Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for March, 2010

More resources for students of Pompeii & Herculaneum
March 28th, 2010

Yesterday I created a Netvibes site embedded with a range of RSS feeds, links, media and photographic galleries all dedicated to the archaeology of Pompeii and Herculaneum. I shared the site via Twitter with Peter Clements, creator of the excellent AD79 Destruction and Re-discovery and asked if he could recommend any additional sites for the Netvibes site. Peter suggested three valuable sites.

The first is Herculaneum Panoramas, which features over 100 Quicktime VR movies of sites across Herculaneum including the Villa dei Papiri, the Theatre and countless others. It is brilliant. Students of Herculaneum can explore the site as virtual researchers and gain a feel of life in Herculaneum before the devastating Vesuvian eruption of AD79.

Then there is The Friends of Herculaneum Society, emanating from the University of Oxford. This rich web site allows you to view the Bodleian Library facsimiles of the Herculaneum Papyri and you can also read their newsletter, Herculaneum Archaeology. The aim of the society is to advance the education of the public concerning the World Heritage Site of Herculaneum and to create an archive of materials relating to Herculaneum and the work of the society.

Thirdly, Peter suggested the Fasti home page, FastiOnline. This site is a database of archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean region since the year 2000. Users can access the database via a map based graphical user interface. You can zoom into specific areas, Pompeii and Herculaneum for example, and gain information regarding specific excavations and the researchers involved. Once “inside” there is a variety of navigation methods that one can use to explore the data. The search engine is very useful and can allow students to quickly access specific sites.

And of course, there is Peter’s web site itself. AD79 Destruction and Re-discovery is such an incredible web site. There are descriptions of the streetshouses, businesses and public buildings of the various ancient sites surrounding Mount Vesuvius. The descriptions are supported with photographs of the sites. Rich hyperlinking within the web site allow users to explore the site and follow areas of particular interest. There are also pages dedicated to graffiti and significant personalities of the period. One of the most useful sections in Peter’s site is a page dedicated to specific Google Street View walks of the streets of Pompeii.

Pompeii and Herculaneum Netvibes Site
March 27th, 2010

This afternoon I set up a Netvibes site embedded with a range of RSS feeds, links, media and photographic galleries all dedicated to the archaeology of Pompeii and Herculaneum. I feel that teachers of the core unit in the NSW HSC Ancient History course, Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum, will find the feeds and media useful.

There are a number of different feeds drawn from Flickr [RSS Feed], Google News [RSS Feed] and Google Blog Search [RSS Feed]. As well I embedded RSS feeds for a couple of Twitter lists focused on Pompeii and archaeology. I used Twitter Lists 2 RSS to create the RSS feeds for the Netvibes page. I think some of the highlights include a link to the brilliant AD79 Destruction and Re-discovery site created by Peter Clements and a set of guided Google Street View tours of Pompeii. As well I have linked to the excellent Blogging Pompeii site authored by archaeologists in Pompeii and the surrounding area as well as their Twitter feed.

PS. Kevin Lim over at theory.isthereasson has written an informative post on the advantages of Netvibes. I would no longer recommend Pageflakes as a visual RSS feed aggregator. The advertising is rather painful and in your face.

Apple iTunes app store disappoints
March 7th, 2010

The Apple iTunes Store disappoints. In particular the app store. As many are aware the quality of many of the apps leaves a lot to be desired. For a company that prides itself on design and the application of sound human computer interface design principles one wonders how some of the apps pass the approval test in the first place.

Click on image to view larger image.

Yet, the thing that gets my gripe today is the current crop of top free apps. As of today the top free app in the Australian iTunes Store is Knife Dancing. I will not provide a link to their site. Given the frequent occurrence of knife related crime in our country, including our schools, I find the approval of this app disturbing. It is rated 9+ for violence in the app store. It is suitable for users over the age of 9. That is reassuring (sarcasm).

Sitting at #9 is a sex positions app. Sitting at #7 is a Lie Detector Test for “sexy fun dating”. Sitting at #4 is an Imbecile Test. Further along at #16 is another sex positions app. This is all so pathetic. Lowest common denominator entertainment/infotainment. Call it what you will. Is the general public that ignorant or stupid? What hope can one have for the human race?

Given that students are increasingly being issued with or receiving iPod Touches and iPhones for educational use is this what society really wants them to see when they initially explore the app store?

I feel that the proliferation of girlie apps, fart apps and the like in the iTunes app store is rather puerile. Lift your game Apple.

Of course education and sensible parenting has a role to play here. The Internet and now the app store on iTunes are like a “newsagency” store that sells all types of publications, newspapers and magazines. Once in the store we head for the stands with the magazines and publications that interest us and steer clear of those that either do not interest us or perhaps even offend. A similar approach can be applied to the Internet and app store. Ignore the content that is of no use to you. This is learnt through the application of practical common sense and wisdom.

I hope Apple gains some common sense and looks harder at the quality and the integrity of the apps that are approved for release.