Tag Archives: software

Microcast 5: Choices⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display


Some thoughts about making choices about the software and systems you use, they may have hidden positives or negatives.

Featured image, iPhone screenshot, edited in snapseed

    Modern Technology⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display


    Yesterday I tweeted a link to a great post, the transcript of a talk about some social aspects of technology and how allowing technologist to lead our progress might have negative impacts on our privacy and lives, here is a quote.

    Those who benefit from the death of privacy attempt to frame our subjugation in terms of freedom, just like early factory owners talked about the sanctity of contract law. They insisted that a worker should have the right to agree to anything, from sixteen-hour days to unsafe working conditions, as if factory owners and workers were on an equal footing.

    Companies that perform surveillance are attempting the same mental trick. They assert that we freely share our data in return for valuable services. But opting out of surveillance capitalism is like opting out of electricity, or cooked foods—you are free to do it in theory. In practice, it will upend your life.

    Remarks at the SASE Panel On The Moral Economy of Tech

    This spoke very much to some thoughts I’ve been having about our relationship to technology companies. Some of these were sparked  by Dean Groom, Why not to buy Minecraft Education Edition.  Some more idaea were discussed at the Always on (them) event at the University of the West of Scotland and I am in the midst of exploring those in a few microcasts, tagged DigitalUWS & microcast (one down a few more to go).

    I’ve not come to any great conclusions but I do think it is something we should be thinking a lot harder about.

    More grist arrived today from Stephen Downes:

    I can see how the presentation would engage school leaders looking for a way to address current trends in learning, but they need to look beyond the single-vendor approach proposed here, and they should be clear that technology companies are service providers who are held accountable for delivery, not partners taking a hand in pedagogical and educational decisions.

    Looking back to move forward: A process for whole-school transformation ~ Stephen Downes

    I know myself enough to recognise that I am somewhat enthralled by technology and software. I certainly need to think about my relationship, on so many levels, with the technology I use. Should we be addressing this in the classroom with our pupils?

    featured image is probably walking a copyright tightrope, but seems appropriate

    Chalking my First Slate⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    I had a bit of a play with Adobe Slate this morning. It is an iOS app for publishing words and pictures.

    The Devil's Pulpit
    The Devil’s Pulpit

    It is quite a very process which allows you to get good looking results quickly. Macworld points out some limitations that struck me immediately.

    It’s dead-simple, but also quite limited. You can choose from a handful of themes to change the whole look of the story, but can’t adjust individual fonts or formats, or even add a link within a larger block of text. (You can, however, place links as standalone buttons.) You can change image formats so they appear full screen, inline, or as a scrolling “window,” but you can’t add borders or freely move images around. Video isn’t supported at all.

    What we gain

    I guess slate is part of the same move to allowing producers to concentrate on the content while the ‘professionals’ provide the design.
    Like Medium you cannot argue with the results from a clean readable point of view.
    We can publish text and pictures easily on a blog. I am sure we can find a theme or two with typography that is as good, but I suspect it might be hard to find such elegant handling of images.

    What we lose

    I am not a professional writer or photographer, neither am I a designer or coder (obviously;-)).
    I publish ‘stuff’, sometime approaching stories, because it is fun and I want to explore the potential of these activities for learning. I have different degrees of interest in all aspects of the process, I think I can learn from each.
    I’ve been thinking about the tension between ease of use and creativity for a while. For learners we will sometimes want them to concentrate on one particular aspect of the work. I can’t be the only teacher who sometimes asked pupils to leave font and style changes till the story was finished. At other times we will want them to get fully involved in messy learning.
    We also lose some control of the data when we publish to silo sites. I am pretty sure that Medium and Adobe will be around a lot longer than Posterous, but I still like backups.


    Just as I am writing this I remember an earlier experiment A Walk to Loch Oss using Odyssey.js

    The odyssey.js library is being developed to help journalists, bloggers, and other people on the web publish stories that combine narratives with maps and map interactions. The library is open source and freely available to use in your projects. It is initially being built to work with most modern browsers

    from: odyssey.js README on GitHub. Odyssey.js adds maps to the mix but might be an interesting alternative to Slate that allows you more control and ownership. I am sure there are others out there.

    Unexpected Practices⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    it is seldom about technology designers’ a priori plans for a technology, and more about users’ unexpected practices with it. That, to me, is the most fascinating and useful basis of research inquiry.

    via Brief statement on ‘Digital Wisdom’ | Ibrars space.

    I love ‘unexpected practices’ it is why we need flexible technology in Learning and Teaching.

