Given I want a nice gentle start for my class this session I thought we would play with Vedic Squares. I was reminded of these and their possibilities from a tweet I’d bookmarked from Blair Minchin.

We started on Last Thursday making multiplication grids then vedic squares, making patterns by joining the same numbers with lines.

 

The next day we recreated the grids in Numbers. I then explained conditional highlighting so that the class could colour the grid. They were fascinated by both the process and the results. The Gallery below steps through the process.

The next step was to screenshot the grids and place them in keynote to duplicate and create symmetrical patterns. At this point some of the class started animating their patterns to rotate madly in keynote. At that point gifs became obvious;-)

Here is the process in Keynote.

For a gif purist like myself Keynote gifs are a bit off. Very big files indeed. This got a little better after I explained that they didn’t need 999 rotations for a gif, one would do. Getting rid of any easing in the rotation and any delay in the export gives a straightforward rotation.

A quick screencast of rotation settings and gif export:

I particularly enjoyed the excitement as the class saw the conditional highlighting in action and then that the animation step was suggested by the pupils. There is still a lot to explore around both the patterns and processes. I hope that the class will further explore both, opening up links to maths, R.E. and art.

Although we used iPad, Apple Numbers and Keynote I am sure you could do the same with Excel & PowerPoint.

mouse in a live trap

Now the term is over. Time to look back. This is one of a set of notes about my experience of teaching recently. This was going to be that amazing post that pulled it all together. After a week 10 days into the holiday it turns out is more an inconclusive ramble😀.

The results, (I am not sure stats like this tell me much):

24 pupils from composite p4-7

  • 20 Pupils in my class made 381 Blog posts
  • We had 38 Conferences in Teams, maximum 17 pupils average 10
  • 26 Minecraft sessions 17 pupils at least once (6 of which only used Minecraft once or twice)

4 pupils never posted to their blogs
2 pupils never participated in a conference a couple more never stayed for more than a few minutes.

There was not a complete overlap.

I am quite please with the engagement. Given the short notice I was aiming for engagement as opposed to achievement.

The schools SMT were in touch with parents and we had no worries around pupils who did not show up online.

Previous Posts made During Lockdown

The above posts are a series of notes taken at the time. Musings and mumblings as opposed to anything well though out. Writing them helped me think through things and will help look back and learn over the coming years. What follows is more of the same.

Learning Tasks

Over the weeks I posted one big blog post a week with ideas for the week. These were all linked from a featured post on the blog: Home Learning – Banton Biggies

I was quite surprised that the take up of what I though of more creative and fun tasks were not taken up as much as some of the more basic stuff. Sumdog, which enjoyed in class was much less used than expected. I think I’ve underestimated the community aspect of a class in sparking ideas and encouraging children. Perhaps more show and tell about learning in Teams would help. One problem with that was the understandable uneven attendance in meetings. This made it hard to move on through the week.

Blogs

Blogs are, imo, very good at sending information out. The combination of media, the ability to make the information publicly available and the way it can be organised are useful. I recorded the text as audio and pupils told me they found this useful.

The incorporation of posts allowed by the display posts plugin allows you to repeatedly add regular information simply. I’ve used Display Post plugin to list my lockdown posts above, but it is a lot more powerful that this simple example.

Blogs are not, imo, the best way to collect and review pupil ‘work’ on a day to day basis. But the pupils were familiar with them and they worked well for me in the short term. Using OneNote would have been better if I could have avoided previous problems. I didn’t feel the effort to get pupils using OneNote when they had not before would have worked. If I had had a straight p6 or 7 or even a composite 6/7 I would have done so, but felt it best to stick to what we knew.

Still some of the blog posts are valuable beyond the “handing in” aspect. first as evidence of learning and second a record of these unusual times. Making 380 comments wore out my emojis and kept me in touch with my pupils.

The Glow Blog reader plugin made checking the pupils posts really simple. I can’t recommend it enough.

