Sunday, 26 December 2010

Boxing Day prompts memories of a decade of digital imagery

Looking forward again to views
 that aren't ice tinged
Boxing Day.  A day for reflection and contemplation.  The BBC iPlayer is playing a few comedy sketches from Radio 7.  The next tab is keeping me informed of the latest Boxing Day football.  We do not have a Premier League team convenient to my part of Suffolk, even if felt like spending an exorbitant amount to see a game.  ESPN has shown some very unseasonal Beach Football featuring a  Brazil team versus the rest of the World.  So with these distractions in the background I thought I would use this afternoon to organise my thoughts on Web 2.0 and find some of those very old photographs that have been sitting on a hard drive.

I was put in mind of doing this by the gift of a photo frame that my father received for Christmas.  My sister had preloaded a set of family photographs onto the flash USB card (also XD card) can be used so starting to be quite use able. I bought one myself several years ago when they first started to appear. I have to admit to admit the novelty had worn off a little with the frame now gathering dust.  As I was watching the slide show I started thinking of how many images I must have taken over the years or used personally or as part of  my role as a head of science and also ICT in a school.

The number of ways of capturing images that were cheap and to greater or lesser effective has been interesting to chart over the years.  I have used scanners that started off as almost the size of a couple of  reams of A4 down to what is now a almost a thin A4 book in size.  The usability of these scanners was normally determined by the sophistication of the software.  I was using Paperport  in the late  1990s and early 2000s as a means of trying to keep my house paper free from the avalanche of documents that were produced as part of the National Curriculum.  I certainly didn't have time to read everything as the department I started managing at the time was in a school on the dreaded special measures.  This was was also before the widespread use of PDF format that appeared with the Literacy and Numeracy initiatives.  At the time I was using Epsom scanners, but was rapidly converted to Canon 660 (later LiDE range)  and Canoscan software technology as their portable scanners appeared.  PDF technology made life easier and I rapidly started to become  paper-free.

The ability to show and record a piece of work produced by a pupil at the time it was produced via a scanner and projector was a favourite of pupils as they could share their work with the rest of the class.  The digital classroom in action rather than endless multimedia productions that seemed to be the norm when computers invaded the classroom.  The use of digital tablets also enhanced the experience.  Needless to say these were not provided by my bosses at the time but I took the view that these were tools that fitted in with the drive to a 21st Century classroom so I purchased them myself.  I took the view this was no different to what countless other colleagues were doing when they bought pens, pencils etc to lend out.  Plus I was educating myself in the new technology often ahead of the ideas that county advisors were advocating.  It does make me feel a little bewildered that ICT is still only used for endless searches and often as pointless typing up of written work.

Sport and drama certainly should have been leading the use of computing time with the use of video technology.  I purchased 8 years ago as an ICT department expense for our PE department a video analysis (Dartfish) package.  We were the only the school for a quite a few years that had this in the East England.  A great piece of software akin to the type golf professionals now use to coach people o their swing.  We did not use this effectively because of the demands placed on the time slots in ICT where core subjects had to demonstrate use of ICT as part of the National Curriculum.

The top down development nature of the national curriculum missed a great opportunity of embedding ICT not as subject but a tool.  Teaching people ICT skills is not an end in itself but a means to enhance the basic communication skills of what you already do.  The literacy skills of many pupils might have undergone greater development if the rush to provide very expensive ICT equipment with a short lifespan had been resisted.   Often the equipment was overpriced as it was being supplied to a local authority body by preferred tenderer.  But, we will be asking the question for many years to come of what advantage ICT give the under nines in the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills.  Here endeth the whinge about National Curriculum and missed ICT opportunities.

I am waiting to see an application of the sports coaching potential of the new Xbox kinetic.  I can see great potential for the coaching of squash and also fencing as the variables involved compared a team a team sport would be less complicated as these sports are usually played in fewer axes of movement.  As a former qualified fencing coach I can see the potential for the spatial recognition technology to be applied to these sports.  The techie approach might also keep the interest of beginners as they acquire the discipline and skill to have an effective bout.  Virtual coaching and opponents not a great step away?  How good would it be to knock the French off the premier spot in fencing in the next European championships?

Returning back to the subject of digital photography. My father has become quite a digital photography buff.  Since his retirement he has been snapping anything and everything of interest.  As he is a very active member of the University of the Third Age (u3a) history and art/painting groups he has accumulated thousands of images.  I have spent many a Sunday morning instructing him in the arts of folders and photo-editing software.  Just before my nephew and niece arrived I downloaded Picasa.  I have previously used of and on over the last 8 years or so the yahoo owned photo storage facility that has become Flickr, primarily as a I am a BT customer.  As I am now using Blogger I decided to give Picasa a try. The Picasa technology downloaded quickly and began scanning the pictures. It was surprising how many pictures in the relatively short time of a few years my father has taken. I have been using a digital camera for the past 10 years so I dread to think how many images I might hae on various different drives and older computers languishing in dark cupboards.  What intrigued me was the facial recognition software.  Family resemblances even seemed to be recognised as I started naming the various faces that my father had snapped.  The tagging and indexing will allow a huge reduction in the time spent looking for that elusive photograph.

I just now have to teach my father to use the programme!!

I have blogged enough for this post I will have to save a few ideas for other post of what is now becoming habit forming.  My own computers are staring to mine the folders of images with Picasa and I am already finding nearly 10000 images from the last few years of holidays, air displays, cricket, plants and walking clubs.  Many years ago I used organise a social rambling club on a Sunday that met at one pub and then walked to another couple in a circuitous route.  Our post-Boxing Day walk involved over thirty people dressed in Santa hats with assorted dogs in tow.  I have yet to find the photographs but there could be a few for the Blog.  

Well I am now going to listen to the highlights of yesterdays Cricket and then maybe find my Wisden to compare a few performances

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