Replied to a tweet by Athole (
Definitely part of it. But I think it’s also the culture of these digital tools. Free to use for teachers. And they offer and promise a lot. But, ethically, this is incredibly problematic. Says the man currently tweeting on an iPhone! Feels like there was more open source before

Personally I like open source & I like paying for software (hopefully I pay for FOSS by using, bug reporting & sharing). I’ve no problem tweeting from an iPhone I paid for. More problematic ‬Is how I “pay for” twitter.

Somedays computing technology seems like a collection of very fine threads with a lot depending on them. I don’t suppose there ever was a time where ordinary folk could really understand much. But when I started using macs around system 7.1 I was under the illusion that it might be something I could grasp if not master. I now feel like I am at one end of a multitude of dependencies, with no change of a glimpse of the root of any.

Reviewing use of tech in my classroom this year. I think it has been a slight mistake to think first about the network rather than local. Bandwidth limits made Airdrop more useful than external means of sharing. Next session I think I’ll be depending less on external stuff.

In early October my school had a visit from Google Expeditions. I’d been contacted to see if I would be interested and jumped at the chance.

Google Expeditions are a 3D VR ‘experience’ using google cardboard. I’d tried a few mobile apps using cardboard before but not in a classroom setting.

The plan was we would choose Expeditions that would fit into our learning.

On the day Kostas from Google turned up in Banton having traveled on public transport with the whole kit in a backpack. This consisted of one tablet, one router, a set of android phones with a google cardboard for each phone.

Expeditions are a set of several 3D VR ‘images’ that can be looked around. The images are broadcast from the tablet ( or a phone) to other devices on the local network. The Tablet is handled by the ‘leader’ the phones by the ‘explorers’. The leader controls which image/space the explorers see. The leader’s non-3D view includes some notes and discussion points.

table leader view

The devices need to be connected to the same network but they do not need to be online. The scenes are ‘served’ from the tablet. The tablet does need to be online at some point to download the scenes in preparation.

When in a space the explorers can look around by turning their heads or bodies. Moving forward and backwards has no effect.

The leader cannot control where the explores look in a scene but double tapping will show the explorers an arrow pointing to the object tapped (we saw that explorers would always follow these arrows).

We had chosen a couple of Expeditions that would fit with out learning, but did have the chance to explore quite a few.

in the box

The pupils were very engaged immediately, the images are surprisingly ‘hyper real’ and the experience of turning round or just moving your head was delightful.

We collated some pupil responses on the class blog: Around the World in a Cardboard Box.

I’d chosen the spaces we looked at at fairly short notice, one did not really fit with my expectations the other was linked to a topic we had not then started. So for the point of view of linking into the learning and teaching I hadn’t planed well enough. From the point of view of exploring potential new technology and giving the pupils a glimpse of the near future.

I’d also feel that the resources might be a bit more valuable after the initial excitement had died down and the pupils used the system more than once.

So how would we use this past an exciting but brief test. Although the kit is relative inexpensive a class set would still be an major resource for even a large school.

I suppose it could be a share resource for a group of schools or local authority.

I wonder too if it could be used on a smaller scale, with less devices. At the end of last month I was talking to Will Tuft on Radio #EDutalk about ‘The immersive classroom’, this involves setting up classroom experiences, for example the aftermath of a hurricane, with props and tasks. I wonder could the cardboard be part of some such class. For example a group of ‘divers’ could take it in turns to put on the googles and explore the sea.

It could also just be used by a few children as a time.

I wonder if as well as the obvious exploration angle if it would be a rich resource for writing.

All in all an interesting experience, it will be interesting to see how this type of technology develops.

‘Points & grunt’ or ‘eloquently instruct’

A couple of weeks ago Oliver Quinlan was a guest on Radio EDUtalk. The thing that stuck in my mind the most from the episode was this idea. Oliver has now written a bit more about it on his blog.

The command prompt allows you to use the power of language to interact with a computer. In comparison, clicking around in a  desktop environment is akin to pointing and grunting. Getting people to do things by pointing and grunting is OK at first, but as children we naturally put in the effort to learn how to move beyond this to get things done quicker, more precisely and more elegantly.

‘Points & grunt’ or ‘eloquently instruct’ – Language & computers – Oliver Quinlan

I’ve often struggled to explain, even to myself, why I enjoy using the terminal application. This is the best elevator pitch I’ve heard.

I am no command line expert, but I end up using it for small things or interesting experiments most days. I guess my first exposure was on the introduction of Mac OS X in 2001. Af first it was something to use occasionally for system settings that could not be done in other ways. Slowly over the last 15 (eek!) years I’ve used it a bit more and slowly learned. It is not something you need to be an expert to get use from. For example Batch Processing MP3 files is probably not eloquent but it saved me a huge amount of time.

For most of the time I’ve been using the terminal I though of it as a somewhat old fashioned process. It is now fairly obvious that it will be in use for some time yet. This week the news that Microsoft is bringing the Bash shell to Windows 10 brought that home.

It is worth mentioning that there is an amazing amount of information on using the command line on the web. I can’t remember when a search has failed to help me learn.

Elsewhere Oliver recommended Conquer the Command Line as a good resource to getting started. From the MagPi Magazine available as a free PDF.


