Monthly Archives: April 2016

A micro look at microbit⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display


A lot of micro:bits from the BBC arrived in the centre where I work, ready to be distributed to North Lanarkshire schools. I’ve taken the opportunity to break one out and have a wee play.

The devices are aimed at secondary so outside my wheelhouse, but I could not resist a wee play.

The microbic works by creating code for it on a computer and flashing it to the device via USB (you can also use bluetooth from a mobile app). There are several different ways to create code. You can do in in the browser with severe different editors, Code Kingdom’s JavaScript, The Microsoft Block Editor, Microsoft Touch Develop or Python. I’ve had a quick try of most of these. You can also use the MU python editor that runs on Windows, OSX, Linux and Raspberry Pi.

Although I don’t really know any python I’ve found that the MU editor the most reliable. The browser based ones have been occasionally flaky, causing me to switch browsers a few times. I also like to have anything stored locally (the browser editor stores in local storage, but that means you need to either get an account sorted out or use the same browser on the same box all the time.)

There are already a nice set of resource building up, I found the Raspberry Pi and micro:bit Playground both useful.

When I was looking at the Tilty Game from the micro:bit Playground I though I might be able to make a ‘paint’ editor. This is the result. (click to start the movie, I’ve just found you can use a gif as a poster frame)

The code allows you to draw on the microbes LEDs, the left and right buttons move the cursor in a horizontal and vertical  directions and a double press toggle the lights.

And here is the code, I used to make it look nicer. Not exactly rocket science. I expect there are better ways of doing this.

from microbit import *

Matrix = [[0 for x in range(5)] for x in range(5)]

#set initial position
x = 2
y = 2

def printmatrix():
    for x in range(5):
        for y in range(5):
            if (Matrix[x][y]):
                display.set_pixel(x, y, 6)
                display.set_pixel(x, y, 0)
#show cursor
display.set_pixel(x, y, 9)
while True:
    if button_a.is_pressed() and button_b.is_pressed():
        if (Matrix[x][y]==0):
    elif button_a.is_pressed():
        x = x + 1
        if (x>4):
        display.set_pixel(x, y, 9)
    elif button_b.is_pressed():
        y = y + 1
        if (y>4):
        display.set_pixel(x, y, 9)

The idea is we store a matrix of which lights are on. The ones turned on are shown by the printmatrix function. They are displayed at a brightness of 6 to distinguish them from the cursor, which is full beam.

The cursor is moved with the left and right buttons. it loops (I wonder if it would be better to bounce it?) Clicking the left and right buttons toggles the light on or of in the matrix. The reset button clears the screen.

I had quite a lot of fun getting this to work, the formatting of the script caught me out a few times. I wonder, if I was smarter, could I take the same approach and make a noughts and crosses app?

Featured image on this post a gif made from BBC micro:bit by Gareth Halfacree used under a Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic — CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

School of thought – 5 ways the new government could make schools better for young people in Scotland⤴

from @ Enquire - young people's blog

The Scottish Elections are coming up next week, and if you’re 16 years old or over then you have the right to vote. This is such an exciting chance for you to use your voice and have a say in how Scotland should be run! There are lots of youth orgs with manifestos that set out goals for the new government that will make life better for young people in Scotland. A lot of the manifestos call for politicians to do more to make sure that all young people in Scotland get Continue reading

Radio #EDUtalk at #OER16⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display


Last week I took the edutalk mic to #OER16: Open Culture The 7th Open Educational Resources Conference.

The idea was to broadcast & podcast the keynote and also get some conversations between various participants.

Broadcasting the keynotes worked well. Getting folk lined up for a chat proved more of a challenge. It seems that most of the attendees wanted to be in sessions! I think this was the most engaged conference I’ve ever been at.

Lucky for me folk were happier to give up their lunch than skip a workshop and I managed to record some fascinating conversations.

I’ve cleaned up some of the recordings and posting them to oer16 | EDUtalk.

It is amazing the privilege that having a microphone gives you. You get to listen to a lot of clever stuff.

In higher education the idea of open education is now well enough established that the discussions have become quite nuanced. There are a wide range of definitions and directions on the open road. Some look at practical issues around, licensing and searching of resources others social or technical ideas.

I’ve not seen much evidence that these ideas are penetrating primary or secondary education in Scotland. I do think that open ideas are equally valid here. A good place for school based colleagues to start might be the Scottish Open Education Declaration.



Me in the Booth, photo Martin Hawksey, lifted from twitter.

Meetings and greetings

It was a privilege to met and chat to folk who I had met before and those I knew only online. Even though I spent a fair bit of time in the booth I managed to catch up with far to many folk to mention.

With Jim & Josie Meeting David & Viv

OER Messages

I’ve not got a wide ranging knowledge of the OER world, but it was pretty obvious there are different interpretations of open, many speakers alluded to that. The First Keynote Catherine Cronin spoke about the social justice aspects.

Melissa Highton @honeybhighton talked about these different kinds of open, saying it doesn’t matter which one you choose as much as that you know the affordances and limitations of each (my interpretation).

There was a general feeling that the more open a resource the more sustainable it is. The more clauses in a license the more likely it is that it could be unusable if the owner could not be connected.


Personal learning

For the keynotes I had a very good feed from the microphones in the room. There was a little hiss from the rack. Recoding conversations in the booth was a bit more problematic as the rack were giving off a fair rumble. Usually with hiss I’d move out of audacity and go to GarageBand, this time I stayed in Audacity and used the equaliser. For the rumble I did manage to improve the audio a little with a combination of the equaliser and noise reduction effects.

The audio is not great but I’ve been happily listening to the results while commuting. It is surprising what you miss when you are broadcasting a second listen has been valuable to me. I do hope that the content of the presentations and conversations are widely listened to they messages are worth thinking about..  You can find the audio at  #OER16 AUDIO


It was delightful to spend time with people who are gathered, not because they want to sell something, but with a shared idea that is aimed at doing good in the world. It was a privilege to do so, I owe  thanks to the conference for giving me the opportunity. I am particularly aware that my position over the last few years has allowed me to take holidays to be able to attend events like this during term time, an opportunity not many class teachers have and one I’ll miss next session.

Image credits: Featured image, Jim Groom Keynote where he mentioned Edutalk, my own from the booth at the back.. Me with folk, lifted from twitter.