Digital Dust

Over 7 months since my last post – guess that was a long trip around the inside of the bowl this time around.

My Edublogs Pro account time has run out and the blog has been reset to the basic “Free” version. This has thrown out some of my work, but the info seems to all be there still. I’ll do some irregular touching up of the blog design and look as time and interest allow.

How did my year of blogging go?
Not very well, if blogging for you is based on a regular turn-over of posts. There were times I wanted to post, but then either didn’t have the time or didn’t get around to it. Hopefully, I’ll be a little more regular this time around, but like a good goldfish, don’t hold your breath because I certailny won’t be.

The reasoning behind this blog was “Looking at how ICT is being integrated into Education today, doing a lap of the bowl and then taking another look.”

It was to take into account the sudden and changing effects that happen to the world of ICT and how it merges/integrates/smashes into the slower moving world of education.

The mission continues…

12 Days of Christmas

After Damien Quinn, @seomraranga as he’s known on Twitter, tweeted out that he asked his students to figure out the total amount of gifts given in the 12 Days of Christmas song, I thought I would help you all out by posting up a photo of a print I made way back in 2004.

Here’s the tweet:


Here’s the print I made (click on it to view a larger image):

12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas print by Fred Boss

You can use it to help you count up all of the gifts that you would receive through the 12 Days of Christmas – but it’s not as easy as it looks.

See if you can find all of the gifts from the 1 partridge in a pair tree to the 12 drummers drumming. You can click on the image above for a larger version to help you out (could be good to try this on an interactive whiteboard as you can mark them off as you find them).

I’ll post up the answers in a later post, but until then, if you can’t find them all, you might enjoy this instead:

Happy Christmas to all who’ve come across this blog, enjoyed reading the posts or better yet who have left comments (you can leave a comment below, if you wish).




2012 Edublog Awards

I got this very blog last January because I was both nominated by a group of teachers in Ireland and made it to the short-list too.

It’s the first time that I actually, seriously began to use a blog. I won’t say that I’m very prodigious with it, but I’ve been using it over the last 12 months or so now and have really enjoyed it.

Today, being the last day to nominate others for the same awards, here they are:
Best individual blog
Best group blog
Best class blog
Best student blog
Best ed tech / resource sharing blog
Best teacher blog
Best library / librarian blog
Most influential blog post

Best individual tweeter

Best twitter hashtag (with thanks to all who use it for sharing)

Google Drive
Best free web tool
Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast
Best open PD / unconference / webinar series

Sharing some of the Edublogs love (although, still not too crazy about the word “Best” as there are too many great “Bests” out there to have to choose from).

Best of luck to everyone!


Trigger Thoughts

I’ve just been listening to Triangulation, where Leo Laporte has been talking to Jonathan Abrams about his new News-type webservice called Nuzzel. That’s not what this is about, but it’s what started it.

They took an ad break and talked about Ford cars and the way you can keep your eyes on the road because the latest built in Ford App will allow you to talk to your phone/car. They mentioned how, in San Fransisco, even though it’s against the law (and heavily fined) people still drive looking down at their phones.

As Leo Laporte said, “It’s actually epidemic! Nobody is looking up anymore, at all”

I’m not going to talk about dangerous driving practices here, but I am going to mention that this phrase triggered off a thought in my head that has made me sit and type out this blog post.

Here’s the thought it triggered:

What if we could keep students “heads down” in class? What if we could keep them focussed? What if we could keep their attention on task? How can we do this?

What about BYOD?

When working in class, why not have students working using their own technology? They know how it works, so let them use it in class too.

When taking a test, why not allow the students to use their own devices to research and answer the set questions during the time allowed for the test?

In fact, why not let the students collaborate on their answers? Share their thoughts on their research? Jump to their own conclusions and test them to see if they’ll work.

It’s an interesting time and I’m hearing a lot of different approaches being taken by schools who are moving along this path to BYOD/BYOT (T = Technology). No one is fully agreed on a set approach, which is a good sign that all are looking to do it to suit the needs of their own students and communities.

I see a lot of students at the end of a school day, turning on their phones, but not lifting them up to their ears. Instead they are looking down at them. They are tuning in to their interests.

Just imagine telling the students to “keep their heads down” in school and then imagine them wanting to.

Digital Identity – a response to CT231

I saw a tweet this morning:


It led me to the Week 6 blog post of the CT231 Professional Skills course. This is a 2nd year course in the BSc Computer Science and Information Technology programme at NUI Galway taught by Catherine Cronin.

irish passport

Passport image courtesy of Sean McEntee’s Flickr account

Digital identity and social network use is something that’s constantly in my head so I left this comment:

The initial bog post I read can be seen here but it was this quote that prompted me to action:

“We discussed our perceptions of a few social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, sharing ideas on how and why we use (or don’t use) them”

You got me thinking about my use (our lack of) social networks so here’s a few thoughts if they help. By the way, I usually jump on to these services when they 1st appear, which is when there’s less “social glue” to keep me there – less people using it that I would know or know of. Could be why some are not as important to me as part of my digital identity.

