Thursday, 31 December 2009

Approaching New Year 2010

Well time again to wish everyone the very happiest of years in 2010 – in fact as we enter a new decade best wishes for the whole ten years!!

So – how has this year been for you? Looking back over 2009 it has been an interesting year for me – a few highlights and lowlights…
  • Immediately after Christmas I ran the first e-safety course in Second Life with colleague Nick. This was the realisation of a year-long dream so I was very pleased!
  • I enjoyed a sneaky visit to IATEFL in spring to meet Daf and Cristina with whom I had Spanish lessons in Second Life – at least that was the plan, but in reality I met many more Second Lifers including Graham, Kyle, Shiv, Dennis, Nicky, Nik, Iffaf and more but I can’t remember who they were now.
  • May brought new girlfriend for Andy, she is French, delightful and he is over there visiting now until into the New Year.
  • May also brought the SLanguages conference where I ran a workshop. That was among the first I did in Second Life and I learned a lot. I then set up a plot of land where I hoped to continue to run similar workshops but realised on the first one that none group members can’t create on the land. Oops – fail :-(
  • In July we had a family wedding, Phill and Vicky got married and Woody spent a month telling everyone he was getting married, when questioned he said “Yes, Mummy, daddy and me!” It was a very happy day all round, spoiled a little by the episode of swine flu that broke out in the local school meaning several local families were not able to attend. The firework display that should have been did not happen because even though the insurance was quite expensive the estate still did not want it to take place, they had too many ripening crops.
  • A bit of a sad July – a court case – it took its toll on the family but we are glad it is over now. The wedding, half way through was a welcome interlude even though we hoped the case would be over the week before.
  • After the court case we had a lovely five day holiday in Ibiza – totally unexpected but it seemed a good idea at the time and it was raining nonstop here :-)
  • On the work front most of the team’s time is still devoted to the roll out of the Learning Platform leaving little space for other more usual work. A colleague retired in the summer leaving the smaller team struggling to keep up.
  • Autumn brought disastrous planned holiday in Tunisia where I got bitten, infected and ended up in hospital until the night before I was due to fly home but even then had a bag full of injections to get me home and two further weeks off work :-( Previously unheard of!
  • In Tunisia I read on Facebook that we have a new baby arriving in the family next June :-) that is something to look forwards to.
  • Throughout the whole year I have run, with a colleague, five e-safety courses in Second Life. After a doubtful start part of my performance management for the coming six months to increase take up ;-) strange how the world works! Having just read last Christmas’ blog posting where I had just started doing my first bit of teaching in SL I now feel like an old hand.
  • Autumn brought the slightly sad news that EduNation is being split up – as I have been based there more or less since I joined Second Life that means the end of an era for me.
  • On the back of the e-safety work in Second Life I was asked to do presentations at several conferences. Having been off the conference circuit for a while that was an interesting development and very enjoyable
  • We have had a couple of funerals – I think this is an age thing – there seem to come a time when funerals are more common that weddings and christenings…
  •  I have made lovely new friends in Second Life who are now nagging me to pay a flying, sneaky visit to IATEFL again – this one is not really likely to happen, at least not so easily if at all.
  • It is now just after Christmas and the firework display that did not get let off at the wedding made an entertaining Christmas day evening display for our whole family and large group of house guests!

So – did I keep my new year’s resolutions from 2008 :-) I don’t think so – I did different things, technology changes too quickly! Looking back I kept two and failed on two.

I did get hooked on my Samsung N10 – a netbook which I can use to access the web anywhere with a dongle and so tiny and light it is easy to carry around in my handbag :-)

I have recently played with Chroma Key a video technique, I enjoyed that but have stripped the necessary “bits” from my computer as they argue too much with other things that I use all of the time.

I was fairly happy with my Burning Life and SL Birthday builds in Second Life and involvement with the Education Faire but plan to do none of them next year – I think I need to do something different.

I was pleased with my Christmas Carousel – a new SL build for Christmas that was quite complicated for something that looks so simple.

What do I want to achieve next year?

Who knows… but I will when I see it :-)
  •  First off I need to learn how to use my new car radio system that plays the iPod through it and has blue tooth built in.
  •   Next I want to get used to my new iPhone, that is due on the 14th January - Yay :-)
  •  Improve worklife balance – I have been doing that for three years and it is much improved.
  • Continue to improve my building skills in Second Life.
So that takes me up to half way through January – beyond that it could be anything … ;-)

Finally – thanks for reading, Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR :-)

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A Visit to Patron



Last night I spent about two hours looking around Patron, the art gallery of SL artist Eliza Wierwight. It is a lovely, showcase build comprising of a beautifully landscaped sim with gardens, flowers, waterfalls, light ornaments, a soundscape and secret rooms as well as the designer class main art gallery. The gallery is quite different to others as it is furnished as a home may be. The furniture is high quality, lovely and arranged so that one may really enjoy just sitting and appreciating the art work. There is also a columned round room with a mural along the walls as well as a sort of garden room soundscape which I videoed.

