TeachMeet SLF 2014

Wednesday 16 July 2014 at 11:39 am

Wednesday 24th September 2014 from 5 for 5.30pm start - 8.00pm

At the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
Third Floor, The Optima Building, 58 Robertson Street, Glasgow, G2 8DQ

Signup to talk or lurk at TeachMeet / TeachMeet SLF 2014

Looking forward to going to this. Edutalk is going to be one of the sponsors and we will be streaming audio live.

#tmslf14 looks like being the hashtag.

Grumble (age related?)

I was as usual a bit disturbed by the state of the TeachMeet Wiki front page when adding the logo, hence the slight snark in the graphic above. There have been a few attempts to improve the organisations of the wiki before and none, as far as I know, have had much success. Personally I think a front page of text links, dates, times locations and short descriptions would be nicer. Logos etc could go onto the signup page.

I wonder if the current exuberant displays of giant graphics and information could be off putting to newcomers who are thinking signing up?

Glow Blogs Summer 2014

Tuesday 08 July 2014 at 09:40 am

One of the biggest frustrations working on the glow projects is the limits it places on open communication. I was expecting to be able to blog ideas and thoughts as I progressed through the blog migration. It turns out that this might have lead to procurement and legal difficulties.

A Very Excited Puppy by edanley Attribution License

I am delighted and excited that the blog migration project, which is what I've been spending the majority of my time on since January, is at a point where we can discuss our plans.

After a lot of work and investigation it has been decided that the best way to go forward with the blogging service is to continue to use Wordpress for Glow Blogs. This might have seemed to be a no brainer, but we had to be sure we would not run into possible procurement challenges by assuming Wordpress was the only solution.

How We Got Here and Why It Is Taking So Long

Current blogs hooked into sharepoint, use a very old version of Wordpress. There has been a lot of investigation on how the old blogs worked and were knitted into the sharepoint system of ‘Old Glow’ we now have a good understanding of the technical architecture and best way to move forward.

Things That Need to Be Done

Authentication, Blog Creation, User Management.
The new blogs will need to authenticate to the new RM Unify project. Blog creation is current done in the ‘Old Glow’ sharepoint portal. The new service will need to include an independent system for creating blogs. Likewise the old system used the old portal for user management, a new system will have to be created inside the Wordpress platform. We anticipate that there are many opportunities for improving the blog creating and user management in the new system. We will also, hopefully avoid the problem of being tightly coupled to another service which should make future development of the blogs less problematic than it has been in the past.

We Have a Plan

We now have a full-time Wordpress developer in the glow team who will have the role of overseeing the technical aspects of the blog project. We have procured the services of Code for The People to manage the migration process and upgrade to a more recent version of Wordpress.
  1. Move: existing 2.9.2 blogs to new home, development of new authentication, blog creation and User management. This will reduce risk of any problems that might arise from trying to move directly to a new and up to date Wordpress setup.
  2. Upgrade: to more recent version of WP We will, again to reduce risk, upgrade in stages. This should not be visible to end users.
  3. Improve: Phase Three...

The benefits of the new blog system should become apparent quite quickly. Firstly here are many features of more recent versions of Wordpress that will improve the system without any development. A better editor, better mobile experience, better handling of media.

Going forward into stage three, there should be an opportunity for a wider range of themes and plugins and the development of a system for requesting in installation of these.

We should be able to make pupil profile improvements. For example the creation of the profile blogs current take many many steps. It takes me about an hour to take a class through creation. We should be able to improve that, and perhaps other types of blogs site, by providing a wizard that is build into the system. We have the chance to develop a better system for producing the p7 & S3 profiles.

Aggregation, this could make the following and commenting on pupil profiles by staff much more efficient. Teachers could potentially have a page where they would see any new activity by any group of pupils they interact with.

There Is Always Some Risk

There are few possible risks which may result in extending the planned short freeze on the platform. If these push our migration date past Oct 3 the current blogs will not be accessible. Our current estimates are that we will meet our deadlines.

  • There is a potential period of blogs having a procedural content freeze or outage for a few days in the Summer. Possibly another content freeze in September or October. We will do our best to keep users informed about this. We have not yet identified length of these periods.
  • Things go wrong, exceptionally big project
  • I'd guess this is one of the biggest Wordpress setups in the world, we are moving from version 2.9.2 to 3.9 or later this is a challenge.
  • There will be a great deal of testing of all stages in the migration, we will be starting the testing early to maximise benefit while minimising risk to delivery dates.
  • There are a lot of different aspects of Procurement that are hard to fathom before the exercise is complete. It is difficult to estimate times we have still to finalise the procurement of the hosting for the blogging system.

