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

iPhoto makes the UK

Just noticed that the latest release of iPhoto (v4.01) now allows users in the UK to create books and order prints. Prices seem reasonable too. Go take a look...
Apple's iPhoto website

...and if you haven't got iPhoto, you should.


Ever been to one of those courses, where the course leader asks you to "brainstorm your ideas"....and then later, some smart alec pipes up and says, "actually the correct term is thought-showering."

This comes from the polically correct way of describing the process of bringing out ideas, but to me - thought showering is what i ACTUALLY do.

As my ex-pupils will tell you, some of my greatest and weirdest ideas originate from the shower. I've been known to spend between 40-60 minutes in the shower, as ideas just come flowing out.

Sadly, by the time I've put my feet back on dry land, reality hits and these ideas somehow disappear into the abyss. Pity, cos only occasionally do these ideas stay around long enough and come into fruitition.

I lost a whole raft of great ideas this evening - doh! What I need is something that i can jot, draw or record my ideas whilst in the shower - I've yet to find anything that can cope with such demanding and thought-provoking environments!

Can anyone help!?


Never mix reading with curry

I went out for a curry this evening with a mate (and his family) from school where I used to teach.

I discover that his eldest son, aged 6, is a great great in fact that he is on 'Black' - those who know the school, will know that you don't get onto Black level until you reach the junior school, a couple of years yet for this ace.

At the beginning of the evening, my mate's son, reads 'Lamb Rogan Josh' - pretty good for a Year 1. Later, I ask him to read the name of my curry (Chicken Balti), he says....
"Chicken B-al-tie"
to which i reply, "'s Chicken B-ol-tie"
Brimming with confidence he replies, "No! it's definitely 'Chicken B--al-tie', you've got a Scottish accent."

Well....actually, I haven't got a Scottish accent - but it was at this point I realised why he's such a good reader. If he has the confidence to challenge someone elses opinion, someone older and more experienced, he has the ability to challenge his own reading. Confidence is key in learning, if we haven't the confidence to challenge and enquire, we just become passive learners, and only as good as those around us. See also Confidence is key from my old blog.

I was stunned by his remark and just ate the rest of my curry :-)


All eyes on Google

So many people use Google - it is the king of all search engines - those green with envy look to better it, read on...


Today BiddyCam, tomorrow the.....

Click on the image to make it bigger.
When your name has been mentioned on BiddyCam!, you know you've made it...

When Ace Blogger, aka Matthew Eaves, first began his blog - he knew he was bidding for stardom. With a fan base in tow, I stand back and applaud his name and quote on the BiddyCam! website. Putting the ethics of all this to one side, amazing stuff mate!

Quote of the week : (From Matt's Blog -
"I predict that this website is going to be as huge as 'Penguin Smacking'"

Today BiddyCam! tomorrow the ....


Drupal 'Clean URL's and mod_rewrites' grrrrh


Hotseat tool revisions

The success of the Hotseat tool just makes me want to make it even better. I spent some time last night making some revisions, thanks to Andy Roberts, Linda Hartley, Sarah Hackett and many other people who used the hotseat tool over the past two weeks.

These are the revisions:

  • I have implemented a better hotseat 'page navigation' menu which displays the number of pages depending on the number of questions posted, e.g. page links don't appear until more than 10 questions, then gradually increase with 20, 30, 40 .... questions. The next hotseat, with Maria Phillips was made available this morning to researchers. I can't believe that at the end of the day, 10 (9 actually) questions have been posted already! Come on, I need another one just to see if the new page links work!
  • Many researchers requested that the responses made by the hotseat guest are listed in a colour that will distinguish these from other participants. You should notice that the Hotseat guest now posts responses in a lovely shade of green
  • I have added a note above the 'Add a question' text box, encouraging researches to phrase their question in the first 20 words. This will enable me to build a navigation menu of questions so that you can browse and jump straight to the question and responses. Most people have adhered to this - so be ready for when a summary of questions is available.

Lots more still to do, suggestions on the back of a postcard....alternatively add a comment here.

Ultraversity Hotseat

The first Ultraversity Hotseat using the software I developed late one evening, is coming to a close. I am amazed at it's success, we've had over 50 questions posted, and approximately 200 responses from researchers and the hotseat guest in just two weeks.

There's been a few tweaks and bug fixes since the hotseat began, and more to do before the next hotseat. Hoping I can make these changes before the end of today, the next hotseat starts on Monday, and should be available from tomorrow.

