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arvind ardhya at warwick

Thanks to an Apprentice meets Who wants to be a Millionaire meets The Scholar reality show in India, Arvind Aradhya an 18 year-old student from Bangalore, has won a Full Ride Scholarship to the University of Warwick in the UK.

With 14,000 other contestants participating, the victory may make his admission the most selective to any university ever.

Aradhya, now in the UK, is interested in the stars. “In the interview round I told them that my ambition in engineering comes from a dream to be an astronaut. I plan to go into space.'” Warwick is particularly fitting for him because academics there are working with the European Space Agency to build a Moon orbiter.

Read the full story in the Guardian here

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This post is the second in my series of Up and Coming Blogger Posts.

 

The first, A Bigger and Better Teaching and Learning Circle mentioned how expanding the EduBlogsphere and hearing less-heard voices currently on the fringes would improve the blogging experience for all of us exponentially. Getting more people involved is my new thing, my new cool.

 

This post begins what I hope will be a weekly custom: Every Saturday it will be my endeavour to introduce you to a blogger whose writing you should check out. I have laid down 3 simple criteria for identifying these bloggers:

 

a) A Technorati Authority of 25 or less.

 

b) One post in the last 10 days and at least 5 in the last two months (this would give me a large enough sample of posts to decide on whether the writing appeals to me as also to exclude bloggers who write sporadically).

 

c) Focus on personal, opinion-driven writing, rather than on posts linking to other writing without comments by the writer herself.

 

The chosen blog will be linked on my site, will always be linked every subsequent post in the Saturday Spotlight sessions, and will hopefully get some traffic going towards her blog that should get her to write more and write better. A recent convert to blogging myself, I know how important readership numbers and feedback can be in the early days.

I have also tried my hand at Photoshop (first attempt ever) and created a badge the blogger may like to display on her site (there is a smaller version of the one below, Nancy!)

 

 

 

Saturday Spotlight

 

 

The blogger who kicks off the Saturday Spotlight Award is Nancy Flanagan who writes at Teacher in a Strange Land

 

Nancy has been blogging since the start of 2007, but is no newcomer to Teaching. A Doctoral Student, Nancy is a 31-year teaching veteran and has a varied career that spans Teaching (web and classroom), Providing consultancy to the Michigan Ed Department, and running all-line communities and workshops to promote Leadership in Schools. She was also Michigan Teacher of the Year 1993.

 

Congratulations, NANCY!

 

She has a warm and thoughtful writing style and she gels teacher and administrator persepctives quite eloquently. Most of her posts are comments on reports and surveys emanating from Research Universities and Think Tanks- I found her post on Tracking Students by Achievement Standards quite interesting and extremely well-written.

 

I hope you will visit her blog, read her posts and write in with comments. We need to motivate her to write more often than she does. Here is her link again:

Teacher in a Strange Land

 

Happy Reading!

 

More about Up and Coming Bloggers:

 

1. Eric Turner over at Second Hand Thoughts runs, I found out through his comment on my first post in this series, a similar exercise. You can access his latest blogger finds right here. (I love his Green Blackboard Award!)

 

2. Dr. Scott McLeod has been posting information and comments on new bloggers intermittently. You can access his range of posts starting with this one on Pete Reilly.

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Back during my MBA, I learned about network effects. Simply put, a service (for us, a blog) becomes more valuable as more and more people use it, mainly because every user functions as a switchboard connecting many (until then) unknown people together.

 

Think of it like this.

 

I have a Telephone. Noone else does. Who can I call? Noone.

 

You have a Telephone, so do I. You can call me, I can call you. That’s one call (Talk combinations possible- 1 – You and I).

 

John (J) gets a phone. You(Y) and John don’t know each other. Now you can call John, I can call John, and he can call both of us. Or three of us can be on the phone together. (Talk combinations possible – 4 – IY, IJ, YJ, IJY)

 

Priyanka gets a phone. Now John can Call Priyanka, me and you. Same for Priyanka. Also for me and you. One of us could choose to call two others on conference but not the third. (Talk combinations possible – 11 – IY, IJ, IP, YJ, YP, JP, IYP, IYJ, IJP, JPY, IYJP)

 

So now with 4 phones in the network, the number of conversations possible has increased in a proportion exponentially greater than the number of people added to the network.

 

This diagram exposes 1-1 connections :

 

Network effect

 

In fact, network effects are the magic ingredients that make sites like FlickR, MySpace, Orkut, Friendster so appealing. Every time a person joins Facebook, the number of connections he can make and every other person who has a Facebook Account can make goes up exponentially.

 

Same is true of the local mall. Every time a vacant spot in the mall is taken by a new retailer, the value of the mall goes up exponentially, the value of being in that mall for the other shopkeepers goes up exponentially.

 

Or of the local stock exchange.

 

Or of your rail or bus network.

 

In fact, it is also true of most social spaces that thrive on collaboration.

