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Liked Fridge Poetry – Google Sheets as Database on Bionic Teaching
Back in 2013 I built a refrigerator poetry page using javascript. I really wanted to make it so anyone could add any words they wanted in some easy way but didn’t have the skills to do that at the time. It’s been hanging out in the back of my mind since then and the bits and pieces I’ve learned since then now make it pretty straightforward.

It is National Poetry Day. When I was in class I always wanted to do something for this, but only occasionally remembered. Although I don’t have a way with words I like working with poetry in the class. I also occasionally like twitter haiku and the like.

I read Tom Woodward’s blog regularly and yesterday I noticed Fridge Poetry – Google Sheets as Database in my RSS reader. Given that I’ve messed about with fridges before 1, I took a look: Google Sheets – Fridge Poetry.

The really interesting thing 2 about this is that Tom has set it up so that it is easy to make another fridge with different sets of words. He even has a link on his post to create a copy of the google spreadsheet to make your own copy (you need a google account, a low entry bar). The sheet itself has the instructions.

Here is one with a selection of words from Scotland small? by Hugh MacDiarmid.

How do you save something like this? Take a screenshot.

What I really love about this idea, besides the sharing of how to do it, it the easy way it can be extended and used with a different set of words.

  1. That was back in 2002 when I was playing with Flash
  2. The other interesting this is the JavaScript and php stuff.

I’ve posted a few things here in reaction to the idea about banning mobiles in school: tagged: yesmobile.

Here is another reason for using mobile in learning:

I grabbed this video in the park this morning with my phone in the slowmo mode.

I would have though that the ability to do this outweighs the need to address problems of distraction?


On Saturday I went along to this event in University of Stracthclyde Innovation Centre. Orgainserd by Rob Smith and Bill Boyd in association with Scottish Film Education.

There were over 20 presentations and talks on a wide ranging set of topics.

The problem at events such as this is to decide which talks to go to and the regret on missing others. This can be exacerbated by watching the tweets from other sessions. I tried to guess which ones would be suitable for broadcasting and podcasting. This is tricky at a conference based around film.

During the day I broadcast from 8 sessions and David Gilmour (@dgilmour) kindly recorded more. This will be published on Edutalk over the next week or so. ScotFLF15 | EDUtalk, the links here should update as they are added 1.

Some of the recording start slightly late, due to my getting to the room late and a few will feature a samba band from the street as a background. What they lack in audio quality the make up for in content.

Although I’ve worked with creating video with and without pupils a fair bit I am not very knowledgable about film so I found interesting things in all of the sessions I attended. It would be hard to pick out a favourite. I certainly learnt a lot of new stuff from Rob Smith about Using Film in the Classroom and David Griffith talking about grammar in both text and film in From Shots to Sentences. I am more familiar with the work of Jennifer Jones on the Digital Commonwealth Project, but really enjoyed her talk and was delighted to get a hard copy of the ‎Handbook of Digital Storytelling as I’ve pointed folk to the pdf many times.
I suspect I missed a lot of details from the talks as I was recording I hope to gain from listening to and editing the recordings.

I do not know the official count of participants but it seemed pretty busy to me, as usual the number of Scottish teachers willing to go to cpd events in their own time is commendable. Some had travelled a fair distance and must of got up early. (Great to see Neil Winton). At a cost of £25 with plenty of coffee, pastries and a tasty lunch this was amazing value. There was a great buzz throughout the day. I’d recommend going along next year (I believe it will be run again).

Feature Image credit David Gilmour.


A couple of weeks ago I blogged about getting my Raspberry Pi to create gifs and server them to the web:Gif Cam.

This only keeps the most recent gif. A couple of days ago I tried to set it up to catch the blood moon, and store a series of gifs but my scripts failed to work. It did lead me to changing the position of the camera from the local cross roads to the sky.

I then noticed a couple of interesting images, so though about how I could do that. There is not enough room on the pi’s SD card to hold images for very long. I started by uploading the gifs to a website via ftp. But this was still not a long term solution. I then though about Tumblr and after a bit of googling I’ve got a working solution that posts a gif of the Glasgow Skies to Sky Pi.

