Parent and Pupil Learning Conference

October 22, 2011 at 9:36 am (kids, moan, odds) (, )

Yes, you read that right.  That is what came home on the top of a school letter this week.  What do you think that might be?  What’s wrong with “Parent Evening”?  Why start inventing new pretentious terminology?  That’s one for the Plain English Campaign if ever I saw one!

Well, I might be a bit busy that evening, as I have to:

  • Create a culinary, early evening nutritional experience (make the tea)
  • Ensure that extra-curricular learning enhancements are being achieved (make the kids do their homework)
  • Partake in mind expanding information gathering (browsing the Internet)
  • Have some immersive, competitive, electronic stimulation (play some computer games)
  • Perform some social voyeurism and expand my social horizons (read Facebook)
  • Encourage wind-down, enduce a relaxed-mind state and create an environment for visual stimuli and body recharging (read bedtime stories and get the kids to bed)
  • And then finally perform some passive media-rich information absorbtion (watch some telly)


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Natively Digital …

April 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm (computers, internet, kids) (, , , )

I hear the term ‘digital native‘ quite a lot.  The idea is that it refers to a generation that have grown up with digital technology and are perfectly at home with using it.  This is of course in contrast to the idea that they understand it.  Its a tool – it is used as a means to an end.

There is no more understanding of how digital technology works in the average digital native than there is detailed knowledge of the insides of a car’s engine for me.  My father’s generation grew up with servicing cars themselves, but for me – well, that is what the garage is for.  I just use it to get me from A to B.

And so it is the same with a lot of today’s digital youth.  Computer goes wrong?  Find the chap who’ll fix it.  Internet down … “Daaad …”

In fact a Royal Society article from last year discusses how current ICT teaching in schools appears to be damaging enthusiasm for understanding computers.  Its obvious to any who care to look that long gone are the days of computers coming with programming manuals (although of course, arguably mindstorms might be more interesting …)

Well, I got a taste of native digital behaviour first hand today.  6 year old playing games on the computer announces ‘I got some music on.  I typed in ‘give me what I want’ to Google and its playing it’ … sure enough, ‘Kids in glass houses‘ track on YouTube is the top link in the Google search results, so its playing in the background whilst she plays games.

Natively digital?  Oh yes.


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Spirograph Art

May 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm (art, kids) (, , , )

Had James May’s toy progamme on in the background and he started talking about spirograph, complaining how noone can do it!   Wikipedia has a detailed mathematical description of how it all works …

Then they cut over to Leslie Halliwell, who has used spriograph to create very large works of art.  Her patience must be nearly infinite!  The large scale works are very, very impressive.

Of course, today for the rest of us, we can keep the biros in the drawer and just use a computer


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Kids can wreck anything …

May 19, 2010 at 1:57 pm (kids) ()

This is a great site (and includes a Facebook group) –

Basically its for those tales of woe that try your patience, increase your blood pressure, or otherwise gives you cause to suspect each innocent look and makes each period of total silence suddenly become the sinking realisation that you might have turned your back for one minute too long …

My favourites include:


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Guitar Hero has a lot to answer for …

May 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm (computers, kids, music) (, , )

The amount of time and effort and angst spent on this game in this household is quite impressive.  Be it moaning at the screen (especially when someone walks in front of it), complaining about someone else in the band sessions, watching YouTube videos of experts enviously, or sitting bemused at some of the efforts some people go through to get through the songs.

Still I can forgive it quite a lot.  It has resulted in giving the kids a much, much wider appreciation of a range of music that they otherwise would never have been exposed to.  It also means they get to know the songs incredibly well and they do attempt to play them on real instruments too.

As an example, Guitar Hero is singularly responsible for the introduction of the likes of Joe Satriani and Dream Theatre into the house.  Still, the novelty wears off a little for them once I announce that I quite like them too …


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Bad Parenting blamed for Farmville bill

April 12, 2010 at 9:36 am (internet, kids) (, , , , , , , )

Got  a link to this story this morning.  An interesting read.  Some kid managed to rack up £900 worth of credit card bill playing Farmville, oh well, it had to happen sooner or later.  Nothing more to say about that, the mum seems very pragmatic about the whole thing.  At least he didn’t buy a car on ebay.

What I found astounding though, is some of the comments to the post. I scanned to about half-way down and just had to stop reading.  Most were saying ‘hey, you can’t blame anyone else, bad parenting is the cause!’. Well, really, have any of these people ever seen a 12 year old or actually played these games?  Yes its stealing, and it sounds like there have been sanctions, but to say things like ‘I don’t think any 12 year old should have a mobile phone … all that stuff should come about between 16 – 18’ and similar comments?  Some just don’t seem to have any appreciation of how much social life is conducted via a phone or online these days.