Class Sets, will not be ready for switchover time. RM unify does not currently have a way for the blogs to gather class and curricular groups to help with adding users to a blog and assigning them roles. We will develop interim solutions to assigning roles to multiple users (probably pasting in a list of usernames). This will hopefully be short term and be replaced by a more robust solution when class sets information is available in glow generally.

I managed to avoid 'blog with two tails' as the title of this post, but could not the puppy pictures;-)

Although this feels at times as if it is a long drawn out process, it has been (and is being) made enjoyable for me by working with (or mainly watching the the work carried out by) a great team of folk on the blog project. The first time I've worked with a Project Manager, Business Analyst, Technical Architect, Tester or Developers in a formal setting has been one of the best things in my secondment so far.

FutureLearn CreativeCoding

Saturday 07 June 2014 at 6:52 pm


FutureLearn is a massive open online course (MOOC) platform founded in December 2012 as a company majority owned by the UK's Open University. It is the first UK-led massive open online course platform, and as of October 2013 had 26 University partners and - unlike similar platforms - includes three non-university partners: the British Museum, the British Council and the British Library.
from: FutureLearn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I've signed up for and started the Creative Coding course at FutureLearn. It looked like an interesting course and I was interested to try out the FutureLearn platform.

The Platform

Unlike some MOOCs I've dipped my toe into FutureLearn is based on its own platform. FutureLearn is in beta and they are developing new features and evolving the offer. They have started with the smallest feature set that they though they could.

The webpages are extremely clear and it is easy to follow the course.

The course I am doing is split into 6 weeks.

Futurelearn Creativecoding Overview

The week view gives an overview of a number of tasks to be carried out in the week.

Futurelearn Weekview

The colour of the wee square letting you know if you have completed the 'task'.

Futurelearn Tasks Done

Each task is laid out rather like a blog post, with content at the top and a place for participants to comment. On a wide screen computer the comments appear at the side, but on my 1280 macbook they are below.

Futurelearn Post

There are already 100s of comments on most of the week one tasks.

The course encourages you to post your results to Flickr: The Monash Creative Coding Pool and to use #FLcreativecoding. The links to images can then be added in the comments. Folk are also posting images to other places, tumblr, dropbox etc.

Learning Processing

There is a fair bit of interaction going on in the comments and quite a lot of folk helping others. I'll be interested in seeing any signs of community growing in such a large class.

The course has been very easy to work through so far as far as organization goes. Each task is clearly set out, the videos have be of good quality and very clear. As I have been doing most of this on my commute I've had a few problems when the Scot Rail internet connection is poor (Falkirk!). The system works very well on a technical level. If fells like reading and responding to a series of blog posts. I am sure you could do something similar on a smaller scale with a blog. I'll be interested to see what new features FutureLearn add as time goes on.

This has been quite good fun so far. A fairly gentle introduction to the application and some basic principles in the first week. The videos and handouts have been clear. Some of the folk taking part are obviously experienced coders and it might be a bit daunting to see some of their work others seem to be taking their very first steps in programming/coding. I've had enough experience with baby steps to keep me going this week. I expect I might hit a trig wall at some point I had a quick look at the khan videos suggested for getting up to speed with trig but there looked like too many to watch in a reasonable time.

The Course suggests that you need at least three hours a week to keep up, I think that would be a pretty bare minimum I am guessing I have spent five or more hours and could have done with a few more to really get the week one lessons in my head.

The course is certainly not one you could drop in and out of, it seems to be pretty linear and even in the first week you would find it hard to skip many tasks unless you already had some knowledge.

So far it has got me more interested in processing that I have been and I hope I can find the time to keep up for the next few weeks.

GlowGifGuides with LICEcap

Sunday 01 June 2014 at 4:25 pm

Renameing Glow Docs

Here is a nice quick way to create short screencasts as animated gifs.

The one above was created because there seems to have been a change in the way you create documents in onedrive for business (ie in the MS 356 tenancy in glow).

Previously I got a dialog to name a file when I clicked +new in onedrive. Now it just created a new doc and takes you there to edit it. After saving you can rename the doc from the file list by clicking the elipse ... after the doc name, but that is a bit of a fuss. It is easier to rename the doc when editing by clicking on its title.

