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You've got to admire the Government. It's basically hung an axe over the head of 638 secondary schools it believes aren't doing well enough.
These schools now either need to shape up or face the consequences, which could include being shut down.
Aside from other measures, if generating discussion was an aim for The Big Debate then you could call it a success.
If you missed out on the event at the time then you can still watch it on this Bambuser channel. Live-blogged transcripts of the debate are also available on The Birmingham Post courtesy of Pete Ashton and on my own personal blog.
While the debate was going on, the emergent back channels for discussion were recognised, with Pete's live-blogging projected on a screen behind the panel. His chat featured some of the discussion taking place via Twitter and the relevant tweets can be seen on Summize.
So much for the live reporting of the debate. I often find the value in these things comes after the event itself when people get a chance to digest what they've heard, discuss things with others and put down their own thoughts.
And so, over this afternoon and this evening blog posts have cropped up in response to the debate.
David Harte used his Birmingham Post blog to opine that, as far as social media is concerned, useful or useless' is a more pertinent question than 'more power or more powerless'.
Nick Booth gave a round-up of several others with some of his own input on the issue of the digital divide.
Stef Lewandowski started writing a comment under Nick's post which turned into a bog post of his own. Following events in New York, he found the debate unfocussed. He referred to the notion of 'usefulness' and would welcome a discussion on the 'why' of digital media.
Jon Bounds also picked up on the issue of the digital divide and sees much more room for discussion there. He's critical of two of the panel and identifies topics that were skirted over, that of privacy in particular.
Jason Norris considered many of the topics raised, saying "perhaps the Digital Revolution has redistributed the power, but to both parties".
A couple of quick points were made by Simon Howes and Russ L. The former points out why it's ironic that BBC and BT representatives were sat side-by-side discussing on-demand services. The latter claiming that there wasn't much new said.
Adding some variety, cartoonist Alex Hughes was there and made a few sketches of the panel.
Finally, after reading what everyone else has said, I made some notes of my own on my blog. You can see that by clicking Chris Unitt.
If you've put down your thoughts about the debate somewhere then please link to them in the comments. Not got a blog to air your views on? The comments are waiting for you too.
It's been a hectic few months since we launched The Birmingham Post's new website, in which time we've seen the number of daily users more than double, page impressions increase by a similar amount, and hundreds of people sign-up for our e-newsletters.
But the real success story is in what we've learned - and continue to learn - about this medium, and how it changes the very journalism of papers like The Post.
- The Big Debate is today, 12.30pm to 2.30pm at the ICC.
- You can still register to attend.
- The debate will be shown live here.
- The debate will be live-blogged here.
- You can comment in the chat-box here or by using the #bigdebate Twitter hashtag
The Big Debate takes place at the ICC at lunchtime (well, 12.30pm to 2.30pm) today. From what I hear the big, shiny 'places strictly limited' button has done it's work, meaning there are plenty of spare places available. If you can make it, take a sec to register and pop on down.
Although the debate is taking place in the middle of the working day there's actually more opportunity to see it and get involved than in previous years and that's down to, yup, online interactivity.
Joanna Geary has applied the kind of thinking and innovation that's got her noticed in journalism circles and, as a result the debate will be broadcast live on Bambuser (a natty little video service) and Pete Ashton will be live-blogging (making notes/commenting about the debate live) using a service called CoverItLive. You can follow this here on the Birmingham Post site.
So that's the broadcasting covered, what of the interactivity? Well, people can comment on the Bambuser site in a chat-box next to the video. Also, for those that use Twitter (essentially a groovy online text messaging service) Pete will be monitoring any messages that include '#bigdebate'.
Noteworthy Bambuser comments and #bigdebate tweets will be fed into CoverItLive which, as well as being on this website, will also be projected on a screen behind the panel.
So, bearing in mind the panel are expected to be largely technophile and this is a debate about the pros and cons of digital ('more power or more powerless?') a few cynical voices from the audience might be needed to prevent a huge back-slapping sesh. I do appreciate that it'll be digital interactivity giving voice to such cyncism, though.
At the moment the message from Birmingham's digital media early adopters seems to be that online media of all sorts can be used to help improve society. Blogs can give the disenfranchised a voice and tie together communities; the Big City Plan could be developed publicly via a wiki; free wi-fi access across the city would drive business...
These may all be valuable things that should be pursued and there's nothing wrong with racing ahead. However, I see more value in the less sexy work of bringing those lagging behind up to speed. With this in mind I was pleasantly surprised to see the content of Digital Birmingham's current 'Get Into Digital' campaign.
