Category Archives: college

Teaching influenc-ez…

I’ve realised today that I appear to have unconsciously imitated Mr Bruten.

This guy left an indelible mark on me (along with the knowledge of the meaning of ‘pugnacious’) he taught us English language in secondary school for one term and will always be one of my favourite teachers in memory. He was a pleasant enough guy but you put a single foot wrong and he would turn on you like a terrier with a rat. He peppered his lessons with random information (such as the meanings of long and seldom used words) and would do things like make us repeat him in a sort of sing song chorus in order to get his point across (I’ve yet to try this one with my guys but now I’ve remembered it I can see it happening).

He was friendly but demanded obedience, he made things fun but kept you on your toes with his mercurial moods, if he said he had a headache and didn’t want to hear a sound then (usually once Ricky McCormick had been forcibly ejected from the room) there was not a peep to be heard – if there was then the offender would usually be rubbing the part of their anatomy which had been struck by an accurately thrown piece of chalk; unless the question was one that had not been covered in the lesson delivery (I may have to institute a nerf gun policy for this purpose…)

There were also the days when we had pleased him so much that he’d just out of nowhere produce a pocket full of sweets and start handing them around at the end of the class.

I think the thing I liked most about his classes was the unpredictability of them; even when reading he would find some way of shaking things up. This is how I want to be. Learning should be fun, it should be something you look forward to doing because life is far too short to do things that make you want to slam your head through a window. Yes, I realise it is impossible to make things fun all the time – but it is also far too easy to make things boring; I refuse to take the easy route, I want my kids to take something from the class beyond the required material; I want them to start thinking as well.

This is why I’ve attempted to incorporate the use of chat rooms, in-class exercise contests and allow little bit of free chat where I will answer practically ANY question asked of me – OK so occasionally my response may be ‘is that really appropriate?’ but I think  a small amount of an ‘anything goes’ laxity within a moderated space is healthy; these guys come from all walks of life and incredibly varied backgrounds – if you can’t address that in some fashion in the classroom then what exactly are we teaching them beyond the requirements of an assignment?

I just hope I’m not quite as mercurial as Mr Bruten on the mood front; I will admit that he was a tad scary on occasion…

I’ll show you mine..

jumping girl
While it may come across as a little smug, I’ve written this for the next time I feel crappy because of the ME/CFS or when certain family members try to pull me down and denigrate my achievements; I can look back at this post and feel proud that not only did I finish my foundation degree with a commendation after missing the first 6 weeks of the final year to nurse a newborn child, (and get a student of the year award in the process for also managing to help run a university project) I then went on and NAILED my bachelor degree as a direct entrant.

Sorry? Did I say ‘nailed’?

You’re damn right I did; 1st class honours baby, read it and weep at my brilliance!.

Being a direct entrant to the final year of this course at the University of Hertfordshire meant that unlike most of my fellow students who had enrolled in the first year, my final grade was dependant purely upon the work completed in this year; no prior grades to depend on as a backup for any failed module. (So no pressure eh?!)

I had to defer all my semester B modules because of the ME/CFS issues and this resulted in half my grades being in alphanumeric format (semester a modules) and the new numerical format the university had switched to during  the gap between my initial semester B and the retake semester B

As the table below shows – anything with a numeric grade of 80 or above is deemed ‘outstanding’ BUT, as you’ll see from my DES grade,  an A1 which is the highest possible alphanumeric grade available, is only worth 78 numerically – how someone is supposed to achieve an ‘outstanding’ is beyond me; still, guess I can live with an overall descriptor of ‘Excellent’ *grin*

Numeric Grade  awarded

Undergraduate

Grade Descriptor Equivalent Classification Descriptor
80-100
70-79
Outstanding
Excellent
1st Class Honours
60-69 Very good Upper 2nd Class Honours
50-59 Good Lower 2nd Class Honours
40-49 Satisfactory 3rd Class Honours
30-39
15-29
0-14
Marginal fail
Clear fail
Little or nothing of merit
Not applicable

The degree in question is Bsc Information Technology (web based systems) and it comprised of several modules:

Professional Issues in Computing – Core module
This 3 hour exam showed that I have learned:

  • To understand the standards expected of a computing professional, and the responsibilities that these place on those occupying these roles;
  • To appreciate the legal, professional and ethical issues that can arise during the course of the work of a computing professional; and have an understanding of the impact of computer-based systems on their stakeholders, and on society in general.
  •  To be able to recognise legal, professional and ethical issues in the context of professional computing practice, and deal with them appropriately;
  •  To be able to articulate a well-informed, up-to-date opinion on legal, professional and ethical issues in the context of interactions with, for example, colleagues in professional computing practice and non-technical colleagues.

Grade achieved: 72 (converted from A3)

Digital Entertainment Systems (Digital Media Production) – Optional module

The required coursework showed that I;

  • Understand issues in the development, design, implementation and evaluation of high quality digital media;
  • Understand the wider context of digital media, for example culture, research and future trends in digital media, for example audio and video formats;
  • Understand usability and Human Computer Interaction as it applies to the development of interactive multimedia systems;
  • Developed the range of skills required in order to produce digital media.
  •  Demonstrated professional competence in areas such as image, animation, video and audio production and editing;
  • Developed scripting and programming skills in order to create interactive digital media systems

Grade achieved: 78 (Converted from A1) <– felt so cheated that I got the highest possible alphanumeric grade and in the conversion it wasn’t even an 80! I was quite gutted to see it drop like that.

