Showing posts from September, 2006

Port Glasgow session

This morning I got up at the ungodly hour of 6am in order to be ferried to Haddington (thanks Elizabeth!) and thence in a Don Prentice bus to Port Glasgow for a morning of workshops on the effective use of interactive whiteboards in maths.

The first session I attended was run by an enthusiastic chap (whose name I've failed to record). He spoke to us about the way that his department is using interactive whiteboards to support formative assessment developments: waiting times, questioning techniques, self/peer assessment, group/pair work etc. It was a fascinating session - these points stood out for me:

Sharing learning objectives on first slide - flip back at end of lesson
Pair work - one minute silent, then one minute discussing with partner using clock
Pupils making up question - make up a trinomial that factorises!
A thick white pen over text can be rubbed out to expose the text

What really shone through the session was the extent to which the presenter's thinking was grounded i…

I am not an expert

In my work visiting schools across East Lothian I've seen examples of the use of interactive whiteboard which are, in my opinion, much more exciting and creative than anything that I have done. This is, of course, wonderful. I'll share this good practice, hopefully in a way which adequately recognizes the contribution of the teachers concerned, many of whom are recently qualified.

I don't think, in taking on my role, that I ever claimed or was expected to be the fount of all knowledge regarding interactive whiteboards, but I have certainly met some expectation in schools that this is what I should be. "Here's the whiteboard expert come to show us what to do" is the way I have been introduced sometimes. From this perspective, it could be seen as somewhat threatening to discover that there are others who know more than I do, or are using the board in more exciting ways than I am!

My perspective, however, is that my job is to support the effective use of whi…

Sufjan Stevens gigs sold out

Dagnabit! I just looked to see if maybe Sufjan Stevens was going to play in Europe some time soon, and it turns out that he is touring in Oct/Nov/Dec, but the two UK gigs are sold out already. Sigh... I would seriously have considered a jaunt down to London to see him live - I can't think of any other artist in the last decade about whom I would have said that. Awesome genius. Oh well, I guess I'll have to pay closer attention, and wait for the next tour.

Glow mentor meeting

East Lothian Glow mentors met today at The Gothenburg in PrestonPans - here's the agenda.

I missed the afternoon (visiting Ross High School), but thoroughly enjoyed the morning.

Karen Robertson began the morning with an overview of where we are and where we are going.

Alan Yeoman then spoke to us about the training programme for Glow mentors, and I was very impressed by what he had to say. Whilst the Glow launch at SETT was a disappointment, with the feeling that it was underprepared, Alan's presentation today showed that they have been doing some serious thinking about how to prepare us for our roles as mentors.

The residential training at Stirling may include sessions on ACfE and the theory of co-coaching, for example. I had been concerned that the training would focus upon the basics of the use of the Glow portal tools. In fact, as Alan said, most teachers won't need any training to use the tools - if you can use a web browser, you've already got most of the te…

Google Analytics

If you blog and you want to know who is reading it, you MUST get into Google Analytics if you can. It is free, and gives you a mind boggling wealth of information. The screen capture below is just a fraction of the information available to you:

You'll need to be able to put a bit of code onto your page to get all this goodness.

By the way, I have 99 gmail invites if anyone wants a gmail account to use for google analytics.

Aah - it's just like the old days

I've been pondering over the last few days the extent to which the feeling around Web 2.0 reminds me of the feeling around the Web back in the mid '90s when I first went online.

In fact, I've been trying to work out when I first saw a web site. It wasn't so so early as to be particularly impressive - the browsers were Mosaic or Netscape, so I guess that puts it around 1995.

Anyway, back in those days, the world wide web was a place almost entirely free of commercial activity (apart from the "adult industry", of course - they always seems to lead the way in the use of new technology!). It consisted of lots of web pages written by amateurs or academics. User generated content, you might say! It felt like suddenly anyone could publish to the world. Joe Random could, in 5 minutes, knock together a page that looked as good as any other page. They tended to look like this or this. There was no such profession as "web designer".

Then, over the years, b…

Glow mentor homework

Having suggested that we Glow mentors should get started without delay, I thought I'd better come up with a positive suggestion! So here's a good one: if you haven't already done so, read Coming of Age.

It's a fascinating introduction to the educational possibilities of Web 2.0.

It's homework for me, because I haven't finished reading it yet!

The Glow Mugs Glow!

Hey - I just had a cup of tea in my freebie glow mug, which was black with a tiny glowscotland URL, and look what happened:
Do I get a prize for being the first to blog this?

I laughed out loud, I must admit. I take back all the negative things I said - the Glow team have a wicked sense of humour - the dour mood at the conference was all just a set up for this glorious moment :)

Glow, SETT, TeachMeet06

Well, after yesterday's experiences at SETT, I had it in mind to write a blog post entitled "Glow vs Teachmeet06". But now that I'm home, I discover that John@Sandaig has already written a post with this title here.