Screenshot of Glow Blogs Reader

Teams

I didn’t follow ‘best practise’ for my meetings. I worked it out as I went along. Each meeting had several shorter elements including:

  • round the room, to let everyone tell news, raise issues etc;
  • number talks, often supported by videos to watch beforehand;
  • quizzes
  • poetry, we looked at a different poem every week, exploring different aspects daily, usually ending with some writing on Friday.

My first method of organising the meetings involved a new presentation every day. Toward the end I stopped doing that. Pupils often saw nothing or didn’t see slides at the right time. I probably stuck in that rut, spending most of the morning making slides for far too long. Eventually I ‘presented’ by using the chat. Adding text, pictures and video as I went. Keeping the videos very small <2mbs meant this didn’t interrupt the flow.( Simpler Meet)

I used a fair bit of audio in the meets. Splicing together snippets from Farrago via loopback with my mic as input in Teams. This allowed me to ‘play’ poets reading their work and music. I used this to play bits of music as a timer when I gave the pupils time to work on something. (Lockdown Learning 18 May 2020 – virtual devices).

Having periods, 2-5 minutes of silence or music might seem a bit daft but I found the pupils enjoyed it and produced some good work. We used it for drawing, number talks, writing and brainstorming. I imagine it is even harder to respond immediately in Teams than it is in a classroom, so thinking time.

I ended up making quite a few short < 1.5 minute videos to explain things. At first I uploaded them to Teams well before the meets and asked for them to be watched, flipped style. As it became obvious that the class didn’t all watch them I continued but then uploaded them into the chat during the meet and gave time to watch them. This got round the problem of live explanations involving visuals synchronising. None of these videos were things of beauty. Earlier ones took time but I cut down and down in both size and speed of production. Either using the built in screen recording on iPad or recorded voice over for Keynote slides on Mac. In the later I used Screenflow to add audio for its better editing. In both cases reduced dimensions and quality of videos in HandBrake.

I found a few things irritating in Teams. The differing UI on different devices made it hard for some of my pupils, especially the younger ones. I would have loved a sticky post effect for announcements. I believe this is in the works but my pupils regularly missed announcements as they were pushed up the stream. I did have a channel just for announcements, but I don’t think the pupils visited that much.

Double clicking a file in the Teams dialogue does not result in the file being opened.

The file dialogues in teams drove me mad. Years of selecting files and then double clicking or hitting return/enter to open got me every time. Files from the desktop were fine as it then used the system dialogue. Ones from OneDrive or the teams files area, bleh.

Closing a document you had opened from a folder in the files area didn’t as I’d expect leave you in the folder but put you back to the top level of files. Again not a big deal but it slows down a workflow. I guess this is to do with Teams being a cross platform app built on electron.

The ability to edit a document in Teams was turned off due to high demand but I think it would be a killer feature. I did work with older pupils a little in shared word docs. The whole bouncing back and forth between different apps seemed too complex to start using with my younger pupils. Being able to do this in Teams would have been great.

We had not used assignments. I did try a few but they did not get completed by many in the class even with gentle nagging in meetings. I can’t say I was particularly disappointed. I found the marking and returning over complicated with a confusing UI. The Team I had set up was set up a few years ago, leavers removed and new addition to the class added. I noticed that the leavers were not removed from the OneNote classroom. I’ll be setting up a fresh team next session.
 
The way we used Teams was very much down to having a mixed age class on a multitude of devices and Operating systems.
 
I didn’t find Glow’s restriction on pupil cameras a problem. I suspect it saved us some bandwidth. It also removed any source of embarrassment.

Minecraft

We had used Minecraft (and the open source Minetest) a bit in class before lockdown. We tried some of the worlds created for maths activities and around creative tasks.

Once I found I could run a server from home]

I though it would be a good additional space for the class. I set it up and said to the class I would like a virtual Banton, with a school and roads to let me find other things they built.
I was quite surprised that the whole class didn’t jump in, but some of the ones that did were there every day. The created, to my mind, a amazing place, expanding and following their whims. It also provided the opportunity for some of them to teach me how to do a few things in Minecraft. I choose not to set up any of the learning worlds, thinking of it as more of a playtime experience.

