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Showing posts from 2007

Guitar Hero or Guitar Player?

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I posted a somewhat curmudgeonly comment on Derek's Hotmilkydrink back in October, to the effect that time spent playing Guitar Hero would be better spent learning to play the guitar.  As usual, someone else has said it better:

Texting Experiment

As I said last week, a pupil claimed to be able to text more quickly than she could handwrite. Ewan then kindly offered me a loan of a device that looks like a chunky mobile phone without a screen and operates as a usb keyboard.

With the Cre8txt device, my pupils did not manage to enter text very quickly. They complained that it didn't do predictive texting (it does have software to do this) and more importantly that it wasn't like their own phones.

I gave them the sentence "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" as a challenge using their own phones (so sack me!) and the quickest was 12 seconds. I reckon I can just about manage to handwrite that in 12 seconds, and can type it in 8 seconds, so 12 seconds is pretty good.

d pupils complained dat d sNteNc wz unfair cuz it didnt offer NE opps 2 uz d abbrz dat dey alwys uz!

One girl argued quite persuasively that they should be allowed to use this kind of txt-speak in their school notes. I cnt rly c NE diffrNce Bt…

Barcamp Scotland 2008

Barcamp Scotland 2007 was a brilliant event, so I was delighted today when I noticed that a date has been set for the 2008 edition.  It's on Saturday 2nd February 2008.  You can sign up on the wiki.  See you there :)

Speedtexting

I was talking to my S3 class the other week, and one of the girls revealed that she can text much more quickly than she can handwrite.  She didn't get the chance to demonstrate, what with the school rule on mobile phones, but her friends confirmed the fact.  I don't suppose that she is unusual.

Interesting.  I tend to take talk about mobile phones as the next big thing in education with a big pinch of salt, but I think I've based my cynicism on an assumption that the keypads are awkward, slow input devices.  Apparently that is not the case if you are 14 and female.

Guess the speaker

The main thing I have learned on this journey is that if you aren't governed by fear you can live truthfully and you can find a kind of beauty. If you are inhibited and fearful you will live a prescriptive existence. But once you get beyond the hedonistic first impulse of that philosophy you find that you need to focus on something wider, more permanent and beautiful and valuable. That's what I've learned. I think "I want to do something worthwhile".
Can you guess who said that?

Students 2.0

I have read more thought-provoking posts on students 2.0 (a collaborative blog produced by students) since it launched than on any other blog in my reader.  I thoroughly recommend it for that reason and for that reason alone.

If I were one of the contributors to the new students 2.0 collaborative blog, however, I think I'd be getting rather sick of the patronising tone of many of the comments - stuff like "I'm really impressed by the quality of your writing."  No one would say that to me (not even if they were impressed, which would be rather unlikely) so why say it to these confident young bloggers? Hopefully the virtual patting-on-the-head will end soon, and folk will stick to commenting on the substantive issues which are being raised so eloquently.

Or maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe the youngsters involved were worried about how they would be received, and are most grateful for the words of support.   What do I know?!

Is robert.jones.name worth $12 a year?

The title says it all.  I've registered on http://www.freeyourid.com for the free 90 day trial.  I was amazed that robert.jones.name was still available.

The .name tld is supposed to be used to provide a clear, unique URL for one's identity.  This can then be used as an OpenID... if you've been reading my previous posts then I'm sure you get the picture.

I'm wondering whether or not it's worth paying for this URL.  I can't really see why it's any better than using, say, robertmjones.co.uk which I already own, but on the other hand I can't help thinking that I might look back in 5 years time and curse myself for not grabbing it while I had the chance.  What do you think?

Delegating your OpenID so it works with Wordpress Plugin

I recently installed the wp-openid plugin on this blog, to allow people to identify themselves with an OpenID in comments. One downside (pointed out by John) is that when you do this, your name above the comment will link to your OpenID URL rather than to your blog. Bummer!

So I deactivated the plugin and hunted around the Web for a solution. This post will explain the solution: how to delegate from your blog to your myopenid URL, so that in effect your blog URL becomes your OpenID URL. Once you've done this, you'll be able simply to enter your blog URL in the Website field of the comment form. Neat!

OpenID delegation works like this:

You set up an OpenID URL at www.myopenid.com (or some other openid provider)
You put some fancy code into the header of your blog that points openid authentication requests to the OpenID URL you set up already
There is no step 3.

The fancy code should be as simple as this:
<link rel="openid.server" href="http://www.myopenid.com/se…

RIP Karlheinz Stockhausen

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7133571.stm

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0h0ApJAeSg[/youtube]

A Restorative School

We had an in-service session on Friday to announce the fact that we are planning to become a restorative school, and to give us some understanding of what this means.

Terri Kelly from the Better Behaviour Scotland Positive Behaviour Team gave us a quick introduction, and explained the process we will be going through to get all staff trained by 2009/10.

To quote from the Transforming Conflict site:
The restorative approach is based on the belief that the people best placed to resolve a conflict or a problem are the people directly involved, and that imposed solutions are less effective, less educative and possibly less likely to be honoured. In order to engage in a restorative approach to conflict and challenging behaviour people need certain attitudes and skills. Skills-based training can develop both restorative skills and attitudes.
I've been a big fan of Non-Violent Communication for many years, though I have not always managed to put it into practice, so I'm very enthusiastic…

Thanks to our IT Team

A while ago I grumped on this blog about the blocking of .ru sites by Websense at school.  In the interests of balance, I am delighted to be able to report a good news story...

On Friday, I noticed that the Open CourseWare site from MIT was blocked at school.  Not intentionally - just a weird glitch to do with the URL.  I emailed the IT team, and this morning it was unblocked.  

Thanks for the prompt action  :)

ICT Impact Study

I just found this study (pdf) from Insight.

It reports positive quantitative impacts from the use of ICT in education.

I'm rather hoping someone else might read it all and blog about it!  Otherwise I'll say something about it next week :)

Scotedublogs Data

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I've been playing with the data from Scotedublogs (I can provide this data in its raw detail, if anyone wants it!). Clearly we do not have every edublog in Scotland in the system, but I thought this visualization was interesting:




Google Project for High School Students

A quick heads up that Google have launched The Google Highly Open Participation Contest  - a global contest for high school students.  I'll definitely be passing this on to our Computing department.

Education, Young People and the Social Graph

Having tuned in to the enormous buzz about the concept of an open, global, social graph, I've been pondering what the implications are for education and young people.

The reality is that some time pretty soon young people are going to be arriving in high school with well established online identities which support "single sign on" (SSO) across a wide range of web sites and services, and with portable graphs of their social connections. They already have the social graphs and identities - they just need the graphs to be liberated from the closed social networks within which they reside and for the identities to be unified to allow SSO.

