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Jonathan's blog

Favicons - the devil?


Christmas singing from Lent Rise Combined School


Blog revamp....


Ultralab Christmas Party 2004


Upgrading Drupal to 4.5.1

Spent some of this morning upgrading my blog site software to the latest version... Drupal 4.5.1 and found that by following the upgrade process fails to make the new site work. So apologies to those who tried to access my blog and failed earlier. Now working, but restored to the older version sadly.

When I was in the throws of bug fixing, Ali came up to me and said 'If it ain't broken, don't fix it" - which is not a bad rule to live by if you are quite content with things 'just working'.

I'm far too curious for my own good sometimes, and when I can see cool plugins and features which are only available to me if I am running the latest blog software... then I have to bite the bullet and move on.

Another reason to upgrade is simply to maintain an up-to-date version so that future upgrade procedures are more straight-forward. I think Drupal have yet to produce an upgrade procedure which doesn't require you to upgrade through each version.

Google cache'ing tool

Now that we have resumed a normal Internet service following a fault with the University network over the past few days, I got wondering about how people might still be able to read content even though our servers, or anyone else's for that matter, was unavailable.

Google have been cache'ing (storing a history of) websites for years, and I remembered that this might be useful for when sites are unavailable..... simply go to and type in the following:

cache:[url of site]


If your site has been cached, Google will return the page as it was the last time Google crawled it.

There is a whole heap of Google Web Search Features, including calculators, language translators, dictionary definitions etc.

tickets online

A good friend of mine happened to point me to a site selling theatre tickets, Abbey Box Office that his company is building..... thank goodness I can now use an online booking site that makes sense.... is it really that hard to build a site that:

  • doesn't mean wading through banner advertising which appears more important and 'in your face' than what the site is actually selling
  • lists the site content in some logical manner, here are the 'top sellers', 'last chance tickets'
  • means you can search for shows without navigating horrendously long index pages listing shows in alphabetical order. Also note images used alongside text.. that works really well and makes the page look 'less heavy' on the eye.
  • categorises theatre productions, and tells you this is the category you are browsing!
  • Oh, and I like the Online Basket reporting the current balance of bought tickets on every page... that makes sense.

It's not that hard is it?

Schools Our Kids Would Build

Just read Derek Wenmoth's (NZ) blog posting, he was sent a link (from Lisa) about kids designing schools,

Schools Our Kids Would Build

Some notable comments from this site includes...

"Some have argued that children are "natural builders" or "have a natural talent as planners and designers" and that the school curriculum might be better organized to recognize this."
"What emerges from the material is evidence that children have the capacity to examine critically the normal and everyday spaces in which they learn and can articulate their future in previously unimagined ways."

Bug Ridden

Just been working on the Online Metric project for the Design Council... and spent a happy few hours trying to figure out a buggy part of code, out came the PHP books, the web forums... I finally isolated the problem by commenting out pretty much all of the code, leaving me with a missing { bracket... arghh...

I hate PHP for wanting me to be so precise.... it wouldn't be so bad if it performed some of the code and then paused at the broken bit... that would make life so much easier.

I even had error checking switched on, but it's error reporting doesn't report line numbers particularly accurately in some cases either... double arrghhh

Let me know if you think there are too many bugs here.... ;-)


Pirate BBC Essex presenter wins top award!

Just spotted that Ray Clark of BBC Essex has won a prestigious award following the radio programmes broadcast on Pirate BBC Essex during Easter 2004.



Latest plans for a new garage

Spent the weekend doing some groundwork for a new garage that I hope to have built in the coming weeks. However, I have only just written to the local council seeking planning approval - yikes! It wasn't clear whether I should just state the facts about my plans or should I state the facts and also list all the reasons why the new garage would be good for the area :-)
In my letter I included two images...

a before ....

and after....

Do I sound like someone worried they'll turn down my application?

Have you got a wireless hotspot near you?


Director Chris

Had a surprise email from an ex-pupil of Westlands Community Primary School, Chris Thomson who, although still at Secondary school, is currently making movies with his friends. Some years ago, we created time during lunchtimes and after-school so that Chris and his friends could 'play' and explore making movies. They had characters, storylines, scripts all worked out.

Not only is it really nice to hear from Chris, but I'm glad he is following up his interests too. Take a look at his new site with information about up and coming movies.... watch this space!

I can't help but reflect on why kids are sooo taken by digital video. A few months ago now, Ultralab ran an event, BAFTA Interactive which was about celebrating children's success in new media and digital video. So why?