See also...Hotseat feeling the heat

Pirate BBC Essex wireless link

One of our biggest challenges in this Pirate BBC Essex radio project is getting a broadband Internet connection to the Lightship anchored half a mile from the Harwich pier. The crew on board the lightship need to receive txt and email messages, as well as stream a webcam video to the Internet.

So a wireless link from the exhibition room to the ship would be just the ticket. Luckily there is a line of sight between the pier and the lightship. Wireless CNP has jumped in to help by loaning us the wireless equipment.

Big thanks go to Wireless CNP.

Matthew Eaves and I intend to make a trip to Harwich to test out the link next week sometime.

Toilets are cleaner than computers

Toilets are cleaner than computers reports The Register

I spend most of my time working on computers (3,295 germs per square inch), luckily I spend less time on the phone (25,127 bugs per square inch)

Now wash your hands....

Filemaker 7

After months of speculation, Filemaker inc have announced the next version of their database application, Filemaker 7. As expected, Filemaker 7 dropped support for CDML (Claris Dynamic Markup Language) - now replaced by web standards XML and XSLT.

At last, Filemaker has created a proper database structure, where one database can contain many tables. Also, amongst it's revisions includes a better (graphical) interface to building relationships between tables.

Read more about Filemaker 7

Google Alert!

Google Alert provides users with regular updates on upto three 'search strings' or 'keywords' of their choice. My top three are 'artist illustrator', 'Jonathan Furness' and 'Ultralab'.

Essentially this service performs these three searches and emails you (sometimes daily) with the details of any new webpages containing these keywords. Handy if you are interested in how your website or chosen keywords are being used on the Internet.

Here's an example of what Google Alert can send you.....

Google Alert has new results which can also be browsed interactively:

| Search 1: artist illustrator
| tracking top 50 of about 330,000 results

48. Delphine B, artist illustrator

With all the Net surfers, the one day old visitors or one evening...
Welcome on my site! Artist, illustrator, portraitist... A whole program!!!

| Search 2: Jonathan Furness
| tracking top 50 of about 4,500 results

36. LTO : Collaborative online projects - summary

... Collaborative online projects - summary. A Day in the Life of??????? by
Jonathan Furness. Explore children??????s imagination and creativity ...

| Search 3: Ultralab
| tracking top 50 of about 23,700 results

35. Topic Exchange: Channel 'ultralab'

part of the Internet Topic Exchange. Topic Exchange: Channel
'ultralab'. ... About the 'ultralab' channel. Also
available in RSS 2.0 (XML). You are not logged in. ...


Backup, Backup, Backup...before a server upgrade

Q. What should you always do before you make any BIG changes to your system?

A. Backup

...and I didn't. In the latest Apple OS X 10.3.3 Server update, some changes were made to the MySQL package, uh oh. Luckily, I think I've got away with it this time, apart from one database table being screwed up. Not a show stopper though - it counted the number of 'reads' each blog article had. Useful data, but I've reset the counters today.

Might be worth reading this....

Data stored in MySQL databases with the version of MySQL that is pre-installed Mac OS X Server 10.3.2 or earlier must be exported and re-imported in order to be compatible with version of MySQL that is pre-installed on Mac OS X Server 10.3.3, in which a byte-ordering issue is fixed.

As with any upgrade install, you should back up your old data. In this particular upgrade, the following process is recommended to convert the data to the correct byte ordering:

Before the upgrade, use the terminal to export the data from your pre-10.3.3 database:

# ??mysqldump -p table > backup-file.sql


# ??mysqldump ??--opt database > backup-file.sql

After the upgrade, and after initializing the MySQL database, import the data:

