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Jonathan's blog

Edit CSS Stylesheets in style

When HTML first arrived on the scene, we all learnt the language and doggedly typed the code into basic text editors. I remember evenings spent working with SimpleText - back then this was all very novel so we stuck with it quite happily. A few months later, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors saved people stacks of time and empowered those who had not yet mastered HTML.

It seems quite natural therefore that a whole heap of stylesheet authoring applications are now available to make the job of creating and editing stylesheets a breeze. Hal pointed me in the direction of CSSEdit by MacRabbit, which seems to do the job nicely.

I am currently building the database driven website for the Design Council project which is called, rather uninterestingly, Online Metric. Suggestions for a better project name on a postcard please....or, if you prefer, comment on this post. Oh, it might be hepful for you to know that the project is about developing an Online tool for schools to self-evaluate aspects about the school in terms of lighting, furniture, atmosphere, canteen etc. Where appropriate, suggestions and resources will displayed so the school may address these areas.


Timber yard blues

So why is it, that on probably the busiest day (Saturday) of the week for DIY enthusiasts, do timber yards close at around midday?

Am I the only person to question this? Is it me? It seems bizarre ... no wonder B&Q and Homebase do so well.

The design of schools

Working with Year 7 pupils at Greensward College, Hockley, I realised once again how little we consider pupil's opinion on their learning environment.

We wanted pupils to discuss and give feedback on a questionnaire that we had prepared for our work with the Design Council. This project sets out to allow pupils, teachers and governors to evaluate their school environment with regard to lighting, furniture, desks, chairs, storage, atmosphere and the like. The online tool then presents ways in which improvements can be made to the school with links to resources to support them in making such improvements.

The pupils enthusiasm to reflect and share their opinions about their school was staggering. Later I asked... "If this kind of questionnaire was put on a website, what would make pupils such as you want to use this tool?"

Their response was to be expected...."Nobody ever asks us about what we think of school, this site would allow us to have our say"

I realised then, just how how little we consider pupils opinion about the design of their current school, nevermind the school of the future. I've began to think why this might be:

  • teachers, senior management don't consider pupils to be able to share their thoughts and opinions.
  • schools are frightened to give pupils a voice....anarchy ensues!
  • matters relating to the school is the responsibilty of those who run it(!)

any others?

I imagine school councils creates the forum to allow pupils to have a voice in matters related to their school.

Classroom of the future

I've just finished writing an article about our visions on the Classroom of the Future for the JMPC Education newsletter which is sent to 10,000 teachers around the UK.

I searched the Internet to read what other people's vision for the Classroom of the Future....I stumbled across this page (Visions for the Classroom of the Future) on the Becta site. Sadly, Becta have done a poor job of date stamping their pages, but I estimate these to have been posted in 2001.

Significant leaders in education have posted their thoughts, including a vision from

Sadly, these visions aren't quite so radical as I would have hoped. David Blunkett used phrases like
"None of this, of course, is a substitute for traditional teaching, but is a complement to it."

Luckily, Ultralab's visions for the Classroom of the Future are far more radical. However, whether they are exciting, radical, innovative or not, they all need to be researched and explored. There is very little being done currently to move this country out of the Victoria era of traditional, teacher-led delivery model.


Explosion of Drupal powered sites

Looking back over the past few weeks, there have been an explosion in Drupal powered sites, here are some I have been working on:

  • Design Council: Online Metric
  • Rural Nolfolk Federation
  • SummerSchool
  • Matt's Blog


File cabinet developments

It has been several months since the file cabinet space for the Ultraversity Portfolio tool was developed. The file cabinet allows researchers to upload portfolios of work for assessment by facilitators. Ultraversity researchers and facilitators have lived with a filename length limit of 32 characters for a few months now. This was imposed by FileMaker's poor handling of files, probably inherited from Mac OS 9 days....

Last week, Mark and I configured FileMaker to use the Web Connector tool which allows us to serve all requests through the Apache webserver in Mac OS X Server. This has resulted in removing the 32 character limit for all uploaded files.