Will we then provide them with a new, school-based online identity and expect them to be grateful? This will never work unless their school identity plays nicely with their real identity, by which I mean that they will be able to designate their school identity as belonging to their real identity, and will therefore be able to access their…

Blogs I Miss

I realised today that many of the blogs in my news reader are dormant/dead.  Some were tentative ventures that didn't develop, but some were really interesting for a while.  For me, the lesson is that if you are not actively seeking out new blogs to read, you are slowly losing touch with the blogosphere.

Anyway, here are some blogs I miss:

Creating Passionate Users - of course;
Miscellaneous Learning - Nova Stevenson;
GeekyTeach - recent signs of life actually from Peter;
Paul Goodall;
It's late and I'm tired - the reality of being a probationer;
Graham Dickie;

Can anyone recommend any new blogs that I should definitely be subscribing to?

PLEs - The way to go for Glow.

Scott Wilson has a superb diagram on his blog showing how institutional software and user-controlled spaces should interact in an efficient learning environment.

He also has a slide show about OpenID and education, in which he says:
Far from threatening institutional viability and control, distributed, user-owned technology offers an escape route from escalating costs, liabilities, and bureaucracy that come from a supply-driven model. Rather than spinning us out of control, they offer a way to get back under control.
Oh yes!

The Social Graph

When you first heard the term "Web 2.0", was it a bit of a mystery to you? Did you feel like you must have been asleep when everyone else got told about it? Don't let it happen again!

"Social Graph" is a concept that will be more important than "Web 2.0" ever was, so now is the time to familiarise yourself with the exciting ideas that are coming together under this umbrella term.

Readwriteweb.com has a great summary here:
1. The Internet: links computers

2. Web: links documents

3. Graph: links relationships between people and documents -- "the things documents are about" as Berners-Lee put it.
The original article from Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) pulls together other key posts on this idea, and with tongue in cheek refers to the Giant Global Graph!

The Social Graph will liberate the information you have stored in sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo from the confines of these particular web applications and give it back to…

More on OpenID

If I haven't convinced you yet about the wholesome goodness of OpenID, how about these wee facts:

Every Estonian ID card holder has an OpenID (80% of the population)
Microsoft supports it.
You can now use OpenID to identify yourself for commenting on this blog :)

Got your OpenID yet?

Crystal ball time! I reckon that everyone reading this will have an OpenID and be using it regularly 12 months from now.

As Wikipedia puts it:
OpenID is a decentralized single sign-on system. Using OpenID-enabled sites, web users do not need to remember traditional authentication tokens such as username and password. Instead, they only need to be previously registered on a website with an OpenID "identity provider" (IdP). Since OpenID is decentralized, any website can employ OpenID software as a way for users to sign in; OpenID solves the problem without relying on any centralized website to confirm digital identity.
Have you got yours yet? If you use AOL or have a blog at Wordpress then you have one already! Otherwise, get one here. I'm http://robertjones.myopenid.com and have also set up this blog to act as my OpenID, following Sam Ruby's instructions here.

OpenID has a good chance of becoming one of the key elements of a truly open, distributed social network that…

Books + DRM = Kindle

I was vaguely interested by the launch in the US of Amazon's e-book reader, Kindle.

Ths morning, via Tom Hoffman's google reader shared items, I came across this post, which spells out superbly why we really don't want the future to look like Amazon's terms of service for Kindle:

http://diveintomark.org/archives/2007/11/19/the-future-of-reading

Tinyurl down?

The Internet cannot be broken by a single point of failure. That it the way it was designed, and that is its great strength. And that's why I think it's a really bad idea to use tools like tinyurl.

Tonight I clicked on a tinyurl link, and got an error page from tinyurl rather than the desired link. It was back up in a couple of minutes, but it set my mind a wandering!

Why are we trusting tinyurl to be the single point through which we pass so much information? Do we know anything about the owners of tinyurl? Do we trust them not to do misuse the data passing through their hands?

A quick google on the subject brought up this extensive discussion on slashdot -
Do Tiny URL Services Weaken Net Architecture?

Roots

I was out for a pint with my good friend Jim last weekend.  He's from Anstruther, a small fishing village directly opposite us as we look across the Firth of Forth from North Berwick.  When I say that he's from Anstruther, I don't just mean that he was born there.  His mum and Dad were also both born there, all his uncles and aunts live within a 10 mile radius of Anstruther, and he is not aware of any ancestors that come from anywhere apart from Anstruther.

I can't begin to imagine what it must feel like to be so connected to a particular place (and to the fishing industry that was the lifeblood of the village). My Dad was from Mid-Wales, with parents from Mid-Wales and Shropshire, and my  Mum is from Bradford in Yorkshire.  I was born in the South of England and have lived in Scotland since 1983.  Unsurprisingly, I struggle to answer the question "where are you from?"!

Of course, the scattering of my ancestors last century is happening to my friend's famil…

Lau at the Scottish Fiddle Festival

I went with wife and son to see Lau play tonight at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. I've had their album "Lightweights and Gentlemen" for a while, so we knew what to expect, and were not disappointed!

Lau are Kris Drever on guitar and occasional vocals, Aidan O'Rourke on fiddle and Martin Green on piano accordian. They belted out a breathtaking set full of energy and passion. Their music is mostly original, but utterly rooted in traditional Scottish music. It was one of the best performances I've seen for years.

It was through Kris Drever that I came to Lau, having seen him playing double bass on one song at Kate Rusby's recent Edinburgh show. She plugged his solo album, and as I was buying it on Amazon I saw a link to Lau's album.

As a beginner on the mandolin playing folk stuff, tonight's show was great inspiration for me - maybe if I practise hard for years I might get to be half as good as the guys in Lau.

They are recording a live album at t…

OLPC - is anyone preparing?

I was at an International Education meeting today, and as I sat listening to the speakers, it struck me that we are about to have millions of children in the developing world arriving online, via the OLPC project.

This represents an enormous opportunity to forge international links, but I haven't heard anyone talking about it. I suspect that outside the Slashdot reading nerdosphere that I inhabit, most teachers have never even heard of OLPC.

We should be planning now, so that when these youngsters emerge online we are ready to welcome them.

Open Social from Google

Google recently announced OpenSocial - an Open API for developers to create apps that will work on Bebo, Myspace and many other social networking sites. This is huge, and everyone is wondering what Facebook's next move will be.

Here's a good introduction on the official Google blog.

K12 Online Conference

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K12 Online is now just about over, but of course all the presentations are still available to view.  There's a great wealth of materials to work through.  I was involved in the selection process for the Classroom 2.0 strand, and am delighted with how it has worked out.  So much to look at, so little time...

