sunset from cochno hill

For the last couple of years I’ve had end of year blogs reviews (2006 and 2007 Roundup) and I guess it it that time again.

I’ve had a bit more change in my life than usual this year reflected in the change of blog url and title.

I don’t really think I’ve got my head round the direction of the blog yet but I hope it will develop over the next year.

I’ve blogged steadily, although at a reduced rate this year about a post a week. The main reason in this reduction is probably twitter which is providing sense of community, which is one of the reasons I blog, without the effort. I blogged about twitterish things a few times: News Reading, New Tweeting, ObliqueTweet, my first twitterbot, Edu Twits – a no code mashup (part 1) and Twitter, fun and facts and generally had fun with twitter.

I also blogged about and blogged with posterous. I’ve manages 64 posts there since June a much better posting rate than here. Posterous is an amazing blog service where you can blog via email, very simple to use with lots of interesting possibilities. At this time last year I was pointing to Tumblr but I think posterous is better for my purposes and posterous can forward posts to tumblr (and blogs and twitter and flickr and…). I’ve not used posterous in an educational setting, although I know Dai Barnes is using it with pupils successfully.

I’ve always enjoyed blogging about actual use of technology in my classroom as opposed to possible ideas but I did as usual post about technology that I’d played with tested rather than used with children including:

A minor note on my big change in September was the iPhone. It has transformed my tech life and I blogged about it: ScotEduBlogs on iPhone, took it for a walk and onto the onto the train. The phone has change my reading habits (more rss), blogging habits (more twitter and posterous), filled up my flickr account and increased my interest in gps, kml and mapping. I’ve not really used the phone facility much though;-)

I did a fair bit of blogging about my classroom including: A Jukebox and a Wiki, On the street where you live – An International Poetry Project and GPS MathTracks, the last was about my favourite lesson in 2008, combining several interests: teaching outside, gps and the iPhone. It was also one of the last lessons I taught at Sandaig.

After I left I posted a couple of times rounding up my ideas about Small Scale Video and Cameras in Class these, I think, are my most useful posts this year.

Sunrise

Next year, blogging about my classroom, which I’ve always though was my mainstay will disappear. I guess I’ll keep playing with the toys (my least commented on posts are the ones I like most; messing about with APIs and amateur mash ups, but lack of comment will not stop that;-) ), I’ll think about classroom practise without getting too idealistic or unrealistic (I hope) and probably post about Glow as it is introduced into North Lanarkshire. Have a good one!

Like many folk who teach using ict and blog about using computers in teaching I take a lot of screenshots. Macs have great keyboard shorts cuts for this built into the system:
?-shift-3 put a screenshot of the whole screen on the desktop.
?-shift-4 gives you cross hairs to snap a selection.windowshadow

While in the selection mode you can press the space bar and the cross-hairs turn into a camera icon, this allows you to capture a window, menu or other gui element and adds a nice drop shadow to it automatically.

With both keyboard commands you can hold the control key down and the screenshot will go to the clipboard rather than the desktop. The latest version of the MAC OS uses png files as default.

This is very useful stuff and I usually just take the screenshot with the control key down and paste into ImageWell for annotating, cropping resizing and uploading, all of which ImageWell does very quickly and efficiently. ImageWell even put the html image tag onto the clipboard after uploading.

I know a lot of folk use skitch for this sort of thing, but I’ve always found ImageWell fits better with my style of working.

So I though I was pretty well fixed for taking screenshots, but I have now downloaded the demo of LittleSnapper, Screen and Web Snapping for Mac OS X to give it a try. LittleSnapper doesn’t do much more that the above mac screen capture as far as capturing from the desktop, but it then handles the pictures in some very useful ways. The application instals a system wide menu which lets you take a variety of screenshots but instead of the resulting pictures ending up on the clipboard the end up in LittleSnapper.

The LittleSnapper interface is quite familiar if you use iPhoto, itunes and the like. Very intuitive it allows you to tag, rate and describe the images. You can organise them into folders, collections (sets for folders) and with smart folders.

You can annotate the images, adding text, blurs (useful for usernames and personal details), highlights and various vertor graphics.

I said above that LittleSnapper doesn’t do much more than the system for desktop screenshots, but it does for screenshots of websites where things become even more interesting. You can just use the system menu to snap your current browser window into your LittleSnapper application. When you do so it not only snaps the page it brings in the source code and the url of the page. You can also (again from the system wide menu or a keyboard shortcut) pull the current page into LittleSnapper’s built in web-browser. you can then snap an element of the page, you click the element selection tool and the mouse then highlights elements on the current webpage as you rollover them, paragraphs, divs, and other html define sections of the page. click on an element and then a button to snap the element. The element is added to your library awaiting annotation.