Featured image: my own, grabbed with LICEcap.

My raspberry pi, was having problems. For a while it had sat on the windowsill happily posting images to tumblr day and night on skypi and broomhill sky’s, it served up a small website itself too.

At some point it stopped working. I rebooted the device a few times, turned if off and on again, then left if for another day.

I had a bit of time on my hands on Thursday so decided to story it out. Since the device didn’t seem to be working at all, I could not connect to it via ssh and it was not serving the website I though I’d better just start from a clean install. So this is what I did.

  • bought a new SD card.
  • downloaded a new image from NOOBS for Raspberry Pi
  • wiped the card and copied the files over
  • moved the pi to the living room and hooked up the to and a keyboard
  • booted the pi and went through the initial setup
  • shut down the pi to prepare to move it back to the windowsill where I planned to connect via ssh and redo all the server and script stuff to get it working.

At that point, while the pi was still hooked to the tv I though I’d give the old card a final try. Of course it booted up straightaway!

I then took the pi with the old card back into the other room and connected to power and ethernet. Back to the Mac and tried to ssh on. Fail, check the website that sits on the pi, fail.

Finally I took the Ethernet cable out of the powering plug and put it back in again. Everything started working properly.

I do not know how many times I’ve repeated this sort of routine expecting the worst and skipping the obvious. I do hope I’ve learnt my lesson but somehow I doubt it.

it is seldom about technology designers’ a priori plans for a technology, and more about users’ unexpected practices with it. That, to me, is the most fascinating and useful basis of research inquiry.

via Brief statement on ‘Digital Wisdom’ | Ibrars space.

I love ‘unexpected practices’ it is why we need flexible technology in Learning and Teaching.

My favourite use for word when I was teaching primary 6 was as a poor man’s vector editor, Sandaig Otters » Seeing Stars, and I’ve often been surprised by how pupils and teachers bend unsuitable software to their needs.

If I Had a Hammer by derekbruff

Another post before I start the new post of ‘glow product owner’ in January. This should let me look back and think ‘how naïf’ or let other folk say, ‘but you said…’

The last post was a few thoughts on security and passwords, I used the example of a link collection and presentation as something that would not need to be password protected.

This is the sort of task that is fairly central to online learning. As a frequent task it should be one that is carried out with what the Michael Russell called ‘agile, open, best-of-breed systems’.

Collecting and Sharing Links with Glow

Here is how I would do this in the ‘old glow’ using my browser as efficiently as possible.

I am presuming that I’ve already got a glow group set up.

  1. I’d add a weblinks webpart to the page. If I’d used a weblinks list in the group before I’d create a new list (Advanced Settings->Create->Weblinks), and place that on the page.
  2. Leaving the page with the list open, I’d open a new tab and visit the page I want to link to.
  3. I’d copy the link.
  4. Return to the Glow page, click new Link
  5. Paste in the URl and write a description.
  6. Click Save and Close.

I’d repeat the process until I’d finished. At a later date if I fould a new link, I’d go back to glow, navagate to the page and add that link.

Collecting and Sharing Links with

I consider a best of breed system for collecting bookmarks, it is a service I pay for, but there are other free alternatives, for example: old timer delicious and new fangled pinterest. (I like pinboard because it is simple, text-based and cleanly designed.)

Here is one way to share a set of links with pinboard.
Visit the page you want to link to.

  1. Click the pinboard bookmarklet.
  2. Fill in a tag for the bookmark in the window that pops up.
  3. Click a button and the window closes and the the bookmark is saved.
  4. To share the links either give a link to the page for that tag on pinboard: Pinboard: bookmarks for johnjohnston tagged ‘glowscotland’
    Or add a javascript snippet to a page (old glow use the xml webpart, blogs used a widget, wikis etc have ways to add code).

Here is the last 5 links I’ve tagged glowscotland:

Comparing Systems

I might be a little unfair comparing the old glow sharepoint site with pinboard, but I *think* the process is the same in 365.

Glow gives the advantage of only needing one system, one username and password for both the presentation site and the saving system. A bit of research or training is needed to know how to set up a weblinks webpart. The process is a bit more labour intensive.

With pinboard you need another password. A bit of research or training would be needed to set up the account and to add the JavaScript widget to other systems. The process is very flexible, and can be adapted. It is quick to create a list of links, and much easier to edit the list or add more links to it on the fly.

Pinboard links are not behind a password they can be shared freely (or kept private). I can easily create new sets of links just by tagging. I can use pinboard links with other systems to do other things.For example: I tag comments I make with @comment those links are auto-tweeted using ifttt (yep, another system, another password). Pinboard has an API so can be incorporated into other systems easily.

Giving Choices

What I hope glow will give to learners and teachers is choices from a extensive and powerful toolkit. Some of these tools could be integrated with each other, some will have hooks to connect them up and some might just work by themselves.

The previous version of glow got bogged down by being static, and the skills need to use it were not particularly relevant in other online space. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to work on implementing Mr Russell’s vision of agile, open, best-of-breed systems.

Happy New Year!

This post is one of a few where I’ve been thinking of glow:

And a year ago I blogged: An Excellent Adventure