Wedding Present at the Liquid Rooms

Last night we went to see the Wedding Present play at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh - the centrepiece of which was a seemless performance the the entire "George Best" album.

It was a memorable night!  Dave Gedge was on good form, and it was great to see so many old faces from the late '80s Edinburgh Indie scene.  Weird, though, to be at a gig with so many people of my age!  I think the baby sitters of the Lothians had a bonanza night last night :)

I was slightly disappointed that Gedge didn't play my personal favorite - "Interstate 5", but apart from that I couldn't have asked for more.

Music Camp

At the last minute, I was asked to join the school music camp in Biggar.  Getting organised  in a hurry was a bit frantic, but I am so glad that I got the opportunity.   Someone said that happiness comes not from having things, but from being part of things, and my experience at music camp reaffirmed this for me.  It was a wonderful experience!  I was humbled by the talent of the youngsters,the music teachers and the instructors, and felt very privileged to have the chance to play along with them.

I'm too exhausted to describe it properly, but I'd like to say a huge thanks to everyone involved for making it such a great couple of days.

Free Burma

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Connected Live Blog

Just in case you've been hiding under a rock for the last couple of weeks, I'd like to draw your attention to the new Connected Live blog.  It's being written by a collection of the brightest and best from the world of Scottish educational blogging, and has been churning out a series of interesting podcasts alongside the great articles.  Definitely worth a read :)

A radio 4 show about cyber-bullying this week

Bullying.com is a three part show on radio 4 this week:
Penny Marshall investigates the rise in cyber bullying - a new manifestation of bullying, where victims are targeted online and via their mobile phones. She looks at the impact it has on those affected by it, speaks to key industry figures about what is being done - and asks, is it enough?
The third episode looks at what schools are doing and what they should be doing.

Snow on the 'Gorm

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One's mind turns towards winter pursuits...

My Favourite Albums

Pure nostalgia - here's an imperfect list of my favourite albums since I began listening back in the late '70s.

The Stories We Can't Tell

Young people often amaze me. Every week I come across new stories that could make you cry, and stories that could fill you with hope for the future, but I can't tell any of these stories, because they belong to the private lives of the young people involved.

An incident today brought home to me the astonishing resilience of the human spirit in the face of appalling circumstances. One of the joys of teaching is that we sometimes earn enough trust from young people to allow them to share some of their highs and lows with us.

School Filtering blocks an entire TLD!

All school Internet access is crippled these days. Ours here in East Lothian is crippled with Websense. I discovered today that the entire .ru TLD is blocked! Yep - any web site that end .ru is blocked! I know why - Russian domains are notorious for running malicious code and hosting dodgy stuff, but isn't it a bit over the top that we can't access www.kremlin.ru?

[UPDATE] Dan from WebSense has been in touch to point out that it is not WebSense that is blocking everything from Russia - our local configuration is doing that.  I've changed the title of this post to more accurately reflect the situation.  And no, in case your wondering, Dan didn't get all "you'll be hearing from my lawyers" on me - the only communication I've had from him is the comment below :)

This post seems to have caused lots of hassle all 'round, one way and another.  As usual, I didn't mean it to!

How to prevent a boat from falling on your foot

Don't try to go sailing in a force 6.  If you must, simply ensure that the ropes attached to the sails (sailors refer to these ropes as "sheets") are not held in place ("cleated") when you pick up the trolley upon which the boat is resting and turn it so that the wind is blowing across the side of the boat.

Obvious really - in hindsight :(

Zen and the Art of Skimboarding

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OK - so this doesn't really have anything to do with zen, but I couldn't resist the title.

Over the holidays (remember them?) my son and I acquired a skimboard. We took it down to the beach, and after about 20 terrifying minutes I decided that skimboarding wasn't for me. I could see a trip to A&E looming!

Last weekend, we went down to the beach with Carl, who has been skimboarding for a few months. He showed us a few basics, and gave us a demonstration. Within 15 minutes we'd got it.



Carl didn't think he'd done much to help, but I would beg to differ. Firstly, he gave us a couple of really helpful pointers (how to hold the board, and how to start by jumping onto a still board), and secondly he demonstrated the possibility of doing it. Seeing him doing it made a huge difference. Suddenly it seemed doable!

Maybe you're expecting me to draw an analogy now. I don't think I will. After all, this is just a wee post about skimboarding with a helpful …

Good In Service Shock Horror

On Friday morning we had a two hour session in the school hall on Child Protection.  As you can imagine, the prospect of this did not exactly fill me with glee.  Child Protection is, of course, important, but I wasn't so sure that spending two hours being lectured about it was really going to make any difference to my practice.

I was wrong.

Anne Darling delivered a moving and informative session which gave us a clear understanding of the potentially life saving role we have to play as teachers of abused children, and highlighted the way that procedures have changed for the better over the last few years.  The material could have been dry and depressing, but Anne's personal involvement and passion brought it alive.

Brilliant stuff - thanks Anne.

Some of the things I did this Summer

Sat drinking weissbier by the litre at the Tollwood festival in Munich
Went to see exhibitions of Gilbert and George, Warhol and Picasso
Snowboarded on the Hintertux glacier in Austria
Wandered around the Forbidden Corner in Yorkshire
Fitted a loft ladder in the house
Sailed a Laser in the Firth of Forth
Learned to surf at Belhaven Bay
Wrote songs on my 12 string guitar
Cycled around East Lothian
Discovered how hard skimboarding is
Read Chronicles Vol 1 by Bob Dylan, Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami, the last Harry Potter and the first Gervase Phinn book.
Poured pints at the ELYC bar
Watched all 23 episodes of Heroes in 10 days
Correctly predicted every Big Brother eviction
Relaxed

Going out for the Summer

This may be the last post until mid-August.  On the other hand I may get bored and do loads of blogging over the Summer holidays.  Either way, we break up on Friday, and I've really enjoyed my first year of blogging - thanks for reading, commenting and being there :)

A Wonderful Lesson

Every once in a while, a lesson just comes together beautifully.  I had such a lesson today.  The learning intentions were that we master multiplying and dividing by powers of 10.

The S2 class has only been together for a week, and is quite mixed in ability.  We started the lesson with 10 quick questions, and this showed that about half the class could already do these problems pretty accurately.

At this point, I threw caution to the wind and said "In 10 minutes from now, we'll do another set of 10 - work together however you want until then to see if we can all get at least 7 out of 10.  If anyone doesn't manage, we share responsibility - especially those people who did well the first time!"  I didn't give them any resources, or specify how they should work.  To my delight, they organized themselves into groups around folk who were confident and spent 10 minutes trying to explain to each other the methods.