There are more photographs uploaded to Flickr

Patron is a place to relax as much as an art Gallery or Emporium. To describe it better here are Eiza's own words:

"Creating Patron and both curating or creating it's contents is my personal vision. The art and creations by others than myself here fall under a stringent criteria. In as much as Patron is so strongly a reflection of myself, my home, the Patron Inhouse guest Artists and Creators are people that I have huge respect for firstly as people but also incredible talent in their chosen fields. People I consider an extended family. A fairly gifted family at that..." ~smiles softly~

"No doubt about it, I call myself a 'texture whore' with some immediate affection. I love superb textures and I have worked hard to avail only the best via my creations to my potential customers. Some textures you will find here are totally exclusive to Patron. Many I now create, I also create with textures by some of my very talented and generous friends who have passed on samples of their artistry for my musing and use in both the Gallery & Emporium items. When a focus texture is by another Second Life artist you find them credited in the description lines of Patron creations. Others are high end purchases and often strictly contracted before sale to myself. I am also vigilant about not using textures or creation components that have not been acquired ethically. Artisans that make the textures that colour and enrich our SL world deserve respect. My designs would be nothing without them.

I invite you to make yourself at home here as much as is your leisure too, irrespective of whether you purchase here or not. Patron continues to evolve daily and though parts may be the vanguard of Patron style you can expect it to evolve constantly. Also while here please traverse the SIM tunnel to my friend Cuwynne Deerhunter's Patron Wilds adjacent, could be Heaven on earth. A genuine pleasure to share a SIM with such mastery.

In 1966 Italian illustrator Vittorio Accornero was commissioned by a prestigious House of Design to create a very special piece for the Princess Grace of Monaco. My mother who had a distinctive love of both the beautiful & unique in turn acquired the same piece. As a young child I recall studying the detail, the color, searching out the hidden dragonflies and bees in the profusion of flowers that adorned this specific creation . Today the feel of the silk fabric on my skin remains reminiscent of the special occasion I was entrusted to handle it. I even muse the perfume my mother wore when I see the vibrancy of the textures that compelled me to create this softly whimsical & elegant sculptural piece. Much to my immediate pleasure that these creations also include exclusive focus textures by Cuwynne Deerhunter and detailing textures by Stephen Venkman. The legacy lives on ....

The only thing I was unable to do, was to create a singular version. So I offer two interpretations with slight variations, complimenting choice of the backgrounds in Ivory or Noir."

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A visit to Arcachon in Second Life


Arcachon, a seaside resort in the south of France has been replicated as a build in Second Life. I visted with a Cyber - a SL avatar but Real life person who knows the area very well and she was amazed at how true to life the whole build is. Marisolde soon joined us there and took a motobike ride around the whole island.

There is a huge sand dune along one coastal area where one can walk down into the pine forest on the edge of the beach and get battered by falling giant pine cones :-) The lighthouse is there to protect the ships in the narrow waterway.

It is very pretty in parts but has a picnic area complete with jukebox and trailer park etc., which reflects the real life trailer park complete with washing line full of undies :-)That area is streaming a film - apparently a very famous French film that I just did not know or appreciate.

The animals in the pine forests are lovely, there is an arena where bulls are ridden, but not killed that has a rodeo type of bull in it.

From Wikipedia:
The course Landaise is an ancient form of bullfighting held in oval or rectangular arenas covered in sand, that does not involve any bloodshed. Experienced cows generally from the age of 2 and up to 14 years old are used instead of bulls. They are athletic animals selected from the same breed as the bulls used for the Spanish Corridas. 

This form of bullfighting is a traditional game of bull dodging and leaping. One needs courage, composure and agility to participate in this dangerous sport. The men and women most often have a few bruises, deep gashes and broken bones in various states of mending to nurse throughout the season, while the cows return without any harm to their luxurious grasslands.

There is a working mill, a corn growing patch being watered by a windmill, a beautiful farm house with sunflowers outside the door and gendarmes keeping control over the whole area.

Also on the island is a fishing competition - needless to say I failed miserable and was told ow rubbish I am at fishing!

A delightful place to visit, one can take a balloon ride, a motorbike ride or a pedallo around the whole island but it is texture rich and quite hard on the graphics card ;-) For more photographs visit

To visit teh area in Second Life follow the slurl:, as you land in the area you are in the town square where currently there is a nativity scene and lovely outdoor Christmas tree. The whole build is very well done, it is a lovely place to visit!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Second Visit to the Crossworlds Gallery

I visited Lynto Land to the Crossworlds Gallery again, this time with Dennis and Gizmo. We went to a snail colony where one can ride snails, ants or bees – a quirky but amazing build where the unexpected happened and I ended up hanging from the foot of a bee :-) It is situated below the main crossworlds gallery at floor level and makes good use of particles with the rain making the grass and flowers grow. The idea behind Lynto Land seems to be to put business people in touch with each other – but it is an interesting place to visit even if you are not interested in the business aspect.

