Dark corners of the Internet

republica 2013 099 #rp13 by Blogging Dagger Attribution-ShareAlike License

How do we redirect seemingly inane goals of “connecting” beyond upping friend, follower, and subscriber counts towards notions of community and care and concern for each other, especially in places and conversations that are fraught with anger, frustration, and deep, deep potential for harm?

from: What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Connectedness by Bud The Teacher
Great Question, greatarticle gives no glib answer except some more good questions. I am sure I can’t answer it either but I don’t think the answer is to turn if off or ignore it. Children face danger in real life too, I wonder if we can learn from that?

Education Modern Learners is behind a membership wall, some articles like this one can be read with my free membership.

Leicester City Council OERs

Leicester City Council is the first local government authority in the United Kingdom (UK) to provide 84 community schools with blanket permission to openly license their educational resources. The council is recommending that school staff use the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to share materials created in the course of their work. The Council has also released guidance and practical information for school staff on using and creating open educational resources (OER).

from: Leicester City Council gives permission to 84 schools to create and share OER – Creative Commons
Leicester’s material is available at Open Education for Schools – Guidance and Resources and is itself released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence (CC BY 4.0) so that they can be shared and adapted openly, as long as attribution is given.
What a wonderful example to others.

Wikipedia Tips from #eduwiki

image by Tflanagan (WMF) Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Yesterday I went along to the EduWiki Conference 2014 conference in Edinburgh organised by Wikimedia UK. A really interesting day included presentations about how wikipedia is being used in education (mostly tertiary) and a great discussion of how support for using Wikipedia in schools could be developed.

Like, I guess, most primary teacher I used wikipedia a fair bit, and bless simple.wikipedia.org, aimed at learners of english provides articles using Simple English using the 1000 most common and basic words in English. A great resource for younger pupils or pupils who prefer simpler english. However I know I only scratch the surface of Wikipedia. Along with my colleague Ian Stuart I’ve talked to a few Wikimedians at various events recently and always learn something new.

From the school education perspective the talk by Martin Poulter, @mlpoulter, former Wikimedia Ambassador at Jisc, was really valuable, his premise was that for academics it was well worth looking under the bonnet of Wikipedia. This was not some terrifying code view of articles but just using some of the tools on Wikipedia pages.

Wikipedia pages are available in different languages listed at the bottom of the left sidebar. These could : give different perspectives, eg looking at the different language versions of the Gaza Strip page illustrates different points of view. These pages can also be used by pupils studying languages.

Each Wikipedia pages has a link to a Talk page, there you will find discussion of the article and get a measure of how much discussion and work has gone on behind the scenes. The article may be rated for quality & importance. There may be links to a project1 that helps organise the page.

Some pages Talk pages, example, may show that they are a Featured Article you can then click a link to show Article milestones which shows the progress of the article quality.

Back on the article pages you can find the contributors by clicking view History, then Revision History Statistics, you could also look at Page View Stats these have more statistics and graphs than anyone could want. I don’t think you would want to visit these pages every time you look at a Wikipedia article in class but they are useful to know about. With older pupils and tertiary level students it can demonstrate the huge audience you could gain by editing Wikipedia.

After looking at a page Martin took us the Wikipedia Main Page asking how many people had never seen it a surprising number of hands were raised. The Main page lists sister projects2 & other good stuff, seldom visited for example the Featured Content page.

Featured content represents the best that Wikipedia has to offer. These are the articles, pictures, and other contributions that showcase the polished result of the collaborative efforts that drive Wikipedia. All featured content undergoes a thorough review process to ensure that it meets the highest standards, and can serve as the best example of our end goals.

It would be well worth projecting the main Wikipedia page in class now and then for a look or looking at he main page of some of the sister projects, perhaps the word of the day or species of the week.

On twitter Martin posted a couple of other resources: Ten Ways Educators Can Use Wikipedia & the Education Brochures both of which look like they are worth exploring.

You can get some idea of how interesting the rest of the day and conference were from the #eduwiki tweets, I used Martian Hawsksey’s tools to create an archive and an exploratory view.

Open Content Toolkit

IMG_0462 by Communications Mann Attribution License

The purpose of this wiki is to provide a gateway to contemporary and historical open digital media content from media archives and collections around the world. It is a space to explore, discuss and share examples of the use of open media at all school stages and at all levels of education. It is intended to be a truly Cross Curricular resource. The toolkit is free and open to all with an interest in open resources, media archives, education and the digital humanities.

from: OpenContentToolkit – home

A great new resource from Theo Kuechel. There are already 100’s of pages full of information about where to get free to use media along with suggestions of how it can be used and ways to use it.

There is already a growing members list an the wiki is open to requests for members and edits from those members. I’ve joined and I hope lots of other teachers do to.


