Free online autocue

Ever needed a really quick, free and easy piece of autocue software without any barriers? Well Primary Technology paid me to make one for PrimaryPad so I released a jQuery plugin and pushed out a free online autocue with a really simple editor.

If you want to collaboratively edit on your document before sending it to the autocue why not try use PrimaryPad? Video for how to use it below:

Note: Autocues are sometimes called teleprompter so the above is an autocue/teleprompter.. Vs PrimaryBlogger Vs Self Hosted Vs Edublogs

WordPress is the only CMS you should be considering if you are serious about a long term investment. I know Google fan boys will say how Google Sites is free and okay but when the key thing about Google products is that when you decide to leave you can’t take your content elsewhere, it’s closed source, it’s closed off. Google is Microsoft episode 2, we can debate this further but the fact is that if you use posterous, typepad or Google Sites you will be burned in the future.

Schools often ask me how they should be hosting their blogs, should they use, or self hosted? I’m biased as I work on primaryblogger but I still feel like it’s worth answering the question.

Bad things about
No Embed so no embedding primarywall, primarypad, wordle, voki etc. [Excludes youtube and vimeo]
No XMLRPC so no ability to use mobile apps such as classdroid.
You can’t use your own domain IE
You can’t heavily modify themes so changing the layout of your blog can be difficult.
No plugin uploads so you can’t access the millions of plugins available in the wordpress Codex.

Good things about
No need to worry about growth, can handle millions of requests per second.
No need to worry about upgrades or updates.
Preview new versions of WordPress.
All of your data is backed up and protected for you.
Comes pre-loaded with a spam filter.

Bad things about PrimaryBlogger:
No ability to upload your own plugins, you have to put a request in via the community

Good things about PrimaryBlogger:
No need to worry about growth, PrimaryBlogger can handle millions of requests per second.
Can use your own domain name.
Comes pre-loaded with Edu-Focused plugins and themes
Has a community of edu-users
Each blog post gets manually read by a human
No need to worry about upgrades or updates.
All of your data is backed up and protected for you.
Comes pre-loaded with a spam filter.
PrimaryBlogger publishes all of it’s plugins and development open-source so the WordPress community can enjoy using them.

Bad things about self hosted:
You have to worry about scaling which can be a huge technical hurdle
You have to worry about upgrades and updates.
You have to worry about spam.

Good things about self hosted:
You have completely control about how to configure your blog.
Can use your own domain name.
You can integrate your blog with your own authentication mechanism.

Bad things about Edublogs free:
No ability to embed youtube video, animoto, vokis etc.
Your blog has a big edublogs advert on
Limited number of blogs per account
Limited access to themes
Very limited storage space
Dashboards can be unreliable
No stats
No Forum support
All of the plugins are kept closed source and sold through WPMUdev

Good things about Edublogs free:
Edublogs is a big community
You can pay more to get more features, storage etc.

Crayon Physics Game in the Primary Classroom

Crayon Physics is a download/install game, I received it as part of the humble indie bundle which cost me ~$5 for 4 games. There is a windows, mac and linux version.

There is no right or wrong answer to any of the puzzles and each buzzle is really bite size making it ideal for learning about shapes and space &forces. The design is perfect for kids and even at 20$ I think it’s a bit of a bargain.

Grab the demo now and see if you like it!

My open apology to Bradford Schools

Yet another learning platform vendor
Image by Mr Ush via Flickr

A few years ago I got caught up in something shameful, something that damaged education, something that I have to apologize for and get if off my chest.

While employed at Primary Technology I was invited in to schools to talk about VLEs and learning platforms. During these consultancy sessions I gave the impression that Learning Platforms were a legal requirement and that by having a learning platform or learning environment they would get reviewed by OFSTED. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case. I was under the impression from a certain company that this was the truth, I should of done my homework and for that I am sorry!

A lot of bad actually came from schools adopting learning platforms, mostly the mentality that one web tool provided a complete working solution for their schools web based needs. The way I see it is that a Learning platform is the fast food of the internet. It’s missing nutrients, condensed, gives you what a company thinks you need and needs to include a toy engage the kids. The advantage of fast food is that you often know what you are going to get so it’s predictable, easy, obvious… Applying a factory model to education is exactly what Sir Ken Robinson would not want.

The notion that one web based tool was challenged early on and the notion of the “VLE is dead” came about. VLE’s and Learning platforms providers are finding their place, mostly as an overpriced file repository but hey ho, at least they have come to the understanding they can’t provide everything a school needs.

Image by Mr Ush via Flickr

Thankfully Bradford schools realized quickly that the fast food approach wasn’t working and so did the authority so a large number of schools adopted a fresh food approach to providing web based tools into schools, not providing a prescriptive recipe but a wide range of tools and options. I would say that CLC’s were responsible for this fresh thinking approach, I wonder who will take this roll in the future with the demise of CLCs..

This skill based fragmentation means we have farmers of web based products cultivating skills in different schools with different groups of kids and therefor in Bradford we have a wide range of skills on lots of different tools and platforms. We by no means have a solution that works for every school but we have an understanding that by trying to turn any web based tool into a “solution” is damaging for the kids diet.

We have some schools we work with that have been really frustrated with their (local) Learning platform provider that have charged them a fortune but not delivered on the promises made.   My plea is if you work for a learning platform provider please stop selling your platform as the only solution the school needs and provide it as a tool that complements a vast number of fantastic free web services available on the internet.

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