I found this interesting project from One Thing Well‘s rss feed, in my nearly done for, google reader.

Levinux is A Tiny Version of Linux for Education byMike Levin.

Levinux (download ~18 MB) is a tiny virtual Linux server that runs from USB or Dropbox with a double-click (no install) from the desktop of a Mac, Windows or Linux PC—making it the perfect learning environment, and a great way to run & keep your code safe for life! Think of it as an introduction to old-skool “short stack” development—more relevant now then ever as Linux/Unix gets embedded into everything.

from: Levinux – A Tiny Version of Linux for Education – Mike Levin

Basically when you run the application (on mac, windows or linux) you get a very small linux server running in a virtual machine:

Q Screenshot 3

After that you can create and edit html files on the server via ssh and the commandline (or PuTTy on windows).

This fits in very nicely with mty recent excursio into editing on a server via ssh on the PirateBox.

Python git and vim

You can also install Python, vim and git very easily, basically by typing 4 and enter at the screen above:

Q Screenshot 2

This gives you a simple environment to learn python git and vim.

Mike Leven has produced a nice YouTube playlist of instructions to get started: Levinux – YouTube, I’ve followed the first few without any problem at all.

With added dropbox

On of the interesting ways this can be used is by adding the Levinux folder to your dropbox, you can then run the same server on different computers and even different operating systems.

Why this might be useful in the classroom

One of the thing I feel might be tricky in getting young people started with programming might be the complexity of a modern operating system. Even relatively recently when I started using my first mac, it had a tiny hard drive, and after a short while I had seen about every file on it. A simpler setup might be a lot quicker to get started making on. A virtual server that can be reinstalled in a couple of minutes gives a very low risk playground.

Finally here is a quote for a parent, using levinux to teach his child programming which points to some interesting possibilities:

Now one week later I see something happening with my oldest son that was not happening before. He is spending his free time sitting in front of the computer with his Levinux terminal open feverishly typing away on simple little scripts and creating ASCII art while games and movies are just a click away.
Something has changed in the way he sees a computer that I was not expecting. He is no longer consuming media he is creating. The family computer has changed from a flashy pass time to a tool for creativity.

from: ken morgan – Google+ – Something occurred to me today when I was going over Python…

and there is a Levinux Google+ community.

Piratebox Running

I was hoping to catch up with the Webmaker teachtheweb mooc and get some DS106ing done this weekend, but I got carried away hoisting a jolly rodger.

Almost two years ago I had a go at getting a PirateBox going.

A PirateBox is a self-contained mobile communication and file sharing device. Simply turn it on to transform any space into a free and open communications and file sharing network.


The PirateBox solves a technical/social problem by providing people in the same physical space with an easy way to anonymously communicate and exchange files. This obviously has larger cultural and political implications thus the PirateBox also serves as an artistic provocation.

PirateBox site

As I wrote then Obviously TeachMeets do not need the subversion of tracking and preservation of user privacy that a PirateBox offers. Nor would sharing of copyrighted material be desirable, but It might be fun to have a PirateBox at TeachMeets.from: A PirateBox for TeachMeet?

I thought a teachmeet pirate box:

would allow folk to share files with others at the meet. If it was a traveling project, the box could go from TeachMeet to TeachMeet spreading files as it went. This would provide a sponsor-less goodie bag. Folk would be free to share what they liked, perhaps presenters would share presentations, digital musicians give away background music etc.

Obviously lots of the TeachMeet crowd already share many things online, A TM PirateBox would be a fun side project that might add to the buzz during a TeachMeet and be a concrete way of connecting different events.

I ask for donations of a fiver on twitter and several folk stepped up. I then started trying and repeatedly failing to sort out the router I bought. It turned out to be the wrong model (not apparent on the box) and it left me with a bricked ruler and a little guilt.

I mostly forgot about it except when visiting CogDogBlog where the links to The StoryBox rubbed a bit of salt in my wounds. Then as part of the webmaker mooc I read, Open Web Projects on Vibrant Outlook which had some details about LibraryBox an offshoot to the original pirate box. I ended up on the pirate box site again and saw that there was a new router in town

As I was shopping for some hard drives on Amazon I added a TP-Link TL-MR3020 Router to my basket.