As Digital Birmingham's about page says:
We want to help citizens, communities and businesses in Birmingham to use digital technologies more widely and in new ways, whilst recognising differing interests and varying skill levels
It's the last part of that statement that I like.
The campaign recognises that some people (in fact, I'd go so far as to say many people) haven't got a clue about digital technology and seeks to bring those people into the fold.
A series of courses and lessons are taking places in libraries across the city on easy, non-threatening, basic topics like 'how to set up an email account' and 'how to trace your family tree' - the kind of thing people might have a personal motivation for learning about.
At the same time, within the digital bubble, conversations are starting about how the early adopters can use their skills and knowledge to help people, communities and so on. They would do well to heed this example and consider the language and level of what they're pitching - talking about blogs, memes, social media, feeds, wikis, metadata and taking pride in describing it all as geeky will inevitably alienate people and send them running in the opposite direction.
It's about getting out of the bubble, using your audience's language, seeing what people need and finding ways to achieve that. It's not about jargon or pushing the latest fascinating thing you've found.
Digital Birmingham come in for a bit of stick - birminghamfiz? No RSS feed for their news? - but here I think they're to be congratulated because it's initiatives like this that will help to address the widening digital literacy gap.
It has been clear for a number of months that the procedure to select a candidate to replace Clare Short as Labour's official candidate for Ladywood at the next General Election was becoming mired in controversy, not just over the matter of an all-woman shortlist but also as a result of the constituency's complex ethnic make-up.
The decision on Saturday to choose Asian Muslim candidate Shabana Mahmood rather than black Christian city councillor Yvonne Mosquito has already triggered allegations of dirty tricks and it would take a supreme optimist to imagine that claims and accusations will die down anytime soon.
Scandal is the word that springs to mind. I'm talking about a Government report that shows children from the poorest areas have the least qualified teachers.
It makes you wonder what education is for in this country. Is it to perpetuate social inequality or is it to help children no matter what their background make the most of their lives?
Although I'm generally a fan of new digital shenanigans I appreciate that it's not all fun and games for everyone. For example, I accept that it's possible to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available online.
At a conference on digital media I attended earlier this year, a delegate asked the panel despairingly "how do you deal with information overload?" The term 'infobesity' was used, adding a nice, quasi-medical twist.
The panel pointed out that this isn't a new problem. How many books are printed every year? How many films are released? How many TV shows are broadcast over how many channels every evening?
Germaine Greer is now posting over on the New Generation Arts blog and gives a similar answer to this question:
"Communication overload was around long before we had digital technology. We've had to pick our way through too much information for a generation."
So there's a sense that there is 'too much' information out there but it's nothing to get stressed about. That's good to know, but we still need a way to manage the unmanageable. How do we do that?
Without thinking about it consciously, we've each developed systems to navigate through high volumes of irrelevancy and dross. Our systems may use guides, reviews, recommendations, experimentation and dumb luck. These systems can apply to news, books, TV, film, music... and the internet.
For example, we trust in search engines to bring us the information we need. Friends tell us about websites or email links to things we might like. Bookmarking service like del.ici.ous can be used to save and share links to websites
It's true there's a lot out there but it's nothing to worry about, honestly.
Details of the panel for The Big Debate, taking place at the ICC on 9 June from 12.30 to 14.30, are available on the Big Debate website. What struck me is that, of the five people involved, only one comes from a small, digitally-minded company (and even then a relatively old one).
The other organisations represented are BT, Trinity-Mirror and the BBC (twice, including the Chair). All large, blue-chippers that are being compelled to develop their existing business models to incorporate the effects of the recent digital explosion.
My question is, are they best placed to lead a discussion about the direction of this brave new digital world?
Awards. What are they good for? Advancing careers, mostly.
These days there's an award for everything, from best restaurant to best inside leg measurer. OK, I made up that last one. But you get the point.
Is the digital age eroding our national right to queue? Chris Poolman and Keir Williams, creators of the Digital is Dangerous campaign, present their "political manifesto" explaining why the information revolution is not all it's cracked up to be.
Welcome to The Big Debate blog.
Over the next ten days I hope it will spark discussion on the future of digital technology and the impact it has on our lives.
Whether it be communication, entertainment, education, politics or commerce, there seems very little in life that has not been touched by the rapid development of these new tools.
...I did to feel sorry for the guys dutifully lining up outside my local cinema last night, with their overly excited other halves, who were chomping at the bit to see Sex and the City.
Being a major fan of the show, I had opted for an earlier screening, hoping the dismal drizzle would deter half-termers from disrupting it.
