This was going to be my TeachMeet talk at the Scottish Learning festival this year, if my name had been pulled out of the virtual fruit machine.

kludge: (a badly assembled collection of parts hastily assembled to serve some particular purpose (often used to refer to computing systems or software that has been badly put together))

The kludge refers in this case to my, fairly clunky, attempts to change some things about glow’s interface.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with glow since I first saw it; I love the concept (What is Glow?) and hate some of the GUI and user experience. Since watching and being a little involved in glow training I hate some of the difficulties folk have doing simple things but I love seeing the inspiring work teachers and pupils have done in very a short space of time. (I saw great presentations from Marjory Murphy and Geraldine Shearer, both from North Lanarkshire, in the glowing lounge .)

Last week I was working with a primary 6 class using GarageBand to create some simple music, the idea was then to upload the pupil files to a glow group into a document library and discuss the music in a discussion forum below.

The group is a local Authority one, and the hope is that eventually pupils may comment and assess work from other classrooms and schools.


Unfortunately when the children started trying to listen to each others music, the files downloaded and opened in itunes, rather that just played in the browser. This lead to a little confusion and made it hard to move from listening, back to the browser and into a discussion.

I had been using an xml webpart at the top of the page, to make the glow page a little prettier:


So I started copying the links to the mp3 files and using dewplayer to provide a flash player. It quickly became apparent that this was going to make the page very big and the players would be separated from the discussion by the document library. It would create a lot of work for me and would not be easily for most teachers to duplicate. I really wanted to automate the process and I’ve found one way to do that.

I’ve seen and used the Anarchy Media Player on many blogs. This is a JavaScript solution for turning links to media into media players:

Anarchy Media Player 2.5 for WordPress, WordPressMu and Standalone Javascript will play any simple href link to mp3, flv, Quicktime mov, mp4, m4v, m4a, m4b, 3gp as well as Windows wmv, avi and asf files, in the appropriate player on your web page.

I though I might give it a try. I need to upload a folder full of various files to a website outside glow, as I could not get Glow to accept a JavaScript file in a document library. Once I’d done that I needed to do some simple configuration and then added this fragment to the xml webpart:

The automagically turned the document library above into this:


Each link to an mp3 file is changed into a flash player which plays that file.

Brief testing seems to show that this will work for .mov .flv video files too. There seems to be some browsers issues which I am testing. I’ve also tried a few experiments with the shadowbox-js media viewer and the jQuery JavaScript Library with some success, again a lot of browser testing to do. My Javascript knowledge is minimal to say the least but I had a couple of brief conversations in the glowing lounge at the Scottish Learning festival this week and was introduced to Fraser Davidson who works for RM supporting glow. He showed me some lovely stuff he has been doing with XSL to embed and beautify various feeds into glow. He also told me, if I picked it up correctly, that we could export and make available an xml webpart that already has the Javascript links and code to produce the sort of transformation of a document library I’ve been playing with. That would mean that folk would just need to add a webpart to their page to get the same sort of effect, no coding needed. I am hoping to get together with Fraser to find out more and swap ideas.

Later today I hope to attend the Glow Development Needs You! event at LTS and find out more about some alterations and enhancements of glow. It looks like there may be quiet a lot to look forward to in glow soon.

A while ago (2 years, time flies!) I blogged some GarageBand plans for making simple music in class. I used it a lot at Sandaig, resulting in the Sandaig jukebox.

I’ve been using the technique again in developing some glow ict groups in North Lanarkshire.

This has given me the chance to work with some pupils again and to improve my instructions. Yesterday I decided to try and screencast the procedure and the result is show above. The process let me work a bit more with ScreenFlow, which is a lovely screencast editor. I am still working on my presentation skills which results in a few odd pauses and repetitions, but I though the movie worth publishing.

It also gave me a opportunity to test our Apple Wiki Server to publish the screencast: Simple Music with GarageBand. The Apple Wiki server provides one of the easiest to use podcast publishers I have seen, although configuring and theming the wikis and blog is a bit tricky. I was lucky to have one of the North Lanarkshire network guys set up the server and get me started. I am looking forward to finding a school or two who would be interested in some podcasting.

Some of the experience in themeing the wiki helped me in setting up some glow groups, I found some interesting ways to get glow to do what I want and hope to get the chance to talk about this for 7 minutes at TeachmeetSLF09 on Glow Hacking on Wednesday night.

