@suewaters well that did it:-)
@suewaters well that did it:-)

This evening I was having a wee search for World war 2 images for reuse. I hope to be working with a class next term using images as part of there topic work, mashing the images with iMovie. I had a look in the usual places (including http://www.flickr.com/commons/ mostly) but didn’t get what I wanted. Scran have some great phtos but I don’t think we could edit them. So I turned to twitter, with the usual gratifying results now tagged on delicious:

LCC bomb damage maps – a set on Flickr

WW2 Image Album

Flickr: east_lothian_museums’ stuff tagged with worldwartwo

World War II Posters – a set on Flickr

WW2 History – a set on Flickr

NEN Gallery : World War Two

Flickr: PhotosNormandie’s Photostream


I’ve also discovered that pivot allows you to display an rss feed in a post, so this list will update as I add more links to delicious.

@johnjonston : Sorry, it had to be done! on TwitPic
@johnjonston : Sorry, it had to be done! on TwitPic

Thanks Neil

At the same time as I was doing lazy research, nearly everyone else i know on twitter seemed to be playing connect 4 with Santa avatars! @nwinton is busy making Santas out of everyone on TwitPic / nwinton. It is this sort of mix that make twitter special, useful and silly at the same time.

If you have any other sources of World War 2 photos that can be reused in class let me know with @johnjohnston on twitter or for:troutcolor on delicious.

Functionmachine tn
Function Machine, an old HC stack of mine
( a newer flash version)

They say that things in education go round in circles. I came late to teaching and later to ict. I got my first mac, a Performa 630, in 1995. Over the next few years I became a HyperCard fanatic spending many an hour creating stacks for use in the classroom. Many of these were drill and practise application, for practising tables, telling the time, cloze procedures etc.

After a while I became more interested in children creating with computers, podcasting, blogging, animation and digital video, I have played with them all. When I started blogging it seemed that most of my reading was pointing me away from drill applications towards creative projects.

Drill and practise applications became associated in my mind with worksheets, I used them but do not talk about them in the polite company.

I noticed some drill and practise popping its head above the parapet with the various games based learning especially the brain training type of application, but have not managed to get involved with this yet. This session I’ve been happy with Educationcity.com which provides a nice variety of colourful and attractive games for children linked to the 5-14 curriculum with reasonable record keeping. At first I was reluctant to use Education city, but once I learned how to target pupils with particular tasks I’ve used it every day with the children support in maths.

Lately I’ve seen a bit of twittering and blogging about tutpup which seems to be a new twist on an old song:


Tutpup consists of some pretty straightforward drill and practise maths and spelling exercises so far, although they seem to be interested in increasing the range of games.
What makes tutpup different is the fact that you play the games against other members of the community live. While playing they can see the progress of their opponent who is identified by a user name and a flag for their country, in my class this generated a lot of excitement. From a safety point of view tutpup is great, the help for parents and privacy policy are clear. Each child is identified by a colour-animal-number user name only, the site does not collect data from the children, teachers and parents need an email address and to give permission to the children. The setup for a class is slick and simple, teachers set a class code which pupils use to join a class. There is even some simple recording of scores.

I do not know who is behind tutpup, but Ewan has been advising the team on its development, given his knowledge of the educational use of social media It will be interesting to watch the site move on from beta. Tutpup seem to have the usual Web 2 speed of response to feedback, I’d an email within minutes of sending feedback asking for times to be added to the recording of pupil scores to allow me to see who is using tutpup at home.

I do not suppose I’ll use tutpup much before the end of term, sports and activity days are filling up the calendar but I look forward to using it next session and seeing if it can give some legs to good old drill and practise.

Warning, little educational content ahead, this is a holiday post.

I’ve been messing around a wee bit with the twitter api, twitter tester, Tweets to TeachMeetPerth and twitter presenter, the last in response to Ewan’s tweet: Can one present by Twit?.

None of these are what could be called polished jobs even given my limitations but the TwitterApi Documentation is pretty straightforward.

I have also created a few of rss twitter bots the most useful of which is ScotEduBlogs which tweets the blogs post title as they arrive on ScotEduBlogs this uses the twitterfeed.com : feed your blog to twitter – post RSS to twitter automatically I think.

So it seems time for my first twitterbot ObliqueTweet, tweet anything @ObliqueTweet and it will reply with a random Oblique Strategy (currently the 4th edition).

The Oblique Strategies are a set of cards devised by Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt to solve (artistic) problems by drawing a card randomly. There is a lot of information at The Oblique Strategies. There have been a number of computer programs to show Strategies at random, web and download versions. (I even made a supercard project back in 2002). There is a nice php version, minimal design | Oblique Strategies, which you can download.

The ObliqueTweet twitterbot, just grabs the most recent @ replies to ObliqueTweet and then grabs a random Oblique Strategies and sends it back as a reply.

The script is automatically run using http://www.webbasedcron.com once every minute.

I am wondering now if I can think of a useful twitterbot, any ideas?


Edu Twits is a pretty quick and dirty test of creating a no-code-mashup in the style of Non-Programistan and an exploration of how far you can get creating a useful tool without really reading the manual.

I am not suggesting Edu Twits is all that useful, but I can image how we could use this in the classroom in interesting ways.

I mentioned Exhibit yesterday and made a wee test exhibit of EU data, in the same way as I imagined my class would be able to do. In my imagination:

  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.