Principles and Applications of Web Services (technology) – Core module

The 3 hour exam showed that I have learned to

  • Understand the different components of typical web service architectures including data representations, messaging protocols and service description based on XML
  • Understand the different approaches to implementing web services across a range of application such as mash-ups and enterprise services
  • Generate requests to a web service using appropriately formatted requests, and process or display the returned XML data
  • Create a web service using appropriate standards, protocols and tools to enable third parties to access particular data or functionality

Grade achieved: 72 (converted from A3)

Principles and Applications of Web Services (architecture) – Core module

Another 3 hour exam which demonstrated my knowledge of

  • Different approaches to web service architecture including mash-ups, RESTful services, and Enterprise Web Services;
  • The role of XML standards in developing service oriented architectures such as XML Schemas, BPEL, and WS Policy/Addressing/Security.
  • How to use XML schemas and data in the specification and configuration of web services;
  • How to evaluate the applicability of different web service architectures in a given situation.

Grade achieved: 71

Web Application Development (Design) – Core module
The 2 hour exam and additional coursework portfolio showed that I have learned

  • To understand and explain the importance of separating style from content;
  • To discuss principles and practices of good web site design and the standards that web design should comply with.
  • To participate in the planning, design and development of a web site, selecting suitable tools and technologies for the task;
  • To evaluate and improve existing web designs to make them more accessible or effective.

Grade achieved: 72 (converted from A3)

Web Application Development (enhancement) – Core module
This was another 3 hour exam which showed that I’ve learned

  • To describe the document object model;
  • To discuss the capabilities and pitfalls of using client side scripting in web sites.
  • To create or interpret state charts of the interface;
  • To add client side scripting to web sites using standards compliant instructions;
  • To incorporate visual or time-based media to a web site that does not affect the function or accessibility of the site.

Grade achieved: 69

Web Based Systems Project – Core module
This is the one all the lovely folk in my social networks got sick of hearing about – but I really owe the folk of the web for getting me through it, random questions answered, emotional support and the odd kick up the virtual behind meant that the coursework I submitted and the website I demonstrated proved that I had learned to:

  1. Understand a coherent set of Information Technology principles and techniques appropriate to the solution of a practical problem that involves the development, deployment, or management of a Web-Based System;
  2. Appreciate when and how to apply those principles and techniques to the solution of problems in Web-Based Systems.
  3. Select and resolve a substantial practical task which requires applied knowledge of Information Technology in the context of a Web-Based Systems problem;
  4. Plan and conduct a programme of practical work independently of close supervision;
  5. Select and apply an appropriate set of criteria against which their own project work and the work of others may be evaluated;
  6. Document, report on, and critically evaluate  work in a manner appropriate to the needs of a specified readership.
Grade achieved: 71 <– 90% of that grade was down to my ability to follow through on point 6; all hail the English teachers of my past! Danetre comprehensive school and Daventry tertiary college – I owe you too.


So, that’s how I got my degree, by learning a lot of rather interesting and hopefully useful ‘stuff’, it involved a lot of hair pulling, several late nights and relapse inducing cram sessions, So I also know how far I can push myself mentally before things go south on the health front.

No, there was very little programming and coding involved in this last year aside from the tweaking to templates and scripts conducted as part of my project; but I have the basic knowledge needed to go away and teach myself how to do all the fancy stuff.

The main thing this course has taught me is what I am not. I am not a web designer, nor am I a web developer; I am a knowledgeable client or at best a hobbyist. But you know what? That’s ok. I don’t really want to be either of those things anyway, I discovered my love of e-learning during this academic journey, I know how to create reusable learning objects, what tools and techniques to use to aid students with their studies and how to explain what is needed to the REAL techies and creatives out there with either a crude prototype or the necessary models.

I can liaise between geeks and normals with ease in a work environment and find the solution to a problem even if I can’t fully implement it myself (yet) I can write reports well, keep (mostly) to deadlines and GET THE JOB DONE – despite health and home issues.

Basically, I ROCK!

So I’m going to stop beating myself up over the job search issue and give myself a well earned break until Bella goes full time to nursery in January, then I should be able to manage 20hrs a week (travel dependent) in some FE/HE institute working on anything to aid in the creation of an inclusive blended learning environment.

So.. I’m a graduate – pending results. Now what?

Well, there’s continuing development on the wordpress site I created for my final year project, a site I’m setting up for another friend and of course this place needs a little TLC now I finally have the time.

