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366-366 posted. All has been said and done. January 1, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Tools, Web 2.0.
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As 2012 unfurled, I began a 365 Project, though one with a twist – 366Web2.0. Here then are my reflections on the project.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Asja.: http://flickr.com/photos/asjaboros/6520949843/


In total, 366 AudioBoo podcasts (actually 368 because two applications merited extending to two podcasts) were recorded, representing almost 16 hours of audio. The reality was a little more demanding however since many applications were new to me and needed a degree of exploration prior to producing the podcast. Each podcast also required assembly of a blog post through which to deliver it and though brief, wherever possible a supplementary resource was sourced and added; sometimes a video, sometimes an artefact from the tool. All told then, preparation, recording and writing the blog for each post took between 15 and 30 minutes, sometimes longer. In other words, producing 366 occupied over 120 hours i.e. three work weeks.

Bang for buck?

Was it all worth it? Did the benefits outweigh the costs? I guess there were two beneficiaries: anyone who might have chanced on a post, found something of use, then took that away to develop further. Unfortunately I’ve no way of knowing the extent to which that happened since the viewing figures data from Posterous are notoriously unreliable and I find it hard to believe that any of the Boos I made attracted over 100 listens (The top Boo apparently got 832 listens!). Even then, with few comments posted, and there were few, it’s difficult to know if anyone found anything of value in the podcasts or blog posts. I must say here though I’m grateful to John Johnston & David Noble on Edutalk for their continued support and encouragement … and am honored to be included as a member of the Edutalk community.

I can write with a little more confidence about the second beneficiary – me. Right from the start I wanted to learn a little more about podcasting and whether I had the ‘right stuff’ to produce them. Well there’s no question that I learned something! I certainly find it difficult to speak with the ease and fluency that most of the other podcasters I listen to on Edutalk, EdtechCrew, Tightwad Tech, EdTech Talk and elsewhere seem to do. But part of that’s the format I guess; I’m not loquacious enough to talk into a mic. on my own for long (Couldn’t help but marvel at a recent podcast (Episode 397) from Wes Fryer where he spoke with clarity and focus for almost an hour solid … whilst driving home from a conference!). I guess I’m more of a listener and responder, perhaps better suited to dialogue rather than monologue.

I also learned a little more than I normally would about the new tools I came across. Usually I’d simply bookmark and tag them for future use, but if I was going to be talking about them in 366, I needed to explore them a little more fully. As a result I found several that have now become part of my ‘go to’ toolset that I return to and refer others to regularly; that rarely happens with tools I don’t take the time to explore more fully.

What might I have done differently?

Although I decided at the project outset what I ought to include in each podcast, I soon departed from that and tended to ‘wing it,’ often perhaps being more descriptive rather than as analytical or critical as I might have liked.  I sometimes wondered whether the supporting blog post was really necessary; could I have done the majority of it through AudioBoo by making greater use of the description and tag fields? AudioBoo have also recently introduced ‘Boards’ which can hold Boos having a common theme, a potentially useful addition for grouping my Boos, by tool-type perhaps. I did feel however that including a video with each podcast (where possible) perhaps provided a different perspective and also might have been more appropriate for those who prefer visual explanations rather than just audio.

Another area which gave me pause for thought was the attempt to try to categorise each tools using the SAMR model. Trying to pigeonhole a tool in this way is not without problems as the blog posts in the ‘About’ page explain. My hope was that offering a tentative level might spur debate about the ways in which the tool might be used, how that could be interpreted and challenge us to think beyond a surface level of simple usage to a deeper appreciation and understanding of how we might use it. Why am I using this tool and am I (and my students) getting the most from it?

End of the line?

The year is done and the project over. Or maybe not. Given the degree of commitment required to produce a podcast/post per day, I’m not sure I could sustain that into 2013; I also have other avenues I want to explore. However new tools continue to emerge and in order to better understand their potential, I do need to give them more than a cursory glance. Perhaps then this offers a way to extend 366 and use it to review and record Web2.0 tools on a continuing basis, albeit with a less demanding schedule.

