Posts Tagged ‘children’

Owlbot: Faith’s first chatbot (and barcamp)

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

For her talk at Barcamp Southampton yesterday, Faith did a presentation on owls, together with a chatbot she trained to answer questions about owls.

I’ve brought Grace to a couple of barcamps with me before: Barcamp Berkshire and Barcamp Bournemouth. But this was Faith’s first time.

She decided that she wanted to do a talk on owls. That wasn’t a big surprise… she’s a little bit obsessed with owls.

Some of Faith's owls

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Machine learning “Top Trumps”

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

A simple demonstration of machine learning to let a child train a computer to play Top Trumps

I’ve been talking for a while now about how we introduce the idea behind machine learning to school kids. I’ve given several talks about it but I’ve also tried out a couple of approaches to it.

Now I’m trying out another: training a machine learning bot how to play Top Trumps.

I’ve put a demo at toptrumps.eu-gb.mybluemix.net.

screenshot

What is this?

It’s basically Top Trumps: that card game I used to play as a kid where you choose one of the attributes on a card, and if it beats the other player you get their card. Except it’s online, and you’re playing against a computer.

But the computer hasn’t been given any strategies on how to play, and has to learn from the player.

Initially, it makes random choices, but it learns from playing against the player. The more turns it plays, the more training it gets, which it uses to make predictions of which choice would give it the best chance of winning. (more…)

Welcome to Eastleigh

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

This is a video that my (at the time) five year old, Grace, made last summer.

It was in the school holidays when I was looking for things that would keep her occupied for a couple of days – and I suggested that she might want to do some filming. She decided to make a documentary about the town where we live.

I would have posted this at the time, but it all got a little out of hand and ended up over twenty minutes long – which made it too long for me to upload to YouTube. But today, my YouTube account got approved for posting longer videos, so I thought that (even if five or six months late!) it’d still be worth sharing.

Welcome to Eastleigh

Grace was, unsurprisingly, in charge of everything – acting as presenter, director, narrator, location scout, and all-around bossy boots. My job was to point the camera where I was told in the bits where she wanted to talk. 🙂

It was all filmed using a normal digital stills camera that happens to let you record video clips. So the quality isn’t great (the microphone in particular doesn’t handle the wind well!).

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Making YouTube (very slightly) more child-safe with a Firefox extension

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Kids stuff on YouTubeOur six year old daughter, Grace, has lost interest in kids TV recently – she’s discovered the joys of YouTube!

She can happily spend a half-hour sat in front of the TV on Firefox (our TV set-up is a Linux-based media centre, so it’s proper Firefox with a keyboard and mouse) clicking from video to video.

I’m fine with this. It’s good: she’s getting more familiar with how to use a web browser, getting used to starting the browser, typing “youtube” into the address bar, using the search box to search for what she wants, using the ‘Back’ button to go back to the search results if it’s not what she wanted, and so on. This is all good stuff, let alone the fact that there is a lot of content on YouTube that is actually ideal for kids.

But…

Well, she’s six. Not every video on YouTube is suitable for her. I’m not just talking about the stuff for over-18s. I don’t even want her to come across stuff with, for example, more swearing and violence – such as stuff that you might be happy to show a 12 year old.

The real solution to this is what we do now – she’s doing this in the sitting room on the TV, while we’re in the room watching stuff with her. I’m not saying I want to give her a laptop, send her up to her room, and say “here’s YouTube – off you go, have fun!”.

Even so, I wanted something to help out a little.

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Pub/Sub for Child Protection

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

I went on a training course yesterday to learn more about the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). ISA is the public body that will be responsible for registering and vetting people who work with children. It was created by the Government in response to the Bichard Inquiry that followed the Soham Murders.

There was way too much covered in the course to fit in a single post, but there was one particular bit worth mentioning.

The biggest limitation with the existing CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks is that it’s a snapshot – a one-off check.

It’s a piece of paper that tells you that the owner had no convictions at the time the paper was printed. But it doesn’t tell you if the owner went out and committed a crime the day after the paper was printed. If a CRB check isn’t repeated for a few years, it can be years before this is discovered.

ISA registration is different. Once registered, someone is continually monitored.

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Vtech Kidizoom

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Top of Grace’s Christmas list for Father Christmas was a camera.

In the end, Santa went with the Vtech Kidizoom.

Faith - Grace's baby sisterIt was tough to find many reviews for it, so I thought I’d share a few of Grace’s snaps with it so far, for anyone interested to see what the image quality is like – all of the photos in this post were taken by Grace (our 4 year old) with the Kidizoom.

The camera cost £40, and produces JPEGs with a resolution of 640×480. There is about 12 MB of storage in the camera, which has enough space for at least a couple of hundred pics, and an SD card slot if you need more space.

DC00029

The pictures are a little fuzzy, but Grace is certainly happy enough with them.

The camera does have a flash, which means indoor pics are possible.

It can be tricky getting the distance right when using the flash – too far away and the flash is no use at all and the picture is very dark, too close and the flash is too bright creating a bright white picture. (Although this has created a couple of neat pics such as this one!)

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Who can we trust with children?

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

I took Grace to a birthday party yesterday morning for one of her friends. It was at a soft-play centre in Southampton – in many ways, an ideal place to have a birthday party for a group of excited three and four year olds. Except, as we went in, I noticed a sign:

“In the interest of CHILD PROTECTION, photography is NOT PERMITTED”

It’s such a shame – because when it’s your own child’s birthday party, of course you want to get photos of them playing with their friends on their big day. But his parents weren’t allowed to do that. Because of “child protection”.

It’s not to say that I’ve not seen this before – all of the soft-play centres I’ve taken Grace to have the same rules, and we had the same thing at Grace’s birthday party in the Marwell centre. But I noticed it more because it reminded me of a discussion from Thursday night. Thursday night was a training session for a youth mentoring programme that I’m a volunteer with, and someone mentioned something they’d seen discussed in an interview with Esther Rantzen on GMTV. The story goes that a parent was arrested for taking photographs of their own children in a public playground. It sounded pretty shocking – over the last few years, I’ve probably taken hundreds of photos of my girls in our local park, and I wouldn’t think of that as being even suspicious, let alone something warranting arrest!

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