Anyone who writes a piece of software with a numerical limit ought to be shot, luckily I escaped the firing line this time around. Maybe I should warn people at FileMaker HQ?

Blog back

After some months of inactivity, Matthew Eaves has returned to the blogging ghetto - Welcome back Matt. Hopefully, we'll get to read more of his quality submissions, here are some from the past.....Tips to Survive an International Long Haul Flight, (quite timely since I'm off to NZ shortly), and How to get on the radio!

Stepping Stones school

Mark and I spent the day at Stepping Stones school, Hindhead, Surrey. This is a new school built in and around a disused church specifically designed for children with Hemiplegia (see Hemi Help). As you might imagine, much of the church has had to remain in place, including the wooden stage area and stone work, which adds real character to the character of the school.

Mark and I have been working on this new school project for the last 4 months or so and have seen the school develop tremendously during this time. They are now very very close to completion of Phase 1. The children's facilities are fantastic, multi-function rooms cater for children cooking, design & technology, physio-therapy, research, and quiet/collaborative work spaces.

The outdoor area provides a mix of sunny/shady spaces with tables for eating outside, spaces to play, explore.

I met the two pupils - both were absolutely delightful and were very excited about their first day at this new school. They couldn't wait for the computers to arrive.

Ultralab's role has been to identify and specify the technology, (computers, wireless, printers, scanners, networking) for the school. More work to do yet!


...three rules for a night out

Went out with a bunch of teachers from Westlands Community Primary School, some new, some old, some very old (Andy!) Had a great time catching up with my mates, but also meeting new people. Noteably they were ALL young, excited and enthusiastic about teaching (I remember those days!)

Interestingly, one knew an aweful lot about me, was a bit scary, but it transpired that she'd done her research by reading my web page which is....erm...about me.

Whilst relieving myself in the Gents, I happened to do some reading of my own. Directly in front were three rules - thought the third was a bit bizarre.....

  1. Never leave your drink unattended (that's a good plan.... you wouldn't want someone to drink it for you, would you?)
  2. If your drink tastes different - leave it (you might wanna just check you picked up your glass)
  3. If, after a couple of drinks, you begin to feel a bit drunk - seek help (erm.....yes, ok then.... but don't people start feeling like that after consuming alcoholic beverages?)

.... was a good night tho, apart from the guy who threatened to 'deck me' after I asked him to stop hassling one female member of our group.


New Apple iMac released today

Why is it that everytime Apple release a new product, I want one!?

I guess I'll keep dreaming as I listen and watch Phil Schiller deliver the keynote at the Apple Expo in Steve's (Jobs) absence. I looked out for this on the web during the keynote, for some reason Apple chose not to stream this live.


Wireless Broadband is coming..... the village in which I live early next year.

This is a not-for-profit organisation, Essex Broadband who will connect you to the Internet (using wireless technology) at very competitive rates. Installation is about ??100, not cheap, but the ongoing costs are ??15 per month.

Now add the benefit of 3x the speed of normal broadband, commonly 512kbps - this new service aims to supply 1500kbps! I especially like the fact that they hope to provide symmetrical broadband soon, currently the upload speed is only 300kbps (still faster than my 256kbps upload!)

Also, the kit they supply creates a wireless network for your home - how cool is that? A little radio antenna (1m) is attached to the side of your property - that's it. I guess there is a wireless bridge somewhere and the wireless transmitter or basestation, but it all sounds so simple.

The downside of course is that some areas may not receive this service for a few months. Luckily my brother gets the service around Christmas time, I'll get it 2 months later.


more DIY....

After a fantastic week in West Ireland, nr Westport, I'm back to do yet more DIY. Yep, the two-year project to tile the kitchen is nearly complete! Trouble is that I've started some other projects too - yikes!

I discovered how much I love walking around B&Q today - but not as much as I loved Ireland...!


What kind of social software are you?

Take a look at this rather bizarre questionnaire which tells you What kind of social software are you?

I am.... livejournal

You show your professionally designed hand coded Moveable Type blog to your collegues and family, but secretly you're writing about internal angst on a Livejournal.


