Warning message

The service having id "facebook_widget" is missing, reactivate its module or save again the list of services.

Jonathan's blog

BSBS - Brightlingsea School of Boat Speed

I've been using the excellent GPS Tracker software on my iPhone 3G device to track routes and positions. At the weekend we competed in a pursuit race, which, due to the staggered start time and coupled with the fact Cracker is the fastest (sailing) boat in the harbour, our race is VERY short. We had other complications too, including a very low tide meaning we couldn't even get to the race course until moments after our race started (!)  and a flat engine battery meant it was always going to be tough to win!  However, we had guests on board and it turned out to be just good fun. It was also good to be back in Brightlingsea again having spent much of the season on the South Coast in Cowes and Ramsgate.

In two weeks time, we are off again - to West Mersea this time to compete in the annual Dabchicks Regatta. In fact it was exactly a year ago when Geoff came aboard and together we formed what he affectionately calls 'the engine room'. Amongst his other phrases, many of which can't be mentioned here (!), was BSBS (Brightlingsea School of Boat Speed). We did well that year and elevated ourselves into the quite unique club which we now know as 'BSBS'. Wish us luck!

"We are the engine room", eh Geoff?

BBC iPlayer Downloader for Apple Mac, Linux, Windows, iPhone

Whilst the BBC are still dragging their feet with providing Windows only versions of their iPlayer software for downloading programmes, I've been using an alternative solution.

Paul Battley has found a solution using Ruby script run as a command line application. This is a cross platform tool that will work on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. There is a GUI interface as well, though the author recommends using the command line which works perfectly well within a Terminal window.

./iplayer-dl --pid-list=download.txt

The downloader is able to handle bulk downloads through creating a list of programmes using the PID identifier in a text file.

Download the latest iPlayer Downloader software. On a Mac you'll need to have installed Apple's Xcode development environment.


Wii Remote Hacks for geeks

Ever since Sir Ken Robinson spoke about Creativity and learning at TED, I've been keeping a watchful eye on subsequent presentations.

Johnny Lee captured my imagination, maybe because he's a geek as well? Johnny has begun to explore ways in which the Wii Remote can be applied to other situations where a device able to track movement using infra-red opens up new opportunities.

The accelerometer on the iPhone 3G opens up new possibilities in much the same way. I love playing Cro-Mag Rally for example, where the phone becomes the steering wheel. Having a spirit level on your phone rates quite high on a scale of geekiness.

That aside, Johnny has discovered that you can use a $40 handheld device to create an interactive whiteboard. He found that the Wii Remote has a powerful infra red camera in the tip of the controller. By putting an infra red LED inside the tip of a pen, the Wii Remote can detect movement across a projected surface. Very neat. An interactive whiteboard for the cost of about £30.

Johnny continues by demonstrating how the Wii Remote can detect head movements by tracking an infra red LED attached to a pair of glasses and in an instant, find yourself moving within a 3D environment. This is definitely one to watch.


A one-stop shop for product information and advice

With so much consumer choice for home electronics equipment, it's a minefield for anyone trying to decide what device to buy. My neighbour was looking to buy a mobile phone recently and found it incredibly difficult knowing what which manufacturer and model to purchase. With over a thousand mobile phones to choose from, this isn't a straightforward decision. 

Searching around a bit, I stumbled across TestFreaks. It aggregates reviews from several different sources, many of whom are written by consumers. Each device is rated against several criteria, design, value for money, features, ease of use, and performance. These vary depending on the device being reviewed.

I've been looking at buying a games console so that I play some of the latest games which are somehow all available for consoles rather than Macs and PCs.

Why not look for reviews of your next consumer product?



InstaMapper GPS Tracking on iPhone 3G

I'm having a lot of fun with InstaMapper's GPS Tracking application on my iPhone 3G. The client application takes live GPS data from the iPhone's position and transmits this to their servers at regular intervals. Using GPS positioning, the iPhone software can calculate the speed at which you are travelling and also the heading as a bearing.

However, it isn't until you log in to the InstaMapper GPS Tracking website and analyse the data that the iPhone has transmitted, that things become really interesting.

After a recent trip to the Lakeside Shopping Centre to collect a repaired MacBook, I looked at the data recorded. Journey time home was 20 mins from start to finish, travelling at an average speed of 48 miles per hour. The InstaMapper site also overlays each GPS position when data was transmitted onto a Google Map showing my entire journey to and from the Centre.