 _________  ________  _________  ________  ___       ___           ___    ___ 
|\___   ___\\   __  \|\___   ___\\   __  \|\  \     |\  \         |\  \  /  /|
\|___ \  \_\ \  \|\  \|___ \  \_\ \  \|\  \ \  \    \ \  \        \ \  \/  / /
     \ \  \ \ \  \\\  \   \ \  \ \ \   __  \ \  \    \ \  \        \ \    / / 
      \ \  \ \ \  \\\  \   \ \  \ \ \  \ \  \ \  \____\ \  \____    \/  /  /  
       \ \__\ \ \_______\   \ \__\ \ \__\ \__\ \_______\ \_______\__/  / /    
        \|__|  \|_______|    \|__|  \|__|\|__|\|_______|\|_______|\___/ /     
 ________   ___  ___  ________  ___       _______   ________  ________        
|\   ___  \|\  \|\  \|\   ____\|\  \     |\  ___ \ |\   __  \|\   __  \       
\ \  \\ \  \ \  \\\  \ \  \___|\ \  \    \ \   __/|\ \  \|\  \ \  \|\  \      
 \ \  \\ \  \ \  \\\  \ \  \    \ \  \    \ \  \_|/_\ \   __  \ \   _  _\     
  \ \  \\ \  \ \  \\\  \ \  \____\ \  \____\ \  \_|\ \ \  \ \  \ \  \\  \|    
   \ \__\\ \__\ \_______\ \_______\ \_______\ \_______\ \__\ \__\ \__\\ _\    
    \|__| \|__|\|_______|\|_______|\|_______|\|_______|\|__|\|__|\|__|\|__|   
  ________  ___       ___  ___  ________                                      
 |\   ____\|\  \     |\  \|\  \|\   __  \                                     
 \ \  \___|\ \  \    \ \  \\\  \ \  \|\ /_                                    
  \ \  \    \ \  \    \ \  \\\  \ \   __  \                                   
 __\ \  \____\ \  \____\ \  \\\  \ \  \|\  \                                  
|\__\ \_______\ \_______\ \_______\ \_______\                                 

For the last couple of commutes I’ve been hooked by a ~.

(I am cross posting this at my mainly educational blog and my ds106 one because I think this is so interesting.)

It started when I read I had a couple drinks and woke up with 1,000 nerds which touches on some many interesting things, online identity, ownership, internet history and made me think about about community, teaching about the web and some of the posts Jim Groom has be posting recently (/~space for example).

The ~tilde.club set up by Paul Ford while drinking is

not a social network it is one tiny totally standard unix computer that people respectfully use together in their shared quest to build awesome web pages

It mirrors what was the standard way to give university folk accounts and allows users to work on a remote computer through the terminal, communication and creating web pages. You will get a much better idea by reading the post and going to ~tilde.club and clicking some links.

It looked interesting enough to have a shot, but I had arrived at the party a little late. Fortunately there are other tilde clubs springing up and I got in to totallynuclear.club as ~troutcolor.

All I’ve done so far is created a webpage, set up a blog and visited other members pages. I had a quick chat on the commandline with ~maze who answered some questions.

Hopefully I’ll use the blog to document what I am learning as I go. I am certainly learning. I’ve use a terminal now and then locally on my mac and even very occasionally to play with my Raspberry Pi, but this is quite different. I find myself strangely drawn to the process. For some of the users on the tilde clubs nostalgia is a reason for being their, I missed that whole section of computer history as I started late. Any webpage creation I’ve done has been by uploading files via FTP or by using blogging software or social media. The ~tilde clubs work in both a older and modern modern way. I’ve noticed similarities in the way the developers for glow blogs work, not ftp for them, they talk of git, and are often logged into some cloud server via a terminal.

There are other interesting features emerging on totallynuclear and other tilde clubs I hope to get the courage up to try the IRC chat soon.

What could it be good for

Apart from fun which is a good enough reason.

Given that I an a teacher I wonder if this could be a good way to teach pupils/students about the web. I don’t think that there is anything Perhaps cover some technology history and web literacy. Although the technology is not very shiny and new it does feel quite exciting. It also, to some extent, remove a veil from the technology and perhaps could loosen the ties to silos.

What does it look like?

This is a very short screencast just touching on the basics, which is all I know at the present.

Starters for 10

Some links to interesting totallynuclear things:

Walk into some free CPD

At the end of this month the EduWiki Conference 2014 (Wikimedia UK ) comes to Edinburgh. I posted a couple of weeks ago about the TeachMeet we are trying to organise in the evening TeachMeet EduWiki, but there is another opportunity for some CPD.

On Friday Afternoon (31st OCT) at 2pm there is a workshop: Wiki*edia Projects in Schools (for students under 18) the organisers have kindly offered teacher the chance to attend this session without signing up and paying for the conference.

