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Jonathan's blog

Pack your bagel in a CD spindle

"Now this is incredibly clever: using an old CD spindle as a bagel-sandwich protector for your packed lunch."

....and simple too.


Teachers urged not to txt or email pupils outside of school

In the Manchester Evening News, an article reports that in an ever increasing litigation culture, pupils and parents are prepared to take legal action against teachers adopting txt, email and instant messaging technologies in their communication with young people.

Whilst there are really strong reasons why txt, email and instant messaging technologies are of a great benefit to pupils' learning beyond school hours, it is important to recognise ways in which, we as teachers, we can protect ourselves from such allegations.


Those using email systems should maintain a copy of any incoming and outgoing message - most email client applications such as Outlook Express, Mail, Thunderbird do this automatically and if you choose to archive the messages, you can store them for eternity. If you are using a web based client, such as Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail, then you should file your messages within a folder which you can access at anytime in the future. If you run out of online space, simply save the messages to a folder on your personal computer - most providers offer these functions.

Instant Messaging

As far as keeping an account of communications with pupils using Instant Messaging, most systems allow you to save the chat transcript. I use both iChat and MSN systems and have chat transcripts automatically set to save. It means that should anyone object to a conversation that I have had with a pupil, I can recall the event in full at a moments notice. I also don't need to think about saving it - it happens automatically.

Txt messaging

Txt messaging is much trickier to maintain a transcript or account of communication. Unless you have a more capable phone of storing lots of txt messages and periodically exporting them to a personal computer, it's really hard to maintain an archive of what's been sent when, and to whom. I use an application called PhoneAgent that allows me to retrieve sent and received txt messages to my computer and store them in a txt file.

Common sense

The key test to apply when communicating with young people is ask yourself, would you be embarrassed, unsure or would it put yourself at risk if anyone else were to read the conversation? If the answer is yes, you probably shouldn't be having the conversation. Remember also, that any communication through txt is subject to more misinterpretation as it doesn't carry intonation or facial expression, so be aware of how what you say could be read.

The adoption of internet, phone communication technologies is so powerful that we mustn't devalue its contribution to a changing education system provision. My advice is to use your common sense, just as you would when you are teaching face to face. Apply the same rules and principles in your online presence as you would in your workplace environment. If there is ever some doubt about how an online conversation or relationship is developing, tell someone else and share the experience.

It is important to remember that as with all new technologies, we are subject to experimentation, research and evaluation - we don't necessarily know the all answers just yet, but that doesn't mean we should stop exploring. The NUT (National Union of Teachers) will understandably recommend against using technology, but, if, like the majority of teachers, we are adopting these technologies to ensure the best outcomes for our students, then it's something we are unlikely to want to change.

Access to teachers?

Another good question for debate is how much access do we give pupils to contact ourselves outside of school? I personally feel that I commit a lot, but that suits my interest, my research work and current situation.

How do the pupils at Stepping Stones use the technology with me?

Here are just a few:

  • pupils ask me questions about homework, project work, coursework.
  • occasionally they alert me to things that they feel I should know about, such as events, problems, illnesses, etc.
  • share worries and concerns about school / home life / equipment.
  • participate in out-of-hours school meetings, such as the School Council.
  • txt vote choices.
  • share their work, look for feedback / encouragement / ideas / critical friendship role.

How are others using txt / email / instant messaging with pupils? How are pupils adopting these technologies to work with other pupils / teachers? Share them here, I'd be really interested to hear your views.

Thanks to Derek Wenmoth for highlighting this story.


Google TiSP - another Google April Fools prank

I know, I know. Toilet humour, but hey...

Yet another classic April Fools prank from the Google comedy store. This one is great. I love how they mock up webpages with that almost authentic edge....

How can Google offer this service for free?

We believe that all users deserve free, fast and sanitary online access. To offset the cost of providing the TiSP service, we use information gathered by discreet DNA sequencing of your personal bodily output to display online ads that are contextually relevant to your culinary preferences, current health status and likelihood of developing particular medical conditions going forward. Google also offers premium levels of service for a monthly fee (see below).

Installation instructions | FAQ | Press Release


Oh dear... exam paper blues

Since here in the UK, we are very much in the season of exams, I found this and thought I'd share it. Apart from the rather serious reality that these answers are pupils' actual responses to an exam paper, they are really quite amusing...

It really goes to show pupils are much more prepared to have a go and be wrong than not have a go at all. As someone who is teaching some GCSE courses, this is an approach that I encourage, not least because:

a) you might be right.
b) you might be partially right and therefore scrape some marks.

If only marks were given for creativity whilst answering an exam paper...

