A Secondment to Glow

Monday 16 December 2013 at 3:10 pm

It has been five short years since I left the classroom and much to my surprise I am going to be moving on, for a secondment. Recently I was approached to take a role in the development of glow. The role is one of three product owners, I am not sure exactly what I’ll be doing but it involves working with the team at Scottish Government to develop the ICT in excellence recommendations.

Exciting stuff, as I understand it I’ll be working with a team of developers as a ‘product owner’, this is a completely new direction for me. I’ve read a description or two of what the being a product owner entails and it seems somewhat daunting. I am hoping that my enthusiasm for ICT and online learning will carry me through. I’ll also be relaying on Ian Stuart, a member of the ICT in excellence group and one of the other product owners to get me up to speed. (Ian tweeted as Islayian until now, this post requires relocation and a new twitter name: @IanStuart66)

I was interested to read a few tweets in response to Fearghal Kelly’s tweet about the advert for the job for the third product owner. Fearghal had been asked to do this, but a replacement biology teacher could not be found. Fearghal’s tweet surfaces a wee bit of less than positive feeling towards glow from others in Scottish education.

Today Fearghal came back with a solid response on this blog, Glowing Forwards explaining that it the potential not the reality of glow that is exciting.

Personally in private and public, I’ve spent a fair bit of time musing on and criticising glow. A lot of my work in the past five years has been in supporting the use of glow, and I’ve heard a lot of folk talking about the problems. From the start I’ve believed that the concept of a national space and set of services/connections is a good thing but have sometime been disappointed with that is provided. I’ve posted a lot here, varying from beta test reports, through moans to weird hacks to get glow to behave as I think it should. I am not starry eyed about glow but I do think it is needed.

One reason is the uneven access to online tools across Scotland. Some authorities are risk adverse, some are neophiles. There have been some attempts to change this politically for longer than glow has existed they do not seem to have move the goalposts much. Perhaps a new glow could help. To do so it would need to provide a good set of standard tools, the sort that are used for all kinds of things across the internet. I am not talking here about VLEs or LMS, but blogs, wikis and other malleable systems.

A few years ago when I started using some Web 2.0 tech with my pupils I was breaking new ground, at least locally. Luckily for me I was too naïf to ask permission, it would probably not have given. I was also excited and pig headed enough to keep banging away at getting the technology to work. Not everyone likes to spend there time this way and nor should they.

I think there should be two ways to use glow: 1. pick it up and run, 2. Hack and modify. The first would be the general way to use it ,the second would have space for innovation. I do not mean hack in just the realm of software or code but more generally. A way to take a tool and use it in a completely or slightly new way. Teachers constantly do this across the curriculum and across age and stage. They take lessons, topics, ideas and make them suit their class, pupils and situation, it should be possible to do this with online tools.

I also think that Sharepoint, behind the original glow portal and being developed by Education Scotland as a major part of the new glow is not the best way to go about this Eduhacking. I might be wrong about this and look forward to finding out more of how it will fit in the new service. I hope it is just one of a range of tools. To me, Sharepoint looks like a powerful toolkit for centrally designing online spaces. To exploited it best it needs professionals. These professionals can design tools and spaces for teachers and learners based on what is understood about the teaching and learning process. But it does not feel friendly to the casual user who wants to bend it to a particular task. It does not feel like a space where the users will innovate.
I’ve blogged about this recently, Glow should be at the trailing edge.

We need other technologies too, VLEs, mail perhaps video hosting, these are often available at a price or free online already, but I’ve watched quite a few services come and go over the last few years and we need to keep in mind that the developers of these services need to make money somehow:

If you had asked me a couple of years ago about an interesting blogging tool that might be a great fit for the classroom I would have pointed you towards posterous. This was a service that was always going to be free, until twitter bought it and it closed down. Personally I was left with nearly 1000 posts on edutalk to try and sort out into a new system. (The provided tools didn’t work very well with audio!). The point is that teachers comfortable with online spaces would roll with it and find new tools if say Edmodo disappears but a lot of others will become frustrated and disenchanted. Hopefully the new glow will provide a bit of stability if not all of the polish and gloss of brand new and shiny tools.

There is a lot of work to do, glow has suffered from a barrage of criticism and slow response its critics. The transition, and uncertainty around it have not helped much, but it does look like the government is going to push ahead with glow taking the ‘ICT in excellence’ groups advice and that sounds like an interesting place to work.

