Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Google in Education: Paul Curzon on 'Inspiring students about computing'

Today I lurked on a Google Hangout. It worked amazingly - OK there were a couple of glitches (getting booted out but really quick to get back in again) but I was amazed at several aspects of it. Whenever someone spoke the camera switched to them - I didn't know it did this, having two windows open (the camera image and presentation slides) worked very well for the viewer (although a bit fiddly for the presenter) and when finished the completed recording was on Google's site within minutes. Impressive.

I think you'll have to go here to see the video though, I suspect it's not possible to 'embed' a Google Hangout in a blog but I may be wrong (if you know please tell me).

Google in Education: Paul Curzon on 'Inspiring students about computing'

Background information

cs4fn (Computer Science for fun) is the name of the project.


The text below is just lifted from what I wrote about it on the Google pages, with better links.

Today my boss Paul Curzon talked about sharing stories to get across ideas of how to get school children thinking about computation and human factors in computer science teaching. He used examples of "I'm thinking of someone, can you guess who it is?" and the types of questions you'd need to ask to work it out.

It wouldn't help to keep asking "Is it A?", "Is it B?" as you'd be asking questions forever. Instead it's better to ask 'halving' questions that reduce, with each question, the number of possibles. So "are they still alive?" or "is it a man or a woman?" are good questions to ask.

He gave the example of strategies used by the author of the Diving Bell and the Butterfly (the author, Jean-Dominique Bauby, had locked-in syndrome after a stroke and could only communicate by blinking an eye) and his writing assistant to make transcribing his thoughts easier. Rather than having to blink once when the relevant letter was read (a, b, c, d, e, f, g [blink] = g) they used the frequency of letters in the language to speed up his dictation.

There are other strategies too, eg ask someone to blink if the letter is in the first half of the alphabet, then 'halve' again.

It's not just about algorithms of course. It's easy to design a system that does something well but it's important to remember the people who are going to be using it... (nb: wikipedia link)

I really enjoyed hearing my boss tell stories and I also enjoyed the bit setting things up before. We realised that the webcam was particularly sensitive to the 50Hz flicker of tube lighting so went off to source some 'red head' lights which have a nice warm light. It turns out that we have, at QMUL, the most amazing resources for filming - thanks to Richard Kelly for helping us with tripods and whatnot. And thanks to Google for setting this up in the first place and Jonathan B for roping me in for some geeky fun :)

The slight irony is that I couldn't participate in the Google Hangout myself because it would have caused interference and confusion, and I won't be able to join in much on tomorrow's one either (more coming on that) because I have the official role of Camera Op Two. It really means holding the webcam steady but I am rather looking forward to it...

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