Here's my favourite...

Take a look at some more exam answers.


Mobile Blogging using the Sony Ericsson K610i, K800i and W880i phones

For the past 6 months I've really enjoyed using the blogging software on my Sony Ericsson handset, K610i. I've used it more as a tool for capturing places, events, objects of interest. Looking back, I now have a fairly solid journal accounting for just a tiny subset of the things I do and the people I meet. I love reflecting back on those times and it's all just, so.... easily accessible.

Essentially, the phone has an editor that allows you to take a photograph and annotate it, rather like creating an MMS message. You simply choose 'Blog this" from the More option once you have taken a photo.

The blog article is then posted to a Blogger account where you can either move the blog provided with a pre-configured URL provided by Blogger to an already existing blog account or continue with the URL that the phone/Blogger created.

The really neat thing with Blogger these days is that you can now buy a URL and associate it with your Blogger account, so your blog can be run under your own domain name - very neat, whilst using all the functionality of the Blogger engine. Alternatively, you can host your blogger content on another webserver, the pages simply get uploaded via an FTP account onto a server of your choosing. Again, as a user, you can continue to use the Blogger front end interface to administer the blog site. What more could you want?

This service is mostly reliable, apart from occasionally when I blog a photo and neither the photo nor the text make it to the blog site. No errors or any indications as to why not. It's a bit of a puzzle. If I restart the phone, the problem continues. Very strange. It could be something to do with the network provider I suppose. It's less likely to do with Blogger, I would think, but how would I know!?

I wonder if other users have experienced the same?

Read mine, Jonathan's Mobile Blog


iSync Plugin for Sony Ericsson W880i phones running in Apple Mac OS X

For users of the Sony Ericsson W880i mobile phone, this is a plugin that allows Mac OS X to add your new mobile device to Apple's iSync application - the application that manages your contacts, and synchronises your diary entries in iCal.


Download the W880i mobile phone plugin.

Installation Instructions

To install, follow these instructions...

1. In the Finder, navigate to /Applications --> iSync and control (CTRL) -click the application

2. Select 'show package contents'

3. Navigate to Contents --> Plugins --> ApplePhoneConduit.syncdevice --> Contents --> Plugins

4. Move the folder extracted from the attached .zip file into the Plugins folder in Step 3 (above).

5. Relaunch iSync. Should work.

Please keep this service running.

Due to the enormous interest in downloading this plugin from this site and the large amount of traffic coming to my server host, I would really appreciate a donation towards the hosting costs of this service. Many thanks for your understanding.



More Than Just Us, a bloggers group for the Hindhead, Haslemere, Grayshott and Beacon Hill area

A little while ago I posted an article looking for bloggers in the Hindhead, Haslemere, Grayshott and Farnham corner of the world. A few people responded and met up in a pub in Haslemere, the White Horse. We now call ourselves, More Than Just Us... rather appropriate really, as 'more than just us' met up for the second time at a pub in Beacon Hill, The Woodcock.

On Thursday of this week (22nd March 2007) we head to the Fox and Pelican in Grayshott, we'd welcome people to join us - you need only live in the local area, and have some interest in blogging!

I love the thought of building interest groups that meet face to face - some things just can't be emulated in a virtual setting, and it's pretty lonely drinking beer in front of the computer! The inspiration for creating a group like this came from Tom Smith and his group of web developers and designers based in York who call themselves "We Are The Monkeys (hey hey!)." The getting together bit is cool enough, but the group didn't stop there and set about helping others in a Code-a-thon. The group designed a new website for a local children's charity. This is a fantastic achievement and with the collective talents of all involved have produced a website which would surpass all others.

Visit the Snappy website.

Ambitious? Sure, but I'd quite fancy doing something similar. Anyone up for it?


Latest gadget: Giant novelty matchstick / lighter

As my friends will testify, I simply love novelty items and gadgets... this is my latest gadget. A Scout who participated in the Now Get Out Of That challenge event that I helped organise for the Billericay and Wickford Scouts last weekend. The event demands that each hiking group cooks a hot meal at midday. Since most of the groups either forgot or didn't think to bring matches, this device was used ever such a lot - lifesaver!
Buy online from Amazon - only £3.99 (the perfect novelty gift for friends and relatives!)

or, this stainless steel version:


Microsoft Messenger: Given up

I don't usually give up on things... in fact I am known to persevere until I've solved the problem or difficulty. It therefore comes as a shock when I finally say to myself, enough is enough.

MSN Messenger makes me feel like giving up each time I try to crack it. Basically, I've seemingly forgotten my password.

