Category Archives: Technology

IB Heads conference

The third really cool thing happened today at St George’s college. There was an IB heads conference which I helped kick off via ‘The Sound of Music’ backdrop and so I got a peek at what goes on behind the curtain. I was markedly impressed. Never one to favour conferences relating to education or technology I expected a boorish collective of ego driven maniacs all trying to outdo each other with one-upmanship and very little of actual modern pedagogy to be explored. Shows how little I know to be so utterly incorrect.

I’ll have to admit that the tablets and iPads being used did look fresh out of their packaging and were being toyed with timidly by their users – but – they were being used with relishing gusto and paired with the speakers they have it might seem that technology will be filtering into the classroom via the top as well as at the grassroots level. It’s not cutting edge dynamic speakers they’ve got who’ll intimidate conventions such as Guillermo Rauch of Learnboost or Luis von Ahn but sober, level headed people with a strong command of education and management – exactly what heads need to empathise with.

I still think that children will lead the way with which technologies we’ll implement in education but seeing just short of 400 heads of school at the IB level eager to utilise  modern tools means that teachers will forced to become more literate with technology as a rule and I see that as a win-win for everyone. Now if only the IB could have its facilitators know how to use the wikis they use for their online learning programs and provide explanatory videos outlining what’s expected of those on its CPD programs we’d have a level playing field for teachers to compete on.

One thing I did note and felt rather bad about though was that I didn’t see any black or Asian people at the conference.  Women were well represented and so the hegemonic elite of yore is no more, but it was overly Caucasian for me to think that it was truly International. Perhaps the very long flight to Argentina put some people off, the furthest East I heard of was from Kuwait and that took him 50 hours, the furthest West was Hawaii and that took them 39 hours. No mean feat visiting Buenos Aires.

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Clickroll – Microsoft new Surface Movement video

Microsoft are apparently hiring a PR firm with a little more humour this time round as the have a noticeable Rick Astley tune famous on the Internet for rickrolling (Where you expect a page to load from a hyperlink only to hear “Never Gonna Give You Up” instead)

The new tablets they have are being advertised as the Surface Movement and whilst better than their usual offerings doesn’t have technical specifications out yet which puts me on the back foot (Along with Windows 8).

TweetDeck you’ve sonar pinged me for the last time!!!

I’ve been hesitant to use Twitter personally as I find it’s a little like reading the Epic of Gilgamesh via short 140 character bursts. However regardless of my opinion upon it, it is very popular and if nothing else allows me to view trends in real time and is a key to logging into many sites without a tumultuous sign-up process, so I’ve hopped – very late- onto the bandwagon and have played around with it.

There are various ways to access your Twitter account which ‘enhance’ the experience, the most popular of which is TweetDeck which, very usefully, has a Google Chrome App which allows you to have it run in a background tab and notifies you audibly when a ‘tweet’ with your handle on it is posted up. My main gripe, and it was a big one, was that the notification noise was awful and couldn’t be changed from the default via an easy inbuilt system, any attempt to change it was walled off and would stop any notification sound (It’s 2012 guys, progress please not digress by design).

Having veered away and tried the plentiful alternatives I came back to Tweetdeck resolved that I like how it works with the one, very pertinent, exception of how I am notified by it.

Prologue over here’s how you change the sound for the TweetDeck Chrome App (On Windows, I assume altering paths will work for its other platforms/versions).

Firstly within ‘Control Panel’ set the option to show hidden files and folders.
Making hidden folders visible
Got this far?
Now backup the current annoying sound in case you want to go back to it. The file ‘tweet.mp3’ is found here:

C:\Users\*Your Windows Account*\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Extensions\*Large selection of random jumbled letters *\1.1.3_0\web\assets\sounds

 Replacing *Your Windows Account* and *Large selection of random jumbled letters* with your account name and…depending upon how many extensions you have it might just be easier to use ‘Search’ once you are in the extensions folder for the file ‘tweet.mp3’
This is roughly where your file is located
Get as far as extensions and then search for 'tweet.mp3'
Having backed it up to a safe location, Let’s overwrite  the original with one I prepared earlier.
You have now traded off the default TweetDeck sound for the one I supplied – simple!

Enjoy.

Why don’t break tags work on WordPress.com? Is it part of a WordPress plot, a ploy to start a war?

Perhaps just writing in white and hoping no-one notices might be easier….That invisible.gif I put up had awful hardcoded borders in it….

Maybe they just want me to upgrade to ‘Pro’ but it’s much cheaper to host my own…

Is this enough space yet for the effect to kick in?

Might just give it a couple more.

Two more

One more

Zero more??

Right, that should be enough!

Hey wait just a moment there Mister…

Wait, what’s that? You don’t just want my walled off version of the notification sound either? You want your own?? You want your TweetDeck experience to be personalised to your own ends???

Well, it is 2012 I suppose…

In order to craft your own notification sound you will have to do some jiggery-pokery which is incredibly simple yet needlessly obtuse to achieve. Firstly download and install Mp3tag and fire it up. Take that original back-up from earlier and run it with Mp3tag – now right click and look at the ‘Extended Tags’

DRM in my TweetDeck App? - it's more likely than you think
Why are all those tags there?

Seems like rather a large amount of data there which unless mimicked prevents the App from playing your sound. Close the ‘Extended Tags’ dialogue and right-click and ‘Tag Copy’ the tags from the file. Bring your own file in and ‘Tag Paste’ them into it

Pasting the ID3 tags over onto your file
We now have perfectly mimicked ID3 tags

Save and rename your file ‘tweet.mp3’ and place it into the address you pasted mine into earlier. Give it a try in TweetDeck.

