I’ve not posted much here recently, I have made a few posts over at my DS106 blog including in December:

Mostly playing around with gifs for the ds106 GIFfest which leads to messing about with JavaScript, flickr & freesound.org.

I had a way of generation a list of images and audio found with the same search word. I’ve now improved this to make a image/audio slide show like the one below. The new interface is rough as I’ve just added a button to get an iframe code that produces something like the one below.

Getting all the audio to play has been a bit messy, but it works for me in Safari, FF & Chrome on my mac and FF and IE9 on windows. Probably of little use to most folk as wordpress blogs, for one, usually do not allow iFrames.

Here are a couple more: drip and 404

Private by kh1234567890
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

In 1999, Scott McNealy, then the CEO of Sun Microsystems, famously observed that consumer privacy issues were a “red herring”. “You have zero privacy anyway,” he said. “Get over it.”


…so perhaps the rule to live by is this: don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t put on a postcard.

from: Lessons the tech world learned in 2012 | Technology | The Observer

In 1999!

Pretty much what I usually tell pupils: If you would not have it on your t-shirt don’t put it online.

As i was browsing my feeds this morning I read a post on the register that was over my head, AWS’ gift to sysadmins: a cloudy command line • The Register at the end of the article I notice a link to In the Beginning was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson. I’d read this a few years ago but thought I’d like another look so followed the link only to find:

oh no a zip The article, a plain text file was zipped. I am using an iPad, I didn’t want to read it enough to move to a computer so this is what I did.

  1. copy the url
  2. switch to iCab Mobile and open the page.
  3. Click the link and download.
  4. open the download in iFiles: .1.
  5. unzip in iFiles (I like the wee unzip icon): unzip
  6. and read.

In the Beginning was the Command Line is an interesting read although it was written in 1999, an update/responce by Garrett Birke The Command Line In 2004 is good too, I guess another update in light of mobile computing would further explore Mr. Birke’s final question:

So I bought a Powerbook with OS X on it. And while an excellent solution, this is certainly not the only solution. A Windows 2000 setup on a Dell Inspiron laptop would be a fine second choice. And though there are many out there who have developed a comfortable Linux system for themselves, I believe that we should all be judged by the truest measure of the value of any personal computer: How much does it help us accomplish our tasks?

This post was written on an iPad in Texttastic, using a bookmarklet to grab links from Safari, native iOS screengrabbing, images cropped in the Photos app, resize and uploade with Pythonista. The post will be saved to dropbox when it syncs with my mac it will be posted to the blog via AppleScript. Most of this stuff helps get things done but some is just fun;)

1Well it seems that I was quite mistaken about the need for iCab. not that it is not a useful app. I switched to it when assumed that I could not open zip or sit files in Safari. I should have clicked the link:

open in ifiles safari

That would have saved a step.

Starlings roosting by Steven C Wilson Attribution-NoDerivs License

I’ve written several version of this post now, thinking about blogging, e-portfolios and CPD I am not particularly happy about this version but I don’t think I can get it clearer.

A while back I got a comment here from Joe which included:

Feels like usual suspects still blog or tweet interesting stuff
We need more teachers to confidently own this space and lay down some more positive challenges to learning community

The comment came in as I was reading a post by Geoff Cain Brainstorm in Progress: MOOCs and Connectivist Instructional Design:

What we noticed was that students started helping one another as much as we were helping students. One of the reasons for this was that each assignment was basically a detailed guide on how to use a particular tool, and each assignment asked the students to share their work with one another. They wouldn’t just sign up for Twitter; they would add the entire class to their account. They wouldn’t just sign up for a social bookmarking site; they would share their bookmarks with the class. Creating the community was built into the lessons. This class was not MOOC but it gave us the experience of letting the community, even the community outside of the classroom, drive the learning.

Geoff Cain also mentions DS106 along side moocs in this post (which I loved and highly recommend) and I think beginnings to provide an answer to Joe’s problem.

Is blogging an Answer?

