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Posts Tagged ‘london

The London Underground system will get 4G coverage by 2019. Yay?

The writer’s reaction summarised in the tweet above was one of dismay. Mine was simply welcome to 2012.

I visited the UK twice two years ago and can relate to the wireless-less experience. I discovered during my second visit that some stations deep underground had wifi so I enjoyed intermittent access.

The article’s writer seems to be predicting some sort of social pandemonium brought about by people yammering loudly and incessantly.

Will it happen? Yes, but not likely to the extent and frequency he projects. Our own train system gets a few loud mouths who have no volume control or social awareness. But really, how many people actually talk that often on their phones?

The writer might get actual anecdotes and data from other systems that have 4G access about loud mouth frequency. He might also find out how such access actually helps commuters.

Being able to communicate by voice, video, text, or emoji provides a crucial channel for alerts and in emergencies. 4G access also activates many eyes in a human monitoring system of nefarious activities.

Writers might like making predictions based solely on opinion and limited experience. They could do better with critical data and lived experiences.

Now if only more readers learnt to tell the difference between these writers…

I am currently in London, but my learning does not stop.

One of the things I decided to do was take my family on a walking tour of Greenwich.

Greenwich was a lovely place. It was interesting to be in the part of the world that historically and geographically defines the western and eastern halves.

Our guide, a wily older lady with 37 years of experience, told fairly interesting stories and she was quite a character. However, her method of delivery reminded me of old school practices.

It was practically about all of us listening to her talk. There was almost no time for questions and photographs as we hustled and bustled from one place to another.

When we were stationary, it was to listen to stories. Humourous and informative as some of them were, they were nonetheless disjointed. The kids in the group fidgeted. I fidgeted.

Eventually some of us learnt to wander off slightly to discover things our own and to take photographs before our guide mentioned what was photogenic. My trusty phone helped me snap my Lego family series, and I could Google Map where I was or Google for information.

While the guide provided her own insights, she had obviously honed her delivery down to an art. There was little need to adjust. It was fine to go at one pace in any one place.

If all this sounds familiar, it reflects teaching like much of it still is today. That is not good enough because a teacher does not just offer insights that students do not have. It is not enough that a guide or teacher be funny, informative, or knowledgeable. An educator must also create the desire to learn.

I contrast the walking guide’s method with a much younger leader I met during an afternoon tea on a Routemaster bus.

The bus guide did not just serve us delectable treats and pepper us with factual tidbits. More often than not, he asked us questions about what we saw around us. A group of Middle Eastern women at a table near us would reach for their phones to Google for answers. The rest would rack our brains to recall something we heard on other tours or from memory.

This other guide made a game of things. We were challenged to think and we were simultaneously put at ease in a conducive social and physical environment. I felt like I could get into trouble with the older guide at any time; the younger one made us comfortable despite quizzing us.

The issue is not the age of the guide or teacher. The issue is being in touch with how people learn and what they learn with today. Learners need to be more involved and to use the tools they prefer. The learner has this message for any guide or teacher: Engage me or enrage me.

I spent my last day in London in the Old Truman Brewery area. I did not plan on being there.

I had visited Poppies for its fish and chips the evening before. On my way back, I spotted a billboard advertising the exhibition.

The next day I visited The Art of the Brick, took some photos, and enjoyed some street food.

It was a wonderful way to leave London thanks to serendipity.

I bracketed my trip to BETT 2015 in London with some exploring of the city. But instead of planning an itinerary in great detail, I painted broad strokes and adjusted to the circumstances.

Today I share a story fueled by photos on Picasa. I had previously tweeted some photos and tagged only a few with #edsg so as not to spam the channel.

But there are some things that photos cannot capture. When Twitter eventually rolls its video feature out to me, I will share a few timelapse videos there.

There was one thing I did not get around to tweeting because the phone signal cut out on me. I had intended to tweet: Very little English in England, particularly on public transport. London reminded me of New York City in this respect, as did the punishing stairs and honest griminess of train stations.

This trip was like a lark flying reconnaissance. I hope to return, this time with family in tow, to explore some more.

This part of my reflection on my visit to London for Bett focuses on travel tips.

Mobile power
As with any trip, I brought a power pack for my iPhone. The iPhone was a thirsty beast when I was getting directions, taking photos, and surfing for information, so it helped to have a portable oasis.

Local prepaid SIM
Before leaving for London, I asked around and did my research online for a suitable prepaid SIM. This wiki was a good start, but its information might not be current.

I settled on Three’s PAYG All In One 15. It might cost GBP15 if you live in the UK and can get a free SIM, but it will cost you GBP20 if you buy it over the counter or from a vending machine like the one below.

The SIMs from the vending machine come in a three-in-one pack (normal, mini, nano sizes). The SIM is set to go; there is no need to activate them by calling a number, scratching top up cards, or typing in codes. Take out your old SIM, put the new one in, restart your phone, and start surfing/using your new number.

This prepaid plan gave me 3000 SMS, 300 minutes of calls, and unlimited data over a month. You cannot tether the phone and thus share your Internet connection. However, you can if you have a jailbroken phone like mine.

The 3G and 4G signal was relatively poor in East London where I stayed and also where the ExCeL Centre was located. I would often get only a 3G, one dot/bar signal. This was often not enough bandwidth to tether. Fortunately, there were lots of free wifi spots at the Centre, museums, libraries, etc.

Finding your way around
Google Maps might be your best friend. It was mine.

The Travel for London (TfL) site’s journey planner is mobile-friendly and fast, but I got more mileage out of Google Maps. It not only provided different options, travel times, and congestion warnings, it also provided greater details like walking directions and which exits to head for.

There is no 3G/4G service underground, so it is important to cache information beforehand. The eastern train lines are over ground so that might buy you some surfing time.

The Tube map and signs underground might look confusing. But they are clear when you realize that you must have TWO pieces of information: Your destination and the terminating point of your train (this also applies to the bus services).

If you are taking a more than 30-minute train journey, it is rare that you stay on one train. You train hop to get from one point to another. When underground, you might lose your sense of direction especially when moving from one platform to another. Often one platform might serve trains going to two or three end points. Make sure you get on a train whose terminating point allows you to travel to your destination.

I opted to go for an Airbnb place because hotels around the conference centre were expensive and filled up quickly.

I stayed in someone’s home for a week and used that as my base of operations and travel. Not only was the deal cheaper, I was able to live like a local and get tips from the couple that hosted the stay.

The following were added after publishing due to a revisioning problem.

London is the land of Tesco. There are thankfully more of these grocery stores than there are McDonald’s joints. But I found that some items were cheaper at Sainsbury’s Local.

These grocery stores are great for buying bottled water, snacks, and cheap meals. If you really have to eat on the cheap, Pret A Manger is a chain that seems to be everywhere.

Cash or card
While it is useful to have cash on hand, a credit card that supports wireless payment is fast and convenient. I used my MasterCard’s PayPass at the prepaid SIM vending machine, Oyster PAYG travel card kiosks, and grocery self-checkouts.

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