Personally

During lockdown I was in a particularly favourable place. I’ve no children to look after and was totally supported by my wife. I have no idea how teachers with children of their own or other family to look after managed.

Still this was an intense experience. My days were very much taken up by school stuff.

I got a bit obsessed with keep contact with pupils. A few less in a meeting or posting to their blogs got me worried. This despite the fact that I knew that they all were in quite different situations and had different needs from school.
I also got into the habit of responding very quickly. This meant I was on constant alert to teams and new blog posts.

Blended Thoughs

As we got to the end of term it looked as if we were going back to some sort of blended learning situation. The rooms in school were prepared . I was feeling that this term had prepared me to prepare for a term or more of blended learning. My ideas centred round:

  • H&WB focus. Or making sure everyone is feeling good
  • Outdoor Learning. Start this straight away
  • OneNote start straight away. Main way of handing in work possibly.
  • Flip, short videos for home,
  • Reading Books and other resources, wondering how this would work as we were not supposed to have materials going back and forth.
  • Micro:bits in class as can have one each in tray for day. Can create code at home and use in school? Onedrive.

I was quite looking forward to getting this started before the change of plan at the end of my term.

Uncertainty

Of course things have changed now, it looks like we will be back to a normal attendance pattern in August. I am also wondering about my OneNote plan, some of Nick Hood’s concerns echo my experience. But if we are to prepare for the chance of further lockdown I think it is my only choice. The temptation to fall back on AirDrop  in the class will be strong.

The featured image on this post was taken by one of my pupils, used with permission. They shared it in our Team, I loved it & though it appropriate (I’ve used it before).

Some notes….

A few weeks ago I blogged about how I was tackling providing some home learning for my pupils. Since then we had a two week break and have been working on line for a couple of weeks since. The class is a multi-composite of p4 to 7, 24 children.

Some children continued to pop into our Class Team and post to their e-Portfolios over the break and I did make some Holiday homework suggestions.

Since the holidays I’m continuing on the path I started. A weekly post, with activity suggestions, monitoring and commenting of the portfolios and being available in our team at least 9-3.

I am getting a fair response on the e-Portfolios, these are Glow WordPress blogs the class are used to posting to. I’ve had over 200 posts since lockdown started with about 20 out of 24 children posting at least once. I’ve put, with permission, a selection of screenshots on our class blog: Learning at Home

We have started having a conference call every day in Teams. This lasts an hour and I’ve been doing alternative mornings and afternoons. I am finding that I need a fair bit of time to prep for this. The attendance has been around half the class.

The connection in Teams seems not too bad. I am basically working my way through a mini program from a PowerPoint deck. I am finding if I keep these as light as possible, without transitions that seems to work best technically. Some of the class who were using phones don’t seem to be able to see the slides but they have negotiated use of another device at times.

The different interfaces and affordances of Teams on different devices are frustrating. For example I can’t just start a meeting from my iPad in a channel. I can call an individual, or join one set up on a computer, just not kick one off. Guessing what is happening at the other end is fun too.

There also doesn’t seem to be a way on mobile or a table to see the meeting and the chat at the same time. This precludes pupil putting up their hand in the chat. That means that discussions can get either a bit confusing or we need to go round the room which takes a fair bit of time, or there are overlapping answers. I remember the ‘hands up’ feature in Flashmeeting many years ago. I see MS is starting to roll this out to the desktop apps, but it would be great to have in in mobile, web, phones and tablets my class are using.

I’ve begun to try muting all the mikes and telling the pupils to un-mute as a sort of hands up.

I try a range of things in the meeting, it is difficult to make it too interactive. I’ve tried having my phone & an iPad hooked in alongside my computer but failed to show the class anything. I thought the phone on a camera stand would be a great way to demo things. Turned out the video did not take over the main screen for most and the class could not see it. Coming out of presenting a PowerPoint and demoing on my Mac camera didn’t work very well either half the class could not see what I was doing. Swapping between PowerPoint and webcam seems problematic and opening the whiteboard slow.