When I think of what used to happen when I was growing up – going on trips, courses, holidays, events, whatever and having that low when its all over, and you won’t see anyone to talk about your experiences for a week or so.  Not so today.  The pictures are on Facebook.  They are talking about the trip for weeks on MSN.  They are still exchanging texts.  Even people who couldn’t come on the trip can participate if someone is posting comments and pictures as they go on Facebook.  Its just such a different world.

As for those suggesting that she should have had full awareness of what the kid was doing online … well, companies spend a fortune on auditing and monitoring employees behaviours for security. It is not a trivial problem!  Yes, you can turn on Parental Controls, yes you can log everything they do … but is anyone really suggesting that any busy mum can only let a child use the Internet when someone is watching or will have time (and the knowledge) to retrospectively examine what they have been up to?

The other main suggestion – lock up your credit cards.  Hmm.  Yes, that is practical in a busy household!  Not to mention never typing it in, saying it over the phone or leaving it laying around where anyone could get the number …

Like any new tool or technology, it can be used for good or ill.  You can’t police everything a teenager is going to do. All you can possibly hope for is to give them a sense of what is good or bad, safe or unsafe, responsible and not. They will always make their own mistakes, sometimes with extreme results like giving in to the temptation to start spending on a parent’s credit card (but then its not like Farmville actively discourages any spending from anyone!)  All you can really hope for is that they learn from their mistakes.  And yes, maybe a paper round or doing jobs would be the answer to this specific one (how long would it take to pay back £900 I wonder)!

The biggest problem is in providing an addictive game, but when all is said and done that’s essentially Zynga’s business model (as is Runescape, World of Warcraft, and all the rest), to people with no disposable income.  But thats a common problem.

Everyone has opinions, but some of those shared in the comments to this story are quite scary.  You’ve been reading mine.

Nod to Tervicz for the link.


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Joseph and the Amazing Catalogue of Musical Styles …

March 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm (kids, music) (, , , , )

The kids are learning the school’s version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolo(u)r Dreamcoat, so we’ve been listening to it again recently. Only we have the full version on CD, and every time I hear it it makes me smile to hear all the musical cliches that ALW managed to get into one piece of music.

You have the country-style ‘one more angel in heaven‘, the 20’s style ‘Potiphar‘, the early incarnation of Elvis as pharaoh, the stereotypically French ‘Canaan days‘, Benjamin’s Calypso and of course all the other famous numbers.  Personally, I like Grovel, grovel the best … a great song!

Its also great to see someone like the Really Useful Company (ALW’s company) put official videos up on YouTube!  Also shows how far social media has come in the last few years.

If you haven’t listened to it since school yourself, its well worth getting it out again.  Just don’t take it too seriously.  Lots of fun.


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World of Legocraft

January 10, 2010 at 10:40 pm (internet, kids) (, , , , , , , , , )

Have just seen the trailer for the new Lego Universe virtual world. I’ve heard various things about it over the last 18 months or so, but the final form seems to be some kind of Lego MMO, a Lego version of World of Warcraft if you will, with customisable characters, quests, building, levels and so on. You will also have to pay for it by a monthly subscription. I had assumed it would be more along the lines of, say, Disney’s Pixie Hollow or a Lego version of Habbo Hotal, but it looks much more a gamey than social virtual world.

The trailer is very impressive, but as its a digital film, it doesn’t really give anything away about the actual game.

Still, looks like it will keep Lego fans old and young busy for some time.  For more info, see Wikipedia and

Nod to Tervicz for the link to the video.


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Bagpuss Ballet Shoe Song

October 8, 2009 at 5:00 pm (kids) (, )

Just recently acquired a Bagpuss DVD to replace an old video.  I do like Bagpuss, from the smallfilms pair.

I especially remember the folk songs and the mouse tales.  My favourites were the chocolate biscuit machine and the ballet shoe mouse song for ‘row, row, row the boat’ (over the kitchen floor).

“what a lot of bosh”


bagpus - mice shoe song

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What to do with grey Lego

October 1, 2009 at 4:55 pm (art, kids, odds) (, , , )

Ever wonder what to do with small, grey lego bricks?  No?  Well, you should!  This guy has a great idea – use them to create walls worthy of the most expensive Sci-fi film set.  Oh, and if you have a few small coloured parts too, then how about a robot or two?

The design of these walls and robots is great.  Very creative use of Lego to very good effect.


Lego Walls and Robots

Lego Walls and Robots

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