Maybe there is life in the old dog yet?

A plague on all your houses! October 6, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Web 2.0.
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Plague IncEnjoyed a beautifully sunny autumn day out on the bike today accompanied by Tony and Darrel, the EdTechCrew … or rather their podcasts. That’s not unusual; I often enjoy and benefit from their informative and witty banter, but the podcast I caught today (Episode 211) was unusual. Introduced as an interview special with Plague Inc creator James Vaughan, I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed. Though I recognise, value and promote the potential of games to support and encourage learning, I’m not a gamer … there, I said it! But hey, here I was out in the countryside enjoying a blissful ride, so I resisted the temptation to skip to the next podcast. I’m so glad I didn’t!

In words the guys would understand, it was a corker! A ripper! Why? Well firstly James came across as an incredibly interesting guy who spoke with such passion and eloquence, telling the story of how Plague Inc came into being. And what a tale it was. But more than that, this was a story which referenced so many different areas of the curriculum, providing a touchstone for teachers coming from a wide range of backgrounds. The game itself clearly links with Science, Biology and PSHE, based as it is on infection, pathogens and disease. Then of course Geography is important, requiring the player to have some appreciation of countries and their interconnectedness. James’ story linked in with Maths and IT in the way that he developed and refined the algorithms which drive the game, even using Excel to manage the statistics and formulae which underlie the game mechanics. Naturally Design and Art played a large part in getting the game out of James’ head and into the hands of the gamer and there were clear illustrations how Business Studies and Economics help turn an idea into a product. But there were also lessons aplenty to be learned on the importance of the hidden curriculum and soft skills highlighted by James’ entrepreneurship, persistence, patience, determination, creativity, imagination, responsiveness and communication. The way he assembled the resources he needed was perhaps an ideal illustration of how projects can be developed and executed in the 21st century – finding then collaborating with a group of geographically disparate individuals to design, develop and produce a product, yet never meeting them face-to-face. Getting his product onto the market and achieving unexpected and dizzying heights of success … but with no marketing budget! Using social media as communication channels through which he can connect with players, listen and respond to their feedback and improve the game with each iteration. Could all of this been achieved 10 years ago? Possibly. But then there were no iPhones, no apps … no market! Do we have here an ideal example of one of those jobs often referred to in the somewhat hackneyed phrase ‘We’re preparing students for jobs which don’t even exist yet’? I think so.

A fascinating hour for which I thank Darrel and Tony and especially James. The power of podcasting to inspire and entertain!

Do you know what? Following this interview, I’m even tempted to buy the game … heck I might even play it!

Long, long time ago … August 20, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Tools, Web 2.0.
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Wayback Machine website

Wayback Machine website

When someone on Twitter provided a pointer to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (WBM), I never really gave it a second thought; it was something I was already aware of. Later however, I got to wondering whether the website I set up to support our Physics Department had been captured? It was a fair ‘way back’ and I couldn’t imagine that any archiving mechanism would have picked up something of such little global significance, but hey what the heck.

On visiting the WBM, the first hurdle was going to be to try and remember the URL of the site, but after leaving it and returning later, the grey cells had done their bit (They do say it’s the short term memory that deteriorates as you get older don’t they?). After typing in the string, jings, crivvens and help ma boab¹, the WBM elves had done their stuff and found my old site! OK, some of the images were missing (I guess they never got pulled through?) but the structure was intact, the links (at least the internal ones) seemed to work … and goodness me, what was I thinking when I made it?!