Yesterday I went through the instructions and they worked. Apart from one wee problem when I made a mistake in setting an ip address (exactly the same problem @cogdog had, so I am in good company). Today I set out to customise the interface a little, I used some of the files from Nargren/PirateBox · GitHub and manage to do some. I found this quite an unusual way for me to work, using the ssh command in the terminal and the vi editor. After a few gulps I managed to start work on the interface.

I am hoping that someone might try the box out at TeachMeet TMTablet the week after next….

Thanks to

The folk who supported my initial router, I have a PirateBox TeachMeet sticker for you, in no particular order:

Neil Winton, Caroline Breyley, Olivia Wexelstein, jen Deyenberg, David Muir, Ian Hallahan, Katie Barrowman, Doug Belshaw, Drew Buddie, Drew Burrett and David Noble.

Weave Comp

Teach the Web Week 3: the Open Web

Plan your makes with your collaborator and then do it! If you’re in a study group, you’re encouraged to work together around your topic. Share your makes with the #teachtheweb community.

Among the suggestions for reflection were:

  • Why might sharing and publishing in the open be advantageous?
  • What are the benefits of inviting people to remix ideas?
  • What are some possible ways “free” tools aren’t really free? Or make money?

There are lots more suggested activities and reflections, but that was enough for me

Thinking about my activity in the Mozilla Webmakers – Google+ group this week gives, I believe, a little insight into some of these questions. I was not actively considering them, just reading and playing.

Working with Walter

First Walter Patterson a fellow Scot contacted me with an idea of working together on a thimble page about a couple of ‘open’ projects. We have started work on this. The first benefits of open I met were, getting an idea of what to do, Walter reminded me that EDUtalk was an open project. and then working off Walter’s thimble edits I got to a reasonable page: EDUtalk is Open (not as yet finished). I didn’t have an idea where to start until I’d seem Walter’s starting point. So the second benefit of working in the open is finding ideas, they don’t all come from serendipity.

Open Talk

Once I had thought of EDUtalk, I though that it might be a good place for talking about open collaboration. EDUtalk itself is an example of working in the open, part of it consists of a podcast that is open for anyone to contribute to. THe other part is a weekly internet radio broadcast that becomes a podcast, we publish in the open under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 SCOTLAND license. I invited folk from the Mozilla Webmakers community to participate, at very short notice. Chris Lawrence and Laura Hilliger stepped up and stepped into the skype studio for Radio #EDUtalk 15-05-13 #teachtheweb. This is another example of getting great contributors by working in the open. I am constantly amazed at the interesting folk I get to talk to just by running a podcast.

Open Learning

The rest of the week I have had a bundle of fun by getting ideas from other webmaker participants. One of the things I wanted to get out of the MOOC was to improve my webmaking skills. I’ve found it difficult to learn the skills by doing exercises, but often find, time constraints lead me to use less that elegant solutions when working on a ‘real’ web site.

This wek I’ve found that I’ve learnt by doing small things, these have been inspired by the open sharing of ideas and projects by others in the MOOC.

Crowning Chad

Somewhere in the group a comment by Chad lead me to mess around with a little CSS to make A Crown for Chad the request for others to mix it up was taken up by a few folk, Pekka Ollikainen took it to JavaScript, teaching us some canvas animation and showing this using JS Bin a great companion to thimble.

Thimble Tracking

I saw a post by Heather Angel wondering about how to to create a layout that is made to be constantly updated in thimble. As I had been wondering how to keep track of thimble edits I though I’d try something. Thimble Chaining is a simple thimble page with a google form and the resulting spreadsheet embedded. The idea would be to use the form to add your name and the url of the edit you just saved. Not very elegant, but it does the trick. I believe Mozilla are working on a solution that will track edits and pages spawned from the first page. This will would be a very useful addition to the system.

