Vector graphic experiments in Photoshop CS5

Previously posted on

Today I found myself in a gift shop in Stonehaven looking at wonderful vector images of some of the town landmarks and I wondered if I could recreate them in the right proportions for a frame we want to put up in our hall.

I decided to use Photoshop CS5 and the pen tool which, until today, I’d never really used.

Finding a similar image in Flickr was quite quick and easy and I used this as the guide layer in photoshop.

Once I had reduced the opacity I began to build up layers of colours and created layer masks for each to quickly build up the shapes.

I added a gradient layer for the sky as I thought it was a bit flat.

It’s not finished because, after an hour of [moving pen points around](, I realised that **good** vector graphics take a lot more time and skill. I learned a lot about a small bit of Photoshop today and now I’m wondering about vector-based iOS drawing apps and their suitability for the classroom.

Getting @evernote to use markdown (Windows version) @postachio

Previously posted on

A quick blog post I hope.

I’ve been using Postachio for ages now – might even be a year – and I genuinely love posting blogs from within Evernote. The one glitch for me has been the inconsistency of markdown in the blog posts. While YouTube videos and hyperlinks worked really well, the text formatting and bullets were stripped from the blogs.

I just posted about [Transferring files from Windows to OpenElec]( and was beginning to suspect that my choice of theme (or even the customisation I’d made) was to blame. So I backed up my custom source and began to experiment with themes. No change.

Then I spotted [this blog post]( by George Entenman and, upon reading, I saw a paragraph on **Getting Evernote to use Markdown**. Although his solution related to the Apple Mac version of Evernote it gave me a new direction to explore – and now here is my solution for Windows:

+ In Evernote, select the note you want to use Markdown with.

+ Select *Remove formatting* from the Format menu. Note that all formatting – including setting of hyperlinks – will be removed.

+ The contents of the note will be changed slightly, so check that your images are in the right place.

+ Use [Markdown tags]( to format your blog post as desired.

Hope this helps!

Transferring files from Windows to OpenElec @Raspberry_Pi EXT4

Previously posted on

Now that [my Raspberry Pi is set up as a XBMC client]( (using OpenElec distribution) I wanted to quickly add existing videos stored on my Windows machine.

Unfortunately just plugging in the USB drive is no longer an option. I formatted it as EXT4 in my previous post and while you can download some software to read EXT2/3/4 filesystems, writing files back from within Windows seems tricky, expensive or impossible.

I just read [this blog post]( where [Simplesi](  (hello!) asked a similar question – albeit for a different reason. The main difference is that I am able to set up a network connection between my Windows machine and Raspberry Pi very easily in my home network, I don’t have to rely on the blind eye of the systems admin.

[Screenshot of WinSCP 5.5.2 (Windows 7)]( by Prikryl (CC-SA 3.0)

My solution was to use [WinSCP]( to transfer my video files. Connecting was quick and easy once you know the IP address the Raspberry Pi has been assigned (hint, from a Windows command prompt use *arp -a* to see the connected devices on your network) and the default username and password for OpenElec distribution is root and openelec.

Yes it is slower to send files over WiFi than direct transfer to USB, but it works and – if speed was more important than convenience – I’d probably choose to connect over Ethernet.

OpenELEC on Raspberry Pi

Previously posted on

I tried OpenElec last year when I spotted it as one of the options in the Raspberry Pi NOOBS install. Last night, after watching the following video, I decided to try and set up OpenELEC on its own SD card, using a USB drive as storage.

My digital camera died (ok, I crushed the lens mechanism accidentally) so I had a spare 4GB SD card. I visited the OpenELEC website and followed the instructions on how to download and then [set up the SD card using Windows]( It was surprisingly easy (although edit isn’t an option in Windows 7’s CMD line) to get the SD card as required.

Meanwhile my CAS Conference USB was backing up to the HDD so I could reuse it as storage. I had to format it as EXT4 using the MiniTool Partition Wizard software – again, very easy.

I connected the RPi up and booted. I got this error:

I realised, after reading through the instructions again, that I’d forgotten to set my USB partition as primary. Once this was done OpenELEC booted perfectly into XBMC Gotham.