Don’t really use it. Think it was originally because of the constantly changing rules you had to keep up with, but honestly, although friends & family are on it someone needs to actually tell me there’s a post there for me to respond to it. I don’t think I ever let Facebook become a big part of my own digital identity.

I use this too much. Regarding my digital identity, I think Twitter works in much the same way I do (quick, short & sharp jabs of info – apart from this reply obviously). It forces me to be concise & on topic. Facebook doesn’t. I don’t ramble in comments on Facebook, but I don’t think they are about what I’m about to suit my approach.

Again, adopted early on this but it’s not something I really use. LinkedIn has added groups on this service + discussions. I feel this is a good move & through these jobs do get advertised/mentioned. I have joined groups on e-Learning but follow the chats they hold very irregularly.

The jury is still out on this one for me. A lot of my day is spent checking my Gmail, searching with Google, using Google Drive and sometimes I’ll be in a hangout or watching one. I don’t frequent G+ all that much & only go back to it when I see a relevant message. I have forgotten how to manage my Circles and so it now seems like too much hard work.

So, what’s my digital identity? I use a goldfish as the image on my blog because I feel I jump from one new thing to another. I think this gives me a lot of general knowledge about certain things but I loose the chance to get into them at a deeper level. Disclaimer – that’s not entirely true, but is of a lot of the Web 2.0 stuff that keeps appearing – too much to keep up with, but interesting none-the-less to try out. However, my Twitter use (or over-use rather) most definitely disproves the “goldfish” in this case (honest it does).

I’m still reticent to tie my Twitter feed into G+ and Facebook & other available services, so my digital identity is still fragmented.

I think it’s important to look after your identity online & to take control of it as soon as you’re able to understand that you are now “public”. That way the stuff you create & put online is managed & shows you in the best light & so it will be the stuff you want to be seen. You will have, over time, cultivated your online digital identity. Guess it’s a bit like tending a garden.

I really liked the use of the post-it notes in your blog post. The one that stood out for me had “LOL” written on it (I had to look up #LAWL). I think it’s important that you enjoy creating your digital identity. It’s a work in progress and one you’ll be constantly building.

Maybe, though, it’s like a passport and only required sometimes to be presented. However, unlike a passport that only gets checked when you use it, your digital identity is more permanent & can be checked on even if you’re unaware of it.

One last thing not to forget is that all of the companies listed above offer you the use of their “service” for free. When there’s no cost involved remember the now classic quote “if you’re not paying for the product then you are the product”.

If your digital identity is really your digital identity then do you own it? What if one or all if the companies listed above closed their service down tonight. Where’s your identity then? There are moves now to completely own your own digital identity, to move it into a space/server you are physically in control of.

Just a final thought there on digital identity and the management issues around it.

Please leave a comment about how you see and manage your digital identity here and go and visit the CT231 Blog as well.


I’ve been following the story of Minecraft ever since I first heard of it from my children. We downloaded it a few years ago now although it wasn’t used as heavily as I thought it would be. I had heard about Minecraft on a few podcasts at the time (see the links at the end), so was interested to see how they would take to it. They did for a little while and then it just sat there gathering digital dust.

I was wondering what the educational benefit of this 8-bit gameplay would be – if any?

Until now, that is.

My daughter has claimed it as her own. She is constructing & deconstructing Minecraft worlds to beat the band. All of a sudden she has taken that leap in learning where she now understands what she is working with instead of just learning it by rote.

Not only that, she is also producing videos, like the one above, to help others understand how to use Minecraft and she curates them on her own YouTube channel.

Simple question:
Why is she producing her own videos?

Simple answer:
The instructional videos she found on YouTube didn’t show her exactly how things worked, so she filled that gap in her knowledge and has now gone the extra mile and helped others in this too.

After playing Minecraft my daughter wanted to know how to mod a map (see the vid above about downloading texture packs). She had moved on from being merely a player of the game and much like kids with lego kits, wanted to combine the kits to build what she wanted, not what the kits said could be built. The great thing is that Minecraft seems to be very open to this.

Here’s another of my daughter’s home produced videos. This one shows you how to download maps.

So far, I’ve managed to talk her out of setting up our home PC as a server for herself and her friends (mainly because it’s a step too far for me) – but watch this webspace!


Here’s the direct link to the Minecraft site: MINECRAFT

Here’s a link to the Minecraft Edu website – their mission is to “bring Minecraft to the Classroom”

This next link is closer to home. Sabine McKenna is a primary school teacher in Ireland who has started the Primary Minecraft website. Not only that but she was recently involved in the Soundwaves Skerries 3012 competition where students built the Skerries of the future in a Minecraft world.

The EdGamer podcast is well worth listening to. It’s one of many from the Edreach group of podcasts on all matters education. Here’s two of their podcasts about Minecraft:

Another podcast I can only highly recommend, hosted by Darrel Branson & Tony Richards is the EdTechCrew. Here’s a couple of interviews the Ed Tech Crew did on Minecraft too:

If you haven’t tried it yet, get Minecrafting soon. If you have, add in a note as a comment below and share your thoughts.


Power Searching with Google – Part 3

I should probably have added this post before the last one, but if you want to learn some quick and easy ways to speed up your searching (and that of your students too) using Google, but also when looking for a piece of text in a long, scrolling webpage then look no further than Class 3 of the Power Searching with Google online course.

Here’s what’s involved in Class 3 – Advanced techniques

Lesson 1: Web organization followed by an Activity
Lesson 2: Filetype followed by an Activity
Lesson 3: Removing invasive results followed by an Activity
Lesson 4: OR and quotes followed by an Activity
Lesson 5: intext: and Advanced Search

Lesson 1 involves using the “site:” operator:
In this you can search just a single site for the information you are looking for, rather than the whole web. To do it type in “what you’re looking for” followed by a “space”, followed by” site:” immnediately followed by a “.” and then by the site name you’re looking for, say “”

Here’s how it should look: sunshine

This pulls up all of the info relating to sunshine that appears on the website. I tried to pick a term that wouldn’t pull up too many results in Ireland.

Lesson 2 shows how to search for a particular type of file using “filetype”
This can make finding a pdf, jpg or a good old gif file all the easier as you can tell Google to only look for files of those types.

Here’s how it should look: sunshine filetype:pdf

This will search for all .pdf documents on the web that are about sunshine. When typing it though, you don’t add in the usual dot in front of the pdf part. The great thing is that it can also be combined with the “site” search operator so that you can narrow your search completely to a filetype within a site only.

Interestingly, when I combined both operators into this search -> sunshine filetype:pdf  the second result was a classroom resource for wet days.

Lesson 3 was all about using the “-” (minus) sign:
By adding this into a search query in Google, you can exclude certain types of information. This also helps to narrow down your search results.

It looks like this: sunshine -rain

You cannot have a space between the minus and the term you want to exclude for it to work though. Yes, you guessed it – you can combine it with the others too. Here’s an example -> sunshine filetype:pdf -rain

Lesson 4 looked at using “OR” and using quotes:
Last one first, you can use the double quotes to tell Google to keep the words of a phrase together when it searches. This means that if you look for “If at first you don’t succeed” within quotes, Google will search for al of those words together and you’ve a much better chance of learning more about it from the results of the search. Without the quotes and Google does its best but it is also looking for the individual words too. This results in an interesting but much less focused set of results. Try it to see what I mean.

The use of “OR” helps you to direct Google into looking for a combination of possible results. For example, if you, know a term you want to search for you can express it in a few different ways in order to try to locate the information you’re after:

It could look like this: sunshine or sunny or warm

Lesson 5 was all about using the “intext:” operator:
This is a great way to find what you’re looking for, not just through a Google search, but also to find the exact phrase you’re after in a set of results too. It works really well when combined with the “site:” operator too.

Here’s an example: intext:sunshine

The use of Google advanced search options was also mentioned in this lesson.

It’s a long post (and thanks for sticking with it) but the final lesson that would be good to look in to is Lesson 5 (the very first part) which helps you not to find information, but to think about the facts and just how believeable the results might be. This is an important skill for all who search the web and I think it’s a key skill that teachers need to show and model for their students.

OK, a quick summary there of the main areas of the Google course that I feel you could use with your students to help them to search better without having to go through the whole course. Saying that, it is a great course and I’m off to practice my searching techniques with the new skills I’ve learned from it. If you want to do the course, click here. The course is also available as a selection of pdfs and slides through the “Text version” button in the top right corner of each page.

Leave a comment below if you think this post is helpful to you.

Power Searching with Google – Part 2

Well, it’s been a busy time in work, but I’ve managed to catch up with my learning in the Google Power Searching online course.

Google Power Search cover image

Google Power Search cover image

My thoughts so far:

Should you give it a go?
Yes, I would advise you to try it out. It is helping me to search Google faster and to also refine my search much more quickly. You would want to register soon though as the course only runs until the 23rd July. However, Google might be leaving it open (hopefully), as it is a great resource.

Is it Google-centric?
Not sure, as in doing the course, I have obviously been using Google as my search engine of choice (all of the examples given obviously use Google anyway). But what I mean here is, would the same techniques work in other search engines (see my Power Searching with Google – Part 1 post for a small list of these)? A thing to try out later, methinks.

Am I enjoying the course?
Definitely – although I could work on my time management and try to set aside about an hour for each topic (minimum). Have been playing catch up lately, but have caught up with the last 3 modules/classes running from 17th – 23rd July.

Is it well structured?
It is. I like the way you settle in to watching a video of the latest tip/trick searching concept to be explained, then you go off to do an activity and then you can add your result to the forum.

The forums?
The forums are MASSIVE! I don’t just mean fantastic here – they are that indeed. However, they are gigantic in both members’ posts and information. Luckily, by doing this course, finding hidden information is no longer that difficult.
Half-way there:
I have now reached the half-way stage and completed the mid-class assessment. I got 90% in that. The nice point about this is not the score. When you submit your answers, Google then tells you, as well as your score, which classes you should go back to further revise. You can always re-take the test at anytime to perfect your score (and also your searching skills).

If you’re doing the course, I would love to know. Please leave your comments below as to what you think of it.

Power Searching with Google – Part 1

Google have just today launched a freely available online course aimed at helping people to use Google better when it comes to searching for information. I hope to become a Power Searcher by the end of it.

It started with an interesting pre-class assessment and then straight into class one.

The course has a typical layout and after an introduction into the topic for that class you move on to looking at specific skills that will assist you in getting the most from Google.

For example, the first class deals with:

Lesson 1 - An Introduction
Lesson 2 - Filter image results by color followed by an Activity
Lesson 3 - How search works followed by an Activity
Lesson 4 - The art of keyword choices followed by an Activity
Lesson 5 - Word order matters followed by an Activity
Lesson 6 - Finding text on a web page followed by an Activity

There are 5 other classes (6 in total) as well as a mid-way assessment and a final assessment at the end too.

I’m taking the course as Google would be my search engine of choice (I like the empty space with just the prominent search box and don’t mind the newly acquired black bar on the page at all).

I’m also taking the course to improve my use of this search engine and in the hopes that I can then help other teachers to do the same.

I do wonder if the same skills will work in a Bing search. or a Yahoo search, or even on Duck, Duck, Go (yes – that is a search engine & one that doesn’t track you). These are always worth trying out too as you are guaranteed different results from your search from those you’ll get on Google.

The interesting thing I’m wondering, is that if my searching is improved on Google, does it mean that Google will learn more about me as I search more and use their site more?

Be that as it may, I’m game to find out so am taking the course over the next week or so – it ends around the 19th July.

Wonder if I’ll end up like John Wayne, walking off through the doorway and into the sunset at the end of his movie “The Searchers” (take a look, it’s a classic ending).

A job well done Mr. Wayne. I can only hope my searching skills improve too.

You can join the course too if you like over at:

Jump on board, you might just learn something (I hope to).


Humour in Teaching

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while now – in fact, since it was put out as a challenge on the Irish Teacher Blogs site. But now, here it is:

My answer to the ITB Challenge #4 – The Photo Challenge:

The challenge said:

“I’d like everyone to post a photo that, for them, represents some aspect of education. This could be a photo that you take yourself…”

Message to Dog Owners

A Message to Dog Owners

So I did take a photo. I took this photo while on a walk near DCU during lunchtime.

What aspect of education does it represent?

I think it represents the need for a sense of humour.

The person who wrote the sign and placed it oh so very carefully (I’m sure) in situ was definitely making a point. But, to my eye, it was a point that has been made with a degree of humour in it. This makes it even more eye-catching.

Teachers have often found that one reliable way to get across a point to a class is to use humour. There are many teachers out there who can point to a clip from the Simpsons as a great learning object in its own right.

Humour can make you look twice. Artists can hide things in their paintings that, unless you’re in on the joke, you just won’t even notice it. Take a look at this painting by Breughel (a favourite of mine). There’s a lot of fun in it. Students love guessing what’s what (some of it is quite rude, so probably for the older students). However, they really remember the painting.  The artist is capturing Dutch proverbs. Some of these we still use even today. See how many you can work out (don’t phone, it’s just for fun – answers are here).

Teachers aren’t the only ones to use humour though. It’s not an exclusive – students can use it too. That’s the thing about school, it’s a testing ground alright, but not always for exams. Students, as they grow, are developing their own unique character. School is just one place they will try to test parts of  it out.

In a Shakespeare play, it’s usually the Fool, who through his jokes and japes and witty back-answers is the one who makes the greatest point. Usually he’s also the only one who, when faced with an authority figure, is able to hide safe behind his Fool’s garb while still speaking out.

I’m not advocating that the “class clown” (to choose a stereotype) is always the one in this role. But I do feel that students can sometimes make a very good point through their observations and speculations and written answers too.

It can be a thin line between humorous and not so humorous. Even students need to learn when it shouldn’t be crossed though. As is often said, “There’s a time and a place for everything”.

Or, as Breughel put it!