The Conference is at Edinburgh First’s St Leonard Hall (University of Edinburgh). Teachers who show up at the reception will be directed to the appropriate workshop.

I know that some East Coast & other Local Authorities have timetables where pupils are off on Friday afternoon this might be an opportunity to find out more about Wikipedia and how it can be used in school.

Most of the conference, and wikipedia educational direction, has, up to now, been directed at HE. I think there is a lot we can gain in primary and secondary education from a deeper understanding of wikipedia. It would be great to see folk come along to either the afternoon or to the TeachMeet and start a dialog between school and wikipedia.

As a taster tomorrow evening (Wed 15/10/14) on Radio Edutalk 8:00pm Ally Crockford Wikimedian in Residence at the National Museum of Scotland.

Web Literacy Map 2.0

Like many education folk I follow Doug Belshaw for lots of good reasons. This week I bumped into Doug at Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Forum and launch (a lot to digest from that). Doug reminded attendees about the Survey: 5 proposals for Web Literacy Map 2.0 he is organising.

After a quick review of the Web Literacy Map and other resources Doug listed I filled in the survey.

This leads, backsides forward, to looking at the Map again. It is a great resource1 well organised and deep. It seems to add content every time I look at it. A couple of the questions were around the organisation and complexity of the map. I had a few thoughts. Given the complexity and depth of the resource I wonder if it would be interesting exposing it in different formats for folk to remix. Initially I though of JSON as I’ve made a couple of experiments with this in webmaker. I am now wondering if OPML might be an interesting approach too? This would export to most mind-mapping softwares. I’ve been playing with fargo occasionally and it might allow manipulation of the OPML too.

A Job for RSS

The other thing that I was reminded of was the series of chats Doug has been recording with interesting and interested parties. For the most part I’d seen these stream by on Tumblr and only listened to fragments. Doug has put the audio on the internet archive with a nice CC0 license, so I’ve done a little remixing of my own. I’ve uploaded an RSS feed to my google drive: http://tinyurl.com/dougweblit2chats so that I can pull the audio onto my phone. I can then subscribe to this feed in the podcast app on my phone and listen on the go. (I use overcast as my usually podcast app but thought it might be nice to have this as a temporary separate thing).


I’ve listened to the Stephen Downes episode on my commute this morning and if the rest are as interesting it will be a delight getting through them. Feel free to subscribe to the feed if you want to do the same thing, be aware I’ve made little effort to make the feed validate, the enclosures don’t have a length etc.


1. Caveat, I am not working with learners and have never taught Web literacy in any depth. I did teach some of ‘this stuff’ as part of teaching ict, blogging, podcasting and the like.

Glow Blogs What Just Happened, What is Next?

Last Friday at the same time as the glow authentication changed, the new glow blogs service went live. I posted about this over on Glow Connect.

It was pretty exciting stuff, the developers were really working right up to the last minute and beyond to deliver the service. Even so we have gone live with a few know issues and have already discovered a few more.

At the start of the processes I certainly was not aware of all the complexities involved nor the scale of the job. Turns out it was a big complex job!

Luckily for me I ended up working with an amazing team, not only in the Scottish Government, but in the developers and suppliers. All of them worked long hours with very positive attitudes as I grumbled along. I am tempted to turn this post into a list of these characters and their qualities, but probably enough to say all of the blog team were essential to the process.

What Have We Got

Stray Puppy by p medved
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

At the end of this phase we have a working set of WordPress MU, one for each Local Authority, running the same version of the software as before and we have the known issues linked above.

The main improvement so far is around blog creation. There is no connection to SharePoint/old glow groups. This simplifies the process a great deal. This and other Main Changes are listed in the Glow Blog Help, some of these are not improvements but changes.

One more improvement, not listed, is that you can now upload files of up to 50mb to blogs. This should make it a lot easier to podcast or share small videos without using a third party site or service.

On Wednesday I popped back to North Lanarkshire to watch my colleague Ann McCabe set up a class of e-portfolios, this was much quicker than before, taking away at least half the steps. There is still plenty of room from improvement and I got a great idea to take back to Victoria Quay from the RM help desk who I visited in the afternoon.

Next Up

Given the above, if this was the end point in the process I’d be pretty disappointed. A lot of work for not much in the way of improvement. I am not disappointed due to two things, phase 2 and phase 3.

Phase 2 was looking quite simple, upgrade to a new version of WordPress. This will bring a host of benefits, better user experience especially on mobile being the main gain. More important, in the longer run, is that it gives us a much better base to develop on.
The other aspect of phase 2 will be to backfill in things that were dropped out of phase one or needs that were discovered in phase 1.

