Read Novacene by James Lovelock review – a big welcome for the AI takeover
The Gaia theorist, at 100 years old, is infectiously optimistic about the prospect of humanity being overtaken by superintelligent robots

But for Lovelock, the Gaia hypothesis will save us, because the machines will realise that they need organic life to keep the planet at a habitable temperature. (Even electronic life could not survive on an Earth that veered into runaway global warming.)

I read and enjoyed Gaia when it came out, Lovelock still sounds fascinating! I look forward to reading this.

Screenshots of pl@nt app

Pl@ntNet is the world’s best social network is an interesting article and leads to a useful looking app.

Pl@ntNet is a plant identifier that combines algorithmic and social tools to identify plants.

An algorithm matches the digital image against a massive plant database and presents its best guesses as to what type of plant it is. The user who submitted the original image picks from a list of the most likely candidates, and ranks the probability the image is a match on a five-star scale. The community then vets each image, validating the identification or suggesting a new one.

The post has lots of interesting angles on the possible future of social networks, the indieweb and a nice personal touch. Highly recommended.

Last week I crowd sourced a flower identification, I ran the same image through Pl@ntNet this morning and had confirmation of the conclusion ‘we’ had reached1.

I made a couple more tests on the app and it seems to work really well. My one problem was that submitting photos uses the location you are at at the time of submission, not where I took the image (as far as I can see). Often I want to take a picture and bring it home to identify. I don’t want to give the impression that a Scottish hill flower is at home in Glasgow city! I can of course just id flowers without uploading them but the organisation wants people to add to the collection in the name of citizen science.

I’d recommend the app itself too, it seems to work very well, could be useful for outdoor learning and Pl@ntNet’s practices and principles sound great: open and thoughtful.

fn1. It took me a long time to get to the obvious, Wood Sorrel, as I found them half way up a mountain and couldn’t see the giveaway leaves.
Liked QAHS Digital Learn on Twitter (Twitter)
“Science Club we’re doing all things ‘Digital’ today and how these tools are used in Science. Great fun, we will do it all again next week too. Have a look at what we did today @Craig_R_Martin @FifeDLT @qahsinfo”

A lot of educational research, and I am going to choose my words carefully here, was utterly guff, was utterly, utterly guff, by that I mean, was complete speculation, rhetoric or opinion dressed up as science.

Tom Bennett talking on Radio #EDUtalk.

Radio Edutalk got off to a flying start last night with a great show. I am sure if the fact I was not near a mic had anything to do with this;-)

David talked to Tom Bennett about research in education. Stirring stuff, I nodded along to the trashing of Brain Gym and the like and the podcast gave lots of food for thoughts. A couple of places I really wished I had been near a mic:
One round Tom’s idea that teachers should not be researchers. We have talked to a fair number of folk doing action research on Edutalk and I think their experience is valuable?

The other was picked up from a couple of different sections of the podcast, in one Tom talked about the conferences he is organising being a place teacher could work things out from themselves away from the influence of councils (I am paraphrasing here). Later he suggested that chains of Academies, were big enough to carry out scientific research. My Local Authority hat wanted to asks if he would consider LAs suitable bodies to organise research perhaps in conjunction with nearby Universities. I guess I am knee jerking against Academy chains and there is possibly Tom is not as aware as the Scottish system of Local Authorities.

I’ve occasionally blogged about my use of video in the classroom here before but I thought it might be worth pulling some of the ways I’ve used it together into a more theoretical approach than my usual ‘get excited, try stuff, fall over, pick myself up and make it work’ way of working with technology. So this post came be seen as how I would have organised it if I was smarter approach, the examples and practice are real, but no necessarily in the right order.


A few years ago as part of the masterclass program I was given a DV camera. This was well used for making movies and stop motion animation but I’ve since come to believe that a simpler camera and working on smaller (much smaller) videos is a good approach to take in the primary classroom, integrating the use of video into lessons rather than making the video the focus. Over the last 3 years I’ve been using the video capabilities of digital cameras rather than a ‘proper’ video camera. I guess the emerging flip style cameras could be used in this approach. We have used our ‘good’ camera a Olympus: SP510 Ultra Zoom and my own Fujifilm FinePix A345 and well as many of the Sandaig set of Fujifilm FinePix cameras which are slightly later model than mine. My Fugi and the Olympus do sound, the newer Fugis that we had do not. The Olympus does 640 x 480 the Fugis 320 x 240 video.

As for editing applications I’ve used iMove, of various versions, MovieMaker on windows, and quicktime pro to get a very quick and dirty movie published. Given my choice, for this sort of movie, I’d now use iMovie ’08.

Starting Simple

The first movie we made this session was a whole class effort, a series of photos were taken and then the children added there picture and gave it a title.

We took the photos in half an hour in the morning, got one child up and running with how to add a photo and a title, that child supervised and help the others to add their photos in the afternoon and we finished by choosing and adding some music and credits

Next it seems a good idea to let them edit a movie from a pile of still images. working in small groups they select which photos to use, add them in sequence and titles, credits and sounds. With iMovie it is simple to create a folder in iPhoto for the pictures the children should select from. In iTunes I kept a supply of short garageband creations that children have previously made and some creative commons music, which allows us to discuss copyright and keep everything simple.
All this lesson does is get the children familiar with the software, think about media selection, ordering events to tell a story and get a bit of practice in collaborative working. A school trip or event, say sports day are fine for this sort of introductory event. My class made some this session: Ayr Trip Videos using a bunch of stills and some clips all taken with the fugifilm cameras.

