perpetual beta

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure how to characterise where I am today in singular terms: father, learner, educator, creator of things. All are true, to a lesser or greater extent, and all occupy my attention daily. Here's what I'm working on currently...

While I have largely abandoned social media platforms, I remain committed to the promise of the web, hence this modest window.

Thanks for your visit!

The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose — J.B.S. Haldane

E-mail Policy

In an effort to ensure maximal creative output, I operate a personal e-mail policy.

I find it imperative that I spend less time managing mailboxes and more time focused on important questions, new ideas, and future challenges. For me, the ever increasing distraction of e-mail leads only to fragmented thought and increased anxiety levels.

Therefore, please note that I respond to e-mail during the afternoon Monday to Friday only. I will do my very best to respond to your query as quickly as possible.

Lastly, I consider e-mail to be a strictly fact-based, short messaging service. If your response requires more than a few lines, or runs deeper than surface levels facts, we should really chat.

Thanks for your time and here's to more hours focused on valuable work!

Teaching: FAQ

Is it okay if I bring my laptop to class to take notes?

No, sorry. I understand that you may need your laptop for project work, and likely have a close relationship with the materials in it. However, there are problems using digital devices in classes that are devoted to deep thought and analysis — and the distractions of the internet are only a part of it. You may feel you're a master of multitasking, but you are not. Really. Seriously. Your mind is being hijacked. Those that use laptops have substantially worse understanding of the lecture. And as for your smartphone, even having it on the desk in front of you reduces your cognitive capacity.

A series of studies (this one more recently) indicate that notes taken by hand are far more effective than typed notes; there are multiple cognitive benefits to writing by hand. And people who use laptops in class not only experience a decline in their academic performance, they contribute to lowering the grades of other people as well. Furthermore, a number of studies also suggest that reading comprehension is significantly higher for people who read on paper rather than on screens. In reality, I tend to teach in succinct bursts and would hope that you can manage without your devices for the 45 to 50 mins per session.
Those who throw around the term “digital native” might insist that such an approach is unrealistic, anti-technological, or rooted in a distant past. It’s hard to say at this point. If it turns out that this particular approach was wrong, I will update accordingly. However, several studies point in the same direction, so I’m basing my ideas on what we know today. 

My computer crashed just before I was able to submit

Computer issues will not constitute an acceptable reason for an extension. Learn to backup your work often, and to know the applications you’re working with. Use a service like Dropbox, which can be configured to automatically back up specific directories and documents.

How important are spelling and punctuation?

Just get them right. You're an adult and a (future) professional. Check your spelling, know the difference between plurals and possessives (is it “’s” or just “s”), manage your referencing consistently and accurately. At this level of study, this is a minimum. If you don't take care of the small details, your readers are not going to trust you about the larger and more important matters — those concerning your ideas.

How much help will you give us?

I’m here to help. In most cases, I provide worksheets and challenges to be completed either before or after class. These exercises are designed to help you explore what we discussed. Practice is everything. Further, I am increasingly augmenting these practical exercises with video support via Blackboard Learn (BBL).

I’m happy to look at examples of early stage work, and will provide the best feedback that I can. However, please note the following:

• The closer we get to a deadline, the more people I hear from, which means that response times are longer. So, the earlier you come to me the better.
• Office visits are a great way to get to know one another, and can be helpful in getting to the root of an issue. You can book an appointment here. I ask that all students who visit me take detailed notes of what we discuss; so there is no confusion about the advice/support/thoughts offered.
• You need to provide me with all relevant details. I can only respond to the information provided.

When are assignments due?

All assignments are due by 1200 (noon) on the date indicated in the Module Handout unless I specify otherwise. You should always submit your reports to me is the PDF format via BBL, unless I tell you otherwise.

Mac -vs- PC

I operate within a predominantly Mac universe. I don’t have access to a Windows PC, so I can’t read files unique to that operating system.

What are the policies on late submission and extensions?

All assignments must be turned in on time. No matter how unpolished or incomplete an assignment is, you must turn in something on the due date to get credit for it. If an extraordinary event intervenes to prevent you from doing your best work, please contact your Course Director. In genuine cases of extenuating circumstances we (the course team) will do our best to support and accommodate you. That said, please bear in mind that what many students think to be extenuating circumstances — lots of work in other classes, a late night — do not in fact qualify. Submitting assignments on time is a component of the assessment.

What’s the deal with these worksheets and challenges?

Practice, practice, practice. The worksheets and challenges are an integral part of my effort to provide you with an opportunity to practice a specific skill, or engage with a particular topic.

What is your attendance policy?

I enforce attendance. If you miss more than 25% of your classes you may be prohibited from submitting work. Your responsibility is to your education; think of it as a master project. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to catch up on the materials that you missed; this may mean reading through notes, but I would also advise chatting to classmates…the notes represent only a snapshot of what happened in class.

Are you particular about timekeeping?

Yes. Come to class on time. If you must be late, come in as inconspicuously as possible and take a seat near the door if you can. Those of you who come early should leave the seats next to the door open.

What about rules in class?

Please do not eat, sleep, read unrelated materials, check Facebook (or other social platform), study for other classes, talk, or make noise in class.

Are there rules about email?

Not really rules, but you should adopt a professional manner. Be respectful and courteous to all.

How can I get in touch with you?

Theses details are available above. Again, it’s better to arrange a face-to-face chat - you can make a meeting request here. I'm always happy to speak to people. Email is another good way to get in touch; though I have had to create a policy around this, too.

This is important: Many of the problems that befall students become ever larger when they don’t communicate. The majority of issues can be worked out if you communicate in advance of, for example, the deadline. But it never works out well if you delay and then try to present me with a fait accompli.

What are the policies around plagiarism?

In a word, strict. Please see Ulster’s guidelines.

What should I do if I have an illness or disability that limits my academic performance in some way?

Course teams are generally advised of this via the University’s Student Support team; assuming you have contacted them. If you feel it’s necessary to highlight an issue directly, please contact me directly and we can set in place an appropriate plan.

What I'm doing now...

Inspired by Derek Sivers and the /now page movement, here's what I'm currently working on:

  • Music, Sound and Technology: Preparing for a return to campus and a mix of new and familiar faces. I cannot wait! Online tools will remain a significant aspect of my work, and, as always, the persistent challenge of trying to find the optimal balance between synchronous and asynchronous teaching and communication.

  • JavaScript: Continuing to explore the Web Audio API and p5. Moreover, lots of front-end work in recent weeks/months 😉

  • Active Learning: Principles and methodologies around engaging minds 🤔

  • Unreal Engine: “Toys and games are the preludes to serious ideas.” - Charles Eames

  • Eat Seasonal - A simple guide to eating with the seasons

  • nonzerosum - As we begin to open up, I am delighted to be supporting local web projects with a focus on community.

  • Meditation: Continuing to develop a makes a difference!

  • Callisthenics: Strength and body awareness.

  • Yoga: Stamina and flexibility 🙏

  • Mountain Biking: Off-road trails...I am hooked! Dangerously so 😆

Recent reading:

Here is my reading list