3 years

During January, there have been several events that have made me think about getting back into blogging properly. Martin Weller’s 1000th blog post (though I realise this is going to be my 848th) more or less coincided with seeing Edubloggers 28 day challenge. Added to both of those, I’ve been doing more work with our CampusPress installation – LearningSpaces – encouraging others to blog. I started this blog nearly 15 years ago – because I knew I was going to get students to blog.

So, I really feel that I should practice what I preach – and get back to blogging.

Laptop, in front of the woodburner

Blogging by the fire

February 1st 2019 marks 3 years of being at Dundee – it’s been a busy 3 years, and I’m feeling more settled here. In part, because I’m starting to see people in the team moving from ‘colleague’ to friend, which I missed a lot when I first came. Mostly, though work is moving towards the aspect of the work that I’d particular felt drew me in the original job title – eLearning advisor, albeit something that was tagged on as an “and”. Working with the software over the last 3 years, I feel I’ve got to know Blackboard intimately which I think is vital. It’s hard to support those using a tool if you don’t really know its quirks, and supporting innovative teaching ideas when you’re not familiar with the tools (and know how far they can be pushed) is difficult. There’s more, much more, to learn as we move to the Ultra version of Blackboard. From what I’ve seen, that’s going to make a lot of the “how to” easier, so we can focus on other aspects, whether that’s learning design, innovation in assessment, supporting the development of digital skills, or anything else.

Today, I went to MisInfoConX Scotland (#MisInfoConXSco) – a very thought provoking event –  probably (definitely!) the most controversial event I’ve attended – but it gave me food for thought for moving towards supporting staff and students develop their digital fluency. Thanks @Natalie for suggesting that phrase, it seems more encompassing than digital literacy (which seems to involve a lot of check lists, rather than demonstrating appropriate usage in different situations).

Last year wasn’t as easy as it could have been, both a work (a lot) and personally; so I’m going to start my 4th year here with enthusiasm. Part of that will be actually finishing some of those draft posts in here as they’re still relevant, just unfinished.

And a few local photos.

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank


Testing Gutenberg Plugin

Natalie alerted me this morning to the WP5.0 – codenamed  Gutenberg – it’s only available as a plugin now, which I’ve installed; I can see why the ratings are so diverse; it looks very different.

Gutenberg – Authoring a post


More default options for image size

I’m liking it so far … though less keen on some of the automation – (e.g. offering to add tags from other sites) – and I don’t quite understand the list of categories it’s offering me, they’re not alphabetical & I think it’s added some from other blogs I write on. 

Blogging … getting the time.

I’ve recently had my “OSAR” – the Dundee equivalent of an annual review; among other things, I realise that I need to get back into blogging. There are many reasons, firstly, when I do it, I like it!

However, we’re also busy rolling out a pilot of CampusPress – and so if I’m helping others, I want to be back into working on a blog.
I’ve done several posts recently for our current set up at work (also WordPress, though hosted locally). The most popular has been our nascent “Learning X” series – which I’m doing alongside Natalie Lafferty & others at Dundee – and, perhaps one day, beyond!

Posts have also been appearing here; many years ago, I had to make a rapid move from using Delicious as my main bookmarking tool, to using Diigo – with Delicious as a backup. However, Delicious is no longer working, it’s just an archive. So, I started to look at alternatives for a bookmark backup (do I really need one … )

I experimented with IFTTT.com, and created a new applet – which was more fiddly than the old create a recipe. The first issue was that I had to go to the platform, and hunt round till I found where I could just create an applet; I didn’t want to add my platform to the mix – just wanted the free to use version for the end user. Once I’d found that, there were a few more hurdles to get over, though they were more related to getting the correct path for the xmlrpc.php file; once I’d sorted that it was fine.

You’ll see above here a link that says bookmarks; until today, I’d set it to public, however, I have now set it to private, as it’s really only a back up for me – but was wanting to test it. I’ve recently made the applet public, so have a go!

