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Showing posts from October, 2006

Snow on the hills - yeehah!

Listening to Radio 4 this morning, as I always do, I heard the weather forecast.  The magic words were uttered - "rain in Scotland, wintery over the hills."

Thus begins the Scottish winter.  From now until April, I'll be constantly checking weather forecasts and the Winterhighland Web site  to see if and when the Scottish resorts will be open for me to go snowboarding.  Hope springs eternal!  Can't wait :)

The mother of all introductions to Web 2.0

If you've been wondering what tools are available on-line for educators, look no further than this amazing post from Brian Benzinger. I've only read part 1 of 3 so far. Looking forward to seeing what comes next :)

So what's so special about blogs?

In reply to my last post, Robin Strain asked "Can you persuade me the advantages of blogging?" Great question Robin - I think it deserves a fresh post :)

6 months ago I would have asked exactly the same question. I am involved with an online community of educators and technologists who seek to embrace the opportunities that Open Source software offers education. The official website is Schoolforge but we communicate mainly through google discussion groups. These work well for us, and up until I came across Exc-el, I didn't really see the point of blogging.

Before I start trying to explain why blogs are fit for purpose here, I should say that you have to blog yourself to really find out why blogging works - it's a bit like dancing: it looks kind of stupid from the seats at the side, but once you're on the dance floor it feels great!

I have been involved, over the last few years, in several attempts to establish on-line communities for teachers. None of them have…

Why I want my colleagues to blog

North Berwick High School is a medium-sized school, with 6 teachers in the maths department. East Lothian Council is a small authority with 6 high schools, and around 50 maths teachers.

Since beginning my secondment (one day per week) I've had the opportunity to visit each of the schools in East Lothian and spend time in the maths departments. As I've said elsewhere, these visits have been fascinating for me, and I've been struck by the professionalism and committment of the teachers I've visited. I've learnt from and been inspired by my encounters.

At the end of this year, my secondment will come to an end, and I will no longer have the opportunity to meet with colleagues - most maths teachers never have that opportunity.

It seems to me that by establishing an online community we can all, as maths teachers in East Lothian, benefit from enriching encounters with our colleagues. This will be good for everyone, but in particular it will be great for me! I really do…

The Learning Curve this week

I just caught the end of a learning curve on Radio 4 that seemed to be all about technology in education, with Stephen Heppel amongst others.  You can catch it here

Foucault's Pendulum

Paris was fantastic! It was Fergus's first time, so we did all the tourist stuff - the Louvre, the Eiffel tower, La Defence, La Villette science museum, a bateau mouche, Sacre Coeur  and Montmartre, Palais de Tokyo modern art gallery, Quai d'Orsay for the impressionists, Beauborg, l'Arc de Triomphe, the Latin Quarter, the Musee des Arts et Metiers etc etc.

In the Musee des Arts et Metiers, they have hung Foucault's Pendulum:

[youtube]FcNmNafQL10[/youtube]

As the pendulum slowly appears to rotate (actually we are rotating, not the pendulum!) it knocks over the wee metal cylinders. I was dragged away before I could film the next one tumbling.

Blogroll chains

Did I invent this game, or do other people already play it?

Pick a link from your blogroll
Follow one of the bogroll links from that blog
Repeat at least 10 times - no stopping along the way!

I ended up here and read a post from a Texan teacher about how pointless in-service days can be. Different continent, same stuff!

And BTW, I don't suppose that our American friends realise how close blogroll sounds in the UK to toilet paper :)

One Day in History.

Make history with us on 17 October by taking part in the biggest blog in history.

'One Day in History' is a one off opportunity for you to join in a mass blog for the national record. We want as many people as possible to record a 'blog' diary which will be stored by the British Library as a historical record of our national life.
This looks great - shame I'm going to be away in France.

History Matters Site 

Off to Paris

We (I, wife and son) are off to Paris on Monday for the October half-term break, so I don't expect I'll be posting until I get back. Expect some badly taken photos!

Great maths resources

Mathematical Visualisation toolkit - another function plotter, plus lots lots more

MERLOT - a great directory of maths elearning resources.

