Popcorn Hackasaurus

Yesterday I heard a few intriguing boos from Mozilla Festival by Doug Belshaw and Leon Cychwhich sent me on a day trip round the internet. I discovered:

Hackasaurus makes it easy to mash up and change any web page like magic. You can also create your own webpages to share with your friends, all within your browser. for which there is an educators guide and even a lesson plan.


Popcorn.js is an HTML5 media framework written in JavaScript for filmmakers, web developers, and anyone who wants to create time-based interactive media on the web. Popcorn.js is part of Mozilla’s Popcorn project.

among a host of other interesting things. Rather than blog about it I used these tools to create somethings:

A spoof 2015 BBC News – X-RAY GoGGLES improves pupils performance in exams

Playing with hackasaurus and popcorn

I think that hackasaurus in particular could be very useful in the classroom. Popcorn gives us a way to make complex media projects in particular HyperVidio and HyperAudio which act in the same way as HyperText. I’d love some feedeback on this stuff, if you think it could work in your classroom?

I’ve spent a fair bit of time mulling over this post: Laurie O’Donnell » Glowing into the Future and writing a comment. This turned into more of a post than a comment.

Laurie’s post was originally published in the TESS Glowing into the future may be easier said than done – News – TES and I am grateful that he also blogged it as I don’t read the TES.

I am pulling some quotes out of context, and order, and adding my 2d worth, if you have not already done so I recommend reading the post.

It is interesting to get the perspective of someone who is at the other end of the ranks than myself and who has a different viewpoint and a lot more knowledge of the bigger picture than I have.

The mainstream tools that are available free on the internet are fine, but to be usable in an educational context they should work off a single directory. It is also important that your stuff can be found easily irrespective of where and how it was created. Culture, confidence, practice, behaviours and engagement are also important but so is having the right tools, in the right place at the right time. Today’s open tools far too often become tomorrow’s commercial services. In many free services, such as Facebook, the user is less ‘the customer’ and more ‘the product’, with their personal data (preferences, pictures, contacts and habits) up for sale to the highest bidder. Not so bad if you sign-up for this as a private individual but perhaps not something the Scottish Government should be doing on behalf of our children.

I too fear the idea of our pupils becoming the product for someone to sell. I also like the single directory/signon, this must be made as simple as facebook (logon with facebook) but as secure as glow.

The Cabinet Secretary calls for a solution that is not based on ‘big companies investing in big projects’ but all the options on the eduscotict wiki appear to centre on either a Google or Microsoft based cloud solution.

I’ve long be of the opinion that a ScotEduTube would be no bad thing.I’d like to see Glow become a centre connecting the best of breed free and paid for stuff hosted on national servers. When I think of using Open Tools, I think of things like wordpress, or an open source wiki that can be hosted and controlled, rather than using services that become tomorrow’s commercial services.

The best thing about Glow, in my opinion, was it got around the various worries about safety and access to tools that beleaguer the use of ICT in the classroom. When blogs were added to glow there was no need for a discussion as to the validity of using them as they carried the stamp of national approval.

Everybody that I know has been arguing for many years that Glow needed to change radically, despite the fact that it already incorporates some of the same open source collaborative tools that will feature prominently as part of the new approach.

These tools surely were added because we argued that glow needed to change radically. Unfortunately they way they were added was fairly clunky and limited the tools. For example the blogs are limited to a handful of themes and plugins. The way that they are connected to ones glow account precluded the use of the MetaWebBlogApi and there use on mobile devices.

Given that, the folk who I’ve introduced blogs to have mainly needed help with the initial setup in the portal rather than working the blog once it has been setup.

I might be coming over as a glow naysayer but I am not, Glow has been my main occupation for the last few years, I’ve created a ton of groups, helped and trained lots of teachers and logged on 100s of pupils. I appreciate the fact that glow gave ict in education a huge push and was well resourced though the local and national governments.

We might not have reached the ambition of having every student, every teacher and every parent using Glow every day but the level of engagement dwarfs the number of people who have contributed to the largely disappointing #eduscotict wiki that was set-up following the announcement.

It might be a wee bit disingenuous to compare the levels of engagement of a short term wiki with a long term project that had a huge effort from LAs across Scotland and with many LTS & RM folk facilitating this engagement. Given the time frame, the fact that most Scottish teachers have never interacted on a public website or edited a Wiki I think we got the sort of response I’d expect.

I encouraged all the local ICT co-ordinators here to contribute, none, to my knowledge did. Some told me they had tried but found the level of technical language impenetrable and off-putting. Although many teachers have used glow to facilitate their children’s learning there are comparatively few who engage in online discussions inside or outside glow. If you compared the number of teachers who had contributed to a glow discussion or forum in the same timeframe as the #eduscotict wiki it might be a fairer comparison?

I do worry, as I believe Laurie does, that this #eduscotict initiative is moving very quickly. I do worry that a slanted picture of needs will emerge. To open up this debate to colleagues across Scotland would need more channels that seem to have been provided.

I wonder if this lack of participation, and inclusion of view for all sectors may set up the same category of problem as Glow 1. To my eyes (very much a particular perspective) the conceit and concept of glow was outstanding, the work done in bringing in LAs across Scotland was groundbreaking. The problems arose from the implementation, the software chosen. I wonder how long the decision makers tested sharepoint, I wonder how many teachers were invited to test, in real classrooms, how it was supposed to work, or were the decisions taken on demos, walkthroughs and pre built examples. I hope that when deciding on the new solution the decision makers test things at same time as full-time teaching, I wonder if they can do it in the time available?.