For photographs visit:

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Chroma Key Video Update

Right :-) Chroma Key update ! When James – my mentor for this project - (thanks James ) saw the completed video he told me that the different transitions were to accommodate the different coloured blue or green paper and that it was not a light issue! Back to the drawing board.
I remade the video clip having tried all of the available transitions, interestingly enough with each one I had to restart WMM to get it to play but I am still having issues with a set of codecs that wants to be on my computer against my wishes – a little battle for me to win there!
I found one that made the transition between blue screen and Second Life look much better but the sound, though the two videos have exactly the same level, fades itself out on the beginning of the second clip and I can’t overcome that.
Very soon the same video, but with a better merging of the two will be available here. Thinking about how long it took me to upload it last night though it still could be a couple of hours!

PS - I know my avatar looks as if she is speaking at the wrong end of the clip but I am not changing it :-)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Playing with the Chroma Key Video Technique

I watched Kevin McLaughlin at the Teach meet /Ed Tech round up do a demonstration of green screen video work on an Apple laptop. To see the clip visit , it is on the 7th video of the set.

Blue screen, chroma-key or green screen is something I have often wondered about and always meant to investigate but just never got round to. It is very easy on the Apple, one has to go into the Advanced settings on iMovie and select Chroma-Key /Green screen or something similar! I promptly tweeted that I wanted an Apple to experiment with when James Ashton tweeted back that I could do it with a PC and he would write a blog giving instruction. Amazingly he then apologised for it taking so long – the instructions were in place that same night :-) Many thanks to James!! I followed the instructions in his blog post instructions and downloaded the plug in needed. I thought I was all set up!

At work the following Monday I set up a blue screen on the Smartboard,  that seemed to be an easy answer for primary schools. Sadly the royal blue was washed out by the projector light, so was I! That was a non-starter. Fail number one!

Next I covered a board with royal blue poster paper, that seemed perfect. I asked a colleague to record me with a Flip cam. My idea was that I would introduce my avatar and stand by her in Second Life. I did my bit of speech and took the camera back, I had instructed my colleague not to go off the blue paper with the recording but those instructions were not enough, he videoed me close up so that there was no room left to superimpose me on anything else, it was all my head and shoulders with a bit of blue around the edges. Failed a second time.

I took the blue poster paper home and stuck it along wardrobes before asking my husband to record me. This felt like a sure winner, was so sure it would work I dug out an old digital camcorder as it is a much better resolution than the Flip Cam. Fail number three – I have no firewire port to download it from DV tape any more :-(

So now I am waiting / working at home waiting for the TV Aerial man to come and fix the aerial before Christmas. Dare I ask him to accompany me to the bedroom to video me once again using the Flip Cam? Not sure even I am that brave! So on hold again.

This must be the only blog post ever that is being written over weeks!
During the time span between all these failures – over a week now – I have been wondering about how I would use it in class.

First thoughts -
• documentaries – children reporting findings from around the world in a geography project being set against film from that country,
• maybe story telling where their story is set in a forest, retelling the story of Jonah and the Whale against a crashing sea, but it would take a lot of work to film the background scenes for the story unless they were stock footage
• making adverts – setting themselves in a dream house of on a desert island but again it would depend on the stock footage available
• children reporting on news items with video in the background – especially good if they could use the real footage from the BBC news and project themselves as newscasters
• in all cases a single picture could be used as the background but I not sure whether that is an advantage or just a difficult way of doing it, I would need to work with children to establish that.

I am definitely lacking imagination this morning, I can’t think of any more.

I am beginning to think that for primary school Chroma Key may be a non-starter taking too much work for too little result but for secondary pupils I guess it would be a very different story, especially for those pupils doing media exam work.

So – back to the Flip cam, my son took footage of real life me, I exported it exported from Flip, tried to import into Windows Movie Maker – oh dear Data Execution Prevention kicked in. The program closed, I read the details, learned that I can switch DEP off, tried - but -  WMM can’t run without it. Eventually I put the clip onto external hard drive, took to another computer with licence for a video convertor…. This is getting silly!

In the meantime I have taken footage of my avatar in Second Life using Fraps. Even that did not go as smoothly as I expected, control Alt-Ctrl & F1 which usually switches off the user interface refused to play… but we all know there is more than one way to skin a cat!

I think finally I have two videos, one of my avatar in Second Life and one of me against a blue screen in real life. Can I merge the two?

I think at that point I should stop listing problems, but the conculusion of another three hours of downloading codecs, updating codecs and trying out various formats left me with a pretty poor video clip where my real self left a faded out avatar, there was nothing like enough light in the room to enable the blending of the images properly.  Still I experienced  a huge sense of achievement. I really don't like techie stuff getting the better of me but not at all convinced this is for the average primary school :-)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Embedding Games

More and more sites are making games and video clips embeddable which is good for all of us in education. If the games are only for computer clubs, wet playtimes or homework fun, even non curricular games often develop thinking skills and can help to develop a logial approach to problem solving.

Our Learning Platform has an embedding code capability and there are a whole range of games being made available for teachers to tap into. There are puzzles, strategy and curricular games.

Where sites make the embed code available just copy the code  and look for the greater than and less than markers in the learning platform interest space pages, <>  click on them and paste the code into the offered space.
To spot the embeddable code look for the following sort of structure:

The BBC Bitesize KS2 site has made all of its curricular games embeddable Play games, embed them in blogs etc!