Getting the next generation of bloggers …

Work is fairly busy at this time of year – you think you have the VLE all set up for the new students, then there are the Turnitin Assignments to help people set up, weird glitches that seem to happen unexpectedly …
However, one job that should be fun is that I’ve been asked to run a workshop to help students set up blogs, they’ll be using WordPress.com, rather than one within the URL. It’s a careers related initiative – the students and work place mentors will be using them. An ex-colleague from Portsmouth asked me about blogging on Blogger the other day – he was doing it for some placement students.  I’d totally forgotten that one reason I’d not used it all those years ago when I first got students blogging was the inability to set individual posts to be private. It was an all or nothing approach. Given that the students I’m helping on Monday are also doing externally facing blogs about work related activities, I’m glad to have discovered that while the hosted wordpress might not allow one of the plugins that has multiple user permissions, at least it does allow individual posts to be password protected. (I’d used Post Levels to facilitate different users having access to ‘private’ posts – without giving them full admin rights)

I thought I’d try to find a post that compares WordPress (hosted, not self hosted) and Blogger. It’s surprisingly difficult! Most have a particular bias (SEO), or they’re actually self hosted WP vs. Blogger. The Current State of Educational Blogging (Sue Waters) favours Edublogs (based on WP). I’m sure there’s a handy chart out there comparing the features (esp. those I’m interested in!) I’ve yet to find it.

It’s also good to see that we do have some enthusiastic student bloggers at Dundee – will be keeping an eye on their blogs.

12 years – and still going (just!)

So, 12 years, (and a few days) ago, I wrote my first post on here. Originally, it wasn’t here, but on Blogspot; I’ve moved it a few times, and at times it’s been more active than others. Skimming through the archives, I was particularly active in November 2007 , but there are too many months that have 0.
Over the years since I started this, I’ve also been more (or less at times!) active on Twitter – almost 13.8k posts since (bizarrely!) November 2007 . Then, later, Google+; particularly when we had it via Google Apps at Portsmouth, and I’d moved my students from blogging to using Social Media for the community development part of their coursework.

When I first moved to Dundee, I thought I’d start to blog more regularly – a new job seemed like a really good opportunity, to reflect on the changes in my role, new things I was learning, etc. I started out so well. I have many ideas about what I could blog about, and as we’re starting a team blog, perhaps writing for that will help to rekindle the enthusiasm I have for this. I don’t want it to die; it’s a valuable record, both of my views and interests – as well as the changes around me.

“On this day”

Facebook’s “On this day” often throws up things I’d totally forgotten about. Today’s was work related, and, in many ways, it’s still as relevant now as it was 7 years ago:

I’’m recently starting to think more and more about Web2.0 and teaching; more specifically how much is actually “web2.0” (on the assumption it can be defined) and how much is what I’’m getting the students to do (or, indeed, what I, as I extend my own knowledge am doing). Is just looking at videos on YouTube any different from looking at them in the VLE? What happens when they start to upload them / attach them to a discussion posting in the VLE?
So, (and I think this is where my research is increasingly going)

  • Who should the audience be? (self / select group/ class / uni / world … and various stages in between!)
  • Where should it be hosted? (What backup do we have if it goes down [internal or external!]
    • Who’’s funding the hosting?
  • Why are we using it? Is it primarily to gather information; to disseminate; to organise personally; to collaborate (because we have to?)
    • Are the roles of all users the same – or does the original user have a different reason to all/some of the audience
  • What do we want to do? (Before/during/post using tool?)

Clearly, there are a lot of overlaps … but equally as the task/meaning etc., becomes more important, so the actual tool may become less important.

I’d also written about writing a blog post .

I was on the train yesterday, with very poor mobile broadband – so thought I’d test out Blogging from Word, by creating a post, in order to posting it when I got back here.


Some of the issues I had weren’t Word’s fault – this laptop has a (finger print print controlled) Password Bank. It was desperate to save my blog details – the very reluctant to let me edit them when I realised I’d got the URL wrong.


That sorted, I then managed to publish it! Awful! The formatting was sucked in from Word, badly. It couldn’t cope with lists at all. Finally in desperation I saved it as text, opened in Notepad & pasted in here.


Am going to experiment with Google gears instead!

[Here, in this case, referred to Facebook]

Google gears has long since vanished – and I can’t remember the last time I wanted to blog offline, but I’d probably just use Evernote or so & then paste in later.

