Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It's Easter!

We have our Easter holiday late here in Bordeaux, and I'm going to be away for the next ten days or so. I don't think I'll be doing any blogging from where I'll be in the Landes département of France. The area is home to Europe's largest pine forest and miles nd miles of Atlantic coastline but I don't think you can get a mobile phone signal in a lot of places. So while you await my return why not try popping some bubblewrap, it's very therapeutic.

Monday, April 25, 2005

A successful failure

Would you cedit it? My very first ever blogging class (2nd year students of medicine, remember ?) had their last English class last week. With the vast majority of these students, blogging was a success and they made multiple posts over the 14-week course. Some of the posts were reponses to fairly directive assignments and some were spontaneous. So what did one student, Charlie: do this weekend ? Yes, he blogged, but the blighter blogged in French, proudly announcing :

"Jour historique : ce blog sera dé�sormais r�édig�é dans la langue de Moliè�re."

Do I count this as a success because he’s continuing to blog even after the end of the course or a failure because he no longer sees it as a means of improving his English ? Perhaps he never saw it as a means of improving his English. Perhaps he’s right.

PS. I left him a commet saying I would be taking 2 points off his continuous assessment mark. Hee hee.

PPS. That was a joke by the way.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

OSX and Safari

I've had OSX and Safari on my computer for three days now and I've just realised how grotty this blog looks with that combination. With my old set-up I had nice regular-looking posts with photos on the right; the text had orderly straight left-hand margins. My archives, links, Furl menu etc. were marshalled down the right in a side bar. Now the text is centred (why?!) and the items from the sidebar have all fallen to the bottom of the page (why?!) with bullet points beside them (why?!) . Does everybody else see my blog that way too? Why are there such big differences in the ways different browsers present things? It's like buying a new mirror and realising, aghast, that the comfortable old face you felt quite happy about presenting to the world is actually lop-sided, covered in wrinkles and warts and sags to boot. This will probably really happen when we get our new bathroom but that's another story....

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Rive d'Arcins


Rive d'Arcins
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
Yesterday, we went shopping at our local mega shopping centre Rive d'Arcins. The river Garonne runs along the back of the centre and is a nice quiet place to get away from the hordes of Saturday shoppers. As for the photo, well you can get down to the river, just not down this path.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The day the hard disk died

Yesterday evening my computer wouldn't boot up and started making those clunky-grinding noises again. Yikes....... I tried again, and again and again. All I was getting was that really irritating little box computer with the smiley face. Yikes, yikes, double yikes. I started to think about all the things that I had on the hard disk that I hadn't been able to save (CD burner malfunction) / had been too lazy to save. A whole year's worth of photos, mostly of the children. Could I ask them to put on last year's clothes again and pretend to be two and three year-olds? A load of marks that other teachers have sent me by e-mail and that I haven't got round to putting into Excel and handing in yet. Zillions of e-mails that I want to keep or still have to reply to etc. etc. etc; Slept badly. Brought it in to the friendly technicians at work today. It booted up immediately. I was torn between immeasurable relief and slight pique. The verdict however, is that the hard disk is very unwell and should be put out of its misery. So I've bought a new one and I'm also moving on to Mac OS X at last. Every cloud.
Other good news today : the very kind and generous Clair Mcmullen has given me one of her two free Flickr pro accounts. (She's got another to give away, so hurry on over there). So from now on I can snap and upload to my heart's delight. As soon as I get my heart-transplanted computer back that is.
Oh yes, other good news today, I've ordered a new kitchen from IKEA. Since I couldn't decide between contemporary and country I went for oak and stainless steel. Expect multiple photos of it on Flickr in the next month or so. Come back builders all is forgiven.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Things I'd like to able to do to this blog

1. Put quotes into the framed boxes I see on some other blogs
2. Ping the blogs I refer to automatically
3. Have an archive by tag/category instead of date
4. Change the URL which is a little eh, non semi-privacy friendly (without losing the people who subscribe to me)



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Monday, April 18, 2005

Disenfranchised

I've just taken the ALL NEW! Political Survey which tells me where I stand in relation to the "rest" of the British population in terms of my political opinions. Depressingly, over 90% of Brits seem to be to my right. The results are probably skewed because not having lived in GB for many, many years, I don't really care about British taxes or the British rail system because they don't have any direct impact on my life. Stuart Mudie is in the same situation as me and has a post on this at Blethers.com. We're not qualified to vote in Britain because we haven't lived there for yonks and we can't vote here because we're not French citizens:

"In my case, I can vote in certain local elections in France (and was very excited to receive my first French polling card) but I cannot decide, for instance, whether or not Nicolas Sarkozy will be the next Président de la République."