Play Games at AddictingGames

For embedding video clips check out Teacher Tube, or, Your Tube and look for the code:

Also teachers who feel inspired, and have time, can make their own embedable games from flash templates at or

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Crossworlds Gallery First Visit

With the length of time I have been in Second Life and the places I have seen it gets harder to find new inspiring places to visit, but a friend took me to the Crossworlds Gallery last night and I was totally knocked out by the craftsmanship displayed there. Soon two more friends joined us and we investigated several floors with more to go!

There is a set of modelled animals, a unicorn / rabbit type of creature called the rabbicorn, a Mouse drawn Owl, a seahorse called The Sea and the Sky and a gazelle/ spider type of creature called a Gazellnid where, once you find a hidden button a poem is read in chat. The poem is split between the models. A musical box plays in all three as well – it is quite wonderful. For more information see

There is a celebration of love in the Nectar Room where one can make a declaration of love, dance to celebrate their love and quite possibly more! There is a poem written by Aurakyo Insoo called Love is the Answer which gives its name to the whole build. It is interesting, and I imagine, a huge success around St Valentine’s Day. I have very mixed feelings about bits like the broken Heart – bound in barbed wire and the sense that one is standing in a pool of blood. Is love really this bloody? However – regardless of my feelings it is beautiful craftsman ship and art does not have to make me feel good!

One whole gallery is made up on interactive pictures where you can change the image that is in the frame, sometimes the colours and sometime the whole thing. These are kaleidoscope type of images – again wonderful craftsmanship.
The top floor is just amazing. When you visit set your environment settings to night and wander around. These are sculptures that you can stand in and they change around you. I have tried creating this sort of art, successfully as far as it went, but not as good as this!

I returned for a short while today and called another friend to see it. I will spend considerably more time there over the next few weeks. To visit follow the link:

For more photographs visit

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

E-mail funny :-)

The next pandemic

I went to a dinner party last night, where I and other guests enjoyed copious amounts of alcohol.

I awoke this morning not feeling well, with what could be described as flu-like symptoms; headache, nausea, chills, sore eyes, etc. ... Read more

From the results of some initial testing, I have unfortunately tested positive for what experts are now calling Wine Flu.

This debilitating condition is very serious - and it appears this is not an isolated case.

Reports are flooding in from all around the country of others diagnosed with Wine Flu. To anyone who starts to exhibit the aforementioned tell-tale signs, experts are recommending a cup of tea and a bit of a lie down.

However, should your condition worsen, you should immediately hire a DVD and take some Nurofen (Nurofen seems to be the only drug available that has been proven to help combat this unusual type of flu). Others are reporting a McDonald's Happy Meal can also help in some cases. If not, then further application of the original liquid, in similar quantities to the original dose, has been shown to do the trick.

Wine Flu does not need to be life threatening and, if treated early, can be eradicated within a 24-48 hour period.

If you find you are complaining a lot, it may be that it has mutated into Whine Flu. This is particularly common in men and can quickly spread to their partners where the symptoms are detected as a serious case of eye-rolling.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Digital Literacies & E-safety Conference

Saturday November 14th - it has been in my diary for weeks as it was Leon Cych's Digital Literacies and E-safety Conference on the Learn4Life Island in Second Life.

Josie Fraser started the day with a really interesting presentation about Digital Literacy and Digital Footprint. She is very passionate about her work and hopefully, very soon there will be an audio presentation to listen to. One thing really surprised me about what she said – that although almost everything we do leaves a digital footprint what we do in Second Life doesn’t :-)
 As I do so much in there and record loads of it in Flikr or in the blog I am not convinced in my case.
It is a real issue for some people that with social networking sites such as FaceBook, and the efficiency of the search engines that we leave such a trail in our digital footprint. Employers know a lot about anyone going for a job interview before they ever get there. Apparently lack of a digital footprint is just as bad because if people are not good at social networking they may not be good at real life networking, or, know nothing about technology. Both of those issues are likely to cause problems in the work place!

My session followed – about how we are using Second Life as a teaching space for E-safety.

Leon Eyebeams Electricteeth Cych’s  Digital Literacies followed. Leon played a film clip by Howard Rheingold where he discusses the need for skill – actually using the ICT, but also he highlighted five key digital literacies which enable users to use it successfully and purposefully and enables teachers to deliver materials and facilitate learning: Attention, participation, collaboration, network savvy and critical consumption. We went off in groups to discuss these literacies but seemed to get caught up on why some colleagues do not have these skills. One of our group decided that it was not necessarily a resistance to ICT that some teachers demonstrate but a resistance to learning! They simply cannot be bothered to learn any more.

The day ended with a session on using Second Life as a teaching / learning medium from Chris ShamblesGuru Voom Smith where he discussed all of the tools and resources that people could find on ISI (International Schools Island) followed by a discussion on developing one PLN (Personal Learning Network). Lots of information and a clear view of how Chris organises his can be seen on

It was a very enjoyable day, thank you Leon :-)

Both Leon’s and Chris’s talks are below, hopefully Josie's will soon be.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Shambles Guru Voom, ISI and PLN

Recorded at Learn4Life Island in Second Life 14th November 2009 at the Digital Literacies and E-safety conference.