Here are a few thoughts....

  • Digital video is empowering; low cost and high quality (TV quality) video cameras are now available which allows kids to make films that emulate what they watch on television.
  • Computer hardware and software capable of editing digital video has become increasingly more accessible over recent years. Computers like the original iMac set a precedent for digital video on personal home computers.
  • Digital video is a creative medium... children love opportunities to be freed from constraints and structure.
  • This is the 'new literacy' - there aren't the demands on children to be able to read and write well. Digital video offers new opportunities to children who struggle with traditional forms of literacy or story telling.

Interesting that this technology places new and different demands and constraints on children. For example, the contraints now are related to the technology and not the opportunity, perhaps?


Moving house...Kiwi style

From Paul Rodley, Christ's College, NZ.... thanks Paul...

Paul is a really great person, and good mate now. We met on my recent trip to New Zealand. He is an ICT teacher, technology fanatic and passionate teacher. He's also a great tour guide.... he took Richard, Kris and I into the mountains and through Arthur's Pass - superb!

Anyway... here's how the Kiwi's move house....!


iPod Photo

Apple have just released the new iPod with colour screen, called iPod Photo.

The addition of a colour screen has allowed Apple to integrate digital photographs into the personal storage/music player. What is slightly bizarre is that Apple have decided to use iTunes to sync your photos with the iPod. Why didn't Apple decide to use iPhoto - surely that seems a more natural step? Bizarre.

Check out the iPod Special Edition: U2 though...


GRPS Internet on your mobile phone (with 02 and Sony Ericsson)


Bringing Creativity to the Classroom

The BBC report on a school which has taken quite a radical approach to teaching and learning....

A long time coming:

"For several years the government has set numeracy and literacy targets.

Pupils in England, according to international figures, are getting better at the "core skills" promoted within the curriculum. They are improving at reading, writing and maths.

Now attention is being focused too on the need to bring creativity into the classroom to inspire children and fire their interest in learning.

But what does this mean? More artwork, playing games or music, perhaps? More in-depth analysis of the world? More visits to museums and galleries?

What does a school deemed to be creative do differently?"

.... a good question? But surely we know some of the answers already.... it's about freedom, play, opportunity, exploration, experimentation, making mistakes..... it would seem that Michael Faraday Primary School has done quite a bit of work in this area already.

thanks to Pete for the link.


The Human Clock

Found this link to this rather fun site called the Human Clock. This site displays the current time through the use of photographs, each photograph containing a different time of the day....cunning.

What is the time?

This reminds me of...

great isn't it.... Matt and I have our own idea for a human clock... anyone interested?


Navcon 2K4: Action Enquiry in the Classroom using Blog technology

Still catching up with my time in New Zealand and at Navcon 2k4. There is still much to share with my colleagues about my experiences... the people I met and the friends I made, the presentations I gave and the presentations I attended.

Stephen Powell and I gave a presentation 'Action Enquiry in the Classroom using Blog technology'.

I think we continue to make the mistake of not fully appreciating how many people just want good online tools that they can appropriate themselves. I spent much of this session talking about how participants, once back in their organisations, can work with the many online tools that are available and with a bit of time, create tools that work for them. For some, this is much harder if there is not the support from schools to allow them to explore and play with technology.

At Ultralab, play and experimentation is a key element in our work.... how else can you find out what the possibilities / limitations are?


Webcasting software

A few people have emailed to ask me about the software I used in my Webcasting session at the Navcon2k4 conference.

LiveChannel v2.2 from ChannelStorm is a powerful application which allows you to mix live and pre-recorded video together and broadcast this across the Internet over IP. It's rather like being a DJ, but of TV rather than spinning discs.

You can download a trial version of LiveChannel from the ChannelStorm website.


Wanting to stay mobile

Today I spent about 2 hours trying to find out how I can transfer my existing Orange phone number from a Business Talk Plan to my own Personal plan.... you'd think that would be straight-forward?

Ironically, I discover not only is it easier to transfer my number to another network, but I stand to benefit from all the deals of being a new customer on a new network... huh? Orange offer me a bog standard tariff, oh good. How can that be?

Navcon 2K4: Learning with ICT - the Distributed School

On Friday morning, (the morning after the conference dinner!) I presented a session with Richard Millwood on 'Learning with ICT: the Distributed School'

We used SubEthaEdit to share the names and backgrounds of the people who came to listen. Having outlined our proposal for the Distributed School, participants then simulated the live video connection between the three sites. This activity stimulated people to discuss and think about what the learning might look like in the Distributed School.