Oh how wrong I was. Wish I'd had a Hermes scarf to strangle them with, but I didn't - so I just seethed in my seat.
But even that didn't ruin the film for me...
I'm not going to review SATC here, but all I will say is girls - take some tissues (and a hip flask of Cosmopolitan!), while guys - if you surreptitiously switch on your iPod (quietly), you might just survive, as the lone male in my screening did.
Otherwise do the decent thing, go and watch Indiana Jones and let the girls have their fun!
Take a look at the diagram below. Still awake? Or have you sunk into a state of near death.
If you work for Birmingham City Council's education services you should be very excited by it.
Tony Howell, head of the service, certainly is. It appears beside an article penned by Mr Howell in the latest edition of Brighter Futures, a glossy magazine produced by the authority that goes out to everyone working in children's services in the city, including headteachers.
One of the most frustrating problems a picture editor experiences is being faced with a huge and dramatic story but not having a huge and dramatic picture to illustrate it.
but after a not particularly healthy weekend, enjoying the finest wines and foods known to M&S with an old uni buddy, I started thinking.
And considering the thumping headache I had this morning (after a fun, but clearly ill-advised night on the pop), that was an achievement in itself.
Last week the Government launched a ÃÂ£10 million 'unit awareness' campaign, aimed at those who like to unwind with a stiff G&T or a glass of vino after work, rather than stereotypical binge drinkers.
I met the Jamaican Prime Minister the other day and among other things, asked him what he thought about the under-achievement of black African Caribbean boys in this country.
It's a problem that has perplexed educationalists for a long while. He said he would look into it.
The result of the Crewe by-election has yet to be announced, but Birmingham MP Steve McCabe (Hall Green), Labour's campaign manager in Crewe, has effectively conceded that the Tories have won it, telling broadcasters "things happen mid term".
He cited the by-election in Birmingham Hodge Hill, which Liam Byrne won for Labour with a majority of just 500 in 2004. Just a year later, in a general election, Mr Byrne was re-elected with a healthy 5,000 majority.
The message to MPs was not to panic - by-elections don't tell you what will happen in a general election. As he put it: "What's important is that the unity that people showed here [in Crewe] mid-term is shown in Government."
On the controversy surrounding Labour's "Tory Toff" attacks on the Conservative candidate, he said: "We were having a bit of fun. Most people in Crewe and Nantwich got that . . . it was never a central part of the campaign."
Mr McCabe's argument, expressed on the BBC tonight (or this morning, as it's 1am) and to The Birmingham Post earlier this week, is that the media have exaggerated the extent to which Labour focused on Tory candidate Edward Timpson's background.
But it's not just the media and the Conservatives who have raised this issue. There has also been some disquiet from Labour figures at Westminster.
Having said that, there is also concern among Labour MPs that Mr McCabe is being blamed for a by-election loss which was probably inevitable, based on comments MPs have made to me.
Ultimately, I think "Labour strategists" who have been briefing the London papers that Mr McCabe got it wrong are in danger of deluding themselves.
The comment Mr McCabe made on the news just now is correct. He said: "I think when there is a big movement, and that's exactly what we've seen, I think the campaign can only play a limited role."
The Tory success in Crewe - they are currently predicting a majority of about 6,000, as counting continues this morning - is not a judgment on one Birmingham MP, it's a judgment on the Government as a whole.
I bet you're thinking to yourself, this has all been done before. Complaining about the Olympics is nothing new. Well I don't care, I'm going to do it again.
The Olympics is a gloriously obscene, corrupt, grotesque, pointless, wasteful woolly white mammoth of an event.
I was at a meeting of the West Midlands Police Authority today, the body that oversees the actions of the local force. A group of top cops and politicians all talking about how the police force will pay for the extra effort of the London 2012 Olympics.
What a waste of Midlanders' money. And what a waste of police officers - officers previously in action in Birmingham will be taken down to London to help out the Met.
I'm going to take a bit of a punt here by predicting that Labour will lose today's Crewe & Nantwich by-election.
Well, OK, perhaps not that much of a punt given that the bookmakers, always the most astute judges of political contests, stopped taking bets on the outcome a couple of days ago when the odds on a Conservative victory reached 16/1 on. In other words, enjoy a ÃÂ£1,000 return from a ÃÂ£16,000 investment and get your original stake back - a return that presumably appealed to City types rather more than low-interest building society accounts.
Yesterday the Birmingham Mail newspaper ran the story of a man rushed to hospital after drinking fake vodka spiked with methanol, and warned that 'consumer chiefs' feared 'other bottles of the potentially deadly drink may be on sale in shops across the city'. It told how the police seized 120 bottles of Glens Vodka from Select & Save off-licenses, in Frankley Beeches Road, Northfield, and of those seized bottles passed to trading standards officers; ten were found to be counterfeit.