The next 10 quick questions were answered much more accurat…

Glow goes Web 2.0

Someone has been listening :)

 I've just been into the phase 3 version of the Glow portal, and they have included instructions to insert rss feeds into pages.  The way to do it is rather circuitous, but at least it is now doable.  I've tested it with a couple of feeds, and it seems to work fine.

The "glowing potential" bit has a page showing how to insert external web sites into pages, and they have use our scotedublogs.org.uk as one of the examples.  Very flattering ;)

What happened to the anti-war movement?

A couple of things have led me to writing this post.  Firstly, I spent an evening with some soldiers on the Friday night before the kids arrived at Rothiemurchus Lodge, and secondly I watched "why we fight" last night.

My evening with the army guys reminded me that the men and women out in Afghanistan and Iraq getting shot at and blown up on a daily basis in our names are just regular folk.  They are not imperialist fiends.  They are regular folks, many of them from relatively deprived backgrounds, who saw the army as a way of making a decent living.  They are being killed and maimed in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we don't really seem to care.

I marched before the war began, and I wrote to my MP to complain, but once the bombs started falling on Baghdad I went pretty quiet.  And I have remained so.

I read Robert Fisk before the assault on Iraq started, and trusted his judgement that winning the war would be easy but that the real problems would then begin, and be protracted a…

Unplugged

This morning we were supposed to turn off our computers, as the school link to Haddington was getting switched to a broader pipe - "you'll get to the bottleneck quicker" Alan C joked!  I ignored this request, but unplugged by machine from the network.  Call me arrogant if you will, but it made no sense to me that I had to have my desktop machine switched off even if it wasn't connected to the network in any way, so I kept it on.

This meant that I found myself working on a computer without access to the Internet.  I rarely travel with a laptop, so Internet-free computing is something I have not experienced for years.  It was very strange!  The inner dialogue was something like: dum dee dum - OK, I'll just - Oh, no, I can't check that.  Right, I'll do this instead - this is going fine. Ah - I wonder if - oh no, I can't check that.  Hmm - OK, here's something I can do without the Internet.  The work I did on some Geogebra files was productive in the e…

Facebook not good shock! horror!

I enjoyed this tirade against Facebook:
I hope you’re beginning to see the light. This is your life, and it’s ending one click at a time. Facebook brings out the worst in people. You put so much time and energy into something that makes you a worse person. Do you WANT this? I’m surprised you’ve made it this far into the article without changing tabs to check if someone wrote on your wall…
Reading things like this makes me feel immensely glad to be past the intensely social years of my youth.  Not that I'm a recluse exactly, nor do I have one foot in the grave, but folk in long-term relationships in their forties don't really have the same frenetic drive to socialise as single folk in their twenties!  I have plenty of good friends, and not enough time to see them all regularly enough, so the expansion of my social circle is not a high priority for me (not that I am averse to making new friends!).  Nor do I care so much about what people think about me.

The construction of a soci…

Weird Blog Behaviour

This blog is misbehaving.  If you click on the link for a page or a post or a comment, you get shown the feed for the site.

Has anyone else experienced this?  I thought it might be evidence of hacking, but can find nothing to suggest that my server has ben compromised.

[UPDATE] The creation of this post seems to have fixed it.  Some kind of cacheing problem?

Heretical Thoughts.

Via Doug Belshaw and del.icio.us/popular I read this fascinating article about British youth. It does not make for cheery reading. There's one aspect I'd like to pick up on:
On the whole, British children were more disconnected from their families, with nearly half of 15-year-old boys spending most nights out with friends, compared to just 17 percent of their French counterparts.
Our kids are also spending more and more time on computers talking to each other rather than with their parents. In the light of this statistic, would it be heretical of me to suggest that this is not such a great thing? I know that Bebo sometimes looks to me like a virtual Lord of the Flies.

As a society we lose the plot when we lose sight of the simplicity of our needs. In order to flourish, children need a secure, loving home environment and the time and attention of adults that care about them. These needs may not be sufficient, but they are certainly necessary. Web 2.0 does not provide anyth…

Things to do in North Berwick

I love where I live :)

Yesterday I spent the morning teaching, then sailed with school pupils in the afternoon, and went out again at the Sailing Club "Fun Friday" event in the evening. There was a thick sea fog over North Berwick in the morning, but it cleared to sunshine about lunchtime. Being out in the Firth of Forth in a sailing boat is just wonderful.

This morning, I strolled up to school to do a bit of last-minute preparation for the new timetable on Monday, then wandered down to the high street and along the beach to the harbour, where dozens of boats were lined up for the Sailing Club regatta.

After lunch on the beach watching the sailing, I headed home over the golf course.

The sun is shining and life feels very mellow.

Misery: the secret to happiness

There's an interesting story on the BBC news site today:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6711071.stm
The key to a happy relationship could be to accepting that some miserable times are unavoidable, experts say.
"Pure Buddhism", I thought, and lo  and behold, the article goes on to describe how the therapists are recommending Buddhist mindfullness meditation as a technique to help to cope with family suffering.

"Life is suffering" is the first Noble Truth of Buddhism, and people often see this as a very pessimistic starting point for a philosophy of life, but in fact it's not at all.  It's just true :)

It amuses me that we think we have advanced so much as a species since 250BC, whilst in fact we are ailed by exactly the same afflictions as we were back then, and the path towards wholeness described by Buddha is just as relevant.

Summer time, and the blogging ain't easy

Now that the days are long and the weather is sometimes pleasant, I'm spending much less time reading blogs and no time at all writing mine.  Life seems to be full of better things to do.  I guess I'll get back into it in the Autumn!

Happy Birthday to me!

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It was my birthday on Sunday (42 years on the planet).  As usual, I was asked what I wanted.  Usually I reply with an unintelligible mumble or a request for socks, but this year I decided to shoot for the stars.  I replied "a 12 string electric-acoustic guitar please!"

Much to my astonishment, this is exactly what I got!



Huge thanks to Libby and Fergus.  You can see a bigger picture of my lovely new Yamaha APX700 12 string here.  I've had an old Yamaha FG 180 6 string acoustic for 25 years and it has never let me down, so I like Yamaha guitars :)

After a while noodling with the new 12 string, I found myself playing around with finger picking, something I've never got into before.  It sounded fabulous, so I'm now working on a tab I downloaded of a song called "in the evening" in open d tuning. Yee hah varmint.  I think I may have to get into check shirts and start calling myself Bobby-Jay.

More Microsoft FUD.. sigh!

So, Microsoft is now claiming that Open Source software and Linux infringe 253 of their patents. But it isn't saying which ones [UPDATE - it has described some broad areas, but not named specific patents]! Here in Europe we fortunately don't generally allow software patents (thanks to a spirited campaign in which I am proud to have taken part). In the US, however, surreal patents exist like Amazon having a patent on "1-click purchasing". Complete lunacy, but true.