Interesting Links 2013-12-07

Saturday 07 December 2013 at 11:42 am

I've been reading a lot about teaching code in schools and computational thinking recently, good to see an alternative view Why Pushing People to Code Will Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor | Wired Opinion | Wired.com

Public vs. Private – Should Student Work Be Public On the Web? | The Edublogger, When I started blogging with my pupils, the whole point was to be public. Recently, I've been involved in setting up e-portfolios with hundreds of pupils and the idea we are missing a trick by making these private is always at the back of my mind. In North Lanarkshire, where I work, there has been a recent flourishing of use of glow blogs, but a lot of the public ones are written to by staff as an adjunct to their school website. I wonder if this will develop to more pupil publishers? I also notice that now blogging is much more widespread that many using them are not involved in the social aspect of blogging: commenting and reading other blogs. The are perhaps being used more for communication with parents and the local community?

appear.in – one click video conversations is one several sites that have popped up recently offering WebRTC video conferencing in some browsers (Chrome, Firefox, opera).

I've been doing a bit of iPad screencasting of late this is a good guide on how to do it. I use Airserver and screnflow rather than the applications Ben Rimes use but the process is the same, Ben's scren cast is in a competion at the monet so if you want to help him win give his youtube the thumbs up. How To: Screen Record Your iPad - ScreenChamp Finalist 2013 - YouTube

Here is how to turn your smartphone into a digital microscope for just $10: DIY

#EDUtalk Badges

Saturday 16 November 2013 at 12:53 pm

Recently we have had quite a few guests on Radio EDUtalk who have talked about or been interested in open badges1. As I've blogged about before I am not completely sold on badges for learning but I am interested enough to want to try them out is a small way. Unfortunately I don't have any pupils to use a guinea pigs. I therefore though it might be worth a wee experiment on EDUtalk badges.

A little googling lead me to davelester/WPBadger, A lightweight badge issuing platform built using WordPress and I've installed the plugin at EDUtalk. After installing there are a few different additions to the dashboard:

  • In the settings there is a WPBadger Configuration section where you set up an email that will be sent when a badge is awarded.
  • The Badges section is where you create Badges, these look like custom posts. They contain a description and an image.
  • There is an Awards section where you award the badges by creating posts.

It took me a few attempts to get to a system that seems to work. I had to use the github.com version rather than the one in the wordpress plugin repository. I also made a few mistakes setting up badges, you need to limit the description string to long and then had single quotes in a description. Once I had changed that things began to work.

I've not tested the system to any great extent, Robert Drummond kindly helped, but it seems to work. I don't think I'll award badges willi-nilly to all our previous guests of contributors, but please get in touch if you have been a guest or contributed audio if you want me to send you a badge and help testing the system.

It looks as if setting up a badges system is pretty simple for teachers who have access to a wordpress blog they can install plugins in via FTP and pupils or learners with a mozilla backpack.

iPad Playflow at #TMTablet

Wednesday 30 October 2013 at 10:22 pm

I went along to the High School of Glasgow this evening for TeachMeet Tablet 2. Work and traffic conspired to make me pretty late and I had missed the first set of presentations, arriving in time for the round tables.

At the last minute I had volunteered to organise one of these, on workflow, handing out work and gathering it in on iPads. I demoed showbie and we had a chat about some edge cases and how these could work.

After that we had some more presentations:

Sally Foster talked about using one iPad in class, with more ideas than I could take notes for. I liked, in particular, the idea of a the teacher moving round the classroom and showing pupil work on the smartboard via Apple TV (you could use a computer and AirServer too).

Paul Casey showed some apps for teacher workflow, Planbook, Gradebook, HanDBase, and iBooks (and Author). All of these apps look as if they can help with teacher planning and organisation.

Both Sally's and Paul's presentations were of interest to anyone with an iPad, you didn't need to be in a 1-2-1 classroom to get some great ideas.

David Muir then started what looks like a long term view, over several teachmeets at the SAMR moodle. Using iBooks he too us from substitution to augmentation, demoing some nice features of the iBooks app an a few minutes.

My own presentation was the last. I was showing an example of using several different apps in a row do preform a task. I've found myself often doing this in iOS and noticed in classroom visits that primary pupils seem to pick this up naturally, more so perhaps than with traditional desktops.

I've seen this referred to as app smashing or chaining, I prefer the idea of a playflow, having fun with a series of applications. (I do not want to smash or chain anything up;-)). Here is a quick and dirty screencast of the process I demoed, the only difference was at teachmeet I recorded an audience produced series of croaks as an audio track to the final movie.

This particular flow is adapted from one shown to me by my collegue Ian Sorensen.

Here is the process.