It looks like phase 2 will take a bit more work than I expected, but this will start straight off. Already some of the first problems to be discovered has been solved and the developer team are just waiting to decide when to deploy the code. Another potential ongoing problem with server load is now beginning to be understood and the team are working on finding the best solution. The team are keen that the server gets a chance to bed in and are suitably cautious about changing things on the live system, best practises for ongoing change and development are being put in place.

Bright Future

After we get to phase 3 of the project things might speed up a bit. We will be using WordPress 4 which will allow a lot of nice things to happen.

The one I am most excited about is giving a more flexible service. In the old glow blogs it was a constant frustration for myself and many others that our theme and plugin requests were never answered. I am not entirely sure of all the reasons for this, but having peeped behind the curtain I presume some of this was to do with testing.

Watching the new blogs service develop gave me a bit of a shock in the amount of time and effort it needs to deliver a service of this scale. Like many folk who publish stuff on the web I frequently make changes without much of a care and worry. The Technical Architects and developers for glow take a somewhat different view. There first concern is the preservation of users data and stability of the service and given they are taking care of over 100,000 blogs…

The glow blogs system now consists of 4 main servers: integration (where new code is added after code review), explore (for testing), pre-production (more testing) and live. With the older version of WordPress we are using a lot of the development and testing is manual, the testers here and volunteers going through lists of test to test the functionality of the blogs. In addition there is security, load and a many more tests.

Going forward the process should be automated, the newer version of WordPress can have a deal of automatic testing, code going onto the integrate server would be pushed through the different servers being automatically tested on the way, this gives us the possibility of a much more agile service.

On the Way

On Friday last week there was a fair amount of cheering and happy faces around the glow office, since then feedback has been mainly positive. I am not really ready to celebrate yet, there still is a lot to do before we reach the point learners and teachers in Scotland have a world class blogging platform. There so many possibilities out there for doing all sorts of things with WordPress. We would, of course be really interested to hear of any ideas of what you would like from Glow blogs.

Wikispaces for Glow


Photo credit: WIKI by Kevin Baird, on Flickr Creative Commons — CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Along side the blog migration for Glow I’ve been working on the wiki procurement. Wikis were part of the services added to Glow in 2010 (AFAIR) along with blogs and forums. When it came to think about the new services and migration wiki migration was not in the plans and wikis were not on the map of new services.

The previous wiki solution was not particularly well used, around 4000 wikis were created over the projects lifetime (compare to >130,000 blogs). The software behind the wikis was mindtouch. This is now discontinued and I believe missed a few features that make wikis useful in the classroom. These included nice themes and a simple workflow for uploading and embedding images.

It was decided to look at the possibilities for continuing to have wikis as part of the glow offering. This might seem counter intuitive as O365 sharepoint sites can be though of as Wikis and certainly have wiki pages as part of sites. I think a separate wiki offers a simpler way of building on the internet and it is also important to have the facility to make a wiki public in some instances.

Personally I’ve had enough success with children publishing publicly on the internet that that would be my default position. Other teachers and educators may prefer closed environments and glow can provide for both.

As part of the process of provisioning wikis we evaluated many different solutions, wikispaces stood out as the best fit for our needs1. Wikispaces was also mentioned frequently by the folk who responded to our wiki survey. No other product was mentioned favourably.

As part of procurement three different vendors were invited to tender and their tenders evaluated against a set of requirements. Wikispaces were the best fit and their tender has been accepted.

It has been a while since I used wikispaces in the classroom but it looks like they have added a lot of classroom specific features to the service without over complicating the process. I am not exactly sure of how the wikis will connect up to glow but look forward to working on that development in the coming weeks.

I had a brief look through my bookmarks for interesting wikis which might give you an idea of how to use one:

As always I’d be interested to see how learners and teachers in Scotland are or would use wikispaces.


1. Personally I like wikitext and enjoyed using wikis that are not WYSIWYG but I think I am in a minority on that one.

TeachMeet at EduWiki Conference 2014


The EduWiki Conference 2014 (Wikimedia UK ) conference in in Edinburgh this year. I’ve been along to a few wikimedia meetings recently and we are arranging a TeachMeet to run along side the conference.

The Conference and Wikimedia/Wikipedia’s educational focus is very much aimed at higher education. We hope that this might be a way to increase engagement between wikipedians and primary and secondary educators.

I’d hope that both Wikimedians and local teachers will sign up to share at the teachmeet. This would give wikipedians an insight into the activities and needs of classroom practitioners and give those practitioners ideas for using wikipedia in learning.

The venue will be in Edinburgh, probably around the Edinburgh University starting at 7pm.

Round Table, lesson design?

One idea I’ve though of would be to use the round table to flesh out learning experiences for using wikipedia. A mixed group of teachers and wikimendians could probably get quite a bit done in 20 minutes.

Sign up here TeachMeet / TeachMeetEduWiki.