One of the things I am missing about not being in the classroom at Sandaig is the day to day updating of what feels like my baby, the Sandaig Primary Website and it associated galleries and blogs. I was a wee bit concerned that the blogs would grind to a halt, but it looks like I need not have worried. One of the Staff, Mrs Wright, has developed an interest in iMovie and starting with video of her own primary 2 class has organised some primary sevens to film various school events for the blog. The primary sevens have been blogging their class work and some weird pictures. On the train yesterday I was delighted to see a note on the otters blog pointing to some WWII Cinquains on the poetry blog (you might like to have a look and leave an encouraging comment).

Mrs Crum, a PSA ,has taken over the Pictures from Sandaig gallery and seems to be adding content much faster than I ever did, she also provides support for ICT round the school and oversees the blogs. Martain the peripatetic music teacher has been keeping the Sandaig Jukebox up and running with new GarageBand creations from the children. I wonder if by being, in the words of Ian Stuart, ‘just the man’ I held back the spread of the use of the site at Sandaig to other members of staff?

It is quite strange watching this happen, a bit like seeing my daughter leave home for University. Like Christine it looks like blogging at Sandaig and doing very well without me. I am still paying attention but obviously am not necessary to progress.

For a blog that claims to be mostly what we are doing with ict in class I’ve not posted much about that recently. Things have be coming a bit thick and fast for reflection. This is just a wee note about some things that have been going on over the last couple of weeks.

cd lauren 180

One afternoon a week I take a bunch of children from or primary six classes to work on self esteem, emotional literacy and the like through practical activities. The most recent activity is drawing to a close. It this the children created short tunes with GarageBand, then designed covers for a cd. The covers were further edited with picnik. We then burned cds with all 12 tracks and published the mp3s and art on the website: Sandaig Primary Wiki Primary6Project. The children are in the middle of adding a bit of writing to the wiki to round up the project.

Juke tn

We have been using GarageBand around the school too. My musical ability has been taken to its limit just making a minute of loop music so I’ve roped in our peripatetic music teacher Martian Douglas who is working with groups of children on a Friday afternoon. At the moment they are just using the loops provided, but Martin is working on incorporating drumming and guitar played by the children. The music made so far can be heard on the Sandaig Jukebox.

On Wednesday afternoons I teach ‘the other’ primary six class to cover NCC time. This term I am teaching the Sound part of the glasgow Sound and light topic. I am using a modified topic created by Alisa Barr of nearby Mount Vernon Primary when the children work in groups on challenges to cover the learning outcomes. This has been quite challenging for me and i am not sure I spent enough time on preparing for group work, despite the fat I had attended a couple of cpd events by Alisa on just that.
I’ve give the topic a slight web 2 spin as I present the challenges on the Sandaig Primary Wiki SoundAndLight. The first challenge we did as a class and published our findings as a mp3. The next section was on The Ear and the groups tried a variety of ways of reporting their findings. In the current challenge Sound Travels different groups have been set different tasks and seem to be widening there reporting methods (not published yet).

These two project have been my first step of using a wiki at school, at the moment the children need support for publishing but hopefully this will improve. Some of the publishing is a bit tricky, eg powerpoint to slideshare and then a recipe to put on wiki. I am using PmWiki which is not wysiwyg but seems to be working out well enough.

The topic was interrupted this week by health week which should have been a excellent chance to get the children blogging, but in reality they were to busy with activities, there is a wee movie in the works and hopefully it will be blogged next week.

In the midst of the Health week we had a visit from Johanna Hall from BBC Scotland, Johanna had commented on the Sandaig Otters’ blog about Radio Sandaig. She came in to give the children a chance to work on recording some content for the BBC (links when I know them). She also gave a masterclass on speaking and recording for the 12 children involved which I hope they will cascade to their classmates. This also gave me a bit of impetus to get the podcast flowing and we put out a special this week with another one nearly finished. My HT kindly gave me some time out of class to work on these before Johanna’s visit. Johanna took them away with her recording to work into an up and coming BBC production.

I am sure I’ve missed one or two things out, but that is probably quite enough for now.

Blogged from tm

There has been hardly a tweet from me this weekend, not because I’ve been away from the box but because I’ve been too busy in front of it. Apart from working on a non educational site and doing a bit of editing on the second edtechroundup podcast (this is not quite ready yet but will be out soon), I’ve been playing with a couple of new bits of the Sandaig Website.

