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Jonathan's developments, thoughts and ideas on teaching, technology and learning.

BBC Essex with Simon Baldock 'Sound Advice'

Matthew Eaves and I have found our way onto BBC Essex's Sound Advice programme with Simon Baldock

The programme will feature a discussion about blogging and podcasting plus the usual phone-in with listener's computer problems.

How to listen to BBC Essex on the Internet


Grocery Store Wars... Join the Organic Rebellion

Watch the clip, Grocery Store Wars - Join the Organic Rebellion

Love the organic vegetable characters, Chewbroccoli, Tofu D2, Obi Wan Cannoli


School Design meeting

I attended another school design meeting today at Warwick School for Boys in Walthamstow. I presented some of our CABE research and showed them some of our case study schools... this stimulated a good discussion about what some of the issues are regarding the design of a new school.

Our discussion broadly covered these issues...

  • Future technology.... mobile phones, portable computers, smart cards, PDAs
  • Curriculum design.... teacher-led, personalised learning, workplace learning, university studies
  • Building design.... classroom size, utilisation, ownership, corridors, toilets

What was clear that these couldn't be discussed in isolation since the learning spaces can depend on the organisation of the curriculum, and both the design of the building, curriculum and technology

Again, involving stakeholders in the design of the school is well understood. In fact, the Head and her team understood lots about school design having been involved in this process for some months now. She was keen that I should meet the children who are on the school design panel (this is in addition to the School Council.)

One thing is clear, we need to plan for the certainty of uncertainty. This requires us to be creative about building flexibility into the design of future schools and how both the curriculum and technology is implemented.



I arrive home to find a spam comment, grrrr! How could this be... yet I've installed Captcha (see Comment Spam article)

I guess some spam engine has managed to screen read, interpret the characters in the Captcha box and submit the form...grrrr

The lengths these spam engines go to.... surely there are easier sites to leave spam on.... why mine? Not that computers have 'intelligence' to understand one site is easier than another...

What do I do next? Perhaps make the image harder for a computer to read? Add a textured background? Add more characters? Change the font? Maybe use a picture of a house instead and ask users to type the name of the image they see? Thoughts?

You do have to see the funny side however...


Creating a learning environment, the NQT Year

I'd almost forgotten that I'd produced such a resource. Occasionally I find myself looking through server log files, seeing what kind of things people find on my faithful server, Barney Rubble.

One of the most popular resources, though it's a bit dated now is 'Creating a Learning Environment' which I produced as a keen and enhusiastic young teacher in preparation to present to a room of prospective NQT's.

It was an interesting step-back to revisit my classroom as it was then (December 2000), and recall some things that were very significant at the time.

Beware, colours used on those pages were a bit ghastly.... some things never change.


Zope / Plone rewrite rule

Notes on how to apply Apache / Plone rewrite rule to allow Plone to serve using a non standard port to a standard port (80)

... the sort of thing you do once in a blue moon.

LIVE 8, Make Poverty History

Round the Island Race, Isle of Wight, Cowes

Had a fantastic weekend - thanks team - sailing on Cracker for the Round the Island Race at Cowes (Isle of Wight.) Cracker is an Oyster 37 ft yacht.

See my collection of photographs from the event. It was an early start... leaving the pontoon at about 6:20am and heading for the waiting area so that we could watch big boats like B&Q and Ellen MacArthur leave the start line. As it was, there was a postponed start, but luckily this was only by an hour.

We worked well together, learnt lots and had good fun. I was quite honoured to be on the Cracker team given that other Cracker team members had arrived for this race. The team consisted of... Stephen (helm), Carole (navigation), Katie (main sheet), Rick (pit). Tim (jib/genoa sheet), Gordon (jib/genoa sheet), Toby (spinnaker sheet), Melissa (bow), Bex (mast), Jonathan (foredeck) - I found the Mad Hatters guide which usefully explains these roles.

New role for me working on foredeck, planting the jib and assisting the winchers/grinders to pull in the jib during tacks and gybes. Provided me with a great opportunity to observe other roles and understand race tactics.