For the past x number of months, I've not been able to retrieve my password. I have a comprehensive database of current and past passwords on my system, and yet none of them work. So, I do the next obvious thing which is use that handy little tool to retrieve the password. It takes me to a page bearing no resemblance to reseting or sending me my password.

Why? I don't know.

Do I care? no.

Will I create another account on MSN? unlikely.

Poetry e-motion

Anne Rainbow is the writer of some of the most wonderful poetry that I have ever read. I somehow seem to empathise with much of what she writes, most of which reflects her own thoughts and feelings. I have been struck by the poignancy and emotion that is portrayed through the vocabulary and powerful language Anne uses.

For me, these are nothing short of amazing. Anne is not only Poet of the Year 2006 (Writers' Dock) but has challenged herself to 'A blog a day, a poem a day'. I find Anne's commentary and connection to her poetry, enlightening. Read some for yourself.

Anne is also a publisher of educational material and has contributed to several textbooks in both Mathematics and ICT. Anne also happens to be our Numeracy specialist at Stepping Stones School.


Calling all bloggers in Hindhead, Haslemere, Farnham, Grayshott

It's so quiet here in leafy Hindhead, that I've had an idea. It started with being contacted by fellow blogger, Jess of Hindhead who had me wondering if there is anyone else out there who is blogging in Hindhead or in the surrounding villages, Haslemere, Farnham, and Grayshott.

I've found a few, but it would be great to establish a longer list...

So, who do we have already?

If you are blogging in Hindhead or the surrounding areas, get in touch. Leave a comment, or email (address above.) If there is enough interest, we'll start a Bloggers of Hindhead social group, which might one day end up doing useful stuff - who knows!?


The trouble with web browsers is...

...that they only really work well in a perfect world. We don't live in a perfect world.

I've just responded to a post by John Johnson at Sandaig Primary School, where he discusses the length of time it takes kids for to post to a weblog. You can read my thoughts there, so I shan't repeat them, apart from what I feel is mostly a software issue rather than a human one.

John comments that many of the blog articles that his pupils create, 'fall by the wayside' and don't get completed. We can all empathise with that - it happens often in schools. The issue in the case of blogging is that there are few online tools that allows the user to save their work as draft, yet so many software tools on our computers do. We are all accustomed to being able to do that - except here in a web browser window.

There are some tools that allow blog articles to be saved as draft. Plone, Drupal to name a few - and there are others, but it relies on the Content Management Software (CMS) to have a function to store an article as draft. This is ok-ish, but not a complete solution. Let me explain.

Have you ever had a situation where your web browser has crashed or quit unexpectedly whilst writing within a textbox or completing a long (or short!) web form? Have you ever had a web form fail after you have attempted to submit the form? When was the last time you accidentally quit the web browser and subsequently lost all the open browser windows as well? - something of a major fault with tabbed browsing I think.

It seems to me that web browsers need to be better developed to cope with such problems. Why isn't it possible to save the contents of a web browser form as a file? Why is it that forms can be exported into comma / tab separated format and imported to another browser window? Why can't the web browser itself become the WYSIWYG editor for forms and text boxes that support HTML? These developments seem obvious to me, yet, as far as I know, there isn't a browser that manages to achieve these developments - at all.

Often, when issues arise when using technology, it really isn't the fault of the user but the designer / developer / programmer who produced the technology in the first instance. I am sure much of John's issues and that of his pupils' would be overcome by the simple introduction of proper versioning / editing tools in web browser software. Might we see this anytime soon? Maybe it will feature in the next revision of Mac OS X, Leopard - according to Apple there are heaps of new features they have yet to disclose and mention. Maybe Flock or Firefox might get there first?

Browser software can be better... heaps better.


Hard disk storage - completely full and never enough

The demand for hard disk storage space in our computers is endless. Luckily, the development of larger capacity drives continues although probably not quick enough. About 6 years ago, even before the birth of iTunes, I had begun digitising my entire CD music collection. I remember thinking then how I'd justify using premium hard disk space on music and now I am having the same thoughts with digitising DVDs for use on my iPod Video. I love the video out feature - and for me, works a dream. It's like bringing along a video jukebox of films to any occasion and simply plugging it into the AV sockets and pressing 'play'.

New technology affords us choices - if we so choose, we can access our entire music collection from the touch of a button and the same can be true of movies. The challenge we face is whether technology is able to keep up with our demand.

I've recently purchased a new 2.5" Internal disk for my MacBook Pro and researched various manufacturers and suppliers. This review of large capacity drives and various drive spindle speeds helped me make my final choice on which unit to buy. I opted for the Hitachi TravelStar 5K160, 160 GB, SATA-150, 5400 rpm, 8M buffer, drive.