Here are some notes to show how I did some of it. You need to be able to use the termianl and a command line file editor such as nano. I am very much a newbie with this stuff.

My pi is on my home network connected to the router via Ethernet and a powerline. It is set up as a webserver with a domain, I have ssh access to the pi and do any editing from my mac via ssh. None of these things apart from the connection to the Internet.

The pi is running from an SD card with NOOBS installed.

I’ve run: sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
before starting to get the pi up to date.

Code like the above is run form the terminal, either on the pi with a monitor and keyboard or by logging on via ssh. I create scripts on the pi in the terminal with nano, which is an uncomplicated text editor that is used in the terminal.

Taking Pictures, making Gifs

The whole thing runs from a shell script, which started like this:

    #!/usr/bin/env bash
    for (( i = 0; i < 10; i++ )); do
        raspistill -h 486 -w 648 -a 1036 -vf -hf --encoding gif  -o /var/www/tempgifs/cam${i}.gif
    gifsicle --delay=10 --colors 256  --loop /var/www/tempgifs/cam*  > /var/www/tempgifs/camd.gif
    mv /var/www/tempgifs/camd.gif /var/www/camd.gif
    raspistill -h 486 -w 648 -a 1036 -ae +25+25 -vf -hf -o /var/www/camd.jpg

When the script runs, it takes 10 still pictures with the raspistill program. I am not too sure if these are the best settings, but

  • -h 486 and -w 648 set the dimensions.
  • -a 1036 stamps the date and time.
  • -vf -hf flips the image and turns it upside down (to put it the right way up)
  • –encoding gif outputs as a gif
  • -o /var/www/tempgifs/cam${i}.gif set the file path for the export.

I saved this file to and then made it run-able with chmod +x

I’ve installed gifsicle with sudo apt-get install gifsicle and use that to create the gif file. The last line creates a jpg too. You can see the current gif and jpg on Gif Cam.

I need the script to run regularly so I set up a cron job. To do this in the terminal type crontab -w and add

*/9 * * * * /path/to/

to the bottom of the file. This will run the script every 9 minutes.

Tumbling Gifs

The next problem is to upload to tumblr. Tumblr has a well developed API and libraries for several languages. After a fair bit of googling for a simple solution I decided to just use one of Tumblr’s own. I though it sensible to use Python as that language seems to have a lot of support on the pi. I don’t know any python.

First you need to install the pytumblr python module. So in the terminal:

sudo pip pytumblr

You also need to have various keys for the API: consumer_key, consumer_secret, oauth_token and oauth_secret. To get these you need to create an App on tumblr. Here is what I did. (Well this was a second run through to document, the first time got a bit messy;-))

register an application Click the button and fill in the fields.
This will give you the consumer_key and consumer_secret.


If you click the Explore API you will get a dialog to allow your new app to post for you (This did not work for me in Safari, I had to switch to Chrome and go through a couple of times).


This will lead to a place to fill in your key and secret. Then the console.


The Console will let you test various bits of code but more important will let you copy a block of code with the consumer_key, consumer_secret, oauth_token and oauth_secret.


It is worth clicking on Example output on the console to make sure everything is working.

Moving back onto the pi and the terminal I edited a new file with:


And edit the file:

import pytumblr

client = pytumblr.TumblrRestClient(

# Make the request
o=client.create_photo('raspskypi', state="published", data=["/var/www/camd.gif"] )

print o

With the keys, tokens and secrets filled in. raspskypi is the name of the tumblr blog.

Save the file and make it executable. (chmod +x )

then type:

python ./

After a minute, if all is set up right you should see an id for the post returned and checking the blog should show a post with the image from /var/www/camd.gif

If all is well you can add:

python /home/pi/

To the bottom of the script that makes the gif.

Now every time the script creates a new gif, it should post the image to your tumblr blog.