Which seemed fine. Then Tom’s comment:

The pure spreadsheet can be confusing and does look intimidating but with the data entry wrapped in a nice friendly form you?re looking at a much more pleasant interaction (and the ability to restrict choices some for data integrity)- all good things.

got me thinking about data entry a little more. A form seemed the way to go, but my class do not have individual email accounts and I could not send them individual invites to a google docs form.

A quick google gave the the idea that a google form could be embedded in an iFrame. I wanted to test this out with real people rather than just add a lot of data myself (avoiding boredom and rsi), so I though of inviting educationalists from twitter to add themselves to a exhibit. This seemed to be a fair test of data entry.


  1. edutwits_spreadsheet The spreadsheet: all I did was set up a Google Spreadsheets, I set the first Row to:
    {label:Name} | {twittername} | {blogname} {blogurl} | {photo} | {year} | {iso} | {latlon} | Notes
    following the Exhibit instructions, you need to property names in the first row, with curly brackets round ’em, the first must be {label}. The spreadsheet is set to publish.
  2. I then set up a web page using the information from Exhibit Authors based on the EU test from the day before. If you know a wee bit of html is is pretty simple to copy-paste-adjust the example pages. also because the editing is done in html it is easy to check the Exhibit examples and view source to find out how to use the straightforward stuff. The Getting Started page should get of off and running, combined with the from a Google Spreadsheet guide if you are going to use a spreadsheet. Part 2 of this post will go into the html in a bit more detail, if anyone is interested.
  3. Using the share tab on the spreadsheet, I set up a form and emailed it to myself.

    I’ve invited you to fill out the form ” edutwits ” which can be accessed at the following link: http://spreadsheets0.google.com/viewform?key=pIE8c8hh-DgLLHXJQQ8eEfQ&email=true

    This form can be used to update the spreadsheet. I filled in the first couple of rows on the spreadsheet and sent off an invite to a couple of folk to try out. At that point I discovered a couple of mistakes, I had {year] as a column header and the form posted the locations to the wrong column, the first was easily fixed and for the second I just moved the location column header to the column that the form was filling in. I probably should find out a bit more about google forms.

  4. I then embedded the google form in an iframe on a webpage:

    edutwits_exibit_add-form2 I added a popup to get iso country codes from the name of countries, borrowed for a wee google chart experiment (that helped get the maps and flags onto the exhibit too), and a link to an old page for getting latitude and longitude from a google map.
    Later on the form was improved by moving stuff around a bit and adding the location map to the actual page rather than opening in a new window.
    One problem is that the iso codes and locations need to be copied from the form on the right to the google form on the left, but it seems to work.
    At this point (well before the form improvements, I tweeted inviting folk to try the mashup out).
  5. The tweet was picked up by a few folk, one Tom Barrett who has a considerably bigger network than me, Tom’s retweeting has done much to spread the word., at the time of writing 34 folk are on the Edu Twits page.

Initial conclusions

  1. Exhibit and google spreadsheets make it fairly easy to create a usable database.
  2. Editing via a form works for adding new data, but users can’t get in to make changes once data is submitted.
  3. Out the box google forms lack validation, I don’t know if using the data api would be any better?
  4. I am keen to try this with a class(es) as I believe it will meet some of the curricular targets for using databases (and it is fun.)

Blue Sky
so far I’ve not broken any Non-Programistan guidelines, other than the addition of the google map. This could have been avoided (at least for the US) by using the address to location translation the Exhibit seems to provide. the next bit might overstep the mark a little.

  1. Use google data api to build forms that would add and edit users data, load form in password protected page to stop folk messing with others stuff.
  2. Add validation and auto addition of locations, iso codes etc. to said form.
  3. php to create new spreadsheets and templates for exhibit displays.

In this case blue sky means ‘I have no idea what I am talking about, maybe someone has already done this stuff, maybe it can’t be done‘.

Next steps

  • Try this out in class after the holidays, use EU idea.
  • Try a combo with another class.

If you got all the way to the foot of this page you might want to add yourself to the app.
You could let me know if part 2: details of the little I’ve learned about the html bit of Exhibit, is wanted.
Many thanks to the folk who have added themselves so far, and if you want your details changed, let me know.

Tumblr crop

I’ve mentioned Tumblr before, and of course link to my tumblelog in the sidebar here.

On saturday I saw that Tumblr 3.0 was announced with “Over 400 new features, fixes, and improvements“.

A tumblelog is a sort of quick post a link, video, photo, quote sort of tool:

Tumblr Menu

Not the place to post long thoughtful blogs, but a pretty easy way to found objects from the net. The presentation is nice too, huge fonts, auto imbedding of flickr photos and youtube video, this facility has be expanded to Tumblr will now take any video or Flash embed code and scale it down proportionally. The new feature that really impresses me is the way tumblr shows my Archive (like the screenshot at the top of this post). Very sweet in my opinion. tumblr now does audio upload and has tied in with Vimeo to allow video upload. also included with tumblr 3.0 are tags, markdown, channels (which is a move towards multi-author tumblelogs) and a pile of other stuff, best read on the announcement.

I don’t know any other teachers using tumblr yet, but I’d be interested in playing around with this, so let me know if you want to post to the edutumblrs channel and I’ll invite you in. No link as yet as channels are private at the moment. I am also on the lookout for folk interested in the same sort of things as myself to follow in tumblr.

At the monet I post wee links to games and fun that I think my pupils will like to a sub-weblog here, which appears in the side bar of Sandaig Otters and as a web page encorporated int othe main sandaig site: Links for Children and Staff at Sandaig, but this could be a lot prettier as a tumblelog.