When I started blogging about my classroom practice and educational ict, in the first flush of teacher blogging in Scotland, I was convinced that most teachers would see the value of blogging, grasp the usefulness of RSS and blogging would become normal. This didn’t happen, although blogging is firmly embedded in a minority of teachers’ cpd, it is limited to what Joe calls usual suspects.

The majority of teachers I talk to do not even seriously consider blogging as a cpd activity and I can’t see that changing easily. Blogs are still not really understood by a lot of teachers. I’ve been involved in a lot of training for glow e-portfolios and it has surprised me that few teachers read or understand blogs. What Geoff, ds106 and the Connectivist provide for and develop with their learners is community. This is the hard bit, our original bunch of ScotEduBloggers or the pedagoo folk have a great community, feel well connected and are open and welcoming to newcomers. I think more is needed. These sorts of community can still be intimidating to newcomers no matter how friendly.

When my class started blogging there didn’t seem to be too much of a problem getting views or comments, not many schools were blogging. I often wondered how this would go when it became more common. If everyone is blogging their professional development who will read all the posts? This could be solved by following ds106 or QuadBlogging and organising people into groups.

Another problem is that of ownership of spaces. There have been,attempts get teachers to share their experiences and expertise with other online, I made one that failed myself. I think part of the problem is that to get someone to got to a place not their own and jump through hoops to share is a big ask. Quadblogging, ds106 and some of the conectivist MOOCs allow folk to use their own spaces where they feel comfortable and use familiar tools.

Teaching Scotland’s Future – National Partnership Group

The word e-portfolio appears on 7 of the pages in the Teaching Scotland’s Future document by the National Partnership Group:

In turn, a single e-portfolio will be developed that will allow all teachers to document and record the outcomes of learning linked to the Professional Standards and the system of Professional Update being developed by the GTCS. It will be possible to access the e-portfolio through both Glow and myGTCS and Education Scotland and the GTCS will work together to ensure the e-portfolio is effective, well- designed and meets the needs of teachers.


Other stakeholders such as local authorities should also be consulted to investigate whether they have any specific requirements of the portfolio. The e- portfolio will be ready to use by all teachers in Scotland in advance of the start of the August 2013 academic year.

While I applaud the idea of teacher having a way to record their cpd online, and possibly share it with others, again I am not sure I have as much enthusiasm for a single e-portfolio. If we have learned one thing about online life and learning over the last few years it is the importance of personalisation and choice.

Some folk are already recording, documenting and sharing their learning, perhaps not linked to the Professional Standards but valuable anyway.

Blue Sky ds106 style

RSS Diagram by jrhode
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Perhaps we are at a point when things could change. At the moment there are over 70000 glow e-portfolios created using wordpress by pupils in Scottish schools. In a few years, those pupils now in S3 using blogs as eportfolios will reach Teacher Training (the ones that want to be teachers;-))

We will have a cohort of new students that have some understanding of blogging. Imagine:

  • On arrival at college these students create their own blog.
  • These blogs are aggregated into classes.
  • As the students move through their education their blogs (or categories of those blogs) are added to various aggregations.
  • The students are shown how to use a feed reader to view the aggregations that are interesting to them or for the classes they are currently involved in.
  • As they move into employment they have the opportunity to continue their blogs, these are aggregated into schools, clusters, local authorities.
  • When join in a CPD opportunity they can join that aggregation, follow it.
  • Aggregations can easily be set up by lectures, schools, CPD organisers, anyone.

University blogs would be compulsory at least for some of the course, profession not.

I think we already have the technology to do this. There are a few RSS aggregation tools, FeedWordpress, gRSShopper and River2 spring to mind.

For arguments sake, lets say we use FeedWordPress. Students or teachers could create blogs with any system they like as long as it had RSS feeds.

Using WordPress blogs with FeedWordPress anyone could build an aggregator, for example in college a lecturer would have an aggregator for their students, this would either pull in all posts of those students or ones with particular tags. The links to the posts and comments for the post are pointed to the original blog. The aggregator blog could then automatically add further tags. These aggregators could be themselves aggregated, all aggregators in a college or university pulled together for a site wide blog. Or someone with a particular interest, say a math lecturer could aggregate all the maths posts.