After another reboot to extend the number of USB ports so I could have storage, bluetooth keyboard and WiFi. I worked through the initialisation wizard.

After going into **Programs –> OpenELEC –> Network** and entering the WiFi password I had access to install the plugins. That’ll be a future blog post.

Summary of hardware required:

+ Raspberry Pi Model B (already owned, cost approx £35)

+ 4GB SD card (free, from dead digital camera)

+ 4GB USB drive (free, from CAS Scotland conference)

+ USB WiFi dongle

+ Bluetooth Mini Keyboard

+ Unpowered USB hub

+ HDMI cable (free, came with the TV)

Apple Education Leadership Event: Inspire with iPads #AECC #XMAaberdeen14

Previously posted on

I was kindly invited along to this Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Council organised event led by Apple Education and XMA. It was held at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on a beautiful sunny day. The kind of day that has you wishing they had some outside space for the breakouts. And ice cream.

The theme of the event was undoubtedly narrative. Each keynote or workshop presentation was a variation on the main theme and, as a whole, I feel it was a worthwhile event to have attended. The presenters were good – fantastic in places ( @rankinw ) – and although there was a lot of overlap it was good to see that many different educators recommended the same approaches to learning and teaching using iPads.

I was a bit sad that the workshops didn’t allow the participants to create something that echoed the narrative theme of the event. It was slightly too much show-and-tell and was at odds with what the presenters were trying to get across to the audience: that students learn better when they are involved, engaged and have the opportunity to create knowledge to share with others. However I busied myself getting to grips with Notability and left my paper notepad untouched until I got home and had a chance to think about all the sessions as a whole. I’ll share my summaries with you now. Please accept my apologies for the scribbled notes, I tried my best.


Bill Rankin commented on the effectiveness of narrative memory, combining theories of Edgar Dale, Lev Vygotsky and Mihaly Czikszentmihaly to find the sweet spot between context, content and curation. He argued that literacy must consider both traditional and emerging strands and that technology can help us transform the development of both in the learner. He also felt that design diversity is essential to fit with the wide range of students’ interests, experiences and potentials.


David Ryan ‘s presentation on the problems associated with IEPs was good, but covered well-worn ground. I did however enjoy hearing about his work with a small group of students to give ownership of the IEP to the pupil and (to a small extent) their parents. The goal was to give teachers a better understanding of each individual in their class. Personalised learning could then be more effectively designed once strengths and areas for development were known. These allow for the creation of suitable targets which can then be overcome through careful design of learning outcomes throughout their school career.


Jenni Robertson talked about her work to effectively utilise study leave for National 4 students (who don’t sit final exams as N4 is internally assessed) through essentially project-based learning tasks using iPads – was this the “hard fun” Bill Rankin hoped for in his keynote? – to create narrative responses to questions such as “why is it so hard to remember dreams?”  or to celebrate independent learning through a whole-day equivalent of #geniushour.


Oscar Stringer wanted us to view the iPad as a “digital pencil case” where components combine to create content greater than the sum of its parts. Examples of app smashing included poetry projects, foreign language meet and greets, avatar-led book reviews, professional quality video-based learning logs and augmented reality displays. The importance of lesson structure and clear outcomes were stressed but the overall message was deep learning through an individual student’s myriad narrative responses.


Joe Moretti ‘s snapshot tour of how the iPad can be used as a means of augmenting learning and teaching and as a tool for formative assessment was useful for those in the room who were worried (or represented teachers who were worried) about having to recreate old resources anew. Don’t worry! Word and PPT will still work on the iPad, even if you can’t afford an Office 365 licence to unlock the apps. Joe was refreshingly honest about WiFi problems at 2pm killing learning opportunities and showed the audience how AirDrop can help facilitate transfer of data when the network can’t cope. His demo of a Word document being opened in Pages to create an ePub that could be highlighted in iBooks was good. I’d love to know how to get that side-loaded file out of iBooks, with all its user-created annotations, without having to connect it to a PC or Mac…


Steve Bunce talked about how ICT can be used to teach Computing concepts across all curricular areas: decomposition, pattern matching, algorithms and computational thinking for example. Narrative learning exercises such as songs as flowcharts, choose your own adventures, the Hokey Cokey keynote, Games-Based Learning and through mixing of physical and digital artefacts can be used instead of, or to build up to, programming games or apps on the iPad.

