Just Another Brick In The Wall

The youngest child, when not reading wrestling magazines, drawing iguanas (his current obsession), falling off the trampoline onto his head or bad mouthing his elder brother is occasionally prone to announcements which can be hilarious. Or profound. Or potentially life changing. Last night was such a moment.  He announced that when he was older he wanted to go to ‘University Studios’. Clearly two worlds had collided in his brain- memories of lost summers in Florida with the in-laws had combined with me droning on about universities to anyone who will listen.  

Now think about it for a moment. Wouldn’t University Studios be a great idea? It would certainly get students out of bed in the morning. As far as I’m concerned it’s never too early for a white knuckle vomit inducing rollercoaster ride. And all the better if it killed time between two tedious modules in Lecture Room 8B.

It could add a tantalising twist to exams. Could you build a website while meandering along on the charming if soporific ET Ride? Or perhaps write a dissertation with some help from Homer Simpson on the Springfield family’s attraction.

I think I’ve hit on a winner here. Universal Studios have my full permission to develop this…..for the usual 25%.


Help Needed To Build Global Recycling Picture Gallery

A favour….. I’m doing an MA at Teesside University. One of our modules is on ‘digital storytelling’ and we have decided to build a website on recycling (a big issue in this part of the world). As part of our website I’d like to pull together an international  recycling picture gallery….with people from across the globe standing by their wheelie bin/recycling boxes with a decent local background (not the inside of the garage!). Maybe your street or outside your house? Not fussed about the pose or standing/kneeling etc. Please send me a couple of jpegs plus a very brief idea of what you recycle and when to my home email address (theglovers100@btinternet.com). It is important I get examples from foreign climes. The more bizarre the better. Can you help or any contacts? If you could manage this I’d be very grateful. If this works it’ll look great.  Any probs you know where to find me. Thankyou.  PS I’m thinking of giving a prize for the photo with the most empty wine bottles!

Caught In The Web

Click here to see more of Vicky Brock's fine work on Flickr

There have been several mind-boggling technological leaps of faith in my 27 years as a journalist. When I started as a spotty cub reporter for a weekly newspaper group in 1982 (Jimmy Connors won Wimbledon; ET was the movie to see and Duran Duran dominated the charts) it was a much simpler world. No computers; no mobile phones; no coffee shops on every street corner; smoking in offices; liquid lunches and a printing process called hot metal (literally). In fact the most prized possession (apart from a Rubik’s cube) was a typewriter ribbon. They were like gold-dust.

Gradually, something terrifying called ‘new technology’ started to creep in. Journalists, like other office workers, were usually bunged a few grand to put up with this upstart. Happy days.

First we had PCs and mobile phones and then the internet came along. The digital dawn had broken. You either went with the flow on an exciting voyage of discovery or were left way way behind in grey cardie and slippers muttering about the good old days.

I love the internet. It opens up all sorts of possibilities good and bad. A fantastic resource on the one hand and a melting pot of false truths and distortions on the other. You take you pick….

Up until a few days I had no idea how a web page was built. Wasn’t hugely bothered. After all, like Blackadder, I am quite happy to wear cotton but have absolutely no idea how its made.

So in my latest guise as MA student at Teesside University I am required to craft a web page or two. And so I was let loose on delightfully named software called Dream Weaver. But sadly I didn’t manage to weave any dreams…or sensible content for that matter. It was a nightmare and I have renewed respect for those who can create magic from a blank electronic canvas.

I’d like to think I’m sensible and relatively IT friendly but after two hours of toil it looked as though pre school infants and four chimpanzees had been let loose on a keyboard. My debut page had the look of one of those pioneering web pages from 1990. Basic, clunky and oh so plain.  

The next session is looming. I can feel a short illness coming on. Perhaps swine flu.

However I am a determined old sod so failure is not option. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

A Virtual Fresher

clike on here for more of Lochaven's fine work on Flickr

In what I suspect will be a recurring theme as the Vole adjust to life on a University campus after a 24 year hiatus I have more shock news to impart.

In the old days fifteen rather pleasant trees in Sweden had your name on them as they were ultimately destined to become study aids, books, journals and other necessary printed items for your period in an academic institution.

My how times have changed. Yesterday we were given what I assumed would be the first of many handbooks and guides. A room at Vole Towers had been allocated for storage. It was destined to be a very physical reminder of the task ahead. Read two shelves and get a degree.

Then our ‘module leader’ said those would be the last pieces of paper we’d see over the next year.  Everything would be done online. Amazing.

E-Learning is what it’s all about so we’ve had sessions on everything from virtual studying an virtual resources to virtual assessments and virtual pastoral care.  And even in the library you can now ‘e-snitch’ on noisy students!  Another heavy IT session looms this afternoon.

Do University’s now rely on e-protests; e-karaoke and e-hangovers? Thankfully no,  judging by the states I saw this morning. It cheered me up no end.

I’m off for an E-Guinness. That’s extra cold of course.

Mine’s A ….. Cranberry Juice With Ice

Click here to see more of Andrew Mason's fine work on Flickr

So I’ve taken the plunge and after 24 years am returning to the classroom to expand the mind and get a degree.   

The first big decision was what to wear. Style is very important at seats of learning. It says sooooo much about you. What it usually says about me is ‘must try harder’.  I was acutely aware I was going to look a middle aged old fart whatever I selected from my depressingly limited wardrobe.  Jeans and T shirt were dismissed in favour of respectable chinos and a neatly pressed shirt.  Coupled with a man bag I looked like a rather earnest social worker with a paunch.

I don’t know why I bothered. My fellow students in the classroom- nearly all under 25 and looking so cool without really trying- dismissed me as the class old codger with the dreaded ‘ah…bless’ look. The shame.

I cheered up as lunchtime approached. My inner body clock was telling me that Stella Artois was in the vicinity.  Off we all went. My default setting in any pub is “a pint of lager please” without thinking where I am or who I’m with and I assumed many of my fellow students would be knocking back snakebite and absinthe chasers. But  in a shock development which I may never recover from all 18 ordered soft drinks. So I did the same. It just didn’t feel right to be the class problem drinker. Well not yet anyway. 

Fashion shame I can just about handle but a temperance degree? It’s going to be a long hard year.

Peace In a Pod

The 'space to think' pod

The 'space to think' pod

Started life today as a part time ‘academic tutor’ in the media department of that pleasant and ambitious seat of learning the University of Sunderland. All talk among the students was of the former canteen, now a very modern and sleek study area. Taking pride of place is a pod where individuals or small cabals of students, tutors, whoever…can gather for conversation, reflection and contemplation. Those passing can see them but not hear them. The students I talked to don’t seem to ‘get it’. Perhaps with time it’ll grow on them.

First lecture went well….if you like peace and quiet. Dut to an… erm…. ‘timetable glitch’ I was left on my own.


Was It Something I Said?

Was It Something I Said?

The second session had a full attendance and they look a promising bunch. And that was just for turning up. 
Had an egg roll for lunch. The new cafe gets off to good start.