...and of course, using Google Maps as the mapping engine, it can also be viewed using the Satellite view.

I've started to cycle more regularly and next time I shall take the iPhone with me to track the route, speed and distance travelled.

Unfortunately, with Apple's policy on not permitting 3rd party applications to multi-task on the iPhone, the application only transmits data when it has been launched and is the running foreground application. This means you can't have the device constantly uploading GPS data - which is a real pity as this would then become the ideal anti-theft security system. Well, it wouldn't stop the iPhone from being stolen, but you'd be able to track the device quickly and within just a few metres. I'd love to see InstaMapper creating a variant of their tool which perhaps just uses a Unix application which runs in the background and posts GPS data - it doesn't need a GUI. Is this possible?

There are inherent dangers of having a device posting GPS data of course, not least having someone close to home knowing exactly where you are at every heartbeat. Hmmmm.  Or, as in this case, being busted for growing Cannabis plants

Time to blog

It'll be unfair for me to say that I haven't blogged for ages because I haven't had the time to do so as I've had the same amount of time as I have always had. I hate the expression 'I just haven't had the time to...' because that really means 'I've chosen to do something else' which is ok really - life is a busy place to be and we each have different priorities and needs.

That said, although my blog may have experienced the odd piece of tumble weed, my online presence as been as busy as ever - I'm just spread around a bit (!)

I couldn't begin to recount everything that has happened in the last four and a bit months, but you might try skimming through some of those 'other' online places.

I've invested much of my time building a Kings Road Primary School community, involving pupils in Year 4 initially and gradually bringing others into the online space. Building online learning communities is not a trivial task, and requires a fairly careful balance of ingredients for trust to be gained and responsibility understood. I'm delighted to see the fruits ripening as pupils are confidently posting articles whilst developing an understanding of language and audience.

The Orion Online site is thriving too. Take a look at some of our recent activities:

The mobile blog is pretty full-on, and kinda tells it's own story of where I've been and who I've met along the way. Using the iPhone 3G to blog is not only a delightful tool to use, but have began tagging photos with GPS location information. Watch this space for more on GPS location tagging.

...and of course there is also my online presence on Facebook and currently features my sisters wedding, she looked stunning. Take a look: album 1 | album 2


Role Play and its place in the Primary Curriculum

researcherIt never ceases to amaze me how important Role Play is in engaging pupils in understanding and performing tasks to the best of their ability. I remember quite early on in my teaching career when I was working with friends from Ultralab on an eTui research project. The afternoon involved my pupils playing with toys, a radio controlled car, a programmable toy and an eTui (a meta-level learning toy.) We asked my pupils to complete a questionnaire about what they understand about how each toy moved, what it sensed and how it responded to the environment in which it was being used. 

Crucially, we gave the pupils the title of 'researcher' and issued them each with a clipboard. Short of giving them a white 'lab' coat, they were every bit the researcher, and assumed that role throughout the afternoon. Interestingly enough, I remember questioning how most of the children understood the role of a researcher, yet their experience of what a researcher actually does was limited.

Recently, in discussion with colleagues during lunchtime, I reiterated how significant children in my Enterprise Team, had taken to the idea of being in-role as designers, inventors and business people. Here's why.

Over a period of 4 days next week, pupils at Kings Road Primary School are taking part in an Enterprise Week. The pupils have been tasked with designing and making products (or providing services) to sell with the intention of making a profit on the £50 they have received to buy resources. The ideas that each team are developing are already proving to be highly secretive and there is much competition between teams and keeping ideas top secret is the name of the game.

Logo Design Sheet Primary School

Whilst pupils in my team were in-role, I had them sign a child-friendly version of a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) which gave them a sense of loyalty and assurance to each other that our ideas will not be shared with other children or teachers. Whilst other pupils have since shared confidential information, my team haven't. How significant was role-playing in ensuring that our ideas weren't readily shared with others?

Today, we finalised our plans, discussed and voted on our team name, 'The F Factor' and began work on designing a logo for the team. Again, I used role-play with the help of preprinted stationery to ensure pupils engaged with the idea of being a creative designer for our team. The logos they presented were of a high standard and their understanding of the task was obvious in the designs they had produced.

Role-play had an enormous significance in the primary classroom and is not just the domain of Key Stage 1 pupils, but can, and should be given opportunities throughout all year groups in the school.



School Council present at the Meeting of the Governing Body

 School Council presents to the Governors at Rettendon SchoolLast night, the School Council at Rettendon Primary School attended the Meeting of the Governing Body to present their view of the school and its activities over the last term. They had put together an excellent PowerPoint presentation with photographs and images to support what they were saying.