    My favourite use for word when I was teaching primary 6 was as a poor man’s vector editor, Sandaig Otters » Seeing Stars, and I’ve often been surprised by how pupils and teachers bend unsuitable software to their needs.

    Javascript – Grades to Numbers⤴

    from @ ICT & Education

    A while ago I wrote about how I was able to (finally) get my Adobe Acrobat form to calculate grades. (You can read it here). I’ve finally (with the help of @PenmanRoss) been able to do it the other way around – to type in a grade (e.g., A3) and get the form to calculate the corresponding number.

    Here’s the script

    var og = this.getField("GA").value; 
    if( og =="A1") 
    event.value = og = 22; 
    else if( og =="A2") 
    event.value = og = 21; 
    else if( og =="A3") 
    event.value = og = 20; 
    else if( og =="A4") 
    event.value = og = 19; 
    else if( og =="A5") 
    event.value = og = 18; 
    else if( og =="B1") 
    event.value = og = 17; 
    else if( og =="B2") 
    event.value = og = 16; 
    else if( og =="B3") 
    event.value = og = 15; 
    else if( og =="C1") 
    event.value = og = 14; 
    else if( og =="C2") 
    event.value = og = 13; 
    else if( og =="C3") 
    event.value = og = 12; 
    else if( og =="D1") 
    event.value = og = 11; 
    else if( og =="D2") 
    event.value = og = 10; 
    else if( og =="D3") 
    event.value = og = 9; 
    else if( og =="E1") 
    event.value = og = 8; 
    else if( og =="E2") 
    event.value = og = 7; 
    else if( og =="E3") 
    event.value = og = 6; 
    else if( og =="F1") 
    event.value = og = 5; 
    else if( og =="F2") 
    event.value = og = 4; 
    else if( og =="F3") 
    event.value = og = 3; 
    else if( og =="G1") 
    event.value = og = 2; 
    else if( og =="G2") 
    event.value = og = 1; 
    else if( og =="H") 
    event.value = og = 0; 
    else event.value = "";

    Coding in the Curriculum for Creating rather than Consuming⤴

    from @ ICT for Teaching & Learning in Falkirk Primary Schools

    Do you wonder why it’s important to help pupils learn to code?

    The products of coding or computer programming are around us every day, whether we see it or not. Daily living in today’s society depends on someone somewhere having created something in which coding or programming has played a part. Many voices have spoken about how the society in which our pupils live requires more people now and in the future to be skilled in programming or coding.

    There is a fear expressed that schools which ignore teaching programming or coding are setting up pupils to only be consumers rather than creators of the code-driven products of today and the future.

    Many teachers of today, themselves unfamiliar with coding or programming from their own education, may be anxious that they don’t have the skills needed to teach pupils coding or programming.

    So this post sets out to collate resources which will support teachers to provide age-appropriate support for their pupils in including coding or programming in the context of different curriculare areas.

    Mitch Resnick, one of the main creators of the coding program called Scratch, delivered a TED Talk outlining the benefits of teaching childrens to code, so they can do more than just “read” new technologies — but also create them.

    Ginni Skalski has written a blog post of an interveiw with Red Hat product manager Burr Sutter (who works to make developers more successful and productive with open source tools, technologies, and techniques) who talks about why he believes children need to know how to solve technical problems, to know how to fix the tech tools they use every day, and how he balances that with other activities in which children participate.

    Watch the short video below to see a few creators of well-known online tools (from Facebook to Dropbox) explain briefly what they first did to get started in coding, and why it’s important we have more people learning to program. This is also described slightly more fully here. Also it is part of http://code.org/ The Hour of Code which links to quotes from a far wider range of well known or influential individuals on the importance of teachign coding today.

    Charlie Love has written on the Nesta site about why we should be finding ways to incorporate the teaching of coding into the curriculum, and highlights the links to SDcotland’s Curriculum for Excellence.

    5 Reasons to Teach Kids to Code is a graphical poster  created by @GrechenNoelle and @jonmattingly and presented by Kodable (a free programming tool and curriculum for the iPad) which sets out in a visually interesting way why it is important schools empower pupils to learn skills of programming.

    Dr. Patricia Fioriello sets out in a blog post why we should be Teaching Kids To Code to Prepare Them For The Future. The post lists 6 reasons, and describes them, and ends by advocating including teaching perogramming in the classroom.

    In a BBC Technology report “Where is the next generation of coders?” Jane Wakefield reports on the move to encourage young children to learn programming/coding. The gives the background to the need to have programming taught at an early age, and also what kinds of tools are available.