I feel rather more stongly than John about the difference between the two (either that or he's more discrete than I am!). I think the Glow launch was a real let-down, for several reasons.

Firstly, it was obvious that Glow was supposed to be ready for launch at this event in some form, but it wasn't. The overall feeling was of vapourware.

Secondly, nobody speaking on the stage seemed to be convincingly excited or passionate about what Glow is offering (although the dance performance was great fun). We saw the same old faces from Masterclass looking rather tired and stressed. No disrespect to them, but I think we need some fresh blood if Glow is going to have a real buzz about it (this is why I initially didn't put myself forward as a Glow …

Does anyone blog the really bad stuff on a work blog?

Well do they? It is great to use blogs to share good practice, bounce ideas around and formulate new policies. But what about the negative stuff? There are many issues in a large organisation like mine (East Lothian Council) that might act to impede the development of effective learning and teaching. Is anyone brave enough to air such issues in a blog managed by their employer? Might they be in breach of their contracts of employment if they did? I have always been under the impressions that we are not allowed to go directly to the press with concerns. If not, will we really be allowed to air those concerns in such a public arena as Exc-el? What is more, should we be allowed to?

Now don't get me wrong - I think Exc-el is a great tool, and the fact that blogs tend towards the positive is also good. It would be pretty pointless if it just became a place to moan. But without the ability to discuss the real nitty gritty of the problems we face, it runs the risk of just being …


This afternoon, Fergus and I played for Stenton and Tyninghame Cricket team in a friendly match against the Gin Slingers. It was the first cricket match I had played in for 20 years! I had an excellent time, and am looking forward to playing with them next season (this having been the last match of this season). Thanks to Carl for inviting me.

We lost, by the way, in a nail biting finish!

My PGP public key

Just in case you want to email me securely, at - here's my PGP public key:

public key
If you have no idea what PGP is about, it's explained pretty well here.

A plague of flies

North Berwick has been experiencing a mysterious plague of flies over the last week. Speculation has been rife as to the source of our unwelcome visitors. One story doing the rounds is that their arrival is related to the recent record high tides that we experienced. Another is that they are breeding on rotting crops. Whever they came from, everyone is agreed that they are bloody annoying! We can't leave food around in the open, and the delicate amongst us are being disturbed in the night by buzzing in our bedrooms. Bring on the scottish winter!

Intellectual Property

A post by Tom Hoffman sent me to this by David Warlick about intellectual property that got me thinking. It seems obvious to me that the current DRM strategies of most big corporations are hopelessly swimming against the tide of the free transfer of information over the Internet. With current technology, it is utterly unsustainable to attempt to restrict the sharing of information, even if you have the copyright on that information. You may not like it, but that's just the way it is. Even some big companies are starting to get it - check out Spiralfrog.

I just don't get that people don't get this.

This article from 2001 is wrong about advertising as source of revenue (it says that it's on the way out!) but spot on otherwise:

"If you or anyone you know has ever or will ever produce content (writing, music, video, etc.) and hopes to get paid for it, you should be afraid."

Meeting with Ewan

I met with Ewan McIntosh this afternoon to talk about the use of blogs in maths departments across East Lothian. It was fascinating. Ewan is utterly convinced (and convincing) about the potential benefits of blogging for teachers and pupils, whilst at the same time remaining pragmatic about the fact that for most teachers this is utterly foreign territory.

I'm still trying to digest the contents of our conversation - I'll probably have more to say in a day or two.

Tanya and Dougie got hitched

Yesterday afternoon I was at Tanya and Dougie's wedding. We had a fantastic day, seeing lots of old friends and comprehensively toasting the happy couple. Somewhat worryingly, they have chosen to spend the first day of their married life together today at a Hearts match! They are getting the full corporate hospitality deal, but it's worrying nonetheless. I hope Hearts put on a good show for them.

Learning Lines

And so it begins....the miserable task of learning my lines for the upcoming production of "Over My Dead Body". I've been throught the book highlighting my lines, I've sat and counted how many pages I have to learn and I've counted how many discrete chunks of lines I have to learn, but I have yet to actually start learning my lines.

Learning lines is one of those tasks that suddenly make all the other tedious chores in life seem both pressing and interesting in comparison. So I've emptied the dishwasher - even put away all the plates and cutlery rather than leaving them in piles on a kitchen surface - and am now typing a blog entry when I should really be LEARNING LINES. Just about anything seems more appealing. Apart from cutting the grass, of course. There are limits.

Ruby on Rails ORM wannabes never quite cut it do they?