And, on the subject of “On this Day” – it was June 2nd that snow famously stopped play in a cricket match in Buxton. The reason I can remember it is that’s my Dad’s birthday – and I was heading back to school after half term, insisting that, as it was the Summer Term, I had to wear summer uniform. My mother argued it was snowing, and not to be so silly. I won the argument. And shivered!

Blogging, and other tools generally…

I’ve started looking through various bookmarked pages; an interesting co-incidence that when I thought I’d try to look at a range of aspects of Blogging in HE, I found that WordPress now offers the ability to use an online creator at WordPress.com to write for a self hosted blog. Not sure I’d bother in the future, but useful to test it now!

So, blogging. Where do I start? Well, where did I start? August 2004; that was just before we started teaching a unit that was going to require students to blog, so I thought I’d better have a go myself. I wasn’t entirely sure, as I’ve never been a great writer, but I got going. Over the years my blogging has waxed and waned, I’ve taken to twitter , then as we started to move students at Portsmouth into Google Apps for Education, so Google+  seemed more relevant. (This is a general one, I lost the Portsmouth one when I left). There were other tools in between times, many of which stopped offering freely hosted services (anyone else used to use Elgg?), or didn’t work for long enough to really get students to use them (Google Wave anyone?)

Today, there are so many different options – recently, I’ve had Known mentioned to me; what I’d not realised is that it’s developed by Ben Werdmuller – who’d co-founded Elgg (which I’d liked a lot at the time).

I’ve just read another story covering the changes in tools used – other than Facebook, I’d say I’ve tried most of those, either for myself, or with students. Some I’ve stuck to, some I’ve drifted from. When I left Portsmouth, I realised the problems with having material tied up in a particular domain. Moving this blog was easy – WordPress makes it so. Extracting all my contacts from Google Apps far less so. I created a “takeout” – but it’s not going to be easy to get it all back into my current account. I am starting to do it manually. Guess this is where it all adds up to a PLE. (Or, given that these are mostly things designed to work with others, a PLN).

[Oh, and not sure I’d bother using WordPress.com to create posts in the future, though it is a very clean looking interface]


And to the future …

I finally left the University of Portsmouth last week, after 17 years, 1 as a student, 16 working.

Now to start to think about where I want my career to go – right now eLearning and/or primary computing are the areas that are particularly attracting me.

I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to check to make sure that all the materials that was on my Google drive, and is now backed up to a Hard Drive is accessible; I hope so … I also have to start moving all the contacts from the email address lists I exported, the Google + contacts and so on and so on. Oh, and try to sell a house. That, and get back to the blogging – and sorting out all those links I have bookmarked “to do something with”



This move wasn’t quite as smooth as the last time I tried; at least, when I tried to back up the whole site, move files & databases, I ran into issues.

When I exported all the posts & pages into a virgin install, it was very smooth. I do now have to look at all the plugins, but I probably had more than I really needed anyway. The theme’s still the same one, but I may change that, once I’ve got everything else working.

It's been far too long … and a technical puzzle.

I have been spending far too much time on Twitter and G+, but thought I’d better return to this.

My current task is updating and preparing materials for a new Unit, a University Ambassador Scheme based Unit.

We’d already got one in the Maths department, so updating the links, changing Maths specific sites to Computing Specific sites took time, but was useful – as I found out quite a bit of background, schools have changed a lot since I did my PGCE!

However, I then wanted to extract all the URLs in the document, to import them into the Talis reading list we have. Not such a straightforward task. I found a useful set of instructions, though you have to follow *all* points. On the mac, it was easier to set the preferences to showing the field codes via Word’s preferences, rather than cmd F9, as that’s already mapped to other things in OSx. Making sure you close the find dialogue box *before* copying is also important, or you only get the first link in the list.

The next stage was more challenging, one I gave up on! It was relatively easy to convert the list of URL to a HTML page, so I could add to a browser’s bookmark list, and thus to Diigo. But, I wasn’t able to find a way of converting to a list that I could add to a bibliographic tool, does anyone know of a way to convert CSV to RIS?

Will just have to do it manually, which, is, in many ways, no bad thing, as I can double check the links. I was just trying to be lazy.