    Programming Power: Does Learning to Code Empower Kids? This post by Ben Williamson looks at the idea that young people should learn to code, which has become a global educational aspiration in the last few years. And asks what kinds of questions should digital media and learning researchers ask about these developments? He suggests three approaches: first, to take a historical look at learning to code; second, to consider it in political and economic context; and third, to understand its cultural dimensions.

    Why Learning to CodeMakes My Brain Hurt! This post by Mamie Rheingold explains what she believes learners learn when they are programming. 

    Position Statement on learning to program in children’s early years - Dr Andrew Manches writes here providing the rationale for why teaching coding or programming for young children is important.

    So what tools and resources are available?

    There is a host of tools available which can be used to support teaching pupils coding or programming. Some are downloadable software, some are specific to certian gaming devices or computing environments. Some work on specific mobile devices as apps. And some are online, requiring no downloads.

    Chris Betcher describes and illustrates in this video a range of tools suitable for children to learn to code.

    Edutopia blogpost about apps for teaching pupils coding provides a list of a few programs or apps which are aimed at use with children. Each is briefly described. Edutopia also has a post by Vicki Davis entitled “15+ Ways of teaching every student to code (even without a computer)

    Code.Org provides a host of resources collated around teaching coding at different stages and ages and for different purposes – but all aimed at encouraging teachers to use coding with pupils. These links include Tutorials for the Classroom: CodeHS (Online curriculum designed specifically for high school classrooms); Codecademy After School (complete online after-school activities for a coding club); Tynker (programming for primary school in a fun way); Bootstrap (high-school algebra and geometry concepts using computer programming); CS Unplugged (Fun classroom exercises to teach computer science principles, with no computers needed).  There are links to various schemes to bring enthusiasts into schools as well as platforms aimed at use with children.

    Nesta Computing Resources for teachers links to resources which support teachers in incorporating coding/programming elements in their learning and teaching.


    Alice is a  tool to enable creating an animated story, an interactive game, or a video to share online.

    Espresso Coding

    Espresso Coding is a series of online coding lessons for pupils (free until October 2014). It guides pupils through the elements of learning to code and make their own apps to share with their friends and family. It includes 70+ step-by step lessons and tablet-friendly activities for pupils to create apps, full lesson plans for each activity, a website area where apps can be published and shared, an introduction to coding using elements of JavaScript, and short, helpful video guides.


    Kodu is a programming tool to create games on the PC and XBox.


    Logo programming language forms the basis for a number of programmable devices, whether on-screen on robots or vehicles used in schools such as Beebot and Roamer. Click here for resources to support the use of Beebot and Roamer devices or their on-screen equivalents.

    Raspberry Pi

    Zondle Raspberyy Pi Programming Kit is just one of the ways in which Raspberry Pi can be used to help pupils learn programming. Raspberry Pi is a relatively inexpensive palm sized computer which can be used for programming games.


    Scratch was previously only available as a downloadable program but is now available as an online version (Scratch 2.0) – this is a programming language that makes it easy to create interactive stories, animations, games, music and art – and share online.

    Step 1. To get started straight away with pupils go to http://scratch.mit.edu/ and click on the signup button (or sign in if previously signed up).

    Step 2. Click on “create” at the top http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/editor/?tip_bar=getStarted If this does not show the tutorial step-by-step guide to starting a project then click on “Help” and choose step by step intro here: http://scratch.mit.edu/help/ (this also has printable guides and project cards for use with pupils as well as help videos).

    Scratch 2.0 Starter Kit - Tools and resources collated by Randy Rodgers to help get teachers get their classes started with Scratch programming.

    Click here for resources created by Simon Haughton specifically for use in primary school, including instruction cards for pupils to create various games using Scratch (including Pong, Golf and racing cars).

    Click here for a range of resources from Wes Fryer about using Scratch in school with pupils. This includes video introductions and tutorials, printable guides for pupils and lesson plans and evaluation resources.

    Click here for Scratch plans for upper primary school age on the Junior Computer Science site. This includes lesson plans and ideas for using Scratch across the curriculum. there are loads of downloadable step by step guides for printing for use with pupils for a host of projects.

    For those who like to have a paper handheld guide to using Scratch 2.0 (in comic-book style) then there is a book available for purchase reviewed here by Mark Frauenfelder. It’s also available for purchase in digital Kindle format.

    Other Tools

    Coding in the Classroom: 10 Tools Students Can Use to Design Apps and Video Games lists and describes 10 programs available for learning about programming, wther for PCs or mobile devices or other devices.

    Ask A Teacher: 20 Programming Websites for K-8 - provides a list of 20 programming tools for use in schools with pupils. Includes videos, tutorials and links to resources.

    Who can help?