Each aggregated post points back to the original comments stay on the original posters blog. The bloggers have ownership of their blogs, part of the induction could be setting up a domain of their own or using free services.

The grouping would provide each blogger with a set of communities where they can work together, comment on each other’s posts a provide peer support.

Something like Pedagoo could be built by setting up an aggregating blog pulling in, again for arguments sake, posts tagged pedagoo from members blogs, I am presuming that it will not be too hard to have some sort semi automatic signup for aggregating blogs and there would be minimal maintenance needed.

For participants it will be much easier to contribute to groups just by tagging posts on their on blogs.

This system becomes what the users want it to, bit at a time in a loosely joined fashion, it is not owned by the system, the participants are the system. It is flexible ready to take advantage of new technology and serendipity. It is not reliant on any one player, holes are easy to fix, new alliances easy to make.

Most of these ideas are based on the work at the University of Mary Washington, some links.

We are probably at a moment when this is possible and fairly easy, glow blogs are beginning to be established, the idea of journaling cpd accepted, I wonder if there is any interested in a loose flexible system that gives ownership to participants?

A while back I joined the Mechanical Mooc with a two fold intention, one to further explore MOOCs in a practical way and two, to learn a bit of python. I am afraid I only managed to stay the course for two full weeks. This was in part due to my underestimate of the time involved. I probably spent five or six hours a week over the first two weeks and would have been better taking seven. I don’t consider the time wasted, I learnt a minuscule bit of python and had a fair number of interesting (to me) thoughts about my approach to learning and online learning in general. I also began to pay a little attention to posts about python that turned up in my browsing and reading on the web.

Recently I’ve seen a few posts about a iPad app Pythonista

Create interactive experiments and prototypes using multi-touch, animations, and sound – or just use the interactive prompt as a powerful calculator.

I read a few of these but didn’t plunk down my £2.99 until I saw this, Automating iOS: How Pythonista Changed My Workflow and The Power of Pythonista 1.2, both blog posts show how to use pythonista, on the iPad, to get things done as opposed to playing or learning. I found I learn how to do things better as part of a ‘real’ task rather than playing. This is not to say my learning is not playful. Often there will be simpler or better ways to do things but I learn something for taking a DIY approach. For example most of my recent posts tagged dropbox are about ways I’ve figured out how to do something that could be done in many other ways.

One of these Dropbox posts is about Blogging via Dropbox, which I am doing with this post. At the time I posted that I had no way to upload images. I do now thanks to macdrifter whose post has code for pythonista to take an image copied to the clipboard, resize it, upload the resized image via FTP and finally copy the URL of the uploaded image to the clipboard.

It was simple enough, even without understanding python to alter the script with my FTP details, change the size and produce jpg files rather than pngs.

drift twigs

To produce upload this image and show it I had to:

  1. Switch to the photos app
  2. Find a photo, press on it and copy.
  3. Switch to pythonista chose the script and press the run button
  4. Switch back to nebulous lite and paste in the image link.

This seems as a simple as uploading a file through the blogs web interface.

In School?

There seems to be a few schools using python in computing. I wonder if this app would be useful. Some of the examples involve games or graphics, which I found off-putting and difficult, these may be just the thing to engage pupils (who possible have less interest in resizing and uploading graphics).

Recently I was discussing the various mobile projects running in Scotland with a friend, they mentioned that they though that iPad projects relied too much on Apps that make things to easy for the learner, iMovie trailers being one example, and compare this to a ‘richer’ learning environment provided by scratch. There is a whole other discussion waiting there but I see several interesting and powerful ways of coding developing on the iPad, Pythonista being one. Codea – iPad and ScriptKit – Drag and Drop Programming for iPad. another two. These two use The Programming Language Lua.
ScripKit looks interesting because:

ScriptKit is a touchable programming environment for building simple mobile prototypes on iPad using native iOS UI components and social media APIs, available via an intuitive drag and drop interface.