The School Council comprises of representatives from each year group, and despite being faced with the challenge of presenting to a room of adults, spoke with confidence and conviction. I was delighted that they were able to join us and speak in a mature manner, reflecting the views of all students.

Although not a new idea, it is occasions such as these which shows that these students are placed at the very heart of this small, community school. Everyone knows each other and everyone's voices are heard. I'd very much like to see how the involvement of the School Council at Governor meetings can be developed further, perhaps having them join the formal meeting and contribute to some of the discussions. It is very clear to me that with the School Council's presence and participation, there is much to be gained. 

A discussion regarding the arrangement of the curriculum, the class organisation, future building work should involve the students, after all, it is their education we are helping to improve. Needless to say, there are challenges, for example we'd have to look at how we make the meeting accessible to them including timing, accessibility to terminology and vocabulary used, and how we'd approach items of a confidential nature. None of these are insurmountable and something to be discussed for the future.

I made an audio recording of the meeting which has been made accessible on the Rettendon Primary School podcast

I'd be interested to hear from other governors, Headteachers, teachers, parents, pupils about how the School Council are involved in Governor meetings in their schools.

Congratulations to all who presented at last night's Governor meeting, you made us all feel very proud of your achievements.

Painless Drupal v6.0 Upgrade

Drupal logoAs every software developer knows, especially ones like me who obey the 'hack it and run' rule, it's quite unusual for software to 'just work' out of the box. Tonight was a surprising exception as I took the brave decision to upgrade the Drupal software which powers this blog site.

Some people might ask why?  Well, for a whole heap of reasons really.

  1. I was receiving an increasing number of spam messages which were somehow getting past the CAPTCHA mechanism that I have in place. I suspect some security loophole had been discovered in v5.1 which was then exploited.
  2. If you want to explore and play with pushing software to its limits or seeing what else is possible, often you need to be running the latest version of the software to access the compatible modules and plugins.
  3. I've learnt from previous experiences of not upgrading software versions that quite often you can get 'left behind' with future upgrade paths. This one is a real gotcha as you start to regret having not applied the last 3 upgrade scripts. As you spit through gritted teeth, you begin a long night of incremental software upgrading through each version, i.e 3 --> 4, 4 --> 5, 5 --> 6 etc. It's a miserable experience.
  4. Not upgrading your Drupal installation is like not finishing the tiling in the kitchen - you won't get the full user experience of all the features and when you prepare to move house, you kick yourself indefinitely for not having finished it sooner.

Rather delightfully, the upgrade to v6.0 was straightforward and painless. Drupal coders write a fantastic migration script - well done guys.

I do wish you could solve some of the issues with having to re-apply customisations to 'themes' however. I'm now wise to this headache and despite my inner most desires, refrain from making too many customisations. On the other hand, the template files haven't changed much between versions and I'm getting pretty good at predicting where line 503 is in a 2000 line template file and making the odd code edit. Thanks guys.

Some of the really nice features of v6.0 includes:

  • automatic checking of module updates.
  • better versioning control for compatible modules.
  • AJAX drag and drop feature for arranging 'block' and menu order (at last!)
  • custom notifications for any Drupal event - this could be really useful.
  • support for OpenID, ready for when single-sign on gets sorted (pig flies overhead)

and finally, finally!!!

  • a fix for broken or chopped HTML in comment posts.

 Hurrah! So it's a pretty worthwhile upgrade. Back to the tiling then.... 


What If and Shift Happens

My Headteacher recently handed me a disc and said that I should watch both 'What If...' and 'Shift Happens'.  My Head had recently attended a course and two presentations were shown to provoke minds into thinking about the future of education, teaching and learning.

I found them hugely powerful and thought-provoking, and wanted to share them with you here.

What If looks back on statements that people in a variety of educational roles have made over the past few centuries, and some comments made, worryingly, since the turn of the millennium. The key message here, of course, is what if we'd listened to all those people along the way. What are we saying today that could be having an impact on what could happen tomorrow?

Shift Happens offers plenty of provocations through the use of statistics and reflects on where the world and technology has been and is heading.

What If poster frame    Shift Happens

Both presentations have really opened my eyes to maintaining an open mind about new possibilities and that we simply can't afford to make the same mistakes as we did in the last Century. My Head often says if we carry on doing the same things as we did yesterday, we can expect the same outcomes as of yesterday. If we want to do better for our children, we have to change what we do.