It is likely that these bottles were sold small scale by counterfeiter's cold-calling smaller off-licenses', but the while this example might seem rare, counterfeiting is increasing. It is part of the sprawling instance of crime that occurs daily in the U.K, but that is so routinely overlooked. For example Birmingham City Council suggest that:
'Trading Standards Departments are increasingly finding inferior, illegally copied and often unsafe goods on sale to the public which have been produced or imported by unscrupulous businesses or individuals capitalising on well-known company names and brands, or the original work of others. The practice of 'counterfeiting' has serious adverse effects on traders selling genuine goods and is prejudicial to companies and individuals whose names are illegally applied to goods or who own the brands or the legal right to reproduce original works'
I recognise that by posting on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which came before parliament yesterday, I am dealing with a sensitive topic that divides opinion. I want to share my thoughts on the decision to remove from doctors the need to consider 'the need for a father' which will now be amended to read 'supportive parenting' where provision IVF treatment is concerned.
Depending on which newspaper you select today, with yesterday's vote the government either made fathers redundant, or struck a great stride forward in the pursuit of social equality. It seems there is a great divide between two quite opposing camps concerning whether women wanting IVF treatment, and those providing it should be required by legislature to consider the need for males to be part of the process.
This is unfortunately a somewhat belated blog on events that unfolded before the high court last Thursday. Unfortunately I have only just had time to turn my attention to the scandalous conduct of our local West Midlands police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that ultimately came to full light last week concerning the Dispatches programme 'undercover mosque'. On Thursday both groups issued a high court apology and agree to pay six-figure libel damages to company makers Hardcash and Channel 4 who first aired the programme in January 2007.
I know Roshan Doug has already written on the topic, but my focus is slightly different. I wanted to examine not the media, but the abysmal conduct of criminal justice bodies involved.
I watched the programme and found it gripping and shocking investigative journalism. To set the scene for anyone who did not see Dispatches (there is a link in here) had investigated a number of mosques run by high profile national organisations, almost exclusively all where adherents to Saudi influenced Wahabism - a variety of Islam that externally claimed to be dedicated to moderation and dialogue with other faiths, but behind closed doors preached something quite different. It was that which was the film highlighted, showing footage taken from covert filming. The footage demonstrated the most extreme forms of intolerance, bigotry and extremism. Those who watched the programme saw how firebrand preachers filmed without their knowledge told a mainly young male audience that Allah had created the woman deficient and 'needing' to be beaten for not wearing a hijab; that homosexuals should be thrown from the mountain to their deaths; and that the 'kuffaar' or (or non-believer) amounted to little more than dirt. They condemned the idea of integration into British society, painted British democracy as un-Islamic, and praised the Taliban for killing British soldiers.
To borrow John Prescott's memorable phrase, the tectonic plates are shifting under Birmingham City Council's Labour group.
Poor election results and the certainty of at least another five or six years in opposition are focusing minds, not for the first time, on the future of Sir Albert Bore. Whether the murmurings of discontent turn out to be a full-blown earthquake or nothing more than a tiny tremor remains to be seen.
Bore has been here many times before during his 10-years as group leader, and will I am certain be viewing the latest plotting against him with nothing more than minor irritation.
What do we make about the latest round of criticisms against SATs? This week they got a right kicking from the education sector in the wake of a damning report from the Government's own schools select committee made up of MPs.
The night before Panorama put the boot in as well with an edition called Tested to Destruction which featured a load of educationalists saying how damaging national testing is to children.
In the face of all this, Ministers remain unrepentant and insist SATs are a key tool in raising attainment.
Knowing who to believe is a bit tricky.
Well i'm back...I realise that the world has been holding it's breath waiting for the next Birmingham Post picture desk related blogpost, so here is my excuse for not doing one for two months....my computer was rubbish !.
However, I have now got a shiny new computer (a PC) and I am actually able to access 'BirminghamPost.net' and post my blogs( and In a minute I am going to upload an image as well...if there is a picture of a computer at the top of this page then I have succeeded !)
I've written before here about extremist politics and the oxygen of publicity when the BNP capitalised on the 40th anniversary of the 'Rivers of Blood' speech to put across their dubious creed. But there are worse groups than the BNP.
Earlier this week at Birmingham University, there was a bit of a kerfuffle when an officer elect for the students guild promoted an event organised by the extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. (Post article here, thanks to the excellent Ministry of Truth blog where I heard about it first)