Every now and then I see an article about an alternative implementation of some aspect of Ruby on Rails in another language. The latest is about Propel, an ORM layer in PHP. Let's compare and contrast:
$dish=new Dish();
$dish->setName("Beans on Toast);
Ruby on Rails:
dish=Dish.create(:name=>"Beans on Toast",

$c = new Criteria();
$c->add(AuthorPeer::FIRST_NAME, "Leo");
$results = AuthorPeer::doSelect($c);
foreach($results as $author) {
print "Author: " . $author->getLastName() . ",
" . $author->getFirstName() . "\n";

Ruby on Rails:
Author.find_by_first_name("Leo").each do |author|
puts "Author: " + author.lastname +"," + author.firstname

In the last example, Ruby on Rails would of course delegate the outputting of author details to a view - I put the "put…

Fame at last

Someone asked me today "how famous do you think FreeMIS is?" - a question that was clearly going somewhere. I mumbled some non-comittal waffle, and was then presented with a copy of issue 65 of Linux User. There's an article about this year's FLOSSIE, which mentions my 5 minute slot about FreeMIS. At the risk of consuming too much of your precious bandwidth, allow me to reproduce my mention in its entirety:

Robert Jones' (sic) FreeMIS, developed with Ruby-on-Rails,
had come from a different direction - based on the need to
report to parents. As it is currently used in Scotland, it
uses Shibboleth for single sign-on. (c) R Smedley
Shibboleth SSO for FreeMIS is actually "in development", but apart from that it's all true :)
The article has a link to the demo site - this explains the recent spike in visits to the demo.

First Rehearsal

We had our first rehearsal tonight for "Over My Dead Body". A cock-up with hall booking meant that we ended up in a small room trying to "block" the first act - sort out the moves. This was not ideal, but it was fun to get started, and some lines in the play make me laugh out loud. I'd better start learning my lines!

FreeMIS Part 1

Hereafter follows the first installment of the long and winding tale of how a maths and computing teacher came to be the developer of a web based open source school management information system called FreeMIS.

It began when I arrived at North Berwick High School, and took on a whole school IT role. The school needed a report writing solution, so I made one, using the most readily available tool in school - Filemaker Pro. I didn't know much about databases, and taught myself as I went along. This solution caught the attention of East Lothian Council, and I then spent some time on a working group that put together a solution for reporting and target setting. This was based on my previous work, and Dave Rawson did the target setting side. This solution was picked up by most of the high schools in East Lothian. I soon realised, though, that maintaining 6 different versions of a Filemaker Pro database and trying to apply upgrades to them was a complete nightmare. I needed an sol…

Linux eye candy

Here are some snapshots from my home desktop, running Ubuntu 6.06 with Compiz doing the fancy desktop stuff

Whilst Windows drones are waiting expectantly for Vista, those of us running Linux have already got eye candy galore on our desktops. With XGL and Compiz, you get wobbly windows, variable translucency of windows, peel-back windows, a 3D cube with your desktops (oh - I forgot, Windows user don't have multiple desktops) and Mac style window selection.

And some days I don't

I just spent an annoying 20 minutes trying to work out how to make "pretty URLs" work on this blog. It turns out that I had a line saying "AllowOverride None" that had to be changed to read "AllowOverride All". This little doozie was in /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/default - obvious really!

If any of the above made any sense to you then I welcome you as a fellow member of the geek community. It actually made perfect sense to me, but I feel a bit guilty about admitting it. Like the time that I pressed "esc w q" in an attempt to save an MSWord document. Sad....very sad.

Some days I love software

I'm a Linux user. There - I've just come out and said it. I feel so much better now it's out in the open.

Seriously, I use Ubuntu almost exclusively outside school, and today I was replying to an email from someone who was trying to set up FreeMIS. I had meant to attach an SQL file, which I referred to in the email, but forgot to. When I clicked on send, Kontact (the KDE email client) popped up a warning, saying that I had mentioned an attachment in my message but hadn't attached anything - did I want to do so?

How cool is that?

Why "Jonesieblog"?

When I first arrived on the Internet back in the '90s, it turned out that several Robert Joneses had got here before me. I needed a username for HoTMaiL, as it was known in the days before it belonged to Bill, and the best I could come up with in a hurry was "jonesieboy". Over the years I have registered on dozens of sites as "jonesieboy", and set up "jonesieboy" email accounts on many domains.
I'm not entirely happy with "jonesieboy" as a moniker - it certainly lacks gravitas, and seems less and less appropriate as my 40th birthday disappears into the mists of time - but I'm kind of stuck with it now.
It seems only natural that Jonesieboy should have a jonesieblog!
By the way - don't bother sending emails to the Hotmail account. I only use it when I need to expose an email address on the Internet. It receives hundreds of spam messages per day, and I only look at it in once in a while to prevent it from being deactivated by Mic…