Currently my pi has uploaded over 200 gifs: Sky Pi: Archive.

A few days ago @GlowScot pointed me to this tweet:

After a few exchanges I ended up with:

and now have time to type a few notes.

Video blogging is obviously a powerful tool for learning, used in Flipped classrooms, for showing learning of all sort and an engaging activity in its own right 1.

In the ‘old’ Glow Blogs using the old version of WordPress you could only upload files of <8MB you could use the Anarchy Media player to display video, uploaded or linked from elsewhere.

Our more up-to-date version of WordPress supports better video embedding without plugins and we set the maximum file upload size to 50mb.

Apart from file size video formats are a bit of a barrier to using video in blogs. It is better to use an external service such as YouTube or Vimeo. These services prepare the video for playback on a wider ranges of setups and also will hold much bigger video files. The disadvantage of these services is that they may be blocked on school networks.

When planning the upgrade to Glow Blogs we were advised by the technical team that the blog environment was not an appropriate place for hosting video. I pushed for 50MB file upload as a stopgap in case video file hosting in Glow did not develop in a way that could be used by the blog service.

Using YouTube & Vimeo video on Glow Blogs is a snip, both provides support oEmbed. This means that you just paste the url to a video page into the blog editor and the video will embed. The first time you see this happening is quite a pleasant surprise as the video is embedded in the editing field to.
Flickr video works in the same way but flickr video is limited to playing 3 minutes.

Here is an example of school blog using Vimeo: St Patrick’s Press Gang. A youtube example: Youtube test again | John Johnston. and Flickr Video

In the most recent release on Glow Blogs, August 2015 we added support for ClickView video too. ClickView does not support oEmbed, but or developer added the ability to take the url from a ClickView embed code and use that in the same way.

There is also the possibility of using Office O365 video from the glow tenancy. Currently O365 video is awaiting contractual clearance. Of course at the moment Office Video, like the rest of Glow O365, is behind a logon, so not practical for public display.

If you do want to host the files on Glow Blogs there are a few things to consider, the viewing of video files is a complex matrix of the video files and operating systems and browser ability to view them.
The best bet is probably to go for MPEG4 2. These files usually have the extension mp4 or m4v. Lots of video editors export to mp4. If you want to make your video file as small as possible you may want to add an application for compression int othe mix. currently I’ve found HandBrake a very useful tool.

HandBrake is a tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs.

Handbrake only works on the desktop. If shooting on a mobile, you will want to edit the file and export at a smaller size or use a app for shrinking video rather than uploading raw footage. Many mobile phones produce excellent quality video that results in large file sizes.

Personally I’ve found uploading to Glow Blogs works fine for example the Videos on Blogging Bootcamp vary in length between a couple of minutes and forty. These are screencasts which typically compress well.

Caveat, there are Video problem on iOS. The issue is now understood by the developers and we hope it will be fixed in the Glow Blogs environment very soon.


Upload to Glow Blog: limited to 50MB, currently doesn’t play on iOS
Youtube: May be blocked
Vimeo: My be blocked
ClickView: costs
Flickr Limited to 3 minutes
Glow Office O365 not yet available. May not be publicly sharable.

Personally my needs are met by keeping my videos under 50MB and uploading them to Glow Blogs. This will be improved when the iOS fix is in place.

  1. Next weekend I am heading to the Scottish Film and Learning Festival – Home to record and broadcast for Raido #EDUtalk. A quick look at Workshops – Scottish Film and Learning Festival indicated Film’s increacing importance.’
  2. A quick scan of the MPEG-4 Part 14 – Wikipedia page gives an idea of the complexity of video formats.

A minute from: Raising the Digital Generation in Scotland – Chris van der Kuyl, Entrepreneur and Chairman of 4J Studios at the Scottish Learning Festival

…that is mental, that is absolutely mental that is like saying you cant carry a note book in school they are banned because you could write really seditious and crazy remarks in that notebook…  … to ban it is close to Luddism…

I’m catching up with this keynote from the Scottish Learning festival, here: SLF highlights – SLF 2015 1.

