My blogging seems to have hit a all time low. I think this is mainly because I used to blog about my classroom practice (with some iPhone, web tech and the odd AppleScript thrown in). I was never one for educational theory I am afraid. I now don’t have a classroom to practise in and blog about.

My more technical posts have never been popular (judging by comments) and fall between absolute beginner and competent so don’t have that wide an audience;-)

Anyway I am going to start a wee Glow post and see what happens.

Glow 2blogpost

I’ve blogged about glow before but never had the chance to use it in the classroom. Over the last few weeks I’ve watched North Lanarkshire teachers and pupils start to use glow in practise and have been involved in helping with some of the training.

So far I’ve seen glow have a remarkable effect on some teaching and learning in the first schools to get on board. Teachers have been setting work on glow, children posting work and commenting on other pupils work, locally and further afield. Classes have joined and contributed to National groups and in one case I know off a teacher created a national group within about a week of joining glow. There seems to be a real appetite for getting children involved in all sorts of online collaborating.

One of the favourite activities seem to be the use of Marratech video conferencing through Glow Meet. This is a little ironic as North Lanarkshire has run its own Marratech server for several years. Although this has been used for many projects I think there has been a significant increase in video conferencing in the first couple of months of glow.

I am beginning to think that the most important aspect glow is the way that online collaboration and communication receive promotion and support. There is top down encouragement that is being met by great enthusiasm, almost as if folk have been waiting for the tools unaware that they were already available.

Watching folk take their first steps in glow also highlights some problems with glow and perhaps some pointers for Glow 2.

GUI

Glow Password Change

I’ve watch a fair number of people click the cancel button to start all over again by accident. There are a number of similar examples.
The editing of pages in glow is quite a laborious process compared to many web 2 applications there are many examples of slicker interfaces. Compare adding an rss feed to glow and to, say netvibes. Editing information in glow usually seems to involved lots or page reloads and then some scrolling.

Organisation

Groups are hierarchical and difficult to find, interesting groups may be buried inside others. The ability to search group descriptions and the tagging of groups would help this. Some sort of way of filtering and organising groups is needed.
Recently I found a group discussion in glow asking for suggestions for glow 2. I posted a couple of comments but there is very little discussion on the board, perhaps because folk cannot find it?

Data Exchange

One of the strengths of Web 2 applications is the way many of them allow syndication and distribution of data, I can have flickr update in my blog, recent posts from blogs listed in a wiki and so on. At the moment RSS in glow relies on 3rd party scripts or widgets. The is no way, as far as I know, of getting information out of glow in an automatic way. It is hard t ofollow the work of groups you are interested in and no simple ways to share what a group are doing.
Some of this is due to the overriding concern for security but glow does allow for public facing html webpages so the idea of some of glow being open to the public is not beyond the pale.

Wish List

It would be good if Glow 2 was in some way modular, allowing users and groups to add popular and useful open source components, making them private or open to the world. So a group could have a wordpress blog, a phpBB discussion forum, a choice of cms, wikis VLEs etc. etc. Adding the ability for glow to update and add modules would also make Glow a work in progress, in perpetual Beta, rather than a fixed toolset.
I don’t think this is to far fetched, at the moment glow will allow secure access to lots of external content. If this could be expand to give users a choice of the tools it could be wonderful it would help with some of my GUI and data exchange wishes too.

2 Stars & a Wish

We, in Scotland, have an amazing opportunity in Glow which could be even better.

Basic 5 Point Gold Star Beveled The vision of a national collaboration and communication space for education..

Basic 5 Point Gold Star BeveledThe promotion and support of this collaboration and communication..

BubblesWhen the dust settles we have the best tools for the job, and tools that we can swap at will as better ones come along..

I’d be interested to know what other users have on their glow 2 wishlist? Or if you know where the best place to discuss this would be?

Top image http://www.wordle.net/ with this post’s text.

I’ve been quite interested in finding out how my iPhone could be used in teaching and learning. last week I and my class making GPS MathTracks inspired by the LearningTracks flickr group and Tom, Andrew and David‘s ideas about Art tracks and spelling with a trackstick. I also read Ollie’s post about Geography Fieldwork with the iPhone.

