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BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

It’s been a fantastic 2 weeks.

 

I’ve been in Cambridge (not the one in the UK) getting settled in before I start a chock full of courses in Education. Some interesting things I’ve noticed:

 

1. The Harvard Graduate School of Education has a Great Community Spirit. Everyone here wants to help in making sure you get settled in well, that you know who to turn to for anything and everything and that you make the most of the time that you have here. The Orientation last for 8 days- which is much longer than at most other schools at Harvard and possibly, at most schools around the world.

 

2. MIT is far more relaxed than Harvard. I went for a class over at the MIT Media Lab the other day and my classroom was more like a music studio. Lots of Computer Screens mounted on the walls (the large Plasma TV ones), music, leather sofas, a Lazy Boy and people sitting on desks (whatever few there were) etc. This was a real class. The Professor turned up in a Jacket and after making a statement about how that was important since ‘first impressions count’ – he proceeded to take it off and swore never to wear it again to class. Sure, grad school is very different from school but there is scope for considering a similar engagement in our schoolhouses- I definitely felt a lot at ease studying there.

 

3. Harvard is very complicated in the rubric and nomenclature across schools. One course means different things at different schools, and 30 hours of work (normally one credit at most schools) could be variously called 3 credits (Business School), 4 credits (Ed School) or 1 credit (School of Government) making it very difficult for people to fathom whether they are really meeting requirements for graduation. What makes it stranger is that all schools start at different times and even have different term-systems – terms at the Business School and just 3 at the Ed School every year, for example. But it seems that at the end of next year, after 350 years of existence, all the Harvard Schools are going to attempt to come to a uniform system. I’m sure that will be a huge relief to everyone concerned.

 

The most amazing thing I’ve learned, over at MIT of course, where everyone recounts it gleefully, is that Harvard once tried to buy MIT. This was a hundred years ago when MIT was not much more than an engineering school. Harvard didn’t have an engineering school so they thought it would behove them to take over their neighbours. As it turned out, all the faculty at MIT revolted and Harvard had to back off.

 

Now that I’m settled in and have got myself a new machine (from Apple- too bad they didn’t knock off $200 on their MacBooks like they did on the IPhone), I should be on the blog with the same frequency as before.

 

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I’m going to be travelling to Boston this evening. I’m going via Amsterdam (where there is a three hour wait) – will arrive in Boston a good 19 hours after I leave India.

Once in Boston, it’s setting up the house that’s going to consume our energy.

I will try and blog regularly; do pardon me for any hiatus though.

Until I write from the other end of the world, Good Day!

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8 RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME!

Repairman, the experienced-sage-advice-bestowing Edublogger just tagged me with this. According to the rules (set herewith) I have to:

  1. Post these rules before you give your facts
  2. List 8 random facts about yourself
  3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
  4. Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Now I’ve got to try very hard to make sure this isn’t the most dull thing you’ll read on the site 🙂 Here goes:

 

There was a boy of five,

On gimmickery and acting he would thrive,

An actor one day did him see,

Offered him a part in a movie!

 

I was fond of cartoons and comedy,

But my favourite was car you see,

My family slept in boredom, I laughed in glee,

Over and over I watched Herbie!

HERBIE GOES BANANAS

(Above: Original poster print from the 1980 movie)

I’ve always wanted to sing in public,

After they’ve passed out the earmuffs!,

Been asked to “keep shut”, my singing called “sick”

You get the drift, it’s been real rough!

 

I dreamt of writing a book since I was six,

But till that happens, articles have been my fix.

Written for the major dailies,

I’ve scripted for television,

But blogging best meets his passion.

 

Best thing that happened to me,

Was volunteering after the tsunami,

The pain, the death, the devastation left me bare,

It’s made me a better person, this experience is rare.

woman mourns dead after tsunami

(Above: A woman mourns the dead as she looks out to burning pyres in Nagappattinam District, Tamil Nadu, India where I worked)

Heard on anyone who spent his money,

Not on food and drink, but on a book?

more than a quarter of my earning,

Still dedicated to Kundera, Senge and Browning!

 

Was invited to talk at a UN meeting last year,

It sounded dull, I wanted to steer clear,

But I did go, turned out to be the best experience of my life,

For at that roundtable, I met my wife!

 

As I come down to eight,

It’s been fun at any rate;

There’s one left- you should show it,

The author is a published poet!

 

If you’ve made it so far, commendations on your patience! As for linking to other blogs, I’m going to do a recce on other bloggers and get back.
Thanks for reading!

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Herbie Love Bug Page at VW Toy

2. Tsunami page at Boston.com

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WELL DONE, KUMBLE.

anil kumble hits maiden test century

 

 

Above: Anil Kumble acknowledges the applause after his maiden test hundred at the Oval.

 

I love Cricket.

 

A large portion of my readership is from outside the Commonwealth, so if you are amongst those don’t know much about it, read articles here and here that explain. That’s if you can indeed explain the passion, the intensity or the euphoria the game evokes in those of us who love it. (if you really don’t know about Cricket, do bear with me! To my EduReader friends, my apologies!)

India’s old warhorse, Anil Kumble, just scored an unbeaten 110 against England in the 3rd and Final Test at the Oval. A 100 runs. Anil Kumble, who’s been an untiring servant for India. A century for the first time in an 18 year career. Anil Kumble who once took ten wickets in an inning against the old enemy. Anil Kumble whose 550 wickets each stand for the untiring guile with which he’s won countless games for India. Anil Kumble, probably the most ignored champion of Indian sport.

When Kumble edged one past Prior to get a 100, I almost had tears in my eyes. Kumble is a giant-hearted performer, a great sportsman and someone who commands your respect with his sincerity and humility. If there is one cricketer you’d want to model your young wards after, it would be Kumble.

He’s had an ordinary tournament so far and in this, probably his last Test match as an Indian cricketer in England, I wanted him to leave his mark.

Well done, Kumble. May you go from strength to strength. The whole nation applauds You.

Further Reading on Kumble

#1: Anil Kumble, the official site (Kumble is a Computer Engineer himself)

#2: Cricinfo Profile on Anil Kumble

#3: Kumble- the Ignored Champion? Subodh Chitre argues that Kumble has never got his due from the people and the media.

(Image Courtesy: Getty Images, via Cricinfo.com)

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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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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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