  1. Starting in Safari, use morguefile.com to find a copyright free photo.
  2. Save to Photo Library/Camera Roll
  3. Use superimpose to save a 'mask' with a transparent background.
  4. Saved To Photo Library
  5. Explain Everything: Import background then add image with transparent background. Create recording of image moving across background.
  6. Export movie to Photo Library.
  7. Open in iMovie for further editing.
I was delighted to see this tweet linking to a video today, showing I had at least a little impact:

Watch the #TMTablet tweets for the next teachmeet tablet.

Glow should be at the trailing edge?

Monday 21 October 2013 at 07:57 am

IMG_4908

A little blue sky thinking.

For the last few weeks I've been kicking the tyres of the new MS 365 glow. It is not without its teething problems, although these do seem to be getting found and fixed. Education Scotland seem confident that everything will get sorted but we have not had much indication of how long it will take.

The Glow Migration Update from Bill Maxwell, hints that the Local Authorities can take their time moving into 365 and new services will be rolling out:

This means authorities will be able to ensure, that together, we create the best possible experiences for Glow users, matched to their users’ needs.
The services and applications required to support this will be rolled out in partnership with local authorities. This will include the opportunity for any blogs, wikis and other services which local authorities want further time to consider to be uploaded.

There is a lot of work being done in getting the 365 site to work well for education, designing ways to aggregate content and build learner experiences. The one interesting place in the new glow so far is the LearnCat site, which is full of activities,

Scottish learners - you can learn to create, make, build, bake, grow, collect, code, tell stories ......and more
This is exciting stuff. It is hard to tell how this will work out until we have a lot of learners in the 365 glow, but to me, the concept looks great.

I think the main problem with the old glow and the new 365 service is its size, a bit of a behemoth, hard to change and adapt to particular circumstances. A lighter weight and more flexible solution might suit conceprs like learncat better?

Domain of One’s Own: Notes from the Trailing Edge

Yesterday I watch the video of this presentation at TEDx Sagrado Corazón by Jim Groom, who has blogged his slides and text: Domain of One’s Own: Notes from the Trailing Edge.

I think there are some great ideas for taking glow forward in the way Bill Maxwell wants:

we create the best possible experiences for Glow users, matched to their users’ needs.
The services and applications required to support this will be rolled out
(My selection from the Quote from Mr Maxwell above).

Jim says,

A forward thinking IT infrastructure (which would be fairly loose, fast, and cheap using open standards of syndication) would work to connect these various individuals into a network, creating serendipitous connections that taken together reflect the rich tapestry of who the people are that make up any institution.
Jim discussed the idea of giving users, flexible webhosting in a domain of their own. Jim linked to Jon Udell's post, MOOCs need to be user innovation toolkits where Jon writes:
There’s a reason I keep finding novel uses for these trailing-edge technologies. I see them not as closed products and services, but rather as toolkits that invite their users to adapt and extend them. In Democratizing Innovation, Eric von Hippel calls such things “user innovation toolkits” — products or services that, while being used for their intended purposes, also enable their users to express unanticipated intents and find ways to realize them.
Jim goes on to say:
This is exactly what UMW’s Domain of One’s Own is philosophically grounded in. Giving every student, staff, and faculty their own User Innovation Toolkit so that they can fully understand the principles of the web. Interrogate its limits, and extend its possibilities.
Jim then links to A Personal Cyberinfrastructure where Gardner Campbell writes,
To build a cyberinfrastructure that scales without stiflling innovation, that is self-supporting without being isolated or fatally idiosyncratic, we must start with the individual learners. Those of us who work with students must guide them to build their own personal cyberinfrastructures, to embark on their own web odysseys. And yes, we must be ready to receive their guidance as well.
.

What if....

The quotes above are from folk working in tertiary education, I am wondering if they could be adapted to schools. What if

  • Glow gave every learner and teacher in Scotland a domain. (Perhaps not at nursery, start with training wheels, at a certain point the wheels are taken off, 13 or 16 maybe). The domain could be kept for life. When a learner left full time education they could take their domain with them.
  • Glow added simple webhosting to it services for every user.
  • Folk could use something like c-panel to start up a new blog/wiki/eportfolio/whatever.
  • Glow was therefore open to using old tools in new ways.
  • This part of glow would not be one large application but lots of small ones that can be linked and aggregated in lots of ways.

Sounds a bit like glew.org.uk, it is a lot like Glew with even less centrality.

It does not preclude using 365, google docs or anything else. This would be a service that users would use their glow authentication to logon to.

I do not think this would need to be expensive. By using trailing edge technology, that is used all over the internet, this could be started fairly simply and grow if there was a demand.