What I did

Yesterday I was going for a walk and tried out a few ideas with the phone. This is not of course the same as using it with a class but gave me some food for thoughts.

The first thing that I did was record the point of the walk with SnailTrail with which is is simple to collect points and mail them out of the phone. these can be put into a kml template to create a kml file that you can view in google earth or upload and show in google maps. The google map example here show that one or two points went astray. It is easy enough to review these in google earth and remove them. (edit example).

I took a series of photos with the iPhone, these were uploaded to flickr today and automatically placed on the map: Glengoyne to Earl’s Seat set on the map this is a pretty straightforward was of getting the photos onto the map. You could also use the flickr description to add text, the note facility etc as well as discuss the pictures with the comments.

Next I took the photos got the location from the Exif data in the files, I used this to create a kml file and combined that with the snail trail. I also added the time taken and an occasional title to the kml file. I am not sure of the best way of doing this, I made a wee supercard project to script most of this.

Which produces this kml file and looks like this in google maps

The project is pretty rough at the moment and I am sure there are applications out there for doing this, but I wanted to learn a little more about kml files. This sort of thing could be a way of displaying findings for a trip or outdoor activity.

I tweeted occasionally while walking, this produces a list of tweets on Twitter Search as I was using twitterific it was easy to add locations and photos to the tweets, I guess the RSS feed could be parsed to show the pictures and locations or mini maps.

I also added a few notes with YouNote, this application lets you take photos, write notes, record audio and even sketch with a finger. Which would cover most of what you would need on a field trip or excursion. Future editions will let you email notes to get them out of the phone. At the moment you can sync or backup your notes via a desktop application. This results in a zip file on your computer, inside are folders for each note containing multi-media material and xml files with descriptions this information includes geo locations. I suppose that a script could be written to combine this media and xml to create a web page/ map / kml file.

I feel younote is approaching what I would like to see in an iPhone application, if it was combined with a blogging facility or export to a webpage with media it would be ideal.

So what I would like to see would be a combination of the thinks I’ve tried that saved and exported in a usable format. I’ve looked at a few of the blogging application but not found one that does what I want yet.

What I want

My idea application would allow the recording and combining of information in many forms, text, photos and audio recording. It would automatically add location and date and time information. These could be published to a blog and geo rss feed, either on the go, or at a later time if connection to the network is poor. It would be match with a desktop publishing application, this would get the data and media from the phone and allow additions, editing and mashing up, it would output in a multitude of formats.

I’d also like some additions to the iPhone itself:

  • Copy and paste
  • A camera that can take close ups: I often take photos of flora, fauna, fungi and bones I’d like to take close ups, it might be worth testing putting a magnifying glass in front trick.
  • Video
  • Temperature recording
  • A compass on the Map application
What I’d use it for

The obvious thing is geography, but I would be more likely to use it for art and maths tracks as mentioned above. It could also be used to record any outing, not one that covers space on a map. I’d love to do a poetry or painting walk, where a class would record reactions to surroundings, typing would probably be limited to haiku(ideal for snapshot poems), but longer ones could be recorded. A class trip to the beach could spark drawing, writing and photos to produce an online gallery.

In the huge number of iPhone apps now available my ideal application may exist, if it does let me know.

I just spent a few minutes at Sprout Builder which seems to be another way to build widget.

Sprouts are interactive and portable chunks of web content. Some people call them widgets, mashups or mini-sites but we just call them sprouts.

I have not really tested may of these types of service, but it only took me a couple of minutes to build a ScotEduBlogs feed widget.

It looks like you can do a lot more with sprout builder than just pull a feed. some of the examples include audio and slideshows. The sign up made me admit I was over 13 so not something for the classroom, but it might allow you to make something for you classes.

There seems to be a ton of embedding options, click on the share button to see them. You can add to facebook, myspace, iGoogle etc. or get an embed code for a post or webpage.

Feel free to embed ScotEduBlogs on your site, or better make a slicker one for the ScotEdublogs community.