But the mental challenge of a job would be preferable. Yes, I know I’m stuck looking for part-time but part-time work in an interesting job is better than full time incapacity benefit stuck at home where my only interaction with the outside world is via twitter! (even if it doesn’t pay as much)

I do have a few personal challenges that are admittedly more ‘aim’ than ‘objective’;

1. Create a wordpress e-learning theme that is scorm compliant and at least attempts to be WCAG AAA compliant
2. Write a few nettuts that are payment worthy.
3. Create some fantastic geek jewellery.
4. Create some beautiful ‘normal’ jewellery.
5. Learn more about moodle and blackboard
6. Create my symptom tracker web app
7. Find someone to consider my web taxonomy ideas (a whole other post)
8. Learn to use all available google tools
9. Write an academic research paper fit for publishing
10. Learn to drive (actually this one IS an objective)
11. (just for @lesleyconner and my dad) write a book/ story

And then there’s the ‘none work’ stuff I want to do with my family and friends;

1. Teach bella to read
2. Go on holiday to centerparcs
3. Go and visit friends abroad
4. Take bella to a sandy beach, make a sandcastle and bury stefanio (purely for the photo op)
5. Family photo shoot
6. REGULAR Karaoke with Claire
7. Write some songs with Claire
8. Have a mass gathering of geeks with kids somewhere with a bouncy castle and a wide open space for running games.
9. Visit an aquarium, science and ‘normal’ museums with bella
10. Have a ‘dirty weekend’ spa break with stef.

Hmm.. notice how all the family and friend stuff costs money but most of the work stuff is free? Guess I need that job first after all *grin*

Who wants to pay me good money to do the stuff in the first list? Feel free to contact me; i’m now open to offers ;o)

Acknowledgements and thanks..

Well, I have one more task before my degree is officially over and I can sit back and await the graduation ceremony notification email. Once my project demonstration is completed at 11:30 on the 16th June I’ll be an unemployed graduate, but I couldn’t have done any of it without the help of a few people and some awesome online resources:

The generous folk on Twitter, StackExchange and Quora who will answer a question or offer advice on further sources of information when they are unable to help directly and to Natasha Khilji for the loan of almost every book in the project bibliography and her continued support and advice this last year despite no longer being my tutor.

To the wordpress community for creating such a marvellous product and resource – I would REALLY have struggled without your efforts in building such an amazing repository of code and documentation. To Ricci Adams and the folk at Quizletfor the same as I feel the use of those flashcards and Ricci’s music theory tools really give my final year project a lift.

I have to give a shout out to the mobile app developer who made revision on the go possible; the Gabysoft Quizard lite application made accessing my Quizlet flashcards a breeze – and the lite version is free so major thanks for offering that option!

All of the above people helped in some substantial way to ensure i got to where I am today – whether they realise it or not, but there is one person without whom I would never even have managed getting as far as asking all of those others for the help and information received: I owe extra special thanks and undying gratitude to Stefanio Whittall (@titantulus) for his unstinting support as cook, cleaner, taxi driver and ‘daddy day care’. Without his efforts and background support this degree may never have happened at all.

So yeah, internet folks, friends and family – you guys ‘n’ gals make the world a better and brighter place and I’m so glad you’re on my side.
Thanks for everything
Vics xx

Endings and fears

I’ll start by pointing out that I’m not your average student; I’m a woman in a field statistically more favourable to men and it’s been said by more than a few of my tutors that I have drive and focus beyond the norm.

If this is so then it’s probably because I’m a mature student with a hidden disability and a toddler.

As a mature student I already have experience of the workplace and know about the unspoken politics at play; I’m aware that I have to work three times as hard as the average student if I want to become employed at the end of my degree – especially in the current economic climate. I’ve experienced homelessness, I’ve experienced poverty to the stage where all I’ve had to eat are porridge oats and cold water (don’t recommend) and I’ve experienced the horror of the benefits process and all the ways they grind you down and try to stop you from trying to claim your due.

The drive and focus mentioned above are easily explained in one word: Fear.

I’m afraid that I’ll never get the chance to work again because:

  1. My illnesses dictate that realistically I can only take a part time position
  2. Already having a child also means the possibility of more time off work
  3. As a woman, what if I get pregnant again? (not something I’d do again through choice I assure you *shudders*

Yes, legally none of this should have any bearing on my fitness do do a job but an employer will have to consider the fact that the nature of my illness could result in a relapse and sick days without warning – which under the disability act they have to cater for; so even a part time employer may stumble a little when considering me.

These are the strikes I have against me even before an employer looks at my ability, so for me to compete in the working arena against able bodied folk younger than me without responsibilities, I have to perform well above average.

So, if I seem to be focussed on doing anything that will make me a more attractive candidate for work, imagine just how much harder I’ll work in an effort to retain that position should someone out there take a punt on me? If I can get a position whereby I can work flexi-time and/ or from home, mainly to my own schedule; I could do wondrous things people – just pray that somebody out there will give me the chance!

WAD Revision time again..

That’s right, project deadline is close and exams are looming which is partially why this poor blog has seen little love from me of late despite the ton of things I have to share with you lucky, lucky people..

Instead of sharing exciting and happy thoughts I’m instead adding stuff I can easily access from anywhere with net access for revision purposes; today we have Web application development flashcards.

******UPDATE******
Now I’ve added in all my revision flashcards just so I have only one stop to make or url to pass out to my fellow students:

 

Beating the disability benefit trap

Trying to make myself look a good employment prospect is stressful; I’m resigned to never managing full time (unless someone out there manages to come up with a cure for ME/CFS – which would be nice..) but I WILL do my damnedest to find a part time job that pays better than the benefit system; hence the 1st class honours I’m aiming for in my degree.