Open Is…

The last bit of fun this week was sparked by Chad again, he was making an “Open is…” inspirational web app collaboration from the Writing as Making, Making as Writing study group. The latest version by Chad is here: #teachtheweb: Open is…. As Chad was collecting quotes via twitter, I was thinking of automating that. I tried a couple of approaches, using ifttt.com to collect #open_is tweets to a google spreadsheet and then loading that via javascript: open-is – JS Bin I also pulled then in directly from a twitter search: Random #open_is tweet

What I was learning, using JS Bin was dealing with json in JavaScript, I got a lot out of this play, more that I do following tutorials or interactive lessons. I believe this increase in learning is due to playing in the open, the open provides the ideas and perhaps an audience. I am not sure if my edits are very useful, compared to human curation in this case but a great learning exercise for me.

Google + is not Open!

Of course it is open for anyone to join in. The Mozilla Webmakers – Google+ group is open to anyone and valuable for that. But I am struggling to keep up with conversation. The site works well for joining in with the moment, the iOS apps are great, but there is something missing. I can’t keep a record of my activities. I mentioned this in the last post too, but if I am learning here, I want to track my progress and wanderings. As a learner by progress is important to me and I am having trouble following it.

Picked up, ironically, via my Google Reader this morning was a post with much better, deeper thinking on this issue:

It seems to me that with Google+, Google is not adopting open syndication standards in two ways: not using it “internally”, and not making feeds publicly available. There may be good technical reasons for the first, but by the second Google is *not allowing* its community members to participate in a open content syndication network/system. Google’s choice, but I’m not playing.

from: Are We Just Google’s Lab Rats? | OUseful.Info, the blog…

Obviously I am playing, there is a lot to be gained from using G+, but I hope that organisers of powerful online learning communities like the teachtheweb one will have better tools to choose from sometime soon.

The Teach the Web Week 2 is about Connected Learning in Practice

Last week we explored “Making as Learning”. We’re proponents of the idea that people learn best through making, but we also believe that making and learning are social activities. It’s a bit like the old idiom “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If you make and learn, but don’t share and gather feedback, have you really learned? How do other people’s perceptions influence how we understand the world around us? How does being connected change the very fabric of our world?

So I am thinking about learning communities. Mostly about the practical way the connection happens in the #teachtheweb MOOC.

I joined this MOOC, the Mozilla Teach the Web. It follows the same sort of organisational structure as etmooc, using several different web sites and services:

  • A Website, Teach the Web where information, announcements, tasks and the like can be posted.
  • As part of that site a Blog Hub where participants blogs, or the appropriate category of said blogs, are aggregated.
  • A twitter hashtag #teachtheweb
  • A google plus community where participants can post links to their activities, discuss them etc.

This seems a reasonably inexpensive way to organise a learning community and for the most part works very well. I have only just started with the #teachtheweb MOOC and only fully participated in #etmooc for the first two or three weeks, but I’ve found, when I had the time, it is fairly easy to keep up with the communities.

As far as I can see almost all of the interaction, especially in #teachtheweb is taking place on the google plus group.

So there are 3 main spaces involved in this sort of community. These could be categorised as: Long Form, blog posts; medium on google plus and micro on twitter. Of course there is plenty of cross posting of blog posts to g+ and tweets that help connect the spaces together.
Each type of interaction has its benefits and each its drawbacks.

Own Your Own

One of the really appealing aspects of this set up is that participants own their own space and can participate by posting to their own blogs. This has been shown, for example in DS106 to be a powerful tool in community building.

Apart from the buzz and enjoyment of having a ‘domain’ of ones own the way blogs can be aggregated into one stream, either an official one, built on, for example, FeedWordPress or through the use of an RSS reader make it easy to connect with others while maintaining ownership of ones own space. WordPress blogs in particular (unlike this one) are great at collecting mentions or trackbacks from other blogs.

It would be interesting to see if this could be extended into the shorter conversations taking place on twitter and google plus. I’ve found the google plus communities to be good places to interact with other folk and keep up with what is going on. I’ve found it harder to keep track of what I’ve done there.

