I woke up the other morning morning to a bit of serendipity in my RSS reader that cheered me up.
First I read Alan’s great post Don’t Be a Platform Pawn. Next up was Marco Arment Linking and quoting Waffle on Social Media which quoted in turn Community Services which pointed to What’s a Twitter Timeline?. On the back of these posts and more Doug Belshaw posted Twitter, algorithms, and digital dystopias (I got the last link via twitter, but it arrived in my rss reader too).

At the heart of all this the current worries about what you see and who curates your reading. It is also linked in my mind at least, to worries about who owns the space you publish in and the idea around being the product if you are not the customer. It cheers me to see so much pushback against the commercial monoliths.

I’ve read and even posted about this before, as have many others, but it bears rethink or more mulling, it is pertinent again with the redefinition of the twitter timeline and various facebook problems that are popping up.

Doug points out:

they need to provide shareholder value which, given the web’s current dominant revenue model, is predicated on raising advertising dollars. Raising the kind of money they need depends upon user growth, not necessarily upon serving existing users. After all, if they’ve provided the space where all your friends and contacts hang out, you’re kind of locked in.

And we are ‘kind of’, we can also use a mix of tools and spaces and give them up when the discomfort is to great or the utility is poor. Doug has given up RSS in favour of twitter, G+ and facebook. I’ve stuck with it along with scanning twitter (and harvesting links to my RSS reader) and a smidgen of G+. I lack Doug’s guilt at a pile of unread links in my feedreader and I am more than happy to mark all as read now and then.

I think both Alan and Doug would agree that it is ok to use and be used by the silos as long as you are aware and the positives outweigh the negatives?

What is great about Alan’s post is he gives you recipes for how he gains the benefit of flickr, twitter and the like by having control over them, there are a lot of different recipes and links to follow. This presumes that you will use the tools with care, though and a willingness to learn. I’d argue that it is also good fun. here are a few tips of my own.

Know RSS from your elbow

RSS is still useful, an old trailing edge technology I still find my RSS reader better that twitter for finding interesting things to read. Perhaps because things pile up rather than steam by, perhaps because I follow around 2000 folk but have only a couple of hundred feeds or so in my reader.

One of the things I look forward to each week is Doug’s newsletter, Things I We Learned This Week. It is an email list, but I subscribe in my RSS reader, I’ll leave any readers to work out how this is done:-) I’ve also got siftlinks hooked up to my twitter account, this give me a feed of tweets with links from my timeline, it also gives me a feed for my favourites with links. This is great, I use the favourite button in twitter to give feedback to folk (I liked this) and to ‘save’ interesting things. IFTT has several recipies that will convert stuff to RSS so you may find something useful there.

The nice thing about RSS is you can move from laptop to desktop to mobile and keep reading the content. The other major factor for me is how inoreader (web) and FeeddlerPro (iOS) allow me to post links to twitter, tumblr and more importantly to pinboard.

Email is still interesting

I go out of my way to get Doug’s mail in my feed reader because it is content I want to hold onto for a while, but there are an increasing number of email services that provide reading, link or a mix, katexic clippings being a favourite example at the moment. Email lists are also a great way to get information pushed to you from a group.

Play with new things

Along with the old trailing edge technology.

As twitter and facebook and flickr evolve watch out for the new things that are popping up all over the place, I am currently kicking the tyres of Fargo, known and keeping half a eye on Little Facebook Editor. Both known and Little Facebook Editor can post to silos and other spaces, WordPress for LFE and known published to itself and optionally twitter, flickr and Facebook. I am pretty sure that I’ll not adopt these tools for major stuff anytime soon, but it is good to keep up with some different ways of doing thing.

Update, I didn’t post this yesterday because I got distracted by MDwiki, and ended up building a quick test wiki in my dropbox.


iPad stand by tim_d
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

I was pretty impressed with the iPad 2 which was launched this week. Some nice new features and the speed bumps especially in JavaScript sound good.

I’ve continued to test an iPad and this week I spent a wee bit of time using it to access glow. I’ve talked to a few pupils who access glow at home using an ipod touch, and have occasionally used my iPhone, but find it a bit of a strain on the eyes (The pupils I’ve talked to don’t seem to have the same problem).

On an iPad Glow works pretty well. The iPads limitation on now allowing file (picture) uploads in the browser is a bit of a draw back but a lot of the other feature are fine. Editing webparts works as well as it does on Safari on a mac. The text editor continues to frustrate me but I am resigned to avoiding it use by now.

I successfully posted to my glow blog: iPad Glow blogging without trouble. Again I could not upload photos, but it is easy to workaround using flickr, I used my flickr CC search toy which did the job and sorted the attribution.

The WYSIWYG editor did not work, but I was please to see that the html editor respected line breaks, adding paragraphs. typing <p> with an iPad is a bit slow.

I also tried using the iPad to edit a wiki page. Again WYSIWYG was turned off and this time there was no auto paragraphing. Again I could paste in the embed code for a flickr photo. The font size was a wee bit small for me, but would be fine for most youngsters.

What it would be nice to see would be support for the MetaWeblog API in glow blogs, this would allow the use of various apps to post to a glow blog. I guess it is hard to enable this due to the way glow accounts are matched to wordpress ones through shibboleth, if RM can manage this it would be make glow blogs a powerful tool for mobile learning.


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 edublogs.tv which allows you to upload video and provides embed codes for example Primary 2 Sandaig Tour

I’ve also tested vimeo and blip.tv 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 slideshare.net 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.