Looking back on this post before I fire it off it seems even more of a mixed bag than usual. As usual fairly garbled, but the first half contains some wonderful links and the second what looks to me to be a great resource.

I spent the first part of yesterday morning (and the last hour or so this morning) following a trail that either started in a tweet from cogdog or a post recent addition to my feed reader.
Tony Hirst’s OUseful Info is a great source of ‘mostly over my head’ mashup info and other stuff, eg: We Ignore RSS at OUr Peril or « feedshow – A Feed Powered Web Page Presentation Tool

To Comrades in Non-Programistan – A Message from Feedistan included a great youtube: DataPortability and Me (Get Your Data Out!) and had me laughing. It also pointed to The Party Line of The Peoples Republic of Non-Programistan which was created (as far as I can see) to support a presentation at the Symposium on Mashups, you an watch the recording of the Welcome to the People?s Republic of Non-Programistan session which features laugh out loud fake Russian accents.

The point of the Non-Programistana is to open up mashups to non-coders, although they will allow some html. They point to Exhibit and give interesting examples: Industrial Warfare – Version 4.

This lead me to Exhibit part of MITs SIMILE Project:

SIMILE is focused on developing robust, open source tools that empower users to access, manage, visualize and reuse digital assets.

Exhibit can be used to

Create interactive data-rich web pages

and there are some great examples that can be popped from the Exhibit homepage.

I have been talking to some Glasgow colleagues about filling the 5-14 database gap that has appeared when we got upgraded to windows xp. I had suggested a few online examples that children could use for querying databases and Zoho Create for creating databases. While the querying examples went down well, Zoho seemed too imageless for catching primary children’s imagination. It also look a little like a spreadsheet for some teachers. likewise lazybase.

Exhibit looked like it might fill this gap, so I’ve spent the rest of yesterday morning playing with it. The Getting Started tutorial is very straightforward and will allow you to work through an example on your own desktop. I started with an idea from our own curriculum, information about the EU. The idea is that the children could research basic facts about the EU and add them to a google spreadsheet. With the number of countries in the EU a fair sized class could get one country each.
Exhibit allows you to build a simple html page which will read the spreadsheet webpage and create an interactive database. Amazingly it allows multiple views including a nice timeline and table views. One of the Exhibit examples incorporated famfamfam.com flag icons, interestingly these are name with ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country codes, I could add a column to the spread sheet and include these, it was the easy to show the flag on the records:

I have been playing with Google chart maps, which use the same iso code so it was simple enough to add these.
Anyway in a couple of hours i was able to put together a google spreadsheet and a Exhibit Test. The latter will need more work, but you can get the idea. I think this will work in class and hope to try it out next term. I need to know a bit more about logging on multiple uses with the same ip address to a spreadsheet, but I hope to quiz Tom Barrett about that. I also need to find out a bit more about creating forms for google speadsheets.

The workflow would go like this:

  1. I’d start a spreadsheet with the correct column headers
  2. Put together a webpage to pull the data via exhibit.
  3. The children would research the required info (wikipedia)
  4. the children would add the info to the spreadsheet, directly or via a form
  5. The children would query the webpage to compare EU countries.

At the moment this would only work as a one off, a webpage would have to be created for each time the lesson was carried out for a class. A quick look at the Google Spreadsheets Data API would suggest you could create a spreadsheet automatically, by uploading a blank this could then be loaded by a hph version of the Exhibit Test page which would dynamically load different spreadsheets (with the same headers). Unfortunately this would violate the Party Line of The Peoples Republic of Non-Programistan, and more realistically be beyond my limited skills.

As I just wrote at the start of this post, it is a bit of a rag bag, but it tells the tale of my Sunday morning’s fun, following a web of links and playing with a great tool. In the afternoon I went for a walk

EdTechRoundup is a new podcast from an open group of UK educators which I have become involved in.

EdTechRoundup is a place where a group of UK-based educators come together for discussion and collaboration around the use of technology in education. We believe in pedagogically-sound uses of educational technology, but don?t believe in ramming Web 2.0 (or anything else for that matter) down people?s throats?

The first podcast is out. This one sees David Noble and Sinclair Mackenzie at the controls with input from Joe Dale.

