Ecstra screencast

Nick, who architected Paperless School, is experimenting with screencasting

I bought a copy of Macromedia Captivate the other day. It’s a great tool for
creating demos, or tutorials on how to use a program/web interface, but also
claims to integrate with SCORM-compliant LMS somehow… I haven’t got that
far yet. Here’s my first amateurish production: [demo of his CMS Ecstra] -
a Flash movie of a Flash movie in fact.

I’ve seem screencasts before from experts like Jon Udell – but this is Nick’s first attempt. It’s a credit to Nick, and has certainly piqued my interest in the Captivate. As soon as Macromedia revise their sniffy attitude towards my preferred browser (Camino) I’ll take a look.

Ecstra itself is

a platform-independent web application for managing, visualising and publishing data, ideas, content, processes and plans.

and well worth your attention if you manage large amounts of information, or just if you love cool interfaces.

Update: to see M’media at their sniffiest it turns out you have to be in Camino when you click the link above. Which I recommend, because Camino is even better than Firefox.

Flash is a tool not a toy

Received from a Paperless School user who I won’t name to spare the blushes of his technical department…

We are about to run into problem with technicians again! They turned off flash player because some pupils were playing games in other classes, promptly losing the online encyclopedia*, how nice to be consulted!

…and the reply I’d really like to send, but won’t.

Dear _

When I visited your school a while back I noticed one of your pupils doodling in his jotter. Clearly, this activity is not educational and indicates a dangerous loss if discipline in the school. I appreciate that pens, pencils etc can have educational value if their use is properly supervised, but the benefits must be weighed against the risks. Before matters get out of hand I strongly recommend you confiscate all writing implements forthwith.

* Our encyclopedias don’t use much Flash, but there’s a very handy link in a Flash banner on the main work pages.

Bullying via new technology

Chalkface publishes some 23 resources on bullying, or with bullying-related content. Over the years, we’ve covered every aspect of bullying as it affects young people….or so I thought.

Stop Text Bullying is a new site aimed at raising awareness of bullying via new technologies. It is structured around a list of seven ways of using technology to be unpleasant to people – texting, phone calls, photos (specifically from camera phones), email, chat/IM, various websites, identity theft.

On the downside, I’m not wildly impressed by the content. It looks like what it is, a great idea unimaginatively implemented by its commercial sponsor (Tesco Mobile). But it’s a wakeup call for Chalkface; we should already have both online and offline resources covering this area in a way that’s really teachable, and we don’t….yet.

Via c|net

Update 4/7/05: I listed this entry on our monthly customer email and it attracted a far higher level of interest than I’d expected. This reinforces my conviction that a new resource is needed; trouble is, we don’t have an author. If you think you’re the person to do it, and you’re an experienced classroom teacher, get in touch.


The listed site is the best available no matter its shortcomings and it is available to students. That make sit worthwhile. A teaching resource would always be useful but kids need somewhere to go too.
Barbara Daniels

P(r)oxy Servers

When any online service goes wrong, there are four possible loci for the problem

  1. The program
  2. The server
  3. Proxy server en route
  4. The browser

Of these, 1 and 2 are under our control (‘us’ being the people who run the service). Problems can generally be found and fixed quickly. 4 is generally something that we can replicate on our own desktops; there aren’t that many popular combinations of browsers and computers.

But the one we fear more than piranhas is 3. Proxy servers come in endless flavours and their configurations are jealously guarded by their owners. Most secondary schools have one. Grids for Learning (GFLs), LEAs, Regional Broadband Consortia (RBCs) also have them.

What they are supposed to do is manage the flow of data so that the network, particularly the ‘last mile’ into the school, does not get overloaded. What can easily happen instead is that data gets bounced around between them like so many billiard balls randomly hitting each other instead of rolling directly into the pocket.

This is not to say that proxies are a bad thing. A single, simple proxy in the school can make a huge difference when an entire class of 30 all need to access the same 20M movie file down a typical Secondary school’s 10 megabit connection. In my perfect world, that would be it. One proxy per school, preferably externally managed by specialists in that single narrow field, and nothing else.

Emergency subscription quota

Miranda says

Just been chatting with Barry Blake fom Mangotsfield School who rang because he’d used up all his [Yacapaca] tests and not realised. He needed more, urgently. The idea came up of having a facility which would enable teachers in a similar position to access an additional 100 emergency uses from their interface without having to ring us first. The info. then would feed through to us for invoicing.

It shall be done.