The annotations, crops, highlights etc are applied in a non destructive way so that you can roll back to the original image if you want.

After you have done all of this you can then upload the images in several ways, via ftp, to flickr (example) or QuickSnapper, this last is a companion site to littleSnapper with lots of flickrish, web2.0 features (example). The ftp and quicksnapper export worked seamlessly here, but the flickr export uploaded the pic to flickr but then LittleSnapper sat with a progress bar for a few minutes, LittleSnapper unexpectedly quit on cancelling the progress bar. The image was on flickr but on the tags or description.

From the Case Studies on the LittleSnapper site would suggest that the audience for the application is made up of designers and developers. I think that they could add eduTech to that list. For writing walkthroughs, documenting, blogging and presenting LittleSnapper looks like a very handy tool. If the flickr upload works it would be easy to write and publish guides to using software without leaving the application by producing a set of screenshots with descriptions. (This could then be published to a website using the flickr API perhaps.)

It would also be interesting if the app was AppleScriptable as another option for automatically publishing. I guess it is early days for that.

The only obvious thing I can see missing is a way to resize images before publishing them which would be very handy for blogging. I think I’ll stick with ImageWell for at least part of the process, but keep testing LittleSnapper for its organisational features.

If you are a mac using educator I’d recommend giving LittleSnapper the once over.

@suewaters well that did it:-) on TwitPic

This evening I was having a wee search for World war 2 images for reuse. I hope to be working with a class next term using images as part of there topic work, mashing the images with iMovie. I had a look in the usual places (including http://www.flickr.com/commons/ mostly) but didn’t get what I wanted. Scran have some great phtos but I don’t think we could edit them. So I turned to twitter, with the usual gratifying results now tagged on delicious:

LCC bomb damage maps – a set on Flickr

WW2 Image Album

Flickr: east_lothian_museums’ stuff tagged with worldwartwo

World War II Posters – a set on Flickr

WW2 History – a set on Flickr

NEN Gallery : World War Two

Flickr: PhotosNormandie’s Photostream

ARCHIVES NORMANDIE 1939-45

I’ve also discovered that pivot allows you to display an rss feed in a post, so this list will update as I add more links to delicious.

@johnjonston : Sorry, it had to be done! on TwitPic
Thanks Neil

At the same time as I was doing lazy research, nearly everyone else i know on twitter seemed to be playing connect 4 with Santa avatars! @nwinton is busy making Santas out of everyone on TwitPic / nwinton. It is this sort of mix that make twitter special, useful and silly at the same time.

If you have any other sources of World War 2 photos that can be reused in class let me know with @johnjohnston on twitter or for:troutcolor on delicious.

I’ve been thinking of how I’ve used digital camera in class over the last few years. I know this is not a very ‘new’ topic for a post but I think my experience and thoughts are worth noting. I blogged about the use of cameras as part of activities countless times but I want to work out of a sort of practical overview here.

When I started blogging with my class at Sandaig, I was assuming that quite a lot of our visitors would be on dialup and kept photographs on the blog to a minimum. A year later we were adding photos but keeping the size down. At that stage I was often taking the photos and certainly helping loading them onto the computer. Another year on (2006) we had settled for 400 pixels as a good with from the blogs and all of the posts had at least one photo, the children were using MS photo editor to resize the photos.

By the time I left Sandaig I had the children taking photos every day for different purposes.

I know that this is still relatively unusual, in many classrooms it is the teacher, or PSA who takes photos or children use cameras under tight supervision. I think we need to relax that.

First you need a purpose for taking photos, I had a rota of class bloggers, even if they never finished their posts they usually took photos and transferred them to a pc.
We also had a photo a day section on the website How does our Garden go a simple image gallery, were a different pupil would take a photo in our garden each day, rain or shine, of anything they liked (within reason). This activity linked to our eco schools efforts, but its main purpose was to give the children practise in taking photos so that they should then use them in other areas without thinking about the practicalities.

By linking the activity to public display on the school website you immediately have an excuse to talk about appropriate images and responsibility. Children of course want to take ‘silly’ photos of their friends grinning and fooling around, discussing why we would not use these when reporting on a class activity cuts down on time wasting pretty quickly.

The only time it is worth a member of staff taking photos is when the children all want, or the teacher wants them, actively engaged. In these cases the photos can become part of a follow up activity.

Once you have your photos they can be used in many ways. These ares some I’ve used.