Leon Cych Digital Literacies

SL Digital Literacies and E-safety conference Nov 14th 2009 on Learn4Life Island.

Monday, 9 November 2009

PhotoFunia - Sketch & Three Colours

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

PhotoFunia experiment

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Making a "Spiral" with PhotoPeach

Nice one!

Oxford Photos on PhotoPeach

Using PhotoPeach to make a quiz

Great app - pity about the content!

Visit to the Wildlife Park on PhotoPeach


A lovley app to tell the story of a school trip or residential.

Visit to the Wildlife Park on PhotoPeach

Wonderful - this took about five minutes, imagine what children could do with it and some time!


Another fun application :-)
I am rather enjoying myself - wish I was still teaching at times!

What am I?

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Friday, 6 November 2009

Playing with Animoto

Use Animoto to create the video presentations of a set of photographs.

The program is free for thirty second video clips and it tells you that you need about 12 items for the thirty seconds. I used eight photographs or posters and four texts but the texts were not included in final thing so not sure about the 12 items guide! There is plenty of music to choose from.

It is clear to see from the little clip that the ideal shape to use is the recangular photograph rather than the A4 poster.

It is a bit of fun for the young!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Roxio Photo Show

Still atempting to find my particular holy grail for tonight and this seem closer!
I have made a simple photo show with Roxio, almost instant, simple and maybe a suitable answer!!

The only draw back that I can see is that it does not show the images in order.... hmm.. back to the drawing board! Also still got the free Halloween background - none would be better!

Well having watched the show four times I think it is always the same order so maybe I did not upload them in order! If I can find a way of getting rid of the background it is in with a chance!

Yes - had another play and managed to get a better background - pan and zoom is best think! I am now very impressed with this program :-) Just realised I have made a spelling mistake in it - well trying things out late at night is not a good plan really, but no one who knows me will be surprised at my spelling - sorry all :-(

Scrapblog Again

Okay a new scrapblog - I am slightly more pleased with it this time but after learning a lot more about it would recommend the former - choose a theme and get on with it! I did not choose a theme this time, I made up this scrapblog with clear pages. When I looked for a background I needed to purchase them with points awarded to me for the amount of work I have already done. In my case about 70 points so far - and the packs of backgrounds are in the 300s. So I made a simple gradient fill background and duplicated that page loads of times.

Next I imported pictures from Flickr - not my own, but searched under the topic London and used some of those. I carried photos onto each page, added a very simple text box where required, added music in the background and published. It was quick and easy but it is very boring, all of the decorative bits need points and I do not have many so I had no access to pretty bits to decorate the pages.

So - I would choose a theme, clear pretty much everything off the pages and have access to loads of extras if I did another one!


Another attempt to make a simple book with photographs and text, which is what I am looking for. I find it really strange that when working on these web 2.0 programs every theme seems to offer pages with different fonts, backgrounds, colours etc. To me this flies in the face of everything I have ever learned about document creation. I am just old fashioned I guess but even though this one may well do what I want it to do the effort to change every single text box, font, colour, background etc., just makes me feel that it is not worth the effort though pupils may well love it!

I think using PowerPoint where consistency is easy to establish and then iSpring to make it into the Flash file may be the answer to my investigation.

Playing with Gickr

avatars myspace with Gickr

I am looking for a Web 2.0 book making program, failing so far to find what I want but decided to record one or two experiments along the way.
This is Gickr, an instant animated gif creator. You simply choose your photographs, either from your own computer or Flickr, select Continue from the bottom of the page and it works its magic! When I think of the hours spent in the past getting lots of images exactly to the right size, shape etc., and creating animations that could take a very long time I think this is quite simply amazing!

In the choice of Flickr photos you just tick up to ten boxes and those images will be used. From your own hard drive you can simply choose up to ten images and use them. The animation can be downloaded if you want to use it elsewhere.

Make your own animation

Saturday, 24 October 2009

First few days in Tunisia

As we landed the sky was very dark grey, it was raining and fairly windy - we could have been forgiven for suspecting the pilot had turned around half way and landed us back in Gatwick! However first views of Tunisia is that it is lovely. It has trees and so many, many olive groves and grass that it looks quite green.

Sadly we landed in the evening and by the time we had travelled for an hour to the Hammamet it had been dark for a long time.

We got sorted, had dinner and went for a long walk. We walked to the beach and were somewhat surprised to find that we were the only people out and about at all. I would have liked to swim but the sea was far too rough, the tide was going out and the breakers would have made Newquay proud. It looked perfect for surfing but the drag out was strong.

We tried the indoor swimming pool - it was closed... We peered in on a show - then went for a drink - much safer :-)

We had not planned anything for today so decided to visit Hammamet old town and medina. We asked about transport and was told there is a regular bus. Went out to find a bus stop, as we got to the road a kid's train type vehicle approached and stopped for us that was the bus! So we had an hour long road trip seeing all of the local sites on the way to Hammermet old town.

