Rethinking Dartfish Easytag: Using a sports app for developing literacy.

Dartfish develops a software suite across computers and handheld devices that is popular amongst coaches and HPE teachers to provide meaningful feedback on sports performance to athletes and students. My career has seen me move from the physical performance teaching areas, and resulted in the application of this software to develop performance in other areas.

Basic use of Dartfish Easytag (iOS / Android app) results in a timeline or collation view of occurrences. This infers it can be matched to a video of performance, and whilst this is true I don’t believe it is necessary. Recently I used Dartfish Easytag to provide my son feedback when he was practicing his speech at home. It was simply a collation view, but could clearly show him how some weak literacy prcatices were overshadowing strong literacy practices.

Imagine students using the app to provide themselves feedback such as this. Either they could “tag” each other as they practice, or they could record themselves and then “tag” their own performance. Suddenly students have increased capability to apprasie their own performance.

Follow the links below for resources on Dartfish Easytag;

Dartfish Easytag has become an important component of my toolkit.

Building a synchronised eLibrary.

Its no secret I prefer cross platform applications and functionality. Until recently I had not applied this to the management of my digital library which currently has a selection of over 700 books. Initially I would keep free books within Evernote which enabled me to read them on any of my devices that had Evernote installed. Although I don’t like to read at my computer or laptop, as Evernote does not have a Linux version this meant when on my Linux machines I could not access my library. Not a big concern but just one of those thoughts in the back of your mind that keeps nagging away at you letting you know your setup is not perfect.

Recently I have acquired a number of mobile devices, increasing the need for a synchronised and cross platform eLibrary. This has resulted in me re-acquainting myself with Calibre – the open source book management application. Calibre maintains a database of books and can be best explained as an iTunes for digital documents. As it is a cross platform application I can install it on all my computers and laptops. Placing the library file and books inside a folder in Dropbox enables me to have all installations of Calibre managing the same library. Therefore if I make a change on my Linux machine, it is replicated within the OSX and Windows versions. I chose dropbox as it synchronises and stores files locally. Therefore as long as Dropbox is up to date, so will all installations of Calibre.

Calibre is also an effective method of pushing books to a range of devices. I have successfully pushed books to my Android phone, iPod Touch, iPad and Kindle 3. I know that except for the Kindle, these devices could access Dropbox and download the files but I personally prefer the management with Calibre. Calibre can convert files to the formats each device requires which results in a better reading experience on each device.

Calibre + Dropbox = synchronised, cross platform digital library.

A goodbye message to my year 12s of 2011.

The words below are the main message I left my year 12s with as they finished their schooling this year. When I presented it to them there was some discussion and other words included, but the main idea is here. I just felt the need to share it, they were a special group. Enjoy.

When I started this journey two years ago, I didn’t know where it was going to take me. The future was definitely unclear. You see, I’d never taught like this before. I had always used varying furniture formations, but I’d never played in a flexible space and allowed so much comfort and choice in position. But I felt stale as a teacher and needed a new challenge to liven me up.

There were quite a few times where I had to stop, take stock and figure out where this was heading. I wasn’t worried, I knew I would end up somewhere, and that I would have something to reflect on when I got there. But there were definitely times where I questioned myself and my internal navigation. You saw these as me gathering your feedback, using your feedback as my navigation to steer me onto the right path. That path was always the one that you set, it was never mine.

Along the way something unexpected happened. Something I never thought in my wildest dreams I would experience.

I found myself in a group of young people so incredibly eager to learn. You may not have always shown me the happy face, but you were always working to produce work that you believed would meet my expectations and yours. I found myself in a group of young people that treated me differently to how any group of young people before had treated me. There has been a lot of open honesty from you, a level of trust I’ve never seen. This was all unexpected, but welcome. I can only hope I have taught you to be demanding on those that provide you a service. I hope I have challenged you to learn, and challenged your perception of what learning can be.

But the most exciting thing is that you have taught me. You’ve taught me to provide more constructive feedback, you’ve taught me humanity, you’ve taught me compassion. You’ve taught me how to use space to enable learning. These are all things that will make me a better teacher in years to come.

I want you to reflect on all the times you felt uncomfortable, unhappy, even angry with the learning in this room. What have you learnt from that? Its OK to be uncomfortable, because in those times its when you rose to challenge and produced work to be proud of. Ask any of my teacher friends, I talk about you and brag about you all the time. In particular, I want you to consider the last 6 months. What has really happened in this room.  I’ve stated an issue, asked some questions. You’ve chased down the information, you’ve done the work, and you’ve achieved. Take that diligence into whatever future lays before you.