Sadly, this isn't the biggest capacity 2.5" drive, since there is a 200Gb version made by Toshiba which is shipped with new MacBook's and MacBook Pro's, but I can't find suppliers of the bare drives, anywhere. No doubt in the next few weeks, they will become available - but isn't it odd that there is a time-lag between when devices are made available to computer manufacturers before they become available to the consumer?


Safari tools

It's interesting how this blog helps me (and others) in so many ways. It really is a sign of 21st Century learning where we are in a new phase of "helping people to help each other."

From selling what we don't want, but is someone else's treasure on eBay, to sharing each others work on YouTube and gaining a global audience and feedback loop - we are in the thick of another learning revolution using technology.

Yesterday, a comment containing a question was asked here, to which I didn't know the answer - but was something that had plagued me for months (years?) too. How do you resize a Safari window to fill the whole screen? An obvious answer might be the green dot in the top left of the window bar... but it doesn't quite fill the whole screen.

However, this led me to a fantastic site with a whole heap of Safari add-ons and tools and the solution was found.

Make this window full-screen.


'Marmite Squeezy' Art


Go on... have a go... you'll either love it or hate it.



Wireless audio in the home, office, yacht using an Apple iPod HiFi, Airport Express and Griffin Express Optical Cable


This is simply the best sounding set of speakers ever. I thought the sound from just plugging in the iPod directly on top of the "boom box" case was pretty awesome, but the Airport Express, optical cable and Apple iPod HiFi makes quite (!) a combination that would be pretty hard to beat. Thanks to Larry for the tip-off with the optical cable... good spot!

If you want a wireless sound system setup in your home, I strongly recommend the following pieces of kit...

together with Griffin 4010-XPRS XpressCable - Digital Optical Audio Cable


Inspirational television for teachers, Teachers TV

I searched the net looking for some digital media to help my students understand and appreciate the effect of forces on objects. I had already tried the obvious places, YouTube, Google Video etc.. and drew blanks. I searched the Teachers TV programmes, and hit upon this video, KS3/4 Science - Demonstrating Physics: Forces featuring David Richardson from the Institute of Physics.

As a teacher, it was a truly inspiring programme to watch a demonstration of a scientific theory which began with the awe and wonder that interests and engages students so brilliantly - it certainly captivated me.

So many ideas can be gleaned from watching other professionals. The programme featured a scientist giving a demonstration to teachers during an INSET session, and later, the teacher repeating the same principle in front of their class of students. It was a really helpful to note the scientists explanations and then to see the students reactions and comments - it was almost as though you had already had a 'dry-run' of the activity. Wonderful.

Naturally, I couldn't help but want to present the same principle to my students and indeed the awe and wonder and instant engagement was there.

You can find more programmes on Teachers TV using this search engine:

or browse by category...


Key stages



Apple iPhone: register your interest with the UK's largest mobile phone retailer

The announcement of Apple's new flagship product, the iPhone, was incredibly exciting despite the fact the product won't be available in the UK until December 2007. We all want one of course, and no doubt, over the coming months, the desire and demand for the iPhone will soar.

Apple have yet to announce which UK mobile phone operators will support the iPhone, whilst, according to The Register, the Carphone Warehouse are ever so keen to support this new mobile device.

In fact, so keen, you can pre-register your interest here.


Still interested...?

Why not enter a competition to win an Apple iPhone? - simply enter your details and referrer email address, jonathan at learningspaces dot net - you have to be in it to win it, or so they say.




Postcards: "Learning is lovely, wish you were here!"

A recent project by heppell.net has been to produce postcards from 12 of the most innovative learning spaces around the world.

This one is of Stepping Stones School in Surrey, UK.

view static image

Want one? Send your name and full address to the email address above.

See the full set of postcards.

(animated in Keynote, exported in Flash)


BAFTA film entries, 60 Seconds of Fame Competition

The judging for this year's 60 Seconds of Fame competition, created and sponsored by BAFTA and Orange is nearly complete.

The competition has been open to buddying filmmakers who are aged 16 or over. All you need is access to some film making equipment, a digital video camera or video capable mobile phone and a computer with which to edit the film.

I was particularly impressed by the guidance notes offered on the website... useful for any video project with youngsters. The guidance notes are simple and straightforward, and after being involved in the judging process over the past few days, clearly many of the filmmakers had listened to this advice in producing the high quality films.


The pages I found most useful were:

Take a look for yourself, and make a point of looking at the entries for this year. Winners from each region will attend The Orange British Academy Film Awards in 2007. The overall winner will have their film featured during the Film Awards broadcast.

