As I wonderd if schools were open this morning I checked the North Lanarkshire Council : Winter schools daily update webpage which was down so turned to nlcwinter (nlcwinter) on Twitter there were no new updates at that time so I tweeted:

john johnston

@nlcwinter is down?
Tue Nov 30 07:14:02 +0000 2010 from web captured: Tue, 30 Nov 10 01:59:51 -0600

Very quickly I got this mention:

Intregued I went to isdown (isdown) on Twitter where the profile weblink lead to this tweet:

Guy Kawasaki

Learning from first hand experience this is an interesting search on Twitter:
Sat Nov 22 18:24:21 +0000 2008 from TweetDeck captured: Tue, 30 Nov 10 08:01:21 +0000

I am guessing someone is using something like : feed your blog to twitter to auto tweet the rss for the twitter search (probably using advanced to skip too much recusion by getting @isdown’s tweets?)

I’ve used to post my blog posts to twitter and for @scotedublogs to tweet all the new ScotEdublogs posts but this takes it a bit further, I guess they use the syntax for not including tweets from @isdown itself.

Anyway an interesting way of using twitter that has me thinking a wee bit. I’ve not tried any simpe twitter stuff since the OAuth authentication came in, might be time to have a wee look at it.


Sharing Curriculum Change through the EDUtalk Project

A bit of a mouthful, but this is the title of our Scottish Learning Festival Seminar.

David Noble and myself will be running a seminar: Sharing Curriculum Change through the EDUtalk Project to talk about Edutalk on Wednesday 22 September at 12:30

We will be explaining how the EduTalk project kicked off at the Scottish Learning festival last year with SLFtalk which recorded the voices of educators attending the Scottish Learning Festival 2009. and grew from there.

We will hopefully give practical demonstrations of how the technology works and explain the thinking behind it. It should be fun.

SLFtalk 2010

As part of EDUtalk we hope that folk will be creating short reports and thoughts about SLF on EDUtalk, in the same way as last year but using the tag edutalk on audioboo and iPadio. Participants can also email audio to or phone Gabcast (033 0808 0214 channel 30938 and # password 1234 and # when asked
record your audio and press # when finished)

Full details of how to send audio to EduTalk are on the How to EDUtalk page. Further help from twitter: @johnjohnston or @parslad

An interesting crowd sourced data project UK Sound Map answers the question: ‘What does Britain sound like?’

All you do is record some sound with Audioboo and tag it uksm the boos are moderated and added to the The UK SoundMap. This, of course, reminds me of our EDUtalk project.

Discussing social media and this sort of thing with my daughter Christine we recorded a quick boo of the rather quiet traffic outside our flat.


This could be a nice classroom activity for iPhone equipped teachers and I intend giving it a wee try next time I am working with a class, perhaps a playtime recording would be a good idea.

One of the interesting things about twitter is the speed that tweets flow past, always something different to look at and always something to miss. I quite often use the favourite tool in twitter, especially on my phone, to ‘bookmark’ tweets of interest. some of these are ones that just amuse me:


And some contain links I am interested in following up later. I sometimes use TweetDeck‘s filter to filter out links containing links. A while back I made a wee web page to do the same thing:


Fav tweets with links

This joins one or two almost useful twitter toys I’ve made, as opposed to a few more useless ones.

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.

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 : 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 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:

    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.

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 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

Since the last post I’ve continued to messing around with twitter.
My facebook and twitter script has stopped working, due I think to changes on facebook, but I’ve become more interested in twitter. It is not much use in school, because it is blocked in Glasgow primaries, but it has been interesting watching the tweets spring up when I am at home. I’ve installed Twitterrific a sweet, free, desktop app, to view and post to twitter. I am beginning see the use for firing off quick informal questions but even more interesting are some mashups.

The most educational of these is twitterlearn :: micro language-learning from the Radio Lingua Network. Basically you can follow learnitalian on Twitter, it will give you tweets of short phrases to translate into italian and a link to provide the answer in a blog post. So in the twitter feed you see:

Translate into Italian: “I’ve already visited Rome”

Clicking on the link will take you to the answer.


The nice thing about twitterlearn is that it uses another service which posts RSS to twitter automatically. so the questions are produced automatically from the blog posts that combine questions and answers.

I’ve used to post this blog to my Twitter and created a new twitter account for : ScotEdublogs on twitter, if you follow the ScotEdublogs tweets you will know when new posts arrive at SEB. (there is one for teachmeet07 too).

I’ve also looked at twittermap which allows you to set your location in a tweet and places you on a google map, via the google maps api. This is connect to twittervision which show tweets poping up all over the place and provides pages for users showing where they are: twittervision: johnjohnston

I am still unsure where twitter would fit into a primary pupil’s learning but there are lots of interesting things being done with twitter now.