LICEcap can capture an area of your desktop and save it directly to .GIF (for viewing in web browsers, etc) or .LCF (see below).

LICEcap is an intuitive but flexible application (for Windows and now OSX), that is designed to be lightweight and function with high performance.
from: Cockos Incorporated | LICEcap

LICEcast is free and runs on windows and mac.

Screen-casting usually takes a fair bit of effort, sometimes using quite a complex application and needing some editing. This resulting vide may not play on different browsers or operating systems. Animated Gifs are pretty compatible. It only took me a few moments to create the one above and upload it.

The Internet With A Human Face

Saturday 31 May 2014 at 09:22 am

The Internet With A Human Face – Beyond Tellerrand 2014 Conference Talk

The first thing to centralize was search. Google found a superior way to index our web, and the other search engines faded away. Then Google acquired the one true ad network, and wrote the dominant analytics suite.

Email centralized in the face of rampant spam, with attractive offers of free storage to sweeten the deal.

Facebook won the social network wars in the US, and began gobbling up competitors in other countries.

The mobile devices that are taking over the web fall into one of two camps. One of them pretends to be more open than the other, but it’s mostly a matter of marketing. In practice they both have complete control of their ecosystem.

I tumbled and tweeted another quote from this presentation yesterday. You could easily quote the words that go with every slide. I’d highly recommend reading this if you are at all interested in the internet, privacy and information.

I am coming back to it today thinking that the awareness of your online presence, the data trails you leave and the consequences should sit squarely with internet safety in schools.

Maciej Ceglowski the presenter, run the wonderful Pinboard bookmarking service. He is also a painter who has painted in Scotland.

Editorial more power to your iPad

Friday 30 May 2014 at 10:09 pm

A quick test

I am posting this from the editorial an interesting iOS app.

Editorial is a plain text editor for the iPad with powerful automation tools and a beautiful inline preview for writing Markdown

I've only made a few quick tests with the app but it looks like it will be of interest with folk who like scripting. Editorial has a python based automation system with which users can use and build workflows. You edit these workflow in the app itself.

Although I know no python I managed to edit the publish to metaweblogapi workflow to work with this pivotx blog. I also managed to import and configure the FTP image upload script

I am writing this post in markdown and hoping my blog understands it or that the publish script converts to html first. Update I needed to add conver to html to the workflow. This was simple.

It looks like there are plenty of workflows to install and much for the tinkerer to play with.

My own use of the iPad has changed over time and I am not sure this is for me. I mainly use my iPad for browsing, reading RSS (and posting findings to tumblr & twitter), social media, note taking , email and some light image and video editing. I've a few workflow type things that I do in Drafts but that is about it. I'll probably poke around in Editorial and see how it goes. I guess you can't have enough choice in ways to post to a blog.

Working Together Apart

Wednesday 28 May 2014 at 5:44 pm

I've written here about FeedWordPress quite a few times and if you have spoken to me about technology for learning I've probably mentioned it to you too. FeedWordPress is a Wordpress plugin that lets you aggregate, on the one blog, many blogs (or other sources that provide RSS).

FeedWordPress is used extensively on DS106 (Which I probably talk about far to much for my co-workers comfort) and we now use it on ScotEduBlogs to aggregate over 100 Scottish educational blogs.

I've posted about how I think this would be a great tool for learning in schools, allowing pupils to work in there own spaces but pull project related content from multiple sources together.

I've just found a wonderful example of this in use (somewhat more interesting than ScotEdublogs and easier to grasp than ds106)

This site allows 20 students to record botanical findings, they do so by posting to their own blogs. The results are aggregated on to Field Botany | Plants of the James River Park System, There are already 700 posts.

Belle Isle

The students can post photos and informatino straight to their blogs with mobile phones while in the field.

Tom Woodward on who's blog I discovered this site explains the details:

This early days for the site but in the end the intrepid biology duo of Jill Reid and Dianne Jennings will worked with their students to create a site that local residents can use to identify plants in our James River Park System.

Tom goes onto explain how he set the site up and the plugins used.

Glow Blogs

One of the problems with suggesting FeedWordPress for learning is that it requires a fair bit of work to get going, you cannot use it on Wordpress.com, edublogs or other sites that host blogs for you, you need to set up your own hosting and add and configure the plugin. As we work our way through requirements and procurement of the new blogging solution for glow the possibility of being able to offer this sort of factuality is very exciting...