Some reasons to use iDoceo instead of your teacher planner

Previously posted on

I’m currently running weekly drop in sessions for staff who recently received their iPad. The aim of these sessions is to give a focus and forum where staff can discuss ideas, issues and be supported by others who attend.

Not all staff attend but I’m not upset. It probably doesn’t fit their schedule or suit their learning style. I’m currently also sending daily emails with ideas and articles that staff can dip into when it suits them. This has seen far more ‘uptake’ than the face to face sessions and, when read / click / attend stats are looked at holistically, I’m interacting with three quarters of the staff. I’m keen to hear other ideas on how I can include the last 25%, if you have any!

In the meantime here is some background information for my latest drop in session on iDoceo. This is a fantastic app with many more features than I first realised. This poster attempts to highlight some of the most useful.

#rgcipads handout day

It has been a long time coming yet I can’t believe it is nearly one year since the end of the #rgcdevicetrial. In February 25 staff across senior school became the first to receive their devices. It was a chaotic but very useful session where we all learned what preparation was needed before a larger scale roll out and what an important role an outside company such as Academia can play in its success.

This morning Academia and IT support began to roll out iPads to class teachers and a number of assistants in the senior school. I was able to sit in on a few sessions and help where required but it all went pretty smoothly! A small number of teachers had not created an Apple ID in advance but Vic and James were able to adjust each session to keep both prepared and unprepared groups moving forward.

As per Academia’s advice we used an Airport Express to maximise the number of staff online at once and it worked perfectly except for a few minutes in the final session when the network ran out of spare IP addresses. IT support were able to quickly resolve this.

Setting up the new iPads were a breeze and James alternated between presentation slides on his MacBook and live lead through using the Apple TV to keep the staff on track. I noted in the later sessions James made more use of Reflector and I was really impressed with the ability of the software to display multiple screens fairly smoothly at the same time! Perhaps this will be the AV solution over Apple TVs? Much more investigation and testing required though!

James made sure to point out to staff about potential behaviour pain points when getting used to using iPads with classes and demoed a number of solutions which, while reasonably simple, were very useful to all staff! He also talked about and demoed AirDrop to the groups. This could be a helpful feature for passing out differentiated work to some members of the class but also has the potential to be disruptive unless the classroom teacher anticipates this.

The integration of Google Apps for Education was also discussed and James mentioned that Academia have developed a script which automatically builds the student folder structures for Doctopus. Something I definitely have to find out more about!

IT support at RGC obviously worked hard to ensure the sessions were well organised and any actions required by the user in joining the ManageEngine MDM, or even collecting the protective cases were minimised. Serial numbers were linked with staff details and asset numbers and each member of staff had to sign when they received the device. Staff were also issued with further information about the school’s iPad scheme and an responsible use document to read and sign. The further information included a link to my RGCipads site which, we hope, will become integrated with the IT support portal in the near future.

As staff left each session with their new iPads and iTunes vouchers I noticed that some were beginning to discuss the potential of the device in their classroom. A few others loitered to ask about a specific app or function and both Vic and James were more than happy to help. Soon all remaining staff will receive their iPads and initial training and I can’t wait to hear how each curricular area plans to use their devices to enhance learning and teaching.

Video editing and (Windows) app smashing

I feel quite retro posting this: Windows (desktop) apps can be smashed too!

I’m putting the finishing touches to my third in a series of video editing lessons for my S2 classes. We started with video jigsaws on the topic of Internet Safety. The students had to watch the videos to work out the correct sequence of the 4,5 or 9 clips and then use a video editing package (we use Corel VideoStudio Pro) to put them together. This introduced the idea of sequencing (programming concept!) at the same time as letting students get comfortable with a small section of the video editing package without having to really get into the nitty gritty of actually editing video. The different “sized” jigsaws also allowed an element of choice and differentiation in the class. I was surprised at how well it worked (we’ve even used it with our S4 ICT classes this week to introduce the same topic.

