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Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones 2007 Advent Calendar

Stepping Stones School 2007 Advent Calendar
Stepping Stones School has once again produced an Advent Calendar as we count down to Christmas. Last year, Stepping Stones enjoyed a huge following from school children all around the world, and this year, we've bettered that. This year, we are inviting children to submit entries for the advent calendar to be placed behind each day. So far, we have had entries from Scotland, England, New Zealand and the Cayman Islands. If you want to be a part of this calendar, then send me your christmas-y artwork together with the person or group who created the artwork and where you are based. My email address is at the top of this blog site.

Some of you might be interested to see last year's Stepping Stones Advent Calendar.

Postcards: "Learning is lovely, wish you were here!"

A recent project by has been to produce postcards from 12 of the most innovative learning spaces around the world.

This one is of Stepping Stones School in Surrey, UK.

view static image

Want one? Send your name and full address to the email address above.

See the full set of postcards.

(animated in Keynote, exported in Flash)


Tomorrow's Learners Today feature at the BETT 2007 Educational Technology Show, London

BETT, the Educational Technology Show takes place at between 11th and 14th January 2007. The show attracts some 28,000 visitors bringing together the global teaching and learning community. It really is the place to be. The show usually features a good mix between experienced exhibitors and presenters in the field of educational technology.

The feature stand this year is "Tomorrow's Learners Today" and is supported by DfES and Partnership for Schools amongst others.

When technology can do anything we wish, says Professor Stephen Heppell, the question becomes: What should we wish for?

The stand is divided into two. One half will showcase a school each day. Pupils on the stand will be surveying visitors and exhibitors about their ideas on future schooling. At the end of each day, the results from the surveys will be announced.

  • Lampton School, Hounslow (on Wednesday)
  • Homewood School, Kent (on Thursday)
  • Castle Manor Business and Enterprise College, Haverhill (on Friday)
  • Edensor Technology College, Longton Stoke (on Saturday)

The other half of the stand will feature BETT Brains - and will consist of leading experts on the design of future schools. Many Building Schools for the Future (BSF) case studies will be presented over the four days and the presenters include:

  • Peter Wain, Becta,
  • Mike Rumble, QCA,
  • Hannah Jones, NCSL
  • Kate Stewart, Learning Designer, TeamAgogo
  • Carole Chapman, Notschool - Virtual Learning
  • Dan Sutch, Futurelab

... along with several representative from Partnership for Schools (PfS) and not forgetting Stephen Heppell presenting daily. I will also be on the stand talking about my work with Stepping Stones School on Friday and Saturday, so please do come along and meet me on the stand, D62.




You can read more about the feature stand.

If you want to see what went on last year, take a look at the BETT 2006 Review movie

Stepping Stones pupils presented at the Apple Store, Regent Street, London

Stepping Stones school is only the 2nd school in the UK to participate in Apple's School Nights programme.

Our pupils did very well, developing confidence to speak in public and show some of their cool digital creativity work to a very mixed audience, consisting of mainly Apple Store customers. We were presenting in the instore theatre. Essentially, we could use the theatre space as we liked... the 'be creative in how you present, and what you present' ethos was very evident.

Read more about the event.

Just in passing, the Apple Store School Nights event is open to any school wishing to use the Apple Store to present creativity work developed on a Mac. Sign up here...

Outdoor screen for displaying children's digital portfolios to the local community

Ever since the early stages of designing a brand new school, Stepping Stones, there has always been a desire to allow the local community to see some of the wonderful work that takes place inside the school.

The solution lies in bolting a large flat panel screen to the outside wall, with a cable running to a computer situated inside the school and which provides a rolling display of the children's digital portfolio. One of the major concerns other than protecting the screen against the environment, heat, cold and moisture, is security. How could we ensure that the screen we mount on the outside wall of the school building, be secure - especially to the opportunist?

Perhaps a CCTV camera would provide enough of a deterrent for the would-be-thief to reconsider their proposed actions?

As you might imagine, most screens are designed for indoor use, but I have found one LCD screen which might just be suitable for our needs.

"The 32"

Research into online gaming: How do strategy games help learning, particularly in historical studies?

Sasha Millwood led a very interesting action research project today to research the impact of strategy games on learning.

Sasha's research question is:

How do strategy games help learning, particularly in historical studies?

Six researchers met online, using Apple's iChat technology. We spent 2 hours determining the correct network settings for establishing a multiplayer game (Rise of Nations) across 4 different locations. Internet gaming is not new, and has been around for several years, yet the protocols used to establish reliable connections without a Gaming server, is complex and troublesome. So many factors are involved, from people's individual computers, to their broadband connections and how their routers are configured, each being potential points of failure. We worked our way through a maze of technologies and acronyms:

  • NAT - Network Address Translation - allows individual computers to share one public facing IP address
  • DMZ - De-Militarised Zone - a network range that bypasses any firewall and port blocking
  • uPnP - Universal Plug and Play - facilitates device-to-device interoperability
  • Port Forwarding - allocating individual ports to bridge between the public and private IP address range

and is totally dependent on the capability of each router. Eventually we found our way, only to discover dire game play speed where each computer halted as it waited for the host computer to send data.

Ben's strategy was to ensure all machines were set-up within a DMZ, another thought was 'Wouldn't it be nice if all routers were uPnP capable' ... ha!

We have consistently failed to create a multiplayer game with more than two players, without the continual stalling of game play. Has anyone found a solution to playing a multiplayer game of Rise of Nations?

Eventually, we admitted defeat, and we resided to playing two-way multiplayer games, or joining games hosted on the same local network. This didn't force a change in the research question and so several games were played and we have yet to report our findings back as we await the survey form from Sasha.

Well done Sasha for getting us this far.

Just in passing, one 14 year old researcher from Stepping Stones, commented...

"I'm having the time of my life here"

...a lovely moment.

  above: extract from online chat in Rise of Nations game

Digital Creativity Bus, draft proposal

Last week I completed a draft proposal detailing some of my thoughts for the Digital Creativity Bus. I would welcome your thoughts, ideas and suggestions please. This is a great opportunity to build something so seductive and engaging for all who use the bus... we might only get one chance to get this right.

Download the draft v2 proposal paper

Routemaster Bus... on the road to digital creativity

Stepping Stones and the National Hemiplegia Organisation have recently purchased an old London Routemaster RM bus from

The intention here, rather like the Computer Bus on the Isle of Man, is to provide more opportunities for children to become involved in digital creativity projects, using video, animation, graphic design applications.

So far the bodywork has been re-sprayed, and work to the inside of the bus is set to be carried out anytime soon. The most pressing need right now is to brainstorm the layout for the inside of the bus. It will need to accommodate working spaces for children using computers, which are likely to be portable Apple iBook computers. The bus must also ensure that wheelchair users can access at least the lower deck and this means that the upper deck can't have an exclusive facilities or technology which isn't accessible from anywhere else.

So your thoughts please, we have a double decker bus to design and construct. This is an exciting opportunity and we want to get it right.

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