Library – Gamebox – Hub.

The library-gamebox-hub

My girls and I attended the opening of the Goethe Institut’s newly refurbished Library – Gamebox – Hub last Saturday (29 July). The space is as beautiful as it ever was with books, magazines, films, music and children’s literature in different languages. But as the name implies, the existing library has two new additions.

The first is a “Gamebox” This room allows visitors to try out the latest from the world of video games. Currently seven computer games that won a gaming prize in Germany, as well as a variety of gaming consoles, an ultra-high definition screen and Virtual Reality equipment are available. I tried the VR set and chose a shark attack experience that put me inside a shark cage with beautiful sea creatures swimming around and also a rather scary bar biting bit

The second major addition is the ‘hot desk’ hub. Situated above the issue desk and offices, on a gallery, this area has eight fully equipped workplaces for creative entrepreneurs, who are working on tech-driven creative start-ups, to work in. Until 31 August, interested individuals and collectives can apply to move into the hub for a defined period of six months. Applications for the hub can be handed in on Deadline is 31 August 2017.

My girls and I enjoyed the opening. This refurbishment is impressive. The library has been augmented.  None of the reading and information resources have been replaced. But a clever re-arrangement of structures and better use of space has introduced the new opportunities that patrons can take advantage of when visiting the Goethe library. We are looking forward to popping in again.

Disclosure: I work in conjunction with the Goethe-Institut as a consultant.

Pecha Kucha Pietermaritzburg?

Pecha Kucha, Japanese for “chit-chat”, is a presentation format that combines business meeting and slam poetry and turns endless Power Point presentations into an art form and a competitive sport.

Initially introduced by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, two Architects from Tokyo’s Klein-Dytham Architecture that were hosting an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public, this simple presentation format has become a world wide phenomena.

A Pecha Kucha presentation consists of 20 images, each displayed for 20 seconds, and then transitioned automatically to the next. At the the cut off point, the presentation is complete and the presenter stands down. This is a short, focused presentation that should, if rules are observed, take no longer than 6 min 40 secs.

In South Africa the idea has grown in popularity and regular evening are held and planned for Durban and Cape Town. A typical Pecha Kucha Night hosts 8 to 14 presenters. Presenters (and much of the audience) are usually from a range of academic and creative fields. Here, an audience can look forward to a tightly focused collection of images and words on subjects as diverse as tea towel design to teaching, cartooning to cartography.

Pietermaritzburg, sadly, still hasn’t heard of the phenomena. If you think that you can match words and images in a six minutes and 40 seconds  elevator pitch, or are interested in assisting creating a platform to watch others “transform corporate cliché into surprisingly compelling beat-the-clock performance art” – then please get in touch and let’s make such an event happen in our small city.

Web Wednesday Chit Chat and Workshops

I’d like to experiment with hosting and running a set of alternate bi-monthly chit chats and workshops for people that want to share their digital stories and extend their use of the net. These events will take place on the first Wednesday of the month and will collectively be known as WebWed.

Chit Chat

At these brief presentations we’ll discover how people are adapting / adopting / innovating with the net in their professional, social and educational lives. Join me for a bi-monthly Web Wednesday presentations (using the Pecha Kucha format) at 21 Milborrow Road.
Suggested Chit Chats
Please select the Chit Chats you would be interested in watching (multiple selections allowed)


Some people might be want to make better use of the net and learn how to design and develop web stuff. Sign up for a practical session behind a computer every second month where I’ll facilitate a workshop on a local computer network. Only 10 places are available

Suggested Workshops Topics
Please select the workshop topics that you might participate in (multiple selections allowed)

If you are in education, development or training and interested in learning about, using and producing resources on the web, then look out for #WebWed on Twitter. If you are around Pietermaritzburg, consider sharing your experiences or sign up for a workshop where together, we’ll work on the web.

Inform, don’t meform



“Inform them, catch their attention, don’t meform and angst” say the Social Media gurus. Always on the look out for tools that can assist me do the above – and I’ve recently installed two WordPress plugins that offered information possibilities.

  • Twitter Tools
  • Link Within.
    • Twitter Tools is plugin that integrates your WordPress blog and your Twitter account. Meaning…the mutterings that I make to myself (and occasionally with some amazing people) are archived publicly on my blog. Now I know some people just drool profound / clever witty thought, but frankly, my Tweets are generally are not worth ruminating on, let alone digesting. So this tool might be unplugged for a while.

      Link Within, my second WordPress plugin has done some really clever coding and planning, and has released a plugin that “retrieves and indexes all stories from my blog archive” so that new readers can see what else I’ve written , not just recent stories. Small problem is, my writing has not been uploaded to my blog. So the choice of different articles (for those that do trip up and find this hidden space) is fairly limited. Time to start finishing off those articles and uploading them to the blog.

      Both plugins impressed me with how quick and simple they were to install and use. But clever tools soon become ordinary and unless they assist with sharing ideas, their impressesiveness soon looses novelty. I read blogs to find out more about the people that have impressed me with their interesting online ideas. If a tool helps me see them explore ideas, visualize creativity, and catalogue intuitive leaps, fantastic. But if the tool simply tells me more about themselves – then they’re meforming.