Week two I revisited PowerPoint skills with the class but showed them how to export their presentations as videos. We then looked at the video editing package again and I showed the class how to split clips and add musical backing tracks. Again we used the Internet Safety theme to focus the presentations. The differentiation this time was around the video sequence each student constructed: from simple import of PowerPoint video through to more advanced remixing of existing video clips.

Tomorrow my lesson is going to start with the video they created in week two and use Adobe Photoshop to turn it into an animated GIF. This is (again) new territory for me and the students, but hopefully is a simple enough process for them to follow:

1. Open the video file (I’ve tested MP4 and AVI) in Adobe Photoshop

2. View the Animation timeline (Window menu -> Animation)

3. Click on the icon circled in red

4. Set the “start of work area” and “end of work area” (this translates as start and end of the animation sequence).

5. Save as an animated GIF (File menu -> Save for web & devices option)

Note the image size (a) and the looping options (b). I am going to ask the students to adjust these as appropriate before clicking on save (c) to create an image which can be uploaded to their Edmodo account or shared with me via email.

App smashing is the process of using an application to create new content which can be augmented or extended within another application (and then possibly another and another!). Creating video in PowerPoint, editing in Corel Video Studio and converting into an animated GIF in Adobe Photoshop shows that this process isn’t confined to the tablets and, I think, reflects a more realistic use of computer applications by students outside of the classroom.

Fingers crossed I will have some examples to share in a future blog post.

Word Processing to eBook Publishing

Reading (process) by beggs (CC-BY-2.0)

Tomorrow morning my S1 students are going to build their eBook files for publishing. I’ve spent a bit of time today giving them feedback using Microsoft Word comments and will share the files with them tomorrow. Once they have made their changes they will save their stories as “Web Page, Filtered” HTM files which – according to Guido Henkel – are the best way to prepare documents for conversion to EPUB.

I had planned to use Adobe InDesign, but encountered formatting issues galore. Plus it would mean introducing a new package to my classes just so they could save as an ePub. I wasn’t keen.

The solution suggested by Guido (and others, sorry you aren’t name-checked here) is to utilise Calibre to turn each HTM file into an EPUB. The only problem is we don’t have Calibre installed on the school network so I may utilise the offline PC at the front of my class (the trusty Infernal Machine, circa 2004) which has long been the best option for adhoc solutions in my classroom. I’ve downloaded the portable version (needs XP SP3 at least) and will hopefully get a production line running tomorrow.

I also want my students to be able to access their finished eBooks online. I found a great resource called which allows you to upload EPUB files to an account associated with an email address (no other details required – perfect for my class!). It also allows users to view their eBooks from within an internet browser.

In the long term, being able to have students use more social sites like Smashwords would be fantastic but I am aware of the need to prepare students for the range of suitable and unsuitable content that these sites contain. Perhaps if any readers know of school-friendly alternatives they could share in the comments below?

GTD with Evernote – update 31/1/14

No update on my physical classroom GTD except to say that the piles are becoming more organised! It doesn’t really look like it though. I’ll be brave and post a photo next week, honest!

With regard to Evernote I’ve started to get into a routine of checking for untagged notes while in the desktop app and am still keeping on top of that. I added 32 notes in the past seven days but have around 80 PDF files from my scanning to import and tag (perhaps I’ll do that this weekend!).

I wanted to focus on my “Secret Weapon” structure tonight. I’ve been working through the notes tagged with “now” starting with the oldest first. Most of the time I was able to merge or archive the notes to my “Completed” notebook so I now have a fairly realistic list of 16 tasks to attend to. I also tagged my new tasks in a realistic way this week, hardly ever adding them to the “now” list, instead preferring to queue them up in my “next” list (there are 47 items lurking there, but I suspect many will have already been actioned).

One of my biggest departmental tasks at the moment is the development of the new Higher Computing Science course and associated notes. I’m finding Evernote very useful for this as I can quickly find tagged resources, links and – increasingly – my own work which I’ve scanned to PDF and imported.

My only wish is that we could have the desktop version of Evernote as the web version is VERY slow to search by tag.