    On a Mission: How Code Academy is Helping get Programming into the Classroom.  Lee Summers describes here how Codecademy for teachers is an online educational site built specifically for teachers. It offers slides for each lesson, as well as a quiz and practice set where students can test their knowledge.  The site has been set up so that teachers can craft their own materials and then share them with the rest of the community.

    To keep up with developments in such a fast-changing envronment there are a number of groups and individuals who share online via Twitter ideas and resources for supporting teachers in enocuraging pupils to learn to code. These include the following:

    @CodeClub – for resources to support programming with 9-11 year-olds

    @CoderScot - CoderDojo Scotland is part of a global collaboration which provides free coding clubs for young people to learn programming in a fun and sociable environment.

    Using TodaysMeet with Students for the first time⤴

    from @ ICT & Education

    I had the 2nd year students for two classes today (Child Development and School Experience). As part of my push to integrate ICT more effectively into teaching and learning, I introduced them to TodaysMeet, demonstrating it online and encouraging them to use it throughout the two classes.

    There was the usual issue re: ensuring everyone had access to a wireless device. There was also an annoying hiccup re: using the university’s laptops which did, to be fair, get resolved very quickly—thank you, Stephen!

    In Child Development, the focus was mainly on having the students recap their learning and asking questions (and getting responses) from various groups in the class (everyone was sitting in groups of 4). Unfortunately, time was short and not all groups were able to post their questions or get responses. Not the students’ fault, to be fair. What was interesting was that they all were engaged. The questions posed were mostly lower-order questions although I believe that in time the students will become more confident in using it and will start throwing more challenging questions at their colleagues. It may be worth reminding the students of HOTS and getting them to see the links between using it in the classroom and using at University.

    However, it was in the School Experience class (which just finished) where I really started to push the use of TodaysMeet. The purpose of the class was to review three GTCS documents which are important for students teachers to know. Traditionally, I would have photocopied the papers, handed them out, given each group a section, asked them to review it and to report back to the class. However, this time I asked them to review it and post their findings on TodayMeet. I also asked them to summarise their section using no more than 2 ‘tweets’ (somehow calling them TodaysMeets sound daft). I also added comments once in a while.

    To be fair, there were some comments which deviated slightly from the focus but I don’t think this was a bad thing. In fact, in our review of the use of TodaysMeet at the end of the session, there was a comment that it helped to keep focus and kept people focussed on the tweets. Another comment was that it kept the pace going as people were reading the tweets, reporting back to the group and using the comments to either post another question or to provide an answer.

    It seems (to me at least) that some of the students who would normally be quite hesitant to comment were less reluctant to do so online although I will require more feedback to see if this is, indeed, the case.

    There was a question about whether having a copy of the whole conversation on our Moodle page would be useful as it was unlikely it would be scanned in its entirety. It’s a fair point although I am hoping that students will engage with this software more in future weeks, looking for weblinks, making comments, adding thoughts while the lecture is taking place in order to enhance the students’ learning. My vision is that students may find research papers or evidence to support (or refute!) what I’m saying online which can then be posted onto TodaysMeet. I will need to monitor this to see how well the students engage in this.

    Overall, the response seems to have been positive. Although the room was very warm and it was a 3-5pm class (first day of term!), the engagement was quite high. Certainly a positive first step.

    Next Steps

    • Encourage students to engage with TodaysMeet during lecture;
      (questions, reiterating what they are learning, weblinks to information such as research papers, news articles, etc.)
    • Ensure iBoard is working properly and present the tweets on the 2nd board, keeping the 1st free for presentation;
    • Ensure auto-sleep is turned off on the computer (Running back to unlock my laptop is not a viable option!);
    • Respond to tweets during the lecture as appropriate

    Testing out software⤴

    from @ ICT & Education

    On Friday I had an unusual pique of procrastination. So instead of marking papers (which, let’s face it, is always a joy and my raison d’être), I roped some students into playing with computers and iPads in order to try out some new software I’d come across online. The purpose was to determine which of the four identified programmes would be most useful during a lecture.

    Two programmes focussed on relaying the presentation via the internet (UStream and join.me); the other two focussed on encouraging students to use a backchannel during the lecture (Twitter and TodaysMeet).


    Allows live streaming from multiple channels (such as video, monitor, webcam, etc.). You need to download their software which is a little complicated to set up. You need to download software. To share my keynote presentation, I had to have another small app running which would allow the screen to be shared. I also had to set up the microphone which was a bit fiddly. The biggest issue was that when presenting in full screen, I wasn’t able to access any of the controls to ensure everything was working properly (although the students in the other room said it was).