 

So, when I read Scott’s post on Top Edublogs, I started thinking of the Long Tail– the hundreds of thousands of brilliant bloggers with exciting ideas on education that have got themselves the tools to belong to a network, but still haven’t logged on. They have a blog but know of no tools to connect to the EduBlog network or have had less time/patience/energy to do so. We are missing out on voices what are yearning to think thoughts and inject ideas you and I would love to think and collaborate on.

 

Every one of these voices would exponentially improve the conversation in the blogosphere.

 

 

collaboration

 

So starting today I am going to, every two weeks, introduce a less read EduBlogger to you through this blog. My three criteria for identifying a less read and definitely-readable EduBlogger?

 

a) A Technorati Authority of 10 25 or less- this would, according to Scott’s analysis, be all blogs outside the top 500 320.

 

b) The blog should have have had one post in the last 10 days and at least 5 in the last two months (this would give me a large enough sample of posts to decide on whether the writing appeals to me as also to exclude bloggers who write sporadically).

 

c) Focus on personal, opinion-driven writing, rather than on posts linking to other writing without comments by the writer himself.

 

Look out for the first of the New Blogger Introductions today.

Update: Click right here to see our first featured Ebublogger in this series.

Also: Click here to see our latest EduPosts.

 

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In response to Dr. McLeod’s question on how his survey on the Top EduBlogs can be improved, I had put forward 5 suggestions. You can read them here.

One was that the rankings should reflect blogs that are currently popular, blogs that are fresh. In the same post, I recognised my limited understanding of internet metrics, site ranks etc.

This morning, I decided to read around on Technorati and see that their Authority Rank really meant. Here’s what I found.

On Technorati, only links to you from the last 180 days count towards your authority. So, it does seem that the EduBlog rankings show the fresh, now popular stuff.

MOUNTAINS TO CLIMB

It also means that if I want to keep Ms.Teacher or Clay’s Beyond School consistently ahead on the Technorati scoreboard, I need to link to them at least once in 6 months. One link from One Blog = One Authority Point on Technorati.

Before one of you Good Samaritans go on and send several links from your blog towards this one, let me tell you that one blog gets one vote for every other blog. So even if I link to Ms. Cornelius’ Shrewdness of Apes 15 times, she will get only 1 Authority Point.

Another interesting point. Technorati does not distinguish between a ranking from a Top Ranked Blog and a less ranked one. So, a link from Inside Higher Ed (Rank #1) or from Christian’s Think:Lab (Rank # 22) will not count for more than the link from Exhausted Intern’s Not enough Hours (Rank # 569) or Kelly Christopherson’s Educational Discourse (Rank #650), all sites I like to visit (the first two are old bookmarks, the latter two new discoveries I am savouring).

However, Google does make a distinction. Its PageRank alogrithm gives greater weightage to sites with more pages linking to them, so if Christian at Think:Lab were to link to you it would do more to bring your page higher up on Google than if I were to link to you.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was my learning for the day. Hope it gave some of you something new too.

Btw, I encourage you to visit all the links above, they are some of the blogs I enjoy reading.

(image courtesy: Inky Circus)

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Since my entry into the blogging world almost a month ago, I have discovered Dr. Scott McLeod‘s work and have been very impressed by his incisiveness of thought.

If you haven’t seen “Shift Happens” (created By Karl and modified by Scott, YouTube tells me) – I recommend you do it now. For your convenience, I am pasting the YouTube video on this post. Watch it

 

 

It seems that Dr. McLeod is also a data junkie! He has compiled, with great effort, a list of the top EduBlogs (Thanks, Scott). You can download the sample excel sheet and and go through it at your convenience and maybe discover many new Education voices you may have not heard till now.

I had a look at the excel sheet and was disappointed to note that it did not have information other than the EduRank, Technorati Rank & Authority and the url. Dr. McLeodd, I would love to see, in the next round up of EduBlogs the following information:

1. Geographic Distibution: Who is blogging and from where? I suspect the current data may have a US bias, but I can’t be sure.

2. Type of Blogger: Who is blogging? Is he a teacher? A Student? A Professor? Administrator? Researcher? Government? Watchdog?

3. Give Readers a Weightage: Possibly weight the data to show how many people visit the site. My understanding of the data tells me that this shows how many people link to the site and how many the site links to (weighted appropriately) but not how many visit it. (being constrained by my own understanding of Internet metrics and tracking, I can alas, only preach from the pulpit but not suggest how to make this happen!)

4. Give Vintage a Weightage: This one is a tricky one. It depends on how you classify Top. Is the Top blog that has been cross-referenced the most? Or is the Top Blog that has been cross-referenced the most within a given time-period? I think there’d be rooters for both ideas, but personally I’m in favour of a defined time period (preceding 12 months, last calendar year etc). It makes it Current and Fresh, it tells you what the people are rooting for today.