Walking The Commonwealth

Thursday 15 May 2014 at 6:29 pm

I've been keeping half an eye on the digital commonwealth project since talking to David on Edutalk. Last weekend I was doing a little blogging about the project and taking a short walk or two. One of the many attractive aspects of the project is that it invites people to think about the word and concept of commonwealth. Coincidently I read, not for the first time, a newish sign on the path to Loch Humphrey.


This is an area I've started to really enjoy over the last few years. I feel it fits very well with my idea of commonwealth.

The start of the walk, by the gasworks, is about 15 minutes drive from Glasgow, and near public transport. It is popular, runners, mountain bikers, power walkers, ramblers of all shapes and sizes are there early to late. There is a fairly well graded track to the Loch if you need to keep your feet dry, or you can zig-zag the fields and moor. You will usually see a few wild flowers and the odd bit of wild life if you keep your eyes open. Once you are past the first hill the traffic noise stops. Out beyond the Loch it feels surprisingly isolated if you are early enough.

This seems to me to be a precious resource and although owned by farmers and the forestry commission (I guess), it feels as if some of the experience is part of our common wealth.

Mapping The Commonwealth

Over the years I've made efforts to record walks in various ways, posterous, fargo, and lots of map mashups. Recently I've had another go at this, this time trying to really simplify the workflow. I've ended up with a html template that uses a kml file produced by the Trails iPhone app and a flickr set. So to produce a page like this: Duncolm Mostly Floral I:

  1. Take a walk, record the track with trails, take some pictures.
  2. Stick the kml file in a folder in dropbox.
  3. Upload the photos to a new flickr set.
  4. Duplicate an html file, change the url of the kml file and the id of the flickr set.
  5. Write a couple of lines on notes in the html file.

I think this could be improved as a workflow with some sort of simple template. This would contain on separate line: A title; the flickr set's id; the kml file and the notes.

Walk map

I've been fascinated with sort of recording/notetalking/storytelling for a fair while now and it is sort of my unofficial 'digital commonwealth'.

I continue to see that this sort of activity could be great fun in class and there many ways to mash up maps, words and images. Wouldn't it be great if the new glow blog solution had a Geo-Rss plugin for fold to activate.

I'd recommend showing the digital commonwealth to your class, whatever age and stage and at least borrowing some of the ideas for using digital media, if you do not join in. If you do want to join in I believe there are still places for a few more schools to receive some support.

David tell me there is still room for a few more schools and you can get in touch via email or twitter: DigCW2014. They are particularly need schools in Borders, Angus, Perth & Kinross, W Lothian, Clackmannan, Stirling, W Dunbartonshire, East Ren, Renfrewshire.

Join the Digital Commonwealth

Monday 05 May 2014 at 10:43 pm

A while back on Radio Edutalk I had the pleasure of talking to David McGillivray about the Digital Commonwealth 1. It is a pretty exciting project:

The ambition of the Digital Commonwealth project is to enhance the capacity of individuals and groups to use freely available mobile digital (and social) media tools and techniques to ensure their voices are heard in a saturated (and often commercially) motivated media landscape. The Digital Commonwealth project focuses on lowering the threshold for involvement for individuals and groups so that they can be empowered to exploit creative tools and technologies to tell their stories, digitally. The project reaches out to individuals and groups experiencing social, cultural or economic marginalization, whether related to age, ethnicity, poverty, disability or social isolation.
Digital Commonwealth

Since then I've heard that there are now 60 schools involved with the project along side a host of other community groups. The twitter stream is filled with delight: Twitter / Search - #digCW2014.

David tell me there is still room for a few more schools and you can get in touch via email or twitter: Digital Commonwealth (DigCW2014) on Twitter. They are particularly looking for:

Some highlights of the project include:

You can find out more about the projects on the Digital Commonwealth site fascinating to see social media being used across sectors.

1. Radio #EDUtalk 11-9-2013: David McGillivray | EDUtalk


Monday 28 April 2014 at 12:24 pm

Bridgy lets you post to social networks - and comment, like, reshare, and more - from your own web site. It also pulls other people's comments, likes, and reshares of your posts back to your site. In IndieWeb lingo, Bridgy lets you POSSE to the silos easily and backfeed the responses automatically. Check out this example, or see the docs for more details.

from: Bridgy

This looks like a really exciting development in social media. Recently most of the commentary on blog posts has moved to twitter, g+ or facebook. This looks like it could link that up and push out posts and then pull comments made on other sites back to your blog.