I presume a lot of these problems are due the the huge number of folk using teams around the world, I wish they would stop with the TV adverts and give me some bandwidth;-)

We have tried number talks and quizzes. The whiteboard has sometimes worked for the number talks. Hard for the pupils on a computer to use with a mouse (me too). Demos on slides with questions and anything else I can think of. Most of the ideas I’ve seen around this sort of learning are aimed at secondary or tertiary students. I think primary might be a little different.

Last week we tried a writing lesson, we had discussed the poem maggie and milly and molly and may by E. E. Cummings each day during the week. On Thursday we tried to write out own versions. First we brainstormed in several sections: names, objects etc. One at a time with me talking for a couple of minutes, then two minutes writing time followed by the children telling the rest their ideas.

Next we went through in couplets in the same sort of way, I read a couplet, gave my own example and then had two minutes writing and then sharing. Not unlike you would do in class except I could not see what was going on or work briefly with individuals. I think it went well despite the strangeness of having two minute timed silences. We needed the silence as some pupils will just talk through the two minutes. I am beginning to like the mute all button.

I had hoped that some sort of flipped learning might be a way to go, but the videos I’ve suggested pupils watch don’t get as much reaction as simple worksheets or writing tasks the pupils can do and post to their e-Portfolios.

The class are usually really creative (cardboard, photos and poetry the last 3 post before lockdown on our blog). The don’t seem to pick up on the creative suggestions as much as I expected. I think they need a little more support and encouragement.

My plan is to slowly expand the range of activities and technologies I offer. Testing something new one week and using it a bit more the next. Taking things slowly.

The week before last we briefly tested Minecraft Education Edition. I managed to get it working on my Mac so that some of the children could login to the same world. This week we had a few more sessions, them most pupils we got in was 7, they seem to have fun. I write another post about that.

The next step is to start putting some assignments in teams and see how that goes. I tried one this week, got 9/24 pupils competing a quiz. As we didn’t use Teams in class I think we need or add these things slowly and make sure as many as want to can use the technology. I’ll try a couple more next week and see how it goes.

I am also wondering about spending a little more formal time in the Teams chat as opposed to a meeting. At the moment it is mostly used to announce the meetings and Minecraft sessions. A couple of pupils have handed work in there too as an alternative to their e-Portfolios.

We also use Sumdog, it is quite a popular activity in class but I’ve not had much take up from home. About half the children are using it but only for a short time each week. The NLC Sumdog completion starts on Friday so that might encourage a bit more use.

As I am getting more children involved in posting to their e-Portfolios than anything else to will continue to be one of the main focuses. Most of the class have posted there at least once, many frequently. One thing that surprises me is the number of pupils working on paper and uploading photos of the work to their blogs. I presume some of this is due to access to hardware.

Teams meeting have maxed at 13 pupils, out of a class of 24. Afternoons seem more popular than mornings, I think some pupils are sleeping late. I am switching to more afternoon meetings next week. I’ll also continue to try different ideas in the meeting, give pupils time to complete tasks in chunks as I did with the writing this week.

I am just learning the ins and outs of Teams by trying things out. I’ve seen a few useful videos and posts but mainly just test as I go. It might be time to step back a wee bit and find out more. Unfortunately a lot of information is aimed at secondary schools or business like environments where the variety and access to hardware is not a problem. Time researching software is also not time preparing for the class.

I am also feeling my way to the both the content and delivery in Teams. Again most of the advice I’ve seem seems to be around delivering a secondary course quite different from a multi-composite primary.

It would also be slightly daunting to think about who is in the audience. It certainly sounds like many in my class are in a shared space.

It is taking a surprising amount of time to do this. Several hours at the weekend to put together the weekly post and two to three to prep each Team meeting. Hopefully I’ll get better at this. I also am trying to quickly comment on e-Portfolios and reply in Teams. I try to keep everything light as I my main aim is to keep in touch with as many of the class as possible. Having a multi-composite makes planning more interesting.