Being able to vote in French elections is the only reason I would ever apply for French citizenship: I just can't see any other valid reason. It's not as if it would make me feel any more French or look like a born-and-bred Bordelaise or instantly lose my Scottish accent. Well, okay, I suppose it might be useful to have two passports just in case I mislaid one of them, or if I happened to be in a plane that was hijacked and the hijackers announced "Right, we're going to kill all the British passengers" at which point I would whip out my French passport and speak without a trace of an accent à la wide-mouthed frog. Anyway, here for what it's worth is what my political profile would be if I lived in Britain and if I was allowed to vote there:
Toulouse

Essendiéras


Essendiéras
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
Had a refreshing weekend in the pure air of the Dordogne. We stayed in a chambre d'hôte on the Domaine d'Essendiéras near Excideuil. Especially enjoyed breakfast in the château. It's owned by Dutch people so you get that chocolate vermicelli they like to put on their bread in the morning.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Living on a building site


Living on a building site
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
There's dust on the camera lens, dust in the bed, dust in the kitchen, dust on my keyboard, dust in the upstairs toilet (not downstairs though because they've ripped that one out), dust in my morning coffee, dust liberally sprinkled over my clothes (people are too polite to mention it). I hope there's no dust in the childrens' lungs.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Impetus

I'm not too keen on the word "motivation" because it seems to me that we teachers use it lazily to cover a multitude of classroom woes without really knowing what we mean. But it seems that, like me, some of my old chums have been grappling with the whole problem of initiating and then maintaining blogging impetus (okay then, motivation by any other name).

Via Graham comes this link to the highly motivated hipteacher: "I love and adore using blogs with my students. In my experience, writing, revising and peer editing within the blog structure has particularly helped their writing skills. [...] Teenagers are so self-conscious, I find the lack of face-to-face contact adds dramatically to the strength and effectiveness of peer editing and review.

But Sarolta has had a somewhat different experience: "Unfortunately, I'm not very successful at making students blog. I took them to the computing lab three times, and they seemed to like it. The majority was proud of their blogs. However, the number of posts in their blogs is really small. I know that I should have demanded that they respected the deadlines for the individual posts. Instead I tried to attract them to writing by giving them a reason to write. Obviously, this wasn't a good idea. It's difficult to motivate students if they are not motivated themselves."

And Rita Zeinstejer thinks about teacher impetus "I found that, even when the members in this group had joined it out of their own will to learn about blogging, it was my duty to keep the ball rolling [...] above all, it was me who needed to stay motivated !!"

I think I've been through all three of these phases. Wildly enthusiastic about blogging to begin with, which I must have communicated to my first class of students because they're still blogging away madly. Then, I got a new group with a more sluggish dynamic and they're not so motiv.....eh regular in their blogging, and this overlapped with a dip in my own blogging zippiness. I have no answers. You can't MAKE students write enthusiastic posts and you can't force yourself to post when you don't think you've got anything interesting to say. (You can, however, drivel on for hours on end on other days when you really don't have anything interesting to say. Nuff said?)

Brick Wall

Despite comments (and I still get a massive kick out of seeing a comment on this blog) sometimes blogging feels like talking to a brick wall. It's been ages now since the EVO weblogging course came to an end and somehow I miss the camaraderie of learning about the same things at the same time. I still follow all my ex-classmates blogs almost daily (although I have weeded out a few of the inactive ones) but it's not quite the same. We have all branched out and are talking about the things we're really interested in, not the common problems and discoveries. The upheaval of the past few weeks — due to real brick walls being demolished in the house — has meant that I haven't actually been at home to participate in the Sunday evening sessions and I miss that synchronous contact too. It has made me realise how motivating it is for my students to do the same task on their blogs at the same time and then visit each other's blogs to provide that all-important feedback. More on my students blogs in the next post if I haven't drowned under all of that (non-metaphorical) brick dust by then.
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Monday, April 04, 2005

Ominous Clunking

I haven't had time to blog recently. A lot of last week was spent under my quilt sweating out the flu.(Do people still call them continental quilts?) Apparently the epidemic is now eleven weeks old and most epidemics run for twelve weeks. I got the tail end and so did the kids but we're all out of our sick beds now. I went straight from bed to translation booth for a conference on fish which was mildly interesting. Unfortunately my voice sounded as if I had scales on the inside of my throat. Then home to catch up on some work that had been accumulating on the computer. Some weeks ago one of my angelic children inserted something metallic into the CD-drive of my i-mac. This has happened before and just means I can't use the CD-drive until said object is removed. However, this weekend the computer started making some extremely ominous clunking, grinding, gnashing sounds and slooooowed down considerably. So I rushed it in to work this morning where the kind technician performed the extraction (a 20 cent coin). Greatly relieved I brought it home this evening. Ah, yes, home. Home had in the space of a day and a surprise visit from the builders become a pathetic shell. Two walls pulled down, all the furniture stuffed away in unlikely places, no telly, dust everywhere and wet plaster on the walls. It's going to be like this for at least six weeks. The children wandered around the "site" asking "where are the sofas, where can we sit down?" Oh well, I thought, we may not have a living room but at least there'll be no distractions and I'll be able to get on top of that backlog of work this evening. So I turned my precious i-mac on and clunk, click, grind, glink. It looks as if, just like the builders, the noise is here for the foreseeable future. Category: