Collecting Tweets

Occasionally I get interested in the science of social media. I think: wouldn’t it be interesting if I can analyse this in some grand way. Wouldn’t it be great if I could collect a load of tweets about something, crunch them and then make some world-changing conclusion.

Of course there’s Storify. I’ve not used it until today, but I’ve seen others produce interesting stories of events from them. I made my first one today. 2 minutes of signing up and clicking things created this (a story of posts about the recent London Google Teacher Academy).

What intrigued me is that during the same event, I noticed that ifttt.com broadcast a way of collecting tweets. There is now a recipe for collecting tweets with a certain hashtag and sending them all to a Google Spreadsheet. I’ve done this a few times with the #gtauk tweets and collected the tweets in three separate spreadsheets here:

Of course, the next challenge is to do something with all that information. This is where something like Storify comes in handy – it already has a way for publishing the posts in some interesting ways.

My first #gtauk word cloud
My first #gtauk word cloud

All I could thing of doing was making a Word Cloud of the tweets, which I did on my iPad (for the first spreadsheet) using an App called ‘Word Clouds‘.

For the second spreadsheet, I again took the tweets to word cloud, but this time used Wordle, which is slightly ironic because Wordle uses Java Applets and so doesn’t work on either of my chromebooks, nor my iPad. I increased the irony by posting the Wordle-generated images to the Google Teacher Academy Google+ Community.

I admit, that publishing this information is a word cloud is not the most interesting thing to do with these collected tweets – I’m still trying to think of a more useful or interesting way of crunching this data.

The 2nd #gtauk word cloud
The 2nd #gtauk word cloud

I have now finished this experiment by seeing how many #fail tweets are generated on Twitter in an hour. Here’s the Spreadsheet. I’m a bit disappointed really: there were only 74. I thought there would be more than that.

Why you should apply for the Google Teacher Academy #gtauk

The Google Teacher Academy is coming up in London this October. I was lucky enough to be part of the first one in 2010. If you’re a teacher this is why I think you should apply for it:

  1. It’s amazing. No. It really is. I learned more in the first half hour on the Google Teacher Academy that at any other full day CPD event I have ever been to. And that was just the first half an hour on Google Search. When you add that to Drive, Classroom, Apps for Education and all the other stuff, you will come away with a huge list of amazing things to do in your classroom or school.
  2. The presenters are fantastic. You can learn loads about how to use Google tools (that are usually free*). You’ll learn stuff that you can take back and put into your classroom practice immediately and you’l feel inspired to do so.
  3. You’ll meet brilliant teachers. The other teachers there are as FAB as you – and you get to meet them and continue networks with them that will continue to inspire your practice for years to come. Some of the best things that have happened in my school have happened because other Google Certified Teachers helped me make them happen.
  4. You’ll meet Googlers. That’s the name for people who work for Google. It’s no accident that Google are one of the most successful companies in existence – their recruiters are the top guys on the planet and it means the people they bring in have brains the size of small moons. I know not everyone gets inspired by meeting really clever people, but if you do, the GTA is for you!
  5. You get a badge. You can put the badge virtually on your website or wear it at conferences. I find that really useful because it stops salespeople talking to me.
  6. It’s awesome. Yes – there will be some Americans there, and ‘awesome’ is their word. Get used to it. It’s OK – in fact it’s better than OK – its awesome. But apart from that, you’ll get a taste of what Google is like to work for – even that can inspire you to make changes in your classroom and school. If things get really good, you might even hear someone say, “just raw awesome”.

If you to apply, the application is here. You have until the end of next Monday (22nd September).

(* by ‘free’ I mean cost no money)

Chromebooks: the ideal device for the UK classroom

On Thursday at BETT, I spoke on the Google stand with the slightly contentiously titled talk, Chromebooks: the ideal device for the UK classroom.

Now I have to be clear: I think there is no ideal device for a classroom. In fact, I think the ideal classroom has multiple different devices: a mixed economy, or a device-agnostic approach as some like to call it.

Having said that, I believe the UK classroom is in a peculiar situation at the moment, and it’s a situation which lends itself to Chromebooks. Let me explain below, but first here are my slides:

The situation is this:

1. We live in austerity times. Less money has been paid into the education sector in recent years and while this may not have affected school budgets directly, it has affected central services. Schools find it harder now than ever to find speech therapists, social support, education psychologists, behaviour support, specialist subject support, and so on. This means that schools have to make a choice: invest in external support, or maintain internal staffing levels.

2. Not many people know it, but we have a growing bank of great research for what really works. The EEF teacher toolkit has listed some great research for the interventions that really make a difference in schools. What surprises me is that so few teachers know about it or pay much attention to it – at #tmBETT14 recently, when Oliver Quinlan spoke about it, I saw several tweets from people who hadn’t heard of it before. A second surprise is that digital technology is so far down the list – the consequence of this is that you’re far better off investing your resources in training your teachers to give effective feedback than your are investing in technology.

3. We have lots of change, so let’s keep what we can the same. Curricula are changing. Assessment regimes are changing. Teacher standards and performance management have changed. Entire schooling structures are changing with free schools and academy chains. This means we should keep what we can the same – why invest in radically different technology, when our teachers have already had so much change to deal with?

So summing this up: we don’t have much money; spending what we have on technology is probably a waste; changing things puts additional stress on to our teachers.

This is where Chromebooks come in

  • they are cheap. At under £200 each, a class set costs £6000 and support costs are less than £600 a year. The money you save on such a cheap solution can go into funding the interventions that actually make a difference.

  • teachers don’t have to learn anything to use them. Since Chromebooks just do the web – and everyone knows how to use that – learning to use them is not a huge CPD piece.

I have a load of other reasons for why Chromebooks are an amazing device for school but right there were my main two: they are cheap and they are easy. That means all staff in school can spend their time getting on with their main business, which is educating our children.

I created a free visualiser this morning.

Visualisers are highly useful in classrooms. They turn something small, like a page of a book, or a piece of children’s work, into something big so that everyone can see it.

So when I did my banjo assembly this morning, I wanted to be able to show all 240 children the book I was using from. My point was, you see, that you only need 2 things to learn something new: practice and a good teacher, and I wanted to show that my ‘Teach Yourself Banjo’ book was a reasonable-to-moderate teacher.

Unfortunately I have no visualisers in my school, nor would a fixed visualiser in a classroom be of much use in the assembly hall.

So I logged the hall laptop into my school Google+ account and then used my personal Google+ account on my phone to video call (Google Hangout) with my school account.

The year 6 children who operate the equipment clicked ‘join this call’ when the call showed up, which meant I could sit still in ‘banjo posture’ whilst showing all the children in the Hall some of what was in my book. There was a bit of a lag in the sound, which was slightly off-putting for me, but the children could all see the music in the book, which meant I didn’t have to waste any time scanning images into slides, nor did I have to present the information to them ‘in tiny’ by holding it up in front of them.

It also only took 30 seconds from the logging in to the showing the images to the children.

So there you go: an almost-instant, kind-of-free visualiser. All you need is 2 Google+ accounts, a helpful Year 6 child, 1 laptop, 1 phone, 1 projector, 1 huge screen and an internet filter that allows Google+ and hangouts to work. No Problem.

Developing Digital Literacies. #4: have a safe place to experiment.

Having been challenged by Steve Wheeler that maybe primary schools do have a role to play in digital literacy, I’m now thinking about what we actually do at my school to encourage, or even teach digital literacy.

4. Have a safe area to experiment.

Schools are safe places to make mistakes. As the behaviour co-ordinator, I have several incidents throughout the year were children make mistakes and then I try to teach them ways to avoid the making that mistake again. Examples include: using an angry tone of voice; responding violently or aggressively to a stressful incident; using inappropriate language. If an eight year old can be taught to respond to stress without using violence, then that will help them immensely when they are older – the violence a 14 year old or a twenty year old could perpetrate is potentially a lot more harmful than that of an eight year old.

Surely the same is true of online communication.

When children at my school email each other insults, it gives me a chance to talk to them about losing their temper online. We use Google Apps at my school and the system is set so that children can only contact other members of the school – any mistakes are kept within the school online environment, just as mistakes on the playground are kept within the school. This means I can educate children about the dangers of losing their temper when their fingers are near a keyboard; or taking a playground grudge online – such things are recorded. I would far rather children make these mistakes using Google Drive and Gmail within the protection my school’s domain than when they’re older on Facebook and Twitter, or indeed on a public Google Drive or Gmail account.

There are many other alternative safe places to Google Apps that schools can use – Edmodo, Frog and J2E are just some examples that I have flirted with in the past.

Developing Digital Literacies. #1: Be out there

Having been challenged by Steve Wheeler that maybe primary schools do have a role to play in digital literacy, I’m now thinking about what we actually do at my school to encourage, or even teach digital literacy.

1. Being Out There.

Schools have got to have an online presence. Aside from the legal requirement, by being online you show your online parents that you care. A study by Weber Shandwick shows that company bosses who use social media are 10% more likely to be seen as open, honest and respectful. If this is true for business, surely it is true in education too.

The legal requirement, I hear you ask? Yes, there is now a comprehensive list of things that are required to be published online, including the school prospectus, how school spends the pupil premium funding and how school spends the new sports funding. A more comprehensive list can be found here.

In my own experience having a Facebook page for my school has drastically cut down the number of cyber-bullying incidents that were happening two to three years ago. Instead of it being a regular distraction to the business of school, there is at most one incident per year – just on a time-saving basis this has been worth it, but add to it the negative impact on learning and the emotional hurt of cyber-bullying and I would say that having a Facebook Page for a school is a must. I would direct you to my school’s Facebook page, except that I know of a better one – my colleague Chris Talbot at Broadmeadow Junior School has a better one than mine.

Of course in small schools, managing an online presence can be painful and time consuming, or expensive. You’re already spinning thirty seven plates and now you have a website and social media to think of too. Myself I’ve cut down the time and expense by using ifttt.com. Using this service I write one post on Google+ and it automatically posts to Twitter and Facebook, so instead of having to write something in three places, I can write in just one.

Schools that are being digitally literate are encouraging their students to be digitally literate too. It’s a role modelling thing. Take Lyndon Green Junior school for example. Their Twitter stream is full of content that it must help their students and parents improve their digital literacy.

So be out there. Be online. Be on social media. If professionals at schools can’t do it safely, how can we expect our communities to do likewise?

And… it didn’t work

In my previous post I tried to explain how I was trying to get the internet to do some work for me.

I had been trying to autopost from my self-hosted WordPress account directly to Google Plus.

I tried and failed.

Well, to be accurate, I got so far. I got to the point where my WordPress blog was backed up to Blogger which shared my Google Plus profile and just required simple click of a button in the Blogger Dashboard to post to Google Plus.

But I had wanted to automate even that. When I hit ‘Publish’ in WordPress, I would like my post to go to all the places I want it too, without anymore button clicking. Greedy I know, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

And then Hootsuite came to the rescue.

Hootsuite is one of those ‘freemium’ services which does so much for free, but if you really want to get whizzy you’ve got to subscribe. Fortunately for my purposes, Hootsuite does what I want it too for free.

So I signed up for Hootsuite. I subscribed to Google Plus in it. I took the RSS feed from my blog (I used feedburner to do this) and I went to the Publisher button in Hootsuite (it looks like a paper aeroplane). Then I could choose the RSS feeds option to make my blogs feed appear in Google Plus.

Well I think so anyway. This is my first attempt, so I’m about to see if it works.

I just have to press ‘publish’ and wait.

Wrestling with the Internet

I’ve been wrestling with the internet. Wrestling with rules that I haven’t written.

What I’m trying to do is to be able to write something in one place and then for it to appear in other places. Some people call this autoposting. I call it saving my time.

Many services offer this already. For example, when you take a picture on Instagram you can make it appear in Facebook, or Twitter, or Foursquare.

For other services you have to do things that are a bit more involved. For example, I choose to keep my blog on a self-hosted WordPress site. This means that I own the data, but WordPress offers some handy formatting. I had previously setup Feedburner to tweet whenever I write a new post. Today I’ve also made ifttt.com do the same job.

What I really wanted to do today is make my new posts appear automatically on Google Plus. But it’s been a bit harder than I thought it would. It appears that there used to be a solution, but it isn’t working anymore. The solution involved a backdoor to Google Plus via an SMS service from Google Voice, however this service doesn’t seem to work within the UK, and I’ve read one or two things that indicate it has stopped working elsewhere too. Reading between the lines of other peoples posts in forums and blogs I detect that Google Plus is trying to position itself as the manual posting place – the place where you go to actually write your content.

Myself, I don’t mind that, but when I write a blog post I like to write it in a text editor of some kind – Google Docs or even Notepad do the job. Then I can cut and paste the text into my WordPress Dashboard. This might seem labour intensive to some, but I have had too many experiences of losing a WordPress blog that I’ve been writing straight onto the web dashboard – I need something I can save regularly – and I can imagine the same thing happening if I tried to get into the habit of writing directly onto Google Plus.

So here’s my solution. I’ve setup a new blog on Blogger at wheregoestheroad.blogspot.co.uk. I can use ifttt.com to autopost from WordPress to Blogger. I have then updated my Blogger account so that it is using my Google Plus profile.

And now, using this very post, I’m going to find out if it will automatically appear on Google Plus.

“I’d prefer to use the Chromebooks”

It’s taken a good year, but my staff now use Chromebooks with their children as a first preference. Given the choice they put Chromebooks ahead of our other devices.

We have 30 chromebooks in a Lapsafe charging trolley and 30 Windows PCs in an ICT suite. The teachers know the PCs – they’re what we’ve used for years – they’re comfortable with them. But the Chromebooks are now more convenient.

The 8 second start up means very little lesson time is lost at start up. Even if the odd device does not connect to the wifi first time, a restart takes 10 seconds – and now we have an open Meraki network around the school, devices connect 99% of the time.

The portability of the Chromebook means that they work really well in normal classrooms. Teachers can use them in the room where they are most comfortable.

Google Apps makes a big difference too. Being able to produce work in Google Docs, share ideas in Google Groups and output best work to Blogger means the Chromebooks are really versatile, productive devices.

But what summed it up for me was last week when a teaching assistant was acting as a cover supervisor for a teacher who was absent. This particular lady is not the most confident with technology, saw the plan the teacher had left for her and I gave her the choice – ICT suite or Chromebooks.

I’d prefer to use the Chromebooks,” she said.