I am very lucky in having a supportive wife, my daughter is grown and away, I’ve little in the way of home responsibilities. I’ve no ide how you would manage if you had kids at home or a partner that needed the living room space too…

This is very much a case of fumbling around in the dark. I’ve not read much about how other primary teachers are tackling this and wonder if there are any patterns emerging.

A few more details on how I got Minecraft education running as a “server” on my Mac. More a note to self than anything else.

I am pretty much a complete novice when it comes to Minecraft, I’ve never managed to get up much enthusiasm for computer games of any sort. I have used Minetest and Minecraft Edu in my class a few times and it is certainly an engaging environment for many of my pupils 1.

Given that Microsoft extends access to Minecraft: Education Edition and resources to support remote learning and it works with Glow accounts it seemed worth a punt to set up a server. I had suggested some tasks for individual use, but didn’t seem much sign of action.

So this is what I did:

I updated to the latest version of Minecraft education edition.

I read some documentation, I found some of this a little confusing mostly because I followed a link to help with Port Forwarding. Mentions of X-Box and different ports to open confused me. It seemed to be selling some software to help. Turned outto be a lot simpler.

Back at the bottom of How To Set Up A Multiplayer Game – Minecraft: Education Edition Support was all I needed.

You also may need to forward port 19132 on your router. Forwarding ports is useful because it can help to make your network connection more stable and sometimes even faster.

  • Forward Port 19132 TCP AND UDP.

What I had to do was to add a Firewall rule to my router to open these ports. I’ve got a BT hub so I logged on through the web interface, found the Firewall setting and added this. I have done this before for Raspberry Pi reasons. I guess different routers have different interfaces.

On testing with some of my class half a dozen tried to get in, and one failed. The others sometimes took a while to get connected but seemed to be fine once they started. It is hard to figure out why one failed when you can’t see what is going on, it could be a typo on the email address!

I don’t intend to do too much to start with, open a World Up and set an open ended task of some sort (design and make me a Minecraft classroom perhaps). I’ll see how it goes. I am finding just preparing for one hour of conferencing teaching it taking up a lot of time.

I’ve also not much idea about the security issues around this. I wonder too if it will handle more than a few pupils, we certainly had trouble in school with multi-play with more than a few pupils in one World.

1. I found that some of the activities were fun and helped with learning, but it took a lot of classroom time which seems hard to justify given I struggle to fit things in, might be an advantage now.

mouse in a live trap

The last two week were a first, teaching my class online. I’ve seen a tremendous about of activity and discussion of this over twitter, blogs and in my in box. A lot of companies offering free services for a limited time. It is hard to know where to start.

Previously

Over the years I’ve participated in a few different online learning experiences 1 What has characterised these courses was a wide amount of personalisation and choice, open ended tasks and no real deadlines.

I’ve even run a couple of short online courses, Blogging Bootcamp & Blogging Bootcamp #2.

I don’t think these experiences gave me the answer as how to run a primary school class online. The courses I’ve joined in I’ve often dropped out, and popped in again in a interest driven fashion. They have taught me a lot about the tech side of being online and made me think a lot about engagement. They have shown that what works to keep me engaged: open ended tasks and individual encouragement and connections. I am not however an 8-11 year old in lockdown.

Preparation

We didn’t have much time for that. I use a lot of digital tools but I don’t use a lot of online communication in my classroom day to day. I have a loud voice. Over the past few years I’ve dipped into quite a few tools. But my go to method of digital communication in the classroom is AirDrop.
Apart for internet search, research and finding resources, the one online tool my pupils use most weeks is Blogs. We use glow blog e-Portfolios. We used other tools now and then particularly  to discuss and to learn about the technology, email and Teams. The children are frequent editors and creators of digital text, audio, images and video.

As it became clear that school closure was coming I made sure all the pupils could access their glow email and a new class team. The pupils didn’t get the chance to become fluid using these tools.

The Plan

This was not too complicated and will probably change. Every week I’ll make a blog post (week 2 example) with a weeks worth of instructions. I recorded the text as audio too. I email the pupils and get the school to email their parents. I try to have Teams open and respond quite quickly there. Keeping it very light. I share the link in teams and email. Unfortunately I told the class to leave the “got It” feature of online outlook alone as it was driving me daft in class.