  • In a one computer classroom photos of events or activities can be printed as part of a template for children to write reports on. you can do this on the fly as groups of children finish a practical activity.
  • As a stimulus for writing, a slideshow of images, promotes discussion and can be run during the actual writing. If the writing is word-processed photos can be added.
  • For blogging, as part of a post, writing of any type, or as a slideshow made with various online tools (oneTrueMedia example).
  • For comic-life, a great way to motivate those children reluctant to write, for quick sequencing etc, etc. Examples: Eco Ninjas, 3D Shape.
  • To make ‘movies’ on movieMaker or iMovie (with one computer this can be a class activity, each child dealing with one picture, titling and adding transitions, the whole class discussing sound tracks.) individual examples, whole class example.
  • After an art lesson I often had a pupil take photos of all of the work for a web gallery (example), I think I’d now have each child take their own. These could be used for a portfolio, say in powerpoint with 2 stars and a wish, building up a record of all the art produced in a year. This ould be part of the clean up routine, clean brushes, take photo…
  • As a quick and dirty scanner, taking photos of drawn work to incorporate into a report, not necessarily the cleanest looking pictures, but effective: for example.

All of these are pretty simple ideas and the list could easily be extended. What, I think, makes the difference is the attempt to make use of the cameras an everyday activity, owned by the pupils, and familiar enough so that they use technology transparently. Using the images in blogs and wikis etc gives the task an audience and makes it real and purposeful.

Title: FrameByFrame and ScreenFlow

On Friday I took part in the North Lanarkshire ICT co-ordinator’s meetings and the Educational Computer Centre, when I say took part I mean my colleague Ann McCabe did all the heavy lifting, but I did talk to the groups about FrameByFrame a stop-motion animation application for Apple Macs. FrameByFrame is not as fully featured as some applications but it is very easy to use and freeware. There are some good example movies on the FrameByFrame webpage.

I’ve not used FrameByFrame in the classroom although I’ve had children make a few animations (Sandaig Example) with other software. Apart from the chance to make animations that relate to their learning making an animation involves a lot of creative team work and co-operative learning, obviously valuable in the classroom. FrameByFrame will give you a good chance to try out animation without expense, altohugh it lacks titling and the ability to add audio that could be done easily by importing the movies into iMovie.

I’ve made a few quick tests with FrameByFrame and though it might be interesting to use ScreenFlow to make a wee movie of using FrameByFrame. ScreenFlow is an application for creating screen recordings on a Mac. I blogged about ScreenFlow before, but I’ve not used it much since. It looks like the most powerful screen recorder available for a mac, it records the whole screen but then lets you edit the footage, zooming in to areas or windows and a whole lot more.

The following movie is much more of an experiment than a polished piece of work, I did not really read the ScreenFlow manual (there are a series of movies on the ScreenFlow site), so made one or two mistakes.

  • I didn’t really plan well enough and did not realise that ScreenFlow would not let you combine recordings, (you can add more recordings to a recording).I made 4 separate recordings and combined the exported movies in QuickTime Pro. Planning is obviously vital in producing good.
  • a script might help.
  • I shot the animation and recorded it in my kitchen which as you can see has very poor lighting.
  • I relied on the built-in mic on my macbook, an external mic may have sounded better.

After I exported the movie at the suggested 640 x 400 I then stiched them together in quicktime Pro and rexported a few times changing the size and quality of the movie. i then used QuicTime Pros export for web feature to export m4v files and the html need to display the movie. This export seems to do a great job of getting file size down, but again reading a maunal may improve that.

ScreenFlow looks like it will be very useful in helping teachers and pupils use software in the classroom, and I think I’ll spend some time watching the manuals and practising.




On sunday evenings I often take part in EdTechRoundUp. EdTechRoundUp is an informal group of educators, interested in talking about technology. originally planned as a planning meeting for a podcast the meet has evolved into a meeting that becomes a podcast. Planned on the edtechroundup wiki the meeting takes place in a Flash Meeting. Flashmeeting (described as the YouTube of videoconferencing) is a lovely free service for educators to hold online meetings with video, audio and chat elements.

The chats are a lot of fun and a good place to find out about many exciting uses of ICT in the classroom. Anyone cxan add to the agenda on the wiki and anyone can join in. The meetings are often chaired by Doug Belshaw who tidies up the audio for publication on EdTechRoundUp.com.

The audio is recorded not live but from a replay of the flashmeeting by volunteers. I have taken that role a couple of times and used WireTap, as I recall, wiretap pro could be used the same way as wiretap (an older free version) for free but I recently moved macs and downloaded wiretap studio. This worked fine for a couple of weeks and then I got to the end of the trial period. From the information on the WireTap Pro FAQs page I think I could download a version of pro and still use it that way but I’ve found another solution.