The whole talk is interesting and I’d recommend a watch/listen, but this jumped out.

The Audience seemed to suggest that a quarter to a half for schools banned mobile phones. I’d be interested in that statistic. Also what does ban mean? Does this suggest that half to three quarters allow mobiles for use in learning? That seems unlikely? Is it worse than Chris thinks?

The audio was ripped from Educations Scotland’s video, I am presuming that is ok as Fair UseInclusion for the purpose of news reporting“.

  1. I can’t see an easy way to link directly to the video


I’ve spent the last couple of days talking about Glow and Glow Blogs in particular at the Scottish Learning Festival.

Today I was co-presenting at a seminar on Blogs with Mrs Andrea Hunter and three of her pupils from Whinhill Primary. I asked Andrea to be involved as I enjoyed her blog last session at Gourock Primary, for example: Why Blog? Andrea has since moved on to Whinhill Primary and is blogging with her class who joining in with Blogging Bootcamp #2 like champions.

The Pupils did a great job and Mrs Hunter spelled out how to organise blogging in the classroom supporting and scaffolding their learning perfectly. This allowed me to just talk about blogging in general, touch upon my favourite topic of syndication.1 and explain a little about how the e-portfolio plugin is coming on. The seminar was filmed and I hope it published somewhere as Andrea and the pupils presentation is well worth sharing wider.

My day was made when later on twitter let me know about this post: SLF 2015 on Diary of a Whinhill Pupil. The Whinhill team had gone off around the SLF floor and must have commandeered a few computers to post to their blog.

I also managed to show a demo of the new Glow Blogs e-portfolio/profiling plugin to a few folk over the two days and it was well received. We hope to have this released later this year.

Featured image Mrs Andrea Hunter, used with permission.

1. I might have mentioned on the blog a few times that I like aggregation, and believe this is a wonderful addition to Glow Blogs. More on this soon.


We had a good night at TeachMeet SLF 15

Here is some of the twitter stream: TMSLF15 (with images, tweets) Storify I tried to cut out re-tweets and duplication (but didn’t spend too much time on that).

The image view on twitter is nice: #tmslf15 hashtag on Twitter. As it highlights the amount of chat that went on in the breacout section.

We encouraged folk to post to the TMSLF15 Padlet about the ideas they discussed. I think the twitter stream is a bit richer.

Athole recorded a couple of periscopes, not sure how log they stay up: Mr M on Periscope: “#tmslf15” Mr M on Periscope: “Part 2 #tmslf15” This was well received by several virtual attendees.

We broadcast on Radio Edutalk, and I hope to edit the audio and post it soonish.

Here are some of the links extracted from twitter.


Image Credit Ian Stuart on Twitter.


Still thinking about mobile technology.

When I was in my teens one of the things I was interested in was natural history. I was a keen contributor to the mammal society records.

To do this when ever I saw a mammal or a sign of one I would take a note. Later on I would complete a record sheet using an ordnance survey map to add the location. Every so often I would post these off by snail mail to the mammal society.
My technology was a pencil and notebook OS maps and a few books on identifying mammals by their bones, tracks and sign. I’ve still got the OS map with faint pencil scratching but the notebooks are long gone.

Now on my phone I have the Mammal Tracker App. Whenever I see an animal or sign of one I record that immediately. I can add a picture and the app will record the location. I send it to the mammal society with the click of a button.

This really lowers the bar for citizen science. I would imagine that this would be a great type of project to run in school.

I’ll be talking about Glow Blogs in a seminar at SLF on Thursday along with Andrea Hunter PT at Whinhill Primary School and some of her pupils. Andrea’s class blog at Diary of a Whinhill Pupil.

I’ll be at SLF both days spending some time on the Glow stand. If you are at SLF and have an interest in blogging, podcasting and the like please do have a chat. You can catch me on twitter @johnjohnston.

I’ll also be at TeachMeet SLF15 on Wednesday evening. We will try to stream that on Radio #EDUtalk.