Engagement

In the two weeks from my class of 24 8-11 year olds I had:

  • 16 pupils posting to their e-portfolios, 52 posts in total
  • 12 (11 the same) joining in chatting and posting files to the Team.

I have no idea if that is good or bad?

I do have a bias towards blog posts for keep a record of some learning, the children are somewhat in charge and we get a permanent 2 record. The detail in the posts was a bit less than it is in class when I can suggest, advise and nag.

We had not used the assignments feature in Teams but I did try a wee test with the children who are using Teams this week. A poll of devices being used. I had 9 responses.

  • A computer. it is a hp one. I sometimes use an apple iPad.
  • Mum’s phone (android) Our kindle tablets, Mum’s laptop
  • An IPad Generation 6
  • I’m using a laptop but set up app on my mums phone for notifications
  • I use an IPad Pro to get into teams
  • Phone, samsung galaxy S8, andriod
  • I am using my phone its a samsung galaxy s6
  • I am using an iPad
  • Ipad

I don’t really have a very good picture of where and how the pupils are working either. What sort of support they have or what connectivity or devices. Some of them will have home schedules that don’t allow them time for this. Some will have parents that are tech savvy some not. Some will have good spaces to work…

Video conferencing

We have seen a lot of discussion of this, both for school & work. Zoom’s rise and problems are well to the front.

It is likely our option is going to be Microsoft Teams. Again we had really briefly tested this in class. Last week I had another test with 8 or 9 pupils and a fellow teacher.

Teams in glow is limited in that pupils can’t turn on their video, only audio. This seems like a fair choice to make. There will be a lot of teachers dipping their toes into the online for the first time. Also audio is likely to use less bandwidth, Teams seems to have struggled a bit with the surge in use.

It was really nice to hear from pupils I’d not seen for a fortnight. There will be a lot of work to do around turn taking if there are going to work for anything other than good vibes1.

There was also a great difference in what different pupils could see. It was hard to tell if this was due to device, bandwidth or the fact teams is being a bit overwhelmed. Some pupils could see the whiteboard some could not, some could see a powerpoint other not.

Teams meet has a nice integration with the chat function. This seems to be a desktop only function. On tablets and phones you are ‘taken out’ of the video conference and back to the chat tab in Teams. Again physical space will make a difference. Will the pupils be in a quite place, or amongst other members of their family.

I think running a class via video conference successfully probably needs a lot of thought, practise and planning, if the object is a bit more than keeping in touch.

Going Forward

I expect we will be getting some guidance from Local Authority and National level as to how to proceed after the spring break. This would be what I’d want to try if given the choice.

  1. Start as low tech as possible: text not behind any login. In my case blog posts. These should be accessible on a wide range of devices. Should we be mailing out paper?
  2. Provide the text as audio too.
  3. Augment with images. Keep these as small as practical.
  4. Add video, again keep the file size down. HandBrake is my best pal for this. I wonder if YouTube would be more efficient?
  5. Look for and embed/link to existing content. I use textbooks and plenty of other pre made materials. Avoild wasting time making things that are already there
  6. Support via as many channels as possible chat in Teams, email, and anything else that comes up.
  7. Video/audio conference for extra explanations, help and support.
  8. Encourage responses from pupils on their e-Portfolios first, but accept anything else. The e-Portfolio will create a record for each pupil. It looks like assignments in teams would allow that too but I know some of my pupils don’t have access to that. I’ll keep testing and experimenting there. I suspect that Teams will be the chosen tool for my Local Authority.

I guess my plan looks a lot like the Flipped model. Without the emphasis on video and with online comms replacing the classroom side of the flip.

I imagine when we get to it, I’m kludge and fidget my way through. The main idea I have is to keep it simple and the tech as low-fi as possible.

I am also going to keep in mind that some of my pupils will have better learning in their than I can provide. I’ve already seen some of this from reports by children and email from parents.