Hopefully, the competition will be repeated again this year. See the 60 Seconds of Fame website.

BT Home Hub and bad manners

Does this happen to you too?


It feels like most evenings, at around this time, the BT Home Hub checks for a software update and perhaps updates the firmware of the device, who actually knows (!?) - but in doing so, drops the connection and stops whatever I'm doing at the time completely. Not so bad for web browsing, but very bad for uploading files and an application which requires the user to maintain a live Internet connection.


It's nothing short of dreadful and I find it incredibly frustrating that as a user,

  1. I receive no warning that my Internet connection is about to be lost (otherwise I could prepare for it)
  2. I have no choice about whether I want to have my Internet connection service disconnected
  3. I have no way setting an alternative time when updates can take place.

Surely in most people's lives, 4am is much much better than 1am ?

In fact my own server access logs tell me that the least access to my pages takes place between 4am and 5am. Bizarre. Why don't BT think to set automatic updates at this time too?

I recently ran into a whole heap of trouble when the BT Home Hub refused to reboot after an update. After several support calls to BT Support... I finally got through to a Mac specialist who explained that the version of the Home Hub firmware was corrupt and that I needed to reinstall the firmware. Handily enough, the firmware is available on the installation CD and that I could reinstall the Home Hub's firmware software myself with the equipment I had... how cool is that!?

OK, not that cool really as I shouldn't have had to do this in the first instance.

...but hey, I'm all into fixing things myself.


  1. Insert BT Home Hub CD.
  2. Connect an Ethernet cable between Mac and BT Home Hub
  3. CTRL click the Install icon.
  4. click on Show Packages.


  5. Look inside a folder called 'UpgradeWizard' and click on 'menu'.


  6. Follow screen instructions.

Hope this is useful, but that you never need to experience the pain for yourself.

Please keep this service running.

Due to the enormous interest in this page and the large amount of traffic coming to my server host, I would really appreciate a donation towards the hosting costs of this service. Many thanks for your understanding.


Goodness, us Mac users have it easy... it's a question of usability surely?

Just been reading a really interesting article contrasting the user experience of the Apple Mac OS and Microsoft Vista. Although the author of the article seems to have a heavy bias towards the Mac OS - John seems to summarise my experience of the Windows platform very well.

This is one example, where John talks about the constant stream of messages presented by most of the Windows operating systems....

To put it simply, you can work on a Mac for hours, days even, and only minimally need to directly use the OS. With Vista? The OS demands your attention, constantly.

and... why Microsoft continue to make the same mistakes time and time again....

Vista reeks of committee and design by massive consensus, while OS X shines from an intense focus on doing things in a simple, clear fashion and design for the user, not the programmer.

Sums it up pretty well I thought.

Read the full article by John C. Welch


Macworld San Francisco 2007 Keynote Coverage.... follow it here

9th January 2007, 5pm (GMT)

Apple have once again placed their holding page on the Apple Store site...

Cool. This means that Apple are releasing new products...

Watch and follow the new products and announcements here.... http://events.macnn.com/


Google Job-bot... is there no end to Google's take over of the world?

...well maybe.

I've been following Tom Smith's article about Google over the past two days. Tom's blog entry today, More on Google's State of Mind is particularly poignant and talks about Google's software making judgements about blog sites and how kosher they are at being a genuine Adsense site.

I read this evening that Google is deploying a robot to scan job applications from prospective employees searching for a job at Google.

How long before that algorithm becomes common place? I hope, never.

The Register ends the article in its usual style of great humour....

If you have an amusing experience of Google's recruitment practices - successful or otherwise - share it with us here. We'll set our own robot on the replies, and pick out the ones whose opinions most closely resemble our own.

(Just kidding).


A handheld SMS message projector - eDemocracy idea anyone?

The SMS Guerilla Projector is a home made, fully functioning device that enables the user to project text based SMS messages in public spaces, in streets, onto people, inside cinemas, shops, houses…

Small, portable, and battery operated, the SMS Guerilla Projector contains a mobile phone which enables the device to

Read more about the Guerilla Projector.

Despite it looking like something out of Star Trek or Dr. Who, I love the concept of people contributing to a screen in a public space and SMS technology just seems a natural way of doing it.

In terms of eDemocracy, this would be a really handy tool. Imagine posing a question or a statement for the public to respond to, and have their contributions displayed in a public arena. Brave politicians might try it for instance, or local governments inviting for public opinion about topical issues relating to their town or county. This would be a fantastic way of engaging the public in a consultation process.


"Where are we all going?" "Everything is going to be alright"



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