Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for the ‘ Technology ’ Category

Never underestimate WordPress
November 19th, 2009

Never underestimate WordPress. For years I basically created web sites using Claris Home Page and later, Macromedia Dreamweaver. I used another tool there for a bit but it’s name escapes me. My skill extends to nested tables, copy and paste JavaScript, a little XML and that is it. I can hack code after I have “read” it carefully. I can also tell the difference between acceptable and unacceptable design. I think.

My web site has looked like old brown web pages for two and half years now. It is actually based on a template called Gazette in iWeb. I liked the look and feel of “Gazette” and I reproduced it to some extent using Dreamweaver. It had an “old” look that was in keeping with my teaching of history. Well that look is cluttered I feel. I now wish to simplify site and page construction.

It is time to move on and I am going for something that is cleaner and a lot easier to navigate. A little more professional for want of a better word. I still hope there is something of me in the new site. We will just have to wait and see.

So, I have been rebuilding my web site from the ground up. Not the “antique looking” site you may be looking at right now but a site that is presently gestating within the confines of another sub-domain on my host as at the date of this post. I am using WordPress.

The thing about WordPress that I admire the most is it’s capacity to generate static web pages. That is simply excellent. You can have your blog and you can augment your ramblings and news with a variety of supporting content via the static pages.

One can be so empowered. One has the ability to produce a rather professional and elegant web site using WordPress and it is free. That contrasts so remarkably with some entities that charge you $500-00 for a web site with 5 static pages and an upkeep fee to match.

My new web site, which I hope I can launch before Christmas, will be built entirely using WordPress. Since the template employs drop-down nested menus I am free to incorporate quite a number of pages and navigation will not be such an interface hassle.

Some WordPress templates place the page based navigation in a horizontal bar across the top. That may limit you to say 7 pages. As well, other templates place the page navigation down a sidebar. That can be messy if you build an extensive site.

I have incorporated one code hack. I have taken the code generated by a flash album gallery generator and pasted it into the static page and blog post pages so I can easily display a bunch of images.

It is a little clunky but if I create a number of draft posts and pages in advance with the code added and simply leave them unpublished I can drop in a folder of say 32 aptly numbered images and the gallery will be created. All I need do then is finish writing the blog post or page content and publish. Not bad.

Some of the existing WordPress gallery plug-ins are nice but they are buggy or require you to host the images on their servers.

Getting the galleries right is important for me. My current galleries have poor navigation. I use a Photoshop macro to create the galleries at the moment.

I enjoy taking photographs. Good stress relief. So with this new WordPress based site hopefully users will find the galleries easier to navigate. I will also begin posting images up to Flickr more frequently so people can access the jpeg file if they so desire.

WordPress is powerful. Create pages with or without comments. Nested pages. Password protected pages. Publication dates predetermined. Embed flash. Podcasting enclosures. Rich widget capabilities. Mobile blogging is a snap. Self hosted Wordprsss users can tap into plug-ins and an extensive range of themes as well. A creative and devoted user/developer community.

I do hope WordPress will always maintain it’s logical ease of use and elegant ethos. I hope feature creep does not weigh WordPress down in the future. I would despair if I witnessed WordPress evolve into a bloated baggy monster.

Kuala Lumpur
November 19th, 2009

I have just arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has been a few years since I was last here. I caught up with my brother Frank one day back in 2002 and before that I did a presentation at an Apple sponsored education technology conference.

I will be conducting a series of “Web 2.0″* workshops for academics from 23 universities from across the region on behalf of the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia (MoHE). I will be in KL for 8 days. I am working with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, on this project.

Both the MoHE and NTU are taking excellent care of me. They have put me up in an excellent resort in Putrajaya, Selangor state, and they flew me to KL business class which is a first for me personally.

I had no idea I was flying via business class. I was emailed the eTicket. I checked in at the economy counters. Boarded via the economy gate. No-one said anything. I discovered my good fortune when I was directed to my seat. Rather luxurious. I am not used to this. Well, I made the most of it. The seat next to me was empty as well. Bonus.

Since I started my long service leave from school, and let a few people know of that fact, things have started to fall in my lap. Good things. Hard work and passion has its rewards.

*I know the term “Web 2.0″ is a little cliche, dated and so on but it will serve the purpose in this case as it provides a common frame of reference for all involved in this project.

Comic Life ~ more than just comics
November 5th, 2009
Changing The Past

Comic Life is and incredible piece of software.

Every now and then a software application crosses one’s path and it immediately grabs your attention. Back in 1992 I was introduced to HyperCard by Dr John Hedberg. That application changed my career and my life. Thanks John!

Several years back I was attending an Apple Technology Day for teachers and right at the end of the day we were given a quick look at Comic Life. I was immediately captivated.

Plant Cell Diagram

Naturally Comic Life allows you to create comics. All sorts of comics. Basic, 1940s, strips, manga and loads more. Yet, it is capable of much more than that. You can skip the templates and simply allow the creative thoughts to generate and drag the various elements such as panels, word balloons, images and titles wherever you wish. If you explore the details panel for each element you can modify the style of each element to your heart’s content.


Recently I conducted some workshops over 6 days for a number of teachers from a variety of schools devoted to children and young adults with special needs. Part of the programme incorporated a Comic Life workshop. They all loved it. We all had a ball. We also covered digital photography, connecting, web presence and other connected stuff. There were teachers from Pathlight, Metta and the Cannossian schools in Singapore. Teachers also travelled down from the Korean International School in Seoul to attend the workshops in Singapore. I shall post some images from the workshops and examples shortly. In the meantime you might like to check out this pdf. Some of my efforts are displayed in this post.