To be fair, this was the ‘olden’ days as far as the Web was concerned. I guess it was on the cusp between Web 1.0 and 2.0, where social interactions and user-generated content were just beginning to be made more accessible. The earliest iteration captured by the WBM is given as 30th July, 2001; I know I had things up and running before that, but I guess the crawlers hadn’t picked up the site any earlier. So this was just after Blogger had started, around the same tie as Wikipedia, a couple of years before MySpace, Facebook and Second Life, four years before YouTube and five before Twitter². To get anything posted on the Web in those days, you had to work a lot harder. I used some of the free website creation space I’d got when signing up with my first ISP (Lineone, which became Tiscali and later still TalkTalk) – school certainly had none at that stage and VLEs were unheard of in secondary education. I learned the rudiments of site creation and management using NetObjects Fusion (which is amazingly still going, but has moved on from version 5 that I used to version 12!), but as you can see, had little awareness of design consistency. Hey, everyone had animated gifs on their sites then … didn’t they? There was no way for students to submit work, comments or feedback other than by email and the email address I gave was a personal one; we didn’t have a school email address back then either. Looking back, how incredibly naive?


cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo by Last Hero: http://flickr.com/photos/uwe_schubert/4658993521/

The glaring thing I guess was the pedagogy I was attempting … or the lack thereof. It was very much about providing resources online which we also provided offline; about supplementing and supporting the students’ studies rather than offering an alternative way for them to experience their learning. Or am I being too harsh? Three years before that in pre-Web days, I’d created everything needed to study the A Level Medical Physics module (because we couldn’t afford the books!) using Hypercardon the Macs. An ebook if you will. In the late 1990s! And it all fitted on a 1.44Mb ‘stiffy!’ (Remember them?)

In the eleven years since the website was archived by the WBM, so much has happened, both in the world of ICT and in my own personal development. Only 6 months after that first archive, I’d changed jobs to pursue that developing passion to explore what ICTs might offer and have had plentiful opportunities to investigate more appropriate and effective mechanisms for enabling online learning. Although I wouldn’t change things for a moment, I can’t help but wonder what activities I’d be planning and delivering now, had I stayed in the classroom? Would I have maintained my interest and kept up with the pace of developments? Or would I have burn’t out or become frustrated with the slower pace at which school was progressing?

No regrets. Unlike the Wayback Machine, I can’t go back.

¹ “Oor Wullie” 1930s onwards

² Social Media Timeline – idFive

Signing your life away? March 27, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Twitter, Web 2.0.
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cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Judy **: http://flickr.com/photos/judy-van-der-velden/5396290870/

Last night I fired off a tweet providing notice of the latest post in my #366Web2.0 series. As it happens it was about Flixtime, an online application providing functionality similar to that of Animoto. Shortly afterwards a colleague replied asking:

Are the films created the property of Flixtime like Animoto? Is flix ok to use for pupil photos?

Well there are two things there I guess, so in the order they appeared:

1. This is a very valid question and one we perhaps ask ourselves all too rarely as we sign up for ‘free’ online services. How many of us take the time and trouble to read through the Terms of Service and simply put a tick mark in the checkbox saying we agree to them? On this occasion since I’d been prompted, I went back and took a look. Five and half thousand words later, I still couldn’t really answer the question fully. The ones at Flixtime aren’t particularly abstruse, but they’re still largely written in legalese, a language just fine and dandy for lawyers in a courtroom, but hardly accessible for an ordinary member of the public. I suppose I can consider myself reasonably well read, so how would the ToS appear to a 13 year old or to someone with learning difficulties? Yes a company has no choice but to protect itself from possible litigation, but is it reasonable to expect that a potential user will have read and understood over five thousand words of legally-oriented terminology? Here’s a sample from Flixtime’s terms:

This Agreement shall continue in perpetuity unless terminated in accordance with this Section 13. Flixtime at any time may terminate this Agreement in its sole discretion, including, without limitation, for breach by you of any of your representations, warranties or obligations under this Agreement.


I wondered if others were similar. Here’s a few words from YouTube’s three and half thousand:

14.3 You agree that if YouTube does not exercise or enforce any legal right or remedy which is contained in the Terms (or which YouTube has the benefit of under any applicable law), this will not be taken to be a formal waiver of YouTube’s rights and that those rights or remedies will still be available to YouTube.