Microsoft knows that it can't really pursue Open Source projects for patent infringements - mainly because it is itself infringing many patents owned by Open-Source-friendly companies like Novell and IBM (or at least we guess that it is - hard to be sure when the source code is a secret!).

Remember the bit in Austin Powers when Dr Evil, exasperated at the fact that all his evil plots have already taken place whilst he was frozen, says "sod it, let's do what we always do: steal a nuclear warh…

Scotedublogs misuse

I'm afraid that someone in South Korea is labouring under the misapprehension that putting encoded email messages into the tags of blogs at scotedublogs.org.uk will make something happen.  It doesn't make anything happen, apart from wiping the existing tags for the blog, and causing me to send an abuse report to the isp of said South Korean.

I've put some code in place to catch nonsense tags, and am going to restore the tags from a backup of the database, but it might be worth checking the record for your blog to see if the tags are looking OK.

Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization

There's an interesting video here of this US conference about online teen victimization.  I haven't watched it all, but 43 minutes in there's an interesting dialogue about the importance or otherwise of remaining anonymous online.

Outdoor Maths

Today and tomorrow, the S1 cohort at North Berwick High School are all spending a couple of hours in groups working outdoors on some mathematical problem solving activities.  Today's sessions all went really well - thank to Liz Brookes for organizing the activities, and making it out to North Berwick despite car problems!  Liz took some photos, so hopefully I'll have something to post here tomorrow.

Revolution OS

Whilst we are still waiting for another installment of "Open Source for Beginners", check out Revolution OS - a great documentary about Open Source.

Open Source for Beginners - while you're waiting...

Part 3 of this series is taking me a long time to publish.  I've written 4 different drafts already, but can't quite get it right.  Meantime, imagine a day without Open Source...

Tim O'Reilly Interview on Education and Web2.0

This interview is full of great, thought provoking stuff.  You'll need to listen yourself, but I particularly liked his response to a question about spending on technology in education.  He says something like "spending on educational technology is a bad idea [with some exceptions]... if there's one thing you could to do to make better experiences in education it's smaller class sizes -  more interaction with passionate adults who have time and ability to focus on kids."

Bad news for learning hubs?

Via Slashdot I spotted this  New York Times article: Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops. Not very cheery reading for the Learning Hubs team.

Or maybe it's just another reminder that "spray and pray" doesn't work.

Sailing

Last Friday I took a sailing dinghy out for the first time.  It was a pretty hairy experience, involving 4 capsizes.

Today I was out in a Laser, and I sailed single-handed around Craigleith (a wee island in the Firth of Forth).  I loved it - and we saw puffins and a couple of seal pups on our journey.  I should say that I was guided all the way around and back by Jane Robertson - thanks Jane!

As Jane said, we live in an amazing part of the world.

Open Source for Beginners Part 2 - Open Source Licenses

I must confess, I'm struggling to write this post. There's so much to say about Open Source, and I'm not sure that I'm saying it in the right order. I guess I'll just bash on and hope for the best!

So... Open Source software is software which is given away freely, and for which the source code is freely available.

But what is to stop someone taking this source code, packaging it up as a new application and selling it as a closed source program? Sometimes nothing, but usually it's the license!
Some Open Source programs are given away with no license at all, but most are copyrighted and distributed under the some form of Open Source license.
There are dozens of such licenses. The most popular and famous is the GPL. The preamble offers a beautifully succinct description of the purpose of the GPL - take 2 minutes to read it (bearing in mind that the document uses the word "free" as in "liberty" rather than as in "no cost").
One aspec…

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn - feel the mindshare!

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I saw this today when I logged in to Technorati - Ubuntu Feisty Fawn is the second most popular search term at the moment!

Great explanation of RSS

I've tried in the past to explain what RSS is about, but this video does a much better job - check it out!

Open Source for Beginners Part 1

If you have ever wondered what "Open Source software" means, what Linux is, what the difference is between Open Source software and "freeware", or why so many people in the Open Source movement (yes, it's a movement!) seem to dislike Microsoft so much, read on...

The idea behind Open Source is very simple, but there is a degree of subtlety in it's application to the world of software that leads to a lot of misunderstanding. To understand what Open Source is really about, and why people are so passionate about it, you need to understand a little bit about how computer programs work.

Most computer programs are written in compiled languages. A programmer writes a set of instructions - the program code - in a plain old text file. Program code may not be comprehensible to the average computer user, but it is human-readable:

int main()
{
Power x(4.0, 2), y(2.5, 1), z(5.7, 0);
cout << x.getPower() << " ";
cout << y.getPower() <<…

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn is here!

The latest release of Ubuntu hit the servers today.  If you are still labouring under the misapprehension that Linux is too hardcore for regular folks, now might be the time to take the plunge.  If you would like to see Ubuntu in action, check out the videos on youtube, or pop 'round to mine :)

Tonsilitis and Snowboarding

I've spent the last 10 days with Tonsilitis, and this morning I'm off to the Alps to snowboard.  Thankfully I'm pretty much fully recovered.  I would not wish Tonsilitis on anyone!

More on Python based feed readers, Geogebra, Glow, pulling teeth and life in general when I get back :)

Using Planet Reader to Update Feeds in a Rails Application Part 1

In this series of posts, I'm going to show how I am customising the excellent "Planet Reader" application to produce a stand-alone program that updates data about a collection of blogs stored in a Ruby on Rails application - the feeds table looks like this:
create_table "feeds" do |b|
b.column "link", :string
b.column "title", :string
b.column "description", :string
b.column "pubDate", :datetime
b.column "language", :string
b.column "error_tag", :integer
b.column "site_url", :string
end
Here's how Planet Reader works now:

get "planet" information and a list of feeds from a config.ini file
create a "planet" object based on the config.ini data
visit each of the feeds using the Universal Feed Parser
If the feed has changed since the last visit, update the information stored in a cache file
"subscribe" the "planet" object to this feed
churn out static html files based…

Glow is Linux friendly!

We all know that we can do everything that Glow does so far with free tools available on-line.  That fact has no bearing, in my opinion, on whether or not Glow is a worthwhile enterprise, and so I shall refrain from banging on about it.

I've been back in the Glow portal this evening.  Everything worked smoothly on Linux running Firefox.  This is a real credit to the original architects of Glow. It would have been so easy to get sucked into a Windows or Windows/Mac only solution.

Once inside I began trying to set up a glow chatroom.  I have to say that this was not an intuitive process, but I got there in the end, and I'm sure it'll be easier next time.