Bayeux Tapestry
Solar System
Do you like telling stories?
October 13th, 2009

I like telling stories. What sort of stories do I like to tell? Stories about days at school, life in the ANZ Bank, stories my father told me, historic sagas and the like.

Where do stories come from? Have you ever wondered about that? Stories come from passion, imagination, experience, tragedy, success, life and death. Stories come from places you have been, places you want to be. Stories come from inside you. Stories come from people you want to be.



Stories can be ignited… by loss, joy, grief, happiness, a turning point, a decision.

Where do stories go? They can travel back in time, leap forward to the future, go deep into your heart. Stories can take you to places that you know and places that you don’t. They can be a vehicle of juxtaposition and transposition as you venture into another dimension.

Mother and daughter, Kyoto.

Mother and daughter, Kyoto.

The sad thing is that some stories never survive. They are not written down. They are not recorded. They are not remembered. They are lost… forever.

Now is the time to record those stories. The ways and means are readily available. Write a blog, record your voice on the computer, make a podcast, make a video. Not next week or next year, but now if you can. Teach your students, teach your relatives, teach your friends, teach yourself.

Do you like telling stories?

Here are some links to get you started…

Alan Levine: Wiki ~ Follow the link to 50 ways to tell a story wiki
Alan Levine: Open Discussion on 50+ ways to tell a story
Alan Levine and Bryan Alexander: Educause article on 50+ ways to tell a story ~ PDF
Alan Levine: New Media Consortium Presentation: 50 Ways to Tell a Story
Miguel Guhlin: Digital storytelling workshop wiki
Miguel Guhlin: Place based storytelling
Miguel Guhlin: Digital storytelling with web based tools Wiki
Miguel Guhlin: Voicethread Tutorial
Matthew Needleman: Digital Storytelling Blog Carnival #1 and #2
Educational Origami ~ Voicethread Tutorial
Web 2.0 Storytelling Wiki
Center for Digital Storytelling
Digital Storytelling Toolkit
Instructify: Digital Storytelling
Keeping the Mood Light: Digital Storytelling
Open Thinking: Center for Future Storytelling
The Art of Storytelling
International Day of Sharing Life Stories

Education and the social web ~ taking learning beyond the classroom
October 13th, 2009

Well, what is this all about, eh? This Wednesday Kevin Lim and I shall be giving a talk at Nanyang Technological University on Education and the social web ~ taking learning beyond the classroom. I am up here in Singapore, on a bit of a break, hanging out with friends and taking photographs, and the opportunity arose to give a talk and I thought why not invite Kevin to be part of the process. The talk is part of the edUtorium series at NTU.

I am a big fan of Kevin’s blog & also his Delicious feed so I thought it would be neat to allow Kevin to speak in Singapore during his current homecoming visit from the University of Buffalo where he has recently completed his PhD. Congratulations Kevin!

Kevin and I at Starbucks, Holland Village, Singapore

Kevin and I at Starbucks, Holland Village, Singapore

Last Saturday morning Kevin and I met up for a drink at Starbucks in Holland Village and synthesized a number of ideas for our talk. Individually our ideas have been gestating for some years now and they have come together in a manner of speaking and this Wednesday I guess an offspring will be generated in the form of our talk. Please feel welcome to join the talk and if you can spread the word. Kevin has been doing a great job already!

What are the details? Taken from the Nanyang Technological University web site…

14 October 2009 (Wednesday) · 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm (2hrs)

NTU Lecture Theatre 6, Level 2, Academic Complex North, Singapore (PDF map)


The democratic nature of the social web means that the ability to learn and produce meaningful work can now happen at any level – from the independent student, to the individual teacher, to the entire education institution. Now, more than ever, instructors are able to motivate active learning among students, by empowering them with relevant online tools that allow for more creative approaches to go beyond the traditional class-based education.

In this two hour session, learn how you can…

~ cultivate learning beyond the classroom
~ encourage participation in the class conversation
~ inspire student pride through greater sense of ownership of their work
~ include new literacies in research, organization, and synthesis of ideas
~ support multiple learning styles
~ create exemplars by raising the bar of student achievement
~ archive learning by creating a record for both you and the students

And much more…

In this international presentation brought to you by educators John Larkin (Australia) and Kevin Lim (United States), the first part of the session will provide a general state of education on the social web, while the second part will demonstrate tactical approaches to meeting your students’ learning objectives through the appropriate use of social web tools such as blogs, wikis, and social networks. The ultimate vision of this session would be to situate student learning in a more familiar and communal environment.


Dr Kevin Lim studies and shares his interest in the wide-ranging cultural affordances of information communication technology, particularly on the self-organizing and pedagogical quality of the social web. With his academic background in communication, his research has ranged from Internet censorship and civil sovereignty in China, to social capital among online non-profit organizations. He also conducts social web-related workshops and produces instructional guides at the Teaching & Learning Center, located in the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Kevin has been fortunate to be featured on the Buffalo News (New York), CBC News (Canada), Zaobao Weekly (Singapore), Channel News Asia (Singapore), (Canada), as well as several prominent blogs.

Mr John Larkin is an educator and instructional designer presently living in Australia. He has vast experience in the development and application of educational technologies in primary, secondary, tertiary and corporate educational fields. John is constantly researching the latest trends in educational technologies and as a result he has established linkages with like-minded educators across the globe. He is constantly seeking new tools and technologies that will allow educators of all backgrounds to converge teaching and technology in a manner that is both practical and productive. He has worked on a significant number of web-based and CD-ROM projects. John has led the design on corporate, tertiary and school based web-learning projects. His skill set is enriched with a keen eye for design and a practical approach towards instructional technologies.

Course Fee
Thanks to NTU the presentation is now free to attend.

Registration Link

Kevin strikes a pose near Sultan Gate

Kevin strikes a pose near Sultan Gate