Google Page rank tool

Spotted this Google Page rank tool on Tom Smith's blog I didn't know it existed either. Perfect.

I've now crept from a respectable 4/10 to a fairly desirable 6/10.


the NEW iPod

Apple are claiming 'the best just got better' ...but not by much it seems....

Yeah, it's using an innovative Apple Click Wheel, is that really great? I have trouble with the touch sensitive buttons sometimes - they are just too sensitive. I can see myself getting into a right pickle with buttons on the wheel as well as the 'jog shuttle' arrangement too.

I'm a little surprised Apple has only increased the battery life of the iPod, 12 hours as opposed to only 8 hours. Much cooler would be 60Gb drives, or, dare i say it, the viPod (video iPod)

Now I understand why Steve Jobs didn't announce the new iPod at WWDC.

Paying for Moveable Type

Looks like Moveable Type have introduced a new pricing structure for their blog tool application - yikes!

So does that mean that Moveable Type is not strictly open-source....or can you sell open source software now?

Watch as people drift to Drupal.... ;-)


Using the Finder: to talk

Pete Bradshaw and I travelled to Chester to the ITTE (Information Technology in Teacher Education) conference and managed to convince the conference organisers (it wasn't that hard!) that we could present in the free-slot.

Pete and I decided to do a session on the Distributed School concept....and we had little time to put something together.

Having spent two days listening to people present and be driven by PowerPoint presentations..... some of the less effective presentations were as a result of presenters lacking time, either because they talked too much on one slide (cos it was interesting and gained peoples interest) or people interjected (again useful) and this resulted in people either:

  1. rushing throught the remainder of the presentation (missing some key bits)

  2. visibly skipping through what looked like more interesting slides than those that had been shown and discussed earlier, and again, missing important stuff.

.... remembering that presentations can be a bit like teaching a lesson....they have to fit any given time, points could be discussed at any moment and you have to sustain the interest from the participants partly based on their own questions and thoughts.

Pete and I decided to do things a little differently....

think different

I'd been playing around with the concept of presenting a talk using Apple's OS called the Finder and this, it seemed, was the perfect opportunity explore the possibilities. Essentially, the Finder would allow you to present in a fairly non-linear can still have slides in some order, but you aren't constrained by that order. The Finder allows you to jump from one slide to another in any order (drag your folders into the navigation bar on the left hand side of Finder windows.) However, rather more significant is the inclusion of supporting media into your presentation.

the finder

The Finder allows you to select images as the background for any folder (View menu --> Show View Options). Therefore, one folder essentially becomes one slide....but, and this is the smart can add your supporting files within it. is a diagram of Distributed School....let me show you a movie in QuickTime, some photos in Preview.... a PDF file.... etc etc.

  • Background images can be made in any application you like, I used AppleWorks.... ideally you want to save the image file in a way that allows you to modify it quickly and easily later. Then, just attach it to a given folder.
  • Media can be dragged and placed within the Finder window, locating relevant resources next to items in the background image. This looks very cool.
  • New Folders can be created as bullet points. You can change their icons to any image you like, make icon sizes BIG (cos they look really sexy) increase the font size of the icon labels (so they are readable)

I created, but didn't use a slide (exactly! - but i could have) which invited people to contribute challenges. easy would that be?
A. Easy. You just create folders and change their names to become their suggestion. Yes, you are limited by the length of a Folder name, but you can move the folders around the Finder window..... so, for example, you could position items in 'agreement' on one side, and 'disagreement' on another.

Another rather neat idea is that you could have sub-issues within issues (folders within folders)

Pete and I are exploring freeware, shareware apps which might add extra functionality to the Finder, there are loads out there. The Finder is very scriptable....AppleScript, Folder Action Scripts..... worth exploring these too.

Together with Expos?? you can navigate between slides and applications pretty smartly.


  • Finder presentations aren't that portable (Mac to Mac is ok)
  • Icons can move around the Finder window, e.g. sort by name, date etc. This isn't helpful.
  • folder names are limited in length so people's contributes are potentially limited...but you probably only want bullet points anyway?