I love that one of my former tutors is trying to help me in this, the recent Linkedin reference she gave me makes me sound like ‘superwoman’ as opposed to way I see myself which is ‘part-time almost-woman’:

Vicky has an amazing amount of energy and a voracious appetite when it comes to her work and her passion in technological issues. Vicky became a mum whilst studying and adapted to motherhood and her studies as if nothing had happended in her world and kept very focused. Vicky received the Best Student of the year Award for 2008-9 which she thoroughlly deserved. I recommend Vicky to any employer as an outstanding individual who can work alone and motivate herself to complete the task at hand

I was lucky in that the becoming a mother thing happened at just the right time in my studies – While pregnant my ME/CFS disappeared; I felt better than I had in over 5 years: no pain and energy to burn!

All the 1st year exams and assignment deadlines come during the early half of my 3rd trimester and although I had to take the first 6 weeks off in my 2nd year following the birth, the support I got from the college was amazing; they sent me regular emails and uploaded extra information to studynet (the uni VLE) and I even got one home visit from a lecturer to go over a class I’d been unable to attend; it’s easy to stay focussed with that kind of background support!

..and that’s without taking into consideration the fact that my beloved has been at home the whole time to take care of both the child and myself – not many lasses are that blessed in the love of their lives!

I guess it’s possible that to anyone but my closest family and friends maybe I do come across as that superwoman – I AM passionate about my interests; I get my teeth hooked into something and I do stay focussed, sometimes to the detriment of my relationship with the people closest to me because I don’t have the energy to work AND be a mum/ partner/ sister/ friend at the same time.

..But no point whining about that when I’ve already done so on my ME/CFS blog and in my twitter stream (in fact I should probably stop whining on twitter about #cfs but some days you really need to vent about how shite it is)

In the break I’ve had from studies since my deferral exams I’ve managed to complete a series of e-learning videos for an online assessment project the University are conducting, in the process I’ve now got a new piece of software under my belt and they want me to pass on the knowledge of its use to others.

I’ve also been asked if I’d participate in another e-assessment project that’s starting up; this would make my 3rd project for the university and I take it as a positive sign that my services have been required multiple times because of my knowledge and experience.

..Fingers crossed when I graduate a suitable position opens and they’re willing to take me on as a non-student employee (although for CPD there are a couple of post-grad courses on offer that I’ve been eyeing..)

I think an academic environment like that would suit me quite well; they’re sympathetic towards my health issues and allow me to work mostly from home and to my own schedule (as much as possible) which means I can maximise the time I’m ‘up’ efficiently – I can’t think of many other organisations that would allow me that amount of flexibility!

Against all odds..

Principles and applications of web Services (technology): A3
Digital Entertainment Systems: A1
Web Application development (design): A3
Professional Issues in computing: A3

You see those grades? they’re mine they are *grin* ok, ok so what if it took me an entire academic year to do it!
..Considering I’ve had 75 days of it (that’s right, just over 2 months) bedridden by fatigue (and that’s not counting any crashes prior to the diary count starting mid January else it’d probably be at least 3 or 4 months lost because I had to defer the above modules due to an uncounted relapse in November that lasted right through December)

..and god knows how many other days of productivity I’ve lost to the joys of brain fog (I’m never mentally aware enough on those days to think of keeping count!)

To be honest I’d say I did really bloody well.

Lets put it this way – I’m on track for a first class honours in my specialist degree subject so it’s worth the blood sweat and tears of studying with ME/CFS (and a toddler)

As Chris said on my Facebook page: Vicky rocks!

So, what now you ask? Well, on top of actually being a mum again instead of a snappy, stressed out work beast;

  • I’m re-designing and updating several websites (mine and other peoples)
  • updating and improving my knowledge of wordpress for this very reason (so a fair bit of reading)
  • researching and organising ideas for my final year project (which funnily enough involves the need to understand wordpress VERY well)
  • creating several ‘how to’ videos for the ESCAPE project at uni using Camtasia.
  • making time to re-read my notes and try to keep what I learned to get those A grades fresh in my mind (important to do when you have CFS memory to contend with)

I know, you’d think I’d kick back and relax wouldn’t you – but I really don’t dare to. One thing I learned this year is that I can pace, but I can’t stop; If I stop I lose any headway I’ve made.

So, gotta keep the momentum going (without over doing it) because I REALLY, really want to be able to get a job at the end of all this.

Oh.. and for those of you interested, here’s the video part of the DES assignment that netted me the top mark:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdCVfmqsbTE[/youtube]

Revision for professional issues in computing

This is for my last exam which is tomorrow – the blogging my revision trick seemed to work quite well for PAWS so lets see how I get on with PIC. A lot of this is cut and paste so most links will be to where ever the information has been taken – if anyone has issue with it being here just drop me a line and I’ll remove the post.. heh.. Now that’s professional.. *grin*

Professional issues in computing

Long questions:

1. You have been asked by your manager to develop a website, but the specification you receive makes no provision for accessibility. Write a memorandum to your manager explaining what needs to be added to the specification, and why this should be done.

Re: website specification.
The lack of accessibility provision has been noted and this employee feels it would benefit you to add this important aspect for the following reasons:

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) recognizes Web accessibility as a basic human right.

The UK Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public and specifically with regards to websites:

  • 5.23 (p71): “For people with visual impairments, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include … accessible websites.”
  • 5.26 (p68): “For people with hearing disabilities, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include … accessible websites.”