# ??mysql -p table < backup-file.sql


# ??mysql ??database < backup-file.sql


About Jonathan Furness

Jonathan is now the Deputy Head Teacher and ICT co-ordinator at Kings Road Primary School in Chelmsford, Essex. Kings Road Primary School is a large school, serving a mixed socio-economic catchment area. Jonathan's role is to embed creativity and ICT into the curriculum through the use of innovative technologies. This is a role Jonathan is excited to pursue and work has already begun with children reflecting on their learning on the school blog site.Previously, Jonathan led a team at Stepping Stones School in Hindhead, Surrey, in a role which he enjoyed for 2 years . Using his strengths in learning and visionary approaches to using technology in providing an education for children with Hemiplegia, Stepping Stones became a reality and is the only school for children with Hemiplegia, in the UK. Hemiplegia is a condition which affects some 10,000 children across the country. Many have a physical disability, affecting just one side of their body depending upon which side of the brain has been affected. This is an exciting new project, not least because the school is situated in a converted chapel and has subsequently been remodelled in its new guise as a specialist school. The school built its curriculum around the use of technology and creative approaches to learning using computers, and as such, our pupils each have access to a personal laptop computer.Earlier, Jonathan worked at Ultralab, taking on the roles of software developer, and consulted on several projects relating to the design of learning spaces. Ultralab, was a learning technology research centre in Chelmsford, Essex. Jonathan has been affiliated to Ultralab for over a decade, bringing with him his experience in technology and education.Jonathan's background is in teaching, where he trained and subsequently taught for several years at a primary school. Jonathan enjoyed his very rewarding time in the primary classroom, teaching children from 5 to 11 years old. Over the past ten years, much of Jonathan's work has centred around using, supporting and building, online learning communities. Back in 1997, he supported the first pilot of the Online Learning Network (OLN), Learning in the New Millennium, Oracle's Codename Scoop (, and more recently, Ultraversity - Ultralab's online degree course for undergraduates. He has been responsible for developing the online community software and portfolio tools which allows the researchers to share their action research work amongst themselves and facilitators.In addition, Jonathan has written the specification for the Distributed School project, a key opportunity to explore whether children living in small village communities can use technology to bring them together into a much larger community of learners. Imagine a 'node' of say 12 children connected to two other 'nodes' of equal size via video walls that opens the door to discussion and collaboration - sounds interesting? Get in touch.Besides his involvement in many other projects, Jonathan sits on the Royal Television Society jury for Multimedia in Primary and Secondary Education.

Pirate BBC Essex update

Steve Scruton, Ian Wyatt, Tom Warmington, Jonathan Furness, Matthew Eaves and Tim Ellis met at ULTRALAB to discuss the progress on the Pirate BBC Essex radio station.

We talked about the broadband connection (supplied by Nitrex Broadband) and the wireless link, which we've yet to get sorted. Here's the problem...we have broadband Internet at the Ha'penny Pier, the ship is half a mile (750m) from the pier....and, you guessed it, we need to setup a link between the two. So far we have explored a few websites, Sharing your Apple Basestation Experiences and Antenna on the Cheap best start saving Pringles tubes now.

We talked about the 'ship's log blog' but figured the crew had enough to do so we'll leave that one for another day. We did at least come to some decisions about the website, TXT messaging and emails.

I learnt from Tom that the BBC have some very strange (tight) rules around the use of their logo! We are wondering if we'll get away with this one!

Read more about Pirate BBC Essex

The Office Olympics

click on each to play in a new window

Fancy a go, anyone?


Am I number one?

Fellow bloggers, Matthew Eaves and Pete Bradshaw are a little surprised that after Google has crawled their blogs, that they appear number one in the Google listings!

So how hard is it to get the number one spot? Well, that depends on several factors, from the 'search string', e.g. ultralab cheese to keywords used in your pages and how many links people have made to your pages.

There aren't very many Pete Bradshaw's around, nor many Matthew Eaves' though there is another Matt Eaves on the net! Likewise, not many Jonathan Furness' either.

I'd be really impressed if they made it to number one as 'matthew's blog' or 'pete's blog' - not such an easy feat. Getting Tom Smith to the number two spot is pretty staggering, and slightly bewildering - just what would it take to take the number one spot?

I'm going after Jonathan's Blog for the top spot, I'm currently number four, with my old blog taking the third place. My old blog has been running for some years now, plus it has a few significant sites pointing to it. Maybe if i let them know of my new blog, it might make a difference - I don't really want to kill it off.

URL's help a little too, having as the web address should count for something.


Dr Fun

I've just been trying to sort out my 'bookmarks'.... you know the mess you can get into with bookmarks....what's worse is each time I say, 'I'll never get into this mess again' ha! What we need is some smart bookmark software which manages your bookmarks irrespective of what computer you are using, where you are, what browser software you are using. I think Apple's .Mac has some bookmark tool - don't know how good it is, or how it works - might have to investigate. Like I've said many a time, I'll never get into this mess again.

Anyway, I stumbled across a bookmark to Dr Fun cartoons. They are so very very funny!