Fun free stuff

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Ollie's blog pointed me to this cool site

It could come in handy for little phrases you'd pupils to remember, like

An Interesting Discussion in Progress

A recent post of mine has sparked off, rather tangentially, a long and quite interesting discussion about how IT support is provided for schools. The initial post was a wee tutorial about an electronic voting system, so it's not so obvious that the debate is going on. Join in here.

ActiVote Walkthrough Part 2

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In part 1, we set up the user database to store all your classes. Now it's time to actually do some voting!
Labelling the devices
Your voting pads will have numbers 1 to 32 on them somewhere. Take the time to write these numbers on the top with indelible marker pen. Trust me, you'll be sorry if you don't.
Setting up a flipchart for voting with a class


Open your flipchart
Go to ACTIVote/session
Click on "Named Mode"
If the pupils in the list don't match your class, click on "Users..." then select your class from the dialogue that appears

Classroom routines
Pupils will need to know which device is attached to their name. I would start by having the user database screen showing on the first lesson with ACTIVote. Ask pupils to take the device with the number beside their name, then to make a note of that number in their jotter/planner. In subsequent lessons, establish the routine that if the box is open at the front of the room, they take their device on t…

Polling Anyone?

I just found this new toy for my blog - I'll think of a more interesting question once I've had a week's holiday :)



{democracy:2}

/bin/sh: line 1: root: command not found

I've just spent a while trying to figure out why my cron job was throwing this error. Here's the problem:

I had something like this in my user crontab:
1 4 * * * root command.sh

This is doomed, for several reasons. Firstly, it doesn't make sense for a user to be able to run something as root without "sudo". If that were possible, it would totally compromise root! Secondly, user cron jobs don't have the "user" element in their syntax. So cron is trying to run the command "root" rather than running something as root.

The answer is to su then put the quoted crontab line into root's crontab.

Job done :) Obvious once I took the time to think about it.

Build a beer cooler

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Wine is all well and good, but sometimes it just has to be a cold beer. What to do, then, when the beer is warm and all you have to hand is a wine cooler? Easy - simply place beer in wine cooler, and wrap parcel tape around for a snug fit. Voila - an effective and very stylish beer cooler.

Blogging as therapy

As a blogger I seem to be incapable of avoiding speaking my mind. Several times this has meant posts that have offended people, most recently here, and revealed that the contents of my mind are not quite as righteous and infallible as I would like to think. I regret the offence caused, and do not mean anything in this post to suggest that it was a good thing to have said what I said.

However, what is good is that I have been forced to deal with the consequences of my words. I have offended people. That's not always a bad thing, but in this case it was, and the public, permanent nature of communication via blogs has meant that those I offended felt able to tell me, and expect some kind of explanation. My response was a heartfelt apology, but just as importantly it's made me feel "hmm - better watch out not to offend people unnecessarily in future" in a way that wouldn't have happened if I had been involved in a face-to-face argument. I'm not sure if I'…

ActiVote Walkthrough Part 1

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At my visit to Musselburgh Grammar this morning, I spoke to some of the maths department about using Activote. They were enthusiastic about the potential of the technology, but said something like "it looks easy as you stand there and explain it, but we'll forget everything you've said by the time we next come to use it".

So.... to provide a bit of backup, here's a step by step guide to using Activote with your class.

The following assumes that the voting pads have been registered with your PC. If not, chase up IT!
Setting up the User Database
You'll want your pupil names to be stored in the system, so that their names appear at the top of the screen when you run a vote. Here's how....

In East Lothian, we have a problem - we don't have write-access to the place on the C drive where the user database is stored! To get around this, we need to copy the default user database to somewhere that is writeable, then tell ACTIVStudio that we've done so:

In ACTIVS…

Ski Trip Meeting Presentation

I've atttached the presentation that I'll be showing tomorrow night at the school ski trip meeting. Download it here (8Mb). It's got the important dates at the end, or you can get them on the school website from tomorrow. You can see the details of the journey on a google map here.

Testing Google Maps

Just testing my google maps api key - exciting uses coming soon!

Not having any luck embedding a map inside my blog - but I've got it working here, on a map showing the timings of the school ski trip to Courmayeur in January.