Google plus scores over twitter in the ease of interaction, there is more room for replying and the conversations can be richer in both media and length.

Hard to Collect

Google plus falls down in trying to find the things I’ve commented on or given a plus one. There is a page on google plus that lists things I’ve ‘plus oned’ on the web (I hardly ever do this) but it does not collect those I make inside a google plus community.

I’d really like a page where I could view my activity on the community. In twitter I use favourites as a quick way to bookmark things I want to revisit. I was in #etmooc trying to use the +1 button for the same thing, it doesn’t work, basically the use of the +1 is to let the person making the post know you like it.

I’d also like to be able to view a stream of my comments on other folks posts and one of my posts. Perhaps there is a way to do this that I’ve not found?

More sharing please

There are one or two features that could help. It would be nice to tweet a link to a google plus ‘post’, on an iPad. The iPad has a great google plus app, I’d like to be able to copy a link to a post. Unfortunately although this can be done in a desktop browser in a few click (a few too many) I’ve not managed to do this in either the iPad google+ app or in the few mobile browsers, safari, icab and chrome, I’ve tested.

I’d love the google+ iPad app to support the same sort of sharing that my ios RSS readers do.

feedler share menu

This RSS reader, FeeddlerPro allows me to customise the sharing menu, there are more possibilities that the ones I use.

If this was possible in G+ it would be a lot better at connecting my learning.

thimble and other Mozilla webmaking tools

These are being put at the heart of the practical tasks for the #teachtheweb MOOC. They are easy to use online web making tools. I’ve a few thoughts about how they work, but that is for another post. The feature that is really great for connecting to other learners is the idea that you can take another persons thimble project and remix it by simply adding a /edit at the end of the URL.

Unfortunately at the moment there is no way to see a trail of how different projects are being remixed. This does seem to be in the works. Once that happens this will be a more powerful tool for connected learning, one could see how others have remixed the same project and how people have improved and iterated on your project.

The other thing that would be useful would be to see the trail of your own iterations of an idea. At first I was annoyed by the fact that each time I saved an edit in thimble it was saved as a separate URL my next version would have a new URL. In fact this might be a positive feature, if tracked, it would allow me to see and share my progress through a task.

Pulling it together

What I’d really like if for all of the sources of activity to be able to be gathered, aggregated redistributed and mixed up together. I imagine a page where I could see links to all of the recent blog posts, tweets and google plus stuff, even better if things you made with the web maker tools were in the mix. This could be filtered so that you could view one persons activity, or activity around a particular tag or topic, eg. Week2

I guess there is not a lot of hope for this emerging from the tools available at the moment, twitter removed RSS and g+ has never supported it. Understandably these free to use services are interested in keeping you inside their own environment rather than viewing content from them on other places. I wonder if better tools for open learning are around the corner.

Chad Final

Week two of the teachtheweb mooc starts with a challange: Explore the awesome makes from last week, choose one, and remix it.. At lunch today I though I’d take a very quick stab at this using Chad’s Webmaker Profile, as Chad is a fellow ds106er and I though he would enjoy the play.

The First shot

Given I was on my lunch break, I though I’d just flip the profile: Chad’s Webmaker Profile. I went to Chad’s original profile and added edit after the url, this opened thimble for me to edit his profile. I know that you can flip, turn and rotate elements of a webpage via the css transform. A quick google and I came up with:
transform: rotateY(0.5turn);-webkit-transform:rotateY(180deg);
This rotates content 180 degrees around the y axis. I added it to the css section in thimble, changing this:

body { font-family:Open Sans, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans-serif;width:1000px;margin:0 auto; }

to this:

body { font-family:Open Sans, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans-serif;width:1000px;margin:0 auto; transform: rotateY(0.5turn);-webkit-transform:rotateY(180deg);}

I think you need to use both transform: rotateY(0.5turn) and -webkit-transform:rotateY(180deg) to get cross browser support, but I might be wrong.

Quite please with 3 minutes work I posted to the G+ Community.