Here is the document that participants collaboratively wrote using SubEthaEdit. Each group took on a location around the world. Text has been copied and pasted as written by participants.


  1. The need for a global curriculum
    structure.. so groups of schools agree of what is taught, to whom and when
  2. Teacher competency... being able
    to handle this sort of teaching and learning... also the relief teacher situation
    - how comfortable are the back up staff going to be to build this expertise?
  3. Preparation time.. collaborative
    teaching takes planning time.
    International education - new mode of teaching where teachers take on shift
    work if operating across countries.. Parents doing work for their children..
    need for some sort of ID device to prove that Mary is actually operating the
  4. New assessment methods ie: assessing
    work that is produced electronically
    Discipline issues - Would students really be responsible for their own b/h?
    Need to be on same platform technologically... otherwise huge delay in possible
    in communications.. Collaborative peer assessment (ie:email document outlining
    standards, group negotiate and assess). Virtual surveillance of schooling..
    Parents log into monitor what students are doing.
  5. Capturing learning - issues around
    building a structure to capture students' learning... think of the parent
    who demands to see Johnny's exercise book... ie: need for huge amounts of
    data capturing capacity
  6. Social interactions... eg: Physical
    education ... how will this be addressed? Building in social interaction time
    in a face to face mode.
  7. Hardware/software/power - Need
    for a local power generator to back up the power
    New ways of learning -
  8. [Traditional model of schooling]
    Possibility to use tech to offer expertise in a particular subject area not
    already offered by the school

important stuff

  1. getting sense of community [using
    technology socially before using it formall]y
  2. how to get past the 'legal duty
    of care' that means schools block things like chat components - how to manage
    this? [urban schools key issue]

working doc:
serious planning issues [coordination so all on same lane]?
how teacher participation happens?
fluency of conversation?
incorporating chat effectively? [merging different technologies for a better
fit for flow of conversation
getting sense of community [effective connection across sites - or even within
schools - f2f communication is essential how to facilitate that effectively
- establishing protocol
how to manage cummunity across time zones? for 'lesons'
how to get past the 'legal duty of care that means schools block things like
chat compnonents - how to manage this? - how do we manage where kids go?
how to break the content is fitted to the class model?

Technoogy issues -l
philosophy - curriculum issues
pedagogy different teaching practices
length of school day - routines/structure. Time zones
how would you choose partners
What is the key point of chosen schools

- different teaching practices
cultural aspect
Cultural activities/kapahaka

compatibility of software/hardware
common platform for sharing
security /safe learning environment
quality of assurance of programmes being delivered - accountablity
teacher driven/child driven
face to face capabiity- real life experience
technological support
adult supervision
Facilitator to oversee cluster
Board of trustees?

Webcasting at NAVCON

Richard Millwood and I presented a pre-conference session at NAVCON on webcasting.

Richard began by asking participants to share their thoughts on catalysts and inhibitors of creativity.

The remainder of the session was fairly manic as people worked collaboratively to produce a five minute live broadcast using a mix of prepared media and live video feeds. The emphasis on this session was 'performance' rather than 'composition'.

ChannelStorm's LiveChannel application was used for the broadcasts.


Flying to NZ: in for the long haul

Started to think about this long haul flighty thing to New Zealand.... and how best to prepare for it.... I've done some reading and I reckon I have the best advice going, I began with arguably the best guide to long haul flights and also read Surviving a long haul flight ... and then became amazingly thankful that I didn't have to read this Long Haul Flights with Small Children, Babies.

I was babysitting my 8 month old nephew, Max, on Saturday night.... it wasn't so bad (!) ;-)

Still unsure whether turning up at the airport unbelievably tired is a good strategy - the idea being that I will sleep most of the 23 hour flight. Thoughts?


Blogs: a purposeful activity?

Having read Stephen Powell's blog entry called Blogging for learning, I began thinking again about why I find it a useful activity.

Here are some of my reasons why:

  1. a chance to reflect on what I've done or been thinking about
  2. share my work or sound out my ideas (if they are a bit too wacky, people usually say so!)
  3. establish short-term dialogues with others, sometimes like-minded people
  4. build relationships
  5. create a portfolio about me including what I do, what interests me

I'm sure there are other reasons to blog.



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