Last night I went along to TeachMeet Glasgow.

As Athole wrote:

Why unplugged? We want everyone to be prepared with something to share. And not to worry too much about the tech and their PPT slides.

from: TeachMeet Glasgow (unplugged) – TeachMeet Scotland

He referenced the original ScotEduBloggers meetup (the grandparent of TeachMeet) as a indication of casualness and said:

However, clearly with a better balance of men, women and youth!

More about the idea behind on Athole’s post: TeachMeet Glasgow (unplugged) in six steps which I’ve read a few time now and enjoyed each read:

We may be talking about ‘the tech’ but can we challenge ourselves not to hide in front of our PPT slides, tablets and media? The face to face interaction bit is crucial.

Also, we need more people to take up the mantle of organising informal teacher events, whether they be TeachMeets, Pedagoos or something else. These can be in pubs, coffee shops, schools or someone’s living room. I’m not sure the example of large chat show style events with TV production values are really within everyone’s grasp.

But that’s just my opinion. There really are no rules.

As Radio Edutalk was busy I borrowed the #DS106 Radio airwaves to broadcast live. Seemed to get a few listeners. I’ve not tried to do anything with the audio as the piano and bar buzz was quite loud.

I made a quick #tmglasgow (with images, tweets) Storify that doesn’t give a complete picture (I removed the swimsuit girls that hopped onto the hashtag).

As was pointed out at the meet, I am old enough to have been at the first TM (grey headed even then). I’ve disliked some of the directions that TM has gone, this one felt that it was on a great path. There was a quite a few folk I’ve met at TMs over the years but there were many I had not. A lot of these ‘newcommers’ brought a buzz of younger energy in the room. Athole managed not only to unplug TM but to give it a bit of a reboot too.

The Featured image on this post is a montage of some of the photos tweeted during the event. Since twitter does not support licenses I am assuming I can use them. I’ve credited each to the account that posted it…

A couple of weeks ago I kicked of a blogging bootcamp as part of my day job. The idea is to help folk through getting started with class blogging. Each week for 10 weeks there are, technical tasks, discussions and blogging challenges which participating classes (or teachers) can choose to do.

My thinking is based on my own experience in a few online classes/MOOCs and, of course ds106. The bit I really wanted to do was aggregate the participants blogs back to the bootcamp blog. Hopefully this would lead to some connections and community.

I had hoped as part of the progress with glow blogs we would by now have had a plugin in place that would help with this. Unfortunately this has not happened yet.

My next though was to set up a blog outside glow, install the necessary plugin (FeedWordPress probably) and aggregate the posts there. This aggregation could be brought back to the bootcamp blog as an RSS feed.

I ended up going for much less work. I use Inoreader as my RSS reader. It has the rather nice feature when you can get an RSS feed for any of your folders of feeds. This is how it works.

After participants make their first post, they send me a link. We are asking them to categorize their posts bootcamp so I use the feed for that. For example Wemyss Bay Primary P6, their bootcamp category is:

So the RSS feed will be

I add that to my Inoreader and put it in the BootCamp folder:

inoreader screeshot

From the Folder Settings menu I can then get a link to the aggregated RSS feed and a page that aggregates all the posts too.

Back on the bootcamp blog I’ve added a RSS widget to the sidebar using this feed. This displays the last 20 posts from participants on the blog.

rss widget on bootcamp blog

I’d prefer to show more of the participants post on the main section of the blog but I believe this is a further wee story that shows how nice this sort of technique could be. If we get a suitable plugin in glow blogs, we could run all sots of ‘events’ and learning experiences by just aggregating participating class or school blogs through a ‘mothership’ blog.

Like many education folk I follow Doug Belshaw for lots of good reasons. This week I bumped into Doug at Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Forum and launch (a lot to digest from that). Doug reminded attendees about the Survey: 5 proposals for Web Literacy Map 2.0 he is organising. After a quick review of the Web Literacy Map and other resources Doug listed I filled in the survey. This leads, backsides forward, to looking at the Map again. It is a great resource1 well organised and deep. It seems to add content every time I look at it. A couple of the questions were around the organisation and complexity of the map. I had a few thoughts. Given the complexity and depth of the resource I wonder if it would be interesting exposing it in different formats for folk to remix. Initially I though of JSON as I’ve made a couple of experiments with this in webmaker. I am now wondering if OPML might be an interesting approach too? This would export to most mind-mapping softwares. I’ve been playing with fargo occasionally and it might allow manipulation of the OPML too.

A Job for RSS

The other thing that I was reminded of was the series of chats Doug has been recording with interesting and interested parties. For the most part I’d seen these stream by on Tumblr and only listened to fragments. Doug has put the audio on the internet archive with a nice CC0 license, so I’ve done a little remixing of my own. I’ve uploaded an RSS feed to my google drive: so that I can pull the audio onto my phone. I can then subscribe to this feed in the podcast app on my phone and listen on the go. (I use overcast as my usually podcast app but thought it might be nice to have this as a temporary separate thing). doug-chats-podcast-app I’ve listened to the Stephen Downes episode on my commute this morning and if the rest are as interesting it will be a delight getting through them. Feel free to subscribe to the feed if you want to do the same thing, be aware I’ve made little effort to make the feed validate, the enclosures don’t have a length etc.


1. Caveat, I am not working with learners and have never taught Web literacy in any depth. I did teach some of ‘this stuff’ as part of teaching ict, blogging, podcasting and the like.

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?


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.

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

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
the silos easily and
backfeed the responses
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.

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.


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, 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?

If you going to the Scottish learning festival this year I would like to invite to contribute to EDUtalk.

EDUtalk is, among other things, an open to any contributions podcast. EDUtalk started at the Scottish learning Festival in 2009 when David Noble and myself invited any of the attendees to submit audio to a podcast SLFtalk (lost when posterous stopped). We were trying to provide alternate sources of information and reflections about the festival and make it as easy as possible for people to both contribute and listen to the contributions of others.

This year given the ubiquity of personal mobile devices is even easier to contribute to EDUtalk.

Here are three simple ways:

  1. Audioboo an application for both iPhone and android, Audioboo allows you to record short segments of audio and upload then to the Audioboo site. If you tag the ‘boo’ #EDUtalk they will be brought in automatically to the EDUtalk site.
  2. Just record some audio on anything a computer on smartphone whatever you got. Then you can email it to and we’ll take it from there. There are usually a few computers on the floor at a SLF that are connected to the Internet many of these will have built-in mics it should be pretty easy to record something there and email it to edutalk.
  3. Another app you can use is a ipadio, this is an app like audioboo – available for android and iOS to record audio and sent to ipadio. Again if you tag it #edutalk we’ll pick up automatically and post it to edutalk.

So what do people talk about. You could talk about a session you been to. A keynote. You could talk to a colleague or friend.

You can have conversations with anyone about anything educational, at the coffee bar , in a quiet corner. it can be about whatever, educational, topic you like. Your thoughts we want them.

With the huge changes going on in Education this is a chance for us to join in the conversation, to talk across boundaries, of local authority, of hierarchy and think about what really matters today.