Screenshot of sandaig jukebox

Firstly I, created a new section to show off the children’s garageband productions. I blogged some GarageBand Plans a while back and since then I’ve been working with some children at the computer club, some from the Primary Six classes and got our music teacher involved with other classes. They have been making quite a few short songs. The Sandaig Jukebox is a work in progress, but it allows you to choose a playlist and listen to the songs. I hope to replace the Quicktime player with a flash one, have a comment or rating system and a few other goodies figured out at some time in the future. It might not work for everyone at the moment, I’ve not bypassed the click here to allow active x stuff on some windows systems, but you can get the idea.


The other thing I’ve been preparing is the Sandaig Wiki this will be my first venture into using a wiki with children. I choose PmWiki mainly because it seems easy to configure and install. I had already briefly tested it and it seems to work very well, I am especially interested in the fact that you can add features from the cookbook for example I’ve tried some Media Tests and even managed to adapt the Yuan.CC Flickr Experiments.

Anyway I hope to start work on two sections with the children this week: Sound and light where Primary six T, who I take for Science, will record there Science topic. and the Primary 6 Project which is for a group of primary 6 children who are learning to work together and cooperate. At the moment these children are involved in a Garageband task; creating music, designing CD covers and doing some psd work. The children will have a page each on the wiki to display some mindmaps, embed their music and art work.

Well that is the plan anyway, but we know where the best laid ones go. Hopefully I’ll have some success to report soon.


TextMate icon with blogged from TextMate text

We have just published the first podcast of the session on Radio Sandaig. A new bunch of children and as usual a scramble to fit it into the day. A few lunchtimes and some non-class-contact time got it done. (The children are not all in my class, so I guess this is NCC).I decided to use garageBand instead of Audacity this year, just to see what the differences are. I’ve already started some children off making some simple music using Garageband, and our peripatetic music teacher has joined in working with a few children every week. So we have incorporated one of the pieces of music into the podcast.

For the first time with GarageBand, I took a lot more control than usual of recording, mostly to figure out what we are doing and these are first impressions. Garageband has a pile of useful loops, jingles etc built in, these are easy to review and pull in. For the rest of the session I hope to find time for children to make jingles that will be used regularly, this should make the show sound a bit more professional once we start to really think about this. The auto ducking is also nice, with audacity the children hand ducked the background track as they organised the segments.
One of the things I really liked about audacity was the way you could record segments of a podcast in any order and then the children could easily move them around as they made the final edit. We recorded each segment on a separate track. With GarageBand you get a male voice and female voice tracks, jingle and music tracks. This means we will have to plan out the podcast in more detail and record it in order, this will present a bit more of a challenge to my organisation. At the moment I invite children from 4 classes to contribute so have to find time when they are available at the same time as myself (playtime, NCC time), some thinking to do.

Anyway please have a listen and if you like the show you might like to leave an audio response on the Radio Sandaig page, give us our first review in itunes or on our new listing. Thanks to Tim Geddes of Glaitness School for pointing me to Tim helps the children with the TV Glaitness Video Podcast, which is well worth watching.

As I mentioned earlier I recorded some of the presentations from TeachMeet07. I’ve turned these into a enhanced podcast. spent a bit more time in GarageBand and am beginning to understand a bit more about it and it’s relationship to the other iLife apps. As usually I made a silly mistake or two, the main one being I did not know the maximum length depended on the tempo of the Master Track. This lead me to having to change that after I had organised all the chapter marks and links, I then had to reposition these on the time line which took me most of the afternoon.

Anyway time well spent, as teachMeet07 has been one of the most exciting educational events I’ve attended for a long time. Have a listen and let me know if you agree.

I had a bit of bother with this one. I’ve not used keynote much, but it was very easy to create a presentation with. While playing about with it I noticed you could record an audio soundtrack very easily and though I’d do that, export to quicktime or even youtube to let folk see what I’ve been talking about (and to play with the toys). Recording was easy enough, but when I came to export I got errors every time. A quick google fould more folk with the same problem and fixes for keynote 3 & 3, unfortunately I was using keynote 4 and the fixes didn’t work for me. I am guessing the problem has something to do with combining a recorded audio with movies and audio in the presentation. So what should have been a few minutes work turned into a few hours! I exported the presentation to jpgs, then I dug into the presentation package and found the narration audio. Next I imported the into GarageBand and one by one placed the images on the podcast track, adding urls as I went.

Next I exported the podcast to iWeb and published it, the first time I had used iWeb and again it seems easy enough to use without having to read a manual.

anyway here is a version of the presentation as an enhanced podcast.