We are educating a different generation and this means embracing new technologies rather than immediately disregarding them. However, it doesn't mean building a curriculum around the technology, but instead use it to enhance and add value to teaching and learning.

For me, probably the most significant aspect of the Shift Happens movie is this statement:

"We are currently preparing our students for jobs that don't yet exist... using technologies that haven't been invented... to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet."

It just shows how open minded we need to be if we are to prepare our children properly for tomorrow's world. Learning knowledge, key facts and figures won't help the children of tomorrow, yet to give them skills to find out information for themselves, contribute their own understanding and challenge one another are much higher order skills.

What this means in reality is give pupils opportunities to be creative, to make decisions, problem solve, debate, discuss, be inventive and above all else, be themselves. If we allow them to develop their own uniqueness, this is what will set them apart from the rest of the world.

What are your thoughts?

Learners as colleagues and masters of their own destiny...

I was delighted to read Patrick's latest blog entry this evening about how he had visited Horohoro School school in Rotoroa, New Zealand and observed teachers working with young children. Patrick's reflections of his visit made a really interesting read. I was warmed by this extract:

"It occurred to me that treating children as colleagues and masters of their own destiny helped them to become masters of their own learning, and as a result they were forming ideas about the reason for their learning beyond ‘the teacher told me to learn it’."

Patrick has managed to summarise the true effect of empowering learners with a sense of responsibility for their own learning and behaviour in a very powerful way. Often, I feel the term 'teacher' is now so dated and at odds with 21st Century learning that facilitators of learning seems somehow to fit more comfortably. Seeing the pupils as colleagues or co-learners is equally powerful and is something I very much believe.

Read more from Patrick's observations.

(Patrick Millwood is a 19 year old student who lives in the UK, but is currently visiting, working and holidaying in NZ)

Google Blogger Content Label Specific RSS feeds

I use the Blogger.com engine to run my mobile blog site which I then later edit to add additional text and content labels. Labelling content not only helps the user find articles with specific terms, it also helps the user share specific items from one site with another. I quite often blog photographs and text from Scout evenings to my mobile blog and wanted to find a way of making these available from the Orion Online scout website.

This evening I've been developing the Orion Online website, making the front page more user friendly and helpful to visitors. I wanted to enable access the 'scout' items on my mobile blog site from the Orion Online website, so I needed to find out how to create RSS feeds for specific content tags.

I think the default RSS feed from Blogger.com uses the RSS2 specification, and for some reason this is incompatible with Drupal's built in RSS Aggregator. I had to amend the feed URL from:




probably to enable RSS 1.0 output.

I have noticed Drupal v6.0 is now available for download and may solve this problem. I might find a moment to upgrade this blog site to version 6 over the weekend.


A Geeky Week: from Tiger to Leopard (server) in 48 hours and the rest...

I'm a geek and proud of it, although sometimes there never seems to be enough time to 'play' as much as I would like. This past week, well, it's been almost two weeks, (but who's counting?) has been pretty much full of geekiness.  I love tinkering around 'under the hood' and rolling up my sleeves. I'm quite enjoy being the mechanic or the oily rag and I suppose on reflection, it's the challenge of working through technical problems and learning about the solutions that I seem to revel in the most.

It started last week, during my half term break when I headed down to Brighton to upgrade two servers to Mac OS X Leopard Server from a previous Tiger installation. Both servers are now running on Xserve hardware. The Leopard installations didn't quite go according to plan with quite a few unexpected problems. One being the migration (or lack of) of the web services settings from one platform to another. Exporting and Importing settings from a earlier Server release to the latest one (migration) didn't work and so I was left with a very long night ahead, adding the web services data manually and the numerous sites that each machine hosted.

Having got the web services running, I then discovered several pieces of software requiring the GD library in PHP were broken. The standard build of PHP (5.2.4) that comes with Leopard Server doesn't come compiled with GD Library. This meant that I had to re-compile PHP with the GD libraries installed.

I've installed a PHP server monitoring application on another Leopard (client) computer to alert me of any unexpected downtime of either Xserve. I had to enable Postfix using MailServe because this isn't something that is enabled by default.

Leopard Server also requires a realm to be created to enable permissions for users accessing iPHPCalendar using WebDav.

It's been a week of being knee deep in httpd.conf files, MySQL databases and tables, crontabs, and Terminal commands.