The little Medina in Hammamet, surrounded by 15th century walls, is a maze of narrow lanes. The wares displayed in the souks are all designed to appeal to the tourists. The little shops mainly sell embroidery, pottery, leather goods and carpets.

The visit was slightly spoiled by local traders trying to drag us into their minute shops to buy their goods. I can understand it, it is very late in the season and we are among the few visitors left. The hustling was so bad though we did not spend much time there. We did buy a few bits where we were left to browse, one trader at least was happy to wait for us to go to him,
We were unfortunate enough to get driven into a Government festival of wool – the 2 day event where they sell carpets to the public. This was a real hard sell area – from the parcels wrapped to send all over the world it is clear they did manage to get orders by some means but when we said we were not going to buy it got quite ugly.

We left the Medina and got a taxi to the weekly open art market. This was a much happier place with lots of local people. Clothes seems to be the main merchandise but there were sweets – s type of nutty nougat and what we know as nut brittle. These seem to be a local speciality and people were queuing to buy it. There were also leather goods, I bought sandals.

We caught the train-bus back to the hotel to get a late lunch then went for a swim. The outdoor pool was freezing and the weather was still not good so we went into the indoor pool and sauna for a few hours, Started reading trashy novel:-)

Tunisia is an amalgamation of the ancient and new, it is interesting, especially once you get out of the tourist area. Where currently the tourist areas are pretty deserted as it is so late in the season the villages are very busy with hundreds of people on the streets, in the local shops and cafes etc.

We set off to find the roman remains, the famous Africa House, three Roman Villas and a museum where there are huge numbers of mosaics lifted from the villas for preservation.

We went to visit the Bourguiba Mausoleum which is an amazing memorial to the president.
We also visited the most famous amphitheatre and Colosseum which formed part of the set for the film Gladiator. There are loads of photos up already but not all are labelled.

Today we decided that as the wind had dropped slightly we would walk along the beach to the Yasmin Medina… and back… and swim. We have spent most of the day walking, the sand and beaches are just lovely, the sea is very rough, the people delightful. My time is just about to run out, so not I know the rules I will write before I log in! As soon as you log in once, even if only for ten minutes to check e-mail etc, the whole hour is gone.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Burning Life 2009

The Burning Life event is on now in Second Life.

Burning Life 2009 runs from October 17th until October 24th in Second Life. This is the 7th year for this celebration, though I have only been a part of it for two years. It is my favourite festival and now that it has opened and I have had a chance to look around it there are some amazing builds. These are just a few!

The Mousetrap Game is just so true to life, it is well worth a visit
Toy Box The slinky and bird are lovely :-)
Labyrinth Vision Quest Choose a platform, Heaven, Groud, Hell.... all worth visiting
Strange Creatures Ride on one of these amazing creatures!
Turning Cubes This work shows numerous cubes stacked on top of each other each displaying portraits and constantly rotating. Stand still to see it.

Then there is the mystical temple - it really is at its best in the burning - but I will miss it :-( Will have to watch it on You Tube later!
The Temple

Every year Burning Life Art Department picks 12 art projects out of many wonderful applications for featured presentation - the 12 Big Art plots:

Bryn Oh - Vessel's Dream A new cam build based off of her poem Lilac. For a machinima

Gulliver's travel Gulliver's travel scene.
Ub Yifu and Copan Falta Audio; streaming by Reverend Upshaw

Towards the future is a fully immersive installation created at Burning Life. You have to get to the top of the build then click the fireball and "you are rolling through the future lights of a burning dimension" Solkide Auer - Shellina Winkler

Sekhmet's Serpentunes A temple for the Egyptian Goddess.
Builder/Prim Abuse Artist: Madcow Cosmos Sound/Music Design: Lorin Tone Research/A

Proud Flesh
Avatar-interactive, wind-responsive, evolving audiovisual sculpture - Adam Ramona

The Tower and the Quest
Someone was here and left a story, half finished, broken, unsatisfied, no beginning and no end. Through shapes, figures, poses, avatars, stages the participants are invited to create their own story. Alpha Auer & Frigg Ragu

Among Other Things Join in and help create the art for this space! Graffiti the train! Touch the ground to open a new browser where you can paint images to add to the train. AM Radio

Irregularity a structure - Selavy Oh

The Roof Is Gone The Roof Is Gone is a multimedia installation with an original music by Misprint Thursday and Miso Susanowa. The piece is a combined work including music, sound, video, video art surfaces, video architecture, video HUD, video particles, and a unique art HUD. The piece will engages avatar interaction as well as avatar exploration and discovery. The video will presents as moving paintings of landscapes in dissarray.

144 - Low-fi art made in a simplistic manner out of products one could take with oneself, junk and scrap. I love the skeleton!! Dekka Raymaker and Penumbra Carter

Kicca Igaly & Nessuno Myoo *ArtEvolutionCube*
From a pencil sketch of a work, to realization in 3D ... Are not you curious? Come and see the result of an Artistic Evolution.

Yoa Ogee - Friends are everywhere!
circle of friendship and friendliness!