Next Steps

The children will now have a bit of an idea on how to edit video, and a couple of experts who can be relied on to help others should have emerged. The advantage of using digital still cameras and iLife (iMove, iPhoto and garageband) is the easy workflow, plug in the camera and import, the pictures and video are all there in iMovie when you want them. Having said that I found children can use Movie Maker very well too.

The idea is now to start incorporating the technique into regular, rather than ict, lessons. I’ve made two main sort of short movie in my classroom, whole class movies and movies made by individuals, pairs and small groups. The whole class movies can be made of short sections, usually stills which individual children can add voice and text to, this Garden Lunes one is a recording of children reading their poems over photos of them writing the poems on the paving in the school garden.
The other use I’ve made of these wee movies is as a way of recording science experiments, these can be assessment evidence that does not require pencil and paper. In the Gears movie I had challenged groups to film and explanation of a gear train that would need to extra text, after the groups had made their models we quickly, as a class, added the very short fragments together with QuickTime Pro and posted them to the blog. Last session I used a wiki to challenge children to carry out various science experiments and they used the wiki to report their findings they were allowed to use text, slideshows, audio or video to record their findings for example Ruler And Railings and SoundTravels-Chipmunks. I think that this use of video give children an alternative and valid way of recording experiments.


I believe that publishing a record of class work is a valuable experience, making tasks ‘real’ and adding to their purpose I’ve experimented with various ways of getting video onto the Sandaig website. At one time I made a flash video player for uses on the Sandaig Television blog but converting a movie file to a flash video format is not something I’d expect children to do in the classroom, too long and boring so I tended to publish those file after school. I then created a simple form where we could add links to the movie and an optional splash screen that would produce quicktime code on the blog, children could put in a username and password, upload a video and get the code for the blog or our wiki, this produces this:

More recently I’ve experimented with which allows you to upload video and provides embed codes for example Primary 2 Sandaig Tour

I’ve also tested vimeo and both produce nice flash players. You can see examples on my Embed Tests page. I am leaning towards blip as a solution as you can upload m4v files and blip will give you an iTunes friendly rss feed that will play video on an iPod, quick video podcasting.

Difficulties and Drawbacks

Editing movies is pretty straightforward, I had a bit of trouble when working on the sound and light wiki as I was only working with that class for one afternoon a week and the children didn’t always finish there editing, I had not trained them to import the movies either and this session I worked harder on that. Uploading the movies gave us trouble sometimes, we spent a lot of last year with an unidentified network problem which resulted in a lot of frustration. Children can get a bit wrapped up in playing with the toys and forget the purpose of their movie.

Before I left Sandaig this session I had started on a better footing, following the steps above, with the idea that the technology should be transparent, allowing the children to get on with being creative with language, creating evidence of understanding or carrying out the learning task and feel that this small scale movie production is a valuable tool in a teachers toolkit.

A while back I installed pmwiki on the Sandaig Primary Site. I’ve now finished one project and am in the middle of another, so it is probably time for a few thoughts.

The Primary 6 Project was a fairly short temp project for 12 children, and just used to display the results of some Garageband and art work.

The Sound & Light section is for a longer (two term) project.
Recently I had some cpd on active learning using a challenge based approach. the leader Alisa Barr of Mount Vernon Primary was kind enough to give me a powerpoint to support the primary six topic sound & light, I decided to adapt it for the Sound & Light wiki. This meant that I was a bit slow in getting the topic up and running last term, but we had several afternoons working on it and the topic will continue until the end of the session.

I am not using the approach with my own class, but the other primary 6 who I teach one afternoon a week (we have 3 teacher for 2 p6 classes to cover learning support, some behaviour and self esteem support and McCrone cover). I have played a bit fast and loose with the time table, spending one and a half to two hours on the topic where it should only get one hour. A disadvantage is that I can’t follow up anything until the next week.

So far the children have posted various movies and some mp3 files with a few more to come.

It has not been plain sailing as we have been plagued by errors in our internet connection:

MYIPROXY ERROR: connection refused refused to accept connection on port 80

and the like. These errors have been coming from many sites not just our own, I’ve flagged it up and hopefully it will get solved soon. The children were also using to post powerpoints to the wiki and to my horror, slideshare was blocked last week. The service desk quickly unblocked it once my HT had requested it.

I think I am learning quite a bit about both active learning and using wikis with children. Next time I do this I will spend a lot more time teaching the it skills and group work strategies before starting the topic. Some of the it components are quite complicated, record (video or audio), put on macbook for editing, edit, transfer to pc for uploading to wiki. I should probably just arrange for movie maker to be available and get audacity installed on the pcs and skip the mac stage. I guess I am guilty of trying to stay in my comfort zone, but for a first run I think that is excusable.

The other aspect is that the children get caught up in the experiments and recording it, so they forget what they are trying to find out. I am going to start to provide instructions on paper as well as on the wiki and see if that helps.

I really like pmwiki especially its flexibility and lack of wysiwyg but I am wondering if it is the right choice for the children. I am going to start another wiki project next week and have decided to try out wikispaces for this one. (I have an unreasonable desire to keep everything on our own site so this goes against the grain). This is for a homework project which my primary 6 will be carrying out over the next term. Each will be researching a European country of their own choice. I’ve done this sort of project with primary six for the last few years and it gives the more enthusiastic children a chance to open up. Of course not all of the children will have internet access at home, so I will be giving them all some time in the media room every Monday. I’ve not tested wikispaces with children before so I’ll be interested in comparing it with pmwiki.

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.


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