These pages helped lots too:

Tiger to Leopard Server Migration, Part One

Tiger to Leopard Server Migration, Part Two


More Moblie Blogging sites and a sense of community

Twitxr mobile blogging solutionHaving just written about mobile blogging and two online software solutions that I've been using successfully, here's another one, Twitxr.com. I saw this published on Tom Smith's blog, and thought I'd have a play too.

Jonathan's Moblog on Twitxr

From Tom's site, this then led me towards another moblogging site. This one slightly (!) more funky than any of the others I've seen so far. I really love the immediate sense of community and audience that my blog posts now have. The community 'feel' is something Blogger.com doesn't do particularly well.



Served me well, the Mac Mini story

I've been nothing short of impressed by the little Apple Mac Mini that I've used to host my websites over the past two years. In that time, it's been 100% reliable and apart from the occasional software update, has not needed a restart. The Mac Mini, Barney, has been co-located at a hosting company in Brighton called Freedom255, who do an awesome job ensuring optimal uptime for all their servers.

Barney's spec is reasonably modest, a 1.42GHz G4 processor, 1Gb memory and an 80Gb hard disk. It ran Mac OS X Server 10.4, running Apache 1.3, MySQL databases and SMTP mail services. It ran numerous websites, from the local Scout troop, Orion Online, some pupil blog sites and my own blog site, Jonathan's Blog.

Over time, as the number of web visitors mounted, the Mac Mini had reached its operating capacity and processor occupancy regularly reached 100%, falling to around 70 or 80% in quieter moments. It wasn't until Barney was upgraded to a dual processor G5 Xserve and looking at the webserver stats pages, that it became obvious that the Mac Mini wasn't meeting the demand placed upon it. I had anticipated that the standard 2.5" laptop hard disk would be the first to fail. Laptop hard disks, although built to be robust, aren't built to the same specification as hard disks in servers. No such problems arose.

I'm nothing short of impressed by what the Mac Mini has achieved and it's now clear why the popularity of placing these machines in colocation facilities has grown. They make excellent personal servers, which are very capable of serving 150,000 pages per day.

Apple Mac Mini computers installed in a rack mounted colocation facility.

Now in retirement, the Mac Mini enjoys a quieter life as a development machine, probably still having fond memories of its earlier life as a proper workhorse server. 

If you're looking for a server host company, or colocation facility, I'd strongly recommend Freedom255.

Online Learning Communities for pupils, parents and teachers

One of my next initiatives at Kings Road Primary School is to begin to construct an online community for pupils, staff and parents to support learning inside and outside school in a safe, closed environment. These tools are often referred to as Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) or Learning Platform.

The Government's e-strategy states that by spring 2008 every pupil should have access to a personalised online learning space with the potential to support an e-portfolio.

Everyone can see the benefits to both staff, pupils and parents. The opportunities are endless and the doors to 24/7 learning are opened, suiting both the learner and in time, the teacher.

Staff will be able to:

  • host private discussions amongst themselves about teaching and learning.
  • share assessment data between staff.
  • plan collaboratively.
  • swop ideas and exchange best practice.
  • share resources found on the Internet or made for the Interactive Whiteboard.

and lots more besides.

For pupils, this will be a rich and engaging place to

  • host discussions amongst their peers, both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • build portfolios of their learning, in a variety of formats, video, text, photographs.
  • share their learning objects with others, inviting them for critical feedback and review.
  • access and share resources, contributing them back to the community as well as simply consuming them.
  • develop self-assessment as a mechanism for directing future learning and..
  • personalised learning.

If schools realise the potential of just one or two of these aspects and fully embrace this change, it will be a revolutionary moment for pupils, parents and teachers throughout the UK.

What worries me, is do we have the tools to fulfill our desires. We have the intentions, we know (in the main) what we want, but are the tools we have today good enough for the job.

To be honest, I've yet to see an Online Learning Community tool that will meet the needs of this ambitious initiative. With the exception of one tool, Facebook. It seems to me that Facebook has the capacity to meet many of the needs for today's youngsters.

If we are going to get 'buy in' from pupils of all ages, particularly those of Secondary age, first and foremost we need to place them in an environment which appeals to them. It has to be THE place to be, hang out and be with others. It has to be instantly customisable, a place that each student can make their own. It's well known that one of the first things young people want to do with anything is customise it. Take their own pencil cases and books - immediately they doodle on them, attach stickers, anything to make it a little bit unique and special. The same is true with online spaces.