And from Prezi’s four and half thousand words (which to be fair appears somewhat less inaccessible):

When you upload User Content on or through the Service, you represent and warrant that, with respect to all User Content that you upload, transmit, publish and disseminate through the Service, (a) you have all the rights and licenses necessary to use, reproduce, publish, display publicly, perform publicly, distribute or otherwise exploit such User Content in connection with the Service (and to grant to Prezi the licenses set forth in this Agreement);


And let’s not even think about PInterest!

Anyway, in answer to the original question, this phrase from Flixtime’s terms might help:

You hereby grant Flixtime a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to use your Submission for the purposes of providing the services contemplated hereunder.

Which suggests to me that Flixtime is at liberty to use your stuff, but doesn’t become the owner … however I’m more than happy to be corrected if my interpretation is too loose!

The second point is perhaps a little easier to answer … possibly!

2. “Is Flixtime OK to use with pupil photos?” I’d suggest requires pretty much the same answer as “Is it OK to post pictures of pupils on the Internet?” I’d guess that most (all?) schools have a policy regarding the taking and use of images, so that should be the starting point. If the policy doesn’t specifically discuss posting images, then a re-write might be in order. As do most schools, we post heaps of images of students on our official school website; we want people to be able to see students enjoying their time with us and we feel it’s important to recognise and celebrate student achievements. But we do so following guidelines which parents are aware of and have agreed with. Are sites other than the school website covered by the same terms? Should they be, or are they different?

Me? Well I’d be inclined to play safe and try to arrange my activities so that imagery used does not require inclusion of students, if I know the output will be posted to the Web. That way, the issue never arises. Or is that being too paranoid?

… “Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” February 22, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Musings, Web 2.0.
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It only seems like a short while ago that I first became aware of the Open Badges movement:

Learning today happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen outside of school. Mozilla’s Open Badges project is working to solve that problem, making it easy for anyone to issue, earn and display badges across the web — through a shared infrastructure that’s free and open to all. The result: helping learners everywhere display 21st century skills, unlock career and educational opportunities, and level up in their life and work.


badges competitionThe project we’ve recently been working on in school (ICT Quests) seemed to be being constructed in a way which could benefit from the principles of Open Badges. So when the DML Badges for Lifelong Learning competition was announced, the possibility of offering an entry seemed to make sense. Well I’m not quite sure how, but we seem to have dropped lucky. Our submission not only got through the first round of selection, but we’ve been invited to the finals! They’re taking place in San Francisco next Tuesday & Wednesday, with the overall winners to be announced on the first day of the DML Conference.

Our entry was in the ‘Learning & Content’ stage with the ‘Design & Tech’ stage being undertaken by different groups to follow. For the finals we’ve been partnered with an open source development team from Catalyst IT, led by Richard Wyles (Project Lead for Mahara) in New Zealand. Their entry was “Moodle as Issuer, Mahara as Displayer” and clearly links with our ICT Quests through Moodle, our VLE – good matching by the competition organisers.

So now it’s all hands on deck to prepare our pitch for the judges. It’s not a massively big ask, but clearly competing against other teams adds a certain … edge! Bearing in mind we only have a maximum of 10 minutes to cover what our project can offer to the Open Badges movement, ensuring that the criteria for the content and tech strands are both covered and that they marry together to deliver a coherent whole. Condensing all that into a meaningful pitch is proving to be quite demanding. Given that projects can attract up to $200 000 of funding, it’s taking quite a bit of thought what to include and leave out … let alone the style! A bit like condensing Hamlet into a single Tweet.

So next Tuesday after the orientation and information dissemination session at the California Academy of Sciences, Richard and I will be knocking our pitch into shape, distilling and refining the content and finalising our budget ready for the judges on the following day.

Excitement and fear often do hold hands don’t they?