I have just finished the first draft of a cpd course for OpenSourceCPD on RSS. Given an hour the amount of information that can be covered is limited. I cheated by including a good few videos as optional extras.

I’ve been enjoying editing the OpenSourceCPD site as the task is suited to my rather short term concentration. I can edit the wiki for a while, maybe change some of the design with css and add features to the wiki using pmwiki‘s Cookbook (addons). So far I’ve added recipes for quicktime, rssdisplay, slideshare, and various recipes for adding flash content. I’ve added some example of these to the Media Tests page.

I’ve even mange to produce a recipe of my own. As usual this stands on the shoulder of others, I just copied on of the recipes and used Yuan.CC Flickr Experiments to show a flickr photo with notes in a pmwiki page, this is unfinishe at the moment, but it works: Photo Sharing (the photo sharing page is not finished ether.)

The wiki is now awaiting more content. You can contribute by editing the wiki or if you are too busy by sending me material and I’ll add it and attribute. There is a Discussion section on the wiki for any sort of discussion of the project, or add a comment here or send me a mail.

Oscpd Logo Rndds

About a month ago I wrote about the beginnings of OpenSourceCPD at TeachMeetPerth. Since the the site has moved to a suitable host and we have started making some links with CPDFind.
There are now several very knowledgeable people listed on the Profiles page and more have shown interest in joining in the fun. I’ve added an Introduction to blogging course as an example and the beginnings of some general CPD Materials.

I’ve been enjoying setting up the wiki as there is quite a lot of cpd for me involved. PmWiki is proving interesting and flexible giving an opportunity to play with the tech as I figure out how to organise the site.

So the wiki is now awaiting more content. You can contribute by editing the wiki or if you are too busy by sending me material and I’ll add it and attribute. There is a Discussion section on the wiki for any sort of discussion of the project, or add a comment here or send me a mail.

Blogged from tm

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

These are the slides I used at TeachMeetPerth Last week. You can see the images on a flickr set. The VoiceThread above is a work in progress, I’ll probably re record the audio with a quieter computer and a script.

I first got the idea for OpensourceCPD from teachmeet at the Scottish Learning Festival in 2007. Ollie Bray is widely quoted as saying that teachMeet was his best CPD experience. This had me thinking about Teachers as providers of CPD I also talked to Con Morris of LTS’s CPD Scotland team, he mentioned that reading my blog could be a cpd opportunity for someone!

My favourite learning experiences at conferences and inset have always been the ones presented by teachers. I include in this the more informal teachmeets and the social continuation in the pub or restaurant afterwards.

I’ve also been aware of the open source movement as a great deal of the software I use day to day is open source software, this blog, firefox, Vienna and many more. this got me wondering if this might be a useful model for distribution of cpd material by teachers, material that is not locked into a Local Authority, business or agency. Teachers as providers and consumers. The CPD material would be freely available and could be used by individuals or presented by a provide, the teachers supplying the material on the wiki could be providers/consultants. Of course because the material is freely available it can be supplied as CPD by anyone.

So the idea came together based on a casual reading of the Open Source Definition

  1. Free Redistribution: the software cpd materials can be freely given away or sold. (This was intended to expand sharing and use of the software on a legal basis.)
  2. Source Code: the source code must either be included or freely obtainable. (Without source code, making changes or modifications can be impossible.) this might be a little more difficult, hopefully it will not mean that folk would be put off uploading a pdf which is hard to edit, but more the spirit that material shared here is for mashing up.
  3. Derived Works: redistribution of modifications must be allowed. (To allow legal sharing and to permit new features or repairs.)

The Open Source Definition has a lot more, but you get the idea. This project will probably follow the Open Content model more closely:

Technically, it is royalty free, share alike and may or may not allow commercial redistribution. Content can be either in the public domain or under an open license like one of the Creative Commons licenses.

but at this time I thought that Open Source CPD was a snappy title

So I have started a wiki OpenSourceCPD to support this idea. I hope it is going to be connected to CPDFind in some way. At the moment the site is sitting on a temporary server and I probably will not get a lot of work done until the spring break. Several scottish educational bloggers have added Profiles and there seem to be a far bit of approval at TeachMeetPerth.

The focus to start with will be Social Media or Web 2.0 in teaching and learning.

Nothing is set in stone (it is a wiki) but I’ve begun three main sections:

  • CPD Materials A basic outline of various social media tools that can be used in teaching.
  • Cpd Opportunities CPD courses for self study or to be used as a skeleton for leading cpd.
  • Profiles A list of practitioners that could lead such cpd (this could be on a paid or free, online or face2face basis).

If this idea appeals please get in touch, if you want a password to edit the wiki leave a comment or send me a mail.
If you have some material you want hosted on the wiki but have not the time or inclination to edit it get in touch and I’ll be happy to post it for you.

So have a look at OpenSourceCPD.

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

Pmwiki 32

I’ve spent sometime messing around with PmWiki

PmWiki is written in PHP and distributed under the General Public License. It is designed to be simple to install, customize, and maintain for a variety of applications.

PmWiki seems very east to install, only requires php, no database is needed and is easily skin-able. here is my test install.

One nice idea behind pmWiki is that the core is kept small and lots of features are available as add-ons. For example, I’ve tested the quicktime recipe and the rss one. There are a pile of interesting looking recipes on the PmWiki Cookbook.

I am thinking of installing this on the Sandaig Website firstly as a tool for myself, but perhaps as an alternative way for pupils to contribute to the website. I am not too sure how they would get on with wiki style markup, but I am sure they could manage the simpler stuff. I need to play around with the configuration and user authentication before I think about that.