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Showing posts from March, 2007

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?