It did strike me, as I looked around, that this whole environment will by default be hidden to the wider world.  We will have to think carefully about the implications of that.  I currently have two classes doing scribe post blogs, and their global audience is a big selling point.  It will be a shame if the wider world isn'…

Shutdown Day

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I haven't noticed anyone else in our little corner of the blogosphere talking about this, so here goes...



Tomorrow is shutdown day!  Can you spend a full 24 hours without a computer?

Glow Mentor Training Delayed?

I just read this at the clacksblog
News has just reached us that Mentor training is being delayed until after the summer holidays.
I wonder if this applies nationally? Anyone able to fill me in on the details?

[UPDATE] Apparently it does apply to us all.  No reason to panic - IT projects get delayed all the time.

Have you claimed your blog on Technorati?

I've been pondering ways to implement some of the remaining planned features in  scotedublogs.org.uk.

To this end, I'm wondering  - how many folk in the scotedublogs world have Technorati profiles, and have claimed their blogs with Technorati?  I'm rather hoping that the answer will be "most of us", because I would like to integrate information from Technorati into scotedublogs.org.uk rather than asking bloggers to replicate information they have already submitted to Technorati.  Please vote and let me know :)

Geogebra - a little from me and a lot from elsewhere!

This morning I have been working on Geogebra. It is a fantastic dynamic geometry/algebra package and has two killer features:

It is Open Source, free and cross-platform, so all students and teachers can install it at home
It has one-click publish to Web, so it is really easy to make dynamic resources available on-line

I produced this screencast, showing how to use sliders to control objects in a worksheet:

[MEDIA=3]

More importantly, though, I discovered Geogebra at JotSpot which has an awesome collection of screencasts, tutorials and pdf cheatsheets. Check it out!

Ruby on Rails - avoiding browser timeout during long tasks

Apologies to those of my readers who are not web developers - what follows may well make no sense to you whatsoever!

I am so please with myself! For nigh on a year now, I have been aware of a potential problem with FreeMIS (the Ruby-on-Rails based  management information system for schools that I have developed) and today I solved that problem.

The problem is that the printing of a full set of reports for all the pupils in a year group is a huge task, which can take Rails anything up to 130 seconds to complete. By the time it has done this, the browser and or web server have got bored and given up waiting. I have played around with the configuration of Apache and FastCGI, and tried using mongrel instead, but none managed to fix the problem 100%.

In PHP, it would be easily solved by purging the data produced out to the browser repeatedly through the task, but Rails does not have this option.

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I realised that I could solve the problem by doing the…

Functions and Graphs with Geogebra

My first Geogebra screencast seems to have gone down quite well, so here's another. This time, I'm demonstrating Geogebra's graphing capabilities

[MEDIA=2]

Geogebra

As I have visited schools across East Lothian this year, I have shown several maths teachers the Geogebra dynamic geometry package. They have all been impressed, but asked for more support in learning how to use it. This morning, I've put together a quick screencast to show the basics of using this excellent Open Source program. This first screencast looks at the geometric constructions that you can create. My next screencast will look at graphs and functions.

Someone is looking for the Catburgers!

I was most surprised today to discover that the top search phrase leading people to this blog over the last few weeks has been "the catburgers." This is the name of the indie band I was in back in the late '80s (I sang and played guitar).

I can't imagine who might be looking for my old band, unless it is some kids in North Berwick who heard about the band through my son.

Whoever it might be, I'll take advantage of this opportunity to post up some mp3s from the good old days, both recorded in 1987.  I just realised that's 20 years ago!  Time for a reunion tour of the states... anyway here are "Children's TV" and "First Day of Spring" for your entertainment:

[audio:childrens-tv.mp3]

[audio:first-day-of-spring.mp3]

After all, you have to keep your visitors happy don't you?

Second Edition of Agile Web Development with Rails

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I finally got 'round to buying the new edition of this classic manual for Ruby on Rails web development.  It covers everything in Rails 1.2, so there's the new <% form_for %> blocks, integration testing and much much more.  If you are thinking about getting into Rails, buy it now!

Is it just me?

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Is it just me, or does this raise a giggle?

Tess on Glow

Tess is speaking about her experiences trialling Glow.  Highs and lows!  You can find all the presentations and background stuff here.

New stuff for me is the idea of an ebay-style rating system for resources.  Tess raises the scary prospect of potential future employers looking at Glow and seeing what one's Glow rating is!

Andrew Middleton - don't record you lectures!

"Premise - podcasting is not an ideal medium for distributing lectures.

There are better ways of flexibly delivering information in an educational context."

Andrew is talking about higher education, but I guess this is relevant to us in primary/secondary too.  He points out that 20-30 minutes is usually about the maximum time to sustain the engagement of a listener (with some exceptions!)

Andrew also suggests that lectures are out-of-date as a mode of education.

So what would be better?  Provide archive content from BBC spliced with lectures? Much more finely grained podcasts, for small parts of a tough topic. Podcasts of students? - Maybe we are ahead of higher education on this one!

Mepath

James from mepath.com spoke about his company, which enables users to build stories about their lives, and get relevant information filtered in a smart way based upon the totality of the stories that you have put into the system.  It's in closed alpha at the moment, but sounds interesting!  You can sign up on the site.

Digital Katie - Smartphones in Castlebrae

Planning to introduce smart phones to the school - starting with S5/6.

Staff attitudes were initially negative "phones should be banned - ringtones are annoying"  After one hour the same teacher said "these are essential".

Lots of exciting uses - linking with social software:  Flickr, YouTube...

You're Giving the Weans Whit???

Ian is speaking about his project.

The project provides every pupil in Islay High School with a handheld electronic device, but it was great to hear Ian focussing on the curriculum and learning/teaching aims of the project rather than playing with the kit!

Every teacher has a tablet PC - every pupil will have a UMPC.

Ian is not a fan of interactive whiteboards.  He feels that it is not good to have your back to the class - difficult to keep an eye on the "wb"s  - you'll need to ask Ian what that stands for!

BarCamp Arrival

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Well I made it!  John and I had a great lunch at Suzie's Dinre, and have signed up to talk about scotedublogs.org.uk.  I've already met Ollie, Ian Stuart from Islay, Ewan and others.

Just my luck!!

No sooner have I upgraded to Wordpress 2.1.1 than this comes out:
WordPress 2.1.1 dangerous, Upgrade to 2.1.2
I've upgraded again. Hopefully that'll be it for a while!

BarCamp Scotland tomorrow

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's BarCampScotland! Unfortunately, the deal is that you have to present something, so I've been working this afternoon on a quick presentation about ScotEduBlogs.org.uk: barcamp presentation

My mind wasn't very focussed, what with it being a Friday afternoon, and I'm not particularly pleased with the slides. Chances are I may not end up having to present anyway though, so I'm not stressing about it!

