Mr Squiggle

Posted by matthew on Feb 28, 2006 in life

Last night we received news that our beloved cat, Mr Squiggle lost his short battle with liver cancer and passed away peacefully on Sunday. We’re going to put together a collage of photos of him over the years, but for now, we’ve just got this page. It’s very sad, but it’s great to know that Squiggs was in such good care with Mum and Dad, and enjoyed his time over the past couple of months. We were fortunate that we knew he was not well before we left Australia, so we got to say our goodbyes properly. Lotte says that if he’s in heaven, he’s probably walking on God’s pillow and waking him up at 3am. Here’s to that thought.



Posted by matthew on Feb 24, 2006 in cambridge, educause, funny, research

One of the things you can’t help noticing when you arrive in Cambridge is the architecture. The buildings with their archways and courtyards and the narrow cobblestoned alleyways. And the walls that surround them all. Signs warn that this area is PRIVATE, or that the grass is for the enjoyment of those more privileged than the reader.In fact the whole place is designed to regulate behaviour in very specific, time honoured ways so that at every turn you are made aware of your place — or rather, just how difficult it is to get to the next. I’ve enountered this not only in walking around the city, but in all of its institutions, from its bike shops to its banks. The most curious example is probably the University Library, which is a rather imposing building already, since its tower is by far the tallest building in the area. Before even arriving there, however, it was more than a challenge to discover whether borrowing rights extend to every member of staff by default. The Library website lists 10 different categories of university staff. Exactly which of these I fit into is still a mystery to me. Despite assurances from some colleagues that staff are unlikely to receive sanction from the venerable UL Admissions Office without considerable effort, I decided to presented myself to the front desk to politely enquire as to the process. I was told that I would need to return with a copy of my employment contract. Dutifully, I returned the next day with my contract, and I was directed to a waiting area outside the Admissions Office, which has a sign on it reading “Please do not knock on this door. We will attend to you at our earliest convenience.”When I was eventually invited in for my interview, I was asked a few questions about my “status”, and finally my University ID card was registered with borrowing rights. Even though I realise that most universities have procedures for all of these things, it’s the feeling you get just being here that gives the impression of exclusivity. When I finally managed to get into the hallowed building it was only under careful surveillance, in an orderly manner, through an electronic turnstyle that required a manual override from library staff. Then I realised I was out of time and left immediately.


Our first visitor

Posted by matthew on Feb 23, 2006 in cambridge

This week we played host to our first visitor — Lotte’s mum, who visited us from Holland. Happily our tiny flat seems up to the task, thanks to a newly acquired inflatable mattress. On the weekend we again had very nice weather, and we made the most of it with a long walk into town and then to Grantchester. We had lunch at The Orchard Tea Gardens. Don’t be fooled by the sunny weather in the photos, it was pretty cold by the time we left and the sun was a little lower in the sky. But it was really nice sitting outside and taking in the scenery.


An Aussie In Cambridge

Posted by matthew on Feb 22, 2006 in cambridge, education, technology

I’ve recently moved from Australia to the UK to work at the University of Cambridge. I intend to use this blog to reflect on my time here, and talk about issues in educational technology along the way. I’m an educational designer, and have been working at the University of Melbourne for about 13 years. My new job is as a research associate at the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET).

This was the first entry in my blog over on the Educause site, which I no longer update.


Qualitative Research tools revisited

Posted by matthew on Feb 15, 2006 in eroleplay.net, research

It’s been a while since I posted here*, but that’s because of the move to Cambridge. I’ve settled in now and am starting to get back into the thesis mindset, and have been thinking some more about my research workflow. What I really want is to be able to code up sections of the interviews very quickly and begin to play with the ideas that emerge from that process straight away. NVivo requires quite a lot of time investment to get to that stage. In addition to that, I’m now working with a group who doesn’t use NVivo, so it’s potentially going to be a pain. Atlas.ti looks like the most obvious choice — our group includes a couple of social anthropologists, and most people say that this package is best suited to social science research. But I’m drawn again to TAMS Analyzer for its ease of use. It also doesn’t try to do too much, uses a simple tag based coding system that I can understand, and has some straightforward analysis tools linked in. And, it’s free. You can’t beat that price.

* This post, and any others posted with the eroleplay.net tag were originally posted on my thesis work log.


Goodnight and goodluck, sweetheart

Posted by matthew on Feb 14, 2006 in dance, life, technology

We spent last weekend exhausting ourselves on the dance floor at Goodnight Sweetheart in Hertfordshire. It was a fun weekend for us because we hadn’t had much dancing in a long while. The weekend included workshops from Steven & Virginie and Peter & Giselle, among others. I think my favourite thing for the whole weekend was the classes from Peter & Giselle. Really great. The huge, gigantic, spectacular World Championship Battle of the DJs turned out to be rather disappointing. Sound systems that didn’t work, a strange setup, stressed organisers, and guess how many songs we played? 3! Even the final two only got to play a total of 6 songs. The winner in a very good field was Alf from Norway who did an excellent job in these difficult circumstances, I must say. He gets to buy himself a ticket to Canada (if he can afford it) as a prize. Hmmm. Still, it was great to get away for a while, and even more terrific to make some new friends and catch up with our great mate Dozka. She did us proud by making it through to the semi finals of the DJ Battle too. That’s better than I did, that’s for sure.

An awful lot is still going on here as we settle in. The big news for us is that Lotte’s found an ad for a job that really sounds like her, so she’s putting some time into preparing to apply. Keep your electronic fingers crossed, folks. She won’t know for a few weeks yet how she does, though. Work here for me is going well. I’ve had time to get to look at some things that I know will help me in the next year, including updating my knowledge on tools for qualitative research. In the running are Nvivo 7, Atlas.ti, and a Mac-only thing called TAMS Analyzer. I’m going to try the last of these over the next short while becuase I can run it on my machine and it has a limited feature set (an advantage for my needs, perhaps).

Today jeff pointed out this demo of Multitouch (14Mb, Quicktime), a gestural interface project that looks absolutely amazing. Also see this article and this page about the project. That’s exactly the sort of thing I heard Alan Kay talking about in 1994. It definitely takes a long time for these ideas to come to fruition.


Steven Hawking and Sir Humphrey

Posted by matthew on Feb 3, 2006 in cambridge, education

Namedropping has got to be one of the most common pastimes at Cambridge, if my first week of work here is anything to go by. On Sunday we were walking between the city centre and Granchester Meadow and I looked up to see Steven Hawking directly in front of us on the path. I only realised it was actually him right as we were walking past him, but it was incredibly cool to see him just tooling around campus. Then today we went down to the Judge Business School for my first look at an actual Cambridge class in progress. It was a role-play simulation about the privatisation of British electricity in the 1980s. But this was a role-play with a difference. They’d invited a couple of VIPs to take part, including Lord Wilson of Dinton, who played the role of Permanent Secretary to the Department of Environment. If you’re a fan of Yes Minister, Permanent Secretary was the role that Sir Humphrey played in that series. The thing is, Lord Wilson was the real one. It added a certain sense of realism to the whole thing, I have to say.