Give teachers and learners in Scotland the opportunity to innovate. Much of the innovation in online education has not come from new applications, but teachers finding ways to use old ones in innovative and creative ways.

The argument in the current glow for not being able to add plugins or update the software for blogs (for example) was security and stability. By adopting standard webhosting, these problems would be to a large extent negated. Most webhosts can handle users doing daft things without the whole thing falling over. (I say this, not because I understand webhosting, but because I've done a few daft things as a customer). Taking things even further how would something like OpenShift, where it takes minutes to get a cloud application up and running, fit.

Why Not Just use the 'real' web

It has been suggested a few times that Scotland gives up glow, and teachers can choose to use any existing services on the internet. This might be fine if we all had access to use these services and they met with national and local security and data protection needs. As things stand we do not and there is not a level playing field across Scotland.

What Then...

Who knows, the field would be open. Just thinking about blogs and RSS (and I don't think of a lot else), I've blogged ideas for using blogs and aggregating them a few times:

I've no real idea of how easy it would be to set up authenticated web and domain hosting for a whole nation, but give the time and money that has been put into glow as a large central service, it might not cost too much to provide a structure for a lightweight loosely joined corner of the web for Scottish learners and teachers?

Might it be that by being at the trailing edge, using tried and tested tools, thatost and risk might be low, but provide platforms for teachers and learners to innovate?

Interesting Stuff 2013-10-18

Friday 18 October 2013 at 5:16 pm

CAS Scotland Conference

Charlie Love points to the CAS Scotland Conference, I am looking forward to going along.

the details of the amazing speakers and workshops we have lined up for the Computing At School Scotland conference on Saturday 26th October.  This event isn’t just for secondary Computing Teachers. Those with an interest in technology and primary practitioners who want some support and ideas around technology and computing science are especially welcome.

It’s not too late to sign up!  Go to http://casscot13.eventbrite.co.uk/ to get your ticket.  If you have already signed up then please tell your colleagues in other schools in your area  - please spread the word about this great event.

from: CAS Scotland Conference speakers and workshops | Pedagoo.org

On Computing Education - The Windows Movie Maker Problem

Scottish, 14 year old pupil, Ross Penman gives his view on the state of computing education:

But what shocked me was the techniques being taught to create the web pages.

<font>, <big>, and <small>* tags, the align, border, and bgcolor attributes, jump links using <a name="">, embedding Windows directory paths in links to images, and, worst of all, the dreaded tables for layout.

We thought all of these techniques died out in 2001, but they are still being taught!

from: On Computing Education - The Windows Movie Maker Problem | Ross Penman

OPEN SCOTLAND

: OPEN SCOTLAND - Promoting the development and adoption of open education policies and practices in Scotland. #openscot

TogetherJS

This works, although my colleague Ian who tested it with me suggested it was a solution in search of a problem, I am wondering if it could be used in learning?

TogetherJS is a free, open source JavaScript library by Mozilla that adds collaboration features and tools to your website. By adding TogetherJS to your site, your users can help each other out on a website in real time!
from: Mozilla Labs : TogetherJS via Doug Belshaw

TeachMeet Tablet 2

Thursday 10 October 2013 at 8:32 pm

TeachMeet Tablet 2

Tmtlogo

An informal FREE conference about tablets in teaching and learning.

Tuesday 29 October 2013 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm with a meal afterwards for those who are interested.

Library in The High School of Glasgow, 637 Crow Road, Glasgow, G13 1PL

TeachMeets are teacher organised conferences/un-conferences.

Anyone interested in education can come along, the atmosphere is informal.

They are usually good fun.

The focus of this one is tablets in the classroom (ie iPads and the like).

You can sign up to come along, do a 7 minute presentation, a 2 minute nano presentation, lead a round table or just watch.

There are several different ways to sign up.

you can sign up to come along or present on the TM Tablet 2 wiki page

or via a google form.

or on eventbrite page.

Facebook not instant enough

Thursday 10 October 2013 at 07:57 am

Instagram

Last week I was in a primary seven class lending a hand to set up e-portfolios.

As a distraction to leading 30 pupils through the many steps it takes to setup a glow blog as an eportfolio and as a way of introducing them, I usually talk about the pupils existing online presence.

“How many folk are on facebook?” got an affirmative response from half a dozen or so pupils. Not what I expected for other visits to other classes. I wondered aloud if they were kidding.

I then moved on to a brief survey of YouTube: a few channels, one pupil had an origami channel of 30 odd videos and another was part of a scooter group. This seems more 'normal' and we continued to setting up the eportfolios

Later on a pupil asked me if I wanted to know why no one used Facebook, of course I did: “We are all on Instagram.” And they were. Most posting from iPads, iPods, a few tablets, a couple of galaxies and one iPhone 4S.