I missed the meeting on Sunday but got a tweet from Doug looking for someone to grab the audio. I said I’d do it and then found out that WireTap had timed out.

This is where Soundflower comes in.

Soundflower is a Mac OS X (10.2 and later) system extension that allows applications to pass audio to other applications. Soundflower is easy to use, it simply presents itself as an audio device, allowing any audio application to send and receive audio with no other support needed. Soundflower is free, open-source, and runs on Mac Intel and PPC computers.

Quick to download an install, soundflower gives you a couple more options in the Sound input and output preference pannel:

All I need to do was to set Soundflowe 2 channel as the default input and output, I then replayed the flashmeeting and used Audacity to capture the sound.
SoundFlower comes with an app Soundflowerbed (I’ve not tried it yet) and has a lot more features but this did the trick for me.

The other bit of software I used was The Levelator, once I had recorded the audio I exported it as a wav file and dropped that file onto the Levelator:

It’s software that runs on Windows, OS X (universal binary), or Linux (Ubuntu) that adjusts the audio levels within your podcast or other audio file for variations from one speaker to the next, for example. It’s not a compressor, normalizer or limiter although it contains all three.

The Levelator smoothes out the ups and downs of volume which you get form several folk talking in different places with different microphones to something that is surprisingly clear.

After that I just need to export the output from the Levelator to an mp3 and send it to Doug via dropbox. I had a listen to the audio on the way home from work yesterday and the audio sounds not too bad, the content sounds very good indeed, and I am sorry I was not there, well worth a listen once Doug sorts it out and put it on EdTechRoundUp.com.

I can also recommend joining in the flash meeting anytime you are free on a Sunday evening, a very welcoming space and I’d guarantee that you come away with a few interesting ideas or thoughts. Details are always on the front page of the wiki.

On Thursday I visited Cardinal Newman secondary again. Eileen Mallaghan PT computing introduced me to English teacher Patrick Mooney who is working with iMovie.

I was luckily enough to be able to visit two classes, one year one and one year two, and talk to Patrick and the pupils. Both classes were working on speech but it quickly became obvious that there was a lot more involved. The pupils task was to do a bit of research on a individual and talked about them. Patrick explained that the project had allowed pupils who had difficulty in staying focused during English lessons to become much more involved with their learning and motivated them to finish the work. In between the research and the ‘talk’ there was a pile of writing, co-operative working, ict, assessment (for learning) and the production of a movie for final assessment.

Patrick and the pupils explained the workflow. Starting with research, online and in the library the pupils gathered facts and images about an individual they were interested in. There was an impressive range of characters, Ann Frank, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, DJs, footballers and pop stars. Although the pupils worked on their research and writing individually they then worked in groups to film and record the talk and then work in iMovie to remove the video and add images to their movies. Just watching the pupils it was obvious how engaged with their work and their partners they were, eyes on screen, fingers pointing and a hum of quite conversation. When I spoke to the pupils they were all enthusiastic about working in this way and could identify many of the things that they were learning, most mentioned helping each other and being helped and the benefits of working in groups. Many appreciated the difference between talking to camera and talking to a whole class. Patrick was very clear on the improved motivation and discipline in the classes. He is cascading the practice to other classes in the department. The pupils were already talking about using iMovie for another project. At the end of one session we watch some of the finished movies, the children were all attentive and appreciative of each others movies. Apart from the ease with which the children were handling the software there was a nice atmosphere in both classes all the pupils seemed to be focused.

Patrick made the point that iMovie was perfect for this sort of work, he had used windows and moviemaker before but felt it was not as suited to the task as iMovie. Previously a pc user he is now converted to mac. The children were obviously at ease with both platforms, the classroom had a trolly of pc laptops, 4 mac minis and a few macbooks in evidence.

In the past Patrick has managed the project with one mac and was in no doubt of the practicality of the project with only one computer. It was great to see ict embedded in learning in a way that felt natural, the pupils found the ict element exciting but had been introduced to it in a way that the tech did not get in the way of the teach and I look forward to hearing more about Cardinal Newman’s use of ict in there classrooms.

One of the things I am missing about not being in the classroom at Sandaig is the day to day updating of what feels like my baby, the Sandaig Primary Website and it associated galleries and blogs. I was a wee bit concerned that the blogs would grind to a halt, but it looks like I need not have worried. One of the Staff, Mrs Wright, has developed an interest in iMovie and starting with video of her own primary 2 class has organised some primary sevens to film various school events for the blog. The primary sevens have been blogging their class work and some weird pictures. On the train yesterday I was delighted to see a note on the otters blog pointing to some WWII Cinquains on the poetry blog (you might like to have a look and leave an encouraging comment).