You now have your own customised notification sound for TweetDeck.

Picard plays us off

Helping out a non-profit in Isaan with its online presence

Seems NGOs over here in Thailand are even worse than those back in Blighty – but for very different reasons. Having allowed someone else with a conflict of interests to run her site the volunteer coordinator of Mundo Exchange left herself open to some pretty big potential for problems which have now been corrected. Without going into specifics trust is a major factor when you allow someone to represent your organisation online. Here are five basic tips on how you should approach your online presence – all of which promote free tools.

Firstly having little more than a rudimentary knowledge of formatting is essential in today’s multimerging environment and utilising social media is at the forefront of any person wishing to remain in the game of being found online. Search engine optimisation is not rocket science, it is however hard work. Pumping fresh, rich and appropriate content onto your site regularly will work wonders without you having to worry about coding or pushing it through illicit means. Knowing how to hyperlink, naming images and formatting a post correctly is about the height of expertise one needs. There certainly is more if you wish to be cutting edge about it however there are simple videos directly from Google’s top dog which detail how to refine your presence in a puppy-dog fashion which are very easy to understand.

Secondly if you are going to store private information online – keep it secure! Secure means behind a lock of some description not just a URL that anyone could guess or find by snooping. Does this information have to be online? Can’t Google Docs or even your email provide better security? Knowing what should or should not be online is well documented within the UK and people’s private data and their trust in someone to protect it is paramount almost to the point of absurdity. Have policies of the highest standards when you are working globally and never bend a rule when it comes to data protection.

Three – know your audience, cater for them and expand upon, and from, them. Google Analytics is a free tool which allows you to see who has come to your site, from where they have came and for how long they stayed. It does much, much more than this however for a starting point this should be enough to interest you. Once you see which parts of your site are popular, which ones people spend most of their time on and how they traverse your site you can think about encouraging the popular parts and altering the poorer parts. Adding comments allows for interaction directly with your audience – a question asked openly from one person might very well be a question many others have thought of and have gone away because of it not being resolved. Knowing your audience and answering their comments humanises the experience for them and allows for reflective structured development to benefit your online presence.

Fourth tip – Social Media. Each visitor to your site holds their own amount of social capital. If you can tap into their social network then you promote yourself using them as valued nodes to pass your message along.  Many people use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or the new Google Wave and if you can get them to discuss their findings on your site openly then you have just informed others of your presence and increased your audience significantly. Having a hook with which to excite people is key here; run a poll, create a competition, write something controversial and open for debate, post a funny picture or video. Generating subject specific hype will have your visitors sharing their thoughts about it with their friends – it could even snowball into a viral event. As Oscar Wilde so eloquently stated: The only thing worse than being talked about it not being talked about. Get talked about.

Finally – use a framework. I have much respect for those who get into the guts of coding to achieve a particular task. Serious kudos to those who innovate and put their effort towards solutions. Coders regularly share their work enabling others to build on and further their solutions. When there are openly available, free for use and incredibly useful solutions available – use them! Frameworks such as Drupal, JoomlaWordPress and tons more offer a way of creating, updating and displaying your content without all the hassles of coding a website. Use them. WordPress is incredibly simple to use and has a massive community to aid you should you find yourself ever needing it. It was recently voted overall best and I would recommend giving it a whirl if you wish to employ all of the previous tips in one solution. Content can be exported and imported between all these frameworks should one present a better solution for you. Use them.

Mundo Exchange now utilise a WordPress blog, are tied into plenty of social media networks, have various people to write and reply to comments, use proper formatting with their posts and images, can see how effective their traffic is and know to keep potentially sensitive information away from the net. As long as they post often with original, creative, relevant content they will be successful at handling their online presence.

Updating Media in the Eastern Seaboard since…one month ago

One month in and whilst Thailand is lovely with very sabai-sabai people and astonishingly brilliant food it is a little slow for me and I stand out because of it. I’ve just returned from a meeting with the owner of the Pattaya Mail Media group, the editor of Pattaya Mail newspaper and the top man of PMTV. Whilst the meeting went well my presentation (available here) seemed a little full for their level of understanding. It was rather like being John Simm’s character from ‘Life on Mars’ talking to his 70’s colleagues and trying to explain the inevitability of the internet without not sounding like Agent Smith from ‘The Matrix’ discussing Neo’s death-by-train.

I picked a couple of packages for them to use as open source initially didn’t sit well with their brains, or at least that’s what I took from our conversation over the phone. I showcased Ezy creator. ProsePoint (A system set up by a journalist on the back of Drupal) and StudioPress which utilises WordPress.

Me mentioning that all large newspaper corporations use CMS systems and that some even admit to using Open Source and developing it internally had jaws dropping. I did get to showcase The Onion though as an example and whilst incredibly immature of me it did send the message home.

Now that someone has taught them the benefits of properly handling their content they’ll find an alternative and cheaper developer than I to do so, pretty old school guys and no love lost between us over that. I get to lay claim to the revamp of the largest publisher of English language media in the Eastern Seaboard’s website.

Job done (With Joomla this time I’m thinking)!

You might get a feeling of what I mean by old school chaps from this little video of the owner:

I like to feel young, but around here it’s far more than a feeling!

Tinkering with TweetDeck

I don’t really understand how Twitter got so important but accept that it now is. Whilst it is a useful skeleton key for logging into many websites it is still an odd way to communicate (To me at least). TweetDeck seems useful enough for Tweeting and so it seems I’ll have to train it to my way of liking or be broken by it. ‘Social Media’ being what it is I hope that Mundo Exchange gets a breath of new life from it and continues it’s good work in Isaan.