from @ blethers

I haven't posted for a bit. It's not that I haven't been sitting at my desktop: far from it. But from being someone who rarely uses earphones (they were so uncomfortable) and hasn't listened to much of what might loosely be termed popular music since the age of 18 (a while, then) I've spent most of the time doing just these two things. I always did love a good love song, back in the day, and I've always preferred what might be termed music to slit your wrists to ... And now I've rediscovered both, and as Facebook friends will hardly have failed to realise, I've been listening to Leonard Cohen.

I specified a sort of cut-off date for my interest in pop; it coincided with the rise of the Beatles and my discovery of Palestrina and Byrd and these two geniuses shaped my musical tastes for the rest of my life, I thought. Yes, there were other passions - Tippet, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, to name the composers on some of my early LPs - but the music I loved to sing, and to sing along with, belonged to the Renaissance. I developed a voice as similar to the counter tenor as I could, and my reading abilities flourished as I sang in an octet (The New Consort of Voices, for anyone who was around Glasgow Uni circles in the late 60s/early 70s) and the quartet that still performs today with only a change in the soprano line, the St Maura Singers. We started a larger choir when we moved to Dunoon - The Hesperians, from the women of which group the current 8+1 choir was born. There was a church choir, intermittently - it tended to suffer from church politics and eventually vanished.

All this was made easier, of course, by the fact that I'd married a musician who works magic with choirs. But living with a musician also tends to influence some - not all - of the music played at home. Because of that influence, I've learned almost all I know. But because the current choir, 8+1, sings everything from Ah Robyn to Mamma Mia, there's been a shift in my earworm availability, and one of our repertoire got stuck that way: Leonard Cohen's Halleluia. And it was seeing a video on Facebook/YouTube of a live performance by him, a recent live performance, that started me on the online trawl for other songs of this performer who was in his mid-70s at the time the recordings were made - and that's what I've been singing along with for the last two months.

So what made me want to reflect on this? Here's a thing. For the whole of July until today, we've had work going on in our dining room. The painter finished only this morning. The floor is varnished, the room is clean - and empty. It has a wonderful acoustic. So yesterday the two of us, Mr B and I, sang and recorded St Magnus' Hymn - the two-part 12th Century piece that begins "nobilis, humilis...". And after the first go, when I was singing at my usual mezzo pitch and straining slightly on the high E, I went down an octave and immediately sounded - and felt - better. This is an area of my voice that I've been unhappy with recently; helping out on the second soprano part has led to the neglect of the lower end of my voice, with the break at Middle C becoming more troublesome than it has been since I was in my early 20s. But yesterday it was fine, with an equal resonance taking me down to F.

Why? Presumably because the ageing voice of Leonard Cohen means he now sings in his boots, and that's what I've been singing along with. I've not been belting it out, just crooning, but that gentle exercise has been enough to make the difference. I feel somehow vindicated - that I've not wasted the tradesmen-minding hours listening on headphones, but have done something my laziness has too often stopped me doing when I've not practised vocal exercises. And I've learned some cracking new songs ...

‘Closing the gap’ between education and employment, by Anthony Mann⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Edu and Skills blogThis latest blog from Anthony Mann focuses on the European dimension of the link between education and employability.  It identifies employer engagement in education as a key issues in tackling the skills gap.

Government priority objectives across European countries include:

  • Tackling skills shortage/skills mismatch
  • Improving youth skills relevant to dynamic labour market demand
  • Harnessing community resources to improve attainment
  • Putting coherent pathways in place for young people moving through educational and training provision
  • Addressing inequalities in outcomes, promoting social mobility and challenging gender stereotyping.

For more information on this include OECD reports see visit the Education & Skills Today blog.

Also relevant in this context is Mann’s report key_issues_in_employer_engagement_in_education_anthony_mann‘ which specifically relates to the Scottish context. .


from @ John's World Wide Wall Display


I know we are in the days of lots of free space, but it is worth remembering when blogging (or making webpages) shrinking images is worth doing for your visitors.

I don’t always do it, but today as I updates a Glow Blogs Help page, I saved nearly half the space by using, ImageOptim — better Save for Web.

There are other tools, but this one is free & open source, works on a Mac, but lists and links to windows & linux tools.

Preparing for the Apprenticeship Levy with @bobharrisonset @MartinLewarne @itslearningUK⤴

from @ ...........Experimental Blog

 A week ago I had the opportunity to talk on a webinar about some of the changes coming in the Apprenticeship Space in England and how it might impact on Colleges and Training Providers . The clever people from ITSLearning  demonstrating great digital literacy - have now published the session as a  Youtube Video

Many thanks to @bobharrisonset @MartinLewarne @itslearningUK

Relevant too for  Scottish Training providers and Colleges.