Google Page Rank status in Firefox

Just found a Google Page rank extension for Firefox. It's an easy extension to install - just click the link to install in a Firefox browser. You might have to tell Firefox that it's okay to allow this to be installed (security feature which you'd rather have than didn't)

With the advent of (Tiger's) Dashboard widgets, I've chosen not to install Konfabulator and the Page Rank Widget... I figured that one set of Widgets is enough for anyone... plus the floating panel was either always hidden behind browser windows or on top getting in the way!

Read more about Google Page Rank. Stephen Powell refers to it as a measure of Google Juice...

Portfolio tools (again)

Stephen Powell and I had a rather enlightening conversation about future portfolio tools for Ultraversity. Many of you will know that Ultralab's efforts in recent months have been to somehow work our way through the muddy waters of open source, proprietary and custom built (in-house) software.

Our discussion was another chance to think outside the box - breakaway from the mould which we have created in the form of the current Portfolio Tool and see if we had the chance to do it all over again, what would we do next time. Technology has moved on, in the way of blog technology, rss, open source, podcast, single sign on.

Our conversation helped us to realign our belief that the portfolio tool (in whatever guise) is about the learner, the researcher. The artefacts should be within the control of the learner who then chooses which artefacts to present for assessment.

We also talked about the need for a commenting 'engine' - the ability for whoever to comment on everything and anything - with a users & groups permission set.

Congratulations to L8R (later) and Frank Flynn

Last night I was fortunate to attend the Royal Television Society awards ceremony at The Savoy in London as a member of the Primary and Secondary Multimedia and Interactive Jury. This years' guest speaker was Prof. Ted Wragg of Exeter University who spoke of the necessity for teachers to bring creativity and innovation to the classroom. He spoke of children being 'switched on' to learning with the metaphorical switch and in the same way, 'switched off' too.

Ted cited an example where he observed one student teacher conducting a lesson about optics - during the opening introduction, Ted observed the children slipped into comatose-d state - that is until, as if from nowhere, he presented them with a pinhole camera. At which point, the children became visibly excited and ecstatic. The response by the teacher... "Okay, calm down, calm down... there's nothing to get excited about here"

Ted continued by explaining young children are naturally inquisitive, and despite not yet understanding the scientific terms to explain something, naturally observe, question and explain. They are what you might say naturally 'switched on'. As teachers, we therefore only need to provide an environment which allows pupils to fulfill this desire for learning and Ted Wragg suggested that we achieve this by being creative and innovative teachers. As Stephen Heppell writes in the Education Guardian, following a dialogue with some of the world's most innovative teachers...

"Everyone was doing exceptional work despite, rather than thanks to, their various national curriculums. They all shared similar tales of "too much stuff", too tight targets, no space to innovate, and of a rampant managerialism that seemed to be crushing the creativity out of all but a few. It was as though the innovations driven forward by ICT had frightened the life out of their various policy-makers with a resulting mess of regulation and prescription to keep the lid on progress"

There is real desire by teachers to be everything that Ted Wragg evangelises about but we need to change the culture which pushes against this.

Frank Flynn of the BBC was awarded the Royal Television Society Judge's Award for his long-standing contribution to Educational Television. He continues to be a key player in the Digital Curriculum initiative and following Ted's speech, was rather fitting that he should be recognised in this way.

Congratulations also to the L8R (pronounced 'later") team who certainly knew how to acknowledge the winning of the Multimedia and Interactive award.

Comment SPAM


CowScript, programming and seaside

Google 'satellite' maps


Brightlingsea harbour

This photograph was taken last week of a calm, still evening in Brightlingsea after an eventful days' sailing, battling through storms and high winds (force 7-8). Read the race results - we are yacht, Cracker. I think you get the idea!

Local Google... new development from the Google labs


Photos from New York


SkypeIn and Skype Voicemail beta launched


Google Maps


Team teaching in Scotland



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