In 2001, I built an online tool called iShare which I made accessible to my primary age pupils. The purpose was to create a site that pupils could logon to and share their work with others, including their parents. I gave them each a 'passport' as their home page which they could customise. In those days, without Flash, CSS and AJAX technologies, the customisations were quite primitive, so changing the background image, font size, colour and uploading your own image was seen as a big deal. Pupils loved doing this, and they wanted to do this each time they logged on - perhaps whilst they were thinking about their learning.

If we want them to be building portfolios of their learning, this will need to ensure they can submit their learning objects in a variety of different formats, including video, audio, photographs and text. It will need some way in which media can be imported, edited and assembled online. Making do with an 'upload your video here' button simply won't be enough when in YouTube you can annotate it, add chapters and the like.

The Online Learning Community doesn't want to be too structured either. People don't all learn or think in the same way and this means removing tight workflows, processes and pre-configured spaces. It does mean enabling learners to create their own places with their own structures. Tagging and labelling can help build personalised structures for others to access in their preferred learning styles.

Pupils will be demanding about what the Online Learning Environment will allow them to do. They won't settle very easily with a system which isn't as good as something they're already using. Watch out developers, because if you haven't realised it already, you soon will. You have an enormous task on your hands.

Facebook already does most of the things I've described already. It is constantly being developed, both the core software and through the plugin Applications. Significantly, these aren't just contributed by the developers but can be written by any of its members who know how. Facebook isn't perfect of course, I think it would be hard to describe any software that is. However, it is closer to what's needed than anything out there today and most importantly, is engaging the members in Facebook's development and iterations.

What next?

Although it would be a wonderful action research project, I can see many reasons why schools couldn't simply adopted Facebook as it stands. The current set of tools couldn't protect its membership well enough from other community members, who could literally be anyone in society from all around the world.

However, if Facebook were to enable schools to buy into their software, run it locally within the school and have it's own membership I think we'd be almost there. The innovation comes from having some interoperability with Facebook's main site for building the extended communities for families, friends and relatives. The interoperability should also allow the site to be regularly updated with software enhancements and new applications, so every school moves forward and not just those that can afford it. 

I can't help but think that as each school tries to find a solution for their VLE, and each Local Authority offers support and advice - the answer is staring us in the face.

Am I missing something, surely Facebook (or the next social network software) is the way forward? Can you imagine youngsters settling for anything less for their learning experience?

The London Underground Tube Map for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch

I carry a little folded up piece of paper in my wallet of the London Underground tube map to help me find my way around the Tube network. It's also helpful to have a map to refer to when there are delays and cancellations on the tube network, and that's more usual than not - or maybe it just seems that way.

I found an underground map for the Apple iPhone, which has been specifically designed for the iPhone's screen size. A single jpg image doesn't work because when the image is optimised for the iPhone, the size and quality of the image is reduced, meaning station names can't be read.


How to use and install on the Apple iPhone

  1. Download the underground tube network files from this site.
  2. Import the archive contents into iPhoto.
  3. Create a new album called something you can remember, such as "Underground" and drag the photos into the folder
  4. Set your iPhone to sync with that album via iTunes.
  5. Navigate to your Photos on the iPhone and the album name you created. Simply scroll between each section of the tube network map.

I've also installed a WebApp which shows the current status of the Underground Network.

Underground Tube Network Status for Apple iPhone webapp

iPhone camera built from the packaging of the iPhone box


The Register recently posted...

Most iPhone owners probably just chucked the handset's box in the bin seconds after leaving the shop. Not designer Scot Hampton - instead, he turned Apple's packaging into a 35mm film camera.

erm, not me - I love the way Apple package their products, so I tend to keep the boxes declaring them just too beautiful to throw away. In fact their boxes are just as pretty as the kit inside them!


If you think this is just a mock up image, read more to find out that Scott has actually put the components of a film camera inside. Incredible. 


Reflective blogs in the primary classroom

Over the past 4 weeks, pupils in my class have been busy reflecting on their learning and writing about their experiences on a reflective learning blog. I've tried to encourage them to think more widely than just the work they do in school, but for them to consider learning at home, and whilst out and about. It's been tremendously successful and pupils are amazingly confident about what they are writing.

Already the outcomes for this work are clear.

