, and only has four reviews on iTunes (all good!).
Why the discrepancy in the numbers? Is it because everyone is happy with the podcast, or is it something to do with the fundamental design of iTunes? Do iTunes reviews matter? I don't think so, not for MicrobiologyBytes or the ScobleShow, which are primarily technical rather than entertaining (although Robert and I both try hard to put on a good show for you).
But maybe I'm wrong, maybe iTunes reviews do matter, so please leave me a review on iTunes. I'm begging, just like Robert Scoble. ;-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Museum Visit Video: Infectious Diseases

A visit to the Koshland Science Museum in Washington D.C. for an exhibit on infectious disease:

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wikipedia Luddites

Cathy Davidson writes We Can't Ignore the Influence of Digital Technologies:
Rather than banning Wikipedia, why not make studying what it does and does not do part of the research-and-methods portion of our courses? Instead of resorting to the "Delete" button for new forms of collaborative knowledge made possible by the Internet, why not make the practice of research in the digital age the object of study? That is already happening, of course, but we could do more. For example, some professors already ask students to pursue archival research for a paper and then to post their writing on a class wiki. It's just another step to ask them to post their labors on Wikipedia, where they can learn to participate in a community of lifelong learners. That's not as much a reach for students as it is for some of their professors.

Monday, April 02, 2007