Instagram GO⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display


Dean Groom on Poekemon Go:

Teachers should care about Pokémon Go! – after from the initial network effects (craze) as it is a good way for kids to develop socially. It isn’t designed for education and certainly presents the all too common accessibility issues of commercial games – but THIS game leads you to start thinking about why games, play and learning are important – and how they can be connected with helping children deal with saturated media cultures – Great!

from: Should teachers care about Pokémon Go? | Playable

There is a lot more to think about in that post.

As usual with games, my mind wander and my eyes glaze, I’ve never caught the game bug (although I am interested when I read something like the above).

My first though was it is a wee bit like golf, a good walk spoiled. I am now wondering if some of my own behaviour fits the pattern.


  1. I wander about outside, searching, looking at the map on my phone
  2. I capture images
  3. Share and store online, socially, flickr, instagram.

Featured image my own, IMG_5868 | John Johnston | Flickr CC-BY, sort of hunting idea. The kind of Pokemon I look for.

Pokemon Go… Tech Vs Policy Maker Results⤴

from @ Edu Tech Stories

Over the last few years I have felt that education reform would come from tech companies collaborating with innovative educators and early adopters of technology before it would come from the political classes. This post considers these issues by looking at what Pokemon Go has achieved in comparison to some of our politicians projects and efforts.

Over the last few years I have looked at the way that ideas roll out in education and have argued that one of the biggest challenges is that "Product market Fit" has not been achieved and, in education, cite a main challenge with this being due to the lack of collaboration and co-creation between educators and tech companies.

To test this idea I have focused less on discussing any particular products or services, and more on looking for products, services and ideas that had a culture where I felt ideas had value and a culture that could see things scale. This has included supporting things like the Scottish Independence Referendum, Education Scotland's #DigiLearnScot agenda and Marialice Curran's Digital Citizenship Summit Brand and Declara.

All these projects had an impact in a relatively short period. At the time of my getting involved, I felt all had a promising culture. If and when the cultural conditions disappeared, I became less involved.

Tech Vs Politicians
The phenomenon of Pokemon Go has further demonstrated to me that it's innovative Tech companies that we should be looking towards... as opposed to the political classes. Need some evidence?

  • Tony Blair and New Labour: The "Every Child Matters" initiative had a "Be Healthy" Strand, I wonder if the tweet above is true in that Pokemon Go got people more active in 24 hours than ECM did between 2003-2010. 
  • David Cameron: Scrapped the Healthy Schools initiative as well as Every Child Matters and replaced it with his failed "Big Society," I wonder if he wished that Pokemon Go was around when he launched this initiative. 
    My thoughts on "The Big Society" in 2012:
    Culture in Edu... A House Divided Cannot Stand
    • The Scottish Independence Referendum and the "Yes Scotland" Campaign: Had a fantastic grass roots movement that I got involved with as I felt it was inspired, but the movement and opportunity was completely squandered (See P1 of this doc to see why I got involved with #IndyRef). 
    I am not politically minded but when you work in education you find that you need to deal with the political classes, something I have all but given up on in the UK... especially after seeing how much of a hash they made with Gazelle, FELTAG and how demolarising the culture UK politicians have (and continue to) create in education.

    I supported the #VoteYes campaign because the culture was the kind of diversity that Jane Jacobs celebrated... and which Pokemon Go looks set to replicate.

    Pokemon Go... User Experience
    It's worth highlighting that while I like hanging out with innovative techies, as a user I'm a laggard and need some convincing to try new ideas...we download Pokemon Go the day that it came out in the UK to see what all the fuss is about.

    Knowing about all the opportunities that exist in gaming we don't discourage our kids from playing them (Take a look at the jobs on Niantec's Job webpage... wish I'd stuck in at gaming when I was a kid! Lol.). But at the same time I'm rubbish at these new fangled games (And I mean REALLY rubbish!) so don't play them too often... nevertheless I am keen to see what all the fuss is about.

    With two teenagers and a 5 year old in the house, it can be difficult to find activities that they all like so it's FANTASTIC! that we all head out together... phone in hand.

    We head to a local park, a park that's only a few moments away but that we have not been to for ages. We think that we've been gone for 30mins... it's 2 hours later when we get back.

    The next day I take my 5 year old to his drama class, a trip that's made more enjoyable looking for Pokemon... landmarks that we go past every day not only take on a new level of interest, but we learn about statues that we've given a second glance or the history of a building.

    When we return the two older boys decide to go out. By then it's 2pm UK time so 9am ET... the servers are down and remain down for the entire Pokemon hunt. There's a bit of a strop about the game not working.

    Having worked at a few startups and with an interest in tech and how and why ideas that roll out quickly they, soon get a lecture about patience and a reminder that the game was free... along with asking them why they are getting annoyed about a company that makes something so good that everyone wants to use it... especially when it's the first day and that it didn't cost them anything!