      The exception to this is the Twitter landing page. In this example, @marciamarcia introduces herself and her interests. Martin Weller takes this introduction concept further. When he meets “followers” face to face he has Seven Conversation Starters for taking the conversation beyond blogging. Both clever ideas where WordPress plugins can be used.

Join the conversation

How South African Universities are using Social Media

How South African Universities are using Social Media

Vadim Lavrusik’s article – 10 Ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media on Mashable prompted me to explore about how South African Universities, and particularly public affairs or faculties are making use of Social Media.

From what I found (and this is not authoritative, my little network does not cover all 23 higher ed institutions in South africa) Tukkies, UNISA, Stellenbosch Maties, Wits and UCT are using the medium to listen, talk, network, distribute information, support and participate.

Social Media and tertiary students seem like a natural fit. Students can access and participate via their personal computers, the LAN or their mobile phone. University does not have to spend a fortune to set up a presence. Promotion is usually organic. Since the “friend of a friend” concept is embedded into this media form, word of mouth is used to promote the growth of the such sites. Constant effort is required to make sure the site is more than a monologue. But there are a variety of tools to assist with this process.

I also stumbled upon a few unkempt social media sites that had not been maintained. Social Media is probably more about strategy and less about the technology and getting buy in to your social media objectives and strategy from serious management (and preferably commitment to model its from the top) is required for the medium to yield any meaningful results.

Now I’d also like to explore how students feel about using Social Media and have constructed a student questionnaire on Social Media () to explore this issue further.

Wordled & taguled my thesis


Wordle of my thesis

I hauled out the old thesis and copied & pasted the text into Wordle. Yishay persuaded me to take it further and submit it to the I wordled my thesis group on Flickr.

The thesis seems more accessible as a tag cloud and, when enlarged, it visually summerises the key words and ideas contained in the document .

Gabriela pointed me towards Tagul when she Twittered about it. Alex, the designer of Tagul has taken the Wordle concept further and created a site that allows you to make clouds that can be “used on blogs, web pages .. as a replacement of ordinary tag clouds”. As oposed to Wordle, where the tag cloud is a single image, each tag in Tagul is linked with an URL and is “clickable”. Take a look and see. Links go to Google, but Tagul allows you to direct them to any URL on the web.

I taguled my thesis

“What teachers make”

Taylor Mali is a teacher and poet. He’s a advocate for teachers and the nobility of teaching profession. He’s got a great poem entitled “What teachers make”. I like the way that the poem has been visualised. It’s a great example of a sticky presentation

  • Taylor has and asked (and answered) the question – What do teachers make? This gives the show an attractive simplicity
  • Interest in his ideas are generated and maintained by the way that he shakes peoples expectations. The unexpected elements in the presentation maks you want to read more.
  • Images and text are boldly used accross the screen. Sensory information rather than abstract text keeps the show concrete.
  • He’s obviously a teacher, with a commitment to good spelling and limited bathroom time. There’s little doubt about his credebility
  • He taps into our emotions by recounting a story about a child who stood up to a bully. We care about what he has to say because we feel something.
  • Finally, his presentation uses a story to get our attention.

Together, the show keeps to the SUCCES (simplicity, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotions and story) principles outlines in Chip and Dan Heaths’ Made to Stick.

It’s a useful exercise applying these principles to presentations generally. Maybe, if we can get it right, our presentations might be a bit more memorable. My PPT presentation  PowerPoint – The Good the Bad and the Ugly  elaborates on these points, and introduced 6 bad things to do and 6 ugly things to include in a presentation. Is it sticky? Take a look and see.

It’s not a PICNIC

Problem In Chair, Not In Computer

Problem In Chair, Not In Computer

PICNIC  (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer) is a term used by computer techies to describe people who are having problems with their computer. The assumption behind the term is that the computer is right, and the user is wrong. Perhaps geeks feel that computers needs defending. I don’t. I think users need to be looked after better.


The automatic assumption that people struggling with a computer are stupid, untrained, illiterate etc is an arrogant conceit. The user experience (UX)  and the user interface (UI) is determined by the techies, geeks and coders responsible for putting the interface together. Blaming users for not understanding their design is misplaced.


I’d argue that we need to be looking at PICNIC the other way around. Computers should develop and evolve so that the needs of the person in the chair, the user are put first before the technology. A great user experience on a computer’s depends on the usability, accessibility and  pleasure between the user and their device. That’s user interface determines how long that positive experience remains.


As a teacher, and an ed techie, I’m interested in how teachers and students can make better use of their computers. But you’ll never here me use the term PICNIC. Don’t assume that technology is right and your teachers or students are at fault. This is mistake. Although I spend lots of my time coding behind a computer, and lots of my night churning over the problems I encountered while designing or coding, my interest really lies in understanding peoples learning interactions with ICT.


I’ve noticed that in educational circles, the learning is usually focused around the content, or the teacher, but vary rarely around learner him / herself and understanding their particular needs. Defining the particular problem that the learner faces is half of the battle won. Then you can move forward and collect relevant resources that address this need and design and develop an appropriate learning experience.


This process can be both messy and recursive, and certainly is no PICNIC. But if we really want our students to understand what they are learning, then we need to understand our students.