They discuss tools for the classroom including ClassTools.net: Flash Templates for Educators and the problems of online content being blocked in schools. Joe Dale provides his top 5 reasons to use blogs in class or school.

The dual presenter with input from a guest is going to be the pattern for the show with a different set of presenters taking over for each show. A fair number of UK educators are involved (see the edtechroundup » Contact Details page) and the podcast is open to anyone to join in. In good social media fashion the podcast has been organised on a wiki and a series of FlashMeetings. The Meetings are announced on the wiki so it is easy to join in.

Apart for planning the podcast the meetings have been good fun and a lot of interesting areas of tech and social media discussed. If the first show and these discussions are anything to go by EdTechRoundup should be a good feed to add to iTunes or other podcatcher.

Tom Barrett and myself will be hosting the next podcast which should be out in a couple of weeks.

Blogged from tm


ImageWell
Originally uploaded by troutcolor

I just noticed and downloaded a mnew version of ImageWell which looks like giving Skitch a run for its money.
ImageWell is free with paid extras, I’ve only tried the free version, you could use it for quick editing and upload of photos (dotmac, flickr, webdav, ftp, sftp ImageShack and smugmug supported) but it is the annotation tools that look really good to me.
Text, bubbles and shapes can all be added and all support colour and drop shadows. skitch has drop shadow text but ImageWell can drop shadows on the bubbles and lines, Skitch’s arrows look good but Imagewell’s are bezier curves.
I could also paste another image onto the first one (the imagewell image on my imagewell pic).
The ImageWell Xtras cost $14.95 and adds batch processing and upload and a pile of extra shapes.

A while back we got a free LG shine from The LG Shine bloggers relations programme. This was really useful on our recent trip to the Netherlands where we posted photos regularly to the Sandaig’s Netherlands Moblog, we are also starting a wee classroom experement: Sandaig MoBlog which needs some work.

 

 

Anyway I’ve entered the Born to Shine Competition to try an win another phone. All we need to is to get more comments on the Born to Shine Competition – blog entry than other entries and we will be on our way to a class set of phones.

You can see the full size full size photo and if you have a minute please pop over to the entry and give us a hand.

We got back from our Netherlands 2007 trip this morning after a rather tiring drive through the night.

I think we made a pretty good fist of blogging the trip and I am beginning to think about what went right and what didn’t work so well with the way we handled the blogging, I might have better thoughts once I’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The main focus of the blog was communication with the parent and it certainly hit that nail on the head. The reaction from the parents and from the children when I read the comments on the buss proved that.

But I am starting to think of other possibilities:

The trip was not really designed for the children to do written work, our timetable is packed and I was relying on volunteers to try posts during the bus journey. This meant not every child was posting and the posts were pretty much the first thing that the bloggers thought of.

It might be possible to build in some whole group reflection time where diaries and blogs would be kept uptodate, but we would not want it to feel like school.

Maybe we could have a blog/pod team organised on a room basis and give them a wee bit of time each day (maybe they could stay up a little later then they would not miss out other things).

An internet connection in the hotel would have been good, I posted shivering in the dusk from the town square with a t-mobile pay as you go wifi one evening, a cosy cafe was better the next night and I am afraid I had to shelter in Macdonalds on a third.

The Netherlands Moblog was a good idea, but unfortunately my kludge to get it working left no facility for comments, this could be a really good tool.

I made the firsts UK post and the last one via a bluetooth mobile, this worked very well and didn’t cost too much. I posted one quick post, one small photo and about 6 words, from the Netherlands and it cost about £4! I’d like to investigate getting a dutch sim for another time.

I lost my MP3 recorder on the first day, but even then it was apparent that the children really need time to think and rehearse even informal podcasts. Again time would need to be made for this if it was to include all the children.

We had another tech disaster when a card in a camera with a load of great pictures and video got corrupt. Very disappointing.

Overall I am quite pleased with how the web 2 aspect of the trip turned out (other aspects were good too) but it is really another scratch in the surface suggesting lots of ways to do it better.

Now all I’ve got to do is read a weeks worth of email I think I’ll leave my fed reader for tomorrow.