Mrs Crum, a PSA ,has taken over the Pictures from Sandaig gallery and seems to be adding content much faster than I ever did, she also provides support for ICT round the school and oversees the blogs. Martain the peripatetic music teacher has been keeping the Sandaig Jukebox up and running with new GarageBand creations from the children. I wonder if by being, in the words of Ian Stuart, ‘just the man’ I held back the spread of the use of the site at Sandaig to other members of staff?

It is quite strange watching this happen, a bit like seeing my daughter leave home for University. Like Christine it looks like blogging at Sandaig and doing very well without me. I am still paying attention but obviously am not necessary to progress.

Yep it is another iPhone post. For the last 3 weeks I’ve been spending two forty-five minute periods on the train almost every weekday and I have been finding the iPhone very useful. I’ve downloaded several games but as expected I’ve not really spent much time playing them, I just do not seem to be a gamer of any sort. This is what I have been using it for:

Listening to podcasts: mostly booruch so far, I’ll be adding a few more subscriptions and listening to podcasts more often; I lost the habit a while back but this is a good opportunity to pick it up again.

Mail I only have one account synced with my phone, but I’ve been able to deal with quite a few emails on the go and keep up with a couple of lists.

RSS feeds: I use NetNewsWire on my home mac, one at work and my iPhone. The app syncs beautifully between the clients. NetNewsWire’s interface is famous and the iPhone app lives up to its bigger brothers reputation. It is simple and easy to use. Rather than just read posts I tend to use the Add to Clippings feature this results in the posts ‘clipped’ being added to the clippings folder in the desktop application the next time it is synced. This is a great feature that I hope to exploit even more. A while back I used to post a regular set of link to interesting blog posts to the Masterclass forum, I’d collect posts in NetNewWire’s clipping folder and then get the links out via appleScript to add a few comments before posting them. I am hoping to start doing something similar soon. Collecting suitable links on the train will help. I usually sync NetNewsWire on the phone before leaving home or the office but syncing on the move is reasonably quick. Another useful feature of NetNewsWire is that you can delete feeds from the phone and specify that they will still be synced to your desktop, this means I don’t clog the iPhone app with really busy feeds.

Twitter: there are various views on the utility of twitter, I put it squarely into the useful pile (maybe a venn diagram with silly and fun would be better). On the desktop I’ve used Twitterrific and more recently I’ve become a TweetDeck fan. On the phone I’d settled on the add supported version of Twitterrific which has the advantage of being able to tweet locations and upload photos to twitpic and tweet that. This week I’ve been using iTweet a wonderful web app with browser and phone interfaces. Due to it being a web app and having landscape mode I am finding it better for posting tweets, unfortunately being a web app it can’t access locations or photos. Again saving for later is a useful feature, with twitter I do this by favouring tweets for later, usually ones that link to elsewhere on the web.

Video: I’ve also been watching a few videos notably the Ted Talks my attention span for watching video on my home mac is short, but I’ve found that I can settle down to watch Teds and other video content on my phone on the train.

What I do not do much of with the phone is type, twitter’s 140 characters are fine and short emails are ok, I’ve installed EasyWriter, which allows landscape emailing to help with my fat fingers. It might be useful to have some sort of wireless/bluetooth or connected keyboard the Apple wireless keyboard works on the N95 so it would be nice to have something similar on the iPhone, I could see me banging in a pile of text on the train, to be edited and corrected later on a desktop ideally a small foldable keyboard.

Another interesting app that I’ve just bought (59p) is voiceNote, this is yet another voice recorder, but what I think is its most interesting feature is it’s ability to email the audio as an mp3 file, this means it could be used for podcast by mailing the mp3 to posterous unfortunately the emails are sent via voiceNote and have voiceNote as the email address, so do not arrive on your posterous if you send them to posterous@posterous.com. What works is to send them to your phones email address and then forward to posterous, not too much trouble. The audio quality was not great when it arrived at my iPhone Podcast 2 but it is a pretty simple way to podcast, I mam not sure how well it work outside wireless range.

What I would like to see is an email app that could email, photos, audio recording and location and to be able to use that to post to posterous (it would be nice to do video too). As mentioned above the Twitterrific application can grab locations and tweet them and photos and tweet them via twitpic so it should be possible to have that sort of functionality in mail.