Upgraded Wordpress!

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my Wordpress installation to 2.1.1

The entire process took me a timid 25 minutes.  Pretty painless really :)

Now I can relax until the next security upgrade comes along.

Have you used ScotEduBlogs.org.uk?

John and I are going to be talking about ScotEduBlogs.org.uk at BarCampScotland on Saturday.

I'm trying to put together a brief presentation, including feedback from users, so If you've used the site I'd really appreciate it if you could take the time to comment here on whether or not you have found it useful. Be honest!

VE Day party at Gullane

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This afternoon I was lucky enough to be invited to the VE day party that the P7 class at Gullane had organised (well to be honest I kind of cadged an invitation!). The pupils were challenged by Kathy McGrane to organise the food, games, decorations and clothing for the party. This involved a fair bit of numeracy work, hence my interest.

It was a delightful afternoon! The centrepiece of the afternoon's activities was this cake:



The pupils found a recipe, costed the ingredients, bought the ingredients then baked the cake.

I had fascinating chats with Kathy, Mary Howie and others about ACfE, Critical Skills and the transfer from Primary to Secondary.  What happens to the confident, independent learners filling our P7 classrooms?  Do we build upon these strengths at High School?

Stikkit

I've been playing with Stikkit recently.  It's a free on-line organiser.  I like the fact that it is smart about interpreting what you type.  If you write " -meet with paul next Tuesday 10am" then it automatically recognises it as a meeting, adds it to the calendar and links it to your contact called "paul".  Neat.

Help! MediaWiki CSS woes!

The scotedublogs.org.uk site now has a wiki incorporated into it. It uses MediaWiki, which was an easy install, but unfortunately I'm having a hard time trying to adapt the look of the Wiki to blend in with the rest of the site. I've got it looking fine in Firefox, Konqueror, Opera and Safari and IE7. IE6 refuses to play ball though. The existing CSS already has a separate IE6 hack file, and I can't work out how to make it fix my new layout (8000px centered) the way it fixed the old one (full screen).

If anyone thinks they might be able to help, please let me know :)

Pre-installed Linux is what Dell customers want

Dell have apparently always claimed that there is "no customer demand" for Linux to be pre-installed on their machines.

It'll be hard for them to claim that now:

http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/19/2212213 

Productivity vs Consumption in Web2.0

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In the bright new world of Web2.0, we are all both consumers and producers. I've been thinking today about how the two relate to each other. Time for a graph:



I'd like to spend all my time on-line in the "head down" and "I'm on fire!" zones - reading blogs, writing posts, posting comments, sending emails, coding cool applications, doing school preparation...

Unfortunately, I seem to spend much more time in the "Web1.0" zone - mindlessly trawling around blogs, my feed reader, checking email, being vaguely inspired but not actually producing anything... and I guess I'm not alone in this.

How do we get the balance right? Without consuming the Web I wouldn't be producing many of the interestingthings that I'm involved with now, but there are times when I feel like I might have produced a whole lot more if I'd just left the computer switched off!

Do you feel like you've got the balance right?

The Web let me down

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We came across this vintage bit of electronics today, whilst doing some early spring cleaning:




This handy intercom works perfectly, and has a cable about 10m long. It's an awesome retro toy, ideal for re-enacting Moneypenny scenes from Bond, or Reggie Perrin moments!

I thought I'd try to find out something about it on the Web, but have drawn a complete blank. I can't even find any reference to "Eagle Products" as purveyors of quality electronic office goods. Most disappointing :(

Blowing the dust off the vinyl

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This afternoon my son convinced me to put together something upon which to play the huge pile of vinyl lurking at the back of the garage. This proved to be a bit trickier than I thought.

First, I took the old Ariston Q Deck record player out of a cupboard, only to find that its power supply was missing. Some more digging produced this ancient power adapter, which did the trick:





Next I needed to deal with the fact that the only amplifier in the house capable of taking input from a record deck was knackered! It only puts out sound to the left speaker. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the headphone socket was still working OK. So I realised that I could take the output from the headphone socket and put it into my travel speakers.



Except that the headphone socket is "big jack" and the cable from the speackers is "mini-jack"! More hunting around by my son came up with the right adaptor, and we were sorted!



Highlights of the afternoon's listening incl…

Praise Junkies?

Tom Hoffman's Google Reader shared items brought me to this NYTimes article. It's important stuff. I'd like to think that we are a bit more cautious about dishing out praise on this side of the pond, but we still seem to spend a lot of time praising achievement rather than effort. This is what the article condemns. Read it, then tell me what you think :)

Fun at the Lecht

On Tuesday Monday we went to the Lecht. The snow was pretty slushy, but we had a laugh building a tiny kicker. Craig and Samantha had a go at snowboarding too - both naturals!

[googlevideo]-1547974743757018687[/googlevideo]

[googlevideo]6014152039544831568[/googlevideo]

[googlevideo]9020457827828116719[/googlevideo]

Aviemore

My son and I are sitting in Cafe Bleu enjoying the free hotspot and waiting for Ellis Brigham to open so we can get some essentials for our day's boarding.  The weather is a bit grey but the road to the Lecht is open!  Can't wait!

What Happened to the FreeMIS Demo?

The account hosting the FreeMIS demo site got hacked just after Christmas, and I stripped out all the sites I was hosting on that account until I worked out where the vulnerability was.  It turned out that the vulnerability was in a old Joomla extension, but I have not yet got around to switching the FreeMIS demo site back on. It's on my list of things to do this weekend :)

Yahoo Pipes

A while ago, I blogged about Dapper - a web tool to create structured, machine readable data from Web sites.  Yahoo have just announced the arrival of Pipes, which allows Joe Average to create new web services by joining together existing feeds, search engine queries etc.  It's very cool, hard to explain in words but easy to see - check out this example, which searches a bunch of different places for stuff about Shrewsbury Council

5 Things I Stopped Believing Long Ago

Please read the title again before proceeding :)This is a list of 5 beliefs I no longer hold. Some of them just turned out not to be true - others I've changed my mind about. Some I'm glad to have shed, others I kind of miss.

Academic achievement is an important measure of a person.

When you do well in exams it's easy to get sucked into this one.

Music would be changed foreverby the release of "To here knows when" by My Bloody Valentine.

I still think it should have been! Here's the video for you to enjoy:
[youtube]EqVa-y4yfX8[/youtube]

Belief in God is irrational - one of my teenage certainties!

Gathering in clubs to dance to repetitive electronic beats would be a passing fad.

Hah! What did I know back in 1990?

The News. Alas.

Any other takers willing to 'fess up?