There are more photographs on Flickr.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Getting ready for Burning Life

This year I managed to get a plot in the land rush – so very thrilled.
I had already done a lot of work on a music build so was able to move onto the land and start preparing very quickly. My build was too big for the plot so I had to cut it down quite a lot.

Once it was set up my colleague, who always adds the above ground stuff added the most amazing and very large wooden Burning Man! I was very pleased with it as far as it went and the scripts etc. worked properly but something was still wrong. Eventually we decided it was the colours and textures so we redid all of that focussing on fire colours. It worked and was vastly improved.

The build consists of spheres, which when touched play music sample. By touching various spheres different music can be made. There are several air-born type of dances in the dance balls that enable the dancers to float about above the music and have a wonderful time :-)

It was lovely to see - as I just popped in to take a photo of the MAN - that people are there and dancing :-)

To visit join Second Life and follow the link:


Autumn from Wordle - it no longer embeds in the blog so I have had to make it an image :-(

We have had the most glorious autumn in the UK. The leaves have been changing colour for a month now and though it is impossible to photograph as it is all around in every direction and you need to experience it I have taken a few pictures. Nothing captures the beauty however! I will leave it to a master to describe it :-)

To Autumn John Keats (1820)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sumo Paint

This week I came across Sumo Paint for the first time and could not believe that I had missed it previously; it is a really amazing on-line program!
I see it is a very important web 2.0 tool that anyone anywhere could make good use of, but especially pupils in school :-)

Sumo Paint is a very comprehensive painting program providing all the usual tools, the capacity to work in layers, has loads of different brush stroke, effects, colour managing tools, picture management tools and more.

Only two things in my experiments that were not exactly as I expected were
1. I could not copy and paste an image into the canvas that I was working on. At first I percieved this as a huge problem but I could save an image to my computer and then import it to the working canvas - so - not perfect but most definitely manageable!
2. I wrote in text "Puppy" on the puppy image and wanted to rotate it across the corner. As I hovered over the edge of the text box a rotate symbol appeared. It did not seem to work, once I did manage to move it a little - in the wrong direction - but as I released the rotate tool so the text disappeared. I did not find a way of doing that - but that may well be either my computer or my own ineptness!

I can't get over the quality of this program - I created loads of little test images and saved them all to my computer without even registering but you can register, login and save your work on-line, it is completely free :-)

Friday, 18 September 2009

iSpring & PowerPoint

iSpring is a very useful free tool that sits inside Powerpoint and converts presentations including music, sounds effects, transitions etc. to Flash files. This is ideal for use in Learning Platforms when teachers wish to share presentations with pupils. PowerPoint files can be accessed from home but not all children will have the full Office suite or the Powerpoint viewer at home to be abe to access the presentation, a flash file however will play in any browser. It is very easy to use.

Unfortunately I can't find a way of incorporating Flash files into Blogger so have to upload it independently then embed it :-(

I have made several presentations which include active script - these do not work, so drag and drop games such as OXO, Connect Four and Snakes and Ladders are no good, neither does the text box on screen PowerPoint Show work. At the moment I have only tried the free version, I will try the other two versions soon :-)

For more information or to download go to

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Aviary's Myna

An on-line friend, Dennis Newson was told earlier about Myna and passed the news onto me by e-mail. I am so glad he did! Myna is an amzing on-line music editor that will be so useful in secondary schools where not all computers have music editing software on and as they are networked it is not easily installable! Also students will be able to sign up and use it at home if they need to add a soundtrack to their work.

There is a bank of sound files that can be used to add music to web pages, presentations etc. The user can record straight into the program or upload clips to use straight from a computer.

I have played with one very short clip and it is accessible in various ways:

Just a link

CarolCarol's trial :-).egg by carolrb on Aviary

In the editor:

Or I can download it to my computer to use as a background track on a video or in a presentation.

It is very good and very versatile - a real find :-)

To learn more and watch a video clip demo visit

Thanks Dennis :-)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Carol's Blog

I have been experimenting with Tagul, a new sort of cloud creating program. As you can see I did not take out enough of the common words, it really is just an experiment. The program is an beta version, I failed a couple of times before managing to get this one right so it needs a bit of patience but I do like the way the words turns around to be easily read. Each word acts as a search term so it is easy to navigate away by accident. :-) To display it in a blog you need to copy the cloud metadata and resize the image info there - there is help on the blog but that bit is very quick and easy. The percentage measurement does not seem to be workingfor me but you can take the tick out of that box and whatever size in pixels you put it it will display at. This one is 400 x 400, any bigger and it takes over the page. Have a go at

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Flat Classroom Project

Sunday 13th September I attended an SL meeing where Chris Smith (SL: Shamblesguru Voom) interviewed Vicki Davis in RL based in Camilla, Georgia Eastern USA, Julie Lindsay in RL based in Beijing involved in international education with colleague Kim, and Kim Cofino in RL based in Bangkok, about the Flat Classroom Project.

This was a pre-conference session for the real life conference in Hong Kong that starts Wednesday 16th September 2009.