(http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/web-accessibility/uk-website-legal-requirements.shtml)

While accessibility focuses on people with disabilities, it also benefits older users, mobile phone users, and other individuals. Older users with age-related accessibility needs are an increasingly important customer base for most organizations, as the percentage of older users is increasing significantly.

Those aged 55+, are set to overtake 35-44 year olds as the demographic age group representing the largest share of UK Internet visits. Those aged 55+ represented 22.0% of UK visits to all categories of websites in the four weeks to 12th May 2007, up 54% since 2005 and 40% since 2006. This compares to 23.5% of Internet visits from 35-44 year olds.

(http://weblogs.hitwise.com/heather-hopkins/2007/05/54_increase_put_silver_surfers.html)

Legalities aside, common sense dictates that making the website accessible (and therefore easier to navigate/ access material) to the largest online demographic alongside mobile phone users and people with disabilities will make it more accessible for people without those problems.

Organizations with accessible websites also benefit from search engine optimization (SEO), reduced legal risk, demonstration of corporate social responsibility (CSR), and increased customer loyalty.

(Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization, S.L. Henry and A.M.J. Arch, eds. World Wide Web Consortium (MIT, ERCIM, Keio), June 2009. http://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/)

Adherence to the w3c web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0 http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/) is strongly recommended as an addition to the current specification.

2. You have been asked to manage the sending out a questionnaire relating to the requirements of a web site your employer is developing. You will also be responsible for producing a series of reports from the response. What professional and ethical issues should you take into account when doing this?

Adherence to the 8 core principles of the data protection act (1998) is paramount:

  1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully
  2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or other purposes
  3. Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the
    purpose or purposes for which they are processed
  4. Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary kept up to date (with every
    reasonable step being taken to ensure that data that are inaccurate or incomplete,
    having regard to the purpose(s) for which they were collected or for which they are being further processed, are erased or rectified)
  5. Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes
  6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act
  7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against
    unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data
  8. Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the
    European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.
  • Transparency – ensuring individuals have a very clear and unambiguous understanding of the purpose(s) for collecting the data and how it will be used;
  • Consent – at the time that the data is collected, individuals must give their consent to their data being collected, and also at this time, have the opportunity to opt out of any subsequent uses of the data.

(http://www.mrs.org.uk/standards/dp.htm)

Take on board the conduct codes and recommendations of marketing research bodies such as MRS and ESOMAR and consider where your sample base will be taken from (online panel, customer database etc) and the implications of using such contact information under the relevant acts of law.

For surveys completed online, respondents must be told about the length of time the questionnaire is likely to take to complete under normal circumstances (e.g. assuming connection is maintained).
The use of some form of metering device so that respondents can track their progress through the questionnaire is recommended.
Respondents should be informed if they have the option of completing the questionnaire at a time convenient to them within the schedule dictated by the time frame of the study. Beyond this, suitable technical measures should be implemented, where appropriate, allowing respondents not to answer particular questions (but to proceed with the rest of the interview) and to interrupt and subsequently return to the interview at any time.

It must be remembered that a respondent’s e-mail address is personal data where it refers to a data subject and therefore needs to be protected in the same way as other identifiers.

ESOMAR does not prescribe a mandatory minimum set of background variables that should be recorded about each active panel member. However, the following variables all have valuable roles in strategies to avoid duplication or clarify individual identity, stratification of samples for research projects, and weighting strategies to counter heavy user bias:

  • Sex
  • Level of education
  • Household size
  • Region
  • Location (postal code + house number)
  • Age (date of birth)
  • Presence of children in household
  • Working status
  • Weight of internet usage (hours per week)
  • Type of internet access

http://www.esomar.org/uploads/pdf/ESOMAR_Codes&Guideline-Conducting_research_using_Internet.pdf

Short questions

Codes of conduct: http://www.sqa.org.uk/e-learning/ProfIssues03CD/page_01.htm

ACM http://www.acm.org/about/code-of-ethics

BCS http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=nav.6030

ARrrrgh! you see why my head hurts? roll on Friday and it will all be over – until next year.

Revision for Principles and Applications of Web Services

I’ve neglected to blog for a while and figure that since repetition is the best way to learn I should kill two birds with one stone and share a little of what I’ve been going through today.. So read on if you’re trying to sleep – it’ll help cure insomnia – trust me.

Web services:

The main difference between a web site and a web service is:

  • A web service is designed to work with any type of client or device using XML messaging
  • A web site is designed to work using a web browser client using html, xhtml and css

A web service consumer is a program which uses information provided by other applications in a network environment.

A web service provider is a software agent that will undertake work on behalf of a client application.

A service request is a message sent from one application to another for data to meet the applications needs.

A function oriented service is where an application performs a function and returns a result based on the inputs supplied.

The main reason security is such a difficult issue for web services is that unknown people and applications should be able to access the service – this means they need to be very open which leaves them vulnerable.

The role of WSDL in web service architecture is to describe the interface to the server; it describes what the web service can do, where it can be found and how it can be invoked.

XML

The two main benefits that come from using xml to create documents are that it:

  • Separates the content from it’s structure
  • Allows the use of more meaningful tag names

The main advantages of using an xml schema instead of a DTD are that an xml schema allows you to define both data types and namespaces which a DTD doesn’t.