    We take a walk anyway and discuss "network effects," "Feedback loops," community management and jobs in the gaming industry and how they could get started... and other things that I discuss in this blog that the boys show absolutely zero interest in normally ;).

    On the way home we walk past a girl with a Pokemon hat on and do something that we hardly do, strike up a conversation based on the game, she has not played the game yet as the servers were down.

    At 9pm the game is back online and we take a midnight jaunt for a few hours, again we strike up a conversation with someone who's playing the game too.

    Having spent most of the kids life in startup land, with the various stresses of this lifestyle, the significance of this first day cannot be underestimated. It was a fantastic day of engagement and conversation

    Other days since then have been much of the same... lot's of walking chatting, exploring our surroundings in a new and engaged way and striking up conversations with random strangers.

    "Which Team?" Asks a young lad as he walks past a Pokemon Gym. A question in Glasgow that you might want to avoid given the Celtic/Rangers rivalry and the trouble it causes... but not on this occasion.

    "Team Instinct" we answer, "Boo" comes the reply, "Mystic!!"

    A Few Good Men... And Radical, Extreme Collaboration
    With a positive user experience and a global phenomenon within a matter of days... thoughts soon turn to "shop," and who created this? How did they do it? What were their aims? Niantic CEO, John Hanke details the three goals they had in mind

    The Niantic team had three big goals in mind when building "Pokemon Go," .

    Exercise: A lot of fitness apps come with a lot of "baggage" that end up making you feel like "a failed Olympic athlete" when you're just trying to get fit, Hanke says. "Pokemon Go" is designed to get you up and moving by promising you Pokemon as rewards, rather than placing pressure on you.

    "To see the world with new eyes:" The game is intended to "give you a little nudge" towards cool and interesting things in your neighborhood by turning real-life landmarks and historical sites into Pokestops and Gyms where players power up and battle. By encouraging exploration, "Pokemon Go" can "make your life better in some small way," Hanke says.

    Breaking the ice: All over the world, players are organizing "Pokemon Go" outings, cruising around their area and trawling for Pokemon. At higher levels, players need to team up with fellow players to conquer those Gyms. This is by design: Hanke describes "Pokemon Go" as an "icebreaker" that "gives people a reason to spend time together."

    Each and every objective was met with this users experience. According to LinkedIn there are 11-50 employees at Niantic. Think about that for a moment... Look at what 50 people in a massively collaborative environment have achieved in the space of 2 weeks since the game went live in the US.

    I wonder if any initiatives out there that policy makers can highlight that have achieved the same results between April 2014 and today? 

    I think that the global phenomenon of Pokemon Go demonstrates very well how and why I feel innovative tech companies will solve a lot of issues before the squabbling political classes will. If anyone feels this is an unfair comment, feel free to check out the #Brexit shenanigans. 

    Pokemon Go in Education
    What about Pokemon Go in education? How will that be received? 

    Not only can I tell you how the discussion will go... I can show you..Here's a collection of over 100 education based articles about Pokemon Go: Pokemon Go Edu

    As you can see, some people and groups see this augmented reality game as an opportunity... others a risk and a threat. And here's the thing, both perspectives and every viewpoint in between is right and will have merit.

    After all, while my experiences have been extremely positive, I'm sure if we were to ask the people who have crashed their cars, fallen off cliffs and stuck in caves will have a very different experience... and quite rightly, any risk assessment of an educator about a new idea that has these examples is going to see the health and safety staff break into a cold sweat.

    But if we are not careful the naysayers could win the day, and opportunities be lost. It's much easier for "the experts" to write an authoritative post which is be dismissive of something just because it's new... or worse, for these "experts" and decision makers to have political allegiances, so make a decision based on ensuring that they do not appear to show up our "hard working and right honourable political classes" instead of exploring an idea that has merit?

    Maybe this "What Wildlife Scientists can Learn from Pokemon Go" article which cites a 2002 study "Why Conservationists should Heed Pokemon" where a joke is made about designing a game called "Ecomon" to capture children's attention, as they were able to identify Pokemon better than common wildlife.

    As I say, I've been highlighting that the issue with EdTech and the search for that all important (but equally elusive) "Product Market fit" is a challenge due to a lack of collaboration between educators and technology companies for quite some time... Something that I also highlighted to FELTAG in 2012... One of the people involved in this government initiative even wrote the Forward in an EdTech Report I wrote:

    Whether an early adopter or laggard when it comes to new ideas regarding education technology... #Whatif a website that may well have an icon on your homepage today but was blocked initially was embraced from the outset?

    #Whatif... Twitter and Facebook were not blocked when the sites were launched? How much further would the Digital Citizenship agenda be today? How many less trolls would be around if educators fully explored all the risks and benefits instead of making what was clearly a rash decision for any school who blocked social media but have a presence today.

    Of course caution and due diligence is required, but to dismiss out of hand doesn't sound much like learning to me.