5. Eduposts too, please!: Is it possible to have a similar list for the top EduPosts? Now that would be something!

I can understand that this is a lot of work the team to do, but maybe there is some way to collaborate on this? Wiki-style? Create a sheet with data that you want to collect and blog writers can fill in missing information about their blogs? Write-protect rank/authority data so that cannot be manipulated?

Looking at the Long Tail

I noticed that there were only 900 or so entries that had Authority on Technorati (i.e. Authority rank of 1 or more – simply put, Technorati had indexed pages that linked to these blogs).

Similarly, only 500 odd blogs had a Technorati authority rating of 10 or more.

Let me put this in perspective. After 3 weeks of blogging, My Technorati authority rating is 27 – no doubt a miracle, but if the Red Pencil can achieve this, so can almost all of us.

The list has over 3600 blogs. This means that, if one were to use Technorati as proxy for validation of content (and then by a small leap of logic, readership), we EduReaders are missing out on almost 75% of the blogs out there.

That is a shame.

For anyone who’s been blogging for even a few days, it’s obvious that the network effects of blogging are stupendous. A bit like in a telephone network, the power of the blogging world increases exponentially every time a new blogger is added to the network.

I wonder, then, what can be done to bring some of these blogs readership? Apart from the efforts they put into “publicizing” their blogs, maybe its worthwhile for some of the leading EduBloggers to evangelize their effort.

I am contemplating starting a small exercise where some of us check out blogs ranked between sub 500 (to around 1200) and put up posts that we find interesting. That should drive traffic to those blogs.

Maybe the traffic generated to the blogs would lead to more effort on the writers’ part to post regular, more cogent work. We in turn would find new, thoughtful and refreshing opinion.

The only caveat I see is evidence of blogging activity: any blog that qualifies for linking should have had at least one post in the last 10 days and at least five in the last two months. Wouldn’t want to be spending time linking blogs abandoned by their writers, would we?

What do you think? As ever, grateful and keen for comments.

Update: August 4, ’07 here.

PS: Karl and Scott, whats the background score on Shift Happens? Not the Scottish music in Braveheart, is it? Whatever it may be- It’s Brilliant.

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I blogged a few days ago about the Tintin racism row and commented that “it was much a do about nothing” since this ‘concern’ by the racism watchdog dug up an affair done and dusted earlier.

I wondered whether this would bring this comic into the hands of thousands (especially kids) who may have never read it otherwise.

This morning as I checked my blog stats, I saw a 350% spike in readership, almost all towards my Tintin post- found by people who Googled “tinin racism” or “Tintin in the Congo.” This got me wondering about an increase in sales of the printed comic book.

Indeed, it seems the comic has seen a 3800% jump in sales and is now number 8 on the Amazon Bestseller List!

Ironic, given that a part-intention was ro make the comic book a little less accessible.

You can read the news story here.

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cover of tin tin in congoIt seems Tintin is a racist.

That’s what the Commission for Racial Equality, a government watchdog, has declared after thumbing through Tintin In Congo. They were referring to the following:

1. The portrayal of the Congo people and monkeys are facially indistinguishable.

2. The Deifying of Tintin and Snowy by the people of Congo.

3. They also objected to the way he treats animals (older versions showed him stuffing a stick of dynamite into an ox)

The exact quote from their spokeswoman: “This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the “savage natives” look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles.”

tintin in the congo

Have a look at the photos below: you can see clearly that the natives are portrayed as rather comical and monkey-like. I tried to find a caricature of a monkey from the book, but couldn’t find it.

It seems that this book has a historical context– Congo was a Belgian Colony (the creator of Tintin, Herge was a Belgian citizen). The comic tried to glorify the name of Belgium, deliberately set in a region the colonial power was eager to hang on to. This story showed the dual face of colonialism, an exploitation of the natives and also the benevolence of Belgium through provision of infrastructure, utilities, health services and education.

This fact has been documented and denounced publicly earlier. In fact, Herge himself admitted to regretting certain caricatures in this volume.

My question to you as an educator is this:

1) Should we be shielding our children from comics like these? If yes, how far can you go?

2) Is there a possibility to use these comics as a tool to explain the zeitgeist back in Colonial Europe as many of the Imperialistic powers scrounged to hold on to their fiefdoms?

I am not in favour of racism, but nor am I in favour of mollycoddling our children. Comics are an evocative, visually-rich media and reactions like this will happen. That shouldn’t drive us to pull them off children books shelf. What will be next – puritans questioning the Batman-Robin relationship or the relative absence of clothing on various comic heroines like Teela and Sheeba?

The comic may have been moved from the kids section to the adult section (action by Borders post the watchdog comments) but this publicity would only drive more kids to it. Unlike with alcohol, you can’t stop a child from buying it from there.

As always, I look forward to hear what you want to say. Have a good weekend!

Update:  See an update to this post here

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