An xml document can be well formed without an associated DTD (Document Type Definition) or Schema – so long as it adheres to the syntax rules laid out in the xml 1.0 recommendation:

  • There can be only one root element.
  • Every start tag must have a matching closing tag.
  • Empty elements can omit the closing tag, but, if they do so, must have a forward slash before the closing angle bracket (/>).
  • Elements must be properly nested.
  • Attribute values must be in quotes.
  • In the content of an element or attribute value, < and &; must be replaced by &lt; and &amp; respectively.

In order to be validated an xml document must have an associated schema or DTD to be validated against.

So to reiterate; The difference between an xml document being valid or well formed is:

  • Well-formed: The XML code must be syntactically correct.
  • Valid: If the XML file has an associated XML Schema/ DTD, the elements must appear in the defined structure and the content of the individual elements must conform to the declared data types specified in the schema.

The root node of an xml document tree is the first element at the top of the document.

Namespaces

The namespace is defined by the xmlns attribute in the start tag of an element.

The namespace declaration has the following syntax: xmlns:prefix=”URI”.

Schema

Two benefits that come from using XML Schema Definitions (XSDs) in specifying document formats, that do not apply to DTDs are:

  • An XSD enables you to specify the format of character data within an element
  • An XSD enables you to give an allowed maximum for an attribute value

To show that an element is optional at a particular point in an XML schema you should include minOccurs=”0″ in the elements definition.

DTD

There are three types of DTD:

  • Strict; free of all deprecated tags and framesets
  • Transitional; includes deprecated tags
  • Frameset; framesets (with or without deprecated tags)

To show that an element is optional in a DTD you should follow the elements name with a question mark.

Parsing

A parser is a program that performs parsing; parsing is a method of stripping away xml markup tags leaving only the data which can then be processed further.

Before parsing a DTD or Schema must be referenced to identify the validated markup tags and their structure definition.

You do not need a parser to read an xml document.

XSLT

Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (XSLT) is most accurately described as a means to transform XML markup into another markup format for use by other applications.

..and there I must leave you – t’other half is kicking me off the pc to get some kip so I’m fresh in the morning to carry on revising this stuff – you envy me don’t you – go on.. admit it, you so wish you were me right now..

Having ME/CFS is humiliating

It’s bad enough having all this crap wrong with us, being knackered and in pain all the sodding time while still managing to look the picture of health, people don’t think there’s anything wrong with you and that you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

We get the ‘look’ a lot from family, friends and colleagues; the look that screams at you that you’re just lazy, that you’re milking it so you don’t have to do X, Y or Z.

The look that says you’re a failure. that you don’t try hard enough to beat the condition, that you give in too easily, that you don’t do enough full stop.

Feeling that kind of unspoken pressure and budding resentment all the time is demoralising because it’s having your own thoughts thrown back in your face a hundred times over.

But that’s not the humiliating thing.

No, what’s humiliating is trying to live a normal life, trying to do it all and succeeding so well in the appearance of this that when you crash in class/ at work from pushing yourself so hard, you’re met with confusion, embarrasment and a feeling of complete and utter alienation.

Today was one such day for me.

I was sat in my PAWS class and I could feel a crash coming on, I’d managed to shut down the laptop and was attempting to pack up my gear in a race against time.

..but it was fairly obvious I wouldn’t make it, not without leaving the laptop and that wasn’t an option as I can’t afford to replace it.

To make matters worse as everyone started heading out to get to the labs for our next tutorial, a classmate made her way over to talk to me and I didn’t have the energy to respond, I just rested my head on the table and prayed that she’d shut up and leave me alone.

I was not to be so lucky, she started badgering me and then at my lack of response began asking if I needed a doctor or the medical center.. I responded NO.

(single syllable words are the limit when the fatigue hits, and only for a few minutes before even they deteriorate into grunts and sniffles)

She kept asking me and asking me – I managed to get out the phrase ‘I have M.E’ so she then started calling back all the guys into the room – all I wanted was the ground to open up and swallow me.

I knew the room was timetabled for us for another hour, I knew the crash wouldn’t last that long if I could keep calm and just go with it; unfortunately she didn’t.

I’m there slumped against the table, struggling against the tears of embarrassment and frustration leaking down my cheeks and dripping uncomfortably from the end of my nose and she’s doing everything in her power to draw attention to me.

“She says she has M.E do you know what M.E is? Vicky, what is M.E? Vicky? Vicky? talk to me, do you need a Dr? Do you want me to take you home?”

And this went on and on until I could force out another “NO, leaf ‘lone” which completely exhausted me.

I could hear the embarrassed shuffling and the muffled commenting amongst the lads, finally one of ’em said “she wants to be left alone.. c’mon we should go” and to my relief, they left.

..The though of having to be in the same room as them all tomorrow fills me with dread, I know the lass will demand a big explanation from me and she’s the type to do so in the middle of a crowded room at full volume – this means even the guys NOT privy to my embarrassing physical breakdown will hear about it.

Oh the joys.

..But even that isn’t the worst part. The worst part was realising that I was alone, unable to move even my eyelids in a place my other half would have no clue to find me and that the people who had left me would not even think to tell someone where I was who could check my records for instructions on what to do for me.

If I could have said, “yes please take me home” to the lass, it still would not have made it happen.