    There is about a 30-second delay between what is being broadcast and what the listeners hear. This isn’t a problem if I am going to be lecturing online but if I want to use it as a way to support students with visual/hearing impairments, it could be a problem. I don’t want to tell a joke, have everyone laugh and then, 30 seconds later, have one or two people guffaw again out loud! (Of course, this assumes my jokes are funny and people laugh)…

    As it’s web-based, it will work on any device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.). There is also an app available for Mac and Android.

    As I am using the free version of UStream, listeners have to sit through a 20-40 second advertisement before the stream will begin. This is annoying but I am not in a position to spend $99US/month (£61.80 by today’s rate).


    Would be good if broadcasting outwith the lecture room for those who were unable to attend or for distance learning. Not particularly useful for in-class.


    Cost involved: £9/month (yearly plan available) for the PRO version. You need to download their software but it is disturbingly easy to set up. You can broadcast either your whole screen or a portion of it but you can’t broadcast from a webcam.

    In our testing, audio would not work. This isn’t a flaw of the software but more an issue about firewalls as the audio uses VOIP. Listeners can use VOIP (if not blocked by a firewall) or they can call in using a telephone. There is a ‘local’ number for most countries; for the UK it’s a London number.

    The lag time is very minimal – a second at the most (in our testing, anyway).

    One area of possibility, teaching-wise, is that the presenter can opt to pass the baton, as it were, to others. This would allow them to share files or, if they are on a laptop, to share their monitor. Some possibilities here for collaborative learning/sharing.


    Good for use in a lecture instead of using a projector/screen. Little lag so could be useful for those with visual impairments. Audio won’t work in our setup which is disappointing. Will be trying this with students during a class for feedback. Not helpful if wanting to broadcast outwith the lecture room as audio won’t work (from the University, anyway. If I were to broadcast from home, there wouldn’t be a problem—I’ve tried).


    Cost involved: Nothing. Easy to set up. Students must have an account. One particular issue is that all tweets are published so users with their own account would be inundating others outwith the class with information which may not be relevant (or interesting) to them. One way around this would be to create a professional account specifically for classes.

    During the lecture, the students would be tweeting about the concepts being taught in their own words and tweeting them. As their tutor, I would be reviewing these tweets using twitterfall and also having the tweets projected for other to read. It would also allow students to ask questions without having to put their hand up so there would be a level of anonymity. Of course, from the tutor’s point of view, this is quite a challenge and I would need to keep an eye on the feed and be able to deviate from my lecture as need to be either answer questions or re-interate points which may have been misunderstood.

    I’ve done this before, though, and I find it quite an exciting challenge. Students have commented that it helps them to engage more. It’s a bit more of a two-way process.

    Of course, it can do more and I certainly intend to try this in the upcoming term. For example, students could be put into groups and set tasks. Their results/comments/plans/thoughts could be tweeted. When one group is explaining/discussing/demonstrating, the other groups could be tweeting comments (hopefully constructive ones).

    This, of course, leads to the issue of constructive comments. Considering the tweets would be relatively anonymous (depending on the usernames), inappropriate comments could be presented onscreen. Now, considering my students are studying to be professional educationalists (i.e. primary school teachers), I would expect they would refrain from hijacking the twitter feed … but it is a possible scenario.


    Lots of possibilities. Free but students need an account – perhaps a unique one for professional purposes. Challenging for the tutor/lecturer and flexibility needed. Helpful for tutor to identify misunderstandings. Helpful for students who may be shy. Possibility of inappropriate comments. I’ll be trying this out this term.


    Cost involved: Nothing. Disturbingly easy to set up. No accounts needed.

    Similar to Twitter, TodaysMeet allows users to go to a specific website pre-set by the presenter. This website can be set to stay active for 2 hours, 4 hours, 1 day, etc. so it’s not a permanent record for all time. Users make up a name and join. It is then very similar to Twitter except no hashtags needed.

    What is interesting about TodaysMeet is that, rather like Twitterfall, it is possible to view the inputs in full-screen. There is an option to have a print version which lists all the inputs in reverse order (latest at the top). From here, I can save it as a PDF and post it to students. I like this.

    Like Twitter, though, usernames can be anonymous (which can be a good or a bad thing) and, like Twitter, it is possible to hijack the feed by writing inappropriate comments.


    Both the students and I agreed this was better than Twitter in that it was very easy to use, didn’t require passwords or usernames and could be saved and put online for students to read. We also realised that this could be used in groups, with each group having their own address, saving their thoughts, ideas, etc. and then presenting them to others. This will definitely be used this coming term.

    It is my intention, at some point throughout the term, to use all four of these programmes. When I do, I’ll provide a report on their success (or otherwise). Hopefully students will chip in with their opinions too.