Google Video and YouTube maths videos

These videos sites have some interesting educational stuff in amongst the copyright clips and shots of people hurting themselves. The first 6 minutes of this clip from Google video would be useful as revision for my S3 credit class:

[googlevideo]-5998167237148731644[/googlevideo]

and this one from YouTube (not viewable in East Lothian schools I'm afraid) is good revision for an S4 general class:

[youtube]AQLGJV6pjRk[/youtube]

There are hundreds if not thousands of these videos.  You could probably put together a complete set of revision clips for every Scottish maths course if you so desired :)

Glow mentors session

Here's the fruits of our labour so far....

<span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 9px; display: block"> <a style="font-size: 100%" mce_href="http://www.bubbleshare.com/album/118795.cd7b24ca216" xhref="http://www.bubbleshare.com/album/118795.cd7b24ca216">This album</a> is powered by <a style="font-size: 100%" mce_href="http://www.bubbleshare.com" xhref="http://www.bubbleshare.com">BubbleShare</a> - <a style="font-size: 100%" mce_href="http://www.bubbleshare.com/album/118795.cd7b24ca216/share#add_to_blog" xhref="http://www.bubbleshare.com/album/118795.cd7b24ca216/share#add_to_blog">Add to my blog</a> </span></span>

What the DFES report on interactive whiteboards really says

There have been several headlines over the last few days along the lines of "£50 million wasted on iwbs", based on this study from the DFES.

So what does it really say? Unsurprisingly, it does not say that iwbs are a waste of money:
Overall, the statistical analysis failed to find evidence of any impact of the increase in IWB acquisition in London schools on attainment in the three core subjects in the academic year 2004/5. However, given the variation in use documented in the case studies, this is in line with what we would predict at this stage in the policy cycle.
The study is worth reading in its entirety, but if you want my spin on it, I picked up on a couple of key points:

A theme running through the report is that this technology itself will not change what happens in classrooms.
....the introduction of an IWB does not in and of itself transform existing pedagogies. The capacity of IWBs to support, extend or transform existing pedagogies depends upon the teacher's inte…

Courmayeur 2007 - we made it!

It's over! I'm too tired to say much, other than that it went well, and that being responsible for the safety, enjoyment and learning of 149 people was an intense, draining and fascinating experience. I'm glad to be relieved of that responsibility now though! Here's a wee video clip of one of the boys getting over-ambitious on a wee kicker we built:

[googlevideo]-9220930658044686283[/googlevideo]

Blogging for Beginners - OPML - Collections of Feeds

So you've read the earlier Blogging for Beginners posts in this series, and you've set yourself up with a feed reader? Maybe you're wondering where to find the good stuff to subscribe to?
One solution is to gradually build up a list of blog feeds based on the people you know, folk that comment on your blog etc. This is an important part of the process, and what I'm about to tell you won't do away with that feed-by-feed addition of blogs to your feed reader - finding interesting blogs and subscribing to them is part of the fun of blogging!
The shortcut solution is to find a list of blogs relevant to your interests and add them all to your feed reader in one go. Lists of feeds can be stored in a format that your feed reader can import automatically - this format is called OPML.
So, where do you find OPML files to import into your feed reader? Well, one good place is Technorati, where you can grab the results of a blog search in an OPML file. For example, this page

Great New Exc-el Tools

David has been busy!

He has just announced two new tools that are going to make a big difference to the blogging community in East Lothian: a Grazr feed reader of all exc-el blogs and a widget that lists the latest posts from all exc-el blogs.  These two tools open up exc-el in a dramatic way.  Before them, it was not possible for a casual browser to see a list of all the exc-el blogs, nor to get a handle on what the current activity was.  Congratulations to David, and to Ewan who has, I think, been working with him on this stuff.

Ski Trip to Courmayeur

Our annual S2 ski trip to Courmayeur in Italy departs from the high school at 9.30 am on Saturday morning in 4 coaches, with 149 people including the adults.

I'm the party leader!

Whilst I've been trying to keep a hand in on-line this week  (with disasterous consequences in one case) I've reached the point where I really need to get off the computer and concentrate on the task at hand.

Expect radio silence from me until I get back on Sunday 28th January, and wish me luck!

ScotEduBlogs Logo "Competition"

John Johnston has just announced  a "competition" to design the logo for the new ScotEduBlogs.org.uk Web site.

I put competition in quotes because the prize is just a big bucket of kudos and the appearance of your logo on the site!
If you can think of someone with an artistic bent that might be able to help (a pupil perhaps?), please pass this on to them.

Robert Anton Wilson RIP

Robert Anton Wilson died on 11/1/2007, as reported on his official blog. R U Sirius has written an obituary.

RAW was incredibly important to me in the early '90s, when I devoured The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Cosmic Trigger, Prometheus Rising and many more of his fine books.

Robert Anton Wilson saw the Universe as a great big hilarious mystery, wide-open with possibilities. He dismissed all purveyors of certainty, and explained in clear, simple language the extent to which we all live in our own self-constructed models of reality rather than actually receiving reality as it is moment to moment.

In hindsight, RAW led me to Buddhism. I was going to say "led me to becoming a Buddhist" but RAW would have ridiculed the use of such a lazy, meaningless label. In fact, I have never really been very comfortable with the label "Buddhist". It is not used in the East, where people describe themselves as followers of the Buddha's path rather than as Buddhists. As a small…

Open Source on the BBC

In Business on Radio 4 dedicated a programme to Open Source software.  For those of you out there who are all about startups,  VC and the buzz of business, it gives a great explanation of the Open Source business model and why it is going to beat the proprietary software model in the long term.

For those of you that can't be bothered to listen, the bottom line is that the Open Source business model sees profit as coming from services and support arrangements around software rather than from charging for the software itself.  Give the software away free (as in beer and as in speech) then offer the users the opportunity to purchase support from you.  You won't make so much money per user, but you'll get a lot more users.  It works!

Thanks to Steve Lee for the heads-up on this one.

Scotedublogs - A New Hub for Scottish Educational Blogs

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The Scotedublogs wiki has become the de facto place to find Scottish edubloggers or to announce your own blog's arrival on the scene. It has done a great job, but is beginning to outgrow its current wiki format.
One key reason why our blogging community has flourished where so many previous attempts to develop an on-line community of teachers have failed is this: we built and continue to build the community ourselves.
I am therefore delighted to be able to say that we are continuing this tradition by building our own exciting new hub for our community: I am working with Peter, John and others from the Scottish edublogging community to produce www.scotedublogs.org.uk
This site already provides the following:

A directory of Scottish edublogs, viewable by authority or by tags
The facility to add new blogs
Colour-coding of blogs based on recency of last post (red=hot!)
A quick view of recent posts for each blog
The facility to add tags to blogs
The facility to export an OPML file of any of t…