Remixing as learning: are schools ready for Dapper and Pipes?

Yesterday’s thoughts on Extreme Learning, where we talked about using the term “mashup” to describe a form of output material, is supported by Becta’s second volume of its Emerging Technologies for Education paper , out this week. It includes this description of the way that use of social software supports the way young people like to learn.

But perhaps more interesting is the fact that (social tools) operate at the intersection of technology, teaching and creativity, which is a need that Sir Ken Robinson, a leading expert on innovation, identified so eloquently at the 2006 TED conference. In this respect, the fundamental pattern of learning and innovation using social tools – find –> remix –> share – seems ideally suited to the way most young people like to discover and make sense of the world around them, which is reason enough for an optimistic view of their likely impact. (from Chapter 1, by Lee Bryant of Headshift, Page 10: Link)

Yahoo Pipes logoI’ve never seen this connection made so explicitly before. It makes me wonder if, as we develop East Lothian’s new learner-centred social software site, our current main menu options, Explore and Share, might be complemented by a third, Remix? That could link learners to some of the tools now starting to appear which Dapper logoexplicitly support the remixing activity, such as Dapper (thanks Robert) or Yahoo Pipes (thanks again Robert!). It’s early days in this area, but there’s no doubt use of these tools is now within the capability of some secondary school students, and they’ll only get easier to use.

Law Primary’s blog: 670 comments in under 5 weeks

If you’d like an example of how powerful an easy-to-use, interactive blog can be as a school web site, have a look at the Law Primary blog. This site was created on 23rd February 2007, so it’s not yet 5 weeks old – but has attracted 670 comments already. As always, there are surprises. Who’d have thought aspiring stars in the school show would use the blog to share their thoughts on the auditions?

Is your software update genuine?

I know I’m not getting any younger, but even I can remember that I bought my PC new. Unless Mr Dell has been up to something, the copy of Microsoft Windows XP on it couldn’t be any more genuine. So why on earth does Microsoft think I would want to install additional, unnecessary software on it to check?

Just about every day now I’m being pestered with a notification to tell me that there are updates ready for my computer. That’s a mechanism I’m happy to accept for genuine operating system patches. But on checking the nature of the update, I find it’s not an update at all – it’s an additional piece of software to perform a job I don’t need done. Here’s the description:

Size: 1.2 MB

The Windows Genuine Advantage Notification tool notifies you if your copy of Windows is not genuine. If your system is found to be a non-genuine, the tool will help you obtain a licensed copy of Windows.

More information for this update can be found at

I’m not sure why I find this quite so annoying. Some possible reasons: Continue reading Is your software update genuine?

Avoid RSS overload – subscribe to WordPress blogs *by Category*

Now that the number of Exc-el / eduBuzz blogs is going up, it’s becoming more important to develop ways to sort out the information you want to see from the stuff you don’t.

Maybe you’ve discovered RSS feeds, and are using them to subscribe to blogs of interest. So far, so good. In your RSS aggregator, say Bloglines, you’ll see an entry for each blog you’ve subscribed to, and beside that entry a number showing how many new posts there have been since your last visit.

But what if the blog’s very active and wide-ranging, and you’re only interested in posts on one subject? Subscribe to the blog’s feed, and you’re going to have to browse through every new post looking for the ones you want. That’s a waste of time.

Fortunately WordPress offers a better way: it lets you subscribe to posts in selected categories. Continue reading Avoid RSS overload – subscribe to WordPress blogs *by Category*

“Simpler WordPress” plugin offers speed and simplicity

Julien de Luca’s Simpler WordPress plugin, now installed on Exc-el, is claimed to improve basic blogging performance by removing more advanced features, such as the upload and preview parts of the screen.

This may also be helpful in enabling some bloggers to be presented with a simpler interface if they’ve no need to use the upload feature.

We’ve installed it to see whether it can provide a worthwhile performance improvement in schools with particularly slow internet access. Initial tests suggest it will make a difference, but not a dramatic one. Much of the downloading that takes place is for editor toolbar buttons, and that isn’t affected.

For maximum performance Simpler WordPress could perhaps be used in combination with the basic, non-WYSIWYG editor, but that editor is only suitable for people who won’t be put off by the sight of the underlying XHTML, or the corresponding HTML tag editor buttons, such as b-quote, img and ul. If you’ve an Exc-el blog and want to try it, you can switch off the normal editor under My Profile (there’s a link in the top right of your admin screen).

Feedback on the Simpler WordPress plugin would be appreciated. In particular, it would be good to know what difference is observed on the various slow school networks.

Earliest writing on the web?

Don’t know about you, but I don’t have any of my jotters from my Primary 3 days. The Primary 3 children at Haddington Infant School are in a completely different situation. Now that they’re writing regularly on their individual blogs, they’re publishing not only to a global audience that’s separated by geography, but also to a an audience separated by time – which could well include themselves as adults.

I’ve now shown these blogs to a few people, and it’s clear there’s something very special about seeing such early writing on the web. No doubt there’s more of the same elsewhere, but I haven’t seen it. Here’s an example from Erin of P3-8.

Super School

If I was Minister for Education I would get new chares for the teachers beacause some off them are riped and all the fluf is cuming out.I would get new bookes for the cumputers sweet beacause some of them are scrubeld on.Then I would put a new carpets in the classroom beacause thay are dirty. Link

This formative assessment project has moved into another stage now. The children have learned how to comment on one another’s blogs, and are starting to leave comments.

To make that easy, we’ve provided each child with a Blogroll consisting of links to every other P3 pupil’s blog. (An earlier post explains how we did that.) This means they can easily browse not only the work of other children in their class, but also that of pupils in other P3 classes in the school.

This is enabling peer feedback between children who aren’t working in class at the same time. Perhaps this places more importance on reading and writing than would take place if the peer feedback took place using jotters, between children who could supplement the reading and writing with verbal communication?

We went for the giant blogroll because we felt it important at this stage to offer one-click access to the peer blogs, and not tuck the list away, or break it down into class-sized chunks.

If you go to any one of these blogs, you can use the Blogroll to easily browse the others. I’m sure your feedback would be appreciated on their work to date. The first one on their blogroll list is Aaron’s blog.