As a by-product I now have a Podcast. I will not be adding to it very often, but I’ve got some audio from TeachMeet07 which I’ll publish soon. I didn’t manage to record all the presentations, but I’ve got some.

Today I started a bit of work with garageBand and a few primary sevens.

In the summer I visited Lori Ramsay to find out about The Mothership. Lori gave me a great intro to using GarageBand to create tunes and I left with a set of her notes.

I’ve added some screenshots to these to use with the children, using Pages. It was the first time I’d used Pages and it seems a pretty simple app to create pretty and simple documents.

This is the first version of the worksheets, and I’ve not used them with kids yet, but I’ve uploaded them if you want a look. Feedback and suggestions are more than welcome.

Update: After Mark‘s comment I realised that there is an easier way to lay the loops out in a long strip, here is a sheet.

Blogged from tm

On Thursday I went over for a holiday visit to Lourdes Secondary School to visit Lori Ramsay. At the last Glasgow Masterclass meeting Lori had presented a tantalising view of The Mothership which seemed to involve enterprise, podcasting and music. Wendy from Edict invited me to get in touch with Lori to find out more and I popped over to the southside of the city on Thursday morning.

Lori met me and took me to a music classroom full of macs, keyboards and other musical gear. She booted up one of the few macs in Glasgow City Schools and launched into a garageband lesson! This was great, I’ve steered clear of GarageBand except for the occasional voice and background podcast as I have the musical ear of a turnip.

Lori quickly showed me how to teach children to put together a short song or jingle, first blocking out drums, then rhythm and synth followed by some instruments, until we had a wall of sound ‘blocks’. She then knocked holes in the wall to create an intro, verse and chorus. This would be broken down into several lessons in class, but you could really see how excited the children would be. Lori gave me quite a few bit of essential information that a musical person would understand and that I can follow. I an now ready to teach some music watch out for the effect on Radio Sandaig!

Lori explained that she was not a teacher, although she teaches sound engineering at Lourdes, she has a professional sound engineering background. She brings the real world into the classroom using the enterprise model. The pupils learn radio production and sound recording skills at SQA Int 2 Higher and Advanced Higher levels. I m sure that the string of backstage passes hanging on the wall and working with an expert from the real world wil ladd to the positive effect of working on a ‘real’ task.

Sound Studio Lourdes Secondary School

Next Lori took me through a well equipped music studio to a soundproof room where the music could be edited and Radio Shows created. We listen to some of the children’s work. It was immediately apparent that the sound quality was much better than you usually find in a school podcast. We listened to professional sounding music, intros and voiceovers the pupils organising and running the shows. Some of the music was produced by the pupils and some by independent musicians. I was surprised to find that the children produce not podcasts but streaming audio. This is wrapped up in copyright issues, the station plays music from up and coming bands. I asked how they got the music expecting that they would be pulling it from music sharing sites, Lori pointer to a huge pile of CDs these were sent in by aspiring bands to play on the show.

Lori told me the pupils organised a event at the Garage night-club in Glasgow. The show included signed and unsigned bands including some musicians from the school. A & R folk from major record companies turned up. Undoubtedly this has had a real effect on the pupils involved, Lori mentions the positive effect on their attitude and that they are learning real world skills as they gain academic success. The program has a neat fit with the Curriculum for Excellence as well as enterprise.

Next we went online to take a look at the The Mothership.

The first function of the site is the streaming radio station where you can listen to the pupils productions, pupils from 4 Glasgow Secondary schools and one primary are involved:

Central to The Mothership project is the production and streaming of radio shows created by the students in a real professional studio environment. The studio, based at Lourdes Secondary School is available to students on allocated ?studio nights…

Plans are afoot to expand the number of schools involved.
As well as the music section of the site there is a password protected, secure section as well. This allows pupils to log on and download learning resources or take quizzes on the site. There are also chat rooms which are opened by teachers to help with homework and pre-exam revision. The site is still under development but plans are that pupils will have alien style avatars which they will be able to customise as the gain points through completing learning activities. Lori explained that the design of the site was reviewed by the pupils whose feedback has enabled the web designers to produce what the pupils wanted.

There is an interview of lori on her work on the Bluesbunny Independent Music Reviews Site : Mothership Project

Overall the Mothership project is very impressive, hitting academic, enterprise and Curriculum for Excellence targets. I am looking to taking Sandaig’s broadcasting, audio and video, to a more formal enterprise model this session and hope to get on board.