  • Pupils have not only learnt about the need to stay safe when working in an online environment, but they are actually having to practice this on a daily basis. On the rare ocassion when they have made a mistake, perhaps forgetting not to include someones surname when innocently trying to discriminate between two Megan's, two Joshua's or two Shannon's, it has been their peers who have alerted them and encouraged to edit their work.
  • Their work is routinely critiqued by their peers and other adults in a way that wouldn't happen using more traditional written methods in books and paper. Pupils are learning about how to critique in a positive and constructive way, often remembering that how we communicate through text is sometimes open to interpretation.
  • Pupils are, on the whole, reading more. It's hard to quantify this, because I don't have any data to support it. However, I do know through conversations with parents and pupils, that pupils are choosing to spend time on the class blog site rather than sitting watching television or playing games on the computer. Children have a natural inquisitiveness which helps them to want to know about what other children have written, especially if they are known to them.
  • Quite often, pupils will ask to write a reflective blog in pairs. This has been quite a surprising outcome, as I'd assumed they'd be considering how their work has had an impact on their own learning. Pupils see opportunities where the 'learning moment' was shared with others, and therefore it would be natural to write collaboratively.
  • Parents are engaged in what the children are learning. They can review what the children have been doing at school and use that as a basis for discussion with their son or daughter. It is clear, that for some pupils, they couldn't have contributed to the blog without some input from their parents at home. I don't believe we engage parents enough in supporting their sons and daughters in their learning. Part of the issue is about empowering them in how to engage, another is giving them opportunity to do so.
  • Some pupils have become noticeable more excited and engaged by what they are writing about. My own belief is that their excitement stems from being able to communicate what they know for a real purpose and audience which reviews and responds to their thoughts. It challenges the author to think carefully about what they will write as it will be shared with a much larger community beyond just the class.

There is so much more I'd like to develop beyond this initial work. The school is based in a mixed socio-economic area, yet over 85% of the pupils have access to the Internet at home. The opportunity for more home --> school collaboration using Internet technologies is here. The question now is how do we as teachers and and as a school manage this activity, and how far can we develop the home --> school link?

Mobile blogging from iPhone using TypePad, Blogger, Flickr

Sony Ericsson blogging client for Blogger.comI've been running a mobile blog site for a long time now (since 2006), and although my main blog has been rather quiet over the past few weeks, I've found time to reflect on some recent activities using my new iPhone. In the past, I have used the Sony Ericsson software on the handset to send photos captured by the mobile phone's camera straight to a Blogger.com site.

Clearly this software wasn't available on the iPhone, but as with all sites that have a programmable API, there are plenty of other routes for creating blogs, many of them not new of course. Email to webpage technology allows web content to be authored within an email client and then published by sending an email which is read by the server and published. It's a really neat solution and although it has been around for at least the last 6 years it hasn't, for me, had a use until now.

The iPhone has a great web browser, and handles forms really well, so it's great for posting to any website. However, it won't allow you to upload photos because of the restrictions to being able to access the file system (with the exception of hacked iPhones.) The iPhone also has a great email client, which overcomes the problem of uploading images to a blog site.

iPhone email to web technology using Blogger.com

Using Blogger.com's email to blog option, I can take pictures on the iPhone, choose the Email Photo option and send it to a private address that only I know about, but one which Blogger.com receives and then publishes as a blog entry. A perfect solution, and quick too. Here are some of my most recent entries, all taken with an iPhone and blogged straight to Blogger.com using Mail.

Of course, it's not just Blogger.com that enables this technology as Flickr does this too, see my iPhone pictures on Flickr, in fact, you can see everyone elses iPhone pictures on Flickr.

Flickr will also publish your photos and accompanying annotation to most popular blog sites, or to any blog that supports xmlrpc, such as WordPress, Drupal, Movable Type.

For those of you who have a TypePad blog, the developers of TypePad have already created an iPhone interface.

Stepping Stones 2007 Advent Calendar

Stepping Stones School 2007 Advent Calendar
Stepping Stones School has once again produced an Advent Calendar as we count down to Christmas. Last year, Stepping Stones enjoyed a huge following from school children all around the world, and this year, we've bettered that. This year, we are inviting children to submit entries for the advent calendar to be placed behind each day. So far, we have had entries from Scotland, England, New Zealand and the Cayman Islands. If you want to be a part of this calendar, then send me your christmas-y artwork together with the person or group who created the artwork and where you are based. My email address is at the top of this blog site.

Some of you might be interested to see last year's Stepping Stones Advent Calendar.

Video technology offers huge potential for transient learners

I've really enjoyed collaborating with the Little Cayman community in the time since I visited them in person two months ago. I had the delight of speaking to Cheyenne, a little girl who attends Spot Bay Primary School on Cayman Brac. Today, and the rest of this week, Cheyenne is learning amongst others in Little Cayman whilst her parents are working on the island, covering the work of the local fire brigade.