I had a quick chat with the class, but didn't realty get a good overview of what they were posting. Only a few admitted posting selfies, maybe that comes later? Some post, 'what they are doing', some 'funny pictures'.

It leaves me wondering if a stream of photos (do they comment, use hashtags?), give the same benefits as Facebook. Are we becoming more visual communicators. It is obviously a different Instagram would that the one I inhabit troutcolor on Instagram.

This week another class, a different town, primary six, most everyone on Facebook, puzzled looks when I mentioned Instagram. Perhaps social media has arrived but is not evenly distributed.

ScotEduBlogs Update

Saturday 05 October 2013 at 1:28 pm

I've not posted anything about the Scottish Learning Festival or the associated TeachMeet here. I did do a quick audio review of my two days SLF 2013 on EDUtalk and am starting to post tmslf2013 audio at EDUtalk too.

One of the three things I talked about in my 7 minutes at teachmeet was the new ScotEduBlogs site. I posted plans about this here, ScotEduBlogs Evolving a while back. The new site is now running at the old domain. It seems to be running fairly smoothly with a fair number of posts pulled in so far:

Seb-dashboard

I particularly love the zero spam comments. Although the new site is a blog there is no opportunity for commenting, clicking on titles of articles directs you to the original post.

So far I've kept the them very minimal, just using the standard Twenty Twelve theme, with a few adjustments in a child theme, the main one being the ability to toggle the amount of text show for each post. I'd expect some folk just to want to scan down the titles, clicking on the ones that interest them, this will open the original post in a new tab.

Seb View

I'd be happy to get advice on this or any other aspect of how the site runs.

We have refocused the site on professional blogs at the moment, to see how it holds up.

I've also installed the jetpack pluging mostly for the mobile theme:

Sebmobile

Please Join In

If you are a Scottish educational blogger and you are not listed please Add Your blog. Please also spread the word if you know any other Scottish educational bloggers who might like to join in.

FeedWordPress a glow wish

As you might know, glow, Scotland's national intranet is undergoing a refresh at the moment. I believe a new wordpress provider is being commissioned, I really hope that the new service will either alow us to install our own plugins or includes the feedwordpress plugin too. This pluging powers the aggregation at ScotEduBlogs. This would be a wonderful tool for glow. Teachers could aggregate all their pupils eportfolio onto one blog, schools could aggregate posts from their class blogs onto a school one. I also hope they are going to enable the MetaWebLogAPI that allows posting from mobile apps, this is sadly missing from the current glow blogs.

Recent Finds and Fun 2013-09-30

Monday 30 September 2013 at 9:04 pm

Mozilla Webmaker

Webmaker moz

Mozilla Webmaker seems to have improved a lot since I last looked. In Doug Belshaw's Things I Learned This Week newsletter, recently, he pointed out that thimble now supported JavaScript, I went over to lok and found that the site now lists your productions: Search - for johnjohnston. I knocked up a couple of quick JavaScript examples: 5Dogs & flipcard, the later being an old one.

OpenShift

OpenShift by Red Hat, this is pretty amazing:

OpenShift Online is Red Hat's public cloud application development and hosting platform that automates the provisioning, management and scaling of applications so that you can focus on writing the code for your business, startup, or next big idea.

What that means is you can easily and cheaply (first 3 free), set up websites with applications. It is pretty geeky for a teacher but there are plenty of instructions, and they work.

I gave it a quick test last week and managed to get a 'server' up and running with etherpad is short order: Etherpad Lite. Not sure what I'll use that for, but I can delete it and start something else if I get to the max of 3 apps.

Openshif wp map

Slightly more useful, on an email list I am on someone asked how, using iPads, could a set of pupils construct a resource with a map and pins with images, text and video. I though this could be done with Wordpress a plugin and google maps. OpenShift allowed me to test this very quickly:

  1. Set Up a new app
  2. Installed Wordpress
  3. Added the MyGeoposition plugin
  4. Added some posts and used the plugin interface to add positions to these posts.
  5. Knocked up a quick google maps page to display the blogs RSS, which now had geo info.
  6. Added that to the blog
Here is the blog and the map.

OpenShift made it practical to turn a bit of simple blue-sky thinking into reality.

I am not suggesting that everyone should dive over to openshift and start playing. You need a slight friendship with the terminal, at least have heard of ssh and git (I've used ssh a we bit setting up the piratebox and a raspberryPi, heard of git). If you do, the possibilities for trying things out are wide open.