Looking out

Between a comment and an image I made for ds106 a while back, I started thinking about the page being a view out of the computer, so it should be looking at Chad:Chad’s Webmaker Profile.

On this edit, I’ve added Chad’s photo, hotlinked from his g+ images as a background image. All this took was adding a wee bit nmore css to the body:


In the bloc above I’ve shortened the url, I used the full url to the image. The code first adds the iamge as a background to the page, ensures it does not repeat, fixes the position to the window and lastly centres it.


What is probably irritating for my fellow MOOCers is that I am posting these and as I post geting more ideas, this means a lot of space is taken up on the G+ group.

As I post the last one, I irritate myself as the background picture does not fill the screen. Google again and I get this:

	webkit-background-size: cover;
	-moz-background-size: cover;
	-o-background-size: cover;
	background-size: cover;

All 4 lines do the same thing for different browsers.

I also notice a new post with an audio mashup, this reminds me of Freesound where I find: Freesound.org – “computer-noise_desktop_quadcore_2009.wav” by matucha, I know Freesound supply low quality mp3 and ogg files so add an audio tag to my page, just after the body tag:

<audio autoplay>
	  <source src="http://www.freesound.org/data/previews/160/160465_739478-lq.ogg" type="audio/ogg">
	  <source src="http://www.freesound.org/data/previews/160/160465_739478-lq.mp3" type="audio/mpeg">
	  Your browser does not support the audio tag.

As I don’t have any controls in the tag, the player does not show, but autoplay gets it going when the page loads.

Finally I remember that Chad suggested a gif, so I download his image and make a gif of him rolling his eyes. Upload that to google and hotlink instead of the original jpg as a background. finally I have: Here’s iterating at you, Chad, I had to save twice as I needed to attribute the audio which is share under a Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0 license.

So here is the Final version:

Here’s iterating at you, Chad.

Musing about Making

So like a lot of the things that I do for fun, this sort of bumbled along with one shot leading to the next. What was great about doing this inside the #teachtheweb community was there were lots of ideas to bounce off. This blog post was started after a comment on the final link I posted. Does that make this connected learning?

One of the lovely things about html is, if you know sometinhg is possible the method is just a quick google away. I wonder if that makes web editing a more accessable way of encouraging creativity?

Thimble thoughts

I’ve made between 6 and 10 experiments with Mozilla Thimble now, which makes me an expert;-)

I’ve found it a wee bit slow on older computers, so I’d think about that before using it in a class.

The split screen view is really good for seeing the changes made to the code take effect. I would however like the option of a tabbed screen so that I could see the whole of the preview without needing a huge screen. I’d also like the forthcoming ability to re-edit a page rather than having to save with a new url. The trail of urls is good for reviewing the process and blogging about it.

I would also like thimble to keep a track of my creations, I am pretty sure I’ve lost track of a few.

The most powerful features of thimble are, for me the templates which have great comments and the way you can easily edit someone else’s creation.

I’ve just Joined Teach the Web:

Teach the Web: a Mozilla Open Online Collaboration for Webmaker mentors

May 2 – June 30

Learn how to teach digital literacies, master webmaking tools, develop your own educational resources, and take what you learned back to your communities and classrooms.

from: Teach the Web

The first task is:

MAKE Project this week: Introduce yourself @Webmaker style by using Popcorn Maker, Thimble or the XRay Goggles and sharing your make with #teachtheweb.

from: Teach the Web

Which smells quite like the #etmooc first task, so I decided to remix and recycle my Hello #ETMOOC youtube video with popcorn.

Popcorn Maker has evolved a lot since the last time I looked at it, Playing with Hackasaurus and popcorn, back then I gave up and used the Popcorn.js javascript files and edited by hand. At that time, I found popcorn maker really slow and klunky on my equipment. Since then it has really taken a jump (and I am on a better box). I found it really easy to use, and would say it would now be very usable in a classroom.

One of the things I am lookingfroward to finding out about is how folk fit webmaking into classrooms, as opposed to afterschool or out of school activities, but that is for later. Now I’ll jsut try and see what is going on in the #teachtheweb community.