I spent some time talking to Cheyenne today, learning more about what she enjoys at school. I asked her about the differences between her school and the little community that she was in today. Soon, Cheyenne will be able to talk to her classmates using the Apple iChat video conferencing technology which is being put into many of the local schools on Cayman Brac right now. This has enormous potential for visiting classmates to immerse themselves within a different classroom environment, yet maintain continuity in their learning by connecting back to their base school.

Read Cheyenne's post on the Little Cayman Blog site.

I couldn't end this blog entry without mentioning the fabulous fire brigade that they have on the island. It consists of just a few men and a whopping Fire Engine, check this out...


Each morning, the fire engine is started up and driven the length of the small runway, and back again to test each component works correctly. The water cannons are also given a blast. To drive one of these definitely featured in one of my boyhood dreams, no doubt in most others too!

Action research into mixed age teaching groups at local primary school

I've recently written about the fabulous and innovative work going on at a local Primary School, on my mobile blog site. I noted how the school has adopted a very brave strategy of grouping children by ability in both numeracy and literacy. An extraordinary amount of time and effort has gone into making this example of action-research become reality for the pupils and staff. Year 3 and Year 6 pupils regularly mix and exchange thoughts between them - it is seen as common place now and not at all demotivating or a concern.

What this does allow is, the pupils to be appropriately challenged. Pupils learning amongst others of similar ability which allows them to collaborate, communicate and share their findings in a way that doesn't make them different. It's working really well.

As a school governor I try to be supportive and offer insight into new ideas and opportunities. I showed one class the immediacy of using web based technologies. I took the picture (left) and 'blogged' it, effectively uploading it and creating a webpage on the Internet. One pupil immediately entered appropriate search terms into Google, ready to hit 'enter' as soon as the blog page had been created. Clearly, immediacy wasn't a concept children in the 21st century were at all phased by.

I showed the class teacher how to podcast from the computer controlling the interactive whiteboard. I installed a product called Audacity and showed how that can capture sound ready for broadcast to the 'net.

Later that day, I took 3 groups of children to a quiet area and asked them to give me their thoughts on the use of ICT in the school curriculum. I asked them if they are given enough scope, were they sufficiently challenged. I also asked if there were any issues preventing them from using ICT in the classroom. This was all podcasted as three episodes, which I shall add to the podcast channel that I started last year. I'll share the URL shortly. However, one observation that was made, and supported by the two other groups, was the imposed content filter that prevented them from viewing sites that the pupils knew to be appropriate. Their comments were fascinating as they went on to explain how games are blocked, yet held significant educational value. The pupils were very aware of their own learning and what activities would benefit them most.

As governors, we are now reviewing the implementation of the content filter since it seems to be blocking the learning potential of the youngsters at the school and impeding on teachers wanting to be innovative and creative with the technology. My argument has always been that we should be teaching children the safe use and application of the Internet, rather than making available some cut down, moderated view of the Internet and the world around them. The arguments in favour of the content filter are equally strong, litigation, protecting children, parental pressure, and so on.

In my view, we aren't educating these youngsters as 21st Century learners if we continue to make these decisions for them. Yes, run a content filter, but include the children in the maintenance of the filtering rules, running a white-list strategy rather than black-list.

Perkins 3D animated construction of a Perkins Diesel Engine Screensaver

One of the biggest draws to my blog site has been the Deutz Screensaver which shows the construction and operation of a car motor engine. I posted the animation because of the educational benefit it brought to the Scouts who were learning all about car engines. In fact, we stripped down a car engine to its component parts. What we weren't able to show was how the engine operated, which is where the screensaver did it so wonderfully well.

Thanks to Yoseph Santoz, a reader of this blog, he pointed me to another screensaver which shows the construction and working of a Diesel Engine. Rather than using drawn artwork, this screensaver appears to be using 3D representations of the actual parts. It's amazing. Thanks Yoseph!

This version is compatible with Windows only, although there is an mpg movie contained within the zip archive for playback using QuickTime on a Macintosh or Windows PC.

Download the zipped file here:

Perkins Animated 3D Diesel Engine Screensaver (perkins_1104d_install.zip) (28Mb)

Take a look at the Deutz Screensaver if you haven't already done so. Download the Deutz Screensaver.



Subscribe to RSS - Jonathan's blog