Featured Image by Heather one of the talented Banton Biggies. She share this in our class team, the mouse was released unhurt. Used with permission.

1.

for example.

2. As permanent as anything else in this digital age, but perhaps more importantly, portable.

3. Nothing wrong with Good Vibes, they may turn out to be the most important thing we can do.

After seeing @adders on micro.blog posting some timelapse I though I might have another go. My first thought was to just use the feature built into phone. I then though to repurpose a raspberry pi. This lead to the discovery that two of my PIs were at school leaving only one at home with a camera. This we zero had dome sterling service taking over 1 million pictures of the sky and stitching them into 122918 gifs and posting them to tumblr. I decommissioned that when tumblr started mistaking these for unsuitable photos.

My first idea were just write a simple bash script that would take a pic and copy it to my mac. I’ve done that before, just need to timestamp the image names. Then I found RPi-Cam-Web-Interface. This is really cool. It turns your pi into a camera and a webserver where you can control the camera and download the photos.

I am fairly used to setting up a headless pi and getting on my WiFi now. So the next step was just to follow all the instructions from the RPi-Cam-Web-Interface page. The usual fairly incomprehensible stuff in the terminal ensued. All worked fine though.

I then downloaded the folder full of images onto my mack and stitched them together with ffmpeg.

ffmpeg is a really complex beast, I think this worked ok:

make a list of the files with

for f in *.jpg; do echo "file '$f'" >> mylist.txt; done

then stitch them together:

ffmpeg -r 10 -f concat -i mylist.txt -c:v libx264 -pix_fmt yuv420p out.mp4

I messed about quite a bit, resizing the images before starting made for a smaller move and finally I

ffmpeg -i out.mp -vf scale=720:-2 outscaled.mp4

To make an even smaller version.

I am now on the look out for more interesting weather or a good sunset.

Watching Higher Ed from afar and seeing some discussion of online teaching, in the face of the coronavirus, from school teachers, Alan’s post is really valuable.

But really, if I was helping folks, my suggestion an strategy would be… do as little as possible online. Use online for communicating, caring, attending to people’s needs, but not really for being the “course”. Flip that stuff outside.

I am reading that along with: HEWN, No. 344 – HEWN (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter):

‘This may be our moment,’ ed-tech folks exclaim, giddily sharing lists of their favorite digital learning tools (with little concern, it seems for questions of accessibility, privacy, or security) and tips for quickly moving ‘to the cloud.’

In schools I have no doubt that there are some (more than some?) classes that are already tooled up and are fortunate that their pupils all have good access, practised with the software and  savvy parents and teachers. If not diving into high bandwidth apps or ones that need the ability to navigate a complex UI might not work that well.

Athole has been teaching primary online for 6 weeks:

I suspect his pupils might have better home kit, access and tech support? Athole I’d love to know.

My thoughts at the moment are, unless there are school, LA or national diktats :

  1. A place to post stuff that is easy for me and familiar for the pupils (for us most probably a blog)
    On that the stuff might be:

    • Links to practise that the pupils are already familiar with, sumdog, some of my own pages, the odd quiz.
    • Ideas for open ending learning either on or offline.
    • Thing that can be done on paper or with easily available materials.
  2. A couple of lightweight ways for contact, email, which hopefully most parents will be able to support and possibly Teams, although not all my pupils can use Teams at home. I’ve only used it a couple of times in class to discuss comms software, I can usually communicate with most of my class by talking;-)

I am sure if I am in the situation of teaching from home my instincts would be make something, but I think that might serve my own itchs rather than my pupils.

I might be tempted to try a multiplayer Minecraft Edu edition as we have dipped our toes in it for maths work, but it might be quick tricky across different home networks. My pupils enthusiasm for the game might make it worth it.

I am glad I am not in the position of supporting pupils heading for exams.

Here are some tips for speeding up the process of making simple posts to a Glow Blog

Preparation 1. The Post Editor

One of the nice things about the WordPress Post Editor is you can customise the elements that you see on the screen.