The social media APIs is exciting cause it means access to Dropbox, Facebook and Instagram. ScriptKit comes with some nice example but needs an in app purchase at £7.99 to edit the scripts. I am not ready to use it so have not bought it yet.
And Codea

Codea for iPad lets you create games and simulations — or just about any visual idea you have. Turn your thoughts into interactive creations that make use of iPad features like Multi-Touch and the accelerometer.

Back to Pythonista

For me it is early days I just bought the app yesterday, I already appreciate its design and have had hints of its power. It might just keep my python learning curve moving ever so gently upwards.
It is also becoming more apparent that iPads are not only good for creation as well as consumption they are good for tinkering too. As someone who like tinkering this is a positive turn compared to the idea that Apple, and others, are making tools that are increasingly locked down.

This way. Or maybe this way. Wait. No. This way. by Stéfan
Attribution-ShareAlike License

I tweeted back to Iain Hallahan this morning about Open Badges and an interesting conversation ensued. David Gilmour tweeted:

BuddyPress achievements could potentially be added to WP Glow blog eportfolios. bit.ly/XS149y

At this point I mentioned that the glow eportfolios were moving out of WordPress into some sort of sharepoint solution. Pointing to the SICTDG post: Moving e-portfolios to a Microsoft blog which at the point of writing has 31 Comments.

I’ve put a bunch of todays ensuing tweets into Storify as I think an interesting tale is emerging.

Not a lot of people know…

One thing that becomes apparent reading the tweets and comments on the SICTDG post is that quite a few folk are not clear about what is happening with glow. The way forward is a wee bit confused. This is not a good situation to be in. Glow despite its many technical failings drove ict into many areas of the curriculum. This was largely due to the huge effort by LTS and LAs to promote and train folk in using glow.

This is how I understand how things played out. I may very well be wrong and would love a really clear picture.

  1. The contract for Glow was coming to an end, there was a procurement process started to shape the next iteration.
  2. Mike Russell announced on YouTube that he was cancelling the procurement and the new glow would be based on Free tools and Open Source Services.
  3. The Scottish Government/LTS/Education Scotland started planing the new glow.
  4. Everything was looking good for a while and according to various sources it was coming down to a choice between Google Apps for Education and Microsoft 365. Rumour had it that google was in the lead.
  5. For some reason the Government then announced a invitation to tender rather than just make a choice between free solutions.
  6. Google Withdrew from tender process.
  7. Lots of the back story was opened up by Jaye Richards-Hill Glow plight – pride of Scotland or ‘zombie’ network?. She suggested,

    Come on then Mr Russell; it’s over to you. How about cutting through all the civil service failures, restoring Andrew Brown and his team to the Glow successor project, and getting them to carry out a review of just what has been achieved, and what’s possible now there’s a little more breathing space. Andrew Brown is one of the most respected figures in education today, and together with the international reputation of Ollie Bray and technical expertise of Charlie Love, he could manage the birth of a successor to Glow which, if not totally future proof (what is?), is at least what the people want, would work properly and meets the needs of learners and practitioners. It would also be well managed and provide better value for money than its predecessor.

  8. Mike Russell announced Glow’s Next Phase

    To ensure continuity we have taken the step of extending the current RM provision through to December 2013. Microsoft have agreed to provide the tools and services of their integrated application suite ‘Microsoft Office 365 for Education’ for free through to December 2014; this was the first offer of its kind in the world for a national schools project.

    There would be an ICT Education Excellence group.

    The excellence group will have the immediate task of scoping the long-term user-centred future of Glow.

What happens next?

So far so confusing. At the moment there seems to be two development happening with glow:

  1. The development of the RM solution which will create a new front end to glow and incorporate MS 365
  2. The development of GlowPlus by the ICT Education Excellence group.

We know about the first of these through the information provided in glow itself: Migration of Glow to Office 365 (glow account required) and the second by a fair bit for tweeting and blogging by members of the group. Local Authorities have been kept up-to-date though the Key Contacts.

What is wrong with this picture?