I had a heavy laptop bag and I weigh just over 10 stone – all of which would have been dead weight as I was completely immobile; so how was this tiny lass to carry me and my bag down a flight of stairs and across campus, manhandle me into and out of her car to get me home?

I couldn’t even leave my chair and lie down without being assisted and I didn’t have the strength to ask for the help.

I had to stay in that awkward uncomfortable slumped position with the sun streaming directly onto the side of my face, listening to the comments about me from the people walking past the room laughing at the girl who’d ‘fallen asleep’ ‘had a rough night’ and just pray for the heaviness of the accompanying brainfog to drown out my humiliation and helplessness until the whole episode passed and I could summon the energy to get home.

I was there for 45 minutes.

The usual 10 minute walk home was a 20 minute stumble and I’ve spent the rest of the day in bed completely wasted from the effort of getting home with my bag.

So when people say that ME/CFS is ‘all in your head’ they’re right.

It’s in my head that for 24/7, 365 days of the year no matter what I do I can’t control what happens with my body.

No matter how healthy I look on the outside, in my head I’m worrying about days like today, days when I can’t hide that there is something wrong with me, days when I am at the mercy of every other human around me.

Days like today are the reason I have to force myself to leave the house and get on with things instead of hiding in my room like a hermit.

If I could get THAT out of my head I’d probably be a much happier individual as would every other person I know who suffers from this fucking illness.

Blogging, course work and ME/CFS

When I first started this blog I had no life; I was working every hour god sent and a few more to boot until I really had no life because the ME/CFS took it away. I had a great deal to say and a great deal of time in which to say it – even though most of it was waffle and has since been consigned to the ether with a click of the delete key.

Yet now I have a life again I have even more to say; but because of the ME/CFS my time is too precious to spend blogging about it.

I miss being able to sit at the keyboard and carefully shape my posts out of the initial ‘stream of conscious’ draft; I especially miss the comment conversations I would have with the folk like you who took the time to stop by and connect with me.

These days twitter fills that void in part – but it is nowhere near as fulfilling a feeling. I think any of you who like to write as I do can relate to this, the feeling of ‘rightness’ you get when the last edit has been made and you know that your words are in the right place to express your meaning; how it almost ‘snaps free’ to become a living thing in its own right.

..But perhaps that’s merely my fey side talking; I have been told that on occasion I can be a little ‘weird’ (though mainly by my other half, he’s good like that.. )

My time these days is split fairly evenly between family life, coursework and whatever tasks the blended learning unit set me. It’s a fine balance I have to walk in order to manage all of this; but the difference between then and now is that even if I do too much and relapse (which has happened twice this last week alone) I still manage to carry on.

I know that a traditional 9-5 office job is beyond my capabilities; not through lack of skills or cognitive functioning, but because of the physical limitations this illness has placed upon me. But a ‘real’ job is no longer beyond my grasp.

I am seriously dancing inside with this knowledge – ME/CFS has not taken my life, it hasn’t denied me anything; it has merely given me a focus and a determination that propels me to greater heights than I’d ever before dared hope for. This time next year I will be a graduate – hopefully with a Bsc IT(web based systems) 1st (but another 2:1 will have to suffice if that plan falls through)

I know that I have several options before me; freelance web designer/ technical author or even as a part time lecturer should I make enough of an impression on the uni during my time there.

My work with the blended learning unit is a hopeful step in that direction;

  • I’ve given two lectures on wiki use and best practice for group work within the UH studynet environment
  • I’ve created several handouts to complement these lectures
  • I’ve received positive feedback about these sessions and a request from other departments for similar help

A simple thing perhaps, but one that is obviously needed as the facilities available to the students are widely underused. With e-learning gaining such a large profile within the academic community, these experiences can only stand me in good stead when the time comes to search for employment.

Victoria Stringer; getting professional?

I’ve been culling posts left right and centre from this blog so that I can ‘streamline’ the content when I merge my other blogs to it during the (hopefully soon) site redesign and update I’ve been working on. Doing so I’ve discovered many things; not least the changes in my writing style and the tone and content of the posts themselves.

I don’t wish to lose the essence of ‘me’ within the blog; the personal side of things has netted me several ‘blog friends’ over the years (yes Master K, April, Crash and Brandie – I mean you) and I value that aspect of my virtual life,  but I do want to highlight the content more in keeping with the career I’m looking to pursue (upon completion of my BSc degree) as this is the first place any prospective employer will look should they embark upon an internet search for me.

At present I am top of the search returns on google.com for ‘Vicky Stringer’ and have a further 4 listings lower down the front page and on google.co.uk I hold the top 2 positions on the first page – no mean feat for a non professional ‘nonentity’.

Unfortunately I’m certain that once I change my site and lose all the lovely ‘link juice’ I’ve accrued over the years this status will change. I am equally certain that before long I’ll be back on top but this is fair warning to anybody that has linked to me in the past – the link will be broken as soon as my new site is up and running.

In other news, I have also been looking carefully at my options for module choices next year and have managed to 98% decide on the combination that will best enhance my current knowledge and experience.

  1. Professional issues in computing (compulsory module semester A only)
  2. Databases (semester A only)
  3. Web application design (semester A and B)
  4. Principles and Applications of Web Services (semester A and B)
  5. IT Project (Compulsory module semester B only)

So.. Back to ‘creating’ the new look site, hope you like it when I’m done.