Blogs Post Screen Options

To make my posting simpler in mobile I’ve removed some elements and dragged the Featured Image section to the top of the right hand column. This makes it appear right under the post content in the mobile view.
Blogs Post Featured
You can also collapse section of the editor you don’t need all the time, I’ve notice my pupils do this when using their e-Portfolios.

Preparation 2. Bookmark New Post

On my phone I’ve bookmarked the New Post Page on blogs I want to post to.

New Post Add To Homescreen

Im my case I’ve saved it to my home screen so I don’t even need to open my browser and go through my bookmarks.

This means that I can go straight to the new post page. If I am not logged onto Glow I am taken through the RM Unify password screen first. I use the save password facility on my phone to speed this up.

Featured Images

Editing a post with images and text can get a little messy, and therefore slow, on mobile. If I want to make a quick post, I don’t put the images in the editor, but use the featured image feature. This adds an image, typically, to the top of your post, and keeps it clear of the text.

Putting it All Together

Using my home screen icon, saved password, simplified new post page and a featured image means I can post a twitter sized post and picture in around 90 seconds.

Twitter too

In case you are missing the interaction and publicity of twitter you can of course auto post your blog to twitter using several free services, dlvr.it, IFTTT and Microsoft Flow (using your glow account.)

graph of number twitter clients used by schools

I’ve talked to a fair number of teachers who find it easier to use twitter than to blog to share their classroom learning. I’ve been thinking a little of how to make that easier but got side tracked wondering how schools, teachers and classes use twitter.

If you use twitter on the web it tells you the application used to post the tweet. At the bottom of a tweet there is the date and the app that posted the tweet.

I’ve got a list that is made up of North Lanarkshire schools I started when I was supporting ICT in the authority.

I could go down the list and count the methods but I though there might be a better way. I recalled having a played with the twitter api a wee bit so searched for and found: GET lists/statuses — Twitter Developers. I was hoping ther was some sort of console to use, but could not find one, a wee bit more searching found how to authenticate to the api using a token and how to generate that token. Using bearer tokens

It then didn’t take too long to work out how to pull in a pile of status updates from the list using the terminal:

curl --location --request GET 'https://api.twitter.com/1.1/lists/statuses.json?list_id=229235515&count=200&max_id=1225829860699930600' --header 'Authorization: Bearer BearerTokenGoesHere'

This gave me a pile of tweets in json format. I had a vague recollection that google sheets could parse json so gave that a go. I had to upload the json somewhere I could import it into a sheet. This felt somewhat clunky. I did see some indications that I could use a script to grab the json in sheets, but though it might be simpler to do it all on my mac. More searching, but I fairly quickly came up with this:

curl --location --request GET 'https://api.twitter.com/1.1/lists/statuses.json?list_id=229235515&count=200&' --header 'Authorization: Bearer BearerTokenGoesHere' | jq '.[].source' | sed -e 's/<[^>]*>//g' | sort -bnr | uniq -c | sort -bnr

This does the following:

  1. download the status in json format
  2. passes it to the jq application (which I had installed in the past) which pulls out a list of the sources.
  3. It is then passed to sed which strips the html tags leaving the text. (I just search for this, I have no idea how works)
  4. next the list is sorted
  5. then uniq pulls out the uniq entries and counts then
  6. Finally sorts the counts and gave:
119 "Twitter for iPhone"
  28 "Twitter for Android"
  22 "Twitter Web App"
   8 "Twitter for iPad"
   1 "Twitter Web Client"

This surprised me. I use my school iPad to post to twitter and sort of expected iPads to be highest or at least higher.

It maybe that the results are skewed by the Monday, Tuesday holiday and 2 inservice days, so I’ll run this a few times next week and see. You can also use a max_id parameter so I could gather more than 200 (less retweeted content) tweets.

This does give me the idea that it might be worth explaining how to make posting to Glow Blogs simpler using a phone.

Update, Friday, bacn to school and NLC looks like:

 74 "Twitter for iPhone"
  51 "Twitter for iPad"
  18 "Twitter for Android"
  10 "Twitter Web App"
   1 "dlvr.it"