Notes taken at the meeting:

The Flat Classroom Project is based on the book - ‘The World is Flat‘ by Thomas Friedman. The topics studied and discussed are real-world scenarios based on that book and students collaborate on a wiki then produce an individual multimedia piece in response to their topic. A clip in this piece is ‘outsourced’ to a team member in another classroom, so not only do students study the flatteners as discussed by Friedman, they use them in the project.

The project has been going for 3 years and started when Julie joined her classroom in Bangladesh with Vicki’s classroom in Camilla Georgia for a project. It was very sucessful so they developed it further gradually inviting and involving other people and they have now developed a network around the world. It has evolved as a pedagogical approach; teachers and pupils share what they do using web 2.0 tools to flatten their classrooms.

There is a lot of information about the various projects :
They want schools everywhere to be able to take part in the projects , to see what they are doing visit;
The three of them said that the projects are amazing – they involve students from around the world, pupils peer review each other’s work giving international feedback – that is an amazing motivation for pupils. Pupils and schools are no longer working in isolation. In action this is very powerful. There are expert advisers who advise pupils on the wikis and there can be 50 or so judges to judge the outcomes of the projects. There are so many people involved in planning, reviewing, guiding the pupils in the projects it is a massive international audience that get access. It is all recorded in videos, the videos are observed and comments are fed back in the wiki. Teachers or expert advisers may use Skype to talk to children or teachers. Time, distance and cultural boundaries no longer exist. There were three projects last year and the feedback showed that pupils wanted to widen the age range involved. This year the projects will be open to 8 – 11 year olds. The work is 85 – 90% in English but other languages can be accommodated if necessary. Language problems have been overcome where they arise by the use of Google Translator. Boundaries have to be got around by the use of technology tools – the project aims to empower students to cope with issues that arise. This is now taken for granted, pupils who may be otherwise excluded are now included.

“Empowering learning and allowing students to be engaged and troubleshoot to MAKE things happen - beginning with the end in mind.” Vicki Davies

Teachers’ learning experiences
Every project evolves from the previous project. There have been growing pains.
  • Last October the groups were 7 or 8 student and that was too large. Groups of 3 to 4 are ideal, they struggle with that because holiday, sports schedules and time zones etc are all different. We are aiming at 5 students in a group now.
  • Engaging student is quite difficult; teachers need to be a part of it. The best teachers for this are those engaged with blogging with their children. The project needs a highly-engaged teacher.
  • Sometimes teachers have to get up at 3am to work synchronously but students have to understand that sometimes they will work asynchronously. The projects have lasted through three time zones so takes some planning!
The conference is Thursday to Saturday and comprises of 2 parts:
  • Addressing the digital divide
  • Making Ted type of talks about the Flat Classroom Project
Forty people are coming together including pupils and educators. They will be in teams, all working on the same objectives, getting to grips with web 2.0 based on the theme of the Digital Divide. They are being asked to brain-storm solutions, inspire, unite etc., and to put presentations together to show their ideas. The teams will also have virtual members, who, if they can, will be part of the back channel and ustream, the wiki and ning may be used. Presentations will be made on the second day.

“Seeing the engagement is wonderful, you create a really rich learning environment, educators who have been there and experienced it find it very powerful, exciting and want to be part of it.” Kim – I think :-)

Information from the noteccard given out at the meeting:

Flat Classroom Project
The plan is to run three flat classroom projects over the next 12 months to cater for different curriculum and calendar variations globally.
* Flat Classroom Project 09-3 (Oct-Dec),
* Flat Classroom Project 10-1 (Jan-March),
* Flat Classroom Project 10-2 (April-June)

We also plan to run three Digiteen projects to cater for global requests and calendars.
* Digiteen 09-3 (Oct-Dec),
* Digiteen 10-1 (Jan-March),
* Digiteen 10-2 (April-June)
(late Feb-April 2010)
Based upon the annual Horizon Report, this project incorporates the current research on students, learning, and the newest technology and is announced in January 2010 with the title and the author(s) that will be incorporated into the project. More details coming soon

This is a new project still in development based on the student-led outcome from the Flat Classroom Conference held in Qatar, January 2009. The winning student team invented the term and started ideas for 'Eracism' as a global project. We are currently putting it together and details are coming...however this will be cutting edge (of course) and include virtual reality, collaboration and interaction using Web 2.0 and have outcomes that can be transferred into local communities. Watch this space! We tentatively plan to run this new project twice:
* Oct -December 2009
* late March - May 2010

Educator Flat Classroom Project
Also, as a heads up, and still very much at the discussion stage, we are planning an educator/pre-service teacher immersion project option. We aim to provide an opportunity for educators to be part of their own project as professional development or as part of their pre-service 'training', thereby developing skills and knowledge in Web 2.0, multimedia and global collaborative project pedagogy. Once again, watch this space for more updates!

The Flat Classroom Project is Looking for expert advisers and judges now!

"Everyone is on an amazing learning curve – it is cutting edge and we are all out there doing it – come and join us and be part of it!"

I know I have said it before - and I know I probably could not stick the pace - but I wish I was back in the classroom now :-)