Motherhood and college

I’ve managed to complete my foundation degree with flying colours and yes I’m damned proud of myself.

But it hasn’t been easy, I’ve had sleepless nights about bonding fears, illness, coursework and thoughts of the future – but I’ve made it through mainly because of my man. He’s been a stay at home dad and while he’s mainly enjoyed it I know it’s not been easy for him either.

Ha! Who are we kidding?
If I thought this year was hard then I know next year may well kill me on the stress front; next year I’ll be undertaking a final year project that will determine whether I get a first class honours degree or something a bit ‘less’. I’m thinking of something along the lines of e-learning, I want to mix in my interest in online social media and if I could just find a way of shoehorning in karaoke and jewellery making then I’d be as happy as the proverbial pig ;0)

Whatever the project though I’ll still be involved in the CABLE group and will be even busier than last year *gulp*

With that in mind we’ve discussed our options and decided that it’s better if Stef continues to stay at home with Isabella, she’s a happy, secure child and we want her to stay that way; the reassurance of a constantly available parent can only help her feeling of security.

If I get as stressed as we think I will (going off this year it’s almost a certainty) then we need to be prepared to deal with the inevitable relapses on the ME/CFS front when I’ll need Stef at home to care for both me and Izzy for a few days until I can function again – he wouldn’t be able to drop work for that purpose very often and retain the job; besides which we both agree that it’s better to care for her ourselves than for him to work just to pay for a stranger to – which, after tax and petrol costs etc is what would happen given the current work climate and the few suitable jobs on offer.

I’m just thankful that we’re in the position to be able to do this, that we have a roof over our heads, funds for food and bills and little need for anything else – my how things will change once our little cherub discovers brands and peer pressure *sigh* I’m dreading it..

She’s adorable though, with a single giggle, clap or her current attempts to convey her adoration of all things dog (‘BOOF!’) she lightens my heart and makes the day seem less hard – no matter what. I never knew it was possible to love something like this, the fierceness of it, how I still find myself watching her sleep with a tight happy feeling in my chest and tears threatening to overspill at the wonder of her.

Corny eh? but truer than true.

That kid has completely changed my world – for the better! because of her I’m determined to do the best I possibly can, I want to be the best role model for her I can be, I want to teach her to put her all into everything and to go for whatever she wants all guns blazing.

But mostly I want to teach her that she is loved unconditionally and that just by being in the world she makes me a better person – a bit like her dad if I’m honest.

I have the best family in the world – feel free to envy me.
Go on,  won’t blame you at all *grin*

Blended learning (twitter tag #iblc09 )

I’ve spent today at the 4th international blended learning conference at the University of Hertfordshire.

It’s been mix of interest and incomprehension. As a student a lot of the inferences may have passed overhead as I’ve no idea about the working ‘behind the scenes’ side to teaching and learning establishments, however I did learn enough today to wish that education was fully open source as some of the things used at different establishments would make for my ideal learning environment if combined.

What do I mean by that? well, my Java write up would have benefited from the learning object that Ken Fisher and Peter Chalk spoke about (which they said they would kindly send me the link to when I expressed interest) and had we used a group blog to prompt comment discussions as an integral part of the teaching then I can think of several other of my modules that may have benefited – research investigative methods not the least!

If I had enough expertise in a subject and the patience to deal with the behind the scenes bureaucracy then following this conference I’d be very tempted to become a teacher at the foundation degree level, just so that I could implement some of the ideas I’ve had and heard about utilising social media tools in the classroom.

The Elluminate link up sessions were impressive with delegates joining from several international locations and interacting with questions flowing from the floor, twitter and elluminate chat.. All of which *REALLY* make me want to justify the expense of a personal Elluminate license, but I can’t see me speaking to more than 2 folks at a time and do I need the record facility or just want it when I can simply use msn and save the conversation..?
So for now I guess I’ll be sticking to the free version *sigh*

In the pathways and outside there seems to be much talk about ‘invading the student space’ when talking about using things like facebook and I agree that it’s not the ideal learning space – what it is ideal for is an information channel.

Nobody wants to go to their favourite bar or club and see their boss or lecturer salivating at the thought of ramming something down their throat, what they don’t mind (see the distinction, they may not want it but they don’t mind it) if the same person gives them the heads up that in the ‘official’ channel is something of interest that they need to check out asap.

Students check into their uni vle as a rule only when needed, they check their social network on average 3 times a day (from observing my peers) this makes it an invaluable tool for lecturers needing to alert their class of important news.

An online learning environment is far more personal than heading into a classroom, you’re using your own equipment, your browser is configured ‘just so’ and you can have the working ambience you desire just by sitting in your own room. This gives a feeling of security that can be ripped away in a second by the tutor who does not understand the balance between personal and work. My feeling is that this is what tutors need to look at, once this balance is estblished then it will not be seen as ‘invading the student space’ but will become just another communication channel within the education system.

Now I’m just waiting to see what the next blended learning conference will bring – if google wave hits before then, things will be mii-iighty interesting as the academics struggle to catch up.

..I mean, sure they had tweets in the lectures but where was the communal wall showing off the interaction outside the auditorium in the public space? Methinks they need to speak to the social media mafia *grin* @audio and @vero could show ’em how it’s done!