See my RSS News Feed for Dr Fun


'The Link' deserves a plug...on air

Pirate BBC Essex Radio station is soon to go 'on air' - all our efforts are now focused on developing the software which will enable members of the public to TXT message or email the radio presenters whilst on board LV Eighteen, the Lightship from which the broadcast will be made.

We needed to obtain an SMS number and a mobile phone. We went to a number of Mobile phone shops in Chelmsford, asking for "mobile phone numbers which are good for broadcasting on air."

Luckily, many people were keen enough to help us out, they dug through hundreds of numbers, until we found the one, well... sadly it wasn't available so we settled for the next best number. We cheekily asked if they'd lend us a phone for the duration of the Pirate radio broadcast, and in true British style they provided us with a Nokia Picture phone - cool huh!

Our first plug goes to Adam Jamieson & Russ McIntosh at The Link in Chelmsford, cheers guys.

Hotseat Tool development

Ever had that sudden urge to get something done?

I developed a hotseat tool in just a few hours one evening and what's really nice is seeing it in use in such a big way. It went live on Monday, it's now Wednesday and has had well over 100 entries from the Ultraversity Researchers. So cool and hugely rewarding.

No Comment!

Cheers for the comment, whoever posted it! Sadly, the comment tool in Drupal is a little naff as it stands. The developers make a careless assumption that when people want to comment, they will either create themselves an account, username, password, profile etc etc, or be quite content with submitting a comment as an anonymous user. Maybe I'm taking this too far, but people quite like to be accredited or associated with the comment that they make - and in the case of blogging, want to do it quickly and easily. If I arrive at a site which forces me to register before I can make contributions, I very often tend not to bother, unless I feel I will get something of significance in return.

Worth mentioning at this point that I got talking to a guy called Pablo, (in the Drupal community, yes I did register!) who has written a simplecomment.module that offers a new comment form for submitting names, email address and comment - very cool - he's hoping to have something ready in the next couple of weeks. For now though, just add your name in the comment field.

Having spent a weekend looking at various blogging software, Moveable Type, Drupal, Serendipity - to find the one that would most suit my blogging needs. Truth is that any of these tools would be enough to run quite an extensive blog - but my criteria was more than that - I would looking for a blog tool that would be the most adaptable and extendable. After much exploration, Drupal seems to be the tool of choice here. As with the other tools, there is a whole host of plugins to add extra functionality. However, I favoured this tool because the core blog software and modules are written in PHP, a language I could at least hack around a bit.

I really like the way drupal allows you to build and customise your own themes - you can rack up a whole set of themes, and these can be a selection which have simply been downloaded and installed, or ones modified by the user.

Pirate BBC Essex Radio Station

ULTRALAB and BBC Essex Radio are working together to celebrate 40 years of pirate radio of the Essex shores, to bring you the BBC Essex Pirate Radio Station. The station goes live in April, broadcasting on medium wave frequencies from LV Eighteen - a former lightship owned by the charity Pharos Trust.

The plan is to transmit a wireless signal from Ha'penny Pier in Harwich to the lightship using wireless base station transmitters. This will allow the radio presenters to receive SMS text messages and emails on board LV Eighteen. We also intend to run two webcams, one streaming pictures of the ship from the pier, the other streaming images of the presenters on board to an Internet website.

There is a sizeable crew already formed, including BBC Essex Radio presenters, Steve Scruton, Ian Wyatt, Tom Warmington, and from ULTRALAB....Matthew Eaves, Jonathan Furness, Alex Blanc and Tim Ellis.

Welcome to my new blog.....

For some months now, I've wanted to find some time to develop my Filemaker weblog a little. It lacks many of the features, such as trackback, RSS news feeds, that nearly all blogging software can do really quite easily. So I spent the first part of the weekend exploring how to develop these tools.

It wasn't until I started hacking around in the Filemaker database that I realised that i'd been running my old blog for nearly two and half years. Took me back a little - especially when I began reading some of my earliest entries, Software just got harder, much harder and Exploring Children's Creativity - absolutely fascinating. Have some of the issues changed since then? no, not really.

I also started me thinking why did I spend time developing my old blog in custom built Filemaker software - sounds like a crazy idea now. It quickly dawned on me that at the time, there just wasn't the range of good quality blogging software that there is today - so I built my own.

As you'll read.....I just couldn't get Filemaker to do even the most simpliest of tasks - create an RSS feed. I managed it - and it worked (kind of!)

Read on.....


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