And finally, thank you. Thank you for always taking the time to greet me when I am out and about. Thank you for trusting me with the things that you did. Thank you for providing me a sanctuary, the place where I am happiest in my work life. This is the most fun I’ve had teaching. So as we say goodbye, I want to leave you with three pieces of advice and inspiration that have served me well in life.

  1. You can never find the good in someone if you don't look for it. (A motto of Robyn Durrington – a lifelong inspiration and friend)
  2. Know thyself.
  3. This above all, to thine own self be true.

Building a home media streaming solution.

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Our home is becoming quite digital media savvy, with two growing boys learning to access and purchase digital media online. As we use a number of devices to access this media, it’s time for a solution where all our shared media can be accessed from any device using a minimal energy footprint. Planning my solution has two foci – hardware setup and software used.

I needed to consider the range of devices we will access the media through. At the bare minimum we will use the following;

1 x linux (Ubuntu) desktop.
1 x Windows desktop.
3 x linux (Ubuntu / Linux Mint / Crunchbang) laptops.
1 x Beyonwiz DVR
2 x iOS devices
1 x android device

It would be great if I could develop a solution to access the media on the following devices also;

1 x Playstation Portable
1 x Nintendo Wii

I have some restrictions to consider, mainly that the Beyonwiz DVR is what is connected to my main TV. This device can only access Windows shares over a cabled network connection. Therefore any solution needs to be able to connect directly (with my obsessive cable management tendencies catered for) and provide Windows shares.

The minimal energy footprint is also a priority, more for role modelling of considerate consumer behaviour to my boys as they grow up in a world where energy consumption becomes moe prevalent.

So to begin I am re-purposing an old machine. Eventually I will purchase an eco-friendly power supply for it, plus extra hard drives. This machine will be constantly on as I will use it for downloads as well. I think I’ll position it on my bookshelf next to my main router. This machine will serve everything out to the devices. I’m thinking a FreeNAS install is the way to go, using VLC on as many devices as I can to stream the files. For flair I am thinking of setting XBMC on one of the laptops to connect to the TV in the man cave.

So fingers crossed I don’t destroy anything!

Cataloging sport performance

Gathering and analyzing statistics of sport performance is a productive educational experience in senior Physical Education. In a subject where personalisation of knowledge in, through and about physical performance, sports statistics can also provide valuable feedback to students about both individual and team performance. Throughout my time as a HPE teacher I’ve trialled a number of systems to achieve this – tables on paper, tallies on paper, handheld counters, intensive video review. Whilst all of these wield results I’ve always felt the use of them is not the greatest learning for the students collecting the statistics.

Over the last few years there has been a raft of programs written to cater for “tagging” of events within a sporting performance. My faculty has trialled a few of these and although they enable the learning of students whilst at school, the learning and use of the program is not something that can be transferred across environments due to the large costs of these programs.

About a year ago I discovered the Dartfish EasyTag app for the iPhone. I only have a first generation iPod Touch, but this app functions effectively and within my purposes. Within the app, users establish games and recording panel. A panel is defined by the user, I have generally utilized a 3 x 3 panel. Each cell in the panel is an event or occurrence within the performance you wish to log. For example in netball you may wish to log effective passes, breaking away from the defender, quick pass and others. Each cell represents one of these. Once the user has finished tagging the performance, a csv file can be emailed from within the program. This csv holds records of each occurrence tagged, when it was tagged and how long it occurred for. If you have the Dartfish software, this csv can be imported and synchronized to the file footage. I don’t use this myself, I simply keep the stats.

As this app is free, I can get any of my students with iPhones to download it. This creates a rich record of statistics suitable for analysis and discussion with my learners.

Learning to code – toolkit.

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cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ntr23: http://flickr.com/photos/ntr23/292553679/

For a long time I have been on a slow yet deliberate journey to learn and understand coding. There is no rhyme or reason to my approach, dabbling in little bits here and there. With web coding I find it useful to explore the coding on a page that I like the format or interaction of. There are a number of ways to do this that allow me to focus on specific elements rather than the option of viewing the page source. Two tools which I use regularly are Firebug and the recently discovered Hackasaurus. Both are browser add ons, and allow me to save sections of code.

Once I have found code that I want to test for myself, I save this to my Evernote account. My intent is to save the code clip with a screenshot or description of what the code does in a single note. As Evernote is synced across all my devices, I can access these code snippets whenever I am playing and learning. If you are interested, that notebook is public and can be accessed here.

My personal preference is Firebug as it seems to have a few more functions, but for ease of use Hackasaurus is a clear winner. So go, inspect and remix!