There seems to be very little joined up thinking between the two plans. Education Scotland and the ICT Education Excellence group do not seem to be working in the same room. My fear is we are going to get a two step transition, Glow to MS 365, MS 365 to GlowPlus. This does not seem like a great idea. I think I’d have preferred to stick with Glow 1 and then go straight to GlowPlus if that is where we are heading.

I can’t imagine how we got to this point without some bad decision making by the government.

e-Portfolios and blogs as an example

Over the last couple of years one of the major uses of glow has been the development of e-portfolios. Designed in part to help with the profiling of pupils progress and the profile for pupils at p7 and (this year) s3 the e-portfolio solution used by more that 60000 pupils in Scotland is based on the wordpress blogs provided by Glow. WordPress is not going to be provided by Glow 365. There is a new MS365 based solution in preparation which will replace the blogs at the end of this session.

On the back of the introduction to blogs though e-portfolios the use of the WordPress blogs for class and school blogs seem to have picked up. As I understand it these to will be migrated to 365 but some features and structures of wordpress blogs may not be supported.

According to tweets by members of the ICT Education Excellence group, wordpress is very much part of GlowPlus, it can be seen and tested in Glew which has been developed by Charlie Love a member of the ICT Education Excellence group.

There has been a reasonable amount of anxiety surrounding this for example on the the SICTDG post Moving e-portfolios to a Microsoft blog.

So are we going to move from wordpress to 365 and back over the next few years? The other area of glow may have similar movements, Adobe Connect the video conferencing tool in glow will be replace by a MS 365 solution will that change again in a year or two, is the new solution better than the old one?

Every day I am talking to schools and teachers about e-portfolios and blogs. How do I answer David Terron‘s tweet:

RT : eportfolios look like going to sharepoint solution – And they want me to set up 300 WordPress blogs?

Personally thinking

Most of the above has been an attempt to list where we are and where we are going. I’d love some authoritative explanation giving an overview of where we are going and why?. The following are just some personal thoughts and opinions.

I feel we have already started losing traction with glow. I believe there is a lot of good to be had from a national intranet. I also believe that a lot of the best of glow has come from teachers and others trying to bend what they have been given into tools to met real needs. Recently, I’d guess, that eportfolios are by far the most used section of glow. These take the rather limited and old wordpress setup that glow provides and twist it to fit the needs to Teaching and Learning in Scotland. To my knowledge most of this twisting was not done by RM or professional programmers but by Education Scotland’s Alex Duff.

This post started with discussions on twitter by Ian Hallahan, Robert Jones and David Gilmore on possible enhancements to wordpress blogs and eportfolios, adding open Badges, ideas from teachers who have proven time and again that they can improve open source tools for their circumstances. I am not a WordPress fanboy, this blog is not using WordPress, but WordPress is a class of software that can be hacked (in a good way) to fit users needs by users. This facility is shared by many open source solutions. Mike Russell suggested glow would be built on OS software, the next revision is not.

Ewan McIntosh tweeted:

WPMU not being supportable is daft & shows deep ignorance of legacy. It’s Glow’s biggest scs


We may need to consider how to find Ctrl-Z on some of those current changes.


Yeah – @Feorlean’s mission for #ICTEx is not designed to be stymied by short termism & quick fixes.

I am guessing Ewan knows a bit about @Feorlean’s vision. I am wondering if @Feorlean’s eye is on the glow ball? Is it to late to Ctrl-Z on some of those current changes I wish someone would let me know.

We need to invest in training and peer assistance. Teachers are insanely overworked: no other industry would stand for it. And teacher CPD – especially around technology – is poor. More recently there’s been a fashion to say that learning technologies should be as easy to use as Facebook which is ridiculous. Most people were introduced to Facebook by family, a friend, or a colleague. They forget the learning curve and the constant re-learning they have to do when the interface and controls change.

From Some thoughts on learning technologies in the classroom | Doug Belshaw’s blog, my emphasis.

One of the reasons people, Teachers included, think learning Facebook is easy is because they are focused on a goal that they really want to achieve. I found minecraft a bit to difficult for me probably because I didn’t want it enough and didn’t fell the outcome would be useful or particularly enjoyable.

Lots of other interesting ideas in Doug’s post