PowerPoint is pants, Apple's Keynote looks beautiful but doesn't go anywhere near being interactive or non-linear. So, what are the options? HyperCard ..... how many people wish for an OS X version? (it's not gonna happen though is it?)

Web pages - used those a few times, but i've always felt it is hard work to put those together and face issues with changing projector/screen resolutions, with modifying content (particularly adding/removing pages - navigation nightmare.) AND.....what's more.....with any of the above, how do you add comments, thoughts, suggestions during the presentation? If there is one feature I'd really's being able to contribute to the presentation right then and there.

Of course, I'm new to presenting at conferences and there is lots to learn.... but there is always lots to tell people and I couldn't imagine not having the flexibilty to make a presentation quickly but effectively, nevermind having the flexibility to present and talk without constraints.

Jonathan's Blog now supports adding names to comments!

At long last, and almost completely by chance I have worked out how web visitors can attribute their comments with their name rather than be identified as simply 'visitor'

Stephen stumbled past the other day and commented on my blog....he happened to put Stephen in the 'Subject' field.....well... that's enough isn't? So I just changed the field label from 'Subject' to 'Your name' - perfect!

Cheers Stephen....funny how solutions to problems stare you in the face for months and it isn't until someone gives you a slap across the face with a wet fish that you realise the answer!

Ouch....we were robbed

Portugal 8 : England 7

Having led the match 1:0 for most of the match, only to concede 2 goals from the host nation's team, we clawed back another goal to bring the game level at 2:2

In extra time we secured (thought we secured, no, we DID) what should have been the winning goal.

Why oh why did we get allocated a Swiss referee after giving Switzerland a beating earlier in the tournament? It looked like England were playing against twelve men!

Email Urs Meier to ask him why he disallowed what could have been the winning goal ;-)


Euro 2004 Goal Watcher

Get the latest Euro 2004 football results on your Mac...

Download GoalWatcher


Random websites

Spent the evening looking at random websites, years ago Tom Smith and I wrote a little AppleScript which found random websites using a service provided by Yahoo. The script no longer works, it did for years and boy did I stumble across sites that never in my life would I find again, like the complete guide to lockpicking!

I still crave for a script which fires off a request for a random website every 5 minutes or so. This site kinda interested randomly generates a word and adds .com to it.

Seethru Web....

...which led me to this very funny site....

Telecommunications in Tasmania

Stumbled across a rather useful document relating to the development of Telecommunications in Tasmania.

Tasmania are just a bit keen to create the third 'cluster' for the Distributed School so thought I'd read up a little about their current capacity to supply broadband to rural areas.

...handy, Telstra are onto it already!

What can you spot?

SpotCode is one of the latest ways you can interface your camera phone with the cool? I like the potential for using your phone as your 'identity' on the web. Of course a phone is a pretty useful tool for identity since your phone and number is genuinely unique.


Video conference with Tasmania

Not sure when my feet last touched the ground...

Last week I held a video conference with ministers, policy makers, principals stationed in Hobart and also simultaneously with West Coast Principals in Queenstown. Slightly bizarre video conferencing with two locations. You only ever see one site at any one throughout most of the conference I observed people in Hobart. It isn't until someone speaks (or coughs even!) at the other site that the video swaps to the other site...rather neat.

I talked a little about the outline proposal for the Distributed School - Tasmania are a really great bunch of people, very keen and interested in the prospect of building a school joined up by lots of cool technology. They asked lots of questions and gave some critical feedback which is very welcome, especially if this proposal goes ahead with a cluster in Tasmania and the other two here in the UK.

...very exciting!

Social software: definition and characteristics

Found an article by Jack Schulze who writes about the concept of Social software and lists the common characteristics of good social software...

"Social software's purpose is dealing with with groups, or interactions between people. This is as opposed to conventional software like Microsoft Word, which although it may have collaborative features ("track changes") isn't primarily social. (Those features could learn a lot from social software however.) The primary constraint of social software is in the design process: Human factors and group dynamics introduce design difficulties that aren't obvious without considering psychology and human nature."



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