 

My biggest dilemma as a network manager this week – email signatures

By biggest dilemma, I mean the one which has taken most of my time and is as yet unresolved!!

I'm quickly learning as an IT manager some people want to be your friend right up until that point in time where you cannot provide a solution for their concern when they want it! Lucky I work with such a good group of people where those that fit the description are in the minority. I'm proud of my team for working diligently and leaving only 10 open jobs at the end of the week. One of these open jobs has become a real bug bear for us – but it sounds so simple. An email signature.

My workplace is undergoing a rebranding process. New logo, new templates, new uniforms – the works. Part of the rebranding has seen a decision made where all email signatures should include the new logo and conform to a template. At this point, seems reasonable. Unfortunately not so. The template for the signature was built in MS Word and saved as a HTML file. Which works great until one of our staff wants to use webmail! Or in fact the recipient's email client does not render the MS Word code correctly. Plus the directions delivered to staff ignore the basic rules of how Outlook scripts work in our workplaces.

Nothing against the person who created the template. they simply performed a job as directed by the boss. However it has pointed out one of the great divides in our workplaces. Technical know how versus specific site knowledge of user scripts. The old OC vs. the rest almost. The end result is that this job has escalated into heated discussion between the client and support technicians yesterday whilst I was absent (and unable to support the technicians), and one day this week where a technician was kept back to work on the problem 90 minutes after their official finish time. And we have a frustrated client that simply wants a consistent approach across the school for email signatures. A delicate situation.

So it comes down to some research to find a solution. I knew that recently I had marked something in my Google Reader about consistent email HTML (which is different to normal web HTML and this is where the client has made an error in judgement). I'm hoping this can assist me in providing a solution and then building a simple process for all staff to implement.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Make those emails look professional.
The HTML Email Boilerplate
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Web developers often moan about having to support five mainstream browsers, a few mobile devices and quirky behavior in a certain applications. If you think we have it bad, spare a thought for those creating HTML emails. They must contend with:

Forget about stylesheets, floats, negative margins, positioning, background images, animated GIFs, PNGs or any other fun time-saving techniques. If you think it’s tough making a site work in IE6 today, HTML emails must be coded like it’s 1998. That means tables, inline styles and images.

Fortunately, Sean Powell has taken inspiration from Paul Irish’s HTML5 Boilerplate and created the HTML Email Boilerplate. It includes various fixes discovered by industry leaders such as Campaign Monitor and MailChimp to produce a bullet-proof email template which works in Outlook, GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and other popular clients.

Sean admits it’s not plug and play — you will need to get your hands dirty with coding — but it’s a great first step which solves many of the common problems experienced when developing HTML emails.

The HTML Email Boilerplate code includes two HTML files: one with commented instructions and one without which can be used as the basis of your email. It’s issued under the MIT License, is free and can be used for any commercial or non-commercial project.

What have you got to lose? Please let us know if you’ve tried the boilerplate and, more importantly, whether it worked in your email application.

posted on SitePoint: http://www.sitepoint.com/html-email-boilerplate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=html-email-boilerplate

Ideas – InClass App for collaborative learning.

I think this iPhone / iPad app has real potential for a group of learners in a common course to collect and collate information, building their own resource. I'd like to see tagging as an option, but at least if they know what date they were in a lesson they can draw upon the information.

The following post is reproduced in this edited form from Free Technology for Teachers at http://www.freetech4teachers.com.

Best of 2011 So Far – InClass App for iPhone and iPad


InClass is a free iPhone and iPad app that could be a very useful tool for students carrying those devices. InClass provides students with tools for taking text, audio, and video notes. Students can also use the app to take pictures of hand-outs, slides, and other valuable information that they see in class.

Taking notes is not all that InClass can be used for. It can also be used as a task management tool to help students keep track of their schedules and due dates. To share notes, images, videos, and schedules students can connect InClass to their Facebook accounts.

It is this functionality of sharing on Facebook that excites me. Students can tag each other in a post or set a page where these resources are uploaded for future reference. I have some students performing this with pictures and videos taken in class on their mobile phones, the InClass app brings a new level to it.

You can find some video tutorials for InClass on their YouTube channel.


Oringinally posted on Free Technology for Teachers: http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2011/06/best-of-2011-so-far-inclass-app-for.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+freetech4teachers%2FcGEY+%28Free+Technology+for+Teachers%29

I can see use of this app both lead by the teacher and independently by the students. It would be interesting to see if audio and images can be exported outside the app and used in other places also. If you do not have access to iOS devices, the same functionality can be achieved using standard image, video and audio capture. For those working in restricted environments (as I do), capturing and uploading to internal services will also achieve the same (albeit a little less efficiently).