The way #EDUScotICT seems to panning out is that we are getting more opinion from troops on the ground, but perhaps we are getting it from a quite small sub-set of these troops: the specialists, the ones who are experienced in using online tools the believers who will go the extra mile to get thing working. The challenge for the government is to expand the debate.

Although the eduscotict / ICT Summit has overtaken this post, and I’ve probably changed my mind on some of the above, I thought I’d post his before starting to think about this afternoon’s discussion.

This is the transcript of a podcast episode I posed at edutalk: #EDUScotICT small things

I had put my name down to talk for 3 minutes at the EDUscotICT conference on the 17th of October. I didn't get picked. The mail rejecting me suggested that I posted a presentation anyway. This is it, at least I am not limited to 3 minutes.

I've now seen the list of speakers and topics they will talk about, they sound great big important stuff, I want to try and make sure we don't miss the small stuff, the detail.

I had put down that I'd talk about the section "Implement the next generation of Glow, built upon freely available tools and services, and open source hosted solutions" I had "Some thoughts about software, open source, Glow 1 & paid for. From the point of view of making the tech as invisible and future proof as possible."

I had what I was going to say worked out in my head, but I had a real rethink last week, just after I read about the death of Steve Jobs and just before I got my rejection mail.

I have never really been a Steve Jobs fanboy, in fact the reason I got really interested in computers, HyperCard, was steved, abandoned, when Mr Jobs returned to Apple, but by that time I was a mac user and do appreciate the way the mac and ios platforms have developed.

I am also not a glow hater, I've trained and helped 100s of pupils and teachers get onto glow. I've seem some outstanding practice using glow. The majority of my working day for the past couple of years has involved glow and promoting it.

Last year I went to the Technologies for Learning Workshop #eddif blogged here a great discussion of how ict could develop in Scotland. On that occasion, as it recall, I tried to talk about interface and design but I felt that attempting to bring up this was sidetracked, as if the mistakes of glow one, now seen, would ensure a good user experience for the next one. I don't think it will not unless someone sweats every pixel to make glow work better.

For quite a while this mantra has been popular among educational technologists:

It is not the Tech it is the Teach 1

I think the tech does need to be discussed, and more importantly the User Experience needs to be discussed.

We can best use technology to teach when the tech is invisible. The problem with glow as it was all too visible.

The function of a hotel is a place to sleep and eat, what we remember and the reason we return is the user experience.

So Steve Jobs, here is a wee quote:

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn't what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it's all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don't take the time to do that. 2

We need that sort of attention to detail, if ICT is going to be used invisibly, if we are going to get on with the teach.

I am an iPhone user, I've watch the system change, seen features added, not when they were asked for but when they work properly. The first iphone software couldn't copy text, this essential feature was not added until Steve Jobs, or Apple, decided that it worked really well.

I am also a user of many of the online web 2.0 services that have been suggested as glow replacements, a lot of these have far better user experiences than glow. We should learn from and use them or the user experience they give. One reason that many of these tools work is that they are constantly evolving.

Jobs famously said:

You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new. 3

One of the problems with Glow 1 was it was feature locked, recently new features were added but the inherent difficulties with the portal made these additions harder to use than was necessary.

I want a couple of things

  1. I don't know what sort of technology I'll want to learn and teach with in a few years. I want to be able to use new services and techniques as they arise.
  2. I also want to be able to alter and change these tools that some folk are excited about. Give me a wordpress blog, but one I can change, hack, repurpose add plugins and theme when needed, easily without fuss.

A couple of recent #EDUScotICT tweets spring to mind:

Kenny Pieper @kennypieper:

#EduScotIct Teachers not resistant to ICT 'cause of Glow. They're resistant to ICT 'cause they're resistant to ICT. Blaming Glow is tiresome

Robert Jones @jonesieboy

Sharepoint for glow was a terrible mistake. We all know it. Those with vested interests will never admit it. Time to move on #eduscotict

I think we have to:

  1. remove the excuse and
  2. remember and learn from the mistakes as we move on.

It's not the Tech, it's all about the Teach – Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Learning seemd to be a quote from David Warlick "Can you teach? The answer is hopefully ‘yes’. Why then do we forget to teach when we are thinking about technology. Stop thinking about the Tech, think about the Teach."


Steve Jobs: The Next Insanely Great Thing By Gary Wolf The Wired Interview.
Found via This: Dianamania is a slur on Jobs • The Register

2.The Entrepreneur of the Decade | Motivating Employees Article | Inc.com

We still live in a world where more teachers do not use ICT as an integral part of their classroom practice than do. Barriers to use include the rigid timetable of secondary schools, the lack of computers or other devices in most classrooms and the failure in many cases to link ICT to relevant CPD The goal for hardware should never be “One Computer per Child” but should be “Access when Required”. Good open access wifi throughout the school buildings coupled with allowing pupils to use their own devices, smartphones, tablets, netbooks or whatever would at least partially overcome that barrier.

Incisive & concise. The only bit I wonder about is the byo, not sure how the staff who lack skills would cope with multiple devices, OSs etc. Sometime taking a class through a glow activity using 2 different browsers can cause confusion.

We know a lot of you were perfectly happy with Posterous and wouldn’t want us to change a thing. Rest assured, with Posterous Spaces you can keep doing everything you’ve been doing with yesterday’s service. Plus we’ve added many cool new features to enjoy

I like this way of updating. The up and coming Glow update will not be as smooth but I hope the new glow service will be both flexible, able to add new features and evolutionary rather than revolutionary in the future.